14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– by leave - It is with regret that I inform honorable members of the death at Launceston on the 13th November last, of Mr, David Storrer, a former member of this chamber.
Mr. Storrer was the first federal member for Bass, and represented that division from 1903 to 1910. Prior to his election to the House of Representatives in 1903, he had been a member of the Tasmanian House of Assembly for a period of eighteen months.
During his association with the Commonwealth Parliament, Mr. Storrer served on several select committees and commissions. He was a member of the Select Committee on Electoral Law Administration 1904, a member of the select committee and of the Royal Commission on Ocean Shipping Services in 1905 and 1906, respectively, and a member of the Royal Commission on Postal Services 1908-10.
Mr. Storrer was an alderman of the City of Launceston for many years, occupying the position of mayor in 1903, and was also associated with the Launceston Marine Board. He devoted much of his time to work connected with friendly societies and hospital management.
We much regret the loss of one who was associated with this Parliament in the earlier years of its history, and who has rendered very useful public service.I invite honorable members to join in an expression of deep sympathy with his relatives. I move -
That this Bouse expresses its regret at the deathof Mr. David Storrer, a former member for the Division of Bass in the House of Representatives, places on record its appreciation of his public services, and tenders its deep sympathy to his relatives in their bereavement.
.- On behalf of honorable members who sit behind me, I endorse the sentiments that have been expressed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons). I deeply regret that a man who has rendered such service to Australia in a number of capacities should have been taken from us. Mr. Storrer served, not only in this Parliament, but also in the Parliament of Tasmania as well as on many important civic organizations and other public bodies. From the number of activities in which he engaged in the public interest, it is obvious that he had a high conception of public service, and that he devoted himself to the interests of his country as he saw them.
– I associate myself with the remarks of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) concerning the death of Mr. Storrer. The deceased gentleman was known to me personally. I always had the greatest respect for his courage, and determination to do whathe considered was the right thing in the interests of those whom he was anxious to serve. He occupied many important positions in the City of Launceston, and also served for a number of years in the Parliaments of Tasmania and the Commonwealth. I always regarded him as a man of considerable zeal and energy.
– My colleagues and I wish to join in the sentiments expressed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) concerning the late ex-member of this House, and in conveying our deepest sympathy to his relatives and friends.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing in their places.
– by leave - I very much regret to announce that Mr. WilliamN. Hedges, another former member of this chamber, died in Perth on the 21st November last.
Mr. Hedges was elected to represent the division of Fremantle in the House of Representatives at the general election of 1906, and held his seat until the general election of 1913. He was a member of the Royal Commission on Tasmanian Customs Leakage in 1911. The deceased gentleman had for many years been actively identified with the public life of this country, particularly of the State of Western Australia, and at the time of his death was president of the Employers’ Federation of Western Australia and a vice-president of the Central Council of Employers of Australia. We extend to the members of his family our deep sympathy in their bereavement. I move -
That this House expresses its deep regret at the death of Mr. William Noah Hedges, a former member for the division of Fremantle, places on record its appreciation of his meritorious public service, and tenders its deep sympathy to the members of his family in their bereavement.
.- I support the motion moved by the Prime Minister. The late Mr. Hedges was a conspicuous personality in the life of
Western Australia. Not only was he elected by the constituency of Fremantle on two occasions to serve in this Parliament, but he was also appointed to quite a number of important public bodies in the State from which I come. He was an organizer of industry, and actively participated in the development of Western Australia, a development which has been one of the features of the history of federation. He held strong opinions politically and industrially. At his death he was chairman of the Employers’ Federation of Western Australia; yet the trade unions of Western Australia held him in high respect, had confidence in his word, and regarded him as a man of undoubted integrity.
.- As one who was associated with the late Mr. Hedges, both politically and industrially, I should like to pay a tribute to him. I do not suppose that many honorable members of this House have fought more assiduously than he did for principles. As the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) has said, the late Mr. Hedges won the respect of every class in the community. He had highly-developed philanthropic attributes, and displayed extreme generosity. He was one of the biggest industrial men in Western Australia, and I am sure he will be very greatly missed. I welcome this opportunity to express sympathy with those whom he has left behind.
– My colleagues and I endorse the sentiments that have been expressed concerning the late Mr. Hedges, and extend our deepest sympathy to his sorrowing relatives and friends.
Question resolved in the affirmative., honorable members standing in their places.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) - by leave - agreed to -
ThatMr. Speaker be requested to transmit the foregoing resolutions to the relativesof the deceased ex-members specified therein, together with a copy of the speeches delivered thereon.
Protest against Sanctions.
– I desire to inform honorable members that the following papers have been laid on the table of the Parliamentary Library -
Position of Sir Henry Gullett
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House as to the correctness of the statement in a section of the press that the Minister in charge of negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) may resign his portfolio when he returns from abroad, on the ground that he is not receiving the support to which he is entitled from his Cabinet colleagues in his trade treaty negotiations overseas? Has the Government received any communication from Sir Henry Gullett; is his threatened resignation the result of the Government’s decision not to give him authority to commit the Parliament to trade treaties without reporting in person to the Cabinet ; and, if so, will the Government impose the same restrictions on itself and, before Australia is definitely committed, give honorable members an opportunity to discuss trade treaty proposals?
– I suggest that the honorable member should not expect the Prime Minister or any other member of the Government to accept responsibility for a statement made in the press, without any authorization whatever by the Government or by the Minister referred to.
Agreement with South Australian Government.
– The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) has asked me a question, upon notice, respecting the Port Augusta to Red Hill railway, and to enable me to make a full reply, I ask leave to make a statement on the matter.
– On Saturday last the Prime Minister and other Commonwealth Ministers met the Premier and the majority of ministers of South Australia in Adelaide, when a most friendly discussion of the Port Augusta to Red Hill railway proposals took place. The Prime Minister offered to increase the proposed payment to South Australia to £20,000 per annum for twenty years, such payment not to preclude South Australia from submitting to the Commonwealth Grants Commission evidence respecting any possible additional loss which its railway system could be shown to have sustained owing to the new line. The Commonwealth will extend the transcontinental line southwards from Port Augusta to or near Port Pirie, and the Government of South Australia will extend the Red Hill line northwards to that town. This will provide a fast direct route between Adelaide and Port Augusta, and will make possible a speeding up of trains sufficient to save a day of the time now occupied between Western Australia and the Eastern States. A condition of the arrangement is that South Australia will co-operate in the necessary time-table adjustments, and will run through to Port Pirie sufficient VictoriaSouth Australia rolling stock to accommodate through passengers, so that only two trains will be used between Melbourne and Kalgoorlie. The offer of the Prime Minister was well received and amendments to the existing railway agreement between the Commonwealth and South Australia are now being prepared. It is expected that these will be ratified by the respective Parliaments before the Christmas recess, and that construction will commence early in the New Year. With the object of saving the Government of South Australia time and expense, the Commonwealth Railway Commissioner is making available, free of cost, to the South Australian Railways Commissioner the full details of the Commonwealth survey of the proposed line between Port Pirie and Red Hill, and has agreed that the South Australian Commissioner shall control the break of gauge station at Port Pirie. Needless to say, the Commonwealth Government is gratified at the amicable solution of a problem which has held up the construction of this line for some time.
– Is the Minister for Defence in a position to confirm the report received regarding the finding of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and Mr. Pethybridge?
– by leave - I desire . to inform honorable members of the progress of the search being made for Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and Mr. Pethybridge. The organization of searches by ground parties has been continued and has since been greatly extended. The Qantas aircraft is assisting ground parties as required, and has again searched the eastern portion of Malaya. The Australian Flying Corps Association of New South “Wales recently offered a reward of £100, in addition to the Government’s offer. Details of these rewards have been widely promulgated throughout the Malay Peninsula, contact being made with the peasantry through district officers and village headmen. No report received, or suggestion made that might have any bearing on the location of the missing aircraft, has been ignored. Information was received that the captain of the steamer Pasha had sighted flares from Sayer Island off the west coast of Siam on the evening of the 21st November. The island was searched from a low height by Qantas aircraft, and the Straits Steamship Company willingly adopted the Government’s suggestion to divert one of its steamers to investigate the nature and origin of the flares. A message received last evening from Singapore stated that the captain of the steamer Matang had landed boats’ crews, who made a thorough search of the island, but found no traces of the missing airmen. A report that an aircraft had crashed in flames at Situl, 50 miles north-west of Alor Star, was investigated by Royal Air Force and civil aircraft on the 25th November, and also by ground parties, with negative results. A further report was received in Australia yesterday that a ‘Siamese villager had stated to the aerodrome officer at Victoria Point that he had been informed that there was an aircraft with a damaged wing in the jungle near Laikapu village, approximately 85 miles south of
Victoria Point. He added that one member of the crew of this aircraft had a broken leg but that the other was uninjured. Air-Commodore Smith received a similar message on Monday and immediately requested the British Minister at Bangkok and the manager of the Satupulo Tin Mines to make further investigation and searches. A suggestion has been made that the villager’s report might refer to a Polish aircraft which crashed in Siam on the same day Sir Charles Kingsford Smith was lost. As there is some doubt here as to the exact place where the Polish aircraft crashed and of the present whereabouts of these airmen, action is being taken to have this cleared up. At the present stage the report of the Siamese villager must be accepted with some reserve. The. result of the searches will be awaited with anxiety, but I am sure I am voicing the feelings of all honorable members when I say that I trust the latest reports will provide us with some definite news of the missing airmen.
– Is the Prime Minister prepared to make a statement as to the action which the Government proposes to take for the purpose of assisting the wheat industry?
– -I hope that the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) will be in a position, very soon, to make a statement regarding the matter.
– Does the Government intend that the Wheat and Wheat Products Bill now before the House shall be passed before the Christmas recess? What was the result of the negotiations with the Government of South Australia on this subject, and what is the nature of the communication received from the Government of Victoria?
– The bill now before Parliament will be passed, I hope, before the Parliament adjourns for the Christinas recess. I can add nothing to what has already been said regarding the attitude of South Australia. I do not know what the decision of ‘ the Government of that State will be, but I am hoping that a bill dealing with the wheat industry will bo introduced into the State Parliament at an early date. I understand that a similar measure is now before the Parliament of Victoria.
– Can the Minister for Commerce inform the House as to whether reports that the Victorian Government has definitely refused to pass legislation complementary to the proposed Commonwealth legislation on the question of the marketing of wheat, are correct, and if it is also correct that the Government of New South Wales has inserted a clause in its wheat legislation definitely refusing to give effect to the scheme agreed upon at the Council of Agriculture this year, and postponing the operation of the legislation until next season?
– The position is that the Queensland Government has passed legislation, the Victorian Government is attempting to pass legislation through Parliament this week, and the Government of New South Wales has had its legislation passed.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs whether the League of Nations has received a protest from the Chinese Government against the action of Japanese forces in Northern China, or whether the League of Nations has received any communication from that government on the subject?
– The answer to the honorable gentleman’s question is “No.”
– In reference to published statements that a new migration agreement is probable, I ask the Prime Minister whether there is any truth in the statements, and whether there is any foundation for another statement that the proposed new agreement will be based on conversations which the right honorable gentleman had with Mr. Malcolm MacDonald, the new Secretary of State for the Dominions, while that gentleman was in Australia?
– The Government has in contemplation no such proposal as that to which the honorable member has made reference. There is, therefore, no need to reply to the second part of the honorable member’s question. I have, however, no hesitation in saying that, when Mr. Malcolm MacDonald was in Australia, he was searching out possibilities for further British migration to this country as to other parts of the dominions. But no agreement was entered into, and none proposed or suggested. In London, I had no opportunity to discuss the matter of migration had I the wish to do so. because during the greater part of the time Mr. MacDonald’s health prevented it.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce what amount of financial assistance is to be given to the apple and pear industry in Tasmania? I also desire to know on what basis the distribution of assistance will be made?
– At the present time negotiations are being conducted with the various State governments to ascertain the exact state of the apple and pear industries in the various States, and the best means of helping the growers. Until these negotiations are completed, the exact amount of assistance to be granted will not be known.
– Is it a fact that the Attorney-General is engaged in negotiations for the settlement of the long-standing dispute on the Port Adelaide waterfront ? If so, what success has attended the negotiations?
– The answer to the first part of the honorable gentleman’s question is “ Yes.” In regard to the second part, I am not yet in a position to make a statement.
– I have received from Mrs. J. H. Lister a letter thanking the House for its resolution of sympathy.
The following papers were presented : -
Australian Imperial Force Canteens Funds Act - Fifteenth Annual Report by the Trustees, for the year .1934-35 (including the Sir Samuel McCaughey Bequest for the Technical Education of Soldiers’ Children).
Northern Australia Survey Act - Report of Committee appointed to direct and control the Aerial, Geological and Geophysical Survey of Northern Australia, for period ended” 30th June, 1935.
Superannuation Act - Thirteenth Annual Report of the Superannuation Board, for year 1934-35.
Nationality Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1935, No. 114.
Navigation Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1935, No. 112.
Public Service Act - Appointment of C. D. Parker, Department of Health.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Scat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinance of 1935 - No. 17 - City Area Leases (No. 2).
.- I move-
That I hare leave to bring in a bill for an act relating to exemptions from sales tax.
I wish to withdraw notices of motions relating to Sales Tax Assessment Bills Nos. 1 to 9 in view of the notice of motion I gave early in the afternoon for another bill to take the place of these bills.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That because of the gross partiality displayed by the Chairman of Committees, Mr. J. H. Prowse, he lie declared unfit to continue in that office.
This resolution is definitely and correctly personal. At the same time it raises wide principles in relation to the deliberative character of this Parliament, and the conduct of its business in the committee. I speak to this motion as Leader of the Opposition to express the views strongly formed by the Opposition regarding the manner in which the Chairman has carried out his duties, and I say, I hope with becoming moderation, that this is not a case of quarrelling with the umpire. We are behaving, and as a matter of fact, we always have behaved, quite respectfully to the umpire. In sporting terms, in this resolution the Opposition is inviting attention to the incompetency and partiality of the umpire. That definitely is different from quarrelling with the umpire’s decisions when they are made.
The Opposition is very jealous of the rights, privileges and dignity of Parliament, and of the competence of those in authority. The Opposition has a specific duty closely and fully to examine every aspect of government policy as expressed in measures submitted to Parliament. Inevitably, this duty becomes more exacting on the members of an opposition whose numbers are such that they are generally overwhelmingly out-voted in party divisions. A perfunctory, negligent, or intimidated, opposition would deprive Parliament of its deliberative character. A dominant and ministerial cohort content with its own decisions made in the secrecy of the party room adds immeasurably to the Opposition’s obligation to resist pressure in the Parliament, and to insist that before bills are finally passed, no matter how confident the Government and its supporters may be in regard to their assumed wisdom in principle and correctness in form and substance, the measures are examined completely and competently.
It will .be acknowledged that this general statement of what I conceive to be the essential character of a democratically elected Parliament applies with even greater force in the following circumstances : -
When, for its own reasons, the Government meets Parliament infrequently - as we know this has been the case with this Parliament.
When recesses are long and sessions short, so that when Parliament does assemble the Government is perforce eager to have legislation enacted more or less hurriedly.
When the consideration of bills is interrupted by the exigences of the difficulties due to the Government’s methods, and continuity of debate on a measure is rendered almost impossible.
These’ considerations may properly be said to have obtained in this Parliament during the last two months. No doubt in increasing the difficulties of the Opposition they have not been without a similar effect of the Chairman of Committees.
No Opposition can discharge its duty to Parliament and to the community in any circumstances unless the Standing Orders are administered absolutely impartially and validly. Under the unsatisfactory circumstances to which I have referred the Opposition cannot do its duty where there is ground for even the appearance of one-sidedness and partiality in rulings from the Chair, in the interpretation of relevancy in speeches, and in the judging of the conduct of members.
The members of the Opposition assert that the accusation in the motion that the Chairman of Committees has exhibited partiality in all these matters is justified. He has ordered Opposition members to resume their seats on the ground of irrelevancy, while ministerial supporters, to whose remarks the Opposition member concerned was replying, were not so ordered. He has permitted at least three ministerial members repeatedly and persistently to interrupt without even being called to order or reprimanded. He has named an honorable member of the Opposition for not promptly and immediately resuming his seat while a member of the ministerial parties was not named although the Chair had to importune him to resume his seat.
I point out that no ministerial member has been named by the Chairman. But I ask, quite reasonably, I hope, will it be claimed to-day, when passions are dead and we look at the matter fairly and without heat, that all honorable members who support the Government have been always orderly, and have never been disorderly? A prominent newspaper has editorially remarked that Government members have offended but have not been punished. That is the crux of this charge of partiality.
Opposition members have been subjected to contemptuous observations without’ rebuke. One honorable member of the Opposition was referred to in personally offensive terms and the remark, which was heard in the press gallery and reported in the press, did not lead to any call from the Chair. A press statement also declares that certain Government members are habitual provokers of the Opposition. The Chairman of Committees has not dealt with those Government members.
Two ministerial members were allowed to leave the chamber while the bells were ringing to summon a quorum. One of those who departed actually walked past the Chairman. No action of any kind was taken, nor was even an explanation requested from him. The. members concerned returned to the chamber which they had apparently left in order to bring in an absent member whose presence was essential to save the Government from a serious embarrassment. The point is that in order to help the Government, the Chairman acquiesced in a gross violation of Standing Order No. 34, which reads as follows: -
When the attention of the Speaker, or of the ‘Chairman of Committees, has been called to the fact that there is not a quorum of members present, no member shall leave the chamber until the House has been counted by the Speaker.
The honorable member for East Syd-‘ ney (Mr. Ward) was ruled to be irrelevant at 10.45 p.m. last Wednesday when speaking on the Treasury Estimates, but the honorable member who preceded him - a Government supporter - opened his observations by calmly declaring that he proposed to suggest two amendments to the Pension Act which he went on to ourlino and was permitted so to do. I am not permitted to quote the passage from Hansard, but I refer honorable members to pages 1834 and 1S35 of the current volume for confirmation of my statement.
Mr Archdale Parkhill interjecting,
– I did not quote Hansard, but merely referred to the numbers of the pages.
– Which is the same thing.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).Order !
– Criticism of the Oldage Pensions Act was irrelevant, but it was allowed in the case of the Government supporter. When the honorable member for East Sydney was criticizing the Government generally in respect of its attitude towards old-age pensions, he was held up by the Chairman at the instigation of a Government supporter. Hansard will also bear out this statement. On being ordered to take his seat, the honorable member for East Sydney did so. Thereupon the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) rose to order. Before he could state his point of order ho was told that he was not raising a point of order. Standing Order 276 prescribes that the Chairman may call the attention of the committee to continued irrelevance and direct the honorable member responsible for it to discontinue his speech, provided that the member concerned shall have the right to request that the question whether he be further heard be put to the committee. This is the only Standing Order which gives the Chairman authority to order the discontinuance of a speech, and it also prescribes the circumstances in which that course may be taken. The Chairman did not direct attention to continued irrelevance on the part of the honorable member for East Sydney. Therefore the question as to whether the honorable member for Hunter was, in fact, raising a point of order definitely involved a ruling from the Chair. On page 6403, volume 35, Parliamentary Debates 1906, Mr. Speaker Holder decided that an honorable member could always take a point of order. He subsequently said, as reported on the same page, “A point of order is always in order “.
Last Wednesday the Chairman not only decided that no point of order was involved, although the honorable member for Hunter rose to order, but also refused to accept a motion of dissentafter the honorable member for Hunter had pointedly begged to be heard. Upon being ordered to resume his seat, the honorable member for Hunter refused to do so, saying “I am taking a point of order Thereupon he was named - although no warning was given that he would be named if he persisted - and he was summarily suspended from the service of the committee.
On pages 11,820 and 11,821, Volume IX., Parliamentary Debates 1901-02. Mr. Speaker Holder told an honorable member that if he desired to question the action of the Chairman of Committees, he could move that his ruling be dissented from.
It is clear that any direction from the Chair to an honorable member is a ruling by the Chair. It is a decision by the Chair and it stands, unless a motion for dissent is moved and agreed to.
It is an indubitable right of an honorable member to move that any action or order by the Chair affecting the consideration of the business of the committee or the speech of an honorable member when addressing the committee, be dissented from. Otherwise the com mittee would be incapable of correcting the Chair in the case of wanton abuses of authority or flagrantly incorrect interpretations of the Standing Orders.
The Opposition could not regard this treatment as impartial in view of the latitude which had been allowed Ministerial supporters. It considered not only that the Chairman set a standard of relevancy in the case of the honorable member for East ‘Sydney different from that set for Ministerialists, but also that in the sequel to this distinction in treatment he was recklessly unjust to the undoubted right of the honorable member for Hunter to table his motion of dissent which he attempted to do in respectful terms, despite great provocation.
Subsequently the Chairman declared, in reply to the honorable member for East Sydney that the Chair was the judge of the relevancy or otherwise of the remarks of honorable members. He also said that he had acted accordingly but had given no ruling. By that statement he presumed, as the Opposition sees the matter, to usurp to himself authority to deny the committee the right to reverse his decision. Nowhere do the Standing Orders give him authority to make decisions which may not be properly contested. In this connexion I direct attention to the following standing orders: - 286.. - Proceedings on Question of Orders: Upon a Question of Order being raised, the member called to order shall resume Ms seat, and after the Question of Order has been stated to the Speaker by the member rising to the Question of Order, the Speaker shall give his ruling or decision thereon. 287. - Objection to Ruling of the Speaker- lt any objection is taken to the ruling or decision of the Speaker, such objection must be taken at once, and in writing, and motion made, which, if seconded, shall be proposed to the House, and debate thereon forthwith adjourned to the next sitting day.
