14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., andread prayers.
– Is the Prime Minister in a position to make a definite statement in connexion with the Italo-Abyssinian dispute, giving particulars of the sanctions to the enforcement of which the Government proposes to be a party?
– by leave - Following upon my statementin the House yesterday, indicating that the Commonwealth Government was prepared to accept in principle the “ arms “ and “ financial “ sanctions, and that this decision is designed to be concurrent with similar decisions by His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom and other governments supporting the League of Nations, I would inform the House that this decision was subsequently notified to the governments of the United Kingdom and all dominions, together with a request for advice at the earliest possible time of their decisions.
The sub-committee of Cabinet referred to yesterday has examined the proposals ill regard to the two sanctions proposed by the League Co-ordination Committee. The Commonwealth Government has decided to implement immediately the “ arms and munitions “ sanction whereby the exportation of arms, munitions and implements of war will be permitted to’ Abyssinia, and prohibited to Italy or Italian possessions. This will be carried out under the Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations 1935, which prohibit the export to all countries of arms, explosives, military and naval stores and implements of war mentioned in the first schedule to those regulations, except with the consent of the Minister for Trade and Customs.
The completed list of the arms and munitions of war involvedhas not yet been received from the League Coordination Committee, but in the meantime the list of prohibitions laid down in the first schedule to the customs regulations will be maintained, in the case of Italy, by the Minister withholding consent for exportation.
As regards the “ financial sanctions “, it is the intention of the Commonwealth Government to introduce, at an early date, legislation to cover the whole matter of loans and credits, by prohibiting the five classes of transactions referred to in my statement of yesterday. The Government is not yet in a position to indicate the actual nature of the proposed legislation, as it has not yet received for its consideration the detailed proposals of the Co-ordination Committee.
– Is the House to understand from the statements made yesterday and to-day that Australia is now irrevocably committed to the adoption of economic sanctions formulated from time to time by the Co-ordination Committee of the League of Nations? Furthermore should the League of Nations decide that naval and military sanctions shall follow as a consequence of the enforcement, or of the necessity to enforce, the economic sanctions, is Australia equally irrevocably committed to such sanctions?
– I think that the Leader of the Opposition will realize from the course that events have taken recently that the Commonwealth of Australia, as a member of the League of Nations, has exercised its right to decide whether it should or should not adopt the sanctions already recommended. As I pointed out yesterday, those sanctions have been adopted in principle. The same right will be exercised in connexion with any further propositions that may be advanced.
– Does the statement that Australia, as a member of the League of Nations, has the option of deciding in each case whether it will apply sanctions which have been adopted generally, imply, for instance, that we might conceivably adopt them with regard to the prohibition of the export of arms, but not of wool, whilst a dominion, such ns Rhodesia, which does not produce wool, might adopt them with regard to wool but not copper? If that be so, is it of any use to adopt sanctions at all?
– The Commonwealth of Australia, like any other member of the League of Nations, will decide for itself how it will give effect to the imposition of sanctions.
– Which one? That is the point.
– As recommendations are made by the League from time to time, so the Government will deal with them. When the legislation is brought down for the imposition of financial sanctions, the position will be fully explained to honorable members.
– Has the Prime Minister any comment to make on the statement appearing in the Sydney Bulletin of the 16th October, to the effect that it is admitted that many British conservatives have misgivings about the policy of the British Government at Geneva, and it is even suggested that all members of the British Cabinet, with the exception of Mr. Anthony Eden, are dubious as to the wisdom of that policy?
– Order ! Questions should not bc based on newspaper statements.
– I have not seen the paragraph to which reference has been made.
– Is it a fact that Australia can fully honour its obligations under the Covenant of the League of Nations by giving effect to only certain sanctions recommended by the Coordination Committee, while not carrying out others ?
– That point does not arise at this stage. What I have endeavoured to convey to the House is that we have accepted in principle the sanctions which have already been decided upon, and that it is for us to decide the method by which they shall be given effect. We have already taken the first step, because we could do so by administration. The next step has to be taken by means of legislation. Only two sanctions are before us at the present time. If others arise, we shall notify the Parliament exactly where we stand regarding them.
– As the recommendations of the Co-ordination Committee of the League of Nations adopted by the Government are made in accordance with article 16 of the Covenant, which states that the decision shall be operative against non-member as well as member nations of the League, will the Prime Minister state whether the decision of the Government involves Australia in, not only the restriction of its own trade with Italy, but also the use of its own forces to prevent others from trading with Italy?
– When the legislation to which I have referred is brought before the House, a full explanation of the position will be made.
– In view of the frequently reiterated policy of the Government to give effect, where possible, to the decisions of the British Government, so far as they affect Australia, and in view, also, of the determination expressed by the British Government to expedite an appeal to the people in connexion with the ItaloAbyssinian invasion., will the right honorable gentleman consider expediting an early appeal to the people of Australia on the Government’s policy in this respect.
– I am afraid that the honorable member has raised one question upon which I am not prepared to follow Great Britain.
– Will the Minister for Commerce state whether, in connexion with the proposals designed to secure a home-consumption price for wheat, safeguards have been formulated in relation to the poultry-farming industry ?
– The plans submitted by the Commonwealth, and adopted by the various State governments recently, contain provisions for the exemption of wheat for both stock and poultry feed.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether an appointment has been made to the vacancy on the Commonwealth Bank Board, which occurred on or about the 10th October last?
– An appointment has not yet been-made; but I hope to be able to announce one shortly.
– Is the Treasurer aware that, consequent upon the appreciable reduction of the liquid resources of the Australian banks, a considerable number of private business enterprises have experienced difficulty in obtaining the necessary accommodation to embark upon developmental undertakings that would be likely to provide employment? Can the honorable gentleman give to the House the assurance that this stringency is in no way due to an over-cautious or a screwing-down policy on the part of the Commonwealth Bank and the Commonwealth Treasury?
– I am convinced that any alleged stringency is not due to what the honorable member describes as a screwing-down process on the part of the Commonwealth Bank. I am not aware that there has been any sensible withholding of advances from legitimate private enterprise.
– Will the Minister in Charge of War Service Homes state whether it is a fact that the department has decided, to grant no new loans under the War Service Homes Act?
– It is not a fact that the War Service Homes Commission has ceased to make advances. Last year, 111 applications were approved, absorbing a total of about £75,000. Additional provision has been made in this year’s Estimates for the same purpose. I remind the honorable member, however, that applications have to be dealt with in the’ order in which they are received, the amount available being insufficient to cover all that are lodged. On the other hand, a considerable number of reverted homes are available to applicants at prices that compare more than favorably with the present cost of erecting new homes.
– They are the homes that you “ pinched “ from returned soldiers.
– I take exception to that remark, and ask that the honorable member be made to withdraw it, and apologize to me personally.
I did not hear the interjection of the honorable member.
– The remark which the honorable member made was that the reverted homes to which I referred are those which I “ pinched “ from the returned soldiers.
– I was referring to the department.
– Order ! The honorable member was distinctly out of order if he made the remark attributed to him, and he must withdraw it.
– I withdraw the remark.
– In view of the acute shortage and difficulty of providing suitable homes for women in the Northern Territory, will the Minister for War Service Homes waive the regulations in order to give priority to Northern Territory applicants for these homes?
– It would be invidious to grant preference in this matter to applicants in any particular part of the Commonwealth, but if the honorable member has specific cases in mind, which would justify careful consideration and investigation, I should like him to submit them to me.
Effect of Election on Ottawa Agreement.
– In view of the answer which the Minister for Trade and Customs made to a question that I asked yesterday, will the honorable gentleman comment on the cable message published in last night’s Sydney Sun, that “it has been arranged to hold an imperial conference in London in 1936. Whitehall regards it as inevitable that the new Canadian Prime Minister will seek an extensive overhaul of the Ottawa agreement. British authorities desire preliminary intergovernmental discussions that will enable them adequately to prepare the way for the conference?” Further, will the Minister treat this matter seriously, in view of the election pledges of freetrade and lower tariffs made by the new Canadian Prime Minister?
– I have not seen the cablegram; but, as the main provisions of the Ottawa agreement expire in 1937, and it has been forecast that an imperial conference will be held in 1936, no doubt the renewal of the agreement will be discussed next year. That, however, is a matter which the Government has not yet considered, so I am unable to make any comment on the reported utterances of the new Prime Minister of Canada.
– When the Australian Antarctic Territory Acceptance Act was passed in 1933, did the Commonwealth Government undertake any obligations in regard to the policing of the whaling industry in Antarctic and adjacent seas? Press reports have been published to the effect that another nation has entered the trade this year.
– A bill ‘dealing with the whaling industry is shortly to be introduced in the Senate. If the honorable member desires further information he should place his question on the noticepaper.
– Has the Minister for Defence seen the press report that a conference of experts has decided that DH86 aeroplanes are airworthy, and that the Bass Strait air mail service will be resumed on the 4th November? Can the Minister say if this report is correct ?
– I have seen the report, but I have had no advice from the department confirming it.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs yet evolved a formula to prevent the unfair competition in the grocery trade because of the advantage the chain-stores and others enjoy through being able to purchase sugar at a reduced price?
– I have heard deputations from both sides, and the proposals put forward are .being considered by the Government in the light of the legislation that will be brought down shortly for the renewal of the sugar agreement.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Customs state when the House will have an opportunity to discuss the sugar agreement?
– I intimated, I think last week, that legislation would be introduced shortly. If the House can dispose of certain other important business an opportunity may be afforded in about three weeks.
– Can the Minister confirm the press report that the Manchester Chamber of Commerce intends to send a mission to Australia in January next to discuss trade matters?
– The Government has received no official information from
Manchester. All I know about the matter is that a cable has been received from the High Commissioner, Mr. Bruce, intimating that he has seen a report in the British press to the effect that the delegation will visit Australia.
– When will the Royal Commission on the Monetary and Banking Systems commence its sittings?
– Some time will elapse before it will meet to take evidence, but I am informed by the Treasurer that it will meet a fortnight “hence to plan out its campaign.
– Can the Prime Minister state whether the sittings of the commission will be held in camera or in public ?
– I understand that the inquiry will be conducted in public, but the control of the commission’s affairs will be in the hands of the commission: There may be occasions when it will be necessary to take evidence in camera, but that is a matter which the commission will decide for itself.
– Will the Minister for Commerce state whether his department has considered the representations made by him, and also by his predecessor, regarding amendments of the Navigation and Workmen’s Compensation Acts, and, if not, when are they likely to be dealt with? Further, will the Minister allow the maritime organizations to consult with his officers when the matter is under discussion ?
– Numerous suggested amendments of the Navigation Act are receiving the earnest consideration of the Government. The suggestion of the honorable member will also receive attention.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for the Interior to the following statement attributed to Sir Herbert
Gepp and published in the Melbourne Herald of the 16th October : -
There are many small shows now on the fields of a diameter of 25 miles where groups of two to four men can contribute towards the production of 150 tons of ore weekly. You need only a field 20 miles square and on the 400 square miles you could settle 50 to 100 families. The Government could put a small battery bang in the centre of it so that the longest haulage would be only ten miles.
In view of the fact that I have continually urged the adoption of such a policy, will the Minister invoke the aid of the Commonwealth Research Department in order to place gold mining on a proper industrial basis for the purpose of solving our unemployment problem?
– I ha ve seen the statement reported to have been made by Sir Herbert Gepp, but his opinion that it is a poor man’s field is rather at variance with that expressed by Dr. Woolnough who considers it more of a proposition for syndicates. I have watched carefully the position at Tennants Creek to see whether the batteries at present in use can keep pace with the development of the field and have found that the position will soon be very satisfactory. The capacity of the battery established towards the end of last year has been doubled, and a cyanide plant is being installed. A crushing plant which was put in early this year is also being duplicated, and a cyanide plant installed. Three additional batteries will shortly be working in that area, and the charge for crushing is being reduced substantially. As adequate provision for crushing the ore appears to be in sight, the installation of a government battery is regarded as unnecessary.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce if the department under his control has any knowledge of the reported treaty between Germany and Denmark under which Germany undertakes to import increased quantities of Danish butter in return for purchases by Denmark of manufactured German goods? Does the- department consider that this will reduce the quantity of Danish butter sold on the British market and thereby increase its capacity to absorb Australian butter, or that it will merely result in Denmark being able to enlarge its dairying industry?
– The Department of Commerce has not received details of the reported treaty between Germany and Denmark, but any arrangement ensuring an increased consumption of Danish butter in Germany must be of advantage to Australian and New Zealand butter producers selling in the British market.
The following papers were presented : -
Norfolk Island Act -
Ordinances of 1935 -
No.6 - Timber Licences (No. 2).
No. 7 - Education.
No. 8 - Administration.
No. 9 - Gun Licence (No. 2).
No. 10 - Advisory Council.
No. 11 - Printers and Newspapers.
No. 12 - Advisory Council (No. 2).
No. 13 - Administration (No. 2).
No. 14 - Advisory Council (No. 3).
Advisory Council Ordinances - Elections Regulations.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That the proceedings in committee on the Supplementary Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill, 1933-34, which lapsed on the 10th April, 1935, be resumed, and that the House at the next sitting resolve -itself into a committee of the whole for the further consideration of the bill.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of the bill is to correct an error in the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1930, in respect to certain by-laws which were continued in force by that act. Under the provisions of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1924-1929, the Federal Capital Commission had power to make by-laws and had exercised this power in certain directions. After the abolition of the commission it was necessary to provide that these by-laws should remain in force, and a section was included in the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1930, which provided that the by-laws shown in the schedule to the act should continue in force subject to certain amendments of a consequential nature which were indicated in the schedule. In printing the schedule, however, an error was made in the setting out, and the schedule purports to make certain amendments in the Accommodation by-laws, which, as a matter of fact, it was intended should have been made to the Protection of Lands by-laws. The present bill is to correct this error and to make one or two slight amendments of a purely formal and verbal character with respect to the other by-laws mentioned in the schedule to the act of 1930. These verbal amendments are consequential upon the administration of the bylaws by a Minister instead of by a corporate body, the Federal Capital Commission.
.- It is not the intention of the Opposition to oppose this bill, but there are certain anomalies in connexion with the administration of the Federal Capital Territory to which I wish to direct the attention of the House. This is the fifth occasion on which the principal act has been amended, and although the object of this measure may be to correct the position in respect of certain by-laws, we should remember that there are few persons in the Federal Capital Territory who understand the hundreds of by-laws, regulations and ordinances at present in operation. In introducing this bill the Minister said that the proposed amendments were but slight, and were proposed in order to make the principal act a little more intelligible. Recently I endeavoured to secure a copy of the regulations, ordinances and by-laws relating to the Territory for the Seat of Government, and was informed by the officers of the administration branch that it would take a week to hunt them all up. I urge the Government to go ahead with the consolidation of these enactments in order that the officials of the administration staff of the Department of the Interior might know exactly what they mean, and be able to interpret them intelligibly. Many of the people who assisted to build up this city are living under disgraceful conditions which reflect no credit upon this city or the Government. Recently we have been informed that a challenge has been issued to the Minister for Health by a medical practitioner of Canberra in connexion with the malnutrition of children in the Federal Capital Territory. I suggest that the Minister might look into these things.
.- I should like to know how far the Government has proceeded in connexion with its proposals for apprenticeship and compensation in respect of employees in the Federal Capital Territory. Deputations have already waited upon the Minister, and interested parties are anxious to know whether finality has yet been reached in respect of these matters.
.- The Territory for the Seat of Government has now been established sufficiently long for some consideration to be given to the claims of the residents to a voice in the administration of the Federal Capital.
– The question as to whether residents of the Federal Capital should have a vote is not relevant to the bill now before the House.
– In that case, I have nothing more to say.
– in reply - It is quite true that it is difficult to follow legislation and by-laws connected with that legislation when one has to search through the principal act and various amendments made at different dates. T shall bring the remarks of the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) under the notice of the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies), whose province it is to deal with the question of the consolidation of legislation.
In reply to the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) an apprenticeship ordinance has been drafted, and will be promulgated very shortly.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to giant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum for invalid and old-age pensions.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Casey and Mr. Paterson do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey, and read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to appropriate . £12,000,000 from the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the payment of invalid and old-age pensions. It has been customary in the past to seek parliamentary approval for the periodical appropriation of £10,000,000 for this purpose, the last appropriation having been madein August, 1934. The amount then provided is now almost exhausted. For some years, £10,000,000 has been sufficient to cover approximately one year’s expenditure, and Parliament has been asked to appropriate this amount each year; but. the annual rate of expenditure now exceeds £12,000,000, the amount included in this year’s budget for this purpose being £12,770,000. For this reason Parliament is now being asked to appropriate £12,000,000 instead of the customary £10,000,000. The total amount appropriated by Parliament for invalid and old-age pensions since the inception of the system has been £171,250,000. The actual expenditure to the 30th September was £168,564.000. The balance of £2,686,000 will be sufficient to meet the claims only to the 30th November next.
The amount being provided by this bill will be paid into the credit of the invalid and old-age pensions account from which the payment of pensions is made. I point out to honorable members, as is usually done when a bill of this description is introduced, that this measure has nothing whatever to do with the rate of pension or the conditions under which pensions are paid.
– As the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has said, this is a purely formal bill to provide for the payment out of Consolidated Revenue into a trust fund of the amount necessary to meet pension claims from time to time. I regret very much that the provisions of our pensions legislation arc such that the amount being provided by this bill is less than the Opposition considers adequate to satisfy the needs, and, indeed, the rightful claims, of our invalid and old-age pensioners; but no step that I or my colleagues can take at the moment can favorably affect that position. Parliament must either pass or reject this bill, and if it rejects it, there will be no ability in the Treasury to meet pension claims from time to time. I can therefore only express regret that the policy of the Government is - and I say it quite frankly - so unjust to our pensioners.
.- I sincerely trust that this will be the last bill of this kind that Parliament will be asked to pass, for I hope that before the need arises for the making of another appropriation of £10,000,000 or £12,000,000 some other method of providing assistance to the old and infirm people of this community will have been devised and put into operation by this Parliament.I hope that we shall have a national insurance scheme in operation before very long. For this reason, I trust that we shall not be asked to pass another bill like this.
.- I do not consider that the amount provided by this bill is sufficient to meet the needs of the case. I have a notice of motion on the business-paper dealing with certain sections of our Pensions Act, which, if agreed to, as I hope it will be, will make the amount now being provided for the payment of pensions insufficient to meet the claims in the current financial year. The Government might even give this as a reason for refusing to agree to my motion. There can be no doubt that undue hardship is being inflicted upon many of our invalid and aged people because of the harsh provisions of our pensions law. I urge the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to give consideration to this aspect of the subject, with the object of increasing the appropriation to meet the just needs of these unfortunate people.
Order! The honorable member may not discuss, on this motion, either the rate of pension or the conditions governing the payment of pensions.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee :
. -Will the’ Treasurer inform me whether the extra. 6d. which was added to the rate of pension some little time ago, is now being paid to pensioners in institutions or to the management of the institution concerned ? I have referred to this matter on other occasions.
– This bill has nothing whatever to do with the rate of pensions or the conditions governing the payment of pensions. The matter referred to by the honorable member does not fall within the scope of the bill, and I should not be in order in discussing it.
