14th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented : - Fibre plants and their suitability for commercial production in Australia - Report by Professor A. E. V. Richardson and Dr. B. T. Dickson, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
Ordinances of1936 -
No. 12- Motor Traffic.
No. 13 - Wild Birds Preservation. Ordinances of 1937 -
No. 1 - Leper Station and Hospital Enclosure.
No. 2 - Customs Tariff Amendment.
No. 3 - Extradition.
Motor Traffic Ordinance - Regulations.
Oil - Second Report of the Committee appointed to inquire into the question of establishing a plant in Australia for the production of oil from coal by the hydrogenation process.
Oil Production from Coal viewed from an -Australian stand-point - Report by Sir David Rivett, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
Canberra University . College - Report for year 1936.
Land Tax Assessment Act - Applications for relief from taxation dealt with during the year1936.
New Guinea Ant - Ordinances of 1937 -
No. 1 - Appropriation (No. 3) 1935-36.
No. 2 - Customs Tariff.
No. 3 - Liquor.
No. 4 - Police Offences.
No. 5 - Bills of Exchange.
No. 6 - Shipping (Maritime Convention).
No. 7 - Stump Duties.
No.8 - Administration and Probate.
No.9 - Laws Repeal and’ Adopting.
No. 10- Motor Traffic.
No. 12 - Fire Brigades.
No. 13 - Appropriation (No. 2) 1936-37.
No. 14- Supply 1937-38.
No. 15 - Foreign Judgments (Reciprocal Enforcement) .
No. 16 - Ordinances Interpretation.
No. . 17 - Superannuation.
No.18 - Native Labour.
No.. 19 - Roman Catholic (Mission of the Holy Ghost) Property Trust.
No. 20 - Roman Catholic (Marist Mission) Property Trust.
No. 21 - Roman Catholic (Sacred Heart Mission ) Property Trust.
No. 22 - Lands Registration.
No. 23 - Land.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act-
Ordinances of 1937 -
No. 2- Darwin Administration.
No. 3 - Darwin Rates.
No. 4 - Income Tax.
No. 5 - Aboriginals.
Regulations amended, &c, under - Darwin Administration Ordinance -
Darwin Public Cemetery.
Licensing of Motor Vehicles.
Income Tax Ordinance.
Station at Western Junction.
-For the last two and a half years there has been a temporary wireless broadcasting station in use at Western Junction, Tasmania. Can the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral indicate whether it is likely that a modern and permanent station will be established there?
– I regret that I cannot give the honorable member that information. I shall, however, obtain it and make it available to him.
– Will the Acting Minis ter for Defence say which States have forwarded reports in connexion with the survey of the existing position in relation to unemployed youths, reference to which is made in the Governor-General’s opening Speech? Does that reference mean that unless these reports are received, no part of the £200,000 made available by the Commonwealth for assistance to unemployed youths, can be utilized ?
– Each of the States agreed to carry out a survey to ascertain the degree of unemployment among youths between the ages of 18 and 25 years. So far three States - New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia - have furnished reports. The States that have not yet furnished reports - Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania - have been requested to do so. Until those reports are received, and proposals are submitted, which are approved by the Commonwealth, no money can be distributed toany of the States that have already reported.
Mr.BEASLEY.- Can the Acting Treasurer state whether the £200,000 proposed to be allocated by the Commonwealth to assist in the employment of youths is an entirely separate allocation and docs not in any way interfere with the amounts which would ordinarily be made available by the Commonwealth from loan moneys in accordance with the decisions of the Loan Council?
– The sum of £200,000 was referred to at. the last meeting of the Loan Council, by myself as chairman, with this request: That if it turned out to be impracticable to find the amount out of revenue, the Commonwealth should be admitted to the loan raising programme ofthe year for the purpose of providing this amount. That means that it may or may not be necessary to obtain it from the loan programme. As to the loan programme generally, a statement has been already made by the Treasurer to the Loan Council that, for the financial year1937-38, the only participation by the Commonwealth in the loan raisings will be to the extent necessary to provide for farmers’ debt adjustments. Therefore, the Commonwealth will obtain from the loan raisings for the period under consideration, first, any amount that is necessary - and a substantial amount will be necessary - for farmers’ debt adjustment, and, secondly, the sum of £200,000 for youth employment, if that amount cannot be provided out of revenue. The rest will be available to the States for their ordinary works.
Mr.Scullin. - Yes, but will the £200,000, if it be necessary to borrow the amount, represent that much more than the amount already agreed upon for theStates, or will it be taken from the total loan raisings as agreed to by the Loan Council?
– It is easier to ask that question than to answer it. When the matter was last discussed, the contemplated loan programme for 1937-38 provided for the raising of £16,000,000. Whether such an amount can be raised remains to be seen. If the amount that would normally be raised is incapable of any increase, then the £200,000 will be a subtraction from it.
-But the States will be relieved of the payment of interest on that amount.
-It will be our borrowing, and not that of the States.
– So that the States will suffer to that extent in regard to their ordinary works programmes?
– I do not want to argue the matter, but I could discuss the point whether “ suffer “ is the word that should be used in the circumstances.
– Can the Acting Treasurersay whether the State governments propose to supplement the grant of £200,000 by the Commonwealth with grants from their own unemployment relief tax funds? If. not, will he endeavour to obtain an assurance from the States that portion of the funds collected by them for employment purposes will bo used to supplement the Commonwealth grant.
– I should have imagined that the State governments would, out of the revenues available for this purpose, supplement any sum made available by the Commonwealth authorities, but that has not been stipulated by the Commonwealth as a condition of its own grant.
– Will the Assistant Minister for Defence get into touch with the three Labour governments who have not yet submitted their reports on the unemployment of youths, and ask them to expedite the presentation of the reports asked for, pointing out that their delay in thematter is causing the Commonwealth Government embarrassment in its plans to assist the States.
– The States referred to have already been communicated with. Tasmania has been urged several times to carry out the proposed survey, so that the necessary details may be made available.
– I ask the Acting Treasurer whether it is a fact that the Sydney Metropolitan Water Sewerage aud Drainage Board floated recently in London a loan of £2,000,000 at 4 per cent? Was that loan approved by the Loan Council? Was the rate of- interest paid substantially higher than that at which it was suggested that the undersubscribed conversion loan should- be raised ?
– The answer to the first two parts of the honorable gentleman’s question is “ Yes “. The third part, I believe, would be effectively answered if I were given leave to make a short statement in connexion with the conversion loan. [Leave given.’]
As honorable members are aware, an Australian conversion loan for an amount of approximately- £12,360,000 was issued recently in London with the approval of the Loan Council. This represented part of the debt of New South Wales, and wa3 previously converted in October, 1932, from an old issue bearing interest at the rate of £5 15s. Od. per cent, into a shortterm issue at the nominal rate of 3£ per cent., yielding £4 ls. 2d. The short-term loan then issued falls due for redemption on the 1st November next, and the present operation was necessary to meet the forthcoming maturity. The terms of the new loan are as follows: - Interest rate per cent., price of issue £98 10s. 0d., with a currency of 15 years, with an option to the Commonwealth to redeem at the end of 13 years. These terms represent an improvement of 5s. per cent, on those secured at the previous conversion in 1932, as the new yield to the investor will be £3 16s. 2d. per annum over the full period of the loan, compared with the previous yield of £4 ls. 2d. The annual saving of interest and exchange calculate! on the effective yield of the o-ld and new loans, is approximately £45,000 per annum, all of which will accrue to the State of New South Wales. The final result of the loan is, that the underwriters will take up 52.75 per cent, of the total issue. The nominal rate of interest, 3-J per cent., is the rate now accepted in London as appropriate for first-class borrowers. This is an increase on the rate of 3 per cent, which prevailed some months ago, the increase being due to the general decline of prices of all giltedged securities on the London market.
– Lang is not in office now ; he cannot be blamed.
– The honorable gentleman is quite right; frequently he is’ almost up to date. The issue was made with the consent of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the terms were arrived at with the advice and co-operation of the underwriters, the Treasurer, and the High Commissioner.
– What was the effective yield of the 4 per cent, loan raised by the Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board?
– It was issued at par ; therefore the effective yield was 4 per cent.
– Can the Acting Treasurer inform the House of the reasons why-the latest conversion loan in London was launched at a stage when, according to advices received, the actual necessity for the operation does not arise until November, and the terms are so unfavorable ?
– The maturity of this loan was the 1st November, as the honorable gentleman has pointed out, but two. circumstances made it necessary for the Commonwealth to take steps to effect the conversion of the loan at an earlier date. The first reason lies in the fact that provision has to be made commonly for the payment of moneys relating to the application over a period of time, which normally would be a period of three months. In order, therefore, that the whole of the money for redemption purposes might be in hand by the 1st November, it was necessary to go on the market at a date earlier than the date of maturity. The second factor which necessitated the Government going on the market when it did was that the month of August is a close month for transactions of this nature.
– Does the Commonwealth Government pay double “interest for that period?
– No ; but August is a holiday month, and business of this kind can be transacted only with difficulty. The selection of the particular time for the launching of the conversion was made after consultations between the Treasurer and the advisers of the Commonwealth in London had taken place, and the best advice on the matter had been received.
– With reference to the £2,000,000 loan launched in London at 4 per cent. less 5s. per cent. discount on behalf of the Government of New South Wales though nominally on behalf of the Sydney Metropolitan Water and Sewerage Board, can the Acting Treasurer advise the House whether the Commonwealth Government or Loan Council was consulted prior to this issue regarding the wisdom of again commencing borrowing overseas and particularly in connexion with this issue? Furthermore, did the Commonwealth Government take any action or has it any information in regard to this matter ?
– The loan that was issued in London on behalf of the Sydney Water Board was submitted to the Loan Council for approval, and was, in fact, approved by it.
– As the Loan Council, on which the Commonwealth Government has two votes, and sometimes three, has now acquiesced in an overseas loan, will the Minister representing the Treasurer explain whether this can be taken as an indication that the Commonwealth Government is in favour of once again resuming overseas borrowing, which previously got this country into an unfortunate position ?
– Order ! The honorable member’s comment is not in order. The purpose of a question is to elicit information.
– The decision of the Loan Council may be taken as one of the moment, relating solely to the application before it.
– I ask the Acting Treasurer whether, when the Estimates for next financial year ate being prepared, consideration will be given to the making of a more liberal provision for the Commonwealth Literary Fund so that a measure of justice may be done to Australian writers?
– The observations of the right honorable member on this subject on a previous occasion will not be overlooked.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister the following questions : -
– I understand that the members of the Public Works Committee have been chosen in accordance with the practice that has been in vogue for the appointment of such members since the inception of federation. I am sure that any proposed public works submitted to the committee for investigation will be given impartial consideration.
– In connexion with the making of appointments to the proposed interstate commission, I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he and his colleagues will consider the justice and wisdom of allowing the Australian Labour Party to nominate a member ?
– If the honorable member will place that suggestion before the Government it will receive consideration.
– I ask the Minister for
Trade and Customs whether the Government has given notice to the Government of Canada or the Government of Great Britain of its wishes in relation to the Ottawa Agreement, or has either of the other governments given such notice ?
– That questiondeals with a matter of policy, and cannot be answered on a question without notice.
Rose Bay Site
– I ask the Acting Minister for Defence whether the final report of the survey committee appointed to investigate sites for the establishment of air mail bases has been received ? If so, is it a fact that the final survey, in relation to the Sydney base, was made during the height of the recent cyclonic disturbance under conditions that forced the cancellation of all air departures? Will the Minister see that the survey committee bases its report respecting the depth of water required at the various sites on the latest charts available, and noton those in use in 1871?
– The recent investigation was made immediately following the return of the survey committee from the Northern Territory, and was commenced on Friday, the 18th June.
– Did they bring down some of the Japanese to help them ?
– I have frequently asked honorable members not to interject or interrupt while a Minister is replying to a question. Such conduct is grossly disorderly. It should be remembered that not only the questioner, but also other honorable members of the House are interested in the replies of Ministers.
– The report of the committee has now reached me, but I have not yet had time to submit it to the Government for full consideration. As the honorable member has suggested, a part of the investigation of the committee was carried out during a storm which only served to prove that the contention that Botany Bay was very rough in bad weather was fully borne out.
– Is it a fact that the runways necessary for the landing and. taking off of flying boats for the air-mail service may require to be from 11/4to 11/2 miles long? If that is so, is it not a fact that, in the event of a base being established at Rose Bay, the aircraft used for the service will, in certain winds, require to cross the present ferry and deep-sea steamer routes, and, in the case of a westerly wind, will need to go almost as far as Clarke Island? Does not the Minister think, in the case of fog and low visibility, or night flying, that, in such circumstances, danger to human life would be unavoidable?
– I can only say that I must be guided by the reports of the experts on such a subject, and they have no doubt taken into consideration all the facts mentioned by the honorable member.
Pearl-shell Industry - Base at Darwin - Arrest of Japanese Sampans.
– Will the Minister for the Interior inform me whether the Government has dealt with a request made some time ago by the Japanese pearling interests for a pearling base adjacent to Darwin? Has the Government decided to refuse or to grant the request ?
