14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G.J. Bell) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister state whether the Government has received from Great Britain any communication regarding the international situation caused by the recent sensational developments in Germany?
– The Commonwealth Government, in common with the governments of other countries, is greatly disturbed On account of the recent declaration by the German Government. It is in close touch with the British Government, but feels that it should not at present make any statement in regard to the matter, because of possible embarrassment to the delicate negotiations that are now proceeding.
Employment in Mines.
– Will the Minister for the Interiorgive to this House the positive assurance that the Government will prohibit the employment of aboriginal women in mines in Central and North Australia, and in other territories over which it exercises jurisdiction ? Further, will he indicate the nature of the conditions governing the employment of aboriginals?
– In reply to the first part of the honorable member’s question, I give him the assurance that the Government will not countenance in the slightest degree the employment of women in mining operations. I very much regret the accident which, according to a press report, a few days ago caused the death of an aboriginal woman. I do not think that a mine is a place in which any woman, either white or black, should be employed. I am unable to supply the honorable member with the information that he seeks in the second portion of his question, but I shall endeavour to obtain it for him.
Cost of Collection
– Can the Acting Treasurer state what was the total cost, and the cost per £1, of assessing and collecting income tax and land tax during the last financial year; also, whether a small increase or decrease of the rate of either income tax or land tax would make any appreciable difference to the total cost of collection ?
– The honorable member having advised me of his intention to seek this information, I have made a hurried investigation of the figures. Approximately, the cost ofcollectingincome tax in 1933-34 was under £250,000; equal to about 6d. per £1 of the tax collected. The cost in the case of land tax was about £90,000, or approximately1s. 6d. per £1 of tax collected. No appreciable difference would be caused by small alterations of the rates of tax.
Imports Duty Tree
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs state whether it is a fact that many thousands of gallons of crude oil are imported into Australia free of duty? If so, is it being used in the boilers of factories and foundries to the detriment of the Australian coal industry ? Should that be so, will he consider the imposition of a duty upon this imported fuel, with a view to giving the coal industry an opportunity to compete for that trade ?
– The oil that is imported into Australia free of duty is crude oil for distillation purposes, and it provides employment in Australia.Some fuel oil also is admitted duty free.
– I meant fuel oil.
– If the honorable member can show in what way interference with the coal industry iscaused, and will state a case, I shall have the matter investigated.
– I understand that at the meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council to be held on the 15th April next, 20 items are listed on the agenda, including harbary bush, codlin moth, and bananas. but that no mention is made of wool. Does the Acting Prime Minister consider, either that the wool industry is beyond helping or that it does not need assistance? Or is the Agricultural Council a body that deals only with agricultural ind ustries ?
– The executive of the Australian Agricultural Council, the Standing Committee on Agriculture, proposes to meet four or five days before that body for the consideration of uniform action in relation to the various pests mentioned in the agenda. It is felt that if three or four of the major items that can be dealt with in the time available are handled by the council, better results will be achieved than by attempting to tackle the whole list. Matters in relation to the wool industry are, however, engaging the active attention of the council.
– Last week the Acting Treasurer stated that a royal commission is to be appointed to inquire into the Australian banking system. As the value of such a commission would be completely destroyed if the terms of reference were too narrow, will this House be allowed to discuss those terms before the appointment of the commission?
– The formulation of the terms of reference is the responsibility of the Government, and it will exercise that responsibility.
– In view of the declaration of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) that he would be prepared to recognize the wishes of the House in connexion with the appointement of a royal commission to inquire into our banking and monetary systems, will the Acting Prime Minister afford the House an opportunity to review the terms of reference to such a commission, and to ratify or criticize any proposed appointments to such a commission ?
– I understand that the Acting Treasurer has already replied, in substance, to the honorable member’s question, and I confirm his reply.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs been advised that the lowering of the duty on Oregon logs would be not beneficial but detrimental to Australia? Will he consider the reduction of the duty on junkoregon instead of on the log? Does the importation of logs give extra work to Australians?
– I would not venture an opinion on the matter raised by the last part of the honorable member’s question.
I would inform him, however, that the Tariff Board made a full investigation into what was considered a proper duty to place on logs as well as on junkoregon. The report of the board has been presented to the Government and is being considered by it in conjunction with a proposed treaty with another dominion, until which matter is finalized I cannot give to the honorable member any information additional to that which I have given to the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) on the same subject.
– Has the attention of the Acting Prime Minister been drawn to a press report that the negotiations for a trade agreement with New Zealand have been deferred? Is the report correct, and if so will the honorable gentleman state the reason for the delay?
– The negotiations are not being deferred. We are actually in communication with the Government of New Zealand and the matter will be taken up personally as soon as Parliament adjourns.
Formof Accounts - Dairy Produce Control Board’s Accounts
– by leave - The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) made some observations last week arising out of certain comments in the AuditorGeneral’s Report to Parliament upon the accounts of 1933-34.
The comments of the Auditor-General, on pages ten and eleven of his report to Parliament on the accounts of 1933-34, may be reduced to three main points -
As to transfers to trust account, the Auditor-General states, on page 10 of his report, that -
The method of treating as final expenditure of the Consolidated Revenue Fund those amounts which are placed in Trust Fund for expenditure in subsequent years is wrong in principle and misleading to those who seek information on the Treasury accounts.
This and other remarks by the AuditorGeneral on the same subject are, in essence, a repetition of criticisms in previous reports. The practice of creating trust accounts to cover expenditure of a special nature for which Parliament has appropriated the necessary moneys has been in existence for many; years and it is this practice to which the AuditorGeneral takes exception.
The point at issue can best be explained by a simple illustration. In 1933-34 Parliament voted £3,000,000 for relief to wheat-growers in respect of wheat grown during the 1933 season. At the 30th June, 1934, there was a liability of £869,959 outstanding. This was regarded by the Treasurer as a proper charge to the accounts of 1933-34. The outstanding amount was accordingly debited to the accounts of that year and earmarked in trust account to meet the obligations when they were presented for payment.
The Auditor-General takes exception to this course. He considers that the expenditure should have been debited to the accounts of the year when it was actually made. The course advocated by the Auditor-Genera.1 would have resulted in “ excess receipts “ at 30th June, 1934, being increased by £869,959, a position which, in my opinion, would have been misleading as it would have ignored the specific liability which was outstanding.
The Auditor-General admits that what has been done was in accordance with the law. The matter at issue is, therefore, a difference of opinion between the AuditorGeneral and the Treasurer as to the method of dealing with such transfers and presenting accounts. I might add that the method followed in last year’s accounts was practically the same as that followed by a succession of Treasurers of all governments for very many years.
In his report for 1926-27 the AuditorGeneral criticized the methods of the then Treasurer on this subject and submitted certain suggestions which were dealt with fully in a memorandum by the Treasurer. This memorandum was considered by His Excellency the GovernorGeneral in Council, in pursuance of section 54 of the Audit Act, and it was decided not to adopt the suggestions. A copy of the memorandum and the order in council were laid on the table of both Houses of Parliament on the 9th March, 192S, and some copies are now available on the table of the library for the information of honorable members.
In the circumstances that I have explained, it is not proposed to depart from the practice which has been followed for so many years and which has been approved by the Governor-General in Council.
In reference to the treatment of “ excess receipts “ during the last three years the Auditor-General stated on page 10 of hia report that they had not been used to pay ©ff any portion of the accumulated deficit and had been set aside for subsequent expenditure.
At the 30th June, 1931, there was an accumulated deficit of £17,216,340, arising out of the accounts for the four years 1927-28 to 1930-31. The last three years have shown an excess revenue over current expenditure of £6,162,269. In his last budget speech the Treasurer announced that the Government intended to devote the “ excess receipts “ in question for expenditure purposes, and proposals were subsequently approved by Parliament which provided £2,000,000 for financial assistance to the States and £4,160,000 for essential defence purposes. The Auditor-General’s remarks on this matter imply, if they do not actually state, that the “ excess receipts “ for these three years should be taken in reduction of the accumulated deficit, instead of being applied to new expenditure. No exception can be taken to the AuditorGenneral’s remarks. The Government itself recognizes that there is a good deal to be said in favour of this course. In fact, the Treasurer, in his budget speech of 1933-34, stated that, in normal circumstances, that would be the proper course. But we have not been fortunate enough to enjoy normal conditions for some years, and the Government deliberately adopted the course of setting the accumulated deficit on one’ side and .employing the “ excess receipts “ for the purposes of future budgets in the national interest. The following is an extract from the budget speech referred to:-
If the “ excess receipts “ had been applied in reduction of past deficits, it is clear that additional and substantial burdens would have been placed on the Australian people at a time when the Government was using all its endeavours towards some easement of existing burdens. The matter is simply one upon which there is an honest difference of opinion between the Auditor-General and the previous Lyons Government and the present Government. The Government sees no reason to depart from the course that has been deliberately adopted with the sanction of Parliament.
With regard to the accumulated deficit of £17,216,340, the Auditor-General says that if “ excess receipts “ are not devoted to reduce past deficits some statement should be made as to how otherwise it is proposed to meet the deficits. The deficits have so far been met, with the necessary legislative authority, from loan funds available to the Government which carry the usual sinking fund contribution. In view of the existing general position it is not proposed, for the present, to adopt a line of policy other than that indicated in the budget speech of 1933-34.
The Auditor-General criticized the method by which the Treasurer presents his account of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, and suggests alterations. His remarks and criticism on this subject really arise from his views concerning transfers to trust accounts. This point has already been dealt with, and it is not proposed to depart from the method of presenting accounts which has been adopted by successive Treasurers of various governments over a period of many years.
– Has the attention of the Acting Treasurer been drawn to a statement by the Auditor-General con cerning the accounts of the Dairy Produce Control Board in which he said that after making an audit, he had withheld his certificate for the balance-sheets of the board, owing to the failure of the board to effect adjustments in respect of reductions under the Financial Emergency Act, and also declared, “ This matter has remained unsettled since 1931. The payments made are distinctly illegal and the failure of the departments concerned to correct the matter calls for strong condemnation “ ? If such a certificate has not been issued by the AuditorGeneral, what steps does the Government propose to take in the matter, and, even if such a certificate has now been issued, what steps does the Government propose to take to prevent a repetition of what the Auditor-General has termed “ a distinctly illegal practice?”
– I am obtaining full information on the many matters to which the Auditor-General has drawn attention other than the one to which I referred this afternoon.
– In view of the serious comments made by the AuditorGeneral concerning public accounts and the divergence of opinion between that gentleman and the Acting Treasurer, will the Government consider the reappointment of a public accounts committee ?
– As the method of presenting Commonwealth accounts has been considered fairly definitely by successive Governments, and also by the Parliamentary Committee of Public Accounts, the Government does not consider that any further inquiry is justified.
– Is the Acting Treasurer aware that a country wholesale merchant has to pay sales tax on the total of the sale price of goods, plus the freight, whereas the city wholesale merchant pays tax only on the sale price of goods? In view of this disadvantage to country wholesalers, will the honorable gentleman consider the introduction of an amendment to the Sales Tax Assessment Act to rectify the anomaly?
– The circumstance mentioned by the honorable member is now engaging the active attention of the Government. The matter has been brought under notice forcibly by several country wholesale traders, and also, I think, by the honorable member himself.
– Where a vendor of second-hand goods can establish the fact that, because of the nature of certaintransactions, it has been impossible for him to pass on the sales tax to the ultimate purchaser, and that he has been forced, under threats of penalties which virtually amount to duress, to submit returns, upon which sales tax was wrongfully collected, will the Minister, if satisfied that the application by the vendor for a refund is in order, refund the tax paid?
– The ability of a vendor to pass on the sales tax is not a matter for consideration by the Government. A number of bills will shortly be introduced to deal with various phases of the sales tax, and I suggest that the honorable member bring this subject forward when they have reached the committee stage.
– I have received a telegram indicating that a resident of Alice Springs has been charged £2 12s. 6d. sales tax on a ton of flour. Is it not a fact that residents of the Northern Territory are exempt from the sales tax on flour?
– In view of the fact that many farmers are still abandoning their farms and leaving their homes, particularly in Western Australia, will the Acting Prime Minister do his best to have all the measures which the Government intends to introduce for the relief of farmers dealt with by Parliament as soon as possible, with the object of ameliorating the conditions of farmers and inducing them to remain on their holdings?
– I saw the chairman of the Royal Commission on the Wheat Industry (Sir Herbert Gepp) in Sydney on Monday, and urged him to let mo have final figures so that the Government could immediately proceed to provide for the distribution of the £572,000 that is available for allocation. Several short bills dealing with this subject will be considered this week.
Price of Milk - Cost of Livino Allowance
– Will the Minister for the Interior order an inquiry into the action of the milk suppliers in Canberra in increasing the price of milk from 6d. to 8d. a quart ? In view of the very high cost of living in Canberra will the honorable gentleman consider recommending to the Government that a cost of living allowance be made to all adult public servants
– I shall look into the subject.
– Will the Act ing Prime Minister inform me whether it is the intention of the Government to cause the Royal Commission on the Wheat Industry to undertake an exhaustive inquiry into the milling trade, and the profits made from the manufacture of flour? If so, can he give the House any idea when the inquiry will begin ? Is the Government in a position to do anything to limit the inquiry to a reasonable period ?
– The Wheat Commission is inquiring into that subject. Its report has been delayed because the Government of New South Wales asked for the services of the chairman of the commission in connexion with an inquiry into the price of bread. Every effort will be made to obtain the report as early as possible.
– In view of the report that the Secretary for the Dominions, Mr. Thomas, said in the House of Commons, on the 7th February, that Mr. Malcolm MacDonald had, during his recent visit to Australia, formally discussed with the Australian authorities the report of the inter-departmental committee on migration, and had stated that the discussions were to continue, are we to understand that the Government contemplates embarking on a policy of wholesale migration ?
– As has frequently been stated, the Government considers that its duty is to provide, first, for
Australians who are out of work; only after they have been placed in employment will it consider a scheme of migration.
– In the press on the 12th February last, the Prime Minister was reported to have suggested that migration from England to Australia might be resumed. The paragraph reads -
A hint that migration might ho resumed was given by Mr. Lyons who said Australia had to be populated to defend herself properly.
I ask the Acting Prime Minister how he reconciles that with the statement just made by him to the House that the migration policy is not to be revived?
– I heartily concur in the Prime Minister’s statement that Australia must be populated to defend itself properly.
– On several occasions it has been reported that the Government intends to appoint a number of trade commissioners in the East under the authority already given by Parliament. Can the Acting Prime Minister say when it is expected that these appointments will ‘be made, and the places at which the trade commissioners are likely to be stationed?
– This subject will be discussed at a meeting of the Eastern Trade Committee which has been called for the middle of April.
– In view of the fact that the freight charged for the carriage of a bullock a distance of 1,000 miles in Queensland is 33s. l0d. compared with £3 for approximately the same distance between Alice Springs and Adelaide, will the Minister for the Interior endeavour to bring about a reduction of the latter charge ?
– I realize the necessity for lowering as much as possible the freight rates on stock, particularly in view of the prices now being obtained, and shall discuss the subject with the Common wealth Railways Commissioner.
– Is the Acting
Prime Minister in a position to say whether he has heard anything recently of what is politely described as the secession movement, which is being considered on the other side of the world, and whether he has informed the authorities in Great Britain that things which affect the Australian Constitution are matters for settlement by this Parliament and the people of Australia, and not by any external body?
– I have no more information on this subject than has recently appeared in the press. I suggest that this is a matter which might reasonably be left to the Prime Minister and his colleagues when in Great Britain.
– Recently the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) referred to a questionnaire which had’ been sent out to an invalid pensioner. I have had inquiries made and find that the questionnaire was a variation of Form No. 7. It was sent out quite irregularly. I do not agree with the use of this form when making inquiries from pensioners or claimants for pensions, and have given instructions that, if it is customary to send out questionnaires in that form, the practice is to be discontinued.
– Has the attention of the Acting Treasurer been called to the fact that a great many invalid pensioners, whose state of health has not altered, have been recently and suddenly deprived of their pensions on the ground, alleged, that they are not completely incapacitated? As this involves a tremendous amount of hardship, I ask the honorable gentleman whether he has given any direction to his officers to tighten up the granting of pensions in such cases, and whether he will consider doing something to mitigate the great hardship due to these persons, who cannot be employed, being deprived of their pensions?
– There has been no alteration in policy, or, so far as I know, in the administration of theact, in recent times.
– In view of the very limited number of old-age pensioners in the Northern Territory, and the high cost of living there, as compared with the cost of living in other States, will the Acting Treasurer direct that they shall be allowed at least £1 a week instead of being asked to exist on 17s. 6d. a week as at present?
– The Government does not see its way to differentiate in the rate of pensions by reason of location.
– Is the Acting Treasurer aware that considerable hardship is being inflicted on aged migrants to this country, some of them between 50 and 60 years of age, who are told by the department, after they have been residing here for perhaps ten or fifteen years, that they are not entitled to an invalid pension because their incapacity is not due to residence in this country? In view of the fact that under the act an invalid is entitled to a pension, provided he has been resident in this country for at least five years, and is able to prove that he has earned his living during a considerable portion of that period, and having regard also to the fact that many of these old people have maintained homes for their sons and daughters, who have left them helpless, will the Acting Treasurer see that the regulations are amended so that they will no longer be denied a pension?
– If the honorable member will supply me with information concerning individual cases which have come under his notice it will make it easier for me to make the necessary inquiries.
– I have already brought cases under the notice of the Acting Treasurer.
– I suggest that the honorable member supply me with particulars of the cases which he hasin mind.
– Will the Minister for Repatriation consider amending the Repatriation Act, or, if he has the power, instructing the Repatriation Commission that, in cases in which exmembers of the Australian Imperial Force, in whomno trace of pulmonary tuberculosis was apparent at the time of enlistment, are found to be suffering from that disability, it should be deemed to be a disability due to war service entitling them to pensions under the Repatriation Act?
– To the best of my knowledge and belief, the act already makes provision along the lines indicated by the honorable gentleman. I shall, however, have his question carefully analyzed by my psychological experts, and supply him with an answer.
– Has the Minister for Repatriation had time to consider the report on certain representations made by myself on behalf of the Tubercular Soldiers Association of South Australia with the object of reviewing the rights of these men for further relief, and is he prepared to recommend to the Cabinet that a change be made in the system under which dependants of deceased soldiers, who are forced to seek relief, will become the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government instead of a State government?
– The matter raised by the honorable gentleman is one of farreaching importance. The whole question is being reviewed very carefully by the Government, and I am not yet in a position to make a definite statement with regard to the Government’s policy in this matter.
– Have you, Mr. Speaker, any information to give to honorable members regarding the removal of furniture from one room to another in this building by honorable members of a certain party, and are you in a position to make better provision for the comfort and convenience of members of other parties as well?
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).I see no necessity to make any statement with regard to the first part of the honorable member’s question. As to the second part, if the honorable member has any complaint to make regarding the furnishing of the room he occupies in company with other honorable members, I shall be glad to listen to his representations.
– In view of growing public opinion against legalizing the right of private firms to manufacture arms and ammunition and the recently.published statement that a large private firm is now building an establishment in Victoria for the manufacture of arms, will the Minister for Defence inform the House whether any arrangement has been entered into by the Government with this firm for the supply of arms to the Defence Department?
– by leave - In the first place I would inform the honorable member that a convention was drawn up under the auspices of the League of Nations in 1925 for- the supervision of the international trade in arms and ammunition, and in implements of war, although acceded to by the Commonwealth Government, is not yet in force, as it has not received the requisite number of ratifications prescribed under its provisions.
The object of this Convention is to establish a general system of supervision and publicity for the international trade in arms, &c, arid a special system for areas where measures of this kind are generally recognized as particularly necessary. Only governments have the right under the Convention to export or import arms of exclusive war utility. Consignments for export must be accompanied by a licence or declaration of the importing government. Even if this Convention were in operation, Australian firms would not come within its provisions, as they are concerned with the manufacture of material for industrial and sporting purposes and do not undertake the manufacture of military munitions.
The position so far as Australia is concerned i3 that arms and armaments are manufactured by factories under and controlled directly by the Commonwealth Government, and orders are not executed for foreign countries.
At the moment there does not seem to be any likelihood of the 1925 C Convention becoming operative, and attempts are now being made at the Disarmament Conference at Geneva, following on a draft convention submitted by the United States of America Government, to frame a new convention for the regulation and control of the manufacture of, and trade in, arms which, it is hoped, will prove more generally acceptable than the 1925 Convention.
I might add that, following on the debate in the House of Commons on this question in November, 1934, His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom announced on the 18th February that it had constituted a royal commission to consider and report upon the question of the private manufacture of, and trade in, arms.
Replying more directly to the question just asked by the honorable member, I reiterate that the company to which he refers does not propose to manufacture ammunition for war purposes, but has been formed merely for the manufacture of guns and cartridges for sporting purposes. Consequently, ‘the Governmenthas made no arrangement with this company for the manufacture of ammunition, and no such arrangement is contemplated.
– With respect to the quota of mutton and lamb exports to Great Britain for the April and June quarters of this year, will the Minister for Commerce inform the House whether there is any truth in the report that this quota has been fixed at 450,000 cwt. with an allowance for a carry-over of 120,000 cwt., and that no fresh killings are to take place?
– An intimation has been received from the British Government that it is prepared to admit an additional 145,000 cwt. of mutton and lamb during the second quarter. I am informed by exporters and shipping authorities that that amount will enable the present stock to be cleared to an extent which will permit killings to go forward in the ordinary way. I am also informed that there is abundant storage available for these further killings. In regard to future exports, I understand that shipments for the third quarter will begin in April, so that there will be no difficulty in that regard.
