14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon.G. J. Bell) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to inform honorable members that copies of the report of the directors, and of the balancesheet as at the 30th June, 1935, of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, have been placed on the table of the Library.
– Has the Prime Minister any cognizance of the nature of the reported peace terms which the Italian Government has communicated to the Goverment of France, and which were subsequently communicated by that Government to the Government of the United Kingdom? If he has, will he inform this House of their nature? Furthermore, will he permit this House to consider and express an opinion upon them before further steps are taken in respect of the imposition of sanctions?
– I suggest that the honorable member place his question on the notice-paper. At the same time, I ask leave to make a brief statement in regard to sanctions.
– I have previously informed honorable members that Proposal
The Government on the 25th October also decided to accept in principle Proposal III.- -Prohibition of imports from Italy or Italian colonies - and Proposal IV. - Prohibition of certain munitions of war exports to Italy. The nature and extent of these proposals were previously indicated to honorable members. The Secretary-General of the League of Nationswas informed of this decision and notified “ that the Commonwealth Government will be prepared to put the proposals completely into operation within a period not less than fourteen days subsequent to the 31st October or any date agreed upon by the Coordination Committee “. This Committee will meet on the 31st October to fix the date from which the sanctions will operate.
The Government lias also given consideration to Proposal V. of the Coordination Committee, relating to mutual assistance. This proposal indicates the obligations of State members of the League under paragraph 3 of article 16 of the Covenant with reference to the operation of the most-favoured-nation clause so far as obligations under treaties containing such clauses are affected by reason of the suspension of commercial relations with Italy. For example, in the case of the determination of suspension of a trade agreement between Italy and a State member of the League, other countries entitled to any concession or preferential treatment would automatically lose the right of the particularconcession. Section 1 (a) of the proposal is designed to counteract this, and provides that League members other than Italy entitled to claim rights; shall still continue to receive them as thoughI were still receiving those rights. This section would not affect Australia, as we have no commercial agreement with any countries under which preferential treatment in regard to any commodity is accorded. In addition, Proposal V. asks State members to purchase commodities previously obtained from Italy from other State members, and to endeavour to alleviate the position of State members who have suffered loss through the imposition of economic sanctions by an increase of purchases.
The Commonwealth Government has accepted this proposal in principle, and the Secretary-General of the League is being so informed this afternoon. Draft legislation to give effect to Proposals II., III. and IV. is now being prepared, and the bill will be introduced at an early date.
– Is it a fact that the Government intends to prohibit, or has prohibited, exports of raw materials to Italy, vide sanction No. 4?
– The Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) proposes to introduce almost immediately a bill dealing with sanctions. A full statement of the Government’s intentions will then be made.
– Can the Prime Minister inform me whether there is any truth in the broadcast statement attributed to Mr. Lloyd George to the effect that the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, in which the Commonwealth Government holds a small interest, is still supplying petrol to the Italian Air Force which is engaged in the bombing of the villages of Abyssinia?
– I shall obtaininformation on the matter for the honorable member.
– In consideration of the nearness of Armistice Day, whena large number of honorable members will meet returned soldiers in their constituencies, will the Minister forRepatriation consider, either the introduction before that day of the proposed bill to amend the Repatriation Act, or, if unable to do that, the making of a statement that will indicate approximately the alterations of the law to which he proposes to ask this House to agree?
– I am not preparedto make a statement in the matter. The proposed measure, although drafted, has yet to receive the final approval of Cabinet, but I hope to introduce it at an early date. The points which the honorable member has in mind will then come up for discussion.
– by leave - As the result of the negotiations of the Minister directing negotiations for Trade Treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) in Brussels, the Belgian Government has withdrawn the notice given to the Commonwealth Government terminating the provisional trade agreement concluded in November, 1934, in relation to Belgian, glass and Australian meat and barley. The arrangement embodied in the original agreement, providing for the unrestricted entry of Australian meat and barley into Belgium, will continue in force, but, in accordance with the terms ofthat agreement, is subject to denunciation at two months’ notice from either Government.
– According to press reports, the Minister directing negotiations for Trade Treaties is about to leave, or has left, London for Australia. Will the Prime Minister inform the House without delay of the consultations or trade agreements into which that gentleman has entered with the different foreign governments with which he has been in negotiation, or shall we have to await his return, which may not eventuate until the closing days of the session, when an opportunity may not present itself to discuss the work with which he has been entrusted?
– I take it that the honorable member is concerned about the completion of trade agreements between Australia and other countries. No agreements have been concluded, nor will they be until the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties returns to Australia. That will be the time when an announcement will necessarily be made to Parliament. But, as I have already said, the treaty between Belgium and Australia will be continued in force.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties has yet left Europe, and when he is expected to arrive in Australia?
– I received a communication to-day from the Minister in question, and though I forget the exact dates mentioned in it, it was to the effect that he is just about to leave Europe.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Commerce been drawn to an article in the Glasgow Herald of the 23rd July, headed “ Scottish gesture to South Africa. Big market for citrus fruits if shipped direct”? I ask this question in view of the serious difficulty facing our citrus growers in the marketing of their product.
– I have not seen the article referred to by the honorable member, but the Commonwealth Government is this year paying a bounty of 2s. a case to encourage the export of oranges to the United Kingdom, which, of course, includes Scotland.
– In view of the report in the Melbourne Herald that Lasseter’s reef has been found, refound, and rerefound, and has now, apparently, been moved into Western Australia, that rich specimens which Mr. Hummerston had obtained for his original find were, it is stated, cruelly stolen from him by some villains in a public place, and that mining is about to be placed on an industrial basis by the Commonwealth Government, I ask the Minister for the Interior whether, in order that the investing public and working miners may be protected from such fiascoes as resulted from the so-called Granites and Arnheim Land finds, he will lay on the table of the House all the information obtainable in his department as to where and how Mr. Hummerston obtained his original specimens? Will he also send out a qualified surveyor, a mining engineer, and a police officer to investigate Mr. Hummerston’s original find, and also the new one?
Mr.SPEAKER. - I remind honorable members that questions should not be based on newspaper reports unless honorable members can vouch for the accuracy of the statements contained in the reports.
– The honorable member was good enough to inform me thathe proposed to ask a question on this subject, and I am therefore able to furnish him with the following information : - Hummerston originally claimed to have discovered a rich reef in the south-eastern portion of the Northern
Territory, or over the border in Western Australia. He first came into contact with the Department of the Interior by requesting permission to travel through the reserve for aboriginals. On the information submitted to the department, approval was given for him to proceed through the reserve on the condition that two government officers accompanied him for the purpose of verifying his alleged find of a very rich reef. The party set out from Alice Springs, but after travelling for several days the track became impassable, and the party, including the officers., returned to Alice Springs. The only connexion which the department has had with Hummerston was the sending of the two officers on the trip mentioned. No financial assistance was granted to him. It is. understood that subsequently Hummerston, with a party organized in Sydney; set out for the reef. He was not accompanied by government officers on that expedition. It is stated that he found a rich reef in Western Australia over the border of the Northern Territory, and brought back specimens. The department has no official advice regarding the matter, which, apparently, is now one for the Government of Western Australia.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether, in viewof the fact that a great national event of Australia will be held next Tuesday, he will indicate, for the convenience of honorable members, the Government’s proposal for the sittings of the House next week?
– The event to which the honorable member refers, has been overshadowed by business of very much greater importance and urgency, and the Government has not, therefore, been able to consider the matter mentioned by the honorable member. I ask him to place his question on the notice-paper.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce whether he is in a position to outline the policy of the Government for the assistance of farmers in droughtstricken areas?
– That subject has not yet been determined by theGovernment, and will notbe until its general wheat policy is under consideration.
– Before the Minister for Defence proceeds with the construction of a landing ground for aeroplanes at Derby, will he make inquiries with the object of ascertaining whether sufficient local labour is available for the job? It has been rumoured that a considerable number of men who were employed on the construction of a landing ground at Port Hedland, are to be taken to Derby to do similar work there. I assure him that plenty of men are already available at Derby for the work.
-I shall make inquiries into the matter. If sufficient local labour is available it will be employed unless special considerations have to be taken into account.
Beef, Lamb and Eggs
– I ask the Minister forCommerce whether his attention has been drawnto comments published recently by Sir Stanley Argyle regarding the quality of beef, lamb and eggs exported from Australia to the London market? If so, do the views therein expressed coincide with the Minister’s own views on the subject?
– by leave- Sir Stanley Argyle, on his return to Melbourne on the 28 th October from a visit to London, made sweeping criticisms of the quality of Australian exports. His statements may be taken as a condemnation principally of methods of production and preparation for export, but they also involve a criticism of exporters and the export inspection system. In the first place, control over production is exercised by the State governments which engage in instructional work amongst farmers, and are responsible for the inspection of manufacturing and processing establishments. For example,the inspection of dairy farms andbutter factories, as to cleanliness and efficiency, is carried out by the States. The Commonwealth Government, under the Commerce Trade Descriptions Act and Regulations, has the power to inspect and examine products submitted for export.
It seems, from the criticism of Sir Stanley Argyle, and those who agree with him, that everything is wrong, from the production of the Australian goods to their disposal in the United Kingdom. In their view the producers are producing low-quality goods, the processing establishments and exporters are failing in their jobs, the inspection system is loose, and the export control boards are ineffective. No one will deny that there is always room for improvement in quality. It is one thing to recognize this, but it is an entirely different thing to make a general and sweeping condemnation. Those who declare to the world that Australian products are definitely lower in quality and standard than those of other countries are doing a disservice to their country. It would be bad enough if these general condemnations were justified. It is far worse when they are unjustified, which is ‘the case.
I shall take, seriatim, the criticisms embodied in. the press report of Sir Stanley Argyle’s statement
As to meat, I point out that for a number of years the Australian beef industry has suffered adverse economic conditions because of the low prices which have prevailed for frozen beef, and the impossibility of sending beef in a chilled condition to the British market. For many years South American exporters have been able to transport their beef to the British market in a chilled condition ; but science had not, until the last few years, been able to solve the difficulty of transporting chilled beef over the long distance from Australia to Britain. The scientific experts of Great Britain and Australia have been concentrating on this problem. As their experimental work showed signs of promise, the Australian exporters pioneered the commercial transportation at substantial initial loss to themselves. However, the task was persisted in, and success has crowned the efforts of the scientist, the Australian exporter, and .the shipping companies, all of whom have collaborated in a manner which deserves the greatest praise, rather than the condemnation implied in Sir Stanley
Argyle’s comments. The criticism may be applied also to the quality of the cattle which had been slaughtered for chilling. Apparently, Sir Stanley does not realize the effect on the quality of the herds of the long period of economic depression which the industry has suffered. Great efforts are being made to improve the quality by the importation of stud stock, and by the improvement generally of properties and the standard of the herds. This work deserves encouragement, and those who know the position are affording it. But their enthusiasm is not enhanced by illinformed criticism.
Regarding the inspection of carcasses prior to export, I can say, without danger of refutation, that the inspection system is giving the fullest satisfaction to all concerned. The requirements of the regulations are adequate, and they are being administered with efficiency and understanding. I challenge any one to disprove this. The Australian meat exporters have had wide and lengthy experience in the export of meat, not only from Australia, but from other countries also. I think they can afford to disregard the suggestion of inefficiency on their part.
As far as the sheep industry is concerned, Sir Stanley should know that Australia has concentrated on the export of wool rather than of meat. Climatic conditions, and the genius of the Australian merino breeder, have been responsible for this development. On the other hand, climatic conditions in New Zealand have favoured the production of meat rather than of fine wool. New Zealand, therefore, has concentrated on the British breeds of sheep, while Australia has concentrated on the merino. At the same time, the sheep population of Australia has been such that there has been a large annual output of both mutton and lamb in excess of Australian requirements. This excess finds its outlet on the British market. To close that outlet would result in chaos in the Australian meat market, and might conceivably lead to dangerous over-stocking of sheep properties. During the depression, there has been an increasing concentration on British breeds of sheep for fat lamb production, and the large increase of output has been mainly due to the greater supply of fat lambs of export quality. This development has come to stay in Australia, and has resulted in an improvement of quality. Australian beef, mutton and lamb, are actually sold in the British market, and consumed by British consumers, in increasing quantities year -by year. In 1930, the Australian exports of beef were about 40,000 tons, and an equivalent quantity of mutton and lamb was sold by Australia in Great Britain in that year. In each case the export has increased to more than S0,000 tons during the current year. The Commonwealth Government secured good conditions for Australian meat in the United Kingdom through the Ottawa agreement, and has continued to improve the marketing position of Australian meat since that time. To say the least, it is not helpful to Australia for supposedly responsible statements to be made that the Australian product is of an inferior quality. It is worthy of note that Australia is the second greatest supplier of both beef and mutton and lamb to the British market.
Sir Stanley Argyle says that the English people generally do not like Australian butter. This is a ludicrous statement, which would not be made by any one who had any knowledge of the position. The fact is that 42,000 shops in the United Kingdom sell Australian butter, and the number is increasing weekly. Moreover, Australia has risen from a position of relative unimportance a few years ago to that of second largest supplier of butter to British consumers. In 1930, Great Britain imported 340,000 tons of butter, including 116,000 tons from. Denmark, 78,000 tons from New Zealand, and 4S,000 tons from. Australia. In 1934, the total import was 486,000 tons, including 124,000 tons from Denmark, 134,000 tons from New Zealand, and 105,000 tons from Australia. Thus, in the short period of four years, Australia increased its supplies to the British people. by more than 100 per cent. Another remarkable circumstance is that, in the eight months ended August, 1935, Australia was the second supplier. During that period, New Zealand supplied 90,000 tons of butter, Australia, 81,000 ton3, and Denmark 76,000 tons. This is a rather remarkable performance for a product which, in the words of the critic, “the English people generally do not like “. Sir Stanley says that the English people like butter without salt. The fact is that most of the butter they consume is salted butter.
Another statement of Sir Stanley is that Australian butter is bringing Id. less than New Zealand butter owing to the legacy of bad shipments. Presumably he means Id. per lb., but he does not say whether the difference which he has been told about by some one is in the wholesale or the retail price. The fact is that present quotations for choicest Australian butter are approximately ls. per cwt. below those of choicest New Zealand butter. That is a very different story. If the difference is due to quality, the responsibility for improvement of quality rests on the States. It is the responsibility of the Commonwealth to grade butter submitted for export according to its quality when it is submitted. If the slightly lower price is due to marketing methods, the Dairy Produce Export Control Board might, I think, be left to answer the criticism.
Sir Stanley Argyle is shocked at the manner in which Austraiian wine is marketed, and has compared Australian marketing methods with French methods. He went on to say that, after twoattempts at sampling Australian wine, buyers do not try it again. In view of the marketing figures, this statement is surely grotesque. Australian wine is exported by the wine-makers themselves. The export is controlled by the Wine Overseas Marketing Board, which lays down conditions regarding price and other matters. If Sir Stanley Argyle’s allegation were taken at its face value, one would assume that Australian wine is in the discard in the British market. What a pity it is that Sir Stanley did not consult the figures before he made these statements. What do the figures reveal? ‘ Australia is the third largest supplier of wine to the British market, and in some years holds second place. Sir Stanley conveys the impression, by his comparison with French marketing methods, that France supplies, far more wine to the British consumers than does Australia. The British import figures show that in 1934 wine imported in casks amounted to 4,000,000 gallons from Portugal; 3,300,000 gallons from Spain; 2,800,000 gallons from Australia; 1,100,000 gallons from South.- Africa; and 999,000 gallons from France. Special classes of wine imported in bottles from France totalled about 700,000 gallons. “What happens to the Australian wine if the English buyers after two attempts at sampling do not buy it again? The facts show that this statement is absolutely untrue. All that remains of this criticism is the unjustified stigma cast by a public man on the product of his own country.
Sir Stanley Argyle says that Australian fruit is not put up as attractively as that from other countries. He admits that he paid only one visit to Covent Garden and had to judge on appearances, but that there were definite evidences of carelessness in the packing sheds and in shipping. He expresses the view that the inspection system is not as good as it should be. This attack is directed against the producers, the exporters, and the State Departments of Agriculture, who conduct the inspection of fresh fruit exports on behalf of the Commonwealth.
It is rather interesting to note that on the very day Sir Stanley Argyle expressed his criticism, Mr. C. J. Parnham. a prominent fruit exporter, stated, on his return from London, that greater confidence by overseas buyers in the pack of Australian apples is the direct outcome of the efforts of the Australian Apple and Pear . Council and the Departments of Agriculture. He said that buyers in England were particularly pleased at the inclusion of colour grading in the regulations. Because of the improvement of the Australian pack, Mr. Parnham was able to book orders for more than 130,000 cases of Victorian apples. He said that it was his most successful visit to England from the point of view of selling. Mr. Parnham reasonably stated that we must not be satisfied with our present pack but must go on improving. Who can be regarded as the better informed - the public man who made one visit to Covent Garden, or the prominent exporter who has just returned after a successful selling mission?
Sir Stanley Argyle has revived the case of a bad shipment of eggs from Victoria last year, which he says, “ was a disgrace to this country, and our reputation for eggs was still affected “. The Australian egg pack is recognized as second to none in the world. This is due to the efficiency of the producer and of the export packer. It is true that a few exporters in Victoria have given considerable trouble to the Department of Commerce in the last few years, with the result that numerous consignments intended for export have been rejected, fines have been imposed, and, in some, cases, the eggs have been seized “and confiscated. The department has remained firm in the imposition of penalties,, even in the face of attempts by some exporters to exert political influence to defeat the inspection system. Unfortunately, means were devised by an exporter in 1934 to defeat the inspection system in respect of one or two consignments; but they represented less than 1 per cent, of -the total quantity of eggs exported during that year. I have already mentioned that eggs are inspected by the selection of boxes, and in the instance in question, the exporter evaded inspection. For the convenience of exporters the department formerly permitted the inspection of eggs in Victoria to be conducted at a considerable number of establishments, but this year the number has been rigidly reduced and the department has already rejected consignments which have been below standard. In one case, as the result of legal proceedings, a fine of £30 was imposed, and the eggs were confiscated. Is it not unsound, unwise and unpatriotic, continually to revive an instance of a bad shipment as though it were typical? Such publicity assists the overseas buyer in attempts to depress the wholesale price, but it in no way helps the Australian producer.
I have answered these criticisms at length because they are of the same character as criticisms of Australian products which have on previous occasions been made by Australians returning from Great Britain after a visit during which they have not closely studied the marketing conditions governing Australian products. On this occasion the criticism has been made by a public man whose word would carry- weight if not answered in detail. The Government, through the
Department of Commerce, is constantly engaged in efforts to ensure compliance with the export regulations as to standard; and, through the Australian Agricultural Council, it is in continuous consultation with the States in . regard to the improvement of the quality of Australian products. The correct procedure for bringing about improvements is to bring the matters to the notice of the governments concerned.When the individual who is fired with enthusiasm to improve the standard of quality has played, and may continue to play, an important part in the Government of the State, his best efforts can be directed towards improving the State organization in the directions which he considers necessary to improve the quality of production.
-Will the Minister for Commerce state whether the spirited attack which he has just made upon the Leader of the United Australia party in Melbourne has the support and approval of the Leader of the United Australia party in Canberra?
– Order !
Question not answered.
– Can the Minister for Health say whether any change has yet been made in the heating arrangements at the Canberra Hospital? If not, will he state the reasons for turning off the heaters during the night?
– No change in the heating arrangements has been made. The heaters are turned off at midnight as is very proper, because, if they were not, another shift would have to be employed.
– Recently I asked the Treasurer for information regarding the amount of money which had been refunded under the terms of the Sales Tax Procedure Act. Has he yet been able to obtain the information?
– I am sorry that I have not yet supplied the honorable member with the information for which he asked, but I shall do so on the adjournment to-night.