– I know nothing of any such request excepting what I have read in the press.
– With reference to the patrol boat Larrakia, will the Minister for the Interior arrange to lay on the table of the House all communications, including telegrams and messages, which have passed ‘ between himself and the Administrator of the Northern Territory and any other communications sent by or on behalf of himself or received by or on behalf of himself in connexion with this matter?
– I shall look into the matter in order to see what can be done.
– On the 20th May last I wrote to the Department of the Interior with reference to the proposed establishment of a base at Darwin for the Japanese sampans, and I received the following reply: -
I desire to inform you that, as indicated in my letter of 3rd May, 1937, inquiries are being made regarding this matter. A further communication will be addressed to you in this regard as soon as possible. .
I now ask the Minister for the Interior if he is in a position to supply me with the required information? More than a month has passed since I addressed my letter to the Department of the Interior, and I consider that it is only fair that I should be given a satisfactory reply.
– I shall be glad to let the honorable gentleman have all the information that I can obtain regarding this matter, but I can assure him that I have received no official information of any kind or from any source with reference to the report which appeared inthe press that a base for the Japanese pearlers should be established at Darwin.
– In view of the inclement weather conditions experienced frequently between Melbourne and Launceston, and the considerable delays that occur in the delivery of mails at Hobart under the existing system, which involves delays to shipping in both the Tamar and Yarra rivers, I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether consideration will be given to the inauguration of a daily ordinary air mail service between Melbourne and Hobart, with a view to the giving of greater assistance to trade and commerce in Tasmania, and bringing the people of thatState into closer touch with those of the mainland?
– The subject mentioned by the honorable member was brought under the notice of the Assistant Minister for Commerce and myself in Tasmania recently and is receiving consideration.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform me whether the report of the Tariff Board on malleable fittings has been received, or when it is expected?
– That report is at present being considered by the Government.
– Will the Acting Minister for Defence inform the House whether it is the intention of the Govern ment to give urgent consideration to the necessity for developing airports in Queensland ?
– That matter has already been considered by the Commonwealth Government, and steps are being taken in the plans which are being worked out at the present time in order to give full and sympathetic consideration to the requirements of Queensland and northern Australia in this respect.
– Some little time ago I wrote to the Acting Minister for Defence asking him to supply me with the value of arms and munitions imported into Australia for defence purposes over a period of years, and particularly relating to the latest year. The honorable gentleman wrote to me that it was undesirable to make available the information. ‘ I then put my question on the notice-paper, and a similar answer was given to me at the last sitting. I now desire to ask the honorable gentleman: how does he conceive it to be possible for the Opposition to understand what is essential in respect of the provision of arms and munitions for the effective defence of Australia if it is denied information regarding that portion of the defence equipment of the Commonwealth which the Government now imports from overseas?
– I have furnished the Leader of the Opposition with the replies which hehas mentioned, explaining that it was not in the best interests of the Commonwealth that I should disclose publicly the information for which he asked. If the honorable gentleman, as Leader of the Opposition, desires such particulars I am quite prepared to make available to him a considerable amount of information that I am not prepared to announce publicly.
– Has the Assistant Minister, for Commerce (Senator Brennan) yet made a report on his visit to Tasmania? If so, when will his observations upon the subjects into which he inquired be made available to honorable members ?
– The information will be furnished to honorable members at an appropriate time.
– Is the Acting Prime Minister aware that, owing to the increased price of wheat and its byproducts, the poultry farmers who use these products for the feeding of their poultry are in a serious position financially? Will the Government consider taking some action to assist them, as they are rapidly approaching a condition of hopeless bankruptcy?
– Last week, in reply to a question, I said that the Government; was giving consideration to representations which had been received from the poultry farmers in this respect.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) - by leave - agreed to -
That unless otherwise ordered, this House shall meet on each Tuesday at 3 o’clock p.m. ; on each Wednesday and Thursday at 2.30 o’clock p.m. ; and on each Friday at 10.30 o’clock n.m.
– Can the Acting Minister for Defence state whether it is the policy of the Government to permit private enterprise to embark upon the manufacture of arms, munitions and warlike equipment, for the Government, or is it opposed to this policy?
– I cannot disclose matters of policy in answer to a question without notice.
– Is it correct, as stated in Saturday’s press, that the Pacific Peace Pact suggested by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has been rejected by the British Foreign Office, and that the only reason for not announcing this fact sooner was because of a desire, during the sitting of the Imperial Conference, to flatter the Australian Prime Minister?
– There is no truth whatsoever in that statement.
– Having regard to the fact that the price of metals, and particularly of iron and steel, has soared so high since the introduction of the British War Budget, and the inauguration of the Commonwealth Government’s defence policy, will the Government take some action to put an end to this wholesale gambling by fixing the prices for metals, and of iron and steel products?
– I think that everybody will recognize Australia’s desire for peace. However, our control over the great nations of Europe is infinitesimal, but what Australia can do to ensure peace in the world it has been doing in association with the British Commonwealth of Nations, and with the League of Nations.
– The Acting Prime Minister seems to have misunderstood me. I asked whether, in view of the rapid rise in the price of metals, the Government will take steps to prevent further gambling and profiteering by fixing prices which” would ensure a reasonable rate of profit, and no more.
– I do not know whether the honorable member refers to profiteering in Australia or abroad.
– I mean in Australia.
– The fact is that the price of steel is lower in Australia at the present time than it is in Britain.
– Has the Minister for Customs yet reached a decision regarding the proposal to import Chinese eggs?
– I think that the honorable member must have been reading the press lately. The Customs Department has been making an endeavour to clarify some of the generic items which operate harshly against China’s trade, and during the last few years several alterations have been made. The question of 100- year-old eggs came up for review, and was referred to the Egg Board. I am not in a position to state what .the board had to say about it, but the matter is now before, the department.
– What saving in freight on wool shipped to Great Britain has been effected by the new agreement on the subject?
– The saving will be’ one-eighth of a penny per lb.
– Seeing that the statistics for the first five months of this year show a considerable slump in the building trade, and in view of the fact that the Government has taken full credit for the present boom in the trade, will it also accept responsibility for the slump ?
– There is no evidence of any slump at the present time. The unemployment figures are now lower than they have been for many years.
– In view of the statement by the Acting Prime Minister that there is no slump in Australia at the present time-
– Order ! It is not in order to base a question on a previous question or the reply thereto.
– In view of press reports, and statements made by the Acting Prime Minister during the Gwydir by-election campaign that prosperity had returned to Australia, will he see that the . invalid and old-age pensioners are immediately granted £1 a week ?
– The invalid and old-age pensioners are paid in accordance with the law, which provides that, when the cost of living index figures rise to the level at which they stood in 1929, they should receive £1 a week.
Mr. SPEAKER laid on the table his warrant nominating Mr. Collins, Mr. E. F. Harrison, Mr. John Lawson, Mr. Makin, Mr. Martens, Mr. Nairn, Mr. Nock, and Mr. Rosevear to act as Temporary Chairmen of Committees when requested so to do by the Chairman of Committees.
Debate resumed from the 18th June (vide page 101) on motion by Mr. Holt -
That the following Address-in-Reply to His Excellency the Governor-General’s Speech, be agreed to -
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.
.- Having listened to the speech delivered by His Excellency the Governor-General, I find little in it to arouse enthusiasm regarding the proposals of the Government. I remind honorable members how little this Government has done to implement its policy for assisting the large number of unemployed youths throughout the Commonwealth. I had expected that by this time the. Government would have accomplished something of a practical nature. My interest in this matter has been aroused by the distressing circumstances which have come under my notice as the result of personal observation and contact with many distressed parents who have made commendable and substantial sacrifices to educate their children until they reach an age at which they should be able to fend for themselves. As far back as August, 1934, attention was directed to this matter by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), who, in his policy speech, stated -
The Commonwealth Government proposes that practical and enlarged efforts to relieve unemployment, with particular reference to the needs of youth, will take precedence over other Commonwealth activities.
Years have elapsed, and now, three months before another federal election, we are promised that a scheme will be drawn up for the benefit of unemployed youths. No doubt many of the electors voted for supporters of the Lyons. Government on the strength of the promise given in 1934. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has apparently trifled with the subject, and, from time to time, has merely deferred the issue. In February last, nearly three years after his promise, he called a. conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers which recommended that a committee, to be called the Youth Employment Committee, should be established to draw up plans covering finance, vocational training and the absorption of youth into employment, and that each State should carry out a complete survey and registration of unemployed youths, the term “youth” to include all males under 25 years of age and not attending school. Subsequent to this conference, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has done nothing. I may say here in reply to a statement made by the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) that the Tasmanian Labour Government has done everything to meet the wishes of the Commonwealth Government in this connexion, and that there has been no delay in supplying a register of unemployed youths in Tasmania. No doubt the position in respect of employment in Tasmania is so good that the task was not a very heavy one, though it was made more onerous by the Commonwealth’s demand for a register of youths from nineteen to 25 years, most of whom are either receiving sustenance- in some way, or already employed in dead-end jobs. The Labour Government of Tasmania is doing everything possible to assist the Commonwealth Government in regard to this matter, and has done nothing in any way to embarrass it, being fully seised of its importance. Although much has been claimed for the Commonwealth scheme, I am, however, not too optimistic in regard to what it will achieve. Immediately after summoning the conference the Prime Minister left to attend the Coronation celebrations; obviously while he is abroad he will not be able to do anything to redeem his promise to look after the interests of the unemployed youths, nor will he ‘be worried over the problem. It was stated in February last that the total number of unemployed youths in Tasmania was 1,341, of whom 1,071 were between the ages of fifteen and nineteen years, and 270 <were 20 years of age. That gives some indication that the policy upon which this Government has embarked in regard to the employment of youths will not touch a great number of those, who to-day, are out of employment.
Until a youth reaches the age of eighteen years he cannot register to receive assistance” from the State government. The Prime Minister has adopted a cheese-paring policy in regard to this all-important matter. The total number of youths between the ages of fifteen and 20 years said to be flitting about, on the unemployed market of Australia and supported by their parents has been stated to be 2”5,748. Of these 12,187 reside in New South Wales, a State controlled by a “ magnificent “’ United Australia, party’ Government, led by Mr. Stevens, who himself is a great supporter of the present Commonwealth Government: The figures which I have given, I should say, are quite conservative; I am very much afraid that there is a greater number of youths out of employment in Tasmania. Over 1,000 youths leave the State schools in Tasmania each year, and probably a couple of hundred leave private schools. If this is so, having regard to the limited scope for the employment of youth in Tasmania, I should say that there are more like 3,000 youths out of employment in that State, including of course boys from fourteen years upwards. When a person is between nineteen and 25 he can no longer be considered a youth. Many people between those ages are already married with family responsibilities, and are either working or receiving sustenance. It was distressing to me as a public man to find that in Denison as in other parts of Australia many youths have their morale smashed and their very self-respect sapped by having nothing to do. What will posterity think in 100 years from now about the present Government’s wickedness in demoralizing the youth of the community by not affording them means of earning their living, and practising their God-given endowments in directions for which they are fitted? It is a crime against the future to treat the youth of this country as the Prime Minister and his Government have done. Instead of wasting money on ministerial jaunts abroad the right honorable gentleman would have been much better employed in applying the money to some scheme designed to secure employment for the workless young people of this country. A government that debarred the youth of Australia following the occupations for which they were fitted will be regarded by posterity 100 years hence in the same light as people now regard the state of civilization 100 years ago, when little toddlers were employed in the coal-mines of Great Britain and other parts of the British Empire. .
On the eve of “a general election the Prime Minister’s tactical colleagues have determined upon a £400,000 plan to cover a three years’ scheme for youth employment, £200,000 of which has been earmarked for expenditure in the following year. This plan, however, is only a bluff intended to delude ‘ the electors into believing that the Federal United Australia ‘ Party Government intends to do something for the employment of youth, and to cover up its broken promises of earlier years. It is proposed to train youths between the ages of .18 and 25 years for skilled industries and commercial and rural occupations, and to provide vocational training. It reminds me of the building of a house on sand. “What is necessary to make the scheme a success is the inauguration of a system of vocational guidance in the State and public schools of Australia with subsequent training in technical schools. Such a system would require the co-operation of schools, employers and employees alike. Under it youths would receive training at an impressionable age when they would be best fitted to profit by the knowledge imparted to them. To meet the needs of those living in isolated parts of the Commonwealth, and, therefore, unable to reach the technical schools, it would be necessary to institute a system of vocational guidance by correspondence. I have sought information on this subject from all parts of the world, and I find that Australia is the only country in the world in which an endeavour is made to make tradesmen out of youths between the ages of 18 and 25 years. Although the system of government in Germany is altogether different from the democratic system that exists in Australia, that country is entitled to credit for leading the world in vocational training and technical’ education.
– Technical education is’ a State responsibility; this is a different, proposition.