– Regarding the Red Hill to Port Augusta railway, is the Minister for the Interior aware that the Crown Law authorities of South Australia are of the opinion that before the Commonwealth can proceed with any work under the original agreement, the further consent of the State parliament is required? Has this opinion of the Crown Law Department in South Australia and of the South. Australian Government been conveyed to the Commonwealth Government? If so, has the Minister anything to report on this matter to this House?
– So far as I am aware the opinion to which the honorable member has just referred has not been transmitted to the Commonwealth Government. However, this Government is in touch with the Government of South Australia and it is proposed to send to-day to the State Government a letter setting out the full position and also pointing out that, while the Commonwealth is prepared to carry out in its entirety the agreement arrived at in 1923 and passed by both legislatures in 1926, the Commonwealth is suggesting for the consideration of the Government of South Australia, an alternative proposal, the carrying out of which we believewill be in the best interests not only of South Australia, but also of the Commonwealth and the taxpayers as a whole.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister if it is the intention of the Government to appoint a substitute for the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Employment while that gentleman is abroad? If not, what is to become of all the schemes based on co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States proposed by that gentleman for the relief of unemployment? Does not the Acting Prime Minister consider the unemployment problem of sufficient importance to warrant the whole attention of a Parliamentary Under-Secretary or a Minister?
– The question of unemployment is receiving the undivided attention of the whole Cabinet, but the duties of the Parliamentary UnderSecretary for Employment are being carried out by the Minister for the Interior in their entirety, both in connexion with the works undertaken solely by the Commonwealth and in connexion with those projects proposed to be carried out conjointly by the Commonwealth and the States.
– Replying recently to a question asked by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) regarding “ Woolstra,” the Acting Prime Minister said that this matter had been referred to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. I presume the matter was referred to that body for analysis. If so, can the Acting Prime Minister say whether the Government has in mind any plans for meeting this undoubted menace to a future rise of wool prices?
– The Government has the matter under consideration.
– In view of the various representations that have been made by women’s organizations regarding several phases of maternal and infantile mortality, will the Minister for Health state what progress has been made with the States in regard to the policy to be adopted to combat it?
– The Government has communicated its purpose to the States and is seeking their co-operation. It would be premature and improper to formulate a plan until the States have had an opportunity to cooperate with the Commonwealth in drawing up such a scheme as would be acceptable to both parties.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral whether it is a fact that the unnecessary delay in erecting a broadcasting studio at Hobart is due’ to lack of funds ? If so, will he take steps to make funds available to the Broadcasting Commission so that they may proceed at once with the work?
– So far as I am aware there has been no delay on the part of the department in carrying out its relay station programme. There is a relay station in Tasmania and it will be opened within the next few months. Arrangements have not yet been completed to proceed with the erection of a studio at Hobart.
– Can the Minister for the Interior inform the House whether the report is correct that the motor launch ordered by his department for use in northern waters has a maximum range of only 600 miles, and capacity for a crew of only three? If the report is correct, will the Minister inform the House to what use SUCH a launch can be put?
– I understand that the range of the launch is 600 miles, and that it will carry a crew of three. One of the purposes to which it will be put is that of patrol work in connexion with the aerial service. It will also be required to do certain patrol work along the coastline adjacent to the Northern Territory.
– Will the Minister administering the War Service Homes Department find out how many purchasers of war service homes have been taken to court during the last twelve months?
– I shall make inquiries and let the honorable member know.
– Can the Acting Prime Minister inform the House how many States are prepared to co-operate with the Commonwealth in implementing a wheat pool throughout Australia as recommended in the report of the Royal Commission ?
– As soon as the report of the Royal Commission on Wheat was received copies were forwarded to the various State Governments with a request that they should indicate by the 15 th April next, when the Australian Agricultural Council will meet, what is their attitude with regard tq the scheme.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether efforts are being continued with the object of bringing about a renewal of the international wheat agreement and, if negotiations are in progress, when finality will be reached ?
– I think negotiations have been proceeding very slowly because of the attitude of the Argentina in regard to this matter.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister if it is the intention of the Government to make available a sum of money for the purpose of conducting an inquiry into the possibility of making a deep sea port on the Clarence River, and if so, will the Government also consider the possibility of making a deep sea port on the Richmond River?
– It is not the intention of the Government to make -i sum of money available for either purpose.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister make a detailed statement to the House showing the effect of the Government’s policy of restriction of exports?
– The Government has no policy of restriction. It has consistently and continuously fought against the imposition of any such policy.
– The Government does not propose ‘to answer any further question without notice.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).I have received from Mrs. T. W.White, daughter of the late Mrs. Pattie Deakin, a letter thanking the House for its resolution of sympathy.
– I have received from the honorable member for “West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House this afternoon for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The necessity for a review of the agreement under which sugar is sold retail to the people of Australia at 4d. per lb., to be undertaken by a select committee of this House, aided by expert assistance, and clothed with the full powers of a royal commission, to report upon the circumstances which led to the Government’s decision to renew the sugar agreement eighteen months before its expiry, and to report upon the financial position of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited.”
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I have submitted this motion because of the urgent necessity to review the agreement under which sugar is retailed to the people of Australia at 4d. per lb. I suggest that this review be undertaken by a select committee of this House, aided by expert assistance, clothed with the full powers of a royal commission, and that such a committee should resortupon the circumstances which led to the Government’s decision to renew the agreement eighteen months before its expiry, and obtain the correct financial position of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited.
At the outset I desire to make it clear that the members of the Labour party have no quarrel with the spirit of the agreement, and do not wish to injure in any way the Australian sugar industry or those employed in it. We are howover, determined to contest in every pos sible way the exploitation of the Australian consumer. As sugar is an essential commodity in every family, our fight is on. behalf of the housewives, who for years have paid an extortionate price for sugar, while the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited has piled up enormous profits, the greater proportion of which have been concealed, and has also paid excessive dividends. So blatant and ruthless has this exploitation become that it ranks with the “ rackets “ of Chicago. When one surveys the whole subject of the essential foods of the community one can come to only one conclusion - that a “ food racket “ covering almost every commodity which goes to make up the average meal has been organized by wealthy interests. On the 20th February, 1935, the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) announced in Melbourne that the agreement would be renewed for another five years after the present agreement expires in September, 1936, or eighteen months before it should again come up for review. Why did the right honorable gentleman renew the agreement? As the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) said on Friday last, it has been renewed “ behind the backs of Parliament and of his own party “. The principle of the sugar agreement is not the object of this motion, but its terms, the history of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, and the arbitrary action of the right honorable the Prime Minister are such that call for a close and unbiassed inquiry.
It has been evident, from the four inquiries which have been held in regard to sugar, either that the full facts have never been elicited, or that the power of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited has been used to keep them hidden. That that power has operated successfully was indicated by the recent announcement as to the renewal of the agreement, with its consequent burden on the consumers of the extortionate charge of 4d. a pound for sugar, and the recent amendment of the Income Tax Assessment Act which rendered the £7,000,000 Christmas bonus share issue to Colonial Sugar Refining Company shareholders immune from taxation. Even the honorable the Acting Treasurer (Mr.
Casey), who piloted that measure through this House, admitted : “ The size of the distribution has given a surprise to all OF us”. But it was significant that the Acting Treasurer did not recommit the bill, so that just taxation could be imposed on that £7,000,000 Christmas gift, which was, no doubt, obtained from excess profits.
It appears to me to be most significant that Mr. A. R. Townsend, who is attached to the Customs Department, and as a member of the Sugar Inquiry Committee of 1930 signed a majority report, is the same Mr. Townsend who was the solo investigator on this occasion. Although the chairman, Mr.. John Gunn, and two other members, signed a minority report, Mr. Townsend was on the side of the “big battalions-“. According to the admission last Friday by the right honorable the Acting Prime Minister (Dr. Earle Page), the report upon which the Government acted on this occasion was compiled solely by Mr. Townsend. A remarkable reticence was displayed by the right honorable gentleman when he was closely questioned by honorable members from all sides- of the House as to the premises on which the Government had built its premature sugar policy. In answer to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) the Acting Prime Minister exclaimed : “ There are no records, and they will not be made available “. “While that statement was amusing at the time, it stressed the inference that there were actually no records. Mr. Townsend had apparently been set up as sole arbiter to determine what profits the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited should be allowed to draw, and whether the exploitation of the consumer should continue. Mr. Townsend, it appears, decided that those high profits and the high price should continue, and the Government has. apparently accepted his advice.
It is interesting, at this stage, to quote extracts from the recommendations in the minority report of the 1930 inquiry, signed by the chairman, Mr. John Gunn, Mr. F. A. L. Dutton and Elsie E. Morgan, to which Mr. Townsend did not subscribe. One recommendation was:
That prices for sugar to Australian consumers be reduced by £2 8s. Gd. a ton for the two years ending August, 31, 1933,’ and at that time a review … be made by the Federal Government with a view to . . a further reduction in prices.
That the responsibility of seeing that the proposed reduction be passed to domestic consumers … be placed … by a definite! provision in any new agreement.
It was stated that, except for the then chaotic world conditions, a reduction of £4 13s. 4d. a ton would have been recommended. Continuing the minority report declared :
Although there have been four public inquiries into sugar - in 1912, 1920, 1922 and 1930–it is obvious that the actual financial ramifications of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited have never been completely explored. This was eloquently shown when the company distributed £7,000,000 of untaxed, hidden assets. The signatories to the minority report of 1930, when endeavouring to grapple with the financial ramifications of the company, declared -
No evidence was given to show whether the large profits in past years were made from the Australian sugar industry, or from the company’s other interests.
Another example was given by the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Mr. J. M. Fowler, who was then the honorable member for Perth. The committee held an inquiry in 1922, and in a published statement on the 9th August, 1930, Mr. Fowler declared -
Skilled accountants have given up in despair the task of trying to read the true position of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited in balance sheets. Mr. Edwin Nixon reported to my committee in 1922 that there was evidence of millions of pounds of undisclosed profits, camouflaged in many ways. He discovered enough to know that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited holds the whole sugar trade of this country in the hollow of its hand. It met us with an absolute refusal to divulge the full extent of its profits.
At the annual meeting of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited in Sydney on the 28th November, 1934, it was disclosed that for the year ended the 30th September, 1934, the company’s profits totalled £937,170, and dividends and bonus at the rate of 121/2 per cent. had been paid. It was at that meeting that the new bonus share issue of 350,000 shares of £20 each was authorized, thus increasing the capital of the company from £7,000,000 to £14,000,000. This was the company’s Christmas gift out of the sugar “ bowl “ to the Knoxes, the Fairfaxes and the rest. These were concealed assets. The chairman, Mr. H. It. Knox, failed to answer the charge which I made in this House last session, that a proportion should have gone into Commonwealth revenue as taxation. The company was secure in the knowledge that, even if what proportion of that £7,000,000 was taxable were revealed, an amendment of the Income Tax Assessment Act by this Government had ensured immunity for the whole amount until the 31st December - over a month after the meeting - although the bill, when originally introduced, specified the 1st July as the date on which the new provision should operate.
My request is for the appointment of a select committee of this House, armed with the f ullest powers, and aided by the best possible assistance, to get to the bottom of this business, in order to find out what is a fair price for consumers to pay for their sugar and to expose fully this “ racket “ in food. Free from any Townsends, or anybody else open to the tremendous power which the Colonial Sugar Refining Company can exercise, with the Sydney Morning Herald at the company’s back, and the Government apparently in its hands, I want a committee of this House, determined - if it be humanly possible - to get to the truth. If the Government refuses my request, I warn it that it automatically becomes guilty of being under the control of this combine, that it flouts public opinion and the widespread resentment aroused by its action, and that it condones wicked exploitation. That my request is backed by public opinion I shall show by reminding the House that, on the 22nd February, 1935, the Housewives Progressive Association of New South Wales passed the following resolution : -
We thank the Federal Government for a very contemptible deal. It never would have been given the housewives’ votes if we had known this was the way it intended to treat us. It waited until it had been elected for another three years before it sprang on us the meanest action any government ever sprung upon a trusting country which it has greatly betrayed.
– That is a serious statement.
– Unquestionably. On the 6th March, 1935, the Sugar Consumers Association held a conference at Melbourne. The federal president of the Housewives Association, Mrs. W. Hardy, who represented South Australia, declared -
There was ample room for a reduction in the existing prices, as the profits of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company showed. The people of South Australia were indignant with the Government for renewing the agreement. If the parliamentary representatives would not move . . . funds should be raised so that the associations concerned could cite a case for the High Court, and have the action of the Government for entering into the agreement fully tested.
At the same conference, Mr. J. B. Valentine, of Tasmania, said that when the right honorable the Prime Minister was next in his electorate he would receive a lot of “please explains”. The president of the Housewives Association of Victoria, Mrs. W. Thomas, remarked that a very heavy burden was thrown on poor families to the advantage of a wealthy combine. The following motion was carried; -
That, in view of the widespread resentment against the proposal of the Lyons Government to continue the sugar agreement for another five years from 1936, the conference urges the Sugar Consumers Association to organize every form of opposition to that proposal.
When I raised this issue last session, the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) said that, if a practical proposal were advanced, support would be forthcoming from him and other honorable members on his side of the House. From questions they have asked, the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) and the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price), at least, are deeply concerned over this matter. It is very easy for them to ask questions. They are now afforded an opportunity to stand behind a practical and logical move to sift to the bottom the ramifications of a powerful combine, whose operations should be such as to command the confidence and respect of the people of Australia. No doubt it will be said in the course of the discussion that this subject was inquired into during the period when I was associated with the Scullin Government. That is true, but that inquiry, like every previous one, did not disclose the hidden profits of this company, and it was only after special measures were brought down by the present Government with the object of placing a time limit on the disposal of bonus shares to avoid taxation that we were able to ascertain the exact position. Such information was not available to members of the Scullin Government, or I will not have it said that in making any recommendation to deal with this problem, we have put forward the claim that black-grown sugar should be admitted to this country, and we are not going to allow the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and its supporters to intimidate us with this cry against our efforts to protect the consumers of this country. Labour is keen to see this industry protected against black-grown sugar, but it is not going to allow a huge combine like the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, backed up by the Fairfaxes and the Knoxes, to exploit the community as we claim it is doing to-day.
– The terms of the motion moved by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) are “ to discuss the necessity for a review of the agreement under which sugar is sold to the people of Australia at 4d. per lb. to be undertaken by a select committee of this House “ and then the honorable member adds that this committee is “ to report upon the financial position of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited.” These are totally different matters. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company has nothing whatever to do with the sugar agreement which the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has indicated will be again renewed, and its name does not appear in it. This matter was raised because the Sugar Producers Association, consisting of large sugar mill owners, most of the growers, and the Queensland Cane-growers Association, representing all the growers, asked what the Government proposed to do for the future. I do not stand here as a champion of the actions of any company nor would the Government stand behind the machinations of any company. A definite refining fee of £1 a ton is given to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, an arrangement of the Queensland Government, and that sum is paid out of the sugar pool. That, however, has nothing to do with the sugar agreement and has only a slight effect on the price of sugar.
I shall deal very briefly with the company by reading from the reports of the Sugar Inquiry Committee, 1931, quoted by the honorable member for West Sydney. This inquiry took place when the honorable member was a member of a previous .administration and the report was presented on the 26th March, 1931. The honorable member resigned from the Cabinet on the Srd March, 1931, but did not indicate that his resignation had anything to do with the sugar, agreement. On page 53 of the majority report, there appears the following : -
Taking the total capital of £8.589,212 required to handle all the company’s Australian sugar operations, it will be found that the average net profit of £472,000 per annum remaining to the company (after payment of income tax) is equivalent to Bi per cent, per annum, and it is not considered that this rate of earning is excessive.
In the minority report the following passage appears: -
The above profit of £609,000 ‘represents 7.1 per cent, of the capital value of the assets at the Australian mills and refineries, i.e., the written down value of the fixed plant, plus the value of the average stocks. If income tax is deducted, the return is 5.5 per cent, of the capital value of the assets.
I shall proceed no further than that. Honorable members know that the company conducts operations elsewhere than in Australia. It receives greater preferences in the British market on colonialgrown sugar than on dominion sugar, and is thus able to make greater profits on sugar grown in Fiji.
It was only at 12 o’clock to-day that the Government learned of the honorable gentleman’s intention to move this motion, and what it gathered was that the remarks to be made by him would be a criticism of the Prime Minister’s action in renewing the agreement. But now we learn that it is nothing of the kind; it is merely a second barrel being fired against a company which the Government does not intend to defend. Recently the honorable member moved the adjournment of the House to discuss this matter, and a full reply was made by the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Casey) and the Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes).
– What is the reason for the present high price of sugar?
– The latest retail prices of sugar in various parts of the world, converted to Australian currency at present exchange rates, are as follows: -
Thus, the average retail price of sugar for European countries was 4.31d. per lb.
– Why not give the whole of the figures?
– I shall do so. In other countries the prices are -
The average for all these countries was, therefore, 4.03d. per lb. as against an Australian price of 4d.
– Freight is included in the European price for transport up to 12,000 miles.
– A good deal of freight is paid on shipments round the Australian coast. The inquiry into the industry in 1931 followed previous inquiries conducted by royal commissions, select committees, and the Parliamentary Joint Committee of Public Accounts, in addition to an inquiry initiated by the Commonwealth Sugar Tribunal. I recommend honorable members to read those reports, because the sugar position is very much misunderstood, and it is easy to believe that no single committee was conversant with the whole subject. We all agree that the price of sugar should be the lowest possible; but would honorable members agree that we should throw down the whole of the economic barriers of protection and allow world parity prices to prevail? Those who believe that we can compete against the world in every commodity shut their eyes to the fact that we have to pay a huge internal excise, such, for instance, as huge sums for invalid and old-age pensions; and we are bound by factory laws and industrial tribunals, which all applaud and support. Therefore, we are compelled to impose duties against the industries of the outside world. So if we put a high duty on sugar to make the local product competitive with sugar from the rest of the world, or if we place an embargo on its importation, it is to enable reasonable conditions to prevail in the industry. I have not heard the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), who has interjected, raise any objection to the payment of a wheat bounty in Western Australia. Is there any difference between assisting the sugargrowers and the growers of wheat whom he represents?
– It is all wrong.
– Yes, and yet the honorable member time after time in this House has supported protective duties which may be placed in the same category. Let these -world-menders go elsewhere and pronounce their views. But the various legislatures of the Commonwealth have felt ever since 1915 that an embargo on sugar was the best way to protect the industry.
We have only to study the conditions of the cane-growers in order to realize that the industry is not receiving too much. Honorable members who have not visited the tropical parts of Australia should do so, and study the conditions under which the people live. Moreover, there is another way of looking at the matter. We hold this White Australia by virtue of the fact that we are part of the Empire, and that wc are ready to defend it if anybody should try to take it from us. However, apart from the power of the British Empire, we have very little except the statute-book to protect us.
– The Minister was doing very well up till now.
– Unless some adequate inducement was held out, who, I ask, would bo prepared to endure the hardships and discomforts of the tropics, when they might live comfortably in the city like the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) ? It is necessary that we should populate the tropical parts of Australia, because our best defence is man power. If honorable members think that the people are being burdened with excessive costs for sugar, let them look upon that burden as part of the defence vote.
It is a mistake for honorable members to imagine that the cane-growers are, as a body, prosperous farmers who are fleecing the rest of the Commonwealth. In 1932, liens were given over 60 per cent. of the sugar crops in Queensland, while in 1934 the percentage had risen to 69. Nor is it a fact that labour conditions are ideal in the north. The workers are not making fortunes, as any one can see who studies the figures, while the work is certainly arduous. Field workers receive £3 18s. a week, mill workers, from £3 18s. up to £5 for foremen, &c, while the cane-cutters receive 7s. a ton for cutting and loading the cane.
– Which is equal to about £230 a year.
– I should like to see the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) earn £230 in a year by cutting cane. In every other industry we are trying to keep up prices, yet honorable members who happen to live a long way from where the sugar is produced close their eyes to facts. They say that they are being imposed upon, whereas Queensland buys more from the other States than those Statesbuy from it. We should keep in mind trade balances between the States even as we do trade balances between various countries. We should realize that the sugar industry provides a great deal of employment in Queensland, both in growing the crop and in making the sugar in the mills. As a matter of fact, the mills that crush the sugar have, except in a few instances, nothing whatever to do with this monopoly company about which the honorable member has been speaking, and even that company has not an absolute monopoly of refining. The Millaquin Company at Bundaberg refines 3 per cent. of the total output. Admittedly, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company refines 97 per cent. of the crop, but does so at a price arranged between itself and the Queensland Government.
The honorable member who moved this motion said that the Prime Minister had given promises prematurely regarding the renewal of the sugar agreement and that, apparently, the announcement was made six months before it was necessary. The announcement was not premature, and it was right that the Prime Minister should make a statement on the position before leaving the country. All he said was that the matter would be brought before Parliament before any definite action was taken. He need not even have done that. He could have done as other governments have done in the past - have got it all ready, and brought the agreement down for ratification at the last moment. Instead of that, however, he said that Parliament would be given an opportunity to review the matter, and it cannot be said that there is anything secretive about that.
– But it is autocratic.
-There is nothing autocratic about it. When the bill is brought down, the honorable member for Barton can tell us what is wrong with it. As I have indicated, it is necessary that an early announcement regarding the Government’s policy should be made. The agreement expires on the 31st August of next year. The matter will be brought before Parliament about September or October of this year, and the agreement will operate from then. However, the planting that is going on now will be for a crop that will be reaped and paid for under the new agreement. All the commissioners who have inquired into the sugar industry have stressed the point that a five-year cycle must be preserved. Therefore, the planting that will be going on during the next few months in respect of crops that will be harvested from May to December of next year constitutes one year of the cycle. Then there will follow three ratoon crops, which are crops taken off the existing cane-fields without any new planting, and the year after that the land will be left fallow. That completes the five years’ cycle, and honorable members can realize why the planters need to know now what future lies before the industry.