.- Many pensioners during their working lives regularly paid money into hospital funds, which was in the nature of an insurance against hardship in their old age. I have in mind, for instance, members of the Miners’ Federation. Some of these people, after their retirement from work, became inmates of hospitals only to discover that 14s. of their pension was taken from them to go towards the cost of their maintenance while in the institution. In the case of those persons who for many years paid regular contributions into hospital funds of one kind and another, it is unjust to deprive them of this 14s.
The money should be paid to the . pensioner and not to the management of the institution; I urge the Treasurer to look into this matter with theobject of doing justice to these old people.
.-I am sure that I should not be in order in continuing to ‘discuss matters of the nature raised by the honorable member. In any event, I could hot attempt to give off-hand an answer to thehonorable member’s proposition. However, if he will inform hie in writing of particular cases of the kind to which he. has referred, I promise that I shall go into those matters.
Bill agreed to and passed throughits remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Message recommending appropriation reported;
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That it is expedient that ah appropriation of revenue be made for thepurpose of a bill for anact to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund sums for the purposes, of financial assistance to the States of the Commonwealth.
Standing Orders suspended: resolution adopted.
Ordered - that Mr. Casey and Mr. Paterson do prepare and bringin a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey, and read a first time.
:- I move- that the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose’ of this bill is to grant financial assistance amounting to £500,000 to the Statesof New South Wales,Victoria, Queensland, South Australiaand Western Australia’, to enablethem to reduce their deficits. Conditions’ during the depression years so reacted- on the finan cial position of the States that until quite recently all the budgets of the State governments of Australia have shown a deficit, but, I am glad to say, a gradually reducing deficit. After experiencing a deficit in one year; the Commonwealth Government has, during each of the last four years, shown a surplus. Honorable members will recall that last year our accumulated excess receipts for the three previous years . amounted to £6,160,000, and that that money was dealt with by placing to a defence trust account an amount of £4,160,000, and by making a non-recurring grant of £2,000,000 to the States to help them . in their budgetary position. As was stated at the time, that amount was specifically a non-recurring grant. At the recent meeting of the Loan Council) the budgetary position of the State governments was discussed at some length, and in order to help’ them the CommonwealthGovernment offered to make a payment of £500,000 out of its excess receipts for the year 1934-35. That proposal was discussed, and all the States, with the exception of Tasmania, agreed to accept their quota of this sum approximately on a population basis.
– Did Tasmania refuse?
-Itwas made a condition ofhis grant thata State accepting , a share of it should, at the same time, take steps to reduce its own deficit, by an amount equivalent to that which it received from the Commonwealth Govern- ment. That condition was accepted readily by all the States except Tasmania. Of its own accord Tasmaniahas declined to participateinthis grant.
– Because it revolted.
– It refused to participate. Since the last meeting of the Loan Council, whichwasheldamonthorso beforethevariousStategovernmentshad preparedtheirbudgetsforthisfinancial year,therehasbeeneffected,byreasonof thisgrant,andforotherreasons,acon- siderableimprovementofthebudgetary position oftheStatesforthecurrent financial year, 1935-36. The latest information made available to this Government shows that the anticipated budgetary position of the respective States for the financial year 1935-36 is as follows: - New South Wales, a deficit of £1,750,000; Victoria, a deficit of £435,000; Queensland, a deficit of £1,162,000; South Australia, a small surplus of £1,000; and Western Australia, a deficit of £56,000. The Government of Tasmania has not yet presented its budget to its Parliament. Thus the estimated total deficits of all the States for 1935-36, excepting Tasmania, is approximately £3,403,000, which averages about 10s. per capita of the States concerned. The actual deficits of these States for 1934-35 totalled £3,811,000, or about lis. 5d. per capita. This is a simple measure. I reiterate that this grant of £500,000 is a nonrecurring payment, and that it arises out of this Government’s fortuitous excess of receipts over expenditure for the last financial year.
– It seems to me that the omission of one State from the schedule will prevent the bill from being in conformity with the resolution just adopted by the committee.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Curtin) adjourned.
Consideration resumed from the 23rd
September (vide page 5S), on motion by
That the first item in the Estimates under Division 1 - the Senate - namely, “ Salaries and Allowances, £7,370,” be agreed to.
.- At the outset I wish to congratulate the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) on the fact that, after having served conscientiously and ably as Assistant Treasurer for two years, lie has been appointed Treasurer of the Commonwealth. The financial statement which he presented to Parliament recently was clear and lucid, and I welcome the manner and form of its presentation.
The budget deals clearly and concisely with the revenue and expenditure controlled by the Commonwealth Government, but it would be of value if this Parliament, when considering it, were also supplied with a conspectus showing the financial position of all the State governments. Parliaments should remember that the taxes which are levied on the community have to be added to taxes already imposed. During its term of office the present Commonwealth Government has had the benefit of steadily rising revenues, which, with the exception of postal receipts, have been the direct result of taxation. That state of affairs has arisen despite the considerable remissions of taxation made in accordance with government policy. Direct taxation last year produced £11,500,000, or £7,100,000 less than for the year ended the 30th June, 1931. But while direct taxation decreased, indirect taxation rose to what I can only describe as the staggering amount of £47,’200,000 compared with £31,750,000 four years previously. Compared with 1931, indirect taxation last year increased by nearly £15,500,000, whilst direct taxation showed a falling off of £7,100,000, a net gain to the Commonwealth of £8,300,000. As the Commonwealth has available to it the whole field of indirect taxation - a class of taxation which increases production costs and the burden on the community irrespective of the individual financial capacity of citizens - we should note that this form of tax has risen from £4 17s. 9d. a head in 1931 to £7 0s. 5d. in the year just ended. That represents a heavy increase of the burden of taxation which the present Government has imposed on the community. I submit that the undue exploitation of the field of indirect taxation is particularly detrimental to persons with small incomes; it imposes a heavy burden on primary industries, and is a potent factor in producing serious inequalities between States. But that is not all. This Parliament cannot afford to disregard the character of the taxation which the States, within their limited field, have been compelled to impose on the same community as that which is taxed by the Commonwealth. When regard is had to the nature and incidence of State taxation as well as of the indirect taxation imposed by the Commonwealth it is clear that the burden of government finance in Australia has weighed more heavily on the poor and near poor than on the more wealthy sections of the people. The governments of
Australia have acted ruthlessly in imposing heavy burdens on the poor, but they, have been loath to impose a reasonable degree of taxation upon the well-to-do. During the financial year ended June, 1930, State taxation yielded £33,800,000. of which a little over £15,000,000 was derived from income and dividend taxation, a class of taxation which is fair and reasonable, in that exemptions are allowed to persons with low incomes, the underlying principle being the ability of citizens to pay. In 1934, however, of a total of £34,400,000 collected by the States, income and dividend taxation yielded only £8,700,000, compared with over £15,000,000 four years previously. The total estimated yield from all kinds of State taxation for the year 1934-35 was £34,900,000, of which income and dividend taxation was expected to produce £10,600,000. That considerable reduction from the pre-depression standard in the case of income and dividend taxes has been compensated for by the imposition of an entirely new and different class of taxation, which in some States is known as the unemployment relief tax, and in others as a financial emergency tax. Taxation under those headings yielded more than £9,000,000 in 1934, and the Commonwealth Statistician’s estimate for 1935 is £10,600,000. During the last three years, the yield from those two sources alone has been over £30,000,000, of which a considerable portion represented taxation imposed at a flat rate, irrespective of the graduation of incomes - a form of taxation which previously was regarded as unfair. Last night the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) said that very low incomes were subjected to this tax in South Australia. All States have had to tax incomes less than the basic wage. The class of people concerned is not taxed by the Commonwealth Parliament, except indirectly. The burden of direct taxation, which the States have imposed, is added to by the heavy indirect taxation imposed by the Commonwealth Parliament. Declarations made by me that government finance during the depression has to some extent been made possible by imposing more than a reasonably fair burden on the poorer sections of the community are more than justified. The Prime Minister from time to time has paid tribute to what he considers to be the great services of the banks during the crisis; but I assert that the maintenance of government solvency has been made possible by the great mass of the poor citizens, and not at all by the banks. The poor classes in this country, therefore, have had laid on their backs, not only the losses incidental to reduced earning power, but also the new burden qf carrying on their weakened shoulders the maintenance of government solvency.
One of the features of Commonwealth budgets is the amazing unreliability of the Estimates in respect of revenue. Last year a budget surplus of £13,000 was estimated, but the year ended with a net surplus of £700,000. The actual surplus ran into millions, when it is realized that wheat relief was not provided for in the budget, and that the actual budget surplus was attained after £3,250,000 had been provided for wheatgrowers as a charge against general revenue. This regular incompetence to give even an approximate forecast of the revenue is to be regretted. In the first quarter of the present year, the surplus was considerably more than £1,500,000 due to customs, excise, sales tax and post office revenue being higher than in the corresponding quarter of last year, and considerably higher than the estimate contained in the budget for the current year. In fact, the receipts for the first three months of this year were £900,000 more than for the same period last year.
It appears characteristic of federal Treasurers systematically to estimate revenue on an erroneous basis. I do not say that they do it in order to provide an excuse for not making restorations of pensions and salaries, but it is extraordinary that the budget estimate each year should be so definitely and considerably below the actual realization. If the Commonwealth Parliament were better and more accurately informed regarding what the revenue would be, I very much doubt if supporters of the Government could any longer justify their refusal to restore invalid and old-age pensions to the level at which they should be. The surplus which occurred last year, and the indication of another surplus this year, show most strikingly the Government’s lack of grounds for its refusal to make restorations to pensioners.- If the Government continues to refuse this restoration, it can only be concluded that it holds the view that invalid and old-age pensioner’s are already being paid sufficient pension.
Notwithstanding substantial tariff remissions the healthy position of Commonwealth finances’ has been due to the growth of nearly £5,000,000 in receipts from customs and excise in the last two years. In the same period postal revenue has increased by £1,300,000, despite heavier expenditure amounting to about £50,000. Those figures are evidence that the postal services are costing the community very much more than is necessary.
The faulty character of the Estimates submitted to Parliament a year ago, is indicated by the fact that, instead of customs and excise increasing by £400,000,- the proceeds therefrom actually increased by £3,600,000, and postal revenue showed an increase of more than £800,000, which was £565,000 greater than the estimate. It is not unreasonable that the attention of the Treasurer should be directed to the discrepancies between -the estimates and actual receipts. If Parliament each year were acquainted with wha>t the results of the operations of the ensuing twelve months would be, it could extend social services in directions in which there is a demand for extension! without fear df embarrassing government finance. At present the Government expresses inability to make these extensions, inability even to grant pensions to widows with dependent children. Reasonable provision could be made for the victims of unemployment if the House knew the facts instead of being left completely iri the dark. Parliament is being seriously frustrated’ in its endeavours to maintain the essentia] services of the community, as a result of the apparent inability of the Government to make reliable forecasts of its financial position.
Although- reduction- of sales tax and income; tax receipts were- expected in each of- the two last years,, the actual- reductions fell far short of those estimated-. The total of the estimated reductions in the taxation revenue for 1932-33. and 1933-34 ‘ amounted to £9,-600j000. Primage and other remissions in addition,- it was estimated, would amount to £620,000: Roughly, therefore, more than £10,000,000 less revenue was expected, but the actual receipts in 1934-35 were approximately £77,500,0o0, compared with £71,500,000 in 1931-32. The remissions were more than compensated for by increased volume of business. It is, of course, true that this enormous addition to the revenue has enabled the Government to increase grants to the States generally, and to hypothecate large sums for special purposes including £4,000,000 set aside last year for the purchase of defence equipment. The Commonwealth has derived far greater advantages than the States, but should there be any serious diminution in the value of Australian exports, it is doubtful if the Commonwealth can regard its own financial position as having that stability which the budget speech would suggest.
Last year exports fell in value by more than £10,500,000, and imports increased amazingly by nearly £13,500,000. It is also true that, prior to this movement in overseas trade, the Commonwealth had piled up substantial reserves overseas, but last year’s movement was significant, and it would, appear that the adverse trend already indicated is being continued’, notwithstanding the improved price of wheat.
For the two months July and August, the unfavorable; merchandise balance exceeded £4.000,000’ sterling. The imports hi August were ahead of the figure for the corresponding month of the previous year’ to a much greater extent than were the exports ahead of the figure twelve months previously. After taking into account the value’ of exports of bullion and specie, the total unfavorable balance is reduced to’ £2,185-,q00. The Government cannot disregard the trend in thi? connexion, and, having regard to world conditions,- it is faced with the’ obligation to take strong measures to ensure the maintenance of national solvency.
The interest bill of Over £45,000,000 now approximates that of the year 1924:. although the public debt is nearly £300,000,000 more. .A significant tiling. however, is that the internal interest charge has risen annually in the last three years, and the benefit to the budget by the big conversion loan is becoming less. In the current year, the local debt will cost about £1,000,000 more than in 1932. Of deeper significance is the fact that the net burden of the debt on taxation is much greater than has ever been the case in Australian financial history. This is due to the failure of capital works and business activities, such as railways, land settlement schemes, water and sewerage services, to earn anything like the proportion of interest which was formerly the case.
Furthermore, the more recent expenditure from loan account is admittedly less productive than that of the past. The pressure of the debt on taxation is becoming steadily heavier, and has to be taken into full account before the nation can accept alleged prosperity budgets as being other than a superficial presentation of the actual facts. By piling up difficulties for posterity, we are disguising the evil features of the present position of Australian government finance.
During the whole of the period the Government has spent in office, the aggregate public debt, State and Commonwealth, has been rising at the rate of £30,000,000 a year. Despite the curtailment of the credit market, the loan policy of Australian governments has been unaffected by the depression in that the money which the public, either overseas or at home, have not provided, has been secured by bank credit inflation and treasury-bill accommodation.
– But it is the State governments that have been responsible for the increase.
– Yes, but all the taxation is coming from the same community and if the Commonwealth collects from the taxpayers in Australia £70,000,000 :n revenue each year, there is less available for the States to draw upon. I have pleaded all along that taxation in State and Commonwealth spheres should be coordinated in such a way as to do justice to both interests. As a representative of the great maas of the people-,, I recognize that it is the State governments that have to engage to so large an extent in un- remunerative expenditure such as that on public health, unemployment, police, lunatic asylums, &c.
Recently the Commonwealth Bank has shown a disposition to demand that a proportion of every new loan raised shall be used for the purpose of retiring treasurybills. I submit that the effect of that is bad. It hardens interest rates, withdraws the capital of the community from utilization in various enterprises, and puts a proportion of the resources of the country into storage.
– Does not the honorable member think that the issue of treasury-bills is a bad practice in itself ?
– No. I do not think that it is any worse for the Commonwealth to issue a treasury-bill for £1,000 than to issue a bank note for £1,000. I do not wish to be misunderstood, and I draw a vast distinction between the issue of a bank note for £1,000, and the issue of 1,000 £1 notes. I do not see why a note of hand from ‘the Commonwealth to an Australian bank is not as good -a guarantee of payment for a debt as any other form of acknowledgment that could be given.
Broadly speaking, there is great wisdom in the maintenance of sinking fund payments by Australian governments, even though it involves the continuance of deficits which would not otherwise be necessary. “When I am asked if I favour the issue of treasury-bills, my answer is yes, but I say, also, that contracts entered into by governments for the redemption of debts should be honoured. It is far better to give absolute security for the redemption of principal at a low rate of interest within the capacity of the community to pay, than to make insecure provision for debt redemption at higher interest rates.
– When would the honorable member redeem treasurybills?
– I would not redeem them a<t the present time, because the economic situation is such that it is not advisable. The conditions which warranted our resorting to treasury-bill finance are still with us, and we should not attempt immediately to reverse our policy. I see no occasion just now to make a fresh issue of bills, but that is altogether different from engaging in an undertaking to retire those already issued.
– The only bills being retired are those created during the current twelve months for financing State deficits.
– That may be, but the position would have been otherwise had not the Loan Council resisted the demands of the Commonwealth Bank. The proceedings of the Loan Council are conducted in camera, but if we may take at authoritative statements issued by the Bank of New South Wales-
– The circulars issued by the Bank of New South Wales on this subject are entirely wrong.
– It seems strange that, whenever the Bank of New South Wales issues a circular in condemnation of the Labour party, such circular is invariably regarded as an unfailing source of wisdom; but whenever one contains something with which the Government does not agree, it is, of course, entirely wrong! Surely it is not unreasonable that we should regard the circulars issued by this bank at least as an indication of the banking policy for the time being in contemplation !
– The statements in the circular were founded on hearsay.
– In future the Treasurer can remove all possible causes for doubt regarding the deliberations of the Loan Council by throwing its meetings open to the public.
Certain taxes which this Parliament imposed, ostensibly for the purpose of financing specific services, are now adding enormously to Commonwealth revenue, while the services are not being expanded. One such tax from which the Commonwealth profits to an amazing extent is the impost on petrol. This revenue-producing agent was devised principally to maintain the State expenditure on roads, and to the end of 1934 the amount collected by the Commonwealth was £29,100,000 of which £15,600,000 has been returned to the States, leaving a net gain to the consolidated revenue of the Commonwealth of £13,500,000. In more recent years the
Commonwealth has been collecting about £5,750,000 annually from this source and giving to the States less than £2,250,000. It is therefore, definitely taxing an essential commodity not produced in Australia, for the benefit of consolidated revenue, regardless of the incidence of the tax, and adding to the economic costs incidental to the industrial life of the nation.
– Western Australia benefits by the distribution.
– I am aware of the fact that Western Australia derives an advantage from that class of taxation which other States do not. New South Wales and Victoria in particular pay large amounts by way of petrol tax, and receive far less in return. But without reducing the amount received by Western Australia, the Government could either give very much more to the other States or alter the incidence of the tax.
One point demanding attention, particularly in view of the European situation and the urge on the Australian public to take steps to ensure the adequate defence of this country, is the change of the financial policy which this Government has instituted in regard to taxation. I submit that increased expenditure on every branch of defence, simultaneously with the declining returns from the Commonwealth land tax, is anomalous when rightly considered. If there is any form of wealth that should make a definite contribution towards the adequate defence of Australia, it is assuredly land which is of the greatest commercial value, the owner of which will have most at stake in the event of Australia having to face the risks of war. Strictly speaking, the valuable land in Australia is in the great cities where blocks may range in value from £100 to £1,000 a foot. Owners of such land should be compelled to make a direct contribution towards the defence which the nation provides for it against foreign aggression. To avoid the possible payment of an indemnity to a successful invader, it is quite reasonable that a large percentage of the cost of defence should be made a charge upon capital. Surely capital is subject in a special degree to the hazards of war; and capital which willingly pays large premiums for insurance against fire, flood and even burglary should not be averse to paying a reasonable premium for insurance against foreign conquest. I object to the reductions of the Commonwealth land tax because I feel that, although professedly they have been made in the interests of primary industry, they have in fact been very advantageous to owners of large city properties.