– Why is the Government proposing to put into operation a scheme that it knows must fail? This is merely eyewash, to induce the people to believe that the Government is fulfilling iti. obligations to the youths of this country. A trade cannot be properly learned after one has reached the age of nineteen years. In no other country has a scheme such as this been adopted. In Germany it is compulsory for every boy and girl, after leaving the compulsory full-day schools at about the age of fourteen years, to attend a technical school for at least one day a week until he or she reaches the age of eighteen years, the time spent in instruction, being from eight to nine hours daily. Employers are compelled by law to allow boys and girls who are employed by them to attend these schools. There is an organization of employers which, through a. special department established . and financed by them, provides detailed courses complete with drawings, instructions, &s., in book form, for the guidance of the schools in respect of some 60 trades. Co-operation is the guiding principle between industry and schools. Every possible vocation is provided for, from waiters in hotels, hairdressing, &c, up l.o watch-making, precision engineering, and the most skilled trades. Germany still believes in many features of the guild system of apprenticeship for all vocations, the period of training being generally about three or four years. The training given by the employer is sup* plemented by the one day a week technical school training, which include* both theoretical and practical workshop instruction, and the hoy or girl must pass a test at the end of the period to satisfy a board of employers and employees in the trade that the required knowledge and skill have been acquired, before he or she is allowed to continue to work at the trade.
The Government could also learn a good deal from a study of. the English method of dealing with this problem. The South-East Essex Technical College is carrying out in its new day school a secondary technical experiment in education which the principal hopes will “provide in England an answer to the lament of industrialists that we need brains for industry as much as for the professions and the university “. Children between the ages of eleven and thirteen years are admitted to the school. Until they are
Thirteen years of age, secondary school education of the ordinary type is given. Then, after consultations have taken place between parents, teachers and children, the pupils continue their secondary education with a technical bias in the direction of their natural bent. Boys may begin to study art or engineering, anc! girls, dress designing or commerce. Those with an academic bent are drafted 10 ordinary secondary schools in the district. The college, which has cost £200,000; is equipped for the educational, social, and physical needs of more than 6,000 men, women and children. At the evening classes, an employee of an engineering firm earning £1,000 a year sits side by side with sixteen-year-old boys who are earning less than £1 a week. The sum of £10,000 has been spent on machinery for the college workshops, where various trades are taught, and there are a draper’s shop, a grocery store, and a model office, complete with adding machines and dictaphones. That members of the United Australia party are not interested in this subject of the employment of the youth of this country is proved by their absence from the chamber.
– Where are the honorable member’s colleagues?
– When the party of which I am a member is returned at the next elections, one of its first problems will be the remedying of the deplorable state of affairs that exists in connexion with the unemployment of youths. You know very well, Mr. Speaker, that the youths of this country have been allowed to drift in idleness about the streets of the cities and towns of Australia, and, being unskilled, have to bo supported by the different States.
– Does that apply in Tasmania?
– In Tasmania, the unemployment statistics are the lowest in Australia, the highest figure being in those States which are governed by the United Australia party.
– In Tasmania, employment is found by means of the Commonwealth grant.
– Tasmania has received from the Commonwealth only that to which it has been entitled. We have had a hard fight to get this Government to recognize its responsibilities to that State. Unskilled labour is recruited principally from youths who have had no industrial training. This field of employment is largely overstocked, because a large number of youths in their early years of work received no adequate training. This state of affairs is probably due to lack of facilities for technical education; or of measures for affording educational guidance. In Australia the latter factor would appear to be the dominant one. I am not saying that technical education is neglected in this country. I admit that in industrial centres, particularly, there is adequate provision in regard to technical schools. It is safe to say that these facilities have been greatly improved since the Labour party assumed office in ‘ Tasmania. I pay a tribute to the Labour Government of that State, led by “Mr. Ogilvie, for having improved technical education, and for the assistance it has rendered with the limited financial resources at its disposal. What is wanted is vocational guidance, and some means of establishing those who are afforded such guidance. The students who pass through technical schools are guided in the choice of a future career, but these comprise the minority. There is no general guidance as to future careers in respect of boys and girls approaching the leaving age, with the result that they and their parents are left to make their own choice of an occupation without possessing the necessary information. This is a vital problem which awaits solution by our educational authorities. A fitting culmination of the education of boys and girls would be guidance towards occupations in which their chances of success are greatest. The Commonwealth should assist the governments of the States to shoulder this obligation. I challenge the Minister to show that such assistance is not practicable. To be successful, a knowledge of the individuals to be advised is necessary.
Their suitability for different occupations, and the condition of the labour market, must be known. The first two sections of the problem are the responsibility of the educational authorities, and the Commonwealth Government, with the co-operation of the States, should be the channel through which information in respect of the condition qf the labour market is made known. The economic and social importance of vocational guidance is now so generally recognized by deep thinking public men that it hardly needs to be emphasized. Apart from the value of selecting workers to increase the output of labour, it is no exaggeration to say that vocational guidance would improve industrial organization, raise the status of the working class, improve the existing methods for the recruitment of labour, and help to secure a reasonable wage for the worker.
Even at this late hour I appeal to the Government to propound a broader scheme for assisting the youth of this country. Vocational training, when applied to the members of the Australian Imperial Force on their return from abroad, proved a complete failure. I understand that not more than 3 per cent, of those who were trained proved successful. It is useless for the Government to say that an untrained youth can be made a tradesman in two or three years. Careful technical training and practical experience are necessary.
The other day the Attorney-General sarcastically referred to the Sandy Bayrifle range as being so small that the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) would not be visible if he were in the middle of it. So long as the Government fails in its duty to Tasmania, I shall continue to raise in this House matters that are of interest to that State. Some of the finest men who went abroad in defence of this country were trained on that little rifle range at Sandy Bay. A different site should now be found for the rifle range, because its present location is becoming one of the most thickly populated parts of Hobart. It is not in my electorate, consequently, in a political sense, I have nothing to gain in the matter.
Stress has been laid on the financial assistance that has been granted to Tasmania since the present Prime Minister entered the Commonwealth Parliament. Tasmania has been entitled to all that it has received; and it wants more. The amount of the grant has risen by leaps and bounds since Labour members have been returned to this House. Although the Government claims to have accepted the recommendations of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, the State Treasurer has informed me that all of those recommendations have not been given effect. Tasmania is entitled to the £50,000 which the commission recommended for forestry work. We intend to continue to fight until our State gets its rights.
I was distressed on Thursday night to hear the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) paint such a tragic picture of the drought-stricken conditions and poverty of Queensland. He said that millions of sheep and cattle were dying there. The honorable gentleman’s speech did immense damage to the State from which he comes, for I know of a person who had intended to invest up to £80,000 in Queensland, but, after hearing that speech, decided to take his money elsewhere.
The speeches of the Attorney-General on financial assistance to Tasmania lost hundreds of votes for his party in that State. Of course, I am well pleased on that account. The right honorable gentleman said that he had no intention to say anything nasty about Tasmania.. Actually, of course, he was trying to get on the soft side of you, Mr. Speaker.
I wish to make another appeal for more generous’ treatment to Tasmania in respect of mail services. Hobart is suffering seriously because of the frequent dislocation of the mail services from the mainland. The Attorney-General said that he had received a deputation on this subject while he was in Tasmania. So far as I know the only deputation arranged on the subject waited upon Senator Brennan. The AttorneyGeneral’s visit was anything but an outstanding success. On one occasion he addressed a meeting of 150 people at the Town Hall. Of these about 75 per cent. were really Labour supporters. He also attended an afternoon tea party arranged by the Nationalist women’s organization. To those present he made a statement that by voting for Labour they were dishonouring the principles of their organization. He appealed to them to. adhere to their principles. Of course, we all know that the United Australia party is the unemployment and poverty party. Tasmania is entitled to a regular daily air mail service between Melbourne and Launceston under conditions which will allow of an extension to Hobart, so that letters may be delivered on the day they leave Melbourne. As things are, the vessels which carry the mails are often delayed for many hours on end in either the Yarra or the Tamar River. On one occasion the mails were held up for nine hours. In my opinion, the only effective way to remedy the present unsatisfactory state of affairs is to inaugurate an aerial service to carry the ordinary mails daily from the mainland to Tasmania. If such a service were provided the people of Tasmania would begin to feel that they were really regarded as Australians. At any rate, they would be brought into more effective contact with the trade and commerce of the mainland.
I wish now to say a few words about the unsatisfactory infant and maternal mortality rate in Australia. The members and supporters of this Government, and particularly the Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes), have said so frequently that they are interested in effecting an improvement of present conditions that they have, perhaps, come to believe that they are doing so. Their actions do not support their words. About 800 mothers die in childbirth in Australia every year and about 2,000 infants die annually in this country many of them through preventable causes. The Minister for Health has declared again and again that Australia needs population, and that we must do everything possible to encourage natural increase. Unfortunately, however, many mothers and children in this country are living in dire poverty which this Government has done little to alleviate. The Prime Minister promised in his policy speech in 1934, that effective steps would be taken to safeguard the interests of the mothers and children of Australia, but practically nothing has been done to fulfil that undertaking. When a Labour Government comes into office, it will’ at once take steps to inaugurate a child endowment scheme and provide the money for it out of consolidated revenue. At present the mothers of Australia have two great dreads - that the boys whom they bring into the world may ultimately be conscripted for service on overseas battlefields, and that their husbands may die and leave them without means to keep their children. Unfortunately we have no Commonwealth widows’ and orphans’ pensions. If such were provided, the birthrate would immediately improve. The present Administration, however, is known far and wide as the Depression Government, and it has failed to do anything effective along the lines. It has actually been a government of frustration, and some day, perhaps, we shall see in the museums of this country pictures of the ministers in this Cabinet, which will serve to remind us that their administration was actually a government of frustration of youth, motherhood, and social advancement. The people of this country have been denied their rights since the present Government has been in office.
– The honorable member has said things like that for the last 25 years.
– I have never said that I would do anything that I could not accomplish.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I do not propose to follow the line pursued by the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney), who occupied almost the whole of his available time by dealing with matters that were more or less of State concern. What I wish to say about the honorable gentleman’s speech, I shall reserve for a little later.
I offer my congratulations to the mover and seconder of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply upon the able speeches that they delivered. I also congratulate the two new members of the Opposition party upon their maiden speeches in the House.
I express my pleasure at the restoration of the sound parliamentary practice of opening each session of the Parliament by a speech from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, indicating the work proposed to be done, and reviewing the major happenings of the recess.
The speech delivered last Friday by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin),’ was of special interest to me. I always listen with attention to the honorable gentleman’s remarks. Obviously on this occasion the honorable gentleman spoke with an eye on the coming general election. By continuing to declare that the Labour party is optimistic respecting the future, I have no doubt that he will come, in a measure, to believe that he has grounds for his optimism. I propose to show that the reasons he advanced for this outlook are unsound. The Leader of the Opposition seemed to consider that the result of the recent referendum and also of the Gwydir byelection justified his optimism. He clearly stated that his chief claim was based on the result of the recent referendum. Personally, I can see nothing in the result of the referendum that should give him any reason for encouragement, or lead to the belief that it. foreshadows success for Labour at th, coming election.
I look upon the recent referendum as simply another slaughtered innocent. All political parties have submitted to the people proposals for the alteration of the Constitution. Seven such proposals have been made. The Deakin Government submitted one in 1.906, another in 1910; the Fisher Government submitted one in 1911 and another in 1913; the Hughes Government submitted one in 1919: the Bruce-Page Government submitted one in 1926 and another in 1928. Apart from an affirmative vote on a minor matter in 19.10, all of these proposals were defeated except one. For this reason, I say that the recent referendum was simply, in effect, another slaughtered innocent. Our constitutional history shows clearly over a long period of years that there is little hope of the people of Australia agreeing to the alteration of the Constitution by referendum without long discussion by both Federal and State Parliaments.
Let us look at the attitude adopted by the Labour party in connexion with the recent appeal to the people. The Queensland Labour Government and its . supporters professed to favour an affirmative vo’te. Instructions were issued to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson), the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker), the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens), and the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) to advocate an affirmative vote. The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Collings) and his colleagues were also directed to support the Government’s policy. The Leader of the State Labour Government officially opened the “ Yes “ campaign in Queensland. In these circumstances, if any repercussion occurs adversely to supporters of the Government, it must also effect the members of the Opposition to whom I have referred. In Victoria and South Australia the Labour party, almost to a man, supported the Government’s proposals. On the other hand, no opposition to the referendum was stronger than that of the members of the Lang section of the Labour party in New South Wales. Admittedly, those honorable gentlemen were solid and decisive in their antagonism to the proposals. It must be apparent, therefore, that the Labour party, as an organization, was completely disorganized on that occasion. There can, therefore, be no genuine encouragement for the Leader of the Opposition from the result of the referendum.
A strong endeavour is being made by the Leader of the Opposition to develop a. belief that the present Government io facing defeat. The Lang section of the Labour party also endeavoured over a long period to create a similar psychological outlook by repeating the cry “ Lang is right “. Fortunately, the people of New South Wales are never likely to listen to, or accept, that slogan,’ and the policy of the Leader of the Opposition is less likely than ever to secure the approval of the people since the Lang influence has begun to dominate the ranks of his party.