– Is that not an argument for taking early action in respect to the agreement?
-It is. The agreement is not signed yet, and if honorable membersareable to show good reasons why its terms should be varied, they will have an opportunity to do so when the matter is under discussion in the House.
I am sorry that the honorable member for West Sydney made an attack on an official of the Customs Department. Every government department must have its experts, and the Customs Department, with its many ramifications, must have experts in various subjects. Mr. Townsend has done valuable work not only in connexion with this industry, but also in connexion with other industries. I assume that the honorable member must have been misinformed or he would not have made the statements he did. Mr. Townsend was a member of the last committee of inquiry which investigated the sugar industry in 1931, and on that committee were representatives of the Housewives Association, as well as members of the canning industry, and of the sugar producers themselves. In addition, the consumers as a whole were fully represented. That committee presented a majority report recommending a price of 41/2d. a lb. for sugar, while a minority of the committee recommended a price of41/4d. It was the Lyons Government which had the price fixed at 4d., as the result of a voluntary agreement made with the industry itself. Therefore, it is of no use to quote from either the majority or the minority report, becausethe Government has done better than either.
– There is no report at all this time.
– It would not be practicable to have an investigation every time the agreement is to be renewed. The Government is in possession of all the facts, and is in a position to recommend what ought to be done. As a matter of fact, sugar is soiling for less on the world’s market to-day than it was when the present agreement was made, so that there exists a reason rather for raising the internal price than for reducing it.
– If the agreement were not ratified, what would be the effect?
– If the agreement were not ratified I feel confident that the industry would be wrecked. When we become fully acquainted with the circumstances, it is impossible to doubt that the Government’s action is justified. It is easy for members of some association in Western Australia to say that the price of sugar is too high, but the facts do not support their assertion. The price of sugar has risen less since 1911 than that of any other commodity with the exception of butter as the following figures indicate : -
It comes badly from members of the New South Wales Labour party to suggest that the price of sugar should be reduced, when the basic wage is now about 45 per cent. higher than it was in 1911, while the price of sugar is only 35 per cent. higher. The working man can better afford to pay4d. per lb. for sugar now than he could afford to pay 3d. per lb. then.
The sugar industry is one of the most valuable industries in Australia, and is absolutely essential to Queensland if that State is to remain solvent. It is Queensland’s biggest industry. The Prime Minister did right to give early and general notice of the Government’s intention. He did not act in anycovert or secret manner, nor arrange any private agreement between the Commonwealth and State governments. He openly stated the Government’s policy, and had it announced by his deputy in Parliament that the agreement would be renewed. If Parliament chooses to reject the agreement it will have an opportunity to do so in September next. I venture the opinion, however, that this debate will do a great deal to clear up much of the misunderstanding that appears to exist with regard to the agreement and that, when the bill is before Parliament, it will approve of the arrangement which has been in operation for the last 20 years.
.- The attitude of the- Australian Labour Party towards government control of the sugar industry is the same to-day as it was in 1915, when a Federal Labour Government, lod by the late Mr. Andrew Fisher, made the first sugar agreement with the Queensland Labour Government, led by the late Mr. T: J. Ryan. Labour has always been in the forefront in supporting a renewal of the sugar agreement which ensures a fair return to the growers, a reasonable wage to the workers engaged in the industry, a fair price to those processing sugar, and a high quality product at a reasonable price to Australian consumers.
I take it that the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) does not, by his motion this afternoon, seek to do any injury to either the growers or t workers in the industry; but I think the effect of carrying his motion to appoint a select committee to inquire into and report as to the necessity for a review of the agreement would be to put the whole industry into the melting pot, and I know it would have a damaging effect on the position of the growers and the workers in the industry. I know. of course, that the honorable member for West Sydney does not wish to do that.
His purpose, I gather, is to have a searching investigation into the ramifications of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and in that he has my wholehearted support. I would ask him, however, not to mix that matter with the sugar agreement. To do what the motion indicates would be to delay the reenactment of the agreement for a year, injure the credit of the growers, arrest the development of the industry, and seriously interfere with the efforts that are being made by the Queensland Labour Government to grapple with the problem of unemployment in that State.
We all know that the ramifications of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company extend to other countries. It gets -a British tariff preference of £3 a ton on 140,000 tons of sugar imported annually from Fiji, over and above the preference given to the dominions. It was one of the most dominant forces which organized Labour had to contend with in Queeusland when it set about the business of getting rid of kanaka labour in the cane-fields, and in connexion with its proposals that growers should have representation on cane prices boards and thus have something to say about the prices which they should get for their product. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company and other proprietary interests of that time fought every democratic project that was brought forward by the Labour party to ensure that those engaged in the industry should have some say as to what their returns should be.
– Is that opposition peculiar to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company ?
– No; it is exhibited by all vested interests towards proposals introduced by organized Labour. I want to make it clear that I am not defending the Colonial Sugar Refining Company in any way.
Under the agreement made by the Scullin Government, there was rigid control over the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s activities in Australia in so far as they were connected with the sugar industry. The net profit which it makes from the allowance provided for in the agreement does not exceed one twelfth of a penny per lb., which is, of course, apart from the interest upon money loaned to the growers and millers to finance the crop, for which the company receives one half per cent, less than the bank rate of interest.
The Sugar Inquiry Committee appointed in 1931 made one of the most searching investigations ever carried out in connexion with the industry. Dealing with the financial position of the growers, it reported in the following terms : -
As a result, of an examination of these figures, it is apparent that the growers, taken on the average, were only making a small return on their capital outlay, viz., 2.02 per cent, for the years 1025 to 1928.
That committee was specially instructed to examine the relation of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company with the Australian sugar industry and to report upon the profits which it made.
It found that the company made a net profit of 5J per cent, on capital invested in the industry in Australia.
I shall offer no objection to the proposal for a searching examination of the ramifications of the . Colonial Sugar Refining Company, but I emphasise the danger of doing anything to jeopardise the renewal of the sugar agree, ment which is so essential to enable growers and others who have put their life savings into the industry and are doing important pioneering work to know where they stand eighteen months ahead. It appears certain that any further reduction in the price of sugar would have to be borne by the growers and workers, and not by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
There have been serious complaints with regard to the position of the fruit industry, and I would point out that under the agreement made by the Scullin Government, that industry received concessions from the sugar industry amounting to £300,000 per annum.
– This Government has raised the amount of the concession under this agreement.
– The Lyons Government reduced the concession to the fruit industry from £300,000 to £200,000 per annum when it reduced the price of sugar, thus taking from the Queensland sugar industry £1,250,000 per annum.
– That was a voluntary arrangement.
– We all know that it was done at the point of the pistol so to speak. It is true that, in this proposed new agreement there will be restored to the fruit industry £16,000 of the £100,000 taken from it by the Lyons Gov,ernment under the earlier agreement. Manufacturers of jams for export get sugar at the Australian equivalent of world’s parity and in addition they receive a bounty from the Fruit Concession Committee, while manufacturers of jams for local consumption get a special rebate of £2 4s. Yd. a ton.
Anything that can be done to assist the struggling fruit growers in Tasmania, who are so ably represented in this House by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost) will have my support.
The average price paid for Australian raw sugar in 1913 was £15 17s. 6d a ton ; in 1915 it was £18 a ton; in 1930 it was £19 3s. a ton and in 1931 £18 13s. a ton; Last year the price was £15 6s. a ton, or less than the price in pre-war days. Today the price of sugar in Australia is only 9d. per lb higher than in Great Britain, and as the average household, consisting of a man, his wife, and three children, consume about 6 lbs. of sugar per week, this means an addition of 5.4d. weekly to the household budget. Are there not other charges to which the freetraders and misguided housewive’s association of Australia might turn their attention? The cost of. practically every other commodity has increased in far greater proportion to sugar. This great sugar industry is the bulwark of Australia; it is interwoven with the White Australia policy, and the defence of this continent. Any honorable member who considers that the sugar-growers and the worker in the industry are overpaid should visit North Queensland in the cane-cutting season, and see men with bent backs cutting cane for eight hours a day. The labour is so arduous that one unaccustomed to it could not stand up to it for two hours a day. Within the last ten or fifteen years there has been a greater increase of population in the north-eastern portion than in any other part of Australia. Is not that desirable? The royal commissions that have reported on the sugar industry have unanimously held the view that it is absolutely essential that nothing should be done to jeopardize it. Queensland offers- excellent opportunities for the disposal of the products of the factories of the southern States, because it is not a manufacturing State. It buys from the south more than it sells to the south.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- The figures quoted by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) in relation to the price of sugar in different European countries caused me considerable astonishment. While acquitting him of the intention to suppress facts, I should like to inform him that, according to the reports of the Sugar Inquiry Committee of 1931, nearly every European country imposes, in addition to heavy customs duties, an enormous excise on sugar, and in that way raises a large amount of revenue for the benefit of the nation. In Belgium the excise at the time the inquiry was held was £2 6s. 8d. a ton, and the retail price to the consumer only 21/4d. per lb. In Czechoslovakia the excise was £11 8s. 4d. a ton, and in Italy £43 16s. 8d. a ton. The Minister made no mention of excise.
Mr.White. - It makes no difference to the people who buy the sugar.
– It makes an enormous difference, because the nation derives a considerable revenue from it. Australia obtains no revenue by way of excise. The average price of sugar, varying from21/2d. to 3d. retail in most countries is considerably less than the figure quoted by the Minister. I have always been opposed to the embargo upon the importation of sugar, and question whether its legality would be upheld if the matter were determined by the High Court of Australia. The provision of our Customs Act relating to the restriction of imports is similar to that which operates in Great Britain, where the King’s Bench division upon an appeal held that it was not within the power of the Government to impose an embargo upon the importation of certain goods. I do not concur in the request of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) for an inquiry by a royal commission consisting of politicians or of any one associated with the industry. I believe that an inquiry is needed, but I should prefer it to be made by the Tariff Board, in whose report the public would have greater confidence.
– Have the public no confidence in politicians?
– I do not believe that they have. Politicians come from all over Australia, and hold different points of view. As a representative of Western Australia I voice the opinion of that State when I oppose the sugar embargo and the other concessions that have been given to the sugar industry. In the last ten years Australia has assisted this industry to an amount of approximately £70,000,000, and if the agreement is renewed for a further five years additional assistance to an amount of £5,000,000 a year will be given to it. It is argued that the industry should be strengthened witha view to the promotion of the White Australia policy. What a strong defence force could be built up with £70,000,000, may easily be -imagined. The annual cost of the embargo is almost equal to the total cost of education in Australia. The Queensland Sugar Board has the right to refuse to issue permits to persons to engage in the growing of sugar-cane. The industry was first established in the southern portion of Queensland, but gradually developed until it reached the Cairns district. There, owing to more generous rainfall and greater fertility of soil, the average production is from 20 per cent. to 25 per cent. higher than in the southern areas, yet the Sugar Board refuses to grant additional permits for the treatment of sugar-cane in that area. In other words, there is not a desire to build up the northern part ofAustralia, the object being to conserve the vested interests of those who started the industry in the southern portion, where the yield is much lower. The aggregate of the extra price paid by the Australian consumer during the last ten years would pay the fullvalue of all the land, plant, buildings and machinery used in connexion with sugar milling and refining, and would give to the sugargrowers sufficient to pay £100 for every acre of land planted with sugar-cane. If that were done, the consumers wouldstill hare in their pockets £30,000,000 that is not there to-day. According to the report of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, the cost to the people of Australia after the cane has been treated in the mills and turned into raw sugar, is £12 2s. l1d. a ton. That includes concessions to the fruit industry, and to manufacturers, and other allowances, amounting to £1 5s. 8d. a ton. Therefore, the cost of refining and placing the sugar with wholesalers throughout Australia is no less than £10 17s. 3d. a ton, which is far greater than the price at which sugar could be imported.
– Does not the honorable member realize that the price of sugar reached such a low level that the industry in every sugar-growing country went “broke” five years ago, and that the price of sugar was less than1d. per lb. in New York?
– The price in the United States of America was about 21/2d. per lb.
– It dropped to 1/2d. per lb. wholesale.
– I believe that an inquiry should be held before the agreement is renewed. With all due deference to the Government, I say that its announcement, was made eighteen months before the expiry of the agreement so that the people might have forgotten the matter when the time for its renewal arrived. No mention of this was made during the last elections. Had an election been not far off) greater circumspection would have been shown, because throughout Australia, except in Queensland - I do not blame the people of Queensland Because they benefit so materially - a very strong feeling exists against the high cost of the concession that is given to this industry. Surely with a duty of £9 6s.8d. a ton the industry ought to be able to fight its own battle! I contend that too heavy a charge is placed on the people of Australia, particularly on the poor people, under the present agreement. I believe that there is room for a reduction of the price of sugar. If parliamentary approval is obtained and the agreement is to continue, I trust that the Government of Western Australia will encourage the beet sugar industry in the south-western portion of that State. It can be so developed as to provide sugar at about one-half the present price; and there is no constitutional bar to its sale throughout Australia.
.- Had the Government prior to the last elections stated that its first major act would be to renew the sugar agreement for a further period of five years, and especially if the people had known of the proposal of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited to issue bonus shares aggregating in value £7,000,000, raising the nominal value of each share in the company to £20, I am sure that a different administration would now be in charge of the affairs of this country. The people felt outraged when they learned that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited was issuing bonus shares to an amount of £7,000,000. The Government regarded £170,000 as a large sum to expend on the relief of unemployment, but made no protest against this action of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited. Two days after the announcement by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) of the renewal of the sugar agreement for a further five years, the market value of the shares in the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited appreciated by 30s. a share. Yet the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) asserts that the operations of the company outside Australia are responsible for the profits that it makes! Prior to the issue of the bonus shares to which I have referred, the Commonwealth Auditor-General made the following statement in his report -
There can be no doubt that this company has attained its present prosperous and monopolistic position as the result of the high. price which the consumers of Australia have paid and are continuing to pay for sugar.
He also said that the shareholders of this company had received in dividends £1,475,000 more than they had paid in cash for their shares. Twenty-two years ago, the capital of the company was £2,425,000. Since then, high rates of dividends have been paid consistently, and although. £3,900,000of capital has been returned in cash, the bonus shares have been such that the remaining capital is no less than £5,850,000. Where did they get it? The Government has given it to them! In 1931, when, the Scullin Government renewed the agreement, it had no knowledge that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company intended to issue bonus shares to the value of £7,000,000. As soon as the agreementwas renewed, the company took action in the. appropriate courts of this country, and succeeded in obtaining an extension of the. working hours of the people engaged in the sugar industry from 44 to 48 a week at reduced wages. I am surprised that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition should support such a company.
– I am not supporting it.
– This is one of the greatest monopolies in Australia, yet it was given special consideration by the Scullin Government by the renewal of the sugar agreement for a further period of five years, and apparently nothing was done to protect the workers in the industry.
– No agreement has been made with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
– We want to protect the sugar-growers, but not this monopolistic company. Who is it that holds the liens over the properties of the sugargrowers of Queensland? The Colonial Sugar Refining Company! Yet the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is supporting the company.
– I said that we would support an investigation into the ramifications of the company.
– The acid test is whether honorable members are prepared to continue allowing this company to rob the people of Australia. The issue cannot be camouflaged. We all know, and the Government knows, that the people of Australia are being robbed by this company by subterfuges. Our duty is to protect the people. No one knows better than honorable members who represent Queensland constituencies that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is actually robbing the sugar-growers, for it is not an ordinary company operating on a competitive basis, but is a company which enjoys a complete monopoly of the refining and distributing of sugar throughout Australia. When we asked the Acting Prime Minister (Dr. Earle Page) for an opportunity to discuss the sugar agreement during this session of Parliament he replied that there was plenty of time; but the very next day be informed us, in reply to further questions, that a pronouncement on the renewal of the agreement had to be made at once, in order to give the industry time to make its arrangements. I believe that an embargo should be placed upon the importation of sugar into Australia. I am totally opposed to the admission of sugar grown by black labour. But I am also opposed to the exploitation of the people of Australia by this monopolistic company. The political levy of £7,000,000 for five years made by the Government on the people of Australia by the signing of this agreement is equivalent to £2 10s. a week for every man working in the sugar industry in Queensland for the whole five years of the agreement. But the unemployed people of Australia receive, on the average, only 13s. 4d. a week, which is a miserable pittance. I do not suggest that £2 10s. a week is adequate; but it is certainly better than 13s. 4d. a week. The issue before us is whether the Colonial Sugar Refining Company shall be entrenched in its monopolistic position, or whether the people of Australia shall be protected from it. I believe that we ought to do our best to guard the interests of the people in general, and for that reason I shall support the motion. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) expressed the opinion that the Tariff Board should make an inquiry into the operations of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, but I believe that the inquiry should be made by a select committee of honorable members of this House. The whole of the. ramifications of this great company should be thoroughly examined.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- This debate has been marked by many confused ideas. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) provided in his motion for a review of the sugar agreement by a committee of honorable members of this House with expert assistance, but the motion then went on to deal with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and most of his speech was devoted to an attack on this company. Obviously, the honorable member would not have introduced the name of the company into the motion if he had taken the trouble to familiarize himself with the terms of the sugar agreement, which contains no reference whatever to the company. The agreement is between the Queensland Government and the Commonwealth Government, as the mover of the motion should well know. If the motion were approved, a protracted inquiry would be necessary, and in the meantime those engaged in the sugar industry would not know where they stood; they would not know whether to plant or not to plant. The sugar industry is unusual in that the planting plans of the producers have to be made at least twelve months ahead, and it is, therefore, necessary that they should know the conditions that will apply to the industry at least during that period. Otherwise they cannot organize their industry on an orderly basis. Uncertainty and chaos must inevitably be the result of any short-term policy of dealing with the industry.
No Australian industry has been subjected to more inquiry than the sugar industry. Season after season competent men, assisted by experts, have reviewed its position. The operations of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company were exhaustively examined by the last committee of inquiry which found that the profits made by this concern in Australia were reasonable and not extortionate. The sugar agreement has been reviewed frequently, and I do not think that there is need for another inquiry into it.
I regret that some honorable gentlemen, in addressing themselves to this motion, should have spoken in disparaging terms of Mr. Townsend, the sugar expert of the Trade and Customs Department. I have had the opportunity of frequent personal association with Mr. Townsend in his official capacity, and he is a man who is an ornament to our Public Service.
– He is a golden ornament to the Queensland sugar industry.
– I regret that any remarks have been made in derogation of Mr. Townsend’s work as he possesses outstanding ability and is one of the most competent officers in our Public Service. Every one who knows him speaks of him in terms of the highest respect and esteem, and the thoughtless references that have been made to him by some honorable members during this debate have been extremely unfortunate and are to be deprecated.
The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) showed himself to-day, as he has done on many previous occasions when the sugar industry has been under discussion, to be a “ whole-hogger “ for black-grown sugar at any price from anywhere. I have heard the honorable member make many speeches on this subject and he has left me in no doubt whatever that he would repudiate the agreement made between the Queensland Government and the Commonwealth Govern ment for the protection of this industry. In pre-federation days sugar was grown in Australia by black labour, but the people of Queensland were urged to join the federation of the Australian colonies, which implied the discontinuance of the production of sugar by black labour. They were promised that if they did so, action would be taken to prohibit permanently the importation of sugar grown by black labour. That promise has been honoured by successive Commonwealth governments over a long period of years. The sugar-growers of Queensland, on their part, discontinued the employment of kanakalabour and employed white workers. Those who did so in the early stages were given a rebate of £3 a ton out of the £4 a ton collected under the agreement from the manufacturers of the raw sugar. If the sugar agreement were repudiated, to meet the wishes of the honorable member for Swan and certain other honorable gentlemen, the sugargrowers would be left high and dry, and sugar grown by black labour in other parts of the world would be dumped on the Australian market.
Queensland at present has an adverse trade-balance of about £3,000,000 with the southern States. Most of Queensland’s trade with the other States is in sugar, and if the southern markets were opened to imported black-grown sugar, the economic position of Queensland would become impossible. The honorable member for Swan must know this. The substitution of an import duty for the present embargo would be useless, for the fluctuations in the price of sugar grown in countries where black labour is employed are so erratic and great that it would be impossible to provide tariff duties to cope with them. Any attempt to do this would inevitably leave the Queensland sugar industry in a vulnerable position.
– What would be the effect on unemployment if the agreement were not renewed?
– About 250,000 people in northern Queensland are almost entirely dependent on the sugar industry.
– What would be the effect on inter-State shipping if the agreement were not renewed?
– It would become stagnant, because there would be no back loading from north Queensland ports.
– We are not suggesting that sugar grown by black labour shall be admitted; all we want is a reduction in the price of sugar.
– The conditions of the sugar industry have been examined over and over again, and no good purpose would be served by a further examination now. If honorable members desire an inquiry into the affairs of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company,, let them use the Standing Orders of this House and have such an inquiry instituted, but let thom not link the sugar agreement with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, for a careful reading of the agreement shows clearly that it has nothing whatever to do with the company. The ratification of the sugar agreement will lie before the House in September or October, after the return of the Prime Minister from abroad, and we can fully examine the question then.
