14th Parliament · 2nd Session
The House met at 3 p.m. pursuant to the Proclamation of His Excellency the Governor-General.
TheClerk read the Proclamation.
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair, and read prayers.
The Usher of the Black Rod, being announced, was admitted, and delivered the message that His Excellency the Govern or-General desired the attendance ofhonorable members in the Senate chamber.
Honorable members attended accord
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).I have received from His Excellency the Governor-General a commission authorizing me to administer the oath, or affirmation, of allegiance to members of the House. I now lay the commission on the table.
– I have to announce that I have received a return to the writ which I issued on the 5th November, 1986, for the election of a member to serve for the electoral division of Kennedy, in the State of Queensland, to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Mr. David Riordan, and that by the endorsement on the writ, it appears that William James Frederick Riordan has been elected in pursuance of the said writ.
I have also to announce that I have received a return to the writ which I issued on the 18th November, 1936, for the election of a member to serve for the electoral division of Darling Downs, in the State of Queensland, to fill the vacancy caused by the death of the Honorable Sir Littleton Ernest Groom, and that by the endorsement on the writ itappears that Arthur William Fadden has been elected in pursuance of the said writ.
I have further to announce that during the adjournment of the House I received from the Honorable C. L. A. Abbott a letter, resigning as from 28th March, 1937, his seat as member for the electoral division of Gwydir. I desire to inform the House that on the 8th April, 1937, I issued a writ for the election of a member to serve for the electoral division of G wydir in the State of New South Wales. I havereceived a return to such writ, and by the endorsement thereon it appears that William James Scully has been elected in pursuance of the said writ.
Messrs. Riordan, Fadden, and Scully made and subscribed the oath of allegiance.
Accession to the Throne and Coronation.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).I have to inform the House that, on the occasion of the accession of His Majesty King George the Sixth to the Throne, the following message was transmitted by Mr. President and myself on behalf of the Parliament: -
We, the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives, desire, on behalf of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, to offer our congratulations to Your Majesty on Your Accession to the Throne.
The people of Australia generally and members of our Parliament in particular entertain the happiest recollections of the visit to this country of Your Ma jesty and that of Her Majesty the Queen, when, on the historic occasion of 9th May, 1027, Your Majesty inaugurated the meeting of the Commonwealth Parliament at Canberra.
We desire to convey to Your Majesty the unwavering loyalty of the members oi our Parliament to the Crown and to the Person of Your Most Gracious Majesty, and we. with confidence, hope and pray that, under Divine guidance, Your Majesty’s reign may be a long and beneficent one, and that it will bring happiness, and prosperity to Your Majesty’s subjects, and promote a lusting peace among the nations of the world.
Canberra, 1 5th December, 1936. 1 have also to inform the House that the following reply hasbeen received from His Majesty : -
I am indeed gratified to receive the loyal assurances which you have tendered me on behalf of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia. Though nearly ten yearshave gone by since the Queen and I visited Australia we still retain the happiest recollections of our stay in the Commonwealth and of the cordial and friendly welcome which was universally accorded to us there. I therefore appreciate particularly the good wishes to which your message gives expression, and would assure you in turn how earnestly the Queen and 1 hope the years to come may bring happiness and prosperity to your great country.
. -by leave - I move -
That the following address of congratulation be presented to His Majesty the King: -
To the King’s Most Excellent Majesty :
We, the members of the Senate and the
House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled, with humble duty offer our respectful congratulations on the occasion of the coronation of Your Majesty and Your Gracious Consort.
We assure Your Majesty of our deep loyalty to the Throne, and pf our earnest hope that during Your Majesty’s reign the British Commonwealth will continue to prosper, and that the cause of peace and goodwill in the world will be greatly advanced and strengthened.
We trust that Your Majesty and Her Majesty the Queen maylong be spared to us, and that Your Majesties’ lives may be blessed with much personal happiness.
I am sure that this motion which I have the honour to submit will have the complete assent of every member of this House. Throughout the centuries the coronation of the British monarch has been an event of world importance. On no previous occasion, however, has its importance received such universal recognition as it did when the majestic ritual was carried to its conclusion in Westminster Abbey, 1937, in the presence of the representatives of the nations, and with the acclaim of the many peoples scattered over the globe to whom the Crown is the symbol of their unity and the pledge of their partnership in a common heritage. Whilst very few of us were privileged to he present at the ceremonies in London or to view the marvellous pageant associated with them, science brought to our firesides the words of the impressive service in the ancient Abbey, and enabled us to hear the voice of our crowned King when he broadcast to his peoples his memorable message. The language of the motion conveys our loyal feelings and our hope that His Majesty and Her Majesty the Queen may have a long and happy reign.
– I second the motion. I need not say to the country that the Opposition join wholeheartedly in the congratulations which the address expresses to His Majesty and to His Consort, on the successful completion of the coronation ceremonies. We sincerely hope, and I believe that the whole of the people of Australia unreservedly hope, that the reign of HisMajesty will be a long and happy one, that it will be associated with much personal happiness, and that furthermore the peoples of his dominions will prosper during it.
Honorable Members.- Hear, hear!
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Dr. EARLE PAGE (Cowper- Acting
Prime Minister). - I desire formally to announce to the House that the Honorable Sir Henry Gullett, K.C.M.G., tendered his resignation as a member of the Government on the 10th March, 1937. 1 should like to record the deep appreciation of all members of the Government of the valuable services rendered by Sir Henry Gullett during the time he was associated with the Government.
I desire also to inform honorable members of the following appointments that have been made in connexion with the temporary absence abroad of the Prime Minister, the Minister for Defence, and the Treasurer: -
The Right Honorable E. C. G. Page, Minister for Commerce, to be Acting Prime Minister.
The Right Honorable R. G. Menzies, K.C., Attorney-General and Minister for Industry, to be Acting Treasurer.
The Honorable H. V. C. Thorby, Assistant Minister for Commerce, to he Acting Minister for Defence.
The Honorable J. A. J. Hunter, Minister in Charge of War Service Homes, and Assistant Minister, to assist in the administration of the Commerce Department.
During the absence of the Minister for Defence, the Attorney-General will represent the Postmaster-General in the House of Representatives.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).I desire to announce that, owing to the retirement of Mr. Parkes from the position of Clerk of the House, the following changes have been made in regard to the officers in attendance in the chamber : - Mr. Green to be Clerk of the House; Mr. Tregear to be Clerk Assistant; Mr. Chubb to be Second Clerk Assistant ; Mr. Dodd to be Serjeant-at-Arms.
As Mr. Parkes retired since the last sitting, his retirement could not be announced to the House at the time.
Mr. Parkes had over 50 years of public service, being transferred to this House from the Victorian Parliament when the Commonwealth Parliament was established. For the last ten years he has been. Clerk of the House.
I am confident that the House is deeply appreciative of the value of Mr. Parkes’ service to it, and that honorable members share with me the sincere wish that he may have many years of happy, wellearned rest before him.
– by leave - On behalf of the Government, and I am sure the whole of the members of this House, I endorse the eulogy which you, Mr. Speaker, have just paid to Mr. Parkes, the ex-Clerk of the House, and express our gratitude for the extraordinary kindness and capacity which characterized all our dealings with him.
- by leaveI should like to associate the Opposition with the references which you, Mr. Speaker, and the Acting Prime Minister (Dr. Earle Page) have made with respect to Mr. Parkes’ 50 years of public service, but more particularly that period of it which he served as Clerk of the House of Representatives. He was a most assiduous and courteous officer. He never spared himself in helping honorable members on both sides of the chamber more effectively to discharge their duties. I, and I am sure honorable members generally, hope that he will have many years of happy reflection.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) agreed to-
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act relating to the Territory for the Seat of Government.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
Sitting suspended from3.47 to 8 p.m.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Bank Act - Balance-sheets of Commonwealth Bank and Commonwealth Savings Bank and Statement of the Liabilities and Assets of the Note Issue Department, as at 31st December, 1936; together with Auditor-General’s Reports thereon.
Electoral - Referendums - Statistical Returns in relation to the submission to the Electors of Proposed Laws for the alteration of the Constitution, entitled, ( 1 ) “ Constitution Alteration (Aviation) 1936”; (2) “Constitution Alteration (Marketing) 1936”; together with Summaries of Referendums, 1906-1937.
Electoral Act-Report, with Maps, by the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of redistributing the State of Western Australia into Electoral Divisions.
Imperial Shipping Committee -
Thirty-fifth Report. - Possibilities of a British Passenger and Cargo Service between Western Canada and AustraliaNew Zealand.
Papua - Annual Report for 1935-36.
Sugar - International Agreement, with protocal annexed, regarding the Regulation of Production and Marketing of Sugar, signed at London, 6th May, 1937.