– Has the attention of the Treasurer been directed to the statement of the New South Wales Taxpayers Association that the Commonwealth Bank should immediately exercise its powers to purchase Government securities in the open market in orderto replenish the depleted cash reserves of the trading banks? As this matter is vital to the increase of employment and the restoration of prosperity, can the Treasurer inform the House whether the Commonwealth Bank intends to purchase securities in this way? If not, what action is it intended that the Commonwealth Bank shall take to replenish the cash reserves of the trading banks ?
– The Government is not in the habit of asking or taking the advice of the New South Wales Taxpayers Association in regard to monetary policy. As for the other part of the honorable member’s question, the action to be taken is a matter for determination by the Commonwealth Bank Board, and the Government does not intend to give any direction to the board in regard to it.
– Is it true that new regulations relating to country broadcasting stations are about to be issued, and if so, will they be presented to Parliament before being put into force ?
– I presume that the honorable member is referring to regulationsrelating to the number of licences which may be held by any one person or company, because those are the only regulations at present in contemplation. If he willplace his question on the notice-paper, full information will be supplied to him.
– Has the Minister for Commerce yet been able to form an opinion as to the value of the trade commissioners recently appointed, and is it proposed to make further appointments to such countries as India, Germany and Belgium ?
– As the trade commissioners referred to by the honorable member have only just arrived at their respective posts, there has not yet been sufficient time for them to have made any important beginning on the tasks with which they have been entrusted.
– Is the Minister for Commerce able to inform the House whether, in formulating its plan for securing a home-consumption price for wheat-growers, the Commonwealth Government has taken action to safeguard the poultry-farming industry against a rise in the prices of grain and pollard following the institution of that plan?
– In the plan adopted by the Australian Agricultural Council for stabilizing the wheat industry provision was made to ensure that there would be stock foods available at world’s parity, and that the creation of a home-consumption price for wheat would not affect the prices of the products mentioned.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General if the Government will take into consideration the advisability of using the proposed new aerial service between Adelaide and Port Lincoln for the carriage of mails?
– - What the honorable member suggests will be taken into consideration in connexion with the establishment of that service.
– When will the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral be in a position to answer questions asked on notice last week concerning the news services recently established by the Australian Broadcasting Commission?
– I did not know that there were any outstanding questions on the notice-paper in the name of the honorable member, but I shall make inquiries.
– Is the Prime Minister able to say whether the statement which appeared recently in the press that the British Government had informed the governments of Australia and New Zealand that it had waived its objection to the trade between those two countries being treated as coasting trade for the purpose of making special provision for British-owned shipping is correct? If so, will he inform the House whether the Government is in communication with the Government of New Zealand regarding the possibility of taking steps to protect shipping registered on the Australian Register from the cut-throat competition of very heavily subsidized foreign shipping?
– The statement that the British Government offers no objection to the action being taken by Australia and New Zealand is correct. It was made in London both to the Commonwealth Ministers and to the representatives of New Zealand. As to the suggestion that the matter should be taken up with the Dominion Government, I may say that it was discussed with the representatives of New Zealand in London. On my return to Australia the Prime Minister of New Zealand and I conferred regarding it, and a conference was held in London later between representatives of the two shipping companies and of the Commonwealth and New Zealand Governments. Since then nothing has been clone in the matter ; but the managing director of the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand, Mr. Falla, who was also in England at the time of the conference in London, will reach New Zealand shortly, and upon his arrival the matter will again be discussed with the Dominion Government.
– Is it proposed that a full report of the deliberations and decisions of the Agricultural Council, which met in Canberra recently, will be made available to this Parliament before consequential legislation is introduced?
– I shall endeavour to ascertain the exact position in regard to the report and see if it is possible to make copies of it available to the House. The proceedings were partly held in camera, and no report was made of that portion of the deliberations.
– In view of the great difference of opinion which appears to exist regarding the best use that could be made of the maternal and infant welfare fund, is the Minister for Health prepared to consider the suggestion of Professor Windeyer that advisory committees be appointed in the various States with a view to obtaining suggestions from them as to the best purpose to which the money could be applied?
– I devoted a good deal of time to this matter, and took up a considerable amount of space in the Sydney Morning Herald in explaining the position. Shortly stated it is this: Professor Windeyer entirely misapprehends
– I suggest that the right honorable gentleman ask leave to make a statement.
– I was asked whether I was prepared to take certain action on the lines suggested by Professor Windeyer, and I am endeavouring to explain what theProfessor said.
– The right honorable member would not be in order in doing that in reply to a question.
– Will the Minister for Commerce state whether his strong and lengthy attack on Sir Stanley Argyle, the United Australia party leader in Victoria, was inspired by the Leader of the State Country party in Victoria?
-The honorable member’s question is not in order. It does not refer to any matter of administration in the department controlled by the Minister.
-Would I be in order in asking the Minister whether his biting attack on the United Australia party leader in Victoria may be taken as an indication of a rapprochement between the State Country party in Victoria and the Federal Country party?
– Order !
The following papers were pre sented : -
Sales Tax - Copy of Communications from Master Tailors’ Associations in regard to Sales Tax Legislation.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c., 1935 - No. 19 - Australian Postal Electricians’ Union ; and Postal Electricians Supervisors and Foremen’s Association, Postmaster-General’s Department, Commonwealth of Australia.
No. 20 - Fourth Division Officers’ Association of the Trade and Customs Department.
Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1935, No. 102.
Public Service Act - List of Permanent Officers of the Commonwealth Public Service (excluding the State branches of the Postmaster-General’s Department) as on 30th June, 1935.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
Seat of Government (Administration) Bill 1935.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Appropriation Bill 1935.
Supplementary Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill 1933-34.
South Australia Grant Bill 1935.
Western Australia Grant Bill1935.
Tasmania Grant Bill 1935.
Sales Tax (Financial Relief) Bill 1935.
States’ Grants Bill 1935.
Consideration resumed from the 24th October (vide page 1093), on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division 1 - the Senate - namely, Salaries and Allowances, £7,379,” be agreed to.
Upon which Mr. Curtin had moved by way of amendment -
That the first item be reduced by £1.
– The discussion of the budget affords an opportunity to criticize the Government upon its policy, and the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has been subjected to criticism from both inside and outside this Parliament. I do not intend to support the critics of the budget, for I realize that it merely foreshadows a continuance of the previously announced policy of the Government. I listened to the eloquent speech of the Leader of the
Opposition (Mr. Curtin), who proved, after presenting certain figures, that the Government had successively budgeted for a net increase of revenue of about £8,300,000, as compared with 1931-32. He charged the Minister with having obtained that increase mainly through indirect taxation. His figures were conclusive, but he omitted to point out that the present Government’s commitments are considerably in excess of those of the government that was in office in 1931-32. Obviously, therefore, the present Government would require a larger revenue and a larger appropriation. I yield to nobody in my desire for a reduction of taxation, and particularly the emergency taxation imposed by the Scullin Administration. The only criticism I have to offer with regard to the Treasurer is that he has shown a conservative complacency in the present budget, and has somewhat checked the progress of private enterprise in its endeavour to assist Australia to a return to normal conditions. He has failed to take what one might describe as an ordinary business risk, although he knows that trade is buoyant, and that, arising out of that condition, it is only reasonable to expect a buoyancy of revenue. This buoyancy has been noticed after each successive budget of the present Government, and I claim that the Treasurer should have given greater relief from taxes, particularly to the leaders of industry. He may have displayed good finance, but that he has not shown a breadth of vision, is indicated byhis failure to anticipate continued buoyancy of the revenue. Although the policy of the Government may be justified, I consider that if the Treasurer had adopted a less conservative attitude, he would have presented a more popular budget, which would have appealed to the average man outside the walls of Parliament, and would have helped to restore normal conditions more rapidly. Yet I have a certain amount of sympathy with both the Treasurer and the Government. In that respect I am unlike the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock), who is one of the strongest advocates of subsidies and similar Government assistance to industries, and yet ho denies the Government the right to collect revenue to liquidate its commitments. Since the Ministry has a planned policy which calls for expenditure on the maintenance of subsidies to industry, pensions and war service homes, if it is honorably to meet its commitments, it must seek the necessary revenue, and make the maximum amount of use of it. I shall support the Governent in its budget proposals, even though I do not approve of the conservative attitude adopted by it.
I am somewhat disappointed to find that no comprehensive scheme has been evolved for the development of the Northern Territory. We have heard from the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) about the formation of a chartered company for this purpose, and statements have been made in the press in regard to it. We have been informed that a co-operative company is being established to develop the Barkly Tableland, and from time to time we have been told that big interests have decided to develop the territory. I shall have a good deal to say regarding those interests in the course of my remarks. I make no apology for touching on Northern Territory matters, even though the territory is ably represented in this chamber by an honorable member who has rendered yeoman service to it.
– He is a live wire.
– He is, undoubtedly. Those members who accompanied the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) on his recent tour through Central and Northern Australia should accord the honorable member for Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) all the help that lies in their power. They have seen for themselves the conditions that obtain in the territory, and no doubt, in due course, the committee will hear their views regarding the possibilities of development there. This part of Australia is said to have cost the taxpayers of Australia, in interest and capital outlay, about £10,000,000. Several more millions have been spent by private interprise in an endeavour to develop the territory, yet all we have in the shape of assets for that huge expenditure is a few government buildings, a railway, a wharf, and certain bores. I doubt whether the total value of these is more than £3,500,000. Public money has obviously been wasted. The Government should realize that ultimately some definite policy for the development of the territory must be evolved, for it cannot continue to be the
Cinderella of Australia. I accompanied the Minister on his tour, and desire to pay a (tribute to his industry and thoroughness to carrying out his inspection. He frequently worked almost for 24 hours a day in listening to the complaints laid before him, and with the assistance of an able administrative staff he gave close attention to many matters
Of which I feel sure he knew little before leaving Canberra. No doubt, the net result will be many reforms which will be most beneficial to the territory But I would offer one warning. “When thu territory was under the control of South Australia, its affairs were administered from Adelaide, and the policy was shaped to suit the capital city, and not the territory itself. The Minister should guard against the adoption of a policy that may suit the administration in Canberra rather than promote the development of the Northern Territory. This huge area of 500,000 square miles is passing through the primary stage of development. It has a foundation of natural resources which many of the States lacked in the early days of their development, and, if properly handled, will prove a valuable asset. Eventually, certain changes of policy must be effected. Either there must be an advisory committee, out of which will emerge a legislative council and an executive council similar to those constituted in Papua, or the whole of the attention of one Minister must be devoted to the affairs of the territory. If that proposal does not find favour with the Government, it should entrust the work to chartered companies, or to a co-operative company comprising all the lessees in certain areas under a scheme such as was outlined by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) some time ago.
What has so far been achieved? Some of those who passed through the territory recently saw country which possibly was not so good as they hoped to find, but was certainly a lot better than they had been told authoritatively existed. The one industry that should., have been a success has been a comparative failure. Some persons may argue that that is due to uneconomic administration and management. With that, I suppose, we can agree. It can certainly be claimed that, in latter days, the cause has been unremunerative markets. It is necessary, however, to ascertain why cattle cannot be raised and profitably marketed. In examining this matter, one is immediately confronted with the high cost of production. Let us consider the costs that are associated with the droving of cattle and the transport of the ordinary commodities of life, apart from what is necessary for the successful raising of cattle. I have collected some facts of which I think the House should bc apprised. Brunette Downs is within reasonable distance of the railhead at Mount Isa, and I shall take it as an example. The cost of flour ex Townsville is £14 15s. a ton, but the cost landed at Brunette Downs is in the region of £34 4s. lOd. a ton. Sugar, which costs £3S 12s. 4d. ex Townsville, costs £51 4s. 2d. landed at Brunette Downs. The figures in regard to salt are £4 12s. 6d. and £23 5s. 7d. respectively.
I next take Wave Hill. The cost of flour ex Sydney is £6 5s. and the landed cost £29 9s. 8d. The figures in regard to sugar are £34 ex Sydney, and £64 landed. Windmill oil, the need of which is obvious in connexion with the provision of water for cattle, costs £9 in 45 gallon lots and £16 10s. 9d. landed. It will thus be realized that the high cost of carriage furnishes one reason for the high cost of production and of living. The standard of the people is not a high one, yet the cost of catering for their means is considerable.
The high cost of droving is another important factor. The prime condition is walked off the herds over the long distances - from 600 to 1,000 miles - which they are forced to travel to reach the railhead or points from which they may be exported, such as Wyndham, Alice Springs and the like. The climatic conditions associated with the raising of the cattle to the stage at which they may be placed on the market are an* important factor that must not be overlooked. Honorable members are well aware that during the wet season the work of the community is brought to a standstill. Cattle which are in prime condition about January cannot be placed on the track until April. The grasses lose their nutritive value, and after a thousand:mile journey the cattle reach the market in store condition and do not realize the high prices expected. How may this difficulty be overcome? Assuming that the Government intends to retain responsibility, it must construct a line of railway radiating from the present railhead at Birdum, and crossing the Barkly Tablelands, thus taking advantage of all that they produce. A further line should radiate from the Victoria River district. These lines would serve two of the most valuable portions of the territory, and would remove for some time the difficulties connected with the shifting of cattle to market. It has been said that additional railway development should not be undertaken because of the loss now incurred on the lines already constructed. Hero I join issue with the Government. If it desires the. development of the territory, it should not consider the loss on a quite necessary service. In this regard I quote from a report made in 1925 by Sir George Buchanan. At page 22 he said -
It is, therefore, considered that all such services might for a period of years he regarded as essential public utilities, and a reasonable proportion of the cost be met by the central Government. Under this arrangement, the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner would be informed that the Northern Territory railway was, until further notice, to be treated as a developmental railway, and settlement encouraged by charging minimum fares and freights, and that his department would be credited with an amount sufficient to make up the loss sustained by this action.
That gentleman gave full consideration to the problem, and came to the conclusion that railways are essential.
Another factor to be considered is the shortening of the stock routes. The routes already established have followed the tracks made by the pioneers of the territory, and countless thousands of pounds have been wasted in the provision of water along them. The Government should survey and establish routes that would represent the shortest distance between two centres. The route from Anthony’s Lagoon to Birdum takes in Newcastle Waters. The distance i3 446 miles. It is suggested that it could be shortened to 350 miles by cutting out Newcastle Waters and proceeding direct to Daly Waters, taking Alexandria Homestead as a basis. A proper survey therefore would reduce the distance by 96 miles. The Gordon Downs stock route, which runs through to Alice Springs, could be shortened by a distance of 419 miles. The existing route i:; along the Murrangi track to Newcastle Waters, and thence by the northsouth route to Alice Springs, a distance of 951 miles. A direct route could be surveyed. The north-south route - Katherine to Alice Springs - could be shortened by a distance of 30 miles between Taylor’s Well and the 16-mile creek bore. The shortening of these stock routes would not only prevent to a considerable extent the loss of condition among the stock while travelling, but also afford relief in other directions. I take again the case of Brunette Downs. If the route from Anthony’s Lagoon to Daly Waters could be shortened the management of that station could obtain supplies by boat to Darwin, thence by rail to Birdum, and so save a great deal of expense. It has been estimated that as much as £3 10s. a ton could be saved on flour alone as against the route through Townsville and Mount Isa. The people who are doing their utmost to develop this country should be given every consideration. A lowering of transport charges would make a great deal of difference to the operations of the settlers in these areas; while a, shortening of the stock routes would enable cattle to be marketed in a much better condition and also ensure a reduction of droving charges.
I come now to a consideration of the roads in these far distant areas. Although in my opinion the stock routes will be the main roads for many years to come we traversed some excellent roads in the Tablelands that were wholly maintained by the private lessees but yet Were freely used by the public. However after passing through the Tablelands we met a different state of affairs. In the Victoria River district where a big proportion of the holdings are under the control of Bovril Estates and Vesteys Limited, the roads are maintained - if it can be said that they are maintained at all - partly by Government subsidy. The big interests controlling the holdings in this area employ so-called road gangs consisting of an aboriginal with a couple of lubras and a few black boys who carry obsolete picks and worn-out shovels. Tho gangs are supposed to maintain the roads, but the whole situation is a disgrace. The roads are used almost exclusively by the big interests controlling the stations, yet a Government subsidy is paid in order that they may be maintained. If these big interests can be helped in this way the men on the smaller holdings of the Tablelands are entitled to similar assistance. “Water conservation is also a big problem. The Barkly Tablelands country is, of course, part of a big subartesian base. The water is lifted in the main by windmills; but very little standardization was observable in the mills in operation. Moreover, it was regrettable to find that one of the most valuable assets of the Tablelands, the natural timber, was being used to stoke boilers to provide the power for the lifting of water on great plains where obviously there must be sufficient wind at almost any season of the year to drive a mill for the lifting of water. We saw only one dam in the whole area. Apparently no attempt was being made at water conservation in the Victoria River district. It might be advisable for the Government to consider the sinking of well or bores on the tablelands with the object of tapping the artesian water which many people consider to be there. If this could be done, it might result in a reduction of the high cost of obtaining water under existing conditions. It is most regrettable that practically no attempt has been made by the big interests controlling the stations to provide water in the far reaches of their holdings.Immense areas are apparently left to rely almost exclusively upon permanent waterholes which, in certain districts, are to be seen in abundance; but it is apparent to even the casual observer that very little has been done to augment the supply provided by these permanent waterholes. The consequence is that the country immediately adjacent to the waterholes, and for some miles around them, has been completely eaten out.
The policy of the big interests which have been established in the Northern
Territory seems to be entirely opposite to that of the smaller men. The individual settlers with small holdings have undoubtedly done as much as possible to improve their properties by increasing to the fullest extent of their capability the water available for stock; whereas the big interests have done very little work of that kind. In my opinion the Government should not permit big companies to take advantage of their financial strength to keep other settlers off such parts of their holdings as are not being developed, but should take steps to force them to provide water throughout their holdings so that they could be properly developed.
I was interested in a map which I saw at Alice Springs which indicated that, with the exception of one private well at Wave Hill, no private wells or bores had been provided in the Victoria River district. The comparison of that area with the areas held by the individual settlers with smaller holdings was surprising. One private well or bore was practically useless in the huge area it was evidently intended to supply. On the small holdings, very many wells and bores had been sunk. The examination of this map confirmed me in the view that I had already formed that the Government should oblige the holders of huge areas in the Northern Territory to undertake substantial developmental projects. It seemed to me that the big interests, such as Bovril Estates and Vesteys Limited, were content to sit back and do nothing, because they realized that, under existing conditions, the adoption of a developmental policy would conflict with their interests in Argentina. I could not help becoming suspicious of the reasons for the inaction of these companies. Apparently, their object is to simply hold their country and keep the individual settlers off it until such time as the completion of a trade treaty with the United Kingdom would make the production of beef more profitable in Australia than it -is at present found in Argentina. I am satisfied that these big interests are making no serious attempt to develop their holdings for the reason that they are engaged in a much more lucrative enterprise in Argentina. This is surely a lamentable state of affairs for us to allow to continue. I realize that I am making a serious statement; but I am convinced that it is justified. A comparison of the relatively well-developed herds on the small holdings with the poor herds on the large holdings convinced me that Bovril Estates and Vesteys Limited have entirely failed to develop their holdings reasonably ; and, in the circumstances, the Government should not hesitate ruthlessly to resume such parts of those properties as are not being developed.
– What is the size and tenure of these holdings?
– One of these interests holds about 25,000 square miles of country and the other about 15,000 square miles.
– The leases are for 42 years from 1925. Just recently about 25 per cent. of the areas has been resumed.
– I suggest to the Government that, as an indication of its earnest desire to encourage the development of the Northern Territory, particularly the smaller holdings, it should allow the lessees to apply the money now being paid as rent to the improvement of their properties. The rents received from these holdings mean very little to the Government from the point of view of revenue. They are, in fact, a mere bagatelle. In view of the unremunerative market which the cattlemen have had to meet in recent years, it seems to me that it would be an excellent incentive to development, as well as a great encouragement to the settlers personally, if the Government would allow the amount at present being collected as rent to be set off by the provision of definite improvements on the properties. The rents, as I have said, mean almost nothing as an aid to the revenue ; whereas the construction of substantial improvements on the properties would be a lasting asset.