At this juncture, it is not unreasonable to draw attention to certain phases of extravagance which the Government could avoid. I propose to quote two examples which appear to me to be symptomatic of this. First, the Government deserves condemnation for its decision to increase public expenditure unnecessarily by proposing to establish residences ‘ for His Excellency the Governor-General in Melbourne and Sydney. The Seat of Government is in Canberra; and if Melbourne and Sydney are entitled to residences for His Excellency, so too are Perth, Adelaide, Hobart and Brisbane. The restriction to Melbourne and Sydney is unjustified, but this discrimination would not have been necessary if the policy in force during the past few years had been maintained. I know of no services which His Excellency has to do in connexion with the executive government of the Commonwealth that cannot be carried out entirely at the Seat of Government. Therefore, I am compelled to make the statement that the provision of residences at places other than the Federal Capital is for purposes not strictly relevant to the performance of the duties which legally, properly, and constitutionally devolve, upon His Excellency. Without being in any way ungenerous, I believe that the proposals have their origin in the social aspects of His Excellency’s office, and I, speaking for the party I lead, consider that this expenditure, in itself probably not large enough to figure as a considerable factor in producing a deficit, is nevertheless substantial enough to be indicative of avoidable extravagance, and that is putting it very moderately. Worse than that, however, it displays a false conception of the duties of this high office, in its relationship to the people of Australia.
I am strongly opposed to the decision of the Government to transfer the Royal Military College back from Victoria Barracks, Sydney, to Duntroon. When the Labour Government took office in 1929, the expenditure on the Military College, then at Duntroon, amounted to the very large sum of £50,000 a year. Although the number of cadets was then 66, the instructors for their education totalled 98. During the twenty years that the college was at Duntroon, 390 cadets graduated from the full course, and the cost exceeded £1,000,000. That amazing amount was spent to train less than 400 cadets ! Surely no one can justify such a shocking waste of public money, and it is astounding that the Government now proposes to throw public funds away by transferring, at a very large cost, the Military College back to Duntroon, and also to revert, apparently, to the costly system which was in operation until the Labour Government put an end to it.
Attention has been, directed to the decline of the natural increase -of population in Australia. I desire to refer the Government to certain statistics in relation to migration. Movement of population reflects the conditions of a country. If a nation gains by having more arrivals than departures, it is evidence that its economic conditions are attractive ; on the other hand, loss of population proves that its conditions are bad. During the six months ended June, 1935, Australian residents departing permanently totalled 6,602, while persons arriving permanently numbered 5,834, making a net loss of 768. One has to bear in mind that, of the total departures, 5,249 were of British stock, but the number of Britishers entering permanently was only 3,403. Thus the net loss of citizens of the British race in that six months was 1,846. That net loss was reduced to 768 because of the excess of arrivals over departures of 693 Italians, 94 Jugo-Slavs, 32 Maltese, and sundry Poles, Portuguese, &c. The migration statistics disclose that, despite the alleged improvement of the economic conditions of Australia, Britishers are leaving this country in greater numbers than they are arriving here for permanent residence, while the attractiveness of this country has appealed principally to Italians, who presumably wish to avoid the conscription policy of Mussolini.
The budget statement gives consider.able prominence to the improvement of production and employment, and I desire to comment briefly upon that aspect of our position. First, let me say that Commonwealth assistance given to industries has been substantial. During the last three years, Commonwealth expenditure for wheat relief and . similar payments has exceeded £9,600,000. In addition, exchange payments in respect of the overseas debt have aggregated in the same period about £19,000,000. Thus about £28,000,000 has been provided by Commonwealth taxation as support to our exporting industries. There has also to be added tothese direct subventions from taxation, the indirect burdens cast on the people as consumers, which have added enormously to the price which otherwise would have beenthe return to primary producers for their work. For instance, butter, wool and wheat exports in the last three years were valued in sterling as follows : -
Thus it will be seen that in three years currency depreciation has given to butter, wool and wheat exporters nearly £40,000,000 greater value in Australian currency than if the value had been expressed in sterling. The following figures indicate the added cost to the Government of exchange payments intended for the benefit of Australian exporters: -
I do not protest against this policy. On the contrary, I support it. To this form of assistance in the current year is to be added £3,000,000 from loan for debt relief, and from the revenue of all governments another £5,500,000 in exchange payment, apart altogether from what may be done to provide a bounty on wheat. It is clear that taxpayers are heavily burdened for the preservation of primary production. The nation is definitely propping up the assets of its citizens engaged is rural enterprises. In a sentence, a large number of property owners are drawing heavily on the nation in order to assist or maintain their individual solvency,
The secondary and manufacturing industries have also been materially assisted. No one can deny that tariff policy and exchange have contributed powerfully towards the improved efficiency of our manufactures and the stability of Australian secondary industries. There must, however, be recognition of the fact that, basically, private property and the owners of private property have derived the major benefits of this governmental action. I crystallize my views on this subject by submitting -
By this I mean that persons with capital interests and those who are employers of labour or potential employers of labour have been given support to protect their capital, to minimize its losses through all the years of the depression, or increase their profits. I submit, also, that more has been done for the categories of the community I have mentioned than for the workers. Thousands of workers have lost their jobs, their assets have evaporated owing to their inability to meet current charges, their homes have been lost, insurance policies have been surrendered, and the hopes of years of hard work and prudent living have been blasted. In many thousands of cases their families have been denied opportunity for useful development. The yearly output from the primary schools, instead of entering into employment as -a training for manhood and womanhood, has suffered the atrophying effects of enforced idleness.
The Government cited figures showing the increase of the number of employees in factories during the last four years. These show that in 1931 unemployment was 27.4 per cent., and in 1935 it may be put at 17.8 per cent. It has to be borne in mind, however, that the membership of trade unions has shrunk by over 100,000 since 1930. In that year factory employment dealt with 419,000 persons, and the Government claims that in this year we can reasonably expect that 451,000 persons will be employed in factories. It boasts of the increase. I would,, however, point out that the population is now 300,000 more than it was in 1930; that since 1930 approximately 450,000 young persons left school’, while the number of wage-earners who have died or been retired from industry on account of their age equal’s 250,000, so the net increase of those seeking factory employment is 200,000. It is assumed by those who have surveyed the. situation that, roughly, one’ person in every seven in Australia seeks factory employment, and the figures indicate that, whilst there’ has been an increase of factory employment, it has not been sufficient to provide reasonable opportunities for all those whose inherent right isto obtain employment. More must be done if we are to grapple’ with this modern derangement of the labour volume in industry. We cannot ignore the effect which government expenditure has had in providing employment. On the 24th September, when claiming credit for the increase of factory employment, the Prime Minister said that in 1931-32 the “combined’ expenditure- of the Commonwealth and States was £23,000,000, and the amount of road’ grants was £1,812,000. In 1932-33’ the combined expenditure was £25,000,000, and expenditure for road grants £1,922,000. In 1933-34, Commonwealth and State expenditure was £27,000,000, and the amount of road grants was £2,200,000. In 1934-35, the combined expenditure was £33,000,000, and the expenditure for road grants was £2,465,000. Thus, over a period of four years, the combined expenditure by the Commonwealth and States reached £108,000,000, and the total of road grants was £8,300,000. In four years on the Prime Minister’s . own showing, about £116,000,000 of government expenditure has been incurred and, notwithstanding the subventions of all kinds to private industry, also running into many millions of pounds, we are now faced with the certainty that -
It is true that at present, and for some time past, those out of work are, and have been, entitled to what are described as sustenance payments from the States-. The following table prepared by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics, sets out the weekly sustenance rates as at the 1st October, for work and without work, in the various States: -
I ask any honorable member, whether it is conceivable that a married man with one child in New South “Wales can maintain any sort of decency, whether he works or not, on a weekly income of 25s. 8d., or a man with three children on 30s. 9d.? What can this Parliament expect in th6 future of a social order with such a foundation ? Must it not be apparent that these sustenance rates, although better than nothing, are probably in themselves a worse remedy than no payment at all? From the economic view-point, if no payments were made the community would be so provoked to action that the matter could not be treated with the inertia that appears to characterize the outlook of the Government towards the problem of unemployment and, indeed, of employment throughout Australia. It. must be clear that after more than five years of depression, we must face the fact that a new norm has been reached. The volume of unemploy-ment is now so permanently large as to constitute for governments a problem of exceeding gravity. It must also be acknowledged that there is world testimony to the fa.’Ct that the development of the economic order will tend more and more to make labour a superfluous element in the productive processes.
We must face the problem of maintaining consumptive capacity in a society in which the masses are being steadily stripped of their earning ability and power to command a place in industry. In short, the wages fund of society is being steadily lessened while the productive capacity of mankind is continuously rising. The continuance of sustenance rates, such as I have just quoted, must surely imperil the whole conception of living standards which this nation has formed. As things stand, the political structure of Australia concerns the Commonwealth and the States. This is the machinery which, at present, has to be invoked in order to-deal with the problem. When it comes to a question of wheat or meat the Government calls a conference of the States. It has done this in connexion with the construction of roads. It has made agreements with the States for legislative collaboration in a variety of ways, but has not yet asked the States legislatively to co-operate in the tackling of what is the supreme, the major problem of civilization, namely, unemployment. This should be done in the interests of the nation, because the ambitions of the youth of Australia are being frustrated, and they are being: denied all reasonable opportunities for training in citizenship, in industry, and in service to themselves and to the community. Unless we terminate this inertia and its evil consequences - She effects of enforced idleness upon the youth of Australia - we shall reap a crop in the years to come that will menace the wholesocial fabric. The youth, the manhood,, and the women of Australia need a decent chance. It is puerile for the Government to produce masses of statistics which, whatever they seek to prove, cannot disguise the existence of this festering sore,, at the very centre of our economic life.
Other countries are engaged in important research work to deal with the causes of unemployment. As I mentioned a few days ago, the Attorney-General startled Parliament, a year ago when he urged the need, for a probe so that we might deal with the causative basis of this situation. A year is a long time if one is a sustenance worker, or an unemployed youth, or the mother of a family whose breadwinner fails to bringhome each week the wherewithal for the maintenance of her children. A year is too long for a. government,, fresh from the electors with what it described as a complete mandate, to ignore this major matter, which notonly presses severely upon our present,” but also bodes mischief to our future.. I, therefore, move -
That the first item be reduced by fi..
I wish this to be regarded as a direction to the Government to effect an agreement with the States to ensure legislative collaboration in the establishment of a national employment council to deal with unemployment, particularly among the youth of both sexes, and to provide adequate relief and training for those for whom employment is not provided.
.- I support the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), and endorse the arguments he has advanced.
I have very little to say concerning the figures relating to revenue and expenditure presented by the budget, because, so long as governments follow slavishly the present principles governing national finance, and are not prepared to make radical alterations at the very root of the matter, every budget will have somewhat the same colouring, and consequently it is useless to say that the Government should do this, that and the other, and to pillory it on account of certain of its expenditure. This budget is not different from many that I have heard presented. It contains the same jumble of figures; the description of the uncharitablyminded might be “juggling with figures “. The same opportunity is furnished to the Auditor-General to pass severe strictures upon the compilation of government accounts. There is a futile attempt to prove that prosperity is being regained, and that unemployment has decreased.
The table of sustenance payments in the various States, quoted by the Leader of the Opposition, clearly shows the only line upon which the Government intends to tackle the problem of unemployment. It appears to be content with the existing position, because it prates of having solved the problem to the extent disclosed. If the conditions of to-day are to continue, the stage will shortly be reached when no person will be employed at higher rates, except a few highlyskilled artisans. We are told that public economy cannot provide further for a large number of our people. Quite recently a very grave problem confronted New South Wales in regard to the shifting of men to places far distant from where they lived, with’ no greater payment than they received while living with their families in the cities or the larger country towns, where they at least had the advantage of whatever competition existed in regard to the sale and purchase of the necessaries of life. Therefore, the story told by the figures quoted by the Leader of the Opposition is worse than appears at first glance. Apparently, we are proceeding on the principle adopted by Gradgrind, the character depicted by Dickens in Hard Times. I doubt whether the times were much harder for a big section of the population when “Dickens wrote, than they are to-day. The Treasure]- (Mr. Casey) and other Ministers remind me of this gentleman. Having the best of everything, they, apparently, feel a certain degree of satisfaction in the fact that this country is righting itself. They endeavour to prove by statistics that the good Samaritan was a bad economist. We on this side adopt the other view - that if the economy of the nation is such that it will not permit the application of the principles of the good Samaritan, so much the worse for the national economy; it must, be changed. The same attempt is made to justify an increasing burden of . taxes, and there is the same failure on the part of the Government to make any attempt to find the root causes of the economic chaos that affects, not only Australia, but also every other country. Taxpayers’ associations and other organizations which support this Government are consistently “ squealing “ about the evergrowing burden of taxes, yet when they have put to them a proposition calculated to solve the problem, they say : “ That must not be done; you are trespassing upon preserves with which the Government must not interfere “. In 1934, the Auditor-General declared in his report that the Australian governments collected in direct taxes £S2,000,000 per annum, of which £63,000,000 went to meet interest and other debt charges, Federal and State. If the position is not to be rectified. in the only way that is open to us, it is useless for taxpayers’ associations, or any other section of the community, to continue their protests against the everincreasing costs of government. Previous reports by auditors-general have shown that the national debt and the interest burden are continually increasing, and no effective attempt has been made to cheek the drift.
The budget contains the same old propaganda as we have heard on many previous occasions. The Prime Minister’s warning about the danger of adopting unorthodox methods of finance has been repeated by the Treasurer. A similar challenge was issued by the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) when ho was in charge of the finances. The words in the budget, which I consider to be a direct challenge to the Labour party, are -
He deprecated proposals for unorthodox and dangerous experiments in finance, and emphasized the importance of public confidence.
The world is in a sorry state to-day. The fact that, amidst plenty, tens of millions of people are on the verge of destitution and starvation is attributable to the persistent adoption of orthodox financial methods. Before Ministers talk of the dangers of unorthodox practices, they should realize the extent of the trouble that orthodox methods have already brought upon the world. Such childish faith is born of abyssmal ignorance of the fraudulent ramifications of finance. What progress would have been made in the realm of science but for the heroic souk who left the orthodox path ? Unless we are prepared to explore new avenues by which to escape from the chaos, civilization will soon be doomed. No restriction is placed upon experiments in the realms of science, but, when the preserves of the high and mighty lords of finance are threatened, the command is given, “ Thus far and no farther “. No doubt any opinion on the budget expressed on this side of the chamber will be regarded by honorable members opposite as so much political propaganda, and. therefore, I intend to place on record, briefly, the views of a few men, some of whom are still living, whose status in the realms of economics and finance places them far beyond a charge of being propagandists. Von Wangenheim, of the German Monetary Commission of 190S, said -
The battles of the nations (sometimes followed by the battles of the armies) are to-day fought on the financial field of the great credit banks. Such vital processes, which may be decisive of the existence or non- existence of the State ami of the distinctive civilization of its people, ought not to be committed to the dividend interest of private banks.
Nearly a century ago, Proudhon observed -
The banks forge a bolt instead of a key for the gates of the market.
Those words are truer to-day than when they were written. The purchasing power of the people is restricted because of the operations of the banks and other financial institutions. . It is of no use to talk of the purchasing power of the people in terms of money, because bank notes and coins represent less than 3 per cent, of the means by which purchasing power is created. Five years ago, Sir Reginald (McKenna declared that 97 per cent, of the currency of the British people consisted of cheques, whilst bank notes and silver and copper coins represented less than 3 per cent, of it. He also remarked -
Those who control the finance of a country direct the policies of its government, and hold in tlie hollow of their banda the destiny of the people.
That is a statement by an eminent banker, who to-day is the Chairman of the Midland Bank of Great Britain. Unless we take from the banks and financial institutions the key which they now hold, and use it to unlock the means by which the people can be given proper sustenance, it will be useless to talk in this Parliament of any schemes to solve the problem of .unemployment. It is sometimes said that the banks have nothing to do with the credit resources of a country, but are merely the instruments by which those resources are used. Let me again quote Sir Reginald McKenna -
The amount of possible credit is limited by the volume of active wealth available as security. The amount of available credit depends at the present time on the goodwill of the bankers.
Labour has repeatedly made similar assertions, and has been accused of indulging in political propaganda ; but the man who controls the strongest individual financial house in the world declares that the amount of available credit depends solely on the readiness of the banker to release it. When Labour governments are in power in any State, bank credit is restricted. This was seen a few years ago in New South Wales. But when governmental affairs are in the hands of the political party which the banker knows will do nothing to weaken his grip on the financial and economic structure of the country, credit is released to a sufficient extent to enable employment to be provided at sustenance rates. Of course, the “ boss “ will always allow men to return to work at his own terms, and the Government is able to point out that the amount of unemployment has been reduced to the extent that relief work has been undertaken. I fear that the living standards of those now employed will gradually fall until they reach a level midway between the present basic wage and the sustenance rates.
– Does the honorable member suggest the breaking of awards?
– What award rates apply to relief work? An act has been passed in New South Wales, at the instance of the party which the honorable member supports, which provides that the Governor in Council may declare any work a relief work, whether it be a government, semi-government or private undertaking, and the Minister for Industry in that State is the sole judge of the rates to be paid. It is useless for the honorable member for Watson to suggest that men employed on relief . work are paid award rates, and are working under conditions determined by the Arbitration Court, when he knows that many men in his electorate are receiving £2 a week and less, and that some of them have to walk six miles to their job. Men working under such deplorable conditions are being paid with money provided by the Commonwealth Government which is assisting to scrap industrial awards - the only security which the workers have. It is the quintessence of stupidity to suggest that award rates are being paid for relief work. Unfortunately the number of persons, not only in New South Wales, but also in every part of the Commonwealth, receiving award rates is diminishing daily. Mr. H. N. Brailsford, writing in the New Leader, states -
Finance is the real sovereign and arbiter of modern industry. It is the surviving auto cracy of our age. It marks the ebb and flow of trade as the moon governs the tides. It regulates business and rations employment. When it decrees that a slump shall end, it is possible for a well-organized union to defend or even rise its wages. When it restricts credit and destroys a boom the strongest union struggles in vain. We must master this obscure financial power which lords it over the modern world.
It should be unnecessary to quote Mr. Brailsford, or any other eminent authority, because history records that for centuries the workers have been struggling against . tremendous odds, and thatonly when it suits the convenience of financial institutions to create a little industrial buoyancy by releasing credits, is there a slight relaxation of the stringent conditions which harass and hamper industry and force the unfortunate workers further into the mire. I now wish to quote another authority who, even the Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill) will not have the audacity to challenge. Surely the Minister will not question the capacity and intelligence of Professor Soddy, who, in his book Money v. Man, says -
The world cannot permanently be kept inpovcrty by financial restriction of production in peacetime, and allowed only fully to produce for destruction in war.
If the present international dispute develops into a world-wide war. no difficulty will be experienced in providing the necessary finance to conduct it. We are told that we must adhere to orthodox methods, but if the principal nations become involved in war hundreds of millions of pounds will be raised to deluge the world in blood. In 1920, 1921 and 1922 I submitted proposals almost identical with those of Professor Soddy, more particularly in connexion with our national debt. On this subject this authority says -
The State borrowed the capital sum and pays interest on it in the interests of common justice to other holders of money, so that their money shall not be depreciated in value, as it would have been if the State, instead of borrowing, had simply issued the money by the printing press. But the capital sum though not printed has been issued by the banks as book credit with consequences exactly the same as if the State itself had issued the money. So the taxpayers are paying annually over £.100,000,000 a year for no consideration whatever, and this absurdity should first be cleared up.
– Does the honorable member suggest that a similar policy could be adopted in Australia?
