14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I lay on the table-
Copy of the second report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, dated the 18th September, 1935, on the applications made by the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania for financial assistance in 1935-36 from the Commonwealth under section96 of the Constitution.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent notice of motion No. 1 - want of confidence in the Government - taking precedence of all other business until disposed of.
– I move -
That this House strongly condemns the Government for -
1 ) Its flagrant neglect of its duty to the people by failing to call Parliament together for more than 39 days in twelve months.
Not having met Parliament earlier, thereby prejudicing Parliamentary control over taxation and expenditure by necessitating the passage of a further Supply Mill before the budget can be passed.
Its failure to provide and put into effect a bold, progressive policy to deaf with the unemployment problem on a national basis.
Its irresponsible attitude to the drift that is taking place in the overseas trade balance.
Its failure to formulate a permanent plan for the relief of the primary producers.
At the outset I wish to express deep regret at the fact that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) has been in indifferent health for some little time, and is unable to be in his place in this House this afternoon. I feel sure that I voicethe feelings of all honorable members when I say that we sincerely hope that he will speedily be fully restored to his usual health and vigour.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
-The motion that I have moved, having been expected, must occasion the Government very little surprise. Judged on its record, the Government realizes that it is deserving of censure.
After a recess, which has lasted for five months, this Parliament is now faced with a mass of legislative arrears, and doubtless we shall be subjected to the application of the gag to facilitate the despatch of business. That instrument was used against us prior to the Easter adjournment, andwe were not given sufficient time to deal with the grave and important problems which then were placed before Parliament. The failure of the Government to have not more than 39 sitting-days since the last elections is most reprehensible, considering the very difficult times through which Australia has been passing. During the short period that Parliament has sat, honorable members opposite have strongly condemned the inadequacy of the consideration given to measures and the application of the gag and the guillotine. Private members as well as Ministers have responsibilities to discharge. They come from all parts of Australia at considerable inconvenience and expense, and they have every right to expect that they will bo given ample time for the proper consideration of the measures that are brought down by the Government. We are all aware, of course, that these proposals are considered first by the Cabinet and subsequently by a meeting of the Government party; but in the final analysis it is this Parliament which must give legislative effect to them, and in order that they may be duly considered and discussed ample time should be allowed.
This Government met Parliament on only 21 days in 1934 subsequent to the last elections, and on only 18 days in the current year. The Senate met on nine days in 1934, and on 10 days in this year, a total of only 19 days since the elections were held. Is it to be wondered at, then, that there was such keen competition yesterday for the position of President of that chamber ?
– Order !
– Contrast this record with that of the Scullin Government. Between the date of the general elections in 1929, and the 31st December, 1930, the House of Representatives sat on 112 days, while in 1931 it sat on 94 days. The sitting days in the Senate wererespectively 78 and 76.
There is no valid reason why Parliament should not have been called together at an earlier date than yesterday. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) had been back in Australia for probably a month. En any case, he had acting for him duringhis absence a gentleman who could not be said to lack experience or confidence in himself, because he had similarly deputised in a former government for a period of seven years. I believe that he would have been both ready and willing to assume the higher responsibilities- at any time. Because of the failure of the Government to convene Parliament at at earlier date, legislation has to be brought down by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. “White) to validate a tariff that was introduced on the 6th December last and validated in the following March for a specified period. The Customs Act was amended to make obligatory the early consideration item by item of any tariff schedule tabled, yet the achievement of that end is being frustrated by validation measures. We shall also be asked to pass a further Supply Bill before the budget for the present financial year is considered. Had Parliament been called together earlier that would not have been necessary. It is to the credit of the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) that he deprecated the suggestion that a further Supply Bill would have to be passed when he appealed to honorable members to facilitate the passage of a similar measure prior to Easter. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill) also made a statement on the matter. His words were -
There is no room for criticism. It does not necessarily follow that the Government will take full advantage of the grant of Supply, up to the end of September. It is quite possible that we will call Parliament together in August.
Yet Parliament was not called together in August. The Assistant Treasurer, in justifying the passage of the Supply Bill to provide funds until the end of September, used these words -
It is desirable to provide for our financial needs for a maximum of three months in the new financial year, so that another Supply Bill will not bo introduced before the budget, which will probably be introduced in August.
Yet the Government now proposes to introduce another Supply Bill because of its failure to meet Parliament earlier. Evidently the assurances given by the two responsible Ministers to whom I have referred were not worth a snap of the fingers and were given in a most irresponsible manner. I am amazed to think that the Assistant Treasurer should have had the audacity to give such an assurance when he probably quite firmly believed at the time that the Government did not intend to give effect to it.
Not even the most enthusiastic supporter of the Government would claim that this Ministry has a record of any useful achievements to its credit. The
Government has talked a lot-
– And travelled a lot.
– That is so. But it has done very little work. It has been hoping, doubtless, that a set of circumstances would arise to improve trading conditions in this country, and give employment to our people. If that had happened, it would have taken full credit to itself for any beneficial results that followed.
The Prime Minister and his colleagues were not at all backward during the last two election campaigns in making all kinds of specious promises to the electors of Australia as to what would be done if they were returned to power. The right honorable gentleman said, for instance, that there would be an immediate inquiry into the monetary and banking system of Australia. When the word “ immediate “ is used, one does not expect that the matter will be delayed for more than twelve months. It was also stated on behalf of the Government in the election campaigns to which I have referred that something would be done at once to stem the tide of unemployment, and to find jobs for the tens of thousands of workless men and women and youths in our midst. We were promised, too, that a stimulus would be given to the development of Australian industries. Here is something that the members of the Country party may put in their pipes and smoke: The Government promised that a rural rehabilitation scheme would be implemented for the benefit of the primary producers of this country. It was also said that everything possible would be done to prevent another flood of imports into Australia, similar to that which had such disastrous effects during the Bruce-Page Government’s regime. We were assured that our secondary industries would be safeguarded, and that the Government could be depended upon to carry out the protectionist policy of Australia.
The picture painted by the Prime Minister and his colleagues captivated thousands of electors throughout Australia. After each of the last two election campaigns Parliament met in an atmosphere of great expectation. The public galleries were filled with eager listeners and additional pressmen were hurried to
Canberra from all parts of the Commonwealth to learn exactly what the Government intended to do. But dismay and disillusionment followed. This Parliament, as I have already said, has only met for 39 days out of 365. Further than that, half the members of the Cabinet have been abroad. Had they accomplished anything of value to the country, there would have been no criticism of their extensive travelling; but notwithstanding the statements made by the Prime Minister and his colleagues to the effect that immense benefits would accrue to Australia as the result of these overseas excursions, I ask whether any impartial observer can be found who would say that such benefit has actually accrued to any section of the people. As a matter of fact, these trips abroad have been a complete “ washout “, and have resulted in no lasting benefit to Australia. Quite as much could have been accomplished by representations from Australia through the High Commissioner without a single Minister leaving our shores.
Speaking in Melbourne on the 16th August, just after his return from London, the Prime Minister said -
The expense of the delegation was small compared with the millions of pounds which would come to Australia as a result of its greater export.
We are entitled to ask what has happened to these millions of pounds which the primary producers of Australia were led to expect as a first instalment of the benefits that would follow the Prime Minister’s visit abroad. Mr. Forgan Smith, the Premier of Queensland, the largest meat-producing State in the Commonwealth, set out very clearly in the following statement which appeared in the press on the 22nd July, his views of the results of the negotiations that have occurred: -
It is tragic, that after months of advocacy of Australia’s ease in London . . . Sir Henry Gullett, Mr. Menzies and Mr. Thorby should now be on their way home with results which boiled down to nil. The short-term agreement, obtained recently would have been obtained in any case, without the Commonwealth Government’s assistance. The position is that Australia’s export rights are in jeopardy until the expiration of the agreement in November . 1936.
Mr. Forgan Smith gave that considered opinion after close collaboration with the representatives of the meat industry. Similar views are held not only by other leading statesmen in the Commonwealth but also by men like Mr. Angliss who was appointed by this Government as a consultant at the Ottawa conference. Mr. Angliss stated in the press on the 18th September that -
Before Australia can hope to be successful in the chilled beef trade, further South American restrictions will have to be imposed and a more satisfactory understanding arrived at between Australian exporters and the shipping companies to ensure regularly weekly arrivals and departures . . . The solution was dependent on whether the Dominion and British Governments saw the necessity for giving greater preference to the Dominions.
Mr. Angliss is one of the outstanding men in the meat industry of Australia and his views are also supported by other leading pastoralists. I direct attention to the following report of a statement by Mr. H. Talbot Sanderson, the owner of many large pastoral properties in Queensland : -
Little of benefit seemed to have been achieved in the Australian delegation’s negotiations in London, unless they had been able to persuade the British Government to grant an increased quota when considering its longterm policy. Short term agreements were not of much value to the industry.
These gentlemen are not connected with party politics, but confine their attention to the production side of the meat industry and they speak with an intimateknowledge of all the facts of the case. They are not out to hoodwink the people with a view to catching votes, and, therefore, considerable weight can be given to their opinions. One very alert young member of the United Australia party, a member of this Parliament, is at present abroad. As happens at times with most members of Parliament and public men who write articles to the press and publish books, their own words may be used as evidence against the governments which they support. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson), writing in the Brisbane Courier of the 3rd September, referred to the British Minister for Agriculture in these terms -
Major Elliott. British Minister for Agriculture, said that Britain desires the development of Empire trade, but that the dominions must play for their place in the British market. By that Major Elliott meant that we must buy our place in British markets by purchasing British goods, and the extent to which we were granted priority over foreigners in British markets would be determined by the measure of our purchases from Britain. I say it with deep regret-
I can imagine with what emphasis and gesture the honorable member would say it - but 1 detected no Empire sentiment in his, Major Elliott’s, tone when he spoke those words. My criticism of Britain is that she displays too great a tendency to play for herself against the dominions rather than for the Empire against the world. I left Westminster filled with gloomy forebodings as to the future of Australia’s export trade in foodstuffs.
I am sure wc shall hear more from the honorable member on his return from abroad.
Australia cannot stand still. This is a young country in the comparatively early stages of development, and the solution of our unemployment problems runs along the lines of scientific and simultaneous development of both primary and secondary industries. In all the States there are large closer settlement areas; thousands of returned soldiers are on the land producing cattle, butter, and other primary products. Is that production to come to a stand-still? Can Australia afford to stand still? Definitely, I say it cannot ; it must strive for an expanding share of the British market. Last year Great Britain imported 583,000 tons of frozen beef, including chilled beef. Of that quantity, 374,000 tons was supplied by Argentina, and 94,000 tons by Australia, including about 12,000 tons of chilled beef. Australian exports represented 15.5 per cent, of the total imports of beef into Great Britain as against a total share of 64 per cent, by Argentina. The percentage of frozen beef, including chilled beef imported into Great Britain from British countries, amounted to 24.4 per cent., whereas imports from foreign countries totalled 75.6 per cent. There is thus plenty of room for expansion of Australian exports on the British market of chilled beef and frozen beef by a curtailment of foreign imports.
The arrangement made by the Prime Minister in relation to frozen beef, including chilled beef, was only for a short term, covering a period up to the end of the present year. The long-term policy, so much talked about, has not yet materialized. At any rate, the Government has nothing to announce in regard to it at the present time.
Unfortunately, while Australia is being hampered in its efforts to obtain a measure of justice from Great Britain, the Lyons Government is doing everything possible to encourage imports to the grave detriment of our own secondary industries, which directly employ close on 5C0,000 people and afford the best market for our primary producers. In a speech reported in the Glasgow Herald of the 12th July, Mr. Lyons said that the average tariff imposed by Australia on British products was less than 15 per cent., and that since he had arrived in England his Government had implemented decisions further reducing tariffs against Great Britain. He went on to point out how that would benefit British manufacturers. How could our tariff policy benefit both British manufacturers and Australian manufacturers, and particularly the men who are looking for jobs in this country and who are our first responsibility? Already we have read of secret negotiations with Japan in regard to a trade treaty which probably will seriously affect some of the secondary industries of this country. ~No doubt we will hear more about proposed treaties on the return to Australia of the Minister in charge of negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett).
– I hope so.
– The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) hopes so with a very knowing look in his eye. In his position as Chairman of Committees no doubt he hears a great deal, and I feel sure he knows somewhat more than the average member.
Before the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) became a member of this Ministry, he stated at a Country party conference at Wagga, that he had received an assurance from the Prime Minister that the tariff policy of the Country party would be implemented. As we know what that policy is, it is notnecessary to say any more about it.
Unemployment to-day is the nation’s greatest problem, yet the Government, despite its lavish promises, has failed to formulate a bold and progressive policy to deal with the question on a national basis. Shorter hours, the subdivision of large estates along railway lines, closer settlement schemes for persons desirous of going on the land, further expansion of secondary industries, better marketing methods for primary producers, and the provision of money by the Commonwealth Bank for necessary developmental public works, would have the cumulative effect of greatly alleviating the unemployment problem. These are questions which should have been debated at round table conferences with the representatives of the States while this Parliament was closed. It is of no use for this Government and the Prime Minister to adopt a superior attitude and say that the problem of unemployment is the primary concern of the impecunious States. The responsibility lies very largely with the Commonwealth Government. After all the promises that have been made, and the fact that the Government’s low tariff policy has been knocking secondary industries, one would have thought that this question would have been tackled on a national basis. In collaboration with the States some comprehensive scheme of assisted land settlement would have been introduced, and cheap money made available to enable some thousands of the unfortunate -unemployed who are living in the cities to-day to be placed on the land, where they can grow some of their requirements. Between Brisbane and Melbourne, along the seaboard, 50,000 families could be settled. These are matters that should be dealt with at a conference of representatives of the Commonwealth Government and State Governments. In my own State of Queensland a great deal is being done in the face of tremendous difficulties to relieve unemployment. The Government of that State, seized with the importance of land settlement schemes as a means of relieving unemployment, has already put several such schemes into operation. Men have been put on the land growing tobacco and bananas, and in raising dairy products, but a great deal more could be done were it not for the fact that the State Government has been hamstrung by its inability to secure finance through the Loan Council.
Notwithstanding the promises made by the Prime Minister before the last two general elections the spectre of unemployment still haunts thousands of homes. According to figures issued by the Commonwealth Statistician the total number of unemployed persons in the second quarter of 1935 was 324,829. In 1933, the year in which the census was taken, there were 131,000 children in Australia at the age of twelve years. They will now he fourteen years of age, and 75 per cent, of them will be leaving school. About 50,000 boys will be trying to find employment this year, and most of them will try in vain. What is the Government going to do for these young people? Is it prepared to sit- back smugly and wait for the States to do something, or is it going to pursue a bold policy of development that will provide work for all? Of course, before the elections, the Government had all kinds of schemes. The Prime Minister, in the course of his policy speech, stated that budgets could be balanced, but an essential preliminary was that workless people should be reemployed in profitable industries. The first essential was to get the people back to work. He then continued -
If, in the event of an election, the present Government is removed from office, it will become the duty of the Opposition to put forward practical proposals for the relief of the suffering to which Mr. Scullin so feelingly refers.
We have been waiting for that ever since. Before the last federal election, although the Government had had a barren record in regard to unemployment relief, it was still undaunted, and continued to make extravagant promises which were published in reputable journals. Here is one of them -
The return of the Ministry will mean that we will be able to proceed with our plans for a great project of rural relief, which will bring a brighter outlook for everyone associated with land. It will also mean that large sums of money will be raised for a great employment drive, which, at the same time, will mean construction of reproductive development works, such as unification of railway gauges, advances through State Governments to municipalities for water and sewerage projects and the initiation of housing and afforestation projects . . .
That sounds very well, but we are still waiting for something to be done. The Prime Minister said: “I do not promise these things for the sake of promising. I promise them because I know that we can carry them out, and we will do so.” Then the elections were over, and we all waited anxiously to hear the Governor-General’s speech so that we might learn what was in the mind of the Government in regard to unemployment. These are the words it put in the mouth of the GovernorGeneral -
My advisers regard with sympathy and concern the heavy unemployment which still persists, and propose to give to this grave and pressing problem priority over other matters.
With this object in view employment and its associated questions have been allotted as a special ministerial task to the Minister of State for Commerce, who will, for a period at least, devote the major portion of his labours to this great problem, and will be relieved of much of the work of the Commerce Department.
It was then stated that there would be a complete survey of the unemployment problem to determine whether there were any root causes which could be dealt with effectively by direct Commonwealth action. That was after the Government had already held office for three years. The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), who was then Minister for Commerce, was to be allocated the duty of devising schemes for the relief of unemployment. However, he did not remain Minister for Commerce for very long. The present Minister for Commerce (Dr Earle Page), as leader of the Countryparty, refused to allow Parliament to adjourn for Melbourne Cup week unless his conditions were agreed to. The life of the Government was in danger and, in the interests of expediency, the then Minister for Commerce was sacrificed, and half the Cabinet positions were allocated to the Country party. Previously, we had been told that the honorable member for Parramatta possessed special qualifications for the work which he had been called upon to do, but he was sacrificed to make room for the leader of the Country party. The Prime Minister had already told us that unemployment was to take priority over all other questions, yet the Minister who was in charge of the matter was dropped from Cabinet rank, and relegated to the back benches with the vague title of Under-Secretary for Employment. When we tried to question him on matters pertaining to his office, we were told that he was not allowed to answer questions. He was obviously embarrassed, and before very long he was whisked out of the House, given a knighthood, and sent on a trip abroad. He has not been in this House since, nor has his place been taken by any one else. So much for the priority that was to be given to the problem of unemployment. I cannot see what manner of priority it has received, except that the man delegated to deal with it was granted priority in the reception of the political boot. Is it any wonder that there is growing discontent and dissatisfaction among the States to-day with respect to the assistance that the Commonwealth Government is giving to them to enable them to grapple with this problem? Sometimes even Nationalist Ministers are outspoken in their denunciation of the Commonwealth Government because of its failure to co-operate with the States in an endeavour to solve it. No one will accuse Sir Stanley Argyle of being disloyal to the Nationalist party; but, according to the Melbourne Age of the 23rd February, 1935, he said-
With regard to unemployment, some time before Christmas the Commonwealth Government realized for the first time that it was not bearing its fair share of the unemployment relief hurden, and called upon the States to submit programmes. I submitted a programme of works totalling £5,000,000, to be spread over three years; the Commonwealth Government then began to hedge.
Sir Stanley Argyle, I repeat, is a loyal supporter of the Nationalist party. His successor, Mr. Dunstan, has said much harsher things concerning the lack of co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States in dealing with this problem.
The time has arrived for a reconsideration of the responsibilities of the Commonwealth Government and the State governments with regard to the problem of unemployment. To-day we find that the States are doing a good job in spite of the tremendous difficulties confronting them through lack of funds. The time has come for a recasting of the Commonwealth Constitution and a reallotment of the responsibilities of the Commonwealth and the State governments in regard to this social problem. Has this Government any policy to enable it to grapple with unemployment? What does it propose to do ? We find the State governments growing increasingly dissatisfied with the tremendous job confronting them, discontented at having to pay out millions of pounds per annum on relief works, many of which consist merely in the removal of sand from place to place, the cleaning out of gutters into which the soil is again washed by the next fall of rain, the chipping of footpaths, and work of that kind, very often useless, which has to be done simply because it is necessary to provide unfortunate people with sufficient to enable them to keep body and soul together. To-day these people are asking for fulltime employment at award rates, but no matter how sincere the State governments may be in their desire to give them such work they cannot provide it unless they receive practical and substantial assistance from the Commonwealth Government. It amazes me that the men on relief pay aud the basic wage are as quiet as they are. Speaking of the unemployed the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett), when a private member, said, “ They will not go on indefinitely taking punishment; something will have to be done.” 1 do not say that honorable gentlemen opposite are unsympathetic in this matter; perhaps, they have had their minds preoccupied with other problems ; but I want the Government to give immediate attention to this grave problem. What, for example, does it propose to do with Australia’s surplus coal-miners? The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) from time to time has advanced a good case in urging the Government to give practical relief to the thousands of unemployed coal-miners in his electorate. Has the. Government evolved any scheme, or even considered a scheme, to absorb these men in other industries or in an industry based on the extraction of oil from coal? I hope the Government will give practical consideration to this question.
This Government purchased a cruiser abroad at a cost of £2,280,000. If that cruiser had been built in Sydney the work would have given employment to 1,500 men for three years, and these men would have supported 5,400 persons for that period. If any vessels a.re required to be built for the Australian Navy or any company in Australia, they should be built in this country by Australian workmen. I have here a communication which I received from an engineering union stating that the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited has invited tenders in Scotland and England-
– And in Australia.