The Lyons Government record is sun; to be appreciated by the people. I ask honorable members to bear with me while I direct attention to a metropolitan press comment in eulogy of the present Administration headed “ Sanity Always.” lt reads as follows: -
Good government has played a part, second only to the return of prosperity, in making Australia one of the most favoured countries of the world. The return of prosperity, and of payable prices for primary products, could not have rehabilitated the Commonwealth if there had not been good government. The people responded to a call to meet their difficulties with courage and honesty so that they could, with good conscience, enjoy the benefits of better times when in due course they came. The counsel of despair and the gospel of dishonour were .rejected with an emphasis that won world-wide admiration. The programme which was outlined by His Excellency the Governor-General to the Commonwealth Parliament was sufficient indication that the Ministry is prepared to build on the solid foundation that it has laid.
Cl itics who have no more substantial matter to urge appear to he relying on time to furnish mi argument against the Lyons Ministry. There is n petulantly expressed hope that the people, having had experience of good government for six years, will have become wearied with it and will revert in impatience to the uncertainties and the dangers from which they hod been rescued. A political ..party will not lie permitted to ride into office on such slender claims. The Opposition will be compelled, on the election platform, to reveal what it has to offer and to convince the people that it lias abandoned its socialistic pOliCY and its ambition to govern the private affairs of a democratic community. The Labour party has nol; given any indication that it repents of the Attempts to manufacture money “while you wait “ and to circulate the proceeds among an expectant community. The Labour party cannot abandon this part of the programme without abandoning the whole, because Labour’s fantastic schemes of social and economic reconstruction are based on the repeated assertion that money can bo drawn from the air by the extension of. credit. 1 am confident that these views .will bc shared by the overwhelming majority of the people of Australia at the forthcoming general elections.
The Governor-General’s Speech also makes reference to the marked industrial and financial recovery which has taken place throughout Australia, since the advent of the Lyons Government. This improvement has been brought about in two ways. First, certain forms of taxa-tion have been abolished, while others have been reduced, thereby lightening the burden on industry and lowering the costs of production. Secondly, benefits and payments to the people have been increased through the medium of bounties amounting to £20,000,000 on exported production, in order to stimulate industry. The cumulative effect of remissions of taxes by the Lyons Government can be set down at £45,000,000.
Invalid and old-age pensions have been increased progressively from 15s. to 17s. 6’d., to 1Ss., and at the present time, to 19s. a week, representing a total liability of £14,000,000 per annum, and I hope that these pensions will be increased at the earliest opportunity to £1. The maternity bonus has also been increased, to a maximum of £5, which will cost taxpayers another £55,000 per annum. In all branches of the Federal Public Service, there has been a total . restoration of salaries cuts, and this cannot be said of the public services of some of the States. For the wai’ pensioners, the Government has made provision for the restoration of commuted pensions, and increased pensions payable to wives and children. Provision has also been made for the granting of service pensions to unemployable soldiers and a special pension for those suffering from tuberculosis and their wives and dependants, at a total cost of £500,000. In addition, the eligible age for the receipt of an old-age service pension has been reduced by five years to returned soldiers and war nurses. Special .concessions have been granted to the blinded, partially blinded, and limbless soldiers.
Interest on war service homes has been progressively reduced from 5 per cent, to 44 per cent., and further to 4 per cent., with a very generous provision whereby security of tenure is granted to widows and widowed mothers of returned soldier purchasers and to the wives of insane purchasers. It provides, where necessary, for the payment into trust funds of the balance of instalments, insurance, rates, and cost of repairs.
Under the heading of taxation, the Government has abolished the Federal Entertainments Tax, and removed the super tax on income derived from property, which was originally as high as 10 per cent., representing a cut of £1,500,000. Land tax has been reduced by one-half, and the sales tax waa reduced from 6 per cent, to 5 per cent., and later to 4 per cent., while, in addition, a very extensive list of items, such as all implements, machinery, and materials used in connexion with primary industry, including mining, fishing, and forestry, and all hospital requirements and nearly all foodstuffs, has been exempted from sales tax. The recent additions ‘to the list of exemptions include tea, coffee, and cocoa, all classes of footwear, lubricating oil, and many other items. In order to facilitate the development of our secondary industries, primage duty has been reduced year by year,. and in 1936-37, this concession totalled £128,000.
– On what page of the Governor-General’s Speech does that information appear?
– I stated that the GovernorGeneral’s Speech clearly indicated that the Lyons Government has granted substantial benefits in order to facilitate the expansion of industry. The Speech made reference to the marked financial and industrial recovery that is taking place throughout Australia, and the reductions of taxes, if the honorable gentleman is not aware of the fact, have materially assisted the development of the industry. It is my object to indicate the nature of such reductions. The reduction of income tax by 10 per cent. is equivalent to 2s. in the £1, and together with additional reductions, decreased last year the burden of taxes payable by industry and private individuals by nearly £435,000.
There has also been a downward revision of tariff duties which has reduced the cost of the importation of raw materials required by our manufacturing industries; and a huge saving in general finances has also been accomplished. In the last few years, the London debt of £198,300,000 has been converted, the interest rate having been reduced by l£ per cent., making a saving of £4,000,000 per annum in interest and exchange. In 1930-31, the average amount of interest on overseas debt was £9 10s.1d. per capita, but last year . it was reduced to £7 8s. 9d., making a per capita saving of nearly £2 2s. on the overseas interest bill. In the last four years the Commonwealth public debt has been reduced by £7,845,000, while State -debts for the same period have been increased by £75,799,000. For the two years 1935-36 to 1936-37, the payments to the National Debt Sinking Fund amount, to £18,750,000. The net result of all this effort on the part of the Lyons Composite Government has been to re-establish confidence in Australia, both at home and abroad, with the result that more than £10,000,000 of new capital has been attracted into Australian industries.
Employment has been increased until the position in the Commonwealth is now almost back to normal. In 193.1, the unemployed represented over 30 per cent. of our people; to-day the figure is about 9 per cent., and the reason for the reduction can be found in sane and sound administration. The position has been restored to what it was in, 1927, and, in my opinion, there is no barometer of good government better than the condition of employment in the country. In regard to factory employment, the figures are as follows : -
This represents an increase of about 150,000 employees since 1931, when the Labour party left office. I am pleased to record that to-day in our secondary industries it is the highest in the history of the Commonwealth.
Another indication of the progress made is the amount of capital which has been spent on new buildings in the capital cities. The figures are as follows : -
There is every indication that the figure will reach £25,000,000 this year.
The increase of savings bank deposits is also proof of good, sane government. In this connexion the position is as follows : -
The Governor-General’s Speech also made reference to the 40-hour working week, indicating that the Government hasauthorized its representative at the International Labour Conference, Mr. T. H. Scholfield, M.C., M.M., to vote for the application of the shorter working week to certain industries, conditional on the principal countries engaged in the industries concerned following suit. The chief points in the instructions which were given to the Australian delegate were as follows : -
The Commonwealth does not possess the constitutional power to legislate for the introduction of a 40-hour working week ; the States alone have that power. The unions are permitted to apply to the Arbitration Court for a determination that the industries which they represent are entitled to the shorter working week, and they can co-operate with the Commonwealth Government in the Inquiry Committee, which it forecast rather than stand aloof’ and criticize the Government because it has not done what it has not the constitutional power to do. I urge the union leaders in Australia to exercise their full powers rather than beat their heads against a brick wall, because it is impossible for the Commonwealth Government to take action in regard to the introduction of a shorter working week unless an alteration of the Constitution is made, and the recent experience in dealing with referenda indicates how hopeless it is at present to carry any alteration of the Constitution by the will of the people.
I offer my congratulations to the Commonwealth Treasurer (Mr. Casey) and the High Commissioner,theRight Honorable S. M. Bruce, and those associated with them in the successful conclusion of the International Sugar Conference. The agreement, which was signed by the Treasurer and Mr. Bruce, on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, provides for a five-year plan to commence on the 1st September, 1937, under the terms of which Australia will export 400,000 longtons of sugar and on which Britain will grant a preference of £3 15s. a ton. The- 400,000 long tons of sugar represent about the equivalent of the highest tonnage- yet exported by Australia, and will be thegreatest possible aid to the marketing overseas of our surplus production. Twentytwo nations attended the conference which, was summoned for the purpose of ensuring a fair and equitable distribution of the world’s sugar supplies, and a fair price to both producer and consumer. I hope that the result of that very gratifying agreement will mean that a higherprice will be obtained for that portion of” our sugar exported and, when averaged, will give a more just and equitable pricefor the Australian producer. When the world’s surplus is caught up - the agreement is designed to bring about this end as speedily as possible - the selling priceof sugar overseas must rise and the producer in Australiawill be correspondingly assisted.
I was gratified to read in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech a reference to the important social question of national insurance. One of the two reports ‘on national insurance sought by this Government from the two senior executive officersand experts on unemployment insuranceand health insurance who were loaned for the purpose by the British Government has now been received by the Commonwealth. I have given close attention to the excellent report submitted by Mr. G. H.Ince, and I understand that thesecond report by Sir Walter Kinnear has been received by the Treasurer in London and should be available in the near- future. Both of these gentlemen have been associated with national insurance in Great Britain since its inception. They have had 25 years experience of it. I am pleased to say that Mr. Ince’s report on unemployment insurance is available now, and Sir Walter Kinnear’s report on health insurance has been made available to the Treasurer in London. It is now on its way to Australia by air mail. Commonwealth Ministers, returning to ‘ Australia from the Imperial Conference, will have an opportunity to examine the report during the voyage, and the Ministers in Australia will be able to see it before long. These reports will, I hope, facilitate the early establishment in Australia of a scheme of national insurance. Thirty-two countries in the Old World have adopted national insurance, and over 150,000,000 workers have been afforded the benefits of this scheme. In not one instance has any country in the world, after adopting national insurance, even suggested that it should he abandoned or returned to the less satisfactory pre-insurance method. In every instance schemes have been enlarged and expanded, and their most bitter critics at their inception have subsequently become their strongest supporters.
The wage earner is unable to” make provision for the whole of his lifetime from the wages received during his effective working years. National insurance will allay the greatest and most constant anxiety of the wage earner, namely, the possibility that he and his dependants may become involved in serious financial . difficulties as the result of his old age, sickness, accident, or invalidity.
Australia has always prided itself that it has led the world in social legislation, but unfortunately, as regards national insurance, it is far behind the Old World in this regard. Mr. Ince’s report on unemployment has made it clear that there are no insurmountable difficulties in the way of providing a national unemployment insurance scheme for Australia. This report has been made available to the States for their examination before they attend a conference which the Commonwealth Government has convened. I trust that all States will give their fullest support and assistance to ensure that an
Australia- wide scheme of national insurance will become an accomplished fact with the least possible delay. Without their co-operation there would be waste and overlapping, for which reason, I hope that they will support the proposal with’ enthusiasm.
I desire now to refer to the subject of book censorship, and to express my appreciation of the action of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) in appointing the Book Censorship Board. This should provide a guarantee against further criticism. The old system was far from satisfactory, and had persisted without alteration ever since the days of federation, irrespective of what party was in power. It was left to the present Minister for Trade and Customs to make the change. The appointment as appeal censor of Sir Robert Garran, a man of learning, sensibility and wide culture, should go a long way to create complete confidence in the new system of book censorship. I still think, however, that the scheme is incomplete. The organization will be defective unless provision is made for the tabling of annual reports from the board in both Houses of Parliament. These reports should indicate what work has been done by the board, and should contain a list of books that have been banned. The secrecy associated with the present method of censorship is one of the chief causes of the extraordinary criticism to which is has been subjected. With this qualification, however, I congratulate the Minister upon what he has done, and endorse his action.
The Speech of the Governor-General contains a reference to a proposal for the provision of £400,000- half of which is to be made available next financial year - to assist in the vocational training of youths who, during the period of the depression, were unable to learn trades, or otherwise equip themselves for taking employment. At that time, their chance of employment was nil, and to-day they are seriously handicapped because of their lack of skill. In one way, their situation is similar to that of many young men who returned to Australia after the Great War. Their apprenticeship training was interrupted by their war service, they lost their opportunity to acquire a trade because of their wai” service, and it was necessary to provide means for training them upon their return. The experience which the Government acquired at that time can now be applied to the case of unemployed youths from 18 to 25 years of age who, during the depression, were unable to learn trades. There is a scarcity of skilled artisans in some States at the present time. I have been frequently asked whether I could find skilled tradesmen, and have been unable to do so, but the labour market is still being flooded by thousands of unemployed persons without any trade at all. Of course, the position has improved enormously compared with what it was, but even 9 per cent, of unemployment is too great. I should like to see every man in employment. The quickest way of getting our youths into employment is to teach them trades. Under this scheme it is proposed to provide such an opportunity, and the Commonwealth has asked the States to put forward suggestions. No cut-and-dried scheme has been advanced by the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth Government desires to make the fund available to help the State governments in their schemes to teach trades to these young people. I was sorry to learn from a reply given to a question in this House to-day that three States with Labour governments, including Queensland, have not yet furnished the information asked for by the Commonwealth.
