14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr.Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and road prayers.
-Some months ago the Mackenzie King Government of Canada, objecting to certain parts of legislation enacted by the Bennett Administration, popularly known as the New
Deal legislation, applied to the Supreme Court of Canada for an opinion as to its validity. Will the Attorney-General state whether such a course may be taken by the Commonwealth Government to test the validity of certain legislation, and thus save costly litigation such ashas been associated with the James case? If not,in what respect does the constitution of the High Court of Australia differ from that of the Supreme Court of Canada in this respect?
– The practice of referring legislation to the court for preliminary determination as to its validity was attempted in Australia pursuant to legislation some years ago. The High Court, however, determined that the legislation was invalid, for the reason particularly that its function was to exercise the judicial power of the Commonwealth, and it was not thought that the obtaining of advisory opinion was a part of the judicial function. Consequently it is not possible for the Government of the Commonwealth to do what can be done validly in Canada under the British North America Act. The only way in which such references may be made possible is by an alteration of the Constitution of the Commonwealth in the direction of making provision for them.
– Is the Minister for Commerce in a position to give to the House the details of the much-advertised meat agreement? If not, when may we expect a full statement on the matter?
– Until the final negotiations have been completed between the Government of the United Kingdom and foreign governments, it is not possible to make a detailed statement to Parliament. I am, however, able to say that the terms which the Commonwealth Government has obtained cover the four main points at issue. These are, first, that the meat imported from Australia shall be free of any duty; secondly, that there shall be complete freedom to change over from frozen to chilled beef; thirdly, that there shall exist the possibility of an expansion of meat imports in order to permit of the expansion of the Australian industry and fourthly, that there shall be an Empire marketing regulation system.
– Can the Minister for Defence inform the House of the terms under which Australia will co-operate with Great Britain in connexion with the Empire flying boat air mail service? Will any surcharge be imposed on outward mails, or will first-class mail matter be carried to London at the ordinary postage rate of 2d. ?
– This matter has had consideration by Cabinet, and is still under consideration. Some additional details have still to be finalized before a statement upon it may be made.
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General state whether, arising out of reports that have been published that agreement has practically been reached that the overseas air mails may be carried without surcharge, he is yet in a position to give an assurance that, to whatever amount the postage rate is reduced, it will be applied to the inland mail service of Australia?
– I can only repeat that this matter is still under consideration, but the aspect to which the honorable member has referred will receive attention.
– If the Prime Minister yesterday could make a statement to the press to the effect that agreement had been reached with the Government of Great Britain, with respect to the England-Australia air mail service, and the use of flying boats, and could throw a good deal of light on the subject, how does it come about that no statement as to details can be made to this House ?
– As no decision has yet been reached by the Government in regard to the matter, I did not make such a statement to the press, and I am unable to make such a statement to this Parliament until the Government has reached a final decision. What I said to the press was that the Government had made progress in the consideration of the subject, and that further consideration would have to be given to it. I added that I was hopeful that, at an early stage, I would be in a position to make a definite statement on the matter. That statement will be made as early as possible to the Parliament itself.
Embargo on Entry into New Zealand.
– Will the Minister for Commerce state whether it is a fact that the inquiry instituted by the Government of New Zealand into the marketing and handling of fruit and vegetables did not embrace the embargo imposed by that dominion upon imports of those products from Australia? If bo when is that embargo likely to be made the subject of further discussions between the two Governments concerned?
– The inquiry held by the Government of New Zealand covered merely the internal marketing of the products of that dominion. The Commonwealth is in continuous communication with the Government of New Zealand with respect to the removal of the embargo on Australian citrus fruits, and will take every opportunity to press for a full discussion of the matter.
– Will the Minister for
Defence state whether it is a fact, as is rumoured in the capital cities, that three members to the personnel of H.M.A.S. Australia are to be court-martialled in consequence of damage which was done to certain gun blocks during the recent visit of that vessel to Brisbane, or for any other reason?
– I have never heard the rumour, and have no knowledge which would warrant the assumption that there is any foundation for it.
– Having regard to the importance of protecting the dairying industry against competition by butter substitutes, and the many requests which have been made to the Government from time to time for action in this direction, will the Assistant Minister for Commerce state what steps have been taken, or are contemplated ? Has the matter been the subject of discussion before the Australian Agricultural Council, and has any decision been arrived at by that body ? If so, has action been taken in consequence of such a decision?
– The matter referred to by the honorable member was brought before the Australian Agricultural Council at its meeting in Adelaide last month. The subject of butter substitutes has been dealt with by the various States, and an agreement ha3 been come to under which margarine is to be sold in either white or saffron colour, the white to be restricted to that used by pastrycooks, and the saffron colour to apply to all other products placed on the market. There are certain difficulties associated with the trade which is being carried on at the present time between one State and another, and until all the States have passed uniform legislation, it will be impossible for greater control to be exercised than is the case at present.
– In view of the important work of Dr. Fenton as flying doctor in the Northern Territory, and seeing that a renewal of his licence has been refused, will the Minister for Defence re-organize the medical services of the territory, and place them under the control of the Cbief Medical Officer, so that the medical profession may decide matters with which, obviously, it alone is qualified to deal, and so that harmonious co-operation may be obtained between the aerial medical services and the Civil Aviation Department?
– I am in touch with the Administrator of the Northern Territory on this matter, but I have no statement to make upon it at the moment.
– Can the Assistant Minister for Commerce state whether any progress has been made in the negotiations between the States in connexion with the removal of the draft on wool?
– That matter was brought before the last meeting of the Agricultural Council. All States have been communicated with regarding it, and every State, with the exception of New South Wales, has already agreed to introduce legislation of the nature required to deal with the matter. An assurance has been received from New Zealand that it will co-operate with the Commonwealth and the States, if the various governments in Australia unanimously agreed to pass legislation to abolish the draft.
– Have any applications been refused for licences to import from a foreign country parts that cannot be made locally or obtained from any other country for the servicing of machinery already in use in Australia?
– Yes, where such parts could be obtained from the United Kingdom or other goodcustomer countries.
– I have receiveda letter from the Thirroul sub-branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia asking me to urge the Government to take steps to reduce the capital cost of war service homes, in order to bring the rental into conformity with present-day values. Will the Minister in charge of War Service Homes take this matter into consideration, with a view to reducing, to some extent, the capital costs of the homes?
– This matter has already been considered, and the capital costs cannot be reduced.
– Does the Government intend, during this financial year, to continue the scheme whereby stockbreeders throughout Australia were assisted in importing stud stock by the Government paying part of the shipping freight?
– It is the intention of the Government to continue the scheme.
– Has any decision been reached by the Government as to the questions to be submitted to the people by referendum as the result of the Privy Council’s decision in the James case?
– No. I said at an earlier stage that, as soon as the Government is in a position to make a statement on the matter, it will’ do so.
– In view of the fact that the Commonwealth and State governments have agreed that power over aviation should be exercised by the Commonwealth Parliament, will the Prime Minister consider requesting the people of Australia at the time the referendum on section 92 is taken to vest this power definitely in the Commonwealth Parliament?
– It seems to me that until this subject has been finally settled between the Commonwealth and the States, I am not in a position to give any undertaking of the kind.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether the delay of the Government in making a pronouncement concerning the proposed referendum on section 92 of the Constitution is due to the action, of the Minister for Commerce in pressing for a referendum on now States at the same time?
– The answer is “No.”
– Has the Civil Aviation Board made any recommendation to the Minister for Defence with, a view to a reduction of the cost of flying?
– In response to previous requests’ on this subject, consideration has been given to it by the Civil Aviation Board, but, as the question of a reduction of the cost of flying is bound up with that of assistance to aero clubs, and as a scheme is now being evolved with regard to the more intensive training of pilots, a full determination of the matter has not, yet been reached. As soon as we come to a decision, I shall be glad to convey it to the honorable member.
Trans-Tasman Air Mail Service
– - Is there any foundation for the rumour that the Minister for Defence intends to leave for New Zealand on Saturday, and, if so, what u the object of the mission?
– Immediately any information on that matter is available, it will be conveyed to the House. At the present time no statement can be made, because no decision has been reached.
– Will the Minister for Defence, in discussing with the- representatives of the Government of New Zealand, proposals for a trans-Tasman air service - as I understand he will be doing very shortly - give an undertaking that the interests of Australian airmen will be a primary consideration with him, and that nothing will be done to hand over this service to Imperial interests ?
– The only undertaking I am prepared to give is that as the interests of Australian airmen are now, and always have been, first consideration with the Government, that policy will be continued.
– Will the Minister for Defence indicate whether he thinks it necessary for a Commonwealth Minister to visit New Zealand to discuss with representatives of the Government of New Zealand the proposal to establish an air mail service between Australia and New Zealand ? If he does think that this is necessary, will he give us some information as to the nature of the proposed negotiations? Will he also say whether the negotiations can be extended with the object of persuading the Government of New Zealand to lift the embargo which it is at present enforcing against the entry of Australian fruit and vegetables into New Zealand?
– The only answer I can give to the series of questions asked by the honorable member is that all these matters are contingent upon the Government’s decision in regard to the proposed trans-Tasman air mail, and that decision has not vet been arrived at.
– Will the Minister for Defence inform me whether the Government has yet received a reply from the Premier of Victoria to its inquiry as to whether a site is available at Fishermen’s Bend for an airport? If a reply has been received, will the Minister indicate the nature of it?
– A reply has been sent by the Premier of Victoria, Mr. Dunstan, to the Prime Minister, concerning the offer of the Commonwealth Government for a site at Fishermen’s Bend for an airport, to the effect that he will be glad to discuss with the responsible Commonwealth Minister the proposed site and its valuation.
– Will the Minister for Defence indicate whether the Commonwealth Government or the State Government will be responsible for the building of the airport, if it is considered to be necessary?
– As the result of the decision of the last Premiers Conference, which accepted a recommendation from a sub-committee representative of the States, that control of civil aviation should be a Commonwealth responsibility, I assume that if bills are passed through the State Parliaments, vesting this power in the Commonwealth, the building of the airport will be a Commonwealth matter.
– Will the Prime Minister request Cabinet to give immediate consideration to the reconstitution of the former standing committees of this Parliament - the Public Accounts Committee and the Public Works Committee?
– That subject will receive the consideration of Cabinet in due time.
– Is the Minister for
Trade and Customs able to say whether a report is correct which suggests that the British cement manufacturers have approached the Australian cement manufacturers with a request for a quota of the
Australian market on the understanding that they maintained the local price?
– The Government has no official knowledge of any such request.
– Reverting to a question which I asked the Minister for Defence two or three days ago, I wish to know whether he has any further information that he can make available to honorable members as to the proposals of the private company which is interested in the manufacture of aircraft in
– I have no additional information on tha subject. I understand that the company is at present considering sites in various parts of the Commonwealth, but I do not know whether any finality has been reached. As soon as information on the subject is available to me, I shall be glad to pass it on to honorable members.
– Is not the matter of a site for the manufacture of aircraft wrapped up with the question of the site for an airport?
– Is the Minister for Commerce able to say whether Japanese buying at the South African wool sales last week increased wool values by from 7 to 10 per cent., and whether Japan purchased 80 per cent. of the offerings? Does the Minister consider that Australian wool-growers are suffering by Japan’s entry into the South African market?
– I believe tha; the present position of the wool market in Australia is very satisfactory to our wool-growers. The price of wool in Australia is higher than it was last year, and the maintenance of a good price in South Africa will help to maintain a good price here.
– In view of a recent damaging publication by the Bank of New South Wales, entitled Our Empty
Spaces, and also that much of the socalled Australian development has been in the nature of exploitation of our richest areas by the Bank of New South Wales, and other similar financial institutions-
– Order ! The honorable member may not make comment in asking a question.
– In view of the fact that this misleading publication will do untold harm in England in discounting our ability to carry a larger population in both the south and the north, I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government will set up a national planning authority as consultants to this Parliament, and to district planning boards, so that only qualified people will be entrusted with the responsibility to lay bare our assets for primary and secondary development through an economic surrey of our continent, district by district?
– As the honorable member’s question involves matters of policy, I am unable to deal with it in reply to a question - especially a question without notice.
– I remind the Minister for Defence of the repeated representations I have made to him on the necessity to bring Fort Nelson at Hobart up to the proper standard, and ask him whether the Government proposes to order any work to be done at the fort this year with that object?
– It is intended to make some improvements at Fort Nelson. These are provided for on the three-year defence programme, but that work is not regarded as of such urgent importance as to take precedence over other works.
– Is the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties yet able to inform me when the trade delegation from Canada will arrive . in Australia to discuss the trade relations between the two countries?
– I cannot add anything to the statement I made on the subject a few days ago. The Government of Canada has intimated that it will send a trade delegation to Australia at an early date, but the date has not yet been fixed.
– I ask the Prima Minister if the Government has any intention of limiting the time of the inquiry now being made by the Royal Commission on Banking and Monetary Reform, in order to influence that body to come to an early decision?
– It is not the intention of the Government to limit the time at the disposal of the commission, but I am hopeful that such, action will not be necessary, because it is expected that the commission will supply the Government with its recommendations within a reasonable period.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs to what extent Australian trade with Italy ha3 been resumed since the lifting of economic sanctions, and, also to what extent the uprising in Spain has affected our trade with that country?
– As I have already stated in reply to a question placed on the notice-paper, economic sanctions against Italy were very effective, but there has not been sufficient time since the lifting of those sanctions to enable us to procure statistics to gauge any change. Naturally, the present trouble in Spain has interfered with our trade with thai country. I point out that our exports to Spain are about four times as much as our imports from that country. Possibly the two importations which will be mainly affected are corkwood and sherry, of which we take only small quantities.
– Can the Minister for Defence state why welfare committees upon naval vessels, before which ratings had the right to place requests, have not met for some considerable time, and whether their cessation has been due to departmental action?
– I discussed this matter in my last interview with the Admiral, who informed me that the welfare committees were not now desired, and that this was the sole reason for the cessation of their activities. The ratings still have ample opportunity, through other channels, to place before the authorities any complaints they desire to make, but I understand that no complaints are awaiting consideration at present.
The following papers were presented : -
Income Tax in relation to Sale of Crown Leases - Report dated 28th July, 1936, made to the Treasurer by Sir David Ferguson.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act - Statementfor year1935-1936.
– I have received from Mrs. Mauger a letter expressing appreciation of the motion of condolence passed by this chamber, on the occasion of the death of her husband, the late Honorable Samuel Mauger.
Additions, New Works,buildings, &c.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 16th September (vide page181).
Prime Minister’s Department
Proposed vote, £45,500.
– In reply to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), who, at an earlier stage of the committee, asked for particulars as to why proposed votes were distributed between the Prime Minister’s Department and the Department of the Interior in respect of certain buildings to be erected for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, I point out that the amount of £23,850 is for buildings to be erected in the Melbourne University grounds and at St. Mary’s, Blue Mountains. As these buildings are being erected in conjunction with the Universities of Melbourne and Sydney, it is necessary that they should be in accord with the architecture of existing buildings.
The architects for the universities are therefore in charge of the new buildings and are dealing directly with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research authorities as a branch of the Prime Minister’s Department. The provision of £4,150 is in respect of buildings being erected by the Department of the Interior for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in the ordinary way.
.- I propose to discussthe proposed vote for the acquisition of a vessel with the object of developing our fisheries. I am pleased to learn that this vessel is now being built in Melbourne. I regret the delay which has taken place in this matter since the proposal was first brought before this Parliament, but that delay has been of some benefit, because in the interim, investigations have been made in Great Britain, Canada, and America to find the type of vesselmost suitable for this work. I understand that it is desired to avoid any loss of life, or valuable research records such as took place through the sinking of the Endeavour. As this industry needs every encouragement in its development I hope that no delay will take place in commissioning the new vessel. It should be ready for work early in the new year.
This vessel is being provided, and specially designed, I understand, for the exploration of pelagic or surface fish, although, at the same time, it will be suitable for the investigation of demersed, or sea-bottom dwelling fish species. The Commonwealth and State authorities should co-operate to the fullest extent in the development of our fishing industry which is languishing to-day in every part of Australia. I appreciate the fact that owing to constitutional limitations this Government is restricted in its opportunities to assist the industry. The function of the States is to control fishing in territorial waters which are our rivers, harbours and foreshores, whilst the function of the Commonwealth is to assist in expanding the industry outside those waters. Nevertheless, as there is much scope for investigation and research on the part ‘of the Commonwealth and the States, I hope that the new vessel will be commissioned as quickly as possible, and also that no time will be lost in fulfilling the promises made some time ago in the press, that the Defence Department would 00-operate with the Development Branch by making an aerial survey of Australian waters with the object of finding out the location, movements and habits of pelagic fish.
The supply of edible fish to the Australian markets to-day appear to be very limited. “We import over £1,000,000 worth of fish annually, and I contend that if we developed this industry, very large revenue would be ‘obtained through the sale of locally-caught fish, whilst the resulting activity would provide increased employment. Having investigated this matter, [ find that the consumption of fish in Australia to-day is about 14 lb. a head annually, compared’ with 40 lb. a head annually in the United Kingdom, [f our people were encouraged to equal the latter consumption on a proportionate basis, the value of fish consumed in Australia would be in the vicinity of £S,000,000 per annum, and the industry would then provide work for about 35,000 men and youths. Before returning to America, Mr. Zane Grey, the wellknown American novelist, who has a world-wide reputation as a sporting fisherman, and spent many months on the eastern coast of Australia, this year, stated that without a doubt Australia had the best fishing grounds in the world, and added that he was so satisfied with the quantity and quality of the fish to be obtained here, that he would lose no time in renewing his visit to these shores. Because ‘of high prices ruling to-day, fish in Australia is a luxury for most people. In Great Britain, where improved methods for treating and marketing are fully availed of, fish is regularly included in the diet of the poorer classes. The position, unfortunately, is reversed here, because of high prices and difficulties in marketing in the inland areas. Furthermore, the by-products of fish provide a very important industry such as the production of fish oil and meal and fish fertilizer. There is alao the development of canning and smoking. I suggest that the Commonwealth and State Governments should give early consideration to the development of this industry on an orderly plan providing for research and examination of the fishing areas, co-operative freezing works at head-quarters of fishing fleets, and suitable transport, distributing and marketing arrangements instead of the present unsatisfactory conditions which exist to-day. There appears to be a serious lack of knowledge regarding the habits of fish in Australian waters, and particularly of fish outside our territorial waters. I am glad to learn that a director of fisheries is to be appointed in Australia. I have been given to understand that Dr. Harold Thompson, who is at present Director of Fisheries Research in Newfoundland, has been appointed to take charge of research work in the Commonwealth at a salary of £1.000 a year for five years. This man is a highly competent and efficient officer, and should be well able to carry out the duties which will be assigned to him. For some years he was the senior officer of the Fisheries Board in Scotland, and, on his way to Australia, he is to investigate the fishing industries of British Columbia and of California. Honorable members will recall that a few years ago Newfoundland passed through a very grave economic crisis, so grave, in fact, that the British Government was compelled practically to take over its finances. Every effort was made by the authorities to develop the country’s industries, of which fishing is the chief, and they were unable to find a more suitable man for the work than Dr. Thompson. His work in Newfoundland included investigations into the preservation of fish, marketing and handling, and the utiliza-tion of by-products, as well as the making of a general review of the whole fishing industry of the island.
In my opinion, it is important that Dr. Thompson, as soon as possible after he takes up his duties in Australia, should arrange a conference between representatives of the Commonwealth and the State Fisheries Departments, and a comprehensive representation of those actually engaged in the industry. If the industry were properly developed it could provide much additional employment, as well as furnishing the people with a cheap and healthy food.
Most fishermen use motor boats, and pay tax on the petrol used in them, as well as on the engines, if they are imported. The money derived from the petrol tax and customs duty is supposed to be devoted towards the upkeep of main roads, and it would be only fair, therefore, if tho tax paid by fishermen were handed back to the States as a grant in aid to help the fishing industry along approved lines.
– The same principle should be applied to the users of stationary petrol engines and aeroplanes.
– The honorable member must know that in return for the tax paid on petrol the Commonwealth Government is spending a considerable sum of money on the improvement of landing grounds for aeroplanes, and the provision of wireless, lighting and directionfinding apparatus.
– The fishermen enjoy the benefit of the lighthouses erected and maintained by the Commonwealth.
– Very few fishermen trouble about lighthouses. However, some assistance might well be given in the direction of providing beacons inside the harbours to direct fishermen along the channels between banks, and havens or shelters, properly dredged, could be constructed so that they may be able to take shelter during stormy weather. Such work on a generous scale is urgently needed at Wynnum and Southport in Queensland. I appreciate what has been done for those engaged in the fishing industry, but I am sorry that so little progress has been made. Now that it is pro- posed to appoint a director of research, trust that development will be more rapid. The industry holds out great possibilities for employment, it being estimated that at least 25,000 more persons could be employed in it.
– No doubt Dr. Thompson will be able to tell the fishermen where the fish are, but how are we going to develop the industry?
– One of the most important improvements required is the provision of modern co-operative cooling plants at the various ports where the fishermen bring their catches.
– Does the honorable member want the State governments to make that provision?
– Instead of the position that exists to-day there should be cooperation between the Federal and State authorities. Some of the petrol tax could be devoted towards the building of cool stores and . the provision of the other facilities I have mentioned. At present, if a surplus of fish is brought in, it has to be jettisoned, because no storage facilities are available. I recognize, of course, that work of this kind is essentially a State function, but this is not a matter regarding which governments should stand on their strict constitutional rights, and the Commonwealth might well devote some of the proceeds of the petrol tax to assisting the fishing industry through the State governments. Other matters for investigation and improvement include quicker transport from the coast to the interior, and the provision of dry ice, &c. If the State and Commonwealth authorities will co-operate unselfishly in this work, it should be possible to employ our own people in the catching and marketing of millions of pounds’ worth of fish instead of our importing fish from overseas. I regard the provision of the sum of £17,500 for the purchase of a fisheries vessel as being only the initial step in the orderly development of this valuable industry, and I hope that there will be no easing up in this matter. The purchase of this vessel for research work must, and can only be, the first step; if it is not, the vessel is not worth acquiring. We must co-operate with the States in planning for the development of the whole of the fishing industry.
– What is the plan for the future?
– First, we must help to provide fishermen with opportunities to secure suitable vessels, and to reduce their overhead costs by removing taxation on the industry as far as is possible. Such a policy would enable them to recover from the state of depression which they are experiencing at the present time. I have already indicated in general terms what such a plan should be, but the gentleman most competent to fill in the details of it is the Director of Research, Dr. Thompson, who, I have suggested, is one of the most able and experienced men on this subject in tho world. I hope that he will be brought from Newfoundland to the Commonwealth with the utmost despatch.
– There are plenty of capable men in Tasmania who could fill the position.
– I do not desire to adopt the attitude that there is no good in any country outside Australia, or vice versa. Dr. Thompson is a man of proved ability. Dp to date Australia has made little progress in the development of its fisheries resources, and its methods cannot be compared to those adopted in England, Scotland, Newfoundland, Canada, and the United States of America. I am sure that no one having the interests of those engaged in the industry at heart would be satisfied with the position as it exists here to-day. The combined wisdom of the world on matters affecting the fishing industry is embodied in Dr. Thompson, and the Government should prevail upon him to take up his duties in Australia as early as possible. Furthermore, I hope that these initial steps of appointing a director of fisheries and of building a research vessel will lead to a complete revival of the industry.