I wish now to refer for a few moments to the quality of the cattle in this huge area. Any man with even moderate powers of observation would observe a marked difference between the cattle of the Northern Territory and that of the southern and eastern parts of Australia. A similar difference is observable between the quality of the cattle in the districts of the Northern Territory where relatively small holdings are the rule and that in the immense areas held by Bovril Estates and Vesteys Limited. The individual settlers are, in the main, doing their best to improve their herds; whereas the big companies are doing practically nothing in that direction. I regard the herds of the big companies as a positive disgrace. We saw, in the course of our travels, countless hundred’s of scrub bulls, the presence of which was a disgrace to any cattle breeder. It seemed to me that no attempt whatever was being made by the management of the two big properties to which I have directed attention to cull their herds and make a selection of the best stock. Inbreeding was rife. The failure of station managers to improve the quality of their cattle is clearly shown in the percentage of rejects at the Wyndham Meat Works. The returns from those works also indicate positively that the introduction of new blood into herds is most profitable. I direct attention to the experience of Rosewood Station under the management of Mr. Kilfoyle. This is a small station of 1,073 square miles, 50 square miles of which is in Western Australia. The manager of the station applied himself with commendable zeal to the improvement of his herds. He arranged for the introduction of new blood in successive years from 1925 to 1932. Into a herd of about 14,000 cattle, he introduced between 20 and 25 new bulls each year, including a number of stud bulls. The result was reflected very definitely in his returns at the meat works, for since 1928 Rosewood Station has averaged 75 per cent. of cattle of freezing quality. The experience of the Wave Hill and Victoria River Downs stations has been very different. My figures in relation to these matters are reliable, for I obtained my information through observation, direct contact with the people interested in the industry, and conversations with experienced cattlemen right through the Tablelands and into the Kimberley country. In 1925, 92 Queensland bulls were obtained for Victoria River Downs, and in 1932 another 98 were obtained; but the introduction of these animals into a herd of 171,000 cattle was not sufficient to have any more than a negligible result.
The returns show that a progressively lower percentage of the cattle from the Victoria River Downs Station was accepted for freezing, the figure in 1931 being 27 per cent. We find a similar state of affairs existing at Wave Hill - Vestey’s property. From 1924 to 1933 only 45 herd bulls - not stud bulls - were introduced into their herds of approximately 138,000 head of cattle depastured on their runs in the Northern Territory. These figures show conclusively that the improvement of herds, even to the extent that it has been achieved by the settlers on small holdings, is abundantly profitable; and steps should he taken to oblige ‘the interests controlling the Wave Hill and Victoria River Downs properties to improve their herds by the introduction of new blood on a systematic basis.
I wish now to say a few words in regard to the rejection of cattle. I was interested to see cattle being trucked at Alice Springs. The methods of trucking are, however, most unsatisfactory, and arc a severe indictment of the Government responsible for their continuance. Modern trucking methods should be adopted without delay. I saw many cattle bruised in a most painful way in the course of trucking. Their ribs were torn against the races, in some cases their horns were broken or torn off, and their condition generally was seriously impaired. To insure the more humane trucking of cattle, I consider that a regulation should bo introduced for compulsory dehorning. Not only should young cattle be dehorned or tipped with caustic, but dehorning should also be made compulsory in respect of older cattle. If this were done, the percentage of rejections would be greatly reduced and the prices realized would be much higher. This applies not only to cattle trucked on the railways but also to cattle driven to Wyndham. I have seen, cattle .arriving in the Wyndham yards very badly bruised through crowding on the roads. The Minister for the Interior was also interested to see the bruises showing on carcasses at the Wyndham Meat Works, and is aware of the high percentage of rejections due entirely to droving cattle which have not been dehorned.
In common with other honorable members, I have been approached by representatives of the big pastoral companies which charge the Government with lack of co-operation in the settlement of the Northern Territory. Some of these companies, however, are not co-operating between themselves or with surrounding lessees in an attempt satisfactorily to develop the territory; but are merely holding on to their leases for purposes of exploitation at a later date, .and in certain cases their interests are not confined to Australia, but extend also to Argentina. They have, as it were, a leg in both countries. The Government should insist on these people developing their holdings in the Northern Territory or forfeiting them.
Recently the Prime Minister made a statement to the press in regard to the development of the Northern Territory by co-operative companies. The right honorable gentleman said -
Tho Government regards the development of the Northern Territory as an imperative responsibility and is willing to encourage and assist private enterprise and capital to ensure speedy development and profitable investment. The Government believes that these objects can be achieved with full protection of the natives and under the White Australia policy, the maintenance of which the Government regards as fundamental. The Goverment is therefore prepared to encourage the formation of one or more chartered companies to effect these objects.
He added that the Northern Territory could be cut up into two large holdings to be controlled by two companies operating on a large scale. But why does not the Government extend to the existing lessees the consideration it was willing to extend to chartered companies? Charity surely begins at home. Why not encourage local enterprise rather than endeavour to attract outside capital? Why cannot the Government say to the lessees of the Northern Territory “Although the Government is unable to develop the territory, it is prepared to extend to you the same consideration as was promised to the chartered companies “ ? In conference with the lessees it could evolve a scheme for the ultimate occupation by them of these large areas. If the Government has no intention of handing the territory over to the lessees, and intends to carry -on development under Government control, it must face the inevitability of bringing in special exempting legislation to assist the settlers. It must exempt the lessees from much indirect taxation, including the tariff, and must modify industrial awards to meet the needs of a large area in the primary stage of development. Such is a fundamental prelude to any attempt to settle the Northern Territory on a satisfactory basis, and I commend it to the serious consideration of the Government.
There can be no doubt that mining is the ready gate through which population will flow into the territory. In this connexion I suggest that the Government should give greater consideration to the question of appointing mining wardens. * Leave to continue given.’]* During my visit to the territory I was not at all impressed with the calibre of the mining wardens there. Every effort should be made to obtain the most qualified men for such appointments, and wherever possible, the services of qualified mining engineers should be secured. I was interested to read in the Sun News-Pictorial of yesterday’s date that a conference between the State Ministers for Mines and the Commonwealth Minister for Development resulted in plans being made which will give an impetus to the goldmining industry. Reporting on Northern Territory conditions, Sir Herbert Gepp stressed the need for a supply of mining engineers and experienced miners. The report of the conference states -
On this aspect Sir David Rivett, speaking for the Mining Industry Committee, said Australia suffered from a fundamental lack of geological knowledge of its mineral resources. Present activities might relieve unemployment, but as a means of laying bare the mineral resources of the nation they were distressingly crude and feeble.
Especially urgent now was the quest for gold, for it was hard to believe that there would ever be a greater opportunity for immediate economic return.
Coal, oil, water, and a large variety of earths and minerals suitable for many manufactures were worth far more earnest and general attention than they were receiving. The sooner an Australian geological survey was started the better.
The conference went into technical cornmittees, and will resume to-day.
In order that complete information might bo available to prospectors, a complete geological survey should be undertaken, followed, if necessary, by a magnetic sur.vey of the metalliferous areas within the Northern Territory. In this way >a. com plete tabulation of the metalliferous and the auriferous areas of the territory could be made, which would be of great benefit in the conduct of mining operations in the Northern Territory. I could go on and discuss the necessity for the provision of batteries and the necessity for finding assured water supplies, but I propose to deal with those subjects more concisely when the Estimates ‘are under discussion. Following upon the successful establishment of the mining industry, agricultural development will naturally follow. I suggest to the Government that an agricultural expert should be appointed who, while working in collaboration with the cattle industry, would inquire into the possibilities of the further development of the peanut industry and the establishment of cotton-growing in the North with the accompanying production of peanut-oil cake and cotton-oil cake, which provide a most excellent fattening fodder for cattle.
The police in the Northern Territory service comprise the finest body of men with whom I have ever come into contact. These men are taking grave risks and are carrying out a job which an ordinary constable in the police forces of the States is not called upon to do. Their status is that of police constable, but in my opinion it should be raised to that of district officer, because they do all the work done by a district officer in the New Guinea service. They have to patrol thousands of miles of country, and are often called upon to assume grave responsibilities. By raising the status of the territorial police officer to that of district officer, the beat type of man would be attracted to this service.
If the Government intends to carry on the development of the Northern Territory, it must be prepared to evolve a long-term plan covering development, if necessary, for a ten-year period. If that is done the territory will come into its own as one of the brightest stars in the firmament of the Commonwealth Federation of States.
.- One or two small crumbs of comfort have been thrown by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to a section of the people who have been hoping for a lightening of the burden of taxation. It will be remembered that after the last budget had been presented the Government was able to expend an additional £3,000,000 and yet close the financial year with a surplus of £711,000; and this happy state of affairs encouraged the hope that this year the Treasurer in his first budget would announce not only a full restoration of invalid and old-age pensions, and Public Service salaries, but also the total abolition of the sales tax. This tax, as all honorable members will admit, was imposed solely as an emergency measure. It was also anticipated that some proportion of the profits made by the Postal Department would be returned to the people; but, while admitting that postal revenue will be about the same as last year, the Treasurer has found himself unable to make more than modest concessions. Ee cheerfully looks forward to a further handsome profit in the Postal Department, yet cannot possibly agree to any reduction of rates. He emphasizes the proportion of the Commonwealth expenditure which is inescapable - a substantial increase in the defence vote is included in this category - and then looks sadly at the remainder and regrets his inability to effect any economies. There is at least this small measure of comfort that some public servants are ‘to benefit by salary restorations, and some remissions of taxation are proposed, but apparently the Treasurer realizes the need for caution in the midst of expanding prosperity. It is claimed that this expanding prosperity testifies to the good work of this Government; but if the Government has such faith in the results of its achievements, one would have imagined it producing a more generous budget, especially as the Treasurer estimates to receive as liberal a return from customs and excise as that which was so unexpected last year and gave so much joy to the Ministry.
The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) referred to the requirements of the Northern Territory, but there are many matters nearer to the hub of Australian affairs which require serious attention. I have in mind something which the Government has overlooked or relegated to the background, namely, housing for the masses of the people. The inauguration of a vigorous housing scheme would go far towards re- lieving unemployment, and it would give the men and women of this country a chance to rear their children in a decent environment. Good housing would alter the outlook of those who are now oppressed by poverty and poor surroundings, and would enable them to become happier and better citizens. It has been my experience to visit several unemployment camps in my electorate, and while I am able to commend the people living in them for their wonderful patience and uncomplaining loyalty, I cannot understand how the Government can forget that children, in order to become good citizens, must be brought up in decent circumstances, and under proper conditions. No doubt the Government will argue that money is not available for housing purposes, but if war were to break out to-morrow ample money would be found for the destruction of human life. Why, then, cannot money be made available for the uplift of the masses of the people? Is it better to destroy than to build ?
England to-day is classed as a C3 nation physically, and I do not think that there is any honorable member in this chamber who would like to see Australia forced down to the same level. The physical condition of the people of England is due in the first place to successive wars in which the nation has been engaged. These have had the result of destroying the flower of the country’s manhood, so that the nation goes on breeding from the maimed and the unfit. The inevitable result is physical and mental degeneration. Another important contributing factor is the starvation of children arising out of the poverty of their parents, with the result that they grow up stunted in body and in mind. I contend that the first duty of any government is the welfare of the people, and, believing this, I urge the Government to give serious consideration to the inauguration of a national housing scheme.
I believe in the need for adequate home defence, and therefore, I do not quibble about the amount which the Government proposes to spend for this purpose; but, in common with the other members of my party, I strongly object to an offensive military policy. In my opinion, there are two effective methods by which the country may be defended: the first line of defence should be the air force, while the second line should consist of concealed, long-range shore batteries. The whole coastline could be effectively defended in this way. I look upon these matters not with the innocent eyes of youth, but as one who has given them years of thought in the light of military experience. Napoleon once said that an army marched on its stomach, but that is not true of modern armies which have been mechanized to such an extent that their mobility is now dependent upon oil and petrol. It is evident, therefore, that unless we are able to produce those requirements in our own country, we cannot hope to defend ourselves successfully. For this reason I urge upon the Government the need for proceeding immediately with the development of industries for the production of oil from shale and coal. This is vitally necessary, not only for defence purposes, but also for the re-employment of our miners who, like the returned soldiers, seem to be an army of forgotten men.
I desire to impress upon the Government, the need for adequate postal and telephonic facilities for the district of Newcastle, and to stress particularly the urgent need for changing over from manual to automatic telephone exchanges. Easy money, the philosophers tell us, is not a good thing. Of the truth of their dictum the Postal Department might be cited as a good example. Newcastle’s demands on the telephone service, says the department, are adequately met by existing installations. The public’s view is that the demand is limited because of the out-of-date equipment and the limitation of the human element. If the telephone department was not a monopoly, and had to pay dividends to shareholders and had to compete with vigorous rivals, would it continue to ad:opt its aloof, “ take it or leave it “ attitude ? Its annual income by far exceeds its expenditure, and. therefore, it can, and does, disregard the necessity imposed on private enterprise to march abreast of the times. Imagine a motor distributor trying to sell’ service when all he has is equipment outmoded twenty years ago ! For most practical purposes, that is what the Post Office is doing in Newcastle.
Charges for services are still largely based on those happy boom years before 1929, and everything goes swimmingly - for the department. For many years Newcastle businessmen have been agitating for an up-to-date telephone service.. These men know the meaning of economy. They also know what efficiency is. In asking for automatic telephones for Newcastle they have been actuated by good business principles and by a knowledge that the installation of this system would be of benefit not only to the district, but to the deparment as well. The bland replies of the department - convincing’ only to those who write them - explaining the impossibility of meeting Newcastle’s reasonable request, only cause more and more exasperation and renewed demands’ for businesslike methods in government administration. The Post Office is, on the face of it, one of the few departments that does not appreciate the extent of the development going on in Newcastle. Most other departments have realized that their duty is, not only to keep pace with present activities, but also to plan ahead and be ready to meet the inevitable expansion. So far, however, the new Newcastle apparently has not been discovered by the postal authorities. It might put a dint in the complacency of the postal panjandrums could they inspect the modern equipment of Newcastle’s industrial enterprises, and compare it with the junk-like equipment they persist in foisting upon Newcastle’s telephone users. The following letter was sent by the Newcastle Chamber of Commerce to the Postmaster-General in reply to a communication from that gentleman : -
At the risk of being considered over persistent, I must express the opinion that your reply is mainly a defence of an obsolete plant, which, however mechanically sound, is not capable of rendering efficient service to this community, mainly because of the limitations of the human element. In all your letters the principal features submitted by us seem to have been overlooked. The convenience to the subscribers appears to be quite secondary to making an obsolete plant hold together and perform perfunctorily for a- few more years. Your reference to Adelaide is appreciated, but on your own showing, something over 50 per cent, of the subscribers have the automatic. May I remind you that Newcastle ranks as the third port in importance in Australia. It is imperative that shipping and commerce associated with it should have the most modern conveniences, and prompt telephone connexions and disconnexionsare essential. It cannot possibly be said that we get efficient service in these directions. I have personally recorded many inconveniences since we commenced this campaign, none of which would be possible with the automatic, and most of them due to pressure of work at the exchange. On the very day your last letter arrived, two of your officials called upon our secretary in regard to our complaints. While they were there our secretary was called to the telephone, but the caller had only intimated his name when they were cut off. Our secretary endeavoured to re-establish the connexion, but it was so long in being made that he left an assistant at the telephone and returned to the officials. This is not an isolated experience, and we are sure that, if a fair-minded official were to come to Newcastle for a couple of weeks and have to operate the telephone as we have to do, there would be a very strong recommendation for the automatic. Again, we have pointed out to you that, from a purely departmental aspect, the change-over would be a sound financial proposition, even by scrapping the present plant. This has been entirely ignored.
I contend that it would not be necessary to scrap the manual apparatus at present in use. It is built in sections, and could be dismantled in sections, the various parts being used in country districts where the work is not so heavy as in Newcastle.
Mr.BLAIN (Northern Territory) [4.56]. - During my absence from the House last week, several honorable members spoke in reference to the Northern Territory, and the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) replied. I had intended to deal with their remarks in general terms only, but after hearing the speech of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison), I find it necessary to go more into detail than I had originally intended. The honorable member made some very sweeping statements, but not all of them were accurate. I was prepared to meet a rapier attack,and did not expect the honorable member to wield a broad-axe. I find myself in accord with the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins), to the extent that it is the duty of the Government so to direct the development of the country as to make for the development of a happy, prosperous and contented race, and for the elimination of poverty and degraded social conditions. I welcome honorable members discussing the Northern Territory, and I am glad that so much interest has been aroused in it and in its problems. In regard to Northern Australia, I do not ask for unjust favours, nor for shovelfulls of money for reckless expenditure; I do not ask for special grants, as the States are doing, thereby leading to the setting up of smaller bureaucracies within a great bureaucracy; nor do I ask for special roads grants, with which to build speedways for travellers to go to sleep on. I merely ask for an immediate stocktaking by a qualified Commonwealth body, so that it may be possible, for developmental purposes, to divide tropical Australia, and the vast interior of the continent, into areas possessing common interests.
In fine I am here to ask that at long last sanity should prevail in Australia, to consummate the idea of a complete and united Commonwealth. We are far from that ideal to-day as speeches delivered by honorable members in the last few days indicate, and I think we as Australians, should be thoroughly ashamed of ourselves for delaying so long a national stocktaking. Our credit and internal economy depend on it. A national stock-taking is the only method that will obviate haphazard endeavour, and needless spending. Until a co-ordinated policy based on exact information and, consonant with the varying natural endowments of each economic region is adopted, there can never be any unity in the Commonwealth.
Further, it is the utmost utilization by those economic units of all their natural endowments that will ensure prosperity to Australia, and make it possible for it to carry its maximum population. That can be achieved only by creating secondary industries within those economic units at the spot where they rightly belong, near the source of primary production. Because of their remoteness that ideal applies to the tropics of Australia with greater incidence. In endeavouring to focus the telescope to suit the varying vision of honorable members, who have never had an opportunity to visit the Northern Territory, to study its problems, and to enable them to make acute observation, I find to my surprise, the existence of absolute chaos in the internal economy of the south itself. The tropics, penalized by distance, cannot develop as rapidly as they should while the south is in chaos. It seems unpardonable, that that should be so, but I must leave it for the time being for honorable members to consider for themselves why it should be. Surely, it is patent to honorable members, though, that this chaos has resulted from the fact that economic units have not been vested with the necessary authority to conduct and develop their own domestic policy on .the spot, where local knowledge is of paramount importance. The employment of local knowledge is often discarded in favour of trial-and-error methods. For too long have trialanderror methods been applied. They have proved costly in Australian development, and are a disgrace to our boasted educational system which we have to capitalize.
But before turning my telescope on our tropics, particularly that portion within the Northern Territory, I must say that one does not need a telescope to discern that Australia cannot afford not to develop to their utmost capacity a federation of economic units.
Consequent upon the establishment of induced secondary industries in the areas of regional development to give the primary industries a local market for their first and second-grade products, the creation of economic units is essential. Induced secondary industries would give employment to the young Australians who are demanding new ideas and new activity and a re-orientation of ideas by this Commonwealth Parliament.
At the present time only the first-class results - the tops - of primary endeavour in the Northern Territory have a value. Those are handled by a congregation of people far distant who take little risk. The result is a leeching or draining of the products - some, such as timber, permanently - of each region to a distant locality for the enrichment of the few. That is against the interests of the poor population which cannot purchase the best, and are geographically situated too distant from the area of production to take advantage of the produce to which they are entitled. The results are the degradation of those unfortunate people and unemployment. Honorable members on all sides of the House if they will only speak, will agree that there must be a leavening out of the produce of the soil. There is always a sale for our best products, but we must come down to a regional policy which will make districts self-contained out of their own resources, and yet leave them with a saleable surplus of the best.
This Parliament, I believe, will see the urgency and wisdom, of ultimately having an economic survey of Australia itself. I am asking for an immediate economic survey of our tropics, and the Northern Territory in particular, so that the errors in Australian development of the past by trial and error will not be perpetuated and because of the national importance of the area to Australia.