Honorable members would do well to bear in mind that sugar is not being produced in Java to-day because more than sufficient sugar is stored there to meet the needs of the next two years. Java sugar is being dumped in the markets of the world at 50 per cent, below the cost of production. The same is true of sugar grown in Cuba. Yet the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) would ask us to sell Australian produced sugar under those conditions! The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) read the prices at which sugar is retailed in various countries of the world - Germany, 6.67d. ; Czechoslovakia, 5.6’7d. ; France. 5.80d. ; Holland, 6.30d.; Switzerland, l.DOd.; Sweden, 2.21d. ; Denmark, 2.09d. ; and Austria, 5.08d. per lb. Those prices, all of which nro given in Australian currency, give an average of 4.5d. per lb. If we go a little further and compare those prices, based on the purchasing power of wages in those European countries, with the purchasing power of wages in Australia, we find that the price of sugar is considerably cheaper here than it is in Europe.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I have always found it to be. a sound policy to withhold judgment until 1 have the facts, and, consequently, I am not prepared to condemn the Government for its hasty step. Nevertheless I am not yet satisfied with the reasons advanced for taking such early action to renew the sugar agreement. The issue before us is not the price of sugar, but the hasty step of the Government. Some time ago I visited the sugar plantations of Queensland in order to obtain first-hand information regarding the industry. As the result of what I found there, I am of the opinion that the request of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) is reasonable. There should be an inquiry into the industry, so that members of this House may have before them reliable data to enable them to come to a decision regarding the advisability or otherwise of extending the sugar agreement for another five years.
– All the information necessary is contained in the 1931 report.
– That information is not up-to-date.
– What further facts can be adduced?
– I suggest that, instead of an inquiry by politicians or departmental officers the investigation should be undertaken by the Tariff Board, and it need not be prolonged, as has been the inquiry into the wheat industry. The tariff now provides a protection of £9 6s. 8d. a ton for Australian-grown sugar. Many persons in the community believe that the price at which sugar is obtainable is excessive. A reduction of id. per lb. would satisfy most of, if not all, the people, but how can we ascertain whether a reduction of id. per lb. is possible or reasonable without an inquiry? When in Queensland I learned that many of the cane-cutters were in receipt of from £10 to £1S a week.
– For how many weeks in the year? It is only for the season.
– I admit that cane-cutting is a seasonal occupation; but are not wheat-harvesting and shearing seasonal occupations also? Indeed, the canecutting season is considerably longer than the period covered by wheat-harvesting operations, but there is no relation in the recompense to such workers. If there is to bc an investigation, it should be not only into the profits of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, but also in regard to the sugar mills and the wages and conditions of the workers. It appeared to me, when in Queensland, that the employees in the sugar industry are the aristocrats of Australian labour; that no other section of labour in this country obtains such a reward for its work.
Australia has adopted the “White Aus* tralia policy. I am prepared to support that policy to the extent that the growers oE- sugar should be recompensed by the payment to them of a reasonable margin between the cost of producing sugar by black labour and an economic cost of producing it by the white labour which they are compelled to employ. The extent of that margin is a matter for decision. Many people throughout Australia believe that the margin allowed to-day is excessive. If an investigation were undertaken, we could satisfy ourselves whether or not that is so.
The producers of sugar are entitled. to consideration also in respect of the higher prices of machinery and equipment resulting from our fiscal policy. I am not asking that the price of sugar should be reduced if that means the unfair treatment of those who produce it; for the present I merely support the request of the honorable member for West Sydney for an investigation with a view to supplying up-to-date information to honorable members. Consumers as well as producers are interested, and seeing that large numbers of the people are. dissatisfied with the price now ruling, I submit that it would be wiser to have an impartial inquiry by the Tariff Board before the agreement is ratified by Parliament, rather than that we should be told eighteen months ahead of a Government decision to extend the agreement.
– Early in his speech the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) said that he had no quarrel with the spirit of the sugar agreement, with the sugar industry itself, or with those engaged in it, but that what he was con cerned with was that the industry was in. th-e hands of a monopoly - the Colonial Sugar Refining Company - which was making exorbitant profits. I was interested in the attempt of the honorable member and his friends to dissociate themselves from those who attack this industry as such. For many years, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company has been the target of all the neophytes desirous of winning their political spurs.
– The right honorable gentleman himself has used the company as a target.
– I may do so again. The honorable member for West Sydney entirely failed to show how it was possible successfully to attack the Colonial Sugar Refining Company without endangering the industry as a whole. Having suggested that some sinister purpose underlies the proposal to renew the agreement, the honorable gentleman proposed that a committee, with the powers of a royal commission, be appointed to review the proposed extension of the agreement and to inquire into and report upon the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. He invites the Parliament and the public to believe that such an inquiry would result in sugar being sold more cheaply. Let us examine the subject from that point of view, and see whether by attacking this powerful arrogant monopoly the price of sugar can be reduced ; for unless that result is achieved, tho Housewives Association and other such bodies will have no further use for the honorable member. My colleague, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) pointed out that the profits of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company are limited by the agreement. The company is to get £1 a ton for refining sugar. Of that amount, 15s. 9d. represents the company’s net profit. The company also receives 7s. 5d. a ton interest on advances totalling approximately £6,000,000 made by it to the growers of sugar. As was pointed out by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde), those advances are made at a per cent, less than the prevailing bank rate. In its dual capacity of banker and refiner, the company ‘gets £1 3s. 2d. a ton. If it refined the cane for nothing, the effect would be to reduce the price of sugar by only one-twelfth <of a penny per lb. This morning our dull lives were enlivened by reading in the press the spirited controversy now being conducted regarding the possibility of selling bread at 4fd. a loaf when there are not any farthings in circulation. Some bright spirit has suggested the use of a token to represent the farthing ; but no one has yet found a way of dealing with the situation if sugar were one-twelfth of a penny per lb. less than it is now. Is the reduction of the price of sugar by one-twelfth of a penny per lb. the passionate purpose to which the housewives of Australia are devoting their lives? The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden) said that the shares of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company rose in price when the Government’s intention to renew the agreement was made public. There is nothing curious about that. Recently, gold shares have risen. It may be that there is something sinister behind that rise. Shares rise and shares also fall. The motion before the House asks, first, for a review of the sugar- agreement, and, secondly, for the appointment of a committee to inquire into the financial position of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. Obviously, the main purpose of an inquiry is to reduce the price of sugar; but, as I have indicated, even if that company made no profits at all, the effect would be to reduce the price of that commodity by only one-twelfth of a penny per lb. It is clear, therefore, that if the price of sugar is to be reduced, the reduction will be made at the expense of the growers of sugar and the” workers in the cane-fields, in the raw sugar mills and in the refineries. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) said that he was willing to make due allowance for the extra cost of producing sugar by white labour. To what extent is the white man to enjoy a higher standard of living ? He does not tell us. It is left to our vivid imaginations to estimate in terms of money as to how much the grower and the worker are to get. There is no substance in this motion. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company does not fix the price of sugar, nor does” the fee paid for refining determine the price. If sugar were refined for nothing it could not be sold at a lower price. The embargo on sugar is not the result of any action taken by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. The company never asked for the embargo. For years during the war the Colonial Sugar Refining Company was, de facto, an employee of the Commonwealth. Its reward was limited exactly in the same way as the reward applying to every other employee under the agreement. This industry is the only industry in the world that has been stabilized from top to bottom. It has been stabilized for the worker, raw miller, freighter, retailer, refiner and distributor. All of these have their rewards set out in black and white and every one knows what every one else is getting.
.- It is my intention to deal with this matter from an aspect which has not yet been discussed. I am at a loss to understand the real motive or object of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr, Beasley) in introducing this motion, and I ask him what such an inquiry as he asks for, either by a select committee or in any other form, could reveal concerning the industry which has not been disclosed in the report already made available to honorable members? Discussing the personnel of the body which made the inquiry from which this report resulted, the honorable gentleman went so far as to accuse Mr. Townsend of being unfair and dishonest. At any rate that conclusion was to be drawn from his remarks. If the honorable gentleman desires that an inquiry be held directly into the operations of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, I would say, “ Let him have it “ ; but I would remind him that the High Court of Australia has already ruled that at similar inquiries the company need not disclose its profits or its balance-sheets. Many years ago the Colonial Sugar Refining Company was an important factor to be considered in the sugar industry, at least in Queensland. In- 1907, when I commenced work as an organizer for a. body which afterwards became absorbed in the Australian Workers Union, there were eleven or twelve mills in Queensland controlled by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. To-day there are only four, two at Ingham, one at Innisfail, and another situated about ten miles from Cairns, the exact locations of these mills being at Hambledon, Goondi, Victoria, and Macnade. Outside of these four mills the company has practically given up its operations in the sugargrowing and milling industry. In my opinion, it relinquished its former activities in that direction, not from any desire on its part to do so, but because it found it politic to do so when it realized that it had to conform to industrial conditions which it did not relish. To-day, I believe, it would not like to have to conform to these conditions if they were applied in its southern mills. Certain conditions apply in these southern mills at the present time probably because of the willingness of the people working in these refineries to tolerate them. In its refinery at New Farm, Brisbane, the company has to conform to conditions laid down by the Arbitration Court of Queensland, and the company does not like to have to do that. When it is suggested that this company plays any important part in the sugar industry in Queensland I deny it. Actually, in that State, it is only a small concern. The number of employees in each of its four mills would be about 300, making a total of 1,200 throughout the State. I admit that it has contributed something of real value to the industry in Queensland, because for a long time it has carried on investigations with the object of discovering for the benefit of the farmers the best variety of cane to be grown, and the information thus gathered would prove of value to growers of cane anywhere in Australia. However, it does not employ many men in Queensland, although I believe it would not have relinquished any of its interests in the industry, had it not been for the facts I have stated. It has been hamstrung in its activities by the industrial conditions laid down by the State Arbitration Court.
The distribution of £7,000,000 referred to in this debate was not made out of one year’s profit. That sum was accumulated over a number of years through the medium of large undistributed profits placed in reserve, and finally, to dodge the taxation laws, the company got rid of some of those profits by way of bonus shares so as to relieve its shareholders of possible income tax obligations. To-day the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is not what it was originally - a sugar refining company. It is now not only a sugar refining company but also a banking, insurance and shipping company. It has also other commercial activities. There is no question of its being a small monopoly ; it is a very big monopoly. I believe the company in the past amassed huge fortunes, and it is still amassing fortunes through refining sugar in other parts of the world. In that respect its operations would be meeting with the same results in Australia as elsewhere wore it not for the control exercised over it by the Sugar Board and in various other ways under the terms of this agreement. The company’s cost of refining in Australia is just under its cost for similar operations in its refineries in the United States of America, Canada and Britain, and the advantage of a cheaper cost in Australia is due to the effectiveness of this agreement. Refining costs are now down to a minimum. I hold no brief for the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, as I recall vividly the days when this company employed kanakas. It hated to lose those kanakas and I have no doubt that even to-day it would like to get them back. Probably it would find that a necessary step were the suggestion of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) accepted by this House. The company would also be glad if the embargo were abolished and it were allowed to import black-grown sugar, as it would then be able to free itself of the stranglehold to which it is now subjected under this agreement so far as control of costs of refining is concerned. That cost is considerably higher in New Zealand and in other places than it is in Australia, and it would be more than it is to-day in this country if the company were able to have its own way in that respect. We have been told that the present price of sugar could be reduced, but this aspect was closely investigated by the committee which inquired into the industry. In their minority report Messrs. J. Gunn and F. A. L. Dutton and Mrs. E. E. Morgan suggested a reduction of a farthing in the duty, not because this would mean a reduction of a farthing in the price to the consumer, but on condition that production of sugar for export should cease. However, such a step would mean that one-third of the present number of employees in the industry would be thrown out of work. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) has told us of cane-growers who earn £810s a day, which would mean £15 a week. At. one time I was closely associated as a representative of the Australian Workers Union in the Arbitration Court in applications dealing with this industry, and as a result of that experience I can say that the figuresmentioned by the honorable memberare fantastic. If such high wages are earned at all, it can only be in very few cases. There may be an odd ease in which a cutter earns that money, but for the most part he makes it only in the publichouse bar when, he is not in possession of his normal senses. That would probably be the genesis of some of the storiesretailed by the honorable member for Riverina. I remind the honorable member that the wages paid to these people in the industry have been closely investigated by the Chief Justice of Queensland, judges of the Arbitration Court, and various other authorities.
When the Dixon award came into operation it was suggested that its application would ruin the industry, but today the industry is paying wages equivalent to those laid down in that award mainly because of the activities of the Labour Government in Queensland, through the establishment of the Cane Prices Board. It. was a Labour government in Queensland which curtailed the profit-making proclivities of this company, and if the conditions under which men are employed to-day in refineries in New South Wales, Victoria, and Western Australia are not what they ought to be, it is the fault of the employees themselves, and not wholly that of the company. I repeat that an inquiry as suggested by the honorable member for West Sydney would not be able fully to investigate the finances of a company which has always proved itself so adept at hiding its real financial position. It is hard to ascertain the Australian profits of the company, and what propor tion of these profits comes’ out of refining sugar. But an inquiry along the lines suggested by the honorable member would do an injury to the industry. Whatis it the honorable member wants which is not already contained in the report available to this House? The honorable member has given no intimation of what he wants exactly to find out through his proposed inquiry. I suggest that if any inquiry is held it should deal with the complete financial operations of the company, but I repeat the form which the honorable member has suggested the inquiry should take the average person could reasonably interpret as being an attack on the industry itself. A feeling would be created in the minds of the people of this country thai they were being exploited for the benefit of those engaged in the sugar industry. The sugar-growers, I admit, are not in as desperate a plight as the wheatgrowers, many of whom are insolvent but that is because the rapacious activities and greed for profit of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company have been effectively curtailed by the governments that framed the sugar agreement and are now maintaining it. An investigation into the affairs of the company might be a good thing if we felt assured that worth-while facts could be revealed. The Tariff Board, however, has made many investigations into the industry, and has recommended the present embargo to prevent the importation of blackgrown sugar. The honorable member for Swan has suggested that a duty of £9 6s. 8d. a ton should be sufficient protection. America is giving a preference of £11 15s. 4d. per ton to Cuban grown sugar, and it is well known that Cuba does not pay wages anywhere near the equivalent of those paid in, the sugar industry in this country. The growers in Cuba pay the wages which the honorable member for Swan would like to see in force here. Ifthat condition of affairs was brought about the company would then be getting. “ niggers, for nothing “ to do its. work.
– I will not unduly delay the House, but I consider it is necessary for me to speak on the point raised by the mover of the motion that there was something underhand in the issue of bonus shares by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited. I have had a previous opportunity to answer this question very fully, and I was rather surprised that the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) should bring it up again in this fashion. Under those circumstances, I will give as briefly as possible the history of the issue of bonus shares by this company. Before July of last year any company in Australia could make a bonus share issue from any one of a variety of funds, and that issue was not taxable in the hands of its recipients. There was at that time practically no restriction on the issue of bonus shares without taxation. Then came the inquiry by the Royal Commission on Taxation. This commission recommended that issues of bonus shares should be treated in the same way as a cash dividend payment. The Government accepted that recommendation and proceeded to legislate accordingly inthe Income Tax Assessment Bill of July of last year. By that measure bonus shares were put on practically the same basis as cash dividends and were to be free of tax in the hands of shareholders only if drawn wholly and exclusively from certain defined sources of profits and reserves which were defined as follows: Capital profits, pre-war profits, profits earned outside Australia which had already been taxed, and section21 profits, namely, profits on which had already been paid theCompany rate of tax. If bonus shares were based on profits of the nature I have described, wholly and exclusively, then they were free of tax. There isalso a question which has been raised before and answered, I think, satisfactorily in this House, and that is as to why the Government thought fit to delay the operation of that limitation on bonus share issues from July, 1934, until the 31st December, 1934. The circumstances influencing that decision were these. The report of the royal commission was first presented in August, 1933, and it recommended that this limitation on bonus share issues should become effective on the 31st December, 1933 - that is about four months later. Owing to more urgent government business being under consideration theGovernment was not able to legislate in respect of this and other income tax matters until July of last year. It overlooked the fact that the commission had recommended a period of delay between the date of the legislation becoming effective and the date of its actually coming into effect in order
– In order to give the company an opportunity to get rid ofits profits.
– As the honorable member says the delay was recommended in order to give companies an opportunity to get rid of those profits within a reasonable time. The bill, as originally introduced, did not give the companies any specified time, and immediately representations were made by a large number, but not directly, or so far as I know indirectly, by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.No member of the Government, to my knowledge, had any idea that this company proposed to make an issue of bonus shares. Of the many representations made concerning the amendments contained in the bill, the Government gave effect to only two, one of them being to delay the implementing of the bonus shares provision. The Government agreed to a delay of five months - to the 31st December, 1934 - with the object of giving the companies some breathing space before an issue of bonus shares would be taxed.
– Was not that period excessive ?
– I think not. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and I think, some twenty other companies throughout Australia, took advantage, and quite properly, of the delay given, and made an issue of bonus shares. During the last debate on this subject, I told honorable members I had been informed that some considerable proportion of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s bonus issue would, in any event, even after the 31st December, have been free of tax, and I was asked by the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) what proportion would be free of tax to-day. As a matter of interest, I have taken steps to ascertain the proportion. I believe it to be about two-thirds. In these circumstances, two-thirds, or at any rate, a substantial proportion, of the issue, which, by the way, , was not £7,000,000, but about £5,850,000, would, if issued today, have been free of tax in the hands of shareholders, being drawn from capital profits, pre-war profits, or profits mad abroad, and already .taxed.
– How does the Minister know that, when it is impossible to inquire into all the ramifications of this company’s operations?
– I have been guided by the figures quoted to me by the chairman of the company, and by information supplied in the New South Wales Parliament. I hold no brief for the company, but, in fairness, the facts should be stated.
There is only one other matter to which I wish to refer, and that is the way in which the honorable member for West Sydney linked the name of Mr. Townsend, an officer of the Department of Trade and Customs, with the fact that he had signed the majority sugar report in 1931, the suggestion ‘being put in such a way as to imply that the Government had ‘received biased and partial information from Mr. Townsend on which it framed its policy. On behalf of the Government, I desire to say that Mr. Townsend, who is a trusted and responsible officer, has served all governments in the most trustworthy way, and I include the Government of which the present Leader of the Opposition was the Prime Minister, and that Government imposed as much trust in his impartial and unbiased advice as does this Government.
– Hear.’ hear!
– I would not like it to be suggested that Mr. Townsend is other than a valued officer of the department.
.- I protest against the undue haste displayed by the Government in renewing the sugar agreement eighteen months before the present agreement has expired.
– It has not yet ‘been signed.
– It will be signed before Parliament is asked to ratify it. A paragraph in The Australian Sugar Journal states -
After the agreement has been signed by the Prime Minister and the Premier of Queensland it will be submitted to the Commonwealth Parliament for approval.
The agreement will be submitted to this Parliament after it has been signed by the two governments concerned. I am strongly opposed to the extension of the agreement at this stage, more particularly because many of those whom I represent in this Parliament suffered severely when it was previously renewed by the Lyons Government. The Scullin Government did all in its power to assist the primary producers in Tasmania. Previously, £205,000 had been made available to assist Tasmanian fruitgrowing, but the Scullin Government increased the amount by £110,000, making a total of £315,000. When their position was reviewed by the Lyons Government it decided to reduce that amount by £115,000, leaving only £200,000 to assist the industry. I asked a question the other day concerning the financial assistance to be afforded to the fruit industry, and the Minister said that the Tasmanian growers of small fruits were being assisted more liberally by this Government than they had been by any previous government. That statement cannot be substantiated when, after being deprived of £115,000, they are to receive only £16,000. The Tasmanian fruitgrowers have lost about £99,000 as the result of the Government’s action.
– It was provided in the agreement that if the price of sugar were reduced the grant would also be reduced. The amount is to he increased.
– The price of sugar was reduced by 1/2d. per lb., but the Tasmanian fruit-growers are still suffering acutely. If any are to be penalized, it is always the people of Tasmania who suffer.
– Does not the honorable member want the increase?
– We are quite prepared to take this miserable £16.000, which is altogether inadequate when we remember that the Government has deprived us of £115,000. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) who travelled through my electorate after Christmas, inspected the orchards and saw the arduous work being done by those growing small fruits on the hillsides on land which could not be used for any other form of production. At that time, huge quantities of raspberries were lying on the ground owing to the action of this
Government in depriving the growers of the means of disposing of their fruit abroad at profitable prices. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White), who said that the sugar industry must be protected in the interests of Australian defence, apparently overlooks the fact that if the Tasmanian industries are not adequately protected, the population in that State will further diminish, thus increasing our difficulties from a defence viewpoint. Unless further assistance is given to the Tasmanian fruit-growers, the industry will be ruined.
– The point to which the honorable member is objecting was embodied in the agreement ratified by the Scullin Government.
– This Government has not rendered much assistance to the Tasmanian fruit-growers. When the Prime Minister visited Hobart recently, Senator Grant arranged that the growers, some of whom had travelled 60 or 70 miles, should meet him, but he did not have the courage to do so and to support the action of his Government. Why should the Government renew the agreement eighteen months before the present agreement has expired, and by so doing give the Colonial Sugar Refining Company an opportunity to exploit the people for another six and a half years? It is an injustice to Tasmania. Honorable members on this side of the chamber do not favour the importation of sugar produced by coloured labour. We are all anxious to assist the industry, and to ensure that it shall receive reasonable encouragement; but such assistance should not be given at the expense of other industries. On behalf of the Tasmanian fruit-growers, I oppose the action of the Government in this respect, and trust that the agreement will not be signed on behalf of the Commonwealth Government without further investigation.
Motion (by Mr. Gander) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . 35
Question so resolved in the negative.
The following papers were presented : -
Dried Fruits Export Charges Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1935, No. 15.
Nationality Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 19.14, No. 157.
Wheat Bounty Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1935,” No. 17.
Wheat Growers Relief Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1935, No. 10.
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 moneys be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Loan Appropriation (Unemployment Relief) Act 1934.
Resolution reported; report - by leave - adopted.
