14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Minister for Repatriation seen the paragraph published in yesterday’s Sydney Sun, to the effect that nine V.C holders are appealing for help to provide for the widow and the three-year-old son of Sergeant Arthur Evans, V.C, D.C.M., who died a few days ago? Isit the intention of the right honorable gentleman to make some provision for the family of this deceased ex-soldier?
– The honorable member will appreciate that this matteris outside the scope of my department. I shall, however, give it sympathetic consideration, and bring it before my colleagues at the first convenient opportunity.
– Will the Acting Leader ofthe House state whether it is correct that the Government con templates holding a general election on the 1st April next ?
– The Government has not yet given consideration to this matter.
– Have the reported statements concerning an early general election any connexion with the refusal of the Commonwealth Bank Board to meet the request of the Commonwealth and State Governments in regard to loan fund provision, and the excessive rate of interest which the board is demanding?
– I suggest that the honorable member should address his question to the press rather than to the Government.
– Is the Minister for
Trade and Customs aware that, after the Minister for the Interior had stated in this House yesterday that the Commonwealth Government had supplied no information to the Government of New Zealand in regard to Mrs. Freer, a further statement was made by the Acting. Minister for Customs of New Zealand, Mr. Fagan, as reported in to-day’s issue of the Sydney Morning Herald, as follows : -
We sent a cablegram to the Customs authorities in. Australia soon after the Wanganella left Sydney for Auckland. We received a reply giving the nature of the reasons for the Commonwealth Government’s refusal to permit Mrs. Freer to land in Australia.
– Order! The reading of lengthy’ press statements of that nature is quite unnecessary when asking a question.
– Would Ibe in order in prefacing my question with the remarks of the Acting Minister for Customs of New Zealand?
– Can the honorable member vouch for his having made those remarks?
– Yes.I vouch for them.
– Order ! The honorable member can ask a question without reading a lengthy press statement, which he obviously desires to bring to the notice of honorable members.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs aware that Mr. Fagan has said, “ It is untrue to say that we have received no communication “ Will the honorable gentleman make inquiries to see whether his department has supplied information to the Government of New Zealand ?
– The matter of the exclusion of any person who seeks to enter Australia has nothing to do with the Department of Trade and Customs, but Customs officers do the work for the Department of the Interior. I have no knowledge of any such message having been sent as that to which the honorable member has referred.
– In view of the statement made by the Acting Minister for Customs of New Zealand, I should like to know whether the Minister for the Interior still maintains that no information was sent to the Governmentof New Zealand?
– -In the unavoidable absence of the Minister for the Interior, who is meeting a very longstanding engagement in Melbourne to-day, J should like to state that the departmental files contain no record of any communication on this subjectbetween the Governments of Australia and New Zealand ;but inquiries will be made to ascertain whether a communication passed between the trade agent of New Zealand and the Customs officials or the immigration officials in Sydney.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs yet had an opportunity to make a further examination ofthe provisions of the Industries Preservation Act? If so, is he satisfied that that legislation is effective to prevent the undue importation of cement and other commodities? If not, will he bring down amending legislation at an early date, and give the assurance that it will be passed before the 1st December next?
– Anti-dumping legislation is intended to operate only against unfair trade. I intimated to the honorable member last week, in reply to a question, that action was being taken to overhaul the industries Preservation Act with a view to making more effective the section relating to cut freights. It is hoped that legislation on that point will be brought down during this period of the session.
– Will the Minister for Health state what amount out of the Maternal and Infant Welfare Fund inaugurated 18 months agohas been granted to the Government of New South Wales?
– I am unable to furnish the honorable gentleman with the information he requires. I gave to him yesterday what I thought was a fairly full statement on the matter, but if his passion for information is not yet satisfied [ shall endeavour to make good the deficiency.
– Is the Acting Leader of the House in a position to indicate the correctness or otherwise of the press statement that the requests of all Governments, including the Commonwealth Government, for loan funds, have met with a cool reception by the Commonwealth Bank Board, and whether or not this involves any pruning of the works programme of the Commonwealth Government ? Should it do so, will the Government consider the desirability of raising the necessary money by the reimposition of certain taxes that have been remitted?
– As the meeting of the Loan Council has not yet concluded, no definite information can be given to this House. The Treasurer will be in his place on Tuesday, and will be able to answer questions on the subject raised by the honorable gentleman.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Defence been directed to a recent statement by a very well-known British newspaper proprietor who visited Singapore, to the effect that, in order to raise to the highest degree the defence value of Singapore to the dominions and British territories in this wart of the world, it was necessary . that assistance should be given bythose dominions and territories? If so, will the honorable gentleman consult the Council of Defence as to the need, in the case of Australia, for a more complete development of the defence value of Singapore and, if that body is of the opinion that its value is considerable,will he approach the British authorities to ascertain whether, in fact, it is their opinion that the value could be enhanced by the co-operation of the dominions and territories concerned?
-I have seen the paragraph to which the honorable member has referred. No official communications in respect of the matter have been received by the department, but I am nevertheless making departmental inquiries and obtaining reports along the lines suggested by him.
In Committee of Supply:Considera- tion resumed from the 5th November (vide page 1586).
Deparment of Teams and Customs
Proposed vote. £596,520.
Mr.Forde (Capricornia) [10.45].- I notice that the cost of administering the Department of Trade and Customs is to be increased from £584,781, the amount expended in 1935-36, to £596,520 for the present financial year, an increase of £11,739. I do not propose to offer any objection to the proposedincrease of expenditure in view of thetax that the revenue of this department for the current financial year is estimated at £43,000,000, an increase of £1,600,000 over the preceding year. In the list of items of proposed expenditure for 1936-37, £12,480 is provided for the Tariff Board, and I should like to know whether this proposed increase is caused by the additional responsibilities thrust upon that board by the Government under the Ottawa agreement. The Tariff Board, which is a creature of Parliament, has been entrusted with powers much greater than those possessed by Ministers and members of this House.
– Under the Ottawa agreement, the Parliament is absolutely powerless to impose duties on British goods higher than those recommended by the Tariff Board. Ministers have said that in such cases the Government is impotent. Regardless of the opinions of Ministers, the ControllerGeneral of Customs or experts in the Customs Department, such recommendations of the Tariff Board cannot be departed from.
Mr.White. - That is nonsense.We have departed from the recommendations of the Tariff Board on numerous ocasions.
– From time to time we have been faced with the spectacle of Ministers saying that an increase of duties on British goods beyond those recommended by the Tariff Board would be an infringement of the Ottawa agreement, and that consequently the Tariff Board’srecommendations had to be followed. The Tariff Board has powers greater than those of the Minister in respect of many import duties. It is not only members on this side of the House who have objected to the delegation of power to an outside authority which has rendered Parliament and the Government absolutely impotent in matters affecting imports from Britain. The Right Honorable W. A. Watt, who for many years occupied an important position in the Victorian Parliament, and who for some time was a leading Commonwealth Minister, said -
Let me take the words of clause 10 of the Ottawa agreement. By it the British producer is guaranteedfull opportunity of reasonable competition on the basis and the relative cost of economical and efficient production. To my mind,thatguarantee constitutes most definitely a challenge to the protectionist system of Australia. The main objective of the protectionist was to give to the Australian manufacturer a definite advantage in his home market. If you will readparagraph 12 of the Ottawa agreement you will observe that no existing duty shall be increased on United Kingdom goods to an amount in excess of the recommendations of the Tariff Tribunal. Does this notgive an enormous stretch of authority to the board.
The right honorable gentleman then referred to paragraph 12 of the Ottawa agreement in the following terms: -
The phraseology of clause 12 and the practice followed is equivalent to handing over the powers of responsible Ministers to a body of men who do not represent the people in the constitutional sense.
That is the opinion, not of honorable members on this side of the House, but of a gentleman who once occupied an important position in the Federal Cabinet. Ever since the Ottawa agreement was adopted honorable members on this side of the chamber, who support the views of Mr. Watt, have challenged the powers of the Tariff Board in this respect. Ministers have endeavoured to discount our criticisms on the ground that they were made for political purposes, and that we are prejudiced against the Ottawa agreement because it was introduced by an anti-Labour Government. Mr. Watt, who occupies a leading position in the counsels of the Nationalist party, said that action of the Government in agreeing to such extensive powers being exercised by the Tariff Board “is equivalent to handing over the powers of responsible Ministers to a body of men who do not represent the people in any constitutional sense “. In the matter of tariff making Parliament should be supreme, and the Tariff Board should not have the power which it possesses. The board should have authority to investigate proposed customs duties and to submit reports to the Government; but I have always held the view that it is only an advisory body and should not be paramount in matters of this kind.