At the moment, I do not propose to describe the Northern Territory, or point out how the economic dice are loaded against its development. At some other time I propose to treat the area in detail, and suggest how its internal regional units should be delineated, in keeping with adjoining areas of the States abutting thereon. An example of an area of the Commonwealth possessed of the right to be treated as an economic unit is the Barkly Tablelands district, where the cattlemen not only are deprived of a sea-outlet for their beef, but also suffer in consequence of legislation passed by the Queensland Parliament relating to the buffalo fly. Surely, the pastoralists in that area have the right to develop it as a self-contained economic area with Government assistance to help them work out their own destiny. Even in good times their outlets to the markets are severely limited, but when drought closes the cross-country routes for travelling stock, the position of the pastoralists in the Barkly Tablelands is desperate. The Commonwealth Government should lend financial aid for the establishment of a sea-port for them as a first essential to developing the area I have mentioned, together with the area west- of the Leichhardt [River in Queensland as far as the coast, as the first economic unit, not only in the tropical areas of Australia, but first in the country itself.
I make that proposition to the Ministry in all seriousness, (but particularly because of the remarks made to-day by the honorable member for “Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) . The southern sections of this continent to-day are saying, as they have been saying for years, to the tropical north: “We will not come to the conclusion that the north should be developed; nor will we allow your cattle to be sent south”. The cattlegrower of the south looks with disfavour on the north, ‘because it deprives him of choice market prices. In the existing circumstances, the cattle leave the north as “ fats “, but when they reach the southern and the Queensland markets they are merely store quality. Even then the buyers do not give the northern pastoralists a fair deal. They take the attitude that the producers are desperate, and, in collusion, bid low rates for the beasts. If a mob of cattle in low condition after weeks of travel across parched country, arrives at the railhead of Charlesville or Quilpie, the ‘buyers say : “In a few weeks cattle in better condition will arrive from “Wave Hill, and we are prepared to wait for them before purchasing “. The harrassed producers then are offered a price lower than their demand, and a forced sale is made.
The same conditions apply when cattle from Alice Springs reach the Adelaide abattoirs. The butchers are gathered around the amphitheatre and, if the market is not glutted, the producer expects to receive a good price for his cattle. He, however, has to submit to the offers made by the ‘butchers) who bond together to heat down the’ northern cattleman’s prices. Grading the meat on the hooks in the abattoirs would obviate this uncertainty.
Until the Commonwealth Government takes up this question, and insists on the fixation of minimum prices for cattle produced in the Northern Territory and sold in the markets of the States, and the establishment of machinery through which the Department of Commerce will become a more active body in distributing our meat in the east and overseas, the Australian meat industry will he uneconomic. The Commonwealth Government should put its shoulders to the wheel and do something that will not only place the meat industry of the south on a firm basis, but also make better the position of the northern pastoralist. Sub-division under present conditions would only produce another crop of mendicants, but there is plenty of room for greater population under right conditions. The present state of these men is worse than perilous. -Many of them have given that priceless possession - their youth - in efforts to develop the resources of the tropics for Australia, and they should not have thrown in their teeth the phrase “Find the money yourselves”. The problem is not merely one for the Commonwealth; it is an Empire task.
I do not propose at present to go into detail as to what the production of power alcohol would .do towards developing the Northern Territory, or what the byproduct of power alcohol, dry ice, would mean in the development of a northern fishing industry. Australia seems oblivious to the fact that the Japanese and Chinese treat fishing as a real industry in tropical waters. They farm the waters as we farm the lands. The production of beef under uneconomic conditions in the north spells stagnation and - because due regard has not been paid to regional development - distant meat-works are compelled to cull mercilessly stock that leave the pastures prime, but in travelling over vast areas have so lost condition that the herds instead of being intact on reaching the market are sometimes reduced to 75 per cent, or less of .their original value. I intend on a future occasion to put a proposition to the Government that it should enable the establishment in certain areas of small meat-works to operate inland from the coast at the fattening grounds. Supplies of dry ice will make this possible as a future development. Further references to this will be embodied in a separate speech, as I realize that the time is not opportune to embark on a detailed survey of everything that should be done to set the Northern Territory on a permanently satisfactory economic basis. The northern waters of Australia, however, provide the means for the creation of an efficient fishing industry.
The Northern Territory is the home of a poultry industry. Pineapples and all tropica] fruits grow in profusion. Canning of second-grade meat and fruits present an enormous field for future endeavour. We have something in the north worth assessing, and, in asking for an economic survey to be made of its limitations and possibilities, I am suggesting something that will overcome the need for the “reckless spending” to which the honorable member for Wentworth referred. Sanity will be restored. The survey should be made by qualified men; technical men should carry out the technical side and economists the economical side. An administration is required in the Northern Territory that will gather all possible information about its resources. We were charged in 1900 with the duty of weaving every region into our national economy; the north, in the light of world events, cannot be discarded any longer. Without going into details, I am satisfied at the moment that I have purified the mining outlook, placing it on an industrial basis instead of a wild cat basis; further, I hope to convince the Prime Minister how advisable it is to set up a Commonwealth mining body under Sir David Rivett to operate firstly in the Northern Territory and prove our unexplored mineral asset. The other States would quickly ask for the services of this body.
I feel, Mr. Chairman, that this body would pave the way for a more complete and comprehensive economic survey of Australia with an economist in charge.
This survey would be governed by soil and climate and detailed by soil survey, in conjunction with a complete stocktaking of our mineral deposits.
I feel that before we can populate North Australia, we must prepare the track in the manner outlined. A century of rule-of-thumb government has failed to do it, and we must have a scientific basis before we allow any others to risk a guess-work policy which is unnecessary, and always would have been if the matter hadbeen handled in a proper way.
I, therefore, intend to call a conference of all members who have visited the Territory, those who have interests there, and those of specialized knowledge.
If we dicker by trade treaties with our eastern neighbours, without first carefully scrutinizing our lands washed by tropic seas, we will find that what appears to be an immediate benefit will later prove to be another supposedly unloaded gun, the most dangerous weapon of all. We all recall what happened to the Australian pearling industry. We taught the Japanese how to engage in pearling, and now they are beating us at our own game. Immediate profit should not be the target at which Australia’s trade efforts should be aimed. It is the future - what we are building up to - that we should sense most strongly. Our efforts should be directed against an insidious growth that, if allowed to pursue its cancerous course, will drain the life-blood of the people-. The disinclination of the Government to look to the future, by making provision for an economic survey of the northern sections of the continent, leaves Australia at the mercy of its neighbours.
I cordially invite the Prime Minister to visit the Northern Territory, and to be the first Prime Minister to show an appreciation of the reality of its problems. In doing so he would merely be accepting the charge given to this Parliament in 1900 that it should develop northern Australia by means of a white population, never permitting the depressing spectacle witnessed on the African continent, and never allowing any part of our country to be occupied - even in part - by a rival nation. [ Quorum formed.]
– I shall direct my remarks to the timely amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), which aims at the formation of a national council to deal with unemployment, particularly amongst youths and girls, and to afford adequate relief and training to those for whom employment has not been provided. During the last election campaign considerable importance was attached to proposals for dealing with the problem of unemployment. Each party that sought the suffrages of the people enunciated its policy in this regard, and the Country party issued a carefully prepared pamphlet in which it stated that it intended to attack the fundamental causes of the evil. Similar claims were advanced on behalf of the United Australia party. As over a year has elapsed since the present Government was returned to office, it should already have concentrated its attention upon the matter, and taken practical steps to solve the problem. When this Parliament was first called together His Excellency the GovernorGeneral said -
My advisers take pride in the fact that during the past two years Australiahas, together with the United Kingdom, taken a leading place among the nations of the world in financial and industrial recovery. They also observe with satisfaction the consistent and substantial improvement in employment over that period.
The Government takes this opportunity to say that the partial recovery from the depression which has been achieved would not have been possible without the patriotic cooperation of the people as a whole, andespecially the gallant fortitude of those who have been the keenest sufferers.
My advisers regard with sympathy and concern the heavy unemployment which still persists and propose to give to this grave and pressing problem priority over other matters.
With this object in view employment and its associated questions have been allotted as a special ministerial task to the Minister of State for Commerce, who will, for a period at least, devote the major portion of his labours to this great problem, and will be relieved of much of the work of the Commerce department. Consideration will be directed to three principal matters: -
A complete survey of the unemployment problem in order to determine whether there are any root causes which could be effectively dealt with by direct Commonwealth action or by some concerted action on the part of the Commonwealth and the States;
The selection, preparation and carrying out of works which, by reason of their size or special connexion with Commonwealth functions, can properly be done by the Commonwealth alone ; and
Close collaboration with the State employment authorities with a view to the carrying out of works which, though within the authority of the States, cannot at present be undertaken without financial aid from the Commonwealth.
So far as I am aware, no action has been taken to remove the root cause of unemployment. It is true that funds have been made available to the States from time to time for the purpose of providing relief works; but insufficient attention is being devoted to the major problem of removing the basic causes of the trouble. In the Treasurer’s budget speech we find the following paragraphs -
It will be remembered that the Prime Minister dealt with the effects of Government policy on national prosperity. He deprecated proposals for unorthodox and dangerous experiments in finance and emphasized the importance of public confidence. He stated that the Government would continue its policy of sound finance in order to maintain the confidence that it had already restored, and would use unremitting efforts to improve the internal position.
The Prime Minister further stated that a complete return to the conditions that existed prior to the depression was not to be expected until there was a general world recovery and a revival of international trade. With regard to unemployment, he stated that, although there had been very considerable improvement, the Government was not satisfied with the existing position and, if returned to power, would make still further efforts to improve the situation.
What does the present Government propose to do to grapple with the basic causes of this evil? Unemployment has always been present, but the factors responsible for it in the past are different from those operating to-day. Quotation of the official records to show that a reduction of unemployment has occurred in recent years is not sufficient to satisfy the cry of the people for a speedy remedy. I do not admit that the present Government can justly claim to have reduced unemployment, nor do I concur in the glib assertion that public confidence has been restored by it. A measure of prosperity is being experienced and it is due in the main to the policy adopted by the Scullin Government, which corrected the adverse overseas trade balance. To say that confidence has been restored by the Lyons Government is to repeat a platitude that has been heard too frequently.
One way in which the problem could be seriously grappled with would be to reduce the hours of labour. The subject of a shorter working week has been under consideration at Geneva for some time. The report of the Australian Government’s delegate at the eighteenth session of the International Labour Conference states -
It would be impossible within the compass of this report to refer to the many points raised, but there appeared to be general agreement that the present depression could be solved only by international co-operation, and that the International Labour Office should take an active part in promoting such co-operation.
An unusual situation affecting the representative character of the conference developed out of the refusal of one of the nonGovernmental groups to participate on principle in the work of the committee to which the question of a reduction of hours of work was referred, and by the attitude of the same group in abstaining from voting on several important occasions when such abstention prevented the number of votes required to secure a quorum being recorded. The attitude of the group in question was the subject of comment by the president of the conference who, in referring to the matter in his closing speech, said: - “ A danger for the organization is apparent in the attitude adopted by one of the groups of the conference on the question of the reduction of hours of work, and the danger is greater in that it is negative. It is possible to combat it when it is positive. There is no defence against abstention. Such abstention, it will be said, is right. Is not a right abused when it is exercised not individually, but by concerted agreement, in an assembly in which the equilibrium is based on Part XIII., on the representation of three groups? If one group or another fails at any time to collaborate, the edifice for the stability of which that group is partly responsible begins to totter I am not passing judgment. I am giving a warning. For the future of the organization, it is essential to study and solve the serious problem raised by the refusal of a group to exercise its place in a committee, and by its abstention where such abstention paralyses the conference, as a result of the rule of the quorum.” . . .
The point that I make is, that even at such a conference apathy is felt towards the subject of the reduction of the hours of labour. This year a resolution was carried in support of a 40-hour week. I suggest that while other countries may be somewhat diffident about tackling the matter, Australia with its wonderful resources and potentialities lends itself admirably to the proposal, and should lead the world in this reform. Until within recent years Australia led the world in many directions, but particularly in relation to industrial conditions. Today, unfortunately, that is no longer the case ; on the contrary, we lag a long way behind in many respects. Serious consideration should be given to this matter, with the object of getting our people back into employmentas quickly as possible. In this connexion the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition is timely, and should be given due consideration by the Government. It may be claimed that the visit paidoverseas by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Employment (Sir Frederick Stewart) may have had valuable results in the collation of information on the subject. I submit, however, that the delay which has occurred cannot be justified. It is over twelve months since this Government was returned to office, and some tangible evidence should have been produced to show that the root causes of unemployment were being tackled by it. The budget for the present financial year does not suggest that any effort is being made in that direction. Because of the duplication and overlapping of industrial jurisdiction, it is useless to refer such a matter to the Arbitration Court. In any event the desired alteration could not ‘be made by that means within a reasonable length of time. Legislative action would not only ensure uniformity, but also effect the reform speedily and satisfactorily. The reduction of hours in some States and not in. others would not be satisfactory, because of the unfairness of the competition that would result. The matter may be dealt with most effectively by this Parliament passing legislation to reduce the number of hours in all States simultaneously. It may be argued that the economic circumstances of Australia make the proposal impracticable. My reply is, that a similar argument was advanced against the adoption of an eighthour day, and that the adverse effects then prophesied were not realized. The Director of the International Labour Office at Geneva, whose position entitles him to speak authoritatively, has made the following statement on the matter: -
Fifteen years ago a working week of 48 hours seemed the maximum limit to which the reduction of hours could go. It marked the consecration ofa demand which had stood at the head of labour programmes for 70 years. Now a further reduction is on the way. The ideas upon which the Washington Hours’ Convention was based are under revision because industrial conditions have undergone greatchanges. The age of industrial employment is likewise approaching the time of revision. Though fourteen is still the usual age at which children leave school and go to work, in several countries the trend towards raising this age has already begun. Sooner or later this convention too will come up for reconsideration. A similar movement of ideas may be observed in regard to old-age pensions. The traditional limit of65 years is now giving way to 60 in industry, and even lower ages are being discussed in some cases. Here too, a further advance will inevitably be made in the future, in fact, there are few of the existing conventions which can be considered as setting standards for all eternity. The need for revision will be constant and continuous.
That is a considered opinion, and cognizance should be taken of it.
The majority of honorable members have a practical knowledge of the existing conditions in the ranks of the unemployed. Admittedly, some members of the community are unemployable; but in most cases unemployment to-day affects those who, until a few years ago, held permanent employment and are prepared to accept whatever is offered to them. It is impossible to do more than obtain temporary relief for them. They regard the dole or sustenance with distaste, but are driven to accept one or the other. Serious consideration should be given to the appointment of a national unemployment council. It is a tragic fact that throughout the world something like 25,000,000 persons are unemployed, onequarter of them being under 25 years of age. The majority of these latter have never had employment of any kind. The adoption of a negative attitude will get us nowhere. Reports that I have read recently show that during last year over 2,000,000 persons died of starvation, and approximately 1,000,000 committed suicide. I quote the following from the pen of Harry Carr, editorial writer for the Los Angeles Times: -
The curtain goes down. Western civilization must be written down definitely as a failure. We have boasted of being a business people, and we have so little business brains that we are starving because there is too much food, going in rags because there are too many clothes. Wo have burned unfortunate people at the stake because they would not profess belief in the Christian religion, and yet our whole racial philosophy is a flat contradiction of the fundamental doctrines of the Christian, religion. In short, we are a race of hypocrites and richly deserve what is coming.
Those are very strong words, which doubtless were written after a careful consideration of the existing position. [Quorum formed.] Sir John Orr, a wellknown authority in matters of this kind in Great Britain, has made the following statement: -
Twenty million persons are below the standard needed for good health. Yet with these things the world has seen for some years organized destruction of food supplies and organized methods of restricting further production. This position does actually constitute the gravest challenge to statesmanship yet offered, for it is so clearly a position that if allowed to persist cannot fail to undermine the health and physique of those nations that suffer it. That, a remedy exists, we must accept as certain. To wait for it to find itself is dangerous. It is for statesmen here and elsewhere to justify their claim by enabling the hungry man to overcome the glutted market.
That sums up the position in which we find ourselves to-day. It is useless to wait, Micawber-like. for something to turn up that will provide a solution of this problem that is undermining the international structure. It has been said that the Government desires to investigate the root onuses of unemployment.
– It has been a long time thinking about the subject.
– That is so. If it has not been actually asleep it has been so near to it that ordinary people could not tell the difference. The Government has given no indication whatever that it really intends to investigate the problem. I am not so much concerned about the theory of the subject or the academic considerations associated with it, as I am about the people being provided with greater purchasing power than they now have. The main economic necessity at present is the provision of purchasing power.
My view is that the present economic trouble is the lack of purchasing power among the world’s consumers. Any system that will enable people to have money to spend - let them spend it as they will on wireless sets, automobiles, better clothing, travelling for pleasure, new dwellings, welllighted and appointed, all that they desire and need - will end the depres-sion. The solution of the difficulty lies in the creation of credits for the general mass, and not, as at present, for a privileged few. That seems to me to sum up the matter. In my opinion the Commonwealth Bank could be used by the Government to a much greater extent than it has been used up to date. In the early days of the war the governor of the bank, Sir Denison Miller, showed clearly that the bank could be used for the benefit of the people, and we know very well that during the war years it was called into the service of the primary producers to finance the marketing of their products. If it was possible to use the bank in that way at that time to help the producers it should be possible to use it now to help the unemployed.
I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) that the Government should put in hand a comprehensive housing scheme. Up to date it lias shown very little sense of responsibility in this connexion.
– It proposes to house the Military College at Duntroon.
– It would be much more to its credit ii’ it took steps to house the civilian population of Canberra before it worried about converting Duntroon into a military college. It is deplorable to me that, although a comprehensive housing scheme would provide a great deal of employment, it has not been taken in hand. In the meantime many people in the- community are being left without employment and are suffering from malnutrition.
While steps are being taken by the Government to develop markets overseas for wheat, wool, butter, meat, cheese, dried fruits and many other products, it is neglecting to develop the home market. The provision of employment for our workless people would at once result in the development of a valuable home market that would assure much better conditions for the primary producers. We must, however, increase the purchasing power of the people before the primary producers can look for an improved local market. Although the Government has time to concern itself with the preparation of legislation to deal with persons supposed to be in revolt against the existing social order, it has no time to promote the welfare of the unemployed.
Reverting again to the capacity of the Commonwealth Bank to meet the financial needs of the present situation, I am reminded that the arguments being used to-day against every effort to improve the lot of the people, are similar to those which were adopted years ago when’ progressive individuals attempted to put into operation a broad programme of public works. I direct the attention of honorable members to the history of Hugh Myddelton, a watchmaker by profession, who, several generations ago, propounded a scheme to supply London with pure drinking water. The story is recorded in Smiles’ Engineers; Myddelton, Brindley, &c. The proposals of Myddelton were attacked in many quarters. It was said that the work could not be done and that even if it could be done it ought not to be done. I cite the following passage from Smiles’ work which sets the case out very clearly : -
The works were no sooner begun than a swarm of opponents sprang up. The owners and occupiers of lands through which the New River was to be cut, strongly objected to it as most injurious to their interests. In a petition presented by them to Parliament, they alleged that their meadows would be turned into “ bogs and quagmires “, and arable land become “ squallid ground “ ; that their farms would be “ mangled “ and their fields cut up into quillets and “ small peeces “ ; that the “ cut “ which was no better than a deep ditch, dangerous to men and cattle, would, upon “ soden raines “, inundate the adjoining meadows and pastures, to the utter ruin of many poor men: that the church would be wronged in its tithe without remedy ; that the highway between London and Ware would be made impassable; and that an infinity of evils would be perpetrated and irretrievable injuries inflicted on themselves and their posterity. The opponents also pointed out that the Mayor and corporation would have nothing to do with the business, but, by an irrevocable act of the Common Council, had transferred their powers of executing the works to Mr. Myddelton and his heirs, “ who doth the same for his own private benefit “.