– Yes, in Australia as well - for the construction of two 8,000 ton cruisers. I hope this Government will use its influence to see that the orders for these vessels will go to Australian ship builders. Particularly should it do this in view of the widespread unemployment in this country.
This Government is indulging in a wicked waste of public money in many respects. For instance, we have been told that it intends to re-transfer to Canberra the military college, the work of which has been carried out economically and efficiently in Sydney since it was moved from Duntroon some years ago. When the Federal Labour party took office, the military college at Duntroon was costing £50,000 a year. There were 98 instructors in the institution for 66 cadets. In 20 years 390 cadets graduated through the College at a cost of well over £1,000,000, or an average cost of £2,500 for each cadet. Now, this Government intends, at a very substantial increased cost, to retransfer the military college from Victoria Barracks, Sydney, to Duntroon.
Some time ago the Government appointed a royal commission to deal with the wheat industry, and this commission cost £15,000. One of its recommendations was that a compulsory pool should be set up for the marketing of wheat. Both the Country party and the Labour party advocated the establishment of a compulsory wheat pool, but every year the people have been sidetracked on this issue, first by the Lyons Government, and now by this composite Government, half the members of which are members of the Country party. The Leader of the Country party holds a position in the present Government as Minister for Commerce, and for seven years he was Deputy Leader of a previous composite Ministry, but what has he done to implement this section of the recommendations of the Wheat Commission? The farmers and settlers think he has sidetracked this issue; they are certainly outspoken concerning the apathy and indifference of the Lyons Government with respect to the commission’s recommendation that a compulsory wheat pool should be established. At the annual conference of the Farmers and Settlers’ Association, held in Sydney on the 8th August, 1935, an overwhelming majority carried a resolution urging the Prime Minister to give effect to this recommendation of the commission. At that vast conference only two delegates dissented from this resolution ; all the others asked for the establishment of a compulsory wheat pool. One of the delegates, Mr. B. Whitenden, seconding this motion, said that the attitude of the Federal Government towards the proposal to establish a compulsory wheat pool had aroused a certain amount of suspicion among the growers that the Federal Country party was not sincere in this matter. It was pointed out at this conference that when the Commonwealth Government was faced with similar problems in the past it had preferred to overlook any difficulties arising under the Constitution, and this conference contended that such an argument should not be raised now against a proposal to establish a compulsory wheat pool. Mr. Kendall, another delegate, who has given a lifetime’s study to this problem, said : -
For the sake of political expediency Dr. Page lias practically ignored the bulk of the wheat-growers. About two years ago Dr. Page at our conference attacked Mr. Parker Moloney. I asked him then why lie did not. do something for the wheat-growers when he was in office, and he replied that the wheatgrowers had never asked him to do anything.
The right honorable member for Cowper cannot make that statement to-day. He is the Deputy Leader of the present Federal Government, and we ask him to deliver the goods. Mr. Kendall went on to say -
It was part of the pact, he believed, between the Federal United Australia party and the Federal Country party that there should be no compulsory wheat pool.
– 2Tor is it recommended by the Wheat Industry Royal Commission.
– We are approaching another harvest. What has the Federal Government done for the wheat-growers? We know that it intends to hold another conference at about the time when the harvest will be commencing. What is the purpose of that conference? It will merely give the Government an opportunity to scuttle for an adjournment just prior to Christmas, and thus the matter will be again put “ on the long finger “ until the next harvest is approaching.
The Government has had a good deal to say concerning rural rehabilitation. That is a high-sounding phrase. Rural rehabilitation was to have been one of the main features of the policy of the newly-elected Government in 1934. I know that the present Minister for Commerce, as Leader of the United Country party, was very sceptical regarding what was to be done. Since the elections, however, the matter has been conveniently forgotten, and no policy has been promulgated for the stabilization of the primary industries of Australia. Certainly, debt adjustment legislation has been passed; but it falls far short of requirements. There are 260,000 farmers in Australia. This measure provides for some assistance for approximately 30,000, or less than oneeighth of the total number.
– The act does not say that.
– If the honorable member studies the act he will find that the £12,000,000 appropriated will give assistance to not more than 30,000 of the 260,000 farmers in Australia. Acts of parliament do not make mention of everything. The debts of one out of every eight will be adjusted to some extent, while seven out of eight will receive no assistance whatever.
– The bulk of the advance will go to the banks.
– The banking institutions and other big companies will receive a substantial share of it. The debts of the wheat-growers amount to £151,500,000, while those of the wheatgrowers and wool-growers combined, total £300,000,000, and those of other farmers a further £200,000,000, including debts to the States. We were told that a mere £12,000,000 would afford a substantial measure of practical relief to these struggling 260,000 primary producers. The yearly contribution of the Commonwealth will be but £1 out of every £35 paid in interest by the wool and wheat industries of Australia. Is it to be wondered at that that very rugged democratic Country party of Victoria should be outspoken in its criticism ? Mr. Allnut, a Country party member, who represents Mildura in the Parliament of Victoria, is reported in the Age, of the 15th March, as having said -
A majority of the Parliamentary Country party is definitely under the control and dictatorship of the United Australia party. The Parliamentary Country party cannot be relied upon. My advice to conference is not to trust the political leaders any longer.
I affirm that the Government has failed miserably to fulfil its pre-election promise to bring forward a comprehensive stabilization scheme for the benefit of the primary industries of Australia. It has also encouraged a policy of drift in the trade balance. Soon after it was elected to office, the Scullin Government had to adopt drastic measures to rectify an adverse trade balance which, over a period of seven years, had amounted to approximately £70,000,000, and was threatening the financial stability of Australia. The adverse trade balance of £33,000,000 in 1929-30 was converted into a favorable trade balance of £31,000,000 in 1931-32. The 1934-35 figures show a sharD decline from a favorable balance of £30,000,000 in 1933-34 to one of only £9,000,000. The increased employment in our secondary industries is due to the protectionist policy put into operation by the Scullin Government. Despite the meddlesome tactics of the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White), who has been pulled hither and thither by the United Country party and by free-trade interests generally, those industries have expanded their operations. During the regime of the Scullin Government, the disposal of the bulgingstocks of the importing houses in Australia took some time; but the foundation was laid which enabled our secondary industries to give employment to an additional 70,000 persons. The number would be many thousands more today but for the whittling down of the tariff by this Government, which has resulted in our secondary industries being made vulnerable to importations from cheap labour countries. The Government has flirted with Japan, Czechoslovakia, Belgium, Austria and other countries with a view to the making of trade treaties, and has thus struck a blow at the confidence of manufacturers, causing them to defer proposals for the duplication of plant. No concern has been shown for the 50,000 youths who annually leave school and mostly look in vain for employment. The figures for July, 1935, show that the drift in our trading position is continuing.
I summarize my charges against the Government by saying: It has failed to give Parliament- that consideration to which honorable members are entitled. It has done nothing but hang on, hoping from day to day for the improvement of world conditions over which it has no control, for the revival of trade, and for an increased volume of employment, for which it could claim credit. It has reaped the harvest that resulted from the constructive work of the Scullin Government. It cannot point to one action of its own that has led to the rehabilitation of Australia. The implementing of the low tariff policy advocated by the United Country party has impeded the great progress that otherwise would have been made in our secondary industries. Although nominally a composite government, it is under the domination of wealthy captains of industry, the wheat merchants who stand between the wheatfarmers and a wheat pool, and private financial institutions. It has failed to promulgate, and put into operation, a comprehensive policy for the absorption of the unemployed or for the relief of the primary producers of Australia.
– First, let me say that every honorable member on this side of the House regrets exceedingly the absence of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) and the reasons for it, and joins with the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) in the wish that he has expressed that it will not be long before Mr. Scullin is again with us, ready and able to play the big part that he has played for so many years in this Parliament.
If honorable members will study the want-of-confidence motion, they will see that the honorable gentleman who moved it has used a dragnet in his fishing excursion. He is fortunate in that his bag has not been subjected to the scrutiny of a fisheries inspector, because the result would be prosecution for the taking of undersized fish. There is not very much in his charges that should cause the Government concern, because the basis of his condemnation is merely that the Government should have done more than it has done.
The first charge levelled against the Government is that it has flagrantly neglected its duty to the people in having failed to call Parliament together for more than 39 days in twelve months.
– That is obvious.
– It is obvious to those who do not want to look a little below the surface. The point to be considered is not the number of days on which Parliament sits, but what Parliament achieves. Matters of concern to the people have not been neglected. This Parliament, during the short period it has sat, has passed 45 acts, many of which are of real importance to the Australian community. Administration has continued while Parliament has been in recess, and has been much more effective and efficient than it would have been had Parliament been sitting. It was essential that a number of Ministers should be absent from this country during the last recess. The mission with which I was primarily concerned will meet with the approval of all parties in this House, and all sections of the community. It was desired that the Australian Parliament and the Australian people should be represented at the jubilee celebrations of His Majesty in London. A number of my colleagues went abroad with the definite object of rendering a service to the Australian community by fostering trade between Great Britain and this country, trade that is of vital importance to those primary producers about whom the Acting Leader of the Opposition suggested we were not concerned. It would have been very difficult for the work of the Government to be carried on, and for Parliament to meet, during the absence of those gentlemen. The outcome of the meat negotiations, despite what the honorable member has said, is in itself justification for their absence from Australia. Honorable members know that differences of opinion existed regarding the effects of the treaty that had been entered into between Great Britain and Argentina, and that it was necessary that personal contact should be made, and personal discussion should take place in order that the rights of the dominions might be clearly placed before the Government and the people of Great Britain. In all these circumstances it was imperative for us to consider the very matters mentioned by the Acting Leader of the Opposition. In that respect I agree with him. I represented in Great Britain that Australia must be allowed to develop and expand. I said that as this was a young country it had to be assisted. I used almost the very words that the honorable member himself used to-day and demanded that Australia should be given the right to develop and expand. I said that it could not progress unless its production increased. Those were the very arguments I advanced in the endeavour to ensure that the rights of our primary producers were safeguarded.
Our negotiations met with gratifying success. I make that statement in spite of the remarks of gentlemen like Mr. Forgan Smith and others which have been cited by the honorable member. We have ensured a market in the United Kingdom for all the meat supplies that we have available for export. The honorable member asked how soon the meat exporters would reap some benefit from what was done while I was abroad. My reply is that they are already reaping substantial benefits therefrom. We have been able to make provision for the remarkable expansion of our meat exports to be continued. Let us look at what has happened. Since 1932 our mutton and lamb exports have increased by nearly one half, and they will be even greater next year. The position in regard to beef, comparing 1932 with 1935, is even better, for we are now exporting 75 per cent, more than in 1932. This allows for the very expansion and development which the honorable member desires. The position in regard to chilled beef has also been vastly improved. We were able to submit an unanswerable case, and the benefits which will follow from the acceptance of our contentions are almost incalculable.
– From what the right honorable gentleman says, there is no need for Parliament to sit at all !
– Probably if Parliament bad been sitting while these negotiations were in progress we should not have been able to do as much as we did do. When I left Australia the position in regard to chilled beef was very threatening; but I am happy to be able to say that the threats have now been absolutely removed. A new principle has been accepted not only by Great Britain, but also by Argentina, under which the dominions, including Australia, will have the right to expand their production and export of chilled beef in a remarkable way. The comparisons between 1932 and 1935 in this connexion are not very helpful because in 1932 no chilled beef was exported from Australia. Even in 1934 Australia was able to send away very little chilled beef.
– That was because we were not able to chill it.
– Since that time we have solved our problems and the position now is satisfactory. In 1934 we exported 2,750 tons of chilled beef, but this year our export is expected to be 12,000 tons. Mr. Forgan Smith has been reported as having said that the Australian meat industry will remain under threat until the existing agreement between Argentina and Great Britain has expired; but that is not so. Of course, Great Britain is bound by its word to Argentina until the present agreement expires. An honorable member says “ Hear, hear “ ; but I point out that even Argentina has accepted the new principle which has been laid down in respect of chilled beef. Australia made its submissions to Great Britain in this connexion and they were accepted; and Great Britain then made similar submissions to Argentina and they were also accepted in that quarter. I declare, therefore, that our position is secure for the present and that the ground is cleared for further expansion after the expiry of the existing agreement between Great Britain and Argentina. I heard an honorable member say something about seasonal conditions; but the Government cannot be held responsible for these. At the moment I am answering the contention of the Acting Leader of the Opposition that no real value has accrued to Australia from our meat negotiations in
Great Britain. I am happy to be able to say that those who are in the best position to judge the case are of the opinion that we are in a much better position now than before the negotiations were set on foot. This is the general view of the meat-producing interests of Australia. That achievement therefore, would, by itself, justify our absence from Australia and also justify the delay in summoning Parliament.
It has been suggested that because the Government did not meet Parliament earlier, parliamentary control of taxation and expenditure has been prejudiced “ by necessitating the passage of a further Supply Bill before the budget can be passed “. It cannot, however, be argued with justice that there ha3 been any .interference whatever with parliamentary control of taxation and expenditure. The Acting Leader of the Opposition, who has had ministerial experience, knows very well that after Ministers have been abroad it is necessary for them to confer in Cabinet to formulate a programme before Parliament is summoned. It was manifestly impossible to determine matters of policy while I and some of my colleagues were overseas and others were in Australia. We had to meet and consider the matter together. If the Government had not followed the course which has been pursued, the budget could not have been presented yesterday. It. was only possible to present it on that date because Cabinet was able to sit continuously to consider the various matters involved. Had there been interruptions in the Cabinet meetings, as must have happened had Parliament been sitting, the presentation of the budget would have been delayed, and honorable members would not now be informed of the Government’s financial proposals. The very earliest that Parliament could have met. would have been a fortnight ago, for, as the mover of the motion has said, I have only been back in Australia about a month. In all these circumstances, it seems to me that no case has been made out for the second charge in’ the motion. It is well known that, in the past, governments have sometimes had to ask for Supply to the end of the calendar year, because circumstances have made it impossible to pass the budget at a sufficiently early date. We have not, therefore, departed from the practice of the past. 1 admit that in normal circumstances it is desirable that the budget should be introduced as early as possible; but in this in. ..mee special circumstances have arisen which have made that impossible
I come now to the third paragraph of the motion, which deals with a matter of very much greater importance, lt is said that the Government should be condemned because of “ its failure to provide and put into effect a bold progressive policy to deal with the unemployment problem on a national basis “. The facts are a complete answer to this charge, and any criticism of the Government in this regard is amply answered by a comparison of the existing situation with that which faced the Government on its assumption of office. lt is of no use to complain about methods which produce good results. All the indications to the people of this country who will open their eyes to the facts are that this Government’s policy in regard to unemployment lias been successful. The problem has been dealt with on a national basis. Right from the beginning of its administration, this Government has endeavoured to bring about a general improvement of conditions throughout the country which would make possible a restoration of prosperity to industry and so a restoration of employment in industry. We have dealt, with the problem right from the beginning on a national basis. The plain fact is that unemployment has regularly and progressively decreased since this Government came into office. By every standard of measurement that can be used, Australia practically leads the world in this regard. Whether we take the progressive reduction in the percentage of unemployment, comparisons with other countries, increased production, the increased number of persons employed in industry, or the general substantial increase of business activity, the indications are that great improvement has occurred, and, as T have said, Australia leads the world. I shall give some facts to substantiate every contention that I have made in this regard. If it can be shown that as the result of the Govern- ment’s policy employment has increased, any criticisms of the Government for not increasing employment must fall to the ground. If the increases are only slight, there is nothing to boast about; but if they are substantial and progressive, there is every reason why we should be gratified at what has occurred, and it would be useless for honorable members to criticize adversely the methods adopted to bring about such an improvement.
– The right honorable member is a poor Australian if he says the present position is satisfactory.
– I have not suggested that the present position is entirely satisfactory. The honorable member knows very well that I would like to see it better than it is, but he also knows that it is much more satisfactory than when he was previously a member of the Commonwealth Parliament. I invite honorable members to consider the reduced percentage of unemployment since 1929. In’ that year the figures were 11.1 per cent.; in 1932, they were 29 per cent.; in 1.933, they had fallen to 25.1 per cent.; and, in 1934, they had fallen still further to 20.5 per cent. I have given the average for each year. When the Government of which the Acting Leader of the Opposition was a member was in office in 1932, the proportion of unemployment was 29 per cent. It will be admitted, therefore, that the fall to 20.5 per cent, in 1934 was a substantia] improvement. The percentage is still falling.
– Prom where did the right honorable gentleman obtain his figures?
– They are the Statistician’s figures. The honorable member knows very well how the figures are obtained. In the March quarter of 1935, the percentage of unemployment had fallen to 13.6. I shall go further presently and examine the figures relative to employment in our factories, and these will provide further evidence of general improvement. The unemployment percentage for the June quarter of this year was 17. S, and the latest figures, as indicated by the Assistant Treasurer last night, will show that the percentage is now below 3 6 per cent. As this is the average for the whole of Australia, the Government may justly claim that it has dealt with the unemployment problem on the national basis referred to in the motion. The position in Australia in this regard is highly satisfactory when compared with the position in certain other countries. During the last year, unemployment has increased in Bulgaria, France, Hungary, the Irish Free State, Poland, Spain, Yugoslavia, The Netherlands, and Switzerland. In the United States of America, 20,000,000 were on direct relief at the end of 1934, and at the same period 13,500,000 people were on relief in Germany.
The Acting Leader of the Opposition went on to speak of the damage done to our industries by the Government’s actions in connexion with the tariff, but I invito his attention to the figures relating to employment in our factories.
In 1929-30 there were 22,700 factories in Australia. In 1931-32 that number had gone down to 21,657. But, with the national affairs of Australia under the guidance of this Government, the figures then began to rise. By 1932-33 the number had increased to 22,330, showing, not that as the result of our tariff policy factories had been closed, as has been claimed, but rather that business had been encouraged. In 1933-34 the number of factories in Australia had risen to 23,927. Compared with 1931-32 there was an increase of 2,300 in the number of factories throughout Australia.
Now let me deal with the number of people employed in those factories. In 1929-30 the figure was 419,194; in 1931- 32 it dropped to 336,658, but in 1932- 33 it rose to 370,727. By 1933-34 the number of people employed in factories in Australia had increased to 405,909, and the estimate for 1934-35 is 451,000. That last figure, frankly, is subject to revision, but if it is anything like accurate, and it is compiled by those “who collect statistics in relation to employment, it is better than that of the pre-depression year. That is a complete answer to the charge of the Acting Leader of the Opposition.
– What about the coal industry ?
– At the moment I am speaking of the national position. Tonight, in Sydney, Mr. Stevens will be delivering his budget speech, and he will, be dealing in detail with the progress of employment in his State, which is in keeping with the progress in the other States.
– Child labour !
– I desire now to refer to the progress of the iron and steel industry at Newcastle - an industry not employing child labour. The figures which I now quote are compared with the basic figure of 1,000, representing the production for the year 1928. In July, 1933, that figure had dropped to 887, but in July, 1934, it went up to 1,438, and in June, 1935, showed a further increase to 1,960. In 1933 the production of ingot steel, taking once again the 1928 basic figure of 1,000, had gone up to 1,012. In July, 1934, it rose to 1,519, and in July, 1935, to 1,826. In every direction the same story can be told. If we take the question of salaries and wages paid in factories, the value of plant and equipment, land, buildings and machinery, the value of materials used, or the value of production, the same story of real progress in regard to the employment of our people is told. In view of these facts, how can any one accuse this Government of not having regard for the welfare and well-being of this country? Under the tariff policy of this Government, so severely criticized by some honorable members opposite, our manufactures have increased, the number of our factories has increased, the output of the factories and everything associated with factory production has been encouraged by the policy of this Government.
– Unemployment has increased in the coal industry.
– There is, I admit, a special problem associated with the coal industry. I am speaking now, I repeat, from the national view-point, or, as the Acting Leader of the Opposition put it, on “ a national basis.” In short, I am telling the story of national recovery. The Acting Leader of the Opposition has on more than one occasion had a tilt at the tariff policy of my Government. In March, 1933, the honorable gentleman said -
The tariff-slashing policy of the Government . . . strikes a serious blow at thegreat secondary industries of this country. New industries will not be encouraged to begin . . . The proposed development of existing factories will be held up. “What a false prophet he was! I am hoping that the honorable gentleman is better provided with facts to-day than he was on that occasion. To-day there is greater prosperity than ever before. To-day the honorable gentleman informed us that there would have been more people employed if it were not for the policy of the present Government. Nothing gives a better answer to the honorable gentleman’s contention than the great expansion that has taken place in business throughout Australia generally since the present Government has been in office. The Government has encouraged confidence in Australian business and commerce to a degree that could never have been achieved by a government that did not inspire the people with confidence. Shops, markets, warehouses, increased investment and increased building, all tell the tale of restored prosperity in this country. These are things of which we are extraordinarily proud. All of these shops and factories and warehouses are employing more people, and they are giving more indirect employment than has been available for years past. In some cases the figures indicate that we have gone back to something better than in the predepression years. Before we were returned to office we said that confidence would have to be inspired before any increased employment could take place. To-day the measure of that confidence is expressed by the tens of thousands of people working in the industries of the country, in the buildings that have risen up throughout the country, and in the savings of the people. In every direction there is evidence of progress towards complete recovery.
