14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment: -
States’ Grants Bill 1936.
Defence Equipment Bill 1936.
Trade Agreement (Czechoslovakia ) Bill 1936.
Trade Agreement (Belgium) Bill 1930.
Trade Agreement (South Africa) Bill 1936.
– Last week I asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, whether the Government intended to make available this year to unemployed persons and pensioners a special Christmas cheer gift. The right honorable gentleman replied that the matter had been and was under the consideration of the Government. Can he now give me a definite answer?
– At a later hour this day the Treasurer will introduce proposals relating to this matter.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he has ‘received any request from returned soldier organizations for a grant from the Commonwealth to provide Christmas cheer this year for unemployed ex-soldiers, as was provided in previous years?
– So far no request has been received in respect of such a grant this year, but I assume that it will be received. In recent years the Commonwealth has granted £2,000 annually to the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia for this purpose.
Mr.ROSEVEAR.- In the event of the Commonwealth Government making any money available for Christmas cheer for returned soldiers this year, will the Prime Minister see that . arrangements are made whereby returned soldiers, who do not happen to be members of. the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial
League of Australia will be enabled to participate in the distribution?
– I shall give considera tion to the question raised by the honorable gentleman. I point out, however, that the practice has been for the Government, year by year, to make a grant for this purpose to the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia, and to permit the organization to distribute it. At this stage I do not see any reason for any departure from that practice.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the majority of returned soldiers, including many of those who are in distress, are not members of the particular organization to which he has referred ? Can he, therefore, devise some means to enable these men to participate in this grant?
– As I have already intimated, I shall be prepared to consider the point raised by the honorable member. Concerning the particular returned soldiers to whom he has referred, J. can only say that when the Treasurer introduces a measure directly the honorable member will see that as ordinary citizens, those men, if they are in distress, will share in a grant to be made by the Commonwealth for the purpose of providing Christmas relief.
– In view of the distribution of Christmas cheer to returned soldiers, I ask the Assistant Minister in charge of War Service Homes if during the festive season, he will suspend any evictions from War Service Homes that may be pending?
– I find it easy to give the honorable member a promise in that direction because I do not think that any case of eviction is under consideration by the department at the present time.
– I have been requested by Mr. G. K Collins, honorary secretary of the Bondi Returned Soldiers’ Club, and Mr. A. E. Crisp, agent for Mr. Gower Wilson, of Sydney, to ask the Minister for Defence whether, in view of the fact that the destroyer Vendetta deviated only 40 miles from the course that was set to LordHowe Island during the recent search for the’ missing launch
Viking, and that the Lord Howe islanders believe that the launch has been cast away on Middleton Reef, he will issue instructions for a naval vessel to search that reef?
– At the request of the Premier of New South Wales, the Commonwealth made the destroyer Vendetta available to search for this launch. The search that it conducted was similar to that made in connexion with a previous disaster in the same waters. A zig-zag course was followed on a 30 mile front to and from Lord Howe Island. I do not think that the possibility of the men being found on Middleton Reef had been mentioned up to that time; but from what I have read in the press, I believe that a vessel has since examined that reef, and there have been several proposals for a similar search by private persons. I shall be glad to institute inquiries to see what further efforts may’ be made.
– I understand that the Treasurer published recently a pamphlet in which he criticized the principle of one government raising moneys for another government to spend. Will the honorable gentleman agree to, and recommend, a drastic reduction of Commonwealth taxation, with a consequential reduction of grants by the Commonwealth to the States, so that the States will be obliged to raise more revenue on their own behalf, instead of relying on Commonwealth aid?
– I do not think that in the publication to which the honorable member has referred, I devoted much space to a criticism of the policy mentioned by him. I regret that I cannot answer the latter portion of his question, as it involves a matter of policy.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to the fact that coronation souvenirs of cheap foreign manufacture are being offered for sale to Australian traders? As the coronation celebrations are essentially of an Empire character, will the right honorable gentleman take steps to restrict sales to souvenirs of Empire manufacture?
– The matter will receive consideration.
Dismissal of Men
– Will the Minister for Defence state whether it is a fact that 25 ex-soldiers are to be dismissed this week from their employment at the Maribyrnong munitions establishment? If so, is the dismissal in consequence of the recently-announced increase of the basic wage? If not> will the honorable gentleman ascertain the cause and. in view of the large vote for defence purposes passed recently by this House, endeavour to have the services of these men retained ?
– As the honorable gentleman was good enough to inform me that he proposed to ask this question, I have been supplied with the facts of the matter. The impending dismissals have no relation to the recent increase of the basic wage. Tradesmen numbering, I believe, thirteen, and nine labourers, were employed on the erection of an additional factory at Maribyrnong. That work is now completed and at the moment there is no further similar work available for them. The department will be only too glad to avail itself of their services when it has other work on which they can be employed.
– In view of the recently-expressed opinion of the Premier of New South “Wales, that the supply of fuel oil in Australia from local sources is imperative in the national interests, will the Prime Minister inquire of that gentleman as to what contribution his government is prepared to make towards the establishment of such a supply? Will the right honorable gentleman also give some indication of the probable date when Sir David Rivett - who, I understand, has conducted ‘investigations into this matter while abroad - will return to Australia?
– I shall be glad to make the suggested inquiry of the government of New South Wales. I understand that Sir David Rivett will return to Australia in December. The chairman of Imperial Chemical Industries Limited will visit Australia in January, and the Government proposes to have a conference with him after it has received the report of Sir David Rivett. We are hopeful that something satisfactory will emerge from that discussion.
– According to a press statement, Sir David Rivett will return to Australia next month when this Parliament will probably be in recess. The Prime Minister informed me that on my recommendation he would cable to Sir David Rivett for the purpose of obtaining his report. Will the House have an opportunity to discuss that report before the recess?
– I am afraid that a misunderstanding has arisen on the part of either the honorable member or myself. I undertook to cable to Sir David Rivett in order that he might prepare a report, but I did not ask him to send it immediately. In any case I fear that it would not be possible, after his arrival or upon the receipt of the report, for the Government to make a pronouncement on the matter prior to Christmas. It is probable that upon the return of Sir David Rivett the Government will discuss the matter with him, and also with the chairman of the Imperial Chemical Industries Limited. That discussion cannot take place until the early part of next year.
– Was the Minister for Defence consulted by the governing body of the Rifle Clubs Association regarding, or did he authorize, the alteration of the rules of the association to make it impossible for women to retain their membership, or to prevent women from being enrolled?
– This matter has been brought under my notice. Some doubt arose as to whether women were entitled to become members of rifle clubs. The action taken does not affect women who are now members, but merely clarifies the present position.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether a short session will be held next year before the departure of the ministerial delegation for London to attend the coronation celebrations and the Imperial Conference, to enable this Parliament to discuss at length important matters such as imperial defence, imperial trade relations and the question whether Australia should remain a member of the League of Nations?
– The question, I think, supplies its own answer. A short session would not permit of the discussion at length of the momentous and farreaching matters mentioned by the honorable member. I hope that a short session will be held early next year, but I can hold out no hope of a discussion at length of the matters mentioned.
– I lay on the table-
Tariff Board - Report and recommendation - Undressed timber, viz., Douglas fir.
The report recommends a reduction of the duty on sawn oregon,’ but the Government does not propose to give effect to the recommendation for the reasons given when the last tariff schedule was tabled. This matter will be further debated in the consideration of the tariff schedule this week. I move -
That the report be printed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– The report tabled by the Minister is dated 1933. Will the Minister state his reason for saying that the Government doesnot intend to carry out the board’s recommendation?
– I gave the reason in tabling the tariff schedule in May last.
– When will the Minister for Defence be able to furnish a reply to the questions I asked several weeks ago. with reference to costs and statistics of the Great War?
– On the 5th November last, the honorable member asked me a series of thirteen questions relating to this matter, and four of them have been answered. The questions involve a considerable amount of research, but I hope to be able to supply the remainder of the answers shortly.
– Before the Christmas recess?
– I understandthat a few years ago, the Tariff Board held an inquiry regarding the manufacture of motor chassis in Australia. If such a report is in the hands of the Minister for Trade and Customs, will he lay it on the table of the House as soon as possible, so that honorable members may have the benefit of the views of the board in considering the tariff schedule this week?
Mr.WHITE. - To the best of my knowledge, the board has not held an inquiry in respect of the matter mentioned certainly it has not. done so since I have been a member of this Parliament.
– If any inquiry is held by the Tariff Board into the manufacture of motor chassis, will the Minister lay such a report on the table of the House ?
– When such a report is made, it will be laid upon the table.
– Has the Prime Minis ter seen the statement, reported in the Sydney press yesterday, attributing the following statement to the British Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Dominions, Lord Hartington -
I hope your governments will find it possible tobring about some resumption of migration from England to this country.
If so, will the Prime Minister inform Lord Hartington that the majority of the governments in Australia do not desire such a resumption, and that this view is supported by the 200,000 persons in Australia who arc unemployed?
– I have nothing to add to the statement previously made on behalf of the Government as to its attitude towards migration.
– Has the Prime Minister received replies from the various State Governments to the suggestion made that a conference be held to consider the subject of youth employment?
– I shall obtain that information for the honorable member. I am not sure whether any State Government has yet replied to the suggestion.
-Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, state whether replies are yet available to questions I asked on the 5th November, regarding the amount of revenue that must be earned by a non-official post office before it is entitled to become an official post office?
– The reply will be furnished to the honorable member very shortly. It passed through my hands to-day.
– Some time ago, the Treasurer stated that he would give further information at a later date with regard to trust funds. When does the Minister expect the information will be made available?
– I have had a comprehensive memorandum on this subject in course of preparation for some time, and I hope that it will be ready for distribution in the course of the next few days.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether consideration has yet been given to numerous requests made by shire and municipal councils for reductions of telephone rates?
– I shall make inquiries from the PostmasterGeneral on the subject. Personally I was not aware that any such representations had been made.
– Has the Prime Minister’s attention been drawn to cabled reports suggesting that Ministers should follow the example of His Majesty the King, when he recently visited the coalfields in South Wales-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman, in asking a question, must not refer to His Majesty the King in a way which is obviously intended to influence the reply.
– Seeing that His Majesty the King recently visited .the coalfields in South Wales to acquaint himself with the distressed conditions there, and that cabled reports suggest that Ministers should follow his example, I ask the Prime Minister whether Ministers of this Government will visit the distressed coalfields of Northern New South Wales, with the view to making themselves conversant with the prevailing distress in those areas?
– I direct the honorable member’s attention to the Standing Order which forbids the use of the King’s name for the purpose of influencing any decision of the House. It is perfectly clear that the honorable member’s intention in repeating his mention of the King’s name was to influence the reply to his question. His, question, therefore, cannot be allowed.
– In view of the fact that certain gentlemen are visiting the South Wales coalfields-
– Order ! The honorable member obviously is framing his question in such a way as to evade the ruling just given from the Chair. It, therefore, cannot be allowed.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether it is not a fact, that he signed papers dealing with the case of Mrs. Freer along with other documents and did not acquaint himself with the full facts of that case?
– It is not a fact.
The following papers were presented : -
Audit Act - Transfers of amounts approved by the Governor-General in Council - Financial year 1935-36.
Defence Act - -Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1936, Nos. 152, 153.
Meat Export Control Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1936, No. 155.
Public Service Act - Regulations Amended -Statutory Rules 1936, No. 154.
Assent to the following bills reported -
States’ Grants Bill 1936. Defence Equipment Bill 1936. Trade Agreement (Czechoslovakia) Bill 1936.
Trade Agreement (Belgium) Bill 1936. Trade Agreement (South Africa) Bill 1936.
Motion (by Mr. Casey, for Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That lie have leave to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the adoption of sections 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 of the Statute of Westminster, 1931, and for other purposes..
Motion (by Mr. Casey, for Mr. Thorby) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Colonial Light Dues Collection Act 1932-1934, and for other purposes.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
.- I move-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund sums for the purposes of financial assistance to the States of tho Commonwealth in the provision of assistance to persons out of employment.
During recent weeks the Government has been giving consideration to the question of providing some measure of relief at Christmas time to persons out of employment. We are, of course, all aware that during the last four years unemployment, has been steadily decreasing, and that this’ Christmas the great bulk of the people will enjoy much better conditions than in recent years. Nevertheless, there ave still many persons in the different States of the Commonwealth whose lot is still difficult because of the lack of employment. The Government therefore proposes to ask Parliament to grant a sum of £150,000 to provide assistance to persons out of employment. It is proposed that this grant shall be distributed amongst the States on a population basis as follows: -
As the Com mon wealth Government has -no detailed records of the names of persons out of employment in the various States, it is impracticable for the Commonwealth to undertake the distribution of a grant of this nature through its own departments. On the other hand, the States have labour agencies and detailed records in regard to employment which would enable them to distribute a grant of this nature on an equitable basis. It is therefore proposed that the Commonwealth grant shall be made to the States, and the State governments have been asked to undertake the distribution of the grant to persons out of employment. It is the intention of the Commonwealth that the States should be at liberty to distribute the grant either in cash or in kind, and that the basis of distribution within each State should be left, to the discretion of the State government concerned. The bill is being introduced now in order that, if Parliament approves the proposed grant, there will be ample time for the States to arrange for its distribution before Christmas time. No provision is made in the bill for assistance to the unemployed in the Northern Territory, Norfolk Island, or the Federal Capital Territory. These territories are under the control of the Commonwealth, and inquiries are now being made with a view to determining what measure of assistance should be given in them. The amount involved for the territories will not be large, but it may be assumed that assistance will be given in the territories on a basis at least as generous as that possible in the States under the grant now proposed. I commend the bill to the sympathetic consideration of honorable members.
– Are invalid and old-age pensioners to receive any special consideration ?
– This measure is to assist only the unemployed.
.- The amount to be appropriated in the bill to be founded on this resolution is £150,000, which is to be distributed by the States to assist the unemployedAccording . to the latest figures supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician, the membership of the trade unions furnishing returns is 436,000, and the number of unemployed trades unionists over 52,000, or 12 per cent. As a matter of fact, the total membership of trades unions in Australia is over S00,000, and therefore only about one-half of the trades unionists in Australia are taken into account in computing the volume of unemployment amongst trades unionists. The “proportion of unemployed amongst those who are not members of a trades union is regarded by every competent authority as being much higher than the figure shown by an analysis of trade union returns.
– The Government’s information does not support that contention.
– I do not see how the Government could obtain any information of a sufficiently reliable character to enable the Treasurer to make that assertion.
– In certain States, the Government has reliable information on that point.
– The information which the Commonwealth Statistician furnishes is contained in a general memorandum marked “ Confidential “ dated the 15th October last, from which it will be seen that the improvement of the employment figures is only in respect of factory employment, and does not necessarily include all avenues of employment. The great masses of rural workers are not included in this return. It is notorious that officials and the Government should not place any reliance upon the 12 per cent., because it is not a true indication of the volume of unemployment. Fifty-two thousand trade unionists are registered as unemployed, but the figure, I venture to say, exceeds 100,000, if we look at it fairly, because apparently only one half of the trade unions make the official returns upon which the unemployment statistics are founded. No account at all is taken of the great number of unemployed men and women who are not members of the trade unions. The 52,000 unemployed members of trade unions have, I would submit, average families that, it would be safe to say, represent a community of 150,000 persons. Yet the honorable Treasurer professes to be doing a stroke of extreme generosity when he gives them fi each at Christmas.
– No one has made that claim.
– The honorable member is looking a gift horse in the mouth.
– I am not looking a gift horse in the mouth at all.
-. - The honorable member can vote against this.
– The Treasurer knows that it is impossible at any stage of these proceedings to. move that the appropriation be increased; that this House is in the position of having to vote for this miserable £150,000 or get nothing at all. I am merely urging that the state of the Commonwealth finances warrants a more substantial amount being voted, and asking the Treasurer to look at this matter dispassionately. It is not an exaggeration to state that the number of unemployed in this country is between 175,000 and 200,000. The appropriation, therefore, provides less than fi for each of the persons out of work and leaves no provision at all for the families dependent upon them. We are to give thom £1 at this juncture, when, as the honorable gentleman, says, the other sections of the community are enjoying conditions better than they have enjoyed in the last five or six years, and when the Commonwealth has been able substantially to reduce taxation in respect of those who have large incomes and who can afford to pay taxes better to-day than at any time in the last five or six years. There is one section of the community which has reaped no advantages from the improved conditions. Its members have had no reduced taxation, and no increased earnings; that is to say, they have benefited neither from the Government policy of less taxation nor from what it claims to be its policy of increasing employment. They are the forgotten men in this community, and for them, I submit, the provision which is to be contained in the bill, which will be founded on the resolution of this committee, is hopelessly inadequate. It will be impossible for the States to distribute the money equitably. What the honorable gentleman has done is to find £.150,000, give .it to the States, and then let the States discover that it will be insufficient to cover the claims which will be legitimately submitted to them, with the result that they will learn that, although they are in possession of the amount appropriated, they will have to stand-up to the brunt of the criticism of its inadequacy and, therefore, of all the anomalies which must be inherent in its distribution. That is unfair. It is true, as the .Treasurer says, that the States have bureaux which will be able to attend to the distribution of the money, but I submit that no bureau can spread this amount equitably among the thousands of persons who have claims to participation in the grant. In order to act fairly, properly, and competently, in the spirit of the Christmas season, having regard for the fact, that customs revenue for the last three months is enormously in excess of the estimate - the Treasurer is getting this money as the result of the fiscal’ policy of encouraging imports from overseas - the Treasurer should allow the section of the Australian community, which so far has had no share in the benefits from economic recovery, to get some real Christmas cheer and not give it what is equivalent to a fleshless bone.
.- I think the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) is hardly fair to himself, not. in opposing this motion, but in not commending the Government for the gesture which it is making by supplementing what the States are doing for the men who are provided for in this bill.
If the amount is as paltry as he suggests, then the efforts of previous governments fade into insignificance, because this is the first time in the 35 years of this federation that any Commonwealth government has made such a grant.
– That is not so. .
– This is not The first time that moneys have been found by the Commonwealth to supplement the unemployment relief votes for works of the States, but never has a grant been made by the Commonwealth at Christmas time without any tag being attached to it.
– The Scullin Government made a similar grant.
– The Scullin Government did make a grant, but conditions were imposed upon its spending. Grants previously made have been subject to the approval of the Commonwealth Treasurer of the works that were to be carried out. I recognize the work the Scullin Government, and other governments, did during the depression in making moneys available, but this Parliament on each occasion appointed committees in the States to supervise the manner in which the moneys were spent. I am not saying anything against those grants, but I repeat that this is the first time that a Christmas grant has been made by any Commonwealth government to the State governments, for unemployment relief purposes, without a tag being attached. This is the first time that it has been left to the States to distribute the money unhampered by Comonwealth restrictions. Surely the Leader of the Opposition will agree that the States have instrumentalities and bodies which are much more competent to distribute this money than the Commonwealth is. We have no organization, and no means of ascertaining the distress which obtains in various districts. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) recentlyasked a question concerning what steps were to be taken to relieve distress in his electorate. I have heard other honorable members also cite the distress which exists in their districts. I undertake to say that those honorable gentlemen know of organizations within their electorates which are much more competent to distribute this money than is the Common wealth Government. I commend the Government for providing this money. All honorable members would like to see a larger amount, but no other previous government has even provided the amount which is to be made available under the proposed bill. We must all recognize the responsibilities of the States in regard to the problems associated with unemployment, and we must all recognize that in the States there exist institutions and societies which have for years been helping to relieve unemployment and distress, especially at Christmas time. The appropriation of this money will be a gesture that the Commonwealth recognizes the obligations of the States, and that it is making an effort to help them, even in a small way, to provide for the unemployed over the Christmas period.
– This appropriation will not help much.
– We should all like fo have a larger appropriation made. I should like to see the amount increased four times.
– On what principle is this amount to be distributed?