There are many items which I cannot discuss at this juncture, but in passing, I should like to refer briefly to the duties on cement. The duty on this commodity has been referred back to the Tariff Board, but the Minister cannot give any guarantee whether the board will submit its report by the 1st of December, when the present duty becomes inoperative. Probably the board will be unable to consider it for five or six months because the Minister has stated that he has not the power to direct it as to the order in which its investigations shall be made. Possibly this important Australian industry may be strangled because the Tariff Board is cluttered up with the multiplicity of requests from the Minister to carry out investigations and to submit reports. Under the Ottawa agreement, unless the board, in its wisdom, recommends an increase of duty on imports from Great
Britain, the Government and representatives of the people are absolutely powerless. The Tariff Board should not be superior to the executive aud to Parliament on such important matters. On some occasions the Government has said that it favours requests for higher duties on British imports but that under the Ottawa agreement it is powerless unless the board recommends the imposition of higher duties. This Government was elected on a definite promise that it would eli sure adequate protection to Australian industry.
When the Minister (Mr. White) is replying I should like him to state for what period the present members of the Tariff Board have been appointed, and what salaries they are being paid.
– For the same period and at the same salaries as previously.
– I should also like to know what special qualifications they possess that entitle them to occupy positions in which they can exercise power greater than that enjoyed by responsible Ministers of the Crown. The power they possess is greater than Parliament intended them to exercise when the Tariff Board was appointed in 1921. At that time the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Massy-Greene) stated that the board was to act in an advisory capacity to carry out investigations and to report to the Government on all matters referred to it. lt was never intended that the board should be given the extreme power which this Government permits it to’ enjoy. The Tariff Board should be an advisory body and nothing else.
.- Some time ago the’ Government appointed a Minister to direct negotiations for trade treaties, who is not directly responsible to the Customs Department, yet possesses a good deal of power in respect of our import trade. On several occasions T have asked questions concerning the importation of goods, and I find that the information has been supplied, not by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White), but by the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett). Although I have often been at variance with the opinions of customs officials, I feel that the whole responsibility in respect of imports should be vested in one department and one Minister. Recently, a regulation was promulgated restricting the importation of certain goods from every country, with the exception of Great Britain, Canada and the dominions, without the permission of the Minister. That Minister it not the Minister for Trade and Customs, but the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties. At this juncture I am not permitted to deal with this regulation in detail, because, at a later stage, I propose to move that it be disallowed. But I want this Parliament and the country to realize the extraordinary power taken by the Minister under tha) regulation in respect of trade and commerce generally. Power is given to ona individual to say that one firm may bp granted a permit to import, say, £50.00© worth of goods, and yet at the same time he may refuse another firm the same privilege. In effect, the regulation provides that concessions may be conferred upon one individual and not upon others. One oan readily recognize that, in connexion with the importations of a hups* enterprise, such as General MotorsHoldens Limited, there is the possibility of the gravest corruption. I have received a definite promise from the Acting Leader of the House (Dr. Earle Page) that aa opportunity will be afforded to me to move that the regulation be disallowed, and when that opportunity is afforded I shall endeavour to impress upon honorable members the extraordinary power conferred on the Minister to restrict trade with other countries, and the possibility of grave abuse of this power. If the regulation is not disallowed it will become & statutory rule until repealed or amending legislation is introduced. Section 52 of the Customs Act gives the Minister power to prohibit the importation into Australia of certain goods, but that power was provided for the definite and specific purpose of protecting the health and morals of the people. I doubt whether Parliament would have granted the Minister such power if it were known that it would be exercised to prohibit the importation of goods other than those of the type mentioned. Similar power is contained in the British customs law to prohibit the importation of arms, munitions and explosives, and such classes of goods; but when an attempt was made to exercise the power in the way it is being used in Australia, an appeal was made to the King’s Bench Division, and it was held that the power of the Minister was limited to arms, munitions, and explosives, and goods of a similar nature. I believe that if an appeal were made to the Privy Council it would he held that the action of thu Customs Department in using the power given by section 52 to impose a general prohibition of imports is ultra vires the present law.
I have no desire to discuss the ordinary work of the Customs Department or the amount set down on the Estimates for that department; hut I am concerned that at a time like this, when we have such prospects of being able to enter into reasonable trade relations with overseas countries we should do everything to foster amicable trade relations with them. I say this particularly in view of the result of the recent election in the United States of America and the wellknown advocacy of reciprocal trade with other countries of the world by Mr. Cordell Hull, almost a freetrader, so contrary to the previous policy of that country. I was lulled into a sense of false security by the reductions made in respect of the duties imposed on goods from Great Britain; but now I find drastic regulations and alterations of the Customs Act likely to bring us into disrepute with all countries. These actions have aroused the enmity of Japan, and have engendered a certain amount of bitterness and ill-feeling in the United States of America. In addition, we are deliberately endeavouring to ruin several oldestablished and well-known American firms in Australia engaged in various industries. Realizing that all these things are being done, the sooner we can have a discussion in connexion with the policy of the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties, which is quite contrary to the speeches which he made in this Parliament, the better it will be for Australia. We can only assume that there are some wretched influences behind the present policy of the Government which have brought about the abandonment of the policy which it previously advocated.
[11.3 j.- Three matters raised during this debate call foi1 a reply at this stage. Yesterday the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) referred to a customs matter which 1 think could be appropriately replied to now. The honorable gentleman spoke of an officer of the department in Fremantle who could not qualify for permanent appointment to the Public Service, and asked that something be done about it. The honorable member, I know, did not desire to indicate that the Customs Department had done anything improper, as the matter concerns the Public Service Board. The officer in question could not be made permanent because of the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Service Act. [ say that to make the position, clear. He was employed in a temporary capacity in the department continuously from the 6th March, 1926, to the 16th January. 1931. He was re-appointed on the Seh October, 1935, and is still in employment in the department. The position has not altered since the Deputy Leader of the Opposition- (Mr. Forde) was himself Minister for Trade and Customs, and addressed a letter to his present leader in these terms -
With further reference to previous correspondence regarding, the case of T. J. Ingram, who was formerly employed as a searcher and watchman in the Customs Department, Western Australia, I am now in receipt of the attached reply from the Acting Chairman, Commonwealth Public Service Board, to whom I made strong personal representations on behalf of Mr. Ingram.
The reply is, I regret, unfavorable. But, as already indicated to you, I am quite powerless in the matter, as the board has sole control.
– The Minister is not surprised that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, having an intimate knowledge of customs matters as a former Minister for Trade and Customs, should be very hopeful of the present Minister.
– No, but I endorse what my predecessor said : If I could make the matter right,. I would do so-by providing that this man and many other Imperial ex-Service men who do not come within the definition of returned soldiers in the Public Service Act, because they were not members of the -Australian Imperial
Forces, be brought within the scope of the definition.
Thu .Deputy Leader of the Opposition to-day has made one of his familiar attacks on the Tariff Board, though to-day he was perhaps rather milder than usual.
– I made my attack not on the board, but on the Government, for having vested in the board more power than is given to the Minister.
– The honorable member asked why the expenditure on the Tariff Board had been increased and what remuneration the members of the board receive. I inform him that they now receive the same emoluments as they did prior to the imposition of the Financial Emergency cuts by the Government of which the honorable member was a Minister. One reason for the increase of expenditure on the board is that a restoration of salary cuts has been made. In addition new positions have been created by the Public Service Board, because of the increased work of the board.
– Who are the present members of the board?
- Mr. McConaghy, an officer of the Customs Department, is chairman. The other members are Messrs. Guy, Kelly and Bose, gentlemen with diverse experience in industry, both primary and secondary. Their terms of appointment are : - Messrs. McConaghy, Guy and Kelly, three years from the 31st March, 1933; Mr. Bose, the latest appointee, from the 30th May, 1935, to the 20th March, 1938.
– Who is Mr. Bose?
- Mr. Bose was appointed to fill a vacancy on the board about a year ago. He has had great experience in secondary industries.
– What was he in civil life?
– An engineer; he was secretary of the Standards Association of Australia. He has also had experience in both primary and secondary industries.
– Was he a practising engineer when appointed?
– No, as I have said he was secretary of the Standards Association of Australia; but he has proved that his choice was a good one; he is a most valuable officer. Members of the board are paid sitting fees of £6 6s. a sitting, with a maximum of £1,500 per annum. In addition they receive travelling allowances of £1 7s. a day while absent from head-quarters on duty.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has said that the Government in more or less dictated to by the Tariff Board, and that it helplessly says to the board, “ We will do as you suggest.” I need not deny that that is so, and the honorable member must be aware that it is not so because of the many cases in which we have retained foreign duties at higher rates than those recommended by the board. The fact that the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has been most critical of the Government’s action in that regard, ought to be a sufficient reply to the complaint of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
The honorable member has also spoken of what he described as the Government’s slavish adherence to the Ottawa agreement, and, in support has quoted the opinion of an eminent business man in Melbourne, a former Treasurer in this Parliament. It is necessary, however, to read the whole of the declaration of that gentleman to ascertain his viewpoint. Suffice it for me to say that under the Ottawa agreement, Australia, as a supplier of the United Kingdom, has gone from seventh place in 1931-32, when the Labour Government was in power, to third place, being third only to the United States of America and Canada, each of which has a larger population. It is unnecessary to refer to the improvement of the employment figures throughout Australia .