– Yes. From time to time members of the Australian Labour party have submitted proposals for the national control of banking in order to remove the enormous burden of debt from the shoulders of the Australian people; but when we have done so we have been told that they involve an inflation of currency which is contrary to the orthodox methods of finance. Professor Soddy deals with the issue of paper currency most effectively, and honorable members opposite should study carefully what he has said on the subject. When the credit of the nation is extended, as it is during war periods, the additional money placed in circulation is used to purchase arms, munitions and food and to pay and equip soldiers. It is useless for honorable members opposite to suggest that a release of credit involves an inflation of currency when the credit made available in the so-called interest of the nation is not regarded as inflation. Dealing with financial reform, Professor Soddy continues -
The real argument here against reform is precisely the same against any reform; that it will in time destroy the basis of the old civilizations founded essentially on poverty as the lot of the majority.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), whose opinions are doubtless reflected in the budget submitted by the Treasurer, wants orthodox methods in the matter of finance; but an analysis of the world’s financial system discloses clearly that reform would in time destroy the basis of the old civilization, founded essentially on poverty as the lot of the majority. Professor Soddy says -
That Avar is the only logical end to the continuation of this system must now be obvious even to the most short-sighted, but those in charge of the national destiny are not short-sighted. They are blind as Nelson was in one eye, capable of seeing only what they wish to see. Their eminence in affairs is due solely to their single-eyed devotion to the ruling passion, the problem of how in these fecund days of science, fast enough to convert the wealth that perishes into debts that endure, and bring in interest. Two-eyed people may well tremble for the future of civilization at their hands.
We may well tremble at the prospect of future generations in the hands of govern ments such as this Government, with its one-eyed devotion to orthodox methods. He continues -
It is most satisfactory to the banker. He creates and destroys the nation’s money as though it were his own. He can make the yard, the pound weight, and the gallon all larger or smaller in consequence. He makes open mock of the law and of failure of the fine gift of science to humanity.
Science has provided the means for those living in a world of plenty to obtain all that they require; but the methods adopted by governments, and the financial institutions which control them, prevent them from obtaining even the bare necessaries of life. The banker, as this writer states, makes the failure complete, and renders useless the great gifts which science has given to humanity. The quotation continues -
Of all the forms of government to which their ignorance has condemned that wretched people, surely democracy in its present form is the silliest and the worst. . . . The view taken in this book is that compromise on this question is not practical any more than it would be on the matter of tampering with the standards of weights and measures. If some people were allowed to concertina these standards to suit themselves, all the others might as well go out of business. So, if some people are to be allowed to issue and destroy money, 9,1 ] the others may as well give up at once; any idea of economic independence or freedom disappears, and people must hire themselves out to those who have this power at the best terms they can. There cannot be two heads in one State, and people have to choose between parliament or the banks.
The Labour party has always opposed the present monetary system,, and one could readily imagine that the foregoing statement was taken from the Labour party’s manifesto. Having quoted these opinions, showing the fallacy of the existing monetary system, I am justified in asking if we are to perpetuate orthodox methods merely because they are advocated by the banks in their own interests,, and to the detriment of the people? After a thorough examination of the methods of American finance, particularly in connexion with American oil interests, Thomas Lawson wrote a book, entitled Frenzied Finance, in which he designates groups of stock exchange operators and bankers as “ the system.” He analyses the position in this way:
The system’s big book says : “ A dollar honestly made makes another for somebody else; but a dollar taken is, two dollars, because it increases our power and diminishes the peoples’.” There must be eternal warfare between the system and the people, for it is the price of the system’s existence that all opportunities for weakening the people are sternly utilized.
So opportunities for weakening the people are utilized by using governments of the calibre of the present Government. The party coffers are kept full, and propaganda is provided to maintain the Government in office, so that it may in servile fashion ensure that no attempt is made to encroach on the preserves of wealth and privilege. If such an attempt is made it is met by squeals against the adoption of principles that are unorthodox. Silvio Gessell, whose works may be obtained in the Parliamentary Library, writes as follows : -
There is even at the present day a general opinion that the rise or fall in the rate of interest is determined by competition among those who lend money. This opinion is wrong. There is no such thing as competition between money lenders. Competition is here an impossibility. If the money offered for loan by the capitalists is withdrawn from existing circulation, the capitalists, by lending this money, only fills the holes they have dug by withdrawing it. Ten, a hundred or a thousand money lenders mean ten, a hundred or a thousand holes dug by these money lenders in the path, which money has to pursue. The greater the amount of money offered, the larger are the holes. Thus, other things being equal, a demand for loan money must always arise exactly equal to the amount of money the capitalist has to lend. Under these circumstances, we can no longer speak of competition capable of influencing the rate of interest.
The banks have proved that. “When the Scullin Government was in office, the then Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) had constantly to remind this Parliament how the banks had failed to keep up to their undertakings, and how, though they had agreed to do things, they had no intention to do them; because they had a monopoly and the power to control credit. Silvio Gessell, dealing with the crisis which swept over the United States of America in 1907., says -
In the celebrated crisis which swept over the United States of America in 1907, it was Morgan who hastened to the rescue of the Government with a loan of 300,000,000 dollars. Where did these dollars come from ? They were urgently needed dollars. Morgan had previously withdrawn them from circulation, and thereby brought his country into trouble. When the slump in stocks had taken place and the differential gains had been pocketed, he generously, out of pure patriotism, offered them to the Government at interest.
Every one knows the juggling that took place during that crisis. These tactics were again and again repeated during and since the war. I quote another opinion, written a long time ago, to show that the principles I am advocating are not new, but as old as the system itself. Right at its commencement there were intelligent people who realized the injustices and evils which must flow from the operation of this system. John Ruskin wrote -
Capital is a root which, does not enter into the vital function till it produces fruit. Capital producing nothing but capital is root producing root, bulb issuing into bulb, never into tulip. The political economy of Europe is the multiplication of bulbs. It never saw noi’ conceived such a thing as a tulip.
That is true of the conditions to-day. We have a capital of £1,200,000,000, representing the national debt which never gets into the vital forces of production, but is simply, as Ruskin says, “bulb issuing into bulb.” Just as a dahlia bulb, buried without a vital shoot, will grow into an enormous mass of bulbs which will never yield a bloom, so the capital of the nation grows, but never produces real wealth. To-day we are carrying the burdens imposed by this system. Only by a managed economy can we solve this problem.; We must apply to the full the forces of science in order to develop and utilize the national resources and wealthproducing powers of this country for the well-being of all its people. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) repeated at Wollongong a few days ago, that the problem of unemployment can be solved only by private enterprise. I say that if it is left to private enterprise, the problem will never be solved. It is futile to ask the banks to issue credits for the production of more wool, wheat, foodstuffs and clothing^ when tens of thousands of people who are in need of these commodities are unable to buy them. The only way in which the problem can be solved is by utilizing the national funds through the Commonwealth Bank; mobilizing and operating the full credit of the country in the nations interest; creating lasting and durable wealth, not immediately consumable wealth, by putting purchasing power into the pockets of the people and so enabling them to buy the products of private enterprise from the factory and the farm.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I join with other honorable members in congratulating the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) upon his promotion, and upon the budget which he has presented. During the four years in which the honorable member has been associated with this Government, no Minister has worked harder and more ‘ conscientiously.
I desire also to congratulate the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) upon taking steps to transfer to Canberra the central staffs of the departments now located in Melbourne. Ever since I have been a member of this House I have advocated the transfer of all departments to Canberra, as I considered that they should function from the Seat of Government, as was originally intended. Unfortunately, delay has taken place in the transfer of staffs to Canberra which has placed the business people of this city in a very unfair position. They were given to understand that when the Seat of Government was transferred to Canberra, the population of this city would expand rapidly, and they expended money in the expectation that the departments would be transferred at an early date. This delay was unfair also to the officials of other departments who were compelled to come to Canberra at the early stages of the transfer. The decision of the Minister will be welcomed by the citizens of this city as the departments to be transferred will add directly and indirectly to the population.
When the works Estimates were before the House, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, in moving an amendment that the amount to be provided be reduced by £1, advocated the standardization of railway gauges throughout Australia. I find myself in complete disagreement with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition on this point. This is not an opportune time to proceed with the standardization project, the completion of which would cost approximately £28,000,000. I do not know what good could possibly come from it. The completion of this work has been urged for reasons of defence. Certainly we have an obligation to protect Australia against any enemy which may attack our shores, but the standardization of railway gauges would not be of much assistance as, in my opinion, the future defence of Australia will have to be undertaken largely from the air, and the object will be to repel the enemy before he reaches the coast. In place of the proposal of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, I suggest that the railway line to Alice Springs should be extended northward to Tennants Creek. That would be a further step towards honouring the agreement entered into between the Commonwealth and the State of South Australia in 1913, when the Northern Territory was taken over from that State, that the railway line would be completed from Adelaide to Port Darwin. The line from Port Darwin has been built southward as far as Birdum. Six years ago the line was carried from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs, a distance of approximately 400 miles, through some of the worst country in Australia, and unless it is extended further north, the money expended upon it will have been wasted. [Quorum formed.]
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of travelling through Central Australia with the Minister for the Interior and several other honorable members. The country from Quorn to within 60 or 70 miles of Alice Springs was desert on which it was practically impossible to run stock; but within about 70 miles of Alice Springs a surprising change was noticeable and good pastoral country was traversed right into
Alice ‘Springs. Persons who travel from Alice Springs to Tennants Creek along the old telegraph line get a false impression of the nature of the country, for that route has been used by travelling stock since the early seventies and is now completely eaten out. We, however, had the advantage of travelling considerable distances on either side of the telegraph route. We went almost to the Western Australian border on one side and fairly close to the Queensland border on the other side ; and I was agreeably surprised by both the pastoral and mineral possibilities of the country that we saw. We visited a number of fine cattle stations. I do not say that all the land in the Northern Territory is good ; some of it is very inferior; but undoubtedly the good country could be put to far better use than at present if railway facilities and a reasonable water supply were provided. The expenditure of between £5,000 and £6,000 on the provision of additional bores would make possible the shortening of the stock routes to such an extent that days of travelling could be saved on every journey. Many bores have been put down in the country through which we travelled, and very few failures were reported. If stock could be got to the railhead in a shorter time than is at present occupied in droving they would reach the markets in a much better condition than is now possible. “While we were in the Territory we visited the station of Mr. Turner. It was a remarkably fine property. Mr. Turner had 100 cattle on the train that brought us back from Alice Springs to Quorn. I have since been furnished with the financial results of the handling of that stock. The 100 cattle brought £906, but the transport and marketing charges totalled £33S. The rail charges were £270 and the selling commission £36. The total costs of a little more than £3 a head is, in my opinion, excessive. The cattle put on the train included many fine beasts, but unfortunately their condition was sadly impaired before they reached the market. On several occasions we saw cattle down in the trucks, and they could be got to their f eet again only by pouring hot water from the engine on them. I was surprised that cattle could be so knocked about by rail travelling. Arrangements should be made for cattle to be transported without the danger of incurring such damage. I suggest .to the Government that the cattle vans should be remodelled to provide a separate compartment for each beast. I have had ari estimate prepared of the cost of dividing the vans into separate compartments, and find that it could be done for about £20 for each truck. The improved prices that the cattle would fetch on the market would be so substantial that the cost of converting the trucks would be met out of the proceeds from the first three or four loads of stock. I sincerely hope that the Government will put this work in band to ensure the cattle being brought to market in a more saleable condition.
In my opinion, the Tennants Creek gold-fields offer very good prospects of successful exploitation. I had some slight experience of mining many years ago, and was able to form an opinion about the fields which was not without a substantial basis of experience. The Tennants Creek goldfieldscould, with a little expenditure, become one of the largest in the world. I understand that the area proclaimed is about 2,100 square miles in extent. We examined a good deal of the work that had already been done on various properties. It is true that the shafts had been sunk to only shallow depths, but, in many places, good gold could be seen. The major difficulties of the area are the absence of water, and the lack of transport. Since our visit, several bores have been sunk, and a good supply of fair quality water has been made available, not only for mining purposes, but also for the people of the town. The population of Tennants Creek has increased during the last two or three years to about 600 but if transport facilities and the water supply were available a very much larger population could be settled there. At the time of our visit, the only water available was at a well 9 miles out of the township, at the old telegraph station. We saw a sorry sight when we went out there, but I believe that the people concerned “ put the worst side to London.” I have no doubt that had I been in their position I should have done the same. The man at the well had a 3-ton lorry, which he used to cart the water from the well. Petrol, incidentally, is 4s. 6d. a gallon at Tennants Creek. Two 100-gallon tanks were on the lorry. There were two wheels at the well, one over the opening, and the other 90 feet away, which was about the depth of the well itself. The buckets were drawn from the well by means of these wheels and a wire rope. Each bucket had a capacity of about 10 to 15 gallons, but the buckets were so old and dilapidated that when they reached the top of the well they were’ only about one-third full. Thi3, of course, may have been a put-up show for
– There is now a new tower windmill and an overhead tank at the well.
– I know that the Minister was very sympathetic with the people who appealed to him for additional facilities. At the time of our visit, 40 gallons of water cost 10s. at Tennants Creek; but if the people had been supplied with all the water they needed none would have been left for travelling stock or mining. I urge the Government to expend about £10,000 on boring for water in and about Tennants Creek, and at other suitable places so that the stock routes may be shortened. Such an expenditure would make it possible for from 10,000 to 20,000 men to find employment on the gold-fields there. We saw very rich gold in many places. I brought some samples home with me that, I believe would go about 200 ounces to the ton. I broke stone from reefs that were exposed in several of the mines, and in. almost every instance found good gold. On one alluvial flat, we saw some men dry blowing. There were outcrops to the south and the north. Soil erosion over very many years had left gold exposed in many places. We saw men getting good gold with very primitive homemade apparatus - they had cut out the wood and wound rubber round it to give the necessary air pressure. One pound of gold, which we saw on an enamel plate nearby, had been gained that day. I am not suggesting that that quantity is secured there each day. If the Government would be prepared to go to the expense of putting down a number of bores to enable the miners to give the field a thorough test, permanent water could be obtained from Anthony’s Lagoon should the field prove successful, and I am sure that it will. Travelling to Arltunga we saw other pioneers working on finds scattered but rich. Obviously, the men in those parts are prepared to go out and work for themselves. Not more than one out of every twenty persons we met asked for any assistance. One or two did make such requests, but, on the whole, these people seemed to be very self-reliant. I noticed a similar attitude on the part of station-owners in that district. On one occasion, the
Minister asked a number of these people if they needed anything, and their reply was something like this : “ Well, no ; but we should like a visit from a surveyor. We do not know whether the well is on our own property or on our neighbour’s property.” When we inquired as to where the neighbour resided, we were told he was 100 miles away. I urge the Minister to have that survey made.
– That survey is now being carried out.
– These people should be given more consideration than has been extended to them in the past. There is a vast tract of useful land in the territory, and we should make the best use of it. I have more than one reason for suggesting that the railway be extended from Alice Springs to Tennants Creek. I am speaking now as a South Australian. Port Augusta is the natural outlet for the products of Central Australia. I am not, at the moment, referring to the top portion of the Northern Territory. Queensland has built a railway to Mount Isa, and I understand that the rail freight from Brisbane to Mount Isa is about £7 a ton. The distance from Mount Isa to Tennants Creek is less than it is from Alice Springs to Tennants Creek.
– I think it . is a little further.
– At any rate, there is not much difference. The rail freight via Oodnadatta to Alice Springs is approximately £15 a ton, and the charge for motor transport from Alice Springs to Tennants Creek increases that cost to £30 a ton. With this high charge settlers in those parts are barely able to make a living. It could be reduced considerably if the existing railway were extended north to Tennants Creek. Should Mount Isa and Tennants Creek be connected by rail, and this is a possibility, South Australia must give up all interest in the Northern Territory or Central Australia. For many years I have advocated the extension of the line from Alice Springs to Tennants Creek, and so long as I remain a member of this House, I shall continue such advocacy. The motor transport unit which is giving useful service in and around Alice Springs could act as a feeder to the railway.
South Australians have a particular interest in Central Australia. Yesterday, honorable members discussed State disabilities. South Australia has suffered much in this respect already, and it should not be asked to suffer any further disabilities. The Commonwealth Government should take this project in hand immediately. I feel it would be well repaid for doing so, whilst at the same time it would be fulfilling the agreement the Commonwealth has entered into with South Australia for the building of the north-south railway. Earlier in my remarks, I pointed out that the line from Darwin had been extended to Birdum. Some honorable members will recall that on a previous occasion, when this Government was allocating a large sum of money to absorb unemployment, I suggested that at least 100 miles of railway should be constructed from Birdum southwards. I did so because I understood that construction material, including rails, sleepers and dog spikes, had already been placed along that route. I held the opinion then, as I do now, that it would have been better had the Government extended that line instead of making available grants to enable men to be employed chipping grass and doing other work from which there could be no real return. Should this Government see its way clear to extend the railway from Alice Springs to Tennants Creek, and from Birdum towards Newcastle Waters, only 75 miles of the north-south line would remain to be built. I urge the Minister to give this proposal serious consideration, and I take this opportunity to remind him that I shall continue to advocate this proposal until the Commonwealth has carried out its agreement with the State of South Australia, So long as I remain in this House, I shall never lose sight of thi? agreement.
Another matter to which I desire to draw attention is the construction of a post office on the main North-road running out from Adelaide about six or eight miles from the city. For some time. T have been urging this work to be carried out. The people in that locality, which has a population of between 12,000 and 20,000, need such facilities badly. At present, there is a postal agency in that area, the nearest post office to it being at Prospect or Walkerville, each of which is about one mile distant. Recently, I accompanied the Postmaster-General on a visit to this place, and when he left, I felt sure that he must have been of the opinion that no other locality in South Australia was more in need of a post office than this district. I hope the Minister will deal with this matter immediately.
I understand that the Estimates last year provided an amount for the construction of a post office in Rundle-street, Adelaide, and that plans for this work have since been prepared. I urge the Minister to see that this is undertaken at the earliest possible date. The existing post office in Rundle-street, which is one of the principal streets of the city, is a disgrace. Furthermore, its limitations greatly restrict the postal officials in their work.
I also bring under the notice of the Minister the unsatisfactory conditions existing at the Prospect Post Office for the payment of pensions. The building itself is situated about 10 feet from the pavement. Here, in one week, 500 old-age and invalid pensioners draw their payments, and in the alternate week, 300 soldiers are paid their pensions. These receive payment at a. window facing west, and totally unprotected in bad weather. I urge that improvements to this building be pushed on as quickly as possible, not only to overcome the difficulty so far as the pensioners are concerned, but also to facilitate the work of officials engaged there.
I hope the suggestions which I have made will be considered immediately by the Ministers. I conclude by congratulating the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) on hi3 budget.
– I support the amendment. When Parliament was opened some time ago, the Government promised that it would not merely dabble with the unemployment problem by providing spasmodic grants to relieve the situation, but would institute a general survey of the whole position, in order to devise sound and scientific methods of tackling the problem. It promised it would appoint a special Minister who would be enabled to devote his whole time to dealing with unemployment, which, it agreed, was the basis of all the economic ills afflicting this country. We have been anxiously awaiting the fulfilment of that promise. Although this Government, in the meantime, has spent more than any of its predecessors in a similar period, unemployment has increased. I am not suggesting that it has not made some effort to deal with the situation, but its efforts up to date have been futile, because it has not attempted to tackle this difficulty in a scientific way. In the Governor-General’s Speech it was stated definitely that the Government was determined to make a scientific attack on unemployment. Since then, we have been told, a special Minister was appointed to deal with this matter. We know that the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) was appointed under-Secretary for Employment, but I am not aware whether he is still in charge of this work. A good deal of mystery surrounded that appointment and the results of it, but I am hoping that when the honorable member returns from his trip abroad he will immediately concentrate upon this work.