Debate resumed from the 15th March (vide page 134), on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the. bill be now read a second time
.- The proposal under this measure is to provide money for employment. The schedule- indicates the amounts to be made available to a number of departments; but the most important aspect of the bill is the fact that some of the money is to be voted as a subsidy to State governments, chiefly on a fi for fi basis, for forestry work. This proposal,, so- far as it goes, is welcome, but it is regrettable that a bolder attack has not been mack upon the two problems with which it deals. The grave effects of continued unemployment, and the serious national loss due to the lack of an effective forestry policy, raise two major subjects for consideration. In various States, groups of men are engaged in forestry work, and, in some cases, the conditions of employment are not a.11 they should be. I urge the Commonwealth Government,, as it is now subsidizing this work, to insist that full time be given to these men when absent from their homes. In some States, full time is not provided. It is cruel to ask men to leave their homes in the towns, and work in the forests, without giving them full time. While away from their ordinary residences they have to maintain two homes, loss of work through wet weather means a great hardship to men living under camp conditions. When engaged on more congenial employment, they are not penalized for lost time. In some of the camps the men experience this loss, and I hope that in work on which Commonwealth money is being expended the men will receive more humane treatment. There are several avenues of useful employment in Australia, but I believe there is none requiring more urgent attention and consistent effort than that of forestry. When we speak of forestry there is usually conjured up in our minds a vision of large plantations of trees. It is important that we should have plantations for milling purposes, and that we should undertake the extension of plantations; but whilst tree-planting is impor tant and capable of great development, the. preservation of our natural’ forests1 is of more vital need.
Those of us who have lived near or travelled through forest areas-, cannot fail to be impressed by the enormous destruction and, I would say, wanton waste, of this valuable asset. I speak not alone of the destruction of valuable timber as such, but of the effect of timber destruction upon our water supply and fertile soils, which is even more serious. Travelling along bridle tracks over many parts of the Otway Forest in the Corangamite electorate, I have seen evidence of tho tragedy of the enormous destruction that has taken place. I came from another part of the State where I lived on the edge of the forest, and made the acquaintance of one of the forest rangers of the Ballarat and Creswick forests, who instilled in me a love of trees and a desire for the preservation of our Australian national trees.. In the Otway Forest T have seen black stumps covering large areas of country once covered with magnificent trees,, including figured blackwood and satin box capable of being manufactured into- the most beautiful furniture fit for the drawing rooms of the most fastidious. Whole areas were laid ‘waste by the back-breaking toil of settlers forced to take up forest lands because the open country adjacent was monopolized, by a few: squatters. The Labour Government of 1910 set out to remedy that positionwhen it imposed the first Federal unimproved land tax, which, I am sorry to say is being whittled away, breaking up large estates.
The burning-off of timbers on mountain ridges which form the watershed of our rivers has been an even more serious matter. An excellent report on this subject was made in 1932 by Mr. B. U. Byles, research- officer of the Commonwealth Forestry Bureau, in which ho drew attention to the tragedy that has been, and is still being, enacted in our forest areas and river valleys. That report should be condensed for publication into a small pamphlet; and given wide circulation. The writer referred to tho denudation, not only of our forest areas, but also of the river valleys, because these are cognate subjects, but dealt only with a small area of Australia - mainly in the Murray River district. This report, however, indicates what is happening elsewhere. In a reference to the Murray plateau, Mr. Byles showed the effects of burning-off over areas, not only on the lower slopes, but also on ridges, in some cases up to 6,000 feet elevation, where many snow gums and alpine ash have been destroyed to the detriment of the whole of the area. The drying up of swamps and creeks, the erosion of soil from the hill-sides, and the siltration of our rivers are the disastrous result of denudation, and Australia is paying dearly for this destruction, which still goes on in many forest areas throughout the country. I tremble to think of what will be the position of our country when it is as old again as it is to-day. Whilst 100 years may seem a long time to look forward to, it is but a short period in the life of a nation. If, during the next 100 years, we carry on this denudation of river valleys and watersheds at the same rate as in the past, many of the rivers now flowing in Australia to-day will not then carry a drop of water. That is the position confronting this nation, probably one of the most serious positions that could confront any country; but little attention is paid to it. I am glad that the Commonwealth is entering into this work in conjunction with the States. It is only a beginning, but I hope it will develop into a very much bigger work. In his report, Mr. Byles says -
Through lack of supervision, lessees light fires which destroy timber. In some cases the timber is deliberately killed on the lease and, once the fires arc lit, the lessee has no interest in whence they go or where they stop.
I can only describe that as a scorching indictment of the lessees guilty of this crime, and a more scorching indictment of the administration which allows it to continue. The problem demands strong action by the authorities. It is true that this is a matter for the State authorities, but it is tie right of the Commonwealth to insist on greater supervision. A large number of men could be employed under the supervision of trained forest officers I do not care what the cost might be; it would be infinitesimal compared with the prevention of the waste of one of our national assets.
Sitting suspended from 6.13 to 8 p.m.
– It is ironical that there should be fire watchers on the high peaks throughout the forest country, and aeroplanes darting overhead to detect outbreaks of fire, and to call out bands of gallant men to fight the flames when, in a great many cases, those fires are started deliberately. Burning off where it is legal - and in many cases it is not - should be conducted only under the supervision of a forest ranger. I know that no forestry department has enough of these supervisors or rangers to watch all such operations, and that is one of the ways in which money could be profitably employed. According to Mr. Byles, whose report I have here, nearly all the fires in the mountains are deliberately lit to clear away rank grass from the grazing areas and scrub from stock routes. The damage done is incalculable. He discounts all theories that fires originate from lightning, or from the sun shining through bottles. He points out in his report that, during the last 25 or 30 years, as a result of this method of denuding the mountain sides and lower slopes of timber, many lagoons and swamps have dried up, and the streams are becoming smaller through siltation, I venture to say that, in a hundred years’ time, a number of our smaller streams will not be running at all. That is a serious statement to make, but I think it is borne out by experience. I do not say that none of the Australian governments is doing anything, but no body is doing enough; and more will have to be done. I agree that it is a matter of money, but when we are looking round for means by which we can employ men by the expenditure of loan moneys, I suggest that no better method is available than to employ them on work designed for the preservation of this great asset that nature has given us. Why is it that those lagoons are drying up, and that some of our streamsare failing? It is well known that, following upon the destruction of trees upon the lower slopes and upon the higher mountain ridges, erosion takes place. Wash-outs occur, and may be seen like huge canals 30 or 40 feet deep, and perhaps hundreds of feet wide. Many of these channels link up, with the result that the soil over hundreds of acres may be stripped from the hillsides, and washed down into the valleys and streams. When the hills and mountain sides are clothed with forest, they act as a natural reservoir. The rain that falls in the wet season soaks down through the earth and gradually finds its way to the streams, keeping them running throughout the dry months of the year. However, when the forests are gone, and when the soil, too, is washed away, the rain pours off the naked slopes like rain off an iron roof. The water rushes down the mountain sides in torrents- with the result that the streams are flooded during the rainy period, but during the rest of the year they dry up, or become nothing more than a few isolated pools along a stony river bed.
I have here a report presented to the Parliament of New South Wales in June, of last year, by Mr. S. L. Kessell, Conservator of Forests to the Government of Western Australia, who was lent to the Government of New South Wales in order to make a report on the forests of that’ State. I understand that the forestry work recently done in Western Australia has been most admirable, and that a large number of men are employed on forest conservation. I am not one of those who object to seeing Western Australia^ small though its population be, obtaining a comparatively large share of the money that is being devoted to this purpose, because it has large and valuable forests. In the course of his report Mr. Kessal states -
It is impossible for a forester to travel through the country districts of New South Wales without being impressed by the gravity of this problem. It occurs in different forms from one end of the State to the other. Al. though the process, whether by wind or water is gradual, and it may be many years before the cumulative effect is fully realized, it is probable that the losses arising from this cause already far exceed those attributable to plant and insect pests which have caused greater concern, and on the control of which large sums of public money have been spent. “The wholesale removal of the natural vegetation from land made available for selection without regard to slope or soil conditions, and the repeated burning of forests on watersheds, arc primary causes of the serious nature of tho present position. Local developments may be checked by careful control of grazing and planting trees, but the major erosion and flood water problems will only lie solved by the restoration of forest cover and the maintenance of normal forest conditions by the exclusion of fires from the forests on the watersheds.
The time has arrived when drastic legislative enactments would appear necessary to ensure that the landholders devote more attention to the checking of this national menace, and if the individual fails to take adequate action land should be compulsorily resumed.
This is a drastic recommendation. While a number of lessees play the game by our forests, it has been proved beyond doubt that some deliberately set fire to the rank grass in order to get better fodder. It may be asked, why lease any of this high country ? That is a matter that will have to be considered by the Commonwealth Government in conjunction with the governments of the States. It is true that snow leases are most valuable to graziers, because, during the dry parts of the year, when the pastures are burnt up on the lower levels, there is always fresh, green feed on the mountain slopes. However, the use of these areas must be carefully watched, so that the forests are not endangered. Now that the Commonwealth Government is spending money for the purpose of subsidizing the States in forestry work, it is our duty to see that forest destruction is stopped. All the money that we expend on sylviculture will be merely a drop in the ocean compared with the losses that will eventually be sustained if the destruction of our natural forests is permitted to continue at the present rate.
What is the remedy? I suggest that the Commonwealth and State Governments should co-operate in the carrying out of a comprehensive plan for the protection and development of our natural forest resources. A large number of men could be employed in groups under the supervision of trained experts, and under the guidance of experienced bushmen. The work of protecting existing forests is really more important than reafforestation, but neither reafforestation nor the cleaning and tending of our natural forests will be of much value unless we exercise closer supervision over all forest areas. Nor do I think that we should expend money and energy on chopping down. trees in order to grow others on the land where they stood. On large areas throughout Australia there are at present no trees at all, and we should concentrate our reafforestation efforts upon planting trees there. Many of the trees that are being grown on existing forest areas are probably no more valuable than those which were chopped down to make room for them. That is my opinion, formed as the result of my observation of some areas in Australia, and it may. be true of other places also. The money should be expended on planting denuded areas, or areas which have never carried forests.Where plantations are made, there should be more protection afforded, and more effective firebreaks provided. I do not think that the firebreaks made in the forests which have been planted in the Federal Capital Territory are effective. Any one who has had experience of bush fires, and I have had some, knows that in a high wind firebrands may be carried through the air for a quarter of a mile and more to start fresh fires in the tops of trees. That being so, what is the use of narrow firebreaks? It is of no use spending thousands of pounds planting trees if adequate measures are not takenfor their protection. Above all, let us save our trees. Joyce Kilmer, the American poet, has written -
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
The question has been asked again and again, how can we find useful employment for those now out of work? I suggest that some of them can be employed on forestry work, and while it will not return 5 per cent. on the money invested, nor provide a sinking fund for the repayment of the money, it will help to preserve a valuable asset which will be of more use to the community than any percentage return on so-called reproductive works.
More shouldbe done in the way of educating the public to realize the value of forests. It is true that our forests are in danger, as much through ignorance as anything else. I regret that there are still many people in this country who do not love trees, but they should at least be taught to value them. Let the public be made aware of the value of forests on the river watersheds, their effect upon climate, and upon the natural watering of the country. We know that it is the practice of fire-fighters to burn back along their boundaries as a protection for their properties, and that is good, but sometimes they burn right back to the mountains, so that, by the destruction of the forest, they do more damage than they hope to avert. The public should be educated upon the subject of burning off, and there should be no burning off without the supervision of forest rangers. Moreover, there should be more publicity on this subject. The Commonwealth Government should do its part, and frequent lectures should be broadcast over the air so that the people might be impressed with the enormous injury done to the country through the destruction of timber. Landowners who are privileged to have streams running through their property should be encouraged to protect them from siltation, because those little streams are the feeders of larger ones which, in their turn, are the tributaries of our rivers. I always feel pleased when I see the banks of streams planted with willows because willows bind the banks, prevent erosion, and also provide fodder in dry seasons. But one can go about this country and see the banks of some of our most beautiful streams crumbling away and the streams themselves silting up because of the lack of these necessary precautions. The planting of willows or similar trees, or of strong grasses that will bind the soil along the banks of all our streams ought to be compulsory because, as I have explained, small streams are the feeders for our great rivers and our rivers are a national asset of which Australia, unfortunately, has too few.
Water conservation means something more than the mere building of dams. Although we are spending millions of pounds in Australia on the construction of dams for the storing of water, I regret that we are not paying more attention to the water sheds of our rivers upon which we must rely. A sound water conservation policy means the conservation of. water at its source because, after all, the flowing river is but a collection of tiny raindrops and feathery flakes of snow that fall in their millions.
As the Commonwealth Government is now entering this field by subsidizing the States to carry out forestry work and water conservation schemes, it is only right that it should give advice and exercise a certain measure of control. I say this because the Commonwealth, being also responsible for State debts is vitally interested in the preservation of State assets in whatever form they consist. In the past a wild spendthrift policy as regards the alienation of Crown lands has been indulged in by the various States. Crown lands have been sold and the proceeds treated as revenue. Sales of Crown land, if they are to be permitted - and I doubt the wisdom of this course - should he on the distinct understanding that the proceeds are set aside for the reduction of the public debt or to the building up of assets to take the place of those with which the State has parted. No sound business could be run by the realization of capital and regarding it as revenue. That way leads to the Bankruptcy Court, and it is only a matter of time before we shall realize the truth of this statement in regard to the sale of our Crown lands. Vast forest areas have been destroyed very often by settlers or lessees who pay trifling amounts by way of rent, and in this way an important national asset has been thoughtlessly, if not ruthlessly, destroyed. Our assets are going and our debts are growing. It is time that we had a national stocktaking to see what are our assets and what are our liabilities.
The most thought-provoking paragraph in the report by Mr. Byles, to which I have referred, is his comment on the condition of the River Murray watershed. This is what he says -
The efficiency of the catchment area as it existed in 1028 has not been maintained.
It is asserted, in a number of earlier reports by other authorities, that all tha . necessary precautions have been taken to preserve our catchment areas. Mr. Byles holds the contrary view in his report dealing with the River Murray watershed, which supplies our .greatest river system. The fact that, in his opinion, the efficiency of the catchment area as it existed in 1928 has not been maintained goes to show that despite the lessons of the past, destruction still goes on. Here is a field for the employment of large numbers of men, and I again urge that, as the Commonwealth ‘Government is subsidizing the States in this matter, it should exercise supervision over the working conditions laid down by State governments. Under proper supervision the men who And work in these undertakings will be given an opportunity to maintain their manhood and, at the same time, we shall be preserving one of our greatest assets - the forests of Australia.
,- 1 heartily congratulate the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin .) on the speech he has just delivered with regard to the necessity for forestry schemes, and also for the valuable information which he has given to the House on this subject. I subscribe fully to the arguments which he advanced in support of this very necessary work being carried out, because I realize that throughout Australia there has been ruthless destruction of a valuable national asset. It is time that the Commonwealth and the States joined together in asn attempt to prevent this vandalism by private enterprise over a .great number nf years, not only with regard to our forests, but also other national ‘assets. Instead of wooing Nature, we have ravished her. I remember as a boy seeing great areas of beautiful forest country, with all the big timber ringbarked and falling to decay. This- state of affairs has been allowed to exist all over Australia. There has been a ruthless destruction of ‘our timber and mineral resources, and I regret that up to the present time, there has been no effective check to this policy. I and other members of my party would support any proposal to re-establish .our forests and to do everything necessary to preserve our national assets. As .the Leader of the Opposition has urged, the Commonwealth having agreed to subsidize the States in this important work, we should see that it is carried out under award conditions. I do not ‘know what is the position as regards forestry -in the other States, but I do claim ‘some knowledge of the state -of affairs in Nsw South Wales, and I hope that when I offer criticism, the Acting Treasurer (Mr. ‘Casey) will not suggest -that I ato speaking without a full sense of my responsibility, as he did a week or two ago during the discussion of another measure affecting employment. Everything that has happened since then has supported my contention about the manner in which .the money would be spent in New South Wales, and has shown that the Acting Treasurer and his supporters were the real irresponsibles. I hope that any Commonwealth money which may be employed in these forestry proposals will not he placed at the disposal of the New South Wales Government without the necessary .precautions to ensure its expenditure under -award conditions. I say this because I know what is likely to .happen. The youth of Australia, or those young men who will be given employment in this work, will be herded together in what may be regarded as concentration camps and be required to work under conditions similar to convict labour. This proposal also touches another aspect of New South Wales Government .policy. That State, as honorable members know, is on the eve of a general election and my fear is that if this money for forestry schemes is at its disposal the New South Wales Government will shift a considerable number of workers from districts where possibly their votes may damage the chances of candidates supporting its policy to areas where -their influence may not ‘be so potent. These Australian youths have been told that unless they take this work under -the conditions offered by the New South Wales Government, there will be n© dole ‘or relief work for them. In effect, -they will .be shanghaied from their homes, compelled to live in concentration camps and work under almost slave conditions.
– That is not true.
– It is true. They have been ‘given to understand that, as they will he ‘called upon ‘to work only a certain number of hours for 30s. ‘a week, they will have ‘the rest of the week off aud can employ their time in catching rabbits. These -concentration camps will be adjacent to big pastoral areas, so the squatters will have the rabbits destroyed easily and ‘at little cost to themselves. This is the danger as I see it if Commonwealth money for -forestry purposes is made available to the present New South Wales Government. While I am prepared to support any forestry scheme under proper conditions, I object to this work being carried out at the cost of the degradation of the youth of this country. Lads who are expected to give up the comforts of their homes and live in concentration camps should receive higher wages to compensate them for what they lose, instead of being required to live under what will be virtually gipsy conditions and work for coolie rates of wages. Not one penny of Commonwealth money should be spent in New South Wales under such conditions. This Parliament should safeguard the youths of this country against being employed under sweating and unwholesome conditions. It is well known that the Premier of New South Wales stated recently that forestry work in that State would be carried out under these conditions which, I repeat, constitute a danger to Australian manhood. When the subject of unemployment waa being discussed in an earlier measure I told the House what the New South Wales Government was doing, and the Acting Treasurer interjected to the effect that I was talking irresponsibly and that he did not intend to take any notice of what I was saying. I repeat now that every penny of Commonwealth money voted under that measure has been expended under conditions which I indicated, and I again emphasize that this Parliament should see to it that any money voted under this bill for New South Wales is expended ‘under -award conditions.
It is not necessary that I .should deal with the general question of afforestation. If the bill had made provision for a comprehensive scheme I might, perhaps, have elaborated the arguments adduced by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr.. Scullin) in the excellent speech that he has just made. The provision is -so meagre, however, that we are .fearful of its .being mere camouflage in order .to assist the Government of .New South Wales to continue its policy of slashing the conditions of the people. Being suspicious of it, we want an absolute guarantee from the Acting Treasurer that award rates and conditions will be observed -on all works undertaken in New South Wales, so that those who are obliged -to leave their homes to ‘go into the country will not be called upon to sacrifice reasonable comforts and decent conditions, and submit to a coolie standard. We do not wish this Parliament to have placed upon it the stigma of having had funds which it had made available used for the purpose of further depressing and degrading the economic standards of our people.
– I rise to correct the erroneous impression which the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) would seek to implant in the minds of those who are not fully conversant with the conditions under which either the grant for forestry to be expended by the Commonwealth Government itself or the forestry scheme of the Government of New South Wales operates. The honorable member should have made himself fully acquainted with the proposals of the Commonwealth in regard to the manner in which the allocation for its own forestry scheme is to be expended. He apparently believes that the intention is not to make any attempt to see that award conditions are observed. It might be as well to make it perfectly clear that this Government intends to adhere strictly to award rates and conditions in the expenditure of the whole of the money which it will disburse directly. I have the Minister’s authority for that statement. In regard to the scheme originated by the New South Wales Government, I should like to disabuse the minds of those who may have been deceived by the remarks of the honorable member for Werriwa, by assuring them that as a general rule young men in that State are falling over themselves in their endeavour to take advantage of the provisions of that scheme. I have in my electorate several State pine forests that are adjacent to coal-mining centres where unemployment is severe, and I assure the House that unemployed single men in those districts are only too anxious to avail themselves of the opportunity that is being afforded to them. What roughly are the provisions of these schemes? The honorable member for Werriwa asserts that the New South Wales Government has endeavoured to enforce coolie standards on the men who are engaged in this work. But, notwithstanding his slanderous allegations against that Govern ment, he carefully refrained from outlining the provisions of its scheme.
– They are too well known.
– The honorable member might have pointed out just where they fall short of what is desirable. In the first place, there is no obligation upon any man to accept work under the conditions laid down, nor is any penalty incurred in respect of food or other relief if the work should prove unacceptable. Secondly, every man employed is transported from his home, wherever it might be, to the job, without cost to himself, but entirely at the expense of the Government. Before he commences work he is provided free of cost with a fortnight’s rations, an outfit of clothing consisting of shirt, trousers and boots, a pair of blankets–
– The cost is subsequently deducted from what he earns.
– That is not the case; they are entirely free of charge. He is also provided with a tent and all the camping equipment he needs, including bags from whichhemay improvise a camp stretcher, a camp stove, lamp, washing up dishes, and basins. He receives £2 a week.
– It is not £2, but 30s.
– He has to work a stipulated number of hours, but he may either spread them over five or six days, or complete them, if he so chooses, in three days, in which case he would have the remainder of the week to do as he liked. That is a reasonable, practicable contribution to the betterment of the lot of men who otherwise would be sitting on kerb-stones or holding up lamp-posts and drawing sustenance to an amount of 10s. or 12s. a week. Under the administration of the party which the honorable member for Werriwa supports, the unemployed drew about 5s. 3d. a week, and did nothing for it. I leave the House to judge which of the two standards outlined is the nearer approach to coolieism. Whatever may be . the shortcomings of the present scheme, which I do not suggest is perfect, it at least represents a substantial attempt to improve the conditions of those who, unfortunately are unemployed in mining centres and in the metropolitan areas of New South Wales, and are genuinely desirous of bettering themselves and of making some contribution towards the advancement of the State and the appreciation of its assets.