The words “ruling “ and “ decision “ are both used in the Standing Orders cited. The high-handed action of the Chairman has greviously affronted the Opposition. They view it as the climax to a series of incidents which reveal a consistent disposition to be lenient to the undoubted disorderliness which has characterized the behaviour of certain ministerialists, and to visit with unnecessary severity all breaches of the Standing Orders committed by honorable members of the Opposition. I do not propose to make any extended reference to what took place a week after the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) was named, when, after the honorable member had withdrawn the offending statement, the subject was revived by the Chairman of Committees. Nevertheless, our attitude to the Chairman in that regard still stands. The House has disposed of the matter, but it all fits in with what the Opposition regards as unfair and unjust restriction placed upon honorable members of the Opposition as contrasted with a willingness to overlook more disorderly conduct by those who support the Government. While the Chair was naming and rebuking honorable members of the Opposition last Wednesday night during the late sitting, several ministerialists were knocking the drawers in their desks and creating a disturbance which was most distracting to honorable members of the Opposition who were endeavouring to express themselves. Yet no attempt was made by the Chair to restrain them. It is difficult for honorable members on this side of the House to believe that, all things which contribute to disorderliness on the right of the Chair have neither been heard nor seen, while there is an argus-eyed capacity to see, and an uncanny ability to hear, everything that takes place on the left of the Chair.
I submit the motion in the hope that it will be dealt with on its merits. I have said that the motion is personal, but that would not justify its submission. I have moved it because of the important principles involved, and because of my desire to preserve the deliberative character of this Parliament, which should reflect completely the character of the country it governs. Parliament should not be conducted as a court of law or a legal tribunal, hut it should be a deliberative assembly representing the hopes,, the ideals, the beliefs and even the passions of the people. If there are times in the life of the nation when the note of passion rises high, it must happen also that in this Parliament,’ which is representative of the nation, honorable members, in their intense zeal for what they believe to be right, will sometimes entertain feelings of warmth and excitement. A wise chairman should view instances of this kind in the right perspective. He should not be eager to suppress even an irrelevant statement until it has become quite evident that the honorable member does not propose to address himself to the subject at all. We are not all Ruperts in debate, but if an exacting standard, difficult to comply with, had been set by the Chair, honorable members of the Opposition would have done their best to maintain it if it had been applied with equal severity to those who support the Government.
– I second the motion moved by .the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), and I do so the more readily because two of the honorable members who figure in the incidents under review are my colleagues. The Leader of the Opposition mentioned that the terms of the motion were personal, but I do not believe that there is any need to apologize on that account. The gross partiality of the Chairman, exercised at the expense of my colleagues, was personal in the extreme. The effect of his action is to discredit those honorable members, if not directly in the eyes of their constituents, at least in the eyes of a great many people throughout Australia. The position of Chairman of Committees is one that calls for a particular temperament in the occupant, and above all for strict impartiality in the discharge of his office. The honorable member who is elevated to that position should, when he sits in the Chair, forget to what party he belongs. To him all honorable members should be on the one level, no matter what electorates they represent. He should recognize that all honorable members have certain privileges and certain rights, and it should be his duty to see that they are able to enjoy the privileges and exercise the rights. The facts associated with recent happenings in this House establish beyond doubt the partiality of the Chairman of Committees. At the time action was taken against the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) the committee was discussing the Treasury
Estimates. At this point I may mention that there has been a noticeable tendency on the part of the Chairman of Committees to make it as difficult as possible for the honorable member for East Sydney to express his opinions in this Parliament. It is not to be expected that we can all approach the various subjects alike, but it is generally recognized that all honorable members owe a duty to their constituents, and they should be given every opportunity to discharge that duty in their own way. For my part, I will resist by every means in my power the prosecution of a vendetta by the Chair against any one of my colleagues. During the debate to which I have referred, the honorable member for East Sydney was discussing old-age and invalid pensions, and he was pointing out the inconsistency of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), and of those who support him, in professing outside Parliament all kinds of friendship for pensioners, and then voting in this House against all proposals for their betterment. He was immediately stopped by the Chairman and told that he could not proceed along those lines. Actually, before he was able to make his point, he was ordered by the Chairman to resume his seat, the Chairman, presumably, having formed his own conclusion as to what. he was about to say. When ordered to do bo, the honorable member for East Sydney resumed his seat and the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Jennings) was given the call, whereupon the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) rose in his place and asked why the honorable member for East Sydney had been directed to resume his seat. Receiving no answer to bis question, he proceeded to take a point of order, and I think every honorable member will agree that he had ample grounds for doing so. Surely honorable members should have the right to challenge the action of the Chairman in directing an honorable member to resume his seat. Denied that right, we have no redress. Apparently, in future an honorable member who rises in his place to challenge a direction of the Chair, will meet the same fate as the honorable member for Hunter; he will be named and removed.
At any rate, when the honorable member pressed his point of order, the Chairman declared that no point of order had been made; that there was nothing for him to answer; that he had already decided the matter and there was nothing more to it. He directed the honorable member for Hunter to resume his seat, but the honorable member declined to do so on the ground that he had taken a point of order and proposed to move dissent from the Chairman’s ruling. He was thereupon named by the Chair. The procedure provided for in the Standing Orders was then followed,, but, in my limited parliamentary experience extending over a period of seven years, its application has been somewhat uncommon. When an honorable member has been named, an opportunity has usually been given to him to state exactly what has happened in justification of his own attitude when he has come into conflict with the Chair. In this case, no such opportunity was afforded to the honorable member for Hunter. The Minister then in charge of the House rose in his place and immediately moved, as we thought, in a rather ruthless manner, for the suspension of the honorable member for Hunter. If this is to be the practice in future, if honorable members are not to be permitted to express their views in regard to the action of the Chair, we on this side are likely to be brought into frequent conflict with the Chair. Apparently, the question of relevancy is to be left entirely in the Chairman’s hands and honorable members are not to be given the right to challenge his opinion on the matter. I think the time has arrived when this Parliament should consider taking some steps to appoint a chairman whose impartiality is beyond question and who, in the exercise of his functions, is able to divorce himself entirely from party political affiliations and to view matters raised by honorable members entirely on their merits. We want a chairman who, in his interpretation of the Standing Orders, will not be influenced by party political considerations. If an honorable member of the Opposition desires to criticize or challenge the statements made by honorable members on the other side of the chamber, it is wrong for the Chairman because of bis party political affiliations not only to refuse to allow that honorable member to continue and order him to resume his seat, but also to take similar action against anybody who attempts to defend that honorable member. An Assistant Minister (Mr. Hunter) made a statement to the press over the week-end which was published in the Sydney newspapers which seems to indicate that some decision has been arrived at by Government supporters in regard to the matter embraced by this motion. It is a grossly unfair and unjust thing to prejudge the case in that way. It is a remarkable thing that there should have been discussion in the party rooms in regard to this matter.
– I can assure the honorable member that the matter has not been discussed in my party room.
– I do not accuse the Prime Minister of participation in this discussion. In fact, had the Prime Minister been present in the chamber ‘when the honorable member for East Sydney was ordered by the Chair to resume his seat, I am sure the action which subsequently took place, would not have been permitted.
– The motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition is based on a decision arrived at in a party room.
– After all, what other form of defence does the Opposition possess when dealing with a matter of this kind? The motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition is the only means of expressing the views of the united Opposition iu regard to this matter, in order to protect the privileges which honorable members should enjoy in this chamber. Since the honorable member for East Sydney has been a member of this Parliament he has been subjected to a definite vendetta, and my colleagues and I are prepared to use every means at our disposal to see that he gets a fair deal and to ensure that his speeches shall not be subjected to continual interruption by honorable members opposite in an attempt to throw him off his subject. The Opposition has been forced to take this action. Utterances of an Assistant Minister may be taken as an indication that there has been some tick-tacking in the party rooms with the Chairman of Committees in regard to this matter. It is not the right way to approach the con sideration of this matter. I am here to see that the honorable member for East Sydney gets a fair deal and to see that the gentleman who occupies the position of Chairman divorces himself entirely from party political considerations or from domination from the Government side. The Chairman should bring to his task a free and unbiased mind. He should allow free and open discussion. The action of an officer of the Parliament who refuses to do so, and who is continually naming honorable members is to be deprecated. Naming by the Chairman could possibly discredit an honorable member in the eyes of some of his electors.
– It could not do so.
– In some instances, particularly when, there is a biased chairman, it adds to the prestige of honorable members rather than lowers it in the eyes of their supporters. But we are here to see that a fair deal is extended to every honorable member. If we fail to secure justice in the vote which will be taken upon this motion, we must take every means within our power to see that we have unrestricted right to express our views in this Parliament.
.- The motion that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and seconded by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), charging me with gross partiality, is amazing, in view of what is disclosed by the record of the proceedings of this House in committee. Had the motion alleged that I had extended leniency to honorable members on both sides of the chamber, I should have felt inclined to plead guilty to the indictment and to promise to remedy the defect in the future.
The position as I conceive it is, that there are three main directions at least in which a Chairman of Committees may display partiality. The first is in relation to the calls that he gives to honorable members, the second is in the disciplinary action that he takes against them, and the third is in his rulings. It is upon these three main points that I desire to address the House.
The membership of this House consists of eighteen members of the Federal Labour party, nine members of the New
South Wales Labour party, sixteen members of the Country party, including an Independent, and 32 members of the United Australia party. The calls given in committee during my occupancy of the Chair for this period of the session have numbered 469, of which members of the Federal Labour party have had 122, members of the New South Wales Labour party 132, members of the Country party and the Independent 75, and members of the United Australia party 140. Those figures include the calls given to Ministers, in which connexion I need only say that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) made six speeches on the Supply Bill and 20 on the Sales Tax (Financial Relief) Bill, and the Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thorby) 20 speeches on the Meat Export
Control Bill. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) has been given the call on 22 occasions. Had every honorable member been equally privileged, the total number of speeches would have been 1,628 instead of 469. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) has been accorded the privilege of making 27 speeches. A similar number of speeches by every honorable member would have made the total 1,998 instead of 469. I have had figures compiled officially showing the calls given to each honorable member on every bill that has so far been debated, and I ask leave to have them incorporated in Hansard.
Leave not granted.
– The figures are for this period of the session and are as follows : -
Those figures, I contend, dispose of any suggestion of partiality in the giving of calls, and show clearly that Opposition members who are now complaining have had every favour extended to them.
In regard to disciplinary action, I claim that I have not adopted the bombastic attitude of which I have been accused by the mover and seconder of the motion. On two occasions of which no record appears in Ilansard, doubtless because the incident did not proceed sufficiently far to warrant it, I named an honorable member - once on the other side and once on this side of the chamber - and subsequently withdrew the naming. There are only two other honorable members whom I have named, one of them on two occasions. Two of those three namings were withdrawn. If in my “ gross partiality “, I had desired the ejection of honorable members, would I have been so ready to withdraw and show leniency to them? The only honorable member who has been suspended from the service of the House in consequence of my having named him, had that action taken against him for a second offence.
Considering the spirit of restlessnesswith which, at periods, members of the Opposition are imbued, no matter to what party they belong, it does not appear as though the Chairman of Committees has been anxious to be vindictive.
One honorable member, on being named for the second time, was relieved from attendance during that sitting only. He was suspended because of a direct breach of the ruling of the Chair. I am not permitted to quote the Hansard report of the incident, but I remind honorable members that both in the House and in the committee they have the protection of the Standing Orders, and are entitled to submit a motion of dissent from the ruling of the Chair. Within half an hour of the House conferring upon me the great honour of being made Chairman of Committees, the seconder of the motion now before the House submitted a motion of dissent from my ruling, and the committee upheld it. My decision on that occasion was supported by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) and the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn). I have never desired to place upon the Standing Orders a meaning which they are not intended to convey. If I have ever wrongly interpreted them, no honorable member is more ready than I am to acknowledge my error. I recognize the importance of the rulings given from the Chair, because they establish precedents, and are placed onrecord for future guidance.
I regret that I cannot quote from Hansard the actual words of which so much has been made, particularly by the wonder of the motion. When the honorable member for East Sydney was speaking, I called attention three times to the irrelevancy of his remarks. I then acted under Standing Order 276. I asked him to resume his seat, and I proceeded to call the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Jennings). In requesting the honorable member for East Sydney to resume his seat, I did not consider that I had given a ruling. Standing Order 276 differs from most of the others in that it provides an honorable member who has offended with a way out. At that stage, the honorable member for East Sydney could have asked that the question be put to the committee whether he should be permitted to resume his speech, and a vote on that question would have tested the decision of the Chairman in the matter. That is how I viewed the situation; but, of course, I may have been wrong. Standing Order 276 provides -
The Speaker or the Chairman of Committees may call the attention of the House or the Committee, as the case may be, tocontinueo irrelevance or tedious repetition, or the taking up of time by a speech of such unwarrantable length as to obstruct the business on the part of a member, and may direct such member to discontinue his speech: Provided that such member shall have the right to require that the question whether he be further heard be put, and thereupon such question shall be put without debate.
Had advantage been taken of that Standing Order the Chair must have called for a vote accordingly. Honorable members will note thatI consideredthat I had acted distinctly under that Standing Order, and that it was my duty to see that the speeches were relevant to the question before the Chair. The honorable member for East Sydney, I conceived, was proceeding with a secondreading speech, and was not discussing the specific matter then before the committee. However, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), taking up the cudgels on behalf of the honorable member for East Sydney, sought to raise a point of order. I informed him that no point of order had arisen. I had then given no ruling. At this point, admittedly, there was room for a difference” of opinion as to whether,, technically, I had given a ruling, and whether the honorable member had the right to dispute my action. The honorable member for Hunter persisted in the matter and, as Hansard will show, I explained fully that, not once or twice, but three times, I had requested the honorable member for East Sydney to discuss matters that were relevant to the question before the Chair, but the honorable member proceeded in a circuitous way, dealing with my action apart from the context. When honorable members peruse the Hansard report, they will clearly see that be was seeking to circumvent the ruling of the Chair without altering the nature of his speech.
– He was trying to satisfy theChair.
– The Leader of the Opposition seemed to think that I had lowered the dignity of this chamber. Again, I say that if I have erred at all, I have done so by reason of leniency which I have shown to honorable members on both sides of the chamber. I am as familiar, I think, as either the mover or the seconder of this motion with the requirements of dignity. The seconder of the motion referred to the importance of impartiality on the part of the Chair. Honorable members know that there are very few branches of clean sport in which I have not taken part. I understand the game of cricket, and I apply its principles to all my actions. The seconder of the motion spoke of the locking of the doors of this chamber. I know now that an honorable member left the chamber under cover. When, a short time ago, ] addressed to the committee the little, homily at which the honorable member for Batman has taken so much umbrage, I desired to change my policy of leniency to one of strictness. I recognize that a certain amount of leniency is permissible when it is appreciated, but I am persuaded that the leniency extended in the past has not been appreciated by honorable members on either side of the chamber. If I exerted my full powers under the Standing Orders there would be no interjections during debate, since every honorable member is entitled to be heard in silence; but the Chair has to determine whether interjections are relevant, and prompted by a desire for information, or whether their object is to embarrass the honorable member who is addressing the committee. One interjection leads to others, and the position of the Chair is often made most difficult by them. I challenge the mover and the seconder of the motion to mention any particular act or ruling of mine which justifies the gross charge now laid against me,
There is one other matter to which I should refer, because it is important. The Leader of the Opposition spoke of honorable members leaving the chamber. I was not. made aware of their departure until some time afterwards, and I admit that, strictly, I should have castigated thom upon their return.
– You wanted the numbers.
– That interjection is unworthy of the honorable member. I object to such an insinuation. Since I have occupied the position of Chairman of Committees I have not been guided in the least by party considerations. My actions, and the figures which I have quoted in this chamber, show that there is not the slightest justification for the charge that I have displayed partiality. I have before me particulars of the occasions on which I have named honorable members, but I shall not refer to that matter again. I have no desire to give further publicity to their names. Had my disposition been such as was attributed to me by the mover and the seconder of the motion I could have taken stronger action than I did, but I claim that I am not vindictive, and do not seize every opportunity to call attention to breaches of the Standing Orders by members of the Opposition. Had I been of a vindictive nature I should probably have had the support of honorable members on the Government side if I had made full use of the powers of the Chair. Honorable members, I think, will readily admit that I have refrained from naming honorable members on occasions when I should have been justified in doing so. The only honorable member who has been suspended this session through my naming him was named twice, after I had issued a warning that further leniency would not be shown.
– I have no desire unduly to pro-, long the debate, but I venture to make a few remarks, mainly because, within recent weeks, I have been in charge of a number of bills, and have, therefore, had an opportunity to observe the Chairman of Committees in his handling of the proceedings. I do not desire to conduct a “ post mortem “ of past events, or to refer to individuals who have had to be ‘disciplined by the Chairman of Committees. The whole point, I think, hinges on the matter of relevancy. The duties of the Chairman are extremely difficult, as he has a task that necessitates great tact and a readiness of decision as to what is relevant and what is irrelevant. T’ie question of relevancy is extremely difficult to determine. In the few years in which I have had the privilege of being a member of this House successive Chairmen of Committees have developed the habit of giving greater and greater leniency in deciding what is’ relevant and what is irrelevant. On numerous occasions, when conducting bills through the House, it has been in my mind to suggest to the Chairman of Committees that too much scope was being given to honorable members of the Opposition.
– That is n.ot right, is it?
– I have refrained from doing 30, because the Chairman, as I have said, has developed the habit of being extremely lenient in deciding as to what does or does not come within the scope of the debate. The Opposition has thought fit to bring a grave charge against the Chairman, but that honorable gentleman has explained the position completely, and with such restraint as must have impressed both sides of” the House. To all fair-minded members he has proved that he has acted with absolute impartiality. The circumstances of ministerial members differ somewhat from those of honorable members of the Opposition, because members of the Opposition take - thinking they are obliged to do so - every opportunity to voice criticism of a political nature against the Government.
– That is our job.
– The. honorable member admits that what I am saying is correct. There have been occasions within recent weeks when any one less lenient than the present Chairman of Committees would have ruled, out of order a great, deal of the discussion. In that respect, I am referring to Opposition members. Supporters; of the Government occupy a different position. In the vast majority of cases, their comment is relevant. The process of linking political criticism of the Government with relevant discussion is a long and continuous one for the Opposition,. I have had officers of the Treasury Department check the time in which the members of the Opposition keep to strictly relevant criticism of clauses of the measure and the time they occupy in political criticism.
– .This is criticism of the Chair!
– The figures are illuminating. By far the greater part of th, time-
– We are obliged ro criticize the Government.
– If not, what are we here for?
– The honorable member puts me into an embarrassing position if he expects me to give him an answer to such a question. The proportion of the time occupied by the Opposition in political criticism to the time it spends on relevant discussion is about nine to one.
– Who is the judge?
– An independent officer of the department, who has read through the Hansard report of the debates on the last four measures which I have conducted through this House. Honorable members, at all times can rely upon the impartiality of the Chair. Those figures are, I say, quite illuminating, .and the question of relevancy, of course, is at the bottom of it all. If the Chairman of Committees v<ere to insist on strict and factual relevancy, practically all political criticism would be eliminated. Honorable members of the Opposition would lose the- opportunity, which they now gain from the leniency of the. Chair, to criticize the Government). Many of the privileges which th,ey ase taking or which are given to them by the Chairman of Committees would disappear. The. Chairman himself has admitted that he has been too lenient but it is clear and patent that his leniency is entirely in the interests of members of the Opposition. Tt would be definitely to the advantage of the Government and in the interests of the effective conduct of this House if the Chairman, of Committees were to- pin honorable members on aj.1 sides of the House down to relevant comment. If that were done, honorable members, of the Opposition would be shorn of a great deal of the publicity they now enjoy. I, for one, am astounded, and. I think all fair-minded members must be astounded also, at the charge of gross partiality levelled by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) against the Chairman of Committees, especially when the conduct of the Chairman’s duties has been directed towards giving members pf the Opposition privileges of making political comment which would be refused by a less lenient chairman.. Ip these circumstances it surprises me that the Leader of the Opposition should have headed an attack on the Chairman of Committees. If any charge lies against that gentleman, it is. that of undue leniency towards members of the Opposition, and it is a leniency which is in the interests of the Opposition, and against those of the Government. I have been in this House for many hours - I might almost say many weary hours - listening to committee consideration of bills for which I have been responsible. In all the times I have been in charge of bills I have never seen or heard anything which any fair-minded man could describe as partiality by the Chair. The only charge that could be made against the present Chairman is one of undue leniency or undue partially to members of the Opposition, and that arises from the Chairman’s endeavours to be entirely fair. In the circumstances, I appeal ta honorable members to. support the Chairman of Committees, who is today doing an extremely difficult job with all the impartiality that it is possible to bring to bear.
.- I should not have spoken on this motion but for some of the remarks of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) and the Treasurer (Mr. Casey). Any impartial member of this House will admit, I think, that the reply of the honorable member for Forrest to the speech made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) was, to say the least, lamentably weak. The major portion of his speech, consisting as it did of citations of the number of honorable members he called from the Country party and Nationalist party and the number he called from what he termed the State Labour party and the official Opposition, showed at. least that he is not a judge .of relevancy. He put up an “ Aunt Sally “ and proceeded to knock it down. Every honorable member knows that the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member fbr West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) did not refer to the number of calls made from the Country party, the Government party, or either of the Opposition parties. Perusal of the division lists shows why there were only a few speakers from the Government benches on a number of measures. Many supporters of the Government were absent from the House on different occasions, and frequently, had it not been for the zeal and enthusiasm of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander), no quorum would have been present in this chamber to listen to the debate on important bills. The Chairman of Committees said that he would plead guilty to having been too lenient with the Government members and with the Opposition. By that statement he has at least admitted one half of the charge made by the Leader of the Opposition, namely, that he was too lenient to government supporters and unjust to Opposition members. Our objection as an Opposition is -
– Why tell half truths?