– Due to the protective policy put into operation by the Scullin Government.
– The honorable member used to pile on duties and say that they would give employment to thousands of people, but the reverse was always the cas*. The present Government has gone about this matter in a systematic manner sud has undertaken a continuous review of the tariff, going through the whole schedule item by item with the Tariff Board instead of continuing the haphazard procedure of the honorable member who, in his strange conceit as an authority on every item, would estimate that the duties should be 50 to 100 per cent, or any other chance figure. As the result of the policy of this Government, employment in secondary industries has increased from 336,000 in 11)32 to nearly 500,000 to-day.
The honorable member for Swan made some comments regarding the power given to the Customs Department under the new trade diversion policy. Power has definitely been given to the department in respect of imports from the United States of America. It is a power which the Government is loathe to use, but i3 part of a definite trade diversion policy. Our trade balance with the United States of America was so adverse as to be likely to approach approximately £15,000,000 during the current year. Despite the fact that approaches were made to the United States of America, and even though that country intimated that it proposed to make trade treaties with other countries, it has apparently ignored Australia’s claims. Some action was necessary to remedy the position. Accordingly we have placed some hundred items en the list of prohibited goods and it is necessary to apply for a licence to import them from the United States of America if they can be obtained elsewhere. The Government’s policy is to divert trade to good customer countries who heeded Australia’s request that they should take an increased share of our exports. These restrictions, however, I am hopeful, will be only of a temporary nature. We have prided ourselves in the past on the fact that our general tariff, os apart from the British preferential tariff, was actually a general tariff applying to all nations; but we have been obliged to depart from that policy in order to divert business from those countries in respect of which there is a tremendous disparity in the trade balance, if they would not buy our goods. The honorable member for Swan has given notice of a motion in connexion with the whole subject and an opportunity will be presented to debate it next week.
– The Government’s trade diversion policy has been continued for four months and a lot of harm has already been done.
– The duties imposed under that policy have to be ratified within six months or they lapse. I remind the honorable member that the. consideration of the budget takes precedence over the tariff, and that he will have an opportunity to discuss this very important matter within the next few days. I hope that with the sweeping majority achieved by Mr. Roosevelt in the United States of America and the many times avowed policy of Mr. Cordell Hull that the United States of America intends to make trade treaties with different countries, that country will soon make an approach to Australia and the cordial trade relations which existed between it and Australia in the past will be resumed.
.- About a week ago I asked a question in the House regarding the banning of a film entitled Ten Days that Shook the World. That film, I understand, was given wide exhibition in the United Kingdom and in the United States of America, where it was regarded as of an educational and historical nature. Its banning in Australia has caused a good deal of concern amongst those who desire that the public should be afforded every opportunity to view educational and historical films. I contend that there are far too few films of that type exhibited in Australia at the present time, and I think that in the interests of the public generally, their exhibition might very well be encouraged.
– The film may be exhibited in Australia.
– If that is so, I am perfectly satisfied.
– I assure the honorable member that that is so.
– I shall not long delay the committee, as I realize that other honorable members also wish to speak in the limited time allotted for the discussion of this vote, but I desire to ask the Minister for Customs (Mr. White) whether the Government has considered the encouragement of development in our tropical regions, particularly the Northern Territory, by means of a special regional tariff? Ever since I have been a member of this chamber I have been trying to show that the dice are loaded against our northern regions, as far as development is concerned. The Northern Territory i? not only isolated from the rest of Australia, but it is also not so well endowed by nature in regard to soil and climate and diversity of crops, as are the southern parts of the Commonwealth. A reduction of customs duties on goods required by settlers in the territory would be of great advantage to them, and it is especially desirable that such requisites as fencing wire, agricultural implements, mining machinery, petrol and oil should be admitted almost duty free for developmental purposes, and for the pearling and fishing industries. .1 realize, of course, that it would be difficult for the customs authorities to police the borders, but the department could safeguard its interests to a great extent by requiring importers to make a declaration as to the use to which their imports are to be put. In 1900 it was decided that the northern regions should be developed by white labour, but little has been done to give practical effect to that policy. It is the obvious duty of this Commonwealth Parliament to give effect to a policy that will make it possible for whites to engage in economic endeavour in tropical Australia.
.- The Tariff Board Act clearly provides that no increased or reduced duty shall be introduced until the matter has been reported upon by the Tariff Board. Yet we have had the extraordinary spectacle of Senator Brennan, a member of the Government, arguing in the press that the Ministry is not bound by Commonwealth legislation. If the Government does not intend to observe the provisions of the Tariff Board Act, the Parliament should be asked to amend it. Can the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) state why the Government, which has expressed a desire to increase Commonwealth trade with the United Kingdom, has introduced regulations to encourage the manufacture of motor chassis in Australia. For four or five months the regulations have been in force, but no report upon the matter has been obtained from the Tariff Board. Imported motor trucks and cars are used extensively by the. primary producers, yet the Government, without consultation with the Tariff Board, has caused a monstrous duty to be placed upon these vehicles. I am wondering whether the Government has any justification for assuming that capital will be brought into Australia to enable complete motor chassis to be built in this country, and whether such assistance is expected from British companies.
.- The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) has asked whether a preferential tariff could be instituted for tropical regions. That, of course, is not generally practicable, although the Government was prepared to consider something of that kind to induce any chartered company to undertake developmental work in the Northern Territory. Any mining machinery of a type not made in Australia is already admitted free of duty under by-law. The Government has recently removed all the duties applicable to the requisites of the pearling industry, which also nas free admission under bylaw of necessaries required for repairs to luggers, &c. In many other ways the various industries in the north have received tariff assistance. The Government is quite prepared to consider any further representations that may be made to it in this regard.
The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) desires to know why certain duties imposed in pursuance of the Government’s trade diversion policy were not referred to the Tariff Board. Some of these duties definitely relate to revenue requirements, and no obligation rests upon the Government to ask the Tariff Board to advise it regarding revenue duties, duties designed to correct a trade balance, or duties consequent upon a trade diversion policy. The board gives its advice regarding duties required for the protection of Australian industries.
The matter of motor car manufacture in Australia is one which should not be discussed at this stage, because it will be fully dealt with next week when the tariff schedule is under consideration. The honorable member appears to think that in some way British motor car manufacturers have been injured by the new duties, but the reverse is the ca.se. Coincident with the proposals to enable motor chassis to be manufactured in Australia, the primage was removed from British chassis and from motor body panels, and as the remit of inquiry regarding them the British preferential rate was considerably reduced. I had the pleasure last weeek, in Sydney, of opening a motor-body assembling plant for British cars. The establishment of this plant was possible as a result of the Government’s recent tariff alterations. During the last five months the sales figures show a definite advance in regard to British cars as compared with American vehicles.
– I should like to see close consideration given to the matter mentioned by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain). The introduction of special tariffs for the territory would be of great advantage in encouraging developmental work. A couple of years ago the Government had under consideration the granting of certain rights to a private company, and one of the inducements offered was the right to very low duties. The framers of the Constitution looked far ahead, and provided for the granting of special tariffs to territories of the Commonwealth ; we can do for a territory what cannot be done for a State. Everybody realizes that settlers in the Northern Territory are put to heavy expense in carrying on their work. It is impossible to give them relief in many directions in which help can be afforded in the States. “When I was a member of the Government an attempt was made to induce private companies to develop the territory, but the scheme did not meet with success. The fact that the Government was prepared to offer special privileges to companies shows that the settlers are entitled to every consideration, and there is no better way to encourage them than by allowing them to obtain many of their requisites free of duty. Owing to the high cost of fencing wire and building materials, for instance, developmental work is seriously retarded.
Mr. WHITE (Balaclava- Minister for Trade and Customs) [11.281.- The matter referred to by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Perkins) will be considered.
In reply to the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), I may say that the film to which he referred was imported by the Friends of the Soviet Union, and is not of the type shown in picture theatres. It was banned by the Film Censorship Board, but on appeal it was released. I received numerous letters about it, many of which were from Communist bodies, and some of which were couched in strong terms. The Government will not interfere with decisions made by the Film Censorship Board. If, on appeal, it is considered that a film is definitely propagandist and should be banned, the Government will adhere to the decision reached.
– A film which I brought out a long time ago called Lenin’ t Country was shown all over New South Wales. Why was that banned?
– I know nothing about it.
Proposed vote agreed to.
DEPARTMENT of Health.
Proponed vote, £125,450.
.- For the current financial year provision is made in connexion with the Department of Health for an increased expenditure of approximately £12,855 compared with last year’s vote. I should like the Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) to explain why, in such an important department as this, in connexion with which he has travelled extensively throughout Australia., the vote of £116,680 which was allotted for the year 1935-36 was not exhausted. The amount actually spent was only £112,595. All honorable members will recognize that there is no more important department under the control of either the State or Commonwealth Governments than a department of health, and I very much regret that I have not .been able to procure an annual report from the permanent head of our department showing its activities. A number of other departments do submit annual reports of their undertakings, and I think that if the Director-General of Health, made available such a report honorable members would be in a much better position to judge whether any really effective work is being done by the Department of Health, or whether there is any unnecessary overlapping with State departments. The Director-General is a professional man who takes a profound interest in research work in health matters and in what is being done in the university laboratories of Australia and by the State departments, and honorable members should be informed of the extent to which he has been able to collaborate and co-operate with the States. If no annual report of this department is printed at the present time, the Minister might well take this matter into consideration in future.