.- The amount to be allocated to Tasmania under this bill is £25,000. I should like it to be doubled, because I claim that for afforestation purposes the conditions in that State are ideal. It possesses one of the finest timber areas in Australia. There is no shortage of water, nor is there any fear of drought resulting from the clearing of the land, such as exists in other parts of Australia. I do not know whether the Labour Premier of Tasmania agreed that £25,000 was sufficient, or whether the Commonwealth Government forced him to accept that amount. If the latter be the case, another injustice has been meted out to -Tasmania by this Government. Honorable members may disregard the possibilities of afforestation in that State, but it cannot be denied that it possesses millions of feet of timber. I understand that the Minister for Agriculture is initiating a scheme for the preservation of those forests by the use of fire breaks, along the lines indicated by the. Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin).
When the sum of £175,000 was voted for the purpose of Christmas relief for the unemployed, the Commonwealth refused to hand over to the State Government the amount allocated to Tasmania, but itself undertook the relief works, with results that were a scandal and a disgrace. I want the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to inform me of the source from which was obtained the £1,000 expended on war service homes. The instruction that accompanied the carrying out of that work was that no man who did not go to the war should participate in the benefits of the expenditure.
The honorable member is alluding to a matter that is outside the scope of the bill.
– I am dealing with the schedule. The experience of the past must be my guide as to the future. I charge the Government with having taken £1,000 from the £6,000 allocated to Tasmania, and having expended it on persons who should not have been given preference over the general body of the unemployed. I claim that the members of the present Commonwealth Government ave not fit and proper persons to bc entrusted with the expenditure of relief money in Tasmania. When a member of the New South Wales Labour party in this House stated that men were not able to participate in relief expenditure because they were in receipt of a certain income, the reply from the opposite side of the chamber was that those who were longest out of work were entitled to first preference. Yet the. Government sought to make itself popular with returned soldiers by expending £1,000 on war service homes, and the Minister issued instructions that any one who did not go to the war was not entitled to participate in it.
– Order ! Clearly the incident to which the honorable member is alluding occurred in the past, and cannot be discussed under this bill.
– If I am not permitted to criticize the expenditure, it is not of much use my wasting my time here. I claim that privilege. .
– Order ! The honorable member may discuss any item that appears in the schedule.
– I am discussing the expenditure of this money. I want every penny of Tasmania’s allocation to be handed over to the State Works Department, which will see that all men get a fair deal and that none are given preferential treatment. The money has not been judiciously expended. I protest strongly against the expenditure of unemployment relief money through the Commonwealth Works Department in Tasmania for I regard it as an extravagant waste of public funds.
– I am in the dark as to what the honorable member is driving at.
– I would not expect the Acting Treasurer to see eye to eye with me or to agree with my criticism.
– I cannot understand whatthe honorable member is talking about. Will he be precise?
– An amount of £200,000 is proposed to be voted under this bill for expenditure through Commonwealth departments, and. I presume that some of it will be spent in Tasmania.
– Money for expenditure by Commonwealth1 departments cannot be handed over te a State government.
– If the money is for the relief of unemployment in Tasmania I request that it be handed to the State Government, otherwise I am afraid that the standard of living will be reduced. I find that in the Federal Capital Territory single men are allowed to earn only 6s. 5d. a week on relief work under the Commonwealth Government’s administration, which is a disgrace to civilization. I do not want to see a similar standard adopted in Tasmania.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the bill.
– At the moment I am speaking, of the proposed vote for the Federal Capital Territory. The action of the Commonwealth Government in regard to the unemployed in this Territory affords a bad precedent to Sta/e governments. Will the AssistantTreasurer agree to. hand this money over to the State Government?
– No.. It is for expenditure through Commonwealth departments.
– In my opinion those in charge of those departments are not competent to- expend the money in the best interests of the unemployed whose relief should be. the first consideration.
– The honorable- member need not worry on that point.
– I am sent here for that purpose-. I wish all the money for expenditure in Tasmania to be handed over to the State Government, which will see that the unemployed get a fair deal, and work under conditions creditable to the Labour movement.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), in the course of the remarks that- he made in commendation of the Government for providing additional money for reaffforestation and the- protection of forests, spoke of the grave danger to our forests under existing conditions, and I endorse the views he- expressed.-. But my main- purpose in speaking, to this bill is to- urge that some of the money to be allocated for “ buildings,, works and. sites” for the Defence Department shall be used to- carry out two specific works in a part of Melbourne where there is a great deal of unemployment. Money spent on the projects I have in mind would go almost entirely in, payment to labour, directly and indirectly.. The two undertakings to- which I direct attention are the provision of dry-docking facilities and the development of an aerodrome at Fishermen’s Bend..
Considerable attention has been drawn lately to the great lack of docking facilities in Australia. From a defence point of view, the absence of adequate docking facilities is a great menace to our welfare. During times of war our security would depend’, to a large extent,, on the capital ships of the Royal Navy; but at present we have not one dock in Australia capable of docking a capital ship-. The nearest dock suitable for that purpose is at Singarpore. As 1 realize that the Defence Department, for strategic purposes, would probably desire to provide docking facilities for capital snips at either Sydney or Fremantle, .1 shall not develop that branch of my argument. But substantial’ reasons exist for the provision of docking facilities at Melbourne to meet the requirements of overseas and interstate shipping. At present Melbourne lacks sufficient docking facilities for even interstate ships, and the docking facilities available at Sydney are barely sufficient for the biggest ships at present or tho Australian run. On the occasion of the launching of the Orion recent))-, Mr. Geddes sta-ted that tlie size of ships that could be put on the Australian run was limited by the size of the docks in Australia. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill) pointed out at that time that docking facilities in Sydney would’ probably be inadequate for the Orion. But no modern, ship larger than the Orion could, he docked even in Sydney. The tendency nowadays is to build bigger and faster ships. For mail reasons thisisnotso necessary now that we have an Imperial air mail service, but it is highly desirable that the biggest possible ships shallbepart on the Australian run in order to increase ourchilled beef and other refrigeration trade. We cannot, however, expect bigger and faster ships until we enlarge our docking facilities. The Minister for Defence also pointed out, on the occasion to which I have referred that no ship of the Orient Line had been docked in Australia for a considerable number of years. Shipping companies, however, cannot be expected to send bigger ships to Australia until docking facilities are available for the risk would be too great. There is another reason why the docking facilities at Mel bourne should be extended. An article in the. Melbourne Age stated, a few weeks ago, that only 5,000,000 tons of the 9,000,000odd tons of shipping that entered the port of Melbourne last year could have been docked there. Money spent in the building of a dry dock would goalmost entirely in labour costs and materials of local production.
The other necessary work to which I direct attention is the development of an airport at Fishermen’s Bend.
– There is nothing in the schedule about either of these works.
– Money is to be provided for expenditure on sites for the Defence Department and work at Fishermen’s Bend would, no doubt, come under the Civil Aviation Branch of the department. I realize that the Minister for Defence is’ keenly alive to the virtue of the proposal to develop an airport at Melbourne. The site which I suggest has the unique advantage of being close to the heart of the city. The proposal has not received much encouragement from the State Government, principally, I believe, because the site at Fishermen’s Bend is regarded by the Premier, Sir Stanley Argyle, as being suitable for a workmen’s suburb. The people of this area, however, are particularly desirous that an airport should be developed there, and expressed themselves to this effect recently at a public meeting. An airport equal to any airport in the world couldbe developed at Fishermen’s Bend, and sufficient room would still be left for a considerable housing scheme to be carried out.
Both the works to which I have referred would provide employment in the heart’ of Melbourne,, where the unemployment problem is acute. No expenditure would be incurred in shifting men from one place to another, and almost the whole of the money would go in wages. I therefore commend these two proposals to the favorable consideration ofthe Government.
:.- I have no quarrel with the Government in regard to the conditions under which relief workshave been carriedout through the Commonwealth Works Department in, New South Wales, for award wages and. conditions have been observed so. far as we know. The Minister for Defence handed over to the local municipal council the money voted some time ago for expenditure on the Cessnock aerodrome and it, being a Labour body, took care that proper wages and conditions were paid. When the principal act, which it is now proposed to amend, was before Parliament, the Treasurer and the Parliamen tary Under-Secretary for Employment (Mr, Stewart) gave an undertaking that award rates and conditions would be observed in the expenditure of the money. The ill-considered statement of the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson). that award conditions do apply, is not borne out by the facts. As a result of the granting by the Commonwealth of about £92,000 towards the £300,000 required to provide Maitland with a sewerage system, the work has been commenced, but the Government of New South Wales has not contributed one penny from its own revenue towards the cost.
– The Federal Government is not finding £300,000 for that work.
– No. The Federal. Government voted about £92,000 towardsthetotal estimated cost of £300,000. When that scheme was before this House, the Minister in charge of the bill gave an assurance that, so far as the expenditure of the sum made available by the Commonwealth was concerned, award rates and conditions would be observed. Yet we find that the work has been undertaken as an emergency relief scheme; the employees receive a fortnight’s work ar Maitland with a fortnight somewhere else. Proposed new section 9 of the measure before us contains the w.ords “ subject to such conditions as the Treasurer approves, for the purposes of forestry.” I have no desire to harass the Government, but it may be necessary, in the committee stages of this bill, to move an amendment. The Government was elected to uphold Australian rates and conditions in industry. It has done so in connexion with all the works carried out by the Commonwealth itself; but I suggest that it should go further, and require the State Governments to observe award rates and conditions on works undertaken with Commonwealth money. That, of course, is as far as the Federal Government can go ; but it ought to go that far. In respect of the £92,000 made available by the Commonwealth for the Maitland sewer, the State Government should be required to observe award rates. There has been greater suffering among the miners than among those following other pursuits. Some of the mines which were closed down in 1927 have never been worked since then, other than in connexion with emergency relief and re-afforestation. Apart from emergency relief work, thousands of youths in this country have not done a day’s work since they left school. The honorable member for Macquarie was incorrect when he said that these youths receive £2 per week. He should be more careful in making statements in this House, for the rates paid are 24s. a week for 24 hours work, during the first two or three weeks; then 30s. a week for 30 hours work; and, after three months, £2 10s. a week. The Acting Prime Minister (Dr. Earle Page), who represents the South Grafton area, knows that at one time it was impossible to get food to the boys because of floods. One lad who cut his foot with an axe was unable to obtain an ambulance to take him to the hospital. The conditions in which these boys live are abominable. It is my custom to meet my constituents on Sunday mornings. Last Sunday a mother brought her two boys to me, and asked that I should endeavour to find employment for them in the Newcastle
Steel Works, or in Lysaght’s factory. They are broken-hearted at being forced by circumstances to live away from home in a bush camp. Some more useful employment should be . found for growing lads. Surely it is not contemplated that the £50,000 proposed to -be allocated for reafforestation in New South Wales will be expended in a way which will mean a continuation of such unsatisfactory conditions. Many of the boys in these camps came from Cessnock in my electorate. The conditions under which they work are tantamount to “ scabbing “ on the Australian Workers Union bush workers.
For the conditions imposed by the New South Wales Government, I do not blame the Federal Government; but I maintain that if the Commonwealth makes money available to the States it should prescribe the conditions under, which it is to be expended. Maitland is recognized as the Tory centre of my electorate. Prior to the last election, no Federal Labour candidate had ever obtained a majority there; but, even in that district, there is a demand that award rates and conditions shall apply to all government works. Some of the supporters of the Government realize that until the purchasing power of the workers has been increased there is little hope of solving the problems that confront this country. The imposition of conditions which are equivalent to “ scabbing “ will never increase the purchasing power of the workers, and consequently, while they continue, our manufacturing industries will find it impossible to dispose of their output, and will have to put their employees off. I could indicate- a number of works of a useful character which should be undertaken; but at the moment I am more concerned that the Govern ment should insist that award rates and conditions shall be observed in respect of all undertakings financed by it. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) indicated a number of public works which could be undertaken, and I suppose that each honorable member could supplement that list with further works which could be proceeded with in his own electorate. Lake Macquarie, which, before the redistribution was in my electorate, but is now in the Robertson district, is Australia’s largest and most beautiful lake, with its 365 miles of foreshore. The lake contains water from 20 feet to 25 feet in depth, and if provided with a suitable entrance would be capable of sheltering all the shipping in the various ports throughout Australia. The expenditure of .money on deepening the entrance channel would be a good investment, lt may be that the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) would oppose that work on the ground that it might injure the Port of Newcastle, but I assure him that it would not have that effect. I view this matter as one who desires that Australia shall develop along right lines and become, in time, a mighty nation of many millions of people. If a comprehensive scheme providing for the development of our harbours and rivers, and the conservation and reticulation of water, were undertaken, our vast inland areas, which are now parched for want of water, could be made carry a much greater population. From time to time the Government has made grants for the relief of distress caused by floods in Tasmania, Victoria and Queensland; but it has not done anything to relieve the sufferers from floods in my electorate. More suffering, I believe, has been caused in the Hunter River district through inundation by floods than anywhere else. I have spoken about this matter on half a dozen occasions, and I reiterate that there is grave danger of tragic results from flooding in this part of my electorate. At any time under the heavy pressure of flood waters the banks of the Hunter River, which are as yielding as a sponge, may break, and let the waters burst through. It is not improbable that at some future date if this danger is not remedied, the Maitland district will be obliterated. I hope my prophecy will not come true, but a grave fear exists among residents of Maitland that the town will suffer even greater devastation than that caused by the last flood which this district experienced. This possibility, I claim, can be averted by the construction of a canal to Newcastle or Morpeth, which would cut out the dangerous bend of the river round Maitland and so allow the flood waters to flow direct to the ocean instead of flooding homes and farms as they have done in the past for three weeks at a time. Apart from this advantage the work which I propose would reclaim the vast area known as Hexham Swamps, where there is about 200,000 acres of land which would thus be made as fertile as any other area in Australia. I deem it to be my duty as a public man to warn this Government of what might happen so far as floods in the Maitland district are concerned. If a catastrophe does occur, I do not want, perhaps after serious loss of life has occurred, to have to stand up here and say, “ I told you so “. I think the Government should act in this matter immediately. Schemes have been submitted to bring about the improvements I suggest. In this way many miners and others in the Maitland district, now unable to obtain work, could be found employment which would prove reproductive since it would develop the country. Shipping congestion in the port of Newcastle would also be relieved. If the work which I propose were carried out, ships, including ocean liners, could go right up the canal to Singleton and thus a big saving in freight in the transport of wool and wheat overseas could be effected. This is not the scheme of a dreamer, but one that clearly is possible and practicable. When compared with similar projects, undertaken in other parts of the world, this canal would be but a creek.
– What length would the canal be?
– It would be about 20 miles long if taken as far as Singleton, and I think it is quite a practical proposal.
There are also other works of a useful character which might well be carried out in this district, but unfortunately no provision is made for them in the schedule to this bill. For instance, the Defence authorities have a huge military camp, known as the Rutherford Camp, at Maitland. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), when Prime Minister,- acquired this area during the war. It is about 140 acres in extent and comprises both hilly and swampy country. Big military camps are held at Rutherford and honorable members will recall that during the war it was the main camp for the northern district of New South Wales. Here, I suggest, the
Government has an opportunity to improve its own property. There is nothing to prevent the cutting away of the hills and using the spoil to fill up the swamp, thereby beautifying the property and making it more useful than it is at present. If improved in this way it would make anexcellent parade ground, and I hope the Government -will make money available for the “work. I feel sure the Minister sympathizes with those on the coal-fields, who, because of unemployment, have suffered severely, and recognizes that there is much urgent -work to be done in the district. Furthermore, I am sure he will give these projects every consideration, particularly where they are of a’ strictly federal character.
Another matter which I have not brought before the present Minister, but which I have mentioned to his predecessors, is the improvement of the drill hall at Kurri Kurri. This is a huge structure but it has only a floor of concrete which, in winter, is very cold and hardly suitable for the purposes forwhich it is required. In that great centre, which many honorable members say has “gone bolshevik”, a fairly large number of recruits have volunteered for military service. It is their wish that this concrete floor be replaced by a wooden one, notonly for drill purposes, but also in order that -the hall might be utilized for a dance or other social functions held from time to time by the local military men. At present if they desire to hold a ball they have to rent a hall elsewhere. The Minister should give this proposal -serious consideration.
– Drill halls were built for training, not for dancing.
– I venture to say that the honorable member, when in the army sometimes sought recreation in a dance hall if not an estaminet. At all events he would not liketo drill all day on a concrete floor.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).I have nowish to restrict the discussion unduly, but I point out that it has developed into a debate similar to that on the Estimates.I do not think the debate on the billor the schedule to it ‘should cover alternative projects such as the improvement of rifle ranges and drill halls.
– - Other honorable members who discussed such matters were not called to order ;but you always damn well pull me up.
– You are always hostile to some honorable member in this section of the House.
– Order ! The honorable member will withdraw that remark.
– You show your hostility in many ways.
– Thehonorable member will withdraw the remark, and express regret to the Chair.
– I withdraw it.
– And express regret.
– I express regret.
– Honorable members will recall that I said at the outset that I did not want to restrict the debate unduly, but that I could not allow it tocontinue along the lines that had been developed. The bill and schedule to it are now before the Chair, and I ask honorable members to confine their remarks to the matters contained in them. Incidental references to outside subjects have been permitted. I have allowed the honorable member a good deal of latitude.
– I alone have been pulled up.
– Order ! I have called other honorable members to order. The debate should be confined as nearly as possible to the question before the Chair, and I intend to see that it is.
– We have before us a bill with a certain schedule in which provision is made for certain works, including improvements to drill halls, . repatriation undertakings, &c. Am I to understand, Mr. Speaker, that I cannot mention works similar to those included in the schedule? Is that your attitude?
– The honorable member knows that that is not the ‘ease. Anything which is in the schedule or appears to be covered by the schedule may be discussed.
– Order! Willthe honorable member proceed?
– I may not argue the point with you?
– Certainly not. If the honorable member disregards the ruling of the Chair, I shall not allow him to continue. He may speak to the question before the Chair.
– Call the next speaker !
– The honorablethe, Minister for Defence.
Me.. James - You have your own way.
– Order! The honorable member will apologize or I shall namehim.
– I apologize.
– I listened with great interest to the speech delivered by the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), and found myself in entire agreement with his views on the important subject of reafforestation. It is to me a matter for very great regret that there has not been up to the present more unity of action on the part of the Commonwealth and the States in respect to it. The Commonwealth Government has taken vigorous and substantial steps towards the creation of a forestry department that should be of value to afforestation in all the States ; but, unfortunately, some of the States insist on preserving their own arrangements. This attitude on their part has militated to some extent against the success of the efforts which this Government has endeavoured to make. There is no gainsaying the fact that re-afforestation in this country, as in other countries, is of very great importance. Its importance is realized by this Government and the money that it has made available - moderate and modest though the amounts may be - is an earnest of the Government’s endeavour to do a reasonable thing in this direction. The terms upon which this money is to be spent are clear, at least as regards works to be undertaken by this Government The Commonwealth can control the expenditure of its own funds, but obviously if money is allocated to. the States the State governments in turn insist, just as we do, that they shall determine the conditions under which it shall be spent.
– Usuallythe man who pays the piper calls the tune.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.The man who pays the piper usually calls the tune, but that ancient principle does not apply in respect to unemployment relief grants. I do. not think that the principle that the one who contributes the money should call the tune is observed to any extent with regard to unemployment relief grants and their various ramifications. Under such circumstances, all that this or any other Government which might be in office could do, would be to indicate to the States what it was doing itself, and what it. would like to be done. The rest has to be left to the States which expend this money and control the avenues of employment through which the money is disbursed. I remind the Opposition that Labour governments are in office In three of the States and I suppose there is no argument as to the methods which any of those three governments employ in spending money granted by the Commonwealth for the relief of unemployment. In other words there has been no complaint from any honorable member opposite as to the way in which any of those three governments is spending Commonwealth grants and if the whole of the facte were known I do not think there would bo any ground for complaint as to the methods employed by any of the other State governments. What government on the verge of going to an election would so expend money as to offend the susceptibilities or raise the antagonism of the electors? Any government doing so would be bereft of political sense. Apart from other considerations, political expediency would prevent any State government from adopting a policy such as that described by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) and the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James). Notwithstanding what has been said in criticism of certain State governments, it should be realized that they are just as earnest and sincere in their endeavours to provide workless Australian citizens with employmentas are honorable members ofthis House. There has been a. good deal of criticism of the methods they employ,but honorable members generally do not appear to possess a great deal of knowledge of the actual conditions under which this money is to he expended. I shall not minimize the great difficulties which any government or similar authority has to encounter in dealing with matters of this kind. Those who have read Philip Gibbs’s latest book, A European Journey, will realize what Germany has done in the matter of reafforestation, notinlabour camps, but in connexion with its military schemes. In that country young men are sent to work in reafforestation camps, where the arrangements and general hygienic conditions are most complete. Mr. Philip Gibbs, who visited one of these camps in company with his wife, asked one of the young fellows how he liked it. He replied, “ I think it is splendid “. In the reafforestation camps in Germany there is no talk of award rates and conditions; the young men do not receive any payment at all; they merely get their keep. Yet we have heard the most bitter criticisms directed against various Australian governments, which are providing the youth of this country with employment under good conditions. Those who wish to go into our reafforestation camps work at an average rate of anything up to £2 a week. That is a fact; I am not overstating the position. The honorable member for Hunter stated that the wages of those employed in these camps range from 24s. to 30s., and then up to 50s. a week, and that certain facilities are provided. In these circumstances, it is not incorrect to say that they will receive up to £2 a week. The honorable member for Hunter also said that certain youths are compelled to leave their mothers. They are not compelled to leave their homes. They need not accept work unless they wish to; but youths of from eighteen years onwards surely do not want to be with their mothers always. The honorable member’s statement in that respect was very much overdrawn. Reference has already been made to the difficulties confronting those who desire to formulate schemes to provide employment for youths in reafforestation camps. I emphasize the fact that difficulties do exist, and those difficulties will be increased by the statements of unfair and ill-informed critics.