– I cannot say; I am not a member of the Government. But even on the honorable gentleman’s own figures, the distribution will be on the basis of £1 a head.
– The amount will be approximately £1 a head.
– I do not see how that can be so, for there are more than 50,000 trade unionists registered as out of work.
– The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost) interjected a few moments ago that the basis of calculation was entirely wrong, for Tasmania would get only £5,200, but, in my opinion, the basis is sound. This is the first time for many years that, money has been distributed to the States for this purpose on a population basis. We are all aware that for several years New South Wales has been paying the deficits of certain other States, and it is time that everybody awakened to that fact. If the money proposed to be allocated under this proposal is made available on a proportionate basis New South Wales will be treated exactly like the other States. I submit that in the distribution of money for Christmas relief no other basis should be considered. I commend the Government for having introduced the bill. I was glad, also, to hear the Prime Minister say to-day that £2,000 is to be made available through the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia for the relief of necessitous returned soldiers. I point out to the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) that that organization has never differentiated between its own members and other returned soldiers when distributing relief money of this description. I sincerely trust that the amount now being provided for Christmas cheer will be made to go as far as possible.
.- I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) that the amount of £150,000 proposed to be made available for Christmas cheer for the unemployed is quite inadequate. I have made representations on a number of occasions to the Government and also to the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) personally that special need exists for relief measures on the coal-fields. I have asked that that problem should be treated as urgent. When distress has been caused by floods and other calamities in other States and countries, various governments have provided money for relief measures, and I can see no reason why the special circumstances of the unfortunate people on the coal-fields should not be considered. Both the Prime Minister and the Treasurer were sympathetic but said that it would be most difficult, to find an equitable means to distribute money to relieve distress on the coalfields without discriminating unfairly against other sections of the community. It must be borne in mind, however, that the amount of unemployment on the coalfields is increasing, for nothing that has been done so far has tended to solve this serious problem. The honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) said that, a. grant of the kind now under consideration had never previously been made, but he is in error, for in 1929 the Scullin Government made a sum of money available for Christmas relief. Unfortunately the Bavin Government of New South Wales applied the federal grant unjustly in -that it used portion of it to reduce its own dole bill. The Scullin Government never intended that such a course should be followed. I fear that unless some definite provision is put in this bill to make this grant conditional upon the State maintaining at the existing rate, any relief payments they now have in operation, we shall find the Federal grant being once again used in the unfair way in which the Bavin Government used it.
– I can find no record of any previous grant of the kind now being made by this Government. Previous grants were for works and were on an entirely different basis.
– If the Treasurer makes further inquiry he will be able to assure himself that my contention is correct. Five weeks or more ago I urged that if any grant were made available for Christmas cheer, it should be expended through local governing bodies and not through State government agencies. Unfortunately our experience in New South Wales has been that the political complexion of the State Government influences the distribution of relief moneys. For example, the people on the coal-fields have always been unfairly treated by anti-Labour governments, for all the State parliamentary representatives of the people on the coal-fields sit in Opposition. One result of this has been that they have been shabbily treated in the distribution of unemployment relief moneys, although they have suffered more from the depression than any other section of the community. Surely it is not unreasonable, in these circumstances, for the Government to make specific provision in this bill that the money shall be distributed equitably.
– The coalfields people ought to alter their political representation.
– If we had in mind compelling the Government to do the fair thing, something could be said in favour of appointing a Country party representative or two, for undoubtedly the Country party in this Parliament has been able to get all that it has asked for from this Government. But the members of that party will soon be relegated to the political scrapheap. I urge the Government to agree to the inclusion in this bill of a provision for the distribu- tion of the money through local governing bodies. We should also provide that State Governments shall not take advantage of this grant in order to reduce existing State unemployment relief grants. In view of the fact that the suggestion which I put forward for a special grant to the distressed people of the coalfields was rejected on the ground that the distribution of such relief would have to be general throughout the ‘Commonwealth, I hope that the Treasurer will realize that the grant he has proposed is inadequate; to be of any substantial benefit to the unemployed it should be doubled. I emphasize that the unemployed persons in the Hunter district are in desperate straits. Although I dislike to parade their poverty before the National Parliament it is a tragic position when good honest citizens who are anxious and willing to work are unable, through no fault of their own, to find employment. As the result of their poverty they are ill-clad and many of them have lost their homes. Some had paid all but £60 or £80 of the purchase price of their homes to banks and building societies, but now they have lost their all. In those circumstances this proposed grant for Christmas relief is totally inadequate. I urge the Treasurer to accept the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition and increase the grant in order to .alleviate the distress of these unfortunate people.
.- The Government should be congratulated on bringing forward this measure. Notwithstanding what has been said by honorable members of the Opposition, in ridiculing the amount of £150,000 which will be distributed among the unemployed as Christmas relief, most honorable members were pleasantly surprised to learn that the finances of the country are in such a condition as to permit the Treasurer to make this money available. It cannot rightly be contended that because the number of unemployed is 150,000 and the size of the grant is £150,000, that the amount of Christmas relief which each applicant for it will receive will be £1. Many thousands of unemployed will not make application for this assistance; again, in many homes, two or three persons may be unemployed, in which case the amount of relief in such homes will be doubled or even trebled. The distribution of this money is not designed to create work1; the grant is for Christmas cheer, to brighten the lot of unemployed at the festive season, and, in my opinion, it will give them a more cheerful Christmas than they have had for several years. If .any evidence were needed that we are back again on the high road of prosperity it may be found in the ability of the Government to provide this amount of money as a special Christmas grant for the unemployed. I have no doubt that the people who benefit from this distribution will feel very grateful to the Government for bringing forward such a humane proposal.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) complained at the right stage of this discussion that the amount of £150,000 to provide Christmas cheer for the unemployed was inadequate to meet the situation. The honorable gentleman put that case well and forcefully, and I do not propose to add a word to what he said. My main purpose in rising is to reply to a statement which was made by the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr). In my opinion he made the most extraordinary defence of the Government’s proposal to which I have ever listened. In the first place he said that no other Government had done anything like this. If that were true - and it is abundantly clear to every one that it is not - it would still not be an answer to the contention of the Leader of the Opposition. In years gone by there was not the occasion for making a grant of this nature because, fortunately, there was not the same amount of distress. Later when the distress did prevail, the revenues of the Commonwealth were seriously depleted. But the Lyons Government cannot claim that it. has not the money to spare - that its revenues are not buoyant at the present time. As the Leader of the Opposition said, it is getting millions of pounds of easy money, a large amount of it at the expense of Australian industry and employment. I find that I am constrained from time to time to defend the Government which I led. When I heard the honorable member for Parkes Sn y that no previous government had made a provision of this nature, and when he made specific reference to the Labour administration which I had the honour, and, perhaps, the misfortune to lead through a crisis, I immediately challenged him. When he was challenged by interjection what was his defence - by what pretext did he try to justify his outrageous statement ? The honorable membersaid that this grant was the first money given away without having a tag to it - without carrying an obligation to work for it. I join issue with the honorable member, and say that that fact is not a recommendation of this proposition. I read the protests made in recent months in New South Wales when the State Government proposed to abolish relief works for the unemployed and revert to the dole. Immediately there was an outburst of indignation throughout the State because it was believed in proper circles that surely if there is an uplift in this country - and there is - that surely if conditions are improving as rapidly as it is said - and I hope that they are - the time has arrived to wipe out completely the dole and substitute for it work for the unemployed. And yet the honorable member for Parkes claims, as a special virtue, that this money is being granted by the Commonwealth Government to the States, not for the purpose of providing work for the unemployed, but in order to give to them charity.
Mr.Francis. - It is Christmas cheer, not charity.
Mr.SCULLIN.- It is charity. The Government that I led in its hours of adversity and deficits voted £1,000,000 to the States in order to provide a few weeks’ work for the unemployed prior to the Christmas season. It is true that some of that money was diverted to one particular State that had more unemployment than any other State. At the following Christmas, £500,000 was distributed, mostly among local governing bodies. I ask the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) - Would it notbe better to give to the unemployed a week’s solid work and pay them £4 or £4 10s. for it. than to give them a dole of 10s. for Christinas cheer?
– Better still, give them twice as much as that offer.
Mr.SCULLIN.- The sum of £500,000 was voted for work for the unemployed at Christmas, 1930, following the £1,000,000 which had been voted to the States in the previous year. Is it not better to give men two weeks’ work before Christmas and let them have the satisfaction of knowing that they earned the money rather than grant to them what is really a dole? I desire to get the fact into the minds of the Government that the unemployed of this country are looking not for charity but for justice and the right to work and earn for themselves and their families the money which they require for Christmas cheer.
– Personally, I see no reason why there should be any criticism of this measure, except that honorable members may consider that, in certain instances, the grant is not sufficient. If that be their opinion, the ordinary parliamentary procedure is open to them and they are entitled to move that the amount be reduced by £1 as an indication to the Goverment that the bill should be withdrawn and reconsidered. I have a strong suspicion, however, that no motion of that description is likely to emanate from the Opposition. As to what took place in the unfortunate times which were visited upon this country when the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) was in charge of the Government, I contend that anything which was done in those times should not be taken as a precedent for what we are able to do to-day. But in passing a bill of this description the House should bear in mind that what we do under conditions such as those which face the country to-day will be looked upon as a precedent for future occasions, and, personally, I always take the view that we should be particularly careful of creating precedents in the expenditure of public money. So far as the method adopted by the Government is concerned. I have no objection to find with it. If there is any ground for criticism, it is that the Commonwealth is giving to the State Governments a. free hand in connexion with the expenditure of this money. I have no desire to hamstring the States, but I consider that such grants should be conditioned by a definite proviso that the money will be spent for the purpose for which it is voted. Any government which acted as the honorable member for Hunter says a previous government in New South Wales did, acted wrongly. Such things should not be permitted in connexion with any grant from the Commonwealth to the States. The only possible criticism of this measure is that it does not provide that the Commonwealth shall specify the purposes for which the money shall be used. If its intention be that the unemployed shall derive some benefit, it should provide that they shall not be deprived of something which, were it not for this grant, they would have obtained from the States. That is the intention of the committee, and I should have no objection to a definite provision to that effect being incorporated in the bill.
.- The sum to be allocated to the States for distribution among the unemployed at Christmas time is so small that it will have little effect in relieving distress among the families of men out of work. The problem of unemployment cannot be solved by the piecemeal methods of the present Government. Men out of work have told me that they want, not charity, hut the right to earn a living for themselves and their families. The failure to carry out a comprehensive scheme of public works is largely responsible for the present unsatisfactory condition regarding, employment in this country. Because loan moneys for public works have been restricted, men are idle, and all that the Government is capable of doing is to make available £150,000 to tide them over the Christmas season! It is of little avail to ask the unemployed to rejoice at Christmas time, if they know that work will not be available to them for several months. If we are sincere in our desire to deal with the problem, let us attempt to deal with it thoroughly. The very fact that the Treasurer (Mi-. Casey) is impelled to make this grant is an indication that the unemployed of this country are in a. bad way. A sum of £150,000 will not, howover, fill the stomachs of starving children; it will scarcely provide an extra currant in the Christmas pudding! Unhappily for many of the unemployed, there will be no pudding at Christmas; they will be lucky if they get a “ doughboy “. How different will their fare be from that of honorable members opposite! Every person in Australia is entitled to employment whereby he may earn sufficient to provide for himself and his family. The term “ Christmas cheer “ conveys little meaning to men who throughout the year have been clamouring for an opportunity to earn their livelihood, so that they shall not be dependent on doles. I shall not vote against this proposal; but I condemn the Government for its failure to grapple will the problem of unemployment. Instead of handing out this dole, the Government should draw upon its hidden reserves, and carry out a programme of public works throughout the country. The honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) pats the Treasurer on the back, and tells him what a good chap he is because he proposes to give to the unemployed something for nothing. To that policy I have always objected. I maintain that the workless can maintain their selfrespect only when, given the right to pay their way in the community. The average unemployed family will not receive from this distribution of money more than enough to keep the landlord from the door for a week. This grant will not prevent unemployed families from being evicted from their homes. Let us be sincere, and act as statesmen. The Treasurer laughs; but I predict that, before long, he will, if in this chamber at all, be sitting, not on the Treasury bench, but as a private member in opposition.
– I laughed at the honorable member’s reference to statesmen.
– The outlook before the unemployed is dark indeed if the present proposal of the Government is all it is capable of doing towards a solution of a pressing problem. I compare this pittance with the election promises of candidates supporting the Government.
– They never intended to honour those promises.
– -The Government and its supporters claim credit for a proposal which will give to the unemployed at Christmas time an apple dumpling without the apple. A sum of £150,000 for distribution among the unemployed by way of Christmas cheer is not sufficient: the Government should evolve a comprehensive policy whereby the unemployed may be given work, and they and their families lifted out of the suffering, privation and degradation which is now their portion. A sum of £1,000,000 would not be too much to expend on public works, along the lines vigorously advocated at the Loan Council meeting recently, but refused by the Commonwealth Bank at the instigation of the Treasurer.
– The honorable member should not talk nonsense.*
– The honorable gentleman, who advocated a policy of high interest rates and of curtailed loan expenditure, is content to say to those to whom he has denied work, “ The Government intends to give to you something at Christmas “.
– The honorable member is talking nonsense.
– The Treasurer does not like to hear the facts. Will the amount of money provided in the bill compensate, the States for the increase of employment that will result from the curtailment of loan expenditure on public works ?
The CHAIRMAN” (Mr. Prowse) Order! The honorable member is getting away from the resolution. A more appropriate time to discuss that matter would be when the bill is before the House.
– I want to counteract the effect of the propaganda started by honorable members opposite, who said that this is a wonderful piece of legislation. The unemployed, however, will see no benefit in it. Apparently the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) is not seized of the seriousness of the plight of the unemployed. If the remarks of honorable members opposite are permitted to go unchallenged, the unemployed will be in the position of those who, lost in the wilderness, and suffering the pangs of hunger and thirst, see in the distance imaginary trees and cascades of sparkling water, but whose hopes are dashed to the ground by the realization that they have been lured on by a mirage. The unfortunate unemployed will quickly realize that they will have to tighten up their belts another hole, because their stomachs will not be filled to any extent by this so-called magnificent gift of Christmas cheer on the part of this make-believe Government which is always pretending to be doing something for them. If the provision in this bill is the best that the Government can do for the unemployed this year, those unfortunate people are in a hopeless position. Considering their poverty, and the great number of evictions which are taking place throughout Australia at the present time, it behoves the Commonwealth Government to make such provision as will enable the States to give a greater measure of relief. The Government should even go so far as to provide funds to permit at least four days’ work in each week to be given to every married man and two days’ each week to every single man. That is my policy, and I can see no other solution of the problem. What will single unemployed men in the States get out of this paltry provision, in view of the fact that the unemployment relief granted by the State Government of New South Wales is only 7s. 6d. a week ?
– In New South Wales, they will receive only 1½d. each.
– That is so. As an opportunity may not be afforded to me again to discuss this matter during the present session, I suggest that the Treasurer should adopt a plan -
– The honorable member will not be in order in discussing that matter at this stage.
– But I want to tell the Treasurer about the plan.
– I warn the honorable member that I shall ask him to resume his seat if he does not obey the ruling of the Chair.
– I have no desire to come into conflict with the Chair. The provision made in the bill will not be sufficient to afford the relief that is urgently required by the unemployed of this country. If we are to deal with the problem in a proper manner, let us formulate some plan whereby we can give to the unemployed . the relief which the Treasurer recognizes to be required at the present time. If the honorable gentleman did not recognize the need for relief, he would not have brought down the measure. I know that I would not be in order in moving an amendment to increase the provision made in the bill, and that, therefore, it would be a waste of time to attempt to do so. AH I can do is to suggest that the Treasurer should redraft the bill to increase the provision to £250,000. If the amount proposed to be made available for Tasmania were increased to £10,000, the Christmas cheer that would be given to the unemployed in that State would be far greater than is possible with the meagre grant now proposed by the Government.
-Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I, like honorable members opposite, am pleased, that the Government is making available a sum of money to be applied by the States for the benefit of the unemployed during the Christmas season. My only complaint is that the amount to be provided is not sufficient. A grant of this kind has been asked for by several honorable members, and I fail to see how anybody can take exception to the principle behind, it, though I would be more pleased if conditions were imposed in regard to the distribution of the money to be made available. For instance, it does not seem to me to be fitting that the Commonwealth Parliament should be dealing with the question of Christmas gifts for out of work families; such work is done by municipal councils and private individuals during Christmas week. If his colleagues will permit him to do so, I should like the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to substitute for this proposal a grant which would enable a full week’s work at full wages to be given to each person on the unemployment registers of the various States. In Australia, there are 1,500,000 classified breadwinners, approximately 12 per cent, of whom are out of work. In other words, about 100,000 breadwinners who ave heads of families, and responsible for their welfare, aa-e registered as unemployed. If the Government were to accept my suggestion, its contribution towards the relief of the unemployed during the festive season would be something really worth while. The present provision, when distributed among the various municipalities in the metropolitan area, will provide very little for each unemployed person. The call will be made from those who are already receiving sustenance from the State governments, and they will be given an extra £1 at Christmas. That is hardly meeting the situation in a worthwhile way, and I suggest to the Treasurer that, instead of providing £150,000 as is proposed in the bill, he should make’ available approximately £500,000, so that every man on the unemployment registers of the States may be given a full week’s work at full rates of pay.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Casey and Sir Henry Gullett da prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) proposed -
That the bill be now road a second lime.
.- I hope that the Government, when making this grant to the States, will make it a condition that the regulation regarding permissible income shall not be applied by the State authorities when distributing the money to needy persons. In “New South Wales, if an income of more than 14s. n week is coming into the bouse, the father is not allowed to register as an unemployed person, and is not eligible to receive assistance. Perhaps a man’s daughter is earning 15s. a week, but that is sufficient to prevent him from receiving sustenance from the State. The Commonwealth Government should melee it clear that this condition shall not apply in the distribution of the money it is now making available.
The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) mentioned the distress on the coal-fields, and the need for some special relief to the people there. No one can deny that unemployment is more rife on the coal-fields than anywhere else, and the Government should set aside part of this grant for distribution among the miners and their families. The employment position in the Newcastle district is becoming worse instead of better, as more and more ships, even including the ferries on Sydney Harbour, are changing over to Diesel engines and oil fuel.
I should like to know whether it will be necessary for State governments to pass special legislation to enable them to handle this grant.
– I think they probably will.
– Then what is t0 happen in South Australia, where the Parliament is not in session ? It is not likely to be called together before Christmas, and how are the unemployed in that State to obtain a share of this grant?
I do not propose to criticize the Government in regard to the amount that is to be made available. We know that at this time of the year, every municipal authority, in New South Wales at any rate, tries to make as much employment, available as possible, and even makes special grants for Christmas cheer. For instance, the Sydney City Council has voted £3,000 for this purpose, and it has asked the State government not to take into account money received by families from this grant when determining the permissible income in regard to State assistance.
– I congratulate the Government upon making available this sum of money for the relief of distressed persons. Like other honorable members, I should have liked to see a very much larger sum set aside for this purpose, but we know that the Government is doing all it can. It ill becomes honorable members opposite to use this opportunity to discuss the whole unemployment problem, and to accuse the Government of having neglected its duty in regard thereto. This is a goodwill grant, made by the Government in the spirit of the season we are now approaching, and the Opposition should at least respect that spirit, and abstain, at this time, at any rate, from party propaganda. Some honorable members opposite have complained that in the past, money made available to State governments in this way has not been fairly distributed, but my experience has been that there is no ground for that complaint. The State government of New South Wales, and the municipal authorities in that State, have always made funds specially available at this time of the year for the relief of distress. Eoi- honorable members to suggest that the Commonwealth should pass over the Slate government of New South Wales, and hand the money directly to the municipal authorities is merely, a piece of political propaganda.
– The honorable member knows that the Stevens government misapplied Commonwealth grants received by it for the relief of distressed persons.