In spite of the presentation of a petition to Parliament, Myddelton’s work was completed successfully to the substantial benefit of the citizens of London. When Mr. King O’Malley and Mr. Andrew Fisher introduced the legislation that resulted in the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank, it was asserted that they could be likened to highway robbers armed with revolvers. It was also alleged that their only object was to rob the private banking companies. Those statements have long since been disproved and the persons who made them and others similar to them would be glad if they could be forgotten. But in spite of the success of the Commonwealth Bank, efforts which have been made from time to time to amend the Commonwealth Bank Act to provide a rural credits department of the bank have been strongly assailed. In this connexion I cite a. passage from L. C. Jauncey’s Australia’s Government Bank, which reads as follows: -
King O’Malley, in 1917, tried to amend the Commonwealth Bank Act to provide a rural credits department in the bank. On March 7 of that year, in offering the bill in the House of Representatives, he stated that -
The farmer is the foundation of the nation and yet he pays the highest rate of interest for his requirements, although he has the best security in the world. The reason for that in Australia is that we have not tried to meet the farmers’ necessities. I thought to get the Commonwealth Bank to assist him, but that institution is not yet performing what should be its greatest function, that is, operating a rural credits loan department . . . The existing savings banks, both Commonwealth and States, approved land banks and credit foncier institutions, could be utilized by the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank to grant loans to accredited farmers under uniform conditions authorized by the Commonwealth Treasurer.
Had the legislation presented to Parliament that year been passed Australia would now be in a much better economic and financial position. [Leave to continue given.] I agree with the remarks of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) in regard to the necessity for seeking avenues for the employment of youths. Thousands of boys and girls leave school each year, and have no reasonable prospect of being employed in any profitable undertakings. In my opinion, no better avenue for the employment of youths is presented than that of forestry development. I make no apology for referring again to forestry development, because if a sound scheme of forestry development were adopted, not only would assets of great value be built up, but also an opportunity would be created for the employment of the younger members of the community. Tasmania presents wonderful possibilities for forestry development, and, according to Mr. G. J. Rogers, B.Sc, Chief Forester of the Federal Capital Territory, is known to possess the best forest climate in the Commonwealth, and is credited with the possession of very large areas of high forest. The Government should give serious consideration to the formation of a national council to deal with the whole question of unemployment in an endeavour to ascertain and grapple with the root causes of the problem.
– I offer my congratulations to the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) upon his elevation to full ministerial rank, and upon the presentation of his first budget. I also desire to offer my congratulations to the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. “Watkins) upon the preparation which he made for his maiden speech. I trust that his future speeches will show the same amount of careful preparation. I offer my congratulations also to the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the Govern ment upon the presentation of its fourth successive surplus. In these times, it 13 difficult for a government to realize this ambition, and few governments in the world to-day can boast of such an achievement. In his early policy speech, the Prime Minister indicated that the Government would carry on the affairs of the country on orthodox lines. He deprecated proposals for unorthodox and dangerous experiments in finance and emphasized the importance of public confidence. An outstanding feature of this budget is the absence of any unorthodox policy. The budget speech itself indicates that the sound financial policy responsible for the great improvement in the commercial world generally continues to prevail.
In regard to unemployment, although the position is not as satisfactory as one would like, definite improvement has certainly been shown. When we reflect on the conditions which faced the country in 1929-30, when the proportion of unemployed was in the vicinity of 30 per cent., we realize how great the improvement has been, seeing that to-day the percentage of unemployed has been reduced to sixteen. During the difficult days of the depression, everybody referred to thu fact that of all industries the building trade was most seriously affected, but owing to the action of this Government employment in that industry has been greatly increased. For instance, the Government reduced the sales tax on almost all items used in the building trade, although it meant a loss of revenue amounting to £600,000. The statistics show that in 1932-33, the total amount spent in the building industry amounted to £6,850,000; in 1933-34, it increased to £11,186,000, and in 1934-35, it further increased to £17,610,000. We were told that when the tariff policy of the late Government was brought into operation, hundreds of thousands of persons would be found employment in our factories. Unfortunately, the reverse was the case, but as the result of the policy of the present Government there has been a gratifying improvement in factory employment. In 1931-32, the number of persons employed in factories in Australia was 337,000 ; in 1932-33, it increased to 371,000; in 1933-34, to 406,000, and this year to 451,000. Also as the result of the sound policy of this Government, internal and external, confidence has been created both in Australia and abroad; the Australian High Commissioner in London (Mr. Bruce) has been able to bring about the successful conversion of loans amounting to £160,305,000, upon which we were formerly paying interest rates of from 5 per cent. to 6½ per cent., whereas the average interest rate now paid is only £3 13s. 5d. per cent - a reduction of practically1½ per cent. The annual saving of £2,925,000 thus effected is made up of interest, £2,341,000, and exchange, £594,000.
This is a conservative budget, though I find no reason for conservatism unless it be the disturbed condition of the world and anxiety throughout the world generally in regard to developments in Abyssinia. Substantial reductions of taxation have been made, but I suggest that if further reductions were made, greater revival in private industry, which, after all, absorbs 80 per cent. of the workers, would follow; industry would expand and develop, and more persons would be employed. Crippling taxation hampers trade. As I have said, the budget, in my opinion, is too conservative; but let me quote the views of competent judges overseas. According to the Telegraph, the London press is reported to have referred to the budget in these terms -
How London Views It. (The “Telegraph”Special.)
London, Tuesday. “ What a splendid race those Australians are! How magnificently they have met and overcome adversity! Now they are settled on a course , of prosperity; long may it reign!” This is the comment of the Daily Express on the Commonwealth budget.
The Manchester Guardian congratulated Australia upon relying on sound, cautious principles of finance. “ This contrasts pleasantly with some of the budgetary methods followed in Europe”, the newspaper adds. “The Federal Treasury rightly can boast that world trade improvement is now most noticeable in the Empire.”
The Financial Times observes that internal adjustments, inherent in the financial relations between the States and the Commonwealth, still involve many difficult problems, but so far as the outside world is concerned the position of Australia is one of growing strength.
These observations clearly indicate that outside Australia the Commonwealth’s budget has been received with enthusiasm and that as the result of the financial policy adopted by this Government, Australia’s prestige has been substantially improved.
The greatest weakness in the budget to-day is the ever-increasing provision that has to be made for social services. Although I believe that social services should be as generous as the nation can provide, there are factors concerning the payment of invalid and oldage pensions that call for serious reflection and action on definite lines. In 1911, when we had in Australia a population of 4,500,000, invalid and old-age pensions cost £2,149,650; to-day, with a population of 6,750,000, the pensions bill amounts to £12,750,000. During this period, while our population has increased by 50 per cent., our invalid and old-age pensions have increased by 600 per cent. The 1933 census results disclose that the age distribution of population is changing rapidly, and that an increasing proportion of the population is approaching the pensionable age group, with the result that during the next ten years, the annual increase in the number of pensions will be double that of the last ten years. The following figures show how the percentage has gone up : -
All factors seem to be exerting a trend in the same direction, and we find that the percentage of old-age and invalid pensions to the total population is as follows : -
It will thus be seen that the financing of this system on the present voluntary basis in future years will present continually increasing difficulties. If the principle of adequate old-age and invalid pensions is to be followed - and it must be - a contributory system will be the only alternative to an increase of taxes. It is obvious from this rate of increase, that future budgets will be crippled by payments for social services, and no one Will in the long run be more seriously affected than those we desire to assist by the payment of these pensions.
In my opinion, the only way to tackle this problem is by the institution of a scheme of national insurance. I was a member of the Royal Commission on National Insurance that recommended the adoption of such a scheme. National insurance would, I am sure, provide definite security for our aged and infirm citizens. The greatest and most constant anxiety of the wage-earner is the possibility that he and his dependants may be placed in serious financial difficulties as the result of sickness, accident, invalidity, or old age. National insurance would provide a remedy for this, one of the greatest evils in the community. The fundamental doctrine underlying the whole fabric of national insurance appears to be that all sections of the community should be protected by the strength of the community as a whole against the incidence of misfortune that befalls a section or an individual. It is now recognized in the Old World that in order to advance the prosperity of the nation as a whole and conserve its vital forces, it is better that a misfortune befalling an individual should be distributed and borne lightly by the whole community than that the individual should be crushed by the weight of hia own trouble. ^Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– The royal commission’s reports proved that national insurance has long since passed the experimental stage, having become an integral part of the social system of most important countries of the world. In this regard Australia is far behind the times, notwithstanding the fact that we claim to lead the world in social legislation. Legislation on this subject was enacted by Austria-Hungary in 1854, Belgium in 1868, Germany in 1883,
France in 1894, Luxembourg in 1901, Norway and Iceland in 1909, Italy in 1910, the United Kingdom in 1911, Roumania and Russia in 1912, Holland and Sweden in 1913, Bulgaria in 1918, Czechoslovakia, Portugual and Spain in 1919, Poland in 1920, Denmark in 1921, Esthonia, Japan, Latvia and Yugoslavia in 1922, and the Irish Free State and Argentina in 1923. In most of those countries the original schemes have since been considerably extended, and are continually being made more comprehensive. In not one instance has there been any suggestion to abandon national insurance, and return to the less satisfactory pre- insurance methods. Those who were amongst the most bitter critics of the schemes at their inception subsequently became their strongest supporters. My experience on the National Insurance Commission has convinced me that the need for such a scheme in Australia has been proved beyond all doubt. Many wage-earners are unable to provide unaided for circumstances that may arise from incapacity to work. The worker is unable to make provision for the whole of his life from the wages received during his effective working years. His greatest and most constant anxiety is that, should he be unable to continue at his employment, he and his dependants will be involved in serious financial difficulties. Through sickness each worker loses on the average twelve days’ employment per annum. One- third of the normal unemployment in Australia is due to sickness or accident suffered by the workers engaged in industry, and 6 per cent, of the workers are injured annually. Many are permanently incapacitated, and more than 3 per cent, of all wage-earners in Australia are drawing the Commonwealth invalid pension. Many more persons are invalids, but because it cannot be proved that they are totally and permanently incapacitated they are not able to secure the assistance they so greatly need. National insurance will give them the necessary relief. Quite 16 per cent, of our native-born citizens are applicants for the old-age pension. The whole community suffers as the result of the wage-earners’ incapacity to work. Wages to the amount of £10,000,000 are lost each year on account of sickness, and the non-circulation of this money is a serious matter for the worker and for trade. The resultant loss in production is estimated at four times this amount, while the social and economic burden created is enormous, and is most inequitably distributed. Existing systems of mutual and other assistance in Australia have been of great .advantage. They have served a national need, but they have failed to help adequately the majority of wage-earners to make provision for the difficult circumstances in which they may be placed as the result of sickness, accident, invaldity or oldage. They represent a stage in the evolution of national insurance.
The existing friendly societies and other mutual benefit associations have expressed the fear that a scheme of national insurance will destroy their voluntary organization. The experience in Great Britain, however, has proved the opposite; the voluntary organizations there are stronger to-day, both numerically and financially, than prior to the inception of the scheme of national insurance. The membership of the British organizations has increased from 6,000,000 to 8,000,000 persons since the scheme was inaugurated, and in addition, their’ accumulated funds have increased from £50,000,000 to £100,000,000. The friendly societies should realize that a scheme of national insurance is but an extension of the principles which they have advocated for years, and consequently they should render the Government all the assistance in their power to make the new scheme a success. The friendly societies claim that free medical treatment is the greatest benefit the3 confer on their members. The scheme recommended by the commission does not destroy that benefit. The only duplication is in respect of sickness benefits, which at present are inadequate. Benefits in connexion with superannuation, invalidity, and maternity are to-day the sole function of the Commonwealth Government; they are not provided by the friendly societies. The appropriation for old-age pensions and invalid pensions since their inception has been £171,250,000, and the fact that this year’s expenditure is approaching £13,000,000 should convince the Government that the institution of a scheme of national insurance is imperative.
After long discussions with a committee of actuaries, aud consultations with leaders of friendly societies, the then Government, in September of 1928, introduced into this Parliament a bill based on the recommendations of the Royal Commission on National Insurance. At the general elections shortly afterwards that government was defeated on an arbitration issue; there followed the Scullin Government and the depression. With the advent of the Lyons Government the financial position has improved, and, with all the information available on which the bill was drafted, with the experience of governments the world over in the administration of schemes of national insurance to guide them, the Government should have no difficulty in introducing a measure to provide for national insurance covering sickness, invalidity, and old-age.
The first step should be the establishment of a national fund providing for old-age and invalid benefits only; medical and unemployment benefits could be added as the organization was built up. Relief to the unemployed and the provision of employment are urgent, but. no scheme of unemployment insurance could give immediate benefits. Many months must elapse after parliamentary approval is given, before the organization could be set up, and contributions from wages would have to be made over a period before unemployment benefits could be paid.
I desire to draw attention to the delay of the Government in providing patrol boats for northern Australian waters. For over two years the proposals of the Government in this respect have been made available to the press from time to time. The public were told that there were to be three patrol boats, which, among other duties,’ would be available to render assistance to the air liners plying backwards and forwards over the Timor Sea should such assistance be needed. Other areas to be patrolled were the Barrier Reef, northern Queensland generally, and the waters in the vicinity of Rabaul and along the coasts of New Guinea. The boats and their crews were to be engaged in the work of protecting natives, preventing illegal fishing, particularly on the Barrier Reef, preventing breaches of quarantine regulations, and checking the drug traffic. So far, however, only the Defence Department seems to have done anything at all. It has placed an order for a patrol boat which is now under construction, but, as far as I can ascertain, the other departments, whether the Department of the Interior, the Department of Trade and Customs, or the Territories Branch, have done nothing at all. The greatest indignation exists in the north at the Government’s delay, and almost every Queensland newspaper that one picks up contains some reference to the matter. The following article, published in the Courier-Mail, of Brisbane, clearly shows that, because the Commonwealth Government has failed to carry out its promise to patrol the northern waters, the efforts of the Commonwealth departments to check the operations of the Japanese sampan crews are nullified: -
Authorities “ Working in Dark.”
Commonwealth health wad customs authorities in Brisbane said yesterday that, under present conditions, they were severely handicapped in checking the landing of Japanese sampan crews on the North Queensland coast. They expressed confidence, however, that the use of speed boats, as approved by the Federal Government, would place their work on an improved footing.
The officials were commenting on the statement made in Sydney by a Torres Straits shipping master that sampan crews, after long journeys from the East, landed on the coast against quarantine and customs regulations, and sometimes came in contact with the natives. “ Until the launches suggested by the Federal authorities are provided, we are really working in the dark; but wo are doing all we can with the machinery at our disposal,” said Dr. C. R. Wiburd (Commonwealth Health Department). Beforehis department could take any action it was necessary to make direct contact with the sampan crews.
Any persons who were suspected of having come into contact with sampans were, however, kept under close surveillance, to prevent the possibility of spread of disease. A strict watch was kept on the crews of luggers working between Thursday Island and Townsville.
The Collector of Customs (Mr. R.B. Curd) agreed that the crews of sampans would probably find it easy to land on the coast, particularly about the Gulf of Carpentaria. They would, of necessity, come ashore for supplies of water and food, and mission authorities had complained that they had come into contact with the blacks.
The Brisbane Telegraph published the following warning regarding the same matter : -
Sampans Cleaning up Shell.
Daring Activity in North.
Japanese sampan crews in Northern Australian waters had now reached such a pitch of arrogant defiance of this country’s Jaws that they were almost openly landing on parts of the mainland coast north from Cooktown, said a northern shipping man to-day, commenting upon the published statement by Captain L. S. Diamond, well-known in Torres Straits waters, that the Japanese had dropped all pretence of concealment and were openly working what remained of the trochus shell ground’s along the Barrier Reef.
The article also claimed that the Australian shell industry would be exterminated within a very short period, as shells of all description were being removed by the Japanese sampan owners.
– The complaints I have made are not isolated. The Japanese sampan owners are defying our laws. Press reports indicate that scores of sampans are operating, and the Commonwealth Government, despite its promises, is doing nothing to patrol the waters which the sampans are pillaging. Again, I emphasize that, unless the Government moves quickly, it will be useless to attempt anything, and it will be too late to move in the matter. Proving that not just one or two, but many, sampans are engaging in illegal fishing in Australian waters, the following comments in the Brisbane Telegraph are of interest : -
Fishing on the Barrier.
Sydney, March 31. Captain S. L. Diamond, a Torres Straits shipping master, who arrived in Sydney by the Taiping to-day, said that the Commonwealth Government’s decision to use speed boats to check Japanese sampans operating in the trochus shell areas of the Barrier Reef, would be welcomed by Australians engaged in the industry.
Captain Diamond proceeds to say that in the last eighteen months he has seen scores of sampans at work. Sometimes they work in the same areas in which the Australians are working. Bitter resentment exists among the Australian fishermen, and a serious clash seems imminent.
According to a paragraph in the Courier-Mail, Mv. Francis Edgar Hocking informed the Tariff Board in Brisbane that ‘the Australian shell industry was practically in the hands of the Japanese, who were defying every endeavour to prevent their operations. He told the inquiry that the Commonwealth departments did not have sufficient power to combat the menace. Another illustration of the extent of the depredations of the Japanese sampans is the report that 25 sampans were recently poaching in waters north-west of Western Australia.
So impressed is the Brisbane Chamber of Commerce with the dangers threatening the Australian shell-fishing industry, that it has carried a resolution protesting against the delay in carrying out the undertaking to provide patrol boats for the northern waters. The newspaper which published the text of that resolution also, on the same day and in the same column, published a report that an Australian trawler had been seized for having engaged in illegal fishing in the waters of New Zealand and the offender was to be prosecuted. All these extracts from newspapers prove my contention that the owners of sampans are acting in wholesale daily defiance of our laws concerning quarantine, customs and fishing, and that the Commonwealth departments are unable to prevent them. The departments are working in the dark, but they are doing all they can with the machinery at their disposal.
The Bishop of Carpentaria, at the meeting of the Anglican Provincial Synod at Townsville recently, declared that the. difficulties involved in looking after the natives were accentuated by the presence of the Japanese sampans and their crews. The statements I have made are based on reports in most reputable newspapers. I have said sufficient, I think, to make it plain that the Commonwealth Government has grievously failed to carry out the promise it made two years ago to take action to rid Australian waters of the Japanese poachers. I trust that the Minister, in replying to this debate, will inform the committee of what it has done and when we may expect the Government’s promises to be kept.
.- I. support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) made sneering references to the record of the Scullin Government, but in doing so he exposed the skeleton in the cupboard. This Government definitely pledged itself before the last election to relieve the suffering among the unemployed youth of Australia. Australian mothers, no doubt, voted for the supporters of tho parties now in power because of their promises, but so far nothing has been done to honour those promises. I am at a loss to understand, not only how the Government can continue to occupy the treasury bench in the face of its display of hypocrisy, but also how its supporters can have the audacity to rise in this chamber and claim that the Ministry has taken action to remove the cause of suffering among the young people of this country. About 100,000 boys and girls leave school every year, and only 60,000 of them are absorbed into industry. Forty thousand are compelled to walk about the streets in a shocking state of poverty. The manhood and the industries of Australia will languish if provision is not made for the absorption of the young men and girls who at present are compelled to live on their parents.
Australian mothers and fathers sacrifice many of the pleasures of life to provide their children with education to fit them to take a place in industry, but after the children leave school, no industrial activity exists for many of them. The Commonwealth Government, I know, will take shelter from public scorn by declaring that it is not the responsibility of the Commonwealth to remove the cause of my complaints. It, however, has a great responsibility to Australian youth. The United Australia party cannot disclaim that responsibility.
– Nor can the Country party.