Unemployment Insurance in Australia - Report by Mr. Godfrey H. Ince, Chief Insurance Officer, Ministry of Labour, London.
Air Force Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 21.
Air Navigation Act - Regulations amended -
Statutory Rules 1936, No. 161.
Statutory Rules 1937, Nos. 41, 58.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1936 - Nos. 18 and 19 - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia; and Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
No. 1 - Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association.
No. 2 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
No. 3 - Fourth Division Officers’ Association of the Trade and Customs Department.
No. 4 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
No. 5 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association; and Fourth Division Officers’ Association of the Trade and Customs Department.
No. 6 - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia and Others.
No. 7 - Common Rule re Sick Leave.
No. 8 - Commonwealth Public Clerical Association.
No. 9 - Commonwealth Public Clerical Association.
Audit Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 39.
Australian Broadcasting Commission Act - Fourth Annual Report and Balance-sheet of the Australian Broadcasting Commission for year 1935-36.
Canned Fruits Export Control Act - Regulations amended, &c. -
Statutory Rules 1936, No. 165.
Statutory Rules 1937, No. 47.
Commonwealth Bank Act-
Regulations amended- Statutory Rules 1937, No. 27.
Treasurer’s Statement of combined accounts of Commonwealth Bank and Commonwealth Savings Bank, at 31st December, 1936; together with certificate of the Auditor-General.
Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1936, No. 160.
Contract Immigrants Act - Return for 1936.
Control of Naval Waters Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 12.
Customs Act - Regulations amended -
Statutory Rules 1936, Nos. 162, 163, 166.
Statutory Rules 1937, No. 2.
Customs Act and Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, Nos. 4, 7, 57.
Dairy Produce Export Control Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 26.
Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, Nos. 1, 15, 22, 29, 42, 45, 46, 62.
Designs Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 53.
Dried Fruits Export Charges Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 17.
Financial Relief Acts - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 24.
Immigration Act - Return for 1936.
Judiciary Act - Rules of Court -
Dated 4th December, 1936.
Dated 21st April, 1937.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at -
Albany, Western Australia - For Defence purposes.
Campbellfield, Victoria (2) - For Quarantine purposes.
Evans Head, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Loudon and Loudon Extension, South Australia - For Railway purposes.
Mascot, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Port Kembla, New South Wales - For Customs purposes.
Rockdale, New South Wales - For postal, telegraphic, telephonic and other like services.
South Perth, Western Australia - For Postal purposes.
Swanbourne, Western Australia - For Defence purposes.
Sydney, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Windsor, Victoria - For Postal purposes.
Loans Securities Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 28.
Meat Export Control Act - Regulations amended - -Statutory Rules 1937, Nos. 38, 44.
Nationality Act - Return for 1936.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations amended -
Statutory Rules 1937, Nos. 5, 6, 9, 16, 51, 52, 59, 63.
Navigation Act -
Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, Nos. 10, 40.
Report of cases in which the GovernorGeneral, during 1936, has exercised his power under Section 422a.
Norfolk Island Act -
Ordinances of 1937 -
No. 1 - Fencing.
No. 2 - Bean Seed Export Control.
No. 3 - Registration of Bulls.
No. 4 - Surveys.
Crown Lands Ordinance - Compulsory Acquisition Regulations.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act-
Ordinance of 1936 - No.18 - Mining.
Ordinance of 1937 - No. 1 - Pearling.
Ordinances of 1936 -
No. 16 - Probate and Administration.
No. 17 - Native Taxes.
No. 18 - Shipping (No. 3).
Ordinance of 1937 -
No. 1 - Customs (Export) Tariff.
Patents Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, Nos. 19, 50.
Peace Officers Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 55.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, Nos. 13, 14, 35, 36, 37, 48.
Prune Bounty Acts - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 8.
Public Service Act -
Appointments - Department -
Commerce - C. C. Good, T. H. J. Harrison, R. C. Hottes, H. I. Phillips. J. W. A. Riley.
External Affairs - N. St. C. Deschamps, J. E. Oldham, A. S. Watt.
Health - E. Ford, D. E. Gowenlock.
Interior - D. E. Limburg, L. H. Rudd, F. Wade.
Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, Nos. 11, 25. 54, 60.
Quarantine Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1 937, Nos. 30, 49.
Railways Act - By-law, No. 73.
Sales Tax Assessment Acts (Nos. 1 to 9) -
Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1936, No. 164.
Science and Industry Research Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 3.
Trade Marks Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 18.
War Service Homes Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 34.
Wine Overseas Marketing Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, Nos. 23, 32.
Wool Publicity and Research Act Regulations - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 31.
Pearl Shell Industry: Arrest of Japanese Sampan - Traffic in Aboriginal Women.
– In view of the threat made by the pearlers operating from Darwin that, if they are not granted watering bases, they will forsake the Darwin grounds and move to the Broome fields, will the Minister for the Interior give an assurance that some consideration will be given to the industryby the establishment of watering bases in close proximity to the present grounds?
– Inquiries have been in progress for some time with reference to the practicability of establishing a watering base on the north coast of Australia, with an officer in charge, and I hope to be in a position to make a complete statement on this matter in the near future.
– Has the Minister for the Interior any statement to make with regard to the launch Larrakia, ? Has the vessel yet arrived at Darwin, and is it being towed by one of the Japanese sampans that it is said to have captured ? If the Larrakia has arrived at Darwin, which sampans, if any, has it brought back, and are any efforts being made to regain possession of the mother ship, New Guinea Maru, that was originally captured ?
– I have received a telegram from the Administrator at Darwin to the effect that the Larrakia is expected to-night to reach Cape Don, which is about 100 miles from Darwin. With regard to the last question raised I have no information, and, personally, I do not credit the press report referring to it.
– Will the Minister for the Interior inform me whether any recent action has been taken by the Government arising out of serious and, I think, well-founded complaints of an evil traffic proceeding between citizens of a foreign power and people on the mainland of Australia by which aboriginal women are allegedly being victimized in a very grave manner? Will the honorable gentleman tell us what is being done in regard to the matter?
– It may have escaped the honorable member’s attention, but within recent weeks the Government amended the Aboriginals Ordinance in order to permit of the confiscation of vessels found within the three-mile limit of the aboriginal’s reserve in the Northern Territory. I assure the honorable member that everything possible is being done by the Government to suppress this traffic.
– When does the Acting Prime Minister expect to receive the report of the Monetary and Banking Commission ?
– It is hoped that the complete report will be available either next week or the week after that.
– Will the Attorney-General ascertain from the PostmasterGeneral whether he has yet received reports from his department and the Works Department with respect to plans and estimates for the building of a new general post office in Brisbane, and, if so, whether the Postmaster-General intends to make the necessary provision in this year’s Estimates for the commencement of the new building ?
– I shall make inquiries of the Postmaster-General and inform the honorable member as to his reply.
– Will the Acting Minister for Defence state whether the vessels of the Australian fleet, which, it is reported in to-day’s press, are to undertake a winter cruise, will include Brisbane in their itinerary?
– Four ‘vessels of the Australian Navy will visit Brisbane. The Australia will remain there about two days in the middle of July and a week during August, whilst the Sydney, the Stuart and the Waterhen will spend about ten days there, from the 13th to about the 23rd of August.
– In view of the great controversy that has arisen in Australia regarding the resignation of the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) from the position of Minister directing negotiations, for trade treaties, will the Acting Prime Minister table the whole of -the correspondence, in order that the cause of the resignation may be ascertained ?
– Both the Prime Minister and the ex-Minister who was directing negotiations for trade treaties have stated that the resignation was due to personal reasons.
– Prior to the last adjournment of the Parliament a notice of motion in my name appeared on the notice-paper dealing with certain regulations issued by the Customs Department. As my motion does not now appear on the business agenda, I desire to know if some effort will be made to restore it to the notice-paper.
– I am not quite clear as to the procedure which would have to be followed in this case, but I shall discuss the matter with the Attorney-General and the officers of the House, and inform the honorable member later as to the course which should be followed.
– Is it a fact that the Prime Minister announced in this House that it was intended that Parliament should be called together about the end of March last, and will the Acting Prime Minister explain why that undertaking wa3 not carried out?
– It is true that the Prime Minister, in answer to a question in this House, said that it was intended, if possible, to call the Parliament together in March, but, as is generally known, circumstances supervened which made it difficult to carry out that arrangement. In the first place, the referendum campaign occupied the whole of February and part of March. Everybody knows that it is undesirable to conduct such a campaign in January. Easter occurred exceptionally early this year, and this made it practically impossible for the Government to meet the House before the Easter holidays and before the Prime Minister left-Australia. Consequently the suggestion that Parliament should be called together, if possible, at that period was not adopted. I notice, however, that the suggestion that a definite undertaking was given in regard to this matter was denied by the Prime Minister before he left Australia. In the Labor Daily, of the 11th January, appeared a report of an interview with
Mr. Lyons, in which he denied the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) that he had given any undertaking that Parliament would assemble before the delegation left in March for the Imperial Conference. Similarly, on the 15th January, a repetition of that statement was published in the Labor Daily.