.- The time is long overdue for the Commonwealth to take action to stabilize the fishing industry of Australia. I do not know the purpose for which the fisheries vessel is being built or what will be the duties of the Director of Fisheries, Dr. Thompson, but I do know that, whereas for many years Tasmanian waters have contained abundant supplies of fish, to-day there is a great scarcity. One of the functions of the new Director of Fisheries should be to study the causes of this depletion of the fishing beds and the reason why large shoals repeatedly travel round the Tasmanian coast. From inquiries that I have made, I believe that one of the reasons for the present scarcity of fish in Tasmanian waters is to be found in the depredations of the hair seal. These creatures are destroying millions of pounds’ worth of fish, and a disturbing factor is that they are rapidly increasing in numbers. Trior to my recent departure for Canberra, a deputation representative of the fishing industry waited on the chairman of the Fisheries Commission in Hobart. Speakers described the position of the fishermen as desperate owing to the depredations of these seals. The deputation went so far as to ask the Government of Tasmania to order the destruction of the seals, which have no commercial value. They get in among a school of barracouta and cause havoc there. The barracouta is a valuable fish, which is in great demand on Australian markets, and it could also be tinned and sold with advantage overseas. If these scavengers of the deep are to be allowed to accumulate in such great numbers as to destroy shoals of fish, I consider that one of the first functions of the new Director of Fisheries should be to investigate means of overcoming this serious problem. The seals also chase away shoals of fish -such as trumpeter and perch. The Tasmanian trumpeter, perch and the silver trumpeter make excellent eating, and, I understand, have few equals in this respect.
Apart from the depredations of the seals, there is another reason for the scarcity of fish in Tasmanian waters. A biologist informed me that recently millions of jellyfish were washed up upon the coast of Tasmania and that when their decayed remains were later washed back into the sea it caused a pollution of the waters, which drove away the fish.
The Director of Fisheries should make a survey of Australian waters with a view to taking action to assist the men engaged in this industry. In my opinion they are the highest taxed section of the community. They are obliged to pay up to £30 for a licence to catch food for the Australian public. Another of the great drawbacks of the fishing industry is the lack of sufficient refrigeration space os interstate boats. Honorable members must not lose sight of the fact that because of the geographical position of Tasmania the fish caught in its waters must be conveyed by steamers to the markets of the mainland. At times enormous quantities of good fish are caught, but, owing to the lack of refrigeration space on these steamers, only a limited quantity can be marketed. Fish is a commodity which must be handled very carefully in order to ensure its preservation. It cannot be frozen like beef. If it is kept on ice too long it will become tainted. In a few hours’ time it may commence to putrefy if it has been too long on ice. Tasmanian fish must be carried to the market as quickly as possible.
Another great handicap to the Tasmanian fishermen is the high freights which are charged by shipping companies for providing special refrigeration space. These exorbitant costs of transport deprive these fishermen of the opportunity to compete on the markets of the mainland, whc.ro enormous quantities of fish are required. I agree with the suggestion of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) that the Commonwealth should co-operate with the Fisheries Departments of the various States with a view to developing the industry. In this connexion the advice of practical fishermen should be sought, because much valuable information in regard to putting the industry on a commercial basis and other matters, could be obtained from them. I have been requested by fishing interests in Tasmania to make strong representations to the Commonwealth Government to do something on their behalf. They are engaged in a very valuable industry, but they have been practically starved out of it. The matter of the petrol tax, which M’as raised by the honorable member for Moreton is only a minor consideration compared with their difficulty of marketing fish, and the problem of diminishing supplies. In view of the fact that the Director of Fisheries comes from the other side of the world he will probably require to be shown over the various fishing bed3 in Commonwealth waters in order to familiarize himself with them. In my opinion the Government should call for applications within the Commonwealth for a capable man for the position who would be acquainted with Australian conditions, and the places when the fish are to be found in abundance. In this connexion the director must rely to some extent on Australian fishermen for guidance and advice. They require no lighthouses or beacons to assist theam, and are familiar with every cove and bay in the waters in which they operate, and know where the best shelter is *t> be found from rough weather. It is the duty of the Commonwealth Government to put the fishing industry on the same basis as the primary-producing industries. The wheat-grower has been organized, assisted, and placed on a proper footing even at the expense of the consumers of bread. I make this appeal on behalf of those who’ take their lives in their hands night after night while we sleep comfortably in our beds, in order to procure for the people of Australia a valuable food which is essential for the development of the brain power of the human race. If the industry were placed on a proper basis, hundreds of additional men could be employed in it and millions of pounds of fish, could be exported. An abundant supply of fresh fish can be obtained in Hobart at a reasonable, cost. The industry has declined, and must be restored to a profitable basis.
– My purpose in rising is to endeavour to induce the Minister (Mr. Paterson) to give an outline of the Government’s intentions in connexion with the purchase of this vessel and to explain the meaning of the words “ the development of the industry”. It appears to mc that the Government must have some plan or scheme. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) has referred to the fact that, if placed on a proper basis, the industry would provide employment for thousands of persons, and other industries could be set up not only to deal with the fish, but also to handle the by-products. At the moment, the opportunities which exist for the expansion of the industry are practically unlimited. The setting up of industries to deal with by-products must involve organization, the expenditure of considerable capital, and direction of the enterprise by capable men. Does the Government intend to approach the States with a view to their shouldering the responsibility for this part of the undertaking? If so, there is some force in the argument of the honorable member for Moreton, that there is to be an extensive expansion of employment in the industry. The next point which appeals vo me most forcibly is that the poorer sections of the community find it almost impossible to pay the prices which are demanded for fish.
– It is a poor man’s diet in Great Britain, but a rich man’s diet in Australia.
– I have heard it stated that the quantity of fish placed on the market is deliberately regulated in order that the price level may be maintained at a figure which meets the desires of those who are engaged in the industry. Perhaps we cannot complain of that, because it is a form of protection, those who are affected desiring the best prices they can obtain for the work which they do and the risks in which they are involved.
– The foreigners who are engaged in the retail section of the industry are mainly responsible for that regulation.
– How is that to be overcome ? It seems to me that, if cheap fish is to be made available to the public, some State organization is needed. There must be provision for refrigeration at different ports if exceptionally good catches are to be handled and distributed. Has there been any consultation with the States for the marketing of fish in such a way that it will be within the reach of the thousands of persons who .ire anxious tes purchase it at a price which is within their means? To bring a gentleman from Newfoundland for the purpose of advising the Government does not appeal very greatly to me. The coastline of Newfoundland is very much shorter than that of Australia, and the climatic and other conditions ‘of the two countries differ materially.
– Newfoundland has developed the fishing industry to a remarkable extent.
– That may be so. If full advantage had been taken of the scope which exists for development in Australia, the advance might have been equally as great here. The point that I wish to make is, that the conditions in Australia are such as to call for advice by a local expert. I do not think that the Government can claim that there is no one in Australia equally as competent as any one in Newfoundland to advise it in regard to these matters. As the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) ha3 said, it is more than likely that a person brought from Newfoundland would have to be taken around our coast and made acquainted with it before he could commence his investigations. That would involve a loss of both time and money. I am strongly opposed to the idea which seems to be held by the Government, that there is no one in this country who is capable of making these investigations. Such an idea ought to be scotched and not in any way nurtured. We know our own conditions best, and are quite capable of diagnosing our troubles and finding remedies for them. A pleasing feature of the matter is that the vessel in question is to be ‘built in Australia. That represents progress along right lines by the Government and is in sharp contradistinction to the practice of private undertakings which place orders outside of Australia. I take it that the honorable member for Moreton has some knowledge of the intentions of the Government.
– I have made careful research and inquiry.
– I take it that what the honorable member has said about Mr. Thompson is correct.
– I obtained that information in the course of my inquiry and research.
– The fishermen’s association has repudiated that proposal, and desires the appointment of an Australian.
– The honorable mem’ber will agree that we have not made much progress up to date.
– Even if there has been no progress, the responsibility does not rest with those who are engaged in the industry. Within their limited capacity to develop the industry, they have done their best. There should be some central authority. So far, however, the Government has not entered that sphere of necessary activity. Fishermen who have their own interests to serve and their living to make cannot be expected to embark upon research work. They have to catch fish in order to keep themselves, and .cannot afford the time involved. There is no better authority than the Government to undertake the task. I urge the Minister to inform honorable members of the real intentions of the Government. Does it propose merely to explore the coastline to learn where are the best fishing areas, and having made that information available, take no further action, or has it in mind a scheme for the extensive development of the industry? Is it imbued with the idea of enlisting the aid of either the States or some other authority with a view to making the industry what the honorable member for Moreton has said it ought to be? We are entitled to know what benefits are likely to accrue, not only to those who are engaged in the industry, but also to the consuming public, thousands of whom need more fish than they are able to purchase to-day.
. - In common with other honorable members, I am rather interested in the action which the Government proposes to take for the development of the fishing industry. I believe that the contribution to the debate made by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) was a valuable one. I may be able to throw some additional light on this matter, because two or three years ago I approached the Government with a scheme for the development of our fisheries. I had been in touch with a gentleman from Newfoundland, who held a master’s certificate and had been engaged in the industry. He suggested that the Government should interest itself in the subsidizing of a mother ship, which would be accompanied by a fleet of subsidiary vessels and undertake the treatment of the pelagic and other commercial fish which they caught, returning them to port in a condition fit for the export trade or for distribution, the oils and other offal being packed ready for immediate export to their destination. At that time, the proposer of the scheme undertook to make space available on the vessel for a government officer or officers to erect a laboratory and carry out scientific investigations as to the migratory habits of pelagic fish, and the character of the ocean bed in the vicinity of the Australian coast, thus making valuable information available to the commercial world. The Government, having considered the proposals, came to the conclusion that it would be advisable for it not to take a commercial interest in the industry, but to confine its activities to the collection of scientific data. I take it that the Government does not intend to carry on commercial fishing, and I commend it for that decision. The story of the New South Wales State trawlers is such a sad one that we desire to forget it. The gentleman who was appointed to wind up the affairs of that unfortunate venture was bitter in hil criticism of the methods employed by the State government of the day; but he submitted a useful report as to the commercial possibilities of the industry, if conducted on scientific lines.
I commend the honorable member for Moreton for the way in which he has indicated the possibilities of the industry. I agree that we have in Australia men with a wide knowledge of our fishing grounds. I do not say that these men could place the industry on a commercial basis as sound as that of the fisheries of Newfoundland, but we certainly have men who could supply the Government with necessary scientific data regarding the habits of migratory fish, and the nature of the ocean bed round our shores. No doubt they could tell us what work would have to be carried out to make the industry a commercial success. There are expanding markets in the East, of which we could take advantage, in disposing of edible fish and fish offal suitable for the manufacture of fertilizers. We know that shark skins and fins are also marketable. By encouraging the introduction of new capital, the Government could assist to make the fishing industry a much more valuable one than it is at the present time. I give the Ministry credit for what it is trying to do, but as the conditions in Australia are very different from those in Newfoundland, I am not sure that it is acting wisely in appointing a gentleman from that country to advise it regarding the industry.
.- It is unfortunate that the Works Estimates are being considered prior to the general Estimates. The item relating to the construction of a vessel for fisheries investigation limits the committee to the consideration as to whether the ship should be built; but this subject raises a number of other issues which could have been dealt with more appropriately in considering the general Estimates. The fishing industry has been seriously neglected. The decison to build the vessel has been reached three years after the Government had indicated its intention to investigate the possibility of developing our fisheries. Although £17,000 is to be spent in the acquisition of the necessary steamer, the only other fisheries item mentioned in the general Estimates provides for an investigation by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research during the current year, which is to cost £3,000. I do not know whether the expert from Newfoundland is to be paid out of that vote, or whether any provision has been made in the general Estimates for his services. Some investigation is already proceeding, because last year £1,557 was spent by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research on fisheries research. It would be a reasonable deduction to say that the £3,000 shown as estimated expenditure on departmental account is required for continuation of the investigations already begun, and this suggests that the Government has made no provision in this year’s Estimates for the charges to be incurred in connexion with the visit of Dr. Harold Thompson. He is to receive a salary of £1,000 per annum, and is to be engaged for five years. I realize, of course, that his salary could be paid out of the Treasurer’s Advance, but the proper course for the Government to take would be to give the committee an outline of what it contemplates doing. It seems to me that all it intends is that the investigation partly conducted, and now being continued, by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is to be supplemented by the appointment of Dr. Thompson as a director of research, and that for the purpose of effective research this vessel is required. In the absence of other information, that is the deduction which honorable members may reasonably draw.
I object to the haphazard methods adopted by the Government in regard to matters of policy. It has given some earnest of its intention to undertake research work, but, apart from that, tho expectations of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) are, .1 think, somewhat optimistic. Apparently the Government has made no arrangements with the States with regard to the organization of the fishing industry. Although it gives bounties to other industries of a primary character, and to some on rather a lavish scale, it has resisted proposals made to it by the secretary of the Australian Fishermen’s League on behalf of its members for definite assistance in order that they may be better able to carry on their operations. Even in regard to wharfage facilities, the State authorities apparently do not give them all the help they need. The Commonwealth Government taxes the fishermen heavily on the petrol which they use in their boats. The petrol tax is imposed substantially for revenue purposes, and also to provide funds for the construction of roads ; but that tax is imposed in its full weight upon the fishermen, who do not use the roads at all. It appears to be unreasonable for the Government to tax them on their petrol in the circumstances, without giving them at least some compensating allowance.
– What about airmen ?
– Possibly a good case could be made out in their behalf; but, as a portion of the petrol tax is allocated for road construction, special consideration should be shown for the fishermen, who bear the full brunt of the tax on the petrol which they have to buy. I rose particularly to enter an emphatic protest against the embarrassment which the present procedure is imposing On the committee. Before we authorize expenditure on additions and new works, we ought to be satisfied that the general administration of the department, and the policy pursued by the Government, have our approval. That stage having been reached, we could then deal with the incidental question as to whether the particular works under consideration should be approved. If the Minister is not ready to give an outline of the general principles of the policy of the Government, stating whether it intends to grant a bounty to the fishing industry, to relieve it from taxation, or to assist in the development of the canning and other phases of the industry, making it not entirely dependent on the consumption of fresh fish as at the present time, the committee should be given that information before we pass this item. All along the extensive coastline of Australia there appear to be opportunities for the development of the industry in such a way as to establish settled communities - perhaps not large in number - which would populate the empty and vulnerable parts of this continent.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has asked several pertinent questions about the Government’s intentions in regard to the fishing industry. He asked, among other things, for information as to the fund from which Dr. Thompson’s remuneration was to be taken. His surmise that it is from the amount of £3,422 for “ fisheries investigations which appears on page 17 of the Estimates, is quite correct.
– Then I suppose the research work of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research will not he any more extensive this year than it was last year?
– I would not say that.
– The money is not being provided for it, for £1,500 was provided last year, and only £3,000 is provided this year, of which £1,000 will be required for Dr. Thompson’s services.
– Quite a lot of money is being expended in other directions.
– But not for investigations into the fishing industry.
– I do not know that I can give better information to the committee as to the intentions of the Government and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in this connexion, than to direct the attention of honorable members to a statement made on the subject some time ago by Sir David Rivett, Chief Executive Officer of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Sir David said -
Quite recently the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research lias been instructed by the Commonwealth Government to take charge of this work, and I am sure you will be glad of an assurance that there is no intention of merely repeating past effort. There i9 not, for example, to be any further search made for trawling grounds. Existing knowledge in that direction must suffice for the present. Sea work will be restricted to what are called “ pelagic “ fish, meaning the species which wim freely at the surface, from which a great proportion of the supplies of other countries is drawn. We have still to learn much about the occurrences, seasonal migrations, breeding habits, Ac, of our varieties. Even i» the old-established fishing grounds of Europe intensive studies of this kind are continuously carried on.
He went on to say - -The planning of this vessel, which is to be built in Australia, is not at all an easy matter, for conflicting advices are given to us by authorities in different places.
He added that -
The vessel’s work will be intimately linked up with practical work on shore. Apart from marine biological studies, which will be carried out with university assistance, the main lines to be followed will deal with preservation and transport of edible fish and the preparation of fish meal. At the moment negotiations are being concluded between the New South Wales Department of Agriculture, the Meat Commissioner at the Homebush Abattoir in Sydney, and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research for the conversion of certain buildings at Homebush into laboratories, refrigeration chambers, and so forth. Under the joint auspices of these three, and, we hope, of leading firms in the fruit, meat, end fish trades, work will be carried on along the most modern lines under the supervision of Dr. J. R. Vickery, and a group of keen young men, most of whom have been trained abroad as well as in Australia. Additions will be made to this staff by the usual Council for Scientific und Industrial Research method, based on successful experience,1 of securing first-class graduates from our universities and sending them to Britain and America for further training. Two such studentships are at present being advertised. There ‘is no need for me to burden you with a lengthy statement of our plans; nor is it wise to attempt any prodiction of the course, let alone the results, of such work. Throughout, the fullest use will be made of existing knowledge. Whether the investigations will result in fish consumption in Australia increasing from 14 lb. per head per annum to the 40 lb. of Britain, or even the 25 of New Zealand, depends upon many other factors than those which the present investigations seek to control; but the opportunities presented to private enterprise should be materially increased.
That is a fairly succinct statement of the intentions of the council.
The Leader of the Opposition referred to the fact that fishermen were required to pay the full tax on the petrol that they use. On several occasions efforts have been made by various Ministers for Trade and Customs to devise a means to grant immunity from the tax on at least the petrol used by the fishermen in their fishing work; but no satisfactory method has so far been discovered. This subject is at present, however, receiving the consideration of the Government.
Several of the matters referred to by the Leader of the Opposition fall almost entirely within the province of the State governments, as I think he will admit; and this makes it quite impossible for the Commonwealth properly to deal with them. I assure the honorable gentleman that a sincere effort is being made to assist the fishing industry to establish itself in the important place that it should occupy in a country with such a long coastline as Australia has.
– -Has the Minister any information as to the amount of petrol tax that fishermen contribute; and, if so, will the Government consider granting the fishermen equivalent taxation relief in some other direction ?
– Inquiries are being made on that subject, and X hope that it will be possible to give the honorable member some information on. it at a later date.
.- About seven years ago, an amount of about £50,000 was placed on the Estimates by the Scullin Government to encourage and develop the fishing industry, but Mr. Scullin, who was Treasurer at the time, admitted that he did not think such a large amount could be spent during that financial year. A good many things said during the course of the debate on that occasion are still true to-day. About that time I visited Thursday Island, which was then included in my electorate, and had the good fortune to meet a gentleman named Lang, who was well versed in the fishing industry throughout the world. He was a very interesting person to discuss the subject with, for e had scientific as well as practical knowledge. He was a scientist. He told me a very different story from that told this afternoon by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison). Mr. Lang told me that he did not believe that it would be possible successfully to prosecute the fishing industry on the east coast of Australia, and particularly along the coast of New South Wales, for the reason that the bed of the sea within * short distance of the coast was nearly as rugged as the surface of the country a few miles inland. He thought that the rocks at the bottom of the sea would destroy the nets, and that, even if they did not, the sharks, which were present in thousands in those waters, would tear the nets to pieces as the fish were being trawled. This, in his opinion, would prevent successful trawl-fishing in those waters. There is abundant proof, of course, that plenty of fish exist in the coastal waters of New South Wales, but the expense of catching them would be too great. Mr. Lang said that he hoped that if the government of the day brought a commission to Australia to investigate the Joshing industry, it would cause the research to be conducted in the southern waters of Australia, where probably the bed of the ocean would be more suitable for trawling. He was definitely of the opinion that there were many men in Australia quite capable of doing the necessary exploratory work. He held the view that, although it remained to be proved whether fishing on a large scale could be successfully done in the southern waters of Australia, it was definitely unlikely that any success would be achieved in the waters off the coast of New South Wales and Queensland, where the presence of numerous sharks and also the existence of a rough ocean bed would be almost insuperable handicaps. Nets cost too much to be subjected to almost certain destruction by use in such waters. Mr. Lang did not think there was any need to bring experts to Australia to make investigations, because obviously it would not matter how many fish were in the sea if sharks and rocks made it impossible to secure them by trawling. He was also of the opinion that it was a matter for Commonwealth rather than State action. I believe that it would be impracticable to make a proper allocation of expenditure to the States to enable exploratory work of this kind to be done. However, if the Government goes to work in the right way, something useful may be achieved. We ought to encourage the people of Australia to eat more fish, and if we can market our own fish, we shall make it unnecessary for the people of Australia to spend large sums on imported fish of one kind and another. It is indisputable that the Australian waters are rich in fish of many kinds, but it does not seem to occur to many people that the migratory habits of fish need to be studied to enable consistently successful fishing to be done. Undoubtedly, a good purpose will be served if we can develop our fishing industry, but the necessary work could be done by many competent Australians. 6 till, if Dr. Thompson achieves success in this undertaking, the expenditure incurred in bringing him here will have been justified.
– I do not know where we are heading in regard to the control of our fishing industry, but I am convinced that the time has arrived for a clear understanding to be obtained between the Commonwealth and the State governments as to the controlling authority. On the 8 th October last, a royal commission appointed by the Government of South Australia, presented to the government of that State the last of its three reports on the fishing industry. We now have a proposal before us that the Commonwealth Government should import a gentleman from Newfoundland to make another investigation.
– He is to be brought to Australia to conduct the whole of the Commonwealth Government’s operations in the fishing industry.
– He will have an easy job, for the Commonwealth’s operations are nil. Not many years ago, a Danish expert was employed by the Commonwealth Government to advise it on the development of the Australian fishing industry, but unfortunately he was lost at sea in a government-owned vessel on which he was engaged at the time. A little earlier than that, Australia was visited by a delegation of practical fishermen from Scotland, who, we were told, would turn the whole country upside down, but very little happened. It will be seen, therefore, that the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) was justified in saying that trawling conditions would be entirely different in Australian waters from those that obtain in the North Sea and in the North Atlantic waters, on account of the huge marine monsters that inhabit our seas. Another point that seems to have been overlooked is that the fishing industry of a country is dependent very largely on the sea-going habits of its people.
It is unlikely that a big fishing industry will be developed in a country where the people are not naturally of sea-going habits. Australia is inhabited by people who prefer the land. Even the Britishers who come here try to get as far away from the sea as possible An investigation in South Australia showed that the man-power engaged in the industry is annually becoming dominated by a foreign element, particularly Italian, and that our own British people are not taking to the sea as a means of earning a livelihood. From what I have heard, this would appear to be equally true in respect of the other States. As one or two honorable members have pointed out, it is a rather precarious and hazardous way of earning a living, and it is not amenable to the industrial and tariff ideals, which have been prevalent in Australia for so many years. Fishing as a means of livelihood in any country does not provide a fortune and, consequently, there is no great attraction to Australian people to embark upon it as an avocation.
Some honorable members referred to the high price of fish. The inquiry held in South Australia disclosed that prices were not unduly high, considering local conditions. In that State we have a fair supply of fish. According to the royal commission, the main difficulty is due to taking close inshore fish whilst sufficient attention is not being paid to fish outside the immediate vicinity of the mainland and islands. In effect, we have not at any time gone seriously into the matter of deep-sea fishing. As the Minister has not remarked upon the point, I do not know whether it is the intention of the Commonwealth Government to go into this matter, but I am of the opinion that it should not do so.
– This provision i» proposed purely for the investigation of surface fish.