The Acting Leader of the Opposition suggested that we have not done sufficient in the direction of co-operation with the States. As a matter of fact, recognizing the difficulties of the States, we have increased our assistance to them. In 1934-35 we expended £3,500,000 on Commonwealth works and grants to States for relief works, mining and forestry. This year’s budget proposes to provide £6,500,000. In addition, it provides £100,000 towards interest and sinking funds in respect of loans for local governing authorities. This assistance will go towards helping these bodies to put in hand public works which will be of great utility and assistance to the community, which they would not be able to finance themselves were it not for the assistance granted by the States and the Commonwealth. We propose to make this an annual grant of £100,000 in order that this assistance may be given to local governing bodies and to reduce unemployment. The money will be used on work of a reproductive nature. To give an indication of our attitude on this question, of the assistance given by the Commonwealth and the States in cooperation, in 1931-32, when unemployment had reached 28.7 per cent., the Commonwealth and States expenditure amounted to £23,000,000, and the Commonwealth roads grant was £1,812,000. In 1932-33 when the ratio of unemployment had gone down to 28 per cent., the combined expenditure of the Commonwealth and State governments was £25,000,000, and the roads grant went up to £1,922,000. In 1933-34 the unemployment figure was 22.7 per cent., and the total expenditure £27,000,000, plus a roads grant of £2,207,000. In 1934-35 the unemployment figure had gone down to 18.9 per cent., yet the governments of the Commonwealth expended £33,000,000, of which £2,465,000 was represented by the roads grant. In 1935-36, the estimated unemployment figure being less than 16 per cent., the States and Commonwealth are finding between them £36,000,000, ineluding a roads grant of £2,500,000. Much of the work financed in this way has been carried out by loan moneys, and the raising of the loans has been made possible because of the enhanced credit of the Commonwealth under this Government. When the Acting Leader of the Opposition suggests that we have not given sufficient to the primary producers, I ask him how much the primary producers would have got if his Government had remained in office ? Would they have got £12,000,000?
I do not suggest that all the difficulties which confronted Australia at the time were attributable to the Labour Government, but they were accentuated by the failure of that Government to grasp the situation until the need to do so was absolutely forced upon it. The improvement which has taken place would have started earlier had the present Government been able to put its policy into operation earlier. If the Labour Government had remained in office does any one suggest that it would have been possible to get £12,000,000 for the primary producers? Would it have been able to get the millions which have been raised for works carried out throughout the country? When the Scullin Government took office the unemployment figure was 13.1 per cent; when that Government relinquished office this figure had grown to 2S per cent. By the time the Lang Government relinquished office the figure had reached 30 per cent. Pour ears ago any one who prophesied that under the guidance of this Government Australia would reach the point shown by the improved employment figures now revealed, would not have been believed.
In the middle of the financial year it was clear that imports were increasing, and that exports were falling short of those of the preceding year. At that time the members of the Opposition, including, I have no doubt, the Leader anr! Acting Leader, forecast our inability to pay. They said that we were “heading for the rocks “. If the same trend had continued, no doubt some action would have been necessary, but the Government was optimistic, and believed that the position would improve. We studied the situation carefully, and, while we realized that at the end of 1933-34 the position would not be so good as it had been at the end of the previous year, we were not so concerned as were our critics, and our attitude has been justified. The position improved towards the end of the financial year, duc largely to increased sales of primary products, and some improvements of prices. During the lastthree months the Government’s expectation of better results from exports has shown strong promise of realization. Prices for wool, wheat, butter, metals and many other exports have substantially improved. Simultaneously, we have experienced favorable seasonal conditions throughout the country. As a result we can now look forward confidently to receiving considerably more for exports this year than last, and that is the natural way out of our difficulties. We must recognize that we depend largely on our exports, and the price we receive for them, to ensure financial stability both here and overseas.
– But the right honorable gentleman has stated that it was the Scullin Government which was responsible for the difficulties in which the country found itself.
– No, I did not. I said that the position of the country continued to grow worse so long as the Lang Government was in office. Surely it was not mere coincidence that, immediately the Lang Government was removed, the position began to grow better.
Last night the Assistant Treasurer, in the course of his budget speech, pointed out that trade figures for any one year might be very misleading because of the fluctuations which occur from year to year. In order to get a proper understanding of the position we must study it over a period of years. For instance, in 1933-34 there was a favorable commodity balance of £37,000,000, leaving a large surplus of London funds. In the following year there was a favorable balance of only £16,000,000, and it was necessary for Australia to draw on accumulated London reserves.
The Government is not afraid of the situation in regard to imports, realizing as it does that most of these imports do not compete with the products of Australian industry. In fact, the effect of the imports in many cases is to encourage employment in this country. In 1934-35 commodity imports amounted to £72,500,000 sterling, as compared with £60,000,000 sterling in the previous year, the principal increases being: raw materials, £4,800,000; capital goods and tools of trade, £3,100,000; vehicles and parts - principally motor chassis - £2,230,000; luxury and semi-luxury goods, £366,000, and other goods £2,380,000. The increases in the raw materials were on cotton piece goods - mainly of a class not produced in Australia - silk piece goods which are not made in Australia, artificial silk yarns, residual oils, tinplate, linseed, crude rubber, and a number of other items which are purely materials for use in industry. It is, therefore, evident that these imports, instead of making our position overseas more difficult, will actually be of assistance to us by increasing the volume of local employment. However, although the Government is in no way alarmed, it continues to watch the position very closely, and if it were necessary we should not hesitate to take action to correct any wrong tendency in regard to our trade balance. No such action is necessary at the present time.
The other count in the charge made against the Government is that it has failed to formulate a permanent plan for the relief of the primary producers. As was shown in last year’s budget speech, the direct assistance given to primary producers during the preceding three years amounted to £9,000,000. Last year this Government provided over £4,000,000 for the relief of wheatgrowers, while the Farmers’ Debt Adjustment Act provides a further £12,000,000 for assistance to primary producers. The Acting Leader of the Opposition saw fit to sneer at this amount of £12,000,000, and it i3 rather startling to note his attitude when one remembers the not very far distant day when it was impossible for governments to raise a shilling for the assistance of those on the land, or for any other purpose. At that time any talk of raising £1,000,000, let alone £12,000,000, with which to help the farmers, would have been in the nature of a fairy tale, but now the Acting Leader of the Opposition can speak airily of “ this mere £12,000,000 “. I remind him that it has been found possible to provide this money because of the confidence in the Government engendered by the sound economic policy it has followed and is following.
Not only has the Government made these direct grants to the primary producers, but it has also assisted in other directions. It has made available recurring subsidies for the purchase of fertilizers; it has provided assistance to the growers of apples, pears and citrus fruits; it has increased the vote for trade publicity in the United Kingdom; it has made a substantial increase in the provision for scientific research into problems affecting primary producers; and it has established the Agricultural Council, the object of which is to co-ordinate Commonwealth and State assistance to those on the land. I have already explained that, as a direct result of the Govern ment’s activities in London, the meat producers will benefit to the extent of hundreds of thousands of pounds.
– The right honorable gentleman should cease looking upon the Scullin Government as an alibi in every difficulty in which he finds himself.
– When those who were members of the Scullin Government charge the present administration with having no concern for the unemployed, with lacking a national plan for development, and with failing to assist the primary producers, it is surely not out of place that I should point to the number of persons who have found employment, and are continuing to find it, as the result of the policy pursued by this Government, and in doing so make a comparison between the situation as it now exists and as it existed during the regime of the previous Government I admit that we are not to-day surrounded by the difficulties that surrounded the Scullin Government, but many of those difficulties have been removed because of the policy we have pursued, and they would still be in existence but for that policy
The Government has given substantial assistance to the wheat-growers. We have already arranged for the holding of a conference between representatives of the Commonwealth and State Governments, and those of all wheat producing interests, to meet in Canberra and discuss their difficulties, with a view particularly to evolving a plan for obtaining a homeconsumption price for the grower. Therefore, I say with confidence that we have done more for the primary producers than has any other government that has previously held office in Australia, and, in spite of the protest of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr Curtin), I must include the Scullin Government in that statement. I am confident that the primary producers of Australia, will not be misled into thinking that if a change of government took place as a result of the motion we are now discussing they would receive any greater assistance from the new government than they have obtained from the present one. The facts I have quoted are in themselves sufficient answer to the charges of the Acting Leader of the Opposition. The Government will continue to pursue without hesitation the policy which has in the past secured progressive improvement in the economic position of Australia. That improvement has gone on steadily during the last four years, and is continuing quarter by quarter and “week by week. While this Government is in office, those who remain out of work can confidently expect to be re-absorbed into employment in the same manner as so many thousands of their comrades have found employment during the last few years.
– If we accept the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) that prosperity has actually arrived, and that we have turned the corner at last, I trust that we shall not in the future hear any more complaints from members of the Country party in regard to the unfortunate position of the primary producers. Evidently the whole problem has now been solved, and everyone is happy and prosperous again. If at the forthcoming conferences in Canberra, anything is said of the difficulties and hardships of the primary producers, we shall answer all complaints merely by sending along a copy of the speech which the Prime Minister has delivered to-day. However, if everything the Prime Minister has said to-day be true, why is it, I ask myself, that evictions continue day by day in every important centre throughout the metropolitan area of Sydney? Why it is that a former member of this House, Dr. Nott, finds it necessary to draw attention to the fact that, even in our own Federal Capital Territory, children are suffering from malnutrition; and why is it that on Wednesday evening we shall witness before this building, a demonstration of unemployed, led by the son of the Minister for Health himself ?
When comparisons are drawn between the policy of this Government and that of the Government in power in 1929 and 1930, it is only right that we should remind the Prime Minister that he was a member of the Government of 1929, and that he helped to prepare its policy? He was in the Government of that day; he played a very important part in its affairs, and, consequently, must accept his share of any condemnation that is aimed at the actions of the Government of that day.
If we turn to present-day conditions in Tasmania, the State of which he is a representative in this Parliament, and compare them with those existing eighteen months ago when the McPhee Government was in power, the comparison favours the present Labour Government in that State. I submit, therefore, that whatever improvements have come about in Tasmania during the last eighteen months can be attributed to the change of government and a consequent change of policy. Similar comparisons can be made with respect to conditions in Queensland, as between the present Government and its predecessor, the Moore Government, and also, no doubt, in Western Australia. The Prime Minister is on precarious ground when he attempts to prove that the present position in Australia is due to the restoration of confidence by making a comparison from the angle of federal politics, of what has happened under anti-Labour governments and Labour governments. I feel certain that when this Government appealed to the people at the two last elections, at each of which it was successful, those who listened to the Government spokesman on the problem of unemployment never anticipated that the employment which the Government would subsequently provide would be of the kind which it is giving to-day. In studying this question we have to look beyond mere statistics, and, after all, these are not accurate, not being founded on a proper basis that correctly reflects the economic conditions in this country. For instance, those presented here this afternoon, according to the Statistician himself, have been compiled, so fat as employment is concerned, only on specific weeks, in which those shown as employed received only up to three days a week. In New South Wales, men on two weeks work in five, or one week in four, are classified as employed, and it is upon that basis that the figures which have been produced here to-day have been established, apparently, to justify the political cry that prosperity has returned to this country. Consequently, I say that when statistics so based are presented to this House one has to look beyond them to arrive at a true reflection of the actual position. I say, emphatically, that the standard of living of those classified, according to the statistics, as being in work to-day, even apart from those out of work, is the lowest it has ever been in the history of Australia. These are facts; and this motion of censure is timely, for at least it provides honorable members with an opportunity to examine them, and take into consideration details which cannot be conveyed by statistics. Despite statistics, honorable gentlemen opposite are well aware that the conditions under which many people have been forced to live during the last few years differ very much from those under which they themselves have lived during the same period, and it is because of this fact that many of them fail to realize the gravity of the present position.
The catch-cry of the Government at the two elections to which I have referred was that jobs were to be found for all, and it was understood that such jobs would at least compare fundamentally with the better times jobs as they existed previously in Australia. In its first election campaign, the present Government was successful. Honorable members will recall that after its return on that occasion, whenever an attempt was made in the last Parliament to draw its attention to this issue, it contended that unemployment was solely a matter concerning the States, and was not a Commonwealth responsibility. The Government continually shouldered this matter upon the States. It also sheltered behind what it alleged to be the responsibility of private enterprise in such a problem. So far as unemployment is concerned, honorable members opposite have always attempted to make capital out of the record of the Lang Government in New South Wales, but the fact will stare in the face every one reasonable enough to approach this matter in an unbiassed spirit that in that same period those engaged in private enterprise practically sold out their own countrymen. In every big concern in New South Wales, employees were turned out of work on to the streets. The responsibility for their welfare was thus thrown upon the State. It was not possible for the then State Government, as it would have been impossible for any other government, to provide overnight immediate employment for such large numbers of men thrown idle. It had therefore to turn its attention to the immediate problem of providing food relief for them. Indeed, its first duty, as it would be that of any other government, was to see thai these people and their dependants secured sufficient ta enable them to keep body and soul together.
Whatever may be said of any action taken by Labour at that period I again remind the honorable the Prime Minister that, though he was in the Government which held power in 1929-30, he had no great ideas to offer to that Government to enable it to cope with the problem confronting it. Like many other people who have quite a lot to say and who have since changed their political basis, he was prepared just to let things slide along. Owing to circumstances thrust upon the country at that time by a power greater than Parliament, it was, I repeat, impossible to adjust matters overnight to meet this problem. But as time went on, the force and weight of public opinion so developed, not only here, but in all other parts of the world as well, that the Commonwealth Government was forced to give immediate and effective attention to this problem of unemployment. We have it on the authority of the International Labour Office that in all parts of the world, owing to the pressure of public opinion, the problem of unemployment became the pre-occupation of every government, and that it was in consequence of this force of opinion that the powers of finance were compelled to recognize the change which had taken place generally in economic conditions. These powers were forced to realize in all countries, not alone in Australia, that if immediate attention were not paid to this problem, the people would not be content to sit idly by and allow their dependants and themselves to starve. Irrespective of laws and constitutions they would take steps to safeguard their welfare. Since 1930, economic conditions in Australia have developed along such lines. Despite the tory outlook of honorable members opposite with respect to the adoption of new methods in order to meet changing conditions, with particular reference to governmental action in regard to the handling of primary products, the Government has been forced by those concerned to take suitable action. In other words, the whole face of the economic system has changed, the greatest tory has been forced to realize that the old order of things can no longer prevail. The present Government now contends that these changed economic conditions have been brought about by effective measures taken by it. As a matter of fact it has been brought about by the intellectual outlook adopted by the people in making demands upon society to render to them their just rights. That cannot be denied. Any sensible man who desires to study this problem from an unbiassed point will see that the changed conditions to which I have referred apply to all countries throughout the world.
During the first period of the unemployment crisis in Australia, it cannot be denied that the Opposition of that time, despite its paucity of numbers, was the means of marshalling public opinion in such a form as to cause the Government to take a course which it would not otherwise have taken. I contend that oppositions in all Parliaments render a great service to the country, and that in this Parliament, the Opposition has worked out programmes which the Government would not otherwise have followed. Credit for the changed outlook on the part of the people towards the problem of unemployment and any slight improvements which have resulted therefrom cannot be taken by the Prime Minister in behalf of his Government, but must go to the people themselves. I make no apology for directing my remarks mainly to the problem of unemployment, because I believe it is the most important of the questions enumerated in the censure motion, and I hold the view that if this problem is solved, adjustments in regard to other matters will follow almost automatically.
In the second electoral campaign, the Government realized that it must change its tactics with respect to unemployment, and that it could no longer avoid the issue by referring this matter to the State governments. Realizing that it could no longer shelter behind the States in this matter because again public opinion was making more just demands, it completely reversed its policy, and accepted the view, because, I repeat, of the force of public opinion, that it must take a certain responsibility upon itself in dealing with this matter. On the occasion of that election, both parties went to the polls offering many promises. The Country party’s policy, according to Dr. Earle Page, was “to expand industry, provide more jobs, and give greater security to the people ; to make careers for the young . . . and to give permanent work to our whole adult population”. I believe that the greatest appeal that could have been made at the last general election was with respect to unemployment, and in extending that appeal a little further, so far as any indication was given, that something was to be done for the rising generation in this country. But following that election, members of the Country party, instead of giving the problem of unemployment immediate attention, made it their first concern to find places in the new Ministry. This attitude on the part of the Country party in this Parliament became so pronounced that it became the talk of Australia and led the president of the Country party organization in Victoria to say, “ It looks to me it is a question of portfolios rather than of principles “. However, we must give the members of the Country party some credit for the result of their efforts in this direction. They succeeded in bluffing the United Australia party Government to accept four of their Ministers from the ranks of the Country party which consists of 17 members out of a total of 74 honorable members in this Parliament. With but a slight delay after the last elections we found the Country party holding four portfolios in the Ministry whilst others had to be tossed aside to make way for them. And in the last session we had the spectacle of an honorable gentleman leading this House who had behind him only 16 pledged members, out of the total membership of this Parliament.
Studying other events which followed the last election, despite the declarations of the Leader of the Country party in his policy speech, in Canberra, where a member of that party is in control of the affairs of this Territory, in the very heart of the Commonwealth, in which it has been claimed abundant prosperity has been established, we find Dr. Nuit, an ex-member of the United Australia party, pointing out that numbers of children are undernourished. Statistics do not provide the means of life for hungry children. Dr. Nott, who because of the fact that he is a medical man whose work it is to move among the residents of this Territory, is fully qualified to speak on the position of the unemployed within the Federal Capital Territory, provides an answer to the claims advanced by the Government. He has shown that within the Federal Capital Territory in which the affairs of the administration are not as involved as they are in the States, children go hungry and are destitute because their parents are not provided with work to enable them to meet their needs. The responsibility for this State of affairs must rest directly upon the policy of the present Government, and in this case it cannot shelter behind the State governments. The United Country party, therefore, is equally discredited, because it has taken, and is taking, a very active part in the affairs of the Government. In Victoria, at least, there is a genuine Country party that will shake off the shackles of some of those who sit in this Parliament, and cause some very drastic changes to be made in the conduct of affairs in that State.
Let us examine the record of the United Australia party. In the policy speech that he delivered in the Sydney Town Hall in August, 1934, the Prime Minister said - 1 cannot conclude without an emphatic reference to a subject that is never absent from my thoughts. Hitherto the responsibility for the relief of unemployment has been allowed to rest with the States. . . . Tho Government has decided that in the national interest the Commonwealth should take a larger share of this responsibility.
Contrast that with the following statement made by the Prime Minister in an article published in the Melbourne Herald on the 16th January last -
I want to make it perfectly clear that this Government believes that the chief agency fo’ finding permanent employment for those now unemployed must be private industry.
That was not the view which he expressed prior to the general elections. He then said that the matter of unemployment was the concern of the Government, and was by it regarded as a major question. Private enterprise having failed from 1929 to 1931 to do what was expected of it, it necessarily followed that those who had votes to record at the last general elections had no confidence in it. Having again secured office, it was fitting that the Prime Minister should attempt to unload a little of the Commonwealth’s responsibility in the matter, for several months had elapsed, and his Government had taken no real or practical steps to deal with the problem. In his policy speech the right honorable gentleman went on to say -
The Government proposes that practical and enlarged efforts to relieve unemployment, with particular reference to the needs of youth, will take precedence over other Commonwealth activities.
Has the matter of the employment of youths taken precedence over other activities? Let us consider what has happened. The first event to which I direct attention was the visit to Australia of the Duke of Gloucester, which involved extensive entertaining. Then, an adjournment was considered necessary for the re-allotment of portfolios in consequence of the unholy alliance with the Country party, to which I have already referred. That was succeeded by rush, legislation just prior to the Christmas recess, the gag and the guillotine being freely used in order that honorable members might make an early return to their homes. It is more than likely that similar methods will be adopted to expedite the passage of legislation before the present period of the session concludes. It would be wise for honorable members when concentrating upon their return home for Christmas, to keep in mind the plight and the kind of Christmas that will be experienced by those who are employed for only two weeks in every five under the policy of this Government.