– I know that the Stevens government is a king compared with the Lang government, and with what it did to the unemployed.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).The honorable member is not in order in referring to a debate which took place in committee.
– The Government proposes in this bill to make available the sum of £150,000 to be distributed among the State governments for the relief of distressed persons, and some honorable members opposite have said that the State governments cannot be trusted to distribute the money equitably. I know what the present government of New South Wales has done for the unemployed, and I am convinced that the unemployed are very much better off under that government than under the previous government led by Mr. Lang. Honorable members opposite know that too, if they would only admit it. It is unfair of honorable members to suggest that part of the grant should be earmarked for distribution on the coal-fields or in any other specified areas. I could quite easily distribute a very large proportion of this money to deserving cases in the Barton electorate alone. I hope that this national Parliament will never agree to the suggestion that, instead of making the money available in lump sums to the States, it should be handed over in dribs and drabs to such local authorities as honorable members opposite think would carry out their wishes. The relief money which this national Parliament lias provided in the past has been distributed faithfully and well by the governments of the States.
– While I remain a member of this House, I shall not allow the honorable member for Cook and his colleagues to grind a political axe in a matter of this sort, without making a vigorous protest. This is probably the last occasion .in the life of the present Parliament when this issue will be discussed. Although the amount of the proposed distribution is small, it can be accepted as an evidence of good will. To describe it as a dole, as some honorable members opposite have done, is to rob the Government of credit for good intentions, and may lessen the enjoyment of the recipients of good cheer. The Commonwealth does not intend to issue directions as to the manner in which the distribution shall be made. That the State governments will supplement what is here provided is undoubted. Last year, a considerable measure of happiness was brought into the homes of the poorer people in the Barton electorate by 1 llc distribution of parcels of good cheer on the eve of Christmas by the municipal councils. [Quorum formed.’] The motive behind this gift is the bringing of good cheer to those who are in need. The State and municipal authorities, and the large charitable organizations, can be trusted to make the distribution equitably. I regret the intrusion of a party spirit into this debate. I should not have spoken on the matter had it not been for the efforts of certain honorable member’; to make every post a winning “post politically. I have always endeavoured to urge on them the virtue of a higher incentive than that. They should not attempt to ride into power on the backs of the poor, but should advance proposals that will win the approval of the people.
– Order ! The honorable member is not discussing the question before the Chair.
– I am replying to statements of honorable members opposite. 1 assure them that there is a very kindly spirit behind this gift - the spirit of “ peace on earth, goodwill towards men “. At this season of the year particularly, we should keep ever before us the objec tive of doing our utmost to relieve sordidness and to bring joy and comfort into the homes of the people. The occasion should not be used to attempt to gain a. political advantage. That would merely be destructive of good will and kindly feeling. I join with other honorable members in deploring the fact that the amount proposed to be granted is not considerably larger. I should like it to be £500,000. I realize, of course, that up government would give more generously than could the Commonwealth if it believed that that was the right thing to do, and I would gladly support it in whatever was proposed. This cannot be regarded as an attempt to solve the unemployment problem.
– Order ! I again remind the honorable member that he is not entitled to reply to a debate that took place in committee. He must observe my ruling.
– I am merely endeavouring to show that this is a gesture of good will.
– Order ! The honorable member was doing something entirely different.
– My object was to prove to the Opposition that this cannot be regarded as an attempt to solve the unemployment problem. I wish to impress upon honorable members opposite the fact that this is a gift, not a dole for an act of charity. It is not made in any spirit of meanness, or with a desire to make political capital out of it. I agree that, the amount is smaller than most, of us would wish it to be, and that it could be made much larger ; but at the same time, I should not like my electors to regard it as a dole or as an attempt to deal with the unemployment problem. It is expected that the amount will be supplemented by the State and municipal authorities, and thai they will have the distribution of it. I anr glad of that, because otherwise honorable members would have the great responsibility of selecting deserving cases, when already there exist State organizations and charitable societies which have complete details of the unemployment that exists, and can thus distribute the good cheer among those who need it most.
Mr. DRAKEFORD (Maribyrnong) [4.52J. - In view of what has been said on this side of the House, the first comment that I desire- to make is that this proposal does not cover a sufficiently wide field. The Government might very well have considered other aspects than those that are dealt with by the bill. To-day, for example, 1” asked the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) a question in regard to the dismissal of a number of men from the munitions establishment at Maribyrnong, and the honorable gentleman was good enough to promise to make inquiries to see whether their services may be retained. Men who are now dismissed from government employment, particularly low-wage workers who need assistance very badly, will not have been off the employment list for a sufficiently long period to enable them to participate in Christmas relief. The relief envisaged by the bill would probably be very acceptable to them, although some of them may be fortunate enough not- to need it because of the length of time during which they have been employed. If government works are approaching completion, some financial means should be found to keep the displaced men in employment, so that the number of those who participate in this gift may be as few as possible. The obligation rests on the Commonwealth Government to see that men are not thrown out of employment at this particular period. The continuance of their engagement would indicate that good feeling of -which the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) has spoken. N”o party should attempt to make political capital out of a matter of this sort. During the course of the debate some rather heated statements have been made, perhaps unjustifiably. But if one side draws a comparison with what some other government has done, that is bound to provoke reprisals. This is what has happened, with the result that the debate has not been as informative as it might have been. I feel that this Government is imbued, as all governments must be at this season of the year, with a desire to help those who, by reason of unemployment, have been in difficulties for a lengthy period. While the proposed measure of relief is entirely inadequate the Government might improve the position by paying attention to the suggestion that I. have made. It should tackle the problem of making work available. The distribution of approximately £50,000 will not go very far in Victoria. We should provide a larger sum, so that useful employment might be given over a period. I hope that the Government will afford adequate relief to those who will otherwise have to go short of food this Christmas.
.- I congratulate the Government upon the introduction of this measure, and commend it for the reasons given for the proposed grant to the States of £150,000 for the purpose of providing Christmas cheer for the unemployed. I fear, however, that the money may be distributed through the ordinary channels to sustenance workers and to those registered by trade unions as uenemployed, whilst other members of the community who are out of work may not receive any relief. Many young members of the community are now out of employment, and will probably not be reached through the channels by which relief is ordinarily distributed. In the capital cities in each State, and in most of the provincial cities and large towns are branches of the Young Men’s ‘Christian Association, which hold vocational classes for young, unemployed persons. The Legacy Club conducts such classes in Victoria for unemployed sons and daughters of deceased ex-soldiers. In Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo, such classes are held. I suggest that, as has been done in the past, the State authorities should be asked to allocate at least 10 per cent, of this money for the benefit of the more youthful unemployed persons throughout Australia. I am sure that it would be a most welcome windfall to this distressed section.
.- I do not imagine that the Government regards this measure as one that will give adequate relief to the unemployed throughout Australia. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) that the grant to be provided is quite insufficient. The measure would have been more acceptable if £150,000 had been made available six months ago, because the prices of many commodities have gone up, and by Christmas the rates will be nearly double those ruling last Christmas. The price of meat has doubled. Vegetables are hard to procure, and by Christmas time they will be practically unobtainable, unless good rains fall in the meantime. The poorer sections of the community will have a very unhappy Christmas unless the Government affords greater relief than is provided for under this bill. I have no doubt that the Government has a good motive in submitting this measure, but possibly the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has not made allowance’ for the high prices of foodstuffs. The Government should at least double the proposed vote. Large areas throughout theCommonwealth have been seriously affected by bush fires and drought. In the northern parts of New South Wales, bush fires have caused a total loss of stock on many farms, with consequent loss of employment by rural workers. I urge the Treasurer to increase the grant to £500,000.
.- The proposal under this bill is merely to provide an extra grant to unemployed persons as a gesture of goodwill at the Christmas season. The instrumentalities of the States will be used for the distribution of the money, but no safeguard is contained in the bill to prevent the State authorities from reducing the expenditure which, if it were not for this measure, they would be called upon to incur. State unemployment relief is regulated by stipulations regarding permissible income, and in all probability the money proposed to be paid to the States will not reach the unemployed at all. In New South Wales, for instance, relief is not granted to persons in receipt of more than a certain income. The £150,000 to be provided under this bill can be distributed only in accordance with existing State laws, unless those laws be altered. Obviously, therefore, a good deal of the money can be used to relieve State budgets.
Another point to consider is that the State authorities definitely prescribe the classes of persons who shall receive unemployment relief. In Western Australia are a large number of farmers who, on account of drought and other disasters, have lost their all. They would be glad of assistance under this bill, but they will be unable to get it. The Government of Western Australia has been urged to ameliorate their condition substantially, but its answer is that it has no money for this purpose. I consider that the Commonwealth Government is buying trouble for itself by this measure because it is not dealing with the problem competently. The sum proposed to be allocated to Western Australia is £10,000. Obviously the State authorities would have to subject applicants for assistance to close investigation to discover whether they were in necessitous circumstances. This would cause administrative difficulties. The State government would undeservedly incur a great deal of odium for refusing assistance to one man who, was not in a penurious condition, whilst helping another who might be able to prove that without such aid he would have to go short of provisions at Christmas time.
– The result would be the same if the grant were doubled.
– No ; in that event some help could be given to all in need. My statement will not be seriously disputed when I say that there are from 170,000 to 200,000 unemployed in Australia. Therefore, the sum to be provided would not enable each of those persons to receive £1. I do not say that they are all on unemployed registers ; they are not. In New South Wales a person has to be a resident of the State for six months before he can qualify for registration as unemployed. The question is raised whether men have been on the lists for some time, and whether they have recently enjoyed permanent employment. In the Federal Capital Territory, men who have been intermittently employed for years, and during the last three months have had seven consecutive weeks’ employment, are not regarded as part-time or relief workers. They are even called upon to pay arrears of rent, owing to the Department of the Interior, because they are not considered to be unemployed. Of course they have piles of other debts to tradespeople. If the money were properly distributed, part of it should reach persons of this class, but I doubt whether they will get any benefit under the bill.
The honorable member for Fawkner (Mi-. Holt) is greatly concerned about the welfare of youths, but if 10 per cent, of the money were hypothecated for the benefit of young persons, we should be giving them something for nothing. In the interests of the unemployed youth of the community, there should be an organized plan of industrial opportunity. Over a year ago I brought this matter under the notice of the Government, and [ submitted a proposal in this House for the constitution of a national employment council which should confer with the State authorities and treat this ma tter as being of as much importance as any other subject discussed at the conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministers. I also suggested that the conference should have regard to all the factors related to the matter. I pointed out that the employment of men and youths on the land had to be considered in conjunction with the known fact that the general volume of employment in rural industries is now far less than it was when the production of those industries was considerably less than it is at the present time. If this National Parliament decides to deal with the unemployment problem, despite the permanency of its causes, by a distribution at Christmas time of a miserable £150,000, it will reveal its own incompetence to discharge a great responsibility. The Government has <lone absolutely nothing to meet the needs of that section of the community which, by reason of industrial changes, is now superfluous in the economic structure. Factory employment is increasing but the amount of employment which is available to the community as a whole is shrinking, and, were it not for the loan expenditure by the State governments and municipal authorities, adding, as it has during recent years, £150,000,000 to the public debt of this country, the demand for factory goods would not be so great, and the amount of employment which factories could give would not be nearly so substantial as is the case to-day, and the problem of unemployment would be brought more definitely to the door of this Government. I object to the principle of this bill, apart from the fact that the amount it appropriates is hopelessly inadequate for the purpose for which it is intended. I do not believe that the unemployed of Australia desire anything in the way of payment without doing something to earn such payment. This bill bears on its face the impress of an entire misconception of the character of those who are unemployed at the present time.
– Why have honorable members opposite been asking for a Christmas grant ?
– We have asked for grants for the purposes of organized reemployment on public works in the creation of useful assets.
– The honorable member can vote against the measure.
– Surely the honorable member doe3 not object to my stating my views.
– I certainly object to the honorable member misrepresenting the whole purpose of this gift.
– I have not misrepresented it; I say decidedly that the PUT.pose of this gift misrepresents what ought to be the national policy of Australia on unemployment and, further, that this method of dealing with the matter entirely misinterprets the hopes and aspirations of the persons dependent on such assistance. If any benefit at all is to be reaped from this expenditure the Government must deal with this matter in a far more effective way than it seeks to do under this measure. The money could be used to create useful assets.
.- I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) that if any money is made available for the relief of the unemployed, it should be on the basis that recipients do some work in return for it. I am satisfied that neither the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) nor the Government seeks any political credit as the result of this grant, and I am equally certain that no honorable member on the other side of the chamber who has spoken- in this debate has any desire to make party political capital out of it, but it will oe difficult to make the public believe it. I was struck immediately by the fact that this money is to be given to the States without any stipulation that anything should be done by the recipients in return for it. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that if the Government feels inclined to provide assistance of this nature, it should do so on the basis that recipients are required to do a certain amount of work in return for the money they receive. Otherwise, the gift savours too much of charity. It has been suggested that the amount could easily be increased and that the extra cost could be made good by raising extra taxation or loan moneys. To honorable members who generally discuss matters of this nature, such a procedure seems simple. There is need for the exercise of greater care in regard to the expenditure of public money in Australia. I venture to say that if, some years ago, the Commonwealth Government, made available a grant of money to the States on the basis on which it is proposed to make this grant, there would have been a. general outcry, at least from members of the party with which I have been associated. I feel satisfied that after being castigated by honorable members for their want of liberality, the Treasurer must feel a disappointed man; he must now be dubious as to the advisability of having brought up this measure. If the bill could be amended, it would be wise, I suggest, for the Treasurer to alter the conditions of this grant by stipulating that it should be used by the State governments to enable them to carry on public works immediately so that people out of work could be given a timely opportunity to earn a few pounds. That, would be a better basis for its distribution. At any rate I do not approve of the method provided in the bill.
.- Were it not for the fact that some honorable members opposite claimed that honorable members on this side were endeavouring to make party political capital out of this grant, I should not have spoken again on this matter. I have conducted considerable negotiations with the Government for the relief of distress among the unemployed, particularly on the coal-fields in the electorate which I represent. Although many people will probably say that my action in that respect was purely selfish, and that I was merely looking after the interests of my own constituents, such was not the case. I acted sincerely with the desire to help people most urgently in need of .assistance. In response to my representations, the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) and the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), said that they were anxious to do something along the lines I suggested, but they pointed out that, as unemployment was so prevalent throughout Australia, it would be rather difficult to make a special grant for the relief of distress on the coal-fields. I agree that such a difficulty exists. In reply to questions asked by myself in this House, however, the Prime Minister has repeatedly admitted that unemployment on the coal-fields is a special problem. He visited those areas and promised to do something in a special way to relieve the lot of the unfortunate people residing there. Honorable members generally, who have heard his answers to my questions on this matter from time to time, are aware of those facts. In the course of my representations, not more than five weeks ago, I pointed out to the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, that, if the Government made a grant to meet the special circumstances existing on the coalfields, it would not be establishing a precedent in that respect, because the Scullin Government had made such a grant, whilst special grants had been made by past Commonwealth Governments to relieve distress caused by floods in certain areas in Tasmania and Victoria, and in some cases, to relieve distress caused by disasters ‘ outside Australia. My request was all the more justified in view of the fact that the Government has admitted that it has not found a solution for unemployment,particularly unemployment on the coal-fields. The Treasurer has admitted that this measure is partly the result of the representations which T made to the Government. This grant, however, is purely a gesture of goodwill on the part of the Government towards the unemployed. When the bill was introduced, I pointed out that it was defective in that, in handling this money, some of the State Governments might follow a course similar to that which they followed in respect of the Christmas grant in 1929. At that time, they refused to pay the dole to certain unemployed men, because the allowable weekly income of the unemployed had been exceeded as the result of their participating in the special grant made by the Federal Government. By way of interjection, the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) has contended that such was not the case. I repeat that some of the State Governments used this money in the way I have indicated, in order to avoid meeting ordinary expenditure on their own part for the relief of unemployment. I believe that it is the intention of the Government in this measure to give the unemployed something over and above what they now receive by way of the dole or sustenance payments.
– It does not say so.
– I contend that we should stipulate that any money distributed from this grant, should not in any way be deemed to increase the income of the recipients to such an extent as to preclude them from receiving any of the ordinary grants made by the State Governments to the unemployed at Christmas time. I propose, in committee, to move an amendment along those lines. I hope that honorable members generally will support it, because we should make sure that the unemployed who qualify for assistance from this fund, should receive it, as something over and above assistance ordinarily given to them by the States.
I again urge that special consideration should be given to the relief of distress on the coal-fields. There can be no doubt that suffering among the unemployed in those areas has been greater, and of longer duration, than is experienced, generally speaking, by unemployed in other areas. Mines have been closed down since 1928, and, in the intervening period, approximately 7,000 miners have been continuously out of work. That, I suggest, is a tragedy. Such suffering is more severe than that resulting from floods, for instance. The effect of a flood disaster is purely temporary, yet Commonwealth Governments in the past have made grants of from £5,000 to £15.000 for the relief of distress caused by floods, whereas the unemployed on the coal-fields have been suffering severe distress for the last nine years. When the Prime Minister visited the coal-fields in the electorate which I represent, he interviewed some boys whohad reached the age of 24 years and had never done a day’s work. It is tragic, yet true, that young men and women on the coal-fields to-day are marrying on the dole. If that is not a special problem,, worthy of special consideration, I do not know what is. If past governments could justify making special grants tc~ relieve distress caused by floods, I claim that this Government would be justified in taking special measures to relieve the present distress on the coalfields. That is not done in this bill. Under it, an amount of £59,200 is allocated for distribution in New South Wales, in which State unemployment is greater than in any other. In the past, political influences have been brought tobear in .the distribution of these grants. More has been allocated in electoratesrepresented by supporters of the Government than in electorates represented by honorable members in opposition. We had an unfortunate experience of that kind in 1931. I merely mention the incident to show that, so far as I personally am concerned, I have been actuated solely by a genuine desire to do something in the interests of the people who have suffered for so long. The Treasurer, I think, will admit that much in my favour. I appreciate his point of view that no special provision has been made for the relief of distress on the coalfields, because many people who are not aware of the urgency of the position in those districts would not agree that special provision should be made for them in comparision with that provided for the relief of unemployment elsewhere. I do not desire that any differentiation should be made in that respect. I urge that provision should be made in this bill to prevent any State government, no matter what its political colour, from taking advantage of a Federal grant by depriving recipients of this assistance of the ordinary assistance given to them through the dole. This grant should be distributed to the unemployed as something over and above the assistance which would normally be given to them by State governments at Christmas time. If that were done, we could accept the Government’s proposal.
– The coal-fields districts should receive special grants.
– They should. I interviewed the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) on the subject, and I understand that he brought the proposal of a special grant before Cabinet, but it was difficult to secure unanimity. That is not surprising, because it could quite reasonably be contended that one electorate should not receive benefits which were not being conferred upon others. If the whole circumstances are considered it will be found that unemployment and distress in the coal-fields districts present a special problem. Earlier in the day I endeavoured, by means of a question, to ascertain whether there is a possibility of Ministers visiting the New South Wales coal-fields to learn exactly -the nature of the distress which prevails there. Honorable members are doubtless aware that, in consequence of a visit of His Majesty the King to the Welsh coalfields, British Ministers propose to visit the Welsh colliery districts to ascertain if additional public works can be started to relieve acute distress and unemployment. The members of this Government should also make themselves conversant with the distress prevailing in the electorate which I represent. Members of this Parliament, regardless of the political opinions they hold, should, wherever practicable, become acquainted with the conditions in districts other than those which they represent, to enable them to “legislate in the interests of the whole of the Australian people. The Prime Minister having admitted, during his visit to the New South Wales coal-fields, that the conditions are deplorable, should gi”3 special consideration to the people there. I believe that these special grants are being made available to the States largely in response to the representations I mads to the Prime Minister on behalf of the coal-fields some time ago. I remind the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane), who accused honorable members on this side of the chamber of making political capital out of this measure, that, unknown to other honorable members, I approached the Prime Minister and the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) and asked if some assistance could not be rendered. It cannot, therefore, be said that I was anxious to obtain any political advantage. Prior to the last general election, a definite promise was made that an earnest endeavour would be made to utilize coal for purposes other than for fuel. I would have been justified in attacking the Government for the delay that has occurred in that respect, but I have refrained from doing so. I again appeal to the Government to increase the amount to be appropriated, so that special assistance may be given, particularly -to the women and children in the New South Wales coal-fields area, many of whom have insufficient food and clothing.