– Has the attention of the Acting Prime Minister been drawn to the fact that the Government of New Zealand has, to some extent, relaxed the embargo on citrus fruits from Australia? Seeing that the Government of New Zealand has agreed to accept Australian certificates of freedom from fruit-fly in respect of Australian citrus fruit for a portion of the year, will the Commonwealth Government use every effort to bring about a further relaxation of its embargo on Australian citrus fruits?
– The Commonwealth Government noted with pleasure that the embargo on citrus fruits from certain districts in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia had been lifted by the Government of New Zealand between December and April, and has already communicated with the Government of New Zealand, While thanking the Acting Prime Minister of the dominion for the relaxation, it has pointed out the enormous advantage it would be to the citrus-growers of Australia if the period could be extended to include the period July, to December. When a reply is received the honorable member will be informed.
– Is the Minister for Commerce aware that the relaxation by the New Zealand Labour Government of the embargo upon the importation of Australian citrus fruits was due entirely to representations made to it by a delegate of the Australian Labour party, in the person of Mr. Logue.
The honorable member is not in order in giving information under the guise of asking a question.
– In view of the success of Mr. Logue’s efforts in this direction, should not the citrus-growers be advised as to whom should be given the credit for what has occurred?
– Representations for the relaxation of the embargo have been made almost continuously by this Government. As I have already stated, the lifting of the embargo by the New Zealand Government was due to the difficulty experienced in obtaining citrus fruit, largely because of the shortage of the American crop.
– Would the right honorable the Attorney-General be good enough to state in detail the reasons which actuated the Government in withdrawing proceedings that had been initiated against certain persons known as Communists and Friends of the Soviet Union ?
– It is necessary for me to consult with one member of the Opposition before I make a full reply, and I shall be glad therefore if the honorable member for Batman will repeat his question to-morrow.
– Has the Minister for the Interior received any report from the Development Branch of the Prime Minister’s Department on the subject of mineral development in the Tennant Creek area? If so, has the report been considered, and has consideration of it reached a stage at which his department is going into the matter of providing better communication with Tennant Creek?
– The report has been received, and is being considered.
Conference between Commonwealth and States.
– Is it a fact that the Acting Prime Minister has communicated with the State governments summoning a conference to discuss unemployment insurance? If so, what proposals will be discussed by the conference, and will they be submitted to this House ?
– Such a communication has been addressed to the Premier of each State, together with a copy of the unemployment insurance report. After the conference has been held, the proposals that are agreed upon will be submitted to this House.
Prohibited Chinese Not Deported
– In view of the fact that the Minister for the Interior used the provisions of the Immigration Act last year to prevent the entry into Australia of an English-born woman, and this year, allegedly on the representations of the Assistant Minister for Commerce, he allowed a prohibited Chinese to remain in Australia, is it to be taken as an indication that the Government generally is weakening in its advocacy of a White Australia policy?
– Will the Minister for the Interior inform me whether it is correctly reported in the press that he used his power under the Immigration Act to permit a prohibited Chinese immigrant to remain in Australia? If so, is the honorable gentleman prepared to give the House the reasons which prompted him to do so during a period in which he still maintained a prohibition against the admission of an English-born woman into this country?
– In order to deal adequately with the honorable member’s question I shall at a later stage ask the permission of the House to make a statement on the subject.
– What progress has been made in its investigations by the Committee on Industrial Resources, which has been examining the industrial resources of this country from a defence point of view?
– The committee has already carried out a great deal of preliminary investigation work and submitted a report upon it. The Government is now giving consideration to the extension of the activities of the committee.
– In view of the general dissatisfaction in regard to the Government’s trade diversion policy, and of press reports to the effect that the whole question has been reconsidered by Cabinet, is the Acting Prime Minister in a position to make a statement to the House in regard to the matter?
– As the first part of the honorable member’s question relates to a matter of policy in respect of which answers are not usually given in reply to questions, no answer can be given. In regard to the actual results of the trade diversion policy, the facts will be placed before the House in due time.
– Having regard to the very pronounced opposition to the present administration as recently recorded by the people, and the resolutions of a conference of local governing authorities held in Maitland, representative of the Acting Prime Minister’s electorate and many other electorates north of Sydney up to the border of Queensland, condemning the Government’s failure to redeem its pre-election promise to make this country self-contained in respect of fuel for defence purposes, is it to be taken from the Governor-General’s Speech delivered to-day that the production of oil from shale only will be encouraged by the present administration, and that the proposal to produce oil from coal, as promised by the Prime Minister in his policy speech, has definitely been scrapped ?
– The Govern: ment has made very definite progress with a scheme to produce petrol in Australia mainly from the shale deposits at Newnes. With regard to the production of oil from coal, every one is well aware that for the last four years the Government has been proceeding with investigations to ascertain whether a satisfactory commercial process can be established in this country. At an early date it is hoped to present to Parliament the report of Sir David Rivett on the subject of the production of oil from coal by the lowtemperature carbonization and the hydrogenation process. The German process has also been considered. When that report is presented to the House the honorable member will be provided with information a3 to the exact position.
– In view of the fact that the Government of the United Kingdom is at present engaged in preliminary conversations with the Government of the United States of America with the object of concluding a trade agreement with that country, I ask the Minister for Commerce whether this Government will make representations to the Government of the United Kingdom with the object of drawing its attention to what we regard as the inadequate preference given by the Government of the United Kingdom to Australian canned fruits? Will tbe right honorable gentleman also request the Government of the United Kingdom not to make a trade agreement with the Government of the United States of America, which will preclude the possibility of the existing agreement with the Commonwealth Government being amended in such a manner as to give more adequate preference to Australian canned fruits in the market of the United Kingdom ?
– The Government has made continuous representations to. the Government of the United Kingdom to ensure that the same actual value in preference in respect of canned fruits should be made available to Australia as was actually in operation before the depreciation of the dollar following upon the conclusion of the Ottawa agreement. The position of Australia in relation to the negotiations between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of the United States of America has been made very clear.
– In view of the widespread desire that has been expressed for a reduction of postal rates, I ask the Acting Treasurer whether, in the near future, he will make a statement showing tbe probable effect on the revenue of a reduction of postal rates to l1/2d. or 1.d.? Will the right honorable gentleman also say whether, in the opinion of the Government, it is desirable to use the Postmaster-General’s Department as a source of revenue? If, in the opinion of the Government, it is not desirable, will the right honorable gentleman say whether it is the intention of the Government to make a reduction of the postal rates whenever practicable?
– The matter raised by the honorable member must engage the attention of the Government during the preparation of the budget and, insofar as matters of policy are involved, it is quite impossible for me to anticipate what will be done. I shall inquire whether it is possible to have a statement prepared to show the probable financial effect of any reduction of postal rates.
– Has the attention of the Acting Prime Minister been drawn to a statement made by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) while in England, to the effect that butter exported from Australia was inferior in quality and was mixed with margarine? Is the right honorable gentleman aware that, during the referendum campaign early this year, the Norco Butter Company wrapped its butter in papers which contained the statement that the people must vote “ Yes “ or the quality of Australian butter must be reduced?
– I have not seen the statement which the honorable member has attributed to the honorable mem- ber for Richmond. In view of the method of inspecting butter in these days I should think it would be quite impossible for butter of the quality described by the honorable member to be exported from Australia. I have no information in regard to the second part of the honorable member’s question.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister inform me whether the Government has yet considered the report of the Royal Commission on Petrol, and whether this Parliament will be given an opportunity to discuss it?
– The Government has considered the report mentioned by the honorable member. Such matters referred to in it as affect the State governments have been brought under their notice. Other matters in the report will be given further consideration by the Government.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs state whether it is correct, as has been reported in the press, that Japanese manufacturers of rayon have sought to evade Australian import duties by shipping their product first to New Zealand, and then reshipping it from there to Australia? If this is a fact, has the Minister taken any action to rectify the position?
– Does the honorable member not mean in the reverse direction - from Australia?
– Then nothing of that kind has taken place, so far as I know.
– Will the Minister for the Interior give the reason for the Government’s change of policy in regard to the proposed admittance into Australia of an English woman, who was last year prohibited from landing here? Is the change of policy due to the emphatic vote recorded by the people against the present administration in a recent by-election, or is it because the Minister has now found that this woman is not the adventuress he formerly declared her to be? If it has now been established that she is not an adventuress, will the Minister tender a. proper apology for having so described her in a statement made in this House?