I notice that a small sum of £400 is earmarked for health laboratories. I hope that the Minister will explain how many health laboratories are supported by this small sum of money. The Commonwealth Health Department has laboratories in the various States, and the expenditure on them must be far in excess of £400.
– That is so.
– I hope that the Minister will inform the House how many health laboratories are conducted by the Commonwealth Government in Australia and explain just what are their functions. Is there any overlapping of their activities with the State Health Departments?
I expect the Minister to outline clearly what are the activities of his department in regard to maternal welfare. When he first assumed his present portfolio he had quite a lot to say in regard to this subject, and quoted some startling figures which showed that the maternal mortality rate in Australia was alarmingly high. In this connexion I was astonished to read that, according to the figures which the right honorable gentleman quoted, the death rate among Australian mothers was in excess of that of a number of other countries. Those figures have since been disputed by some medical authorities who, in contradicting the Minister’s
Statement, assert that the maternal mortality rate of Australia is lower than that of many other countries. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether he has any information or any official report upon this all-important subject, and what action the department has been taking in an endeavour to reduce the maternal mortality rate. I have noticed with considerable pleasure at various times, a number of photographs of the Minister in the course of visiting various maternity hospitals throughout Australia, and nursing multifarious babies, some of whom seemed to enjoy it, while others seemed to be greatly alarmed by it. Disregarding those considerations, the photographs indicated that he was most active in his peregrinations in Australia in order to visit maternity hospitals. That is all very well in its way; but practical achievement is wanted. I should like to know whether the Minister has any report to make to this House in connexion with the activities of the department which he administers to improve health matters generally throughout the Commonwealth, and particularly to reduce the maternal mortality rate. Some time ago, he stated that these were matters of national importance, and that the Government intended to devote full consideration to them. I am aware that some collaboration between the Commonwealth and various .State Governments in this connexion has taken place, but in some quarters the Commonwealth’s suggestions have not been cordially received. For one thing, it was pointed out that all that could possibly >be done was being done by the State departments themselves, and I realize that in certain States, notably Queensland, considerable sums of money have been spent by the governments in establishing up-to-date maternity hospitals where expert nurses and skilled medical men are constantly in a ttendance and where mothers whose husbands are in receipt of low incomes can obtain free treatment if necessary. In Queensland also, the child welfare system is equal, if not superior to, that of other States, particularly in connexion with baby health centres, where advice is given to mothers free of charge. Honorable members will therefore realize that the activities of States such as Queensland in this sphere are indeed extensive, but I should’ like the Minister to inform the committee of the activities of his department in this respect. Have it3 researches justified all that propaganda that the Minister indulged in when he first took up this portfolio, or has it been absolutely quiescent in respect of maternal. mortality and infant welfare? Furthermore, I hope that the Minister will inform us of the extent to which he has been able to co-operate with the various State governments in regard to these matters, which are of first-rate importance. From various sources, we are led to believe that the resumption of migration is contemplated, but when it is remembered that the cost of bringing out one migrant and establishing him on the land is approximately £1,000, and that little success has attended immigration of that kind in the past, we should surely realize that the best settler we can have is the native-born Australian. Will the Minister also tell us what he has done to arrest the deplorable drop of thu birth-rate? Whilst I admit that a great deal of useful work is being done by the States in connexion with matters of health generally, I desire to know from the Minister what action his department has taken to co-operate with and assist them. The States still have the major problems of administering social services with depleted revenues, and they find extreme difficulty in adequately financing those social activities, whereas the Commonwealth Government, with buoyant revenues and a succession of huge surpluses, is in a vastly different position. Undoubtedly, the States would like to do a great deal more in matters of health, but their empty treasuries and the multiplicity of demands upon their exchequers preclude them from doing so. The Commonwealth is not in that unhappy position, and I therefore desire to know whether the Minister has submitted any bold, constructive scheme for helping the States along the lines he suggested when he first assumed the administration of the Health Department. In my opinion, much of the talk about the mass of the people of Australia enjoying better conditions than people in any other part of the world cannot be completely proved in the light of facts and figures. For instance, of the number of dependent children in Australia under sixteen years of age, 2,136,000 are dependent on parents who are receiving less than £3 a week. That is to say, 50 per cent, of Australian children belong to parents receiving less than £3 a week. Furthermore, 1,271,000 children belong to parents receiving less than £4 a week. On reading the report of the Advisory Council on Nutrition, one finds some most disturbing facts. For instance, a number of cases of malnutrition are mentioned, and small children in the thickly populated centres are suffering from rickets, because their parents are unable to purchase adequate milk supplies to enable them to give their children the necessary diet. The report of the Advisory Council on Nutrition, which was issued this year, stated -
It is known that in some of the capital cities rickets exists amongst the children. It is clear that no gross degree of rickets exists on tha general scale seen in the large cities of the old world, but the fact that rickets exists at all is, for this country, a reproach which should be removed.
Dr. Hilda Bull, on page 16 of the report, said -
Only .17 per cent, of those examined were considered to show no defects. Many of the defects were of minor degree, for instance bad posture, and slight evidence of rickets; and malnutrition and defective teeth, of course, accounted for a large proportion of defects. The figure can hardly be regarded with satisfaction.
I ask the Minister whether this report has come under his notice, and if so, what action he proposes to take in the circumstances. Has this matter received consideration at any Premiers conference, or will it be discussed at any such meeting in future? Furthermore, I should like to know what counter proposals, if any, the various Premiers have put forward in this connexion, and whether the Minister himself has attended one of these conferences, and collaborated with the various State Ministers for Health? Any information which the Minister may give concerning this state of affairs will be most interesting to honorable members.
I read with great interest a report in the Sydney Sun of a deputation which waited on the Minister recently, as follows : -
The opinion that the wages paid in Australia were inadequate in relation to the cost of food was expressed by the Federal Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) to-day in replying to a deputation from the New Health Society of New South Wales. “ I commend that conclusion,” he said, “ to those industrial tribunals in whose hands lies the destiny of the nation. Facts which have been cited to-day, I think, are conclusive evidence of the need of readjusting those wages in such a way that at least they would provide a family with the means of ensuring for their children an adequate supply of nourishing food.”
The Minister will remember that that deputation requested him to arrange for the Federal Government to subsidize the Government of New South Wales in order to provide adequate supplies of milk for school children throughout that State. In view of the fact that the Minister in reply promised to place the fact before the Federal Government without delay, and, because it is an urgent matter, I should like to know whether he did so, and what was the result.
– Also what action has been taken by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harri8On) who introduced the deputation to the Minister ?
– Yes, what has the honorable member done about it? If the Minister’s overtures in this connexion to Cabinet have been unsuccessful, what are the reasons for it? It cannot be said that the Federal Government has not sufficientmoney for this purpose, because it has made remissions of taxes amounting to £10,000,000 to the wealthy section of the community. The excuse of lack of funds cannot be advanced for any failure on the part of the Government in this regard. Sir Herbert Gepp, who was chairman of the Royal Commission on Wheat, Flour, and Bread, made the following interesting comment in connexion with malnutrition in Australia: -
There is no doubt, from the evidence before the Royal Commission, that malnutrition exists in Australia.
In making such a statement, Sir Herbert spoke from experience gained by extensive travel .and investigation, which occupied a couple of years, and during which he took evidence from all classes of people in all parts of Australia. He said that there was evidence of malnutrition in Australia; and he expressed the hope that cognizance would be taken of that fact. Has the honorable gentleman done anything since then to remove the causes of malnutrition? I remind him that there is no more important subject than the health of the people, and that ample and proper food must be made available to the children of the nation if malnutrition is to be avoided.
– The Government balanced its budget by starving the children.
– The Government has not overlooked its friends, for it has made generous remissions of taxes to wealthy sections of the community, but we ave entitled to ask whether there is anything but talk in what it says about the health of the people. At the deputation which waited on the Minister for Health, Mr. R. E. Figgis said that although the Government of New South Wales had been promising to do something about milk for children, nothing had been done, because of the state of ids finances. Apparently, governments which find it impossible to do anything for the health of the children find a way to remit taxes payable by their wealthy supporters. Mr. E. Beck, another speaker at the deputation, said that in New South Wales last year 684,000 people visited public hospitals. He claimed that that was evidence of “ a terrible tragedy in the community due to malnutrition.” The Federal Minister for Health, who is reported to have been most sympathetic to the representations made to him, said that he agreed that the health of the nation was one of the most important things which could be considered by the legislature and the community. He went on to say - and to his statement I direct particular attention -
I have tried to awaken interest to the implication of the falling birth-rate which, with the cessation of migration, has created a position which is nothing less than the. writing on the wall. Numbers in population amount to nothing. It is the strong and virile people which matter to the nation.