The House again met early this year in the absence of the Prime Minister and one-half of his Ministry. The representation of the Government on the front bench was a very slender one. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Employment (Sir Frederick Stewart) was also on the high seas. As has already been stated, the activities of that gentleman were given quite an impetus in the early stages of the present Government’s administration. It was claimed that wonderful results would accrue from his efforts. Many honorable members,- on this side at least, expected that, when the Parliament met, they would have placed before them particulars of many of the proposals that had been promised by the leaders of both sections of the Government party. But what happened? The session was a hasty one, haphazardly conducted. The sitting days were shortened, and legislation was passed by means similar to those adopted prior to the Christmas recess. So anxious were many honorable members to leave for their homes that on one occasion a number of them had to be recalled so that the conduct of business might not be taken out of the hands of the Government. A recess lasting five months followed. The Government has met Parliament on only 39 days since the general elections. The Prime Minister has been back in Australia for one month. What steps have been taken to deal with the unemployment problem? According to the report which the right honorable gentleman made to the House to-day, he has been particularly busy since his return. Our observations lead us to believe that his duties have involved his attendance at a number of social functions, such as the dinner given by the St. Kilda Yacht Club, at which he broadcast information concerning the wonderful things he saw and the people he met on the other side of the world. I point out to him that such activities have no effect on the unemployment problem, nor do they bring comfort to those whose standard of living is low. The Cabinet was to have met for three weeks to give earnest consideration to the matters that urgently awaited attention, yet, from what we can gather, its deliberations lasted for only about a week, in which time it apparently was able to resolve all its difficulties.
The policy speech of the Prime Minister also went on to say -
Instructions have been given for the assembling of all the information directly accessible to the Commonwealth. This information will be supplemented by a swift and detailed survey of all that has been, and is being, done by the States, and . . . comprehensive co-operative planning between the Commonwealth and State Governments will follow . . . Our idea is, first to assign to a Commonwealth Minister definite responsibilities for Commonwealth action in relation to employment.
We were to have comprehensive cooperative planning between the States and the Commonwealth, and so that it might be placed on a proper basis, a fultime Commonwealth Minister was to be given definite responsibilities. What has happened in regard to the promised swift and detailed survey, and the comprehensive and co-operative planning? As I have already said, the assignment to a Commonwealth Minister of definite responsibilities for Commonwealth action in relation to employment was merely a pipe dream, because nothing along those lines has eventuated. I believe that when the general elections were held thousands of persons regarded this as the most important proposal of the Government. In my opinion it had a more popular appeal than will certain legislation that is to be introduced within the next few days to legalize an addition to the ranks of paid Ministers. That is not a matter of honouring an election promise, but is in an entirely different category. When the honorable member for Parramatta became Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Employment, he found himself outside the Cabinet and merely a private member. It will be recalled that when we attempted to put to him questions relating to employment we were told that all such questions had to be addressed to the Prime Minister. Consequently, he served no real purpose in matters connected with the greatest problem of all. In a statement that he made in the Melbourne Herald of the 16th June, he said that he was preparing detailed data, but it was not so readily available ae the man in the street might imagine. He added that the Government had devoted considerable attention to a survey of the unemployed position, not only in its entirety, but also with particular reference to its occupational and geographical incidence. That was merely an attempt to fool the people into believing that the Government was still serious in its great co-operative planning proposal. It is true that the honorable member is making a survey from the geographical view-point. For some time he has been engaged on a world tour, and, apparently, is forgetful of the fact that the unemployed with whom we are concerned are in this country and not overseas.
– That is unfair.
– It is a fact.
– It is not a fact.
– Whether unfair or not, the facts have to he stated. I refuse to sit idly by while geographical surveys of the unemployed position in Australia are made by means of extensive tours throughout the world.
– It is very unsporting to attack a man in his absence.
– His place is in this Parliament.
– The honorable member had a trip abroad.
– The circumstances in my case did not necessarily involve the carrying on of two jobs at the one time. If it is my responsibility to represent a constituency in this Parliament, it is my duty to attend its sittings. It is to be hoped that the geographical survey in which the honorable member for Parramatta is engaged will soon lead to his return to Australia. The present Ministry has conducted so many surveys that its members ought to be able to qualify as licensed surveyors in this matter. Yet they have dismally failed to come to grips with the problem. Consequently, the motion moved by the Acting Leader of the Opposition is both timely and warranted. Notwithstanding the surveys alleged to have been made, the Government still dallies with the matter. Peeling the strength of the pressure that is being applied, and realizing that in spite of the statistics radical changes have to’ be made, it now proposes to appoint a royal commission to inquire into the practicability of a shorter working week. We have had bitter experience of the ineffectiveness of royal commissions that have investigated other matters. Large sums of money have been poured out in that direction. We are mindful of the fact that frequently royal commissions are appointed to advance the views of the Government. After our experience with the Petrol Commission I am not prepared to accept with any degree of confidence or satisfaction the appointment of a royal commission to investigate this question. The unemployed do not want royal commissions ; they do not want surveys, nor a study of the root causes of this problem. Those are merely high-sounding phrases. They want work. That is their simple and sole argument. It is time the Government came to earth. The unemployed want, not only work, but full-time work, for the necessaries of life, to enable themselves and their dependants to live. They do not want statistics or royal commissions or surveys or anything of that description. The Government should therefore discontinue scratching its own back and alleging that prosperity has returned. I direct attention to an indictment of the Prime Minister by himself appearing in the Melbourne Herald of the 16th January, which read -
Unemployment is the most pressing of all problems facing governments to-day. A government which does not make every effort to put an end to that state of affairs in which thousands of men and women are out of work, is recreant to the trust the people have placed in it.
The Government cannot deny that charge. [Leave to continue given.]
The handling of the unemployment problem is the blackest page in the political history of this Government. The honorable member for Parramatta is still on a world tour ; the Prime Minister and half the members of his Ministry have been viewing the sights of Great Britain, Europe and America ; Sir George Pearce, the Minister for External Affairs, has been on a cruise to Norfolk Island, where, I am advised, he has left things much worse than they were before his visit; he then went on to New Guinea; the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) has had a look at the Northern Territory, in case there was anything to see there that his two predecessors had overlooked. At one stage, I doubt whether the Cabinet could have mustered four members for a meeting if one had been necessary. Throughout this period unemployed were left to suffer, hungry men were roaming the streets, and other hungry men were engaged on so-called relief jobs; children were in want, and women were suffering in silent misery. I know these things are so, because I live in a neighbourhood where there are many unemployed. These poor unfortunate people have been actually seeking food and shelter while the members of the Ministry have been piling up travelling expenses to an amount almost equal to the normal cost of the whole life of a government.
The Prime Minister’s policy speech contained many glittering promises. The right honorable gentleman said that a national forestry policy would be put into operation; that useful proposals would be implemented for the training and preparation of youths for work; that the railway gauges would be standardized - that is a hardy old annual - and that country water storage schemes and sewerage schemes for large country towns would be constructed. He also said that attention would be given to the treatment of our shale oil deposits and the extraction of oil from coal. As honorable members know, my colleague, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), has made many forceful and eloquent appeals for something to be done in this regard. Can the Prime Minister honestly say that a single effort has been made to carry out these numerous promises? We find ourselves in the position of having to view with grave -suspicion the steps that have been taken with the alleged object of developing the Newnes shale oil deposits and our northern coal-fields. It seems to us that the Government has been sheltering behind the reports of directors of certain organizations who are interested in ensuring that our shale oil deposits and our coal-fields shall not be developed. Certain gentlemen are most anxious that nothing shall be done to interfere with the present position, and substantial developments are very far from their thoughts. In concluding his references to unemployment in his policy speech the Prime Minister said -
The Government will enter upon the scheme in a spirit of generosity, compelled by a sense of inevitable responsibility.
If generosity has been the keynote of such allocations as the Government has made in the past for the relief of the unemployed, then I pity the unemployed from the bottom of my heart.
We have been fed with statistics this afternoon; but, as all honorable members know, the statistics cover only about half the trade unionists of Australia, and give very little information in regard to rural employment. Even the Commonwealth Statistician has had to admit that the returns from rural districts are of very little value. It is impossible to get accurate information as to the number of unemployed persons in the Commonwealth by the means now being used to achieve that end. It is quite clear that the method of collecting this information is wrong. The only returns that I am at all influenced by are those provided by the recent census. Honorable members know how vastly different the unemployment figures revealed by the census were from those that are made available from time to time from other sources and are generally used by governments with the object of dealing with unemployment for party political purposes. In New South Wales, for instance, the census figures showed that there was about 100 per cent, more unemployment than was revealed by the statistics gathered by the Department of Labour and Industry. I am much more impressed by the information gathered from the unemployed themselves than by that compiled by the official methods. But even the official statistics for New South Wales show that in May last 77,177 persons were unemployed ; and it is estimated that to-day over 200,000 persons are unemployed without taking into account the thousands of youths and girls who have never had a job. Yet the only thing that the Government can suggest, with the object of grappling with this vast problem, is the appointment of a royal commission to make another survey of the situation. I believe that it is the duty of the Government to take positive measures to meet the situation and not to seek refuge behind royal commissions, or the academic discussions of economists and commissioners. This procedure will not satisfy the unemployed.
There is no need for another royal commission to consider the question of a shorter working week, for that has been universally accepted as an economic necessity. The case for a 40-hour week has been proved beyond all question. This reform is so urgent that it should be brought into operation without any delay. Arguments and surveys are no longer necessary. A Premiers’ conference could be called within a week to give effect to an Australia-wide 40-hour week. If the
Government would take an action of this description, it would at least show that it is prepared to do something tangible to solve this problem. If any inquiry is to be set on foot it should.be with the object of considering the advisableness of a 30- hour working week. I am not satisfied to leave an inquiry on this subject to a royal commission, but request that it be referred to a select committee of practical men in touch with the realities of life.
It is interesting to note that the International Labour Office, at a conference held last June, carried by 79 votes to 30, a draft convention approving the principle of a 40-hour week, with complete maintenance of the existing standard of living of all workers. A subsequent resolution, approved by 75 votes to 27, required all governments to forward to the International Labour Office periodical reports on the measures taken for the introduction of the new convention. The honorable member for Parramatta, who was present at that conference, did nor. vote, but he has publicly subscribed to the principle of the reduction of the working week to 40 hours. The proposal to appoint a royal commission violates Australia’s undertaking to the International Labour Office, and if the Government proceeds along those lines it will, in effect, repudiate the decision reached at Geneva. A recent report on the N.I.R.A. of the United States of America, showed that of 517 codes, 442 provided for a 40-hour week, and 38 for a week of less than 40 hours. A committee of the House of Representatives recommended the adoption of a 30-hour week to Congress. The reduction of hours that has been agreed to in America has provided an additional 2,320,000 persons with work. The increased purchasing power thus created has offset any additional cost to the employers. This is an important development that we should consider, and one which I am sure those who have had the privilege of travelling in America and of investigating for themselves will be able to give us further information about.
Steps must be taken to submit to the next Premiers conference a proposal for the adoption of an Australia- wide 40-hour working week. Failure to do this will show in the clearest possible way that this Government is reactionary, and is deliberately evading this important issue, and unwilling to bow itself to economic necessities.
My colleagues and I live among the unemployed. That is to say, we represent districts in which there are many persons who are continuously appealing to us to do something to remedy the deplorable circumstances in which they find themselves. We associate with these unfortunate people day by day. This is not the case with the members of this Minis try, although some members who support the Government may know at first-hand that the situation is as I have described it. We know of the suffering and misery of the unemployed, and we are not at all impressed by the statistics brought under notice to-day to make it appear that there is more employment than is the case. Unfortunately the sort of employment that is provided is a disgrace and a menace to this country. We do not intend any further to tolerate the Government’s inaction or its piecemeal policy of making spasmodic grants to the States in order that work may be carried out on the dole principle. We know very well that the Loan Council is implicated in this policy. The Government of New South Wales, in particular, is sheltering itself behind this policy, and my colleagues and I intend to fight against this state of things in every way possible. The statement made this afternoon by the Prime Minister has not answered the case that has been made out. The Ministry is not doing the things that we consider it should do. We therefore warn the Government that until such time as it takes definite, logical and comprehensive steps to place the unemployed in work at award wages, we shall use every means, consistent with the forms of the House, to hamper its legislative programme. We shall contest the adjournment of the House, and use every other process and opportunity that is open to us, whether at a suitable time to the Government or not, to force it to consider its duty to what have been called the “ forgotten generation “ of this country.
Only the other Thursday night, while I was speaking at a meeting to deal with the proposal of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company to purchase ships outside of Australia, a young man in the audience rose in his place and said something like this -
Mr. Chairman, I beg an opportunity to speak at this meeting for the forgotten generation, of whom I am one. I am 22 years of age. I looked forward to being afforded the opportunity of living in a decent way and to taking my place along with others and accepting my share of responsibility in my own country, as well as of providing for the circumstances that lay ahead. But what has been my lot? Since the day I left school no chance at all has been given me. I have been left simply to drift along and catch whatever appeared in the form of relief work or emergency provisions in the way of food relief, and so on. That has been my lot in this country, and it is the lot of the forgotten generation.
There is no question but that that is the case, and the situation must be faced. I said in my concluding remarks at thatmeeting, and I repeat this afternoon that while we may not have the numbers to carry this motion, for the majority is supporting the Government in pursuing a policy that has retarded progress and brought us to our present unfortunate level, we will fight in every way in our power and make all possible representations to the powers that be, in order to remedy the lot of the unemployed. We may fail to accomplish what we desire. We shall, of course, fail to carry this motion of want of confidence. But there are other factors and influences that will be brought to bear upon the Government, and the effects of this debate will not be lost. This motion will be remembered by the “ forgotten generation” of this country and by many others, and it will serve its purpose in bringing forcibly under the notice of the Government the urgent necessity to do something for the unemployed. I believe that some honorable members sitting on the other side of the chamber who cheered the Prime Minister when he resumed his seat some little time ago, have a knowledge of the circumstances which I have related. We shall not be satisfied with the statistical reply that the Prime Minister has made, for we know what the circumstances of life are in our own districts. Although this censure motion may not be carried, it will have an effect, I believe, inside the party room, and it will oblige the Government to take some action with the object of alleviating the suffering which exists throughout the country to-day. Let this censure motion be broadcast outside the Parliament to the powers that be who control the financial policy of this country. We may travel long and suffer much, but a day of reckoning must come; it is the last straw that breaks the camel’s back. The power of the financial dictators of this country will gradually diminish. In the meantime, we shall, at least, have done what we can in the fight for the rights of those who cannot come into this Parliament; we shall have played some part and no unimportant role in the economic reconstruction of this country.
– I can at least agree with the honorable gentleman who has just resumed his seat in one thing, that is, his desire that the widest possible publicity should be given to the debate on this censure motion, because I can imagine nothing more calculated to do good and to weaken the Opposition than such publicity. The counts in the indictment against the Government are five. I do not propose to say anything about count No. 5, because there are others with more intimate knowledge of recent happenings who can reply to it. But I desire to say something about the allegations that the Government has neglected its duty by failing to call Parliament together, has failed to deal with the unemployment problem on a national basis, and has adopted an irresponsible attitudetowards the drift in the overseas trade balance. Necessarily, what I have to say must be brief.
In connexion with our failure to call’ Parliament together, I have listened carefully to the debate, and have come to theconclusion that the chief accusation is that some members of the Government occupied their time in a futile errand toGreat Britain. Nothing is easier than to allege that some delegation has proved futile. Nothing can be further removed from the truth if applied to the events of the last six months. I desire, therefore, to say a few words that badly need saying in regard to the main task of the delegation that went from Australia toEngland. I shall say nothing about theminor matters that had to be considered,. although some of them bore importantly on Australian interests, but I shall say a few words about the meat negotiations. And in order that they may be followed clearly, I remind honorable members of the position that confronted the delegation when it arrived in England. There had been, of course, in Australia, a good deal of discussion about restriction, but, in England, very definite steps had been taken to impose a policy of quota restrictions upon the various suppliers to that country. In other words, at the beginning of this year, the general policy of the Government of the United Kingdom in controlling its own market was a policy of quotas. This country was confronted, consequently, with a state of affairs which threatened to be ruinous to the interests of all its exporting industries. In such circumstances, it would indeed have been remarkable had Australia been prepared to sit down and do nothing or to decide to write a letter of protest or send a few long cables. It was eminently proper that Australia should send representatives prepared to fight in London for the- interests of this and other dominions. I am not prepared to make any apology for the results that we secured. In respect of beef, which, after all, was the subject-matter chiefly in the mind of the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) when he referred to Queensland, we were confronted at the outset by a serious position. It was that by virtue of the AngloArgentine agreement, current until November of next year, we were not at liberty to send chilled beef to the United Kingdom except in experimental quantities. That, of course, presented a mostserious problem, because by virtue of the joint efforts of Australians and scientists in Great Britain, the problem of sending chilled beef abroad had been overcome, and it was therefore necessary, if we were to avail ourselves of the superior market existing for chilled beef, that we should endeavour to get on to the market, not experimental, but real and growing quantities of chilled beef. We were confronted by this Anglo-Argentine agreement, which had an adverse effect upon Australia unless it could be changed by negotiations or unless we could soften its operation so far as this country was concerned. The Prime Minister has indicated what the final result was. After a tremendous amount of discussion and protracted negotiation, in which we presented with considerable vigour the underlying point of view of both sides of the House, we were able to secure from the Ministers of the United Kingdom very complete agreement that it was vital that supplies of Australian chilled beef should be permitted to be increased. That decision was arrived at, not hurriedly, but after weeks and months of discussion, and if it is suggested that it is worthless to the Australian primary industry, I am, indeed, surprised.
– Did it take a dozen Ministers to do that?
– I have known the honorable gentleman’s party to employ a dozen men to do a great deal less in longer time.
The other aspect of the meat export problem was the subject of mutton and lamb. It would perhaps not be out of place if I reminded honorable members on both sides of the House that our capacity for expanding the export of dominion mutton and lamb to the United Kingdom market is a limited one. No error is more common or more serious than that we can go on sending as much as we choose. At the present time the dominions are supplying 90 per cent, of the mutton and lamb imported into the United Kingdom, and, consequently, we have, quantitatively speaking, very limited opportunity for an increase. It may be illuminating to honorable members if I tell them that the first position that confronted us in connexion with mutton and lamb was a desire on the part on the Government of the United Kingdom that we should reduce the supplies we were already sending to England. It would take more time that I have at my disposal to elaborate the reasons underlying that initial attitude on the part of British ministers. It is, perhaps, sufficient to say that the agricultural policy of the present British Government has been designed to stimulate the production in the home field of meat supplies at a price which is regarded as remunerative, a policy which I do not presume to criticize, and one which I took the liberty of upholding in relation to our own secondary industries. So far as Great Britain is concerned, the amount of mutton and lamb that can be brought in from overseas must be restricted by the British Government unless the market for its own growers is broken for them. That being the underlying principle of the British Government, its proposition to us, as to the other dominions, was that in order to preserve the home price and prevent the home market from breaking, we should need to reduce the quantity of mutton and lamb sent from Australia. Every country is entitled to say, “ We shall regard our own interests first in respect of economic matters”. We do it ourselves in regard to our own interests.
In our negotiations we were able to do two things. The first was to secure the assent of the Government of the United Kingdom to the proposition that while the home producer must come first, the Empire producer must come second. That was a tremendous advance in Empire policy. In the second place, and the proposition sounds more practical and concrete, instead of having supplies coming forward from Australia reduced from their previous peak - as honorable members know they have gone up steadily to the peak since the Ottawa agreement - we secured an agreement that over the period of the next eighteen months, that i?, until the expiration of the AngloArgentine agreement, we should have the right to send a quantity equal to the peak year in the past, plus 150,000 cwt. It is intensely difficult for me as one intimately concerned in these discussions to understand how it can be said that negotiations, which began in the manner I have described and which ended in the result I have described, can be characterized as a waste of the taxpayers’ money. Prom what I have said- about the position in relation to mutton and lamb honorable members will appreciate that. Australia and the United Kingdom have a joint interest in increasing, if they can, the consumption of meat in the United Kingdom. This is a proposition, the truth of which may not readily leap to the mind, but a slight investigation will indicate that there are people in Great Britain to-day who are not receiving sufficient meat.
– There are plenty here, too.
– There are many mom in Great Britain, and many millions more in some of the countries of Europe. When we were in England discussing this problem, we thought it proper that, instead of sitting down in dull despair before the prospect that the market had a clearly defined upward limit, we should devote some consideration to the problem of whether the consumption of meat throughout the world, in Europe, and particularly in the United Kingdom, could be increased. It is a problem which involves not only considerations of health, but also questions of economics, the organization of marketing, matters connected with slaughtering, and many other factors. The discussions which were conducted in London by members of the delegation with the High Commissioner and members of the British Department of Agriculture were sufficiently important to bring this problem of consumption prominently before the Assembly of the League of Nations in circumstances which give some reason to hope that an increased consumption of meat - the improvement of the world’s diet, in other words - will be brought nearer by international action. It is the business of the United Kingdom and the various governments in Europe, and particularly the business of ourselves, to devote increasing attention towards the achievement of this end. It would be a blunder to assume that this matter of the consumption of meat is not one which has a vital bearing upon the welfare of Australian primary industry. For that reason we devoted our attention to this aspect of the matter, as well as to the more immediate and obvious phases of the problem. It would be possible to occupy the attention of this House for hours in describing the work of the delegation done in England. I do not propose to make such a prolonged survey, but merely point out that much of the criticism directed against the work of the delegation is due to wrong information regarding the results achieved.