– In reply to the honorable member, I cannot do better than remind him of the statement made a little while ago by tlie Acting Prime Minister to the effect that Mr. Barnet, a solicitor in Wellington, New Zealand, acting on behalf of Mrs. Freer, made written application to the Commonwealth Government to lift the ban imposed against the entry of this lady into Australia, and urged as strongly as he could that the continuance of the ban would constitute an injustice. The Government, taking into consideration the existing circumstances of the case, together with the fact that the lady had resided for some time in New Zealand, decided to lift the ban imposed late last year, and to inform Mr. Barnet that if his client still desired lo come to Australia, no hindrance would be placed in her way.
– Having regard to the various reasons advanced for the banning of M’rs. Freer, will the Minister now state to the House just why he first refused to admit her? Did he act upon an official report which, when found to be wrong, lie still sought to bolster up?
– I have nothing to . add to the statement I have just made!
– But the Minister has not told us anything yet.
– In view of his public declaration during the referendum campaign, that if the referendum proposals were defeated the Government could do nothing for the primary producers, and that the primary industries would be thrown into a condition of chaos, will the Acting Prime Minister state when we may expect him, and other members of the Country party, to put into operation their policy of principles before portfolios by resigning from a government which, he has confessed, can do nothing for the primary producers, and which is prepared to allow the primary industries to be reduced to chaos?
– The position of lbc butter and dried fruits industries at the present time is most parlous. Any one who is familiar with the inside workings of these industries knows how grave is their position at the present time. Everything that was said by the advocates of a “ Yes “ vote - including the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr.- Forde) - is as true to-day as when it was said.
Insofar as the Government and the Constitution are concerned, there is no question of the inability of the Commonwealth Parliament to deal in a satisfactory and comprehensive manner with these two industries.
Alleged Damage to Motor Car
– Will the AttorneyGeneral make available to this House the report of the New South Wales Police Department regarding an inquiry into a statement made by the Acting Prime Minister with regard to the wilful destruction of the tyres of a motor car at Mudgee during the Gwydir by-election campaign? In the event of the statement of the Acting Prime Minister not being borne out by the facts, will the Attorney-General put the law into operation against him?
– I have not previously heard of the matter to which the honorable member has referred, but I shall make inquiries into it. In connexion with this matter, as in connexion with all others, I shall undoubtedly give the Acting Prime Minister the benefit of my friendly advice.
– Will the Attorney-General state whether the Government, during this session, will take an early opportunity to enlighten the public mind in respect of the actual position in regard to the Pacific Pact suggested by the Prime Minister in London?
– The question -directed to me by the honorable gentleman relates to a matter of general governmental policy which will, no doubt, be dealt with at the appropriate time by the Acting Prime Minister, or by the Prime Minister himself on his return.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister, in view of his statement -in regard to the parlous position of the dairying industry, inform the House whether the increased price of margarine and butter is the result of the imposition of excise by this Government, or is due to a regulation made by a State Government? Margarine which was 7d. per lb. is now ls.
– In so far as Australian butter is concerned, the price has remained practically stationary for several years. In so far as margarine is concerned, there has been no increase of excise duty.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).I have to report that the House this day attended His ‘ Excellency the GovernorGeneral in the Senate chamber, where His Excellency was pleased to make a speech to both Houses of the Parliament, of which, for greater accuracy, I have obtained a copy (vide page 5). As honorable members have copies of the Speech in their hands, I presume that they do not desire me formally to read it.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) agreed to-
That a committee consisting of Mr. Holt, Mr. Fadden, and the mover, be appointed to prepare an Address-in-Reply to the Speech delivered by His Excellency the GovernorGeneral to both Houses of the Parliament, and that the committee do report this day.
Mr. HOLT, for the committee appointed to prepare an Address-in-Reply to His Excellency the Governor-General’s Speech (vide page 5), brought up the proposed Address, which wa3 read by the Clerk.
.- I move -
That the following Address-in-Reply to His Excellency the Governor-General’s Speech, be agreed to -
May it Please Your Excellency -
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
The practice whereby the King’s representative delivers at the opening of a new session of the Parliament a speech in which he outlines the business which the Government proposes to deal with in the course of the session is traditional. It is the likewise established tradition for an address couched in terms similar to those which I have used, to be agreed to by the House. But although the procedure itself is formal there is, on this occasion, a number of reasons why a deeper significance than is customary attaches to this particular opening of a session of the Parliament. First and foremost, it marks the first opening of a Parliament of the Commonwealth since the Coronation of their Majesties the King and Queen. We in this House are fully conscious of the important position occupied by the Crown as a constitutional link between the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations. But the Royal Family represents far more than any such legal link. We have this day welcomed the opportunity to subscribe to the resolution of loyalty and congratulation to the King and Queen. There is a deep and abiding affection in the hearts of the people of the Empire for the Royal Family. We in this country have particularly happy recollections of the visit by the King and Queen to Australia ten years ago, and for this House that visit has a special significance inasmuch as it was on the 9th May, 1927, that the King and Queen as the Duke and Duchess of York, formally opened these buildings in which the Parliament of the Commonwealth meets.
It necessarily follows, from the important position occupied in our Constitution by the Crown, that the King’s chief personal representative in the Commonwealth should be one who can give general satisfaction by the manner in which he carries out the duties which devolve upon him. Here again there is a significance in this session, inasmuch as it is the first which has been opened by Lord Gowrie as Governor-General. And yet, in the short time that His Excellency has occupied that position, he has travelled far and wide throughout the Commonwealth and has visited many places which had never previously been visited by a personal representative of the King. He has been most active in his efforts to come in contact with people in all parts of the Commonwealth and in all walks of life. In July of last year I had the privilege of attending a dinner given in honour of His Excellency at the township of Tully in’ the north of Queensland. Honorable members from Queensland will know that this town is about 1,000 miles north of Brisbane, and this function marked the first occasion on which a Governor-General had visited that town. That illustration is typical of the activity which the Governor-General has displayed in making himself familiar with all parts of the Commonwealth and getting to know its people. Both the Crown and the Commonwealth are equally fortunate in that His Majesty is so ably represented in the person of Lord Gowrie.
There is one other reason which makes this session noteworthy. It is rare for a formal opening of the Parliament to take place except in the case of the beginning of a new session following upon a general election. Because of the assistance which private members gain from the outline of the business of the session, which is contained in the Governor-General’s Speech, they have often pressed governments to adopt the practice of having a new session each year. The Government is to ‘be congratulated upon having adopted that suggestion on the present occasion, and as a private member, I express the appreciation which we feel for its action.
This is the third session of Parliament which has been opened during the life of the Government of which the right honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Lyons) has been the Prime Minister. It is, therefore, appropriate that we should note the highly auspicious circumstances which surround the opening that took place to-day. If we consider the condition of Australia when the Lyons Government first came into office, we have every reason to tender our warmest congratulations to the right honorable gentleman and his colleagues for the striking degree of recovery that has taken place during their term of office.
Reference has been made by His. Excellency to the fact that unemployment registrations, which stood at 30” per cent, at the end of the second quarter of 1932, have been steadily and progressively reduced, the figures at the end of the first quarter of this year showing a decline to 9.9 per cent. This; figure compares more than favorably with that which prevailed before the depression. The number of factory employees, which stood at 450,000 in the pre-depression year 192S-29, reached 490,000 in 1935-36. The value of building operations throughout the Commonwealth - always a reliable barometer of business conditions - showed an increase from £4,335,000 in the depression year 1930-31 to £21,972,000 in 1935-36. If any further evidence were required of the extent to which recovery has taken place, it is to be found in the addresses recently made to the Arbitration Court by Messrs. Mundy and Clary, who, together with Mr. Crofts, appeared as advocates for the Australian Council of Trade Unions in its application for an increased basic wage. Mr. Mundy, in opening his address, pointed out that his object would be to show that industry could afford to pay a higher basic wage at the present time. He hoped, he said, to show from statistical returns that prices for primary products are highly satisfactory, that manufacturing has never been so prosperous, and that unemployment has fallen to what might be regarded as a normal position. He was supported by Mr. Olary who, to quote his own words, said -
In the period 1933 and 1934 we noticed an emergence from the crisis with a stabilization of prices. During this period confidence returned and the tendency waa towards an extension of capital facilities with values rising and unemployment decreasing. The period from 1935 to 1937 shows practically the most spectacular recovery ever witnessed. Normality was regained. There was a general adjustment to stabilized conditions, with greatly increased capital expansion. There was a balancing of government budgets and repeal of financial emergency legislation with respect to wages and social services. There was a general rise in the prices of exportable commodities and a gradual regression of unemployment to predepression figures. It was noticeable also that wholesale and retail prices were rising. “ The case of the trade unions “, Mr. Clary submitted “ was essentially that of a comparison of present with past conditions.”
It is scarcely credible that so great a change should have taken place in so short a time.