.- In making £150,000 available for distribution by the States to relieve distress, the Government is not establishing a precedent. If it is contended that these grants can be regarded as charitable gifts, it must bo remembered that for some years State Governments have been distributing relief, but the recipients have not regarded such grants as charitable donations or in any way objectionable. I do not think it desirable that the Government should stipulate that the money should be expended on works, as the time between now and Christmas is so short that there would be insufficient time to prepare a works programme. If such a course were proclaimed, the money would not be available at a time when it is most needed. The intention of the Government is to give the States a free hand in its distribution, and with that proposal I entirely agree. With other honorable members, I regret that the amount to be appropriated for this purpose is not larger.
– I congratulate the Government upon providing £150,000 to assist the unemployed. With other honorable members, I regret that the sum is not larger; but the amount te be appropriated will help to provide some necessaries and comforts for persons in distress. While I appreciate what is being done, the Government would have been rendering a wonderful service to Australia had it, in cooperation with the States, arranged to provide some means of training our unemployed youths. It is appalling to find that throughout the country towns, with the exception of isolated cases, not a youth is learning a trade. City youths can learn a trade in a technical college, but no such facilities exist in country districts, where the lads have little or no opportunity to become skilled workmen. We seem to be faced with an unwanted generation, which, owing to the depression and other factors, has had little or no opportunity to obtain employment. Unemployed youths should be placed in camps in various parts of the State where they could be trained on military lines.
The remarks of the honorable member are irrelevant to the bill.
– I am suggesting that this grant should be utilized to train Australian youths.
– Does the honorable member think that compulsory military training would solve the unemployed problem?
– No. In properlyconducted camps, youths could devote some of their time to physical training under capable instructors, and the remainder to learning a trade, to enable them to become useful citizens. ‘ In travelling through the country, I have seen youths of sixteen or seventeen years of age whose mothers are dead and whose fathers cannot be traced, who have been imprisoned for petty thefts. Assistance should be given to these youths to enable them to have a brighter outlook on life and to become healthy and useful members of the community.
.- I support the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), who appealed to the Government to increase the amount of £150,000 to be appropriated under this bill to provide Christmas cheer for the unemployed. It is true, as the Leader of of the Opposition stated, that taxes have been reduced to a greater extent during recent years than relief has been afforded to those in distress. Those in receipt of incomes of £8 a week and upwards have had their taxes considerably reduced, but the amount which the unemployed will receive as a result of the expenditure of £150,000 will not provide each person with £2.
– No one person will receive that amount.
– That would be the maximum. Taxpayers in receipt of £S a week have received relief in excess of £2, which is the amount each unemployed person may receive under this proposal. The estimated receipts for this financial year have already been exceeded, and as the revenue position generally i3 buoyant, a much larger amount than that proposed could be made available to relieve the distress amongst the unemployed, which in some districts, is most acute. The Government has the money and should make it available for this purpose. Despite what has been said about the unemployment figures, as disclosed by the returns from the trade unions, the fact remains that the accuracy of those returns has been questioned by no less an authority than the former Commonwealth Statistician, Professor Giblin, who recently said that the time had come when the returns were not a reliable guide as to the number of unemployed in the country. I think that his contention was borne out by the data obtained at the recent, Australian census. To accept those figures as an indication of the number of unemployed in this country is wrong.
What is to be clone with this money? Is it to be given to every man who is unemployed? Are single and married men to participate alike? Is something to be done to preserve to the unemployed who are in receipt of assistance from the the States their right to receive that assistance in the week in. which this money is to be distributed? I do not see anything in the bill which would indicate that it is the intention of this Government that the money Parliament is now asked to vote should be additional to the money which the State governments themselves provide, and I consider that safeguards should be incorporated in this measure to ensure that this money will be regarded as a special Christmas gift.
– The honorable member surely trusts the governments in the States, especially the three States in which Labour is in power., They would surely do the fair thing.
– At any rate, I trust Labour governments to a greater extent than I trust Nationalist governments; but, none the less, I consider that these safeguards are necessary. This is not a matter of the political colour of the State governments; it is a matter of bestowing the benefits in the direction in which this Government is seeking to bestow them. A better proposition, if the Commonwealth Government could do it, and I suggest that it could, would be to make available sufficient money to provide the married men in this country with an additional week of work on the basic wage. That would provide them with a substantial Christmas gift for themselves, their wives and their families. The revenues in these days of increased prosperity are sufficiently buoyant, to enable the Government to take this step. I think further that all single men, whether they live at home or away from home - there should be no discrimination - should receive at least three and a half days’ work. That would provide a little additional comfort to those in distressed circumstances. Anything less than that seems to me to be - I was going to say “ hypocrisy “ - but it may not be so bad as that
– If it is hypocrisy, the honorable member would vote against it.
– I am not going to vote against anything that will provide a measure of assistance to the destitute. The Minister would not think that, the amount appropriated by this measure was reasonable if he had shared the experience of the unemployed. My only purpose in speaking is to support the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition, that the bill should be withdrawn and replaced by a proposal, such as the Government could easily bring forward if it had the desire, which would provide some real relief for the destitute. I consider that the amount provided for in this bill is inadequate to provide anything in the nature of Christmas cheer, and I hope that the Government will respond to the appeals that have been made and do something to enlarge the grant, preferably by providing every married unemployed man with a week’s work, and every single man with half a week’s work. It would, thereby, be doing some thing useful for the community and helping to preserve the manhood of the nation.
Mr. CLARK (Darling) [5.4!3’J.- Some weeks ago I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) if provision would be made by the Commonwealth Government for special unemployment relief at Christmas, and he replied that the Government regretted that it could not see its way clear to grant my request. I am pleased indeed to see that the Government is now making some provision for the relief of the unemployed during the Christmas period, although I join with’ other honorable members in stressing the inadequacy of the amount which is made available. The unemployed of this country will not be provided for on a liberal basie by this grant. I believe also that the Government should make better provision for the distribution of this money. There are many aspects to be considered in this regard and the one which I wish to impress on the Government is the existence in New South Wales of a condition that the income of a household shall be less than a certain figure before unemployed members of that household can obtain either relief work or food relief. This condition operates even in cases where children are bringing small amounts of income into the household. I do not think that such circumstances as permissive income should operate in respect of this grant from the Commonwealth. In towns in my electorate I have discovered that many persons are refused the dole and relief work solely on the discretion of the police. If the matter is brought before the State authorities they say that the distribution of food relief is something for the discretion of the police ; but, in many cases I have found that the police have used their discretion wrongly with the result that many persons entitled to relief have been deprived of it. It seems to me that there is a possibility of the same persons being denied assistance under this proposed grant because of the manner in which it is to be distributed has not been specified. In my opinion the best way in which this money should be disbursed is through the local governing authorities. They could increase the amount of relief work which they are at present providing. I fear that the States will be able to reduce the amounts which they are at present expending on relief to the extent of the vote proposed under this bill if it is passed in its present form. I understand that it is intended, by this party, to move in committee for the inclusion of a clause in this bill to prevent the money which is to be distributed under it from being taken into consideration by the State governments in assessing’ family income. The Government should reconsider this aspect of the question. Some years ago the Government of New South Wales evaded its responsibilities by using money, which, was provided by the Commonwealth, in carrying out works which it had formerly carried out by using its own funds. This Parliament should make it impossible for that to recur. The States should meet their responsibilities and should do their utmost for the unemployed irrespective of action taken by this Government to provide additional relief. The States should not be able to restrict their own expenditure by taking advantage of this grant.
.- I support the declaration by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) that the money to be made available under this bill is inadequate. I also believe that it is a pity that action in the direction contemplated was not taken earlier. We have been informed by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) that the States will have to take certain legislative action in order to give effect to the proposals contained in this measure, but as the South Australian Parliament is now in recess it will not be able to do so. I should hate to think that any State, as has been suggested by the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark), would take advantage of the money, which is to be provided by the Commonwealth as Christmas cheer for the unemployed, to evade recognition of its own responsibilities. The Queensland Government has earmarked a large amount of money to bo used for purposes similar to those envisaged in this proposal, and the provision of money by the Commonwealth will be a welcome addition. It is essential that this money be spent in providing work for the “ down and outs “. I am sure every honorable member appre ciates the fact that if a man can earn and spend wages for even two days’ work, he feels much more independent than he does when he is totally dependent on the dole. The morale of the people is sapped by unemployment.
I remember .that when the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) asked a few weeks ago whether the Government intended to make any money available for Christmas relief for the unemployed, he was told that it did not intend to do so. I do not know whether that answer was given in order to deprive the honorable member of any kudos .attached to the first mention of the idea, but in any case, it is a pity that an earlier statement was not made. Had the State governments been informed that the Common.wealth Government intended to take this step, their own procedure might have been different. We understand that the Parliament of South Australia has entered upon its Christmas recess. If, therefore, complementary legislation is needed in South Australia to enable the Government of that State to take advantage of this grant, difficulties will be encountered. Had the State governments been advised of this move by the Commonwealth Government I have no doubt that arrangements could have been made for the grant to be used more effectively. I shall not say anything about the amount of money to be made available - the Government is responsible for that decision, and must stand by it - but I regret that the circumstances in which the grant is being made will militate .against the most effective use of it. Queensland is to receive £21,700. Had the Minister for Labour in Queensland, Mr. Hynes, known that the Commonwealth intended to take this action, the State Government Christmas relief plans might have been materially varied.
I agree with the honorable members who have contended that this money could best be distributed through local governing authorities, which have a more intimate knowledge of ‘the unemployed than is possessed by governmental instrumentalities. I do not think that there is danger of governing authorities misusing the money. One aspect of this subject which has apparently received little attention is the need of many young women who are out of employment. If arrangements could be made to give a week’s work to married men and, say, three days’ work to single persons through local governing bodies we should feel that the best use was being made of the money.
.- As I intend to move an amendment to this bill at the committee stage, I shall reserve until then the remarks I wish to make about the inadequacy of the grant. I rise now to ask the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) whether he will explain the position in which South Australia will find itself in view of the fact that the State Parliament has entered upon its Christmas recess. How will it be possible for any necessary complementary legislation to be passed by the State Parliament to enable South Australia to take advantage of this grant?
– m reply - The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) suggested that I must feel very disappointed, personally, at certain remarks that have been made by some honorable gentlemen. I certainly am disappointed. In my earlier speech I gave a clear description of the Government’s intention, and did not try, in any way, to make political capital out of the proposal which the Government regarded as a simple and humane gesture of sympathy for our unemployed people at the Christmas season. I wish I could say that certain honorable gentlemen opposite had refrained from any attempt to make political capital out of the measure.
– The honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) led the way.
– The honorable member for Parkes stated the simple truth when he said that this measure was unique among the enactments of this Parliament. The Scullin Government, like succeeding governments, introduced measures on several occasions for special grants for works purposes, in order to assist the unemployed,, but it did not at any period of its occupancy of the Treasury introduce a bill of this kind. The honorable member for Parkes quite legitimately emphasized this point. The Leader of the Opposition - and I say it with all respect - also attempted to make political capital out of the measure.
– The Treasurer misjudges him.
– I listened very attentively to the honorable gentleman, who, 1 see, is now entering the chamber. I have no desire to say in his absence what I would not say in his presence. I .therefore repeat that, although in my secondreading speech I made no attempt to claim any political credit for the government for the introduction of this bill, but explained that it was a simple and humane gesture of sympathy towards the unemployed, the Leader of the Opposition, like some of his followers, definitely attempted to make political capital out of the proposal. .
– The Treasurer is, I suppose, the only humanitarian among us.
– The honorable member for Parkes introduced the party political issue.
– The honorable member for Parkes simply stated that this was a unique measure and quite different from the unemployment relief bills introduced by the Scullin Government. I have fine-tooth-combed the Treasury records of unemployment relief measures, and have satisfied myself that not one of this particular description has hitherto been introduced into Parliament. I have been impressed by one aspect of the speeches of honorable gentlemen opposite. They have all affected to believe that this bill represents the only relief measure that the Government has introduced. We all know, of course, that many other measures to relieve unemployment have been introduced and passed. But honorable gentlemen opposite take the same point whenever an unemployment relief measure is submitted to the House. This attitude is not likely to mislead any one. The members of the Opposition are well aware that the Commonwealth Government has introduced many bills to provide grants to States for works purposes, forestry and mining. It has also increased the amount available to the States under the Federal Aid Roads Agreement and, in numerous other ways, has assisted the States to cope with unemployment. The State governments also have adopted measures independently of the ‘Commonwealth to provide work for the unemployed. It should he remembered also that many of the various works referred to in the budget speech have been put in hand. This bill is to provide an amount of £150,000 in addition to the millions of money already voted to enable work to be found for the unemployed.
– But the need for this measure still exists.
– Of course it is always possible to think of a higher number. 1 have no doubt that had the Government introduced a bill to provide £500,000 for the relief of unemployment, honorable gentlemen opposite would have said that the amount was insufficient. The same arguments would have been used also if the amount proposed had been £1,000,000.
– In that case we should all have dropped dead of shock.
– Notwithstanding the mirages, the images of the desert, and other flights of fancy with which the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) regaled us, I repeat that this measure is a simple gesture of goodwill to the people in our community who are unfortunate. I propose to overlook entirely the allegations of certain honorable members of the Opposition that’ the Government of New South “Wales would stoop to the methods that have been ascribed to it, or that it would do anything to attack unfairly the unfortunate people in the community who are unemployed. I would not suggest, either, that the governments of Queensland, Western Australia, or Tasmania would stoop to such tactics. I believe that the sovereign State governments can be relied upon to accept and distribute this money in the spirit in which it is intended it should be spent. If honorable members of the Opposition suggest that at Christmas time the State governments could stoop to some petty trick in order to do unfortunate men out of some portion of this money, I must say that I have more faith in human nature than apparently they have. The State governments are necessarily in much closer touch with the conditions of the unemployed through their labour bureaux and other agencies; and all of them - whatever their political colour may be - can be relied upon to put this money to the best possible use. Honorable members of the Opposition describe this grant as being one of charity, but in my opinion it ill-becomes those, who purport to represent the workers, to speak of charity in this regard. This grant is not made available by the Federal Government as charity. It is a simple gesture at Christmas time to the section of men who are without employment.
As to the so-called inadequacy of the amount, I ask any honorable member of the Opposition, and in particular the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), if in their wildest dreams they bad any idea that, the sum of £150,000 would be forthcoming for this purpose at Christmas time. Of course the answer is “ No “. The idea probably never entered their heads.
Again as to whether the money should be used for the purpose of providing work for the unemployed instead of being distributed in the form of a Christmas gift, I point out to the Leader of the Opposition that from time to time two or three of his supporters have asked questions without notice whether the Government proposed to make some provision of a Christmas gift of this sort. Whether or not this shows a cleavage in the ranks of honorable gentlemen opposite, I am not in a position to say.
The honorable member for Fawkner (Mi1. Holt) referred to the possibility of the States being permitted to distribute portion of this grant through such insttutions as the Young Men’s Christian Association, Legacy Clubs, and the like. In reply, I am able to inform the honorable member there is nothing in this measure to prevent the States from using charitable or other organizations for this purpose, although there is no obligation on their part to do so.
– Could such a suggestion be made to the State governments?
The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) expressed some anxiety as to the position in South Australia. I assure the honorable member that I have taken great care, actually by telephoning
Adelaide, in order to discover the position in that State. Although I was aware of the fact that the parliament of South Australia had adjourned, I had in mind that the State government, if it had been necessary to pass legislation in this connexion, could devote the equivalent of this grant from its own funds for the purpose of providing Christmas relief for the unemployed and offset this charge on revenue with the grant at a later stage when it had timeto pass the necessary legislation. From my inquiries by telephone, I have learned that a trust fund exists in South Australia out of which this money can be paid under existing legislation. The State government, therefore, has power to disburse the money in accordance with the Commonwealth Government’s proposals, and the unemployed of South Australia will be adequately looked after in this respect despite the fact that the State Parliament is not in session.
– What about the coalmining industry?
– That is a different matter. This grant is being made to the State governments on a population basis. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) made specific reference to the plight of the unemployed coal-miners in his electorate; but in respect of a man, who for any length of time, say, two years, has been out of employment I suggest that his unfortunate position, whether he comes from the coal-fields or from a suburb of Melbourne, is very much the same.
– But they are much poorer in the coal-mining areas, where there are fewer avenues for employment.
– I admit that a manin the coal-mining areas may be more divorced from the possibility of obtaining employment than a person living in a. big city.
– There is nothing to prevent the State governments from deciding that certain areas are more deserving of relief than others.
– That is so. In conclusion, I again emphasize that the Government seeks to make no political capital out of this measure, and I hope that honorable members of the Opposition will not pursue in committee the line of argu ment which they have adopted on the second reading debate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and committed pro forma.
Sitting suspended from 6.11 to 8 p.m.
Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 6)
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Debate resumed from the 22nd May (vide page 2229, volume 150) on motion by Mr. White (vide page 2220) -
That the schedule to the Customs Tariffs 1933, us proposed to be amended by tariff proposals, be further amended as hereunder set out . . .
.- The tariff resolutions which were tabled on the 22nd May - six months ago - introduced an entirely new development in Australian tariff-making, in that questions of principle, rather than the rates of duties on specified items, were involved. It must be acknowledged that the schedule was laid on the table somewhat dramatically, and in a manner which suggested that the Government was not too certain as to the soundness of the course that it was pursuing. That tariff involves Australia’s relations with the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and Japan; and we have to consider it at a time when the world is trembling in an atmosphere of mistrust. At best, the international situation at the moment gives cause for grave disquietude. From the stand-point of the British Empire, the position is such that, although the Empire has no misgiving, all governments are concerned with matters affecting international relations which necessitate grave caution and wisdom in the maximum degree. Although Great Britain has no need to fear any nation, it is most anxious to maintain friendly relations with all its immediate neighbours, including France, Germany and Italy. Similarly, Australia has no reason to fear either the United States of America or Japan, but as those two countries play so important a part in international relations in the Pacific, Australia should endeavour, in the most genuine way, to maintain friendly relations with them, and indeed, with all countries which border that ocean.
The Commonwealth Government has failed to take a broad national view of the situation. At all times its policy is dominated by sectional interests, and for that reason it has failed in this, as well as in other matters, to place Australia first.
The schedule has been described as a trade diversion schedule, aimed at diverting the source of Australia’s imports from certain countries to other countries. It is, therefore, a discriminatory tariff, and, to that extent, it can properly be described as provocative. It has not increased the number of countries with which Australia is on terms of goodwill, but it has given rise to a distinctly unwholesome atmosphere for Australia in its dealings with its Pacific neighbours. Speaking of the Government’s fiscal policy in May last, the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) said -
We are aiming in future to draw our supplies from countries which are already great customers of ours and which we may confidently expect will become greater customers if we increase our purchases from them. In this way we expect substantially to increase our export trade.
That means that the Government hopes that countries which are already great customers of ours, will become better customers as a result of this trade diversion policy . Does the Minister think that that statement squares with this schedule, which isaimed at transferring from Japan to other countries a considerable portion of Australia’s imports?
– Yes, absolutely.