It. has been stated at great length that the Government has failed to deal with the unemployment problem on a national basis. There are two ways of expressing sympathy with the plight of the unemployed. One may, as the Government has done, direct every effort towards creating a state of affairs in which reemployment is possible. That has been the keynote of the Government’s policy. On the other hand, one may stand up in Opposition and seek to ridicule every step the Government has taken without suggesting one means by which the problem can be solved. It seems to me that the people of Australia will not be satisfied with vague denunciations of governmental policy. They will not be satisfied with expressions of sympathy that are full of sound and fury, signifying nothing “. Eather will they say, “ By their deeds ye shall know them “. They will ask themselves how their plight, viewed nationally, compares to-day with their plight at the time when the Government took office. The unemployed will, I have no doubt, make a comparison between the practical result of the working out of the financial and economic policy of this Government with the easy lip-service that is paid to their troubles by some members of the Opposition. The Prime Minister has elaborately stated the main features of the improvement of Australia’s national economy, and all I wish to do is to remind honorable members, if reminder be necessary, that the essential feature of what he had to say was this: A government should not be judged on its attitude towards unemployment merely by counting the millions it is providing for relief, although on that comparison the Government will stand tip to its promises; the real test is to see what effect the policy of this Government has had on the prosperity of the primary and secondary industries of Australia. I defy honorable members to challenge effectively the statement that, under the regime of this Government, the position of the primary and secondary industries has been immeasurably improved.
The third count against the Government is the allegation that it should be condemned for its “ irresponsible attitude towards the drift that has taken place in the overseas trade balance”. This was dwelt on at length by the Acting Leader of the Opposition, who, I think, must now be able to speak as an expert on the matter.
– He always makes the same speech.
– I had that in mind. It is not a difficult sum arithmetically to determine by how much exports exceed imports in any one year, or by how much imports exceed exports. It is a task well within the capacity of any critic of the Government, and then the critic, having obtained his figures, has only to point out that, if imports are rising, it must necessarily indicate that Australian industries are being ruined. He omits to notice, however, that the imports include many capital goods designed to encourage Australian industry. Having stated his proposition, what does the Acting Leader of the Opposition do about it? Apart from suggesting that there is something wrong in regard to the trade balance, and saying in that free and easy fashion of his that we ought to clap on a few embargoes - for I fancy that is what he has in mind - he makes no direct proposal, but indirectly he indicates a most extraordinary state of affairs.
The honorable member who criticized the Government for being indifferent to the trade balance, unfortunately went on to condemn the provision of a mere £12,000,000 for the farmers, and implied that it ought to be £100,000,000 at least. Moreover, he maintained that what was being done for the unemployed was not enough, and said that some more millions should be found for them. He did not mention the taxpayers, but no doubt, if he had, he would have conferred some benefit on them also. It is clear that he could not implement one of his promises to the people outside Parliament without either vastly increasing the borrowing programme of Australia or resorting to some form of credit inflation. He could not spin millions for the farmers or the unemployed out of thin air. Now, suppose the Government was as reckless a borrower as the Acting Leader of the Opposition wants it to be; suppose the finances of this country were to be administered in a manner as reckless and as unsound as members of the Opposition generally desire them to be, at what rate of interest would any government be able to borrow money on the public market? Does the Acting Leader of the Opposition imagine that he would be able to go on the market and borrow the millions about which he talks so glibly at a price within the capacity of the Government to pay? And does he realize that, even if he could, the immediate effect would be not only to shorten the supply of money to the farmers, but also to raise its price? Has he considered the effect that such a state of affairs would have on the cost of producing goods for export, those goods on which, in the last resort, this trade balance depends? If the honorable member’s policy resulted in increased borrowing, it would be a weapon powerfully forged to destroy our favorable overseas trade balance.
The other alternative is, if it is not possible to borrow in the market, to do as so many orators have urged from soap-boxes throughout the country - “ release credit,” whatever that athletic feat may mean. I confess that I am myself in some doubt. The Acting Leader could not create credit through any central bank on the scale he desires without enormously increasing local costs of production. There is no person with the slightest economic or financial knowledge who would deny that proposition. Well, suppose we increase all local costs in Australia, what is to happen to the man producing the export goods which represent the credit entry in Australia’s overseas account? Whichever way this matter is looked at the honorable the Acting Leader of the Opposition has achieved the remarkable feat of criticizing the Government for not being careful about the trade balance, whilst in the next breath he has put forward suggestions perfectly calculated to prevent any government ever paying attention to a favorable trade balance again.
.- Supporting the motion moved by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) and dealing first of all with its reference to the failure of this Parliament to sit more than 39 days in twelve months, I would not mind if Parliament sat only nine days, provided it produced results. This Parliament has certainly not produced the results which would have followed the fulfilment of the promises this Government made to the electors. I listened very carefully to the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies). If the former takes credit for any improvement of the unemployment position in Tasmania, and, at the same time, chuckles at what has been referred to as the shocking conditions existing under the Lang Administration in New South Wales, I fail to see his logic. His Government has not been responsible for the improvement of the unemployment position in Tasmania ; that improvement has been due to the advent of a progressive Labour government which has put into operation a progressive building policy. The building trade in that State has improved considerably. The Labour Government in Tasmania commenced its career in office by undertaking the completion of many buildings, the construction of which was left in abeyance by its predecessors, the McPhee Government, which was of the same political colour as the present Commonwealth Government. Whenever a Labour government attains power in a State, private enterprise immediately closes down and money is curtailed by the financial interests, with the result that the new government finds its resources inadequate to enable it to carry out an effective policy with which to deal with unemployment. In view of these circumstances it is the duty of the Commonwealth to give every assistance to the State governments. Great numbers of Australian workers, both men and women, are now out of employment and are living on sustenance; but although it is the policy of the National Parliament of Australia to give money to the States to keep up sustenance payments in lieu of wages for work, the Commonwealth Government has refused to give financial assistance to the Government of Tasmania to this end. It is prepared to give financial aid to State governments to carry on work under the dole system apparently ‘because it finds it cheaper to do so.
Unemployment in Australia has not decreased to the extent claimed by the right honorable the Prime Minister in his speech this afternoon. Hundreds of thousands of Australians are merely existing. Speakers on behalf of the present Government may claim that a single man who works for 6s. a day one day a week alongside other men working for the basic wage, is employed, but I do not call that employment. I claim that both married and single men should be provided with full-time employment at award rates of wages. To-day we find that the number of evictions throughout Australia is greater than it has been for many years. Has the Commonwealth Government fulfilled the promise made by the right honorable the Prime Minister in his policy speech which he delivered in the Sydney Town Hall at the opening of the last election campaign, that, if returned, his Government would give the greatest assistance possible to the youth of this country to find employment ? Today our youths are walking the streets bare-footed, shabbily dressed, and hungry, waiting for the fulfilment of that promise. Nothing is being done to turn them into skilled artisans. This Government has provided for unskilled labour only. Its general policy, so far as unemployment is concerned, has resulted in starvation and privation, affording thousands of youths no alternative but to live on parents whose only income may be the old-age or invalid pension. Is that what this Government calls prosperity? Is that all we need expect as the result of this Government’s policy? What has actually been done in this matter? I understand that the Tasmanian Government submitted three works to the Commonwealth Government for financial assistance under the unemployment relief scheme, and that it was refused such assistance by the Lyons Government. .Is it right for the Treasurer of the Commonwealth in allocating financial assistance for the relief of unemployment in the different States to turn down the application of one particular State that applied for such aid ? This Government has done nothing to afford relief to unemployment in Tasmania beyond providing a small grant for afforestation. That grant has relieved only a small portion of the unemployed youths of the State. The people of Tasmania are, therefore, totally dissatisfied with the manner in which the Federal Government is carrying out its policy to give relief to the unemployed. It is useless for the right honorable the Prime Minister to tell us that because certain improvement has been shown in a few industries, there has been a general improvement in the unemployment position of Australia. There has been no marked improvement in this direction. The right honorable gentleman knows very well that if he cared to go through the electorate of Wilmot, which he represents in this House, he would find hundreds of men looking for work. He would find a similar state of affairs generally throughout the States. Recently I became acquainted with one of the most disgraceful cases of its kind which I have ever known a human being to experience. A man who had done clerical work for years was forced to go out and do hard work with a pick and shovel; this was all that was offered to him under the Government’s unemployed relief scheme.
The Commonwealth Government has not advanced a single concrete proposal for the relief of unemployment. It has not yet set up machinery for dealing -with this problem. In fact, the only machinery it set up in this respect was the title it gave to the man it appointed to look after the unemployed, namely, the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart). He was given a knighthood. He was chosen to carry the responsibility of the unemployment problem and to look after the youths of this country; but he has gone overseas, and has not yet returned. The honorable the AttorneyGeneral has told us that when he went Home recently and was speaking to an intelligent section of the community in England, he said that there were many politicians in Australia, but not many statesmen, and that one gentleman replied to that statement by saying that there must be statesmen in Australia because of the remarkable progress which Australia had made in lifting itself out of the economic chaos. I claim that any improvement which has occurred recently in the unemployment position in Australia has been due to the policy laid down by the Scullin Government, which was in office for two years before being sabotaged by men who could not work in the interests of the workers. Eminent supporters of the United Australia party have admitted that the present Government has ridden to success on the policy laid down by the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) when he was in office. I claim that a Labour government is the only government which can prescribe a policy for the solution of the economic problems that confront this country at the present time. Much has been said with respect to the prosperity of the farmers of Australia, but the farmers are absolutely fearful of their prospects under existing conditions. They claim that they have no prospect of securing reasonable prices for their products, wheat, for instance. The small fruit-grower finds himself unable to sell his fruit. When I appealed to the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page), when he was Acting Prime Minister, to grant £25,000 to assist the small fruitgrower, he refused to give more than the sum of £5,000 which the Government contributed for that purpose at Christmas last year. I claim that the fruit-growers of Tasmania are entitled to assistance similar to that which has been granted to the citrus fruit-growers, the wheatgrowers and the wine producers. If this Government is prepared to assist wheatgrowers in Victoria and elsewhere, because certain members of it are wheatgrowers and receive financial aid in the form of bounty, I claim the fruit-growers of Tasmania are also entitled to similar assistance. Who are the members of the present Government receiving assistance in the form of bounties passed by this Parliament? When is this Government coming forward with a proposal to pay the debts of the unemployed throughout Australia as it is doing on behalf of the farmers? If it is right that the farmers should have their debts paid by this Government, it is right also that the unemployed should have their debts paid by the Government. After years of honest work many of the men who are now unemployed have got into debt, yet, immediately they secure work, their wages are garnisheed, and they are left with a mere 30s. a week to maintain a wife and family. Those are the conditions under which the unemployed are existing at the present time as a result of the magnificent exhibition of statesmanship for which the Prime Minister and his Government have been responsible. I readily admit that the right honorable gentleman would do more for the people of Tasmania were he allowed.
– He has done too much for them.
– Compared with what the people of the other States have received, they have had practically nothing, and are entitled to a good deal more.
I appeal to the Government to make more effective the legislation that has been passed for the benefit of returned soldiers. Many men who, upon their return to Australia, were apparently free from war disabilities, subsequently exhibited symptoms of gas poisoning and other ill effects of their service abroad. The Repatriation Department, however, will not consider an application until the disability has been declared by the Entitlement Board as having been caused by service in the Forces; and frequently there are lengthy delays in the hearing of cases, entailing a great deal of unnecessary suffering. I appeal to the Minister who deals with these matters so to amend the act that the Deputy Commissioner may be able to give a decision without waiting for the determination of the tribunal. When these men left Australia, they were promised by the Commonwealth that every care would be taken of them upon their return. That promise is not being fulfilled. I am acquainted with the case of a man who was gassed and went blind for six weeks. The only argument that the department could advance for its refusal to grant him a pension was that he drank beer. Service in the trenches for a stretch of 90 hours without sleep will break the nerve of any man; yet the department seeks to evade its responsibility to men who suffered such severe hardships, and faced such great dangers, upon what can only be regarded as a flimsy pretext.
– That would not disqualify an applicant.
– I say that it does.
– I invite the honorable member to supply me with the particulars of the case.
– I have supplied them. I have had placed in my hands the case of another man whom a German shot at point-blank range with a revolver, but the bullet was deflected by a Bible that he carried and entered his chest. He died suddenly after his return to Australia, yet there is no provision for the payment of a pension to his widow.
– I am referring to matters of importance that demanded the earlier meeting of Parliament. The Government has asked for constructive suggestions, and I am endeavouring to show how the present difficulties may be overcome.
– Order ! The honorable member will have full opportunity to discuss that matter very shortly, when the Estimates are under consideration.
– These men are unemployed and are on the dole. Moreover, they are sick, and can obtain relief only through a social service organization. I appeal to the Minister to take steps to remove the tragic effects of the existing provisions of the act.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to observe the ruling of the Chair.
– I suggest that a solution of the problem may be found in the provision of cheap money for the carrying on of reproductive and essential works in the State of Tasmania. I understand that local governing bodies in that State have works that they could undertake if they had the necessary funds. Treasury-bonds could be issued to the States at a low rate of interest without running the risk of an inflation of the currency. The Loan Council, however, has refused the application of the Tasmanian Government for financial accommodation to carry out essential public works for the relief of unemployment. I charge the Prime Minister with having failed to fulfil his promise to see that employment would be provided for the youths of this country. What are the prospects in this direction of the youths of his own town of Devonport, as well as throughout Australia, upon the completion of their education? Has an investigation been made in the matter of apprenticeship, with a view to the ranks of skilled artisans being augmented?
The Prime Minister is well aware that in his own electorate bitumen can be produced on a commercial basis from the shale deposits of Latrobe. The establish ment of this industry is held up because of the opposition of the big oil companies. One of the Government’s financial supporters stated at the last election that there must be no interference with these big oil kings who are draining the life blood out of this country. If the Government were to produce oil from shale and coal there would be no likelihood of primary producers becoming bankrupt. Today the man who is successful in his farming operations is he who uses the horse instead of the machine. My advice to farmers is to get back to the horse as quickly as possible. The use of the tractor merely results in the making of dividends for big overseas robbers. The monopoly that is chiefly responsible for unemployment in this country is the oil combine. Yet the Government is afraid to take control of those natural resources which will provide all the power needed for the utilisation of machinery on the farm, and thus divert from the pockets of overseas bond-holders in the big oil companies the dividends that should be applied to the betterment of the conditions of the men, women and children of this country. It is of no use to talk about glowing prosperity having been brought back from overseas. Some good may have been done by the Ministers who went abroad, but nothing of any economic advantage to the unemployed people of Australia has so far resulted from their tour. Seeing that the Labour governments of Tasmania, Queensland, and Western Australia have been able to improve the conditions of the unemployed, the Commonwealth Government should also be able to do something. It is shocking to think that men in New South Wales are expected to maintain themselves on 6s. 6d. a week. Single men in the Federal Capital Territory obtain only 6s. 9d. a week. Surely this Government must be ashamed of that state of affairs. Married men are even expected to maintain their wives and rear families on as little as 19s. a week. This is shameful beyond words. How can the Government expect to build a national capital on a satisfactory basis under such conditions ? Starvation wages will never get us anywhere. The Government cannot believe that men will be prepared to defend this country, if the need arises, when they have practically no stake in it. The Prime Minister often has a word of praise for the Premier of New South “Wales, Mr. Stevens, hut the record of that gentleman is not to be compared with the record of the Labour premiers in the several States, at least in respect to the treatment of the unemployed. We want uniform treatment for the unemployed of this country and we are entitled to look to this Government to help us to achieve that objective. Conditions which will enable men to rear their families in a respectable and decent way should be provided by every government. Yet we find that a man with nine, children is expected to rear his family on £2 5s. a week. I contend that neither the United Australia party nor the Country party is giving serious attention to the problem of unemployment. If people are without money obviously they cannot purchase the products of the primary producers. We have been told that unemployment is costing £1,000,000 a day year in and year out. Unfortunately returned soldiers who fought for this country, as well as many young men and women who have had no opportunity whatever to make a success of life, are involved in the terrible suffering that is entailed by unemployment. We know very well that some returned soldiers who spent years on active service have been charged with crimes for fighting on behalf of the unemployed workers of Australia.
Although the Government has told us that it intends to introduce measures to provide for insurance against unemployment, sickness, and accident, we have had no evidence of any activity in that regard. We do not even know where the Under-Secretary for Employment (Sir Frederick Stewart) is at the present moment. [Leave to continue given.]
I have been elected to this House to watch the interests of the electors of Denison and I intend to do my duty, especially to the unemployed men and women of my constituency. These people, and any children dependent upon them, should be provided with adequate food, clothing, and shelter, yet the Government has shown very indifferent interest in the preparation of a substantial policy of public works. Defence works could be put in hand in Tasmania, but nothing has been done to that end. We have been promised a new broadcasting studio in Macquarie-street, Hobart. The land has been ready for months, but not a brick has been put on it. The Government obtained £600,000 in revenue from wireless listeners throughout Australia last year. It spent only £300,000 on wireless undertakings, and allowed the other £300,000 to go into consolidated revenue. This I submit was a grave injustice to the wireless listeners. The Government should construct a new studio at Hobart without further delay and not compel listeners there to suffer the inconveniences inseparable from makeshift equipment.
I support the Acting Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for West Sydney in their condemnation of the Government. The people in their capacity as a jury, will undoubtedly find the Government deserving of condemnation when they are able to give their verdict two years hence, and will undoubtedly consign it to a place where there is no redemption. The Government must give place to a new administration actuated by humanitarian sympathies and constructive ideals that will benefit the people of Australia. We shall not be satisfied with reports on what is being done in Great Britain, Prance and Germany. We want work under award wages and conditions for our own people. The unemployed do not desire either the dole or charity. They seek the opportunity to work in co-operation with their fellow citizens and to render useful service to the nation.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
.- The motion moved by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) is twofold in its nature. First of all, and most prominent in the remarks of the honorable member, was a quite unjustified personal belittlement of the work of the Australian delegation in London, which I deem* unworthy of him. The second part, dealing with the question of unemployment and trade balances, reveals his complete inability to apprehend the basis of prosperity of the nation. The honorable member harped on a few slogans for the benefit of a part of Queensland and of certain industrial centres. One can understand that the honorable member should use propaganda to secure the best for certain districts, but it is quite inexcusable for him to disparage and belittle the work of the delegation as he did in his opening remarks. The same applies to the remarks of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley). Without any hesitation, I assure the House that, rather than criticizing or listening to criticism of the results of the delegation, we should congratulate and offer our felicitations to the Ministers who comprised it.
– What for?
– For the results they have achieved, which have already been felt by a large number of our primary producers.
– What are these results?
– Negotiations of, two kinds were being conducted. First there were negotiations between Ministers of the dominion governments and the British Government, which were conducted skilfully, patiently, firmly and tactfully. In these our Ministers displayed great ability and performed a great service to the .Australian producers. To suggest that these negotiations could have been conducted by cable through the High Commissioner in London, and British public opinion influenced, is ridiculous. I was in. England during most of the time when the negotiations were taking place. Not being a member of the delegation, I had opportunities to observe the reaction of the British public to an extent denied to members of it. I found not only a favorable reaction as a. result of the visit of the delegation, but also that a previous delegation, led by the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), had helped to improve the understanding between the two countries. At any rate, that visit was responsible for a better appreciation of Australia’s difficulties by the British public. I found in one or two places, also, some appreciation of the explanations given by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). My observation and experience reinforce my opinion that there should be as great an interchange of such visits as possible, so that members of the British family of nations can gain some idea of the difficulties of one another’s internal economy. One day, I visited one of the great country live-stock markets at Exeter, where many hundreds of fat cattle, sheep and pigs are sold.
I found there that nobody had ever heard of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde), difficult as it may be to understand how the honorable member for Capricornia should be unable to make any impression at all outside Australia. I found, however, among the British farmers great appreciation of the explanations which the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) was making to the British public, and which were helping to improve the prospects of a lasting union between producers in all parts of the Empire. Those prospects, however, can only ‘be blighted and injured by attacks and belittlements such as we have listened to to-day from the front bench members on the other side of the House.