I have addressed myself to this matter at some length because we are apt to forget, too readily, I think, the desperate plight in which this country found itself such a short time ago, and because I maintain that the courageous and firm action which the Lyons Government has taken during its tenure of office is responsible in no small measure for much of the improvement that has taken place.
Increased security in our economic structure is revealed by an examination of our overseas trade position. The figures relating to our overseas trade for 1D36-37 will show our exports somewhat higher in Australian currency and imports £30,000,000 lower than in 1928-29. Investigation has substantially confirmed the view that the expansion of home production has replaced imports to about the value of our pre-depression overseas borrowing.
It is to be regretted, that no such highly satisfactory state of affairs appear in regard to our external affairs generally. Recent international developments have clearly shown that those countries which comprise the British Empire can no longer place any reliance upon the League of Nations as a guarantee of security. A League of Nations which is merely a league of some nations, not all of which can be relied upon to shoulder the obligations of membership, provides merely a condition of collective insecurity, which may be more fruitful of conflict than otherwise. We have noticed with interest recent statements by official spokesmen of the British Government, which indicate a definite limit to the commitments which that government is prepared to undertake. Remote as we are in Australia, we have trembled far too long at a pistol shot in the Balkans, or have started nervously when a fist has been banged in anger on a table in Danzig. However much we may regret the temporary abandonment of the League of Nations as our guarantee against aggression - and our abandonment relates only to that aspect of its work - we welcome the greater security which recent developments suggest. These developments have brought home to us the necessity - if we are to remain secure - for the closest cooperation between our own League of Nations - the British Commonwealth of Nations. We await with interest the information which the Prime Minister will give to the House upon his return, regarding the discussions that have taken place at the Imperial Conference that has just concluded; but this lesson, at least, we should have learned from such news as has already reached us, that there is a very real need, if any real co-operation is to obtained, for study and appreciation ‘ of the problems of our fellow dominions. For many years the relationship that has existed between this country and Great Britain has been a close one, but can the same be said of our relations with the other dominions? It is obvious from the divergence of opinions that has been revealed at that conference, that the need for much greater knowledge exists.
When we look at the subject matters referred to in His Excellency’s Speech we find that, although this session is to be a short one, there is a considerable volume of business to be dealt with. No fewer than 23 subjects are referred to in the course of that Speech. This is not the time for, nor, in any event, would the time available permit, more than the most cursory examination of all of them, or of any one of them in detail. Opportunity will be afforded later for more detailed examination of them and fuller debate. I do, however, wish to make some short observations in regard to the references to what may be termed the Government’s industrial programme, that is to the subjects of national insurance, a 40-hour working week, and youth employment.
For very many years we have had in Australia a system of social services, which has been operated in part by the Commonwealth and in part by the States. It has been built up piecemeal, in haphazard fashion, and has imposed an increasing burden upon government budgets. Let us take, for example, the system of invalid and old-age pensions. We find that in 1911, which was the first year in which pensions for invalidity and old-age were paid, the cost to the Commonwealth was £2,054,360. In that year there were 7,451 invalid pensioners, whose pensions cost £185,960. By 1937, the number of invalid pensioners had grown to 84,000, and the cost to £3,927,503. The number of old-age pensioners had increased from 75,502, costing £1,868,400, in 1911, to 215,000, costing £10,052,497, in 1937. Illustrations could be multiplied which would show the tremendous increase that has taken place in the cost of our social services. All members of the House feel that it is high time that the social services of the Commonwealth were placed on an economical and efficient basis. I have never disguised my wholehearted approval of the principle of social security as is embodied in a system of national insurance on a contributory basis. I . have noted with appreciation, as have Other honorable members, the action which the Government has taken with a view to examining this subject in detail, by obtaining the opinions and reports of experts who have had experience not only of Australian conditions but also of the functioning of the British system. I feel confident that that action reflects the wholehearted appreciation of the Government of the principle of national insurance, and am convinced that if a practicable scheme can be evolved, it. will be placed before the House at the earliest opportunity.
The attitude of the Government towards the institution of a 40-hour working week is clearly outlined in the instructions which it sent to its delegate at Geneva - instructions that have since been made public. We are all agreed that n reduction of the hours of labour should logically follow the general development and use of labour-saving machinery. To a large extent, this reduction has taken place, particularly in those cases in which mechanical invention has reduced the amount of manual labour required. 1 find myself in complete accord with the policy of the Government as declared in these instructions, and would add only one further observation. In the basic wage case to which I have already referred, Chief Judge Dethridge stated that the court proposed to award the highest wage that industry could bear. It follows that any action which has the effect of increasing production costs - and no reasonable person can deny that a reduction of hours would have that effect - must affect, by a consequent reduction, the wage which industry can afford to pay. 1 submit that, of the two methods for the improvement of working conditions at the present time, an increase of the living wage - and thereby of the living standard - is much to be preferred to a reduction of working hours.
On the subject of youth employment, I have wearied honorable members more than enough during the last twelve months; but because of the importance which it possesses in my mind, I make no apology for introducing it again. The Government is to be congratulated upon having initiated a conference with the States to deal with the problem, and upon having promised them financial .assistance for this purpose.
The Youth Employment Committee of the Government of Victoria has already expressed the opinion that the amount made available by the Commonwealth Government is totally inadequate to implement a satisfactory programme for the relief of youth unemployment. If that be the case, I urge this Government to suggest to Victoria - if it has not already done so - that the Government of that State might assist in financing the programme recommended by its own committee, by a contribution from the proceeds of its own unemployment relief tax. In the depth of the depression when unemployment registrations for that State were 27.7 per cent., the collections from this tax amounted, for the year 1931-1932, to £1,650,492. The estimated amount to be collected for 1936-1937, when unemployment registrations for the State have dropped to 9.5 per cent., is £1,854,000. If that tax is to be devoted to the proper purposes for which it is collected, no worthier object could be found than the youth unemployment relief programme planned by the committee which that Government itself has appointed.
References in the Governor-General’s Speech to increased activity in the Department of Health will be welcomed. I have already mentioned that this year we are paying invalid pensions to 84,000 persons; other evidence could be readily supplied to show that the general standard of health in this country is unnecessarily low-. Increased grants for health research have recently been made, but, having regard to the fact that the estimated cost of invalid pensions alone this year falls little short of £4,000,000, it is clear that a much greater expenditure on preventive measures would still be a justifiable economy. The Advisory Council on Nutrition has shown that there are at the present time, dietary deficiencies, which must be remedied if the general standard is to improve, and has, in fact, recommended that there should be a daily supply of milk for school children and, where practicable, for children of pre-school age. It is to be hoped that the Government has in view some action along these lines.
It is regretted that the speech contains no reference to the question of the establishment of an Australian domicil in matrimonial matters. This House, in the previous session, passed a resolution expressing approval of its introduction, and while the question has admitted difficulties, it had been hoped that the Government would now be in a position to submit to the House a proposal having this object in view. I wish to make only one further observation.
We are meeting to-day as a democratically elected body, responsible to the people of this country, and gathered to give, by legislative action, expression to the common will. At a time when the democracies of the world have been subjected to the threat of dictatorship and many of them have been submerged by the action of the dictator, our meeting here under these conditions must give us cause for reflection. We have long believed that man has certain fundamental and inalienable rights, of which the most important are life, liberty and opportunity for the pursuit of happiness. To secure these rights, governments have been instituted, deriving their authority from the will and consent of the governed. No dictatorship in the world to-day - whether it be a dictatorship of the Right or a dictatorship of the Left - has been able, or in most cases, even willing, to guarantee these rights. As the present custodians of democracy in this Commonwealth, we bear a; responsibility, the responsibility that none of our actions here in this Parliament shall in any way discredit or- undermine that democratic system, which we. in this House, however much our political views may differ, are determined to maintain.
– I desire to express my appreciation of the privilege and opportunity afforded me to second the motion so ably moved by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt). In doing so, I desire to associate myself with the remarks that he has made concerning the visit of His Excellency the Governor-General to Queensland almost immediately after his appointment. The people of Queensland appreciated the opportunity to come into contact with the new Governor-General, and I am sure that I express the desire and sentiment of every resident of Queensland when I say that they wish him a long, successful, happy and peaceful tenure -of the high and honorable office which he holds.
I am also mindful of the honour conferred upon me in entering this honorable Parliament, particularly as successor -to the late honorable Sir Littleton Groom. The late Sir Littleton Groom devoted more than 30 years of his life to the public service of his country. His life was a record of achievement that is impossible for any Australian to follow, particularly in the circumstances and conditions now appertaining. I am consoled, however, by the fact that he has set an objective for Australians - that they should accept their civic responsibilities and always aim at rendering service to their fellow countrymen.