– That is so; nor can the Country party, which has at all times been ready to dip its hands into the Treasury on behalf of the interests it represents. The young men and women of Australia are just as essential to the economic welfare of the Commonwealth as are the wheat-growers. They are required as replacements in industry for the men and women who have to retire because of age. Without fear of accurate contradiction, I declare again that no supporter of the Government can justifiably take an opportunity in this House to claim that the Government has honoured its obligations. I concede that it did vote to Tasmania £25,000 for forestry, but the Tasmanian Government in spending that money did a very good job on behalf of the unemployed youth of the State. I have visited the camps set up in Tasmania and seen the wonderful conditions of training that have been carried out under the Tasmanian Forestry Department and the Minister (Mr. Cosgrove). Mr. Cosgrove has spent well the money doled out «by this “humanitarian” Government known as the United Australia party Government, or the “Unemployed or poverty party” government.
Before the last elections, the Commonwealth Government said that it would do its utmost to solve the unemployment problem, and this year £100,000 has been voted for the relief of unemployment on special works. It, however, has no money to give to the State governments to enable them to carry out a policy which will result in the re-engaging of Australian youths in industry. If the Commonwealth Government were sincere, it would cooperate with the States and have a policy placed in immediate operation which would fulfil its promises in this respect. Its principal adviser, a member of the United Australia party, who was selected to be in control of unemployment, is globe-trotting to-day. What is the objective of his world meanderings? Is he seeking information for the Government, or is he seeking to form a scheme to enable the Government’s promises to be fulfilled? I submit that he has made no attempt to do that. The only person I know who has achieved any benefit is the honorable gentleman himself.
– To whom is the honorable gentleman referring?
– I am referring to the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart),
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).Order! The honorable member for
Denison must confine his remarks to the matter before the Chair.
– I am criticizing the Government.
– Order ! The honorable member is going outside the Standing Orders in criticizing any one.
– Am I not in order in criticizing-
– The honorable member is not entitled to reflect on honorable members.
– I am very sorry if I have touched the Government on a sore spot, but supporters of the Government are always reflecting on the Scullin Government.
– Order !
– The Scullin Government had to nurse this country through a serious crisis, but the present Government has been in power in a period of prosperity unexampled for many years, despite which it has neglected to honour its obligations. The Government has done nothing to alleviate the sufferings of the unemployed. The least that should be given to those unfortunate persons each week is four days’ work or sustenance equal to four days’ pay at the basic wage rate. I think the average family in Tasmania is a man and wife with two children. Single men should receive each week two days’ work or sustenance amounting to two days’ pay at the basic wage rate to enable them to live. They require at least that sum to enable them to live; otherwise they would be unable to meet their obligations. Surely the Government will admit that they are entitled to sufficient money to enable them to pay house rent. If their wages merely covered the cost of food the Government would be imposing upon the owners of the houses which they occupy. Throughout the depression many landlords received no rent whatever from their properties, but, of course, had to pay rates and taxes on them as usual. The treatment which the unemployed section has received is very different from that meted out to the wheat-farmers, to whom substantial subsidies have been paid. Among the members of this Parliament are wealthy wheat-growers who have received this ‘bounty. The unemployed, as well as the unfortunate “cockies”, are entitled tohave their debts wiped out to enable them to make a fresh start in life. For this purpose they should be granted at least £12,000,000.
The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) was a member of a Government whose actions were anything but commendable. I understand that the Nationalist Government in Tasmania declined to support the policy of the department administered by the honorable member, and refused to permit the eviction from war service homes of exsoldiers who were unable to meet their commitments on account of unemployment. Why did not the honorable member say that when the Scullin Government was in office the Treasury was depleted and the Treasurer was faced with a deficit of £10,000,000? The honorable member desired to snigger at the Labour party. At the last election the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) told the people that prosperity was “ around the corner “, and that if he were returned to power he would lift Australia out of the morass of unemployment, but we find that the Government is still floundering in this bog. It has attempted to camouflage its various misdeeds, and its dastardly action towards men who fought for their country in its time of need. Ex-soldiers and their wives and families were thrown upon the streets of Hobart in the pouring rain, because of the policy of the department with respect to war service homes. The greatest fighters on behalf of these men were persons who did not go to the last war.
– The honorable member has made a deliberate misstatement.
– I hope that honorable members opposite will take their “ gruelling “.
– The honorable member for Denison must moderate his language.
– The honorable member for Moreton also referred to the seriousness of the position in regard to the cost of the invalid and old-age pension. According to Professor Copland, however, the finances of the Commonwealth have enormously improved; in fact, in only one other country has the recovery been so marked. It is not wise to suggest that Australia is not likely to be able to meet its financial obligations.
Naturally it will fail financially if tens of thousands of our young people are permitted indefinitely to walk the streets, with no hope of employment and with the prospect of being left on the dole until they qualify for receipt of the old-age pension. The present Government appears to have adopted a policy of starvation. Every person who is willing to work is entitled to employment.
If, on reaching the age at which they would normally marry, young people are, through unemployment, unable to enter matrimony, the outlook for the nation will be indeed desperate. The wealthy classes drive about in luxurious motor cars, in which are women who fondle dogs instead of children. A good deal is heard about the efforts of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) in the interests of maternal and infant welfare, and some of the remarks of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) about assisting expectant mothers by providing them with medical assistance would bring tears to the eyes of a graven image. The Government should not overlook the fact that the section of the community on whom the nation chiefly depends for the natural increase of the population is that which comprises the working classes.
The last census revealed that in Tasmania there were 7,000 persons unemployed and 11,000 partially employed. Do honorable members opposite seriously imagine that unemployment has been reduced in Tasmania by the efforts of the present Government? The Tasmanian Government is unable wholly to relieve unemployment in that State because the Commonwealth Government has refused to grant it sufficient money to carry out the works necessary to put all persons back into regular employment. The dole is the greatest curse Australia has ever experienced. It was introduced to cure an evil, but the more we pay by way of dole relief the more we shall have to provide. Surely this Government does not claim credit for the improvement in the building trade in Tasmania, seeing that it has not spent a shilling on public works there. One reason for the brighter outlook in that trade is the low interest rate, which has induced investors to put their money into real estate for the purpose of getting a higher return than is obtainable from other sources. Another reason is that the Labour Government in Tasmania Ls carrying out works that have been neglected for years by Nationalist administrations. There is no unemployed bricklayer or carpenter in Hobart. Unfortunately, as youths are not now apprenticed to trades, it is feared that in the course of a year or two skilled tradesmen will be practically unobtainable.
Before we embark upon proposals to reduce the hours of labour in industry State governments should receive financial aid from the Commonwealth to enable them to extend their systems of technical education, so as to ensure an adequate supply of trained operatives to take the place of those retired from; industry on account of their age. Only in this way will it be possible for industries to maintain their output under the suggested new system. But I am convinced that it is not the intention of the Government to bring forward proposals to reduce the number of hours worked in industry, or indeed, to ‘take any practical steps to solve the unemployment problem. It is said that some industries in the United States of America are carrying on with reduced hours of labour, but reliable information states that all skilled operatives are working a great deal of overtime. Thus the entire scheme is being defeated. This Government is not co-operating with the States in their efforts to reduce unemployment, and with the possible exception of the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) Ministers have no sympathy with the desire of honorable members on this side to do something for the workless of this country. We recognize that, owing to its lack of population, Australia is in a serious position. If our numbers were increased by, say, 5,000,000 of people, there would be an adequate home market for all the commodities which we produce, and Australia would be in a better position. I understand that the Government is negotiating for the introduction of a number of boys from Great Britain. I protest strongly against that proposal, whilst there are thousands of Australian boys walking the streets without work and without any prospect of getting employment.
When moving the second reading of the States Grants Bill, the Treasurer (Mr.
Casey) mentioned that Tasmania was not participating in the distribution- of the £500,000 of excess Commonwealth revenue because the Ogilvie Labour Government declined to reduce its deficit by an amount equivalent to the grant. I give that statement an emphatic denial. The Treasurer knows that the facts are not as he stated them. He knows that the “ Tasmanian Government, which in regard to its domestic legislation, has a most creditable record of achievement, was not in a position to do as had been suggested. It has been concentrating its attention upon proposals for the reduction of unemployment and I am glad <to say that, since its accession to office, there has been a marked improvement of the position. Its fearless attitude, in the face of adverse criticism from vested interests and the wealthier classes which support the Commonwealth Government in its struggle to defeat labour, regardless of the needs of the workers of this country, will ensure its continuance in power.
Apparently we have to wait until the return of the honorable member for Parramatta who, as the Under-Secretary for Employment, has been touring the world at the expense of Australian taxpayers, to inquire into unemployment problems in other countries, before any proposals are submitted by this Government. May I remind the committee that the countries visited by the unofficial member of the Cabinet have not themselves been conspicuously successful in their attempts to relieve unemployment ; yet we are’ expected to accept schemes which may be propounded by the honorable member for Parramatta, apparently without regard to Australian labour conditions.
I support the remarks of the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) with regard to the necessity for increased expenditure on forestry development in Tasmania which, strategically, is as important as Darwin, where the Government is undertaking heavy expenditure for defence purposes.
One would think, from the scant attention which Tasmania has received from the Commonwealth, that some Government supporters were lacking in their knowledge of geography and were apparently unaware that Tasmania, although divided from the mainland by Bass Strait, is an integral pant of the Commonwealth, and, therefore, is deserving of fair treatment. This was evident from the Government’s attitude to Tasmania when considering the allocation of the additional £500,000 surplus Commonwealth revenue for the reduction of State deficits. The Tasmanian Government was given to understand that if it overhauled its social legislation with a view to reducing somewhat the benefits to widows and orphans or the children of parents who were on the dole, it would get an additional £50,000 which could be applied to the reduction of its deficit. I am pleased that Mr. Dwyer Gray, the State Treasurer, refused to be coerced and preferred, instead, that the Government should fulfil its obligations to its people. The United Australia party is jealous of the splendid achievements of the Tasmanian Labour Government. So also isthe Country party. Every attempt is made to discredit the State government, but despite all the misrepresentations to which it has been subjected, even our opponents believe that labour Will win the next federal election in Tasmania. This is no idle boast. I had this admission from a prominent member of the United Australia party to-day.
I strongly urge the Minister for Defence (Mr. Archdale Parkhill) to use his influence in Cabinet to see that some portion of the £156,000, representing the unexpended vote for the assistance of metalliferous mining, is utilized for the encouragement of mining for osmiridium. This metal is largely used for the hardening of steel, and for war purposes it is as essential as wheat, so its production in increased quantities in Australia would mean much to this country. There is a good market for it in Germany, France, Italy and the United States of America, and the development of the industry in Australia would ensure employment for many hundreds of miners.
The Government has failed to fulfil its election promise to the mothers of this country that their boys would be absorbed in industry and would be given an opportunity to become efficient tradesmen. If I sat behind a government against which such a charge could be sustained I should vote against it. If it be the policy of this Government to assist the primary producer whenever he is in trouble, even in connexion with the provision of ruga for pigs, and on the other hand to keep the unemployed on a dole which is insufficient for the building up of a proper physique in the future manhood of the nation, the sooner it goes out of office the better
– I should like to add my congratulations to those that have already been voiced to the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), upon his appointment to that office. The honorable member is, I believe, the first Queensland-born Treasurer of the Commonwealth.
Budget speeches, and financial statements generally, are usually difficult to follow; but, however severely honorable members may feel inclined to criticize the budget speech for the present financial year, all will admit that it is so clear and simple that any schoolboy could understand it.
The first Treasurer of the Commonwealth, the late Sir George Turner, delivered four consecutive budget speeches. That record has been equalled by only one subsequent Treasurer, the present Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page).
Just as continuity of policy is undoubtedly essential in dealing with great national problems, particularly in relation to defence, so I maintain a long term of office is helpful to a Treasurer who, looking ahead and visualizing the financial requirements of the nation, does not hesitate to recommend the necessary legislation. I have always believed, and have never hesitated to state, that the life of this National Parliament should be extended from three years to at least five years. That could be brought about only by an amendment of the Constitution. The Parliaments of Canada and of South Africa are elected for five years, and the Parliament of the Irish Free State is, I believe, elected for seven years. I hope that some government, in its wisdom, will bring the matter before the people in the form of a referendum for an alteration of the Constitution. I am confident that a majority of the electors would approve of such an amendment being made.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), in moving his amendment that the first item be reduced by £1, charged the Government with having ignored the all-important problem of unemployment since its re-election to office twelve months ago. I contend that even in the welter of debate such a charge is unfounded and unwarranted. I quite agree with the honorable member that the Government of the Commonwealth should collaborate in every way with the governments of the States in the handling of this greatest of all problems, which” affects not only Australia but also every civilized country in the world. I affirm, however, that the present Government lias done everything possible to co-operate with the governments of the States, not only during the last twelve months, but also throughout the last four years. It has done everything that lay within its power to, assist the States financially. Millions of pounds have been advanced to the States for the specific purpose of assisting them to deal with the unemployment problem. As a matter of fact the complaint is made to-day that the States have not accepted what has been made available to them. I believe it was my friend the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) who. the other day, urged the Government to endeavour to induce the States to make use of this money. Consequently, I cannot avoid the conviction that the suggestion that the Government has not endeavoured to collaborate in every way with the States, is unfounded and unwarranted. I believe that we cannot do better than follow the suggestion made by the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) in a speech that he delivered on the 2nd November, 1934, on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral. The honorable member, referring to unemployment, then made the following statement : -
Whether we are in opposition or in office, the time has como when we must pool all our mental resources and engage in some concerted thought about those most elementary and fundamental features of the greatest problem which confronts us.
I am sure the Leader of the Opposition will agree that this problem transcends all the petty activities of party politics, and that we should join forces in a concerted and determined effort to solve it.
The Leader of the Opposition spoke somewhat scornfully of the figures quoted by the Treasurer which indicated a! definite reduction in unemployment. Surely it is gratifying to the Opposition when unemployment figures show a reduction of practically 50 per cent, since December, 1932.
The history of trade and commerce and of social activities in this country presents a most amazing story, considering that not more than 150 years have elapsed since the first white settlement took place in it. We cannot ignore the importance of commerce to our welfare. It is our very life-blood. As a debtor nation we have not only to provide through our great primary and secondary industries for the requirements of the home market, but have also to export to a value of at least £30,000,000 annually in order to meet our indebtedness overseas. We are absolutely dependent for our prosperity upon our exports of primary production and raw material. “ The figures given by the Treasurer in the budget speech surely indicate a tremendous recovery in connexion with the value of our annual production, as well as a definite increase of factory employment. The securing of markets at remunerative prices continues to present a most difficult and serious problem. It has been made all the more difficult and serious by reason of the fact that until within recent years those markets were freely available for the absorption of our surplus foodstuffs and raw material. The demand has been checked by an unprecendented and extensive resort to a policy of nationalization throughout the world. The fault does not lie with either this Government or that which preceded it. The contraction of markets and the limitation of demand have resulted in reduced prices. It has been the policy of this Government to foster friendly relations and to endeavour to complete satisfactory trade agreements with foreign countries’. Notwithstanding the view expressed by my friend, the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall), that trade agreements should not be made with foreign countries, I maintain that that is a right and proper policy. The maintenance and development of foreign markets is in the best interests of Australia. The objects of trade agreements are to secure and to maintain markets for our wool, wheat, dairy products and meat ; and it is more than ever necessary to establish goodwill when the circumstances surrounding trade are as difficult as those that exist to-day. The need of Australia is undoubtedly an administration, the first great objectives of which are to establish confidence by stable government, sound finance, and to bring about the progressive reduction of unemployment by action calculated to make private enterprise remunerative. I agree with the Treasurer that we are justified in looking to the future with a considerable measure of hope and confidence.
The great majority of the people of Australia undoubtedly appreciate the Government’s determination to continue steadily the rehabilitation of our defence forces, which, ever since the war, were progressively whittled down until they became almost a farce and a sham. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) referred to the situation in the Old World to-day and urged the Australian public to take steps to ensure the adequate defence of this country. However, his suggestion that the responsibility for . ensuring national security should rest more on the shoulders of any one particular section of the community than on others greatly surprised me. The honorable gentleman suggested that landed proprietors should primarily be called upon to provide for the defence of Australia. I believe that the very foundation of our national life is our ability and willingness to defend it, by superior mental and spiritual qualities in the first place, but by the strong arm should we be challenged. Those of us who had reached years of discretion during the period 1914 to 1918 need no reminder of the horrors of war or of its tragic aftermath. Any effort to avert war must undoubtedly receive world-wide support and approval, notwithstanding the forces that may be arrayed against such an effort. I have always been at a loss to understand by what right the most earnest advocates of peace impute that people who believe in providing for our national security are bloodthirsty scoundrels. Just as the protection of a” home is the first duty of parents and the occupants of it, so also is a nation’s security the first duty of a government, and the first obligation of the people constituting that nation. Referring particularly to the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition, I stress the point that the defence of Australia is the business of the people and of all the people. Undoubtedly it is a common obligation.
– The Boers were right when they defended South Africa?
– People are always right when they defend their homeland. The extent of measures which a country should take for its defence must be determined by the barometer which indicates the stage in the world which civilization has reached. This barometer at the moment is not steady; being a delicate instrument it is affected by the actions of even the smallest nations. It is wise for the government of any country to study such a barometer and to realize what stage civilization actually has reached instead of basing its decisions upon the theoretical ideas as to the stage which it should have reached. A wise government, such as is this Government, will frame its defence measures so as not to disturb this barometer. For instance, it will not arm itself for aggression. No one could reasonably affirm that any action which Australia might take in this direction would be of an aggressive character; such a suspicion could never arise so far as Australia i3 concerned. A wise government will not desire an excessive measure of defence as compared with the defences of other nations, which can only have the result of encouraging counter-activity and competition in armaments. The framing of such a policy calls for broadmindedness, clear vision and the exercise of the greatest statesmanship of which this Government is capable. This is not merely a theoretical idea; it is a practical policy. As in the final analysis, economic conditions are the root causes of war; a nation’s economic policy must march always hand in hand with its defence policy, and the one must be adjusted to the other. To-day the clash of armed forces is not heard as it was in the period from 1914 to 1918, but these are days of conflict, just as surely as were those days ; to-day there is a conflict of economic forces, of differing standards of ideals and differing schools of thought. There are “ new forces moving on the forehead of the world”. Since the war, the waves of enthusiasm have rolled back into the trough of disenchantment. High hopes lie extinguished and the peoples of a distracted world do not know which path they should follow. Despite all that has been urged by pacifists, an undefended country is undoubtedly a temptation to war and will be so long as the barometer of civilization has not been pegged at “ set fair “.
– What country is threatening us?
– I have never been in doubt as to what are the honorable member’s ideas on defence; he has never hesitated to express them. However, his opinions on such matters are not mine. Defences need not be on such a scale as will wholly resist attack. That often would be impossible. If they are provided on- such a scale as will make attack a serious and doubtful undertaking and a hazard they will prove effective. Few nations can provide immediately for all that is required for their effective defence, but a fixed and continuous policy is essential. Such a policy should be designed to cover a definite period, and should be one which will meet requirements at a given time; being progressive, it will be less wasteful than a spasmodic plan. The old military proverb - “Better an indifferent plan steadfastly adhered to than a good plan constantly changing” - holds good here. If the protection of a country is the first obligation of its population, then it would seem but logical that all who are capable should be required to contribute to the country’s defence. Unfortunately, some” people fear that a universal system of military training breeds a militaristic tendency; experience and reflection upon experience prove such a conclusion to be wrong. Undoubtedly, there are moral advantages in requiring all to contribute to their country’s welfare, and a wise military training such as is now encouraged will uplift physically and mentally the- youth of the country.