The results of the delegation’s visit have been briefly explained by the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) ; but I desire to deal with them from the point of view of the producer. Briefly, when the Prime Minister left Australia, Great Britain, in an effort to support the prices of its own livestock from British farms, proposed to cut down imports from overseas. The effect of the Ottawa agreement had already been to cut down substantially foreign imports. After the signing of the Ottawa agreement, the imports of mutton and lamb from South America had been reduced from 1,925,000 cwt. to as little as 1,33 0,000 cwt. last year. At the same time, imports from Australia had substantially increased. Actually, the total imports of mutton and lamb from Australia increased from 1,489,000 cwt. to 1,631,000 cwt., and there was a prospect of a still greater increase during the current year. The British Government, realizing its obligation to protect its own farmers, proposed to check the increase of dominion imports and, in the case of Australia, actually to reduce the total slightly. From the producers’ point of view, the market for mutton and lamb, which at the end of last year was very strong, began to weaken immediately the intention of the British Government was made known. Fat lambs which had been bringing round about fi a head or better at the end of the year, by January, the peak of the supply season, eased appreciably in price. The mere talk of restriction affected the price which our producers were obtaining in the livestock market in Australia. As the result of patient and capable negotiation, the British Government refrained from curtailing the volume of our exports, and the Australian delegation was able to secure an extension for this year, and probably for next year, which will actually give the Australian, exporter unrestricted entry into the British market for whatever exports of mutton and lamb are likely to be available. Consequently the prices of mutton and lamb have firmed, and at present are as good as at any time during recent years. Before the Ottawa agreement was signed, producers were obtaining for first quality lamb, about 10s. a head, a large number being sold at 6s., 7s. and 8s. a head. Now, however, the same quality lambs are bringing fi a head or better. The increased return which the producers obtain in any one market in the large selling centres of Melbourne or Sydney would pay all the expenses of the Prime Minister and his fellow delegates several times over.
– How much did the Prime Minister’s trip cost?
– I do not know exactly what the cost was. However, the increased return in any one market, would not be less than £20,000 or £30,000. I should be very surprised if all the expenses of the delegation came to a very small portion of that amount. Although the negotiations were prolonged, I feel sure that the expenditure involved will not differ largely from that of previous delegations led by members on the other aide of the House.
The honorable member for Capricornia is, naturally, concerned about beef, and it is a concern which I share with him, because it is upon the success of the beef industry that any effective occupation of the greater part of the north and the north-west of this continent must depend. The preservation of the White Australia policy depends more upon the success of the beef industry than on that of any other industry in the Commonwealth. It is not possible to make a comparison of the prices of beef before the Prime Minister visited Great Britain and at the present time in the same way as it is in regard to mutton and lamb, because prices in Australia have been considerably affected by drought in the cattle country and have risen substantially for live cattle. I, at any rate, am incapable of forming an estimate as to how much of the rise of prices is due to the shortage in Australia, and how much is attributable to the way in which the entry into the British market has been safeguarded. I can assure the House, however, that the entry of British beef into the British market has been safeguarded, and that provision has been made by the British Government which will ensure an expansion of Australian trade.
With regard to beef, there is more scope for enlarging the dominions’ share of the British market, because in the past the. greater part of the British supplies has been drawn from foreign sources. Since the Ottawa agreement the quantity obtained from foreign countries has been reduced from 11,790,000 cwt. to 8,S72,000 cwt., which is a very substantial reduction. When the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies) was speaking, the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden) remarked, “ Tell us about the expansion of the imports of Argentine meat during the same period as that during which there was an expansion of Australian imports “. But there has been no expansion; there has been a substantial cut. While Britain has allowed the dominions better facilities for entering the British market, it has cut back the foreigner, and the argument with the dominions is over the rate at which Britain is prepared to slice back its foreign supplies. In addition to the Australian delegation being able to negotiate for a relatively unrestricted entry of our frozen meat, it was, as the AttorneyGeneral explained, able to obtain the concurrence of the British Government to a substantial increase of the shipments of chilled beef from Australia. There is very little doubt that, although the figures may have caused some disappointment to uninformed people in Queensland, the allocation provides for practically all the beef which is available and is of a sufficiently good quality to be worth chilling.
– Half of the meat-works are closed down because of the lack of supplies of fat cattle.
– I thank the honorable member for that concurrence. In the past, owing to the technical impossibility of shipping beef from Australia in any form except frozen, the quality of Australian cattle has not been of the best, and it is only the best-grown beef which is worth the expense of chilling and the greater expense of handling. Eoi” the time being, at any rate, there is an insufficient supply of first-quality young beef to take full advantage of the quota which Australia has been allotted. The prices obtainable for chilled fores in the British market have been little better than for frozen beef. The prices of chilled hinds have been from lid. to 1 3/4d. better than those obtainable for frozen hinds, but even in that respect there has been a tendency for the price of Australian chilled meat to fall rather than rise. This definitely confirms what the honorable member for Capricornia has said about the shortage this year of beef cattle young enough and of sufficiently good quality to be worth chilling. From every point of view from which one considers the work of the Australian delegation it deserves congratulation. It has obtained a very good “ spin “ for our primary producers, and has created a distinctly friendly attitude on the part of British Ministers, British farmers and the British public. When the time comes to negotiate for a longterm agreement, the British Government will be free agents, untrammelled by the terms of the trade treaty which, I am afraid, was rather hastily concluded with Argentina a few years ago. We shall then be negotiating with a government which will be encouraged by a public opinion favorable to giving the Dominions the best deal which is compatible with the interests of British farmers and British trade.
The remainder of the honorable member’s condemnation of the Government was bound up with the overseas trade balance and the subject of employment in Australia. It clearly indicated that the honorable member fails to appreciate the fact that overseas trade is absolutely the life blood of a country which has such an enormous area to develop as we have in Australia. It is quite possible that primary industries which ha-ve grown up adjacent to the great manu facturing centres find that the home market is their best market. Although this may be the experience of vegetablegrowers, milk suppliers and other primary producers who cater for city dwellers, in the far more extensive areas of this country, which cause our right to maintain the White Australia policy sometimes to be questioned, it is upon our capacity to trade with other countries that prosperity and development depend. When one visits other countries one realizes how short they are of raw materials, and of the comfort goods required to raise their terribly low standards of living. We shall not only increase our own prosperity by improving our trade with other countries, but as trustees of this rich and extensive land we shall also be carrying out a duty which we owe to the poorer nations of the world. Wherever we can do it without injuring our own people, we should trade with those countries, and give them an opportunity to trade with us for the raw materials and the primary produce which they need. I. do not for one moment advocate the wholesale admission of foreign goods of the kind which Australian industries are supplying of good quality and at a reasonable price; but sweeping restrictions, such as were imposed when the honorable member for Capricornia was Minister for Trade and Customs, not only damage our trade and the capacity of other countries to purchase our goods, but also definitely increase the danger to world peace by making it increasingly difficult for poor and densely-populated countries to obtain the goods they require to provide their own people with an improved standard of living.
I have many times heard honorable members opposite say in this chamber that the depression is due much more to under-consumption than to overproduction. There is a great deal of truth in that statement, and one of the principal reasons for under-consumption is that the people who need the goods which Australia produces are not able to buy them because our governments in the past have stifled their trade by prohibitive tariffs. It is true that many people in ‘ Australia are also unable to purchase the comforts of which they stand in need, and one of the chief reasons is that many of the primary industries which are far removed from the great industrial centres cannot sell their products overseas at prices which would enable them to purchase the goods made in Australian factories. Of course the primary products of Australia are not the only ones of which other countries have need, although we have the greatest command of one of the essentials to a comfortable existence in cold climates. I refer to our production of wool. If any honorable member were to visit Germany and other countries of North Europe he would find that the people are not adequately clothed in accordance with our standards. They would like to buy our wool if we would enable them to do so by taking their goods in exchange. When one goes to Prance, one notices that bread is not of such good quality as it formerly was. When the honorable member for Capricornia was a Minister he did a great deal to cut off imports of the few luxury lines which Australia obtained from France. The French, in retaliation, and also out of sheer necessity, have had to reduce their purchases of goods from overseas. Our restriction of imports did not make much additional work in Australia, but the duties which have reduced French trade with Australia have made both the French and the Australians the poorer. The more we restrict trade the more we endanger world peace, for countries which are unable to purchase the primary products of extensive territories such as Australia are, in most cases, building up armaments. Last night we heard a sincere plea from some honorable members that the Government should do everything possible to steer Australia clear of international disturbances. I am sure that honorable members in all parts of the House desire that Australia should be at peace in our life time and afterwards, but we cannot overlook the fact that there are people in the world who have neither favorable access to essential materials, nor means to trade in the way necessary to them. It is not the desire of rich combines to make profits that is driving Italy to seek expansion at the expense of a weaker nation ; it is that country’s absolute need for raw material that is compelling it to follow its present course. The motion now before us, if given effect, would prevent some overseas countries which need our butter, meat, and wool, from obtaining them in suitable quantities, because overseas trade would be restricted under the guise of preserving a favorable trade balance. The trade balance will look after itself if trade is allowed to flow in a normal manner.
The Acting Leader of the Opposition complained that the Government had not done what . it could to assist the primary producers, but it must be admitted that the Government has, by its arrangement with the Government of Great Britain, rendered a great service to the meat producers of Australia. The Government could render no greater service to the primary producers than to pursue still further a policy which will make it possible for us to increase our trade with those countries that need our produce. It has gone a good way in that direction already. I have at times criticized it for not going forward as quickly as I thought it might, but I am ready to admit that it has acted with due care and caution, watching all the time that injury is not done to Australian manufacturers. Under this Government Australia has enjoyed a great measure of recovery, the people having lost the fear bred in them by the actions of the party opposite when it was in power. The Government has also made it possible to develop overseas trade, for raw materials to enter this country, and for us to sell more of our produce abroad. This policy has had its share in bringing about the present boom in the iron and steel industry, and in restoring prosperity in the textile and other important industries. Such prosperity is the only permanent basis for national economic recovery, and this Government has done its part in helping to bring it about.
.- The honorable member who has just resumed his seat, when dealing with the part played by Australia’s delegation overseas, merely reiterated what had already been said by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies). I waited in vain to hear whether he, or those who preceded him, would give any indication of the” price Australia has paid for the imaginary concessions granted in respect of its meat exports. I am sure that when we take into consideration the commitments into which Australia has undoubtedly entered, and the recent tariff schedules which this Government has introduced, the net benefit arising from the agreements entered into with Great Britain will be found to be wholly negligible, if they exist at all. At any rate, even though the expenses of the delegation have no doubt been camouflaged, the budget admits an expenditure of £12,000.
One of the most important matters to which the Acting Leader of the Opposition addressed himself, was unemployment. The Prime Minister, and other members of the Cabinet, have claimed that the unemployment position is improving, but the figures which they quoted are misleading. The Prime Minister has stated that so many thousands of men have been found employment, but included among that number are those engaged on relief work in the various States, a fact which he omitted to mention. Surely that was not the kind of employment that he promised the people when he asked for their votes before the last election. Many of those employed on relief work receive only £1 a week, and some only £1 a fortnight, plus an allowance for their families. The Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) last night in answer to an interjection, said that the figures which he had quoted in regard to unemployment had been taken from trade union returns, while the Prime Minister, in answer to a similar interjection to-day, said that his figures had been taken from those compiled by the Census authorities. As for the trade union returns, everybody knows that thousands of youths who leave school every year have never found any employment, have never belonged to a trade union, and are thus not registered as unemployed. This problem of finding employment for the youth of the nation, is one of the gravest with which we are confronted. The Government of New South Wales has adopted a scheme of so-called re-afforestation, and in pursuance of that scheme has drafted hundreds of these mere boys from their homes into bush camps where many of them have fallen sick as a result of the privations they are called upon to endure.
I maintain that employment in these slave camps - for that is what they are - is not what the people of Australia had in mind when they voted for the return of this Government. The Prime Minister said that the figures quoted by him were compiled by the Census authorities.
– He said that the figures had been supplied by the Commonwealth ‘ Statistician, and that they would be supported by the Census returns.
– Well, here is one piece of information revealed by the Census which the Prime Minister did not disclose. The Census shows that in New South Wales, the richest State in the Commonwealth, there are 1,193,309 breadwinners of whom 15.6 per cent received no income for the year; 27.1 per cent. received less than £1 a week; 17.8 per cent. received between £1 and £2 a week; 11.6 per cent. received between £2 and £3 a week; 9.7 per cent. received between £3 and £4 a week; 7.6 per cent. received between £4 and £5 a week; and only 10.6 per cent. attained the dizzy opulence of more than £5 a week. It will be seen, therefore, that the Government has very little of which to boast. We, as a party, are concerned with actual incomes of our people, and I do not think that any one can view with equanimity the position revealed by the figures I have quoted. The Government is deceiving itself in regard to unemployment.
I have already mentioned the unemployment which exists among youths. The Railways Department of New South Wales employs a number of youths from 14 to 21 years of age, but what is their position when they become 21? Unless they are married, they are then dismissed. In the coal-mining industry also the same cruel practice operates. The Government in power in that State belongs to the same political party as that which is in control in the Commonwealth sphere. The decrease in the unemployment figures quoted by the Minister is not borne out by the facts. The Prime Minister told us of the prosperity prevailing at Newcastle, and takes credit to his Government for the greater employment which has been provided by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company. The improved position there is not the result of the policy of the Government, but is due entirely to the embargoes on the importation of iron and steel - particularly wire and galvanized iron - imposed by the Scullin Government. During the financial blizzard of 1930-31 the steelworks at Newcastle languished ; but in later years the Broken Hill Proprietary Company works, suppliers of raw materials to Lysaghts, and Rylands, as well as the Buttwell Pipe Factory, built up their organizations as a result of the Scullin Government’s tariff. The Prime Minister boasts of what his Government has done for the producers of wool, wheat, beef, mutton and lamb; but what has it done for the coal industry ? When I asked him a question regarding unemployment among the coal-miners the right honorable gentleman replied that that was a problem on its own. In March, 1934, the Prime Minister visited the Cessnock district, and at Kurri Kurri received a deputation representing approximately 1,000 boys who were seeking employment. I believe that the right honorable gentleman was impressed by that deputation, and by the distress which he saw on all sides. The spectacle there wa= not unlike that which confronted the Prince of Wales when he visited the coal-mining villages of Wales in 1930. When I read of the conditions which prevailed in England at that time, I did not imagine that the Newcastle district would over be in a similar plight. Happily, because of the courageous action of Hie British Government, the position of the coal-miners in Great Britain has been greatly improved since 1930. The output of coal has increased by 3,500,000 tons per annum.
– That is because of the export of coal.
– No ; it is due to the coal having been treated along the lines which I have advocated in this House until I am tired of hearing myself plead for similar methods here. Were the party to which I belong to hold the life of the Government in its hands, as is the case with the Country party, the coal-miners would be granted concessions similar to those given to those engaged in the wool and wheat industries. But the miners also are human beings. They play their part in ensuring the welfare of this country and are entitled to fair treatment.
– They do not produce an exportable product.
– Coal is an exportable product. South Africa has assisted its coal-mining industry by a bounty of 9s. a ton, and something in that nature should be done in Australia. Nothing is done for the coal-miners in my electorate because their representative is probably regarded by the Government as a blithering idiot of whom no notice need be taken. Short of taking its members outside and putting them “ on the knuckle “, I have done everything humanly possible to convince the Government of the need of the coal-miners and their families.
The delegation which visited England had nothing to report regarding the coal industry when it returned, notwithstanding that the Prime Minister in March last year promised the people of the Newcastle district that the Government would do something to rehabilitate the coalmining industry by constructing a unit for the extraction of oil from coal.
– The Minister for Mines in the Lang Government did nothing for the industry as a result of his visit to the Old Country.
– He brought back a report which, like a number of other reports by commissions appointed by both State and Commonwealth Governments, advocated the extraction of oil from coal.
– Mr. Baddeley was Minister for Mines in New South Wales when he went overseas.
– That is so; but the Bavin Government was in office in 1930 when the Royal Commission made its recommendations. If those recommendations had been adopted the coal industry would have benefited.
– The Bavin Government did not send Mr. Baddeley overseas.
– On their return from Great Britain the members of the delegation had a good deal to say about the concessions which they had won for the farmers of Australia. The farmers, through their representatives in this Parliament, dictate the policy of the Government. They get concession after concession, whereas other equally deserving sections of the community, which have suffered more than they have, get nothing. The mining industry was the first to feel the effects of the depression, and, unfortunately, the position has become worse since 1927. The Stanford Main mine, which once employed 425 men at Kurri Kurri, the town in which I live, has just closed down; and whereas in normal years 1,250 men were employed at the Richmond Main colliery, only 280 employees are engaged there to-day. When I worked in the Pelaw Main colliery, prior to my election to Parliament, I was one of 1,025 employees; to-day that colliery employs only 325 men. Instead of 2,700 miners, at Kurri Kurri finding a means of livelihood for themselves and their families, the town now has only 605 miners at work. That represents an addition of 2,095 to the number of unemployed coal-miners there, to say nothing of a great many more persons formerly engaged in subsidiary industries. About 78 per cent, of the former workers in the coal industry in this locality are out of work to-day. Are these men and their families not worthy of the same consideration as that given to the farmers? We never hear of the farmers going cap in hand for the dole. Unfortunately, not many members of this Parliament ever visit the coal-mining districts to learn at first-hand the condition of the people there. I extend to them an invitation to do so, and assure them that no harm will come to them if they accept it. I pay a tribute to the Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill) who recently visited the coal-fields, and on his return submitted a report. Unfortunately the Minister in charge of Development (Senator A. J. McLachlan) gave to the deputation the usual stereotyped reply supplied to him by the “ under.strappirs “ in his department. On many occasions in this House I have referred to the experiments carried out at BillinghamonTees, England, and pointed out that of 7,000 gallons of oil extracted from coal, 6,000 gallons had been disposed of. After his visit to the electorate which I represent, the Prime Minister said he would do something for the coalmining industry. Then the question arose as to whether Australia should not delay taking any action to produce oil from coal until the experimental plant at Billingham-on-Tees was put under way, and until we saw the results of that experiment. Those results have been published, and I have already indicated the quantity of oil extracted from coal by that plant. Yet Senator A. J. McLachlan reported against such a project being undertaken in Australia, contending that Billingham was just in its experimental stages, and adding that at that place only tar was being produced, whereas Australia was interested in the production of oil, not tar. The greatest ignoramus on the coal-fields knows that tar cannot be extracted from anything but coal, with the exception of Stockholm tar, which will not produce petrol, and I am surprised that a Minister of the Crown, having all the necessary data available, should have attached his signature to such a stupid reply as that sponsored by Senator A. J. McLachlan.
These circumstances indicate to me that the Government not only does not intend to do anything in this matter, but also is using every effort to prevent the erection of such a plant, despite the agitation for its erection that is being made, not only in the coal-mining industry, but throughout Australia as well. For instance, a meeting of the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australia, which met recently in Queensland, and at which all parts of the Commonwealth were represented, carried a resolution urging the Government to proceed with a proposition of the nature which I have indicated. This treatment is beyond the experimental stage; to-day it is a sound commercial proposition. I have shown thai nine squadrons of the British Air Force have been supplied with petrol produced from coal, and that to-day the British Navy is getting from coal practically the whole of its crude oil requirements for its oilburning warships. Yet in this country, where we are much farther than Great Britain from the well oil supplies of the world, we are not attempting to do anything in this direction. The Commonwealth Government’s cry is that no money 13 available for such a project, but I claim that if war broke out to-morrow, millions of money would be made available foanother blood bath, in which the manhood of this country would he submerged. Australian miners did their bit in the last war to the extent of organizing a.nd reinforcing two battalions, but I assure honorable members that not “mother miner will leave this country in the event of another war, because of the treatment which has been meted out by this Government to coal-miners. Furthermore, it is not forgotten that many ex-soldiers, because of their unfortunate experiences due to the depression, have been thrown out of war service homes by the present Government and its predecessors. I have pleaded with the Government to do something for these unfortunate people, urging it to regard the position not only from the point of view of employment, but also from that of national defence, and national independence. Since the failure of the World Economic Conference, every nation has adopted a scheme of extreme economic nationalism, restricting its importations, as far as possible, to the products of its own colonies. One result of this policy is the war which is now looming in Europe. However, in the event of such a war we shall find ourselves in a sorry condition so far as internal transport in Australia can be utilized in the strengthening of our home defences, and the Labour party believes in having an adequate home defence.
It is time that the Government did something along the lines which I have indicated. I urge it not to take any action which would be detrimental to the coal-mining industry, as it has done in the past and is doing now. This Government claims that it is doing something to help everybody. As I pleaded with the last Lyons Government, I plead with this Government to put a duty upon imported coal. What would the farmers of Australia say if wheat and wool were allowed to be imported into Australia?