– In “Western Australia, a royal commission has been at work for some months investigating this matter. Until the report is received, the Government of Western Australia hesitates to furnish a reply to the Commonwealth.
– That, of course, is a sound reason for delay. I have frequently received letters from Western Australia setting out what has been done in that State for the training and unemployment of youth. I am not here to criticize any one, but I say that a State that is not doing its best to help the Com.monwealth in this matter is not doing its duty.
It is evident to me that the present Commonwealth Government has earned the support of the people of Australia who, at the next elections, will endorse its programme. They will return the
Government to power because of the way in which it has lifted Australia out of the economic quagmire into which it had fallen. An opposition cannot” hope to be returned with a majority merely because a government has been in office for a certain number of years. A government cannot expect to remain in office if it does not do its job, and offer a bold programme to the electors for the future development of Australia. The present Government, however, has done an extraordinarily good job. Its achievement in lifting Australia out of the depths of the depression has been the envy of the world. The comparative prosperity which Australia enjoys at the present time may be attributed, in a large measure, to the sound administration of the Government. The improved unemployment figures, and the growth of manufactures, make it evident that it has earned the goodwill of the people, and I am perfectly certain that this fact will be reflected in the results of the next general election.
.- The Speech of the Governor-General opened with the intimation to Parliament that he himself intends to visit New Guinea and Papua in an endeavour to impress the people of those places that this Government is concerned with their welfare. He may succeed, but I should like to invite the Governor-General to visit parts of my electorate, the National Park, for instance, where the slave camps are. He would need to be very eloquent, indeed, to persuade the people whom he would meet there that this Government is concerned with their welfare. The Speech of the Governor-General stated that unemployment had fallen from 30 per cent, in 1931-32, to 9 per cent, at the present time. The honorable member who has just resumed his seat (Mr. Francis) also told us this, and the same story was told during the Gwydir by-election campaign. However, everywhere the Government champions travelled in the electorate of Gwydir they were confronted with unemployed. The electors of Gwydir did not swallow the story then, and they will not swallow it at the general elections. These unemployment figures are notoriously unreliable. I have said so before until I have ‘become sick of saying it, but when the same old story is trotted out about unemployment being so greatly reduced it is necessary again to point out how unreliable the figures are.
– They were confirmed by the last census.
– Yes, and the census also informed us that 1,200,000 persons in Australia were in receipt of a wage of less than £2 a week.
– That is irrespective of age.
– Admittedly it is irrespective of age and sex, but the census also informed us that 300,000 workers were receiving less than £3 a week, while only a very small percentage were receiving more than £4 a week. Those facts are indicative of the economic degradation of Australia. I am prepared to debate this matter at any time with tho Assistant Minister for Commerce before the people of my electorate. The manner in which the unemployment figures are compiled by the Statistician’s office is utterly stupid, and I cannot see why the Statistician is allowed to go on piling up figures of this kind which only serve to mislead the people. The only figures which he has to work up are those supplied to him by trade unions which furnish returns showing the number of their members who are unemployed. When the depression - which is still with us, by the way - first struck Australia, nearly every worker was a unionist, and as the members of unions fell out of work, the fact was recorded and reported. They were reasonably reliable figures, but, as time has passed, workers who were once members of unions have drifted to all parts of Australia, and the union secretaries have not seen them for years. The present figures do not include tens of thousands of men who formerly belonged to unions. Large numbers of rural workers failed to join unions or to renew their membership because the Bavin Nationalist Government had cancelled all rural awards. Tens of thousands of young men who have never had a job have been unable . to join unions, and, altogether the statistics entirely misrepresent the true position. Yet the Government and its sup porters would have the people believe that the problem of unemployment is being solved !
Resolutions at public meetings held in my electorate and elsewhere, representative of such people as storekeepers and members of religious bodies, show clearly that serious unemployment is still with us, and the demand is frequently made that the Commonwealth Government, and also the New South Wales Government should do something to restore full-time employment. These protests come from an area populated, not by Communists or Labour agitators, but largely by supporters of the present Commonwealth Government, and I am sure that the Ministry will lose many votes in this quarter at the next election. Wholesale condemnation is heard of the callous indifference of the Government in this matter. Some employment has been given by means of tho relief works now being carried on in and around Sydney and throughout my electorate, but full-time employment is essential. As a youth I took part in the fight in New South Wales for what was called the Hut Accommodation Act, which required the wealthy squatters of this country to provide decent living accommodation for their employees, who were compelled to sleep in harness sheds and similar outbuildings. But those habitations were healthy and comfortable compared with the disgraceful accommodation provided at the present time for relief workers who are engaged by the New South Wales authorities in the construction of roads in my electorate. The regulations provide that if a workman has to travel more than 2 miles, the cost of his transport must be paid by the authorities, and, therefore, the relief workers are accommodated in camps situated 2 miles apart, which are moved from time to time. Each hut, which consists of four posts and a few sheets of iron, contains four beds. One of the beds is erected immediately above the other, and the mattresses are made of bagging. These wretched conditions obtain, not under a system of private enterprise, but under a scheme by which the New South Wales Government spends some of the money raised by the Commonwealth for the States for the relief of unemployment.
I shall now quote from an authority which nobody will challenge. I refer to the Church Standard, the organ of the Anglican Church in New South Wales, some of whose representatives visited the slave camps at National Park, near Sydney. Their dramatic story is as follows : -
If ever there was a Valley of Despair in which a race of forgotten men were doomed to live, it is the relief workers’ camp at National Park, Sydney . . . The evening of our visit was the date of the official commencement of winter. And it was certainly wintry in the Valley of Despair. Like the men at Cottage Point, there was no complaint against the work. But young and old alike felt the effects of the severe winter nights and the intense cold from which they had no adequate protection . . . Sleeping in a canvas tent, on twochaffbags slung from some sapling poles, with the cold, wet earthen floor directly beneath the occupant, the chill of a winter’s evening can well be imagined. The ground is perpetually damp because the tall timber effectively shuts out the sun during the greater part of the day. In the early hours of the morning many of the men are forced to leave their bunks and attempt to restore circulation by running around the camp site; after which they huddle round the cooking fires and smaller firesin the open. Earlier in the day of our visit a relief worker had collapsed because of the cold - the second instance brought to our notice . . .
We found that successive gangs used the same chaff-bag “ mattresses “. One man told us that the bag which was allotted to him was “ blue-mouldy “. In such circumstances, the risk of contagion is very great, and the more sensitive and refined men shrink from using bunks which may have been occupied by men suffering from infectious diseases.
Another serious menace to health is the fact that the men have no safes or lockers for their food, which perforce is deposited on the hunks where it is exposed to flies, ants, &c. Even more serious is the lack of proper sanitary arrangements. So primitive and unhygienic are the existing arrangements that the men refuse to use them, with the result that the bush surrounding the camp has become a vast lavatory, whence ordure is washed down the hill into the water where the men have to drink. If it be objected that it is a running stream, and that thereby the danger of infection is lessened, we reply that bushes and rushes on the river’s edge retain sufficient of the sewage to constitute a serious menace to the men’s health . . .
As we write these lines, a bitter, sleety rain is falling. The thought of these men marooned in their cold, cheerless tents far out in the bush tortures us. Words spoken long ago haunt our minds: “I was a stranger and ye took Me not in . . . “
That is a description not of slums owned by rack-renting landlords, but of the conditions under which men work in the employment of the New South Wales Government. Those conditions are referred to in the Governor-General’s Speech as those by which employment has been “ restored “ in. this country. Can this be called a return to prosperous times?
Along the south coast of New South Wales, from National Park, through. Helensburgh, Lilyvale, Austinmer and other towns, one views some of the grandest scenery in the world, but the natural beauty is marred by the miserable dwellings in which many of the poor have to live. I ask the honorable gentleman, who has just resumed his seat, and all those who say that prosperity has returned, to consider the conditions under which many workers find themselves today. If these conditions satisfy the Government and its supporters, they are indeed poor Australians and poorer Christians, and their vision of nationhood is dimmed almost to blindness.
The Speech of the Governor-General states that the Commonwealth Government is compelled to realize the present realities by doing its utmost to put Australia in a position to defend itself. I contend that no action proposed by the Government will enable this country to defend itself, the sole purpose of the present Government being to fall into line with the imperial defence system. Nothing has been done to make Australia independent from the viewpoint of defence. The Governmentplans to place under British control all the resources of the nation - men, munitions, foodstuffs and the like. According to the latest statement by the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill), all our resources are to be brought under British control. When this is done, Australia will have the British Army Act foist upon it. Associated with this measure are endless regulations which go back to the time of William the Conqueror. There is no more brutal military instrument in the world than this act, when it is put into full operation. The right honorable the Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes), who was at that time Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, knows that when the Australian soldiers were placed under the British Army Act they threatened to riot and shoot their officers. He also knows that he could not have held back the Australian troops if he had not withdrawn them from the control of the provisions of the British Army Act.
– When did that happen ?
– I do not know what the honorable member knows about the war. Probably at the time he was spying; that is all he knows about the war. I challenge the Minister for Health to deny that he was responsible for taking action to withdraw the Australian troops from British control. Under the new defence plans we are to have no say; we are simply to be guided in this matter and dragged by the heels into some Imperial scheme. The statement in the Governor-General’s Speech that his advisers are taking adequate action to defend Australia is not true. To make Australia capable of repelling an attack is apparently not their concern.
Recently quite a lot has been said about a national insurance scheme which it is proposed to institute in this country. The words “ national insurance “ are mouthed constantly to-day because they have an attractive sound for the people. The national insurance scheme is apparently to be the only hope of the Government at the coming election. Some national insurance schemes may be good, others may be bad; it is the policy in regard to the application of such a scheme that must be analysed and I say that any policy of national insurance under the present degraded conditions of tho workers not on a non-contributary basis will not satisfy me. Before establishing a system of social or national insurance, it is necessary first to give to the worker employment at a genuine wage, otherwise it will be useless. It is, I declare, an economic crime to attempt to foist a scheme of insurance on the workers to-day which must be financed out of their meagre earnings. The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), who is not present in the House to-day, came back from Great Britain and was most eloquent in regard to the success of the British system of national insurance. We have also heard a good deal about the German system. Let lis, however, consider what the
British system has achieved, and how it has obviated unemployment. I have read reports in different newspapers regarding the schemes outlined by Mr. Ince based on that operating in Great Britain. Mr. Ince proposes to engraft into our social legislation a scheme of national insurance just a3 Sir Otto Niemeyer, also from Great Britain, endeavoured to engraft into our financial legislation an economic policy which would save Australia from financial collapse. Probably the scheme outlined by Mr. Ince will be as effective as was the Premiers plan which was the outcome of Sir Otto Niemeyer’s financial proposals for restoring the stability of Australian finance. What does the British Statistician tell us to-day of this “ wonderful “ scheme of national insurance operating in Great Britain? He says that there are millions of unemployed of the third generation rising up who have never had a job. According to the British Statistician, following upon inquiries’ made in respect of dietetics in Great Britain, 20,000,000 people, or 40 per cent, of the population cannot spend 6s. a week on food. Yet, that is a country enjoying the so-called benefits of a national insurance scheme! It is said that some of the British people are not so well nourished as an Indian coolie. The unemployment insurance scheme in England is based upon the German system. It has been proved that the German social insurance scheme does not support one-third of the unemployed. In Germany, the common saying to-day is, and has been for many years, that the benefits of social insurance provide too little to live on and just too much to starve on. That that is what the Commonwealth Government wants is exemplified by its callous treatment of the unemployed, and of ‘the wheat-farmers, who have been given just enough help to enable them to pay their interest to the bankers, and carry on with the same old burden of debt clinging to their necks, like an old man of the sea. “ Not enough to live on and too much to starve on “ has been the shoddy history of vast masses of the human family down through the ages. The people, however, will not be fooled by the Government’s promises in regard to’ national insurance.
Honorable members opposite need not think that the Labour party is frightened about this proposal. Labour -will meet them in the electorates and elsewhere on this issue. Unless the Government is prepared to tell the people in detail what it wants, what it is prepared to give them, and how the proposal will affect them, honorable members opposite need not think that the people are likely to continue to be led by the nose any longer. That is the overwhelming feeling throughout the Commonwealth. National insurance in itself means nothing, and the people will be told so.