– The Minister’s statement in May last could mean only that countries which buy goods from Australia are those from which we shall encourage imports. Therefore, if Japan buys goods from Australia, the logical implication of the Minister’s statement is that Australia . will buy goods from Japan. A good customer nation for Australia’s products should find Australia a good customer in return. Prior to the 22nd May last a cardinal feature of the Government’s tariff policy was a systematic reduction of duties, but on that date it introduced a policy which substantially reversed the principles upon which it had acted previously. Before that date every tariff matter of major importance was submitted by the Government to the Tariff Board, and a report was received from that body before a schedule to give effect to alterations, in some instances drastic reductions, of the tariff was introduced. In this instance, however, the duties were not referred to the Tariff Board before the schedule was laid on the table. Reductions of duties have been effected not only in the British preferential tariff but also in the general tariff, for in addition to 1,289 items in the British preferential tariff which have been reduced there are nearly 600 items in the general tariff upon which the duties have been lowered.
– There were hundreds of increases of duties in the general tariff.
– As a result of these systematic and consistent reductions of the general weight of the tariff against imports, there has been a great increase of the total imports into Australia, and customs revenue has swelled.
– And there is more employment.
– The Government resisted all criticism of its policy. It encouraged imports because they meant easy money for the Treasury; considerations of revenue made the Government reckless of every other consideration.
The following table shows how imports have grown since 1931-32: -
To say that that is a phenomenal rise is merely to express the fact broadly.
– The honorable member’s comparison is with the depression years.
– Not only did imports rise, but also reduced protection was given to Australian secondary industries. There was no similar increase of exports, for whereas compared with 1931-32 the value of imports in 1935-36 rose by £39,500,000, the value of exports increased by less than £20,000,000.
– The honorable member should make a comparison with 1927-28.
– I have taken two sets of figures covering the period during which the policy of the present Government has been in operation. Repeatedly during the life of this Parliament, as well as in the previous Parliament, the Opposition has drawn attention to the growing lack of balance, as between the values of Australian imports and exports, as a result of which the strain on our overseas balances was continuous. In its latest report the Commonwealth Bank Board drew pointed attention to the fact. The Government persisted in its policy, but during the present year a change took place; the Government which would not protect Australian cement against British cement sought to protect British textiles against the textiles of another country, and attempted to justify its action as a trade diversion programme in order to assist exports to countries which are good customers of ours. According to the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties, it acted in the interests of Australian exports. During the last five years Australia has had an excess of exports over imports largely because of Japanese purchases of Australian goods. The following table sets out the position in regard to exports and imports as well as Japan’s share in creating an excess of exports over imports : -
This shows clearly the importance to Australian economic security and to our solvency overseas of the maintenance of this trade with a non-European country. The significance of it must be apparent because, according to the latest report from the Economic Intelligence Service of the League of Nations, issued by the International Labour Office, the volume of world trade in 1935 appears to have been 4.5 per cent. higher than in 1934, but it was still 18 per cent. below the 1929 level. The report states -
The share of world trade which Europe enjoys has steadily declined since 1932.
SirHenry Gullett. - Hear, hear I But not Europe’s purchases.
– Europe is a shrinking purchaser of the goods of the rest of the world.
SirHenryGullett. - Of our wool this year?
– Of goods generally. The honorable gentleman would argue, of course, as he did some little time ago when dealing with our trade relations with Czechoslovakia, that we ought not to take wool into account. He has a most convenient memory which enables him readily to forget his pivotal point in one debate in order that he may use contradictory arguments in the next. In 1935 European trade represented only 35 per cent. of its value in 1929, and its. exports, in particular, fell off heavily. The volume of European trade -in 1935 was barely above the level of 1932, but the aggregate trade of other continents in 1935 was about 20 per cent. greater than in 1932. I submit that statement of the reorientation of world trade for the serious considera tion of the Minister and the Government. To the extent that world trade is developing, that is due, not to any recovery in Europe, but to developments in Asia, the United States of America, South America, and the dominions - and Australia has contributed an important part in this connexion. Let me indicate some facts emerging from a statement supplied to me by the Department of Commerce with respect to Australia’s trade with Japan. I shall summarize the table by saying that for the seven years to the 30th June, 1935, the excess of exports over imports was £stg.39,800,000 or £A.47,200,000. For the seven years to the 30th June, 1936, the accumulated active balance in favour of Australia amounted to £stg.42,100,000, or £A.51,800,000. The detailed statistics are shown in the following table : -
In a speech on the 10th October, the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties, said that wool represents practically 100 per cent, of our exports to Japan. The honorable gentleman would account for the revelations that are to be found by statistical research by the assertion that, as wool constitutes 100 per cent, of our exports and can be sold anywhere, we need not found our internal fiscal policy on wool. But he did not say that when the Scullin Government was laying down its fiscal policy for Australia, and he was in opposition. Excluding wool, the total exports to Japan for the last six years were as follows : -
Iii six years, disregarding wool altogether, Australia sold to Japan goods to the value of £18,924,000, representing an annual average for that period of £3,154,000. The imports into Australia from Japan during the three years 1933-341 to 1935-36 were valued in sterling at £3,670,000, £4,600,000 and £4,950,000 respectively, making a total of £13,220,000 or £A16,520,000. The exports, as the honorable gentleman knows, were much more substantial. As a matter of fact, for three years our total imports from Japan were Valued at £stg. 13,100,000, and our exports to that country ‘were valued at £stg. 34,700,000. Regarding the alleged dangers of Japanese imports the fact is that our exports to Japan have increased far more than our imports from that country.
– I am glad that the Leader of the Opposition is satisfied.
– I say that the imports from Japan have been but one-sixteenth of the total imports from all countries during the last three years.
– They are all secondary products.
– Let us clearly and
Calmly put the facts on record so that we may know just what is involved in this matter. The Minister argues that, while all I have said is true - he will not contradict any of the facts presented in my argument - British textiles are being driven out and that Australia’s market, in Britain is endangered as the result. Let us look for a moment at the facts in respect of the trade between Great Britain and Japan, because the honorable gentleman says that if we do not greatly contract the market in Australia for Japanese goods, we shall lose the existing market which Ave have in the United Kingdom.
– I have never said that.
– The honorable gentleman said that Australia’s market in the United Kingdom would be endangered.
– The honorable member talks about facts. Why not give us the facts?
– These are the facts. Quite early I described this tariff as a trade diversion tariff, and said that the Minister, in his justification of it, had stated that it was designed to change, in part, the source of imports into Australia from one country to another. It is upon that pivotal and fundamental point that I propose to review this matter. During the last three years Great Britain’s trade with Japan Avas as follows:: -
While Australian exports to Japan have g: own, exports to Japan from the United Kingdom have fallen.
– Because the United Kingdom exports secondary products, whereas Australia exports primary products.
– Whereas imports into the United Kingdom from Japan in three years have increased by £1,690,000, exports to Japan have remained static. The second point that emerges from these facts is that imports into the United Kingdom from Japan are nearly double those from Japan to Australia. Thirdly, Britain’s imports from Japan are nearly two and a half times as large as its exports to Japan, whereas Australia’s exports to Japan are three times as large as its imports from that country. A metropolitan newspaper, on the 9th March last, reported Sir Ernest Thompson, leader cf the Manchester Trade Mission, as having said - lt is no use maintaining a standard of livin;r within the Empire if we are to allow Empire markets to be flooded with goods produced under conditions which neither Britain t/r Australia would tolerate.
He did not make that statement regarding Argentine meat as against Australian meat, or Russian wheat as against Australian wheat, or, indeed, as regards imports into the United Kingdom from Japan. The Manchester trade mission in Australia was apparently greatly perturbed that this country should have the benefit of cheap commodities from Japan, but was not over-perturbed about the same state of affairs in the United Kingdom. The Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties knows that Great Britain sells to Japan only about onehalf as much as it buys from that country.
– That is because they are competitive.
– Since 1927 the retained imports into the United Kingdom from Japan have greatly exceeded its exports to that country. In 1926 the United Kingdom imported goods valued at £6,400,000 from Japan, and exported to that country goods valued at £13,900,000. Ten years ago Great Britain sold to Japan twice as much as it purchased from that country, but according to the latest figures which I have at my disposal Great Britain is importing from Japan twice as much as it exports to that country. Thus, the United Kingdom, instead of having a favorable balance of trade with Japan last year, had a greatly unfavorable one, whereas Australia has purchased far less from Japan than Japan has purchased from us, and the trade with that country was so substantially in our favour as to be the principal factor in the maintenance of our excess of total exports over imports. The schedule now before us asks the Parliament of the Commonwealth - and I say this quite dispassionately - to do for Great Britain in Australia what Great Britain itself is not prepared to do in the interests of its own manufacturers. Detailed figures for 1935 have not been given to me by the Department of Commerce, but those supplied for 1934 show that the United Kingdom imported from Japan timber which might have been supplied by Australia. Another item in the list of commodities purchased by Great Britain from Japan is pottery.
– Does not Australia import pottery?
– Yes, and we produce pottery ourselves. The point is that the Government has imposed customs duties on pottery largely to divert imports of that commodity from Japan to the United Kingdom, whereas, in fact, the United Kingdom is itself importing pottery from Japan. Another item is underwear of cotton, in respect of which importations into the United Kingdom during 1934 were valued- at £ stg. 193,000. Similarly, electrical goods valued at £ stg. 210,000 and cotton manufactures, except apparel and embroidery, valued at £147,000 were also imported. There are many disabled ex-soldiers in the United Kingdom, as well as in Australia, who could be profitably employed in making toys. Yet, the Commonwealth Government, allegedly in the interests of British manufacturers, desires to divert the toy trade from Japan to the United Kingdom, and puts a duty on Japanese toys for that purpose, but it must face the fact, that Great Britain itself, in 1935, imported toys to the value of £379,000 from Japan. Only to-day questions were asked of the Government regarding the importation into Australia from foreign countries of souvenirs of the Coronation of His Majesty, King Edward VIII. I am sure that if statistics were available regarding the importation into Great
Britain of Japanese flags, souvenirs, &c, in connexion with the Coronation, they would reveal an absolutely staggering situation.
– Is the Leader of the Opposition arguing that Great Britain should follow Australia’s example?
– The Leader of the Opposition has sold out to Japan.
– I take strong objection to the grossly offensive statement that I am prepared to sell out to Japan. I ask that the statement be withdrawn.
– I did not say that exactly. I claim that I did not say what is attributed to me by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin).
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).The Chair did not hear the remark of which the Leader of the Opposition has complained. The honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) denies having made the remark attributed to him, and I must, therefore, accept his denial.
– I accept the honorable member’s assurance that he did not say it, and I expect him to justify his denial by never saying it again. When the Manchester Trade Delegation was in Australia, Mr. Ellis, one of its members, said that what they desired was to be allowed to supply to Australia those goods which Australia could not produce itself. In other words, they did not want us to purchase from foreign countries those things which Britain could supply. Is Britain prepared to apply the same principle as it wishes us to apply? It buys from Japan, and other cheap labour countries, goods that Australia could supply. In a recent leading article, the Manchester Guardian urged a continuance of Britain’s trade agreement with Argentina, saying that it was common ground between all important British industries that the Argentine market must be zealously extended. ‘ Not once, but on many occasions, has this Government justified the cost of delegations overseas on the ground that it was imperative that we should negotiate with Great Britain regarding markets for our primary products. We have been told that certain I Ministers have achieved outstanding success in negotiating meat agreements and the like, but I point out that the maintenance or extension of Argentine trade with Great Britain must be, and is invariably, at the expense of the dominions. When we remember the concessions we have given to Great Britain in the past, and the fact that we purchase 42 per cent, of our total imports from Great Britain, whereas Great Britain’s purchases from. Australia represent only 7.2 per cent. of its total imports, the argument is irrefutable that Australia should regard its trade and commerce primarily from the standpoint of Australia, and that this should be a first principle of Australian tariff making. In broad outline, Parliament should frame a policy based essentially on what is requisite to place Australian industry, and Australia’s economic structure, on as safe a basis as possible; then, as a secondary principle, we should give substantial preference to the British Empire, and particularly to the United Kingdom. Then, having done those two things, having framed our tariff policy, first in the interests of Australia, and then with due regard to ties of kinship and common origin with the. people of Great Britain, and our membership of. the British Commonwealth of Nations, so that we give a substantial measure of preference ‘ to Great Britain, we should treat every foreign country on a basis of absolute equality. We should make certain that, in our general tariff policy, we do not discriminate between countries that are not members of the British Commonwealth of Nations. If we depart from that principle, which for years has been accepted in Australia, we invite new dangers, the consequences of which it is impossible to foresee.
The Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) seemed, in his speech, to be most concerned regarding the importation of goods manufactured by cheap labour, and he referred to the criticism of the Opposition as a betrayal of Australian workmen. This statement, coming from a member of the party which has always strenuously opposed improvements in the social and economic life of the worker, and which, by its reduction of tariffs, has permitted the entry into Australia of goods which could have been manufactured here, is, to say the least, ludicrous. That party was prepared, a few years ago, to allow cheap, foreign goods to enter Australia in competition with goods manufactured by our own people. The difference now is that it is not prepared to allow cheap goods to enter Australia, and it is using an argument which for years it combated. The importation of foreign goods into Australia has practically doubled during the last five years, and whence have they come? It is certain that the extra goods have not come from countries which enjoy a higher standard of living than does Australia.
On the 4th June, 1931, the present Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill), criticizing the Scullin Government, said -
Hundreds of thousands of good Australians will be compelled to pay greatly increased prices for their clothing as a result of these excessively high duties.
Yet, under the present proposals, Australian workmen will be compelled to pay increased prices for their clothing as a result of the protection being afforded to Great Britain.
– If the new duties will not have the effect of keeping out the products of cheap labour countries, what justification is there for them? Surely the Minister does not contend that this new schedule will not have the effect of increasing prices in Australia. If it does not, then it must fail of its purpose. On his own admission his object is to keep out cheap foreign goods which compete unfairly with British products, and affect the standard of living in Australia. In 1930, the present Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett), said -
Surely at a time like this we should avoid taking action that might affront a nation with which we desire to trade.
Now, only a few years later, he is himself taking action which cannot do other than affront a nation with which we desire to trade, and to which we recently sent an expensive delegation headed by the then Deputy Leader of the Government (Sir John Latham). The present Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page), in an address called “ The Path to Recovery by Tariff Reform “ delivered in 1930,. strongly advocated the extension of our trade with the East. On that occasion he said -
Japan is now one of the great factors in the sale of our wool. China is awakening. India is not far away. They are markets which are available to us. We should be able toshoe China and clothe Japan. Geographically, this is our logical market. Half the population of the world lies in the East, and the East is awakening. I mean by that that the customs and clothing of the West are being more and more absorbed by the East. We have not really” done our best in this market.
Since those words were uttered, a goodwill mission from Australia visited the East, and we have sent trade commissioners to various Eastern countries. Recently, an appropriation bill, which was passed through this Parliament, made provision for their salaries and expenses. Japan has purchased from us extensively during the last few years, but we have not, to any great extent, increased our purchases from Japan. The Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties spoke of unfair Japanese trading methods. It is true that Japan has devalued its currency, but so has Australia.
– What about labour conditions in Japan?
– Labour conditions all over the world are far from what they should be. It is said that in Melbourne, at the present time, labour conditions in the clothing trade are repeating the worst features of the sweating that characterized the trade in the nineties. Government industrial officers do not approve of what is happening, but they say that it is impossible to stamp it out.
– What is the Labour party doing?
– The Minister asks what the Labour party is doing. Only last week, the Labour party asked this Government to take steps to arm itself with constitutional power to stamp out unjust industrial conditions, and the answer we received was that the time is not yet ripe.
The Prime Minister discussed this subject in a recent broadcast speech. By way of parenthesis, let me point out that although this is a controversial issue in Australia, the Government with an audacity that is hard to justify, professed that a measure imposing certain tariff duties was a feature of national policy, and for that reason it not only broadcast its views over the A class stations, but also made what is called a request to the controllers of E class stations to link up, the request being in such terms as to be construed almost as a command.
– The honorable gentleman could have replied to that.
– I have this to say to the “ solicitor “ for Mrs. Freer - that the right course for the Government to take was to invite Parliament to meet, and then to justify in the light of day the contentions advanced by the Prime Minister and his colleague over the air. 1 want to know if it is now laid down definitely “that any future government which finds itself in a controversial dilemma in the Parliament, may close the Parliament and commandeer the whole’ of the broadcasting services of Australia in order that only one side, namely the governmental side, may be put to the people. The Prime Minister said, this - [ think I urn. right when I say that the people of Australia and the newspaper* of Australia, great and small, have sensed that there is something more behind this action of ours than the consideration of our trade with the United Kingdom, and the degree of our dependence upon the United Kingdom markets to consume our exports, of station and farm and orchard produce.
What is behind it? That statement, T say with great respect to the right honorable gentleman, could only give rise to the most sinister speculations. It was distinctly unwarranted, in that it either said too much and made the country apprehensive, or said too little.
– The honorable gentleman is talking nonsense.
– I ask, which is the correct statement, that of the Prime Minister, or that of the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties, who paid that the purpose of the trade diversion schedule was merely to give advantages to good customer countries?
– And to preserve Australian working conditions.
– Australian working conditions! I know that the suggestion i? made, that conditions in the textile industry in Japan are not as good as those that obtain in Lancashire, and that they do not conform to those that are customary in Australia. Mr. A. M- Pooley, of Sydney, who edits Current Problems, in the issue of the 2nd October, 1936, quoted a statement in these terms -
Sir Frederick Leith Ross, of the British Treasury, was sent out to the British Embassy at Pekin, as economic adviser on various questions concerning China and the friction between Britain and Japan in regard to China. He recently returned to England, and his report on his mission, which was a failure, was published. In the course of that report, hu said that a definite contribution to his -failure had been the Australian tarin’, which the Japanese believed was inspired by the British Government. In this country, we know well enough now that it was nol’, and that it came as a considerable shock to the British Cabinet. Further than that, Sir Frederick says in his report that, if it hud not been for the menace of Russia on the Manchukuo frontier and in Siberia, Japan might well have taken more drastic action in regard to this tariff.
– That is a very helpful statement to make.
– It was published in Current Problems, edited by A. M. Pooley, of Sydney, on the 2nd October, 1936.
– Why quote rubbish of that kind?
– It seems to suit the honorable gentleman.
– It does not suit me ar all.
– Then why quote it?
– The Prime Minister said that we sensed that there was something behind this policy. Surely the only construction that can be placed on that speech is that some influence which the Government either was not game, or was too ashamed, to state had animated it in the formulation of this policy ! It has to be remembered that Japan is- a buyer of our principal exportable cornmod itv. and that its competition increased the value of our wool exports to Great Britain and reduced the quantity that we had to deliver as annual tribute. For that state of affairs, this Government took full credit. It directed public attention to it as one of the direct beneficial results of its ambassadorial mission to Japan. The Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties took full credit for the improved condition of trade with Japan which followed upon the return to Australia of the mission led by Mr., now Sir John, Latham.
– J. was not a member of the Government at that time.