– Consider the price the community would have to pay if wheat were imported.
– But in 1933-34 we find 9,201 tons of coal being imported into this country. Only a month or two ago 5,700 tons of coal were imported into Australia from Poland. One becomes suspicious when one recalls that the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) recently visited Poland, and that shortly after his visit a boat arrives in Melbourne carrying 5,700 tons of Polish coal for use in Australia. Does the Government claim that that is helping the coal industry? If it does so it is making a remarkable claim. The only assistance given to the coal-mining industry is a primage duty of 10 per cent, ad valorem. I asked the Minister for Trade and Customs what revenue the Government received from the primage duty on coal. My question remained on the notice-paper from day to day, but was never answered. I repeated it, and the Minister replied that it was difficult to answer, and that as the matter was a small one he could not get the information. I appeal now to the Government to make it an important one. If coal is to be imported into Australia, then let the coal-mining industry, which I claim to be a primary industry of importance, be treated on a similar basis to any other industry. I have shown that other countries have assisted their coalmining industry very substantially, some even going so far as to give a bounty of 9s. a ton to encourage production of coal.
The censure motion submitted by the Acting Leader of the Opposition is timely, because the Government has not fulfilled the promises it made’ during the last election. Honorable members on this side of the House have a vivid recollection of the Prime Minister’s statement made during the last election campaign that his government recognized unemployment as a serious problem, and would bend its every effort to solve it. With that end in view, the Prime Minister promised that his government would appoint a full-time Minister to deal with this matter. Where is that Minister today? For a time he was called the Parliamentary Under Secretary for Employment, and he was given a room in the dungeons of this building, where it was very difficult to find him. Subsequently he tripped away to Europe. What good has resulted from his cruise ? At present, I understand, he is in America. Meanwhile the unemployment figures in this country have not decreased.
– They are down by half.
– Well, the unemployment figures for the coal-mining industry have become worse. If the honorable the Minister claims that our unemployment figures have not worsened over the last few years, then I contend that he is including emergency relief workers among so-called employed. My statements prove that to be a fact, and that being so, the Government can claim only to have found a solution of the unemployment problem by giving work at starvation wages on emergency relief works, and by employing boys in slave camps known as reafforestation schemes.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- I did not intend to address myself to thi3 issue, ‘but in view of the glaring representations concerning the coal-mining . industry which have been made by the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, I feel that honorable members generally should be acquainted with the actual facts of the employment position on the coalfields.
– The honorable member knows nothing about the industry.
– I know that the honorable member is aware, when he urges the payment of a bonus for the exportation of coal, that the coal-mining industry itself is responsible for the destruction of the foreign coal trade from Newcastle.
– Only a fool could say that.
– The honorable member may thrust his statements down the throats of the coal-miners, but he will not convince the citizens of the rest of New South Wales. The honorable member knows that for years the coal-mines of New South Wales were closed down, and foreign trade was entirely lost, because America and other countries took advantage of such a position, and picked up that trade. I claim that the coal-miners themselves deliberately threw away their trade at a time when the industry was prosperous.
– How much coal does America export? It does not export any coal. The honorable member has made a stupid statement.
– I would not call myself a “ blithering idiot “ as the honorable member described himself a moment ago. On another occasion there was a strike in the coal-mining industry in New South Wales, and the then Premier of that State (Mr. Bavin) offered certain conditions to the coal-miners to return to work. They refused those conditions, and for two years they held the industry by the throat; but eventually they returned to work on the terms originally offered them by Mr. Bavin.
– The miners were on strike for one year and three months, not two years.
– The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), who claims to know so much about the coal-mining industry, blames everything for its difficulties except his own sorry advocacy on behalf of the industry, his own support of the miners when they were on strike, and his support of their refusal for fifteen months - I accept his correction - of the reasonable terms offered on which to return to work. The honorable member knows very well that the conditions existing in the coal-mining industry to-day have been brought about not by any action of the Government, but entirely by agitators like himself who destroyed the industry. These men carried on agitations in the belief that they could bounce the Government of the day into granting what they sought. They accept arbitration only when their claims are upheld and go on strike when decisions are made against them.
– What nonsense! What about the mechanization of the industry?
– For years the men held up machinery which had been installed at certain coal-mines. For instance, they held up machines which had been installed in one of the late Mr. John Brown’s mines, although it was shown to them that the operation of such machinery would result in greater production, and create greater opportunities to secure the whole of the foreign coal trade for Australia. I claim that the only trouble confronting the coal-mining industry today is that the honorable member who represents the miners in this House does not put their case intelligently before honorable members. I think I might well apply to the honorable member the expression which he has just used concerning himself, and suggest, that he is a “blithering idiot”.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).Order! The honorable member foi Hunter must cease interjecting, and the honorable member for Barton must not indulge in personalities.
– The honorable member for Hunter also referred to the unemployment problem, particularly as it affects the youth of this country. All sections in this House are doing their utmost to support measures designed to find employment for our youths. I therefore resent the attempt by the honorable member for Hunter to disparage the work being done by the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited, to find employment for young men. Even if some of these lads, when they reach the age of 21 years, are dismissed, if they are not married, their position is better than that of many young men in Government employment. The honorable member for Hunter knows very well that the conditions which he now complains about were imposed on industry by trades unionism, and that it is no uncommon experience for young men to be signed off when they complete their apprenticeship. I speak with some knowledge of this subject because I make frequent visits to establishments employing large numbers of men, including the Railway Department. On the occasion of my last visit to the Railway Department I was informed that 800 young men who had reached the age of 21 years had been stood off and were being called up in rotation for employment. The conditions relating to the dismissal of employees reaching the age of 21 years has the acquiescence of leading trade union organizations in Australia, so governments cannot fairly be blamed. Unemployment is a world-wide problem and it has been acutely felt in Australia, but notwithstanding what has been said by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) and the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) the position has improved materially in recent years in Australia generally. Figures relating to savings bank deposits and the volume of trade show clearly that there is a definite uplift to the depression and that conditions all round are very much better than they were a year or two ago. All honorable members are conscious of this improvement because fewer requests for assistance come to them from persons seeking work.
The honorable member for Hunter criticized severely the attitude of the Minister in charge of Development (Senator A. J. McLachlan) in respect of the proposal to extract oil from our coal and shale deposits. He has brought this subject under the notice of honorable members on many occasions, and pointing to what has been done in this direction in Great Britain, has suggested that the adoption of a similar scheme in this country would lead to a considerable increase of employment. While it is true that the undertaking in Great Britain is providing work for a large number of men, a similar proposal in this country would not make an appreciable difference in the volume of employment.
– One plant alone would provide work for 10,000 men.
– That is the honorable member’s view of the matter; it is not necessarily correct. He knows that the Government has been and is giving serious attention to the proposed development of the Newnes shale industry. He is also well informed of what has been done over a period of many years. I have visited Newnes on three occasions. Some years ago, when an honest attempt was being made to develop the industry there, unionists from Sydney obtained employment at the works and one man decreased the output from five heads a day to two heads. When an appeal was made to the union, it upheld the action of the man who had cut down the output by about two- thirds, with the result that the venture could not be carried on at a profit.
The honorable member for Hunter stressed the sufferings that are being endured by persons engaged in the coalmining industry. He and other agitators have been largely responsible for the existing state of affairs.
– I rise to a point of order. T. take exception to the remark of the honorable member for Barton and ask for its withdrawal.
– I have called the honorable member for Barton to’ order several times and have directed him not to make personal reflections upon any other honorable member. I now ask him to withdraw the statement to which the honorable member for Hunter has objected, and warn him he must not repeat it.
– I withdraw the remark and will content myself with saying that if any honorable member will visit the coal-mining areas in New South Wales he will soon discover that agitators and propagandists have inflicted a cruel injury upon the industry.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Barton has referred to me as an agitator who has done injury to the coal-mining industry in New South Wales. He also said that I was responsible for holding up the installation of machines for three years. That is absolutely untrue. I merely wish to make it clear that the machine referred to was installed in the Pelaw Main mine, and three years were not lost there - not even three days.
– I rise to speak to this motion chiefly because the fifth charge which the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) makes against the Government refers to primary producers, and particularly wheat-growers. Unless this criticism is answered, some primary producers, especially wheat-growers, may be encouraged to believe that if the honorable gentleman were in power more would be done for them than this Government is doing. I am satisfied that the present Government has not rendered to the wheat industry the assistance that it has deserved because of its great efforts in the time of Australia’s need, and the enormous losses sustained, largely for the benefit of the whole community. I am aware of the great difficulty which those honorable members who sit in this corner of the House had three years ago in inducing this Government to render some assistance to the industry. Mainly by agitation we succeeded in prevailing upon the Government to assist the wheatfarmers to the extent of some £2,000,000 in that year. But when the following season arrived we found that the industry was still in a serious position, and a great deal of agitation was required to obtain a further measure of direct assistance. It was to meet the demands of the Country party that the Royal Commission on the Wheat Industry was appointed. That commission made several reports, and it must be said to the credit of the Government that within two days of the receipt of its recommendations the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) promised, on behalf of the Government, that £4,000,000 would be made available. We have it on the authority of the Assistant. Treasurer (Mr. Casey) that £4,066,000 was provided last year for the benefit of the wheat industry. Even if this Government has not given all that the industry deserves, it has given infinitely more direct assistance than was given by any previous government. We have reason to believe that it will do even more; that in the present session action will be taken for the fixation of a home-consumption price for that portion of the wheat consumed locally. The Acting Leader of the Opposition, in making this .fifth charge against the Government, implied that if he and those associated with him were occupying the treasury bench they would do something more than has been done by the present Government. Let us consider shortly what the Scullin Government did, or tried to do, when it occupied the treasury bench. In 1930 a bill was introduced into this House by a colleague of the present Acting Leader of the Opposition, providing for a compulsory wheat pool. The Minister in charge of that bill, Mr. Parker Moloney, then said -
Because of the limitations imposed upon the Commonwealth by the Constitution, it was not competent for this Government to bring down a scheme for a compulsory Australian wheat pool. We, therefore, had to seek the co-operation of the State governments. Honorable members will gather how great are the limitations of the Federal Constitution from the roundabout method which had to be adopted. Even if a great majority of the wheat-growers of Australia approved of a compulsory wheat pool, the Commonwealth Government would be powerless to give effect to their wishes without first calling together representatives of State governments and securing their approval.
The difficulties which confronted that government now face this Government. I am somewhat disturbed at the party aspect which has been imparted into this debate. It is essential that we should give greater consideration to the national aspect. The legislation introduced by Mr. Parker Moloney imposed certain conditions on the States whose co-operation he sought. When some of the States felt that they could not stand up to those obligations their representatives naturally opposed the bill.
– Where did they oppose it?
– In another place.
– The Country party senators voted it out in another place.
– The same Government brought down another measure which did find its way through both Houses. In that measure provision was made whereby wheat-growers were to receive 2s. a bushel at country railway sidings. The average price received by the growers for some fifteen years before that time was 5s. a bushel at country railway sidings. An Australia-wide wheat conference was held about that time, at which it was acknowledged that the industry was in the most parlous position it had ever occupied ; yet all the wheat-growers could get from the Government, of which the honorable member who has moved this motion was a member, was a promise of 2s. a bushel as a first payment, or 3s. a bushel less all charges. Although that bill passed both Houses, the Government, for some reason or other, was unable to finance it. Some months later that same Government brought down a measure providing £3,500,000 for assistance to the industry.
Clause 2 of that bill made the following provision : - “ The Wheat Advances Act 1930 is repealed “. That bill became law. The complaint was consistently made by the Scullin Government that the first bill, which provided for a compulsory pool, was rejected. But it also made itself responsible for the repeal of the second measure which provided for the payment of 2s. a bushel. That the farmers never received. Furthermore, the £3,500,000 voted in the third bill was provided, not out of revenue, as has been the assistance granted within recent years, but from loan funds. That loan is now being redeemed at the rate of from £300,000 to £400,000 per annum, and I have no doubt that the wheatgrowers are contributing their full share towards its redemption.
– The honorable member knows that the bill which was defeated by Country party senators was the bill asked for by the wheat-growers.
– The Government of the day insisted upon placing responsibilities on the States which some of the States felt they could not meet. As that was the experience of the wheatgrowers in 1930 they have little reason to expect anything better would, be done for them by a Labour government now.
The Acting Leader of the Opposition had a good deal to say concerning the necessity to rectify our trade balance; but even assuming that the honorablemember’s contentions are correct, which I do not admit, I do not believe that the most effective way in which to improve our trade balance is by placing prohibitive duties upon imported goods; because the effect of such a policy is to the detriment of primary industries, and particularly our export industries. One of the first effects, of the imposition of prohibitive duties on exports was to increase the freights charged on primary produce exported to other countries. The primary industries of Australia are in the unfortunate position that they are practically the only exporting industries, and the imposition of restrictions on imports means that as ships which carry our exportable products to other countries come to Australia very often in ballast or lightly laden the shipping companies have to charge higher freights on the homeward journey. In such circumstances, the exporters of primary products are forced to pay a twoway freight for a one-way cargo. In addition to the feeling of animosity created in those countries which had usually purchased our products, we have lost several of our best markets recently as a result of this prohibitive action.
A good deal has been said concerning our unfortunate unemployment problem. The speeches delivered by Ministers in reply to charges levelled against the Government by the Acting Leader of the Opposition prove that this Government has done more to relieve unemployment than its predecessors, and that in comparison with other countries Australia has done reasonably well. I am not fully satisfied with the position in that regard. I ask honorable members to consider whence most of the unemployment came. We commenced to encounter financial and economic difficulties in 1929. For a period of five years ended 1929, the average production of wheat in Australia was 136,000,000 bushels per annum, but for the four following years it was 200,000,000 bushels, showing an enormous increase. During the same period similar increases occurred in our other export industries. A larger quantity of wool, meat and dairy and other produce was exported than in any previous period. It must therefore be obvious that a larger number of persons must have been employed in those industries, and in our transport and other industries, to enable such enormous increases to be made. It cannot be denied that a majority of the unemployed came from the secondary industries, owing to reduced purchasing power of those engaged in our export industries. The point I wish to stress is that for a long period the policy adopted by this Parliament has been entirely wrong. I say unhesitatingly that, apart from the world economic slump in 1929, it was only a matter of time until we must have met trouble. As a debtor country we should realize that, if special consideration is to be given to any industries in this country, it should be given to our export industries, upon which all other industries necessarily depend. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) had the audacity to say a few moments ago that too much consideration was given to our primary industries. As a matter of fact, until recent years, the only industries which have been singled out for preferential treatment have been our secondary industries, which do not engage in the export trade. It is the burden of the tariff assisting our secondary industries that has forced the necessity for assistance to our primary industries. As the policy adopted for the last quarter of a century ha.s been entirely wrong, it is not surprising to find that we have such a large number of persons unemployed. We all appreciate the seriousness of the unemployed problem, but it cannot be solved until greater consideration is given to those engaged in the export industries, on which all other industries depend. Apart from one dark cloud on the horizon, the outlook for Australia is infinitely better than it has been for a number of years; but there is nothing to suggest that prices are likely to reach a level that will enable them to liquidate their huge losses of recent years. One honorable member referred to men who have to work for less than £5 a week, but during the last five years many of those engaged in our primary industries have not received any income at all, and the result of their labours has been losses of pounds a week. If Australia is to effectively solve its unemployment problem, this Parliament must give greater consideration to its export industries than it has done in the past.
.- I support the motion moved by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde). Prior to the last general election, we heard a great deal from the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and those supporting him concerning what would be done if the Government which he was then leading were returned to power. In Tasmania, where the right honorable gentleman is known very well, his promises were not taken seriously; but now that he has a substantial majority behind him in this Parliament, we are expecting him to honour at least some of them. Prior to the last recess, he said that Parliament would re-assemble in August, but we now find that we have been summoned merely because Supply is almost exhausted. Length of recess does not concern me particularly so long as a definite attempt is made to give effect to the so-called constructive policy outlined by the right honorable gentleman prior to the last election. In normal times it might not perhaps be necessary for Parliament to remain in session for long periods, but, despite what may be said to the contrary, we have not yet recovered from one of the greatest financial and economic depressions in Australia’s history.
I agree to some extent with what has been said by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. McClelland) concerning a black cloud on the horizon which is unfortunately assuming alarming proportions. It is difficult to forecast the result of this dispute, or to judge its effect upon European countries or upon Australia; but whatever international complications may arise from the present crisis, we cannot overlook the fact that in Australia we are confronted with serious problems, the greatest of which is unemployment. There is little satisfaction in being told that Australia is in a better position than some other countries. Those who are vainly seeking work, or those who cannot earn sufficient to feed and house and clothe those dependent upon them, are not deeply interested in broad national policies. It is easy for some honorable members to say that we have to study this problem and others from a national view-point, but the unemployed man wants to know where he is to get a job, so that he can maintain his wife and family in reasonable comfort. He does not care whether 30 per cent, of the working people were unemployed in 1932, and that to-day only 16 per cent, are idle. It is these people for whom we should have the greatest concern. After all, it is true, as other speakers on this side of the House have said, that many people now engaged on relief work are registered as employed. Certainly they are employed to some extent, and are obtaining sustenance, which enables them to keep body and soul together; but is that solving this great national problem?
Not many months ago, a Minister of this Government was appointed to devote his entire attention to unemployment, but shortly afterwards he was relegated to the position of Under-Secretary for Employment. To-day he is touring abroad, and it does not seem that he will return to Australia for some time. Since he was called upon to devote his attention to the unemployment problem a knighthood has been bestowed upon him ; but, so far as I can see, that is not likely to be of any value to the people whose interests he is supposed to be watching.
The State governments are also faced with the problem of unemployment, and we have been told, at times, that it is their responsibility. But I do not think that it should be left entirely to them. The Commonwealth Government makes money available to the State governments from time to time for the relief of unemployment, but this method of dealing with the problem is ineffective. Grants of money in this way are only palliatives, and cannot achieve anything worthwhile, except perhaps to cause certain reproductive works to be put in hand earlier than would otherwise be the case. This procedure does not touch the root of the trouble. We must give some attention to the shortening of hours and the raising of the standard of living, with the object of offsetting the difficulties caused by the mechanization of industry that has been occurring over a period of years. It has been said that we are getting back to normal times; but we cannot ignore the fact that the mechanization of industry has displaced many men who are never likely to return to industrial activities. We are producing at such a rapid rate in these days that we are able to provide for the needs of the community with much less labour and in much less time than formerly. It appears that many of our girls and boys will have little chance to obtain profitable employment after they leave school. A generation has, indeed, grown up in the last few years without ever having done any work. This will continue until the problems created by the mechanization of industry are seriously faced, the hours of work shortened, and the standards of living raised. The necessity for giving to the people a greater purchasing power must also be considered.
Our whole banking and monetary organization is involved in the situation that faces us, and we shall have to give attention, on broad general lines, to our credit system. The present banking method has broken down and, although the Prime Minister may, in his selfcomplacent way, say that he can see nothing wrong with it, he promised more than twelve months ago that a royal commission would be appointed to inquire into the subject. Unless we increase the purchasing power of the people, shorten working hours and raise the standard of living, with the object of correcting the disorders caused by the mechanization of industry, we shall continue to find ourselves in grave difficulty.
The reliability of the unemployment figures quoted by the Prime Minister has been questioned. These figures are obtained from the trade unions by the Statistician, and I, for one, do not feel like disputing their accuracy so far as they go. The trouble is that their scope is not broad enough. When the Labour Government assumed office in Tasmania a little more than twelve months ago about 3,000 persons were registered as unemployed; but when the figures were checked it was found that the number of unemployed was nearer 5,000. A check was made in a systematic way, and it was found that people out of work during the regime of the previous government had not taken the trouble to register because they regarded it as futile to do so. There seemed to be no hope of their ever obtaining work and they did not want sustenance. In fact they were prepared to do almost anything before they would accept sustenance. But when the Labour Government assumed office many of these people thought that there might be a chance to obtain work and they registered with that object. Subsequently, when it was known that a check was being made, many more unemployed people registered. I am glad to say that the Government was able to find work for a considerable number of them, with the result that a greater measure of prosperity has come to Tasmania.
– Is it not a fact that the figures always show a percentage less than the actual number of unemployed?
– My point is that allowance must be made for the people not covered by the trade union returns. I admit, as I have already said, that so far as the official figures go they are accurate enough. But trade union membership does not account for all the unemployed. I know that the Tasmanian figures that I have given are accurate because I had something to do with the compilation of them.