– The honorable member has admitted half the charge made against him. He has admitted gross partiality towards one half of the House. He has said in effect that he has been too lenient towards members on the Government side of the House, thereby admitting at least half of the charge made by the Leader of the Opposition, which is that he is too lenient towards government supporters and unfair towards the Opposition. Honorable members should read the press reports of speeches made by an Assistant Minister. Apparently that honorable gentleman convinced the Chairman of Committees that by putting honorable members in their places he should show the House that he possessed some backbone. At any rate, when subsequently he took his place at the table, he proceeded, as certain weak men do, to single out members of the Opposition for specific and unfair treatment, and without giving them fair opportunities, named some of them. The Opposition does not object to the Chairman being firm, as long’ as he is just. I have been a member of this Parliament fbr thirteen years, and prior to that I was a member of a State Parliament. In all my experience I have never previously known an opposition to come to so unanimous a decision- to move a motion of this kind against a Chairman of Committees. I suggest that we- do not approach this matter actuated by any political bias or personal animosity towards the Chairman, because I think nearly all of us have strong personal regard for his many qualities, although not a strong personal regard for his impartiality or competence as Chairman of Committees. The Opposition has very good reason to support the motion moved by its leader. The special pleading of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) was, at least, amusing.
– In what way?
– I shall tell the Assistant Minister. The Treasurer said that the Chairman was too lenient to the Opposition members and that he had told him so.
– That is not what he said.
– I paid careful attention to what the honorable member said, and his remark was that in his opinion r.he Chairman .of Committees showed great leniency to Opposition members “and that he had told him so.
– He said that he had been moved to do so, but had not done it.
– I listened carefully to the Treasurer’s remark and I understood him to make the observation that I have attributed to him. “We have had further evidence to-day of the pressure Ministers bring to bear upon the Chairman of Committees. No doubt this is part of the price paid for composite ministries.
– The honorable member has misconstrued what the Treasurer said.
– “What he said indicated that there is definite substance in the accusations of honorable members on this side of the chamber that the honorable member for Forrest cannot divest himself of his party political prejudice when performing his duties as Chairman of Committees. The Treasurer astounded every honorable member when he said that he had instructed one of the officers of his department to prepare a statement to indicate the relevancy of speeches made by members of the Opposition. This responsible officer, so we were told, made a report which showed that only one out of every nine speeches made by Opposition members was relevant. I should like to know the name of this officer, and also his special qualifications to judge the relevancy of the political speeches made by the Opposition. It would also be interesting to know how much he is being paid for this special duty. I do not suggest that the Auditor-General should have his attention directed to the matter, but at least the Treasurer should be honest enough to tell us the officer’s name and why he was singled out to peruse Hansard to give judgment on the conduct of members of the Opposition. The Opposition members of this Parliament represent approximately half the electors of Australia, and they have a right to be heard and to give untrammelled expression to their views on the various measures introduced by the Government. If some of them have not attended Cambridge or Oxford universities, they at least represent the people of Australia. If at times they show some heat and passion in the statement of their case, it is because they are typical of the people whom they represent. Any honorable member who approaches a consideration of this subject calmly and dispassionately, must form the opinion that the Chairman of Committees has been guilty of gross impartiality. It may even be said that the honorable member, in the course of his own speech, admitted, in part, the charge that has been levelled against him. I shall therefore support the motion.
– I oppose the motion. I must express my surprise at the silence of the leaders of the two opposition parties in regard to the incidents that took place in the committee a few moments prior to the matter which is the main subject of their complaint. I refer to the period when the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Collins) was acting as temporary chairman. Although that honorable gentleman gave a ruling exactly similar to that which the Chairman of Committees himself gave shortly afterwards, neither of the Opposition leaders has, s<5 far, said a word about it. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) and the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. McEwen), who is one of my own colleagues, were both subjected by the temporary chairman to the same discipline and the same ruling as the Chairman of Committees applied to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr.Ward). I am therefore surprised that no reference has been made to this fact.
– It does look a bit suspicious, as the honorable member says.
– The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) would, of course, read into my remark a meaning I did not intend. The point raised by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) was exactly similar to a point which I raised in the course of a debate about twelve months ago. I disagreed, on that occasion, with the ruling of the Chair, but when the Chair held that no point of order was involved, I had simply to put up with the ruling and allow the business of the committee to proceed.
– The Chairman of Committees was wrong on that occasion.
– Only three questions arise in our consideration of this motion. They are -
I shall not deal with the first question, because the Chairman himself has dealt effectively with it.
– The Opposition did not raise that issue.
– Yes it did.
– That is not so.
– The fact is that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) finds himself in a very awkward position. He has had to present a case in which he does not believe and consequently he is not quite sure of what he did say. The honorable gentleman was good enough to refer to an editorial opinion of the conduct of the Chairman of Committees expressed by a certain newspaper. I ask the honorable gentleman whether he agrees with other newspaper statements made during the weekend to the effect that he was trembling and shivering on the brink of a decision, as to whether he would go on with this motion or not.
– What newspaper made that statement?
– Quite a number of newspapers made statements to that effect. I also challenge the honorable gentleman to reply with a plain “ yes “ or “ no “ to the question whether three temporary chairmen of committees intend to resign as was stated in a section of the press during the week-end.
-i know nothing about that.
– If the pressis a good authority for a statement on one side of the case it is an equally good authority for a statement on the other side of it.
– The honorable member for Barker is still licking his wounds.
– I have no wounds, and if I had, they, at least, would not have been self-inflicted.
I turn now to a consideration of the other two questions that arise. Honorable members who support the Government are neither blind nor deaf, and they carefully watch the proceedings of this chamber. Certain observations have been made this afternoon regarding quorums. I challenge Opposition members to deny that some of their number frequently request their colleagues to go outside of the chamber so that a quorum may be called. Honorable gentlemen opposite know that this is true. One of the greatest offenders in this regard is an honorable member who cannot take his seat in the chamber to-day in consequence of his suspension on Thursday last.
In my opinion honorable members of the Opposition have to thank the Chairman of Committees for the great liberties and the many privileges he has allowed them in the presentation of their cases. Hardly a proposition comes before the Chair without honorable gentlemen opposite dragging the pensioners into the discussion by their feet, their hair, their arms or some other part of their body. This is also true to a less degree of the occupiers of war service homes. The questions raised in such instances are almost invariably of an administrative nature. This indicates clearly that honorable members opposite regard themselves as incompetent to conduct the business of their constituents with Government departments. It is true that by bringing these subjects before Parliament they obtain a little publicity and perhaps gain a little kudos with their constituents; but at the same time they make confession of their own incompetence. It is in a way, a boast of their inability to do their work as members of this Parliament.
– Order ! The honorable member’s remarks are irrelevant.
– The conduct of some honorable gentlemen opposite in respect of the business before the House reminds me of the stricture of certain democracies attributed to the German historian, Spengler, to the effect that certain leaders make a cult of mediocrity and a church of selfadvertisement.
– Has not the honorable member himself brought certain war service homes questions before the House?
– The matter I brought under notice was of sufficient importance to justify the appointment of a royal commission and could not, by any stretch of the imagination, be regarded as an individual case. It is true that it affected my own constituency, but it was a. matter of wide public interest and not of merely personal concern. It will not be denied, I think, that certain honorable members opposite frequently take active steps to- invite members of their own parties to leave the chamber and when they have done so they draw attention to the absence of a quorum.
– It is the responsibility of the Government to maintain a quorum in the House.
– Even allowing that that is so, it is also the responsibility of Opposition members to attend in the chamber if they arc genuinely interested in the business before it.
– We are always here.
– Even though it may be necessary for the Government to be sure of an attendance of 25 honorable members, it cannot be accepted that honorable members of the Opposition are entitled to absent them selves from the chamber just when it suits them. Too much of that kind of thing is being done.
I must express genuine surprise at the position in which the Leader of the Opposition finds himself to-day, for he has to dance to the tune piped by the members of the Labour party of New South Wales. I do not envy him the bed of brambles on which he will have to lie as soon as he achieves unity.
I wish now to put a question to the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley). I ask him whether he is prepared to say definitely that he is genuinely satisfied with the conduct of the members of his own party in this chamber. I do not think that he can say so. How often we have seen him turn around in his place and put up his hand to signify to them with a sweet, sad, pleading, soul-searing expression on his face, that he would like order. . The honorable members of his party will not submit to his authority as leader, and he is not in a position to command authority. On how many occasions also, have we seen him leave his seat and go back to the door of the chamber with his arms folded like the Eagle of Elba, while “ a million wrinkles carve his brow “, but, unlike Homer, a hundred winters do not snow upon his chest. At other times the honorable member has retired from the chamber in disgust, as Achilles retired from the field of Troy, leaving his myrmidons to fight his battle for him. I challenge the honorable member for West Sydney to say that he does not consider that the members of his own party have contributed very greatly and consistently to the trouble which has arisen.
– Has the honorable member exhausted his book of quotations ?
– No, I have one that even on the spur of the moment I can apply to the honorable member for Batman. If I may say so, the honorable member is a typical Irishman, although he said the other day that he was not one, and as such, he never knows what he wants, and will never be satisfied until he gets it. In my opinion the Chairman of Committees has laid himself open to criticism on several occasions for not having been sufficiently strict, and for not having kept honorable members to the subject under discussion. Parliamentary business cannot be successfully transacted if honorable members, during debate, are allowed to wander from the Pampirs to the Pyrenees, and from the Gobi Desert to the Sahara. Honorable members opposite should reflect upon the fate of so many parliamentary institutions which have crashed during the last fifteen years, because the people lost faith in them. The faith of the people of Australia in this Parliament is in danger of being undermined when they see the revenue which they must provide being wasted upon the upkeep of a Parliament that conducts itself in the manner which this one sometimes does. Everyone who has any regard for democracy, or any faith in parliamentary government, should do his best to uphold the dignity and authority of ‘ Parliament. It is an old saying in the army that no man is fit to command until he has learned to obey, and no party is fit to govern until it has learned to submit itself to authority.
– That, I suppose, is why the honorable member walked out of the chamber the other day.
– There is nothing in the Standing Orders which says that an honorable member may not walk out ‘ of the chamber after he has finished his speech. Honorable members will . admit, I think, that I have been a consistent attendant in this chamber during parliamentary proceedings.
The charge of gross partiality does not lie against the Chairman of the Committee. If anything, he has been lenient to a fault, having allowed honorable members more latitude in debate than they were entitled to. When honorable members opposite raise their voices to make a charge of partiality against the Chairman, I am surprised that the words do not bum their tongues and blister their lips.
.- As one who has suffered through the gross partiality of the Chairman of Committees, and who has felt very keenly the indignity of being suspended from the service of the House, I feel that I must voice my support of the motion now before us. It was stated that I had defied the Chair, when all I did. was to ask why the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) was not allowed to complete his time. The Chairman replied that the honorable member was out of order, and he added that I was out of order also. He commanded me to sit down, and when I claimed that I had the right to move dissent from his ruling, he said that he had given no ruling. I maintain that he had, in fact, given a ruling, because he had ruled that the honorable member for EastSydney should sit down. At the time, I did not have a chance to state that opinion, because I was ordered to sit down. Then, possibly, I became a little heated, and said that I would not sit down, because I was taking a point of order. Immediately, the Chairman named me, and the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), who claimed a little while ago he always gave members of the Opposition every opportunity, jumped up like a jack-in-the-box, and moved that I be suspended. He did not even give me a chance to withdraw the words complained of, or to apologize. I am fully aware that it does no honorable member any good in the eyes of his constituents to be named and suspended from the service of the House. On a previous occasion, I had been named, and I then resolved that I would never repeat the offence. I claim that the Chairman of Committees was entirely wrong in not allowing me to speak to my point of order. The present motion has been moved, largely because of what happened on that occasion, and because of similar action taken in respect of the honorable member for East Sydney. Honorable members must surely admit that the honorable member for East Sydney does not receive, fair treatment in this House. Whenever he gel. up to speak, he has to face a barrage of ridicule and hostility. On the occasion referred to, he was contrasting the words of the Treasurer and his supporters in regard to pensioners with their actions in the House in voting against proposals for the betterment of the pensioners. He was in order, because the subject under discussion was the Treasury Estimates which cover pensions. He was told to keep to the subject, and though he tried to approach the matter from another way, he was ordered to sit down. The Chairman of Committees claims that he has been lenient in the discharge of his duty. When he first assumed the office, he was new to the position, and did not, perhaps, have a thorough grasp of the work, hut after a while, he discharged his duties very satisfactorily, at any rate from the point of view of the Government. He said that, up to the time of the clash with the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), he had been lenient, but that he had determined from then on to be severe in his efforts to maintain order. Since he took that resolve, I have twice felt the weight of his severity. Upon a previous occasion, when I was named, the Chairman, who usually speaks mildly enough, called me to order in a voice that nearly lifted the roof off the chamber. I said, “ All right, don’t bawl,” and just for that I was named. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane), who is now wandering about the chamber, is a far worse offender than any honorable member on this side of the House, but nothing is ever done to him. Outside the House, he gloats over what he is able to say in the chamber and get away with, yet he is never named. He is the most offensive man in the House, but apparently the side of the chamber on which he sits can neither be seen or be heard by the Chair. For the sake of the dignity of the Chairman and the Speaker, I hope some action will be taken to curb the honorable member.
The motion states that the Chairman of Committees is incompetent to hold his position, and this is borne out by what happened on Thursday week, when the Orange Bounty Bill was passed. Standing Order No. 216 states -
The quorum in committee of the whole shall consist of the same number of members, exclusive of the Chairman, as shall he requisite to form a quorum of the House.
By section 39 of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act. a quorum is “at least one-third of the whole number of the members of the House of Representatives.”
The attention of the Chairman was drawn to the fact that a quorum was not present, but, in spite of that, he allowed the bill to go through. It is possible that the validity of the act may be successfully challenged in the High Court on the ground that it was not passed by a quorum of the House. During the dis cussion on the Orange Bounty Bill, the attention of the Chairman was drawn to the absence of a quorum. While the bells were ringing two honorable members opposite left the chamber in order to secure the attendance of the Speaker to make up a quorum, but even with the Speaker present there were only 24 honorable members in the committee, excluding the Chairman, yet the Chairman allowed business to proceed. Under the Standing Orders his action in that respect was wrong.
– Is the honorable member aware that I gave a ruling that my action was not in conflict with the Constitution ?
– I did not hear the honorable member give such a ruling at the time. Why did the Chairman allow the bill to be reported from committee while there were present in the chamber only one member on this side of the House and 23 honorable members on the Ministerial side?
– Honorable members opposite were just outside the chamber.
– That may be so. It is the duty of the Government to see that a quorum is maintained in the chamber. In any case even if honorable members on this side were just outside the chamber, the majority of Ministerial members were absent from Canberra; they were on their way to their homes, whereas they are paid to be present at sittings of the House.
– Order ! The honorable member’s remarks are not relevant to the question before the Chair.
– The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) goads honorable members into making such remarks, and is allowed to get away with it. So far as I personally am concerned I harbour no malice against the Chairman of Committees, although he has subjected me to great indignity by being instrumental in having me removed from the chamber. It seems to me, however, that in his speech to-day the Chairman far from showing regret for his action has actually threatened that in future he will be more harsh in his interpretation of the Standing Orders. God help us if that is so ! At present the Chairman has only one ear, the left, with which to hear, and only one eye, the right, with which to see. He never finds occasion to call to order an honorable member sitting on the Government side. While in the past I have always shown every respect to the Chair, in future, if the Chairman is to wield his authority in such a manner as to make it difficult for honorable members to discuss the several matters which come up iu this chamber, I shall take advantage of every privilege the Standing Orders confer upon me.
– I have a feeling, having listened to the debate so far, that no good purpose whatever has been achieved by the introduction of this motion. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has rather eloquently worked up a weak case. When the Leader of the Opposition was assuming his new duties, I read in the press that he spoke as gracefully as he wrote. By a statement carefully prepared and eloquently delivered he has to-day demonstrated how he can make use of both his qualities. But his statement, although it sounded all right, has been shown by the Chairman of Committees to be lacking foundation. I have not perhaps been as often in the chamber during committee proceedings as some other honorable members, but in my experience T have never witnessed any partiality on the part of the Chairman of Committees or anything that looked like it. To-day the Chairman has quite generously and frankly admitted that he has been somewhat lenient to all honorable members, and has given figures which demonstrate that he has never at any time displayed partiality in his enforcement of the Standing Orders. The figures showing that honorable members opposite get the call more often than members on this side of the House do not suggest to me that the Chairman has displayed partiality. The Chairman admits quite frankly that he has perhaps been too lenient to honorable members, yet honorable members in this debate have seized upon this in an attempt to prove a case against him. Realizing that when an honorable member has been elected to take his place in a legislative hall of the nation, one of the highest positions that can be offered to any person in this country, the Chairman naturally expects that each honorable member will feel the same sense of individual responsibility, as he feels, to maintain the dignity and decorum of this Parliament. If, because of his leniency, we have fallen down on our job it seems to me that to-day it should be the Chairman who is moving a motion of censure on honorable members who make his task more difficult than it should be. The Leader of the Opposition says that members of this Parliament should represent the character of the people of this country even to the extent of demonstrating the passions of the people, and that the Chairman should not check demonstrations of passion.
– He did not say that.
– He said, at any rate, that even on questions of passion we are here to represent the people, and he said further, that the Chairman should not check these demonstrations. I shudder to think how the people who sometimes crowd the Parliamentary galleries, many of them from distant parts of the Commonwealth, must regard some of the demonstrations of passion that are made in this chamber, demonstrations thai should not be made by children let alone by representatives of the citizens of the Commonwealth. I am perfectly sure that the people who view our proceedings would not agree that in making these demonstrations we represent the citizens of the Commonwealth. I confess that during my long political career I cannot pretend that I have succeeded in avoiding some demonstrations of passion. But they are always out of order when made by members on either side. It has been suggested by the Leader of the Opposition that the Chairman should not suppress such demonstrations. The Standing Orders provide that an honorable member must be heard in silence. How can an honorable member be heard in silence if demonstrations of passion are permitted?
The Chairman of Committees, in a dignified, unimpassioned and convincing manner has defended himself against the charges which have been levelled against him. Honorable members who have brought this charge forward against him could not but feel that the Chairman is always dignified, and to-day he has demonstrated more than ever the possession of those qualities which eminently fit him for the position which he occupies. Each of us is called upon to maintain the dignity of this chamber, and to carry out the task of legislating in such a way as to win the confidence and respect of the people of Australia. In saying that he will have to depart from the leniency which he extended in the past, the Chairman has uttered no threat; it is merely an intimation, not that he will be, as the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) has suggested, more harsh, but that he will be firmer. I have never known of any biassed ruling being given by the Chairman. There are times when he has ignored the desires of the Government in regard to matters of procedure, but the Government does not complain of that, and it is not for me to complain of it. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) misquoted the words of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to-day in an endeavour to show that pressure had been brought to bear upon the Chairman by the Government. No Minister has ever attempted to bring any pressure to bear upon the Chairman. The Treasurer said that he had been moved to speak to the Chairman as to his leniency. That was not to be interpreted as meaning that he had actually done what he had it in mind to do. Yet the Deputy Leader of the Opposition used what the Treasurer actually did not attempt to do as evidence to prove that pressure was brought to bear upon the Chairman by the Government. The Government has attempted no pressure; it has confidence in the Chairman; though all of us have felt at times that the ‘Chairman is too lenient. In his reply to-day the Chairman spoke of the games in which he takes part. “We know that in his outdoor recreations he has given indication of the possession of the finest qualities of sportsmanship. He does not shed those qualities when acting in his official position in this chamber. Honorable members have listened to his speech and have heard the figures with which he demonstrated his impartiality. I know it is not of much use asking the Leader of the Opposition or the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) to withdraw this motion, but having heard the discussion that has taken place we ought all to make up our minds to see that we assist the Chairman and cooperate with him to a greater extent in the discharge of the difficult duties attaching to his position. In addition to the charge that pressure has been brought to bear by the Government upon the Chairman, which I think I have refuted, the further charge has been thrown across the chamber by the honorable member for West Sydney that some party had met to discuss the matter now before the Chair. At the time that statement was made I interjected that it had not been discussed at a meeting of my party. I remind honorable members., however, that it could reasonably well have been discussed at a meeting of my party seeing that the motion itself had its origin at a party meeting held by honorable members opposite. Any party is entitled to hold a meeting, and to declare that it will defend, the Chairman against a charge that should not have been levelled against him.
– The point is that that action preceded all the things we complain, of.
– If that had been so the Chairman would not have been able to demonstrate with figures that he has not been partial in the exercise of his duties. I know that feelings may run high in regard to matters of this kind, but I regret that the honorable member for West Sydney should have suggested that if the verdict of the House on this question went against him., he would take further action to achieve what he and his colleagues desire. I hope that there will be no such challenge.
– -I said, “ If the vendetta against the honorable member for East Sydney continues.”
– In reply to that, I say that there is no vendetta against the honorable member for East Sydney. I refer to the matter merely to indicate that, if I had a hostile statement to make concerning the honorable member, I should prefer to make it in his presence.
– Is it not a fact that the honorable member for East Sydney was refused the privilege of inclusion in the panel of ‘Temporary Chairmen of Committees f
– I hope that no challenges will be thrown out either on this side or on the other side of the chamber, and that honorable members will make up their minds to discharge their duties in a more dignified manner than has frequently been the case. Having heard the charge of the Leader of the Opposition, and the reply to it of the Chairman of Committees, I regard the reply as complete and conclusive, and therefore propose to vote against the motion.
Motion (by Mr. Archdale Parkhill) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . 19
Question so resolved in the negative.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).In the course of debate to-day, reference was made to the number of honorable members that constitute a quorum in committee, and to the Standing Order governing the matter. The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker) raised the same point some days ago, and I replied to it to some extent. I did not fully deal with the matter then, because I said that the question had arisen in committee, and that it was not competent for me to give a ruling upon it. I refer to the matter now, because, apparently, some misunderstanding has arisen in the minds of honorable members regarding it. The question is of importance, and I cannot allow it to go out publicly, or to appear uncorrected in Hansard, that legislation has been passed which may be challenged before the High Court and declared invalid. In the Votes and Proceedings of the House of Representatives of the 10th October, 1906, it is recorded that when the House was in committee of the whole, Mr. McDonald, the Chairman of Committees, reported that in a division in the committee, it was certified that there were 18 “ Ayes “ and 6 “ Noes “, making a total of 24, and that therefore he had to report that there was not a quorum present. The Speaker, Sir Frederick Holder, thereupon ruled that 24 members having voted on the division, and the Chairman being in the Chair, a quorum was, under the provisions of the Constitution, present in the committee. The House and the committee, ever since that date, have acted upon the ruling that the Chairman of Committees is counted as one to form a quorum in committee, and I do not think the ruling has been challenged until the last few days. Standing Order 216 provides -
The quorum in committee of the whole shall consist of the same number of members, exclusive of the Chairman, as shall be requisite to form a quorum of the House.