– What about the road to the Mascot aerodrome?
– I shall deal with that later. The honorable member for Hunter proceeded to indicate a number of works not mentioned in the schedule, but on which he thought Commonwealth money could be expended judiciously. I agree with the honorable member that there are Commonwealth works all over Australia which could be undertaken with advantage, particularly to the Defence Department, if money could be made available for them. I agree with whatthe honorable member for Hunter has said concerning the Rutherford camp and the improvement of drill halls. Under a system of voluntary military training it is essential that these halls should be made as attractive as possible. I do not agree entirely with the opinions expressed by the honorable member for Flinders in regard to docking; the facilities in Australia are better than what the honorable member suggests. I do not say that it would not be advantageous to provide improved docking facilities both in Victoria and in New South Wales.
Mr.Rosevear.- Those subjects are not mentioned in the bill.
– I am answering points raised by other honorable members. Docking facilities are adequate for the present, and I believe for some considerable time to come. An aerodrome at Fishermen’s Bend was also suggested.
– That is not mentioned in the bill.
– It has been mentioned by the honorable member for Flinders, and I submit that I am entitled to reply to the remarks of the honorable member.
– What is wrong with the Essendon aerodrome.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.Nothing, except that it is in the wrong position and that it could hardly be made adequate for the requirements of that part of the great State of Victoria with out much expenditure. Even then it would not be in such an advantageous position as an aerodrome at Fisherman’s Bend would be. I believe that tho Premier of Victoria (Sir Stanley Argyle) is under a misapprehension in this matter. I have informed him that the department is willing to arrange for a Commonwealth officer to visit the area with a representative of the State Government, and to report on its suitability or otherwise as a site for an aerodrome. Desiring to avoid any misunderstanding in the matter, I wrote again saying that if Victoria wished to retain the land it could be regarded as a State property and that no attempt would be made by the Commonwealth Government to control the land. I suggested that he should say whether he was in favour of the whole or a portion of the area being utilized for an aerodrome, and, that, if so, the question of its control by the Commonwealth or the State of Victoria could be decided later. At the moment the Commonwealth is willing to assume full responsibility in the matter if the other arrangements are of an adequate and satisfactory nature.
Constant and numerous applications are being made from practically every centre in the various States foi Commonwealth assistance towards the construction of aerodromes. Some persons in various country towns suggest that it would be of advantage to construct aerodromes there and immediately the Commonwealth Government is asked to provide the necessary money. Similarly requests are made for the construction of roads to well established aerodromes, such as Mascot, as referred to by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden) who has also written me on the subject. I desire to make it clear that the amount of money available for expenditure on aerodromes is in no sense adequate, and that the Commonwealth Government, therefore can utilize its funds only on the construction of aerodromes that are of national value and are required for defence purposes. That principle has to be sedulously maintained, and. consequently, I am compelled, because of the exigencies of the financial situation, to advise honorable members who have written to mn on the subject, that where such aerodromes are not of national importance the local governing authorities must assume responsibility. In view of the money which the Commonwealth has made available to the States for unemployment relief and for other purposes, I do not think that the attitude adopted by the Commonwealth in this respect can be regarded as other than fair and reasonable. A number of defence works are mentioned in the schedule, but these can be explained more fully when the bill is in committee.
.- This National Parliament is again making an attempt to relieve unemployment. For the past six years a large number of persons in this country have been out of work and their only prospect seems to be the dole or employment’ for a few weeks every year. Governments are taking credit for the money they are making available for the relief of unemployment, but what they are doing will not solve the problem. It is merely a waste of good public money. A big proportion of the manhood of Australia is being compelled to work for a mere pittance. A practical way to solve the problem of .unemployment would be to reduce the hours of labour. This would keep all the people at work, instead of having a large section going cap in hand to police stations for the dole. While the employees in sheltered industries and members’ of the Public Service are enjoying regular wages, many employees in the wool and wheat industries have been thrown out of work because of the low prices of primary products. In many instances, overtime has been worked in industries sheltered by the tariff.
It is unfair that lads of eighteen years, who are as good men as they will ever be, are offered 24s. a week for forestry work. They are entitled at that age to the same rate of pay as is given to adults. Their misfortunes should not be exploited. In New South Wales they are called upon to put up with most inhuman conditions, if the facts are as stated by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James). In Queensland, all the men employed on forestry work receive award rates and conditions. Recently, the Federal Government claimed that it had reduced taxation to the extent of over £10,000,000, but such remissions should not be granted to wealthy interests when it is considered necessary to introduce legislation of the character of this bill. Any surplus moneys in the Government’s hands should be used for relief of the unemployed, and the best way to assist them would be to reduce the period of labour to 40 hours a week, thereby absorbing one more worker in every ten. Such a scheme would benefit those whose wages are now taxed to assist in feeding those who are willing to work, but are unable to obtain it.
I do not know whether the Government is aware of certain conditions prevailing to-day in the Public ‘Service. I am referring to the exploitation of youths.
Does the honorable member intend to connect his remarks with the bill?
– Yes. Boys -who are entering forestry camps were employed by government departments at the age of 14 years. The practice is to exploit them until they reach the age of 16 ye.ars, and then to dismiss them. The greatest offender in this respect is the Postal Department. I claim that these lads should remain at school until they are 16 years old. The retiring age of public servants might well be reduced.
– The employment of youths in the Public Service, and the reduction of the retiring age may not be discussed in debating this bill.
– Portion of the money to be voted under this measure will be spent in the exploitation of the labour of youths. It ha3 been said that coolie conditions will prevail, but I urge that these should not be tolerated. If the Government tries to do the whole of the work of this country by means of ;memployment relief schemes, it will be adopting a scientific method of abolishing the recognized labour conditions of Australia. Queensland has a Labour administration, and I do not know “whether that accounts for the fact that only £30,000 is allocated to Queensland under this bill, as compared with £25,000 to Tasmania. The later State could be hidden in a corner of the Kennedy electorate, and a black tracker would be required to find it. Forestry work in Queensland has been well conducted by the State authorities. A gentleman who recently showed me some specimens of woolstra informed me that over 26 pea- cent, of Germany was under forests. That country’s experiments in the production of a substitute for wool have been so far successful, and, if that success continues, instead of having to provide £2,500,000 for the relief of unemployment, it will be necessary for us to find another £5,000,000.
I suppose that after passing this measure the Government will tell the 20 per cent, of the people who are out of work that it has done a good job for them. Parliament was promised that schemes for the provision of work would be put forward by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Employment (Mr. Stewart), but we find that that honorable gentleman has gone abroad. The responsibility for carrying out the duties of his office has, I understand, been placed on the shoulders of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson), and I hope that before the House goes into recess again the Government will propound a practicable scheme for the relief of the unemployed, instead of a mere palliative, which will provide but .a few weeks’ work once a year.
– The oration and idealism of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) have aroused thoughts as to the importance of afforestation and the beauty of trees. Most members of this House are as eager as is the right honorable gentleman that the giants of the forest should be preserved; but I am afraid that he has been rather led astray by his idealism. We must remember that the progress of Australia during the last 100 years has necessitated the chopping down of trees in order that our agricultural lands might be extended to provide for its increasing population. In passing, may I say that I deplore the fact that we have apparently reached a dead end in the maintenance of our growth of population. The speech of the Leader of the Opposition indicates that he has studied the subject of afforestation from his early youth, and I admire him for his idealism. But I point out that a great deal -of public money has already been wasted on afforestation, and urge that any money voted by the Commonwealth to the States for work of this nature should ba supervised by the Commonwealth’s own forestry officers. The States should not be given the money and allowed to do as they please with it. Trained men should be in charge of this new enterprise for the relief of unemployment. Speaking of trained men, I am reminded of my association with a very highly trained forestry expert, Dr. Jacobs, for whom I boiled a billy of tea on the roadside while I was carrying on survey work in the Northern Territory. I was surprised that, although this man possessed high qualifications, and after having won his spurs here, had gained further experience in the Black Forest, Germany, of whose afforestation work we have been reminded to-night by the- Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill), the Commonwealth Government could find no employment for him in keeping with his qualifications. Although this man had been abroad for four years studying afforestation methods, and had spent some time in the United States of America, as “well as in Germany, Australia had nothing to offer him. So great was his enthusiasm that he even volunteered to act as my cook if I could only ensure that he might be able to continue his studies and field work for a few hours a day in Arnheim Land. Unfortunately, I could not place him. Such a state of affairs is a reflection on the educational, and particularly the forestry, system of the Commonwealth. Trained men should be in -charge of this work to choose competent officers. I do not know where Dr. Jacobs is to-day; %ut T hope his claims will not he lost sight of when this money is being expended. The Leader of the Opposition has spoken of the necessity of building up a national asset by the cultivation of forest lands. I agree with tho right honorable gentleman that our assets are going and our debts are growing, and that this country, needs what he described as a national stock-taking. I would go further, and suggest that we should have an economic survey of the whole of Australia. I notice that in this bill no provision is made for forestry for tho Northern
Territory. Perhaps the Government does not know that trees grow there. The Commonwealth has been committed to this expenditure, and, although I have not much faith in it, as judged by past wasted effort, I believe it will do something to relieve distress. I suggest that the Government would do well to make inquiries as to afforestation work being carried out in the Punjab, India. Many honorable members are familiar with the afforestation work that has been carried out on the great canals in the Punjab. I should like to see teak introduced into the Northern Territory. Very few trees are imported into this country. There is a lesson to be learned from England in this regard; few of the trees grown there are indigenous. I. suggest that the technical officers of the Forestry Department should be sent to the Punjab to study conditions there, with a view to the selection of trees suitable for planting in the centre of the continent, which is sparsely timbered. We must realize though that the ‘greater part of our coastal belt - that is, the assured rainfall belt - must be looked to to -carry our present-day pop illation and the population of the future. I am in accord with much that has been ‘said with regard to the necessity for preserving trees, and I think the most important work is the preservation of natural timber on the ridges. If we have good land on the flats we must use it for pasturage and farming. The cutting down of trees on such areas is inevitable; but it should be done under scientific control. Some of the country at present covered with trees is more or less useless for forest cultivation, and in ring-harking them we are making provision for increased primary production to carry a greater population. But increased primary production -will not necessarily solve our difficulties. Australia is at present overproducing, and overseas countries will not even purchase from us the meagre supplies necessary to meet out interest bill. We .have to look for another avenue for expansion, and we find it in the schedule to this bill, in which provision is made for £45,000 for gold-mining in the Northern Territory. I always attempt to curb my optimism, but I have no hesitation in saying that the gold is there. It is in the ore at grass. There is no optimism about that statement. The gold is to be seen on the surface, and the. Parliament should rise to the occasion and let sanity prevail. I ask the Government to take immediate steps to place a ten-stamp battery and provide the necessary water supply at Tennant’s Creek. I ask them, also, to make provision for a 30 per cent, advance to the starving miners there, in respect of their ore at grass in order that the field, which may yet develop into another Rand, may be properly worked. This money should be made available immediately for the relief of the miners at the field, from whom I received only to-day the following telegram: -
Is your Government going to do anything to assist Tennant’s? We cannot starve in Centra] Australia.
I ask the Government to treat the request seriously, and to install immediately a ten-stamp battery on the field. Then the youths who, according to the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), do not wish to go away from their mothers, but would rather stay in Newcastle or Maitland, may be induced to go out to Central Australia after we have made provision for them, and to work as their forefathers did to make life possible for others here. There they will be able to do something for themselves and for Australia. There these super adaptable men - and no others are required - will preserve the type of our forefathers as the Master Potter intended it should be when He created an Australian and threw away each mould.
.- This vote is another temporary expedient designed to carry the unemployed on for a little longer, but no one can pretend that it is a contribution towards the solution of the problem. As the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) pointed out, we have been following this method for the last five or six years, and the condition of the unemployed is no whit better now than it was then.
I, together with the other members of my party, am concerned at the moment with the conditions of the employment that will be provided under this scheme. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill) said that there would be the greatest difficulty in securing unity of action between the Commonwealth and States. This is not the first time we have heard that story. When the last unemployment grant was made, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Employment (Mr. Stewart) said that, though he had invited all the States to prepare schedules of works upon which Commonwealth money might be expended, only two of the States had done so. The Minister for Defence said that the States had a right to insist upon conducting unemployment relief work in their own fashion ; but I suggest that those who are in need of cash are hardly in a position to lay down definite terms to those from whom they seek it. I disagree with the Minister when he says that those who pay the piper are not entitled to call the tune. When we provide the money we have the right to lay down, perhaps not what work shall be done, but the conditions of employment, namely, the hours of work and the wages to be paid. The Minister for Defence stated that there had been no complaint about how the State governments had expended the money allotted to them up to date. Apparently, he was not in the House the other night when we drew attention to the fact that the Government of New South Wales had virtually misappropriated money allotted to it by the Commonwealth, for the relief of unemployment This was apart from its action in m ‘ appropriating or misapplying, during the last three years, the sum of £10,000,000 raised by means of unemployment tax from the workers. Instead of devoting this money to the relief of unemployment it used it for other purposes. In the case of last year’s grant by the Commonwealth Government, it was the intention of this Parliament that the money should be devoted to providing some extra assistance for those out of work, over and above what was being done for them by the State Government. It has now been shown that, while the Commonwealth spent £7 16s. in providing each man with a fortnight’s work, the State Government saved £6 17s. in unemployment relief, so that the unemployed were better off to the extent of only 19s. as the result of the Commonwealth grant. We also pointed out the other night that, because these men received employment by virtue of the Commonwealth grant, they were deprived of certain other benefits to which they would ordinarily have been entitled. On that occasion, the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) contradicted what we said, but our statement has since been confirmed from an official source. Our statement was to the effect that, because a fortnight’s work had been provided out of the Commonwealth grant, the men who received the work were denied a clothing allowance from the State Government. Some of us approached the responsible officer in New South Wales, and it was agreed that the case of one man, who had a wife and three children, should be regarded as a test case, and whatever was decided upon in respect of him, should apply also to others similarly situated. The matter has now been considered by the department, and I have received a letter from Mr. Treble, Director of Government Relief in New South Wales, in the following terms: -
Following upon your personal representations on behalf of Mr. Boyd, I desire to inform you that tho income received in this case cannot be disregarded when considering an application for clothing. In view of the position, therefore, it is regretted that a clothing issue may not be made.
What has been made to apply to this man will apply to every other man who has obtained a fortnight’s work at the expense of tho Commonwealth Government. That is why we ask that the Commonwealth Government should lay down conditions before making the money available to the States, and those conditions should include a stipulation that all men employed under the scheme should be paid award wages and should work under award conditions. Moreover, the men should not, as a consequence of benefiting under a Commonwealth grant, be deprived of benefits and allowances in other directions. So much for the statement of the Minister for Defence that no complaints had been made as to the manner in which the governments were spending the money. In support of his view on his aspect of the proposal the Minister said that political expediency would prevent those State governments which were on the eve of an election from doing the wrong thing. I would, however, point out that they are doing the wrong thing, not to the majority, but to a minority, of the people; and as we well know, in everyday life not many persons are concerned about how the other fellow is getting on. At the most not more than 10,000 people in New South Wales would be affected by the expenditure of the £60,000 allocated to that. State for Christmas relief. As a matter of fact not more than 5,000 or 6,000 would have received a fortnight’s work under that scheme which was financed by the Commonwealth, and the disabilities which they suffered in consequence of the State Government’s policy, to which I have alluded, would not occasion the Government very much concern in view of the fact that the voting strength for the State is about 1,550,000. The victimization of that handful of people merely because they had received work under tho Commonwealth relief scheme would not matter very much to the State Government.
There has been a good deal of discustion about the terms and conditions under which the men are employed on afforestation schemes in New South Wales. Their engagement is for 30 hours a week at 30s. weekly. The Minister for Defence has said that they need not take this work. That is true. They need not accept it, but if they do not the alternative is starvation, because they are denied the dole or relief work as the case may be. Consequently the majority of the men in afforestation camps in New South Wales are working under one of the most grievous forms of compulsion that exists in the economic system of to-day.
The Minister for Defence has complained of the uninformed criticism, as he terms it, of what is happening in the different States. If one may judge from what the honorable gentleman said to-night with regard to the conditions obtaining in some of the States in connexion with work for which the Commonwealth in the past has found the money, we must conclude that he himself knows very little about the real state of affairs, and therefore has no warrant for suggesting that critics of the Government are without knowledge.
During the. second-reading debate the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Casey) was very vague in his; explanation of the reasons actuating, the Government in the allotment of this, money to the various States. New South Wales is to receive £50,000. Victoria £100,000, Queensland £30,000* South Australia £17,000, Western Australia £100,000, and Tasmania £25,000. The Minister did not tell the House whether the allocation of the money was determined by the number of unemployed in the various (States, whether it was the result of proposals made by the various State Governments, or whether it was with, a view to making possible the effective development of potential forest areas in the various. States. The alloca-tion, as- regards the States of New South Wales and Western Australia, is ridiculous. It can hardly be argued that Western Australia has to care for more unemployed, or that it is in a better position to finance a forestry scheme on the £1 for £1 basis than is the Government of New South Wales. Nor will Lt be- contended by any one with a knowledge of the position,, that the possibilities of afforestation, as regards the varieties of trees to be grown and the climatic conditions suitable for their growth, are greater in Western Australia than in New South Wales. Tho northern districts of New South Wales have always been famed for the production of the finest, maple, cedar and pine trees in- Australia. It is, however, regrettable that there has been ruthless destruction of this great national asset. I speak on this subject with some knowledge. This destruction of valuable forests may be charged not against the present generation, but against generations of 30 and 40 years ago, when exclusive rights were given to millers to cut timber in vast tracts of forest without any of the safeguards that are inserted in more recent contracts of this nature. ‘At the time of which I speak millers had the exclusive right to cut timber in great forest areas, and as they were unhampered by any conditions, they picked the. eyes out of the country, Cut. ting only the best trees and those, that were most accessible, and leaving the rest As a result there are still standing in those areas some of the finest specimens of cedar,, pine and. maple to be found in any part of Australia, but unfortunately they are not easily accessible. The northern districts of New South Wales, where the soil and climate have produced the finest indigenous forests of the varieties of. trees1 which I have mentioned,, offer much greater possibilities for afforestation than any other part of the Commonwealth, Yet we find that in this, allocation of Commonwealth money New South Wales is to receive only £50’,0.00, while Western Australia, which has never produced timber of the same quality or quantity, is to be allocated twice that amount - £100,000. One would have thought that the greatest amount would be spent where the number of unemployed was largest. It can hardly be argued that there is a larger number in Western- Australia, than in New South Wales. I believe that the number in New South. Wales is nearly equal to’ the population- of Western Australia. The Acting Treasurer (Mr. Casey) might have- given some indication of the reason for the differentiation in the allocation of the proposed expenditure. We welcome any provision that is made for the relief of unemployment. At the last elections the Government boasted that, if it were returned to power, it would solve the unemployment problem. It also claimed that for every seven minutes it had been in office it had found one man a permanent job. Surety our experience since last September furnishes a complete denial of the claims then made. The indications so far point to. the probability that this Government, like the last lyons Government, intends to carry on by means of paltry relief grants, which are merely a drop in the ocean.
– Some £6,500;000 has been made available in the last six months.
– I do not care whether the period is six months or six years; it is indisputable, that these palliatives have been applied for the last four or five years in every State of the Commonwealth, and. that the unemployment” position is not one whit better to-day. The Government may consider that a man is re-employed who is paid lis. for eight hours’ work a week. It may regard that as satisfactory; the people of
Australia do not. An examination of tlie conditions not only ©f those who -are unemployed, hut also of those who .are working full time .and whose living standards have been continually attacked by both Federal and State administrations, will show that the position is much worse to-day. The Government should realize that it is fallacious to suppose that -a lowering of wages leads to a greater volume of employment being provided. The correct policy to pursue is to reduce the hours of labour and increase wages, thus correspondingly raising the purchasing power, of the people. Instead of applying palliatives the Government should come forward with a comprehensive scheme that will be of material benefit to the unemployed.