– In that case its trawlers would have to go seawards, and if the Commonwealth intends to undertake such work it might just as well give attention to deep-sea fishing. I do not think it is the duty of this Government to embark on such work. It should act solely as the repository of scientific knowledge gained, in relation te the fishing industry.
– That is exactly what is proposed.
– One of the points dealt with by the royal commission, which inquired into the industry in South Australia, related to the price of fish and the marketing of fish, particularly as to whether it would not be better to establish State-owned fish markets in place of the privately-owned markets now operating in that State.’ The fifth conclusion arrived at by this commission stated -
In existing circumstances no tangible advantage would bc gained by the abolition of the privately-owned and operated markets or by the establishment of a market either owned or managed by thu State. We do not consider that any radical alteration of existing conditions would benefit cither consumers or fishermen.
That recommendation was made only twelve months ago, so it should be valuable to-day. The main point which this Government should consider in respect of the industry as a whole is that we cannot have a fishing industry unless we have a seafaring population. We have not got such a population, and we have no prospects in that direction.
Dealing with the point raised in connexion with the petrol tax, I point out that the quantity of petrol used in the fishing industry would be merely a small fraction of 1 per cent, of the total petrol used in Australia. The equipment of craft iB entirely a matter for the owners themselves. No fisherman is obliged to have a petrol engine. He may have no engine at all or, instead of using a petrol engine, he may prefer a diesel engine, which can be operated at about one-fifth of the cost of a petrol engine.
– The original cost of a diesel engine is considerably more than the cost of a petrol engine.
– I am aware of that fact, but the diesel engine lasts longer and is more economical than the petrol engine in every way. Consequently, I am satisfied that no good will be done by inquiring into hair-splitting points of this kind; neither will any advantage result therefrom either to fishermen or to consumers of fish. This matter resolves itself into two compartments: first, a small one in which the Commonwealth Government should do the scientific work ; and, secondly, one in which the work of developing the fishing industry should be left to private enterprise.
– I have dealt with the fishing industry on two or three previous occasions. It appears to me that the two distinct phases of this industry have been confused in this discussion. I agree that this Government should spend money on scientific investigations in connexion with all industries. It has already done a great deal in this direction in the fishing industry. Tho information obtained is not up to date, but within the last ten years, probably hundreds of thousands of pounds have been spent by the Commonwealth Government, through its Development Branch, on this industry. Much matter has been typed and printed and maps have been drawn up picturing the coast of Australia, and indicating the locations of fish of various types and also dealing with their habits. If investigations into the fishing are limited in any direction, we shall not make real progress. As the Minister has pointed out, a tender has been accepted by the Melbourne Harbour Trust for the construction of the proposed vessel, the work now being in the hands of a builder. Reports resulting from investigations by the Development Branch during the last six or seven years, on which much money has been spent, still remain pigeon-holed, although effect could be given to them immediately, and the result of work now being done by Sir David Rivett and his students will probably be ready in the near future. The point I emphasize, however, is that the Commonwealth Government should give practical assistance immediately to the men now struggling in the fishing industry. The investigation now proposed, which I have no doubt will be put into practical effect eventually, will bring about the establishment of a big fishing industry, but this phase of the matter has nothing whatever to do with the problem of relieving the 7,000 or 8,000 fishermen now trying to earn a living by fishing in Australian waters. The new industry which the Government visualizes will be established and operated probably by large capitalised companies with modern trawlers, and such a development will be a good thing. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) will agree that what the Government now visualises is a big new industry; something comparable to the industries now operating in Newfoundland, Canada, Alaska, England and other countries. We are hopeful that such a development will take place, but, in the meantime, I ask the Government to do something to help fishermen who are already trying to make a living in the industry. Some time ago the Commonwealth collaborated with the States in an effort to give a certain amount of relief to these fishermen. As has been suggested, it is a matter in which the Commonwealth and States should cooperate. I have been asked by the fishermen to advocate the erection and improvement of havens around the Australian coast. As the result of the unusually rough weather, which has prevailed during the last three or four years, this phase of the matter is a burning question with fishermen generally. In some of the storms which occurred in this period, numerous fishermen lost their entire kit. I took this matter up with the Treasurer, who conferred on it with the States, and I understand that the Commonwealth Government agreed to make available money to the States to afford relief to these men. I repeat that the scheme now proposed will not give any particular relief in this direction, and I impress upon the Minister, that in conjunction with scientific investigation, a good deal of which has already been done, the Commonwealth Government should pay attention at once, in collaboration with the States, to helping the fishermen who are now struggling in the industry. Fishermen generally will benefit from the scientific investigation now proposed, but in the meantime many of them have to live. Probably there will always be a number of small fishermen with their own boats who will continue to engage in close shore fishing, even after a big fishing industry has been established. I repeat that there are two phases of this industry - First, the Government should continue to send out ships to make investigations, and, secondly, consideration should be given to the establishment of cold storage, the improvement of havens and the encouragement of private enterprise to invest in the industry. Again I appeal to honorable members to pay some attention to the plight of thousands of fishermen in Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania, who have already asked for assistance. They have a fairly big organization, they issue periodical publications in all of the States and their secretary has been in touch, with all political parties in this House, asking for much needed relief.
Taking into consideration the paucity of our population, the number of men engaged in the industry compares with the number who earn their living in the industry in other countries. I think that the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) will agree with that statement. There are many more Englishmen and Australians than Italians and Greeks engaged in the industry. This will be found to be the case at such ports as Portarlington and all around the coast, not excepting South Australia.
– Does the honorable member say that there are more Britishers than foreigners engaged in this industry?
– I suggest that the honorable member read the report of the royal commission which, inquired into the industry in South Australia.
– In spite of that report, which I have not read, I believe I am safe in saying that two-thirds of those engaged in catching and transporting fish to markets on the coast of Australia are Australians or Britishers. I am aware that there are many Italians engaged in the industry in Tasmania. I have seen these men at work, and have watched them smoking fish under most unhygienic conditions. However, the great majority of fishermen in Australia are Britishers or Australians and they have every claim to relief from this Government.
I support the expenditure of this money on the purchase of a vessel with the object of developing the industry. An investigation of the nature proposed should be carried out enthusiastically, because I believe that Australian waters abound with fish, the quality and variety of which are not equalled in any other part of the world. If it is properly developed, the fishing industry should become one of our greatest industries.
– I commend the Government for its decision to foster the fishing industry in Australia, and I also commend the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), and the other honorable members who have spoken on this subject, for their valuable and interesting contributions to the debate. I do not agree with those honorable members who have criticized the action of the Government in appointing Dr. Harold Thompson to the position of Director of Fisheries Research in Australia. Rather do I believe that we should regard ourselves very lucky that Dr. Thompson has accepted the position, particularly as we have proved ourselves incapable of developing our own fisheries. The Government has done the right thing in seeking a man from the other side of the world, where a prosperous fishing industry has been established, despite adverse climatic conditions. I should like to be the first to meet Dr. Thompson on the gangway when he arrives in Australia, and to give him the hand of welcome. I am only sorry that he is not bringing with him 50 sturdy fishermen from the North Atlantic to teach us the art of fishing, because we have undoubtedly demonstrated our incapacity. I know of many people in the interior who crave for fish, and cannot get it. “What is the first thing the man from the outback does when he comes to the city? He goes and has a feed of fish. In the interior there is a large population seeking a fresh-fish diet, and along the coast there are hundreds of thousands who would like to eat fish, but who cannot afford to buy it. We should use this new vessel when it is ready to find out where the fish are, and what are their habits and seasonal migration. We should then concentrate upon the provision of refrigerators, adequate aerial and rail transport, and the use of dry ice to enable the fish to be conveyed inland to the women and children suffering from malnutrition. [Quorum formed.’]
.- This debate has been most helpful and informative, and I hope the Minister will take into consideration the various suggestions which have been made. The importance of the fishing industry may be gauged from the figures quoted by various honorable members, particularly the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) who pointed out that we import into Australia £1,000,000 worth of fish each year, while the value of our local production amounts to no less than £1,275,000. There are 8,400 men actively engaged in the industry, and 4,258 boats are employed. I commend the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) that some relief should be given to fisherman from the payment of petrol tax. During the depression, the fishermen suffered probably more than any other section of the community. They do not use the roads in the course of their employment, and it cannot be argued that they receive any considerable assistance from the Commonwealth Government to justify the collection of this tax on petrol. They are therefore justified in seeking a remission of customs and excise duty on the petrol they use in the course of their work. The Minister has stated that there are difficulties in the way of making such a remission, but I remind him that those difficulties have been overcome in other countries. One has only to study what has been done to assist the fishing industry in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, France, Belgium, Germany and Iceland to understand what a great deal more has yet to he done in Australia. While I recognize that the Commonwealth Government should confine its activities largely to investigation, and to the giving of taxation relief, it could also help by bringing the subject before a conference of Premiers so that an effective policy might be laid down and pursued. I trust that when Dr. Thompson takes charge of investigations, such a long-range policy will be formulated. It is contended that some canned fish is being produced in Australia of a quality equal to anything that can be imported, and those engaged in the industry have complained of the easy entry afforded to imported fish. When the Port Stephens Canning Company asked that Australian tinned fish be used in the Australian Navy, the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill), in reply to the request, stated that it had been decided, after a trial, not to use canned butter ‘ fish in lieu of the tinned fish used at present, but that the article had been noted as a substitute if, for any reason, there was a shortage of some of the imported varieties, lt is estimated that the catches of 100 steam trawlers would be required to increase the Australian consumption of fish from 14 lb. to 95lb. a head. That would lead to the direct employment of an additional 1,100 men and the indirect employment of about 5,400 persons.
In order to develop the industry satisfactorily, it is necessary to provide improved harbour facilities, and although this is essentially a State concern, the Commonwealth could assist by bringing the matter before the Premiers in conference. The representatives of the fishing industry point out that the Federal Government has given assistance to other primary industries, such as dried fruits, wheat and dairying, and they are, therefore, justified in asking for specific assistance for their industry, which gives employment to -nearly 10,000 men on the production side, and sustains nearly 80,000 dependants. Certain investigations into the habits of fish have been conducted by the Governments of New South Wale3 and Queensland, and some success has been achieved, but nothing has y.et been done to solve the problem of supplying fresh fish at a reasonable price to inland settlements all the year round. In western Queensland, as well as in western New South Wales, it is almost impossible to get fresh fish, because the problem has not been tackled in the same scientific way in which it has been met in other countries. The health of the people living in -tropical and sub-tropical parts of Australia would be greatly benefited if adequate supplies of fresh fish could be made available to them. I commend the Government for what it is doing, but it should not be content to let the matter rest here, and I hope to learn that a definite policy for the encouragement and development of the industry is to be formulated when Dr. Thompson takes up his duties.
– I should like, for a moment, to divert attention from the interesting subject of fisheries research, and ask honorable members to consider the more important subject of research into animal diseases. There appears on the Estimates, under the item for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, a sum of £4,150 which, I understand, is to be spent on this work. From the scanty information I have been able to obtain, it appears that the Commonwealth Government, in association with the University of Sydney, has acquired a block of land near St. Mary’s, in my electorate, and proposes to erect thereon certain buildings, either for the purpose of conducting research into animal diseases, or for supplementing the work already being done at the McMaster Institute, in Sydney. I should be pleased if the Minister would state what price was paid for the land, what is the exact nature of the work proposed to be undertaken, what buildings are to be erected, and the number of men it is proposed to engage.
.- Although I am anxious to see everything possible done to develop our fishing industry, I do not see what benefit we arc likely to derive from building this small yacht at a cost of £17,500, and bringing out Dr. Thompson from Newfoundland for a pleasure cruise around the Australian coast. I understand that applications will be called for the position of captain of this vessel. The appointee is to be an Australian, and he will be given a six months’ trip overseas to gain experience, although any one qualified for the position should already have obtained all the experience necessary on the Australian coast. It has been proved that the fish are here in Australian waters in quantities as plentiful as elsewhere. I agree with the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) that we should provide a mother ship, to which the small boats could bring their catches, and in this way it might be possible to make the industry pay. On the Californian coast, a large fishing fleet has been in operation for a number of years. Fishmeal is manufactured and oil is extracted from fish, and there is an unlimited market for these commodities.
The Commonwealth Government should investigate the possibilities of carrying out similar work in Australia on a commercial basis. Between the Straits and the east-coa3t of Tasmania, hundreds of thousands of tons of pilchards and sardines are to be found at certain seasons of the year. They are very choice fish, and in any other part of the world would be caught by trawlers and marketed. In the cold waters of Tasmania, unlimited quantities of the best edible fish are to be obtained. They include the trumpeter and the black perch which are equal to the most palatable fish in any part of the world. Persons who have travelled extensively and examined the fisheries industries in other countries, have told me that other fish do not compare with the trumpeter, which abound in Tasmanian waters. Trawling operations have been carried on in the northern waters of Australia for fish which we know are present there in large quantities ; but fish obtained from tropical seas do not compare with those caught in the cooler southern waters. The new Director of Fisheries, Dr. Thompson, should concentrate his attention on the possibilities of expanding the fishing industry off the southern coast of Australia. Apart from the scale fish, there are also unlimited quantities of shell fish, such as crayfish and lobsters, which could be commercially exploited to great advantage. Up to date the Commonwealth has made little progress in this direction. Last year about £400,000 worth of tinned lobsters, crab and crayfish was imported from other countries. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) appeared to doubt whether Australian fishermen could meet the demands of the home market. In Tasmania there are many hundreds of men who have followed the occupation of fishermen throughout their lifetime, but unfortunately their sons have been obliged to enter other avocations because, I regret to say, the opportunities for marketing their catches are very limited. If these men were able to obtain a reasonable return, which more approached the price which the public pays for its fish, they would be able to earn a good living. The foreigners who are engaged in the trade usually handle the fish after it is caught, and they are the persons who make the big profits by rationing supplies to the public. Figures show that Australians must be the smallest consumers of fish in the world. During my trip overseas, I had the opportunity of visiting, among other countries, northern Russia, and Latvia, and at Riga I saw vats in the markets containing live fish. The purchaser could select any fish which he chose and have it killed and cleaned for him. Thus, he was certain of its being fresh. Such a system could, with advantage, be adopted in Australia. I fail to see that any benefit is to be gained by delaying action which would develop this industry. The Government proposes to construct a vessel at a cost of £17,000, and has engaged an expert at a salary of £1,000 a year for five years, to investigate the possibilities of expanding this industry. In my opinion the expert will require all that time to carry out his work and I hope that it will not be in the nature of a pleasure cruise. Ifthe Government were to subsidize a company to enable it to purchase a mother ship and eight or nine trawlers, to engage in this industry, it would be doing something really practicable. Australia, in this respect, can profit by the experience of other parts of the world, where it is known at what time of the year fish are plentiful, and when they will be drifting in the channels. Such information would surely be of advantage to the Australian trade. We know that there is a market waiting for the whole of the fish caught. At the present time, I think that the Sydney market gets the bulk of its supplies from New Zealand, and it is a travesty that menus on interstate boats and trains in Australia show that the only fish on service is smoked blue cod or kippers. Australian waters contain the best fish in abundant quantities and the sooner we exploit them commercially the better it will be for the industry. [Quorum formed.]
.- Unlike some honorable members, I am not altogether satisfied that the expenditure of this money by the Government on a fisheries vessel is warranted, because it is proposed to assist private enterprise. The fishing industry has been established on the Australian coast for some years, and I consider that the initial step which tha Government should take in this matter is to analyse tho reason why the industry is languishing and why persons engaged in it are finding such difficulty in having ready hauls available for their ships. I was informed by an employee on one of the trawlers that a few years ago it was possible for a boat to put out from Sydney Harbour and in 24 hours return with its holds full of fish. At the present time, however, a boat may be eight or nine days at sea before it has caught its requirements. This employee stated that the persons engaged in the industry itself aro mainly responsible for the depletion of the fishing grounds off the Australian coast, because, he said, despite whatever regulations may be in existence in regard to restricting the catching of undersized fish, they are not being strictly adhered to by the’ fishermen, or enforced by government officials. For that reason many millions of undersized fish are destroyed by boats operating off the Australian coast. This practice has continued for a number of years, and honorable members are well aware of how private industry can operate. It is never concerned to any great extent with tho damage which it may be doing to the fishing grounds so long as it is able to obtain a quick return for the capital invested. If this money is spent on a fisheries vessel by the Government, it is doubtful whether the results would be beneficial to the community.. The new Director of Fisheries, Dr. Thompson, is being brought to Australia at a high salary for a period of five years, and he may make certain recommendations. But of what use are any recommendations unless action is taken to ensure that the people responsible for conducting that industry are adhering to the regulations enforced! The Government has, probably, had representations made to it by interested parties engaged in this industry, who have now found that, due to their own short-sighted policy, the industry is languishing, and hence they now require assistance from the Government to enable them to re-establish it. I desire to know what benefits will be derived by the taxpayers, the workers, who are providing this money for the fisheries vessel. If the Government succeeds in gaining its objective, the advantages will accrue to private enterprise, which operates the industry for private gain. No guarantee is to be given by those engaged in the fishing industry that, in return for tha assistance granted by the Government to enable them to operate successfully, they will bestow benefits on the Australian consumers of fish. There are no guarantees in regard to the regularity of the supply, or of the prices which will prevail on the market. I am not altogether satisfied that the Government is warranted in entering into this expenditure. Before it is prepared to spend the taxpayers’ money, it should first satisfy itself that some return will be given by the industry to the Australian public.
– I notice that a sum of’ money has been set aside to assist the fishing industry, and for once I feel bound to agree substantially with the remarks of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). If money were spent in the various States to protect the fish in their waters, quite a lot of good would thereby be achieved. At certain times of the year, particularly in the spawning season’, portions of the coastal waters of South Australia should be protected from fishermen. In the spawning season I have seen fishermen going into shallow waters, and tying their nets together to make a continuous net up to half a mile in length. In that way they catch all kinds of fish, regardless of their size. If the federal authorities were to assist the States with a grant of money to enable these waters to be policed during the spawning season, some practical advantage would be accomplished. The honorable member for East Sydney stated that a few years ago fishermen could go out from Sydney and return in one or two days with their boats laden with fish. Why cannot they do so to-day t The reason is to be found in the fact that in the spawning season, the fish swim into shallow waters, and are trapped by the lengthy nets used by fishermen. Even the undersized fish are taken. In all the States there should be a strict policing of the shallow waters, in order to protect the fish during the spawning season.
– I listened attentively to the lucid account given by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) in regard to the fisheries around the coast of Australia. I have been acquainted with the fishing industry practically from my infancy. The majority of those who are engaged in trawling in New South Wales come from the district in which I was born. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) has given a clear exposition of the circumstances that exist in Tasmania. There is no co-ordination between the States which would make possible the protection of our fishing grounds by the declaring of a close season while fish are spawning. Each State makes its own regulations, with the result that fishermen can do as they like. The length of net used is not the most important factor. In the Old Country I have seen an unbroken length of two miles of net used without deleterious results. Those who market fish during the spawning season, however, are subject to heavy penalties. If similar action were taken in Australia, beneficial results would accrue not only to the fishermen, but also to the industry as a whole. I admit that Dr. Thompson is probably the most competent authority in the world in regard to the fishing industry. I point out, however, that Australia has the longest coastline of any country, and that the coastline of Newfoundland is no longer than that of the west coast of Tasmania. Even along our coastline the conditions differ materially, those on the coast of Tasmania being entirely dissimilar from those along the coast of northern New South Wales and Queensland. The Government’s first step should be to set up an advisory body consisting of river and deep-sea fishermen in every State. Such a body would be able to place Dr. Thompson in possession of the most reliable information obtainable. Without the assistance which these men can give, it would take him from two years to two and a half years to make himself acquainted with the different conditions that apply along our coast. On the coast of South Australia the majority of those who are engaged in the industry are Italians, who have the advantage of having experienced similar conditions in the Mediterranean. The deep-sea fishermen have come mostly from the north of Scotland and the east coast of England.
The report presented by Sir David Rivettshows that that gentleman is working along right lines. The associations of fishermen on the Clarence River, in Sydney, Tasmania and Victoria, have declared against the appointment of Dr. Thomp son, on the ground that he cannot understand Australian conditions. Unless he has the benefit of consultation with an advisory committee such as I have suggested, the value of his services will be largely discounted. I am pleased that the Government has decided to have a vessel built in Australia. I trust that it will go further and act upon the suggestions that I have made for coordination of effort to prevent destruction during the spawning season, and for the appointment of an advisory committee.
– I shall see that the suggestions made by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden) are brought to the notice of the Minister concerned.
The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) has asked for information in reference to the cost of the land, buildings, &c, of the Animal Health Field Station at St. Mary’s, New South Wales. It appeared to me that he was under the impression that the cost of the land would appear in this year’s Estimates. If honorable members will turn to the third column of division 2, at page 278 of the Estimates, theywill find that the expenditure last year on the item “ Council for Scientific and Industrial Research - Buildings, Works and Sites “, was £7,400. That was the cost of the land purchased for the Animal Health Field Station at St. Mary’s.
– What is the area of it?
– The area is 800 acres. A property of 400 acres, which was formerly leased from Sir Frederick McMaster for an animal health laboratory and sheep genetical investigations, became inadequate for the requirements of those purposes, and it wasnecessary to find a larger and more suitable area for research. A suitable property of 1,200 acres at St. Mary’s, on the Blue Mountains, became available for purchase, and the Sydney University offered to purchase 400 acres of it for its purposes, if the Commonwealth would acquire the remainder. The university also stated that it was probable that it would be able to obtain an endowment for the research station, giving a revenue of £1,000 per annum. Both the 800 acres purchased for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and the 400 acres owned by the Sydney University, will be available for research. The property being so suitable, and the sharing of the cost by the university being a strong consideration, the Commonwealth finally decided to- acquire the property while the offer remained open. If honorable members will turn to the first column of item 2 of division 2 of this year’s Estimates, they will find provision for an expenditure of £23,850. Of this amount, the sum of £3,580 is for buildings on the Animal Research Station at St. Mary’s; £2,000 is to cover the cost of buildings for the farm manager and scientific officer, and £1,580 is for implements, sub-divisional fencing, sheep yards, and so forth. That leaves a major sum of £20,000, which is being expended on the laboratory in Melbourne, for the division of Animal Health, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. In this connexion, I may say that the accommodation available at the Veterinary Research Institute, Melbourne, is now entirely inadequate, for several reasons. First, the council recently embarked on an exhaustive investigation into the problem of contagious bovine mastitis; secondly, it has been necessary to transfer certain officers from Townsville to Melbourne, where they can carry out their work under better conditions, and in a locality which is free from infection; and thirdly, there is no suitable laboratory accommodation for Dr. Bull and certain members of his staff. The University of Melbourne offered to make available to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research an area of land in the grounds of the Veterinary Research Institute for the erection of a laboratory, subject to the condition that it should be built under the supervision of the university. This offer has been accepted, for the following reasons: It will provide a centre in which research into animal health problems connected with the dairying industry, and farm animals, as distinct from the pastoral industry, may be conducted; it will provide accommodation in the one place for Dr. Bull and certain of his senior officers, and enable them to maintain close touch with the laboratory work, supervise it efficiently, and take part in it; it will afford space and facilities for the conduct of investigation which can be carried out effectively only in well-equipped laboratories; it will provide accommodation for the administrative staff and the library of the division of animal health, in a place where Dr. Bull and some of his senior officers can be located; and lastly, it will provide a centre for the training of younger research officers and form, a centre for officers who are engaged in field work in other States. I may say that the proposal to establish a laboratory in the grounds of the Melbourne Veterinary Research Institute is on the same lines as were followed with respect to the McMaster Animal Health Laboratory and the Animal Nutrition Laboratory which have been erected in the grounds of the universities of Sydney and Adelaide. The cost of the laboratory in Melbourne will be £20,000, and this makes up the total vote of £23,850, the £3,850 being for the buildings at St. Mary’s. The amount of £7,400, which is shown as having been spent last year, represents the cost of the 800 acres of land acquired at St. Mary’s.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote - Department of the Treasury - £6,365, agreed to.