Those remarks were greeted with applause. The report of the Minister’s reply continued-
That 084,000 people, apart from those who visited private hospitals and doctors, were forced to seek medical attention is staggering. lt seems to mc that there must be something rotten in the state of Denmark judging by the amount of money spent on food by the people of this country. The figures released by the Commonwealth nutrition inquiry show that the Australian family spends 0s. or 7s. a head a week on food compared with 8s. lOd. spent by English families. If we want to know why 684.000 visited hospitals, or why the infantile mortality rose from 48 to 50 per 1,000 births in a year, there is the answer.
The Minister added that he agreed that the responsibility was upon the governments of Australia, both State and Federal, and that, although he could not commit the Federal Government, he personally was in favour of a subsidy, and would place the matter before the Government as soon as possible. What is the right honorable gentleman doing about it? I call upon him to give to this committee an account of his activities. If he waa in favour of a subsidy, who among the members of the Cabinet was against it? Did the opponents include the Prime Minister, or the Minister for Defence, or the Minister for Commerce, himself a medical man; or are we to understand that, although Cabinet agreed with tha right honorable gentleman, the parties supporting the Government gave scant consideration to his proposal? We have a right to know these things. I confess that I breathed a sigh of relief when I learned that the right honorable member for North Sydney was appointed Minister for Health, and, later, when I read that he had visited a number of maternity hospitals, and especially when I saw in the Brisbane newspapers photographs of the right honorable gentleman nursing babies, I felt that all would be well with the future health of the nation. I thought, too, that any candidate in an industrial constituency who opposed the right honorable gentleman would be hardly safe from attack by the mothers, each of whom had been told by him that her baby was the most beautiful that he had ever seen. What has the Commonwealth Health Department done to check the increase of maternal mortality and to prevent the alarming decline of the birth-rate? Has the Minister placed before Cabinet any constructive proposal in this connexion? If so, why has it not been explained to this committee? I realize, of course, that the Minister may plead that he was temporarily out of office, but I well remember the public clamour that he should be reinstated in order that his big- scheme to safeguard the national health which was nearing fruition should be completed. What has he to say regarding the poor response to his proposals by the State governments ?
– The Minister is not responsible for that.
– I am not making any charge against the Minister for Health; I am merely endeavouring to elicit information from him. The committee is asked to approve of an expendi ture of £125,450 for the Health Department for the year 1936-37. I have shown that the parents of 50 per cent, of the dependent children of this country receive less than £3 a week; that compared with 8s. lOd. a week spent by the average English family on food the expenditure in Australia is only 6s. or 7s. a week, whilst the Minister himself quoted figures to show that maternal mortality in Australia is greater than in most other countries, and I should like him to let us know what the Government is doing in the matter.
.-! had thought that, by general consent, the activities of the Health Department would be treated in a broad and non-party way, but the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) has spoken at incredible length as if the tocsin had been rung and he was before the electors seeking to justify his existence, and explain the inexplicable. Let me try to bring him back to the place where he started when, with some show of reason, he asked for information. I remind him that the course he has pursued this morning is not generally the most successful in eliciting information. He has asked for a list of the activities of the Health Department; he wants to know what it has done, and is doing. Had the honorable gentleman taken the trouble to inquire as to what the department is doing, he could have ascertained that, although it does not shout its wares from the housetops, it is endeavouring to discharge, to the best of its ability, what are, perhaps, the most responsible duties entrusted to any department. . Even he has admitted that the health of the people is of supreme importance. Had the honorable member reminded himself of a number of things which he knows well, he would have spared himself the rhetorical frenzy in which he permitted himself to indulge. He asks what my department is doings - surely the honorable member is aware that the Constitution limits the activities of the Commonwealth Health Department to a very narrow. field by practically confining them to matters relating to quarantine. It may take measures to provent diseases from entering this country from other countries, but exactly what other things it can do the High Court has not yet determined. Pending an interpretation of the Constitution in that respect, the Health Department has nevertheless extended its activities over many other fields. As the honorable member mentioned research, I can inform him that in that direction the department has been, and is, busy. From time to time conferences have been held to discuss the causes and treatment of cancer. The Federal Health Council has met regularly, and it proposes to meet more frequently in the future. We have been able to ensure the closest co-operation between the States .and the Commonwealth. The Directors of Health in the several States confer from time to time with the Commonwealth Director-General of Health in order to coordinate State and Commonwealth activities. As the honorable gentleman knows, the Health Department is concerned with ail those influences - environmental, industrial and general - that affect the life and health of the community, and within the ambit of its powers the department is endeavouring to discharge its obligations. Among the other activities of the department which are known to the honorable member is the preparation of sera and the carrying out of research work in its laboratories at Royal Park. Darwin, Cairns, Townsville, Rockhampton, Toowoomba, Lismore, Bendigo, Launceston, Port Pirie and Kalgoorlie. The establishment of a laboratory ut Broome has also been authorized, and construction is about to commence. Throughout Australia there are great numbers of people who are absolutely dependent on the sera produced in the Commonwealth laboratories. We are independent of overseas supplies of insulin, which does not cure, but arrests and counteracts the effects of diabetes. Almost the whole of the insulin used in this country is produced at Commonwealth laboratories. The sera, used for immunization against diphtheria and the anti-toxin that combats the disease when it occurs, are also produced at our laboratories. These activities run the gamut of infectious diseases. Radon, an emanation of radium, is produced at our laboratory st the University of Melbourne.
Cancer conferences have met annually for the last seven years to deal with this most tragic and terrible disease. Research is now being carried on in the various States with the hope of discovering the cause of, and a cure for, cancer. So far, research has not been as fruitful as we could desire, but we are hopeful that, before long, we shall be able to announce that a definite advance has been made. The honorable member has covered such a wide field that I feel that I cannot follow him in the time for which I intend to permit myself to speak. He said a great deal about maternal mortality and nutrition. He would have members believe that wc have done, and are doing, little or nothing in these vitally important matters: we have on the contrary been most active. Let me say a few words first of all with regard to maternal mortality. The honorable member said that the figures I have cited about maternal mortality had been challenged by a certain doctor. I do not deny that, but the figures are set out very plainly in a handbook that I have prepared and circulated. I thought the honorable member had read it, but evidently he has not. He asked for an annual report by the Health Department. What will be the good of preparing annual reports if people will not read them? I know that the honorable member received a copy of this handbook.
– The Minister has never supplied me with a copy. That is my complaint.
– For the information of the honorable member and those gentlemen whom he did not name, but who, he said, challenged my figures, I remind him that I was roost careful to point out that the figures I had cited in reference to maternal mortality had been adjusted in such a way as to eliminate those differences of calculations which exist in the varying methods of assembling statistics followed by the different countries. I cite Dr. Tandy, an American authority, who reduced all these returns to a common denominator, so that all statistics from the principal countries of the world were placed upon the same basis. Therefore, all this criticism of my figures falls to the ground. It was said of course by those who questioned the accuracy of the figures that our statistics were too generous, or, rather, too rigid, if we like to put it that way, in that we attributed to maternity causes deaths that in any other country would not be so attributed. But even if that were so, the figures I have cited arc adjusted in such a way as to eliminate these differences. My figures cannot be successfully challenged, and they show that, whilst the maternity death rate in Australia is 5.6 for every 1,000 live births, in Sweden it is only 2.7.
– What has been done to reduce the number of deaths?I am asking for information. I have read a lot of speeches, but has anything practical or productive been done by the Commonwealth Government?
– I do not know whether the honorable member realizes the kind of problem with which we arc dealing. What does he expect us to do? Does he think that we are God?
– No, but I want more than talk. I want research work done. The Commonwealth has the money; the States are impecunious.
– Does the honorable member realize that the maternity death rate is higher to-day than it was in 1911?
– Yes; that is the tragedy of it, and I want to know what has been done to counteract it?
– Does the honorable member realize that in the 25 years that have elapsed since 1911, many governments of different complexions have been in power in many countries, and that in not one country has maternal mortality been reduced? It has not been reduced either in Great Britain or in Australia and this arises from causes that we have endeavoured to explain. We say that mothers die from preventable causes, and we are endeavouring to prevent them. Last year we made available £50,000 for the purpose of improving conditions of child-birth, ante-natal, natal, and postnatal, so that every woman in this country, irrespective of her status, should have that care and attention that is desirable and absolutely necessary if she is to bring forth a healthy child with safety to herself.
– Why not try to establish chairs of obstetrics at the Universities?
– We have secured the co-operation of the States but the States have the control of this matter and we can only work along with them. The member for Watson (Mr. Jennings) asked me this morning what had been done in New South Wales. We are endeavouring to make it possible to ensure that every woman in this country, irrespective of her position in life, shall have that care and attention, including accommodation and proper nutrition, nourishment and diet, that will, as far as is humanly possible, enable her to give birth to a healthy child without danger to herself.