The electorate which I have the honour to represent is typical of those rural electorates of Australia that have contributed so much to the economic welfare and national well-being of Australia. Unfortunately, however, it is also one which is subject to adverse seasonal conditions, particularly those brought about by droughts. At present the biggest portion of that electorate is in the throes of a drought that has too long continued, to the detriment of every person in the district. It has lasted for two or three years. Thai; brings me to urge upon this Parliament the necessity expeditiously to grapple with the allimportant national matter of drought alleviation. In the course of my remarks I think I shall impress on honorable members that the drought history of Queensland presents an appalling stait1 of affairs, and emphasizes the necessity to urge the immediate establishment of an institution to combat drought. I am not in favour of adding to the governmental institutions that already exist; but I ‘think that the scope of existing institutions could be extended to deal with this matter, to collate information, and to bring about some effort at least to alleviate, if not to remove, the disastrous effects of drought. Wrapped up with drought is the necessity for water conservation, fodder conservation, the prevention of erosion, and the elimination of that disastrous pest, the cattle tick. It will come as a surprise to honorable members to learn that in 1935, the finish of the general drought in Queensland, 3,227,000 sheep were lost through drought. From 1931, which was also a drought year, to 1935, 8,690,000 sheep were lost through drought, and from 1926 to 1929, the three years the occasion of a previous visitation, 8,170,000 sheep were lost. In nine years, 16,850,000 sheep - approximately 2,000,000 a year - were lost definitely as the result of drought. That is a reduction of the national wealth-producing capacity of the Commonwealth of Australia, and, particularly, of the State of Queensland. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has done an enormous service to the primary industries. Ry its research and activities it has improved the quality of produce, increased capacity in many instances, and improved herds, flocks, and stock. But it could do more. There is no definite policy to combat the disastrous droughts. The activities of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research have been extended to the elimination of the .blowfly, liver finke, and dingoes; but it should be realized that, out of every 1,000 sheep lost in Queensland, 715 are lost through drought causes. Yet nothing has been done about it.
The minute hooks of local governing authorities, pastoralists’ associations and other bodies are full of resolutions affirming the need for the destruction of various pests, but nothing is said about the elimination of the disastrous effects of drought, the visitations of which are far too -frequent. When governments are putting forward every effort to increase the productive capacity of the country, attention should be directed to the necessity for stabilizing a definite market that could be maintained and increased if the destructive effects of drought could be overcome. The figures which I have cited supply an answer to the question as to why Queensland has fewer sheep today than in 1891, and why it has 1,000,000 fewer cattle than in 1S95. We talk of land development schemes and of opening up the country, but the best way to achieve progress in this direction cannot be in doubt. When we consider defence policies we should remember the importance of foodstuffs and raw materials. We must also bear in mind the fact that, whilst the Commonwealth Government has made favorable trade treaties with other countries, and arrangements for the disposal of our meat, we are not in a position to take full advantage of the available markets, because we have not solved the root problem of overcoming the effects of drought. The two staple industries of Queensland - those which provide wool and meat - are of the greatest value to the nation generally. This is not entirely a State problem, but is one that must he grappled with on a national basis. The geographical boundaries of a State, which fire necessary for the sake of convenience and for the maintenance of sovereign rights, should not make it incumbent upon that State to carry the bulk of the hurden due to a mtional calamity such as drought. State boundaries and such artificially created limitations should be forgotten when the welfare of Australia, as a whole, has to bc considered. In my opinion, we have too long delayed in approaching this problem, which we should have endeavoured to solve on a national basis. When we are considering methods by which loan money could be judicially expended on reproductive works, we should turn our attention to the improvement and expansion of the great wool and meat industries, for every pound spent in. that direction would return its value tenfold.
In dealing with the problem of droughts, we should remember their aftermath. In Queensland, the pastoralists in the west and north-west now, fortunately, have plenty of grass, but they are short of stock, and the feed is left for the grasshoppers. Therefore, governmental attention should be directed to the desirability of giving financial assistance for the re-stocking of holdings. I submit that the provisions of the Loan (Farmers’ Debt Adjustment) Act should be extended in order to grant relief expeditiously in that direction. The State authorities should co-operate in re-stocking operations, and the Commonwealth Government should see that the States play their part in connexion with any restocking or rehabilitation schemes undertaken. The Commonwealth Government should insist upon the State governments reducing rents until such time as the impoverished landholders are in a position to rehabilitate themselves. Freights also should be reduced, and the ‘incidence of income taxation should be altered to enable losses to be carried forward until they are recouped by profits. .The provision in the present legislation for tIle carrying forward of losses is inadequate. That matter, of course, is one for the State authorities. But the Commonwealth Government, in putting forward proposals for co-operative action, has an opportunity to insist upon the observance of certain conditions.
The Governor-General’s Speech gave great prominence to the subject of defence. The world is experiencing troublous times. The nations are at the cross-roads. One road leads to a much needed peace, whilst the traversing of the other must bring about mistrust, intolerance, misunderstanding, selfishness and war. Which road will be taken depends upon the mental outlook and wisdom of the public men of the world. In this matter every member of this Parliament has a grave responsibility. We should make a united effort to bring about friendly international consultation for the purpose of solving the grave problems that confront us to-day. We should be cautious in our decisions, because upon them the final outcome may depend - the making or unmaking of Australia as a nation. We should also realize that the needs of defence go deeper’ than the provision of millions of pounds, for they affect the standards of living and the social and economic security of the people generally. We ought to be satisfied that the health of the community, and standards of living are such that the people will be able to work and, if need be, fight, although we trust that they will never be called upon to engage in war. We are living in quickly changing times which demand considerable modifications of many lifelong convictions. It should be the earnest desire of every one of us not only to maintain, but also to improve the standards of living of our wealth producers, because, in many instances, the farmers are earning less than a living wage. In the determination of fiscal policy, or in any economic survey that may take place, the conditions under which the farmers labour should be thoroughly examined.
The honorable member for Fawkner touched on the matter of malnutrition. We are told that large numbers of people living in the capital cities are underfed,” and that there are many children who have never known the taste of milk. If this be so, it is a startling indictment of a country like Australia. The matter should be thoroughly investigated, and the cooperation of the States, whose responsibility it is, should be sought with the view to altering these conditions as expeditiously as possible. While the responsibility rests upon the States much can be done by the National Government. A fact that has always impressed me is that, whilst State governments spend enormous sums of money on hospitals and curative services, comparatively little attention is paid to tlie need for preventing disease. State governments should insist that loan money shall not be frittered away on unnecessary buildings at the expense of disease-prevention and the general health of the community.
National defence involves the important problem of oil supplies. The Governor-General’s Speech to-day touched upon the production of oil from shale, and outlined what the Government is doing in this regard. In 1933, 1 published a brochure as the result of some two years’ investigation of power alcohol as a fuel, which I believe can be successfully produced in Australia. That brochure contains a summary of information received from every country in the world interested in the production of power alcohol.
When it was printed in 1933 there were some 300,000 cars in use in Australia, and the annual importation of petrol amounted to 239,000,000 gallons. Nothing has been done in the intervening period to ascertain the possibility of producing power alcohol in Australia; certainly a small quantity is produced at Sarina in Central Queensland. On the 3lst December last there were over 700,000 motor vehicles in Australia, and they were using 316,000,000 gallons of petrol annually. These are gigantic figures, and they point in no uncertain manner to the desirableness of conducting a thorough investigation of the very important matter of the manufacture of power alcohol. According to. information which I have collated, power alcohol can be produced from many of the crops grown in Australia, including sorghum, maize, wheat, sweet potatoes, sugar cane, molasses and sugar. It can be obtained from almost anything containing starch. Apart from the economics of this industry, it is all-important from a defence view-point. At present Australia is entirely dependent upon imported liquid fuels ; moreover, our petrol storage tanks are situated in elevated positions at seaports. The vulnerability of these supplies is an important matter which should be considered. I commend to honorable members the following remarks by the Australian Advisory Council of Science and Industry, in Bulletin No. 6, 1918 : -
Tlie dependence of Australia on outside sources for her supply of mineral oils, and especially of those lighter oils which are suitable for use in internal combustion engines, is a matter to which attention has been directed for a number of years. Since the outbreak of war, Australia has been able to secure a supply of mineral oils sufficient to meet her needs, but in view of the increasing shortage of shipping and the large demands for petrol in connexion with the war, Australia may at any time be thrown on her own resources for supplies of liquid fuel. As opposed to her deficiencies in supply of natural oil fuels, Australia has the advantage over many other countries in the necessary elements for the production of raw materials which can be used as a source for the manufacture of alcohol. The world is using the existing supply of mineral oils faster than the rate of production. Some medium for the convenient application of the sun’s energy other than the mineral oil deposits, which take geological ages to form, will soon become necessary. Such a medium exists in those crops which contain sugar and starch, from which alcohol can bc produced by human agency in annual rotation from inexhaustible supplies. The development of the cultivation of crops for the manufacture of power alcohol is likely to play an important or even essential part in a complete agricultural policy. It may lead to the cultivation of areas unsuited for other crops, and may assist in the diversification of the agricultural industry. Certain crops grown as raw material for the manufacture of alcohol could be used as stock feed.