– To whatever party one belongs, one must pay a tribute to the excellent speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), and his plea for the encouragement of a forest sense in this country. From an economic point of view there are two lines of thought which lead us to realize that in the past a very great mistake has been made in the abuse of the timber resources of Australia. Whether the denudation has been caused by fire, ringbarking or clearing, resulting in soil erosion and subsidences, siltation of creeks and other water-courses, and floods, or by the cutting out of the good timber and its waste.ful use, the fact remains that we now have to obtain from abroad the soft woods that we need. Hundreds of thousands of pounds are annually sent out of Australia for soft woods because our own soft woods are not suitable for the requirements of industry. I recently passed through a large apple-exporting district, where I happened to see some cases that had been made from Australian timber. I am not one to cry stinking fish; if we have a good Australian -article we should use it. I asked the owner of the case-making factory for his opinion of the timber, and was assured by him that he had to reject 10 per cent, of it, not because of faulty workmanship, but because of faulty material. We have prominently before us the example afforded by the importation of oregon and other timbers for the building trade, which cost us thousands of pounds each year. We cannot supply our requirements of those timbers, because those who had charge of Australia some years ago wasted the natural resources of the country and left us to bemoan the fact. We have not yet encouraged a forest .sense. If we do not soon do so, Australia may he like Arabia, which once was known as the granary of the East, Baluchistan, where the whole country is denuded of timber and the soil has shifted, Persia, which once was flourishing but now is half buried by the driven sand, or even our own Mallee, the top soil of which has drifted and left unproductive a large area of country. I hope that the Commonwealth will impress on the governments of the States the need for a considered forest policy. We are proposing to make available the substantial amount of £300,000 to assist then with their forestry work, and as a relief measure to place some of the unemployed at that work. In the ranks of the unemployed are many men who have a real love of timber and of forests. They will be taught what I might describe as the basic work of forestry. Some of them are deserving of further instruction. The bill provides that the money, to be appropriated under it shall be given and expended in such manner and subject to such conditions as the Treasurer approves. I ask the Government to make the instruction of these young men in forestry part and parcel of the work. Where it is found that they will repay further instruction, let them be provided with scholarships, or by some other means fitted to occupy positions in charge of the forests of Australia that must need filling in a few years’ time. We have reached the stage of forest improvement. We are instructing people that fires are dangerous to forests. Many of us are replanting trees where our forebears cut them out. In these circumstances it is necessary that people should be trained in forestry. The comparatively few students who are coming from our various forestry schools will not bc nearly sufficient to meet our needs within the next few years. I suggest, therefore, that the Government should select young men from the forest camps w”ho show special aptitude for forestry work, and afford them the opportunity of developing their skill. If this is done, the services of these men will be of great value to Australia within the next few years. Men of the right type are available, for we know that a generation with a love for sylviculture is growing up. Many of these men possess the -brain power to qualify for the higher grades of- forestry work, and I ask the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to confer with the State governments with the object of making opportunities for them to obtain further study. air. BERNARD CORSER (Wide Bay) [10.43]. - We have heard a good deal this evening in praise of the Commonwealth Government’s policy of advancing millions of pounds to the State governments to enable them to do work under specific headings, but I think it is high time that the Commonwealth Government expended some of its money in certain of its own departments which are thirsting for expansion. Before the depression, a vigorous policy of telephone extension into rural areas was adopted by the Commonwealth Government, but the depression has caused a wane in this enthusiasm. It is necessary, however, that adequate telephonic facilities shall be provided for people in rural areas if they are to keep in step with the times. Money spent in providing these services would he reproductive, and practically all of it would go in wages, for the cost of the telephone wire and couplings used in work of this kind is negligible in comparison with the total cost of the work. It is regrettable that, under existing conditions, our primary producers are harassed by the Postal Department when they endeavour to obtain telephonic connexion. The request that they shall pay £20 towards the cost of connexion, and give a guarantee of continuous service for” six years before they can obtain a telephone, is most regrettable. I mention this particular activity as an illustration of the many Commonwealth departmental activities that could be extended if the Government would provide money for the purpose, and I hope that in the future something more will be done in this direction.
.- I support this bill, for it is a fulfilment of the promises made on behalf of the Government during the last election campaign. Afforestation and reafforestation are highly important to Australia. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) let a few words of wisdom drop from his lips in the course of his remarks on this subject. Nature makes very few mistakes. We, in Australia, have attempted to defy nature by planting unsuitable trees in unsuitable soils and climates, and thereby we have lost much money. I like the proposal to undertake reafforestation as an unemployment relief measure, for it is reproductive work though on the long-range plan. Future generations of Australians will ‘be glad that this work was put in hand. I trust that the Government will make sure that the State authorities use this money to the best advantage and plant trees of suitable varieties in suitable areas. Serious mistakes have been made in the past because unsuitable trees have been planted. Some trees have actually been uprooted. It is most important that careful regard should be paid to the variety of timber planted in our forests. We have, in the past, given too little attention to reafforestation. A species of vandalism has been displayed in the forests of this country, for useful timber has been almost wantonly destroyed. We have not cleared our forests of lumber when we have felled the timber, with the result that bush fires have swept through them and destroyed much growth that would have automatically retimbered the country. In spite of what has been said during this debate, Western Australian forests contain a greater variety of hardwood timber than those of any other State. Hardwood is being supplied to all the States from Western Australian forests. I believe that a tremendous amount of useful work can be done in reafforestation. When we travel through the forests of this country we are apt to think that an abundance of timber is being grown for all our needs, but the fact is that we have not more than will be sufficient for a couple of decades. For this reason, afforestation and reafforestation are of immense importance, and should engage the attention of the National Parliament. I therefore support the bill.
.- I support the motion, although I regret that more money is not being made available. I agree with the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) that our forests are not being utilized as they should be, and that valuable timber is being wantonly destroyed. In connexion with a proposal that the manufacture of paper pulp should be undertaken in Tasmania, Sir Herbert Gepp submitted a report on the forests of that State in 1930. In that report he said that there was sufficient timber in Tasmania to supply Australia’s paper requirements for all time, and to give employment to between 5,000 and 6,000 workers. Undertakings of that nature should be encouraged by the Government. Each year this country imports paper to the value of between £2,000,000 and £3,000,000. That money is sent out of this country because vested interests would rather import their paper requirements than obtain supplies from Australian manufacturers. Thirty or more years ago settlers were allowed to select areas of forest country, and to destroy the timber growing on the land, notwithstanding that it was of greater value than the crops that would be produced in its place. First, they ringbarked the trees, and then they set fire to them. In that way many hundreds of acres of valuable timber were destroyed. That kind of thing was common throughout Australia 30 or 40 years ago. Since that time many of these areas have again become covered with timber, which should be protected. In my electorate there are thousands of acres of good forest timber growing on land which was cleared 30 or 40 years ago. In dealing with our forest areas it is not sufficient to take out only the best splitting or milling timber; all of the timber should be used. In addition to paper made from hardwood being superior to that manufactured from softwood, it has been demonstrated that the whole of the tree, apart from unsound and charred timber, can be utilized for the manufacture of paper pulp. Any piece of timber large enough to be worth carting to the factory can be made into paper. The establishment of industries of this kind should be encouraged. Greater care should be taken in the felling of timber, because a falling tree may damage other timber, and cause it to deteriorate. Wherever a tree is bruised, there is danger of forest pests getting into it. There is need for proper supervisors of our forest lands, for if care is not taken, much of our timber will be lost to us.
The Cambridge aerodrome is situated about 7 miles from Hobart; but, unfortunately, it is on the other side of the river, and there is no communication by road with the city. There being no bridge across the river, passengers who miss the ferry are compelled to reach their destination by a circuitous route, and may thus take from two and a half to three hours to cover the last few miles to Hobart - as long as the time occupied on the journey from Laverton to Cambridge. The construction of a bridge across the river would not only save time ; but it would also provide work for the unemployed.
– Does not the honorable member think that the States should provide their own roads?
– I understand that the aerodrome is being provided partly as a means of defence.
– The Commonwealth does not provide roads.
– Unless connected with Hobart by road, the aerodrome is of little use. The State government has not sufficient money to build a bridge and a road to the aerodrome; but it might share the cost with the Commonwealth on a £1 for £1 basis.
– The Commonwealth is providing £20,000 and the State £5,000 for afforestation.
– -mouth Australia is to receive £17,000 without any contribution on its part, although its disabilities are not so great as are those of Tasmania.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Mulcahy) adjourned.
Mining in the Northern Territory: Ex-Soldiers : Tuberculosis Cases - Infantile Paralysis.
Motion (by Mr. Archdale Parkhill) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Statements have been made in Sydney imputing wrong motives-, to me in connexion with my attack on the Arnheim Land Gold. Development Company. They are an iniquitous prevarication. I have never beared, bought or otherwise dealt in Arnheim Land or any other gold- shares registered on the Stock Exchange either in my own, or anybody else’s name. I have no pecuniary interest whatever in goldmining, and never have had any except that, as I announced to the House last week, before I became a member I invested a few pounds to. help- the Pioneer- Syndicate of Tennant’s Creek. The same sort of innuendo, I understand’, has been made against other innocent persons connected with the exposure1 of the company’s methods; in Sydney. If I discover the authors of these defamatory and wilfullyuntrue statements I shall take full’ and adequate steps to defend myself. I shall endeavour to see that they are brought, to the bar of this House to show them that they must not try to penalize a member by baseless slander for doing his obvious and honest duty to the country and his constituents, and I shall also take proper civil action to deal with these.
– There seems to he a growing tendency on the part of the Repatriation Department to decline to stand up to its obligations with regard to certain claims of returned soldiers. On many occasions T have placed before the Minister cases which have been reported to me from many centres in my electorate, such as Corrimal, Woonoona, Cabramatta, Liverpool, Austral, Caringbah, Wollongong, Bulli, Thirroul and Stanwell Park. Also complaints have been brought under my notice regarding many cases of tuberculosis soldiers in the Waterfall Sanatorium. These men have been told year after year that their complaint is not the result of war service. If such mcn were passed as efficient to go to the war, the doctors who passed them were either very stupid or did not know their jobs. Apparently they passed men who should never have been accepted, men who apparently had tuberculosis infection in their system. A previous Minister for Repatriation and
Health, Sir Neville Howse, pointed- out on many occasions that the human race was to a certain extent becoming immune from tuberculosis infection. He referred to cases in which lesions were found in the lungs after death showing that the individual had thrown off the disease during life. He also pointed out that many men unknown to themselves were infected by this disease but had thrown it off. Some cases of returned- soldiers afflicted with tuberculosis may have developed along similar lines, but it is a reasonable conclusion that war service conditions, work in slush and frequent drenchings, must have aggravated the disease in- these cases. This I contend would place these men in a different- category from those who lived normal’ lives away from the war. These men are now told that their infection is not due to war service. I know of the case of a man at Woonoona with but two fingers left whose pension amounts to about 5s. or 6s. a week, whilst there are other1 men who are running businesses, the goodwill of which could not be bought for less than £5t000’ or £6,000, who are- drawing full pensions. There are thousands of instances of this, and I urge the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Hughes) to inquire into this aspect of the question. I am not complaining that these men should not be in receipt of the pension, but it is a scandal to force the more unfortunate ex-soldiers, the down and out, to bear the whole burden of carrying on with paltry assistance. Why should any man with an income of £1,000 or £1,500 a year be allowed to draw a pension, whilst men who are not able to earn twopence, and who perhaps have lost fingers or have had an arm disabled, are considered to be worth only a few shillings a week in the eyes of the Repatriation Department? It is a scandalous state of affairs, and the Minister should not tolerate it for five minutes. I remind the right honorable gentleman that he was one of those who ran up and down tho country sooting these men on to go to the war. I urge him to stand up to the promises he then made. These men were told that they would be given the world almost and that they would come back to a land fit for heroes. They came back to a country fit for heroes- to starve in. That, is the real position. I realize that the right honorable the Minister has not occupied his position- very long, but I am hoping for big things- from him on behalf of these unfortunate ex-soldiers, and f urge him “to look into some of these eases; It is time an inquiry was held into this matter covering the whole of Australia, in order to see that unfortunate ex-soldiers who now cannot get a reasonable pension should be treated more justly; that men who enjoy a full competency to provide themselves with all the necessaries of life should, be refused the pension until at least the other class I have mentioned get justice. Should the pension be stopped for the more fortunate ex-soldiers,, steps could bo- taken to register them so that in the event of their falling on bad times the pension could be restored to them. At the present time, however, conditions in this respect ara a scandal. It is. unjust that a successful business or’ professional man is given a full pension whilst these other unfortunates cannot receive a pension at all. If the Minister makes the inquiry as- I suggest he will find that I am not talking irresponsibly, but that I am giving facts. Cn support of my statements, I can supply him with names. This is a serious matter, and I intend to continue reminding the honorable gentleman of the promises that were made to the soldiers when they enlisted, contrasting them with i he treatment which is being meted out to the soldiers to-day. I hope this matter will be re-adjusted, and that more evenhanded justice will be meted out by the Repatriation Department. If that is done, the honorable the Minister will justify his position as Minister for Repatriation, and I assure him I will be one of the first te- compliment him on taking such action. But, up to date, neither he nor any of his predecessors has justified his position as Minister for Repatriation.
I draw the attention, of the Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) to a matter of grave concern to the community as a whole. I refer to the disease commonly known as infantile paralysis, an outbreak of which is now being experienced in the Western District of Victoria. This disease is commonly” known as infantile paralysis^ but apparently age is no safeguard;, because in at least two cases in this outbreak which have come under my notice is affected individuals have been over 30 years of age. The control of such outbreaks is primarily the function of shire councils - at any rate that is the case in Victoria - and thf.se have the assistance of the State- government, whilst the Federal Government is concerned from the research point of view. At present, the Federal Government is supplying the Hall Institute, in Melbourne, with £1,000’ a year for three years, supplementing a similar amount from the Rockfeller Foundation to investigate virus diseases which include infantile’ paralysis. The residents of tlie affected area propose to donate a travelling field laboratory to. the Hall1 institute. The treatment of this disease, which extends over some years, is rather costly, and beyond the means of most people-. In- Victoria, in 1930-31, out of 254 people affected, 93.4 per cent, of the total received entirely honorary treatment making no contribution, at all towards, the cost of that treatment. It would appear that the- work of meeting this disease requires community,. rather than, individual, action. In certain, countries, economic waste has resulted: from neglect to provide adequate care. This has been brought home forcibly in those countries where invalid pensions exist as in Sweden and Australia. In 1898, 1908, and 19-18-, comparatively small outbreaks of this disease occurred in this country, but the present annual payment to the cripples left by these epidemics is costing, this Government in invalid pensions £18,000 a year. Surely it would be better to spend such money at the right end, namely, in the prevention rather than . the maintenance of cripples. I have a copy of a report furnished by Dr. Jean McNamara, one of the greatest authorities on this disease in Australia, to the Federal Council of the British Medical Association in Australia at Hobart in January, 1934. The report states -
The potential’ cripple from poliomyelitis must be found and cared for at an earlier stage, and the patient whom the hospital has helped must be supervised for years. There is only one way to do this - to bring facilities to the patient, fo his home or county town or village, by clinics, at regular frequent intervals, and by means of a staff of. trained workers, to guide the care of the patient in his home.
Dr. McNamara has investigated the subject in many countries, including Sweden, which also has an invalid pension scheme, and in which country certain steps have been taken to deal with the disease. In Sweden no distinction is made between adults and children. In Australia when a crippled child reaches the age of sixteen years, and leaves a children’s hospital, it becomes a pensioner, and if permanently disabled is not compelled to look after itself. The report continues -
In Sweden no distinction has been made between the child and adult.
The State, county or parish makes provision for adequate care by experts, even to the poorest.
The country districts are included, even tho vast sparsely populated Norrlandian district.
The work by the specialist is carried out in intimate co-operation with the existing provision for medical relief in the country.
Tho medical students receive instruction in the care of these cases and have the opportunity of following the work.
Legislation has been passed to enable adequate care to be given, even when ignorant parents or guardians try to prevent it.
In England the care of affected cases is included in the wider schemes which aim at the prevention and treatment of crippling in general. The general practitioner does not share in the care of the patients. They are supervised by experts and by trained aftercare sisters in orthopaedic hospitals, and in the network of after-care clinics established at centres throughout the country.
In Chicago, the Visiting Nurses’ Association has developed a special division of their service to care for tho paralyzed patients in their homes. The staff of the division have had special training as physiotherapists.
A similar scheme was started in Victoria in 1931 by the Children’s Hospital authorities and the Charities Board, and under it trained physiotherapists, I think, visit children in their homes. The staff is only five in number, four members of which are working in Melbourne, and one in Ballarat. It is an excellent scheme so far as it goes, but, unfortunately, it does not go far enough. The Commonwealth Government is vitally interested in this problem, if not from a humanitarian view-point, at any rate from a commercial view-point. The article written by Dr. McNamara, which appeared in the Canadian Public Health Journal in November, 1932, reads -
The epidemics which have visited Australia yearly since 1025, causing 1,500 cases, have swollen the ranks of the potential pensioners. The sum paid as pension to a boy paralysed at the age of sixteen amounts to some £2,000 if he lives to (iO years. Thus, the economic wastage is brought home more forcibly in Australia than in countries where this system does not exist. When an epidemic occurred in Tasmania, in 1930, the opportunity to save the Federal Government great expense was appreciated. Three months later, the Tasmanian Government decided to provide treatment for the indigent survivors. Country cases were cared for in base hospitals, and city cases in their homes. Splints were made by carpenters or engineers; muscle reeducation waa carried out by four physiotherapeutists sent over from the mainland. Though, in several cases, a compromise had to be accepted, the results after nine months treatment of 54 cases in the Hobart district were reported as follows: - May, 1931, 23 normal, nineteen practically normal. Some will have, if treatment ceases now, permanent slight disability with no deformity. Nine will require apparatus to aid walking, though no deformity. Three remain potential invalid pensioners. A most conservative estimate of the number saved from becoming invalid pensioners is fifteen, an ultimate saving to the Commonwealth of over £30,000.
Honorable members can see that from that view-point alone it is a very important subject for consideration by the Commonwealth Government. I would like to see the Commonwealth health authorities exercising a guiding control over the various States, each State to have centres and sub-centres radiating from the children’s hospitals. These centres and sub-centres would be able to treat children in their own homes with a staff of trained physiotherapists. This is the opinion of Dr. Cumpston, with whom I have discussed this matter. I hope that the Minister for Health will see if the Commonwealth Government can do more than it is doing at present in the prevention of this disease which at present is being handled from the wrong end. I am sure that the Minister is seised with the importance of the subject, and will give further consideration to it.
.- I desire to support the remarks of the honorable member for “Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) concerning the unfortunate position of ex-soldiers who are suffering from tuberculosis, and are unable to receive a pension because the authorities maintain that their disability is not due to war service. I have before me 40 or 50 cases of persons who have written to the department, and who have received a reply either from an official or from the Minister to tlie effect that nothing can be done for” them. It is amazing to find that some of the replies received from the present Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Hughes) are similar to those which he received in response to requests which he made when a private member, and which he regarded as unsatisfactory. A large number of these cases relate to men suffering from tuberculosis caused by gas the effect of which was not apparent when they were on active service. I have before me particulars of the case of a man who, when at the front, was examined by four or five doctors. He claimed that he was suffering from frontal sinuses. The department said, after investigation, that his nervous system was affected and they desired to send him to a hospital for the treatment of nervous complaints. After a while the authorities said that he was a fit person for an asylum. He still maintained that his condition was due to the effect of gas and fought strenuously against the opinions expressed by numerous doctors. Ultimately he was taken to a hospital and after a series of operations an eye was removed, and it was found that behind it there was an accumulation of gas which had been there for ten years. Notwithstanding this, the doctors who had previously examined him maintained that his condition was not due to war service. I trust that the Minister for Health will go into this case and also into those of the men suffering from tuberculosis. I have also particulars of the case of a man who, when discharged as medically unfit, applied for a pension. He was informed that he was not entitled to a .pension, and that no record was kept of chest troubles. He was discharged from the army because lie was medically unfit, but he cannot get a pension. I trust that the Minister for Repatriation will give his personal attention to such cases in order that justice may he done.’
– Both before and since I became Minister for Repatriation, cases of men suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis, similar to those to which reference has been made to-night, have been brought under my notice. I feel as honorable members do in this matter. This is an insidious disease, and honorable members know that from 80 per cent, to 90 per cent, of all adults have at one time or another been infected with the bacillus, but fortunately have been able to resist its ravages. I have pointed out on several occasions that anything which lowers the vitality of the individual opens the door to disease, and particularly to this disease. If is quite natural that returned men should attribute to the dreadful strain of war the diseases from which they are suffering. The subject is not without its complexities, but I am entirely in favour of assisting these men in any way that is possible. I shall take an early opportunity, as I remarked to-night to a deputation, of placing the matter before the Government, in order to see what can be done. The powers of the Repatriation Commission, and, of course, of the Minister, are now confined by the provisions of the act. To what extent these limitations may be safely removed I am not prepared to say, at the present moment. It is sufficient to remark now that I am entirely sympathetic with these men, and most sincerely desirous of helping them.
Referring to the remarks of the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Street), I should like to say that while the powers of the Commonwealth authorities regarding infantile paralysis are very restricted, and restricted in a matter in which I think they should be as wide as the circumstances of the community demand, we can act only in co-operation with the States. That imposes a bar on the activities of the Commonwealth which will appeal to the honorable member who raised this question, because it is most desirable that there should be uniformity of methods of treatment, and that research should be backed by the resources of the entire community. Never was the Commonwealth in greater need than now of men fit to take their places in the front rank of the industrial army confronted, as it is, with circumstances probably without precedentin the history of civilized man. A cripple is adrag upon the community, besides being a burden to himself and his relations.I entirely agree with the honorable member that the prevention and treatment of this disease, and the care of those suffering from it must be considered from an economic as well as from a health point of view. By all means at our disposal, we should endeavour to prevent infantile paralysis, or, in cases where the disease has manifested itself, endeavour to restore the afflictedones, its far as humanly possible, to normal health. I can assure the honorable member that Ishall discuss this matter with Dr. Cumpston, and see what canbe done regarding it. I shall be glad of his advice in regard to the points raised by the honorable member to-night, and I shall take an opportunity of reading the reports from which the honorable member read excerpts.
Motion (by Mr. Archdale Parkhill) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker- Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon.G. J. Bell).While the division bells were ringing, I distinctly heard a remark by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) in reference to the Speaker. I warn him that his offensive remarks and his disorderlyconduct generally will not be tolerated. I am not so much concerned as to what he says about myself as I am about upholding the dignity of the positionwhich I occupy.
Original question put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.35 p.m.
The following answers toquestions were circulated.: -
M r. George Lawson asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Ishe correctly reported inthe Brisbane Courier Mail, of the26th January last, as having stated thathewas considering a proposal to assist returned soldiers of advancing years, because of theirunemployability
If so, willhe inform the House whether he intends to proceed with the matter?
Will he include veterans of the South African War in any such scheme?
Auditor-General’s Report: Form of Accounts.
Mr.Casey. - In reply to a question asked by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) regarding the annual report of the Auditor-General, I desire to state that I propose making a statement to the House on this matter.
Examination for Telegraph Messengers.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 March 1935, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1935/19350320_reps_14_146/>.