– Well, what is being done ? What money has been expended in each State?
– I have told the honorable gentleman what we are doing.As he knows perfectly well, we have not the power to deal with this matter other than through the agencies of the States.
I come now to the matter of nutrition. The honorable member for Capricornia quoted my remarks as something to which he took exception.
Me. Forde. - No; I said that they disclosed a state of affairs which should not exist.
– In season and out of season I have stood for such a wage as will ensure that everybody in this country shall have an adequate supply of nourishing food. Let me now supplement what I have said by a quotation from the speech of Mr. Colin Campbell, President of the National Provincial Bank, of Great Britain. On the 30th January, 1936, ho said : -
It has been estimated that if the undernourished classes in Britain were able to enjoy a full diet there would be an increased trade in foodstuffs amounting to about £200,000,000 a year, giving revived activity to British fanning without harming overseas trade or shipping.
He suggests that in order to fill the gap in British foreign trade the Government should improve the food of the under-nourished. I am glad to cite such an authority. The powers of the Commonwealth Government in relation to the fixation of wages are negligible. The authorities who settle and determine the conditions under which the people in general live are the indus- trial tribunals and arbitration courts. It is true that the States, including the State of Queensland-
– Where the basic wage is higher than in any other State.
– Malnutrition is just as rife there as anywhere else.
– No. Queensland leads Australia.
– What has been done in Queensland?
– It has the highest basic wage, and the shortest working week.
– The honorable member knows full well that Queensland is doing nothing more than is being done in other States. Let us look at this matter quietly and calmly. It is evident that if we are to improve the health of the people, we must see to it that they have means of obtaining an adequate supply of nourishing foods. But our powers are very limited. We have appointed a nutrition committee which is now obtaining evidence. A colleague of the honorable member for Capricornia this morning referred to it in a sneering way. [f we are going to set before the people of this country a recommendation as to what is a proper dietary, we must ascertain all the relevant facts. The Nutrition Committee is doing this. We must have facta, not merely opinions. . When that ha3 been done it will be for the governments of Australia to see that the people shall have means to purchase the dietary which this committee recommends and says is essential to them.
I should be very glad to co-operate with the honorable member or any other persons to do what can be done.
– Can the Minister announce the decision of Cabinet on the request made by a deputation in Sydney that milk should be provided for school children ?
– I explained to the deputation that what the Commonwealth Government is prepared to do for one State it must be prepared to do for all States. To do what was asked on that occasion would involve an expenditure of millions of pounds a year.
– The money could not be spent in any better way.
– The honorable member has been in office and he knows something of the difficulties that face governments.
– The Scullin Government had to face a deficit of £10,000,000 but this Government has a surplus of more than £3,000,000, and is this year remitting taxes to the extent of about £5,250,000.
– Apparently the honorable member can always give a reason why the Government with which he was connected did not do certain things; but he will not listen to any explanation that is offered on behalf of any other Government. The honorable gentleman is not facing the problem in the right spirit. This Government is prepared to do everything that can be done to improve the public health of the community. It has appointed various committees to obtain information and. hae also decided to appoint a National Health Research Council which should materially help to usher in the condition of affairs which the honorable member so passionately desires.
The greatest problem which faces this country is the fall of the birth rate, but I d.o not think that the Government can be blamed for this.
– If the standard of living were improved, more children would be born.
– The figures in regard to the birth rate should be given the closest attention: The birth rate has fallen from 27.16 a thousand in 190] to 16.55 a thousand last year, and it is still falling. The most recent figures available for New South Wales show a continuance of the downward tendency. This, of course, is a world-wide problem, the seriousness of which we should not unduly exaggerate, yet we cannot disregard it. It seems to me that the situation arises out of a world-wide tendency due to current developments of civilized life. A falling birth rate manifested itself in olden times in the days of the Roman and Grecian Empires. But whereas a falling birth rate does not matter very much to old established countries like Great Britain, it is a matter of life and death to a young country like Australia, for it seriously affects our population. . For the 50-year period ended 1029 our population increased at the rate of about 2 per cent, per annum. This ru te of increase was the highest in the world, being equalled only by that of Canada. We had, during that period, substantial increases from migration, though I cannot say that the stream of immigrants was exactly steady.
– The migrants came in a series of waves.
– That is so. Taken over the whole period our increase from immigration varied between 15,000 and 30,000 a year. In the five-year period from 1911. to 1915 our gain by natural increase was 544,000, and in the five-year period from 1930 to 3 934, it was only 240,000, a fall of more than 300,000. In the five-year period, 1911 to 1915, our increase from migration was 136,000, while in the five-year period. 1930 to 1934, we suffered a net loss of 10,000 through emigration. That is nothing short of a tragedy. Australia must face this great problem which it dare not ignore. If a remedy can be found, it should be applied though the heavens fall. But, quite frankly, I say that, in my opinion, the remedy is not as simple as the honorable gentleman seems to imagine. It may be that radical measures are necessary, and, whatever they ,are, if they can be shown to be effective, they ought to be applied. The importance of maintaining the health of the community at its optimum can hardly be exaggerated. Maternal and infantile mortality must be reduced, and we are labouring diligently to do this.
– Wo could save a lot of lives by reducing the number of deaths due to motor accidents in Australia, and also by reducing to the greatest possible extent the death of infants under one month.
– I agree with the honorable gentleman. The Government has expressed its readiness to co-operate with the State Governments in a “ Safety First “ campaign, but, after all, if people will rush headlong to death, or will act with complete disregard for the safety of their fellow citizens, I do not know what governments can do about it. A great deal of the ill-health of the world is undoubtedly due to ignorance. Certainly, numerous errors of diet arise from ignorance. It seems to be almost impossible to convert people from their old habits. Nevertheless, if I were asked to lay my finger on the solution of which would give us the best results I should unhesitatingly put it on the problem of nutrition. This problem begins with the health of the mothers. Healthy mothers give birth to healthy children, and healthy children go through life with <t great deal less trouble than other children. The condition of our social and economic life must be adjusted so as to ensure that there shall be available to the great mass of the community an adequate supply of nourishing food.
I regret that it is impossible for me to supply all the information that has been sought, but I can give one undertaking. An annual report is already furnished to the Parliament on the work of the Health Department, and I shall see that copies of it are made available to ail honorable members so that they may be kept informed of the activities of this department which, I venture to say, despite the comment made by honorable members opposite to-day, are meeting with some measure of success.
– I protest against the unreasonably long time, having regard to the limits imposed by the Government on this discussion, which the Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) has occupied in replying to the speech of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde). The right honorable gentleman has only left seventeen minutes for all other honorable members who wish to participate in this discussion. It must surely be recognized now that at least two or three hours were needed to consider, in any adequate way, the important public questions that have arisen in relation to the administration of the Health Department. After all, perhaps, the blame should be placed on the Government and not on the right honorable gentleman, although he must take his share of the responsibility. I recognize that the Minister is far more keen than are other members of the Cabinet to deal with the vital issues that come before him in the course of his work. He referred to a deputation which waited upon him in Sydney on the 5th September last to request that the Common- wealth Government should provide financial assistance to enable milk to be supplied to children’ of poor families. In this connexion I direct attention to the following press report of the right honorable gentleman’s remarks : -
On the question of providing financial assistance to give families more milk, Mr. Hughes said that the Federal Government was anxious to co-operate with the States inthe matter.
The paymentof a subsidy to State Governments so that an adequate supply of milk could be made available to school-children was a matter for Cabinet.
Payment of a subsidy meant taxation and a rough calculation showed that the provision of milk for, say, 250,000 school children would cost £30,000a week.
Australia could not afford to economizein health, which was the foundation of everything.
What Britain was doing in providing a daily ration of free and cheap milk for school children and maternity and child welfare organizations Australia could do, he added.
It would appear., therefore, that the excuses that the right honorable gentleman has made to-day for the inaction of the Government must fail. The Government is not doing all that could be done to improve the health of the community.
I realize, of course, that some State authorities contend that the Federal Government should withdraw from the field of health administration. It is asserted that the health departments of the various States are already covering the ground satisfactorily, but I am quite satisfied thai, within its limits, the Commonwealth Department of Health is engaged in very important activities which deal with public health matters in a way in which a State health department could not beexpected to do. It is not usual for me to throw bouquets at officers of publicdepartments, but I should not be doing my duty if I did not pay a tribute to the very excellent service which is being rendered to the wholecommunity by the Commonwealth DirectorGeneral of Health, Dr. Cumpston.
– We all agree with that statement.