-Then the Government took full credit for it. Japan is not only a buyer ; it is also a seller, of goods. It did not force its goods on to the Australian market; they have been sought by the agents of this Government, by its special goodwill messenger, and by all those merchant princes in our midst who wave loyal flags made in Japan on government platforms at election time. Therefore, the problem is one for which this Government is responsible. The increase of imports from Japan, of which the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties has taken notice in this schedule, has occurred during the life of the Lyons administrations and, as the Minister ‘has shown, the trade has grown in that period, to very substantial dimensions. lt did not occur during the regime of the Scullin Government. It is also true that Australia’s exports to Japan grew. Now a situation has arisen of which the Government is afraid, and to deal with which it has taken action. All that I have to say is that, if a major problem calling for drastic action by the Government presented itself in May last, it was the outcome of previous drift by the Government. When the Government sent the Latham Mission to the East it had no conception of the implications of Japanese trade upon Australia’s imperial relationships. It has been incapable of looking at Australia’s trade as a whole. It, believed that it could sell more to Japan without buying more from Japan. Ii is also true that when the importation into Australia of certain Japanese lines began to swell, tariff measures were contemplated by the Opposition, but honorable gentlemen opposite resisted such proposals. We asked for increased duties to stem the flow of imports, and debate after debate took place in this Parliament with the Government insisting - as the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) now insists - that nothing should be done until the matter had first been investigated by the Tariff Board. It had become so much the habit of the Government to refer to the “ Himalayan “ Scullin tariff, that it took a positive delight in being able to reduce duties from point to point until the tariff had reached so low a level that the flood of imports causes this most drastic contradiction of everything that the Government had previously done. It would have been then, as it will be in the future, justifiable and proper to tell either Japan or any other country, at any point, i( Your imports into Australia, and the trade that you have been enabled to obtain here, have now reached proportions that we consider justify action to limit further expansion “. Every country has done that in its tariff-making from time to time. But it is one thing to tell a country that a market which it does not hold is not available to it, and quite a different thing to allow a country to capture a market and then try to deprive it of that which it has legitimately won. The consequences of such action, I submit, are too subversive of stability in international relations. As regards- the statement of the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties, that there is room for a substantial increase of Australian exports of primary products provided that we are able to give to Great Britain a larger share of the Australian market, all that I would ask i3, what actual benefits in the form of increased trade with the United Kingdom are to be derived as the result of this trade diversion policy? I thought that the benefits which Australia had secured were the direct outcome of the Ottawa agreement. I also understood that the Ottawa agreement, of itself and by itself, completely safeguarded Australia’s trade in the United Kingdom. If that be true, then this action against Japan is unjustified as a measure for the protection of Australia’s exports overseas.
Another country which is interested in this matter is the United States of America. In his speech on the Government’s new tariff, the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties said -
Circumstances compelled the Government to divert a certain amount of our import trade from coun tries which’ are very indifferent purchasers of Australian exports, first as far as practicable with respect to Australian secondary industries, and next to countries which arc heavy purchasers of our exports.
Professor Giblin, discussing the new tariff, said that attempts to balance trade between two countries represented the greatest of obstacles to the revival- of international trade. That is admitted in a statement published in the Sydney Morning Herald to-day, by the British Chamber of Commerce. Professor Giblin went on to say -
The United States of America was a bad customer country because Australia had a heavy adverse balance of trade with her. The facts were that we had an even heavier adverse balance with Britain.
Turning to the balance of payments, Professor Giblin said -
Australia had to pay £31,000,000 for imports of British goods, and about £26,000,000 for sinking fund and interest and other services beyond those included in the valuation of imports. Australia had, as a credit, about £38,000,000, the value of imports from Australia retained by Great Britain. The year ended with a balance of £19,000,000 against Australia. About £6,000,000 of this balance was paid with gold, and the remainder (£13,000,000) had to come out of favorable balances with other countries, or London reserves. Against this should be set tiro capital investments from Great Britain, which might have been about £5,000,000.
He went on to say -
If, then, we are going to talk about good customers, Britain is no doubt in one sense a good customer of Australia, but Australia is a much better customer of Great Britain.
He added -
If we are to adopt this vicious system of balancing trade between two countries, it is for Britain to buy a great deal more to make the balance even.
Japan cannot be classed as “a very indifferent customer “, seeing that it is our. second best customer. The Minister was absolutely incorrect when he said that our sales to Japan were practically all of wool. I have statistics to prove that that is not the case. The following particulars of trade done by the United Kingdom with Australia and the United States of America in respect of apples, pears and raisins, prove conclusively that Australia has the worst of the deal in the trade agreements which this Government has made on its behalf : -
The Government claims to have brought down its new tariff schedule on behalf and in the interests of primary producers and British industries in order to maintain our economic standard and divert trade from countries which are indifferent purchasers of Australia’s exports to our good customers. On examination of the facts, however, we find that under the new tariff the greatest of our primary industries, the wool trade, and also other primary industries, are adversely affected in order to protect British industries without any guarantee of increased trade from Britain. Under the trade treaties, our secondary industries are to suffer in order to get a little more trade for our primary industries which were affected by the new tariff. The truth is that, having done untold damage as the result of its low-tariff policy, thereby ‘allowing increased imports of foreign goods instead of imposing a tariff with a view to safeguarding Australian industries from all outside competitors, the Government has taken the course of imposing discriminatory restrictions, with no thought of the economic repercussions which must follow such action, or of the antagonism that might be engendered. I look at this matter from the view-point of Australia, its trade, its international relationships and the overwhelming desirability of being on friendly relations with the countries that border the Pacific Ocean. We are a British community, and we have given ample proof of our kinship with the United Kingdom. The preferences given in our tariff to Great Britain are understood. They cause no turmoil. But preference is one thing, and discrimination against a particular country or countries is another. We must live as realists, and keep our minds clear regarding the political facts of the Pacific, in which we. are vitally involved. We cannot, and dare not, divorce our trading policy from the factual realities of our geographical position.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. I misunderstood the Leader of the (^position (Mr. Curtin), owing to the hubbub and uproar which was created.
– The honorable member was more guilty of contributing to the hubbub than any other honorable member.
– I stated in one instance, that the honorable member had presented the case for Japan, and later I said that he had “sold out” to Japan. Having misunderstood the statement of the honorable gentleman, I now desire to withdraw the words used by me.
– I propose to offer little or no criticism of the speech delivered by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). To my idea, it is perfect as it stands. As a member of the Government, I could not wish to have a better speech by the Leader of the Opposition recorded.
At this stage, I propose to make a brief survey of three of the main matters covered, by the schedule now before the committee. They represent the steps taken by the Government with respect to the diversion of trade, the manufacture within Australia of motor car engines and chassis and, finally, the trade dispute with Japan. If my remarks are not of a comprehensive and detailed kind, it is because I shall have further opportunities to speak on the individual items.
I do not propose to follow the honorable gentleman in his remarks regarding our trade relations with Japan. I take no exception to his “ boiling over “ in that regard, although he “ simmered “ for six months in complete silence. I do not propose to say more now than that the negotiations with the Japanese delegates are actively proceeding, and not without some prospect of an early settlement.
In approaching the steps taken by the Government as from the 23rd May last in the diversion ‘ of the source of some portion of our import trade, I would remind honorable members that we live in abnormal times. We have within the last six or seven years witnessed phenomenal changes. During these years the Bank of England has been forced off the gold standard; Prance has twice been driven into heavy devaluation of the franc; the United States of America has voluntarily abandoned the gold standard; and most countries have, indeed, depreciated their currencies. Here in Australia we have twice adjusted exchange until our £1 note, which a few years ago was worth a sovereign, is to-day worth somewhat less than half a sovereign. In the international trading sphere we have witnessed even more important changes. The United Kingdom has abandoned freetrade for protection; Russia has established government monopoly of all foreign trade; and the policy of national self-sufficiency has been adopted almost everywhere in varying degrees. Italy and Germany have moved in the direction of a planned and managed economy in substitution for the old self-regulating system. Quotas and exchange control have been adopted as the principal aid3 to bi-lateral trade between nations. The prolonged pressure which the depression has exercised on the world has not only resulted in the overthrow of political institutions in certain countries, but has also destroyed the faith of many countries in the economic principles by which they had been guided for many generations. These new currency and trading measures clearly prove that the world has abandoned what it believed to be fundamental and enduring principles. It has abandoned these in the belief that they have failed to meet present-day emergency needs.
New principles have not yet crystallized. Under the indefinite liquid conditions now prevailing throughout the world, economic policy in the widest sense must be, and, indeed,, should be, a well considered expediency. The world must from time to time, as problems arise, take those steps which are best calculated to meet the situation of the day and the not distant to-morrow. At the same time, the steps taken should be, if possible, of a kind which, whilst tiding us over the present, will bo constructive in a general sense. The new expediency policies have not left Australia unaffected. Much as we may have tried to escape their effects we have had forced upon us the choice of adhering to old, out-of-date principles or partially yielding to the new order. An examination of our trading position with, two countries will suffice to satisfy honorable members that my statement that Australia has not remained unaffected by these policies is true. Italy was the first Australian “ good customer “ country to adopt a closed economy, with the result that our exports to that country fell from £4,600,000 in 1933-34 to £996,000 in the following year. Germany followed with the result that our exports to that country fell from £9,439,000 in 1933-34 to £1,73.3,000 in 1934-35. These phenomenal changes throughout the world are the considerations which moved the Government to the adoption of the policy expressed in the schedule.
I shall deal first with the proposed diversion of part of our import trade. We have heavy overseas obligations which can be met only through the medium of a more or less regular excess in value of exports over imports. If we fail to maintain that essential favorable balance of trade, we fail financially before the world. That is, I know, as unthinkable to the Opposition as it is to members of the Government. This was indeed eloquently .expressed by the Leader of the Opposition in his noconfidence motion in this chamber on the 11th March last. The motion which bc then submitted declared, in part -
That the Government is deserving of censure for failing to take action to safeguard Australia’s overseas funds by checking the increasing flow of unnecessary imports . . .
– And the Prime Minister’s defence was that it was not necessary to do that.
– The. Leader of the Opposition sought to show at that time that we were likely to have a large adverse trade balance in. respect, of last year. That the Government was able convincingly to deny and disprove. We did not say that we were satisfied with the trade conditions for all time ; ‘we did not commit ourselves to that. We merely said that we were perfectly safe for the time being, as we proved to be.
The Leader of the Opposition, in the forceful speech he has just made, still subscribes b.y strong implications, if not in actual terms, to the words I have quoted from his motion of want of confidence. The Government and the Opposition are, therefore, one in subscribing to the absolute necessity for maintaining a sufficient margin in the value of our exports over the value of our imports to place the meeting of our overseas obligations beyond question.
– Does the Minister consider that the present proposal will do that?
– Yes. 1 consider it a great constructive contribution. The only difference I have with the Leader of the Opposition and those who support him is in regard to the means to be employed to ensure the end which we in common have in view. The honorable gentleman charges the Government, in the policy it has adopted to reach that end, with discriminating among countries which are more or less substantial exporters to the Commonwealth. He appears strongly to favour the alternative course of adopting tariff restrictions against certain items of import irrespective of country of origin. There we reach the fundamental difference between the policy of the Government and the policy of the Opposition. My honorable friend would apply restrictions equally against those countries which are good customers for Australian exports, and those countries which are very indifferent customers for our exports.
– Was not Japan a good customer?
– I am not now referring to the Japanese issue. I am in a peculiar position in conducting these negotiations, and I think that it would be improper for me to enter into a controversy with the honorable member on this subject.
I would make one comment on the speech by the Leader of the Opposition.. He sought to show the great growth of imports into Australia since 1931-32. As I remarked by way of interjection, in the first place, he compared the purchasing power of this country for all goods at the depth of the depression period with its purchasing capacity at the present period of relatively great prosperity, and, secondly, he entirely overlooked the fact that, of our total imports, only 14 per cent, or Jj per cent, come in under protective duties. The honorable gentleman showed startling ignorance of what our imports compose. The great bulk of our imports to-day are manufacturers’ raw material, or partially-manufactured material, without which Australian industries could not carry on. Only from 14 per cent, to 15 per cent, of our imports come into competition with the products of Australian protected industries.
– Well, then, where does the Government get its enormous revenue ?
– In the main, from revenue duties.
The Commonwealth, in the diversion scheme it has adopted, has proceeded down different lines. It has, as a primary condition to success in maintaining and improving the favorable export balance, given first place in its consideration to the maintenance of the export trade of the Commonwealth. The soundness of this consideration will not be denied. If we had proceeded, as the Leader of the Opposition suggests, by applying restrictions to all countries from which we import, we could not have failed to antagonize all countries, and to have prejudiced their disposition to continue their purchasing from Australia. We have, therefore, excluded from the diversion policy, in the first place, all good customer countries, and, in the second place. those countries which presented little or no opportunity for the diversion of trade we had in view. On the other hand, we have aimed to bring about diversion on a large and beneficial scale from sources which were very heavy and increasing exporters to Australia, and very limited purchasers indeed from Australia. In brief, if we wish to increase our exports to those countries which offer a market for commodities of the kind produced for export, we must, under the conditions now prevailing in international trade, be prepared to give them a reasonable measure of our custom in return. We cannot give these countries a portion of the trade in goods being manufactured in Australia; therefore, it is preferable that we divert to them the trade in commodities which we are importing from countries which offer us but slight compensating advantages by way of reciprocal purchases.
In the practice of this policy, which has now been in force since the 22nd May last, the diversion policy has worked against the interests of the United States of America. It is unnecessary to say that we deeply regret this circumstance, but the considerations’ in favour of such a policy were so overwhelming that, as we saw it, we had no alternative. To state the position briefly, with respect to our trade with the United States of America, if we had allowed the adverse trade balance to develop as it was developing without restriction from that country, or with only a small partial restriction shared by all other countries, no stops we could have taken to achieve the allimportant objective could have been successful. I would’ again invite the attention of the House to our trading relationship with the United States of America over the last decade, or a little more. For the five years ending 1929 our adverse trade balance with that country amounted, on the average, to £29,000,000 per annum. In 1931-32 that adverse balance had fallen as low as £5,600,000. As we emerged from the depression the adverse balance again became active and cumulative. By the financial year 1934-35 it had reached £S,900,000. and nothing was more certain at the time we took action than that, within a very few years; that adverse balance might easily have reached at least £20,000,000 per annum. For the financial year ended the 30th June last, it amounted to £9,500,000. In addition to this adverse balance in trade, dollar loans entail interest payments to America exceeding £3,000,000 sterling annually. There are also the profits from American investments in Australia, whilst profit-taking on films, petrol and oil sold in the Australian market adds greatly to the invisible payments to be remitted to America annually. With this continuing drift the Australian capacity to establish a , sufficient balance for overseas interest must have failed utterly. On that fact is based the whole of this policy ; if we did not take some steps to adjust this rapidly-grown adverse trade balance with the United States of America, our whole overseas balance would be in extreme danger.
– How does the honorable gentleman apply that argument in respect of Japan?
– I shall deal with Japan when I am able to do so. We have a highly favorable balance with Japan, although it is less favorable than our balance with any other country which is a substantial buyer of wool.
In deciding, in May last, to curtail imports from the United States of America by an estimated amount of £2,300,000 sterling, the Government still left to that country, in its trade with Australia, an estimated favorable balance of not less than £7,500,000 sterling. These figures do not take into account the larger diversion to Australia of motor chassis to the value of over £4,000,000 sterling. To make it clear that the present Government is entirely free from any desire to single out the great American republic in this matter, I might mention that no less than five members of the present Administration were members of the Bruce-Page Administration for the whole, or part, of the five-year period I have mentioned prior to 1930 when the annual adverse balance was at an average of £29,000,000. No action was taken at that time because the necessity for it had not then arisen. The United States of America has been, as I have said, a very indifferent purchaser from Australia. That has been due to circumstances easy of explanation. During the last five years that country has taken from us commodities to the value of only £11,000,000 sterling, while we have taken American commodities to the value of £4S,000,000 sterling. This latter figure is more than the value of our total imports from all continental Europe to which, in the same five-year period, we sold commodities to the value of £S4,000,000 sterling, and from which we bought commodities to the value of only £36,000,000 sterling.
Our exports abroad are of primary produce which are, in the main, the product, and even the surplus product, of the United States of America. No doubt this circumstance was at least partly responsible for the restriction in the American act empowering the President to make foreign treaties, a restriction which lays it down that he may only make treaties on a basis of reciprocal benefits. That restriction prevented the Government of the United States of America from entering into trade negotiations with the Commonwealth. The Government understands this restriction on the President’s treaty-making powers, and also understands the reason whyAmerica cannot buy commodities from: Australia of which she also produces a surplus. I emphasize that point. It is reasonable, therefore, to appeal to the Government and the people of the United States of America to show the same understanding of the Australian position and the steps which led us to take the action which we have taken. The United States of America cannot take our primary products because it is a surplus producer of those products. But we are also a surplus producer of primary products, and we must find markets overseas for those products. The United States of America can give us no markets for them, and, I contend, we are a thousand time3 justified in adopting a trade diversion policy of this “kind which will enable usto continue sending our surplus primaryproducts outside thi3 country.
– Will the honorable gentleman now apply that argument to Japan ?*
– Let thehonorable member go to the miners of Broken Hill and advocate his policy of cheap goods from Japan !
I am pleased to be able to say that,, although America has made a protest tothe Commonwealth Government against its action, there is quite a lot of evidencethat the American people do understand’ the situation which has arisen. Undoubtedly this understanding has been aided by the fact that the Government of the United States of America has refused, despite various attempts on our part, even to negotiate with us. It is true that there has been some stronglyworded propaganda against Australia,, but this has come from quarters interested in the export trade to Australia. This propaganda from interested parties wai. not unexpected. In brief, we have, by our action, run the risk of incurring a very modified form of displeasure from one great country, which purchased relatively little from the Commonwealth, and we have left undisturbed our trading relationships with the rest of the world. Had we -taken common action, such as the Leader of the Opposition so strongly advocates, we would have incurred not merely the displeasure, but .also the very active and deserved hostility, of a great many of our best-customer countries.
It is yet too early accurately to assess comprehensively and in detail the results of this diversion policy. It will be remembered that goods for which orders were in suppliers’ hands by the 22nd Mr.v were allowed entry into Australia provided they were shipped before the 30th June. The latest complete statistics available are for the quarter ended September. The administration of the policy, while it has, of necessity, been firm, has not been unreasonable, and, as -would be expected in the early period, many permits were granted for the continued import of goods in limited, but diminishing, quantities. Although I cannot give actual figures, therefore, to show the results of the diversion, I can say that it has been, on the whole, greatly successful. Already it has, in many directions, led to considerable expansion of Australian manufacturing, especially in the all-important engineering and electrical industries. Moreover, it has diverted a very substantial amount of trade to the United Kingdom, and in a less, but still material, degree to Belgium, Germany, and our other best-customer foreign countries. Therefore, it can be confidently claimed for the policy that, while it has caused a minimum of overseas trouble, it has proved, and will continue to prove, highly beneficial to Australian secondary industry and employment and to Australian primary industry by assisting our good-customer countries in their compensating exports to Australia; and it has achieved this without adding to the sum total of our imports.
Honorable members mil be asked, in the course of the consideration of the schedule, to accord their support to the
Government’s proposals to bring about, by a relatively early date, the manufac ture of motor car engines and chassis as far as is practicable within the ‘Commonwealth. In introducing this matter to the Parliament on the 22nd May last, I said that the determination of the Government to give strong and decisive encouragement to the establishment of this industry in the Commonwealth was, in our minds, separate from and independent of, the general scheme of trade diversion. Moreover, I added that in our view the time had arrived, when this great industry should be established locally as a contribution to Australia’s existing protected industries. Whilst, however, the Government was then of opinion, and is still of opinion, that the local manufacture of both engines and chassis could be amply justified quite apart from the question of the general policy of diversion, the two cannot be divorced. Already our experience with the diversion policy has shown, as I have already said, that it will lead to much new industrial development and wider markets within the Commonwealth. But, no other item of industry in the process of diversion under the general scheme is comparable in magnitude and significance to the proposal to manufacture motor car engines and chassis in Australia. I cannot conceive of any honorable memberwho favours, or who advocates in principle, the trade diversion policy not subscribing wholeheartedly to the Government’s proposal to bring about as soon as possible the local manufacture of motor car engines and chassis. Amongst all the items selected for diversion, no single item is comparable in value or national importance to Australia to the project to establish within the Commonwealth the manufacture of the internal combustion engine of the motor car type. Moreover, I doubt whether any other item which comes within the diversion scheme is likely to prove so completely satisfactory in a general way and particularly from the economic view-point. I have stressed its independence from the diversion policy, because the Government believes that the manufacturer of the complete motor car within the Commonwealth must, in the industrial, and, indeed, in the whole national interest, have been brought about even had the general diversion scheme not been introduced.
I have never been a fanatical protectionist. Rather have I been a discriminating protectionist.
– Very discriminating.