Reference has been made in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech to the proposal to reconstitute the Interstate Commission. I remember very vividly the Prime Minister’s policy speech in which he referred to the Interstate Commission in words to the following effect : - “ The Interstate Commission never did anything; it never accomplished any results worth while, but we may revive it : we may give it another trial.” Of course, I know he must have known he could not go on hoodwinking the people much longer, and I have no doubt that he was preparing a get-out for himself. The canard which is being published in the press, that the Prime Minister does not propose to become a member of the Interstate Commission when it is appointed, is a psychological attempt to prevent public opinion from being aroused against the proposal. Those journals that always howl in the interests of honorable members opposite at election time tell us, too, that the commission is not to be constituted before the election. If it is not, I am not complaining very much, but I am very suspicious that the commission will be set up before the election if the Government can get away with it, and I am also suspicious that the Prime Minister will fill the position of chairman of that body, and will not contest his seat in this House, because he can foresee his fate in Tasmania. For any government to introduce an important piece of legislation such as that necessary to bring about the reconstitution of Interstate Commission, involving the appointment of commissioners for a period of nine years,, on the eve. of an election when the people are waiting for an opportunity to destroy the Government - similar action knocked out the Government candidate in Gwydir - is calculated to destroy the people’s faith in democracy or in any form of democratic .government. For that reason I make my protest against it now. If it is attempted, this Government will have to shoulder the overwhelming weight of public condemnation at the next election. If we are to establish in this country the practice of robbing the public purse, and allowing governments right on the eve of an election to create positions for men who have forsaken the principles of a lifetime for the fleshpots of office, political immorality could not descend to deeper depths.
In the Governor-General’s Speech we had also a reference to the Imperial Conference. As I have said many times, it is only more hocus pocus. In this,, as in everything else, the Government has no policy, and merely contents itself by saying: “ We will talk about it; we will hold a conference, but for God’s sake do not do anything “. The following paragraph appeared on the 15 th June in the Sydney Morning Herald, a journal which always backs this Government: -
Three more Imperial Conference Committee reports which were issued this morning confirm the expectations that, although the conference generally has expressed the various problems confronting the Empire, it will do little to suggest that there is much unity as to how they should be dealt with.
The tendency throughout appears to be a willingness to pursue policies of vigorous cooperation and consultation, but without laying down a definite line of action.
The Government has talked about the matter and has poured out its funds from the Treasury to provide jobs for men to talk and do nothing else.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I have read the speech of the Governor-General in opening this session of the Parliament, but, unlike some speakers who have addressed themselves to the motion before the Chair, I find very little of substance in it. The Government may find some satisfaction in presenting to this House, and to the people of Australia, a speech of that kind-
– It is easily satisfied.
– Yes, but it will be found later that the people of this country will not be sufficiently satisfied with the policy outlined by the Government to renew their confidence in it when an appeal is made to them at election time.
There are one or two matters dealt with in the Governor-General’s Speech to which I desire to refer. I agree with what has been said by His Excellency in regard to the improved state of employment in Australia, with which, I feel sure, everybody in the community should be fairly satisfied. Though over a number of years there has been a steady reduction of the number of people unemployed, as indicated by the unemployment figures published by the Statistician from trade union returns, I am not at all satisfied that those figures indicate the true state of affairs. Unemployment is found in every part of Australia to-day. . Men seeking employment, not men who can be classed as unemployable, are to be found in every State in Australia, including Tasmania, the State from which I come. Governments in every State are finding difficulty in providing satisfactory employment for the people registered on their unemployment registers. In my view this condition of affairs will continue until the state of society is overhauled and reforms are effected which will bring about greater employment in the community at large. The plain fact is that our state of society is unbalanced. On the one hand, we have an abundance of everything that mankind needs, and, on the other hand, the people are unable to obtain their requirements because they have not the necessary purchasing power. I believe that the general trend of thought to-day is that a balance cannot be struck without an overhaul of the existing standard of living. Therein lies the problem. To mention in a selfsatisfied way that the percentage of unemployment has been reduced over a period of years from 30 per cent, to under 10 per cent., achieves nothing; it does not satisfy the man who is out of work, and is looking for some form of employment that will give him an opportunity to provide for his wife and family. I disagree with those speakers who have claimed that this Government has been responsible for the reduction of the number of un employed in this country. I feel that the present position is largely due to the foundation that was laid by the Seullin Government, and that it has been effected despite the present Government rather than with its assistance.
Reference is made in the GovernorGeneral’s opening Speech to the subject of defence. All shades of political thought agree that measures for the defence of Australia in the event of invasion must be taken. The Labour party, through its leader, has indicated to this Parliament and to the people of Australia its belief - that this country is worth defending, and that it .is our duty to defend it. We are prepared to provide adequate measures for its defence. In my view, however, defence cannot be placed on an effective basis until proper steps have been taken for the discovery of oil in this country. We live in an age in which oil is a potent factor in civil life; and it would be even more potent in the event of an outbreak of war. With its immense coast line and big area, Australia must depend for its internal defence largely on aircraft, for which oil is essential. Instead of being commended for what it has done in the direction of exploring the possibilities of producing oil, the Government should be roundly condemned for its ineptitude. Very little of a practical nature has been done. The matter has been discussed at length during the last three years, but has been tackled only in haphazard fashion. It must be tackled seriously. In other parts of the world that is being done. It seems to me that there must be some reason for the Government’s inaction.
In 1928 the subject of national insurance was brought before this Parliament in the form of a bill, which was read n second time. Nothing further was heard of the matter until it was revived quite recently. A day or two ago, the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies) sought rather to excuse the Government’s lack of interest than to attempt to convince the people that action could have been taken before now. In earlier days, the earnings of the average employee were much higher than they are to-day. During the last few years, the Arbitration Court has revised the rates of pay. When the 10 per cent, cut took effect, living standards were lowered, and the revision of the family budget imposed upon the householder the necessity to purchase second grade instead of first grade commodities, in order to make his wages go round. To-day the average worker is suffering considerably as the result of the different computation adopted by the Arbitration Court. The restoration of the 10 per cent, cut under this alteration did not add anything to the rate of wages. I am inclined to think that the introduction of the proposed system of unemployment insurance on a contributory basis would be an unfair imposition because it would deplete the already meagre wages or salaries of employees. Before we talk of introducing unemployment insurance we must consider an allround raising of standards. That is not my considered opinion, but merely my reaction to the proposal that we havebefore us at the moment. I have not had. the report of the expert long enough to have studied it in detail.
During the course of his speech last Friday the Attorney-General made an attack on the smaller States that are receiving grants from the Commonwealth Government. His attack on tlie State of Tasmania appeared to me to be a mostvicious one. Shortly before Parliament re-assembled, the right honorable gentleman visited Tasmania for two or three days, addressed one or two meetings, and met a few people in conference. At the time, the weather was merely pleasantly cold. I a.tn wondering whether the right honorable gentleman found his reception even colder, and that that to sine extent is- responsible for his remarkable outburst against the State in connexion with the amount that it has received from this Parliament in recent years. He said that the Commonwealth had shown liberality in its treatment of Tasmania, but modified that expression as the result of an interjection that I made, to “ justice, if you like “. I very seriously resent the statements that have been made over a period of years in this Parliament concerning the treatment that Tasmania has received. Some honorable members, and particularly some Ministers, appear to revel in these statements, and the coping stone was placed on them by the remarks of the Attorney-General.
Let us consider what has led to Tasmania receiving bigger grants. I believe that last year the figure amounted to something” like £1,250,000. The Commonwealth Grants Commission was established a few years ago by the present Commonwealth Government as the result of an agitation in different quarters for the setting up of a tribunal to inquire into the disabilities suffered by the smaller States as the result of federation, and to make recommendations to the Government and Parliament as to what it considered were reasonable grants to compensate those States for those -disabilities. Acting on tlie recommendations of this body, the Commonwealth has made certain grants. Does the Attorney-General disagree with the amount granted to Tasmania ?
– Yes; he said that Tasmania was getting too much.
– If that be the Attorney-General’s opinion, it is no wonder that he received rather a frigid reception when he visited Tasmania a few weeks ago. Does he consider that Tasmania has received too liberal treatment? If so, why did he support that policy? If he does not think that the treatment was too liberal, why does he make such remarks as those of which we complain? The right honorable gentleman cannot have it both ways. Either he agrees with the policy of the Government or he disagrees with it.
It has been frequently said that in recent years Tasmania has received the full grant that has been recommended for it. But it must be borne in mind that other recommendations, apart from those expressed in monetary form, .have been made which have not been adopted. When the Attorney-General thinks to speak about liberality in relation to Tasmania he should investigate that aspect of the case. On page 130 of the report made by the Commonwealth Grants Commission last year respecting financial assistance to Tasmania, we find the following interesting paragraph: -
We think, therefore, that there is occasion for special help or encouragement beyond the scope of special grants, and we .recommend this need to the consideration of the Commonwealth Government and Parliament. The form such help should take would require technical examination, and we do not consider it our province to recommend it except in general terms.
That supports my contention that certain recommendations for assistance to Tasmania have not been adopted. The Grants Commission found that Tasmania is suffering from numerous social disabilities. During recent years the assets of the State have depreciated seriously. Soil exhaustion is a problem that the people have to wrestle with, and the rehabilitation of both railways and forests is necessary. The shrinkage in the value of these assets occurred to a great extent while anti-Labour governments were in power and the present Labour Government should not be saddled with the responsibility for it. The Lyons Government is not entitled to any special thanks for the financial grants made to Tasmania in the last year or two, for the Government of Tasmania has consistently pressed the claims of that State for fair consideration. In fact, the Commonwealth Grants Commission has paid a glowing tribute to the Treasurer of Tasmania for the clear and admirable way in which the accounts of the State have been presented to the commission for consideration. It is, in fact, due largely to the unmistakeable way in which the State Government has indicated the disabilities of Tasmania that it has received the measure of assistance that has been accorded to it.
An examination of all the facts shows clearly that the generosity of the Lyons Government, of which the AttorneyGeneral has spoken, has not, after all, been so generous. I shall offer one or two illustrations to drive home my point. A comparison of the amount of money spent on public works on the mainland with the amount spent in Tasmania reveals some interesting contrasts. Some public works, which have cost large sums, have wholly benefited the mainland States. Tasmania has reaped no benefit at all from them. An example is the works carried out by the River Murray Waters Commission. Those undertakings have, so far, involved an expenditure of £10,506,000. The money has been found jointly by New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and the Commonwealth. The share of the Commonwealth has been £2,626,000. Tasmania has had to contribute its share of the interest on this huge sum. I know that this work has been carried out by loan money, but, all the same, Tasmania has had to carry its share of the expenditure. I offer no complaint about this. I merely set the fact against the statements of the AttorneyGeneral, who, in my opinion, was unjust in attacking Tasmania as he did a few days ago.
Another illustration of the point I am making is provided by the Commonwealth Railways. This national undertaking has involved an aggregate loss, up to the end of 1934-35, of £3,773,000. The average annual loss is £200,000. As the East- West railway links Western Australia with the other States, it is a national work, and must be regarded as commendable because it brings the various mainland States into direct railway connexion. But Tasmania, although it has to bear its share of the interest burden on the accumulated debt, really reaps no benefit from the expenditure.
Take still another illustration. I refer this time to the expenditure authorized under the Appropriation Works and Services Act passed on the 22nd November, 1934. That measure provided for the expenditure of £176,000 for the relief of unemployment. The share of Tasmania, which at that time had at least 3,000 unemployed persons within its borders, was £6,000. The share of the Federal Capital Territory, with only about 600 unemployed persons within its horder, was also about £6,000. It was stated when that bill was under consideration that an amount of £6,000 for expenditure on cattle dips in New South Wales would be expended almost wholly in the electorate of Cowper, the representative of which is the present Acting Prime Minister (Dr. Earle Page). This surely suggests that appropriations of this kind are not allocated on a basis of equity. Some other consideration must be brought under notice, and I suggest that it arises from a policy of spoils to the victor.
I do not wish to labour this matter. I have directed attention to it principally to show that the remarks made last week by the Attorney-General in relation to Tasmania and the special grants made to it are entirely unwarranted and objectionable. 1 do not consider that the Commonwealth Parliament has been in any measure unduly liberal to Tasmania. That State has been fully entitled to all the assistance that has been given to it.
I wish for a few moments to direct attention to the important subject of social reform. We shall have to deal with this serious problem in a much more comprehensive way than that suggested in the Governor-General’s Speech. The provision of a special sum to find work for unemployed youths and for unemployed persons generally will not get us very far. We shall have to fa.ce the much more vital issues of a shorter working week and a higher standard of living. It is, of course, highly important that work shall be found for our young people between the ages of 19 and 25 years, who, during the depression period, lost their opportunity to learn a trade, and are now in difficulties. But the teaching of a trade to our young people will not meet the case. There is a very real need to cope with the problem in a sufficiently comprehensive way to ensure that the young men now growing up in cur midst shall be able to find their niche in society and ultimately provide homes for wives and families. If we make this possible we shall undoubtedly do something to populate this great country. I agreed with a good deal that the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) said regarding ihe.need to provide efficient training for young people between the ages of fourteen and eighteen as they leave school. Our most effective approach to the problem would be by means of a shortening of the hours of work and an elevation of living standards. Our experience in Tasmania recently, when the hours of work in certain industries were reduced from 48 to 44 a week, convinces me that I am on the right lines in advocating a shorter working week. If we make it possible for our young people to serve apprenticeships in appropriate industries, and fit themselves for the heavier responsibilities r.f life a little later on, we shall gradually improve the circumstances of life for everybody. I do not wish to be extremely critical of the Government’s proposals in this regard, but I am quite satisfied that the policy laid down in the Governor-
General’s Speech is entirely inadequate. Unquestionably we must shorten the hours of work and lift the living standards of the people; we must extend our social services and provide better housing, and in this way make for greater contentment and happiness of the people.