Department of the Interior.
Proposed vote, £399,594.
– I should like an explanation of the proposal to expend £6,530 on “ GovernorGeneral’s establishments - Non-recurring works “. Almost every year considerable sums aTe set aside for this purpose. The allocation of an additional £6,530 for the establishments of the Governor-General is out of all proportion to the amount of £20,000 provided in another column for loan3 for the construction of houses for the people of the Federal Capital Territory. Will the Minister inform the committee precisely what the £6,530 is required for, and, can he show that the expenditure is warranted? Although I have never visited Government House, Canberra, I have always understood that the Governor-General had a comfortable residence, and that his housing conditions are much superior to those of most Australian citizens.
.- Is the Minister able to say how the £200,000 to be paid to the credit of the War Service Homes Trust Account is to be expended? I have recently made representations on behalf of certain returned soldiers in my electorate, who desire assistance in the building of war service homes, but they are unable to obtain the funds required. They have been advised that it is not now the policy of the department to build homes, as it merely disposes of reverted homes and pays off mortgages on other properties. As the depression completely disorganized the building trade, and returned soldiers who had lost their employment found it impossible to obtain advances for the building of homes, what proportion of this vote will be made available for the erection of houses?
– Most of the amount of £6,530 referred to by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) will be spent in Sydney at Admiralty House. As honorable members know, the Government of New South Wales some time ago handed over that house to the Commonwealth. It was in a bad state of repair, and required considerable expenditure upon it to make it again habitable. This vote includes an amount of £4,730, of which £4,431 is for renovations at Admiralty House. At Government House, Canberra, the comparatively small expenditure of £293 will be incurred, and £96 is provided for fencing and electrical installations, which make up the total of £4,730. This leaves £1,800 unaccounted for, and this amount is to be spent on the erection of quarters at Government House, Canberra, for the accommodation of the police officer, and for minor services which may be required during the year.
The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) drew attention to the vote of £200,000 which appears as the last item under the Department of the Interior. This sum includes £28,000 for loans to purchasers of war service homes to enable them to connect their premises with the sewerage system and to discharge sewerage costs. The other items are £38,000 for loans to purchasers to provide extra accommodation, and £4,000 for renovations to homes of purchasers who are unable to maintain the properties as provided under the War Service Homes Act. Of the remaining £130,000, £50,000 is for loans for the erection of new homes, and the other £80,000 is for loans for the acquisition of existing properties, including the discharge of onerous mortgages.
– For the erection of a memorial at Canberra to His late Majesty King George V., £8,500 is provided. What is the nature of the memorial, and where will it be erected?
Mr. PATERSON (Gippsland- Minister for the Interior) [5.24). - On the 10th March last, it was decided to erect a memorial to the late King George V. at Canberra, and to invite three Australian sculptors - Paul Montford, W. L. Bowles and G. Raynor Hoff - to submit preliminary drawings. The Government in inviting the selected sculptors to forward designs for the memorial, set out for their guidance, the following details, among others, to be observed in connexion with the completion of the sculptural and architectural work : -
The main feature of the memorial will be a statue or group of statuary in bronze, the prominent subject to be a statue of King George V. in state robes and without head dress, standing on a pedestal, with inlaid basrelief bronze panels on each face or as otherwise suggested by the sculptor.
The bas-relief panels to be of a nature to symbolize -
The association of the late King with the birth and the first twenty-five years of federation.
) The growth of the idea of empire unity as a commonwealth of nations owing allegiance to one sovereign.
By means of panels or bas-reliefs associated with the statuary commemorating the main events of Australia’s national life, such as, for instance, the first federal convention, the King as Duke of York opening the first Federal Parliament, Australia’s participation in the Great War, the present Duke at York opening the first Parliament at Canberra.
Granite to be used for the main pedestal and fundamental work of design. Hardstone may be used for steps or other sub-structure, or other architectural features.
The superstructure will include the principal feature of the memorial, viz: a statue of King George V. with panels of a symbolic nature, as previously mentioned, inlaid in base of pedestal or where otherwise designed.
The sculptor, in submitting his design, should also submit a typed statement giving the estimated cost of the full-sized design in plaster with duplicate, and also the estimated cost of casting in bronze by an approved foundry in England. The sculptor should also state, as faras possible, the time anticipated for the delivery of the completed bronze work at Canberra.
The sculptor to be responsible for the proper completion of the whole of the monument, and for the payment of all expenses incurred in the erection of same, in accordance with these conditions.
The drawings, designs and models submitted including all rights thereto or therein will become the property of the Commonwealth Government.
The accepted design may bc subject to modification on terms to be agreed upon.
The sculptor entrusted to carry out the work in conjunction with an architect approved of by the Government will be responsible for any payment to thearchitect or any other person or persons who may assist him.
The sculptor must arrange with bis architect to provide without any extra charge all necessary detailed or full-sized drawings and supervision during the erection of the architectural portion.
The sum of £20,000was approved as the total expenditure to be incurred in erecting the memorial, including the sculptural and architectural work. It was laid down in the conditions that one-third of the cost would be paid to the sculptor as soon as his design was accepted. The vote of £8,500 which appears in the Estimates covers one-third of the sum of £20,000, plus a relatively small amount. Fees are also to be paid to each sculptor who provides designs, whether they be accepted or not. A small sum is also to be voted to cover expenses incidental to the ceremony of laying the foundation stone.
-Where will the memorial be erected?
– On the lawn in front of Parliament House.
.- I am surprised to hear that only £50,000 is to be allocated for the erection of war service homes. Within the last twelve months, eight or nine returned soldiers have brought applications for w.ar service homes to me to refer to the department Some time ago, the department decided, I understand, that it ‘would not build any more homes, as the Government had intimated that no more money could be made available for the purpose until the Works Estimates wore passed; but the Minister must be aware that in every capital city of the Commonwealth the scarcity of houses is causing considerable concern. If only £50,000 is made available this year for the erection of war service homes, obviously many men will be unable to obtain loans.
– A fair number of homes is already available.
– Unfortunately, many war service homes are to-day rented to and occupied by men who did not see active service. Moreover, many of the homes in the hands of the department are in such a condition of disrepair that no one will pay the price asked for them by the department. The faulty construction of numerous houses built under the contract system has militated against the effective use of the buildings. I know of a house in my own electorate which is falling into two pieces. One part of it is built on a rock foundation and the other on sand. I sincerely hope that in the future all war service homes will be built under strict departmental supervision. This branch of repatriation work should not be limited by the voting of an insufficient sum of money. It is unhappily true that unemployment or only casual employment impairs the ability of many returned men to pay the rents required by the War Service Homes Commission. It is deplorable that in such circumstances war service homes that Bhould be occupied by returned men are in the possession of people who did not go to the war. I urge the Government to make a larger amount of money available under this heading.
– I am glad to note that an amount of £18,564 is being provided for the completion of the Commonwealth Offices at Anzacsquare, Brisbane. It is most gratifying that the Government is completing this block of buildings. Honorable members who know Brisbane well must often, have been glad that the buildings surrounding Anzac-square are uniform in design. Those on one side were erected by the State Government and those on the other by the Commonwealth Government. The Commonwealth building, which extends from Adelaidestreet towards Ann-street for about half the full distance, is the block which will be completed by the expenditure of this money. Unfortunately, at the Ann-street end of this building, there is a most unsightly galvanized-iron wall.
– I have seen it.
– Then I do not need to describe it to the Minister. I sincerely hope that the Commonwealth Government will do its best to remove or minimize this disfigurement. We should like to see the building completed right to Ann-street, but if that cannot be done at present. I trust that, the galvanized-iron wall will at least be painted.
– I can assure the honorable member that that at least will be done.
.- An amount of £120,000 is provided under division 6 of the Works Estimates for “ Expenditure under River Murray Waters Act 1915-34.” The explanation given by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) yesterday, why only £83,000 had been spent of the £120,000 voted under this heading last year, was not satisfactory to me. Why should about one-third of the vote have been left unexpended? I ask the Minister for an assurance that this year the full amount of the vote will be spent. The sooner this work is completed, the sooner will it become fully revenue-producing. While so much unemployment is being suffered by people throughout the Commonwealth, the Government should not allow money voted by the Parliament to remain unexpended. At present, about 300 men near Euston are being given only rationed work. This is not as it should be. I understand that when the river is too high constructional operations cannot be conducted satisfactorily, and a full complement of men cannot be employed, but at present all these, men could be given full-time work, and I request that that be done. We were told yesterday that this job was largely inline control of the State governments, but as the Commonwealth Government provides 25 per cent, of the money required for the work, it should insist that the men employed on it be given full-time work. It would appear that the government is “going slow” in the carrying out of this work.
– The honorable member may rest assured that that is not so.
– Then why was only two-thirds of the money voted last year actually expended? I hope that the whole amount voted will be expended this year on this great national undertaking.
– I should like an explanation of the item “ Meteorological buildings, erection of, £13,000 “. Where are these buildings to be placed?
.- Unless the Government can give us an assurance from the records of the department that £50,000 will be fully sufficient to erect all the new war service homes’ that are likely to be applied for in this financial year, the criticism of the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy), that the proposed vote is too small, is fully justified. I suppose ail honorable members have had complaints made to them by individual returned soldiers that they have been unable to obtain an advance for the purpose of building a war service home. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has, on several occasions, given au assurance that all the money necessary for the building of war service homes will be made available. In his last policy speech he said that, if the Ministry were returned to office, it would initiate housing and forestry projects in co-operation with the State governments. The electors were led to believe that the return of the Government would ensure that a comprehensive national housing scheme would be put in hand. Instead of that being the case, the Government is actually limiting the amount of money to be made available for building war service homes. As the houses that will be built in the big cities must be of brick, we may safely assume that the average cost of a new war service home during this financial year will be about £750, which means that £50,000 will provide only about 66 new homes. Are we to assume that this number will meet the demands of all the returned men throughout Australia requiring home3? I should be amazed to know that this would be the aase.
.- I ask the Government to give some consideration to the necessity to set up a committee to investigate the administration of the War Service Homes Department. Serious complaints have come to probably all honorable members that certain returned men have been unable to obtain advances for the erection of the homes for which they have applied. As an honorable member opposite has said, there are, to-day, many men occupying war service homes who did not see active service. Many returned men are to-day unable to meet the payments required by the War Service Homes Commission. l t is essential, in my opinion, that both the capital cost and the periodical payments for war service homes should be reduced, for to-day many returned men are earning little more than the basic wage. The stress and strain of the war has undoubtedly impaired their capacity. This is being revealed more and more clearly as the years go hy. Recently, the rentals of some war service homes have been increased from 12s. 6d. to 20s. a week. I should like to know the reason for this sudden jump. From my personal contact with returned men I can assure the Government that there is urgent need to reconsider the present administrative policy of the War Service Homes Department, and a sub-committee of Cabinet, or a select committee of honorable members should be set up for this purpose. If the average price of war service homes of the type now being constructed is likely to be £750 in this financial year, as suggested by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), we should find some means to reduce the capital cost of the houses, so that the periodic payments may be correspondingly lower. It would be much better if the Government built lower-priced houses, which would give these men an opportunity to secure a house at. a rental of, say, 12s. 6d. a week. [Quorum formed.] I understand that the Labour
Government in Queensland has erected a number of houses at a cost of from £400 to £500, in order that they could be let to men on low wages. I recall that, during the last session, the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden) elaborated on this scheme. It is undeniable that the war service homes administration needs to be re-adjusted in order that men who are failing in health, and are unable to earn comparatively high wages, may be enabled to benefit from its building scheme. I cannot understand why we acknowledge the necessity to provide pensions for sustenance, and, at the same time, refuse to attend to the problem pf housing people who are in need. These people are worth looking after, and I hope that the Government will’ adopt the housing policy which I have advocated.
.- I listened to the remarks of the Minister regarding the proposal to erect a statue as a memorial to the late King George V. I contend that, in our generation, it would be more fitting if we devoted this money to some object which would be of benefit to humanity. I suggest, for instance, that as a memorial to the late King, a hospital should be erected in Canberra, as has already been done at Southwick, England. A hospital would be of real benefit to residents of this city, and would also arouse the admiration of visitors. The Ansae Memorial in Hyde Park, Sydney, which cost £100,000, is a standing disgrace to the architecture of this country. Every one who views it exclaims in wonderment, “What is this?” A structure of this kind would be a disgrace to any city. Surely a sum so large as £100,000 could have been spent more effectively! I point out that the present hospital at Canberra is a disgrace to the national capital. A modern hospital would provide a fitting memorial to the late King; it would be more in harmony with the times, and would not only be of benefit to the people but would also be attractive to visitors. Certainly it would be a memorial of a more substantial nature than a statue. I hope that the Governnent, even at this late hour, will reconsider this matter. Modern memorials are usually built to serve some humane purpose; they are of bene- fit to the living, and this idea is much preferable to erecting cold, marble statues which one can only gaze upon. Surely we are modern enough to realize that fact. I suggest that if a hospital costing about £50,000 were erected in Canberra as a memorial to the late King, we would be doing something more befitting his memory than by spending £20,000 on a statue as is now proposed. The Anzac Memorial in Hyde Park is nothing more than a huge barn, and I am of opinion that the money spent on it was completely wasted.
– That is a matter of opinion; I have heard very favorable remarks made about it.
– When I was a member of the Sydney City Council I took some titled visitors to look at that memorial and they ridiculed it; they were of opinion that it- was of no architectural value whatever. I urge the Government to give consideration to my suggestion that a hospital should be erected in Canberra as a memorial to the late King; such a memorial would be of benefit to those now living and to generations to come.
.- For some time past, I have endeavoured to persuade the Minister lately in charge of War Service Homes to visit Adelaide to receive a deputation from the Municipal and District Councils Association. Although he visited Adelaide on two occasions, once while passing through from Western Australia, and again at the time the Premiers Conference was held at that city, the Minister, unfortunately, was unable to meet this deputation. He arranged for the Commissioner for War Service Homes to be in Adelaide to receive it, but I have received much correspondence which makes it clear that the fact that the Commissioner received that deputation does not meet with the wishes of the association. It wants io see a Minister, and I therefore ask the new Minister in charge of War Service Homes to visit Adelaide at an early date for that purpose.
Dealing with war service homes generally, the position in South Australia dees net appear to be in the chaotic condition which some honorable members claim to exist in other States. Occupants of these homes in South Australia are suffering many disabilities, but the administration in that State is very sympathetic, with the result that there are not so many evictions as there appear to be elsewhere. The fact that the other States have larger populations than South Australia may account for many of the difficulties described. Every case which I have placed before the Minister, or the Commissioner, has received sympathetic consideration.
– I have been very interested in the erection of the new building for Commonwealth Government offices in Brisbane. As a matter of fact, the first question which I asked in this House upon my election to Parliament, dealt with this matter. The Commonwealth Government has at least made an honest attempt to erect a very fine edifice in Brisbane. It seems to me, however, to be a great pity, and I have heard quite a number of Brisbane people comment adversely on the fact, that it has not seen its way clear to build along the full length of its property at Anzac Square The new building is a wonderful structure, and it is adjacent to one of the best parks in Queensland, but, fronting Annstreet, near the railway station, a tin shack, apparently, is to be left standing alongside it. This is to be deplored.
– Is the building on Commonwealth land ?
– Yes, but it occupies only part of the block. I understand that the building occupies the whole frontage to Adelaide-street, but does not run the full depth of the block to Ann-street. I had hoped that when the Government decided to erect Commonwea’th offices on this block, it would make the building occupy the whole of the site, so that all Commonwealth Departments in Brisbane might be housed in the one building. However, I have been given to understand by the Works Director, whose department is already occupying the top floor, that there will not be sufficient room in the completed building to house all Commonwealth Departments. At the present time, these Departments are housed in various parts of the city, iu buildings rented from private landlords. Had the building in Anzacsquare been made large enough, it could have accommodated all of them and the Government would have been saved the rent it is now paying for private premises. I trust that the Minister for the Interior will, at the earliest possible date, go fully into this matter, with a view to abolishing the present tin-roofed shack which is spoiling Anzac-square. so that the new building may be extended right through to Annstreet.
– The honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) asked for information regarding the allocation for funds for a meteorological building. It will interest him to know that the item of £13,000 appearing on the Estimates is for a new meteorological building in Brisbane. The building is to be erected on the site of the existing building in Wickham-terrace, and, when it is completed, it may help to solve the problem of providing accommodation foa1 Commonwealth Departments. It is expected that the sum of £13,000 will cover the entire co9t of erecting the new building, and for providing the necessary engineering services.
The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) asked why only £83,000 has been spent of £120,000 allocated last year for works on the Murray River. When he raised the question upon a former occasion, I mentioned, as one of the reasons why the full amount had not been expended, that the continuity of the work had from time to time been interrupted by flooding of the river. However, there is an even more important reason why the money was not expended, a reason which I overlooked in my previous reply. It was expected last year that a considerable sum of money would be paid out for the resumption of land in the neighbourhood of the Hume Reservoir, but the negotiations have been unusually protracted, and very little of this money was actually paid over during last financial year. This accounts for a large part of the £37,000 of the vote which remained unexpended at the end of the year. It is expected, that the full amount of £120,000 appearing on the Estimates this year will be actually expended. It remains true, however, that work in the Yarrawonga section was held up owing to flooding, in addition to which it was found impossible to work three shifts a day in another section, because the nature of the foundation necessitated the making of extensive tests. Another point is that comparatively large sums were received for the sale of plant, and this money was spent on construction work during the year.
.- I should like to know what precautions are taken by the Department of the Interior to ensure that men employed by contractors on government works are paid their wages. A little while ago, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) mentioned iu this Parliament that wages owing by J. A. Harrison of Sydney to his workmen had not been paid.
– The money has since been paid in full.
– Yes, the day after the protest was made in this chamber. This same contractor is the successful tenderer for certain works at Admiralty House, in Sydney, and I should be glad to know what hours and conditions of labour will be enforced, and whether any precaution has been taken to ensure that the workmen are paid. Honorable members on this side of the House realize the need for such precautions so long as the Government persists in its foolish policy of having public works done by contract.
– As I stated by way of interjection, the case referred to by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) of the non-payment of wages by a Sydney contractor has since been satisfactorily settled. I assure the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) that everything possible is done by the Department of the Interior to ensure that workmen employed by contractors on government works receive their wages. Contractors must lodge a deposit before being given the contract, the money so deposited is used to pay workmen who have not received their wages. Indeed, that is one important reason for requiring that a deposit be made.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Defence
Proposed vote, £1,117,772.
.- There are a few items upon which I desire some information from the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill). One relates to naval construction, division 8, the vote for which is £599,000. I should like the Minister to give the committee some detailed explanation as to how this expenditure is made up, and I should like to know whether he will give an assurance that all the expenditure under this heading will be incurred in Australia in order to give preference in employment to Australian workmen and as far as possible to use Australian materials. The defence of Australia is bound up in its ability to be selfreliant. There is another item on page $80, division 14, “ Provision of and plane and seaplane equipment and plant, including spare parts, machinery, tools, ordnance and engineering supplies and ammunition,” the proposed vote for which is £349,129. In the course of his speech on defence in this House last week, the Minister said that an “order had been placed., particularly for the purchase of modern armaments for the defence of Newcastle.” He also said that aircraft from overseas is still awaited by the Government, but he proceeded to state that eventually the aircraft industry would be- established in Australia. I should like him to elaborate on this subject. Does the Government intend to commence the manufacture of aircraft itself? He might also be able Jb inform the committee where the aero.planes are to be constructed, because he stated confidently that he expected that they will be built in Australia. On page 280, there appears an item “Arms, armament and ammunition, £502,038.” Will the Minister explain what is covered by this division; also, will the manufacture of arms, armaments and ammunition provided for in this division take place in Australia? The Opposition has very definite views in regard to the manufacture of arms.
– They should be made in government workshops.
– That is so. The attitude of the Federal Labour party that armaments should be manufac tured in government factories was reaffirmed at the last conference of the Labour party, which was held in Adelaide, and at which it was unanimously decided that the complete control of war materials of all descriptions should be vested entirely in the Commonwealth Government in order to obviate the possibility of profiteering in the manufacture of armaments. It is considered of vital importance by the Opposition that the manufacture of armaments should be carried on exclusively in factories controlled by the Commonwealth Government. Doubtless, the Minister will be able to enlighten the committee upon that matter and thus allay the anxiety which is felt by honorable members of the Opposition.
On page 281, under the heading of “ Civil Aviation,” I notice a division, “Buildings and works, £8,000,” which shows an increase of £4,500 compared with last year’s expenditure. The Minister might explain the reason for this increase. Can the honorable gentleman also say whether he has been able to reconsider his attitude in regard to the numerous applications that are made to him in his capacity as Minister for Defence to make available grants of money to assist in the preparation of aerodromes in country centres throughout Australia? I know that there are places like Gladstone, which has a very fine port, capable of accommodating the entire Australian Fleet. Residents of that town have asked tho Minister to make available money for the construction of an aerodrome there, and similar requests have been made from towns in other parts of Australia. In my opinion, money could be spent with advantage in this direction, because it would mean the felling of trees and the clearing and levelling of land, thus absorbing much of the expenditure in the employment of labour. I hope that the Minister will elucidate the matters that I have mentioned.
– While replying to the requests which have been made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), I think that I shall be able at the same time to afford considerable information which may be of some guidance to the committee in discussing these items in connexion with the Department of Defence.
The first matter mentioned by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred to the vote of £599,210 in connexion with the Navy. I have been asked what avenues of expenditure were included in it, and the purposes for which this money will be spent. The division, it will be observed, relates to naval construction, and the principal item is for a sum of £451,000, which is an instalment on the purchase of the cruiser Sydney. That absorbs a considerable portion of the expenditure. A further sum of £94,000 is to finance the completion of the construction of the sloop Swan, and a further sum of £3,000 is earmarked for the completion of the sloop Tarra. A sum of £50,000 is placed on the Estimates for new construction during the current financial year.
– Where will that new construction take place?
– I shall explain that matter presently. A further item of £55,650 is made up as follows: naval stores, £1,400; ordnance stores, £16,000; and oil fuel, £38,250. These sums are designed mainly to keep up establishments of reserve stocks. Then there is a sum of £4,850 for machinery and plant, which is to provide for increased repair facilities at the naval dockyards, and for the replacement of obsolete machinery. A further sum of £10,920, which appears under the heading of “ Construction of Targets, &c”, is mainly for launches and lighters commenced in 1935-36, and in the replacement of unserviceable launches at the Flinders Naval Base and at district naval depots.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition asked me to explain in what avenues this expenditure will take place, and he referred particularly to the item of £50,000 for new construction. In reply, I can only repeat what I have said on numerous occasions recently, that the intention of this Government is to build in Australia as much of our naval requirements as is economically possible. The reason governing this policy is : first, to make the Commonwealth self-supporting as far as possible in respect of the pro vision of its naval requirements; and secondly, to retain the work in connexion with this expenditure in Australia in order to give employment to Australian artisans. That applies, not only to the actual work of construction, but also to the materials used in that construction. If the materials can be obtained in Australia they certainly will be; and the orders which are placed overseas are closely scrutinized, and are Bent back if it is thought either by myself or by the departmental officials that the requirements can be procured in Australia. I know of no steps which could be more satisfactory than those which are now being taken, to ensure that the materials which are being used in this direction are of Australian production. The policy of the Government is definite and clear that, as far as it is possible to do so, the naval requirements of the Commonwealth will be fulfilled in Australia.