– As the honorable member is in the matter of a gold bounty. Nevertheless I have voted, in this Parliament, for hundreds of proposals for increased protection, but on no occasion have I been so pleased and wholly satisfied with any vote for protection as I shall be when I record my vote in favour of the proposal in this schedule, which, if carried, will commit the Parliament to the building of combustion engines of the motor car type in Australia.
– At an early date.
– The Government drove the manufacture of Diesel engines out of the country. Walkers Limited, of Maryborough, were making them.
– Honorable members opposite will criticize anything. This will be one of Australia’s greatest industries, second only, perhaps, tothe great steel industry, which they criticize. The manufacture of internal combustion engines in Australia should be grand in its magnitude; great as an employer of Australian men and as a means of expanding markets for primary produce; sound in its economics and an indispensable contribution to the defence of this country. This proposed new industry is one which every member should support with confidence and with pride. Established in Australia on a basis sufficiently strong to prove economic, it will correct the trade balance to the extent of some millions annually. It will also add substantially to the stature of Australia as an industrial nation. Indeed, it might be truthfully said that a country which is not a fabricator on a sound scale of that incalculable force in national affairs - the internal combustion engine - has not reached industrial manhood. Honorable members will, I am confident, subscribe unanimouslyto these views subject to only one condition: they must be satisfied, and. indeed.should be satisfied as to the economicsof this proposed advance in our industrial activity. At this stage time will not permit me to enter fully into the economics of the proposal. I shall content myself by setting out a few of the facts, which, in the opinion of the Government, disclose conclusively that engines and chassis can be manufactured within the Commonwealth on a basis which will give a service as efficient as that now enjoyed by motorists as a whole, and at a price fully as satisfactory and, I believe, more satisfactory to purchasers, than the price which is now paid.
Following are the main reasons, not necessarily in order of importance, which actuatedthe Government in deciding to carry out this policy on motor cars -
Several of these points are self-evident ; others require explanation. The first point I should make upon the ultimate selling price is that any increase of cost, if both engine and chassis are completely manufactured in Australia, would be confined to. 20 per cent. of the present selling price of motor cars.
– Who is the authority for that statement? That is a lot of piffle.
– The honorable member for Swan asserts that that plain statement of fact, that any increase of cost, if both engine and chassis were completely manufactured in Australia would be confined to 20 per cent. of the present selling price of cars, is a lot of piffle.
– Where does the duty come in?
– I shall come to that. In introducing this subject on the 22nd May, I stated this position in reply to an interjection by the honorable member for Grey (Mr. McBride) somewhat differently, and in some measure erroneously ; but the fact remains that the position is as I have now put it. Eighty per cent, of the present Australian selling price of motor cars is made up of costs and charges incurred in Australia. We have then to consider the scope which exists for an increase of the cost of manufacture in Australia of the engine and chassis without increasing the total selling price of the complete car. I shall therefore indicate the amount by which costs may be increased owing to local manufacture of engine and chassis without increased price to the local motorist.
The following figures are based upon a chassis of 15 cwt., which is the approximate weight of the most popular sellers in this market. The gross duty paid on Canadian chassis of this weight is £22 8s., and that paid on chassis of United States of America origin is £43 8s. The proposed bounty to be paid in each case is £30, and. the anticipated saving in body-building costs due to mass production under the new conditions may be safely estimated at £20. The local manufacturers of engines and chassis therefore have, taking Canadian cars as an example, no less than £72 8s. to absorb into additional costs before selling prices would be increased. As against American cars they would have £93 8s. I mention these amounts to dispel some of the gloomy forbodings which have been made by importing interests. I have never known importing interests to refrain from opposing the establishment of new industries in Australia. A detailed analysis will indicate that such a manufacturing reserve contingency will not be required. To those who may question the accuracy of the £20. reduction of the Australian cost of body-building under more economic manufacturing conditions, I should point out that to-day a very substantial number of the motor cars on roads have their bodies built in small lots and under excessive and extremely costly conditions.
– The present system is entirely uneconomic.
– It is. The Australian motor car trade is the most uneconomic in the world. The Australian motor car is the most expensive in the world. To some extent the building of bodies in small lots is unavoidable as local agents cannot, without risk, place a comprehensive order covering the whole of a season’s requirements until the market is tested. These uneconomic conditions apply also to all accessories supplied in small orders; but it is especially with respect to assembly, distribution, and salesmanship that we incur excessive costs. The standard selling price established by a great many types of cars under these conditions tends to set the selling price even for those types of cars which are sold i n great number in the Commonwealth, for which bodies are built under more favorable conditions. If, however, a majority of the cars in use in Australia were being manufactured here, the manufacture would be carried on by two or three companies under mass-production conditions, and with a very substantial reduction of the prices of bodies, and, indeed, of all locally-made accessories. Once it is laid down that Australia -is to build a complete motor car, the case for special consideration of the importer of small quantities in a large number of types will have disappeared.
I have indicated that before the price to Australia purchasers of cars containing Australia-made engines and chassis could be increased, in comparison with the present price of cars carrying engines and chassis of Canadian origin, the additional local cost must be increased by £72 Ss., and in comparison with those manufactured in the United States of America, it must be increased by £93 Ss. Investigation discloses, however, that it is impossible to contemplate the cost of cars with Australian engines and chassis being increased even by these amounts, in which case local manufacture of engines and chassis would actually result in lower prices being charged to Australian car-owners. In support of this I should mention the extraordinarily little known fact that already the successful manufacture of the internal combustion engine in the Commonwealth is well established. During the year 1935, no fewer than 4,700 internal combustion engines were produced by Australian works. Of these 82 per cent, were petrol engines. Here, too, is a point of great significance. Thi number of Australian manufacturersoperating last year was 22, and no less than twenty types of internal combustion engines, ranging from l£ horse-power to 80 horse-power were turned out. One could not imagine anything less economic than that. I would ask the House to pay particular attention to the fact that the duty under which this industry is being carried on is British preferential, 33f per cent., plus 5 per cent, primage, or less than 39 per cent, protection as a whole.
The factory cost of the motor car engines most commonly in use in Australia is less than £30. Therefore, in offering a bounty of £30 on each complete engine, the Government is providing for two years a duty equivalent to 100 per cent. This may appear high, but it will be generally admitted that a great new undertaking of this nature deserves generous treatment in its pioneering stage.
The number of types on offer under Australian manufacture would certainly be heavily reduced, but the importance of this reduction is, I think, very much exaggerated. Iri reality an overwhelming majority of car-owners in Australia are using a very limited number of ears. Foi example 88 per cent, of the North American cars in use in Australia represent only eleven types of engines; 85 per cent, of all the cars selling on the Australian market represent only seventeen types. It is true that 84 different engines are selling in Australia to-day, but of these 67 engines make up only 15 per cent, of the total sales. Clearly, therefore, any reduction of types due to Australian manufacture would not be a material factor in the merits or demerits of the change over to Australian production. The disposition to types of only a relatively small number of buyers would be affected. There is the point too that the protection intended is not of a prohibitive nature. Even when the Australian industry is fully established those who have a particular fancy for imported cars will, it is contemplated, be able to secure them just as they now import in limited numbers cars complete with bodies. On the whole, therefore, I submit that the establishment of the proposed industry within the Commonwealth can be brought about without any increase of the cost of motor cars and with more than a fair prospect of cheaper cars.
It is anticipated that the Australian manufacture will be undertaken by overseas firms, or that Australian firms, if they do the work, will arrange to have free and constant access, as is done with so much of our manufacturing, to all the latest overseas research and development - at least enough to give them information as to the latest types of engines, chassis and bodies that from time to time make an appearance on overseas markets. “When introducing this matter on the 22nd May of this year, I stated with respect to engines, that although the Government did not hesitate to take the initiative and’ offer a bounty of not less than £30 for the first year of local manufacture and £26 for the second year, it would, at an early date, submit to the Tariff Board the question of the exact bounty required. As far as the chassis, apart from the engine, was concerned, I stated that at an appropriate time the Government would refer to the Tariff Board for examination and report, the question of the Australian manufacture of its different parts. Both of these references have now been made and indeed upon a somewhat broader basis than I previously indicated. The Tariff Board has been asked to report upon the best means of giving effect to the Government’s policy of establishing in Australia the manufacture of engines and chassis of motor vehicles.
Meanwhile the Government proposes to continue its offer of a bounty of at least £30 for the first two years of manufacture in Australia upon the engine, and to continue the existing special import tax of 7d. per lb. upon chassis entering this country to provide a fund within which, bounty at the outset may be paid.
– Has the Minister any estimate as to the size of the fund that will be raised?
– I shall supply the honorable member with that information at a later stage.
In all probability it will be found that there are certain vital parts of the engines which could not, at the outset, be produced in Australia upon an economic basis. This may apply ,also to parts of the chassis. The Government is not in any sense committed to an uneconomic venture, in whole or in part, and it will be quite satisfied if, at the outset, the engine is, in the great main, manufactured in Australia and a bounty is paid upon a proportional basis, and if the local manufacture of the chassis takes place upon a progressive basis. In submitting .the matter to the Tariff Board at an earlier date than was previously contemplated, the Government feels that it is taking a step which will meet the objections of all, or nearly all, of the critics of this great enterprise.
In concluding my remarks upon this question I would suggest to honorable members that the four greatest national needs of the moment are : the complete restoration of normal employment followed by a safe policy of immigration; the insuring of our overseas financial position; the widening of the home market for primary and secondary products; and last and greatest of all, provision of adequate defence for the Commonwealth. With all respect, I “submit to the committee that no single step which could be taken, either in its significance ‘or in its magnitude, would contribute more swiftly and strongly to the attainment of these vital objectives than the decision of this committee to bring about the home production on an approved financial basis of the internal combustion engine and at the same time to take every step within our power to produce the complete motor car.
.- This schedule covers roughly four phases of government policy. There is first the general trade diversion policy by which it is sought to protect the Australian trade balance, by diverting trade as far as possible towards countries which are good customers for our products. That is the general principle of the duties which are applied to goods which come from the United States of America. There is the second phase of the duties which more particularly affect Australia’s trade with Japan. Those duties, I would remind the Leader of the Opposition (Mr.1 Curtin), do comply with the principle which he laid down - that every foreign country should be treated with absolute equality. They apply to all countries. Although they happen to affect the goods exported by Japan - they do so only to the same extent that duties imposed by the United States of America on wool, wine and certain other commodities of that sort, happen to have prohibitive effect on goods which Australia could export to the United States of America; and although they do, as a matter of fact, actually affect our trade with Japan, they are in a somewhat different category with regard to trade diversion from the duties which affect our trade with the United States of America. I do not class Japan as a badcustomer country.
– Hear, hear!
– And I am sure that the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties does not either. The United States of America, however, has definitely been a poor customer of Australia, and in the last twenty years it has been a poor customer for the rest of the world. It has been only during the last year or two that a more liberal policy has been followed by the Roosevelt administration, but, even so, that more liberal policy has not yet enabled the rest of the world to pay its way with the United States of America and its debt obligations to that country as well.
The third phase consists of the protective aids with regard to the manufacture of motor chassis and engines in Australia and, fourthly, there is the less important, but in some respects, very onerous duty on timber, which again has some effect on the trade balance.
With regard to the general policy of trade diversion from poor customers to good customers, I wholeheartedly support the Government. I entirely disagree with the Leader of the Opposition that, irrespective of the treatment we get from them, we should treat all foreign countries with absolute equality. We have been following that principle for a number of years, and the effect has been vo destroy our trade with the countries that want to buy our products. During recent years, while our purchases from the United States of America have been growing, our purchases from France, Germany, Italy and Belgium have been falling. Between 1932-33 and 1934-35, in all those countries our purchases fell and the result was that those countries in desperate straits regarding their own trade balances, reduced their own overseas purchases, first on comfort goods. That affected Australia, first as regards meat, apples and goods of that sort until, eventually, the only market in the world where we could sell the products of orchards and intense culture was the market of the United Kingdom. That has been the effect upon Australia of the policy of buying everything that suited us from the United States of America and letting our exports look after themselves. We have reached the stage at which, although the countries I have mentioned are in desperate need of better clothing - in a country like Germany, there is a really dire need for better woollen clothing to counteract the cold of the climate - those countries, in an effort to maintain their own solvency have been forced to cut. down purchases of raw materials such as wool. That policy has restricted the market for all of our exports. It has been one of the things which has been making.it difficult for us to maintain our trade balance. It has been difficult to finance big purchases of comfort and luxury goods from the United States of America. The present Government of the United States of America, which I have just described as a more liberal government than its predecessors, was approached by the Commonwealth Government with a request that it should, make some modification of its tariff policy in regard to Australian products. The reply was that, the United States of America could deal only with the countries which were in a position to give it still further concessions. With regard to the general principle, the action taken by the Commonwealth Government was, therefore, entirely and absolutely justified, although I recognise that the details of carrying out a trade diversion policy must create a great deal of friction. It is probable that in a number of cases, mistaken decisions have been made, and in common with other honorable members, I should like the Minister and the Government to ensure that mistakes are rectified and unnecessarily onerous restrictions are eliminated. The restrictions are particularly onerous in the case of partlymanufactured material, which is the raw material for the finished product made up in Australia. It has been brought to my notice that one manufacturer has’ been put at a serious disadvantage in competition with other manufacturers, because goods of probably 25 per cent. American content have been given entry to Australia through Canada, whereas goods representing 5 per cent, of the finished Australian article, which would, compete with the other article, have been denied admission. Such anomalies are liable to arise when any innovation is made and administered by individual Ministers and officers. They can only be removed by the Government controlling the situation with sympathy, care and impartiality.
Such items as tobacco, oils, and materials of that sort, constitute a straight-out diversion of big bulk lines of comfort, consumption goods from thi United States of America to other countries which trade more generously with us. The anomalies occur more particularly with partially-manufactured goods which are the materials from which finished articles are produced in Australia. I was glad to hear the Minister’s assurance to-night that the Government is doing its best to remedy such troubles.
I have the greatest sympathy with the Government’s aim to manufacture motor cars in Australia. I do not express any opinion on the practicability of the proposal or whether a bounty of £30 is sufficient. That is a subject for determination by experts. I take it for granted that the Government caused a thorough examination of the position to be made by the officers of the Trade and Customs Department, and also obtained expert advice from other sources, before it adopted its present policy. There is a good deal of controversy as to whether engine and chassis units can be manufactured successfully in this country. Figures have been published to indicate that a much larger bounty than £30 would be necessary for the purpose - an altogether uneconomic bounty, in fact. I suggest that this whole subject be referred to the Tariff Board, the statutory expert body 6et up to advise the Government on such matters. The manufacture of motor cars cannot, of course, bc considered entirely and absolutely on the basis of protection, but a large element of protection enters into it. For this reason, I suggest that the practicability of the proposal, and also the recommendation of an adequate bounty and tariff, should be referred to the Tariff Board for investigation and report. I emphasize the enormous value to Australia for defence purposes of manufacturing at least one type of engine and chassis in this country. If private companies are not prepared to embark upon the enterprise as a commercial proposition, the Government should consider utilizing the bounty fund to enable the defence munitions department to equip an establishment for the manufacture of vehicles for defence purposes.
I shall have more to say later about the timber duties. At the moment I content myself with remarking that it was a retrograde step to raise the duty so that the work of sawing logs, which was previously done in Australia, has been diverted to Canada. Timber now enters this country in sawn condition. I hope that the Government will take into consideration the effect that this has had in switching imports from Oregon, the most suitable timber for the purpose for which timber is imported, on to spruce, hemlock, and other timbers. The anomaly to which I have referred should be rectified at least to the extent that Oregon may be brought into Australia in logs so that the work of sawing may be done here.
From the point of view of Australia generally at the moment, the most important consideration arising from the schedule now before us is the effect that it has had on our trade with Japan. I recognize that the Minister is under a disability in that he is practically tonguetied while negotiations with the Government of Japan are proceeding, as he. put it, “not without prospects of success”. In such circumstances, it would be most unwise and reckless of him to make a speech in this House which might give offence or commit him to some decision which it would be difficult to alter in the progress of the negotiations. I commend the honorable gentleman for his moderation and restraint in this regard and wish him every success in his negotiations. I feel, however, that as a private member with a large number of wool-growers among my constituents, and with some recent acquaintance with the background, of this dispute, it is incumbent on me to make some general comment, which I hope will not be unhelpful, on the principles which should govern our relations with a good neighbour and a good customer such as Japan is. I cannot, myself, justify the effort to divert such a huge proportion of trade as thu new duties must affect, from a good customer country even to the Mother Country, with its unique markets for our products.” Figures have been published to show that the new tariff aimed at reducing the imports of Japanese textiles into Australia by something like 40 per cent. It is difficult to justify that drastic action in respect to a good customer country when the imports of motor cars from the United States of America may still be maintained at the peak year total.. I realize, of course, that many considerations must be borne in mind. Motor cars make work in Australia, but Japanese textile goods do not do so to the same extent. I think the new duties were an unreasonably severe set-back to a country which had bought generously of our produce. I unhesitatingly agree that there is absolute necessity on the part of the Australian Government, of whatever political composition, to reach with the Government of Japan some amicable understanding upon which trade between the two countries may be carried on without any unnecessary disturbance of the economic position of either of them.. The Japanese expansion of trade has been an expansion of volume, and has been carried on in a thorough, determined and successful manner, and it happened - I do not say that it was deliberately aimed to do so - to disturb the trade of other countries out of all proportion to the value of the increased trade to Japan itself. The prices at which Japanese goods were sold were undermining the commercial position of those countries. For instance, I cite one article which has not been the subject of controversy between Australia and Japan, but which has been before this House - cement. I understand from Japanese gentlemen who are interested in the manufacture of cement in Japan that they were able to land it at the Persian Gulf and sell it to the Persian Government for the purposes of railway construction, with freight, insurance, and all other charges paid, for 24s. sterling a ton; that is equal to 30s. in Australian currency. Japanese cement at present is not competing with Australian cement in Australia; but I suggest to honorable members that, at these figures, it could have been sold in successful competition with the local product, and that before long the Commonwealth Government would have been compelled to take some steps in order to shelter our cement industry against having its standards lowered by such efficient and aggressive competition. Shipping is another instance in which Japanese commerce, backed by government subsidies, was seriously threatening Australian services. The Japanese Government, as part of its policy of unemployment relief, has been subsidizing heavily the rebuilding of the mercantile marine; and against the Japanese ships thus put on the trade routes of the world unsubsidized shipping was unable to hold, its own. As the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) pointed out some time ago, the Austraiian shipping service to Japan is carrying on practically on the sufferance of the Japanese, and the notice of the termination of that sufferance bad been served on Australian shipping some time before the trade diversion policy was announced. Although I do not think that there is the slightest official backing for any aims of this nature, I bring before the notice of honorable members some information contained in a photograph reproduction of a map published in a Japanese book. It indicates the limits to which such efficient and aggressive competition might be aimed at by Japan. It also shows the objectives of a certain ambitious minority movement in Japan and bow, in its opinion, the new Japan should be constructed. Probably it is an un influential minority; but it certainly represents one section of Japanese thought. According to the map, the objective of this society is that the new Japan shall include a large part of Eastern Asia and a large number of the territories of the South Pacific. Among them Australia is shaded in as an immigration area belonging to the New Japan. I do not suggest for one moment that such an objective is shared by the Japanese Government, or by any considerable part of the Japanese people ; but it is one phase of the ultimate possibilities of unchecked, ruthless expansion and competition by Japan, which other countries have to take into consideration in their trading relations with that country.
– Is that a recent publication ?
– I understand that it is, although it was issued before the introduction of the Government’s trade diversion policy.
– Does it include New Zealand ?