– In Western Australia Dr. Cumpston’s name is a household word, for he did most valuable service there many years ago when he inquired into matters relating to the health of miners. Much of the information that he gathered at that time has been of immense value to those engaged in the mining industry. I recognize that a great deal has been done in regard to tropical laboratories which are the special work of the Commonwealth Government. My complaint is that while there are ten Commonwealth laboratories throughout Australia, one has yet to be established at Broome. The Minister and the Director-General of Health recognize that a laboratory at that centre is necessary, and at long last we have reached the state where a title to the site has been secured. The department should have been able to speed up this essential work faster than it has done. Leprosy is very prevalent among the natives in the north-west, and it and other diseases, threaten the native races with extinction. Anything which this Government can do to combat leprosy should be done; I recognize that in this regard it is sharing the responsibility with the State Government, and I trust that the establishment of a lazaret at Derby will be expedited. I am aware that the department submitted to the States concerned a scheme whereby it proposed to gather all of the natives suffering from leprosy in the north-west and Queensland into a centre in the Northern Territory where these sufferers would be treated entirely by the Commonwealth Government. I regret very much that Western Australia and Queensland refused to agree to that arrangement.
I had hoped that the Minister would make a statement regarding Sister Kenny’s clinics for the treatment of infantile paralysis. Whether this treatment is or is not proving so successful as Sister Kenny believed it would, the matter, no doubt, has to be handled with some delicacy, because, as was the case in connexion with the Spahlinger treatment of tuberculosis, parents of children suffering from infantile paralysis - and there are manysuchcases in Victoria, for instance - are clamouring that their children should be given the benefit of this treatment.
– The medical committee at the Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney, has reported very favorably on Sister Kenny’s treatment.
– I am very glad to hear that. Honorable members will recall that when the Spahlinger treatment for tuberculosis was announced they were beset by sufferers from this complaint with requests that the treatment should be placed within their reach. They hoped against hope that it would be successful, and a long time elapsed before it was found that Dr. Spahlinger was unable to sustain the sanguine claims which he had made in respect of his treatment.
As the Minister has said, legislative action of itself will never prove effective in correcting our falling birth-rate, except by improving the economic position of the people generally. One great bar to the raising of families is that parents find it impossible to place their youths in satisfactory employment. Many people who can be said to hold broad ideas on this subject are very doubtful about the wisdom, or humanity, of bringing children into the world when no possible chance exists of getting employment for them, and when they are faced with the further possibility that their children will be sent to war as cannon fodder. Due to the present economic unrest throughout the world many people, particularly women, in most countries - not Chauvinistic countries like Japan - take a modern view of this matter and feel that a strike of the sex is necessary if children brought into the world are to be used merely as cannon fodder. The Minister has rightly said that the development of Australia is one of our greatest problems. Unless sufficient numbers of native-born Australians are available to develop this country our future is very black indeed. We must give serious consideration to the fact that over a considerable period, the rate of increase of our population, including excess of arrivals over departures, has not been, even in times of prosperity, greater than 2 per cent. per annum. At that rate, our population would double itself every 35 years. I read in a book on Japan recently that the effective birth-rate in that country was 3 per cent., which means that Japan’s population will double itself every 23 years. I make this comparison, not to suggest that Australia and Japan are likely to be rivals on any future battle-field, hut to show that Australia cannot hope to keep step with that very progressive and, shallI say, aggressive Eastern nation, unless its birth-rate is considerably increased. This problem concerns every section of the Australian people.
.- There is no more important department in federal activities than that of Health. It equals in importance defence, for which last night we voted a sum of nearly £9,000,000. 1 do not object to that vote; it is a form of insurance against war. But in contrast to that expenditure, we propose to vote for the purposes of health only £266,000. One must appreciate the difficulties of the Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) in the administration of his department. He is tossed on a sea of perplexities caused through the conflict of Commonwealth and State activities in his sphere. There was a time, of course, in the career of the right honorable gentleman when, by a wave of his wand or a stroke of his pen, he could move mountains as well as Mahomet, but to-day, owing to the conflict of Commonwealth and State interests, and lack of certain powers, he finds himself very often compulsorily impotent.
Along with other honorable members on this side of the House, I strongly supported the policy of maternal welfare enunciated by the Government at the last federal elections, and to-day I protest againstthe delay which has occurred in the implementing of that policy. About eighteen months ago a fund was established for this purpose, and, in answer to a question which I asked yesterday, the Minister stated that the New South Wales portion of the maternal and infant welfare fund had been given to that State about six months ago. Why has not this policy been implemented in New South Wales? I hope that the people of Australia who are expecting great benefits from this fund will not have their hopes dashed to the ground. Is the delay in New South Wales due to some unfortunate disagreement between the medical and nursing authorities in that State, arising from a conflict of opinion as to the methods by which this policy should be implemented? I have received many inquiries as to the actual position in regard to this fund in New South Wales. and I suggest that this Government, or, failing it, the Government of New South Wales, should make a statement on the subject in order to clarify the position.
I wish now to refer to an importantaspect of health research. Attached to the universities of Sydney and Melbourne are two well-equipped dental research laboratories, which are becoming famous for their work, but their activities are seriously handicapped for lack of funds. These laboratories are under the control of two talented Australians, Professor’ Arnott, in Sydney, and Professor Amies, in Melbourne, both of whom are authorities on this subject. Modern science has proved definitely that sepsis of the mouth is responsible for arthritis in various forms, and that in its turn, arthritis is more responsible than any other disease for wastage of time in industry. We spend thousands of pounds annually on cancer research . and investigations of maternal mortality, but it has now been claimed that dental disease is intimately related to each of these matters. Recently, two cases of puerperal sepsis in the Women’s Hospital in Melbourne were traced to septic conditions of the mouth which, in each case, was badly diseased. Both Professor Arnott and Professor Amies claim that unhealthy dental conditions are frequently causes of cancer of the mouth.
Extensive research work into dental caries has been carried out in other countries, and in a great number of cases the work has been generously subsidized by governments. The General Medical Council of Great Britain subsidizes this work to the extent of many thousands of pounds a year. It is claimed that a number of diseases of the eye are directly attributable to dental disease, which is the most widely spread ailment in the community. Although comparatively few cases are fatal, the results of the disease are serious. Both Professors Arnott and Amies say that, in spite of more sunlight and comparatively better housing conditions, the teeth of the children of Australia show no proportionate increase of immunity from decay, in comparison with the teeth of children in many other countries. It is suggested that a subsidy of £5,000 should be allotted to the Sydney and Melbourne dental research laboratories, for the purpose of extending their activities. By this means the services of highly qualified research workers could be engaged, and efficient laboratories maintained. If the laboratories worked under the ægis of the Commonwealth Government they would be assured of greater recognition outside Australia.. Should other States, later, possess dental research laboratories, the federal grant could be shared by them. I ask the Minister to give earnest consideration to this request, which I make on behalf of these laboratories, whose work confers great benefits on the nation.
– The matter will have the sympathetic attention of the Government.
– I protest against the treatment meted out to Government members in relation to the time allotted for the discussion of the Estimates for this very important department. After the Minister and two honorable members opposite had spoken, only nine minutes remained to Government members wishing to speak.
– And also to the rest of the Opposition members.
– Two honorable members opposite took up the bulk of the time allotted for this discussion.
– We voted against the guillotine; why did not the honorable member do likewise?
– I am pointing out that more time should be allotted for the consideration of these Estimates.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).The honorable member is not in order in discussing the allotment of time at this stage.
– I have gone to some trouble to prepare facts dealing with the representations made by the deputation which I recently introduced to the Minister to discuss the matter of milk supplies for school children and maternal mortality and I regret that I have not sufficient time in which to place these facts before the committee. When one can prove conclusively that, apart from the declining birth-rate, we are losing 10,000 infants annually. because of the failure of the Health Departments and the medical profession throughout Australia to prevent the causes of such mortality, honorable members will agree that it is most important that, more time should be allowed to them to state their views on these matters.
– The time allotted for the consideration of this proposed vote has expired.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 12.1,5 to 8.15 p.m.
Department of Commerce
Proposed vote, £428,210.
.- The Estimates for the Department of Commerce show that an increased expenditure of £26,130 is anticipated, as compared with the expenditure for 1935-36. I should like some information from the Minister regarding the operation of the commercial intelligence service overseas for which the estimated expenditure is £19,930, an increase of about £3,000 as compared with the previous year. The explanatory schedule accompanying the Estimates shows that the estimated expenditure for the upkeep of trade offices in the East is £4,500, as compared with £5,625 for 1935-36. I hope the Minister will be able to tell honorable members how many trade centres are maintained in the East, and why the expenditure is to be reduced. Is it due to any lack of vigilance on the part of the Department of Commerce, or is it due to the fact that there has been a slowing down of activities because of recent trade disputes, the Minister realizing that whatever advantages may have been gained by the activities of his department have been more than offset by losses incurred through the action of the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) in greatly displeas ing one of our good customers in the East?
The Department of Commerce to-day is under the control of two Ministers. A few years ago it was administered by the Minister for Trade and Customs. The present Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) and the Assistant Minister (Mr. Thorby) have not been idle, at least as regards travelling abroad. They investigated the affairs of the commerce departments of various countries of the world, and they must hold a record for the distance travelled during the time they have been in office. Perhaps the Minister for Commerce can tell us something regarding his interesting experiences abroad. He left Australia to attend a sugar conference which was not held, and the Assistant Minister went for the purpose of discussing a meat agreement with the Government of Great Britain. I shall be glad to learn what success the Assistant Minister achieved, but I admit that I cannot understand why the Minister for Commerce could not have attended to all these matters, especially as he had with him for some of the time the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies). I know that the Assistant Minister takes a very keen interest in his department, and that he had an interesting trip to the butterproducing countries in northern Europe about which he may tell us something later.