– That statement ia nebulous. Can the Minister give the committee more concrete information on this matter ?
– I am surprised that the honorable member should regard my remarks as being nebulous. I cannot say outright that all the requirements, without exception, will be obtained in Australia, because circumstances may arise in which it is not economically reasonable to do the work here. But at the present time the matter of the nature of additions to the Australian Navy is under consideration by the Government. Assuming that it is decided that sloops or destroyers will be a necessary part of naval construction, I say emphatically that the vessels will be built in Australia.
– That is what I wanted to know.
– I endeavoured to make that point clear in my explanation.
– The honorable member for West Sydney is naturally anxious about this matter, because of the increased employment that naval construction in Australia would bring about.
– The honorable member can be no more anxious than honorable members on this side of the House on that point. It is quite true that a considerable number of men who are employed in the shipbuilding industry reside in the electorate of West Sydney, but that applies equally to the electorate of at least one honorable member who supports the Government. However, 1 do not think that there is any necessity for me to continue on these lines. The honorable member for West Sydney, who has displayed a keen interest in this subject, brought a deputation to me, and I gave him an assurance similar to that which I am giving to the committee to-night. I can state in no more definite .terms the determination of the Government to build the naval requirements of - the Commonwealth of Australia for the reasons that I have indicated.
– How long does it take to build a vessel?
– At the Cockatoo Island Dockyard the sloop Yarra has already been constructed, and it is satisfactory in every respect. The workmanship in that vessel is as good as could be obtained anywhere, and it was also carried out in reasonable time. Subsequently, a second sloop was ordered, and it is nearly completed. The cost of construction, I am pleased to say, is considerably less than that of the Yarra. The arrangements under which it was built was that if its cost were less than that of the first sloop, a certain percentage of that reduced cost should revert to the Government; and that is being done. My experience whilst I have been Minister for Defence has been that the construction entrusted to Australian industry and workmen has been perfectly satisfactory.
– I hope that the Minister will not allow national matters to be subordinated to individual electorates.
– By no means; and nothing I have said tonight could bear that construction being placed upon it. If the honorable member desires any assurance in that connexion I ask him to believe that there is no such intention.
A sum of £204,428 is set down for the coastal defence. This is mainly to provide for equipment for the 9.2 in. and 6 in. guns, munitions and anti-aircraft equipment, and relative equipment. Some of that equipment is being built in Australia at the factories of the Commonwealth Government. The sum of £502,038 is provided for arms, armament and ammunition, mainly for gun ammunition, supplement to reserve of small arms ammunition, improvement of armaments, new equipment for training, and mechanization. I repeat that so far as the munitions factories in Australia oan produce these munitions, to that extent the work will be given to them. The munitions factories at Footscray, Maribyrnong, and Lithgow, are exceedingly well-equipped, and turn out armaments and munitions which are satisfactory in every respect.
– Can the Minister say why an order was placed abroad for the purchase of modern equipment for the defences of Newcastle?
– That equipment consisted of 9.2-in. guns, which are not and at the present stage cannot be manufactured in Australia, and have to be obtained from Great Britain. There is no likelihood of obtaining 9.2-in, gun3 in Australia for some years to come, and as they were required immediately the order had to be placed overseas. That is the guiding principle of the Government. The sum of £2,750, for which provision is made under item 2 of division 12, is required for the Darwin constructional programme.
The sum of £349,129 is set down for the Air Force. This provision is mainly for aircraft of a new type, which is required for new units for coastal reconnaisance. For some years, discussions have taken place as to the most suitable form of fixed or coast defences. The question which has agitated the minds of the best advisers which the Government could obtain, either in Australia or overseas, was whether those defences should be entirely naval, or should also embrace aircraft. It was finally determined that they should be a combination of both. Consequently, 9.2-in. as well as 6-in. guns are being placed at certain points on the Australian coast, and in addition aircraft for reconnaisance and directional purposes are being utilised. The sum of £231,000 will be utilized in the purchase of aircraft of the Blenheim type, which is the latest type in existence in Great Britain, and is most suitable for our purposes. In addition, an amount of £45,000 is set down for the purchase of Avro-Anson aircraft; which are also regarded as most suitable.
– Where is this aircraft to be constructed?
– There is no item covering the manufacture of aircraft in Australia. I thought that that matter would have been reserved for the debate on the general Estimates.
The honorable member for West Sydney intimated some days ago that he proposed to question mc upon it. Consequently, I have had prepared a brief statement which explains the whole matter. I preface the remarks that I have to make with the statement that, as Parliament was not sitting when a final determination was made, a statement was published in the press, to which this to some extent refers. Some three months ago it was announced that the Government had issued to a syndicate comprising the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and certain other companies an invitation to establish the aircraft manufacturing industry in Australia. This invitation followed upon a close examination of the matter, and gave effect to the desire of the Government to remedy the unsatisfactory position in which Australia was placed by reason of it3 not having reasonably adequate facilities for the manufacture of aircraft and aero engines. Up to that time the most that had been accomplished was the fabrication, principally from imported materials, of simple types of air frames - that is, aircraft without engines - and the manufacture of certain limited selected parts of air frames. The position in regard to the manufacture of aero engines was, if anything, more unsatisfactory. During recent years, a small range of spare parts had certainly been made locally, but there had been no advance towards complete manufacture. I have now been advised that the syndicate has thoroughly investigated the matter, and, as the result of the reports and recommendations of experts sent overseas by it, and at its expense, to study aircraft and aero engine manufacture in Great Britain, Europe and the United
States of America, has decided te proceed with the formation of an aircraft manufacturing company. This company will be registered immediately, and will commence with a capital of £600,000, which will be subscribed as follows: - Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, £240,000; Broken Hill Associated Smelters Proprietary Limited, £200,000; Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Limited. £100,000; General Motors Holden’ s Limited, £60,000. The new company will thus be assured of adequate financial provision from the outset, and, with the technical resources- which it will have at its command, will be in a position to overcome’ the difficulties which must inevitably be associated with the establishment of an industry of this character. It has prepared a plan of production which envisages, as the first step, the manufacture, simultaneously of both aircraft and aero engines of the less complicated types. The experience and knowledge gained in the manufacture of such types will enable it to undertake the manufacture of the more complicated types of certain aircraft, which, in the meantime, will have to be ordered from Great Britain as heretofore. The most modern plants and methods of manufacture will bs employed. Although orders for aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force will play an. important part in absorbing the output of the company, nevertheless, the civil market will not be neglected, but will be catered for to the greatest possible extent.
– Is the company being given a guarantee of Government contracts ?
– There is no guarantee of Government contracts; there is no guarantee of a financial character. The preliminary details and investigations in connexion with a proposal of this nature, necessarily take time. Tt is gratifying to know, however, that these preliminaries have now been satisfactorily settled, and that at no distant date the aircraft manufacturing industry will be established in Australia on such a scale and under such conditions as will enable it to make a valuable contribution, not only to Australian and Imperial defence, but also to the provision of employment.
– Is the Minister prepared to say that the industry will be established within a year?
– It is expected not only to be established, but also to be producing aeroplanes within a year. That statement has been made by the members of this syndicate, who are generally recognized to be the most experienced industrialists in Australia, and to compare favorably with industrialists throughout the world. I am satisfied that their expectations will be realized. The new venture will benefit Australian industry generally, by absorbing local materials and labour in increasing quantities as manufacture develops.
– Can the Minister ay whether the proposed plant could carry on without having an aerodrome attached to it to test out the aeroplanes produced t
– From conversations which I have had, I understand that it is advantageous to have an aerodrome in close proximity to the works.
– The Minister does not know where the works are to be established ?
– I have said on numerous occasions that that is entirely the responsibility of the manufacturing company.
– Is it not recognized that such a plant must have a testing ground of its own?
– The site of the proposed plant is a matter for the company itself to determine. It has been conducting investigations, with a view to ascertaining which site is the most suitable. I understand that it is advantageous to have an airport in close proximity to such works. The necessity to manufacture aircraft is so great, the need is so urgent, the difficulties of government production are so nearly insuperable, that the Government could not afford to turn down this offer. The industrialists concerned do not anticipate that they will make any profits from this venture for many years, nor can I see any likelihood of their doing so. It is satisfactory to note that there are industrialists in Australia who are prepared to do something for the country in which they live and make profits, in order that its defences may be placed in something like effective order.
– They have done well out of this country.
– That is admitted. This offer does them credit, and will mean a considerable accession to the strength and security of the defences of Australia. Up to the present, our requirements of aircraft have been obtained only with the very greatest difficulty. Honorable members understand the reason for that. We are bound to obtain aircraft from Groat Britain, which, at the moment, is endeavouring to raise the defences of the Empire to such a satisfactory state that they will prove adequate to meet any threat. That is a matter in which Australia is equally concerned with other parts of the Empire.
In relation to civil aviation, the only item on the Estimates is that of £8,000, which sum is required for extensions to and improvement of lauding grounds, and for aerodromes, carried out by the Department of Defence, irrespective of the large vote for this purpose which is under the control of the Department of the Interior. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) has asked me to say whether there is any provision for the establishment and maintenance of aerodromes in different parts of this country. I explained yesterday, and have stated on previous occasions, that the policy which the Government is compelled to adopt is that of spending the comparatively limited amount of money available for civil aviation at the airports and aerodromes which are on the national airways, and are essential for defence. Other aerodromes must depend for their maintenance on the local governing authorities. I have no doubt that, as time goes on, the department will render assistance to civil aviation throughout Australia.
– In what form will help be given?
– It will be monetary assistance, of course. Whatever technical advice the department is able to give is always at the disposal of the local authorities. It is impossible, at this stage, for the Government to help in all aviation activities, because it must concentrate on the main airways.
Turning to the munitions supply branch, the sum of £9,576 is on the Estimates for the acquisition of the small arms ammunition factory. This is the final payment by the Commonwealth. There is a further sum of £132,934 for additional machinery and plant required under the munitions supply programme for strengthening the manufacturing capacity of munition factories in furtherance of the policy of national selfcontainment in the production of munitions. The main items are -
– Is there any special vote to assist rifle clubs?
– That matter does not arise in the consideration of the “Works Estimates, but I may mention that half of the free grant of ammunition to rifle clubs is being restored, in accordance with the promise already made, because of the valuable services rendered by these clubs throughout Australia. I hope that the reserves will be sufficiently built up to enable the grant of free ammunition to be fully restored next financial year.
.- It is again unfortunate that the general discussion of the defence policy of the Government and the total expenditure involved in this year’s programme will take place subsequent to the consideration of these items, because agreement to these votes involves endorsement of the principle of the general programme, although that endorsement has yet to be determined. The total expenditure involved in the programme of works which the Minister has just explained is over £3,000,000, of which a little less than £2,000,000 is to be provided from trust funds, leaving £1,117,000 as the portion of the total appropriation from the revenue account for the Department of
Defence. Broadly speaking, the defence programme is to cost £8,000,000 in the present financial year, and the limitations imposed upon the consideration of the whole programme by this debate restricts the committee to a discussion of the £3,000,000 provided for works. I do not intend to anticipate the general debate on defence, even though the Minister is securing from private enterprise in Australia equipment and resources hitherto obtained overseas. To this extent the programme is welcome, but, as defence is a charge on the entire community, one indispensable requisite is that in no respect should defence equipment become the victim of a profiteers’ market. We must accept the dictum that defence, which is a costly business, is an insurance against war, and, perhaps, invasion; but it must also be remembered that those who have large possessions in this country have infinitely more at stake than those who have no property at all. That being so, it would be proper to consider the entire defence programme,, not before we discuss the general taxation policy of the Government, but after we have agreed upon the incidence of the taxation to be imposed by this Parliament. As the matter stands, the Government may, in. this piecemeal way, obtain authorization of works which will probably involve transactions with private enterprise, and at the same time lead to the result that, when we come to the discussion of the budget in general, the money required to pay for equipment to protect the possessions of the rich will be secured through an unfair incidence of taxation in which the principle of ability to pay will be entirely disregarded.
– Members of the Opposition will not refuse to defend their country.
– That question does not arise. Never has the Opposition left itself open to the accusation that it is not prepared to defend Australia against invasion and to take proper measures to. ensure the security of the country. We differ from the Government, however, as to how that result may best be accomplished.
Has the Minister for Defence taken into account the claims advanced for a naval dock on the western coast of Australia?
At a deputation which waited on him a considerable time ago, a resume of the conclusions of Admiral Henderson on this matter were submitted to him. Since that time, considerable expenditure has been incurred by the British Government on the dock at Singapore, but there are those who Bay that that dock could easily become a veritable harbour of Santiago as far as the British fleet and the security of Australia are concerned. A network of islands in which hostile submarines could lurk surrounds the port of Singapore, and one oan conjecture the possibilities in that regard.
– I presume that the possibilities have been conjectured by the British authorities.
– No doubt; but it should be recognized that a considerable interval has elapsed since Singapore was selected as an effective naval base, and that the whole outlook in regard to peace in the Pacific has completely changed. I leave the matter at that, having said more, perhaps, than is desirable. But the importance of the northern and western coast of this continent is such that a mere reliance upon Singapore may be hopelessly insufficient. I shall deal with the general question of defence at a later stage.
.- I draw attention to the vote of £204,428 for “ Coast defences’ - equipment and works “. I appreciate the efforts of the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) in providing for the construction of aeroplanes in Australia. We are very fortunate in having the co-operation of such a lending organization of aircraft manufacturers as that mentioned by the Minister. For more than two years an effort has been made to complete arrangements for the construction of Fort Cowan Cowan on Moreton Island, near Brisbane. Before Parliament adjourned at the end of last year, the Minister indicated to mc that considerable delay had occurred in calling for tenders for this work because a proposal had been made to increase the calibre of the guns at the fort; but I understand that tenders closed last week. I therefore ask the honorable gentleman whether he is in a position to give us the name of the successful tenderer? I should also like to know how long it will take to carry out the work, and when a beginning will be made with it.
, - The statement of the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) as to the Government’s proposals for the construction of additional naval units wa* very interesting to all honorable members. I do not intend at the moment to make a plea for the people in any particular district, for I think all honorable members will concede that the larger the amount of money spent in Australia in connexion with the Government’s defence works the greater the benefits arising out of the employment afforded that will accrue to all our people. Such benefits will spread over, not only our city areas, but also all our primary producing areas. I therefore approach my consideration of this subject having in mind the welfare of the whole community as well as that of the men who will actually perform the constructional work. Some of the phrases used by the Minister in the course of his speech were nebulous generalities. He spoke, for instance, about a thing being “ economically possible “. It will be generally agreed that such a term may be given a wide interpretation. The Defence Board may regard a thing as economically impossible which other people consider to be economically possible.
– Any proposed work will have to be approved by Parliament.
– That is so, but the Naval Board will undoubtedly exert a big influence in the final determination of the subjects which come before it. I gathered from the Minister’s statement that if it is decided to build a certain class of destroyer or sloop, the work wile be done in Australia, but if the decision is in favour of a cruiser, the work will not be done here.
– I did not say that.
– Well, I gained the impression that the Minister had done so. I wish to look at the subject bearing in mind the Minister’s phrase “ economically possible “. It will be admitted that the workmen of
Australia are competent to build as good a cruiser as could be built in any other part of the world. They have already done so because cruisers have been built in Australia. A cruiser could to-day be built just as efficiently as the loop which was launched about six months ago. In determining whether a thing is “ economically possible “ we should not confine our consideration solely to the pounds, shillings and pence aspect. All the requirements of an effective national defence policy should be borne in mind. We should have regard, for instance, to the necessity to train our workmen to do all the work that may be required of them if occasion should arise to defend our country. It would, therefore, be unjustifiably narrow to interpret “ economically possible “ solely or even mainly by consideration of pounds, shillings and pence. We have skilled artisans in Australia who could do all the work likely to be required in all classes of shipbuilding and in a most expert and workmanlike manner, and it seems to me more necessary in these days than ever before to ensure that we shall be continually training mcn in this country to do all classes of engineering and other work which would be a vital factor when the defence of the country was involved. We should certainly be opening up avenues for the apprenticeship of our young men who are leaving school, and the engineering trades, particularly shipbuilding, offer wide scope for this. If we adopted a wise policy we should do everything possible to find engineering work of one kind and another in Australia for all our young men who have a preference for such employment. To do so would undoubtedly train them to take an effective part in the defence of their country should the need arise. I trust, therefore, that whether the Government decides to build a sloop or a cruiser the work will be done here. I understand that the Sydney cost about £2,000,000. If that money had been spent in Australia it would have been of vast benefit, not only to those engaged in the shipbuilding industry, but also to primary producers, and, in fact, every section of the community. I, therefore, urge the Government not to give a narrow interpretation to the phrase “ economically possible “ but to have in mind the necessity to provide avenues of work for our artisans, openings for the apprenticeship of our young men, and a larger home market- for our primary producers.
.- I shall be grateful to the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) if he will give me some more precise information as to how it is intended to use the money proposed to be expended at the’ Lithgow Small Arms Factory. What is the total amount to be voted, and what proportion of it will be devoted respectively to buildings, machinery and equipment? I have had many requests from my constituents in Lithgow for information on this subject, and I shall be glad if the Minister will make it available without further delay.
I wish now to refer briefly to the development of the Richmond aerodrome. As most honorable members are aware, this aerodrome has increased in importance rapidly during the last two or three years. Two years ago only about 100 men were stationed there, but I understand that within the next twelve months about 1,000 men will be employed there. I direct attention to the need to provide adequate playing fields for this large company of men, either on the grounds of the aerodrome or on grounds adjacent to it. It is imperative in the interests of the health of large bodies of men congregated in any one place that they shall be provided with reasonable facilities for open air sport. I suggest that if no money is included in these Estimates for the equipment of adequate playing fields at the aerodrome it should be provided without further delay from some source. An alternative to the provision of playing areas by the Government is the subsidizing of existing public playing fields in the district. Definite action on this subject is necessary at ouse. If extra land needs to be acquired for the purpose, the Government should not delay in securing it in view of the large and increasing number of men stationed at Richmond aerodrome.
.- I associate myself with the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and1 tha honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) about the necessity to bear in mind the interests of all the Australian people in providing adequate defence facilities for the Commonwealth. Like the honorable member for West Sydney, I regard the term “ economically possible “, used by the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill), as vague and elusive. Certainly the phrase should not be interpreted narrowly and other considerations than those of money should be borne in mind. If extensive defence works are put in hand in Australia - and I have in mind particularly the construction of naval vessels - the money so expended will undoubtedly circulate over a very wide area. Some of it may even reach Tasmania. I can appreciate, for example, that if work is provided for a large number of men in Sydney on a new cruiser or sloop, an improved market may be found there for Tasmanian potatoes. I ask the Minister to be a little more explicit as to his own interpretation of the words “ economically possible “. We heard a good deal this afternoon about the Australian fishing industry. It would be highly desirable, in my opinion, to encourage the consumption of Australian fish on our local naval vessels. That is one way in which this Government can encourage local production.
I have no objection to the programme that has been placed before the committee with the object of developing our defence forces. The Minister has explained that programme fairly fully, but I suggest he should give the committee a more definite assurance that, wherever possible, this money will be spent in Australia. If that assurance is forthcoming, I shall support this expenditure.
:- After listening to the interesting speech made by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), who touched upon the broader aspects of defence ex- penditure, it is with some diffidence that rise to draw the attention of the Minister to what is purely a local work in the electorate of Ballarat. In recent years it has been the policy of the Defence Department to renovate drill halls in the various military districts. Ballarat has a particularly fine drill hall, but this structure is floored with asphalt, which, is found to be somewhat inconvenient in a district which is situated at an altitude of 2,000 feet. Furthermore, I point out that in order to secure recruits under the present system of voluntary enlistment, conditions in the Military Forces must be made as attractive as possible. For that reason it is essential, not only to attend to the military training of recruits, but also to provide facilities for social activities in connexion with their military work. For instance, social committees, composed of friends of recruits, are needed to encourage units. Consequently, drill halls are regarded, not only as head-quarters for military training, but also as centres of social activity such as dances, &c. This claim may sound somewhat incongruous, but the development of the social life of members of units is essential. I. ask the Minister whether any provision has been made in these Estimates to renovate the drill hall at Ballarat, and particularly to replace the asphalt floor of that structure with a wooden floor?
.- Most of the appeals made by honorable members in this debate have been directed towards requesting that works be carried out in their respective electorates. Since I have been a member of this Parliament - and I think a similar policy waa pursued by my predecessor - I have endeavoured to get one particular military establishment shifted out of the electorate of East Sydney. I request the Minister to see that no additional military establishment is placed in the East Sydney electorate, particularly in the Paddington district, in which I reside, because I believe that in the event of an attack by an enemy, which I hope will not eventuate, such places as are centres of military activity will be the main objects of assault. I have sufficient consideration for the electors of East Sydney than to desire to see any of them bombed.
It has been said that the Labour party has a defense policy, and that statement made by the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) has been referred to as a defence policy, but when I hear the Minister speaking of the construction of cruisers I wonder .if such vessels are really needed for the defence of Australia or whether they are not required for the purpose of helping other peoples to defend rich possessions in other parts of the world. I ask myself whether this represents a policy for the defence of Australia or whether Australia is being considered merely as a pawn in some militaristic scheme. In recent years we have had visits from eminent overseas naval and military authorities, and we have sent abroad several alleged Australian statesmen, who received orders overseas from the Imperial Defence Committee. The work of such delegations has resulted in the drawing up of a plan of defence expenditure, spread over a number of years, but such a scheme has never really been desired on the part of the Australian people. To me the risks are real. I do not take the matter of defence so lightly as do honorable members opposite whose services, in any case, would not be required in the event of war because, for one reason or another, most of them would be rejected. I view the matter of the defence of Australia as one who may be directly involved in any war that may affect this country, andI certainly do not desire to be involved in any conflict. I have in mind a recent incident in which two Australian warships, manned by Australian crews, were sent to parts unknown; their destination remained unknown because the Minister refused to give honorable members any information on that point. But we know that these ships, at the time to which I refer, were in a zone of war and that there was every possibility of some of the crew losing their lives through being shelled, an event which would possibly have involved Australia in war.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).Order! The honorable member could make his remarks in that direction more appropriately when the general Defence Estimates are under consideration.
Mr.WARD. - I am dealing with a particular item - the Minister himself has mentioned - the proposal to construct a naval vessel. I oppose such a proposal on the ground that a naval vessel is not an arm of def ence but is one of offence ; and I suggest that if this Government were concerned purely with the defence of Australia, it would be providing only arms of defence and would not be building up a navy having a range extending far beyond the coast of Australia with the object of using it in the wars of other peoples. The Australian Labour party should not support such a policy.
The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Fisken) was very concerned about the provision of a wooden floor in the Ballarat drill hall; he said that we were depending on a voluntary enlistment system, and urged that every attention should be given to the recreation of recruits; that everything possible should be done to make their conditions comfortable. As a matter of fact this Government has adopted a recruiting policy, but it differs in certain respects from that suggested by the honorable member. The Minister probably is aware of this new recruiting system. Recently this Government made arrangements with the Government of New South Wales to sack from 16,000 to 18,000 men who were employed on relief work, and then this Government arranged for a steaming oven to be conveyed through the streets of Sydney under the noses of these unemployed men believing that by such methods they would be induced to join up with the military forces.