There is no standing order specifying the number for a quorum in the House, but Standing Orders 31, 32, and 33, which deal with the action taken when a quorum is not present, indicate that the Constitution provides that a quorum shall consist of at least one-third of the members of the House. This House has acted upon the ruling of Mr. Speaker Holder since 1906. Succeeding Speakers have agreed with it. I also am of opinion that the Standing Orders oftheHouse cannot conflict with the Constitution. This is one of the Standing Orders that the Standing Orders Committee has revised, but it has not yet received consideration by the House.
– There are 75 members, but the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) is not counted for the purpose of a quorum.
Bill returned from the Senate with a message intimating that the Senate had agreed to the amendments of the House of Representatives upon Senate’s amendment No. 1 in this bill.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be mode for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Dairy Produce Export Control Act 1924-1934 and for other purposes.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Dr. Earle Page and Mr. Thorby do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Dr. Earle Page, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
I desire to illustrate to honorable members, by means of a few figures, the importance of the dairying industry, which is one of the most extensive and widespread of Australia’s primary industries. It is conducted in every State, and in most of them is one of the principal industries. Only in South Australia and Western Australia is it confined within comparatively narrow limits. Throughout Australia, dairying occupies the attention of 150,000 farmers. At the commencement of the present century, Australia possessed about 1,000,000 dairy cows, and produced approximately 47,000 tons of butter and 5,000 tons of cheese per annum. The quantity of butter exported was 17,000 tons per annum. To day there are about 3,250,000 dairy cows in Australia, butter production has reached 200,000 tons, and cheese production 17,000 tons. Butter exports now exceed 100,000 tons annually. Much of this advance has taken place during very recent years. Five years ago, butter production was about 130,000 tons, and the exports amounted to 48,000 tons. Thus, in five years the exports of butter have more than doubled.
The encouragement of dairying has been an active part of the policy of Australian Governments for many years, and the expansion of the industry during the present century has involved a large expenditure of loan money. Well over £200,000,000 is invested in the industry, and the welfare of dairying is therefore important, not only to the dairy farmers themselves, but also to Australia, which depends upon the dairy farmer for a considerable percentage of its wealth production. The industry has experienced extremes of prices since the war. In 1920, for example, the price of butter was at times as high as 2s. 6d. per lb., but in the next year it had dropped to ls. 6d. per lb., and remained at about that level for seven or eight years. The effect of the high prices had been to stimulate land values, and the fall of prices brought embarrassment to very many dairy farmers throughout Australia. The position was then such as to impress upon the industry the necessity for organization of marketing. The objectives aimed at were the improvement of quality, the assurance of continuity of supply, and the reduction of costs of marketing. With these objects in view, the Dairy Produce Export Control Act 1924, was passed at the instance of the Bruce-Page Government. Under that measure, the present Dairy Produce Ex port Control Board was established, and it has functioned continuously since that time. The board has done much to advance the interests of the dairying industry, and has effected substantial economies in marketing costs. The board has given continuous attention to the improvement of marketing technique both in Australia and in the United Kingdom, the Latter country having always been the principal overseas market for our dairy products.
Prior to the establishment of the Export Control Board, the Australian Dairy Council was established. Associated with it were State Advisory Dairy Boards. The Australian Dairy Council consisted in all of 25 members, including ten Government representatives and fifteen producers’ representatives elected by and from the producers’ representatives on the State Advisory Dairy Boards. Unlike -the Export Control Board, the Australian Dairy
Council has no statutory authority, but acts in an advisory capacity to the Commonwealth and State Governments on problems connected with the production and manufacture of butter and cheese, and, in addition, encourages production, through its State boards, by attention to such matters as pasture improvements, and by investigations regarding diseases.
The funds of both the Export Control Board and the Australian Dairy Council are derived from export levies on butter and cheese imposed by the Commonwealth as an inspection fee. In 1930, the Australian Dairy Council was re-organized, and its personnel reduced to twelve members. Since the Dairy Produce Export Control Act has been in operation, representations have been made to the Government from time to time by the producing interests for the inclusion on the board of direct representatives of the producers, amd tat the same time privately.owned butter and cheese factories have pointed out that, as their factories are not controlled by boards of directors, they have not had the right to exercise a vote in connexion with the election of any members to the board. Furthermore, during the past year or two there has been a widespread feeling amongst dairy farmers that the industry is overorganized. In addition to the organizations to which I have already referred, we have at present in each State a Dairy Products Board, established under State legislation; a Dairy Produce Advisory Committee) specially set up to advise the Government on export problems; a private company known as the Commonwealth Dairy Produce Equalization Committee Ltd.; and various State and local producers’ organizations.
It appears that despite the activities of all these bodies there is no specific concentration on the improvement of the quality of our dairy produce; yet this is of paramount importance. The fixation of a high internal price, the narrow margins between choicest and lower grades, and the equalization of returns, may result in a decline of quality unless positive steps are taken to prevent the decline and effect an improvement. The present Government has for some time believed that the ability which is available in the industry could be concentrated on current problems in a more efficient and economical manner. The functions of the State dairy products boards are performed under State legislation,whilst the Equalization Committee is a special body formed for a specific purpose, which is not a direct concern of any government.
It was considered by the Commonwealth Government that it might be possible to combine the other organizations into a national body whose functions would relate to production and marketing. Such a body, it was thought, could act as the one authority to which all matters affecting the industry could be referred by the Government, and would be in aposition to keep under constant examination the domestic marketing system, as well as to determine the contentious issues in relation to marketing and distribution in the United Kingdom.
With these objects in view, I convened a conference of representatives of various sections of the industry, including producers’ organizations, which was held in Sydney on the 13th April last. That conference recommended that the Export Control Board should be reconstituted by including three producers’ representatives on the board and eliminating the representative of f.o.b. sellers. The board’s recommendations were referred to the Australian Agricultural Council for consideration at its meeting held at the end of May. The Agricultural Council recommended that the Export Control Board should be reconstituted by the reduction of the number of factory representatives, the elimination of the representative of the f.o.b. sellers, and the addition of six producers’ representatives. The Agricultural Council also expressed the view that, with the inclusion of producers’ representatives on the Export Control Board, the need for the Australian Dairy Council would no longer exist, and it recommended that that body should be disbanded, and that the export levies be consolidated into one. The Agricultural Council also recommended that, out of the funds derived by the export levies, an annual sum should be allocated for research and investigation into pastures, diseases of dairy cattle, and the quality of butter, and that the funds thus set aside should be expended in the directions indicated by the
Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and the State Departments of Agriculture.
The Export Control Board, as constituted by the original Dairy Produce Export Control Act, consisted of thirteen members, as follows: -
One representative of the Commonwealth Government appointed by the Governor-General.
One representative of f.o.b. sellers appointed by the Governor-General.
Nine representatives elected by the boards of directors of co-operative butter and cheese factories, comprising two each for the States of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, and one each for the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania.
Two representatives elected by the boards of directors of proprietary butter and cheese factories throughout the Commonwealth.
The proposed alteration of the constitution of the board has been subject to considerable discussion since the Agricultural Council meeting was held. As the result of further consultation between the members of the Agricultural Council, it has been decided that the wishes of the industry may be met by adding four producers’ representatives to the existing board, such representatives to be elected by the producers themselves.
This decision is due to the desire of the Commonwealth Government, acting with the approval of the State governments, to reconcile the divergent views expressed by different sections of the industry. The Government is convinced of the wisdom of producer representation and a considerable measure of producer control. It also recognizes the difficulties of ensuring equitable representation amongst the States, because of the different stages of development of the industry in the various States, and the preponderance of production in the eastern States.
New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland produce 90 per cent. of Australia’s total production. If representation were determined on a production basis, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania would have very meagre representation. To anticipate, at this stage, the explanation of the provisions of the bill, I may explain that the representatives will be as follows: - Commonwealth representative, 1; Nev/ South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, 12 (70 per cent.) ; South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, 4 (23 per cent.). This distribution of representation will not be on a production basis, but will reflect the desire to give the smaller States equitable representation because of their difficulties.
It is proposed to afford an additional assurance of reasonable producer-control by providing in the regulations that, in the election of representatives of cooperative factories, the factory directorates will nominate the candidates, and the suppliers of milk and cream to the co-operative factories in the States concerned will exercise the franchise. Thus, thirteen of the seventeen members of the board will be elected by the producers. I feel sure that this procedure will have the general .support of this Parliament.
– Does that mean the elimination of the present method under which the directors do the voting?
– Who will prepare the rolls of producer-voters ?
– The Department of Commerce, from figures supplied to it by the factories concerned. With regard to the proposal to consolidate the various export levies, action will be taken to repeal the regulation under which export levies are now being collected by the Government for use by the Australian Dairy Council. That body will thus no longer function as it has done in the past. The Australian Dairy Produce Board will carry out the advisory functions formerly performed by the Australian Dairy Council. The State governments may, of course, if they so desire, retain the State Advisory Dairy Boards which have, in the past, operated in association with the Dairy Council, and I understand that they will be retained.
It will assist honorable members in the detailed consideration of the proposals if I indicate now the nature of the provisions of the various clauses of the bill.
Clause 3 provides for new definitions of butter and cheese factories for the purpose of any election to the board, and for the alteration of the name of the board. In the principal act, the election qualification for factories is 26 tons of butter or cheese respectively, but it is regarded as more equitable that the qualification should be reduced to 20 tons of butter and 10 tons of cheese, as shown m the bill.
The alteration of the name of the board conforms to the general principle which will be adopted in establishing boards in connexion with major industries. The object is, where circumstances so dictate, to provide boards with functions which relate to matters other than the control of export.
Clause 4 sets out the new constitution of the board. Provision is made therein to enable privately-owned butter and cheese factories to take part in the election of the representatives. This provision will remove the anomaly which existed under the original constitution of the board, whereby only those factories controlled by boards of directors were entitled to exercise a vote.
Other provisions of sub-clause 1 are framed in similar terms to those of the principal act, with the exception that the period for which elected members are to hold office is to be extended from two years to three years. The reason for this extension is that the board will be in a position to function more satisfactorily if the personnel is free from possible alteration for the longer term.
The first producers’ representatives will hold office only until the expiration of the term of the present board, when they will, of course, be eligible for re-election. This provision is inserted to obviate the expense and work attaching to the holding of elections of different groups of members at different times.
Sub-clause 2 provides that the board, as it is at present constituted, with the addition of the producers’ representatives, shall continue to hold office until April, 1937, when the election of a new board will be held.
– At present Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland each have two factory representatives on the board. They “will continue?
– They will not be disturbed until the end of the first term when they will be elected by the producers.
Clause 6 repeals section. 12 of the principal act, which provided for the appointment of a London agency consisting of “ such number, of persons as the board from time to time determines, one of whom shall be appointed by the Governor-General.”
For some years past the board has had only one representative in London, and this representative has fully carried out the requirements of the board with respect to its operations in the United Kingdom. For this reason it is considered that one representative will be adequate for the purposes of the board in London.
Clauses” 7 and S provide that the Minister may delegate his powers to another person with regard to the issue of licences to export dairy produce. This is in lieu of the provisions of the principal act, which required the Minister himself to issue such licences.
Clause 9 is a new provision which requires the board to advise the Minister as to any action which should be taken in .relation to the improvement of the quality, of dairy produce, herds and pastures, or to deal with transport, the finding of new markets, and expansion of existing markets. This provision gives effect to the recommendation of the Australian Agricultural Council in this connexion.
Clause 10 is merely a machinery provision which alters the name of the fund into which moneys derived from the charges made under the Dairy Produce Export Charges Act are paid. In the principal act the fund is described as the “Dairy Produce Export Fund.” The amending clause eliminates the word “ Export “ and provides that moneys standing to the credit of the original fund shall be credited to the new fund. The reason for this amendment is that a portion of the fund will in future be applied to research work in Australia. Hitherto the board has been concerned entirely with the marketing of Australian butter overseas. The reconstituted board will be able to advise on both the internal and external marketing of butter, and will have power to allocate money raised for its purposes. It will be an adviser, not only to the Commonwealth Government, but also to all Australian governments. The board will undertake duties in the individual States. It forms part of the agricultural administrative structure proposed by the Australian Agricultural Council.
– All State governments have expressed approval?
Paragraph a of clause 11, which is the final clause in the bill, authorizes the Minister, on the recommendation of the board, to allocate money from the dairy produce fund for research purposes. The remaining paragraphs of this clause are similar to those in the present act giving the board full powers in regard to the application of moneys from the fund.
In commending this bill to the consideration of honorable members, I would point out that the Australian dairying industry is faced with real and serious problems at the present time, and the responsibility rest3 upon the Commonwealth Government, and the new Australian Dairy Produce Board, of working strenuously for the improvement of external marketing conditions, and the establishment of a reputation for high quality Australian dairy produce.
The bill represents a very definite step towards ensuring the continued improvement of the quality of dairy products. Much of the butter exported from Australia is of the highest quality, but admittedly there is still room for improvement. The reconstituted board may confidently be expected to concentrate its attention on this important problem.
I am confident that the re-organization of the industry on the lines proposed in the amending bill will be of material benefit, not only to the dairy-farmer, but also to Australia as a whole.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Forde) adjourned.
– I declare (a) that the Estimates of Expenditure are of an urgent nature; (b) that the resolutions preliminary to the introduction of the Appropriation Bill are urgent resolutions; and (c) that the Appropriation Bill is an urgent hill.
Question put -
That the Estimates are urgent Estimates; that the resolutions are urgent resolutions; and that the Appropriation Bill is an urgent bill.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. CASEY) proposed -
That the time allotted for the consideration of the remainder of the Estimates, the resolutions, and the stages of the Appropritien Bill, be as follows: -
.*- The adoption of this procedure by the Government at this stage of our consideration of the Estimates is outrageous and exhibits the utter recklessness with which the Government is disposed to treat the Parliament. The total appropriation proposed in the Estimates is £23,759,770. So far, because of the manner in which the Government has submitted the Estimates for the consideration of honorable members, and of the interruptions that have occurred in the debate, a proposed expenditure of about £1,400,000 covering the Parliament, the Prime Minister’s Department, the Treasury, and the Attorney-General’s Department has been approved in piecemeal fashion. The Government is now proposing that less time shall be occupied in the consideration of the remainder and by far the larger part of the Estimates, than has been spent in considering only four departments. The moving of this motion indicates, on the part of the Government, an entire disregard of the responsibility of Parliament in respect of the control of the public purse. For instance, the proposed vote for the Department of Defence is £4,636,200, but only two hours are to be allowed to discuss the item. Having regard to what has been said lately, not only in this Parliament but also elsewhere, in respect of the seriousness of Australia’s position from the defence viewpoint, the obsolescent character of a great deal of our defence equipment, and the controversies that have raged as to which is the wisest form of defence for Australia to adopt in order to safeguard itself, an allowance of two hours to consider these Estimates is not only an affront to the Parliament, but is also an indication to the country that the Government is quite indifferent to what may be said by honorable members generally on defence matters and is content to rely entirely upon its own view. However justifiable it may be for a government to have confidence in its own proposals, Australia is, after all, a democracy, and this Parliament is the instrument of the democracy. An affront to this Parliament, therefore, is an affront to the democracy.
Only three-quarters of an hour is to bo allowed for a consideration of the many important matters relating to the Department of Trade and Customs. The proposed vote for this department is £564,430. The administration of our customs and excise law is of vast importance to Australia. In consequence of the wide discretionary power and authority reposed in the ComptrollerGeneral of Customs, and of the fact that the department is administered largely according to the interpretation given to the law by departmental officials, particularly in respect of the extent to which goods are covered by the items of the schedule, it is of prime importance that the Parliament should exercise the utmost watchfulness over the administration. I protest most emphatically against the proposal to allow only threequarters of an hour for the consideration of the affairs of this department.
Health is another consideration of vital significance to the general public. During the period in which the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) held the portfolio of- Minister for Health he brought the affairs of the department so prominently under the notice of the general public as to elicit great interest in them. The department is no longer under his control and the Government apparently considers that half an hour is sufficient time to devote to its affairs. Obviously this means, in practical effect, that the right of honorable members to discuss health matters is to be absolutely frustrated and nullified. Honorable members are allowed fifteen minutes to discuss each item of the Estimates so that an allowance of half an hour means that only two members may address themselves to the subject, assuming that they each occupy even the limited time allowed to them by the Standing Orders. I submit that no two honorable members of this Parliament, however competent they may be, can claim to be capable of voicing the views of the remaining 74 members of it.
The honorable member has exhausted his time.
– That is another evidence of the stupidity of this procedure.
– Earlier to-day, when other matters relative to the procedure of the House were being discussed several honorable members said that the course which this Government is pursuing’ is tending to bring the parliamentary institution into contempt.
– The honorable member may not refer now to the debate that occurred earlier to-day.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has reminded us that this Parliament is the instrument of the democracy. Any process, therefore, which tends to hinder the free expression of opinion in this chamber must be considered objectionable. Sufficient time should be allowed for the consideration of the important business that is submitted to the Parliament from time to time. The most important part of the business of this Parliament has to do with finance and expenditure, and these matters should not be settled on party divisions. Whoever is responsible for the drawing up of this time schedule paid very scant attention to the rights of honorable members. Surely honorable members have a right to expect at least a reasonable opportunity to discuss the various items in the Estimates. The Postmaster-General’s Department alone is <a most important one. I solicit the support of those honorable members opposite who represent country districts, because, in the more outlying parts of the country, the activities of the post office are of vital concern. The discussion of the Estimates for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department affords honorable members one of the few opportunities presented to them to bring the needs of their constituents under the attention of the Government, yet how can honorable members discuss adequately so great a department in the two and a quarter hours allotted for the purpose. Associated with the Postmaster-General’s Department is an issue of great importance at the present time, namely, wireless administration, but hardly any time will be available to discuss it. Then there is the administration of the various territories under the control of the Commonwealth. Most honorable members are aware that the administration of Norfolk Island is regarded in many responsible quarters as a standing disgrace to the Government) and we had hoped for an opportunity to refer to the subject during the discussion of the Estimates. However, the schedule reveals that only threequarters of an hour has been allotted to the discussion of all the territories, including the Northern Territory, Federal. Capital Territory, Papua and Norfolk Island. Actually it would have been better if the Government had refused to permit any discussion on these matters at all. The proposed allocation of time makes the whole matter merely farcical, as it is impossible for honorable members to do justice in the time allotted to the subjects which will come under review. I have just had handed to me 22 pages of printed matter dealing with the Defence’ Department. Honorable members have had no time to study this document, and there will be no opportunity to do so before the Defence Estimates are dealt with. The whole of the defence Estimates must be through in two hours, but the Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill) will take at least half an hour to make a statement on defence policy, and to explain the departmental estimates.
– I shall not.
– Then the Minister will not give to honorable members or to the public Information to which they are entitled. Every honorable member is aware that on Thursday last the time of Parliament was wasted, speeches of ‘a stonewalling nature being made by honorable/members on the Government side 6f the House.
.^- I voted against the application of the guillotine, and ! did ‘so deliberately. If ever a Government supporter would be justified in Voting against the Government ; it would be on ari issue like this, especially when we see th’a’t the schedule allots only eight and U quarter hours for the consideration of the balance of the Estimates. This document of 22 pages relating to the Defence Department no doubt contains many matters to which honorable members may wish to refer, but it will be impossible foi- them to do so in the two hours allotted. During past years the practice has grown up of taking the’ Estimates in globo, and regarding any adverse criticism’ of any part of the Estimates as a challenge to the Government. I am sure that many honorable members who support the Government do n6t altogether agree with all that is iri the Estimates. A few years ago, on the plea of economy) the Public Accounts Committee, which was a watch-dog on public* expenditure, was abolished. That committee was drawn from all parties of both Houses of Parliament, and its reports represented the carefully considered opinion of the members of the committee. Now that safeguard has been removed, and one might bare expected that greater opportunity would be afforded in the committee of this Parliament to discuss estimates of expenditure. Far from enlarging the opportunity for Such discussion, however, the Government is now seeking to restrict it. For’ instance-, health and repatriation are two most important activities, yet each is to receive only a quarter of ari hour for discussion.
I put it to the Government that it is treading on very thin ice, so far as many of its own supporters are concerned, in thus limiting discussion, and I for one, though I usually support the Government, am very strongly opposed to this abuse of governmental power.
.- I object to the action of the Government in seeking to bludgeon the Estimates through Parliament without affording honorable members an opportunity to discuss the various items. It is refreshing to see one Government supporter, at least, with courage enough to express what I believe is the opinion of . many other honorable members who sit behind the Government. I have no doubt tha’t those honorable members would also like to join in the protest, but they fear the consequences. Members of the Opposition have duties to their constituents which they should be allowed to perform. This Parliament lias sat on only 68 -days during the last thirteen months. There was no reason why Parliament should not have been called together much earlier than it was, so that honorable members might have been able to discuss the Estimates at their leisure. There are many matters in the Estimates to which honorable members would, no doubt, wish to refer. For instance, there is the advance of £2,000,000 to the Treasurer, who has given no explanation of how that money is to be spent. He asks us to pass the item without criticism or discussion, handing the power of this Parliament over to him for the expenditure of an enormous sum of money. I am sure that the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) in his heart does not agree with what is being done. It is proposed to allow only three quarters of an hour foi the discussion of the Estimates for the Department of Trade and Customs, although this department is the greatest revenue producer of them all. For the year 1934-35 the revenue it collected was £37,S00,000. No ‘ doubt, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) would like to have something to say about the Estimates of this department. Is it the intention of the Government deliberately to stifle discussion so as to prevent the honorable member for Swan, and the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), perhaps, from asking questions about a department in which they take a deep interest? I have been yearning to hear about the Government’s policy for the development of the Northern Territory. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) has ably advanced the claims of that area in this House, and recently travelled through the whole of it in company with the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson). We should like to hear something of the opinions formed by the Minister as a result of his tour, ana the Minister in turn should be given the benefits of the suggestions of honorable members who are qualified to speak on such matters. I am sure that the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan), with his wide experience of the northern parts of Australia, would be able to make many very helpful suggestions, and the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Collins) would probably be able to exhaust the whole of the 45 minutes which has been allotted for the consideration of this department. The Minister for Commerce has stated that it is his desire to make his department a live one, pulsating with energy and enthusiasm. Yet he is now prepared to acquiesce in a proposal to dismiss that department with a brief half-hour for discussion.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
– It is interesting to hear the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and Deputy Leader (Mr. Forde) complaining about the restriction of time for the discussion of the Estimates, when we recall the time allotted for this purpose when the party to which they belonged was in power. Already, 13 hours have been devoted this session to the discussion of the Estimates, and it is proposed to allot another 9£ hours, making a total of 22* hours. In 1929-30, the time devoted to the discussion of the Estimates was 21 hours, while in 1930-31 only 19 hours were devoted to this purpose. Yet honorable members opposite have the audacity to get up and say that the present Government is not allowing sufficient time in which to discuss the Estimates.