– There is no mystery about the fact that he is globe-trotting.
– I give the honorable member for Parramatta credit for his courageous utterances, particularly in regard to the wisdom of reducing the hours of labour. If, on his return, he stands four-square to his statements abroad, where he voted for the 40-hour week, and the Government permits him to tackle this problem scientifically, good results must accrue from his trip. At Geneva he will have met many men who have given almost a lifetime to the study of unemployment and similar problems. I have met some of them. There is a world-wide tendency towards a shorter working week. In Italy a working week of 40 hours, with no reduction of pay, has been in operation for some time. The Italians realize the wisdom of not reducing the pay automatically with the rereduction of the working hours.
The amendment has been moved to-day in order to remind the Government of its promise to tackle- the problem of unemployment, for the budget makes no provision whatever to deal with it along modem lines. Only about £100^000 is to be spent on public works during the present financial year.
– There is also an enormous unexpended balance of amounts voted last year.
– Why did not the Government spend the money that was voted?
– The State governments are responsible for not having spent it.
– The States are more blameworthy in this matter than is the Commonwealth because for several years they have refused to spend moneys granted to them as quickly as they could and should. Had the. budget indicated any intention on the part of the Commonwealth Government to tackle the problem, I should not now be criticizing it.
Whenever the Government is asked to undertake works to relieve unemployment, it replies either that the time is not opportune or that money for the purpose is not available. So long as the Government adheres to orthodox methods, the money will not be available. The people are becoming more and more dissatisfied with the Government because of its unwillingness to depart from the methods which have been followed for many years for raising the credits necessary for carrying on the services.
During the last three years the public debt of Australia has increased by £50,000,000; it is now about £1,200,000,000. In interest alone the Commonwealth pays £50,000,000 a year. At least half of that expenditure could be saved if proper use were made of the Commonwealth Bank. Unfortunately, the Commonwealth Bank Board does not decide its own policy; it merely carries out the policy of the Commonwealth Government. It is forbidden to undertake business which the private banks are willing to accept. The Commonwealth Bank may investigate requests for financial accommodation; but, even if it is satisfied with the security offered and the bona fides of the persons concerned, it does not make advances, but recommends the private banks to undertake the business.
– The Commonwealth Bank does not always follow that course.
– It does not enter into general competition with the private banks. Indeed, it is not the policy of the Government that it should do so. I have here an extract from the Sydney Sun, in which Sir Ernest Riddle, the Chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board, is reported to have said, when addressing a meeting of the Fellows of the Royal Empire Society in October, 1932-
Although the Commonwealth Bank continued to conduct general business, that side of its activities was not pushed. The trading banks had been advised that, if they lodged their reserves with the Commonwealth Bank, they would not be used in competition with the private banks for ordinary business, and that promise, said Mr.Riddle, had been faithfully observed. Moreover, the Commonwealth Bank’s policy was not to take advance business from private banks, even with its own money. When a customer of a private bank asked the Commonwealth Bank for accommodation, the Commonwealth Bank undertook to investigate his position, and if satisfied that he was entitled to the accommodation, the private banks were and are notified and informed by the Commonwealth Bank that, if they were prepared to do the business, the Commonwealth Bank would withdraw from the negotiations. If not, the Commonwealth Bank would make the advances. In nearly every case, said Mr. Riddle, the private banks made the advances.
Of course they did.. The manager of a bank would not be worthy of his position if he did otherwise. I have no complaint against the private banks for accepting the business that is offered to them. My complaint is against the Government, which will not utilize the Commonwealth Bank even to finance its own public services, butprefers to pay £50,000,000 a year to the private banks. If the Governmentmade use of the Commonwealth Bank, as I have suggested, the money expended on public works would be of greater advantage to the community. I make no revolutionary proposal ; I merely ask the Government to utilize the Commonwealth Bank instead of the private banks in these matters. If the £50,000,000 now paid to the private banks each year as interest were expended on public works, the problem of unemployment would soon be solved. Every business man in the community, as well as every primary producer, would reap an advantage from the circulation of £50,000,000 by people who, because they are now out of work, have no money to spend. I realize, of course, that the method which I propose is unorthodox, and is therefore unacceptable to a government whose policy is to make the Commonwealth Bank only a backstop to the private banks. The Commonwealth Bank provides the security against which the private banks lend money. When the present Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) was Treasurer, he placed new bank notes to the value of £15,000,000 in thevaults of the Commonwealth Bank to take the place of gold formerly there, in order that the private banks would have security for the advances they made. His action made it possible for the primary producers of this country to ship their goods overseas at a time when prices were high, and the private banks could not provide the necessary accommodation quickly enough. We are faced with the same problem to-day. A pertinent question, which certainly had motive, addressed this afternoon to the Prime Minister by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) sought information as to whether the Government possessed evidence of the freezing of credit by the banks. In the face of that question from one of its most staunch supporters, surely the Government cannot await the report of the royal commission on bankingon the subject of the release of credits before approaching the Commonwealth Bank with a view to obtaining cheaper funds than now offered for the purpose of the carrying on public works.
The failure of the Government to mention in the . budget its intention to make experiments or to pursue a course which might be described as unorthodox, makes the budget a disappointing document. Ministers evidently vaguely fear any departure from orthodox methods that have guided conservative administrations for many years. I support the contention of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) that nothing worse could happen to Australia than has happened to it in the last five ‘years. By taking what some people might call a risk, the Government could not possibly do more harm or bring about economic disaster comparable with that under which Australia has laboured since 1930. Possibly the Government considers that the depression can be bridged best by the pursuance of a gradual course, but no one will agree that the state of affairs shown in the budget is satisfactory. One instance of budget failure is the lack of provision for a public works programme commensurate with the buoyant condition of government finances. The Postmaster-General’s Department is dismissing men, despite the profitable year it experienced in 1934-35 when the surplus of revenue over expenditure amounted to over £750,000. That such a profit should be made is a credit to the administration of the department, but the fact that its employees are being retrenched can be pleasing to no one. In Victoria between 200 and 300 postal employees have been given notice of dismissal in the last two months. How many of them have already been thrown out of employment I cannot say, nor can I inform the House how many men in this department throughout the Commonwealth have also been given notice of dismissal. I have received the following letter from the Australian Workers Union, seeking my co-operation in efforts to avert the necessity for those dismissals : -
I desire to bring under your notice that a number of men who have’ for the last six months been employed by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in connexion with construction work, such workas conduit laying. &c, are now being dismissed.
I understand that about 200 men, mostly in the metropolitan area, will be affected, many of them members of our union. The men referred to have been employed in the Postal Department, which comes under the control of Mr. Partington, ChiefEngineer; and, as far as I am able to ascertain, the reason given for dispensing with their services is, I believe, due to further money not being available to carry on with without dismissing men.
I am appealing to you, to ask if you would kindly make some inquiries from the Minister as to the possibility of more money being made available for the work mentioned, and thereby avoiding dismissinga number of men.
Thanking you in anticipation,
With kind regards,
In consequence of that appeal I have had interviews with the PostmasterGeneral, the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs, and Postal engineers, but all my pleas ‘that the men affected should be retained in employment have met with the answer that lack of funds prevented the granting of the request. Surely the Government cannot feel satisfaction at the conditions I have shown, especially as the PostmasterGeneral’s Department was so successfully managed last year that a substantial profit was made. My intercessions on behalf of the dismissed employees met with sympathy, but is was pointed out that in 1934 the Melbourne centenary celebrations had required the appointment of additional staff. The flush of business brought by- those celebrations falsely indicated a return to prosperity. I was informed also that the Gippsand floods had also necessitated temporary staff increases.
In addition to the postal employee who have been given notice within the last six weeks, employees of the post office mechanical workshops at South Melbourne have been officially notified of the impending cessation of their employment. On their behalf I interviewed the Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan) and the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs. I received sympathy for the men affected, but little satisfaction. I regard Mr. Brown as a most efficient man, and an excellent head of the Postal Department. He reaps no satisfaction from dismissing men, but he is prepared at all times to carry out governmental policy. The blame for this sorry state of affairs must be ascribed tothe Government, and not to the Postal Director whose position is similar to that of. a bank manager who must at all costs carry out the policy of his employers. In my negotiations with the PostmasterGeneral, I used the argument that many of the men concerned were married returned soldiers who had been in the service for a long time. The reply I received from the Postmaster-iGeneral’s Department notified me that the dismissal of the men concerned had been held up for three weeks pending examination of my statements. It added. that the department would retain in employment the married returned soldiers, but would have to dismiss the single returned soldiers. That differentiation amazes me, and it shows how desperate the Government claims to be to find money. Everyone knows that by force of circumstances returned soldiers to-day are either middleaged or old men. The majority of those who are not married are keeping aged mothers or younger brothers and sisters. It is a commentary on government policy that a prosperous department has to examine the history of its employees in order to discriminate between them in order to discover those whom it can dismiss. A further letter in my possession make an appeal on behalf of all temporary returned soldier employees of the Postmaster-General’s Department. lt was addressed to me by the Returned Sailors and Soldiers’ Imperial League of Australia, Postmaster-General subbranch. That letter, which honorable members may peruse, and which has already been brought to the notice of members of the Government, clearly indicates that the Government has no ground for satisfaction so far as its supervision of the administration of the Postal Department is concerned. That department last year had a greater profit than I have ever known it previously to experience.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– I propose to quote from a publication which has always been a stalwart supporter of the Nationalist Government. The writer of this article, Mr. Critchley Parker, who is editor of the paper, uses language just as strong as, if not stronger than, any I have used to describe modern banking operations. In a leading article, the journal, which is called The Industrial Australian and Mining Standard, states -
At the bottom of all the anxieties and worries of the financial world is the skilful operations of the international money manipulator. He is the financial flea that always seems to escape. However much he extracts by way of blood money from all nations, he is never, it seems, too heavily laden to be able to skip out of harm’s way. He is worse than any wheat, oil, coal, shipping, or other pool operator that makes his millions by effecting a “corner” in any of the world’s necessities. Tor he corners that which alone enables peonies to buy these necessities. It is worthy of note that only in time of war or world-wide disorganization can the manipulator get his opportunity. But history has shown that the internationalists require an opportunity but once during the lifetimes of several genera– tiona. It would greatly simplify the affairs of nations if the governments of those countries affected would go to the root of the trouble now. It would be a good beginning if nations would, among themselves, so adjust their economic relations as to bring about stabilization where currencies are concerned, rather than leave their affairs any longer in the hands of a class who, at best, are men without a country, and whose business it seems to be to live their lives in creating world chaos.
Two or three years ago I stated in this House that a conference had been held in Europe after the war to lay clown a policy of financial deflation for the world, and at the time I was attacked by the then Assistant Treasurer for making statements without foundation. The statement I then made is supported by the writer of this article, who goes on to say -
The money changers of old were turned out of the temple. Those who seek to manipulate the currency for their own profit do so through their newspapers and the bought influence of public men in high places. Such methods call for repressive measures. The choice lies between revolution and the gaoling of certain men who are a menace to the peace and safety of all countries. There can be no question of postponement. Immediate action is imperative.
That article was written by a man who has been a consistent supporter of the present Government, and he severely criticizes the private banking institutions for robbing the people of this country, and of every other country. I urge the Government to be sufficiently patriotic to patronize its own banking institution when it is necessary to raise credit. I now propose to quote statements made by other prominent men who, if they had votes in Australia, would be supporters of the present Government. One of them, Sir Robert Home, discussing the British budget, is reported as follows: -
Sir Robert Home declared that raising the sterling prices of goods was vitally important to enable Britain to realize the budget estimate. He added that it was going to be a very close thing between the survival and the decline of civilization. There was not a moment to lose in taking the necessary action to save industry and the country. As long as they controlled the currency, lie feared no evil consequences of a little inflation at the present juncture.
That is what the members of the Labour party are always asking this Parliament to do, but the Government always fails to act. Mr. Amery, another eminent man. whom the members of this Government would no doubt be prepared to accept as an authority, has stated -
The policy of the Bank of England, which led them to disaster, must be reversed. They must part with the financial position which nearly ruined them to re-create a pre-war financial world.
I remember saying in this House that the interests to which Mr. Amery refers set out to re-create the financial world after the war, and bring it back to . the 1914 level. A conference which met at Brussels laid down a policy for the deflation of wages, prices, &c., but when I made that assertion I was ridiculed by honorable members opposite.
I propose now to put into Hansard a full record of an incident which I do not think has previously been described in detail in this House. Some time ago I saw that the people of Guernsey were giving serious consideration to the unemployment problem in their island. Members of the municipal council were discussing measures for the relief of unemployment, and one councillor suggested that they should look up the records of the municipality and find out, at first hand, what their ancestors had done 100 years ago, when they wished to finance the building of new municipal markets in the parish of St. Peters. The matter is recorded in the Jersey Post, a copy of which was sent to me. Here is the Story -
There was in the parish of St. Peter’s, in the island of Guernsey, great need for a public market. A great number of enterprising citizens organized themselves into a committee and proceeded to raise the necessary money in the usual way.: which was to go to the Governor and secure his assent to the issue of interest-bearing bonds to be sold in Paris or London. When the committee presented their case to Governor de l’Isle Brock, he asked them the following pointed questions: - “ Have we the necessary number of mechanics to build the market-house?” “ Have we the material, the rocks, bricks, lumber, lime and sand, tools and teams, as well as the food supply necessary during the operation?”
To these very pertinent questions the answer caine from the committee that they had. Then the Governor spoke to them as follows: - “Here you tell me that we have within ourselves everything needed to build a market house, yet you desire me to bond you to the bankers in Paris or London for a material which is of no manner of use in the construction of the house. Strange anomaly 1 Is it your intention to build a market-house for hankers? If so, then you are correct in your endeavour to get paid by those bankers, but in such case you should not place.” yourself under bondage to those bankers besides. If those bankers pay you for the house and hold you in bondage also, demanding an annual tribute, they will soon have both the house and the money they paid you. lt will be no relief to say that we make the renters of the market stall pay that tribute to the bankers. The renters will be part of us, and will demand of their customers that tribute in higher price for goods. So we. jointly, will have to pay tribute in perpetuity for au article which, as I said, is not of any use to us. Allow mc. gentlemen, to propose a better plan for building our market-house than by way of money and bondage. Having, as you avow, men and materials among us, all that is necessary to do in the case is to keep account of nach man’s contribution in work or materials, that in future we may balance equitably the expenses of. the building. This can best be done by means of a money which lays no claim to interest nor discounts. Instead of bonds, I will issue 22,000 dollar market-house scrips of different denominations (as money) and with these pay the men and purchase the materials, then make these scrips receivable, as par with the legal tender money of the realm, for the rent of the market-house stalls.”
The committee took the advice of the Governor. The market was built. The rent of the stalls was used to recall the scrip, and. in ten years all had been recalled, and the building stood as a monument to co-operative financing.
A special anniversary was held by the community to celebrate their co-operative success. The Governor, in a speech to the people, pronounced the following impressive tribute: -
Well done, good and faithful servants. While living, you have performed your work with equity, and now, departing you leave no interest-extorting bonds, nor mortgaged home behind, but, instead, you open the portals to a brighter financial era. May the toilers learn wisdom from this example.
Fellow citizens! For the first time in the history of this island you have learned to make your own money. You have built your own market without borrowing one cent, without losing one cent in discount, and without paying one cent in interest. Now, when every one who contributed work or materials has been fully paid, as attested by the return of the scrip, the house is yet ‘ your property. Henceforth, the rent of the same will be appropriated to the expenses of the Government, and hence lessen your taxes.”
Although that occurred 100 years ago, I have no doubt that it would be just as simple to do to-day. Less than three years ago the burgomaster of the town of Wien, in Austria, was confronted with a serious unemployment problem, and with the loss of business in the municipality over which he presided.
– Why was not that experiment tried in Vienna, where conditions are worse than in any other city of Europe?
– I welcome that wise interjection, because it leads me to the point that I desire to make. Like Vienna and its suburbs, Wien was controlled by socialist deputies, who proceeded to set an example in municipal housing and domestic life which was to become the envy of the rest of the world. Even the London Times paid a tribute to them for their excellent work. The burgomaster of Wien asked the deputies to give him permission to tackle the unemployment problem, and to attempt to restore business in his district. He recognized that his activities must be confined to the boundaries of his municipality. In brief, his plan was to issue money, which was designed to become of less and less value the longer it was kept, and, by this means, he reasoned that it would circulate freely and quickly. He limited the issue and put it into circulation. At the end of three months the deputies reviewed the situation. They found that taxes that had long been overdue had been paid in that period, and that business people had recorded a substantial improvement. [Leave to continue given.’] The experiment proved to be a great success. Professor Fisher, of the United States of America, whom we would like to preside over the royal commission to inquire into the monetary and banking systems of Australia, investigated the Austrian experiment, and reported that the only fault he could find with it was that it had not been made nation-wide. So successful, indeed, had this burgomaster been that he was summoned before the Supreme Court and charged with doing something which he had no right to do. The accusation was that he had created money, which was the function only of the nation, and so he was prevented from persisting with his experiment. But he had succeeded in demonstrating how the desperate situation of unemployment could be met.
Previously, the socialists had confined their attention to municipal operations.
– Was that mayor a socialist?
– Yes. Socialists at that time controlled all the municipalities in the environs of Vienna, and, so long as they confined their operations to municipal affairs, they were free to conduct what experiments they wished; but the moment they began to encroach on the sacred preserves of the private banking institutions, they had to go. That was one of the reasons for the subsequent massacre, in which a number of socialists were shot down. While I do not suggest that we in Australia should do anything like they did, I consider that the Government ought to be patriotic enough, by making use of the Commonwealth Bank, to save some of the interest bill of £50.,000,000 a year, and put it towards providing employment for persons without work.
– I was extremely gratified to hear the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) dealing with the Wien experiment, because it happens to be one of the things canvassed by the South Australian press during the past ‘ year. Strangely enough, however, the protagonists of that system in South Australia are not socialists; they are members of the Douglas Credit party. They claim that one of the most outstanding and successful experiments on the lines of the Douglas Credit plan was carried out in that particular municipality near Vienna. In my electorate, close to where I live, is a gentleman from . that very part of Austria, a somewhat distinguished man who, as one of our former enemies, held a high position in the Austrian army during the Great War. I have had opportunities to discuss this matter with him; but I have not been able to gather from my reading or from, conversations with travellers who have passed through Austria any evidence that Austrians have succeeded in bringing a few of the foundation stones from Zion City and establishing them in Austria. Nor am I afraid of these things being accomplished in Australia, or, for that matter, in Alberta, where the Douglas
Credit plan is being tried out on misguided farmers.
I rose particularly to dissect the main points in the speech made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) this afternoon. They were four - namely, taxation, exchange, unemployment, and defence. The honorable gentleman used these words - that the policy of the Government consisted of the taxation of the poor.
What is the policy of the Opposition on this matter of taxation? In this Parliament we have two different governments to consider, one an actuality at present, and the other a possibility in the near future.