– Not as a field for Japanese immigration. I think that the conclusion which arises from these facts is that the Government of the Commonwealth had no option but to seek some amicable arrangement with the Japanese Government to ensure that, while Japanese goods received a generous entry into Australia - an entry which would incur no financial, sacrifice on the part of Japan: - the principle should be recognized by both, that each country had a prime duty to protect its own economic system against any particular drastic action on the part of the other. Because the Japanese Government declined to negotiate in regard to the effect of Japanese cotton goods in undermining our market and our goodwill in the north and north-west of England, I find that the Government has considerable justification for taking fairly drastic action against the importation of various Japanese lines. I entirely dissociate myself from any sneers at other countries in which low-wage conditions prevail; such conditions are due to the poverty of their natural resources in relation to their population. But at the same time, we are willing enough to sell our produce to low-wage earning consumers. One of the factors that helps us to carry our high standard of living is the purchasing power which we gain by selling our produce to other countries where wage standards arc not so high as our own. Low as some of these wage standards are in comparison with the Australian standard, they do represent an improvement of conditions in those countries. So long as the trade takes place in a way which does not necessarily unsettle our economic and commercial system, the more that it can grow, the better for both countries concerned ; the better will be the chance given to the poorer country to raise its standards ; and the better our chance of maintaining, and even raising our standards. The fact that the Japanese Government would not negotiate, but took most drastic action against Australian imports when the Commonwealth Government tabled this schedule, illustrates one of our administrative deficiencies. As yet we have not created sufficient organization to make us really efficient in our relations with other countries. Other peoples, particularly the Orientals, have a psychology and mentality vastly different from our own, and it is only by an efficient Department of External Affairs that we can expect to understand their outlook. At present we have a small Department of External Affairs, but a larger staff is required in order to carry out the enormous amount of work that is necessary to keep up to date with the psychology, politics, and repercussions in various countries. Only by this means can we ever hope to carry on serious and drastic modifications of om relations with other countries, without giving rise to serious friction. That applies to successive Commonwealth governments. One of the most disastrous acts of policy of a previous government was the setback administered by it to the little Department of External Affairs which the Bruce-Page Government had begun to establish. I highly commend the present Government for what it has done to extend the organization of this department, which, however, is still very small. Partly due to misunderstanding, and partly to the drastic manner in which the Japanese carry on their relations with other countries, they retaliated against the Australian trade diversion policy in a most extreme way. But when the dispute was thus made a national matter I, as an Australian, would not share in any attempt to weaken the hands of those who were holding the shield of our country. “We know something of the difficulties associated with international relations and the maintenance of goodwill. We know also the danger of being divided in the face of drastic action by a foreign country. The wool-growers of Australia are not “ an unpatriotic crowd “ as some have said ; they, like other sections of the community, are prepared to face risk should the general interests of their country require it. A good deal of misunderstanding might have been avoided in the beginning had the Government taken the wool-growers into their confidence earlier, and appointed an advisory committee before it did. Although the Government should not capitulate in the face of the terrible punitive action taken by Japan as retaliation for the Australian tariff, it should be prepared to compromise in a way which indicates a realization of the real difficulties of the Japanese Government in providing for a huge population in a country of limited area. It should make allowance for the desperation of a people dependent to a large extent for work and livelihood on uninterrupted trade with other countries. I am informed on good authority that Australian purchases of rayon represented 14 per cent, of the total exports of rayon from Japan. Those exports provide a great deal of employment in a country where it is difficult to obtain raw material to provide work for the people. They represent also a substantial proportion of the credits by which imports of raw materials from Australia can be financed. From an Australian point of view there is much in placing Japan in a position to finance its purchases of raw materials from this country. The Japanese are a people whom we respect. They have proved themselves loyal allies and good commercial clients. Japanese competition helped to maintain wool prices during the depression and to build up Australia’s purchasing power for British goods. I recognize that something had to be done to prevent that huge section of the British public which is represented by the textile anc! engineering manufacturers of Lancashire and surrounding counties from feeling that they had been completely ousted from the Australian market. Something had to be done, either by way of agreement or otherwise, to ensure for Australia a market in the north and north- west of England. It is not mere idle sentimentality to urge that that market should be maintained; it is good business in the interests of Australian exporters and producers. Nevertheless. British trade as a “whole does not stand to lose by a general growth of Australia’s trade with. Japan. And what is even more important is that no bitterness shall remain when the trade dispute has ended. Australia should recognize that Japan has real difficulties. I have before me another map, extracted from the publication that I have already mentioned, which shows the proportion of the world that is controlled by the white races and from which Japanese goods are, to a great extent, excluded. Showing as it does the extent of the restrictions it is a pathetic map. Whilst “we should assist the Government to show all possible firmness against unreasonably punitive measures, we should expect it, to show generosity in compromise. Australia should go more than half-way to meet, Japan in connexion with the fixing of a quota in respect of textiles. I believe that in the early stages of the negotiations with Japan the Australian government was prepared to show a generous spirit, but, unfortunately, tragic misunderstandings led to a. dispute. I hope that if the misunderstanding with Japan has not been removed before the duties on goods in which Japan 13 particularly interested come before the committee, no action of an irrevocable nature will be taken, but that the way will be left open for an amendment of the duties to be made, even if Parliament is not in session, so that the dispute may be settled at the earliest possible moment in the interests, not only of Australia but, more important still, of good feeling between two countries which can do so much for the betterment of each other.
– I listened with attention to the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker), but I find it difficult to follow his reasoning. He referred to a map in his possession which showed the ambitions of a section of the people of Japan, and yet he supported the policy of the Government in restricting Australia’s trade with that country and the United States of America. At a time like the present, when the world is in a state of turmoil, I should have thought that it was bad policy to make potential trade enemies of either of those two great countries. But I was even more interested in the speech of the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett), who spoke of the possibilities of motor car manufacture in Australia. The Minister gave to the committee no idea of the identity of the authority he quoted or any indication of the nature of any examination that had been made into the matter, and therefore, it seemed to be almost improper for him to imply that, as the result of the steps taken by the Government in regard to duties on motor cars and the creation of a fund for a bounty, it was probable that in a short time motor cars would be manufactured in Australia at a cost little greater than that of . imported vehicles. Let, us consider the present cost of making motor bodies in Australia. We have been informed by representatives of the motor industry in Perth and Adelaide that a motor car body costing about £110 in Australia can be manufactured in England for about £30. Yet we are told that it would be possible to manufacture in Australia, at a price within the capacity of our people, motor vehicles of two types which, would meet the transport needs of this country in respect of both cars and trucks. I have been given to understand that the plant necessary to equip a factory capable of producing in Australia two models of 10 horse power and 30 horse power, added to the time which must necessarily elapse before the factory could be in full production, would involve a capital expenditure of £4,000,000 or more. If the Minister had told us that companies in Australia were prepared to engage in the production of motor cars there might have been some support for his statements; but, lacking that support, it was most reprehensible because it conveyed an impression that it had been made after full inquiry. The Tarin Board is the only body -which could undertake a full inquiry into that subject, and had it investigated the proposal, this Parliament would have for its guidance the facts adduced in evidence before the board. I am astonished that the honorable member for Wakefield has not joined with me in protesting against the Minister’s action in varying the tariff policy without first consulting the Tariff Board. On the statute-book there is a law which definitely states that no new or increased duties shall be imposed without previous reference to the Tariff Board. Here we have the extraordinary anomaly of one of the legal members of the Cabinet tolling the people that the Government us not controlled by its own laws. It would seem that, while the Government may do what it likes with respect to the law. others must comply with it.
The Leader of the Opposition delivered a lengthy address to-night on the subject of our trade relations with Japan, in dealing with imports into this country I do not think the honorable gentleman was quite fair in taking for purposes of illustration the period from 1931-32 up to 1936. I suggest that, in order to make a reasonably fair comparison with the trade of to-day he might have gone back to the pre-depression period. I was pleased to notice the recognition on both sides of the fact that, as imports increase, so does employment increase. The statistics from 1900 onwards reveal the extraordinary fact that, where imports into Australia have increased, unemployment has decreased, and that, conversely, unemployment has increased with a diminution of imports. Unfortunately, during the period from 1920 to 1929 imports increased considerably by the extensive borrowing overseas, although at the time when wheat, wool and other primary products were bringing high_prices governments should have been doing everything within their power to refrain from extravagances of that sort. That remarkable feature of the relation of imports to employment shows the fallacy of the Scullin Government’s policy tff imposing embargoes on imports, disregarding the fact that if we had no credits overseas, nobody would have been likely to send their goods to Australia. We have heard a good deal of talk concerning the adverse trade balance, and it is rather astonishing that instead of raising the exchange rate, and so benefiting the primary producers - of whose part in creating by their exports credits overseas the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties spoke so highly the other night - the Government has done everything to increase the cost of production in rural industries to such an extent that it is almost impossible for the export trade to be maintained. I contend that in May last not only members of this Parliament but also the people of Australia generally were disappointed, not so much by the incredibly high duties imposed under the trade diversion policy, but that the action taken by. the Government must arouse the deepest resentment and antagonism in Japan and contempt in the United States of America. The position was aggravated by the rumours circulated by the Minister at the time, one of which was that Japan had been demanding an abrogation of the White Australia policy. Statements of that sort were not only very dangerous to Australia’s interests but were also calculated to make the position very much worse than it was before.
– I assure the honorable member that the statement that I had circulated such rumours is quite untrue.
– The Prime Minister, in a broadcast address, said that the entire responsibility for the dispute rested with Japan. The right honorable gentleman charged Japan with attempting to limit our tariff-making powers. I contend that Japan did nothing more or less than was done by Belgium two years ago, when in retaliation for the embargo placed by Australia on Belgian glass, it imposed an embargo on the importation into that country of Australian beef and barley. When we imposed restrictions ‘ on the importation of Japanese goods, the Japanese Government was quite within its rights in taking retaliatory action against us. Discriminatory duties against Japan were not necessary. In the Australian Industries Preservation Act special provision is made which would have enabled the Government to impose increased duties against Japanese good’s, if owing to the devaluation of the yen, they were being dumped in Australia. Only recently the Minister introduced a bill to amend that act to enable the dumping provisions to be applied to goods coming into Australia as ballast.
– The application of a dumping duty because of currency devaluation was the cause of the Canadian dispute with Japan, and such action on our part would not have avoided the present trouble.
– The Government had statutory power to take action pending an inquiry by the Tariff Board. Had a Labour Government done what this Government is now doing I can well imagine the denunciation that would have been hurled at it by every member of the present Government. The Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett), speaking of the restrictions on imports imposed by the Scullin Government in 1931, said that the policy then being enforced was such as to invite retaliation from those countries which were buying our goods. Australia, he said, had received a plain and, in his opinion, a proper ultimatum, from Belgium. He added -
There is a danger of carrying to extreme lengths this action against the United States of America, or any other country. There is only one attitude to adopt, and that is to consider the balance of trade with all countries.
And now he asks us to destroy trade and friendly relations.
– Conditions were entirely different then.
– The Minister, at that time, criticized the power by which the Minister for Trade and Customs could grant or refuse permission to import goods; yet he himself now proposes to exercise exactly the same power in regard to the importation of goods from the United States of America. In 1931, the Minister for Defence (Sir Arch dale Parkhill) pointed out how unfair it was that one business man should be allowed to import £50,000 worth of goods, while his competitor might be refused permission to import any. No one, he said, should be placed in a position to exercise back-door influence for the purpose of gaining concessions that are denied to others.
Because some members of Parliament have dared to protest against the action the Government has taken, we have had the cry raised that they are anti-British and pro-Japanese. That is a cowardly form of attack. I oppose the action the Government has taken, although in loyalty to King and Empire I am second to none. Sometimes I am inclined to believe that there is a good deal of truth in Dr. Johnson’s definition of patriotism. I deprecate this tendency on the part of Ministers to denounce any one as unpatriotic who dares to disagree with them.
I have read something of the conditions which prevailed in the Lancashire cotton trade during the years from 1919 to 1921. An extraordinary boom took place at that time, cotton goods realizing up to ten times as much as before the war. Mills which cost no more than £30,000 to establish were floated into companies with a capital of anything up to £500,000. It was a kind of “South Sea bubble “ which eventually burst. Ever since then the cotton trade of Lancashire has been, to some extent, in difficulty, and I should like to know whether we are now being asked to provide profit on the capital value at which some of those companies were floated.
– No, we are not.
– The Economist, of February last, published the following -
Sir Walter Preston informed the House of Commons that, after a detailed examination, he came to the conclusion that a re-equipped mill can sell its product in India at Japan’s price and make a profit of atleast 10 per cent. He went on to say that the report of the Federation of Master Cotton Spinners had proved his case, though their estimate of profits at 3½ per cent. was lower than that shown by his own calculation. . . . Reliance, in too manycases, on obsolete machinery and methods is a decisive handicap to an industry whose prosperity depends on its ability to meet wellarmed and efficient competition in export markets.
That is why I should like the fullest inquiry to be made before action is taken. I am not one of those who believe that a. country must necessarily suffer because cheap goods are for sale. The housewife who is able to buy, for 10s., imported goods which ordinarily would cost £1, has an extra 10s. in her purse to spend on something else. Of course, if goods are being imported under unfair competitive conditions, inquiries can be made and appropriate action taken. It is only necessary to recall the statements made by Mr. Page, of the Tariff Board of the United States of America, regarding the terrible abuses in connexion with tariff making in that country to realize how careful we must be. There the big moneyed interests were able to obtain special privileges, and it was not until the full light of publicity was turned upon the tariff that the evil was remedied. I am convinced that there would have been much more opposition to the Government’s policy had not the price of wool been so satisfactory. There is not the slightest doubt that, in ordinary circumstances,, there would have been a substantial decline of prices. The only conclusion to which I can come is that in every country there is the greatest fear of an outbreak of war in the near future, and, as far as possible, steps are being taken to be fully prepared for it. I believe that, but for that, the protest against the action of the Government would have been more widespread than it has been.
I wish to say a few words in regard to the statements of the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties concerning the possibility of motor cars being wholly manufactured in Australia. I urge the public to take an interest in this matter. For about twenty years, motor car bodies have been made in this country. It cannot be said that Holdens are not producing them in large numbers. That firm, should certainly be able to make them at a cost not very much greater than the cost in other countries. Yet information in my possession shows that the Australian cost is about £100, compared with a cost of about £30 in Great Britain. If the additional cost of the complete car is proportionately as great, the purchasing public will probably be penalized by action similar to that taken in regard to the importation of glass from Belgium. For years after the imposition of the embargo on that commodity builders and others could not purchase a decent piece of glass, and had to accept anything that was supplied to them. The Australian Glass Company developed its resources at the expense of the general public; it has some wonderful friends in this House. The 15 per cent, tariff on a Canadian chassis will be increased under this latest proposal of the Government to a little over 100 per cent., for the purpose of subsidizing local manufacture. . The Minister did not inform honorable members of that fact to-night, nor did he indicate where the huge capital required was available, or mention the company which authorized the statement that he made. I believe that the honorable gentleman said that 80 per cent, of the requirements for the manufacture of a motor car are now made in Australia.
– No ; I said that SO per cent, of the selling price arose in Australia. That includes all the distributing costs - salesmanship, advertising, and the rest.
– I have repeatedly heard the statement that a’ large proportion of a car - well up to 70 per cent. - would be manufactured in Australia. The motor interests are very strong in this country, and those who have established a business and wish to import find that a quota has been fixed by the Government, and that the Minister dictates the manner in which it shall be applied.
– In Western Australia, large numbers of persons are employed in the motor industry, and they are complaining of the probable effect of these restrictions. The Australian Motorist of the 1st October last published a series of questions, to which answers were supplied. One question was -
If it coats, say. £100, or even only £50, more to produce an all-Australian car, what would the aggregate cost be to Australian buyers?
The answer was -
In 1935. sales of new ears and trucks totalled 74,000 units, against 102,000 before the depression. £50 more per vehicle would mean that, to buy the same number as in 1935, Australians would have to pay £3,700,000 more for the same number, but it has been authoritatively stated that the increase would be nearer £200, or an added cost of £1.4,800,000 to Australian buyers on last year’s sales.
Another question in reference to the establishment of assembling plants in all
States and the steadily increasing market for Australian manufactures, was -
Did the Federal Government bring this about?
The following reply was given : -
No, they knew nothing about it for years after it happened.
A further question was -
Is motor body building a new industry?
The answer was -
No, body works were established in all States before the war. and body imports were steadily decreased, in J 01 2, the Melbourne Motor Body Works, for example, a branch of Tarrant Motors, were turning out 400 Ford bodies a month. This company is now known as Ruskin Motor Bodies Proprietary Limited.
At this late hour I do not propose to go into further details. I commend to honorable members the very informative report of the Tariff Board in regard to timbers. It shows very clearly the necessity for something in the nature of a special report on these matters, particularly before such action is taken as that for which this Government is responsible in restriction of trade generally, in the shutting out of Japanese imports and the requirements of the motor trade, and in the duty imposed on logs imported into this country after every effort had been made to induce imports of such logs and also the machinery with which they might be cut up in Australia. I hope that when the individual items are being dealt with the Government will make a fuller statement regarding the negotiations that are taking place with Japan, and that the Parliament will not be adjourned before honorable members are informed of, and have an opportunity to debate, the action of the Government.
House adjourned at 1] 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: -
As stinted in my reply to the honorable member on the 22nd October, the two companies mentioned will be required to spend at least. £30,000 during the period of twelve months for which the permits have been granted. Oriomo Oil Limited is required to spend £12,500 only during the period of twelve months for which a permit has been granted. This company has a nominal capital of £200,000, and presumably has sufficient funds to carry out the terms and conditions of the permit.
e asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– I shall arrange for the available data to be collated and supplied to the honorable member to enable him toform an estimate of the benefits of the preferences to the respective countries.
International Labour Office: Pacific Conference - Expensesof Delegate to Geneva Conference.
Mr.Rosevear asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
Willhecall a conference in Australia under the auspices of the International Labour Office to which delegates from New Zealand. South Africa and other Pacific countries could attend, as suggested by the workers’ delegate to the recent international Conference (Mr.P. J. Trainer) ?
y. - This matter has recently been considered by the Commonwealth. Government which, however, decided to take no action in this connexion.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
y. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1.No.The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr.E. F. Harrison) was provided with transport between London and Geneva, only. He was paid the usual allowance of £3 3s. a day from the time of leaving London until the time of return thereto. In accordance with practice he was provided with hotel accommodation at Geneva.
t. asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The questions appear to contemplate attempts being made to reduce unemployment by inflationary action on the part of the Commonwealth Bank - a course which the Government is not prepared to consider.
The cash ratio of the banks is not at a dangerous level. The latest banking averages show that advances have continued to increase.
The aim of any policy should be not to secure the immediate reduction of unemployment whatever the consequences, but to increase and maintain employment at the highest possible stable level.
Wireless Broadcasting : Sale of Station 2BH.
k asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
SirArchdale Parkhill. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
t asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
lis. a day active pay, plus ls. a day deferred pay, for seven days a week. In addition, rations and accommodation arc provided, and a free kit of uniform on first appointment.
Postal Department: Post Office Site at Lower Mitcham - Country Telephone Directories - .’Non-Official Post Offices.
e asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
On the 18th November, the honorable member “ for Darling (Mr. Clark) inquired when the publication of country telephone directories half-yearly, instead of yearly, would be put into operation.
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that it is proposed to publish the country telephone directories at half-yearly intervals in future. One issue will be published in November of each year, as at present, and an additional issue will appear in May.
On the 5th’ November, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now in a position to furnish the following answers : -
d asked the Minister for the Interior, -upon notice -
What was the cost of renovating Admiralty House, Sydney, for occupancy by the GovernorGeneral ?
– A sum of £20,000 was provided for alterations to and renovation of Admiralty House. The work has been completed with the exception of a few minor details. It is anticipated that the whole of the moneys provided will be expended.
l asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Does the Government intend to amend section three of the Immigration Act, so as to give statutory effect to the Minister’s recommendation that in the future the dictation test will not be applied to any British subject without full Cabinet approval?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is “ No *’.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 November 1936, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1936/19361124_reps_14_152/>.