As regards the engine problem, investigations in America, Germany, and France, and experiments carried out in Melbourne by the committee, show conclusively that alcohol can be used with entire success in internal combustion engines.
Again, in 1927, the council had this to say-
It is well known that Australia is practically entirely dependent on outside sources for her supply of liquid fuels, and particularly for those fuels suitable for use in the internal combustion engine. This position is very unsatisfactory even in times of peace, but in times of emergency it becomes positively dangerous. Moreover, in view of the probable world-wide impending shortage of petroleum, a considerable amount of discussion has already taken place in the United States, from which country a very large proportion of Australian liquid fuel is derived, as to the desirability of prohibiting exports altogether.
That is a very pertinent reason why this matter should he thoroughly investigated. I know that some investigation has been carried out from a purely economic viewpoint, and that, solely because of the comparison with the price of imported petrol, locally-produced power alcohol has been condemned as uneconomic. If we are going to view the production of power alcohol on that basis, we have to remember that practically nothing we produce or manufacture in Australia could survive a price comparison with equivalent imported goods. The consideration of the matter must go deeper and further than mere economics; the defence aspect is all-important, and we must remember our experiences during and after the war, when the Australian consumers of petrol were called upon to pay as much as 3s. 6d. a gallon for petrol which, even at that price, was rationed. We have no control over the prices charged by the petrol companies, and, therefore, it is not reasonable to condemn locally-produced power alcohol merely upon a price comparison with imported liquid fuel.
Power alcohol has also many other uses. A leading American technologist has stated that in the United States of America 35,000,000 gallons is used annually for the cooling of automobile radiators, 15,000,000 gallons in the cosmetic industry, 1,500,000 gallons in the manufacture of felt hats, and 2,000,000 gallons in the tobacco industry, to say nothing of many other industries which require it. In fact power alcohol may be regarded as the basic raw material of the great chemical industry. It is also largely used for war purposes. A barrel of power alcohol, we are told, is required for every 12-inch gun. This important aspect of the industry should not be overlooked in considering its economic merits. The manufacture of power alcohol on a large scale in Australia on proper scientific lines would mean the development of large areas of vacant lands, and the employment of a considerable number of people. We have the sunshine, the land, and idle population, and last, but not least, Ave have a valuable home market for the disposal of the product.
In connexion with defence, I urge the Government to consider carefully the position of Queensland, which, because of its vastness and sparse population, is extremely vulnerable. The importance of efficient control of our northern waters has been emphasized during the last year or two because of the presence of foreign sampans engaged in illicit fishing off the Australian coast. The people of Queensland are mindful of the proximity of a certain race, and of their distance from the thickly populated centres of the Commonwealth. I therefore urge the Government in the development of its defence proposals to give careful consideration to the position of my State.
Another matter of vital concern to every honorable member of this House and the people generally is the unemployed youth of this country. I venture the opinion that if this problem be not scientifically and fearlessly tackled and solved the next decade will reveal grave evils, because wastage of humanity will have repercussions just as serious as wastage in industry. The situation must be faced, and adequate provision made for this lost legion of young men between the ages of 18 and 25 years who have never worked, and for whom, under existing conditions, the outlook is particularly disheartening. The inevitable consequence of continued inaction will be the destruction of their morale. Since they are the legacy of the depression, responsibility rests upon every member of this House to see that no effort is spared to provide them with useful employment as soon as possible. I am pleased to know the Government has taken steps to ensure the co-operation of the various State Governments in this matter, and I cannot help thinking it significant that the only States which have not submitted reports to the Commonwealth as to the grave position of their unemployed youths are those which are governed by Labour.
– Now the honorable member is becoming personal.
– I have no- desire to become personal in this discussion. My one desire is to impress upon all members the urgent need for supporting every action which the Government may take to provide employment for these young men and thus ensure their future security. I hope that the Government will deal expeditiously with this matter. As its contribution to the solution of this problem, the Commonwealth Government is setting aside £200,000 for expenditure by the States and although it may be difficult to attach conditions governing the manner in which the money shall be expended, it is nevertheless desirable that the Government should adopt reasonable safeguards against its expenditure for purposes other than those for which it is intended. It should not, for example, be used for the provision of buildings in capital cities or for other purposes for which a State government may get undue credit. [Leave to continue given.”]
Linked up with the problem of our unemployed youth is the proposal for the introduction of a 40-hour working week.
This Government has instructed its delegates at Geneva to support a 40-hour week under certain conditions, with, I hope, safeguards. While everybody desires a shorter working week, which, on the face of it, seems to offer a solution to many of our problems, we. shall have to think long and deeply before we adopt it as our policy. We have been forced in Australia to establish our primary industries under unusual conditions, and in seeking to stabilize these industries the Government has had to make many adjustments. It has had to hold the balance as evenly as possible between the people engaged in primary industries who have had to face adverse world conditions, particularly through the period of depression, and those engaged in secondary industries who have had their conditions fixed without particular regard to world affairs. In order to make conditions as equitable as possible for all sections of the community the Government has had to provide subsidies, make financial grants of other kinds, and adopt administrative measures in keeping with conditions existing from time to time. The granting of a 40-hour week without safeguards would have serious repercussions on our primary industries. Foi this reason I would support a 40-hour week in respect of our export industries only if it were on an international basis. Unless complete safeguards are provided for those engaged in our primary industries they will find themselves in a worse condition than they are in to-day, and every one knows that the White Australia policy implies conditions that make a continuation of the existing circumstances very difficult. If production costs are increased in consequence of the adoption of a shorter working week, and our primary producers are obliged to compete with people, some of whom work 80 hours a week, disaster will overtake us. For these reasons, I contend that we can adopt a 40-hour week for our export industries only if our international competitors adopt it. We must maintain, as far as possible, the competitive ability of our staple industries. Primary production has been of immense value to Australia, and our producers have rendered yeoman service to the people at large. The bulk of our national wealth has its source in our primary producing industries, and these must, therefore, be safeguarded in every possible way.
It has always appeared to me that justice requires that economic regulation shall begin at the primary point of production. There seems to me to be something contradictory and radically wrong in a social or fiscal policy which gives an elaborate wage fixation system and tariff protection to those engaged in our secondary industries and alfords no such consideration to those who depend for their living upon our primary industries. The problems associated with the issues I have just outlined must be faced frankly in the interests of Australia. If we desire to maintain our social services, raise the standard of living, and increase the extent and value of our home market to the advantage, not only of the primary producers, but also other sections of the community, we must revise our Constitution. It must be apparent to everybody that the Constitution which was drafted 30 years ago has, in many respects, outJived its usefulness, and should be thoroughly overhauled and brought into conformity with the changes in our social system which have been forced upon us. The Constitution should also be considered in relation to the present-day practices of other nations. We need to review both the interstate and international aspects of the Constitution. I suggest that a convention should be held similar to those which preceded the drafting of the Constitution nearly 40 years ago. Such a convention would be wellqualified to recommend desirable constitutional changes which, I believe, would commend themselves to tlie people.
We have been told in Queensland for many years, particularly by the leaders of Labour governments, among whom were Mr. T. J. Ryan, Mr. E. G. Theodore and Mr. W. McCormack, that finance is the test of government. If this be so, every unbiassed and reasonable person will agree that the LyonsPage Government has been most successful. In consequence of its wise and careful administration it has achieved results which have been beneficial to the whole Commonwealth. When regard is paid to the legacy that the Lyons-Page Government inherited and also to the highly satisfactory condition of the country to-day, it must be admitted that a good job of work has been done. I shall not claim that this Government has not made mistakes. It is constituted of human beings and is therefore fallible. But I submit that if the achievements of the
Lyons-Page Government are set in the scale against its alleged mistakes the beam will tip heavily in its favour. Australia was on the verge of bankruptcy when the Government assumed office, but in consequence of its carefully directed policy our industries have revived and the Commonwealth has recovered to a greater extent than has any other country. The Government has, in fact, done better work than any previous government in this country, or, for that matter, elsewhere. Its records shine out like a lighthouse in the night. The Government has reduced taxation in every direction and in particular it has lifted much of that particularly onerous burden which the sales tax, introduced by the previous administration, laid upon the shoulders of the working class. . It has also balanced its budget and eliminated the deficits which faced it when it assumed office. It has restored confidence and, as a natural corollary, revived industry. Unemployment has been decreased from more than 30 per cent, to 9.9 per cent. The public debt has been reduced by £7,000,000, although, during the period the Government has been in office, the aggregate State debts have increased by £75,000,000. Employment in factories has been extended until to-day record figures are reported. Benefits under our social service legislation have been increased all round, and the scales have been evenly held as between all sections of the community. I am sure that all reasonable and unbiassed persons will thank their lucky stars that they have lived under this Administration, and were not obliged to suffer the Scullin Labour Administration for any lengthy period.