– Was the guillotine used ky the Labour Government?
– If it was not used, surely that, shows that 21 hours in the one case, and 19 hours in the other, were ample for the discussion of the Estimates. Why should an even longer period not be sufficient now? The reason is, as was admitted this afternoon by the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), that, on certain items of the Estimates, attempts are made by honorable members to get in matter which has nothing whatever to do with the item under discussion. The guillotine is the fairest possible means permitted under the Standing Orders of dealing with the Estimates. Under it members of both sides of the House are given equal opportunity to discuss the Estimates. As a matter of fact, the guillotine was brought into being for the very purpose of giving honorable members on both sides equal opportunity for debate. If honorable members will look back over the records of the last fifteen or twenty years they will find that the time allotted to discuss the Estimates now under review compares very favorably with that afforded during that period, guillotine or no guillotine. There have been times, however, when the discussion on the Estimates has been extended to a much greater extent than at the present time, but I remind honorable members that on those occasions all-night sittings were involved. The guillotine should have been applied to the discussion of the Estimates right at the very beginning. If the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) had been in his place last week it might have been possible to proceed with government business more expeditiously. Honorable gentlemen opposite a>t that time were chortling over the fact that the Government could not get on with its business. There is, therefore, no substance in their complaint now. When a government supported by the Leader of the Opposition was in power much less time was spent in discussing .the Estimates than is proposed now. I venture to say that what is now/ proposed gives every honorable member an adequate opportunity for discussing, not only the
Estimates, but also the other important measures that have to be dealt with, and gives to all a “fair deal.
Mr. McEWEN (Echuca) [S.32J.- 1 propose to support the motion, but not without protest against the circumstances which have necessitated it. In order that tlie session may not end in a chaotic state of affairs, where no opportunity is afforded honorable members to debate, not only the Estimates, but also tlie other important bills which have yet; to be dealt with, there is no alternative to a proposal such as that now before the House. Although I believe some allocation of the remaining hours of the session is the only practicable proposition that could be brought forward to enable the business to bo dealt with, at the same time I protest against the drift which has left us no alternative but to gag through vote3 for millions of pounds in a very short time. Many honorable members refrain from raking advantage of their opportunity to discuss various departments on the first item, because this chamber is usually left in charge of an Assistant Minister not in control of the administration of the department in respect of which they aro desirous of speaking. For instance, 1 refrained from speaking on the first item, because I did not wish to generalize or to address myself to a Minister not administering a particular department to which I desired to refer. Yet now, in common with other honorable members, I find myself debarred from an opportunity to speak on the various departments as they come up for consideration. However, I shall not vote against the motion, because I foresee a state of affairs that would develop did we not now allocate the time for the remaining hours of the session.
– Does the honorable member think the time allotted is fair?
– It is not adequate, but I repeat there is no alternative. I take it that the application of the guillotine on this occasion is part of a plan to allocate the remainder of the sittings this year in respect, not only of the Estimates, but also of those vital bills which still remain on the notice-paper and must be passed before the Christmas recess. I cannot refrain from reminding honorable members of the Opposition that they must accept some responsibility for the circumstances that exist to-day. They have certainly taken part in deliberatively obstructive tactics which have resulted in a waste of time of the House.
– The honorable member himself wasted time on Thursday.
– I have never wasted time in the House, but I have heard members of the Opposition canvassing other honorable members to go outside the chamber, so that a quorum would not be present.
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, the honorable member has accused members on this side of deliberately obstructing the House, and wasting time. I ask that that statement be withdrawn.
– Order ! I did not hear the remark that members had deliberately obstructed the House.
– The honorable member said so.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. McEwen) if he said that any honorable member had deliberately obstructed the House?
– I said that I have, on numerous occasions, observed honorable members opposite canvass one another to leave the chamber so a quorum would not be present.
– That is the remark I. heard. I did not hear the remark of which the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) complains.
– The circumstances which demand the proposal before the House do the taxpayers less than justice.
– Order ! Thehonorable member has exhausted his time.
.- Mr. Speaker- -
– Order ! The time allotted under the Standing Order for this debate has elapsed.
Question put - The House divided. (Mr. Speaker- Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 21st November (vide page 1859).
Department of the Interior.
Proposed vote, £400,400.
.- I move -
That the amount be reduced by £1.
If this amendment is agreed to, it is to be regarded as a direction to the Government not to establish residences for the Governor-General in Melbourne and in Sydney. Statements have been made that it is intended to establish residences for occupation by His Excellency the Governor-General in these two cities, and that, in order to do so, property is to be acquired in. one city. I object to the proposal of the Government, not only because of the waste of money involved, which could be put to a more useful purpose, but also because there is an important principle at stake in respect of the executive government of this Commonwealth. To begin with, I find that the
Minister fbr the Interior (Mr. Paterson) has stated that the saving effected as the result of the relinquishment of these residences in Melbourne and Sydney amounts to £5,340 a year, against which must be set the increase of £1,488 in the expenditure on Government House, Canberra. It is, of course, more or less inevitable that expenditure on Government House, Canberra, should increase in some years, because of the necessity for repairs, and other circumstances. In the early history of this Commonwealth, the matter of residences for the occupation of the Governor-General was considered by the Parliament. I find that in 1904, Senator Keating asked in the Senate why the Commonwealth should provide the Go-. vernor-General with a house at Sydney at a cost of £3,000 a year. He went on to say that the Parliament should take a stand against this expenditure, and- to urge that, “ “While the Seat of Governin out remains temporarily in Victoria the Commonwealth Government House should be in Melbourne, and when a Federal Territory is chosen in New South Wales, and the Seat of Government is fixed there, the Commonwealth Government House should be there, and there only “. Senator Givens in the following year moved that the amount be reduced by £2,000, and made these observations -
Ultimately, of course, the official residence of the Governor-General will be at the Federal Capital. When it is established shall we bc expected to maintain a separate establishment for His Excellency in Melbourne and Sydney while we ignore, other State capitals? it would be ridiculous to single out two States to be favoured in that way.
I quote those two speeches because their effect was to secure the acceptance of the motion to reduce the amount of the proposed vote. Among those who voted in favour of the amount being so reduced, was the member of the present Ministry who leads the Government in the Senate. Sir Josiah Symon, who can be cited as one of the founders of the Australian Federation, speaking in Parliament on the 28th November, 1905, said-
It is not with me a matter of feeling as between Melbourne and Sydney. I look at it from, an ordinary taxpayer’s point of view. I consider that the additional expenditure is unnecessary. Therefore I sholl be found voting with my honorable friend Senator Givens . . . No one must suggest that any hon orable senator who votes with him is seeking in any way to interfere with the dignity or th6 propriety of the expenditure in relation to the Governor-General.
What is involved? At present the Commonwealth Seat of Government is at Canberra. No other city can be mentioned as one in which it is obligatory for the Governor-General to reside. The only possible justification, if one exists, for the establishment of residences at Melbourne and Sydney is in order that His Excellency may make contact with the people. I submit that it is not necessary to establish residences for His Excellency in order that that object might be achieved. He could meet the people there just as readily as in Brisbane, Perth or Hobart, without the establishment of a residence for him. As a matter of fact, there are clear indications, in statements that. have been made in quarters that have to be accepted as reliable in view of the silence of the Government upon the point, that negotiations are in progress for the acquisition of a property in Melbourne.
– The Leader of the Opposition, is not referring to one item of these Estimates.
– I am referring to Division- No. 43 of the- Estimates of the Department of the Interior, “ GovernorGeneral’s establishment “, the proposed vote for which is- £12,300.
– The honorable gentleman does not know what he is talking about.
– I claim your protection, Mr. Prowse, against these interjections. If I am not dealing properly with, the matter, let the Minister for Defence take a point of order against me and show wherein I am irrelevant. If he does not do that, let him keep quiet.
– Order! The Leader of the Opposition will not be in order- if he proceeds too far in his references to the erection of buildings. The proposed vote represents an allowance for the Governor-General’s establishment.
– I have moved that the amount be reduced by £1 in order to impress upon the Government the undesirability of having’ an establishment for the Governor-General at any place other than where it now is. That is the clear and positive declaration of my party. We object to the intention to provide these establishments, on the ground that only social purposes can thereby be served and that there is no obligation on this Parliament to even permit the Government’s embarking upon an activity of this nature, which has been ended by this Parliament previously. I do no more than object to the plurality of residences for the Governor-General in Australia. One residence is sufficient for His Excellency. There would be no possibility of the citizens of either Melbourne or Sydney meeting His Excellency at his residences in those two cities. The ordinary citizen did not meet His Excellency at his residence when these establishments were previously provided. Only those who are designated the leaders of society were invited to Government House, Melbourne, and they alone will be invited again if another establishment should be provided there.
– I think that I ought to inform the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and other honorable members at this early stage that not £1 of the expenditure for which provision is made in these Estimates is to be devoted to the setting up of establishments for His Excellency the GovernorGeneral either in Sydney or in Melbourne. Therefore, the premise upon which the honorable member has founded his amendment does not exist, and in the circumstances I presume that one who is so logical as he is will withdraw it.
– I shall withdraw it if the Minister will give me an undertaking that these residences will not be established.
– I assure the honorable member that, while the Government hopes to make arrangements that will enable the Governor-General to spend a certain amount of time in Sydney and Melbourne, it has come to no decision with respect to the making of provision for the establishment of Government Houses in either of those two cities. The principal item in the proposed vote of £12,300 is an amount of £5,277 which is payable to the Government of Victoria with respect to the lease of the building in Melbourne formerly occupied by His Excellency. In 1930 an arrangement was come to by the Scullin Government to pay to the Government of Victoria an amount of £42,S65, to be spread over a period of eight years, as the price of the surrender of the lease of Federal Government. House, Melbourne. That obliges the Commonwealth to make an annual payment of £5,277 to the Government of Victoria until the year 193S.
– I repeat my offer to withdraw the amendment if the Minister will give me the undertaking for which J have asked.
.- I take this opportunity to impress upon the Minister the necessity for an early decision in favour of the renewal of the Federal Aid Roads agreement. There is no bigger activity in Australia than that which has to do with the provision of main roads throughout this continent. In addition to the employment of skilled workmen it utilizes large quantities of road-making machinery and materials.
– Will the honorable member- indicate what item he is discussing ?
– The Department of the Interior administers the act under which the States are given a grant to assist them in the construction of main roads. Towards the end of next year a decision will have to be made in regard to the renewal or otherwise of the agreement with the States. At the present time all parties are in suspense, and are anxious to know what is likely to happen. All over Australia a vast organization has been built up, and tens of thousands of workmen who are now engaged in the construction of main roads will be useless for any other activity if they lose that employment. The Commonwealth grant has been of substantial assistance in the construction of roads, particularly in country districts. Hundreds of thousands of pounds have been invested in plant, road material, rollers, graders, and a multiplicity of other activities, all of which give employment in our factories to many thousands of persons.
– Order ! The honorable member will not be in order in extending his remarks in that direction.
– I am stressing the fact that industries which, in the past, have been languishing will be revived by a continuance of main roads activities, and am urging the Minister to come to an early decision in the matter.
– The agreement does not expire until the 31st December of next year.
– I urge that an early decision be made because of the enormous extent of organization involved, which cannot be maintained if doubt exists as to the future intentions of the Government. If the Minister will make an early pronouncement no doubt will exist and all who are interested in the matter will feel more secure. I hope that the honorable member will decide to renew the agreement on the old basis of population and area. In some States special taxation is raised on motor vehicles and in other ways for main road construction, and the moneys so collected are placed in trust funds, but in Queensland an amount of £750,000, which was specially allocated to road construction has been, used for other purposes. Any new agreement should provide against a recurrence of this unfortunate practice. Special taxes levied both by the Commonwealth and States with the object of financing road construction should be allocated for this purpose alone, otherwise they should be repealed. Modern forms of road transport demand the provision of specially constructed motor highways, which are very costly, but they effect large savings, not only in time., but also in wear and tear on vehicles. It is of the utmost importance that there shall be no interruption of the employment of the vast numbers of men now engaged in road construction, and that the huge plant which they operate shall not be thrown idle. The State authorities are anxious to bc advised on the matter at the earliest possible moment.
– I support the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), because the Minister has not given an undertaking that no money will be spent in the provision of a residence for the Governor-General in any State capital. When an ordinary member of the Public Service who resides in Canberra goes to another capital on government business, lie is provided with a travelling allow ancc. The Governor-General has an official residence in Canberra, and if he desires to visit a State capital he should be able to meet his expenses out of his travelling allowance. If he wishes to see the race for the Melbourne Cup, or to attend the Spring meeting in Sydney-
– The honorable member must not continue on those lines.
– I desire the Governor-General to be placed on the same footing as other public servants. I object to the provision out of public funds of any money for the establishment of a temporary residence for him outside Canberra.
– Why doe3 not the honorable member lay a charge?
– There is no necessity for that. The language of the act, is clear. It says that the Chief Electoral Officer shall take action in such cases. I could mention half ‘ a dozen firms in Sydney which are guilty of using the undue influence to which I have referred. One offender is a well-known supporter of the United Australia party, who lends his motor cars at election times. Australian Iron and
Steel Limited is the worst offender. It tries to browbeat its employees at every election, State or Federal. If this conduct is permitted, democratic government will .suffer a fatal blow. The fountain of democracy should not be corrupted at its very source. “What has the Minister done to prevent a repetition of these offences? Does he believe in the purity of the ballot? Employers have no right to submit their employees to economic pressure. Secrecy is observed regarding returns from individual polling-places to prevent the victimization of employees on account of their political opinions. The tactics of unscrupulous employers should not be overlooked merely because they happen to be members of the executive of the United Australia party, and use their own motor .cars in taking voters to the polls. If the Government is as earnest as it professes to be in the administration of the Crimes Act, for the purpose of suppressing what it terms the growing revolutionary spirit, it should insist upon the Electoral Officer taking the action which is obviously intended under the act. The Minister should instruct his officers that if these employers repeat their offence, as they undoubtedly will at the next election, they should be prosecuted. I should not have been defeated in Werriwa at the 1931 election if the practice to which I have taken objection had not been resorted to.
– It is surprising that the honorable member was not defeated at the last election,
– The methods of the opponents of Labour vary from time to time. The harrowing picture painted by government supporters of what would “happen to the workers if a Labour candidate were returned for my electorate did not achieve the result which my opponents expected. But the point at issue is not whether individual candidates are returned or defeated. From the days when breweries made special brews of beer for the purpose of making electors two-thirds intoxicated when they recorded their votes, until to-day, the Electoral Act has been full of sections, which enumerate offences and provide penalties for those found guilty of them. Yet employers flagrantly disregard the law, and no action is taken against them. Every honorable member representing an electorate in New South Wales knows that what I have said is true. Sometimes the foreman or the boss will go through a factory, the week before an election, and tell the employees that if Labour is returned, it will be necessary to shut down the works. If this intimation is not given by word of mouth, a notice to this effect is placed in the employee’s pay envelope. That is the worst possible form of political victimization. Arnott’s, the biscuit manufacturers who receive protection from the Commonwealth Government dismissed several hundred employees on the Friday night before the last election and told them that there would be work for them if the United Australia party and the Country party were returned. If Labour was voted into power there would be no work. At Wanganilly the hands were dismissed a week before the election occurred and were told that if Labour did not win their jobs would be open for them again. The Minister for the Interior should say whether he does not consider that this is a direct contravention of the provisions of the Electoral Act, which imposes penalties for the undue influencing of voters. By no stretch of the imagination can it be said that the people I have mentioned are not directly offending grievously against the Electoral Act. Why is it that the Chief Electoral Officer has not taken action before to-day.? The Minister should tell the Chief Electoral Officer that he should stamp out the -evils. “Mr. Paterson. - Does the honorable member .say that these things were done at the last federal election?
– I do say so, definitely! I can produce plenty of proof. Honorable members representing constituencies in New South Wales do not attempt to deny the charges I have made because they know that they are true.
– I do nol think that there is a word of truth in any of them.
– The Minister knows the truth of what I am saying. He is merely equivocating. Knowing his position in the United Australia party at one election, I should not be surprised that a great deal of the undue influencing of voters was done on his advice.
– The honorable member’s suppositions would be ill-founded.
– It would be typical of the practices of the honorable member.
– I was able to bring about the honorable member’s defeat at the 1931 election.
– The Minister did not. He can “have a go at me “ at any time. Any one who attempts to deny the truth of my charges will be denying something which he knows to be true. At the last election the dogs barked the fact that certain interests were bringing pressure to bear on their employees to vote a non-Labour ticket. Whether similar tactics were indulged in in Queensland. I do not know. My remarks refer to what happened in New South Wales. I am glad that the Minister has expressed astonishment that these things have happened.
– We are all astonished.
– The honorable member was associated with the New Guard, one of the chief instigators of tactics against which I have complained. Before I was interrupted, I was proceeding to express pleasure at the fact that the Minister had shown astonishment that such a condition as that I have outlined should operate. In his way he is reasonably honest.
– Why qualify it like that?
– I am talking politically. The Minister should give me an undertaking that he will instruct the electoral office to take action to abolish the malpractices to which I have referred. I guarantee to furnish him with sufficient evidence to warrant action. I have brought these matters before the committee, not because members of the party to which I belong are affected, but because the deadliest blow to Australian democracy will follow their continuance. The undesirable features of elections which led to the passing of the Commonwealth Electoral Act will return unless the present tendency is checked at once. If the Chief Electoral Officer does not act of his own volition, I trust that the Minister will issue instructions in order to ensure the purity of the Aus tralian ballot-box system and to protect the franchise which is the right of every Australian man, whether he be the poorest worker or the wealthiest individual in the land.
– The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) will recall that in April last year I protested against the report of the Electoral Commissioners for Western Australia recommending that the size of the Kalgoorlie electorate be increased from its present huge dimensions to 909,000 square miles, compared with the 975,000 square miles which make up the area of Western Australia. If that report had been implemented, the area of my electorate would have been half as large again as the area of the whole of Queensland.
– It would have been nearly one-third of the area of Australia.
– Parliament decided to request the commissioners to make a further report, and I undersand that, although the new report makes the proposed increase of the area of the Kalgoorlie electorate somewhat smaller than was proposed on the last occasion, it includes the area of the State electorate of Avon within the boundaries of the Swan federal electorate, and portion of the State electorate of Toodyay has been taken out of the Swan division leaving a corridor 23 miles wide for the honorable member for Swan to squeeze through in going from the northern part of his electorate to the south. I am sure that the honorable member for Swan does not wish to have his electorate carved up in that way. I wish to impress upon the Minister that, with the remarkable increase of gold production in Western Australia in the last two or three years, the population of the Kalgoorlie electorate has been greatly augmented. Wiluna, which formerly had a population of less than 100; has to-day a population of more than 5,000 because of gold-mining. At Beria, there is a population of 1,500, where previously there was no one. This is only the beginning. A largely increased population in the Kalgoorlie division is assured. The honorable member for Swan, and other representatives of Western Australia in this chamber, if they had sufficient time to do so, would verify the statements which I am making. I should like to know what is the present position in regard to the re-alignment of the electoral boundaries in Western Australia. I should like the Minister to say whether it is within his power to refer the decision batik to the Commissioners.
– Only Parliament can do that. The Commissioners’ report will be dealt with early next year.
– I shall be satisfied if it 13 not intended to act upon the Commissioners’ report this session. Consideration of the report towards the end of next year would fit in with my arrangements.
– It is intended to deal with the matter as parly as possible next, year.
– Unfortunately, 1 shall have to be away then.
– The honorable member could obtain the figures of the population increase and leave them in the hands of some other honorable member.
– Tn view of the Minister’s Assurance, I shall leave the matter for the time being.
In support of the remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) regarding the suggested extra expenditure on the acquisition of additional residences for the Governor-General which the Minister has admitted Cabinet proposes to consider, I wish to make a protest against the differentiation between English Governors-General and the present occupant of that high office, who was born and bred in this country. The Minister admitted that expenditure was contemplated on the acquisition of residences in Sydney and Melbourne in addition to Government House at Canberra, although he said that the question had not yet finally been dealt with by Cabinet. It is a remarkable thing that, although this Government has been in office since 1931, practically for the whole of the tenure of the GovernorGeneralship by the existing occupant, it put forward no suggestion that he should have separate residences in Sydney and Melbourne in addition to one at Canberra, yet special arrangements are suggested for the glorification of a man from abroad. At fi meeting to-day we were told that a certain Australian stood out at the recent Jubilee celebrations in London for independence of thought and action. The facts that a man from abroad is to be brought here as our Governor-General and that a great deal more expenditure is contemplated on his entertainment tha’n we were prepared to allow for the only Australian Governor-General we have had, hardly compare with that statement. No matter how prejudiced certain people might have been at the beginning of the term of the existing Governor-General, every one will now agree that he is a fine Australia gentleman who has lived up te the noblest traditions of the GovernorGenera (ship.