– Order ! I again remind the honorable member that he can deal more appropriately with that aspect of defence policy, when the general Defence Estimates are being considered.
– I oontend that the expenditure proposed under the item now before the committee is unwarranted, particularly at the present time, because the most important consideration in the defence of a country, is not only the provision of the necessary arms of defence, but also the building up of sufficient manpower to use such arms. Furthermore, the incentive essential to the success of a policy of defence must exist in the hearts of the people. The only way to get that, is to make this country worth defending, but the only people who have anything in this country to-day to defend are the richer sections of the community who live on the cream of the land and take for themselves everything that is good in life. Yet these people will not do the actual fighting in the event of war; they hope, by economic pres- sure, to force the unemployed to do the fighting for them. For these reasons, this Government, instead of spending large sums of money in the direction now proposed to the committee, should make this country worthy of defending by providing the less fortunate sections of the people with adequate food, clothing and shelter. As a member of Parliament, I have something worth defending; I am well paid and in comfortable circumstances, but there are many thousands of unemployed in the electorate of East Sydney who are in different circumstances. If I were unemployed, I should not be very enthusiastic about the defence programme of this Government. It is true that the inauguration of this policy will provide a few jobs for men now unemployed, and for a number of Australian tradesmen, but such jobs will be only of a temporary character. Furthermore, only those who will be engaged in this work may be employed in the construction of implements which eventually may be used for the destruction of human life, because when this Government talks about modernizing coastal defences and increasing supplies of munitions and armaments, it seeks to provide these things not merely to beat off a foreign foe; I suggest that if internal trouble arose in this country, for instance, if less fortunate people were driven in desperation to rise against a government, which refused to attend to their needs, we would find that the very armaments, for which honorable members are now asked to make provision, would be used as readily against these people as they would be used against an external enemy.
– Coastal defences could not be U6ed in the way the honorable member suggests?
– ‘Will the honorable member deny that munitions, aeroplanes and small arms could not be used against the Australian populace, and will he deny that this government would hesitate to use them against Australians in the circumstances which I have indicated? If a civil disturbance occurred in one of the States, and the State authorities were unable to cope with it. the Commonwealth Government would not hesitate to send soldiers into that State to shoot down the workers. It was at one time proposed to send soldiers to Broken Hill against the workers who were fighting for their rights. Does any one think that the workers like fighting?
– I have on two previous occasions warned the honorable member that his remarks are inappropriate to the item before the committee. He will have an opportunity later to make the points he is now trying to make.
– If I waited until the Estimates were passed, I should be too late to make my protest effective.
– The Chair is not opposed to the honorable member making a protest, but is opposed to the manner in which it is made, and to the matter that is introduced.
– I make a final appeal to the Minister - a hopeless one I know - to have the Victoria Military Barracks in Paddington removed. Let them be moved into the electorate of the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) if he so desires, as I understand that he is anxious to have a fort, or a rifle range established in that area. The municipality of Paddington is anxious to have the Victoria Barracks removed so that it may erect workers’ homes in this area, and the Minister has never given any satisfactory reason for declining to sanction the removal. I strongly protest against the expenditure of even one pound of Commonwealth revenue on implements of destruction while it is so difficult to induce the Government to spend anything on schemes for the saving of human life.
.- I had not intended to speak, but I have been provoked into replying by the remarks of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward).
– The honorable member should not take any notice of him.
– I should not do so were it not for the fact that his remarks probably reflect the opinion of a considerable section of the community regarding the Government’s defence policy. It has been stated that the building of a cruiser ia but one further move in the game of imperialistic chess played at the behest of Great Britain by a subservient government in Australia. It has been asked how this country, which should concern itself only with local defence, can justify the construction of a cruiser, which is a weapon of offence.We should not lose sight of the fact, however, that it is of vital concern to us that overseas trade routes should be kept open in time of war. The honorable member for East Sydney and I were probably too young during the last war to realize at the time the full significance of the threat which then developed against our overseas trade.
– Yes, and I hope I shall be too old for the next war.
– So do I, and the Government’s defence policy is more likely than anything else to ensure that that shall be the case. The honorable member will recall, however, that a German cruiser, the Emden, was able to do a very considerable amount of damage to our shipping before an end was put to its activities by an Australian cruiser. Some honorable members have said that this year’s defence vote is indicative of the growth of a militaristic spirit, but that is not the case. Just as the existence of an impartial judiciary, and an effective police force, is the best insurance against civil disturbance, so our possession of a strong army, navy and air force will be the best deterrent against foreign aggression. The Government, by strengthening the variousarms of defence, is aiming to achieve national security, and is not making a threat against any other country. The fact that other nations have Ministers for War, while we have a Minister for Defence, indicates perhaps better than anything else the traditional attitude of the Commonwealth Government to this matter.
The honorable member for East Sydney also suggested that this Government would not hesitate to employ arms against the citizens of this country in the event of civil disturbance. To that suggestion, I reply that Australia, during recent years, has passed through the worst financial and economic crisis in its history, during which our citizens have had to make sacrifices of unprecedented severity, but never once has there been any suggestion of civil discord, and under a democratic system of government such as we possess it is extremely improbable that at any time the armed forces of the Commonwealth will be called upon to quell civil disturbances. Thanks to the policy of the present Government, prosperity is now returning to the country, and the people appreciate the part the Government has played in bringing about these improved conditions.
.- I join with other honorable members in congratulating the Government and the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) on the present defence polioy, and upon the decision to construat war vessels in Australia, as this will have the dual effect of strengthening the defences of the country, and of providing employment for our people. The world is in a very disturbed condition at the present time, and it behoves us to see that our defences are secure. Our country is thinly populated, a fact which may invite aggression from a foreign power, and we must be prepared to defend ourselves. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) mentioned the possibility of civil disturbances which the military authorities might be called upon to suppress. I hope that no such disturbances will ever occur. Like the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), I believe that the common sense of our people would prevail even in times of stress, and that a situation will never exist when it will be necessary to employ military force to preserve order. I am confident that, if the security of our country were ever threatened by a foreign aggressor, every man capable of bearing arms, whether he were employed or unemployed, would spring to its defence. We should then learn that the people of Australia are imbued with the same spirit which inspired the poet when he wrote these impressive lines -
Breathes there a man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
This in my own, my nativeland?
I was pleased to learn that the Government proposes to encourage the manufacture of aeroplanes in Australia. I am convinced that, in the event of an attack upon Australia, we shall have to rely primarily for defence upon the use of aeroplanes. Therefore, we should prepare to construct them in this country, and every encouragementshould be given to our youth to become proficient in flying. We have already demonstrated that we are an air-minded people, and our airmen have won fame throughout the world for their feats of skill and daring. Strong aerial defence units should be established at strategical points, so that the ships of an invader might be met 500 miles out at sea, and stopped before they are able to land soldiers on our shores.
When I was in Darwin last year, I observed that large oil tanks, each designed to hold 8,000 tons of oil, had been constructed on the coast right at the point where the old ship Warrego lies stranded on the beach. I drew the attention of the authorities at the time to the fact that this vessel constituted a prominent land-mark to direct a raiding warship or aeroplane to the location of the tanks, and I suggested that it should be dismantled. Of course, it may be argued that an enemy would know where the tanks wore in any case, but they would be doubly sure to find them when they were directed to the very spot by this old vessel lying conspicuously on the sand. It should be broken up, and removed without delay.
– I feel that one criticism voiced by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), that we are proceeding to vote the expenditure of large sums of money for the construction of defence works before the actual Defence Estimates and the defence policy have been accepted by the Parliament, was quite justified. However, I do not suggest that we should divert from that policy now, but I desire to make a few observations in connexion with some other remarks passed this evening on the subject of the defence of the Commonwealth. It has been suggested that the Commonwealth Government should construct vessels for the Australian Navy at the Cockatoo Island Dockyard. In my opinion, the naval situation which this country has to face has been rudely altered during the last twelve months as the result of certain action by a onetime friendly power in both the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. We have to consider, not only the developments which have taken place in the Pacific since the close of the last war, but also the fortifications which are being constructed both in the Mediterranean Sea and Red Sea, and which vitally affect our lines of communication and commerce with Europe; that is, provided that we desire to use the shortest and quickest route, which is through the Suez Canal. The matter of the construction locally of vessels for the Australian Navy does not weigh very greatly with me. If we regard this matter impartially we must realize that by no stretch of the imagination can the Commonwealth ever attempt to secure its defences by naval forces alone. When the Henderson report was issued in 1913, it recommended that the basis of the Australian fleet should consist of eight ships of the first Australia class, carrying eight 12-in. guns. At that time, when the Imperial Navy was the strongest naval force that the world had ever seen, and after taking into consideration the European and the Far Eastern situations, it was considered that Australia required a fleet consisting of eight huge ships. I do not think that any honorable member is prepared to suggest that we could supply one-quarter of that strength to-day, and yet the international position has been vitally altered as a result of the attitude adopted by Great Britain since the close of the last war. In an endeavour to set an example to the rest of the world Great Britain voluntarily relinquished her position of the world’s greatest naval power to one of equality with the United States of America, and of little more than parity with another nation which had ranked fifth or sixth on the list of world naval powers only a few years before.
– And it is demanding parity now.
– Yes. With this particular power absolutely paramount in its own waters, the Commonwealth of Australia, whether it likes it or not, must pay a certain amount of attention to its naval arm of defence.
The position of the Singapore Naval Base was mentioned by honorable members in relation to the defence of Australia. In my opinion, it is time that honorable gentlemen realized that the most effective base in the world is not a form of defence unless it is a base at which certain forcescan be concentrated, and from which they can operate. For that reason the only time that Singapore becomes of any value to the Commonwealth in a period of danger is when it is occupied by an effective British fleet, to which we must be expected to contribute some strength. I cannot accept the statement that Australian warships should not be sent into a danger zone. Warships were built for that purpose, and for no other, and as soon as there is a danger zone in any part of the world the Commonwealth, as one unit of the British Empire, must be expected to share its responsibility. The fact should not be overlooked that the Commonwealth is a member of an empire whose naval forces, under international agreements which are operating to-day, are considered to be one unit. They are not regarded separately as a British force or an Australian force. In those circumstances, the proper place for any Australian warships which can be spared from their station in these waters is not inside the Sydney Heads, but in the danger zone, sharing the responsibility with other warships of the British Empire.
If aircraft can be manufactured in Australia, it will be of advantage to this country, but I admit that I am one of the minority who believes that in the next war aircraft will not do the immense damage envisaged by some honorable members of this Parliament. A study of the results of target practice of fast flying aircraft compels one to realize the force of my contentions. On an average, they are unable to achieve little more than 1 per cent, of hits. They may be able to cause immense damage in a sprawling city such as Sydney, and they may even miss the Paddington Barracks and bomb the residence of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) ; but I would not guarantee that. When honorable gentlemen refer to despatching aircraft 500 miles out to sea in order to bomb invading warships, I feel a desire to beg them to study statistics relating to the operations of British forces, which are available in the Library for their perusal. In those publications it is shown that aircraft attacking warships have never achieved more than 2.25 per cent, of hits on trial, and the percentage of casualties under such conditions would not be extremely great. In attacking land forces, aircraft would experience even greater difficulties in inflicting damage. We must recognize that aircraft are an offensive, not a defensive weapon. If we are to seek a definition of a defensive weapon, I know of only one which will suit the situation: that is, that any weapon is an offensive one to the man in front of it, and a defensive one to the man behind it. Whatever side of the barbed wire we may be on, the force of that definition must be conceded. One of the first principles which are taught in the present defence system of Australia is that aircraft are primarily a weapon of offence, not of defence. Under modern conditions aircraft are very necessary for obtaining information, but their capacity to wipe out ships and land forces is severely limited, as I believe the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) will be only too ready to admit.
– Aircraft are a weapon both of offence and defence.
– The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison) referred to the necessity for providing social activities for the Citizen Defence Forces, and for spending money to enable those to function. I frankly do not approve of that advocacy. My attitude is that there is altogether too much of the social element creeping into our defence system, and that its real purpose is continually being lost sight of. Under present conditions it is necessary to try to induce men to do what ought to be their duty by law; they should not have to be coaxed into entering the defence forces by offers of amusement. Social activities are necessary in formations which are on active service, or which are in garrison in certain parts of the world, but they should not be necessary in the Citizen Military Forces, as constituted in Australia to-day. The volunteers are obliged to do six days’ training in camp every year, and six days in half-day parades. I do not agree with the suggestion that public money should be spent in giving them social entertainment; it is not my view of what the defence system of Australia should provide. The Citizen Forces have certain weapons and tactics to study, and an intimate knowledge of bayonet fighting would be of greater value to them as soldiers than the learning of the latest dance steps. Perhaps in expressing these views I am quite out of harmony with some honorable members, but I speak on this matter as I feel. I trust that the committee will not indulge in the very wrong practice of trying to make the present militia force a social institution.
– Has not the honorable member heard the saying that the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton ?
– The Great War was not won on the playing fields of Eton; it was won in the mud. The adage quoted by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) might have been applicable to 1815, but I assure the honorable gentleman that conditions of warfare were entirely different in 1915, and the next great struggle may also be somewhat different from the last.
It is recognized that a certain amount of money must be expended on fixed defences, but I deprecate remarks to the effect that such defences might be used against the civilian population. These statements emanated from a gentleman who evidently does not understand the position, or who has been actuated by a desire deliberately to misrepresent it. Otherwise I fail to see any other motive for his statements.
.- I am disappointed with the works policy of the Commonwealth Government in reference to naval depots and bases. Like the chain that is only as strong as its weakest link, the chain of defence of the British Empire cannot afford to neglect the strategical position of Tasmania as a naval base. Admiral Henderson has been quoted extensively in this chamber to-night by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), and the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), as an authority on naval defences, and I would like to hear the opinions of the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) in this connexion. Doos the honorable gentleman consider that Admiral Henderson was an authority on this matter? If so, why has he not taken into consideration the recommendation of the Admiral to the Commonwealth that Hobart as a naval base was one of the most important strategical links in Australian defence? Some years ago the Commonwealth purchased an area of land in Tasmania with a view to proceeding with the construction of a naval base, but suddenly the plan was abandoned. I realize that the Minister for Defence is not a highly qualified militarist, and that he does not concern himself with the recommendations of men who have reported upon and been instrumental in laying down the foundations of the defence of the Commonwealth. He is parochial in his attitude, and he does not consider Tasmania as a unit in the defence of Australia. I point out to him that the lakes in Tasmania provide a suitable base for seaplanes which could operate in conjunction with the Navy. In the protection of the Victorian coast, seaplanes will be a deciding factor. It does not suit the Government to expend large sums in other than the densely populated States, from which it obtains the greatest measure of its support. An eminent authority on the defence of Australia considers that, as the overseas air mail service is to be carried on by means of seaplanes, the establishment of a depot in the Lakes country of Tasmania would provide a landing place at which such aircraft could refill and take off should Australia find itself in the throes of war. I want Australia to be defended from within its borders, not on foreign soil, as was the case in the last war. which resulted in 60,000 of our best manhood being killed, and about 200,000 wounded, more or less severely. The suggestion was made last year that one of the best means of defence was from the air. Although the Minister for Defence pooh-poohed that idea previously, and declared that Australia’s first line of defence was the British Navy, he is accepting it to-day as part of the defence policy of the Commonwealth. What has caused him to change his view? The present proposals are based upon the recommendations of high British military authorities, who came to Australia to report on the defences of this country. Doubtless, some members of the Government consider that the Labour party has no wish to defend Australia. They have endeavoured to establish that psychology for political purposes. There are in thb ranks of the Labour party as big-hearted Australians who are prepared to defend this country, as are to be found in the ranks of Government supporters. I hope that consideration will be given to the proposals that I have submitted to-night, not by reason of my own knowledge of the matter, but on the recommendation of high military authorities. I am well aware of the race in armament construction which is taking place throughout the world, and realize that Australia must be prepared to make adequate provision for its own defence; but I repeat that it should be defended from within, and not on foreign soil. Consideration should be given to the fortification of strategical points which to-day are unfortified. If heed is not paid to what I am now suggesting, time will prove that the points which I have raised are of vital importance to the defence of Australia. Honorable members should be sufficiently broadminded to deal with this matter on a national basis, and to advocate the putting in hand of defence works wherever they are needed, whether it be in the northern part of Australia or in the southern part of Tasmania. I should like the Minister to state the reason for not undertaking works in the southern part of Tasmania, while large sums are being expended at points which strategically are not necessary for the defence of this country.
– I was particularly impressed by some of the remarks of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley). That honorable member drew attention to a fact which should be taken into consideration by every other honorable member. We are apt to place in wrong perspective the value of different units of the service. We are concentrating in the main upon the provision of armaments for the. fighting units, and are not paying attention to the promotion of a class of skilled artisans. It is absolutely useless to concentrate on the fighting units if we neglect the skilled artisans who are responsible for the manufacture of armaments, the building of ships, and the repair of vessels which have suffered damage in an engagement. Our experience in regard to the building of cruisers under government control has been rather a bitter one, but under private enterprise Cockatoo Island Dockyard has proved itself capable of the construction of vessels on an economic basis. Quite recently it produced a sloop, and I understand that it is now proposed to proceed a step further. The Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) has assured us that the intention is ultimately to build a destroyer. I hope that that destroyer will be a worthy example of the craftsmanship of those who are employed at the dockyard. It is the considered opinion of those who are expert in naval matters that we have not one destroyer which is worthy to rank as a flotilla loader. Therefore, when plans are prepared for the construction of another destroyer, the Minister should ensure that it will be capable of fulfilling the function of flotilla leader in our squadron. I consider that skilled artisans are as necessary to defence as are the fighting units. I therefore commend to the Minister the remarks of the honorable member for West Sydney. I am confident that the honorable gentleman will receive universal support in th« implementing of plans which are necessary for the maintenance of Australia’s safety. I applaud him for the steps which he has taken in relation to the manufacture of aircraft. That is a very necessary step, and no doubt will be instrumental in forging one more link in our chain of national defence. If we have skilled artisans who can produce sloops, aircraft and destroyers, surely the construction of a cruiser is not beyond their capacity. Experience in this direction is absolutely necessary if we are to place ourselves in a position to undertake the repair of craft which are needed for the protection of our trade routes and our capital cities. The greatest danger to Australia lies in raids from the sea and the air. Obviously, such raids would have to be made by seacraft, and because of this I agree with those honorable, members who say that the construction of additional vessels for the Australian Navy is necessary. I commend the Minister for his far-sightedness in that regard. I suggest, however, that construction should not be confined to one destroyer, but that Ave should have a long-range policy embracing the formation of a navy that will be sufficiently strong to protect us in times of emergency, lt is essential also that the strength of our naval ratings should be materially increased. I refer the Minister to certain figures which he supplied recently. It is well known that a lengthy period of training is required to make a naval rating efficient. Therefore, the maximum number of recruits should be made available, and I was amazed to find from the figures supplied by the Minister that the number of naval ratings had increased to only 4,290. I understood that the existing ratings numbered something like 4,500. _ The failure of the Minister to recognize tho need for additional recruits has resulted in some of the destroyers which were loaned to Australia by the British Navy, being tied up in Sydney Harbour, because of the failure of the Government to provide the necessary means to man them. I suggest that one of these vessels should be placed at the disposal of the recruiting depot at Rushcutters Bay, for the instruction of naval ratings in sea-going technique. If that were done, the vessel would be in regular sea-going order, and thus would be available if required for any purpose at any time, and it would result in greater efficiency in the volunteer arm of the service. The provision of bases, and the necessary facilities for refueling, are matters to which the Minister is giving attention, I have heard with great concern that the oil tanks at Darwin are particularly vulnerable. Consideration should be given to their protection by camouflage or other means. We have certain armament at Darwin that is not worth a row of beans, as a means of protection against modern warships or aerial attacks. At strategic points on the coast, we should have bases from which aircraft could operate.
I understand that Cockatoo Island Dockyard will not continue much longer to be of value for naval repair work in the event of war, owing to its position in relation to the Sydney harbour bridge. I urge the Minister to provide at Garden Island the necessary facilities for repair work and the fueling of ships, because rapid repairs would be necessary in the event of coastal raids. At Chowder Bay, there is an engineering depot, which I visited in company with an Assistant Minister some three years ago. I was surprised to find that the line- shafting used to drive the machinery was of the most primitive kind, and would not be tolerated for one moment in a modern factory. It consisted of shafting erected on broken timbers . held together by ordinary bolts. With the ingenuity of the average Australian, the engineer in charge of the depot had done his best to surmount this difficulty. I asked why he could not have that particular drive made more secure, and he replied that, although he had asked for the necessary funds, the money had been refused. I recently inquired if the necessary money had been made available for the provision of suitable shafting to enable important work to be done reasonably well, but I was informed that no such action had been taken. I suggest that provision should be made on the Estimates to enable this workshop to be brought up to date.
I commend the honorable member for West Sydney for his remarks as to the necessity for the inclusion of skilled artisans as a unit of the Defence Force. Will the Minister consider the wisdom of having essential equipment produced in Australia under Australian labour conditions, in order to encourage the establishment of workshops that would be of inestimable value to Australia in time of national emergency?
.- One cannot fail to notice how ready the Government is to provide funds for the destruction of human life. Last year, there was a movement to save the lives of children who were suffering because of malnutrition, but, when an appeal was made for funds, money could not be obtained for the purpose of saving life. To-night, however, many honorable members opposite have expressed readiness to support the provision of funds for the purchase of instruments of destruction. The fear, of war dominates the world to-day, and the war psychology is reflected in Australia. Last year, when the defence programme was under consideration, the Government announced that it proposed to obtain defence equipment overseas. But we now have com plete reversal of that policy, because it is found that our present means of offence and defence are obsolete. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) spoke of the Singapore Naval Base. After an expenditure of £100,000,000 in an attempt to make Singapore the greatest naval base in the world, Great Britain finds that in five years it will become obsolete. If Japan gained control of China, all the vessels sheltering at Singapore could be destroyed in a day. Last year, supporters of the Government voted in favour of providing means by which human life could be destroyed, but refused to help us to assist the unemployed and their families.
– What is the alternative? Would the honorable member do nothing ?
– No, but I shall always give my vote to help in the saving of life.
Great Britain has changed its defence policy. Within a year it has taken control of the aeroplane factories in the Old Country, which shows that the honorable member for Barker resembles the military authorities exposed by Lloyd George as men in his memoirs who were “ antiquated in their ideas and would not learn by experience.” Why has Britain changed its policy overnight, and why has the Commonwealth Government abandoned its policy of last year? It is because instructions have been received from England that aeroplane factories must be established in Australia. The Minister for Defence would have us believe that certain public spirited manufacturers in Australia have come to the aid of this country by undertaking to produce aircraft here. If the full facts were known, it would probably be found that the work is to be undertaken with the aid of capital from overseas.
In Russia, only a fortnight ago, a demonstration was made in the presence of a British military authority, who said that it was the most remarkable exhibi tion he had ever seen, no fewer than 1,250 soldiers having been transported a considerable distance by aircraft and landed by parachutes in a short space of time. This shows that, under modern conditions of warfare, capital ships will be replaced by aircraft, lt was stated that the capture of Abyssinia would occupy four or five years, but Italy conquered that country in four or five months, with the aid of aeroplanes and other modern methods of warfare.