– Is this a reflection of the struggle between the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) and the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies).
– The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) is an olive branch with thorns, the only thorny olive branch that I know of, but I think he will have ample scope to employ his ingenuity as a peacemaker inside his own party during the course of the next twelve months, without being concerned with internal trouble in government ranks. There is the possibility of a government being formed by the Opposition. I believe that the Labour party did have a policy in regard to taxation. I have noticed in the press lately, which is my only informant, that the Opposition has seen fit to appoint a subcommittee of members to go into the matter of the policy of the Labour party. I am just a little intrigued to discover whether the speech delivered by the Leader of the Opposition this afternoon was a statement of policy on behalf of his party, or a statement which came as a result of the sort of interregnum which exists amongst the Opposition at present. I confess that I am suspicious that the party has not yet discovered a new orientation, and, indeed, I doubt whether it will find it before next January, because we know well that the policy now formulated by the Opposition may be subject to some interesting alterations if unity occurs within the next few months.
The Leader of the Opposition has charged the Government with taking taxes from the poor; but judging the Labour party by its past policy in the Federal Parliament, and in the State Parliaments, which were included in the references this afternoon, I ask the Leader of the Opposition to demonstrate that it has been anything but one of taxing the poor. What constitutes the chief item in the Labour party’s policy of taxation ? It is the federal tariff and the federal excise. Taxes levied on the food and clothing of the working people, whom the Labour party is elected to represent, provide the bulk of the revenue of a federal Labour government. To cap that, we have only to recall the experiences of the Labour party when last in office in this Parliament. Faced with a desperate situation, it was obliged to impose emergency legislation, and the most severe tax in that connexion was the sales tax. That imposition to-day brings in over £8,000,000 a year to Consolidated Revenue, and a big proportion of it is collected from the incomes of working men and women by taxes on thethings required for themselves and for their children.
– The sales tax can easily be lifted.
– If it is so easy to remove the sales tax, honorable members might reasonably have expected to have heard something in that strain from Opposition speakers this afternoon.
Coupled with the point about the taxation of the poor, we heard another statement by the Leader of the Opposition that the social services were crying out for extension. Where is the great bulk of the money raised by the Federal Parliament distributed ?
– In the payment of interest !
– The budget reveals that there are other big items besides interest. Interest on war and repatriation services amounts to £9,000,000, war pensions absorb £7,500,000, invalid and old-age pensions £12,750,000, and maternity allowances £340,000. I quote these figures merely to show that if it is true that a great deal of the taxation of this country is being levied on the poor - with, I may add, the concurrence of the Labour party - certainly a great proportion of it is also being spent on the poor. The Opposition should note that when referring to the subject of taxation.
The Leader of the Opposition also made mention of the buoyancy of Commonwealth revenue. Perhaps I am one of the “ Doubting Thomases “ on this side of the House because I question the wisdom of retaining, for instance, the sales tax, which is entirely emergency legislation, at its present level. The honorable gentleman was right on the target when he referred to the growing practice of the Federal Government not to disclose the true position of ‘ the finances annually. We should not have occasion to read in the report of the Auditor-General those criticisms directed at the method under which income tax assessments are not sent out until it is too late for the taxes to be included in the revenue figures for that financial year. I do not approve of that system, and I consider that the Government would be well advised to pay heed to the AuditorGeneral’s comment.
Members of the Opposition have dealt at’ length with the burden of interest. Portion of it is due to expenditure on war measures and the remainder to expenditure on works inside the Commonwealth. One of the big items in the expenditure on works, as I understand it, was the extremely high rate of wages which ruled during the years immediately after the Great War. People to-day who complain about the burden of interest in the Commonwealth must recognize that during the ten years following 1918 they received particularly high wages which, in many cases, were paid from loan money, on which interest has now to be found. It stands to reason that the people who were then in comfortable circumstances and to-day may be truly classed as being not well off, must stand up to the taxation necessary in order to meet that interest burden.
– Those high wages were based upon the high cost of living and were of no real advantage to the workers.
– I watched the developments in my own State, and saw men leaving farms where they were getting £3 a week to accept employment at 19s. Id. a day on Government works constructed out of loan money, within a mile of my farm. Later one of these men told me that although he had been twelve months on one job, he had not done a month’s work during the whole of that time. That is the kind of expenditure of which I do not approve.
An examination of the position will disclose that we have been living in a fool’s paradise for the last ten years. We have been carrying out public works at high wages costs with money borrowed at rates of interest which were uneconomical. Therefore, it is no wonder that we now have to pay the penalty. People like myself, who were foolish enough to criticize this kind of expenditure, urging that there was no necessity for the construction of certain public works, such as hospitals, railways and roads in some of our country districts, were not at all popular with our people, who dubbed us drought kings, and pessimists. But things have a habit of finding their level eventually, so, having enjoyed the sunshine of those times, we should not now complain overmuch if the financial sky has become slightly overcast. I do not believe in lavish borrowing for public works. I believe that a country having a borrowing reserve should keep it as a reserve. It should not borrow heavily when prices of commodities and labour costs are at their highest level. That is what we had been doing for some years, with the result that when prices crashed we found that our capacity to borrow had disappeared, and we were faced with a double calamity from which we have not yet completely recovered.
– What is the attitude of the honorable member to the proposal to employ the resources of the Commonwealth Bank?
– I have no illusions about the ability of the banks to get a country out of its difficulties. I am no dreamer. I cannot imagine any state of affairs in which the Commonwealth or any other bank can extract millions of pounds from the air by the creation of so-called credit. If ever it is the misfortune of honorable members opposite to put their banking policy to the test, they will discover that it is impossible to pull millions of pounds out of the sky by any manner of witchcraft. So far as I can see, there is no ground for the suggestion of honorable members opposite that there is something sinister about the money problem. At all events, I am unable to discover it.
– Has the honorable member ever looked for it?
– To the best of my ability I have studied the financial situation carefully without being able to discover where we can get those gold bricks for about 2d. each, which some honorable members talk about so much.
The Leader of the Opposition dealt at some length with the effect of the high exchange rate on the exporting industries of the Commonwealth, and told us that it had enabled our farmers to remain on their holdings. Creditors, he said, had better security for their advances, farmers got better prices for their products, the factory position was strengthened and people with capital were supported. But the burden of his argument was that the budgetary position was distinctly worsened by the maintenance of a high exchange rate owing to the increase of the interest charge on our overseas commitments. All this may be true, but what would have been the revenue position of the Scullin Labour Government, which was in office during the height of the depression, if the exchange rate had not been advanced to £130 10s. ? For two or three years the arbitrary rate fixed by the Commonwealth Bank in consultation with the private trading banks so improved the taxable position of the community that the Government was able to meet all its obligations. Had it been deprived of this support the taxable capacity of the Commonwealth would have disappeared almost to vanishing point, and the federal budget would have disclosed a disastrous deficit. I suggest, therefore, that instead of deploring the effect of the present exchange rate on the budgetary position, honorable members opposite should be pleased that it has been continued.
– I stated definitely that I supported it.
– I do not wish to be unfair to the Leader of the Opposition, but I understood him to criticize the Government for its exchange policy because of the added burden which it imposed on the budget in connexion with overseas interest charges. The improvement in the position of primary producers is also well known. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) stated that at least 2,000 farmers would have been forced off their holdings in “Western Australia in 1930, but for the operation of the exchange rate. In South Australia a thousand wheat-farmers have abandoned their holdings during the last few years; but I feel sure that, had the rate of exchange not been advanced, the number would have been at least doubled. By this means, also, the gold-mining industry has been greatly stimulated. Because of the high rate of exchange, gold is worth about 35s. an ounce above the price with exchange at par. In England, for some considerable time, the price has been consistently over £7 an ounce.
Unemployment was another of the problems discussed at some length by the Leader of the Opposition. All countries, European, American and even Asiatic, are suffering from unemployment. In the United States of America.. so it is reported, there are 16,000,000 persons out of work - more than twice the population of Australia. If the United States of America, with a population of 120,000,000, and some of thi* greatest brains of the white race in its make-up, cannot easily find a solution of this problem, is it a matter for surprise that we are experiencing difficulty in Australia? Up to date no country has found a remedy, unless it be the Island of Guernsey, to which the honorable member for Melbourne Ports referred just now.
-. - Unemployment is rife in Guernsey, also.
– I am afraid that the majority of honorable members in this House are unwilling to tackle the problem from the only practical angle, namely, the effect of the employment of women in industry. It stands to reason that, for every woman employed in what may be regarded as a man’s job, there is a man out of work. I do not agree that, in industry, there should be equal opportunities for men and women. I do not believe that men and women were born equal. Consequently, I do not agree that a woman should be employed in a man’s job. I may be regarded as a conservative, but I am convinced that, in nineteen cases out of twenty, woman’s place is in the home.
– I seem to have heard that before.
– If the honorable member lives long enough, he will hear it again; but probably it will have no effect on him. It is paradoxical that, from time to time, this Parliament should be forced to discuss unemployment, and that the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes),, in his capacity as Minister for Health, should be deluging the press and public of Australia with statements deploring the declining birth rate of our population. If western civilization, as we know it, is to survive, the unemployment of the adult population in all countries must be dealt with; and the remedy, I suggest, lies in the removal of women from those industries for which men are best fitted. Every student of history must be impressed by the similarity of conditions of western civilization with those that prevailed in Rome shortly after the beginning of the Augustine era, and in Greece at an earlier period, when there was much talk about the perplexing problems that confronted the people. Notwithstanding the very serious portents there is still time to apply the remedy. If it is the lot of the Government now in office to tackle this problem in the way I suggest, I hope that it will have the support of honorable members opposite. If, however,, it is their good fortune toconfer this benefit on mankind, I trust that there will be, on this side of the House, sufficient honorable members of a like mind to guarantee the passage of their measures.
Another subject discussed by the Leader of the Opposition was the Government’s defence policy. Despite all that has been said, I am still very much in a fog as to what is the policy of the Labour party on this vexed question. No two statements appear to tally. Some honorable members opposite are proclaimed pacificists, while others have stated, most determinedly, that they believe in the defence of Australia. The Leader of the Opposition this afternoon questioned the wisdom of the expenditure of something over £4,000,000 upon Australian defence during the present financial year. A serious view must be taken of this matter.
– It is tragic.
– The tragedy consists in this, that, having in company with Great Britain relied upon the plighted word and the signatures of certain other powers, we have allowed our defences to reach such a low level as to be incapable of comparison with what they have been within the last 150 years. Judged by the standard of other countries, we have only an apology for a defence system in Australia to-day.
The Leader of the Opposition referred to the cost of re-transferring the Royal Military College to Canberra. Its transfer to Sydney was a tragic move. Honorable members should realize that men cannot be trained for staff work in a big metropolitan city like Sydney.
– The cost of training each cadet at Duntroon was £400.
– If double the number of cadets passed through the college, the cost would be only half what it is to-day.
– The idea of the honorable member is to have the unemployed trained -as soldiers.
– They would be better so engaged than in learning to ‘become bolsheviks lounging idly on the wharves of Sydney, Honorable members must admit the force of the argument that a city like Sydney does not offer a sufficiently large area to train men for the army. They must get out into the country, Too much time is lost between the barracks and the training ground. Further, there are too many distractions for the training of young men such as those who pass through the Royal Military College.
I believe that even the Opposition, if it should happen to be returned to power, would be forced to face the matter of the defence of Australia. I offer a bait that honorable members opposite can accept if they like and use as they like. Time after time I have heard them state that they would be quite prepared to defend this country if it were attacked. I assert that from the military view-point that is a false philosophy. If I had my way, the first line of our defence would be, not at Sydney Heads but at Singapore. The first step taken by the Commonwealth to place the defence of Australia upon a sound footing should be to offer to provide a proportion of the garrison required for that naval base, which is our strongest Buckler against aggression. Linked up with Singapore is Hong Kong, which is generally lost sight of by the people of Australia. In connexion with Australia’s defence, those two points would have a greater bearing upon the result of any active operations that might be undertaken than would any dozen points within the Commonwealth. Even honorable members opposite must agree that, unless there were somewhere in the Pacific, in the vicinity of Australia, a wellprotected base from which the British Navy could operate, the defence of Australia would be difficult indeed. I should be very happy to know the results of the deliberations of the Opposition, to discover exactly the nature of its proposals in the matter of the defence of Australia. I am still more intrigued when I am given to understand that my honorable friend from Batman (Mr. Brennan) is one of the great military authorities who will have much to do with the incubation of the new Labour chicken that is to be known as the defence policy of the Australian Labour party.
The Leader of the Opposition also stated that Australia is not yet out of the wood externally. We agree with him. He also referred to the growing interest burden. In a previous speech I directed attention to that matter, and other honorable members also have laid stress upon it. The pressure of debt upon taxation, according to the honorable gentleman, is greater than it ever was before. He has never uttered a greater truth. He has claimed that we are piling up difficulties for posterity. I am puzzled to know what attitude he has adopted. On the one hand he has criticized the taxation policy of this Government and almost in the same breath has said that social services are crying out for expansion, while on the other hand, he has referred to the growth of the interest burden that is being piled up for posterity. He has given us a very minute tabulation of the ills from which Australia is supposed to be suffering. If he were a physician he would probably argue that the Commonwealth is suffering from every disease, from headache to sciatica in the feet. Yet not one sentence in the whole of his speech contained a reference to the methods that he would employ in order to lift Australia out of its difficulties. I trust that he will be good enough to induce his deputy to enlighten honorable members on this side who are in the dark, on the very important point as to what would be the attitude of the Australian Labour party if it were in office to-day and were faced with the difficulties that confront the Lyons Government.
.- I intend to deal not with the financial side of the Government’s unemployment policy, but with the speech delivered by the Governor-General upon the occasion of the opening of this Parliament on the 23rd October of last year. His Excellency’s advisers then stated that the most urgent and important matter which faced the Government was the relief of the unemployed. Attention was drawn to the improvement that had been witnessed during the preceding two years, and reference was made to the patriotic support that had been given by those who had found themselves caught in the net of the depression. Since 1929 a big section of the people of the Commonwealth has borne most of the sacrifice which has been made on behalf of the nation. Concurrently with a visit by a member of the Royal Family, our own women and children have been in a state of semi-starvation, yet the Government has done nothing to relieve the position in a satisfactory way. The Governments of both the States and the Commonwealth regard the dole as a kind of permanent institution for the relief of those who are without employment.
These unfortunate people look foi” something more from this National Parliament, and they deserve it. If the Commonwealth is not prepared to give it to them, they will take action along the lines adopted by the workers and the poorer classes of other countries.
We are faced to-day with a war between Italy and Abyssinia which threatens to develop into a greater conflict than that which occurred between 1914 and 1918. To whom will governments look to fight such a war but to those whose standard of living is comparatively low? It is from the 84 per cent, of our people who are on the basic wage or less that the army and navy are drawn. Yet in peace time they are expected to face the realities of war during a period of depression; they and their families have to go short in the interests of those who could and should bear the burden of taxation until employment is provided for them. The Government claims to have reduced taxation. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), who has just resumed bis seat, has said that if there were a reduction of taxation private employers would absorb the unemployed. That statement was made over three years ago, after the 1932 elections. Taxation was reduced by £10,000,000, but no increase was made of the dole or the sustenance payments. The Government claims that unemployment has been decreased since its advent to office. If the rate of that decrease is maintained in the future, boys of to-day will be eligible to receive the old-age pension before they are placed in employment. The Government must know, when it makes a pronouncement of policy, where the money is to be found to finance the undertakings chat it proposes to institute. The Speech of the Governor-General contains the following passage : -
My advisers regard with sympathy and con cern 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. Consideration will be directed to three principal matters.
The then Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) was relieved of a measure of responsibility by being made an Assistant Minister. He occupied a seat on the front bench for a time, and answered questions that were put to him. Eventually, however, the United Country party and the United Australia party, which were fighting for the plums of office, effected an alliance, and the honorable member for Parramatta was relegated to one of the back benches. Having lost his portfolio, he could not reply to any questions that were put to him regarding unemployment. He made certain recommendations to the Government, but were they adopted? What has become of him for the last six months? Did he disappear from Australia because his recommendations with regard to the relief of unemployment were not acceptable to the Government? We can hardly imagine the present Ministry being prepared to adopt his suggestion for the establishment of a 40-hour week, although it would help considerably to reduce unemployment. The honorable gentleman advocated that reform at Geneva, and other nations are thinking along those lines, because they realize that the dole cannot be regarded as a permanent means of relieving unemployment. The honorable member for Barker would put youths into the permanent military forces to prevent them from becoming communists, but would he care to try to support a wife and four or five children on the wage now paid in New South Wales?
After a parliamentary recess of six months’ duration, we find that this Government ii. unable to find permanent employment for 300 men and women iu the Federal Capital Territory. According to newspaper reports, children in this territory are suffering from rickets on account of malnutrition. When a government cannot provide for the unemployed in the area which comes directly under its control, the prospects of the unemployed in the States are indeed gloomy. All we get from the Ministry is policies and speeches, but the workless need practical help. There is serious objection to the continuance of the dole system. One of the three important matters to which the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Employment was asked to direct his attention was a complete survey of the unemployment problem in order to determine whether there were any root causes which could be effectively dealt with by direct Commonwealth action, or by concerted action on the part of the Commonwealth and the States. If young people were put into a standing army their parents would at least be relieved’ of the cost of their maintenance.
– Would the honorable member support that action?
– Yes. The Labour party believes in placing young Australians in the army and the navy for home defence, but we should increase the school-leaving age. Instead of training young people for the clerical professions, it would be better for them to serve an apprenticeship in rural schools, as is the practice in Queensland, and then work for approved employers on the land. We should then have a good supply of skilled farm workers, and it would be unnecessary to look overseas for such labour.
The States have suffered because of the loss of fields of taxation which have been encroached upon by the Commonwealth Parliament. Personally, I should abolish the State Parliaments, and allow this National Parliament to take full responsibility for the education of the young. The root cause of unemployment is said to be a lack of funds on the part of the States to enable them to open up the land which they control. Yet if war were declared to-morrow there would be no shortage of money for the housing and feeding of those who are now unemployed. The Government would offer them 6s. a day to induce them to go overseas and fight in another “ war to end war.”
Another task referred to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Employment was the selection and preparation of works that could be carried out by the Commonwealth Government alone. What works were recommended? At Tennants Creek, in the Northern Territory, over 300 men are out of employment, and an excellent opportunity is afforded to provide permanent work. Some of the mines in this locality have ore yields of 2 ounces of gold to the ton. The value of the stone is £S a ton, but the cost of treating it is about £5 a ton, because the Government has failed to provide a battery on this field and the miners cannot have their ore economically treated. The private batteries are already fully engaged, and will not crush stone for private individuals. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) and his predecessor have both urged that additional water supplies should be made available in the territory. Although settlers die of thirst in. Central Australia the Government has failed in its duty to make water available in the territory which it controls. It has not yet made provision for a doctor at Tennants Creek, although the field has been settled for the last three years. A school was established only this year. The Government attempted to prevent the flying doctor from visiting the field on the ground that his machine was not airworthy. Its plain duty was to despatch another aeroplane and ‘to give every possible assistance to a man who was prepared to do a job that the Government was not ready to undertake. I am glad to know that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) and other members of this Parliament recently visited the Northern Territory. Not long ago I received a copy of a resolution carried by the miners at Tennants Creek, and forwarded it to the Prospectors Association of Queensland with a view to inducing the Commonwealth authorities to recognize their responsibilities in regard to the field.