– The item on which this discussion is proceeding is very much similar to the same item in the last Estimates.
– But the Minister admitted that Cabinet was about to consider the question of expenditure of greater sums in Melbourne and Sydney for the future Governor-General to entertain notable guests.
– I did not say that.
– Then will the Minister deny it?
– I cannot say now what the Government may do in future.
– Without imputing that the Minister is dodging the question, I can say that it should be reasonably clear that something of the kind is proposed. The result will be, of course, that a mere handful of people in Melbourne or Sydney will be entertained at the expense of the Commonwealth by the Governor-General. It will be only a very select few, because we all know how the lists are compiled. What the Government proposes to do is unworthy of the Australian spirit, which stands for a certain amount of democracy. It betrays a spirit of “ crawlsomeness “ which, although it may be part of the make-up of older countries, should not be associated with a new country like Australia, which should adopt the spirit shown by the peoples of South Africa and Canada.
– I rise to a point of order. I wish to know which item the honorable member is discussing.
– There is no point of order.
– I appeal to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) to co-operate to a greater extent than hitherto with the Forestry Department of Tasmania, with the object . of extending the forestry work of that State. I am informed that the Government of Tasmania has submitted to the Commonwealth Government a ten-year programme of development, and I urge that favorable consideration be given to the proposal. Unless a greater degree of co-operation is shown in the future than has been exhibited in the past, much of the expenditure on forestry work in Tasmania will have been wasted. I understand that camps have been established for youths to give them the opportunity to train for forestry work, and the operations in Tasmania have been satisfactory in many respects, but if more money is not made available by the Commonwealth Government some of the camps will have to be abandoned, which will be a serums thing for the boys conconcerned. I ask the Minister for the Interior to give me an assurance that everything possible will be done to encourage forestry work in Tasmania, for the rainfall and other climatic conditions of that State are far more favorable for this particular activity than are those in any other State. Hitherto, the geographical position of Tasmania has militated against it being given its fair share of attention in the development of forests; but that handicap should be overcome. Tasmania should not he obliged to forgo its advantage “for reafforestation simply because it is cut off from direct communication with the mainland. In fact, its isolation should be an added reason why particular attention should be devoted to its needs. I appeal to the Minister to visit Tasmania and examine the possibilities for forestry developments there. The honorable gentleman recently visited the Northern Territory-
– I have visited Tasmania many times.
– Evidently the Minister has arrived unsung and departed unknown; but, if he will pay another visit to Tasmania.I promise him a firstclass reception. I again appeal to him to give favorable consideration to the ten-year programme of development that has been submitted to him by the Tasmanian Forestry Department.
.- I direct attention to the following items : -
These two items have reference to one small aspect of a large question - the very pressing problem that the unemployed youth of Australia presents to the nation. The seriousness of the position of these young men cannot be exaggerated. In regard to the particular aspect of the subject to which I direct attention, I point out that, while an over supply of youthsis available for work in the cities, a shortage is noticeable in country districts. The Fairbridge Farm School of Western Australia is spoken of in the highest terms by those who have had the opportunity to inspect it; but its facilities are available only to young immigrants from Great Britain. I urge the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) to bring under the notice of the Government during the coming parliamentary recess the desirability of establishing in the other States of the Commonwealth similar farm schools to that at Fairbridge, but open to the. youth of Australia. If we could train city youths for farm work we should servo the dual purpose of relieving the pressure in the cities and supplying a great need in the country. The grave social consequences likely to flow from the enforced idleness of the youth of this country cannot be disregarded by any who have the welfare of the nation at heart. I therefore urge the Government to co-operate with the State governments with the object of doing everything possible to provide employment for young men on the land.
The proposal that I have made for the establishment of training farms touches only one aspect of this very serious problem. The raising of the school-leaving age is another subject that should he taken into consideration. If time permitted, many other concrete suggestions could be made to serve the same end. I regret that in the circumstances under which this debate is being conducted I am not at liberty to elaborateon the vital necessity of attacking this problem on broad general lines. If, however, the Government will examine the feasibility of the proposal that Ihave made, it will at least be doing something to solve the problem.
Mr.RIORDAN (Kennedy) [9.43].- I support the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). The time is undoubtedly inopportune for the expenditure of large sums of money in providing additional residences in Melbourne and Sydney for the GovernorGeneral. While so many people remain unemployed in Australia, the Government should devote whatever money it has available to the provision of work for them. The present Governor-General has found the residence at Canberra ample for his needs, and I submit that no Governor-General could have performed the duties of his high office with greater acceptance to the people of this country thanhe has done.His only sin in the eyes of the Government is that he is a nativeof this country.What is good enough for him should undoubtedly be good enough for any other GovernorGeneral.
I also support the remarks of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), regarding the necessity ‘to provide avenues of employment for the youth of this country. An amount of £41,000 is set down for expenditure by the Department of the Interior on works and buildings. In my opinion this department could do a great deal more in that regard than that amount of money will make possible. Other avenues of expenditure should be explored. Roads should be constructed through the interior to the Gulf of Carpentaria. Additional facilities should be provided for the people residing at Tennants Creek. A. crying need is a. hospital to meet the needs of the women and children who are pioneering in that isolated area. Roads should be constructed, also, from the interior to the various rail heads. Our stock routes require additional watering facilities in order that the cattle of the interior may be brought to market in a better condition. I suggest, too, that the shire councils should be relieved of the burden of providing landing grounds for the aeroplanes engaged in our various aerial services. The department is in a position to put this work in hand, and to establish emergency landing grounds throughout the country. Australia offers greater facilities for flying than practically any other country in the world, but less has been done in the way of providing emergency grounds than in most other countries. I have frequently made representations to the Department of the Interior for the granting of Christmas unemployment relief. Representations have also been made by the Winton Shire Council, asking that the aerodrome at Winton be made suitable for use in all weathers. When the matter was placed before the Defence Department, it was stated that the aerodrome would be of no value to that department, and the Department of the Interior has stated that it has no money available for the work. I submit that the work is of sufficient importance to warrant the making of funds available.
.- The administrative vote for this department, has been increased by £40,000 as compared with last year’s vote, while the actual expenditure has increased by £27,000. I know that the functions of the department have been extended, but the increased cost of administration is so great that some explanation in regard to it is due to the committee. I should like to hear from the Minister a candid statement as to whether it is or is not intended to acquire residences for the GovernorGeneral in Sydney and in Melbourne. No provision has been madein the Estimates for this purpose, and if the. Estimates represent the true intention of the Government, no expenditure will be incurred this year, but the Minister has not been able to give a definite assurance on this point. If it is intended to acquire residences in Sydney and Melbourne for the Governor-General, the Government should obtain the authority of Parliament for the expenditure. For my part, I am strongly opposed to any such proposal, believing as I do that the only expenditure the Government is justified in incurring is in connexion with the official residence in Canberra. Whatever the intention, of the Government may be, it should make it known now. It should not keep honorable members in the dark as to its intention and then, when the Estimates have been passed, incur the expenditure necessary to establish these residences, and ask Parliament next year to ratify it.
– The increased expenditure on the administration of the Department of the Interior is almost wholly due to additional staff requirements rendered necessary by the larger works programme for which funds have been provided.
.- I endorse the remarks of the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) regarding the need for an increased vote for forestry in Tasmania. The InspectorGeneral of Forestry has favorably reported on the proposal to extend forestry operations in Tasmania, and the Tasmanian Government has put forward a programme covering a number of years which has been examined and approved by Commonwealth officers. The Commonwealth Grants Commission has reported as follows on this subject: -
Tasmania has great forestry possibilities, but her assets have been depleted. A long term forestry policy, involving considerable expenditure over a term of years, is needed. Such a policy has been worked out and described to us in evidence, and the Commonwealth Director of Forests commented on it very favorably to us. This policy has now been initiated with the help of the Commonwealth grant for forestry, but it is hampered by uncertainty as to the necessary funds in future years, which prevents, for example, the recruiting of an adequate technical staff. An undertaking to finance some such scheme, approved by the Commonwealth’s technical advisers, seems to us the kind of additional help that Tasmania now needs.
According to the Estimates, only £4,284 has been allocated for salaries, &c, for the present year in connexion with forestry. This amount seems quite inadequate for the purpose, and it will certainly be impossible with such an amount to carry out the recommendations of the Grants Commission. This body, which was created by the present Government, has made certain recommendations which have been honoured in full in respect of two States, and I now ask that its recommendations in regard to Tasmania be honoured also. Recently, the Premier of Tasmania wrote to the Prime Minister in regard to the Commonwealth Government’s forestry policy in Tasmania, and the Prime Minister replied that the matter was under consideration. The trouble is that a matter may be under consideration for years without anything being done. I ask that the recommendations of the commission be given effect this year and that a programme be developed for future years.
– On the very last page of the Estimates there is an item of £258,000 for forestry, and of this amount, Tasmania will receive its share.
– Will that money be spent on the carrying out of a long-range forestry policy in Tasmania? If so, I shall be satisfied, and the people of Tasmania will be satisfied also.
.- May I press the Minister for a definite statement of the Government’s intention in regard to the establishment of residences in Sydney and Melbourne for the Governor-General? The Minister stated earlier that there was no provision in the Estimates for this purpose.
– And that the Government had come to no such decision as the honorable member credited it with.
– Will the Minister say that no negotiations have been conducted by the Government, or on behalf of the Government, in regard to the establishment of such residences? The Minister remains ‘Silent. I put to him a specific question, and he remains silent regarding the substance of the matter. Although there is no item on the Estimates in regard to this matter, it is competent for the Government, after the passage of the Estimates to make tlie necessary purchases out of .the Advance to the Treasurer, or in a variety of other ways in which expenditure may be incurred.
– I can only say that the Government is .not even contemplating the purchase of residences for the Governor-General in either of the two ci ties men ti on ed .
– Does it contemplate hiring them; is .there a distinction between purchase and hire ? I do not wish to be -misunderstood or to bc accused of holding up the passage of the Estimates without justification. If the Minister for the Interior will say that during the present financial year no expenditure of any sort or kind will be incurred by the Government for the purpose of providing or maintaining establishments for the use of the Governor-General in Melbourne or Sydney I shall withdraw my amendment. If he can give me that assurance-
– Order ! The time allotted for the consideration of the Estimates for the Department of the Interior has expired.
Question - That the amount proposed to bp reduced (Mr. Curtin’s amendment) be so reduced - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . 15
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed vote put and agreed to.
Proposed vote, £4,636,200.
– I do not propose to take up more time than is necessary to mention some specificmatters upon which honorable members will be asking for information. In doing so now possibly much time will be saved later.
Twelve months ago, in announcing the adoption of the defence programme, I said that the Government, in view of its responsibility for national security, must take a practical view of the international situation. The subsequent trend will have been evident to all who have a regard not only for the peace and prosperity of their country, but also for the welfare of mankind, and the common interest we have in an interdependent world. The Government’s policy in international relations is based on the Covenant of the League, and the Pact for the Renunciation of “War. Its consistent aim has been actively to support efforts for the reduction and limitation of armaments, and to further a policy of international peace, with the object of fostering the growth of the belief that international disputes can be settled as effectively as other differences by conciliation, arbitration, or judicial means. The Commonwealth subscribes wholeheartedly to world organization and movements for peace instead of war, for arbitration instead of force, and for reduction of armaments to the extent to which the movement is of world adoption, and is justified by the effectiveness of the security that can be guaranteed by the Covenant of the League, and similar measures. However, the absence of the certainty of prevention of war, and the strength of the armaments of other powers, demand that an Australian defence policy must be related to the facts of the world as we find them. The Government, in reiterating its unswerving support of the cause of peace and of the international machinery for its realization and maintenance, emphasizes that the purposes of the. modest strength of the Australian DefenceForces are the preservation of security and a deterrent to aggression. The defence system of the Commonwealth is based on two cardinal principles, the responsibility of the Commonwealth as part of the Empire to participate in Imperial Naval Defence, and the necessity for providing for its own local defence. To these principles no exception can be taken. They were adopted by the Imperial Conference of 1923 and re-affirmed in 1926. The steps outlined later are a practical manifestation by the Commonwealth of its recognition of these principles, and they will substantially improve and render more effective the defences of Australia.
With the exception of the instalment for the cruiser, the larger guns for the coast defence and aircraft for the air forces, the bulk of the expenditure on new works outlined later will be incurred locally, and will provide for considerable employment. The amount is £1,600,000. A satisfactory feature of the Government’s policy is that the development of our munitions supply organization, and of commercial industries is furnishing a greater degree of self-sufficiency in essential supplies for defence.
Last year the Government announced that it was providing for the first step in a, programme for the rehabilitation of the defence forces from the weakened condition into which they had fallen during the depression, and for their expansion towards the minimum strength necessary for national security. In a speech, outlining the ultimate objectives of Australian defence, and the principles that should govern their realization, delivered in September, 1933, the need for the progressive development of an effective defence policy was emphasized. Accordingly, provision is being made this financial year for the second of the three stages of progress which the Government has in view. The expenditure last financial year was £5,267,000, of which £1,073,000 was for the development programme, and the balance for normal requirements. Honorable members will find details of this expenditure under services and branches in paragraph 2 of the explanatory statement which has been circulated.
Including the commitments carried forward from the first year of the programme, which are a charge to Trust Fund Defence Equipment account, the estimated expenditure in the second year of the programme is about £7,352,000. The sum of £1,746,000 will be provided from trust funds, £39,000 being a charge to Trust Fund, Naval Construction account, and £1,707,000 to Trust Fund Defence Equipment account, towards which an appropriation of £4,160,000 was made last financial year. The balance of £5,606,000 to be provided for will be appropriated on this year’s Estimates. This financial year, £2,712,000 will be required for the development programme, and the balance will be absorbed in normal requirements. The detailed distribution of this expenditure is in paragraph 3 of my explanatory statement.
The following are the main proposals for the second year of the programme : -
The Government’s policy is to maintain the Royal Australian Navy at a strength which will provide an effective and fair contribution to Empire naval defence. To that end it is proposed to place two additional ships in commission in the second year - cruiser H.M.A.S. Sydney and sloop H.M.A.S. Yarra. It is proposed to replace H.M.A.S. Brisbane of 5,120 tons and eight 6-inch guns, which became over-age in 1932, by H.M.A.S. Sydney of 7,250 tons and eight 6-inch guns. The approximate cost is £1,675,000 sterling, or an. Australian equivalent of £2,100,000 at the present rate of exchange. The cost is being spread over five years, and a further instalment of £450,000 is provided for this year. A second sloop - H.M.A.S. Swan - is at present being built at Cockatoo Island Dockyard.
The policy of building up the authorized establishment of reserves of naval and ordnance stores, and oil fuel is being continued. Most of the outfits of ammunition required for H.M.A.S. Swan and reserve outfit by H.M.A.S. Sydney arc being manufactured in Australia by the munition supply factories.
The following are the main items towards which provision is made: -
Oil fuel tanks, Chowder Bay, Sydney - provision is made towards the construction of two 12,000-ton tanks.
Oil fuel tanks, Darwin - provision is made for the completion of the last three of nine 8,000-ton tanks.
Increased repair facilities at Garden Island, Sydney -
Smith and joiner’s shops.
Torpedo and gun mounting stores. Medical store.
Store for boiler tubes andother stores.
Ordnance store at Newington.
The capital expenditure of the army programme is being appliedtowards the following objectives:-
It is proposed this year to continue the process of improving the coastal and anti-aircraft defences, as follows: -
Mr.Curtin. - Are there any proposals for a new dock at Fremantle ?
– Is it intended to make provision this year for a submarine base for Hobart?
– That is not provided for.
In addition, it is proposed to continue making provision for -
The completion of PartI. of the Salmond scheme which aims at defence against raids is the. objective of the Air Force programme. During the financial year 1934-35, such progress was made that it will be possible during 1935- 36 to form certain new units provided for in the programme of development. In January, 1936, the first sections of No. 2 Aircraft Depot will be formed at Richmond’, New South Wales,, and this unit will become responsible for the technical maintenance of units stationed in New South Wales. In April, 1936, two new squadrons will be formed, one at Richmond in New South Wales, and one at Laverton in Victoria and No. 101 - FleetCo-operation-Flight will be expanded to a full squadron, to meet the air requirements of H.M.A. squadron.
During 1935-36, progress will also be made with the preliminary organization necessary to enable the remaining units of the three-year development programme to be formed during the successive financial year. These units will comprisethree new squadrons, one at Richmond in New South Wales, one atLaverton in Victoria, and one near Perth in Western Australia. The last-mentioned unit will be a cadre squadron similar to the existing squadrons at Richmond andLaverton, and willconsist partly of permanent and partly of Citizen Force personnel. The expansion thisfinancial year will in- volve an increase of 563 permanent personnel, and considerable expenditure on materials and works. The nature and location of the works is contained in paragraph 49 of the explanatory statement.
The munitions supply programme is designed to improve and strengthen the munitions establishments so that national self -containment in the production of munitions may be advanced. Provision has also been made for the inclusion of manufacturing facilities concerned with recent advances in overseas equipment
The scheme contemplates also the replacement of temporary and inefficient structure’s erected during the war years and earlier. As by far the greater portion of the expenditure associated with the programme will be incurred in Australia in the form ultimately of wages, and as its completion will result in an extension of local manufactures and a reduction of orders for munitions which mighthave been placed overseas, there will in consequence be a substantial increase of em- ployment locally. In June, 1933, the number of employees in the Munitions Supply Branch was 1,517 ; by June, 1935, the number had increased to 2,337. Another effect of the increased facilities is that orders are being executed for another dominion.
The overseas and internal air services have been maintained by the several contractors with marked regularity and success since their inception, and the general public and business communities have been quick to realize the timesaving advantages of the Australia-England direct air mail connexion. The frequency of the British service between London and Singapore conducted by Imperial Airways will be increased from once weekly to twice weekly, and a proposal that the Australian service to Singapore besimilarly duplicated in the near future is now being examined. In examining the request of the Government of the United Kingdom that Australia should participate in the proposed scheme for Empire “ all mails “ services the Government has noted various features which do not coincide with the Commonwealth’s previous ideas as to how the important England-Australia air connexion should be accelerated, and otherwise improved. These features have been the subject of further correspondence, and discussion with the British Government from which a reply containing further financial and other information has now been received. The proposal is receiving the careful consideration of the Government in the light of the additional information and explanation now available. Honorable members may rest assured, however, that before consenting to a variation of the existing route from Western Queensland, or to an alteration of the definitely national character of the service between Singapore and
Brisbane, the Government would need to be satisfied that there were weighty compensating advantages in other directions.
Additional expenditure is provided for public facilities and services for civil aviation. An increased amount of £50,000 is provided for civil aviation under the Defence vote. The main new items are wireless and direction-finding equipment, and enlargement of aerodromes, togetherwith the extension of night-landing facilities on existing air routes to provide for accelerated air mail time-tables. Resources provided at capital cities will be a contribution towards the projected inter-capital scheme ; and an amount of £50,000 is provided in the Estimates of the Postal Department towards the development of the necessary ground organization.
Before concluding I wish to make a brief reference to the vote for rifle clubs and associations. The Government fully realizes the value of the rifle club movement, and makes no secret of the fact. That is indicated by the support given to it on the Estimates in past years.
When announcing the three-years’ defence programme-, it was stated that the first aim, before proceeding with the development part of the programme, was the restoration of the existing organization to a satisfactory maintenance basis. The rifleclubs and associations were not overlooked in the larger allotments granted, and last financial year the vote was increased by £3,119. With the further increase of £2,281 this year, the total additional amount is £5,400. Of the present increase, £1,692 is provided under sub-division B., general expenses, and will be applied to the following purposes: -
Last financial year, State rifle associations received a monetary grant of £2,784 and ammunition to the value of £1,175, the total being £3,959. This year they will receive a monetary grant of £3,200 and ammunition to the value of £670, the total being £3,870.
This year, while the State rifle association grant will continue to be made in that way, the “special issue of free ammunition “ to district unions will cease and the monetary grant will be proportionately increased.
District rifle club unions last financial year received a monetary grant of £3,161, and ammunition to the value of £1,000, the total being £4,161. This year there will be no grant of ammunition, but the monetary grant will be raised to £4,161.
The scale for the free issue of small arms ammunition to rifle clubs is dependent upon the state of the reserve stocks held by the department for use in emergency, and the money available for manufacture. The existing scale of 100 rounds for each efficient active member is the same as that which existed from the end of the war until the 30th June. 1921. Owing to the earlier position of the reserve stocks, more liberal scales of issue have been possible; but their continuance at present is not practicable without a. very large expenditure. The Government, as honorable members are aware, is committed to a defence programme involving a considerable outlay. This programme is planned on the basis of certain priorities. The report of 1920 of the Senior Officers Conference placed the provision of reserves of ammunition and other munitions high on the list of the first steps which should be completed.
In 1921 the Department of Defence found itself with a supply of ammunition which was more than sufficient for its needs. The then Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) accordingly increased the free issue from 100 to 200 rounds, but specially minuted the papers that this was not to be regarded as a permanent arrangement. Later, he repeated that action. The reserves have now become depleted, and in view of the perilous nature of the times, the additional issue cannot be made. The reduction to 100 rounds does not impose a great hardship upon riflemen generally, because the average number of rounds fired is only 25, and the limited number of men who would need the 200 rounds can purchase the additional 100 rounds without the slightest difficulty from the Commonwealth Supplies Board at a price of 5s.
Mr.Curtin. - Would not such purchases exhaust the reserves?
– No, because comparatively few riflemen need the additional number of rounds. But if the larger issue were made whether it was used or not, everybody would apply and the additional cost involved would be £36,000. A number of honorable members from both sides of the chamber have approached me in regard to the matter. They realize the importance of the rifle club movement and the strength of its membership in their electorates. I promise that, so soon as the stocks of the department attain to reasonable proportions, I shall be glad to give consideration to an extension of the free issue. I hope that something may be done shortly.