The urgent problem of doing something for the youth of to-day should be considered by the Government without delay; but I can see no evidence that the Government is interested in the matter. It is therefore, deserving of very serious censure on this ground. As was stated by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), the Prime Minister declared in eloquent language in his policy speech that if the Government were returned to power this aspect of the unemployment problem would receive immediate attention. But the first year of the life of this Parliament has expired without any practical attempt having been made to cope with the situation. The difficulty will not be met simply by quoting statistics. As a matter of fact it should have been faced by the Lyons Government during the life of the last Parliament. The credit for the improvement of Australia’s outlook is due not to the present Government but to the fact that the Scullin Government, during its two years of office, introduced a tariff schedule which resulted in greater prosperity aud stimulated local production. In that way it paved the way for the employment of a greater number of people and for the general improvement we are now experiencing. I listened carefully to the remarks of the Prime Minister regarding our trade balance. It cannot be denied that our trade balance has turned against us during the last three or four years. Despite what may be said to the contrary, I am fully convinced that the present state of the trade balance is a serious problem for Australia. I remind honorable members that not so long ago, a government was in power which expressed itself as being perfectly satisfied with our trade balance despite the fact that Australia was then being flooded with imported goods. Finally the crash came, as it must inevitably come again if the adverse trend of the trade balance, as it has during the last two or three years, continues. History undoubtedly will repeat itself. A young country like Australia must of necessity have a tariff policy which promotes the expansion of secondary production alongside the primary industries. A study of history discloses that in its earlier years England was forced to adopt such a policy. It is essential that Australia should foster industries by bringing thom inside a tariff wall, taking such steps as may be necessary to improve the home market which, after all, is the best for our products. That it is necessary for us to have a favorable balance of approximately £30,000,000, in order to meet the interest on the overseas debt cannot be denied or disputed by honorable members opposite. If we are to build up this nation we must develop our secondary industries side by side with our primary industries. The scaling down of the tariff schedule is revealed by this passage taken from the bulletin issued by the Country party -
Effect on Industry.
Since the formation of the Lyons-Page Government in November last year, there have been 720 reductions made in the tariff schedule, without any ill effects to any industry, and, in fact, with great advantages to all Australian industries, both primary and secondary, says the weekly bulletin of the Australian Country party.
Of these reductions, 380 represent decreases on British goods, while 332 represent reductions on foreign commodities. In the same period, 20 increases in the British, and 28 increases in the general tariff have been made.
The scaling down of the tariff must inevitably affect the amount of money available overseas to pay the interest on our external debt. Already this year, we have reached the dangerous position of having an insufficient trade balance to meet our interest payment overseas, and we have been forced to draw upon our reserves in London. I have pleasure in supporting tie motion moved by the Acting Leader of ‘ the Opposition in the hope that it will bring honorable members opposite to a realization that something more must be done to deal effectively with the problem of unemployment, particularly as it affects youths and young men. ;Mr. GARDEN (Cook) [10.15].- It is with pleasure that I rise to support the motion made by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde). I listened attentively to the speeches delivered by the Prime Minister and the AttorneyGeneral. Those honorable gentlemen patted one another on the back for the wonderful work which they had done in London. But what of the cost of the Australian delegation? Not less than £30,000 will be required to cover the expenses of the visit of the delegation to London, and yet this Government has seen fit to make available only £176,000 for the Christmas relief of the unemployed of this country! “We have followed the doings of the members of the delegation while abroad, and have endeavoured to learn what they actually did for Australia. We asked the Prime Minister to mention one definite benefit which had been derived by Austi alia from his visit to Europe. He could not name one. We asked a similar question of the Attorney-General and he too was unable to reply. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) spoke of the wonderful propaganda that resulted from this visit to London. What was the nature of the propaganda? The only fact stressed by the newspapers during the visit was, not that the Australian Prime Minister was a wonderful man and had a wonderful woman with him, but that the wife of the Prime Minister was a wonderful woman who had given birth to twelve healthy children under the sunny skies of Australia.
– When the delegation was asked to go to Berlin to attend the wool conference the Prime Minister at the last moment decided to send the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thorby).
– I was present at the conference from its inception.
– The Minister was not. He was present at its concluding sittings.
– I draw your attention, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, to the fact that the honorable member is making a deliberate mis-statement.
The ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Nairn). - Order!
- Mr. Butler, the Premier of South Australia, was present at the opening of the conference; so also was Mr. Ogilvie. The conference was held during Derby week in England and the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies), instead of doing their job in Germany, stayed in England to attend the Derby.
– I attended the Wool Conference in Berlin from the beginning.
– The Minister reached the conference unheralded and unknown, although a request had been made that Australia should be represented by either the Prime Minister or the AttorneyGeneral. In both 1932 and 1933 Germany bought 400,000 bales of wool from Australia, but last year its purchases dropped to 83,000 bales. It was said in Germany that when the representative of the Government wrote to the Prime Minister and suggested that he should attend the conference, no reply was received.
– That statement was made by the Labour Premier of Tasmania (Mr. Ogilvie).
– The Premier of South Australia (Mr. Butler), who is not a Labour man, said -
The Commonwealth missed a great opportunity in not being fully represented at the conference, for a unique opportunity was afforded of exploring the whole situation as it affected Australia and Germany.’ It would have learned that the Germans are extremely anxious to purchase Australian wool and that leading German industrialists are trying to devise means of making sales of German goods in Australia, the purchase money from which would be used in buying Australian wool.
If the members of the delegation thought more of being present at the English
Derby than of attending this important conference, they are deserving of censure.
– I was in Berlin when the English Derby was run. I have never been on a racecourse.
– I have admitted that the honorable member was present during the latter portion of the conference.
Why did not the delegation tell us the whole truth about the meat negotiations? All that the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General have said upon the subject is correct, but what does it mean? I asked the AttorneyGeneral to what extent Britain had increased its trade with Argentina compared with its trade with Australia, but the Minister said he was not sure on that point. Australia was formerly exporting 2,250 tons of chilled beef annually, and that quantity was increased to 12,000 tons, but there is another side to the story. Argentina agreed to that, and gave Australia an open market for chilled meat. I asked the honorable member for Wakefield, who prates about being a primary producer’s representative, the reason for the increase of the price of beef, and he could not tell me. But it is perfectly clear to every student of Australia’s internal economy that the drought in Queensland, resulting in poorness pf cattle available for the market, is the reason. Is there a member in this House who will contend that Australia can compete with Argentina on an equal basis, in view of the cheap labour obtainable there, its up-to-date machinery, and its comparative proximity to the markets of Europe? The people of Australia have been led to believe that wonderful work has been accomplished by the delegation, but the truth has been concealed. The increased price and the increased demand for primary products in Great Britain at the present time is the result not of the work of the Australian ministerial delegation, but of all nations preparing for war. It was said that the Ottawa agreement was a great achievement, yet, after it had been signed, Britain entered into another agreement with Argentina behind the back of Australia, and this will not expire until next year. While the Australian quota represents an increase of 2 per cent., Argentina is receiving an increase of 12^ per cent. Why did not the Attorney-General make that fact clear? The value of all the goods purchased by Britain from Australia has increased from £48,000,000 in 1933 to £50,000,000 last year, while Argentina has experienced an increase from £41,000,000 to £47,000,000. The AttorneyGeneral is quite correct in his statement regarding the restriction of mutton and lamb. This is occasioned by the fact that the British Government is assisting its own farmers to increase their production of lambs. The point is that the British consumers do not like frozen mutton and lamb, and eat it only when they are unable to get anything better. In spite of everything that has been claimed by members of the Government, the fact remains that the British market for mutton and lamb is more restricted now than it was before. Here is what Mr. Macfarlan, KG., M.L.A., who was until a few months ago a colleague in the Victorian Ministry of the present Commonwealth Attorney-General, said recently about Australia’s representation in Great Britain -
The interests of Australia in London have been lost sight of in an atmosphere of spats and speeches. I emphasized the necessity of having fighting representatives abroad to look after Australia’s interests there.
Australia’s position is not being properly voiced in London. I still hold these views. J. H. Thomas is very frank. He says, “ British agricultural interests first, and others nowhere.”
If British interests prefer Argentine meat to Australian, no one stands up for Australia. This is not to be tolerated by Australia. Although the Argentine is not a British dominion, it is financially owned by England. English money has built its railways, &c, and the only way it can pay back its tremendous debt to England is through its meat.
Thomas would be one of the first to remind us of our duty to our Motherland if present European complications resulted in another world war.
It appears to be a feature of the Australian politician who goes abroad that he loses his Australian outlook more and more the longer he stays there. He loses sight of Australia’s interests. One can agree that possibly he feels that in London, confronted by Empire and other interests, he may be compelled to take what he calls a broader outlook. This is no good to Australia.
The world at the moment is made up of warring interests in all spheres, commercial and otherwise. In my opinion it is the bounden duty of any one leaving these shores to represent Australia to continually cast his eyes over his shoulder at Australia and not bc overwhelmed by what may be called the broader consideration confronting him in London.
I intend, apart from political and personal advantages, to enter into the fight for protection and advancement of Australian interests abroad, and if other nien were to take up a similar attitude, I am sure it would have a marked effect in London.
That statement was made, not by a member of the Labour party, but by one who belongs to the party of which the Attorney-General himself is a member.
It is evident from resolutions carried by a recent meeting of farmers’ organizations that this Government has lost the confidence of the farmer because of its failure to introduce a satisfactory scheme of marketing. Only a little while ago a conference in New South Wales carried a motion condemning the Government for its inactivity in this direction. Mr. E. Field, president of the Farmer Settlers’ Association of New South Wales, attacked Dr. Earle Page for failing to support the efforts of the association to secure a compulsory wheat pool, and then he continued -
With all respect to the opinions of the apostles of export control of wheat, with its unpopular and pernicious processing tax on flour, with its attendant uncertainties, with its happy hunting-ground for manipulators and speculators, and its insult and humiliation to the growers - a scheme which has been turned down by practically every growers’ organization in Australia as unacceptable - one can hardly conceive of any government or party or politician trying to foist upon the industry a scheme in preference to the growers’ objective of a producer-controlled marketing system.
Mr. Kendall, a delegate from Lockhart, who made the motion condemning the Government for its inactivity, stated -
About two years ago, Dr. Earle Page, at our conference, attacked Mr. Parker Moloney. 1 asked him then why he did not do something for the wheat-growers when he was in office, and lie replied that the wheat-growers had never asked him to do anything. Dr. Earle Page cannot say that to-day; the growers have been asking him for a pool for the last six months. We have reason to believe that it was part of the pact between the Federal United Australia party and the United Coun try party that there should be no pool. If that is so, for the sake of political expediency and in order to satisfy his vanity, the Acting Prime Minister has sold the rights of the wheat-growers to a compulsory pool. An alternative scheme is now put forward by the Government, and it is an illegitimate proposal born of hypocrisy. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) stood up and began to apologize, and generally tried to act in a fifty-fifty way; but the conference would not accept his whitewashing policy. He was keeping a leg in each camp. Delegates pulled the stool from under him, as it were, and let him fall. While Mr. Nock was speaking, the president of the conference interjected that the policy of the Government was very humiliating to the growers. The honorable member for Riverina said, “ I will admit that “. Yet the honorable gentleman supports the Government whose proposals he admits were most humiliating to the farmers.
Only last week in New South Wales Mr. Trethowan, M.L.C., who is not a Labour man, is reported to have said -
Immediate government action to stabilize prices and financial relief to tide them over present difficulties is urged on behalf of the wheat-farmers of New South Wales, who are facing ruin following a succession of unprofitable seasons.
Another year has gone, and farmers find themselves in exactly the same position. They are heavily in debt, and how they will carry on neither they nor anybody else knows. Government financial assistance is needed immediately, followed by a thorough investigation of the system which forces wheatfarmers to live something less than a handtomouth existence. A lot is said against giving relief to the farmers. Of all the money given by the Government to wheat-farmers, very little has actually found its way into the farmers’ pockets.
The money was obtained from the banks, and later it was returned to the banks; the farmers did not receive a penny of it. It is no wonder that the banks supported the Government in its policy of granting relief to the farmers to the amount of £4,000,000. They were like a man who transfers money from one pocket to another. The farmers were left high and dry. The legislation introduced by the Government granted relief to the bankers, not to the farmers; yet not one word of condemnation has been uttered by the members of the Country party, who claim to be the farmers’ friends. They are professional milkers, and they have milked the farmers. Mr. Trethowan went on to say-
The past four years have yielded them only hand-to-mouth incomes, and they have absolutely no reserve. Many farmers breed a few sheep and cattle as a side line, and are even having difficulty in keeping them alive.
The members of the Government talk glibly of prosperity. The AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies) recently spoke of the “ wonderful prosperity “ which Australia enjoys, and in his budget speech yesterday the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) said that Australia had turned the corner. He nearly called for three cheers. It would appear, especially after hearing the remarks of Government supporters in regard to the plight of the farmers, that the Government is rather too optimistic.
Not long ago there was an international pact in relation to wheat; the nations agreed that there must be a restriction of wheat production. Owing to the threat of war, the price of wheat to-day is higher than it has been for some time, but a short time ago a restriction of production was decided on at an international conference on wheat. Why did not the Prime Minister mention that fact in his speech to-day? That is the prosperity which is offered to the wheat-farmers. It would be better if the Government were to tell the truth instead of half-truths, which are worse than lies.
The Prime Minister said that in 1929 the proportion of unemployed to the population was 11.1 per cent., that by 1932 the proportion had increased to 29 per cent., dropping to 25 per cent, in the following year and to 20 per cent, in 1934. Yesterday the Assistant Treasurer said that the position had still further improved, the proportion of unemployed to the total population being now about 16 per cent. I do not dispute those figures. The trade unions do not furnish returns showing the number of their unemployed members who have registered for relief or emergency work. Therefore honorable members must consult the census figures in order to arrive at the true position. Those statistics show that 16 in every hundred of the population of Australia are unemployed; but to that figure must be added the number of unemployed members of unions who are receiving sustenance or are engaged on relief and emergency work. The sum of these two sets of figures shows that the unemployment position in New South Wales is just as serious to-day as it was two years ago. [Leave to continue gwen.”] The Govern ment claims credit for the present alleged prosperity of Australia. I point out, however, that unemployment decreased rapidly when a Nationalist Government was deposed by a Labour Government in Queensland, and that similar results followed the advent of Labour governments in Tasmania and Western Australia. I intend to show that a pro rata decrease of unemployment has not taken place in those States where Nationalist governments are in power. The percentages of unemployed in the various States at the 30th June, 1935, were: Queensland, 8.8 per cent.
– Does that figure allow for relief and sustenance work?
– Yes. The figures for the other States were - Western Australia 13.9 per cent., Tasmania 16.4 per cent., Victoria 15 per cent., South Australia 18.9 per cent., and New South Wales 22.7 per cent. In the first three States where Labour Governments are in power the average percentage of unemployed in June, 1935, was 13.03, whilst in the last three States where Nationalist Governments are in power the average was 18.86. The logical conclusion to be drawn from this comparison is that Nationalist Governments should be removed from office, and that Labour should be given a chance to control all the States and also the Commonwealth. Credit has been taken by this Government for the alleged prosperous conditions, which it is claimed now prevail in Australia. The right honorable the Prime Minister says “ We did it ; “ the Attorney-General says “ I am one of those who gave assistance in bringing about this prosperity”; and the Treasurer says, in effect, that the Government has laid down such a policy that every step in the implementing of it is a step towards the rehabilitation of industry generally. However, the figures which I have quoted cannot be ignored; it is clear from them that a Labour Government should be put in power in every State and in the Commonwealth Parliament to deal with this problem.
I draw attention to the serious position that is facing this country as a result of the displacement of adult labour by child labour. This Government has given opportunities for instruments under its control to be utilized to enable adults to be displaced by juniors. That process is in operation through the Arbitration Court. In the metal industries, for instance, girls and boys are now engaged on work on which men were previously employed. The figures quoted in support of the Government’s allegations of increased employment in secondary industry are correct in one sense, but children instead of adults are being given the employment available in the factories. During the last three and a half years the increase of children employed in industry has been very striking and the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) gloats over it.- ‘ It is true that there are now more persons working in factories in Australia, but they are children, not adults, and the Government boasts of this state of affairs ! Certain industries are allowed junior labour, but when the juniors reach the. age of 21 years they are booted out. Then more children, at the age of fourteen and a. half years, secure a “-permit for employment as children until they reach the age of sixteen years. From sixteen years until they reach the age of 21, they are employed as junior labour. At the latter age they are thrown out. I am not .claiming that the Lyons Government created this problem. However, I point out that to-day the unions are trying in every direction to overcome this difficulty. Something must be done by this Government, or any government which may be in power, to deal with the child labour problem. As a result of the employment of juniors, a father often finds himself in the unhappy position that his boy, after displacing him in industry, asks, “Who is keeping the house? I am.” There is a moral responsibility resting on every honorable member to see that adults are placed in employment which will enable them to control economically the home life of this country ; otherwise the employment of child labour must have a detrimental effect on the community generally. Debate (on motion by Mr. Fairbairn) adjourned.
Defence Department Tenders - H.M.S. “Sussex” and H.M.A.S. “Australia.”
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) proposed - 1 That’ the House do now adjourn.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill) to the fact that, during the last few months, I have received several requests from the North Australia Rubber Mills Limited, with respect to supplies of rubber boots and other rubber goods to the Defence Department. Invariably, when the Defence Department has called for supplies of rubber boots, this company has submitted tenders which have compared favorably with those submitted by southern firms, but up to the present it has not been able to secure any orders from the department. I hope that the Minister for Defence will give attention to this matter, and see that this Queensland firm, which has pioneered the manufacture of rubber boots, such as are now extensively used by the Defence Department, shall get its fair share of future contracts. Up to the present time, although it has submitted tenders and its prices have been practically the same as quotations from other States, it has not been able to secure orders. This preference shown by the Defence Department foi manufacturers in other States is unfair to the Queensland industry.
– The honorable member’s request is a reasonable one; we want decentralization in industry.
– I agree with the honorable member. It cannot be argued that the North Australia Rubber Mills cannot supply the goods, because the rubber boots manufactured by it are in much demand in the Queensland cane-fields’. Therefore, it should obtain at least that portion of the Defence Department’s requirements of rubber boots which is used in Queensland. Unfortunately, the trade treaty with Japan now permits competition by Japanese manufacturers in the Australian market for rubber goods.
There is one other matter which I desire to bring before the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. During the last three or four months the Post and Telegraph Department has been requested to supply a number of public telephone cabinets in and around the city of Brisbane. Sites have been agreed upon, but, unfortunately, suitable cabinets not being , available, the requests have been held up, in some instances, for two or three months. I understand that these cabinets are manufactured in Melbourne. There is no reason why those required for Brisbane should not be manufactured in that State. At the last Brisbane show held by the Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society a local firm of cabinet-makers had on exhibition two cabinets which were quite suitable for the requirements of the Department. WhenI approached the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in Brisbane and complained of the delay in erecting these cabinets in certain districts, I was informed that those localities would have to wait their turn because cabinets were not available until those which had been ordered had arrived from Victoria. I claim that it is not fair to deprive Brisbane manufacturers of the opportunity to supply these cabinets. I hope that the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral in this House will endeavour to induce the department to see that all telephone cabinets erected in Queensland are manufactured in that State.
Mr.FRANCIS (Moreton) [11.6].- I support the first point raised by the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson), because of the importance of the principle involved. Manufacturer’s in States that are remote from the big centres of population claim that, if tenders are called for the supply of any article, not for a State but for the Commonwealth as a whole, and their tenders are not higher than those of manufacturers who are estableshed in big centres of population, the Commonwealth department concerned is not entitled to take into consideration the fact that greater transport charges -would subsequently be incurred in relation to goods supplied by them. At present manufacturers in States other than Victoria and New South Wales are seriously handicapped in submitting tenders for Commonwealth supplies because of the departmental attitude compelling them to submit lower prices in order that allowance might be made for subsequent freight charges. The principle here advocated was, and I think still is, observed by the Department of Defence. It was the practice of that department to obtain in Western Australia certain textile goods that were manufactured in that
State, if a satisfactory- price was tendered, irrespective of the cost of transport. That is a just principle.
I wholeheartedly endorse the tribute paid by the honorable member for Brisbane to the high quality of the goods produced by the North Australia Rubber Mills Limited, and I hope that the Minister will accede to the request that has been made.
– Newspaper reports published in Melbourne and Sydney this morning, and repeated this afternoon, stated that H.M.S. Sussex left Darwin this morning at 5 o’clock, and that it was to join the British squadron in the Mediterranean. It was presumed that H.M. A.S. Australia would be recalled to Australian waters.
In view of the extreme importance of the position of H.M. A.S. A ustralia in the present crisis, and of the need for allaying the anxiety of those who have husbands, sons, and other relatives on that vessel, I ask the Prime Minister or the Minister for Defence to make a statement in confirmation or denial of this report. .
Question put. The House divided.’ (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. j. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 11
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 September 1935, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1935/19350924_reps_14_147/>.