The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) advocated the continuation of the railway from Alice Springs to Tennants Creek, and said that if this line were not built trade would be lost to Adelaide for ever. The shortest route for a railway would be from Dajarra in Queensland to Tennants Creek. This would tap the Barkly Tableland which the Minister said reminded him of the Toowoomba dairying country. It is good grazing country, and its closer settlement would help to reduce unemployment. The holding of that land in large areas and on long leases has proved a disastrous policy. If the Minister is unwilling to establish government batteries at Tennants Creek it could do what was done in Queensland in the case of the Kidston batteries. The private batteries at Kidston closed down, and 100 men were left stranded on the field. The. geologists said that the value of the ore which produced only S dwts. of gold a ton was too low, but the miners said that if the State government installed a battery they would pay a royalty on each ton of ore treated and conduct operations on a co-operative basis. A battery was installed with such satisfactory result* that for the last fifteen years over 100 persons who have remained on the field have earned up to £6 a week or more. The Commonwealth Government should instal the latest type of ‘battery at Tennants Creek, and recover the cost by charging a royalty on the ore treated. The Government could also relieve unemployment by engaging men to search for water for mining and stock purposes. A further paragraph in the Speech reads -
The selection of these works will be a matter for consultation with the States which will be invited to consider such undertakings as the unification of the railway gauges between capital cities, further country water storage, national forestry, housing and the treatment of coal deposits and shale for oil and other commercial products.
It would be interesting to know if the Commonwealth Government has convened a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers to deal with unemployment, and, if so, what decisions were reached. I understand that communications were sent to the State governments, and that Mi*. Stevens, the Premier of New South Wales, submitted a plan involving the expenditure of £6,000,000 or £7,000,000, and that it was of such magnitude that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) fainted. Development of the Northern Territory and the northern portion of Queensland could be facilitated if the Commonwealth Government conferred with the States in the matter of water conservation. Years ago, when I was engaged in droving cattle from the Gulf country, mobs of over 1,200 bullocks were compelled to travel for three days and nights without water, and when a waterhole was reached the whole mob would stampede for a drink. During certain periods of the year, it is almost impossible to travel cattle along certain stock routes owing to the absence of permanent water, but the expenditure of a comparatively small sum of money would provide cattle using stock routes in the Northern Territory mid in the northern portions of Queensland with adequate supplies. If Australian chilled beef is to be marketed successfully, cattle must be brought hi from the outlying areas and depastured for twelve months before being slaughtered, because when driven long distances to the railhead and trucked to market they lose over 100 lb. in weight. As there are 5,000,000 head of cattle in the Cook and Bourke districts, a loss of 100 lb. weight on each beast, which realizes from 20s. to 25s. a head, is a heavy loss to the cattle producer, but it is a greater loss to the nation. When the export of chilled meat from Australia was first undertaken, chilled beef, compared with frozen beef, returned to the grower an additional £3 a head. At present, only 45s. a head is being offered for cattle from the Gulf country, but a grower employing labour cannot produce cattle at that figure. Immediately prices increased as the result of the change from frozen beef to chilled beef, the shipping companies demanded higher freights amounting to half the increased prices.. They were able to impose, this unduly high rate merely because the Commonwealth Government had disposed of the vessels of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers and in doing so destroyed competition. If Australian producers are to dispose of chilled beef at satisfactory prices, provision must be made to bring the cattle nearer to fattening areas adjacent to where they are slaughtered for marketing, and thus enable first-class beef to be placed upon the British market.
Reference is made in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech to a national housing scheme, but the Government has restricted its housing operations to a few war service homes. How many homes has the Commonwealth Government built since it has been in office?
– There were 111 built last year.
– I am referring to homes other than war service homes. In the Governor-General’s Speech reference is made to a general housing scheme as a means to relieve unemployment. No attempt has been made to provide the people with homes at reasonable prices as has been done by the Queensland Government. Under the Queensland scheme a house costing £600 will be built oh the payment of a deposit of £30, and the regular payment of the rental .provides the owner with a free life assurance policy.
– A similar policy is in operation in Western Australia.
– It is not. Under the Queensland scheme the worker for whom the homes are built pays a rental which covers all charges, including repairs, and if after the contract is signed the owner meets with a fatal accident or dies from natural causes, the house becomes the property of his wife, who is not asked to pay an additional penny.
– But the person for whom the house is built contributes towards the fund which makes that possible.
– Occupants of war service homes contribute in the form of rent, interest, and redemption.
– But they have declined to contribute to a widows’ compensation fund.
– In Queensland, the’ purchasers are not compelled to contribute to such a fund. The contract covers the purchase price of the house and provides the owners with a free insurance policy. Overcapitalization of war service homes, due to the fact that land was purchased at inflated values from the supporters of this Government, is largely responsible for the unfortunate position in which the occupiers of war service homes are placed.
– That i3 not correct.
– If the Minister would confer with Queensland Ministers he would see which scheme provides the greatest benefits. In Queensland the purchaser of a house costing about £650 pays only 12s. 6d. a week, and at the end of 25 years he becomes the owner of the property. His instalments provide also premiums on a life assurance policy worth £650, thus giving his family security during the whole period.
No attempt has been made to develop a national forestry scheme in the Federal
Capital Territory. The State forestry scheme of Queensland, which has been in operation for some years, is highly profitable, but no attempt has been made by this Government to increase our forest areas.
A further paragraph states that the Commonwealth will aim at the creation of opportunities for the employment of youths. I read in the paper a few days ago that 1,700 applications were received for twelve or fourteen positions in New Guinea. What a wonderful opportunity for the employment of the youth of this country! Then there is the problem of the boy reaching school-leaving age. What is the position in which such a boy finds ‘ himself ? His parents have made great sacrifices in order to give him an education to take him up to what in Queensland we term the junior standard; but when he has passed that examination no opportunity for employment presents itself. The result is that the two years’ training which he has received to fit him for entry into the commercial, banking, or public services are practically wasted. During that time he might have been profitably engaged in some other avenue. Prior to 1929 the Commonwealth was spending over £30,000 a year in advertising overseas the possibilities of successful migration of suitable people to Australia. Only recently, Lord BadenPowell spoke about sending boys to the dominions. I only hope that those boys do not meet the fate which befell some of the Barnardo boys who came to Australia, and who were often to be found wandering about on the western plains, trudging along with a little water in abillycan, dependent upon the occasional bounty of the man on the land for a bare existence. Many of those boys of fifteen and sixteen years of age joined the army of bagmen, travelling from one end of Australia to the other, eventually to be turned into criminals by the State for some petty theft of food or for having “ jumped “ a train. As a result of this misdemeanour they have been herded with criminals of the worst type. Often, they have been glad to be arrested because at least they would know that food and accommodation would be assured to them for a brief period. Let the Government do something practical to solve the prob-
Iem that confronts the boys of to-day, and not boast about its reduction of taxes imposed on wealthy people. Despite the consequences, let this Parliament say to the States, “ “We are to have a 40-hour week; the school leaving age is to be raised from fourteen to sixteen years.” It should say to the parents of children between the ages of fourteen and sixteen years, “ The State Government or the Commonwealth Government will help you in qualifying your child for employment in which he will be a useful unit of the nation as a producer of wealth. Your child will not be a burden on the nation and after leaving school will not start life on the dole.” I remember recently a gentleman speaking to the unemployed in Brisbane, saying, “First you start on the baby bonus; when you leave school you go upon the dole, and upon the dole you remain until you get the old-age pension. If you allow the present system to continue that is your prospect. I ask you to join with me in changing it.” The people who preach against the curse of communism in this country are often those who do most to foster it. The people of Australia do not want communism; they want employment; but if the Communists can offer them something they will be attracted by the doctrines preached. We have seen recently what happened in Alberta, in Canada, where the Douglas credit candidates were able to sway the people who were in dire straits, because the wheat-farmer could not find a market for his wheat. They were offered something, and they seized it. Similarly the unemployed of this country, if they see the opportunity to get something, will replace the Government if it is not prepared to do something more tangible for them.
– I did not propose to speak at this stage, but some of the remarks of the honorable gentleman who has just resumed his seat prompt me to reply. The honorable gentleman has pictured a position at Tennants Creek, which is not in accord with fact. He has painted Tennants Creek as a place where men cannot get their ore crushed because of the lack of government batteries. When I went to Tennants Creek some fewmonths ago I found the greatest difficulty experienced there was in connexion with the water supply. One government bore had been put down, referred to as No. 1 bore, from which good supplies of fair quality drinking water were available, and excellent supplies for crushing purposes. A battery had been erected by private enterprise and has since been duplicated. I understand that the owner is now putting in a cyanide plant to treat the sands. The Government continued boring operations and three bores were put down more or less unsuccessfully. A fourth bore put down provided a very substantial supply of water which, though unsuitable for drinking, was quite good for other purposes. The honorable member will admit that as a prelude to the establishment of a battery it is first necessary to provide a water supply. The Government made an effort to that end, and, as I have said, put down four bores before it was successful in getting ample supplies. At the beginning of this year a second crushing mill of larger capacity was erected, and that has since been duplicated, and the new section will be put into operation before the end of the year. The owner of that mill is also putting in a cyanide plant. Three other plants are either in course of erection or under contemplation. In a short time, therefore, a considerable number of batteries will be working at Tennants Creek. The initial charge of £2 a ton for crushing was certainly high ; but it must not be forgotten that the machinery had to be transported 300 miles from the railhead, and that the charge was agreed upon by the miners at a meeting held at Tennants Creek, and was considered reasonable at that time. The cost of crushing is now coming down. The owner of one of the new batteries has undertaken to crush for 30s. a ton. Another owner, .1 understand, who is putting in a battery shortly - ;indeed, I am not sure that it is not in course of erection proposes to crush for £1 a ton. Honorable members will, therefore, see that the cost of crushing is getting down to competitive rates. I am satisfied that in the near future a substantial number of batteries will be operating in different parts of this large field, which will provide for the needs of all engaged in. mining operations there. I have given an undertaking that, if private enterprise does not do the joh efficiently ;at a reasonable cost, the Government will reconsider ite present attitude with respect to the prevision of government batteries. I believe, however, that all we can reasonably expect is being done, or will foe done, in tie near future by private enterprise at Tennants Creek, which the honorable .member suggests is being neglected by the Government.
Towards the end of last year, in Tennants Greek there was only one government officer, a policeman who devoted a part of his time to the. needs of Tennants Creek and part to Barrow Creek, and also filled the position of acting mining warden. To-day at Tennants Creek we have a permanent mining warden, and an assayer who will go there as soon as the building in which he is to work is completed. It is of no use to send an assayer to Tennants Creek until he has a place in which to carry out his work. ‘ A somewhat complicated plant has to be assembled, and has to be placed in the building, and the whole of the material has to be carried 300 miles from the railhead, and obviously cannot lae erected as quickly as it could be in more closely settled centres. At Tennants Creek there are now two police officers and a mining warden. An assayer has been appointed, and a medical man, who will go to Tennants Creek as soon as the necessary accommodation can be provided for him. In addition, a nurse and an aid post have -been provided, and the construction of a hospital is under contemplation. A school is being built, and when it is completed a school teacher will be sent there. A sanitary inspector has also been appointed, and is in residence at ‘Tennants Creek. There are, therefore., about eight government officials at the field. Furthermore, six months ago the post office was situated about S miles away from the Tennants -Creek township 3 but it has since been -taken into the township; and in place of the monthly mail service, a weekly mail service has been instituted, the fortnightly train service having been replaced by a weekly service. The Government is doing -all that it can to assist in providing cheaper transport between the railhead and Tennants Greek by means «£ a road unit consisting of three vehicles capable of carrying 15 .tons at a cast considerably lower than transportation by motor truck. All of these improvements have taken place within the last twelve months, and I consider that the Government may well be proud of its achievement.
– But people have been there for over three years without a water supply.
– I am speaking of what has been achieved since I have been hi charge of the department.
The honorable member, in referring to the flying doctor, spoke as though the Government had neglected this gentleman, whereas the fact is .that £1,100 is provided on the Estimates for the upkeep of his aeroplane. The flying doctor provides his own aeroplane, but the Government pays him £200 a year, plus ls. a mile for flying it, the total expenditure under this heading being £1,100, exclusive of salary- The flying doctor is being assisted in every way possible.
The next complaint of the honorable member related to the training of boys from overseas in farm work. It was alleged that employment could not be found for the ‘boys who nad completed their training. I cannot spea’k about the Barnardo boys, to whom the honorable gentleman referred, but recently I had the privilege of visiting the Fairbridge Farm in Western Australia, where many boys are being trained in farm work. There is a demand in Western Australia for ten times the number of boys who leave that institution annually. The Western Australian farmers appreciate’ what is being done at that school.
– Who finances the institution?
– It is subsidized by the Commonwealth Government and is also assisted by charitably disposed people overseas. It is the .finest example that I have seen of 100 per cent, efficiency in migration.
– What about our own boys?
– I remind the honorable member of the work being done on the Scheyville Farm, in New South Wales, which is under the control of the State Government. The objective of the institution is to train the young boys of New South Wales who desire to take up farming pursuits.The Commonwealth Government has recently inquired whether the Government of New South Wales would be agreeable to accept as trainees at the farm Canberra boys who desire to take up farm work.
Still another complaint of the- honorable member related to the activities- of the Government in respect to unemployment. I remind’ him that a very large part of the money voted by the Commonwealth Parliament last year to enable work to- be provided in the States is still unexpended. The State authorities found themselves incapable of spending the immense amount of money which the Commonnwealth Government made available to them.Last year £1,000,000 was voted to the States, much of it on a £1 for £1 basis-
– That is the real difficulty. The State governments cannot find their proportion.
– A good deal of the money was- definitely allocated on a £1 for £1 basis between the Commonwealth and States, the local body providing the balance. This wasdone to assist municipal and other local-governing authorities to put various works in hand ; but a substantial’ part of the £1,000,000 remains unexpended. Unless the rate of expenditure is accelerated, much of the money will remain unexpended at the end of the financial year. The Commonwealth. Government also provided £331,000 to assist afforestation work, and a similar amount to assist metalliferous’ mining operations in the States-. Of these two- amounts, a large proportion remains- unexpended. An amount of £100,000 is being provided in this year’s budget as a contribution to the interest charge on. money borrowed by municipal authorities for water conservation and sewerage works- and other enterprises of a similar kind. One honorable member on the Opposition side of the chamber referred in somewhat contemptuous terms to-day to the in adequacy of this amount;, but I point out that it was provided not for capital expenditure, but for the reduction, of the. interest burden. It would be sufficient to effect a reduction of 1 per cent, in the interest rate on £10,000,000. The Commonwealth Government hoped, that the State governments would provide a similar amount for a like purpose. If that were done, local government authorities, would be able to obtain £20,000,000 at 1 per cent, below the ruling rate of interest.
Mr-.. Barnard. - But from where would the money come?
– It was; expected that the- reduced1 rate’ of interest, which the Commonwealth grant of £100,000 would make possible would- enable local governing authorities to put various projects in hand.
In view of all that I have said, it will be seen, that the charges which members of the Opposition have levelled against the- Government are ill-foundedand, will not stand investigation. The Government is doing everything that could reasonably he expected of it to encourage mining in the Northern. Territory, and it is also doing all that is possible to provide employment for- the people. The figures that I have, mentioned in -that regard speak for themselves.
..- The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson)’ took the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) to task for certain remarks lie made regarding Tennants Creek goldfields. I therefore direct the attention of the Minister to- a letter written by the secretary of the Tennants Creek. Gold Mining Industries Association, a copy of which he has. It was written on the 1st August, 1935 and it sets out- the facts of the situation.
– I have stated the facts.
– The writer of this letter is a man who is acting on behalf of the prospectors at Tennants Creek. The letter reads as follows: -
Knowing that you and your party are ever willing, and anxious to- assist the bottom dog, particularly when that dog is being kicked by the financial interests of this country, I take this opportunity of supplying you with information, in defence of some 700 good Australians, who are ruthlessly being sacrificed on the altar of greed and wealth. My association, representing 98 per cent, of the diggers on this field, have instructed me to appeal to you to place before the House, and the people of Australia, the cruel injustice being meted out to them, by a hostile government in the interests of vested interest.
Tennant gold-field covers an enormous area, over 300 40-acre gold-mining leases being held, plus many other mining propositions, which are going through the stage of prospecting, whilst many would be considered rich in any other part of the Commonwealth, capable of producing huge quantities of stone going up to 1 oz. per ton. We are writing you not with the object of boosting this field, but for the humane reason of forcing the Government to provide facilities that would provide the profitable employment of thousands of men. At the present time the diggers are in the vice-like grip of the monopolists, who own and control the crushing facilities, and like all monopolists are taking far and above their fair share of the fruits of the toilers’ production, they charge £2 and upwards for crushing, and give no consideration for the gold lost in the sands. The latter you will realize is an atrocity that few if any battery owners in Australia would dare to perpetrate.
Stone carrying values of up to 2 oz. received a return of 18 dwts. over the plates, whilst 191/2 dwts. on assay are completely lost to them in the tailings, for which they get no consideration. If a battler wished to put through a parcel of 60 tons, or under, he is further mulcted for an extra £20 on the top of those exorbitant charges, and his huge losses in the tailings. The Minister has been petitioned for crushing and cyanide treatment facilities, which would enable the battling diggers to reap the full harvest of their production, but has turned a deaf ear to all our appeals.
– Two cyanide plants have been provided at Tennants Creek.
– Has the Commonwealth Government provided them ?
– Then that justifies the complaint that these people make. The writer of this letter alleges that the policy of the Government is having the effect of assisting the private companies operating the treatment plants at Tennants Creek to the serious disability and loss of the miners themselves. If that is so, it must be agreed that the charge of the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) was well justified.
– The Commonwealth Government is willing to help any man operating in a small way who desires to install a battery.
– The letter continues -
If any argument is needed in support of the claim, it was supplied by big Sydney interests, who control scores of the best leases here, as well as the crushing plant. They have applied for exemptions here from working conditions on some eighteen of the best leases on this field, which should at the present time, under production, be employing hundreds of miners. The grounds for their application is that if they work their leases they would not be able to crush for the battlers. This is not in the interest of the development of this area and suggests -
1 ) If the exemptions sought for are granted, then eighteen of the best leases are immediately thrown out of production;
If the exemptions are not granted, it means that some hundreds of battling diggers will be denied crushing facilities, which to them means sustenance.
A most invidious position I think you will agree. Could any better argument be produced for the installation of a government battery and cyanide plant? Not one penny has been granted to any miners hero, either in the shape of sustenance or subsidy. Everything possible has been done by the Government to drive men off this field so that their hardly won claims can be greedly appropriated by the big financial interests, who seem to control the policy of the Government.
– That is not correct, either.
– These statements have been made by a resident of Tennants Creek. I direct the attention of the Minister to the following paragraphs in a petition that has been sent to the Government dealing with these various complaints : -
That the present charges by private enterprise of £2 and upwards per ton for crushing are so excessively high as to preclude the economic working of leases carrying stone with gold contents up to 1 oz. per ton.