.- The Minister for Defence (Mr. Archdale Parkhill) is to be congratulated upon the very lucid statement he has made. Had I the opportunity to consider it, in conjunction with the lucid and comprehensive memoranda which he has been good enough to circulate, I feel sure that I should have in my mind a picture of the departmental intentions with respect to the defence of Australia that would enable me to deal with the subject much more intelligently than I now can, having regard to the manner in which the Estimates are placed before us. I submit that the problem of defence involves a certain number of principles, distinct from which are certain measures in regard to which there is room for considerable difference of opinion, as to whether or not they are likely to be effective, whether they are unduly costly, or whether the expenditure on them is insufficient. That is to say, defence consists of the employment of a variety of measures, and there is room for dispute and difference of opinion as to whether or not too much is being done in some directions and insufficient in other direction. It appears to me to be all the more imperative that the general matter of Australia’s defence shouldbe considered dispassionately and adequately. I confess that I find myself in difficulty having regard to the circumstances of this debate, in dealing with the subject now. The memorandum of the Minister should have been made available to members for their consideration before the committee was asked to discuss it. The Labour party stands for the adequate defence of Australia.
– At last!
– Not at last, it has always stood for that. I put that statement in the very forefront of the few remarks that I intend to make concerning this vote. The history of the Labour party upon this matter is, I believe, conspicuously associated with measures of a pioneering character that have for their purpose the increasing and maintaining of the safety of this continent.
Mr.ArchieCameron. - Why not get back to the pioneering days?
– New times; new measures. This year the Defence Department vote shows an increase of £2,000,000 on last year’s expenditure from all sources, and last year the vote was an increase of approximately £1,750,000 on the expenditure from all sources for the previous year. Thus this year, the expenditure will be approximately £3,750,000 more than during the year 1933-34. This is a staggering addition to the expenditure by this Parliament upon defence, and is one which must be justified. That is to say, those of us who stand for the adequate defence of Australia are not, because of that statement, obliged to accept the Estimates and measures of defence regardless of their cost. We arc entitled to consider whether or not there may be an element of extravagance in the defence vote. We ought to be in a position to consider whether or not the country, having regard to its present economic circumstances can afford to expend this amount of money at this juncture. This year the sum of £7,352,000 is being devoted to the defence of Australia, and I question whether we can by two hours’ consideration give proper consideration to all the phases of expenditure covered by that tremendous sum, when, I understand, that in another direction we are quite unable to provide for expenditure which a great number of honorable members of this chamber consider to be desirable.
– In what direction does the policy of the Labour party differ from that of the Government?
– I do not propose to be led aside to irrelevancies. If there be items of public policy which the budget makes it difficult for us to finance, it is all the more reason that such a large volume of expenditure on defence should be scrutinized with meticulous care in order to ensure that every feature of it is notonly desirable but also unavoidable. The onus of justifying this very large expenditure would occupy more time than the Minister has at his disposal to-night. Although I frankly admit that he has behaved considerately to the committee, I nevertheless regret that his memorandum was not circulated earlier.
Expenditure on the Navy this year will be increased by £500,000, and we are asked to vote for this increase while at the same time ships of the Australian Navy are thousands of miles away from our coast. This is a matter which this Parliament should consider and deliberate upon it. Is the Navy essentially and exclusively a weapon of defence from the viewpoint of Australia or is it capable of being used as a provocative element of offence? Is it. intended for the defence of Australia or to be used for purposes other than those which involve the safety of Australia? These questions ought to be frankly answered. The reasons why this policy is being followed ought to be made plain. There may be differences of opinion in this Parliament. For myself, I believe in the defence of Australia, but I do not believe that Australia can be defended in the Atlantic Ocean or in the Mediterranean Sea.
– Oh !
– I realize that my declaration may not please certain honorable gentlemen in this chamber, but it is the viewpoint of representatives of the people in this Parliament, who are entitled to express the opinions which they conscientiously hold.
The Army vote has been increased by £1,000,000 compared with the expenditure last year. The Air Force will cost £430,^00 more and civil aviation about £50,000 more. There is no disloyalty to Australia in expressing the view that the increased expenditure on the Navy will be of less service and less economical, having regard to what it will secure, than would increased expenditure on the Air Force.
– Is that the honorable member’s opinion?
– ‘Considerations as to what can best be done with the money available to defend Australia are matters of material concern to Parliament in arriving at its decisions. The question of whether too much is being spent on the Navy and not enough on the Air Force is relevant to this vote, and there ought to be a more detailed consideration of what is meant in the defence of Australia and what equipment, arms and services are in their nature best calculated to provide the most effective form of defence with the least expenditure. We could quite easily embark upon a huge expenditure by adopting the viewpoint that the only possible defence for Australia is to build a large navy. That policy would involve such a capital outlay on construction and maintenance that even the Minister for Defence would have to admit the inadequacy of the present provision. If we decided that we were bound to provide an adequate defence for the coastline of Australia and all the trade routes used by Australian commerce, it would place Australia in a position of having to find vastly larger sums for the Navy than at the present time.
– Ten times as much.
– Yes. Nobody can state his case adequately in the manner in which the Estimates should be considered because, along with the Minister, I desire to give other honorable members an opportunity to expound their views.
I believe that not sufficient money is being spent upon the Air Force and that too much is being devoted to the Navy. Subject to what appears in the memorandum, which I have not had an opportunity to read, I do not consider that it is as important to increase the expenditure on the Army by £1,000,000, unless the money is for the purpose of providing shore batteries and equipment which will replace that which in some instances has become obsolete and comparatively useless. It is ridiculous to regard shore batteries as being capable of defending Australia if their armament is inferior to that possessed by a raiding attacker. A common-sense view of the situation requires that the defensive armament of Australia shall be of equal if not superior calibre to that of any possible invader. My whole attitude towards this matter is that we should ask ourselves: What are the possible and probable dangers against which Australia must safegard itself? How and in what manner will those potential enemies attack our territory? When we receive answers to these questions from the best informative sources that we can draw upon, we shall be in a position to consider what we should do and to make provision for the necessary expenditure. The Defence Department gets as big a vote as it can, and it always spends the whole of it. The fact that the trust fund is to be drawn upon creates in my mind the suspicion that, if there had been no surplus, the so-called necessary expenditure on defence would not have been contemplated. A great part of this programme has its origin in the fortuitous circumstances which provided surpluses last year and in the previous year, and made possible the creation of the trust fund from which over £1,700,000 is provided towards this year’s expenditure.
– It would be necessary to borrow the money if it were not provided in that way.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) lias raised the question as to whether defence equipment should be provided out of loan moneys. That and other aspects of defence expenditure should engage the attention of the committee, but they cannot be properly considered in the two hours allotted for their discussion. The expenditure proposed for this year exceeds £1 a head of the population, and it follows upon the disbursement of approximately £80,000,000 since the signing of the armistice. The memorandum informs us that, despite that expenditure, the provision made for defence is inadequate, and that our armaments are so obsolete that they are not comparable with those of countries which may attack us. If there be justification for the proposed increased vote, a great deal of the £80, 000,000 previously spent has not been wisely used. I realize, of course, that defence equipment tends to become obsolete rapidly, but I shall direct attention to what I regard as a definite example of wasteful expenditure in the current year’s provision. I refer to the proposal to re-establish the Royal Military College at Duntroon. The total cost of that institution up to July, 1930, was £1,122,326. The lowest number of cadets in training in any year was 35, and the highest number 14-4. The lowest number of tutors, instructors, officials, &c, employed was 45 in 1911. Apart from that year, the lowest number was88, and the highest 164. In 1911, there were 41 cadets and 45 instructors, and the total cost of the college was approximately £11,665. The average cost of each cadet was £284. In 1921, there were 81 cadets and 164 instructors, and the total cost was about £62,000.
– The honorable member must have counted grooms and gardeners as instructors.
– I have given the figures supplied in answer to a question which was asked in the House on the 4th July, 1930.
– The figures are inaccurate.
– I submit with perfect confidence that no Minister would fabricate the answer to such a question, but would, in all probability, supply information furnished by the department. In 1922, there were at Duntroon 45 cadets and 126 instructors, the approximate total cost being £48,000. Can the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison) justify the expenditure of such a large sum on 45 cadets? The average cost of each cadet in that year was £1,000. In 1930, there were 66 cadets and 98 instructors, and again the approximate total expenditure was £48,000. A cadet took four years to complete his course at Duntroon, so the total cost for each cadet would be about £3,000. At Paddington, the total expenditure on the Royal Military College in 1934 was £26,500. The number of cadets was 30, the number of instructors, &c, 37, and at the end of October last, the number of instructors had been increased to 46. The total average cost of each cadet, exclusive of new works, was £730, and, inclusive of new works, £880. I have shown, I think, that wasteful expenditure has been incurred by the department.
The real defence of Australia depends upon economic factors, as well as upon the provision made by this Parliament in the Estimates. It is not sufficient to appropriate money for ships, forts, or munitions; it is necessary, also, to have a contented and prosperous people, and, indeed, to have a larger population than we now have. “We should attract to this country by the superiority of our economic conditions, and by our high standard of living, those who in older countries would be disposed to come here for those reasons. It should not be imagined, however, that Australia would be placed in an improved position, from the point of view of defence, by schemes for mass migration to our shores of people who are not adaptable to our economic life, but would become a burden on the governments of the States and figure on the dole lists. I refer to those who could be recruited from the submerged tenth in other countries by the offer of assisted passages. Their enticement here by recruiting agents would not be of service to Australia. Such a policy imposes a burden upon the Commonwealth which it cannot carry. Therefore assisted migration is not a contribution to the defence of Australia. This Parliament should make the economic conditions in Australia so attractive that migrants would be attracted here. I regret that at a time, which the Minister for Defence has described as perilous, Parliament should be hampered in its consideration of this most important subject. The defence of Australia is a supreme obligation which has been imposed upon this Parliament by the Constitution. It is one which the Labour party will not shirk. We may differ from honorable members opposite as to the maimer in which Australia can best be defended, but we are just as loyal in the maintenance of Australia and its defences as is any other section of this Parliament. The points of view which we express are put forward because we believe them to be constructive contributions towards making Australia secure.
– I was particularly interested in the remarks of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill) concerning civil aviation, and also in the information contained in the explanatory memorandum which has been distributed. In referring to the development of civil aviation in Australia, which makes a most amazing story, I should like to mention the regular air services operating in Australia which aro ill three categories. There are, first, the subsidized services, secondly, the unsubsidised services which carry mails, and, thirdly, the unsubsidized services which do not carry mails. The mileage flown on all regular services in Australia, including, of course, the Darwin-Singapore service, totals over 60,000 miles weekly. or a distance well in excess of twice the maximum circumference of the globe. Moreover, it is possible to fly completely around Australia, and to visit all the capital cities, including Hobart and also Darwin and Canberra, in approximately eighteen clays, of which, owing to the non-connexion of various services, seven days aro not flying days. The total cost of fares on such a trip is approximately £100, and no doubt many people would consider it a very inexpensive way of seeing the major part of Australia from the air. Having regard to the overseas airmail service and the Brisbane-Singapore section, operated under the control of the Commonwealth, it is interesting to note that the speed of the aircraft employed on this section is faster than that on any part of the imperial air-mail routes, and that of the total mileage of 12,750 miles between Brisbane and London, about 42 per cent., or 5,350 miles, is operated by the Commonwealth. The extent to which the overseas service has been used for mail transmission is extraordinary in view of the comparatively high rate of ls. fid. n half ounce. It was estimated originally that the average outward and inward mails for the first year would be in the vicinity of 200 lb., but one year having passed since the inauguration of the service the average is now approximately 600 lb. outward and 700 lb. inward. This is, of course, very gratifying from the. financial aspect, as the revenue received for air-mail surcharges practically covers the whole subsidy required by Qantas Empire Airways Limited for the operation of the Brisbane-Singapore route. To illustrate the extent of ai i - . route operations in Australia it is interesting to compare our annual aircraft mileage with that of the total British regular air transport services, inclusive of all Imperial Airways routes at home and abroad. For the year 1.934, the total mileage of British aircraft was 4,557,000, while the Australian mileage is now 3,152,132. If we exclude all sections of the imperial air route from London to Brisbane and from London to Gape Town, we find that the annual aircraft mileage flown in Australia is about 2,750,000 miles, whereas the annual British regular mileage is but 1,750,000 miles.
On a. population basis the training of pilots in Australia - for “ A “ licences, far exceeds that of Great Britain. In Britain, 30 areo clubs assisted by the Government trained 44.1 “ A “ pilots during 1934, or an average of 14.7 for each club, whereas in Australia we have only six assisted clubs, which, up to the first eleven months of this year, trained 145 pilots, or an average of 24 for each club. Of this number, no fewer than 62 have been trained by the Royal Queeusland Aero Club, which rather makes the work of the other State clubs fade into insignificance. There is no doubt that the climatic conditions of Brisbane, together with the airminded ness of the people in Queeusland have a great effect upon such a wonderful effort by that club. In Great Britain in 1934 organizations unassisted by the Government trained 151 pilots, and similar organizations in Australia during the last eleven months have trained 114, making the comparative totals of Great Britain and Australia 592 and 259 respectively. It will be seen that on a population basis three times the number of pilots trained in the United Kingdom aro trained in Australia.
Although comparisons do not always create an accurate impression, it is remarkable to note that in New Guinea in 1934, 7,679 tons of freight were transported by air, whereas the total of all British air-freight carried reached only 1172 tons, it must be realized, of course, that the operating companies in New Guinea carry freight almost exclusively. I give these figures however, as an indication of the amazing development of civil aviation in Australia in recent years. I am particularly glad to know that the Estimates contain provision for an increase of £50,000 in the expenditure on civil aviation, but I confess my inability to locate exactly where the amounts are to be found. An increase of £20,000 is to be found on page 2S, but I should be glad if the Minister would inform the committee where the further increases are included.
I listened carefully to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) who, I think, appreciates that the Government desires that the question of defence should be raised above party considerations, to ensure that whatever government is in office, a continual development of an effective defence policy shall be carried out. We all realize that in this great national problem of defence continuity of policy is absolutely essential. The defence policy of Australia is framed to protect the country from aggression. In 1925 the government of the day brought down a defence programme which was to extend over five years. The necessity for continuity of policy was pointed out then. The financial position of the Commonwealth made impossible any substantia] increase in the provision for defence, during those years, and in 1930 expenditure was reduced so heavily that I thought at the time that defence, as a national policy, had been jettisoned. Last year, however, the Government announced another defence programme to extend over a period of three years. A national plan for defence is essential if the money to be expended on it is ‘not to be either absolutely, or in a measure, wasted. In the years I have been in this Parliament honorable members opposite have continually asserted that there is no danger of Australia being attacked, yet surely such a . possibility is at the root of all that we are doing in regard to defence. If there is really no danger, then obviously public money should not be expended needlessly. I confess at once that I do not know whether the danger exists now, or will exist in the future, of Australia, being Attacked by neighbours or distant powers ; I doubt whether any one else knows, but those whose study of defence matters renders them qualified to express an opinion, hold the belief that it is within the power and capacity of certain nations to take aggressive action menacing the safety of Australia and that as between the British Empire and such nations it is possible for a conflict of opinion to arise which would make recourse to arms at least a possibility. In view of that possibility there is imposed upon us the duty of making provision for the protection of Australia, as the Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill) pointed out in his explanatory remarks at the beginning of this discussion. It is most gratifying to know that in the presentstate of our development the Government is bent upon a defence policy which will include such essentials as are within our means, and is seeking to give such policy effect, over a definite period. It may, I think, be asserted as an axiom,- so clear is the teaching of history, that Australia will not be subjected to attack until such time as the British fleet, is neutralized or defeated. It may be subjected to raids by minor forces and so most assuredly would be its sea-borne trade. We should, do what we can to strengthen the British fleet and we should certainly have some means of protecting our sea-borne trade. The Government’* programme aims at creating a definite, although small, naval defence unit. The navy is our strong right arm ; the army provides the other arm of defence, but the eyes and ears of both navy and army is the air force. I am glad to have had this opportunity to express my gratification at the remarkable progress of civil aviation in Australia, because its value to Australia in the event of our having to face trouble, cannot possibly be overestimated.
– I join with other honorable members in expressing my regret that the time available for the debate on the most important subject of defence is not longer, because there are certain important issues such as have been raised’ by the honorable member for Lilley (Sir Donald Cameron) which could be debated with advantage to the committee and the people of Australia generally. But under the circumstances I am forced- to content myself with expressing briefly my support of the arguments advanced by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr.
Curtin). Labour’s policy is efficient or adequate home defence. What is meant by efficient or adequate defence is a subject which could be debated at length. Unfortunately the- time does not allow of such a debate at present Because of the limitation of time, I am forced to deal with items which, although they are not so important as the general principles of defence, are of concern to my constitucnts. A large portion of the munitions supply of Australia is produced in. my electorate and . many of the people engaged -in their manufacture are my constituents. Some items: of administration to which I shall refer also require the attention- of the Minister. There is reason for- disappointment with, the attitude of the Government which allowed a long general debate on the budget and is now applying, the guillotine to particular matters of great public importance. Its attitude is unfair and entirely wrong, and I cannot do more than refer very briefly to the matters which concern my constituents.
One of the matters with which I am concerned is the resumption of land at the Essendon aerodrome for the purpose of extending the operations, of the Defence Department there. In division 15, page 272, the amount of £231,168 is set aside for the purposes of works, buildings and sites: The Essendon site has been extended by the department’s seizure -of land bought some years ago by people as an investment. The owners are being offered a paltry price. In the press the department’s action has been referred to as the “ Essendon land-grab “, and the circumstances of the resumption as well as the prices offered are considered to reflect great discredit on the authority responsible. I shall mention some cases which from information furnished to me seem to be typical of many others. One man had purchased two blocks in the Lebanon estate, for £237. Already he- has paid instalments totalling £165-, and there is a balance due of £72 to which must be added interest and taxes of £66 making a total of £303, and the department has offered him the astonishing sum of £50’ or £25 for each block. He has the consolation of’ knowing that if he- is not satisfied’ with this ridiculous offer, the- matter will be decided by arbitration.
– Land values everywhere have declined in recent years.
– I am not suggesting that the prices paid by the ownersfor all this land - they may have been boom prices - should be paid to-day. I am aware that the department must observecertain procedure in the acquisition of land for public purposes ; but I am quite sure that if the honorable member foi Barton (Mr. Lane) were concerned in any of these land resumptions, and if his interests were threatened, he would be 1’oud in his condemnation of the department. While a government department should not be fleeced it should be fair in exercising its powers. In another case a man who purchased a block for £120, intending to present it to his son when the lad’ reached the age of 21 years-, has been offered £25. He did not desire to sell and could not acquire a similar block of land for anything like the sum offered - a figure which is much below the municipal valuation. Up to date he has paid approximately £97 of the purchase price. A great deal of resentment is felt by owners of these blocks at the action of the department. It is stated that owners of other blocks in. the vicinity have not yet been given a . valuation, although that land also is required for defence purposes. The suggestion is that the department does not intend to make an offer for these blocks until it has ascertained the lowest amount which the owners of smaller blocks, will accept. I am reluctant to believe that the department is acting with this- definite object in view, and I hope that the Minister will have inquiries made to ascertain the true position. The actual site of the aerodrome is not in my division, but many owners of land, in that locality are my constituents. Another man in my electorate owned 4 acres, from which he was making a living by raising poultry, growing vegetables and keeping a «ow for his own use. He had ,a house and all the other facilities on the block, and considers that he could get well over £1,000 for it. The department at first offered him £700, but after protest it was raised to £800. Naturally, he is highly indignant about the whole business. The department, I may add, has seized his land, and, although he is an elderly man who intended to settle down for the rest of his life, he is forced to earn a livelihood elsewhere.
– These negotiations are conducted by the Department of the Interior. All I can do is to forward the representations of the honorable member to the Minister for that department.
– I was under the impression that, as this land was required for defence purposes, I would not be in order to refer to these transactions when the estimates for the Department of the Interior were before the committee. Another man owned thirteen blocks, on one of which he had a house. He was forced to leave the house because the business in which ‘he was interested required some one to live on the premises. The department. served upon him a notice of resumption, seized ‘his land and removed the house. In 1926 .his blocks cost him ‘£1,430, to which must be added the cost of the ‘house, £951; rates, interest and taxes, £701, making the total £3,082. The amount of principal and interest owing on the land is £1,133., and the -amount owing on the house is £611, or a total liability of £1,744. If he accepts the departmental offer of £600, he will be a ruined man.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).The honorable member is referring to items that have been passed under the Works and Buildings Estimates.
– These transactions relate to expenditure under the headings, “ Royal Australian Air Force “ and Civil Aviation “, and I understood that I would be in order if I dealt with them when the Defence Estimates were under consideration.
– The honorable member may briefly refer to, but may not discuss, items that have already been passed.
– I deliberately refrained from discussing these land resumptions when the Works and Buildings Estimates were before the committee, because I understood the ruling of the Chair to be that such matters should be debated under the Defence Estimates. If the owner of the thirteen blocks is forced to accept the .offer qf the department he will not be able to meet his obligations. Had he been able to retain the land and home he could, in time, have paid his way, but now he has no chance to do so. I wish that more time were available to go fully into the* matter. However, I hope that the Minister for Defence will make inquiries into these cases and see that justice is done to the owners of land that is resumed for defence purposes. There is some talk of co-operation among the land-owners in order to test their claims in the courts, because they feel that the department is not treating their fairly.
I wish now to bring under the notice of the Minister the urgent need to construct a .good road to the cordite factory at Maribyrnong. Representations .have already been made to the Minister on this ‘matter, and I appeal to him to do his utmost to accede to the requests made to him. If possible, he should earmark for the purpose, some of the money made available by the Commonwealth Government ‘to the Government of Victoria for road work. I understand that an agreement Was made some time ago with the Victorian Lands Department, under which ‘the State authority was to construct the road, but nothing has been done. The men who are obliged to cart explosives over the present exceedingly rough track, feel that they engage in very hazardous work. If anything can be done to obviate this danger - and it certainly ought to he done - it will be much appreciated.