I agree with the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Collins), who was laughed at when he said that the construction of air mail carriers would be of more value than the building of cruisers for the defence of Australia. Australian cruisers have been used in the past for the defence of other countries. They were recently sent to the Mediterranean, not to defend Australia, but to harass Italy in its fight with Abyssinia. Capital ships involve us in foreign wars. The policy of the Labour party is that not a man, not a ship, and not a gun should be supplied by Australia to be used in any capitalist war beyond our own borders.
– That is a short-sighted policy. How could our trade routes be defended ?
– The honorable member believes in going into another man’s home and giving him a black eye and then squealing when the other retaliates. In view of the changed defence policy of Great Britain, I am surprised to hear people in Australia still harping on the building of capital ships, which could be destroyed by aircraft in a few minutes.
– How could the commerce of this country be protected without such vessels?
– It will be done in future by aircraft, because, within five years, the range of such craft will be increased from 2,000 to 8,000 miles. A German aeroplane with an obsolete Diesel engine has a range of 1,750 miles. I am sure that within five years the range of our aeroplanes will be 8,000 miles. When Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and others were pioneering aviation in this country they thought that 500 miles was a great distance for an aeroplane to travel, but we have made tremendous progress since that time.
Experience has shown that the defence policy of the Labour party has been sound. I fear, however, that there is grave likelihood that working men’ s children may be prevented from rising from the ranks in different branches of our defence forces. Even to-day a working man’s child cannot obtain a position in the Commonwealth Bank, and it is much the same in the Air Force. Applicants for positions are asked such questions as “What does your father do?”, Where does your father work?” “What is the political affiliation of your father?” and so on. Something of the same kind of thing prevails in regard to the Navy.
– We must keep Bolshevists out of the Forces.
– The honorable member need not fear rebellion in this country so long as our people are provided with adequate food, clothing and shelter, but if the men of the nation are starved, they cannot be blamed for fighting. A man’s first duty is surely to provide for his wife and family. If housing conditions and wages are satisfactory, we need fear little trouble here. Incidentally I congratulate the Minister for Defence on the modern methods he has adopted to obtain recruits for the forces. These I shall mention later. It is deplorable, though, that men should have been arrested for distributing handbills containing such statements as “ Although we went to the Front we ask young men to think what they are doing before they join the colours”. Five returned men were among those arrested in Martinplace on the occasion to which I refer.
– Somebody must have gone a long way to find those men !
– That is not so. Under certain conditions many returned men would discourage their friends from enlisting. The modern method by which the Minister sought to obtain recruits was simply to provide in Martin-place a kitchen roasting meat with the object of decoying men who were hungry. Many unemployed persons no doubt said to themselves “ Well, this is better than a dole of 6s. a week, because with that money we cannot afford to buy meat. Our bellies are empty, so we will enlist “. It was a wonderful result to achieve with a roast joint!
regarding the nature of this discussion. Iwould myself prefer to have the general Estimates discussed first so that matters of policy could be submitted to honorable members; but it has always been the practice in this Parliament to consider the Works Estimates before the general Estimates. This procedure, however, has not prevented some honorable members from discussing matters of policy, for a number of speeches that we have listened to have been notable for an entire absence of reference to any item in the works programme.
I assure the Leader of the Opposition that special consideration is being given to the defence requirements at Fremantle and Darwin. The honorable gentleman also made reference to the necessity for a dock. I clearly recollect the submissions made by a deputation that waited on me in Western Australia on this subject. Full consideration is being given to the representations that were then made.
The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) spoke of the need for additional playing fields at the Richmond aerodrome. His request has been noted and will be considered in due course. The honorable gentleman also asked for information about the works proposed to be put in hand at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory. The amount of £6,218 provided in the Works Estimates is for additional machine tools for machine gun manufacture. This amount is in addition to certain sums that are being provided for excavations for foundations for additions to the small arms factory. It is intended to introduce to Australia very shortly a new weapon known as the Brenn gun, to take the place of the Lewis gun. An officer of the department is at present in Great Britain obtaining information about the manufacture of the Brenn gun and I expect that this work will be put in hand at Lithgow very shortly and will provide a considerable amount of employment there.
The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Fisken) may rest assured that the amount provided in the Works Estimated for the renovation of drill halls is only part of a total to be spent on such work. A further sum of £59,875 is provided in division 63 of the general Estimates for work of this character, and an additional £50,000 will be earmarked for the improvement of the Militia. Part of this sum will be used to improve existing drill halls and to remove others to more suitable sites. The provision of wooden floors is important despite the views expressed by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron).
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) need have no anxiety about the removal of the Victoria Barracks from its present site. So long as I am administering the Defence Department there will not be the slightest possibility “ of the Victoria Barracks being used for any other purpose than that for which they are being used. They are essential to the defence of this country, and will be retained for that purpose.
In respect of the proposed works at Cowan Cowan, tenders have been examined, but certain aspects of this matter have yet to be investigated. An officer will leave Canberra for Melbourne to-night to attend to it. I hope to be able to give the honorable member who raised this matter more definite information very shortly. I have noted the remarks made by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Collins) concerning the Warrego, and I shall take that matter up immediately with the authorities concerned. Other matters to which reference has been made will be dealt with further when the general Estimates are under consideration, and I shall then be glad to give honorable members the fullest information on them.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes - Department of Trade and Customs, £43,045, and Department of Health, £25,000- agreed to.
Department of Repatriation
Proposed vote, £123,000.
– The proposed provision for modern hospital accommodation for the treatment of disabled soldiers, and of those suffering from tuberculosis who, as service pensioners, are now treated ia repatriation hospitals, is a very pleasing feature of the Government’s works programme. All honorable members are aware of the excellent manner in which these institutions, under the control of tha Repatriation Commission, are administered, and of the high standard of medical and nursing attention given to patients. The professional and orderly staffs of these institutions are composed, almost without exception, of men and women whose personal experience of the acute suffering and indescribable conditions of warfare -has convinced them in no other way possible of the necessity for patience and sympathy in attending to those committed to their care. It is obvious, however, that if the maximum benefit from such treatment is to be derived by the patients, modern buildings must be erected to replace those structures which were hurriedly erected as hospitals some years ago. I presume that the amount of £123,000 shown in this item is to be expended either in renovating existing repatriation hospitals in the various capital cities and other centres, or in enlarging these buildings, because of the increase of the number of patients which the department is now called upon to care for as the result of legislation recently introduced by this Government. It is a sad fact that the number of men who require accommodation in these hospitals has increased from 6,000, in 1926, to 22,000 at the present time. It is obvious that something must be done, and, apparently, something will be done, to improve and extend existing accommodation. I shall bc glad if the Minister will explain how it is intended to w expend this amount of £123,000.
.- I endorse the remarks made by the honorable member for Lilley (Sir Donald Cameron) regarding the necessity for improved accommodatoin for patients treated by the Repatriation Department. I have in mind particularly the care of mentally afflicted soldiers who are housed in the Repatriation Cottage Hospital at Leichhardt, Sydney. As far back as 1934, representations were made to the Government by representatives of the Hos- pitals and Asylums Employees Union and the Leichhardt branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League, with a view to securing an exten111011 of the accommodation already provided by the department for mentally afflicted patients. About £25,000 was spent in the erection of cottage hospitals, and, at this juncture, I might add, that I do not think there is any finer institution of a similar kind in Australia than that at Leichhardt. Whilst the department at that time, however, segregated these men from all other cases of mental affliction, it did not make a complete job of that work, because it failed to provide these patients with adequate facilities for recreation outside the ward and with proper cooking arrangements. The cottages are situated approximately half a mile from the main asylum at Callan Park; the whole of the food for over 250 patients has to be carried half a mile, whilst the 50 members of the staff have to travel that distance to and from the kitchen for their meals. It would appear that an arrangement has been made between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of New South Wales that when the last of these patients has been treated, the State Government should take over these wards as part of its mental institutions, the Commonwealth, apparently, believing that the time would not bc far off when there would be no patients to treat at this hospital. This appears to be the reason for its failure to provide accommodation of a more permanent nature at this institution, but, unfortunately, the number of men requiring to be treated is not getting less, but is increasing. In many cases, men who were mentally stable immediately after serving in the war are now beginning to feel the effects of their war service. Consequently, the Commonwealth Government should give every consideration to finishing its job at this hospital by providing accommodation of a more permanent nature than exists at present. As a matter of fact, I understand that the Repatriation Department permits ex-soldiers who aro not recognised as repatriation cases to go into this institution for treatment. In the present division of control lies the source of much complaint. The Commonwealth Government owns the buildings, but the State provides the attendants, and the Commonwealth is charged a certain amount a head for its patients. The attendants are also returned soliders, and they are compelled under the State regulations to pay for their meals at the old Callan Park hospital, whether they have them there or not. Single attendants have £21 a year deducted from their wages for their meals, and £18 is deducted from the wages of married men. Some time ago, a deputation waited on the Minister in regard to these matters, and the Minister agreed to enlarge the recreation room for patients and attendants. This has since been done, and we now ask that the institution be made complete by the addition of proper cooking facilities. The cost would not be great, and the addition is necessary. The Commonwealth seems to be buoyed up with the hope that it will shortly be able to hand over the whole institution to the State authorities; but I do not think that it will be able to do so for a long time. When the deputation waited on the Minister, he stated .that, although he did not feel disposed at that time to arrange for the construction of a kitchen, he thought that some conveyance should be provided to take attendants to the place where they obtained their meals. No such conveyance has yet been provided. I earnestly request the Minister to give favorable consideration to the matters I have raised.
.- I should like to know whether, of this sum of £123,000 appearing in the Estimates, any part is to be devoted to the making of additions to the Caulfield Military Hospital. Recently, I had occasion to visit the hospital frequently, and complaints were made to me that no suitable accommodation was available for convalescent soldiers. It is true that the Red Cross Society has built rest-rooms, but I am told that they are frequently overcrowded, and that the noisy conditions which in consequence prevail are harmful to convalescents. I admit that seats have been placed in the wards, and in the grounds, but seats in the wards are not always suitable, while those in the grounds are of little use in bad weather.
– The honorable member for Lilley (Sir Donald Cameron) asked how the proposed vote of £123,000 was made up. The following is a list of those works for which the proposed allocations run into four figures or more -
The buildings referred to by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) are the property of the State Government. Therefore, the Commonwealth Government can make no provision for their improvement except by arrangement with the State.
– I was informed by officials of the Repatriation Department that the State was going to take the buildings over when there were no more returned soldier patients, so I am at a loss to understand the explanation given by the Minister.
– My information is that they belong to the State Government.
– I direct attention to the lack of facilities at the Darwin Hospital for the accommodation of mental patients committed to it for observation. As a result, recently we had the distressing spectacle of a returned soldier in a mental condition being incarcerated in the Darwin gaol. Eventually he was sent to an institution in one of the southern States and died. At the present time there is another returned soldier mental patient also in Darwin gaol for the same reason, merely for observation. I urge the Minister to give this matter urgent consideration, and provide a special room at the hospital for the use of any future mental patients under observation so that they may have a chance to recover in an environment which isnot abhorrent.
– I shall note the honorable member’s request, and see what can be done.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes - Department of Commerce, £32,373; Commonwealth Railways, £174,000 ; Postmaster-General’s Department, £1,750,000 ; Northern Territory, £93,000 ; Federal Capital Territory, £363,631- agreed to.
Motion (by Sir Archdalb Parkhill) agreed to -
That there be granted toHis Majesty to the service of the year 1936-37 for the purposes of Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c, a sum not exceeding £4,173,340.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means founded on resolution of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Sir Archdale Parkhill and Mr. Paterson do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Sir Archdalb Parkhill, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Sir Archdale Parkhill) agreed to -
That Standing Order No. 70 (11 o’clock rule) be suspended for this sitting.
Bill returned from the Senate without requests.
Debate resumed from the 16th September (vide page 170) on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- By way of preface, I inform the House that if this bill is not passed in time to permit of its provisions being given statutory effect by next Thursday, the sum of approximately £30,000 will remain in Consolidated Revenue instead of being distributed amongst old-age pensioners. At different stages of to-day^ proceedings I felt that there was grave danger of pensioners being deprived of that £30,000, by reason of the fact that it would not be possible for the requisite changes of the law to be made in time to allow of their receiving it.
I desire to place on record my deep regret at the fact that this bill does not make provision for the raising of the oldage pension to £1 a week. I point out that when pensions were first reduced five years ago, a condition of grave financial emergency was distressing Australia. Steps were then taken to deal with the budgetary position of this Government, and of all other Australian governments. The effect of the legislation then passed was to reduce war pensions by £1,300,000, the salaries of public servants by approximately £1,800,000, the maternity allowance by £230,000, and invalid and old-age pensions by approximately £1,825,000. The present Prime Minister, speaking on that occasion, said -
This is merely an emergency measure. Not ODe member on my side of the chamber supports the reduction of wages and pensions, and so far as we are concerned the reduction will not operate any longer than is necessary for the restoration of financial stability.
Since 1932, this Government has continuously claimed that there has been considerable improvement of the position, and has said that, in substantial measure, that improvement is attributable to the wisdom of its policy. I definitely make the charge that during that five years there has been in each budget a systematic under-statement of the revenue expected. I further say that in each of those budgetary statements there has been the realization of surpluses much in excess of the estimate. Although in 1931 there was the drastic cut of £1,825,000 in pensions, and the present Prime Minister said that the reduction would not operate longer than was necessary for the restoration of financial stability, and despite the fact that the plan adopted involved certain definite proposals for the reduction of the interest burden on governments, in the following year the right honorable gentleman further reduced the maternity allowance by £60,000, public service salaries by £240,000, and pensions by £1,100,000. This second instalment of cuts was not accompanied by any additional cut in the interest payable upon Australian Consolidated stock. The Premiers plan was envisaged on the basis of general equity, interest rates as well as pensions were to be reduced by a given amount. Yet in 1932, although there were not further reductions of interest rates, there was a further contraction of the payments to pensioners and others, and beyond that the Government also decided that the pension paid in 1932-33 should be a first charge against the estates of pensioners at their death. On the 16th September, 1932, the Government announced that it had decided that, where a pensioner had no income other than a pension, and was entirely dependent on it, the rate of 17s. 6d. should stand. That was a modicum of relief from the second cut imposed upon pensioners. But the Government also decided at that time that the relatives of a pensioner - the wife, husband, father, mother, or child over 21 years of age - could be compelled to contribute towards his or her maintenance. That was immediately after it had come into power, and at a time when it had commenced to initiate a series of substantial tax remissions. Dealing with the matter in broad perspective, I point out that since the period of financial emergency the surpluses of this Government have aggregated £10,442,000. Yet it professes to believe that .the existing financial position does not justify the restoration of the old-age pension to £1 a week. Let me show what has been done by way of tax relief. Indirect taxes have been reduced by £9,730,000 between 1932-33 and 1936-37. Direct taxes have been reduced by £5,905,000 in the same period. It is estimated that from 1932-33 to 1936-37, the value of remissions in respect of land tax, property tax, company tax, tax on life assurance companies and shipping companies, is approximately £17,000,000, whereas the cost of the restorations which the Government has made in its various services, including pensions, can be stated at £3,492,000. I bring those figures together. I say that the Government has had a series of surpluses aggregating over £10,000,000, it has reduced indirect taxation by £9,730,000, and direct taxation by nearly £6,000,000, yet the total of its restorations to those who are adversely affected by its expenditure - old-age pensioners, claimants for the maternity allowance, and the like - is less than £3,500,000. Let me state the matter in another way. In 1931-32 the taxes collected totalled £52,000,000. In 1935-36 the total waa £63,000,000, an increase of £11,000,000. Yet the annual liability for old-age pensions on the last day of the financial year 1931 was £12,000j000, of which only £11,750,000 was actually paid. In 1936 the annual liability for old-age pensions in operation on the last day of the financial year was £13,000,000. In 1931-32 the Government collected £52,000,000 in taxes, and paid out £11,750,000 in invalid and old-age pensions. It is now collecting £63,000,000 in taxes, an increase of £11,000,000, and its expenditure on pensions has increased by £1,250,000. Notwithstanding the increase of revenue, pensioners are the last section of those who suffered under the financial emergency legislation to receive full restoration of their original rights. When I refer to the last section I do not disregard the fact that soldiers’ pensions have not yet been fully restored. Under this legislation public servants’ salaries are completely restored, but a cut is still imposed upon the salaries of Ministers and in the allowances of honorable members. Will any one say that the present budget makes it impossible for the Treasurer to find the added £760,000 required to bring the pension up to 20s. a week? The cost of increasing pensions from 18s. to 19s. a week is estimated at £760,000, and I think that I am right in saying that an increase from 19s. to £1 a week would cost an additional £760,000. Rather than provide that amount the Government proposes to set aside £1,100,000 to reduce the accumulated deficit. The House would be justified in saying that, although the Government has had surpluses aggregating £10,000,000, the Treasurer has never previously been seriously perturbed at the size of the accumulated deficit. Hitherto only trifling contributions have been made towards a reduction of that deficit, and with the exception of the £1,100,000, which it is now proposed to set aside, it will remain as it has been for some years. As honorable members are aware the accumulated deficit is made up of the deficits of - the Bruce-Page Government, which was responsible for from £5,500,000 to £5,750,000,. and those incurred by the Scullin Government during two years of grievous financial difficulty. After only six months of office the first Lyons Government had a surplus because of the budgetary provisions of its predecessor. The present budget discloses that taxation reductions approximate £5,275,000. Income taxation is to be reduced by £2,105,000. If the £2,105,000 to be remitted to income taxpayers were reduced by £760,000, the Government could pay invalid and old-age pensioners 20s. a week without impairing in any way the general character of the budget. But there is another way to do it. Naturally, the credit of the country remains practically the same whether the accumulated deficit is £16,000,000 or. £17,000,000, but instead of using that £1,100,000 in the direction proposed, it should be used to restore completely invalid and old-age pensions, and to restore allowances to the dependents of returned soldiers. The Government proposes to remove entirely the special property tax imposed owing to the financial emergencies existing in 1931. The last vestige of that tax and of the public servants cuts is being removed under the budget. The members of the Opposition will not oppose the abolition of the special property tax, because we realize that it was imposed’ to aid the revenue of the country at a time of great difficulty. In a total remission of £15,600,000 of taxes the additional expenditure of £760,000 for old-age pensions would not affect the Treasurer’s competence to deal with the problems and difficulties of industrial and economic organization, or with any other of the subjects specified in the budget. In the main, pensioners are compelled to spend the whole of their allowance in maintaining themselves from day to day. They belong to that large class of small spenders who, in a general way, purchase only simple goods, and are more use to the country than that selected coterie of persons who do not spend to the same extent or distribute their money for the benefit of the community. In the report of the Director of the International Labour Office of this year, I find the following : -
Once it is seen that every nian and woman who can no longer buy, means a shrinkage of sales and thereof production, the judgment passed on doles or the payment of social insurance benefits tends to be modified. Once it is seen that public expenditure on social services tends to sustain the market the taxation which makes it possible is no longer looked upon as such an unmixed evil. It is striking evidence of this new approach to find the official organ of a great bank declaring that tho inevitable disadvantages arising from the development and extension of the social services are far out-weighed by the beneficial economic, as well as social, results “.
Had the discussion of the bill been brought on earlier in the day I intended to elaborate some points at greater length, but, having regard to the hour and the position generally, I move -
That all the words after “(That” be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “ this House is of opinion that, in view of the state of the Commonwealth finances as disclosed in the budget, the complete restoration of the reductions in the invalid and oldage pensions should bc immediately made.
There is no conceivable reason why the Treasurer should not use a portion of the taxes to be remitted or the whole of the amount to be appropriated for the reduction of the accumulated deficit for this desirable purpose. The money used for the reduction of the accumulated deficit will not go into circulation and thus increase the purchasing power of the people. It will permit the retirement of certain treasury-bills whereas an extra ls. a week to pensioners would involve the expenditure of £30,000 fortnightly. The circulation of that amount in Australia is more desirable from an economic view-point, and is more humane than a reduction of the accumulated deficit. In 1932, after the Premiers plan had been adopted, further concessions were demanded from the pensioners, and instead of being left until the last to be placed in the position they previously occupied, they ought really to be among the first. The Treasurer cited the cost of living figures in relation to certain commodities which he said affected the value of the pension payment. Although recently there has been inserted in the act a provision for automatic adjustment when the cost of living increases or decreases, yet over the long history of invalid and old-age pensions in Australia they were never previously related to cost of living. As a matter of fact, there was a long period when the cost of living was steadily rising and Parliament did not take action to increase the pension.
– I do not propose to detain the House at any length. I merely direct the attention of honorable members to the fact that this measure, by the very nature of its provisions, should commend itself to honorable members generally. When this measure was introduced, it was obvious from tho way in which it was received that it contained a number of surprises; among which the greatest, not only to honorable members opposite, but also to members on this side, was the provision for the restoration of ls. a week to invalid and old-age pensioners. What has been done has not been in the nature of a falling of riches from Heaven like manna, but because the Lyons Government, by systematic, prudent and economical management of the finances of this country, has been able to confer benefits upon all sections of the community. Although one would think so from the nature of the speech delivered by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), the care of the invalid and oldage pensioners is not the sole prerogative of the Opposition. The Prime Minister stated - and his words have been quoted to-night by the Leader of the Opposition - that the reduction of the old-age pension would last no longer than was necessary for the financial stability of this country. Despite the statements made by honorable members opposite that financial stability does not exist, the Government has now come to the conclusion that the position of the finances of this country is such that the benefits contemplated in this bill should be conferred on the people without delay. Immediately the Government decided that the finances of the country were again upon a stable basis, it decided to honour the promise made by the Prime Minister, which he has kept in mind throughout the dark days of depression, that he would return to the old-age pensioners one-half of the cut of 2s. a week made by the Scullin Government. I think it is reasonable to point out that the old-age pensioners will be placed in this better position because the Lyons Government is in power and has been in power during the last four and one-half years. If there had been a Labour government in power, old-age pensioners would have received no increase of their pensions, because the finances of the country would not have permitted it. The thanks of the old-age pensioners will be extended to the Lyons Government for its successful management of the finances of this country.
– The old-age pensioners would have received complete restoration in 1932 had the Scullin Government remained in office.
– The Scullin Government was instrumental in reducing the pensions by 2s. 6d. a week, although, clearly and logically, it had no alternative, having regard to the circumstances which existed at the time.
– The Lyons Government has reduced the total pension payments by £1,000,000 a year.
– The pensioners know that under the administration of the present Government they are better cared for than if any other government were in power. Further, the benefit which the pensioners are to receive will not be confined merely to the restoration of ls. a week in the pension rate. The reduction of the cost of living which has taken place during the last few years has enhanced the purchasing power of the pension with the result that the 19s. weekly which the pensioners will receive will buy more than any amount which they received at any time. After all, the amount of money which a pensioner receives each week is not so important as what that money will buy. In addition, the proposed reduction of sales tax amounting to between £5,000,000 and £6,000,000 per annum will reduce the cost of commodities which the pensioners will require. The benefit of the sales tax reductions will be felt by not only the old-age pensioners, but also every other section of the community. I know the reasons which prompt the Opposition to assist in carrying this legislation, and I pay honorable members opposite tribute for them. If the hour were not so late, 1 should advance arguments to place in bolder relief the benefits which this measure bestows. The Opposition can take little credit for the contents of the bill, because it originates from the ministerial side of the House. Those who will receive an increase of the invalid and old-age pension, a full restoration of public service salaries and of the payments provided for the children of ex-soldiers, and the benefits conferred in connexion with the maternity allowance have all to thank the Lyons Government. All that the Opposition can do to snatch a little credit for itself is to pass this measure as quickly as possible, so that the pensioners and others may receive the increases next pay day.