– I congratulate the mover of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), and also the seconder of the motion, the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) on their speeches. I also congratulate the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) and the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Scully) upon the speeches which they delivered in opening up this debate-
The subject of unemployment occupies a prominent position in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, and due emphasis is laid on the fact that, since the advent of the Lyons Government in 1932, unemployment has steadily decreased from 32 per cent, of registered trade unionists in that year to between 9 and 10 per cent, at the present time. This improvement is actually better than the figures indicate, because consideration must be given to the fact that, in the peak of normal times, the unemployed or unemployable in Australia represent between 7 and S per cent, of the population. For this reason the actual excess of unemployment over normal times should be between 2 and 3 per cent. However, I am still dissatisfied with that position, because I believe that there are sufficient openings in this great country for men who are able and willing to work. Criticism has been levelled by some honorable members of the Opposition at the figure of 9 per cent., because they claim that, as it applies only to registered unionists, it does not reflect the actual unemployment position throughout the Commonwealth ; but I remind them that the same source of information was taken in 1932, when the unemployment figure was stated to be 32 per cent. Those statistics, therefore, provide a reliable indication of the improvement of the employment position, and such a fact was fairly recognized by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), when he was speaking to the Address-in-Reply last Friday afternoon.
The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) has shown that the number of persons now engaged in industry is substantially greater than the figure in the peak of normal times of 1928-29. I do not for one moment venture to claim that the Lyons Government is wholly responsible for this improvement, because the rise of the prices of our export commodities, including wheat and wool, has had more to do with .the increase of employment than could be effected by the legislative action of any government; but the policy of the Lyons Government has undoubtedly been a factor in the improved state of affairs. Honorable members must agree that Australia has emerged from the trough of the. depression more speedily than has any other country of the world, and with the full realization of our recovery in comparison with the plight of other nations, it makes me proud to .be an Australian. Although honorable members of the Opposition sometimes seek to belittle the Government’s share in the improved position of the Commonwealth, I feel sure that they, too, are proud to be Australians and to know that we have shaken off the worst effects of the financial depression.
The Lyons Government mapped out a course of action six years ago, and has steadily persisted with it, and I claim that Australia has benefited to a substantial degree from the operation of that policy. In addition, the present Government has been called upon to shoulder many burdens that no other federal government, with the exception of the Scullin Administration, which was in office for a little over twelve months, was required to bear. The Scullin Government encountered the depths of the depression, and it had my sympathy at the time. The Lyons Government, however, has had to find many millions of pounds for the alleviation of unemployment, while the additional numbers of people, who were forced by the financial depression to apply for invalid and old-age pensions, has increased the Government’s annual commitments in this respect to £14,000,000. I read in the press ‘recently that it is the intention of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to make a full restoration of the pensions during the year, and if that be done, the annual pensions bill will be raised to £15,000,000. The cost of social services throughout the Commonwealth now exceeds £30,000,000, which absorbs approximately one-half of the revenues collected by the Federal Government. I do not imply for one moment that I object to one penny that is paid to the invalid and old-age pensioners, and if the pension is not restored during this year to £1 a week, I shall express my dissatisfaction to the Government in unmistakable terms. [Quorum formed.] Unless adequate provision is made to offset the payments of huge sums of money on social services in Australia, this must inevitably break down under its own weight. I shall make further reference to this matter in my remarks on national insurance.
I congratulate the Lyons Government on the fact that, although it was called upon to meet increased commitments from declining revenues, it has been able, during the last five years, to reduce taxation by £15,000,000 annually. Sales tax has been progressively reduced from 6 per cent, to 5 per cent., and 4 per cent., and exemptions to a value of £5,000,000 have been granted chiefly to meet the demands of the primary producers, who suffered severely from the period of low prices for their commodities. Almost every article that the primary producer now uses is exempt from sales tax, while additional assistance by way of bounties amounting to £21,000,000 was made available to this section during the depression. I do not complain about that, because the money had to be found in order to enable the primary producers to remain on the land ; but I cite these facts to illustrate my point that the Lyons Government was obliged to make available huge sums of money and to shoulder heavier burdens than any other federal government was ever called upon to carry.
I regret that the problem of national insurance was not tackled in the early days of federation. National insurance is a big question, and one that even now cannot be introduced at an early date. I am quite satisfied that the Lyons Government has done all that lies in its power to further the bringing of the scheme into realization. In 1934, the services of Australian experts to inquire into the problem of national insurance were sought, and these gentlemen submitted a report to Cabinet, Unfortunately, the operation of such a scheme would have required a subscription of 5s. from every male contributor, and, furthermore, it would have eaten up more federal revenues than could be afforded at the time. In spite of this experience, members of the Opposition still ask why the Government did not proceed with that scheme. The Government did the next best thing by obtaining from the British Government the loan of the services of two experts on unemployment and health insurance, Sir Walter Kinnear and Mr. G. H. Ince. The report of Mr. Ince on unemployment insurance has lately been made available to honorable members, and it is anticipated that in the near future the report of Sir Walter Kinnear will be received. In view of the experience and competency of those two gentlemen, I feel sure that their recommendations will provide the basis of a practicablescheme for the introduction of national insurance into Australia. This matter is far too important to be hurried, and it requires to be handled with exceptional care. If the problem had been tackled in the early days of federation, a sound and efficient scheme would now be in operation. Even at this late hour, I venture to suggest to the Government a scheme which might be of considerable advantage in meeting pensions payments in the future. I have discussed this plan with insurance companies, and I am informed that it is eminently practicable. I suggest that each child born in Australia should be insured by the Government for an amount of £100, to mature when the insured person reaches the age of twenty years. To effect such insurance, an annual premium of £3 6s. would be required, but I believe that the scheme could be operated for a premium of £3 per annum. On maturity, the money would be invested at 41/2 per cent. until the insured person attained the age of 65 years, by which time the £100 would have been increased to £350.. The normal expectation of life is 72 years, which means that if a person lived for seven years after being granted the old-age pension at 65, he would receive, a sum of £350 from federal revenues, but under my scheme, the total amount which the Government would be required to subscribe would be £60, spread over a period of 20 years. In the event of an insured person dying before reaching the age of 65, such amount invested on his behalf would be paid into a general fund. Under such a scheme, all people would be entitled to receive from £1 to 25s. a week upon reaching the age of 65. I have given a good deal of consideration to this matter, and I believe that it is worthy of investigation by the Govern- . ment. At the same time, I realize that it is something for the future, and not for the immediate present.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to8 p.m.
If a man or a. woman, over a period of seven years, were to receive a pension of £1 a week - and we hope that the pension will shortly be restored to that level - the cost to the Government would be £350. Under the scheme which I have been outlining each person could be paid the same amount over that period at much less cost to the Government. If a child were insured by the Government for £100, the policy to mature in twenty years, the Government could, for an expenditure of1s. a week, have a fund from which it would be able to pay each person so insured £350, which would, as I have explained, be equivalent to a pension payment of £1 a week for a period of seven years. In fact, it would probably be able to pay even more than this, because a considerable number of persons, would, in the ordinary course of events, die before attaining the age at which payments would become available. Moreover, every one in the community would benefit under the scheme, instead of merely the limited number who now become eligible for the old-age pension. If the Government were to put the scheme into operation now, and if we assume that 100,000 children are born each year in Australia, the cost to the Treasury for the first year would be approximately £300,000. The next year, of course, it would be £600,000, while, at the end of the 20th year the annual cost would be £6,000,000. That is a pretty substantial figure, admittedly, but not nearly so much as the £15,000,000 a year which we now pay out on pensions. I leave the matter there in the hope that, if there is any merit in the suggestion, it may be of use to the Government.
I am glad to learn that the Government proposes to inaugurate an undertaking for the production of oil from shale. For many years past we have listened to the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) criticizing the Government for not taking action to develop the oil-from-coal industry. Apparently, however, the Government, after investigating the two methods, has decided that it will be more economical to obtain oil from shale. I am pleased to learn that negotiations are now in progress for launching the enterprise, and that before long the production of oil from shale will be an accomplished fact. We are now at peace with all our neighbours, but if the Empire became involved in war, our supplies of oil from overseas might be cut off, and Australia would then be in a very serious position, indeed. If, however, there were in existence at Newnes h thriving industry for the production of oil from shale, it could be expanded in time of war, and our supplies of oil for commercial and defence purposes would be assured.
Reference’ was also made in the Speech of the Governor-General to the proposal for the inauguration of a 40-hour working week. Honorable members opposite must recognize that it is impossible for the Federal Government, by legislation, to bring about a general 40-hour week in Australia. If the introduction of a 40- hour working week would solve our unemployment problem, while allowing us to compete with other countries, I should give the proposal my unqualified support. We must remember, however, that Australia is a primary-producing country, and that much of our produce has to be sold overseas in competition with the produce of other countries which pay lower wages than we do, and in many of which the working week is longer than ours. I repeat, however, that I am in favour of any practical proposal that has for its object the employment of our workers. It is the right of every man to be employed, and I can understand why a great many men are discontented at the present time when they see some people enjoying everything they want, while they themselves are denied even the right to work. In the circumstances, I find it difficult to blame them for anything they may say or do. I am a considerable employer of labour myself, and I have at all times done everything within my power to provide work.
As I have said before, I am in favour of the restoration of old-age pensions to £1 a week.
– Then why does not the honorable member vote for it.
– I am prepared to vote for it, and I am sure that my friends in Australia who are in receipt of the pension know that I am just as anxious that the pension shall be fully restored as are honorable members opposite.
I am glad that the Government has seen its .way clear to make available an amount of £200,000, with a promise of £200,000 later, to assist the States in carrying out a scheme for the vocational training of youths. I hope that, in the near future, the various State governments will take steps to place their proposals before the Commonwealth Government, so that the scheme may be put into operation. Already three States have forwarded their suggestions to the Commonwealth Government, and I am sure that, before long, the other States will also reply. I have always been interested in this matter. About three years ago, I submitted a report to this Government on vocational training, embodying certain recommendations which, I understood at the time, were acceptable but, unfortunately, they were never put into operation. I am pleased to learn, however, that even at this late stage something is to be done.
It was also gratifying to me to know that the Government intends to take steps in the near future to develop Central Australia and the Northern Territory. At every opportunity I have spoken on this matter, and I hope now that the Government will extend the railway from Alice Springs to Tennant Creek. This will be of the greatest assistance to the gold-mining industry at Tennant Creek, and will also enable produce from the interior to he brought to market. I understand that at Barrett’s Creek, not far from Tennant Creek, there is a rich copper mine which could be profitably worked if railway communication were provided. Under present conditions, with a 260 miles haul over bad roads, it does not pay to work the mine.
In common with other honorable members on this side of the House, I feel confident that the public recognizes the value of the work which the Government has performed during its term of office, and will return it to power after the next general elections. The taxpayers as a whole would be very sorry, I am sure, to see a change of government within the next few months. In my opinion, such a change would be a national calamity and, as honorable members know, my political opinions are rather broad. When we consider the way in which the Government has lifted the country out of the depression, how it has set itself a programme from which it .has” never varied, arid that much yet remains to be done before that programme is fully completed, we are compelled to recognize that it would be a tremendous mistake to change governments at this time. I do not say that a Labour government would necessarily be a ba’d government. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) is a good man, and I am sure that many honorable members on this side of the House will agree with me in that. He is a broadminded, capable man, but his ideas are not those of the Government. If he were leader of a new government, thewhole ‘ programme of administration would be changed, and everything would be thrown back for at least two years. The people know that, just as they know that the present Government has done a good job of work. I am confident that they will return this Government at the next election, and me with it.
.- It is the custom, when speaking to the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, to criticize the proposed policy of the Government, but on this occasion we must depart from that practice, because tins is a dying government which will not have an opportunity to give effect to any of the proposals contained iu the Speech. As a matter of fact, I believe nhu t the Speech was deliberately designed to make the people believe that at last the Government, which has been six years in office, had suddenly awakened to the fact that something ought to be done for the unfortunate sections of the community, and that it intended to do its duty by the people who had placed it in power. In the Governor-General’s Speech it was stated that unemployment had been reduced to less than 10 per cent. Members of the Government, supported by the anti-Labour press, talk of unemployment as being normal at that figure, Therefore, if we are to take that as the normal figure,, those who are now unemployed can hope for nothing from this Government. I do not deny that there is more work now iu Australia than there was a few years ago, but I challenge the Government to prove that the people are any better off as the result of this increased work which they are called upon to do. I also challenge the accuracy of the Statistician’s figures in regard to unemployment. On many previous occasions it has been pointed out by members of the Labour party that the information supplied by the Statistician’s office in this respect is not accurate. The data, upon which the department works are insufficient to enable it to arrive at an accurate conclusion. Many unemployed youths do not register at the labour exchanges because they know it is of no use to do so. No call-up of unemployed for work has been made in Sydney for the last two or three years. If a worker has a daughter who is earning a few shillings a week, then, according to the anti-Labour Government in New South Wales, it is justified in preventing the parent from qualifying for food relief and, as no work is available, he considers it useless- to register. Further, there is a number of unemployed persons who would prefer to live by earning a few shillings as canvassers or hawkers rather than submit to the insults which are hurled at them by the officers in charge of the employment bureaus. They object to being harassed, and having inquisitorial inspectors calling at their doors from day to day. As many of these men fail to report at the various labour exchanges, the merest approach to accuracy as to the general position in regard to unemployment in any community can be obtained only by holding a census at which the people themselves are asked to state their exact position.