I repeat that we cannot close our eyes to the disturbed state of the old countries of the world to-day. I emphasize that point, particularly for the benefit of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). From time immemorial, morally and instinctively, the obligation has rested upon the men and youths of a nation to defend their homes and womenfolk should occasion arise. Modern civilization has not in any way modified that obligation. Whatever efforts our statesmen may make to maintain peace - and they should make unceasing efforts - it remains the duty of an able-bodied man to prepare himself in any, and every, way possible to help defend his country in case of need. From my own experience at Geneva, I am convinced that the voice of the British Empire is the greatest influence for peace and goodwill in the world to-day. I give way to no man in my desire for peace in my time. Those who have known war fear it most of all, because they realize the appalling results, both to the victors and vanquished, of war under modern conditions. The world need never fear any military measure we may take in Australia. Whatever may be the case elsewhere, military training with us is purely defensive. The smallness of our population makes this quite obvious. Also it is an additional reason why, on each citizen personally, should rest the obligation to defend this country, if necessary. We cannot really make Australia secure by any process other than by peopling this country with people of our own race ; and as, at the present rate, the natural increase of our population will not ensure our safety for 100 years at least, we cannot, within the life-time of people now living, be wholly or even reasonably safe against possible aggression. We have only two lines of defence - first, our foreign policy, so far as it is compatible with maintaining a white Australia, is peaceful, favouring mutual trade and understanding; and secondly, we try to maintain such defence forces as will enable us to protect this country against destructive raids, or attempts at local invasion, until the full force of the British Empire can come to our aid. We cannot become secure without the help of the British Empire ; we rely absolutely upon the Mother Country’s assistance. We have a fair claim to expect that assistance, as we went to Britain’s aid in a great struggle. But it would not be fair to expect the Mother Country to come to our aid unless we do something for ourselves. All of us are pacifists in a sense; we want to avoid war. But it would be a cheap kind of pacifism, which would say to the Mother Country, “ We expect you to keep up a big navy for us, but we are not going to keep up any army or navy for ourselves; we object to it on principle “. Possibly a day will come when we will simply contribute our share to an international defence force, safeguarding not only the Empire, but also all law-abiding countries. Even then, we shall have to do our share; but until then, wo cannot shirk our responsibilities. I give place to no man in my desire to maintain peace, not only in this, but in future generations as well. However, I cannot overlook the obligation that rests upon this Parliament to provide for the security and defence of the country if the occasion for it should, unhappily, or unfortunately, ever arise.
A few months ago, on the occasion of the opening of the Singapore air mail service, the Minister for Defence, Mr. Parkhill) made an interesting speech in Queensland on the subject of civil aviation. He said -
The indications arc clear that tho world to-day is entering upon an air age. Australia is attempting to play well its part, and the Commonwealth Government intends to spare no reasonable effort to develop air transport to the advantage and benefit of our community. 1 congratulate the Government upon its efforts to develop air transport in every possible way. The honorable gentleman also said -
Aviation has assumed an important place in the world’s affairs, and air transport services carrying mails, passengers and goods now link many countries and many nations throughout the world. The nations of the British Commonwealth were not slow to appreciate the advantages of civil aviation, both for the internal needs of their various vast territories and in linking those territories more closely to tho heart of the Em-ire, and to one another.
The development of civil aviation would be facilitated by the provision of additional landing grounds and aerodromes throughout the Commonwealth. I realize the difficulty that faces the Government in this regard, hut I am firmly of the opinion that if additional landing grounds were provided civil aviation could be developed much more rapidly. On the route between Sydney and Brisbane large planes can land only at Newcastle, Old Bar, Coif’s Harbour and
Lismore. I have flown over this route on many occasions, and those are the only suitable landing grounds for large planes of which I know. Farther north from Brisbane the landing grounds at Mackay, in the Herbert electorate, and at Gladstone, in the Capricornia electorate, are unsafe or unsuitable for planes in wet weather.
– We have been trying to get the Government to improve the aerodrome at Gladstone, but so far without success.
– I believe that the Government is doing everything possible to improve our landing grounds, although I feel that more should be done to provide additional landing grounds on the route between Sydney and Brisbane. I take this opportunity to express my great admiration of the New England air mail service, which is not subsidized by the Government. For four years it -has maintained a regular daily service each way between Brisbane and Sydney, and in that time not a single accident has occurred, and not one passenger has been injured. That is a magnificant record. While I appreciate the efforts of the Government to improve the existing facilities, I urge that everything possible be done to provide new aerodromes and landing grounds and that improvements be made to existing ones.
I wish to refer briefly to the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) regarding the decision of the Government to re-establish the military college at Duntroon. The honorable gentleman expressed strong opposition to the proposal, and referred to the expense of the college at Duntroon. Up to the end of 1934 the total number of graduates from the Duntroon college was as follows : -
Of the 375 Australian graduates, 186 are now serving the nation. At first sight the wastage appears great, but actually it has not been excessive, for 42 Duntroon graduates were killed in the war, while in 1922 the army was greatly reduced, and many graduates were retrenched, while in 1930 a further small retrenchment occurred, and encouragement was given to all officers of the permanent forces to find employment elsewhere. Many young officers took the opportunity at that time to transfer to the British or Indian armies. The cost of the college for the last five years has been as follows: -
It is not quite fair to compare the cost of the college at Duntroon with the cost of it at Sydney, for not only has there been a reduction of the number of cadets maintained in Sydney, but also certain facilities used in Sydney, such as personnel, horses and motor transport, have been charged to other sections of the defence vote, and undoubtedly have to be maintained at higher strength owing to their use by the college.
– The cost compares very badly with the cost of university training in say, the engineering or law courses.
– I have no information at hand on that point; but I hope that the Minister for Defence will be able to furnish information as to the cost of similar military colleges in other countries, particularly those of Prance, Belgium, Germany, Canada, the United States of America, and England. I point out to the Leader of the Opposition that, when Lord Kitchener recommended that the college should be established, it was definitely set out that no restriction should be placed upon the entry of cadets to it. The boys of the poorest people were to have equal opportunity with the boys of the wealthy people, and wealthy parents were not to be permitted to assist their sons financially in any way except with pocket money. My impression is that the cost of the college at Duntroon will compare favorably with that of similar colleges in other parts of the world. I do not think that any other nation has attempted to establish, right in the heart of a big city, a military college to provide training in artillery, mounted work and other branches of military service. It must be obvious to everybody that a college with such objects could not succeed as well in a big city as at a place like Duntroon.
– It seems absurd to transfer from Sydney to Canberra a college which has only 33 cadets in it.
– I hold the view that, if the college is reestablished at Duntroon, the number of cadets will very soon be doubled, if not trebled.
– And the cost will go up accordingly.
– I do not think so. I consider that the Government is acting wisely in bringing the college back to Duntroon.
I wish now to speak briefly on the subject of national insurance. I listened with interest to the speeches delivered by the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Jennings), the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock), and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis). The last-mentioned honorable gentleman was a member of the royal commission which investigated the subject of national insurance in 1925. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has pointed out that, at the end of June, 1935, 273,978 invalid and oldage pensions were in force, these figures showing an increase of 13,313 in the last financial year. The total amount expended on pensions in 1934-35 was £11,762,030, which was the greatest amount in any one year since the introduction of our pensions system. It is estimated that the expenditure for the current financial year will be £12,770,000. The following table, showing the revenue from income tax and the expenditure on invalid and old-age pensions during the period 1930-31 to 1934-35, is arresting: -
Speaking in Perth a few months ago as Acting Prime Minister, the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) said that the Commonwealth Government was “ looking into the matter of national insurance.”
– It has been doing so since that right honorable gentleman moved the second reading of the National Insurance Bill in 1928.
– I do not know about that. The Minister added that -
The Government realizes that there must be introduced some measure which will give the people a feeling of security, when they are no longer able to earn a living through old-age or sickness.
As pointed out by the honorable member for Moreton, the system of national insurance originated in France in 1850. At first, insurance was voluntary, but it was not long before the voluntary system was found to be useless, and a compulsory form of insurance was introduced. Other nations followed the example of France in the succeeding years. In some of them, the scheme of national insurance included invalid and old-age pensions, sick pay, medical attendance and medicine, maternity benefit, hospital and nursing treatment, funeral allowance, maintenance of surviving children, and unemployment benefit; in others, the benefits are more limited. Usually the contributions are collected from the employers of insured persons as well as from the insured employees, and the funds are supplemented by a subsidy or regular contribution from the State. A sound scheme of national insurance would give to every needy person an assured income in his old age, and remove entirely the suggestion of charity, thus making the recipients more independent and self-reliant. I realize that the inauguration of a scheme of national insurance in Australia would present many difficulties, and that the Government would have to give it a “ push off “. But such a scheme, once it had been soundly established, would remove a load from governments and raise the subject of pensions above party politics. I have been interested in the subject of national insurance for many years, and I know that there are objections to it, but I trust that no one will suggest that those who advocate such a scheme are opposed to the payment of invalid and old-age pensions. Those who draw atten tion to the increasing pensions bill do so only because they cannot see how this country can afford to meet an increased liability of £1,000,000 a year except by adding to the already heavy burden of taxation.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I do not share the enthusiasm of the honorable member for Lilley (Sir Donald Cameron) regarding the budget speech delivered recently by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey). Indeed, I was disappointed with it, because I admire the honorable gentleman’s ability, and I expected that his first budget speech would reveal something of that originality which he displays in all his work. Unfortunately, his speech lacked originality, and was full of time-worn platitudes about the restoration of confidence through stable government, and orthodox financial methods. “What was more unfortunate was his recourse, in order to bolster up his platitudes, to the use of figures that were not unchallengeable, particularly those which dealt with loan finance and unemployment. The budget speech was not well received by those journalistic backers of the Government whom we know as the press. They were not satisfied that there were sufficient reductions of taxation forecast by the Treasurer.
The Government has not honoured its promise to the poorer sections of the community who made real sacrifices under the emergency legislation, although it has remitted large sums payable as taxes by wealthy persons in the community, many of whom were not called upon to make any sacrifice during the depths of the financial crisis. As a matter of fact, many of those who have benefited from the remissions of taxation granted by this Government have done well out of the depression. As shareholders of companies, they have reaped increased dividends and swelled their bank balances because of the taxes which have been remitted. The columns of the Sydney Mommg Herald inform us almost daily that many companies, particularly in New South “Wales, have been able to declare increased dividends because of the remissions of taxation granted by this Government. I question whether those remissions have done anything to relieve unemployment, as was claimed by the Government when making them. Many of those who have benefited from the Government’s action are crying out for further remissions. They are particularly anxious to have the land tax abolished. Two-thirds of the amount derived from land tax is paid by wealthy interests which own city properties. The large exemption and the hardship provisions of the act are so generous that only the wealthiest primary producers pay the remaining one-third. The Government has seen fit to grant concessions to its wealthy supporters before redeeming a definite pledge to the less favoured sections of the community. When the financial emergency legislation was introduced, supporters of the present Government, then in opposition, said that immediately the financial position justified it, they would favour the restoration of invalid and old-age pensions to their former rate. They do not seem to be in a hurry to redeem their promise.
The Government has not put forward any satisfactory scheme to deal with the problem of unemployment. The Treasurer cites the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) wherein he said that although the position with regard to employment had improved considerably, the Government was not satisfied with the existing position, and if returned to power would make a determined effort to improve the situation. The Prime Minister went much further than that and committed his party to more definite obligations. The right honorable gentleman has not yet redeemed the undertaking contained in his policy speech wherein he stated -
After months of careful study of the problem, the Government has decided that, in the national interest, the Commonwealth should take a larger share in this responsibility. The States have nearly exhausted their financial possibilities in a whole-hearted effort to overcome it. The task is almost beyond their resources.
A conference of the State governments will be summoned. Our aim will bo to handle the problem upon ti national as well as a State and municipal basis. Instructions have been given for the assembling of all the information directly accessible to the Commonwealth. This information will be supplemented by a swift and detailed survey of all that has’ been and is being done by the States; and, in the light of the complete information, comprehensive co-operative planning between the Commonwealth and State governments will follow.
The Commonwealth Government is pledged to co-operate with the States in an effort to bring about a comprehensive scheme to relieve unemployment, but what has become of its promise ? The Government has been in office for thirteen months without making any attempt to call the representatives of the several governments of Australia together to deal with this all-important matter. The Treasurer told us that the States had been unable to expend all the money which had been allocated to them for the relief of unemployment, and this in spite of the fact that thousands of men walk the streets of our cities unable to find employment, although anxious and willing to work. That the States have not made use of the money offered to them is evidence of laxity that exists through tha lack of co-ordinated efforts between the Commonwealth and the States. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has moved an amendment which, if carried, will be a direction to the Government “ to effect an agreement with the States to ensure legislative collaboration in the establishment of a national unemployment 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 “. If the supporters of the Government were sincere, they would vote for the amendment which sets out to do what the Prime Minister promised he would do. The time has arrived for the Prime Minister to redeem his pledge to bring about “ comprehensive co-operative planning between the Commonwealth and State governments.” If honorable members opposite think that the Prime Minister was sincere when he gave that pledge, why are they so disinclined to vote for the amendment which seeks to give effect to his promise? Let us consider the promises made by the Government and its efforts to redeem them. During the election campaign, in his effort to buy votes, the Prime Minister said that if returned to power his government would spend £10,000,000 in an effort to solve the problem of unemployment. It is fortunate for the Government that the election was not delayed, for in that event he would probably ‘ have offered £20,000,000, seeing that he increased his promise by £5,000,000 in one week. That was his first promise. His next promise was that he thought so much of the unemployment problem that he intended to appoint a special Minister whose full-time job it would be to deal with unemployment. But after the coalition with the Country party, and the struggle for the loaves and fishes of office, during which it was found that there was no room for all those who aspired to Cabinet rank, that promise was shelved. “What did we have in its place? In most humiliating circumstances the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) waa appointed as Under-Secretary to deal with unemployment. He was not allowed to sit with membei’3 of the Ministry on the front bench, and no opportunity was afforded honorable members to question him regarding proposals for dealing with the problem. The honorable member occupied at the Commonwealth Bank, Sydney, an office which was difficult to find, and occasionally spoke of schemes which were to be evolved to place the unemployed back in work; but before any of them came to fruition, he went overseas on a six months’ tour of the world, and is to bring back to Australia, foi1 the enlightenment of the Government, schemes for relieving unemployment from other countries which cannot effectively deal with their own unemployment problem. It has been said time and time again, and reiterated in the Treasurer’s speech, that due to the policy of this anti-Labour government, confidence has been restored, employment has grown as a result and the unemployment problem is well on the way to solution. Yet if we examine the unemployment figures - and I quote from the same source as the Treasurer - in States governed by anti-Labour governments, pursuing a similar policy to that adopted by this ‘Government, what do we find? The percentage of unemployed in New South Wales is 22.7; in Victoria, 15.15; and in South Australia 18.9; or an average for the three anti-Labour States of 18.6 per cent. Contrast this with the position that exists in the three States controlled by Labour governments. The percentage of unemployment in Queensland is 8.8 ; in Western Australia, 13.9 ; and in Tasmania 16.4; or an average for the three Labour-governed States of 13.3 per cent. I regret that it is necessary to go over these figures again, but as often as a responsible Minister of the Government cites these figures, so often shown to be fallacious, it becomes necessary for the Opposition again to reply to them. The Treasurer quotes from the report of the Commonwealth Statistician to show that in the second-quarters of the years 1932, 1933, 1934 and 1935 the proportion of unemployment had fallen from 30 to 17.8 per cent. I desire to make special reference to one particular period mentioned by the Treasurer in his speech, the second quarter of 1933, in order to demonstrate the fallacious basis of his contentions, when, according to the Treasurer, the Commonwealth Statistician estimated the number of people unemployed in Australia at 25.7 per cent, or a total number of 124,068 persons. The census was taken at that time, and discloses that the total number of unemployed persons was 392,425. That is to say, the Statistician’s figures represented just about one-4hird of the actual number of unemployed persons in Australia. I think it will be generally agreed that the census figures are more accurate because they contain information supplied in respect of every individual in the Commonwealth. No calculation is necessary from independent sources; every individual in the Commonwealth in a confidential document discloses the whole of his private affairs to the census department. But how does the Statistician arrive at the figures contained in his report? He admits that they refer only to 56 per cent. of the unions. Not only is there no consideration of the 4)4 per cent, of the unions which do not report their unemployed, but also the fact that there are many thousands of workers not organized into any union is ignored. Furthermore, the Statistician says that only those out’ of work three days or more in a week are counted as unemployed. That is to say that if a person works three days a week, he is considered by the Statistician to ‘be fully employed. The fact that there is an enormous number of relief workers must also be taken into consideration. When the census was taken the average living wage in the Commonwealth was £3 10s. a week, and the census figures disclosed that out of 3,155,621 breadwinners in Australia, 2,207,000 were earning under £3 a week. In other words, roughly two- thirds of the breadwinners of Australia were receiving more than 10s. a week less than the prevailing basic wage at that time. The following statement which appeared in Truth is quite true : -
To give a man a job on relief at a skeleton wage and to number him among the employed is not reducing unemployment. The payment for relief work is only dole under another name.
I join with other honorable members who have raised the question of the necessity for evolving some plan to deal with the problem of employing children who have reached the school-leaving age. According to the latest information available, a total of 1,220,320 children were enrolled in schools in Australia in 1932, of whom 375,000, or about one-third, were attending schools in New South Wales. Accord-‘ ing to a report of the Minister for Public Instruction in New South Wales, 34,130 children left school in 1933 in that State. Based on the fact that one-third of the children going to school are in New South Wales, it is probable that 110,000 children left school in the Commonwealth in 1933. So far as the Minister for Public Instruction in New South Wales could trace the subsequent distribution of the children in that State it was calculated that 14,841 of them found employment, 13,139 were unemployed, or their occupations were unknown, and 2,245 transferred to private schools, and 1,879 to higher branches of education. Of the children in New South Wales who left school in 1933 the number who have not obtained employment is nearly as great as the number who secured employment. The Government should not rest on the figures quoted by the Treasurer, because, as I have indicated, those for 1933, upon which the Treasurer relied, were shown to embrace less than one-third of the actual number of unemployed in Australia. To-day the Commonwealth Statistician states that there are 77,177 persons unem- ployed, but if .he bases his figures upon the same grounds as he did in 1933, he may be just as far out in his computations, and it is safe to say that more than 200,000 people are unemployed to-day, while many thousands of those relief workers who are alleged by the Statistician to be employed are living below the normal standards expected to be found in a country like Australia. The Treasurer stated that in 1931-32 there were 337,000 persons employed in factories, and in 1934-35 the number increased to 451,000, an improvement of 114,000. During that period 110.000 children left school each year, making a total for the four years of 440,000 who were looking for places in industry. Allowing for 48,000 pensioners who went out of industry during that term, and 234,000 deaths, there has been a natural increase of 158,000 potential new workers in industry, but only 114,000 new employees have been placed in the manufacturing industries, which constitute our greatest employing unit, leaving 44.000 to fit into other industries. And that i« without drawing on the great mass of unemployed. If the Governments of Australia cannot evolve an effective scheme to deal with the problem then the position is indeed desperate. In the present circumstances, even if a system is evolved to absorb children leaving school, it will operate at the expense of older people who are now unemployed, and who may expect to remain unemployed for the rest of their lives. Conversely, if work is found for the unemployed adult population the children leaving school at the rate of 110,000 a year will be doomed to a lifetime of unemployment, which will lead, I consider, to human decay.