The cost of cartage and treatment, excluding treatment of tailings, is approximately £4 per ton, when other charges are added to this abnormal sum, such as mining, handling, and water costs, it will readily be seen, that coupled with the loss of gold in the tailing, ranging up to60 per cent, of the total gold contents, that any proposition going 1 oz. or under becomes impossible.
Already crushing ranging from 8 to 15 dwts. have had the disastrous effect of leaving the producer more financially embarrassed after the crushing than before. This has the effect of precluding profitable employment to hundreds of miners on this field.
If the government battery charges were anyway near comparable or even exceeding, say, 100 per cent., the charges made by any State in the Commonwealth, operating or controlling State batteries, then it would immediately open up an avenue for profitable employment for many hundreds of miners.
If the Commonwealth Government refuses to come to the assistance of claim holders on this field the inevitable result will be that hundreds of prospectors will be forced to abandon claims with values ranging from 8 dwts. to 1 oz. Such claim’s will be greedily appropriated by the big interests who are unmercifully squeezing the battling prospector off his lease.
We cannot but help drawing a comparison between the inactivity of the Commonwealth Government in this territory, as compared with that of South Australia, prior to the Acceptance Act. A battery erected at Arltunga, Central Australia, and run by the State government, charged 5s. per ton for crushing-, and 2s.6d. per ton for cyanide treatment. Though the sands from stone treated by private mills here on check assay show gold contents up to 25 dwts. per ton, the producer can get no advantage from them. The largest and most modern plant here gives no consideration to gold contents in the tailings. This undoubtedly means a difference between profitable and unprofitable production.
The petition also directed attention to a -
Public statement by the Minister when visiting this field recently, to the effect that if the privately-owned mills were not giving producers a “ fair spin “ that he would then seriously consider the establishment of a government mill.
It then went on to say: -
As a result of check assays from one of the mills of the tailings disclosing a gold loss of 25 dwts. per ton in the sands So despondent have producers become that they are refusing to send in their stone for treatment with the result that the stamps are now idle. This fact demonstrates clearly, as pointed out to the Minister on his visit, that gold extraction becomes secondary to the tonnage put through the mill at abnormally high charges. [ Quorum formed.]
The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) has also received a similar petition from the miners at Tennants Creek, which says -
The secretary states that the association has now a membership of 000 miners and prospectors, and that up to the present private enterprise is supplying all the crushing facilities to the field. There are only two mills there, one a two-head stamp, the other an Empire mill with a 30-ton capacity, and though the latter has been operating a little over three months, the field has produced over £50,000 worth of gold.
It is clear from these statements that the miners at Tennants Creek are dissatisfied with their present conditions, and are looking to the Government to step in and provide crushing facilities.
– They will not be dissatisfied for very long.
– I appreciate what the Government has already done for those miners, but there can be no doubt that they have been dissatisfied for a long time. It is in the interests of the Government to help those struggling miners in preference to helping investors who have taken shares in companies operating or about to operate on that field.
In his budget speech, the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) said -
He (the Prime Minister) deprecated proposals for unorthodox and dangerous experiments infinance and emphasized the importance of public confidence. . . .
Since its return to power the Government, by adherence to its policy of sound finance, has encouraged private enterprise to expand and absorb increasing numbers of those who were unfortunately unemployed.
It is strange that after the Treasurer had made such statements in his budget speech the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) drew attention to the fact that the banks to-day had recommenced a restrictive policy in finance. These institutions are now calling up their overdrafts as they started to do in 1930. In the face of these facts, the Treasurer says that since its return to power the Government, by its adherence to a policy of sound finance, has encouraged private enterprise. Already a large number of people have had their overdrafts called up and have waited upon the banks to see what further accommodation they can get.
– Where did the honorable member get that information? It is entirely wrong.
– The honorable member for Wakefield is correct. To any one who studies the present financial system, it is clear that the banks dictate the policy of governments whether the latter like it or not. In one case which I have in mind, the banks seized a property in the Riverina district worth £40,000 because the owner could not meet an overdraftof.I could quote case after case of a similar nature to show that the policy pursued by the banks in 1930 is again being followed by those institutions to-day. Whatever government may be in office, unless this problem is grappled with, we shall find ourselves time after time facing a position similar to that which this country faced in 1930, because of the policy adopted by those institutions. Dealing with the power wielded by banks, Sir Reginald McKenna ex-Chancellor of the British Exchequer, and president of the Midland Bank, said -
They who control the credits of a nation, direct the policies of governments and hold, in the hollow of their hands, the destiny of the people.
On the same matter the late President Clemenceau, ofFrance, when gazing upon the Statue of. Liberty at the entrance to New York harbour, said -
In my country also- they erect memorials to the illustrious dead; while a few men in the world hold control of finance, liberty can never raise her- head.
Every government, irrespective of its political creed, is a puppet in the hands of financial institutions, which invariably dictate governmental policy. They will continue to do so unless governments have the courage to face this issue frankly. When the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) was speaking to-day, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) interjected, “What about Vienna?” When an attack was launched by the people in Vienna upon the Austrian financial oligarchy, the attackers were stood against a wall and shot at the instance of the government of the day - another proof that in every country the first to take direct action are the financial interests which control governments. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has stated that the Commonwealth Government does not believe in unorthodox or dangerous experiments in finance, but apparently it believes in having thousands upon thousands unemployed, and’ in allowing men and women to starve in a land of plenty. Such conditions exist in this country, yet this Government has not formulated a policy to assist these unfortunate people. It meets the position merely with platitudes, and fail’s to take any specific action to deal with the problem. In the course of his speech, the Treasurer also presented figures dealing with unemployment which, at the time, I stated were not correct. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has already shown that they are not correct. Unemployment figures submitted by trade unions do not reveal the true position, because members of unions engaged on relief work are not registered as unemployed. Yet, because the returns submitted by unions show a decrease- of the number of unemployed members-, the Government claims that unemployment has been reduced’. To refute such a claim I shall quote figures from the Government’s own publication. Census Bulletin, No-. 9, dealing’ with unemployment, shows that, at the 30th June, 1933, unemployment in New South Wales was as follows-: -
The same bulletin gives the following details of the incomes of the people of New South Wales -
– Why does not the honorable memberquote the latest figures ?’
– I have quoted figures from the census returns’ which, prove that the Minister’s statement is incorrect, and thebudget misleading.
– Those figures give the position as it was in 1933.
– I have indicated the bulletin from which they are taken. Unlike the Minister, I have not attempted to mislead the House.
– The honorable member is dealing only with the figures for New South Wales, whereas the Minister gave figures for the whole Commonwealth.
– I shall deal with the figures for the Commonwealth later. Put in another way, the census discloses that 14.6 per cent, of the people of New South Wales receive less than £1 a week;8.8 per cent, less than £2 a week; 5.6 per cent, under £3 a week; 4.6 per cent, less than £4 a week; and 3.6 per cent, less than £5 a week. Only 5.1 per cent, receive over £5 a week. Yet the Government says that this country is enjoying wonderful prosperity.
– Hear, hear !
– If the Minister had to live on6s.8d. a week, instead of saying “ hear, hear “, he wouldbe standing at the street corner urging the people to fight the Government. I know him to be a fighter; but as he is paid a large salary and is having a wonderful time, he can say “ hear, hear “. The banks are calling in their overdrafts, and the Government knows it. According to the London Times, Australians will have to pull in their belts a little more before long.
– The people have made it clear that they do not wish to get back to the conditions which existed in 1932.
Government supporters interjecting,
– When honorable members opposite are touched on the raw they start to squeal. The following paragraph which appeared in the London Times shows “what Australia may expect in 1935-36 : -
The combined deficits under . the Premiers plan have hitherto been carried by the Commonwealth Bank’s rediscount of treasury-bills. With some . hesitation the bank has agreed to continue this practice for another -year., but it has refused to continue itlonger. The prospective 1935-36 deficits are, therefore, un covered, and a situation is ahead similar to that of1 930, although on a smaller scale. It is too soon yet to decide on remedial action, but the Australians have been probably unpleasantly surprised to hear even the suggestion, as they did last week, that another period of retrenchment and deflation will be necessary.
Although conditions will not be so bad as they were in 1930, the Government knows that Australia will soon again be in the throes of a financial depression. Yet the only Government supporter to mention the subject was the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker), who, knowing what this country suffered in 1930 and the following years, asked whether the Government has taken steps to meet the situation. The press of Australia has not acquainted the people with what lies ahead. The late editor of the New York Times, speaking in reply to a toast “ The Independent Press,” said -
There is no such thing in America as an “ independent press.” You know it as well as I know it. There is not one of you who dared to write his honest opinion, and, if he did, you would know beforehand it would never appear in print.
I am paid 250 dollars a week to keep my honest opinions out of the paper I am connected with. Others of you are paid similar salaries for similar work.
The business of the journalist is to lie outright, to pervert, to vilify, to fawn at the feet of Mammon, and sell himself, his country and his race for his daily bread. You know this, I know it, and what folly it is to be toasting an “ independent press.”
We are the toolsofthe rich men behind the scenes.” We are the “Jumping Jack”; they pull the strings andwe dance. Our talents, our possibilities, and our lives are the property of these rich men. We are “ intellectual prostitutes.”
That is a remarkable statement to be made by a man who occupied the position of editor of the New York Times.
– If the editor of the Labor Daily -said that, it would be true.
– If the honorable member read the Labor Daily, he might gain some intelligence.
Sir William Beveridge, an adviser to the British Government, cannot be described as a Labour supporter. Therefore, the following statement attributed to him is illuminating: -
Let me sum up in a few sentences the essentials of the crisis. It has come about through a fall of prices initiated from the side of money, a deflationary fall of pieces. That fall has “produced unexampled paralysis . . . The crisis of to-day represents a failure to manage credit, to avoid alternate inflation and deflation of purchasing power. There is a flaw in our machinery for making, and unmaking purchasing power; it is not under control. If you look hack in history you will see that, from the earliest times, the making of money, of purchasing power, has been a thing which men have thought should bo controlled by one authority in the State, should not be entrusted to many authorities or to private caprice. That. I believe, is a bit of basic commonsense in economics. The making of purchasing power is too important to be allowed to a subject . . . The making of money, moreover, gives the chance to thu maker of enriching himself at .the cost of his fellows.
Paragraph 74 of the MacMillan Committee’s report reads -
It is not unnatural to think of the deposits of a bank as being created by the public through the deposit of cash representing either savings or amounts which are not for the time being required” to meet expenditure. But the bulk of the deposits arise out of the action of the banks themselves, for by granting loans, allowing money to be drawn on an overdraft, or purchasing securities, a hank creates a credit in its books which is equivalent to a deposit.
That committee was appointed by the British Government, and it declares that the banks create credit.
– That is an axiom of banking.
– The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) tonight denied that, but I am glad that the honorable member for Martin agrees with me. I am giving to honorable members opposite a dose of medicine prescribed by their own experts.
Mr. Henry Ford, whom no one could describe as a supporter of Labour principles, has said -
The industrial age has scarcely dawned; as vet we see but its beginnings. Thanks to machinery, aided more and more by the work of the chemist, man can look forward to a time when practically the whole of the work of necessary production can be done in a few hours of light labour, leaving man free to develop himself at leisure in a secure and humane society; all that is now required is a sane monetary system that will make it easy for goods to flow from producer to consumer. ,
Mr. Ford has said that the machine is playing such a part in industry that to every man it is a nightmare, for he fears that to-morrow it may deprive him of his job. The Labour party has no objection to the machine, but it does object to the way in which it is being used to throw the man power of this country on to the scrap heap.
Lord Melchett, head of the vast organization known as Imperial Chemical Industries, moved the following, rather striking, motion in the British House of Lords : -
That since under modern scientific condition, productive capacity is unlimited, and since the indigence and unemployment throughout a large portion of the population demonstrates the fact that the present monetary system is obsolete and a hindrance to the effective production of goods and services, in the opinion of this House the Government should bring forward immediate proposals for the economic reforms necessary to enable the subjects of this realm to enjoy the benefits to which their present productive capacity entitles them.
All the authorities I have quoted concur in the Labour party’s policy. Yet the honorable member for Barker says that the Labour party has no policy. Unless the Commonwealth Parliament is prepared to go to the root of the financial problem, and deal with the institutions that control the credit of the nation, it is futile to talk about unemployment. Talk will solve nothing, and we have been told by Sir Reginald Mackenna that those who control the finances of a country dictate government policy, and hold the people in the hollow of their hands.
– Is the honorable member suggesting that the MacMillan report recommends socialism ? -
– No, I have never said that. Banks create credit. The London Chamber of Commerce in a manifesto said : “ We can have peace and goodwill among men, but we cannot have peace and goodwill and usury.” It agrees with the Southampton Chamber of Commerce which said in no uncertain voice that the monetary system is the root of the economic troubles of the world. Unemployment is only the result. Therefore the New South Wales Labour party supports the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). We believe that unless the Government steps in and deals with the approaching economic crisis in an adequate manner, we shall have to go through something of the same kind of economic blizzard as was encountered in 1930. The Government must take control of the credit power of the country, and use it in behalf of the people, or we shall never be able to escape from our difficulties. The Treasurer stated that the country had made wonderful progress towards recovery, but even the official figures deny that statement.
Motion (by Mr. Archdale Parkhill) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be given to the Minister directing negotiations for Trade Treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) and the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), on the ground of urgent public business, and to the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Hutchinson), the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Perkins) on the ground of urgent private business.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be given to ‘the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost) and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), on the ground of urgent private business.
Motion (by Mr. Thorby) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be given to the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), on the ground of urgent private business.
Airworthiness of DH86 Aeroplanes.
Motion (by Mr. Archdale Parkhill) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I desire to make some comment upon the disaster which recently befell a DH86 aeroplane engaged in the passenger and mail service between Melbourne and Launceston. I do so in the hope that what I have to say may be of use in dispelling certain erroneous impressions that have gained ground with the public. My idea in raising the matter is not to criticize the honorable member for 13a. ss (Mr. Barnard) for asking certain questions in the House. I know that he asked the questions solely with the idea of restoring confidence in the service between Tasmania and the mainland, and my object is rather to answer the questions which the honorable member asked in his very proper concern over the matter. The honorable member, by his questions, gave voice to a feeling which, I think, is fairly common, that possibly this accident, and the previous accident on the same service, would not have occurred if the services had been operated with flying boats or amphibian aeroplanes. Little as is known of the cause of the accidents, one thing seems to be certain: these planes did not alight on the sea, and then sink, but crashed into the sea. Therefore, if the machines had been flying boats or amphibians the accident would not necessarily have been averted. Sea crossings of considerably greater length are at the present time being carried out with DHS6 machines and similar types. With the idea of restoring confidence in air traffic generally, and particularly in the airworthiness of DH86 machines, I point out that sixteen machines of this type are being operated by companies from Great Britain, and that they have flown 1,100,000 miles without any suspicious incident of any sort. I do not mean just an absence of accidents, but without anything to give rise to the idea that they are not airworthy. This mileage, represents an average of 62,000 for each machine. On our own airways Qantas has flown five DH86 machines’ for a distance of 320,000 miles, or an average of 64,000 miles for each machine, without, any suspicious circumstances arising. A little while ago I had an opportunity to hold a lengthy conversation with one of the chief pilots of Qantas, during which we discussed frankly the eccentricities of various aeroplanes, and I asked him whether he had any doubts or misgivings at all about the DH86 machines. The pilot assured me that they were the finest machines he had ever flown. I did not raise this matter with a view to arousing a controversy, but because I think that it is only right, in fairness to companies operating these machines, to endeavour to restore confidence,, pending the time when the full report is issued by the court of inquiry. There is a great deal to be said for the hearing of the evidence in camera, but I consider that as much publicity as possible should be given to the findings of the court, so that other companies operating may profit by any discoveries. Also, the publication of the causes or possible causes of these accidents will have the effect of restoring confidence, rather than of causing uneasiness. The employees of companies operating a machine that has crashed are not the only persons who are sometimes diffident about giving evidence; there is a certain reluctance en the part of many people to ‘testify at an inquiry into a fatal accident, because they feel that they may seem to be maligning the dead pilot of the ill-fated aeroplane. Only recently, after a fatal accident, a friend of the occupants of the machine came to me in great distress, stating that he had a theory as to why the accident had occurred, and that he felt he should give evidence, but did not care to do so. I assured him that it was his duty to appear as a witness. That, I think, is typical of a general . attitude in such matters. There is a disinclination to say publicly what might be construed as criticism of, or an indirect reflection on, the dead pilot.
The only other matter upon whichI wish to comment is the ‘ splendid action of a pilot of a similar DH86. On the day after the accident, he made a flight with his wife and family. It is easy, when things are going well, to perform deeds which are definitely dangerous, but after an accident of this nature which is difficult to account for, there is definite uneasiness, however convinced one may be of the airworthiness of a particular type of aeroplane. I remember travelling in a train shortly after the appalling Sunshine accident, and I can vividly recollect that every time the train started unevenly or jolted in any way the passengers obviously showed signs of nervousness. The same nervousness naturally exists after an aerial accident, and I feel that it is the duty of the public tosupport the efforts being made by the industry to restore complete confidence.
By these remarks I do not wish to convey the impression that the fullest inquiry should not be made, for after any transport accident, whether marine, rail, or road, a complete investigation should be carried out in order that, if possible, any signs of faulty operating methods or the need for the exercise of greater precautions might be discovered.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.45 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
e asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What was the amount of London funds to the credit of Australia at the 30th June, 1934, and at the 30th June, 1935?
– Balance-sheets published by the Commonwealth Bank show that the money at short call in London held by that bank was £30,728,746 at the 30th June, 1934, including £4,984,633 held on account of the Note Issue Department, and £18,294,617 at the 30th June, 1935. The balance-sheets also show that the gold and English sterling reserve forming part of the Note Issue Departmentwas £15,707,537 at the 30th June, 1934, and £15,994,026 at the 30th June, 1935. No information is available as to the amount of London funds held by the trading banks.
Docks at Fremantle and Port Melbourne.
n asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Dairying Industry : Employees.
Mr.F airbairn asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
Of those engaged in the dairying industry, how many are - (a) dairyfarmers; (b) employees on dairy farms; and (c) employees in butter and cheese factories?
e. - The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Mechanization of Coal Production..
s. - Information is being obtained with a view to furnishing answers to a series of questions asked by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), regarding the mechanization of coal production, particularly concerning the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited.
Canberra : Slum Conditions.
s. - On the 1st October, the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) asked me a question, without notice, regarding the slum conditions in Canberra.I informed the honorable member that I would have inquiries made regarding the alleged slum conditions, and more particularly respecting the alleged unsavoury conditions at Molonglo. I now desire, to inform the honorable member that this matter has been receiving consideration by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) for some time, and it has been decided as a matter of Government policy to abolish as early as possible the tenements at Molonglo. The difficulty has been, however, that when one of these tenements is vacated, application is immediately made by some one else for permission to occupy it. Provision has been made on this year’s Estimates for the construction of a number of workmen’s cottages. When these are completed, some of them will be available for residents of Molonglo and Causeway. Any houses vacated at Molonglo will be demolished forthwith. By this means it is expected that, within a period of about eighteen months, it will be practicable to remove the whole of the residents at Molonglo, and demolish the existing tenements there. I might add, however, for the information of the honorable member., that quite a number of the occupants at Molonglo are veryloath to leave the places they occupy.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 October 1935, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1935/19351017_reps_14_147/>.