Another matter to which I direct the attention of the Minister is the request of the employees of the Munitions Department for a holiday on Cup Day. A deputation waited upon the Minister recently to urge the granting of this request. The men feel that they are being unjustly treated in view of the fact that a holiday i3 given to employees of the department in New
South Wales under somewhat similar circumstances. There should be no discrimination between one State and another in such a matter. When the men made their request to the Minister they were informed that it should have been dealt with by the representative body which arranged rates of pay and conditions of work some time ago; but when the matter was mentioned at that time, the men were told that that particular point was one for negotiation with the Minister.
One other matter to which I direct attention is the need for the provision of additional transport facilities for the men who work for the Munitions Department at Maribyrnong. Some of the nien have to leave tlie railway line at Footscray, and others leave the tram at the terminus, Maribyrnong-road Ascot Vale. Those who travel by tram obviously cannot bring bicycles with them. It is quite a long distance from either the tram or the train to the works, and it is suggested that the department should provide an omnibus or some other form of transportation for them. No loss need be incurred by such a venture. It is only reasonable, I think, that this facility should be furnished, for in bad weather conditions the men concerned suffer inconvenience and disadvantage.
– I congratulate the Minister for Defence upon the statement which he furnished to the House this evening. In particular I was glad to hear him say that he intended to review the decision under which free grants of ammunition to rifle clubs have been curtailed by 50 per cent. This statement will be of very great interest to rifle club members throughout Australia. While the Minister was speaking, 1 heard an honorable member interject that rifle club membership waa limited to a few enthusiasts. I cannot allow such a statement to pass unchallenged. We have approximately 50,000 riflemen in Australia who are voluntarily giving their services to this work at a cost of from £10 to £12 each per annum. It is recognized generally, and it is also realized by the Government, that rifle clubs are a very valuable auxiliary of OUr Defence Force. If war should occur, all the members of the rifle clubs would be liable to mobilization. The 50 per cent, reduction of free ammunition to the clubs has already caused them much embarrassment. We are only in the early part of the financial year and, unless something is done quickly to help the clubs through the year, a serious loss of efficiency must inevitably occur. I therefore urge the Minister to regard this subject as worthy of immediate consideration. It would not involve very great expense to restore the full grant of ammunition. In view of the fact that an alarming decrease has occurred in the membership of our voluntary militia forces, it is highly desirable that everything possible should be done to encourage the building up of such bodies as rifle clubs. I hope, therefore, that a decision will be announced by the Minister at an early date to the effect that the free issue of ammunition will be fully restored.
.- I direct the attention of the Minister for Defence to several important matters relating to civil aviation. In the explanatory statement of the Defence Estimates, presented by the Minister, the following paragraph appeared -
Tenders for a weekly service between Adelaide and Bourke (connecting at Bourke with thu Cootammundra-Charleville service) were invited in 1934-35. The Government was unable to accept any of the proposals submitted, however, and later decided to defer further consideration of this service until completion of the inter-departmental investigation in connexion with the proposed establishment of fast night flying inter-capital air services.
An aerial service has been started during the last few days between Adelaide and Broken Hill and, in December, a service will he inaugurated between Broken Hill <‘md Sydney, operating through Narromine. As Adelaide will then be connected with the Cootamundra-Charleville service steps should be taken by the department to institute an air mail service ro Adelaide.
The statement from which I have already quoted also intimated that -
For the England-Australian connexion, the suggestion is that all mails would be carried twice weekly in each direction by means of large flying boats, the through service to Sydney being operated by British, Indian and Austral ian airway companies acting as a joint concern.
Still another request that I make in regard to our aerial mail services, is that the overseas mails at present landed at Cootamundra should, be picked up by the service operating between Sydney ana Narromine. At present, the aerial mail matter landed at Cootamundra is brought to Sydney by train and this causes considerable delay. A much more satisfactory service could be provided if tha Narromine-Sydney service were employed to pick it up.
I also draw the attention of the Minister to the necessity for establishing suitable landing facilities which will be effective in all weathers throughout this route. 1 do not think that the department is taking sufficient interest in the establishment of aerodromes in the back country of New South Wales, because since 1929 there has been only a very small addition to the number of aerodromes. The fact that municipally-owned aerodromes throughout the Commonwealth number only 151, does not represent satisfactory progress The Government should give more encouragement in this direction by way of grants. The report points out that in winter months a certain amount of night flying must be done between Singapore and Brisbane and Cootamundra in order to ensure that the planes adhere to schedule time. To per mit of safe night flying, the aerodromes at Narromine, Bourke and other centres, which are used by this service as landing grounds and emergency landing grounds, should be properly lighted, and I understand that a certain amount of money is being made available for this purpose; but I suggest that the aerodromes which 1 have mentioned, and also the aerodromes at Nyngan as well as other places in the back part of New South Wales should be given immediate attention in this respect. Much wrangling has occurred between the people controlling these aerodromes and the Government in this respect. The Narromine Aero Club was told that it was its own responsibility to supply the necessary lighting, but after I made many requests the Minister consented to loan Verey lighting equipment. Similar facilities are required in the other centres which I have mentioned, and these should be provided immediately.
I also suggest that the Government should take in hand at once the matter of making available meteorological information at the various aerodromes throughout Australia. The officer in charge of the cadets at Point Cook showed me, when I interviewed him recently, a gadget which he had invented for measuring wind velocities at various heights, and he assured me that this instrument could be operated by any one after about half an hour’s instruction. I suggest that this instrument should be installed at aerodromes throughout the Commonwealth. The officer at Point Cook informed me that they could be installed easily at any post office, and could readily be operated by the ordinary employees of the Postal Department.
Another matter which I desire to bring under the notice of the Minister is the difficulty of securing certificates of airworthiness for American machines. I am told that it is first necessary to take an American machine to England and get a British certificate before bringing it to Australia to secure an Australian certificate. This is an absurd state of affairs. It is almost impossible for an Australian to buy an American machine and rely upon obtaining a certificate of airworthiness here. although as I have stated certificates are interchangeable in England. This difficulty retards the development of aviation in this country. The average price of an English aeroplane is about £1,250. The cheapest costs £850. American machines, which are now being built by mass production, can be supplied at a cost of £550. Many private individuals in this country are desirous of purchasing American machines and their number would be increased if this Government were prepared to grant a certificate of airworthiness in respect of American aircr aft. I suggest that the Government should consider this proposal with the object of encouraging the development of aviation in Australia. Compared with English machines, the average American plane is much more suitable to Australian conditions and I have been told by aviators that it is speedier, rises and lands more easily and has many other advantages over the average English plane.For instance, the original cost and upkeep of American planes are less. To show the lack of development of aviation in this country, I point out that, in June, 1934, there were 214 registered aircraft in Australia, and twelve months later this number had increased to only 233. In June, 1934, there were 124 registered aircraft owners, and in June, 1935, that number had increased to only 132. The apathy of the Government towards the development of. aviation in Australia is also revealed by the fact that the number of government emergency landing grounds in June, 1934, was 150, whilst in June, 1935, this number had decreased to 141. If the Government co-operated more readily with flying clubs and assisted pilots to secure their own machines at a reasonable price, the number of owners of planes in this country would be rapidly increased. I suggest also that this matter should be considered with a view to enabling people in places far removed from the cities to secure at reasonable prices their own aeroplanes, which I have not the slightest doubt they would prefer to the present modes of transport available to them.
I understand it was previously considered by the Government, but was not given the attention it should have received. As Captain Conway declares that he has been unjustly treated by the Defence Department and suggests that he has been victimized, his case should be investigated immediately. He says that he is being stabbed in the back by certain people who are afraid to express their opinions of him openly. He says also that this matter had. been closed by the Minister. He points out that for 22 years he performed services to the satisfaction of every one who employed him or under whomhe served, and that his war service had been specially recognized. On retirement in 1922 he was specially thanked by the Minister for Defence of the day for his faithful services. His record, he claims, was one of which any member of the forces could be justly proud, but it did not protect him from attacks which took the following form : -
For the apparent injuries and misrepresentations suffered, Conway claimed compensation, and by every code of law and morality the Defence Department should be compelled to make reasonable amends for its ill treatment of a reliable and capable officer. On the 21st May, 1935, Conway brought this matter to the notice of the Governor-General, and appealed for an investigation, and on the 19th June, 1935, the Governor-General replied. This matter cannot be left in its present unsatisfactory state, and an investigation should be instituted to settle these positive charges, and to fix the responsibility for the unjust and vicious treatment to which Captain Conway was subjected. The letter which. Captain Conway sent to the Governor-General was as follows: -
I, Thomas Patrick Conway, citizen of the Commonwealth, humbly and respectfully submit to you as Commander in Chief of the King’s Forces in Australia, the following grievance for which I appeal to you for redress.
From 1899 to 1922 I faithfully served King and country in the Military Forces of Australia from the rank of Gunner to that of Captain in the Staff Corps.
The grievance that I suffer from is that officials of the Defence Department promulgated statements that I did not perform the duties for which I was paid, and that I was not worthy of a position in any military organization.
As a result of an investigation I was informed by the Secretary of the Defence Department that the statements complained of had been expunged from all correspondence and records.
Some time after this the member for Wentworth, Mr. E. J. Harrison, asked me to submit a claim for the misrepresentation I had so long suffered. I did so, and when Mr. Harrison presented the claim he was persuaded that I had not been misrepresented.
These facts, I respectfully urge, show that although the department expunged the unjustifiable matter from the records, it still represents that I did not do the duty for which I was trained and paid.
The facts are, Your Excellency, that I rendered long and faithful service, that I was slandered, that the slander was expunged and is stillbeing repeated, and that I am denied the redress provided by the regulations, and which I submit is the right of all the King’s subjects.
I appeal to Your Excellency for a full investigation; the whole of my services was without a flaw, and with such service my character is impugned and my reputation besmirched. (Sgd.) T. P. Conway.
– What has the Minister for Defence to say to that?
– I say that the matter has been investigated dozens of times, and the man has no legitimate grievance whatever.
– But he claims that he has.
– He will probably go on complaining until the crack of doom. One Minister after another has gone into the matter, and all have decided that Conway has. no grounds for complaint.
– I still believe that Captain Conway is entitled to an impartial investigation into his complaint, and I urge the Minister to see that such an investigation is made.
– I congratulate the Leader of the Opposition (Mr.Curtin) on the temperate way in which he dealt with the Estimates for the Defence Department. I am sure that if the honorable member had the opportunity to become better acquainted with those who are directing our defence forces in Australia he would, before long, become imbued with their spirit. Had he enjoyed such an opportunity, his criticism of naval policy would have been more tempered, because he would realize that ships of war can be of little value if they remain tied up at their home ports. The honorable member went further than some of us are prepared to do in regard to his advocacy of certain arms of the service. He placed a great deal of reliance upon the air force as practically the only necessary defence for this country. This is far too technical a matter for decision by those who are not well versed in the subject, and the Minister is well advised to place reliance upon the opinions of experts. We in this Parliament are not sufficiently educatedon the subject, nor have we the time to devote to it to be able to decide which is the right arm for the defence of Australia.
The figures quoted regarding expenditure on defence this year make it appear as if the amount is larger than we are accustomed to spend for this purpose. However, upon several occasions during the last decade the defence vote was larger in proportion to total expenditure than is the case this year.
For many years past there has been a wrong impression abroad regarding the constitution of the staff of the Royal Military College. In answer to questions asked by honorable members, including the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), replies have been given which convey an entirely inaccurate idea in regard to this matter. I. have by me figures culled from official sources which reveal that the instructional staff for 1929, when there were 66. cadets at the college, numbered 20 officers, warrant officers, and sergeant-major instructors, and this figure included the Commandant,. Adjutant, and Quarter-master, who were engaged almost entirely upon administrative work. The number given in the official replies included the total sta-ff at the college, instead of merely the instructional staff. Included among the staff were many persons employed by the students themselves, such as cooks, stewards, laundresses, canteen workers, &c. In fact, the word “ staff “ was almost synonymous with inhabitants.
Naturally I am very pleased to see the college coming back to its own. The original idea was that it should be conducted on the lines of West Point Military College in the United States of America, and curiously enough, the vicissitudes of our Royal Military College have been almost exactly similar to those of the college at West Point. After an early and apparently successful start, the West Point College for political reasons was shut clown, and a smaller college was located elsewhere. As in the case of the Royal Military College of Australia, after an absence of something in the vicinity of five years, the college was re-established at its permanent home at West Point in the United States of America, and there it has remained for over 100 years. The cost of educating a cadet at the Royal Military College of Australia is frequently mis-stated. The cost is usually based on the total expenditure for the college of £1,000,000 to train 390 cadets. Neither of those figures is correct. The actual cost is £900,000, and the number of cadets is 407, not 390. A proportion of that £900,000 was recouped by the Government of New Zealand, who found it more satisfactory to send cadets from that dominion to enjoy the training facilities available here than to send them to the older military colleges in England, where the training period was not so lengthy, and was not considered suitable for the particular requirements of the dominion. As a matter of fact the average annual cost of training cadets at the Royal Military College is £505. A comparison between the Australian costs and those incurred in training cadets at the Royal Military Academy of Woolwich and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, in England, making allowance for the variation in Australian conditions, shows that the cost is very much the same. At Woolwich. where Royal Artillery and Royal Engineer officers are trained, the .cost is £570 ; at Sandhurst, where the Infantry, Cavalry and Army Service Corps officers are trained, the cost is £410 per annum. The latest figures I have been able to gather showing the cost of training cadets at the Military College at West Point show that it amounts to not less than £1,111 for each cadet. If we, in Australia, under Australian conditions and having regard to Australian prices, are able to turn out a smaller number of cadets at an average cost of £505 per annum, I do not think we can be said, to be unduly extravagant. Prom my own experience of all of these institutions, with the exception of West Point, I must say that the cost at the Royal Military College at Duntroon was definitely not extravagant.
– And no fees are charged.
– The Minister reminds me that the Australian college is open to all those physically fit who can pass the requisite examination. Parents do not pay one penny in fees towards the education of the students. The maximum amount parents are allowed to provide for the students is ‘a sum of up to 5s. a week pocket money. If the parents feel that they are unable to do anything at all in that respect no questions are asked, and nobody but the cadet himself is to know it. English colleges charge fees running up to £250 for each cadet. This country is forced to give to its cadets a better education than the older colleges overseas.
– What is the reason for that?
– When the cadets from the colleges overseas have finished their training, they go to their regiments and battalions where they continue training under senior officers with whom they are serving. In Australia, after an officer is trained, he is then required to go out and take his place as a fully trained officer, and has to deal with senior militia officers and is also required to act as instructor to all officers of the unit under his charge.
– Does the honorable member think the Royal Military College has justified itself, when men like
Sir Brudenell White, Sir John Monash and others, did not have the benefit of a military college training?
– I would say very definitely, “ Yes,” because the honorable member has named two very good natural soldiers, who not only were natural soldiers, but also worked from fourteen to sixteen hours a day with regular officers.I had the pleasure and the honour of serving with Sir John Monash, and on many occasions I have worked with him until 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning delving into some intricate problem upon which after working all day at his profession, he was engaged, and which he wanted to solve himself. Men of that calibre are found only twice in a century. We have already found them twice in this century, and it is necessary for us, as far as possible, to take the remainder up to their level, and to provide a staff of officers who will emulate the great deeds they did for Australia.
– I desire to deal as briefly as possible with the question of the supply of free ammunition to rifle clubs. It was formerly the intention of the Government to cut down the free supply to each rifleman from 200 rounds to 100 rounds annually. As the result of considerable agitation by riflemen from all parts of Australia, the matter was reviewed, and the proposal now is that a free supply of an extra 100 rounds of Mark VI. ammunition will be made to all effective members of rifle clubs, and 50 rounds to new members. The riflemen who ought to know something about this matter are of opinion that this increase of Mark VI. ammunition is of very little use at all. Since 1933, riflemen have had their rifles adjusted to take Mark VII. ammunition, and in consequence, the free supply of Mark VI. ammunition will be of little value.
– I made that supply available at the suggestion of a member of one of the rifle clubs. I find now it is of little value, and I am sorry that the suggestion was accepted.
– I trust that the Ammunition to be made available will be raised to the 200 rounds previously allowed.
– I shall do that as soon as possible.
– It has been stated that the cost of supplying 200 rounds free to members of rifle clubs will be £90,000 per annum.
– No; the additional cost involved will be £36,000 per annum.
– I have no desire to question the Minister’s estimate of the cost, but Brigadier-General Brand has said that it will cost an additional £25,000. It is said that there are over 35,000 effective riflemen in Australia. I do not need to enlarge for the information of the Minister for Defence upon the importance of efficiently-trained riflemen in the outback parts of Australia in any defence scheme to repel possible attacks of invaders. That opposition is largely scouted in official circles in the Defence Department, but I am sure that the Minister is strong enough to form his own opinion.
– The department’s view has changed.
– Members of rifle clubs in outback districts are chiefly men with a hobby, but little money. They were able to keep going largely because they sold some of the ammunitionwhich they received at 5s. a 100 rounds.
I disagree with the decision of the Government to return the Royal Military College to Duntroon. The transfer will mean a largely increased expenditure without any commensurate improvement of efficiency. The figures supplied by me, when Minister for Defence, to the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) in regard to the cost of training cadets have not been seriously challenged until to-night.
– I have pointed out in frequent interjections ever since the original statement was made that the figures were wrong.
– There is a wide difference between what the honorable member thought and the official figures supplied by the department. The cost of the Royal Military College the last year that it was at Duntroon was £52,778. In reply to a question which I asked in October last, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill) informed me that the cost of the Royal Military College at Paddington was £16,976 a year and £5,000 for part-time services. It will be seen, therefore, that the transfer of the college toPaddington resulted ina saving of about£30,000 a year - sufficient to make possible a free issue of ammunition to all the rifle clubs in Australia. The Minister also informed me thai whereas there were 98 instructors when the college was at Duntroon, there were twelve permanent instructors at Paddington on the 31st December, 1934, who were assisted by an additional staff of 25. Other instructors were occasionally drawn from other services, for which instruction £5,000 per annum was allowed. The statement that a large number of the men on the staff at Duntroon were grooms and gardenerscannot be sustained, because the department was careful to say that there were 10 teachers and 88 other employees. The statement of the Minister that the college is being transferred from Paddington because the teaching there is ineffective is not borne out by the annual report of the Commandant of the Royal Military College for 1934. Referring to the third class, the report states -
This classhas done consistently good work throughout. The papers written by ‘the three top cadets have, inparticular, been excellent.
Under the heading “Tactics” the report on the fourth class states -
The class showed keenness and their work wassatsfactory.
It has been said that with the college at Paddington therewas no opportunity for field exercises. How is it, then, that the Commandant reports in regard to cavalry -
In general, quite a good standard was attained . . . Further practice during the cavalry route inarch resulted in ahigh standard being reached.
Dealing with riding, the report states -
With the possible exception of two cadets, the standard reached bythis classwas particularly high.
A study of this report will show that the standard of the teaching at Paddington has been excellent. The real reason for the return of the college to Duntroon is that Duntroon offers better facilities for cultivating the social side of military college life. Before long we shall again have those special Thursday afternoon gatherings to which a select few will be invited. At Paddington, more useful work was doneat less than half the cost.
– If time permitted, I would take the opportunity to refer to the Superannuation Act as itapplies to members of the Staff Corps. The act was originally introduced for the betterment of the PublicService, and later it was applied to the Permanent MilitaryForces. The retiring age under the act was originally 65 years, but as the normal retiring ages are55 years for a major,60 years fora lieutenant-colonel, colonel or brigadier, and62 for a major-general-
– The time allowed for the consideration of the Defence Estimates has expired.
Proposed vote agreed to.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn.
I desire to intimate that it is the intention of theGovernment to ask the House to sit on Monday next andto continue during the week in order that the large amount of business still to be transacted may be completed before the adjournment for the Christmas recess. I make this announcement now in order that honorable members may be able to make their arrangements for next week.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Houseadjourned at 12.10 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
en asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– It is proposed to make a statement in the House on the subject.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Excise Duty on Beer.
r asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
-The information is being obtained.
en asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
In view of the fact that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie advised the Minister about June last, that the anchorage for ships near Derby was being silted up in places, and that master mariners requested a re-survey of the bottom of King Sound in the vicinity owing to the danger to shipping, is the Minister now in a position to redeem the promise then given, to make the Moresby available for the survey us soon as possible; if so, when will it be possible to proceed with this urgent work?
– H.M.A.S. Moresby is at present surveying off Gladstone, Queensland, and is due at Sydney on the 15th December for overhaul at close of the surveying season. The request for a survey of King Sound will be considered when the 1936 surveying programme is being arranged.
Establishmentof Alkali Industry.
Mr.Price asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Did the Government invite Mr. G. K. McPhail to aconference in connexion with the proposed alkali industry at Port Adelaide, which was held in Melbourne on 10th May, 1932?
Will the Government ascertain whether Drs. A. C. Rivett and L. K. Ward can produce convincing evidence that the economics of alkali manufacture have improved since 1932, when they adversely criticized the proposal?
s. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
– On the 21st November, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) asked a question without notice in regard to the appointment of cadets for the New Guinea Administration. I would refer the honorable member to the reply given by me to a question, upon notice, on 19th November, 1935, indicating that the Commonwealth Public Service inspector in each State had been asked to interview a number of applicants. The reports are now to hand from all of the Public Service inspectors and are under consideration. It is hoped that it will be possible to make an early announcement in regard to the appointments.
Wireless Broadcasting: NEWS Service. HOBART Studio.
l. - On the 13th November, the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) asked, without notice, a question pertaining to the news service broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I have since ascertained that the method of collecting news for broadcasting purposes is still under negotiation between the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Australian Newspapers Conference, no decision yet having been reached.
On the 20th November, the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) asked, without notice, a question pertaining to the provision of new wireless broadcasting studios at Hobart. I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that the Australian Broadcasting Commission states it is impossible at present to indicate when plans and specifications for the broadcasting studios at Hobart will bo completed. When the details have been approved, it is the intention to invite tenders for the carrying out of the work.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 November 1935, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1935/19351127_reps_14_148/>.