– It was not taken at the expense of the country.
– I do not know whether that is so or not: In spite of these trips by the Minister and Assistant Minister, we have no guarantee that our meat trade with the United Kingdom has been placed upon a permanent basis. We have received no assurance that a long-range meat agreement has been reached, or even that there is a reasonable prospect of success in this direction. Perhaps the Minister for Commerce will be able to tell us later what has been holding up the negotiations. Is it because the British Government believes that unreasonable requests have been made by the Commonwealth Government, or does the Commonwealth Government believe that the terms submitted by the Government of the United Kingdom are not satisfactory? Thousands of meat producers throughout Australia would like to obtain some definite information regarding these points, and this applies particularly to the cattle-breeders of Queensland. Of a total of 18,512,000 cattle in Australia, no fewer than 5,781,000 are in Queensland, and from that Stale is exported the bulk of the frozen and chilled beef that Australia sends overseas. It can truly be said that a big section of the producers of Australia has suffered loss because of the offence given to one goodcustomer country in order to divert trade from that country to Great Britain, and the time has now arrived when the Government of Great Britain should give a quid pro quo. It cannot be said that there has not yat been sufficient time to reach an agreement. We have no guarantee that any arrangement has been made to ensure to primary producers of Australia a permanent and expanding share of the market of the United Kingdom. I am glad that, so far, we are able to send to Great Britain the great bulk of our exportable primary produce, but we should not forget that the preferences which we alford to that country are estimated to be worth £10,000,000 a year, whereas in return we receive a preference on the British market to the amount of only £1,500,000.
During 1935, imports of chilled beef into the United Kingdom from Australia amounted to 216,000 cwt., while imports from foreign countries, chiefly Argentina, amounted to 8,080,000 cwt. In 1935-36, the total imports of chilled and frozen beef into the United Kingdom amounted to 11,400,000 cwt., of which quantity Australia supplied 1,400,000 cwt. A total of 8,600,060 cwt. was supplied by foreign- countries, and of this quantity, 7,500,600 cwt. was imported from Argentina. It is interesting to note that, for the year 19S5-36, Australia supplied IS per cent, of Britain’s imports »f frozen and chilled beef. All British countries supplied 23 per cent, of the total, while foreign countries supplied T7 per cent.
Since 1932, total imports into the United Kingdom increased from £700,000,000 to £800,000,000. I propose to quote a table showing that the percentage of purchases by Great Britain from Australia has, since the Ottawa agreement, either decreased, or increased only to a very small degree, thereby showing that Britain’s purchases from Australia have not increased in proportion to Britain’s total imports, and that our increased exports to Britain are not to any extent at the expense of foreign countries, but are due to economic improvement generally. The trade figures are as follows : -
I have quoted those figures in order to show that, although exports to the United Kingdom of some classes of primary products have increased during the last three or four years, British imports from foreign countries have increased to a greater extent during that period. The increase in the case of Australia has been due, not so much to the Ottawa agreement or to anything that this Government has done, as to the general improvement of trading conditions in England. I have been told by persons who have recently returned from abroad that relatively speaking no country in the world has improved its trading conditions to a greater extent than has Great Britain. Comparing the present year with four or five years ago, the purchasing power of its people has risen considerably. I should like to know whether this Government has received a definite guarantee from the British Government that Great Britain will take from Australia all the chilled beef that we can supply to it during the next five or six years. I ask leave to continue my remarks.
– I regret to announce that the Honorable Sir Littleton Groom, member for the division of Darling Downs, has just expired. I am sure that honorable members will be so shocked at the news as to desire an immediate adjournment of the House. I therefore move -
That the House do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 2.34 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. The Oil Advisory Committee is at present returning overland to Perth after having completed a geological investigation of the Fitzroy River’ basin.
s asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
From whom have applications been received by the Government for assistance from the fund of £250,000 recently appropriated by Parliament to encourage the search for petroleum oil, and what amount is sought by each applicant?
– The following applications for advances under the Petroleum Oil Search Act 1936 have been received and are now under consideration : -
y asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are a3 follows : -
The policy of the present and previous governments in regard to the manufacture of artificial replacements, surgical aids, &c, other than for those eligible to receive free issue under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act and Regulations is as follows: -
The Deputy Commissioners of Repatriation in all States of the Commonwealth have been instructed to adhere strictly to the policy outlined above.
son 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.
k asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Is it a fact that Australian dance bands compare more than favorably with overseas dance bands?
– Arrangements for the presentation of programmes to be transmitted over the national broadcasting system are a matter for which the Australian Broadcasting Commission must assume full responsibility. There is, consequently, no official information as to the intentions of the commission in regard to the engagement of Mr. Harry Roy. It is, however, well known that the Australian Broadcasting Commission strives to the utmost to give employment to Australian citizens.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Oil Tank Site at Sydney.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the Prime Minister upon notice -
– A considerable amount of technical information has already been made available to the Queensland Cane Growers Council by Mr. L. J. Rogers, the Commonwealth fuel adviser, in connexion with the general economics of power alcohol production from molasses and other sources. Mr. Rogers has also been in touchwith Colonel Minell, the acting chairman of directors of Distillers Limited, the company which is producing power alcohol at Sarina, and, in response to representations which have been made, approval was given for Mr. Rogers to visit Sarina with the object of rendering all possible assistance to the power alcohol industry which is established there. Mr. . Rogers left Sydney for this purpose on the 31st October, and will he occupied on the work for a period of about two weeks.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members questions are as follows : -
Japanese. - The Kurile Islands, the Bonin Islands, Amami-Oshima, the Looohoo Islands, Formosa and the Pescadores.
United States of America. - The insular possessions which the United States of America holds in the Pacific Ocean, except -
The “ insular possessions “ so affected therefore include the Aleutian Islands, the Philippine Islands, Guam, Midway and several smaller islands.
Extraction of Oil from Coal.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– Full information in regard to the production of oil from coal in other countries is now being obtained by Sir David Rivett, chief executive officer of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, who is at present abroad mainly for this purpose. It is expected that Sir David will return to Australia about the 20th December. In view of the rapid developments which are now occurring in other countries in connexion with the production of oil from coal, it would be preferable to await Sir David’s return in order that the Government may be in a position to supply the honorable member with the most uptodate information on the points which he has raised.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– A conference of representatives of the export control authorities of the Commonwealth and other interests connected with the export of primary produce, and overseas shipping companies, will be held in Sydney on the 16th November. The conference will discuss, particularly, the matter of securing closer co-operation between the various exporting interests with a view to ensuring more regular deliveries of Australian products in the United Kingdom.
y asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
e asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice - .
– Inquiries will be made and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as early as possible.
Maritime Conference: Hours of Labour Convention.
s. - With reference to the question asked yesterday by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) in regard to the vote of the Australian Government delegate at the International Labour ‘ Conference on the draft convention applying the 8-hour day to seamen, I desire to supplement the information already given to the honorable member by informing him that the Australian Government delegate voted for the adoption of the convention, as also did the Australian employers’ and workers’ delegates. The convention was adopted by 62 votes to 17.
s. - On the 23rd October, the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) asked me the following question, without notice : - .
In view of the large number of ex-soldiera suffering from spondylitis due to active service and who find it almost impossible to establish their claim after 20 years, will the Minister consider making this a war disability to enable sufferers to obtain hospital and medical attention?
I asked the Repatriation Commission to investigate this matter and am now in. receipt of the following report : -
I have to state that the medical advisers of the commission, after careful consideration of the matter, indicate that there is no evidence at all to suggest that spondylitis in more common among ex-soldiers than among similar age groups of the civil population.
The more frequent use of the X-rays in diagnostic investigation of human ailments has shown that changes indicating spondylitis occur in all classes of the community and very frequently even in young adults.
In many cases the records show a recent onset of the condition whereas previous similar investigation of the same patient failed to disclose any evidence of it, and it ls thought that most people of middle age would show X-ray evidence of its presence. The treatment of spondylitis, amongst other forms of chronic joint disease, was the subject of a recent medical meeting in Sydney. One medical men, himself a sufferer, has summed up the position as follows: - “Spondylitis is the oldest pathological process of which we have a record. It is common to the Mesozoic Dinosaur, the modern racehorse and the majority of mankind “.
In view of tho foregoing the commission is unable to support the adoption of the procedure suggested in Mr. Mulcahy’s question.
– On the 5th November, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) asked the following question without notice : -
Is the Acting Leader of the House able to furnish honorable members with the unemployment figures for October? Tlie’ latest figures we have are those for September.
The reply to the honorable member’s’ question is 83 follows :-
The unemployment figures are collected from trade unions quarterly. Those for the December quarter will not be available until the middle of January next.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 November 1936, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1936/19361106_reps_14_152/>.