The vision I have makes rae strive to attain to a prosperous nation embracing all branches of human activity in due proportion, and providing a varied and balanced economy rising from the firm foundation of prosperous primary “and secondary industries.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Curtin) adjourned.
Motion (By Dr. Earle Page) agreed to-
That the House, at its rising’, adjourn until to-morrow at 10.30 a.m.
ParliamentaryLibrary - Dispute in the Sydney General Post Office.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon.G. J. Bell).Honorable members will recall that during the last sittings of Parliament the suggestion was made that the Library should be opened on the evenings of nonsitting days and at week-ends in order to meet the convenience of those members who remain in Canberra. I am pleased to be able to announce that the Library Committee, with the assistance of the Government, has been able to meet this request. The arrangements are that on each non-sitting day the Library will be kept open until 9.30 p.m., except between 6 p.m. and 7.30 p.m., when the officer on duty will be away for his evening meal. It will be also open on Saturdays until 9.30 p.m., except for the periods 12 noon to 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 7.30 p.m. I should explain that these hours are purely provisional, and that the committee is anxious to meet members’ convenience as far as possible. I would welcome, therefore, any representations on the part of honorable members in order that the best roster of hours to meet their requirements may finally be decided upon. I should like also to emphasize that the present arrangements have been approved entirely as an experiment, and that their continuance will depend upon the extent to which it is found that honorable members make use of these additional facilities.
– I bring under the notice of the House the necessity for the Government to handle the dispute in the Sydney General Post Office in a more conciliatory manner than is being adopted at present. I have felt for some time that the members of this chamber suffer a good deal of inconvenience owing to the fact that the Postmaster-General is a member of the Senate; we are thus deprived of the opportunity to obtain direct from him information on matters of importance. Because of that, in presenting this case on behalf of a large number of employees in the General Post
Office in Sydney, I. cannot obtain a definite and direct reply from the PostmasterGeneral. This is unsatisfactory to honorable members generally who have been confronted with this difficulty ever since the present Lyons Government took office. Honorable members are probably aware that a new system of supervision or spying has been adopted in connexion with the sorters of mail matter in the Sydney General Post Office. The system now in operation is quite foreign to the employees in this department, many of whom have given many years of service in the work on which they are engaged - in some instances over a period of 27 years. No one can deny that these men have given efficient and loyal service to the department. Within the last few months a change has taken place, and the supervisor who had charge of the mail sorting department has been transferred to a higher position in the Commonwealth Public Service; I understand he has been appointed a Commissioner in the Public Service. This officer was able to carry on the service without any interruption or friction, and with the absolute co-operation and loyalty of every man in the department. It now appears that his successor has introduced a system of spying in an endeavour “ to make his marble good “ at the expense of men who have performed their duties loyally and to the complete satisfaction of his predecessors. I cannot speak too harshly of the person responsible for the conditions which now exist, and I am sorry that the Deputy Director of Post and Telegraphs in New South Wales appears to have adopted a very unfair attitude in handling the situation, and has declined to act in a conciliatory manner. The officers of the union consider that the matter should be approached in a conciliatory spirit, and that their representatives should be entitled to more consideration than they have received up to the present. This change of supervision, it is claimed by the department, has been introduced by the department on the plea that it is necessary to check the mail matter in order to eliminate unnecessary handling, to reduce the number of articles sorted at final divisions, to obviate delays, and to ascertain whether instructions are sufficient and satisfactory for the. guidance of the staff. This argument has been advanced by the Deputy Director, who is simply taking advice from the officer who has just been transferred to this department. The Deputy Director in Sydney is undoubtedly a capable man, but he has only recently taken over his position and therefore in regard to postal matters he must be guided by his officers. His decisions are based entirely on the information supplied to him. The union’s reply to the director’s contention is that the mail sorters - who incidentally, claim to have greater knowledge than the men doing the checking - have regular tests, that their daily work is a constant check, and that, in their opinion, there is some undisclosed purpose behind the supervision. As some of the men have been 27 years on the job, it seems ridiculous that men without the same previous experience in this particular class of work should introduce a system of spying which leads to discontent and friction. Furthermore, the employees say that regular tests are conducted almost every day in the year. They claim that a general sorting takes place first in what is called the primary stage, then the letters are drafted into sections according to postal divisions. They then go through another process of sorting and are tied into bundles, to which is attached a slip indicating the number of the sorter. If there is any inaccuracy it is competent for the supervisor to check where the fault lies. The sorting was satisfactorily conducted before the present system of spying and checking was introduced by the new supervisor. I cannot bring this, matter directly under the notice of the Postmaster-General, because he does not occupy a seat in this chamber. According to press reports the Deputy Director in Sydney visited Canberra to-day for the purpose of conferring with the PostmasterGeneral, but he has left again before we have had an opportunity to be informed of the contents of his report. In order to prove that there is some justification for the arguments advanced by the employees, I shall read a portion of a letter sent to the secretary of the Postal Workers Union by the Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs in which he admits that a new system has been introduced. He stated-
You represented to me a few weeks ago that a practice had been introduced without my knowledge of submitting a number of officers to a test of sorting each day. Following upon your representations inquiries were made, and I reached the conclusion that the practice in question was open to reasonable objection, and instructed that it should not proceed.
I make that point in order to show that the present supervisor of the Mails Branch has introduced new methods. The Deputy Director admits as much in his letter, and admits further that the new practices may reasonably be objected to. In the particular instance referred to the complaint was so wellfounded that he took steps to have the matter adjusted.
– How long ago was that?
– The letter is dated the 11th of June of this year. If any officer of the Postal Department attempts to have placed before this Parliament or the Minister a statement to the effect that no changes have been made and that the present system of supervision has always been in operation, the letter of the Deputy Director of Postal Services from which I have just read will constitute the most effective reply. The men very naturally object to these pinpricking methods. They are prepared to give good service, but if they are driven to it they have it in their power, by adhering strictly to the regulations, to delay the delivery of mails by two hours in the city, by five hours in the nearer country districts, and by as much as 24 hours in the more distant country districts.
– That would not be a very popular move.
– The men would merely be observing the regulations which have been laid down for their guidance. If they followed those regulations and scrutinized each letter carefully in order to read the address, and to see whether it was properly stamped, and if they weighed each article in order to see whether the full postage had been prepaid, the delivery of mails would, in some instances, be possibly delayed by 24 hours. The men feel that their case is so strong that they would be justified in adhering thus strictly to the regulations, though they have no desire to do so. They have given long years of service, and they have been doing a good job. At the present time they feel that they can take the risk of allowing letters to pass without weighing each one, as the regulations prescribe, but should this system of spying be continued, who can blame them if they cease to take that risk?
– What does the honorable member mean by a system of spying?
– A system of teste has been introduced, and extra supervisors are standing over the men and examining their work.Conditions have been imposed which never previously existed, and which are not necessary. This applies only to the mail sorters, and it has been introduced only since the new supervisor has taken over the job.
– How long ago was that?
– About three or four months ago. Until then the position was occupied by Mr. McVey, who is now second assistant Public Service Commissioner in Canberra. When he was supervisor, there was never any friction. If occasionally mail matter was sent to the wrong destination - and that isbound to happen sometimes - the matter was adjusted without difficulty, and I have yet to learn of any serious complaint regarding the conduct of the men engaged on this work.
Mr.Nock. - Have some of the matters complained of been adjusted?
– Yes, some of them have been adjusted by the Deputy Director himself, but an attempt is now being made to show that no new methods have been introduced, and that the present system of supervision has always been in operation. The Deputy Director’s own letter, however, proves that that is not so. All the men ask is that proper steps be taken to hear their complaint. I suggest that the Public Service Arbitrator, Mr. Westhoven, be authorized to visit Sydney, and investigate the matter. The Postmaster-General is not in this chamber, but I ask the Minister repre senting him to take steps to ensure that this shall be done so that further friction may be avoided.
– I do not propose to reply at length to the points raised by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley). As the honorable member has said, the Postmaster-General is not in this chamber, and so he must be represented by a Minister with no first-hand knowledge of the department concerned. As I understand this case - and I do not professto be familiar with the details - all that is occurring is that supervision of a normal and necessary kind, having regard to the intricacy of the work, and the great importance of avoiding confusion in sorting, is being carried on. However, the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has made some particular allegations, and has referred to a letter which I have not seen. I shall make an investigation into the details of his statement particularly if he will be good enough to authorize the Principal ParliamentaryReporter to allow me to have a preliminary pull of his speech before the House meets to-morrow.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.14 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 June 1937, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1937/19370617_reps_14_153/>.