– The Minister could obtain a good deal of credit by agreeing to the amendment.
– I am content with the credit which the invalid and old-age pensioners will give to this Government for carrying out the promise made by the- Prime Minister. If the Lyons Ministry remains in office for a brief period longer, and this bill becomes law, the pensioners will receive an amount which they could not have obtained from any other government. I urge the H’ouse to reject the amendment, feeling sure that the Prime Minister’s promise will be carried out in its entirety.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. CuRTIN’S amendment) stand part of the question - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Limit of pension).
.- Is the’ Treasurer (Mr. Casey) satisfied that in paragraphb of subclause 1 adequate provision is made for the amount of permissible income? It would appear that only 26s. a year, instead of 52s. has been added. The Treasurer’s speech indicated’ that 52s. a year was to be allowed, and I rather suspect that there has been an error of calculation or of printing.
.- The intention of the Government is that the limit of permissible income, plus the pension, shall be raised from 30s. 6d. a week to 31s. 6d. That would make the limit of the income plus the pension £81 18s. per annum. In order that I may examine the figures more fully. I suggest that the clause be postponed.
Clause 5. (Pension on recommendation by Magistrate).
.- Section 31 of the principal act, which this clause seeks to amend, relates to inmates of institutions. I ask the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to make arrangements whereby the full amount of the increase shall be paid to the pensioner inmates themselves. The Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) said to-night that the cost of living had decreased to such an extent that pensioners will be better off with 19s. a week than they were when the pension was £1 a week. As pensioner inmates of institutions are maintained in State institutions, the benefit from the reduced cost of living will be derived by governments rather than by the pensioners. The money will go into the consolidated revenue of the States which have not asked for it. The extra 6d. a week should be paid to the inmates.
– When the pension was 20s. a week, the pensioner inmates of institutions received 5s. 6d., the remaining 14s. 6d. being paid to the institutions for their maintenance. Now that the pension is 19 s. a week, it does not seem unreasonable that the pensioner inmates should receive as much as when the pension was higher.
.- As the Pensions Department assesses the value of the upkeep of pensioners who live outside institutions and receive free board and lodging at 12s. 6d. a week, I cannot understand why the Government should wish to insist on 13s. 6d. a week being paid to institutions.
– It is a nominal amount, which does not represent the average cost.
– Whether that is so or not, the amount is fixed and I can see no reason why the extra shilling should not be given to the pensioners in institutions.
– It would be more logical to increase the debit for upkeep against the pensioner.
– That may be the Treasurer’s opinion, but it is not ours. Obviously; it must cost more to maintain one or two pensioners in odd places than to maintain many pensioners in a Government institution.
– These Government institutions have to carry a considerable staff.
– That may be so, but it would cost less per capita to maintain 1,500 pensioners in au institution than to maintain one or two in private homes. I urge the Government to grant the concession that is being requested.
– The remarks which I am about to make apply not only to clause 5, but also to the whole of Part II. of the bill. I have on many occasions in this chamber expressed my regret that we should be asked to consider an invalid aud old-age pensions bill. The provision of pensions should long since have been removed from the arena of party politics. The Government should have brought in a measure to provide for national insurance.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).The honorable member will not be in order at this stage in discussing that principle.” He must confine his remarks to clause 5.
– The only point I wish to make is that if the Governmenthad introduced a system of national insurance, an issue such as that which we are now considering could not arise.
.- I join with the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander) and the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) in earnestly requesting the Government to pay the full amount of the increase direct to the pensioners. All honorable members must realize that the circumstances of pensioners in institutions are very different from those of pensioners who live privately, and can supplement their pen sion by doing any light work that might offer. I appeal to the Government to show a magnanimous spirit, and cheer the hearts of the invalid and old-age pensioners in institutions, by making available to them the amount of the increase, as it did on the last occasion when the pension was increased. I am sure that many pensioners will expect similar treatment on this occasion to that which they received when the last variation was made in the rate of pension. I do not think that the institutions would offer any complaint if the Government adopted this course. Some time ago a promise was made to tubercular soldiers in institutions that, in calculating the amount of pension payable to them, the cost of certain treatment they received would not bc taken into account. I regret that, so far, this promise has not been fulfilled, and I ask the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to look into the matter.
. - I hope that the Government will open its heart a little, and agree to pay the full amount of the increase in the pension rate to the inmates of institutions. The lot of these pensioners is harder in some respects than that of pensioners who are not living in institutions, and have the opportunity to supplement their income by growing a few vegetables or looking after a few fruit trees. The old people in the institutions have to pay for all the little extras they desire. Many of the inmates of the Waterfall Sanatorium, for example, find considerable difficulty in making ends meet. Some of them are returned soldiers who have not yet been granted the service pension. It would not be any hardship to the institutions if the full amount of the increase were made available to the pensioners. Sixpence a week for each inmate of a government institution would not represent much to the Government, but it would be of immense help to the pensioners. The suggestion made by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander) would not make any difference to the budget; it woud simply mean that out of the extra ls. the pensioner would receive 6d., and that the institution would receive 6d. instead of the full ls., as at present. I feel sure that, if the States were approached on this matter, they would consent to the old people being given this additional 6d. I urge the Treasurer to agree to this suggestion. Most likely he has not consulted on this matter the State authorities which control institutions as the payment is probably one of those things which is done automatically.
– The position is that any person who applied for a pension and received it before entering an institution receives 5s. - in future the amount will be 5s. 6d. - and the institution gets the balance. People who attain pensionable age, and successfully apply for a pension while in the institution, will get the 5s. 6d., but in respect of them, the institution will got nothing. In an average institution there are pensioners of both these classes, and I remind honorable members that all of these institutions are not controlled by State governments. An institution receives 13s. 6d. a week in respect only of each pensioner who enters it as a pensioner ; it does not receive the payment in respect of all of its pensioner inmates.
– How long has that provision operated?
– Always. The Commonwealth Government was pressed very hard at the recent Premiers Conference to pay to these institutions the full amount of 13s. 6d. a week in respect of all pensioner inmates, but it was not able to see its way to do that, because some subdivision of responsibility as between the Commonwealth and States, in respect of these social services, must be maintained. This line of demarcation was drawn in the very early stage3 of the pension scheme, and it has since been maintained. I remind honorable members that pensioners in institutions, whether they were granted pensions before or after they entered such institutions, are getting their full maintenance, and, in addition, have been getting this amount of 5s., which will be increased to fis. 6d., and with this amount may do what they please. The amount certainly is not large, but I emphasize that the Commonwealth Government has an obligation, not only to the pensioner, but also to the institutions concerned. This practice has always been recognized, and we must play as fairly as possible between the pensioner, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the people controlling these institutions. I do not know what the average cost of a pensioner in an institution is, but I should be very much surprised if it is as low as 13s. 6d. a week, that is, the amount which the Commonwealth Government hands over to the institution on behalf of the pensioner. Bearing in mind the fact that the pensioner receives full maintenance plus this amount of 5s. 6d., it is not unfair that the institutions should get an extra 6d. This point hai been argued on previous occasions in this House. The Government is holding the scales as fairly as possible in this matter as between the pensioners and the institutions.
Friday, IS September 195G
. The request made by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander) is reasonable. I would not have risen to speak on this matter had the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) not said that pensioners would receive this amount of 5s. 6d. to do with it what they choose. Every one knows that inmates of these particular institutions are not visited by relatives, who may bring them tobacco and fruit and other articles, as are inmates of other institutions. At most of these institutions a buffet is provided by an auxiliary staff, from which pensioners can purchase such articles. If the Treasurer is not prepared to accept the suggestion made by the honorable member for Reid, I intend to move an amendment with a view to increasing the amount of 5s. to 6s. I appeal to the Treasurer to accept the suggestion. The extra amount would be very handy to pensioners for the purchase of such extras as fruit and tobacco.
.Would I be in order, Mr. Chairman, in moving at this stage an amendment to provide that no parliamentary salaries be increased until the old-age pension is increased to £1 a week?
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).The honorable member would not be in order at this juncture in moving such an amendment.
Clause agreed to.
Postponed clause 4 (Limit of pension).
– The purpose of paragraph b of sub-clause 1 of this clause is to determine the maximum limit of income plus pension. When amended the table in the principal act will show the lowest rate of pension at 18s. a week instead of 17s. 6d. as formerly. The figure of £79 6s. shown in paragraph 6 of subclause 1 of this clause represents the total limit of income plus pension at a rate of 18s. a week, and in order to get the total limit of income plus pension at the proposed rate of 19s. a week, an amount of ls. a week has to be added to this amount. This calculation is dealt with in sub-clause 3 : -
The provisions of sub-section (1b) of section 24 of the principal act shall apply in respect of any increase or decrease in the maximum rate of pension effected in pursuance of the last preceding sub-section.
The effect of this provision is that the proposed increase of ls. a week has to be added to the present rate of 18s., which will make the limit of income plus pension £81 18s., this result being obtained by multiplying the amount of 31s. 6d. by 52. This procedure may be somewhat complicated, but it fulfils the purpose of the bill.
– I accept the assurance of the Treasurer with perfect confidence.
. -There is an idea in the minds of a great many persons that the rate of pension is based upon the cost of living, and now the Government proposes to vary this scale so that it may make a small increase of the pension. It must be recognized, however, that the pensions have at no time been based on the cost of living, because had they been pensioners would have received an amount sufficient to enable them to live in reasonable comfort, but that has never been the case. The Government would be more honest if it were to abolish this scale altogether, and leave the fixing of pension rates to Parliament, to which the responsibility properly belongs. I have no doubt that, before the next election, the Government will amend the scale again, so that it may be able to make a further small increase of the rate of pensions, and thus furnish itself with a useful election cry.
.This clause provides for the limitation of pensions, and it is provided that the pensions shall in no case exceed £1 a week. I do not think it is fair that the pensioners should be called upon to make sacrifices in all directions, and there should be no limit of £1 a week if the cost ‘of living index figures justify the increase of the pension beyond that amount. At present the department will not recognize the index figure if it rises beyond 1,640, but I claim that no such limitation should be imposed. If the pensioners are to lose by a drop of the index figure, they should stand to gain when it rises.
– During my second-reading speech on this bill, I quoted the actual cost during the last quarter of all the essential items of food in the pensioners’ regime, as compared with the average cost in 1929, when the pension was 20s. a week. An examination of these figures shows that, on that basis, the present pension of 19s. a week is equivalent in purchasing power to 23s. a week in 1929.
– The Minister will have some difficulty in convincing the pensioners of that.
– If we compare the prices ‘of such necessaries as bread, meat, butter. clothing, rent, &c, the 1929 equivalent of the present 19s. would be nearly 23s. 6d. What is of interest to the pensioners is not the amount of the pension, but what it will buy.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 6 and 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 (Citation).
, - During the Minister’s second-reading speech, I asked by interjection whether the additional allowance of 10s. would be payable to a woman who had lost a child by death within twelve months of the birth of another child. I should like to know whether sympathetic consideration will be afforded in a case of that kind.
– The purpose of introducing the expanding scale was to assist parents to keep pace with their increasing responsibilities as their family increased. If a child dies, however regrettable that happening may be, it must necessarily reduce the obligation upon the parents.
L remind the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) that it was largely due to his representations that the expanding allowance was granted.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 9 to 12 agreed to.
Clause 13 (Parliamentary salaries and allowances) .
– 4While I am in complete agreement with the principles of this bill, I must make clear my own individual position, as I did on a similar measure last year. Owing to a pre-election promise to my constituents, I am unable to accept the increased allowance, and shall be compelled to advise the Clerk of the House to that effect.
. -I am also bound by a promise to my constituents to refuse the increased allowance. I do not propose to enter now into the merits or demerits of the proposal, but I must honour the promise I have given.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 14 to 23 agreed to.
Clauses 24 to 33 (Relief in Respect of Primary Production).
.. - I notice that again wheat-growers are excluded from participation in the subsidy on artificial fertilizers. In previous years they were so excluded because other budgetary provision was made for their industry. When the Financial Emergency Act of 1932 was introduced the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) said that the Government had intended to provide for a subsidy on fertilizers to the amount of fi a ton, but following representations on behalf of the wheat industry, it had agreed to use portion of the money as a grant to enable State governments to give special assistance to wheat-growers in necessitous circumstances. That procedure has been followed from year to year. The amount provided for subsidy on fertilizers has been given exclusively to primary producers other than wheatgrowers, who received benefits or assistance of another character. This year the position of wheat-growers is comparable to that of producers in other branches of primary industry.
– Wheat-growers are in a very much better position.
– I would not say that. The price level for wheat is nut better than the price level for fat lambs, or dairy products.
– The present price level for fat lambs is 49 per cent, over the rate ruling three years ago. The price level for wheat is over 100 per cent, higher.
– The price for fat lambs rose two years earlier, so the comparison is not now a fair one.
– To compare present price levels with prices obtaining three years ago is to indicate an entire lack of knowledge of the true position.
– The average increase for all forms of primary production, other than wheat, is not more than 20 per cent, or 25 per cent.
– What was the base year for the Minister’s calculations f
– The base year was 1932-33, when the fertilizer bounty provisions were adopted.
– It is futile to adopt, as a basis for calculation, prices ruling for primary production during any of the last five years. A comparison of present prices with those ruling in v1932 for wool would give results entirely different from a comparison with prices ruling a year later, and I contend that present prices for wheat do not place the grower in a more advantageous position than producers of fat lambs, canned fruits, butter or other primary goods. Yet wheat-growers are excluded from benefits under this bill. This is the more unfair in view of the fact that the burden of unliquidated debt is pressing more heavily upon wheat-growers than upon other sections of primary industry. Furthermore, I remind the committee that about five years ago the wheat industry alone was the subject of an appeal by the Commonwealth Government to increase production, on the definite understanding that growers would have .in assured price for their produce. They responded to the appeal, but it is history that the Government’s undertaking was not honoured.
– The fault for that lay with the Country party.
– That is a most unjustifiable assertion-
– The Government expected the smaller States to provide most of the money.
– In the measure there was a catch provision which, by proposing to mate governments of the smaller States responsible for losses which might well have amounted to millions of pounds, forced the Senate to defeat it. The growers, at the request of the Government, immensely increased production, but, owing to the Government’s failure to honour its promise of a guaranteed price, they lost millions of pounds. This year, when their position is comparable to that of other primary producers, they are excluded from any form of Government assistance, even of the trifling nature which they would receive in the form of a subsidy on superphosphate.
– Does the honorable member intend to move an amendment?
– I would do so if it were permissible, but I am informed that an amendment could not be accepted.
– Why not allow the matter to be dealt with separately later?
– Will ‘the Minister give me an assurance that it will be dealt with later?
– I can give the honorable member an assurance that it will be considered. I cannot say more than that without consulting Cabinet.
– May I take it that the Government, having had its attention drawn to the matter, will give consideration to this discrimination against primary producers?
– Having that assurrance I shall not pursue the subject further.
– I support the remarks of the honorable member ‘ for Echuca (Mr. McEwen). Prices for all forms of primary production have taken a definite turn for the better, and I think that primary producers generally will be grateful to the Government for continuing the subsidy on fertilizers for another year. There was considerable doubt in many minds about the attitude of the Government. I entirely endorse all that the honorable member for Echuca has said about the discrimination against the wheat-growers in this bill. Tn former years the wheat industry, as well as most other forms of primary production, received direct assistance of a more substantial nature than this subsidy on fertilizers. The exceptions were wool-growers and fat-lamb producers, who received no assistance, apart from the preference which they enjoyed in the British market. Because of the assurance of the Minister that the Government will consider the matter, I do not propose to pursue it further at the present juncture. A large number of producers will be exceedingly grateful to the Government for having continued the subsidy this year.
– I am in complete accord with the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. McEwen) and the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker). In my district, huge areas of scrub country, much of which is of a rather poor type, are about to he opened up, and the use of superphosphate is absolutely necessary for its development. I should like the Government to consider the advisability of adopting what one might call a longrange policy, covering a period of four or five years,, so that those who take up this new land might have some security iu the development of it. I am not so much concerned in regard to the man whose country is developed. It is universally recognized that a limit must bc placed on such concessions when prices reach a payable level. Increased population is desired, particularly in rural districts. Assistance of this nature is particularly helpful to those who undertake the development of new country. Hilly country, such as is to be found on Kangaroo Island, and the country which is met with in what has been known as the ninety-mile desert, but is now being made prolific by the use of superphosphate, would be greatly assisted, and the ultimate effect upon Commonwealth finances would be beneficial, if the Commonwealth were prepared to take a fairly long and broad view of the matter. The subject of the subsidy was raised by many persons in South Australia whom I met during the recess. To each of them I said that if his calculations for next year were based on a figure approximating 10s., he would not be far out. The Government might also consider tha placing of some definite limit upon the amount of subsidy paid in any one year to individual purchasers of superphosphates.
Clauses agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
Reference was made at question time to the position of the Empire air mail service. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), being unable to be present, has asked me to make a statement indicative of the position at the present time. The Commonwealth Government, after very careful consideration of the Empire air mail proposals, has conveyed to the Government of the United Kingdom certain suggestions for the modification of the scheme in the interest of more effective Australian control of the section between Singapore and Sydney. Pending further discussion with the Government of the United Kingdom, it is not possible to make a more detailed statement.
I have also to intimate that Mr. Bertram, the Controller-General of Civil Aviation in Great Britain, is to visit New Zealand for the purpose of discussing with the government of that dominion the details of the section between New Zealand and Australia, The Prime Minister of New Zealand, Mr. Savage, has invited the Commonwealth Government to be represented at that conference, as Australia is naturally interested in this end of that section of the service. Mr. Shepherd, secretary to the Department of Defence, and Captain Johnston, the Controller of Civil Aviation, will represent the Civil Aviation Department, while Mr. H. P. Brown, Director of Postal Services, and Mr. N. B. Harry, Chief Superintendent of Mails, will represent the Postal Department, at that conference. They will leave Australia with Mr. Bertram on the Wanganella next Saturday. The
Government has further decided that it is desirable that a Minister should visit New Zealand for the purpose of explaining to the government of. that dominion the effect of the proposed service upon the Empire air mail scheme, and has asked me to make the trip. I do not propose to leave Australia until the following week, and I shall return within eight or ten days. I mention this so that honorable members may have the first intimation of the decision which has just been reached by the Government.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.33 a.m. (Friday).
The following answers to questions were circulated : -
y asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
With referenceto an article contributed by the honorable member for Wakefield to the Argus on 26th August last, and the letter in the same newspaper on 1st September, from Mr. H. Louey Pang, regarding Australian wool in China, will the Commonwealth Government undertake to establish, or assist a private enterprise to establish, the wool industry in China, and thus help to secure the Chinese market for Australian wool in the future?
– A full statement on the subject has been forwarded by the Department of Commerce to the Australian Wool-growers Council and the Australian Wool Board. The matter is at present being considered by the latter body.
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice-
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Forestry in Tasmania.
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
With reference to the recommendation contained on page 131 of the Commonwealth Grants Commission’s third report (1936) concerning a long-term forestry policy and development for Tasmania, can he indicate whether this recommendation will receive favorable consideration and whether action will be taken, in co-operation with the State Government, to give effect to it?
– The recommendation referred to by the honorable member is receiving the consideration of the Government.
Interest Payments on Treasury-bills.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister foi Commerce, upon notice -
What is the consumption of milk per head of population in Australia?
Dr. EARLE PAGE - The consumption of milk, as such, is estimated to be 20 gallons a head per annum.
Silk and Rayon Imports from Japan.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will he give the names of persons and/or firms who were the chief importers of Bil and rayon from Japan during the last two years?
e. - The names desired could be given only by disclosing information obtained from confidential documents. Such disclosure would he contrary to practice.
y asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
Will he supply a return showing the number of hours of overtime worked in the Patents Department by members of the staff in the last three years, and the amount paid for overtime for each of the last three yean in that department;
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is’ as follows: -
d asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1, 2, and 3. Actual figures are not available as to the quantity of coffee consumed in Australia. The consumption would represent (he importations less any’ quantities re-exported. On this basis the total quantity consumed per annum would be approximately 4,500,000 lb. As, however, most of the coffee is imported in a raw or kiln-dried state, and there is considerable loss in treatment after importation, the actual weight of coffee in the state in which it is consumed would not be nearly so great as that imported. Coffee ia grown to some extent in Australia, but the quantity produced is inappreciable.
The imports into Australia, according to countries of origin, during the year 1935-36, wore as follows: -
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the following statement made by him on the second reading of the Commonwealth Grants Commission Bill,viz. : - “ If a State feels that, as a result of, say, the operation of the tariff, it is suffering disadvantage, there will be nothing to prevent it from not only putting that to the commission as a reason why it should be assisted, but also assessing the value of that disadvantage. If that is done the commission must of necessity inquire into and report upon the amount that ought to be contributed by the Commonwealth to compensate for the disadvantage.”(Hansard, vol. 139, p. 1572); and in view also of the, following extract from the commission’s latest report, viz.: - “It is not now proposed by the Commonwealth Treasury, however, to continue to stress the principle of payment on the ground of disabilities, seeing that that basis has apparently been abandoned by the commission “, will the Prime Minister favorably consider the early amendment of the act so as to give effect to those principles of compensation for disabilities as promised?
– Compliance with the request of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) would result in a limitation of the scope of the inquiries of the commission and of the grounds upon which States may claim financial assistance. The Government is opposed to any such limitation, believing that the commission should have authority to consider any grounds of claim which the States may desire to submit. With regard to the question of compensation for disabilities, the attention of the honorable member is invited to paragraphs 125 to 147 of the commission’s third report, and in particular to the following extract from paragraph 146 of that report: -
It appears then that, without reckoning any benefit from exchange, benefits and burdens from federation almost balance for South Australia and Western Australia, while for Tasmania there is a net benefitof nearly £1 a head. It follows that no substantial part of the special grant received was made necessary by the effects of federation. We may conclude that these States unfederated would have been at least in the same financial difficulties as at present.
n asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as early as possible.
e asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Is he yet in a position to reply to the following questions asked by the honorable member for Boothby on the 11th instant, regarding the customs duty on Douglas Fir logs: -
Is it a fact that the new tariff on Douglas Fir logs inflicts another hardship on the timber trade?
Under the previous tariff, was it the Intention of the Government to create employment by having the work of cutting the logs carried out in Australia? 3.Is it a fact that when the previous tariff was imposed the timber merchants of Port Adelaide were forced to invest £34,224 in logmanufacturing plants, and that151 employees are actually engaged in the cutting of logs?
ls it a fact that under the previous tariff Douglas Fir logs were admitted with 20 per cent. customs duty and 10 per cent. primage, while under the new tariff the rate is 4s.6d. per160 feet Brereton and 10 per cent. primage?
ls ita fact that the added cost on account of the new tariff amounts to 5s.1½d. ?
What was the reason foT the change oveT from the Australian standard log measurement “ Hoppus “ to new tariff methods known as ‘’ Brereton “?
Does the Government propose to make further investigations before pressing for the proposed new duty?
– The answers to the honorable members questions are as follows : -
Export of Pineapples.
s asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honotrable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 September 1936, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1936/19360917_reps_14_151/>.