In his reference to loan finance the Treasurer produced figures to fit in with his platitudes. He alluded to the Government’s’ orthodox methods of finance, and to the business acumen of Mr. Bruce, and in the table of figures which he produced in his speech, he used the words “ effective interest rate “. That phrase’ is a misnomer. The table shows the various conversion loans floated between October, 1932, and July, 1935, and by the simple process of spreading over the currency of the loan the amount of discount and adding it to the interest rate, he arrived at what he called the effective interest rate. This referred entirely to overseas loans, and the Treasurer quite wrongly did not take into consideration the fact that 25 per cent, exchange must be paid on interest transferred overseas. Whether the interest is paid in goods or cash that 25 per cent, premium must be sent overseas to meet these interest commitments. Therefore all the figures relating to what the Treasurer called the effective interest rate are entirely wrong. After all, the effective interest rate is the actual money that is paid, and in each instance that amount is 25 per cent, greater than was set out by the Treasurer in his budget speech. By the process I have already referred to, he arrived at an average effective interest rate on those loan conversions of £3 13s. 5d., but, if he tells the actual facts, he must admit that with the addi tion of 25 per cent, exchange the actual average interest rate is increased to £4 lis. 9d. I have made some research into the loans raised by other countries on the London market at approximately the same time as that referred to by the Treasurer. In each and every case the effective rate of interest charged on the loans raised by Australia was higher than that charged on loans raised hy other British dominions and in some instances considerably higher than on loans raised by foreign and ex-enemy countries. For the information of the committee I submit the following comparative table, which is authoritatively prepared from the London Economist, showing the various loans raised by Australia and those raised by other countries over the period referred to by the Treasurer in the table of loans set out in his speech -
Honorable members will notice that on the first loan quoted by the Treasurer the effective rate of interest paid by Australia was £5 ls. 5d. During the same month South Africa raised a loan of £8,000,000, and, because the Union had an exchange rate of 30 per cent, in its favour the effective rate of interest was £2 10s. 8d. Even at the present period when South Africa is on a par rate of exchange, the Union is paying only £3 13s. per cent., as compared with Australia’s £5 ls. 5d. In February, 1933, Australia raised a loan with an effective interest rate of £5. Trinidad, a country populated mostly by natives, floated a loan of £1,000,000 at the same time at an effective rate of interest of £3 lis. I am quoting from the London Economist, and I have taken a period midway between the voluntary and compulsory maturity dates and over that period spread the discount rates and added exchange to the interest rate. That, I contend, whether the Treasurer admits it or not, is the effective interest rate.
– The word “ effective “ lias a technical meaning. ,
– The way in which it is used by the Treasurer is very misleading, and he knows as well as I do that his figures do not disclose the effective rates of interest which Australia is paying. He has given the nominal interest rate.
– The nominal interest rate is different from that.
– I have given the actual and effective interest rate.
– The honorable member is defining his own term.
– Of the whole of the major loans raised on the London market on the dates quoted by the Treasurer that raised in July, 1935, is the only instance in which Australia did not pay a- higher rate of interest than other countries. Time after time- we hear responsible members of the Government saying that Australia has been able to secure advantageous terms in the conversion of loans because of the sound financial policy of the Government and because of the confidence inspired in British investors. Yet we find that Rhodesia went on the loan market and obtained money at £3 lis. 2d. per cent, while Australia has been compelled to pay £4 15s. 5d. per cent. The population of Rhodesia consists of 2,500,000 coloured persons and 63,000 whites. If it is the confidence in this Government which gives it such advantageous terms, one is justified in asking ‘if it is confidence in the 2,500,000 blacks or in the 63,000 whites in Rhodesia which induces British investors to give better terms to that country than to Australia, or has Rhodesia discovered the counterpart of our Mr. Bruce and his business acumen? In a world which boasts of over 2,000,000,000 persons, I hardly think that there exists the counterpart of that gentleman. On page 6 of the budget,, the Treasurer quotes the increase of Commonwealth and State debts between June, 1932, and June, 1935. During the time this Government of sound finance has been in office, the national debt has increased by £54,000,000. Under the Premiers plan, initiated in 1931, it was said that budgets would be balanced by June, 1934. In order to bring about such a position, sacrifices were demanded from every section of the community. The invalid and old-age pensioners were asked to sacrifice 2s 6d. a week, which has never been returned to them, and the wageearners, through the Arbitration Court, were reduced by 8s. a week. Pull restoration was to be made eventually by that court, but although the workers were deprived of Ss. a week, they have had only Id. a week returned to them. These sections of the community shouldered a real burden in order to bring about a position whereby budgets could be balanced by June, 1934. Yet, in 1934-35 there was a larger increase of the national debt than in ony of the other years mentioned by the Treasurer. As a matter of fact, the debt per capita in 1932 was £180 lis. 9d., and in 1935 it is £184 14s., or an increase of £4 3s. a head. In this connexion, in order to cover up the real significance of these figures, the Treasurer again introduced the subject of interest. A comparison of the interest rates ruling in 1921 with those in operation to-day is interesting. On page 6 of the budget speech the Treasurer stated -
The common practice of referring to the “ ever-increasing interest bill on our nationa l debt” makes it necessary to invite attention to the facts. In 1921-22 the aggregate interest bill on Commonwealth and State public debt represented £7 9s. 4d. per head of the population. For 1935-36, the corresponding figure is £7 8s. Id.
I ask honorable members to listen to the concluding sentence -
These figures include all long-term and short-term debt and all exchange charges. ‘
If the Treasurer finds it necessary to superimpose exchange in connexion with these figures, why was it not necessary to superimpose 25 per cent, on the interest rates previously quoted?
– It would have been misleading.
– It would not. The f facts are that it suits the honorable member to gull the committee by excluding exchange in one instance and including it in another. The Treasurer says, in effect, that it does not matter about the increase of the national debt; it does not matter that the Premiers plan,, which involved so many sacrifices for the poorer sections of the community, has- failed ; it does not matter that, at the time when budgets are supposed to be balanced, they are further from being balanced than in any previous year since the introduction of the plan; everything is all right, says the Treasurer, because there has been a slight reduction of the interest burden. I have always heard that many hands make light work, and it is but natural that, with an increase of population, the per capita debt should be reduced. In 1920, the population of Australia was 5,411,000, and the interest burden -per capita, was £7 9s. 4d. In 1935, the population is 6,711,000, and the interest hurden £7 8s. Id. Thus, while the population has increased by 25 per cent., the per capita interest bill has been reduced by only ls. 3d., or .S4 per cent. [Leave to continue given.]
Reference is made in the budget to excess revenue which, for the year 1934-35, amounted to £711,000. Out of this the Government proposes to give further assistance to the States to the amount of £500,000. In my opinion, the time has come when the Government should do something to redeem the promise made to pensioners in 1931 that their pensions would be restored immediately the Commonwealth budget was balanced.
The budget reveals that the defence vote is to be increased. The Treasurer said that the total expenditure for the second year of the defence programme was to be £7,352,000, of which £5,666,000 represented new money, while £1,746,000 was to come out of trust funds previously set aside for the purpose. The honorable member for Lilley (Sir Donald Cameron) spoke on the subject of defence, and evidently his idea is that the best way to preserve peace is to hand boxing gloves to every one present. He thinks that we can go on building up armaments without exciting suspicion among our neighbours. The honorable member, and others who supported the Government’s proposals*, have emphasized that they take their stand on the principles of the League of Nations. I remind them that the first principle of the League of Nations is collective security. If Australia, and the other nations associated with the League, really believed in this principle of collective security, there would be no need for them to go on increasing armaments. Far from acting on this principle, however, the nations of the world are to-day spending three times as much on armaments as they did before the Great War. On which side does the Government stand? It cannot set itself up as an apostle of collective security, while pursuing a policy of individual security. As a matter of fact, every nation which ostensibly adopted the principle of collective security, the outlawing of war, and combined action against an aggressor, has gone on building up armaments on the plea of the need for personal security, and as each nation increases its armaments, it incites its neighbour to do the same. In the end this armaments race can only lead to another international conflagration. I regret that the Government proposes to spend money on increasing armaments, because I really do believe in the principle of .collective security, which should lead to almost total disarmament. That, however, is not the policy of European countries to-day, nor is it the policy of this Government. Australia should seek to avoid arousing suspicion in the minds of other nations, and should decline to be drawn into an armaments race which can only end in conflict with our neighbours.
Sales Tax of Second-hand Goods - War Service Homes.
Motion (by Mr. Archdale Parkhill) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– The honorable member for Grey (Mr. McBride) has asked what amount has been refunded in respect of sales tax on second-hand goods. Unfortu- nately, having completely overlooked the question, I did not make the reply earlier. Refunds of sales tax on second-hand goods in pursuance of the Sales Tax Procedure Act have amounted up to the present to £1,230.
– Last week I directed the notice of the Minister in charge of War Service Homes (Mr. Thorby) to the case of a returned soldier, of Sutherland, New South Wales, named Holloway, and the Minister, in his reply, endeavoured to show that the department had treated his case fairly, and that Holloway had no grounds for complaint. I desire to set out the treatment that he has received from the War Service Homes Department, and I shall leave it to the House to. decide whether or not he has been fairly treated. I shall not refer at the moment to the promises that were made to the returned soldiers, nor to the inducements offered to them to acquire war service homes. The man to whom I am referring has six children, and, when he first occupied his war service home, he was earning £10 a fortnight, and, accordingly, felt that he could meet his obligations to the commission. Some time previous to his vacating the home, however, his wages had been reduced to £6 15s. a fortnight. Apart from that, from the very day he entered into possession of the home, and even before then, he suffered from a recurring illness occasioned by his war service. For’ almost half of the four years in which he was in possession of the home, he was absent from his position in the Government service because of illness due to war service. For part of the time he was an inmate of the Randwick Military Hospital. Receipts in his possession show that he has paid to the department £88 14s. With the department’s consent, he quitted the home, but he has since been presented with a bill for £130 17s. 6d. Doctors have informed him that he will be very lucky if he does not continue to suffer the recurring illness which pi-evented him from working for almost half the time for which he was a tenant. When he was presented with a summons to attend the court, he was not only ill in bed, but was also in a state of delirium. He offered to remain in possession of the home at a rental of 15s. a week, but the department refused the offer, and the home was .vacated. It remained empty for nine months, and naturally fell into disrepair. At the end of that period, the home was recon.ditioned, and it is rented to-day at 17s. 6d. a week, or 2s. 6d. a week more than he had offered. When the offer of 15s. a week was made and refused the man was taken to court by the department, and the New South Wales magistrate found that having regard to the reduction of his wages, 15s. a week was a sufficient rental. Within a month, he was taken to court again, and the department successfully contended that a State law could not supersede a Commonwealth law. The magistrate ruled that he had no alternative but to give a verdict for the department. As this man is earning only £6 15s. a fortnight, and has six children to support, he cannot pay the amount that the department is demanding, unless he allows his family to starve. I ask the Minister not to be a rubber stamp in the department, and not to do just what the officials ask him to do. He” should exercise his rights as a Minister and maintain the reputation he built up, or tried to build up, when he was a private member; he should declare that Holloway will not have to pay the money demanded. He is not asking for the home to be restored to him. I do not know to what lengths the department is determined to go, but I do not think that it proposes to garnishee his wages, or send him to gaol. It should not continue to hold over the man’s head the menace of summonses for a debt, which it knows he cannot meet. That is not the way to treat a man who was prepared to make the supreme sacrifice in a war, which he was led to believe, was being fought for the preservation of this country. The department says that the man was in arrears from the day he entered the house. I ask the Minister whether, if he were absent from his work for months on end on account of sickness, he would not get behind with his payments. Again I point out that at certain stages during his occupancy of the home, Holloway had no income. On one occasion, he had to find the railway fare, and leave his employment and living, because doctors ordered a change of atmosphere, saying that if he did not have it, they would not guarantee his life. The demand of the department shows that it has acted as a rapacious landlord. As it has apparently determined to persecute this man, I again urge the Minister to proceed on his own initiative in this matter, and not merely to carry out the dictates of the departmental officials.
.- I have received from Mr. A. H. Dalziel, secretary of the South Australian branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia a communication, the first. portion of which reads: -
It is desired ,to draw your attention to a statement appearing recently in the South Australian press, wherein Mr. Peterson, War Service Homes Commissioner, is alleged to have said that “arrears have accumulated on war service homes in South Australia far in excess of any other State,” or words to that effect.
This remark without qualification does not appear to this State branch of the league to correctly reflect the position, and certainly docs not do justice to the large number of men who, in circumstances over which they have h*d no control, are in the unfortunate position to-day of being heavily in arrears with their rent” &c.
We feel .that their position should be brought prominently before the Government and the War Service Homes Commission, and we appeal to the representatives of this State in the Federal Parliament to assist us in this direction.
To you, sir, the most unfortunate and unprecedented depression and its consequent distress which has” prevailed in South Australia for so many years is well known, and all our efforts and the personal efforts of the men concerned have failed to find employment for them, without which it has been impossible for them to meet their rental and other dues to the commission.
As you are also aware, the State Government has adopted a scheme whereby men are permitted to work one day for rental purposes, hut the occupants of war service homes do not appear to be included in this scheme; consequently, they are further handicapped to this extent in regard to their position with the commission.
I urge the Minister to give serious consideration to this matter. Civilians who are out of work in South Australia are given a day’s employment a week to enable them to pay their rent, but this concession is not granted to occupants of war service homes, some of whom have been out of employment for five or six years. Those men who have rendered war service are entitled at least to con sideration ‘ similar to that shown to civilians.
– A considerable number of occupants of war service homes in South Australia are heavily in arrears with their payments, but every consideration is being extended to them. Where complaints have been lodged a small number of occupants have been pressed to make some payment, if possible, whilst in other cases the tenants have not the slightest hope of ever becoming the owners of the houses which they occupy. In view of the circumstances outlined by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr.Stacey), the Government has already extended for twelve months from the 30th June last the concessions recommended by the committee that was appointed to investigate the conditions in regard to these homes. The honorable member for Adelaide said that the South Australian Government provides a day’s employment each week to enable men who are out of work to pay their rent, but denies this assistance to the purchasers of war service homes. I can neither confirm nor deny that statement, since I have no official information on the subject; but, if the position is as indicated by the honorable member, it seems to me that representations should be made to the State Government. I shall make full inquiries as to the reason for the differential treatment complained of, and, if I find that purchasers of war service homes are at a disadvantage in this respect, representations will be made to the South Australian authorities with a view to the removal of the anomaly.
I point out to the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) that Mr. Holloway, the war service homes occupant to whom he has referred, was in possession of his home for only a few months when he fell into arrears with his payments. He was receiving considerably over £5 a week, and, although he was in regular employment, he was £40 behind with his payments at the end of the first ten months. It has been said that a summons was served on him while he was delirious; but I have had a further report from the officer who served the summons, and it appears that, when the officer visited this home a meeting of unemployed women was in progress on the back verandah. Their voices could be heard in the street by the officer long before he reached the house. The women attending this meeting are those who signed the statutory declaration that Mr. Holloway was lying in bed in a delirious condition when the summons was served on him. I understand that it has never been contended that Mrs. Holloway objected to the officer entering the house. On the contrary, she invited him in to see her husband. She merely said that he was in bed, so the officer entered the home to explain his mission, and handed the summons to Mr. Holloway. He said that to the best of his knowledge nobody was in the room at the time except the man and his wife. If the husband was delirious, a3 is now suggested, why, asks the officer, was this noisy meeting of unemployed women being held on the verandah ?
– It was not a noisy meeting.
-‘ Would it be possible to hold such a meeting without it being noisy? It was admitted in the statutory declaration, and by the honorable member in his statement in this House, that this meeting was in progress at the time when, it is alleged, Mr. Holloway was lying in bed in a delirious condition.
– That is so.
– I accept the report of the officers of my department in preference to the statement of the honorable member for Werriwa. I repeat that the returned soldier in question had an income of over £5 a week when he took possession of the home, and it was not long before he fell into arrears. When he vacated the property, his arrears amounted to nearly £130, and the court expressed the view that the commission had treated him very leniently.
– His arrears amounted to £88.
– The amount due was £124, to which must he added costs £6, bringing the total to £130. The honorable member for Werriwa argued that the man, having vacated the home, was under no obligation to pay any part of the arrears owing. The honorable member also said that the man had expressed his willingness to pay 15s. a week for the continued use of the home. The truth is that during his occupancy of the place he paid a fraction under lis. a week, and it was only when he was brought before the court that he suggested that he could pay 15s. I would point out that if the commission agreed to waive its claim for the amount due by this purchaser, other occupiers of war service homes, if they so desired, could likewise refuse to pay their instalments and after having had the use of properties for two or three years walk out without the risk of action to recover the amounts owing. This particular individual, I would remind honorable members, was not willing to meet his obligations. His. wife definitely stated that he had no intention of paying. I should add that, during his illness, the commission made no demand whatever upon him. It also postponed action to recover the arrears owing, and even now, because of his illness, there has been a postponement of proceedings for three months. The commission has only asked for 10s. a month in reduction of the arrears.
– How many children has this man?
– I understand that he has six children, and that ho receives approximately 25s. a week child endowment.
– If he is getting child endowment to that amount, he cannot be earning £5 a week.
– I said his income was over £5 a week.
– Is that inclusive of child endowment ?
– I understand that it is. The endowment is intended to supplement the earnings of the worker and to meet the needs of the family.
– Does the Assistant Minister think that £5 a week would enable a man to live decently and meet the demands of the commission ?
– This man knew what his income was when he entered into an agreement to purchase the home.
– But he did not know that his wages would be chopped abour as they were.
– He knew what his responsibilities were when he entered in te occupancy of the home, and, asI have stated, he got into arrears right from the beginning. He took possession of the home fully intending to break his contract.
– That is not true.
– It is true, andI repeat that the commission has dealt with him very leniently.
– The Assistant Minister took a different view of these matters before he joined the Government.
– I have always done my best to protect the interests of purchasers of war service homes who were conscientiously endeavouring to meet their obligations, but I have never supported any attempt to evade just obligations.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.6 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
In the event of legislation being introduced to impose sanctions against Italy, will he provide that all existing contracts shall be respected, and thatall moneys payable by importers shall be paid into the Commonwealth Bank to trust accounts, pending international developments, in order that commercial relations in the future between friendly countries may be continued?
Oath Taken by French Troops.
Australian Broadcasting Commission: Appointments - National News Service
I am now in a position to furnish the honorable member with the following answers to his inquiries: -
Standardization of Railway Gauges
With reference to information supplied by him to the honorable member for Maribyrnong, will he inform the House -
Whether the new proposal mentioned recently by the Minister for Defence for the construction of a 4-ft.8½-in. railway from Broken Hill to Port Pirie or Port Augusta, or the original scheme of standardization of gauges from Brisbane to Fremantle, has been listed for discussion at the next Premiers’ Conference ?
Whether the Government, if approached by any of the States concerned, is prepared to go on with the original scheme already approved of prior to the Premiers’ Conference?
When the next Premiers’ Conference will be held?
Sales Tax: Tailoring Trade
With regard to the fact that war pensions are now an estimated charge for the current year from the general revenue of over £7,500,000, and as it is now seventeen years since the great war was finished, and as the pensions are almost as high as they wore in the peak year, in what year is it estimated that there will be a decided downward curve in the expenditure, and approximately when it ‘is considered that this commitment will cease?
Supply of Tobacco to Aborigines
Oil Companies: Avoidance of Taxation
Treasury-bills held by Banks.
What was the amount of treasury-bills held by (a) the Commonwealth Bank, and (6) the trading banks at the 30th June, 1932, and the 30th June, 1935?
The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Treasury-bills in Australia held by the Commonwealth Bank amounted to £13,850,000 at the 30th June, 1932, and £21,544,000 at the 30th June, 1935. Treasury -bills in Australia held by the trading banks amounted to £31,140,000 at the 30th June, 1932, and £23,580,000 at the 30th June, 1935.
Commonwealth Loans : Contributions
Will he supply a list showing the amount of subscriptions to the last six Commonwealth loans lodged in each State?
The answer to the honorable member’s question is as f ollows : -
The total amount of subscriptions lodged in each State for the last six Commonwealth loans in Australia was as follows: -
These figures do not form a reliable guide to the amounts subscribed on account of each State, as subscriptions by large financial institutions (including the Commonwealth Bank ) trading in several ‘States, which account for more than half of the loan totals, arc almost wholly lodged in New South Wales and Victoria, and this is particularly so in the case of New South Wales.
Mechanization of Coax Production
I am now in a position to furnish the following replies: -
Can he give any reason for the secrecy as tothe amount of London funds held bythe trading banks at 30th June, 1935, seeing that such information was published in respect of the amount of London funds held by the trading banks at 30th June, 1934?
The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
I regret I am unable to furnish the information desired by the honorable member and would refer him to my reply to his question of 17th October in which I advised that no information is available as to the amount of London funds hold by the tradingbanks.
Petrol: Blending With Kerosene
I am now able to furnish the honorable memberwith the following information : -
Imports of Paper
What has been the cost in Australian, currency of (a) paper for newsprint, and (b) stationery, for the past five years?
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 October 1935, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1935/19351030_reps_14_147/>.