The present Government, which has been in office for six years, took a census in 1933, at which it was disclosed thatthere were 3,148,542 breadwinners in the Commonwealth, of whom 2,212,027 had incomes of less than £3 a week, but there were 873,929 whose income was less than £1 a week, 391,920 who had no income at all, and 481,044 who were wholly unemployed. In 1933, when the Labour party pointed out that the number of the unemployed in Australia exceeded 400,000, the Government attempted to ridicule the suggestion. The figures obtained from the labour exchanges regarding unemployment do not indicate the true position. I suggest to those who to-day cite the figures of the Commonwealth Statistician that they should closely examine the figures disclosed in 1933 by the various . labour exchanges established in the States, to see whether, in view of the figures disclosed by the census, they could be considered accurate. The best way to gauge the correct position with regard to the circumstances of the people is not to point out the increased dividends of wealthy companies, or the fact that the present Government has seen fit to reduce the faxes imposed on those companies, but to examine the position of the people themselves. Official figures show that there are 305 old-age pensioners and 119 invalid pensioners to every 10,000 members of the community. These are record figures, and they disclose that many unfortunates, who previously were able to do without these social services, have been compelled, owing to the industrial conditions becoming worse, to apply for the pension. I am prepared to guarantee that no old-age or invalid pensioner who could do without the pension would care to apply for it, but to-day there is no avenue to which these people can turn for assistance other than that provided by the pensions legislation passed by this Parliament.
It is true that, as honorable members opposite have said, employment in factories has increased, but are the people any better off as a result of the employment provided? The latest figures disclose that in 1930-31, the proportion of child labour to adult labour was 4.06 per cent., whilst in 1934-35, after the present Government had been in office for three years, the figure had increased to 5.84 per cent. In 1930-31, the proportion of. female labour was 100 to every 265 males, and this increased in 1934-35 to 100 to every 254 males. The total wages paid in 1930-31 amounted to £62,454,859, and increased in 1934-35 to £72,824,549. At the same time, the average wage paid to each employee dropped from £193.88 per annum in 1930-31 to £169.34 per annum in 1934-35, proving conclusively that, although there had been a considerable increase of labour in factories, this was mainly due to the increase of child and female labour, for which the wages paid were much lower than that received by the men previously employed. Although it is claimed by the Government that any increase of employment which has taken place has been due to the action of this Government alone, not one honorable member opposite has furnished a solitary argument to support that contention.
Lord McGowan visited Australia some time ago and inquired into a proposal for the extraction -of oil from coal. Nobody would accuse him of being a Labour sympathiser, yet, upon his return to England, he stated, according to the. Sydney Sun of the 15th April last -
I prophesy continued prosperity for Australia ‘ for at least two or three years as the outcome of Britain’s re-armament expenditure of £1,500.000,000, a good proportion of which would reach the British consumer, resulting in increased purchasing power for Australasian foodstuffs and raw materials, especially wool, metals and dairy produce. It is impossible, however, to foresee what would happen in Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere after that.
Evidently Lord McGowan realizes that a great deal of the increased employment which has been provided in Australia, as in other countries in the last few years, is not due to any activity on the part of the present anti-Labour Government in providing work, but is attributable to the fact that various Imperial powers, including Great Britain, are preparing for war, which many of them believe to be inevitable. One honorable member said this afternoon that Australia desired peace and so does Great Britain. I point out that Great Britain has every reason to desire peace. She has so much terri- tory now in every quarter of the globe that she cannot hope to gain as the result of participation in further war. Great Britain has all the territory she requires, so she says to the nations of the world : “ We believe in preserving peace,” which means holding on to everything she possesses at the present time.
Here is a statement of interest in regard to the alleged improved prosperity in the community. It appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald recently -
The home for children suffering from malnutrition, established at Curl Curl, near Manly, more than six years ago, has been closed because of lack of funds.
Surely no honorable member would contend that while such a state of affairs exists in this country there is increased prosperity. The Melbourne City Council recently held an inquiry into the conditions under which the children of that city lived, and the report obtained disclosed that 43 per cent. of the children under the age of five years were suffering from malnutrition. Yet the Commonwealth Government prides itself on the wonderfully improved conditions obtaining in Australia! The Labour party does not share the opinion of the Government that the present position in regard to unemployment may be regarded as normal, because it considers that, in any enlightened community, if any man, woman or child is without shelter and means of livelihood, the Government of the day has not completed its work.
What does the Government now propose to do on the eve of an election? It talks about national insurance. Many people are carried away by that term, and think that because a proposal is styled “ national “, everybody should support it. On many occasions in the past the people have been deceived in regard to such schemes. It was said that the schemes would benefit them, but, when they were put into operation, the reverse proved to be the case. In recent years the present Government has been particularly active in assisting those who supply it with election and other party funds. It has remitted taxes imposed on the wealthy sections, the latest figures showing that there has been a decrease of direct taxation from £17,195,689 in 1931-32 to £11,596,382 in 1935-36; but, during the same period, indirect taxation increased from £36,830,893 to £52,020,924. As everybody knows, indirect taxation bears most heavily on the workers, and those least able to. bear it, but the Government proposes to add to their burdens. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) remarked that the expenditure on invalid and old-age pensions was becoming too large. AntiLabour Governments have been saying that for years in both the Federal and State spheres. What do they propose to do toreduce this burden which they say bears heavily on industry? We are to be asked to adopt a scheme of national insurance, and to call upon the workers who are fortunate enough to be in employment to accept a reduction of the basic wage, in order to provide old-age and invalid pensions or unemployment relief when required, for themselves. Under a scheme of contributory pensions the people will be asked to accept a burden the cost of which had previously been met by those contributing direct and indirect taxes. Invalid and old-age pensions now cost this country about £13,500,000. When the people provide their own pensions, what will anti-Labour Governments do with the money now raised by taxation to defray the cost of those pensions? No doubt, they will then propose to do what they have done in the past. They will remit further direct taxation, of which the wealthy sections of the community continuously complain. We shall hear Country party representatives clamouring for the elimination of the land tax, and somebody else will want the company tax wiped out. This has happened on every occasion when the Government has had a surplus to distribute.
Let us trace the achievements of the present Government. When it first took office, a Labour Government was in power in New South Wales and it was being attacked most bitterly by the reactionary elements, because it was said that it was not prepared to meet certain commitments which it was claimed should be met by the States. The Government of New South Wales was then using the revenues available to it to feed, clothe and shelter unfortunate citizens who needed assistance. That was a very laudable policy, but, when the Lyons Government was returned on the first occasion, it immediately set out to force the State Government to do something which the elected representatives of the people in the State were not prepared to do. I have heard the champions of State rights raise their voices in this Parliament when matters of local interest were under consideration, but the same gentlemen used their powers and votes in this House to impose the will of the Commonwealth on the New South Wales Government. The Financial Agreements Enforcement Acts were rushed through this Parliament and the funds provided by the State Government for the pensions of widows and for family endowment, .and the whole of the money available for the feeding of the unemployed, were to be taken “ to preserve the national honour “, by meeting in full the claims of the overseas bondholders. Although it was prepared to take the revenues of the State, the Commonwealth . Government did not propose to do anything in regard to taking over the responsibility of feeding the unemployed and paying widows’ pensions and family endowment. When the State Premier of New South Wales proposed to do what, the Commonwealth Government was forcing him to do, that is, to meet the interest payments, he said, “‘I shall pay the interest, . but in a method determined by myself and which I propose to adopt.” He proposed to impose a tax of 10 per cent, on the value of all mortgages. Immediately he did that he came into conflict with the friends of the Commonwealth Government, who used their influence with the Commonwealth Government to induce it to bring down an urgent measure which was forced through this Parliament, known as the Financial Emergency (State Legislation) Bill, which was designed to protect these particular wealthy interests against the attack made upon them by the Labour Government in New South Wales so that it could raise the money which the Commonwealth. Government said must be found to pay the interest falling due on State bonds. But there was no need for the Commonwealth Government to act. What it set out to do was done for it by the anti-Labour State Governor, Sir Philip Game, who has since been rewarded by being made Chief of Police in London.
In order to show how this Government has been considerate of the interests of the wealthy and how it has protected and assisted them to evade the payment of taxation due, I need only remind honorable members of what happened after the Royal Commission was appointed some time ago to inquire into the simplification of Commonwealth and State taxation. That inquiry was conducted by .Mr. Justice Ferguson and Mr. E. V. Nixon. Finally a report was brought down in which certain recommendations were made, one of which was in regard to tax evasion which the Commissioners said had been rife in previous years. It was ascertained that certain companies were not distributing the whole of their profits by way of dividends, but instead, were placing some of thom into reserves, writing down the value of their assets, and periodically issuing bonus shares to existing shareholders on which no taxation was payable. In this way considerable tax evasions were taking place. The Royal Commission said that this practice must stop and that the Government should amend the income tax legislation so that profits distributed by way of bonus shares would be rendered liable to taxation just as are profits distributed by way of dividends. Although the Royal Commission expected its recommendation to be given effect at the end of 1933, a measure to amend the law was not introduced into this chamber by the Treasurer until the 5th July, 1934. I well remember some honorable member then asking why there had been a delay, to which the honorable gentleman replied that the Government believed that there were very many much more important matters which had to be dealt with before time could be found by the Government to carry out the royal commission’s recommendations. Nothing, in my opinion, was more urgent than that action should be taken to see that these tax evasions were no longer continued. On the 27th July, 1934, when the bill was in the committee stage, the Treasurer moved an amendment in which it was proposed that the amended legislation should not come into force until the end of 1934. He admitted that certain representations had been made to him, and as a result of them the Government proposed to hold up the operation of the amended legislation for a further six months. To show from what quarter these representations were made, within a few days of the carrying of the amendment, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company doubled its share issue by an issue of bonus shares in the proportion of one bonus share for each original share held. About 292,500 bonus shares were issued which had a market value much in excess of the face value at which they were issued, which was £20 each. To show how considerate this Government was to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, not only did it suspend the operation of the amended legislation to allow the company to unload enormous profits, which would otherwise have been taxable, but, notwithstanding the fact that this company over a number of years had been able to pay enormous dividends whilst at the same time charging high prices for its commodities,, we also find that in 1935 it rushed forward with a proposal to renew the sugar agreement 18 months before the then existing agreement expired, and it was able to give no adequate reason why that course was adopted.
While dealing with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, let me deal with one other matter of importance in relation to the sugar industry. Many representatives have in. the past travelled overseas to attend projected sugar conferences, some of which have been held and some of which have not. Following one sugar conference held recently, a new agreement was arrived at which it was said constituted a victory for the Australian representatives who claimed that for the next five years Australia had been guaranteed an export market for 400,000 tons of sugar. What a remarkable achievement, considering that every ton of sugar exported represents a dead loss of £10 to the Australian taxpayer ! As the new agreement is to last for five years, that means that at the end of that period £20,000,000 will have been levied on the people of this country. Yet certain gentlemen who went overseas claiming to represent Australian sugar interests say that they have secured a wonderful victory for the Australian people. Let us get on with another aspect of this question.
– The members of the Labour party voted for the sugar agreement.
– I am glad of that interjection by the honorable member for Swan, because it is his party that I am after on this occasion. The Scullin Government introduced a proposal to assist wheat-growers, and this policy was continued by the Lyons Government, which when first formed in 1932 did not have to secure the assistance of -the Country party, the members of which are always claiming to believe in “ principles before portfolios “. The United Australia party was able to form a government without assistance. In that year it will be found that the Government introduced an amending clause into the wheat bounty legislation which provided that only those wheat-growers who did not have a taxable income in the preceding year were to benefit from its provisions. I well remember the then Minister for Commerce, now the honorable member .for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), arguing in favour of the application of this clause, saying that one gentleman in the preceding year had received £4,000 out of a bounty which it was said was provided to assist struggling wheat-growers. Every honorable member will agree that, when there is a specified amount of money to be devoted to the assistance of wheat-growers, the less paid to the wealthy wheat-growers . the more there is left to distribute to the impoverished wheat-growers. The Labour party fought for the retention of this principle, because it was found that included amongst those who were not deserving or in need of aid were members of Parliament who while drawing their parliamentary allowance were at the same time collecting the bounty as wheatgrowers. Following upon the next general election, when the Lyons Government found its numbers were reduced and that it had to seek the aid of the Country party to form a government, when the wheat bounty legislation was before the House, the clause to which I have referred was deleted, the reason given for its deletion being that wheatgrowers were in need of immediate assistance and that if the provision were retained it would be necessary for wheatgrowers to prove that they were in necessitous circumstances, which would lead to delay. In order to test the sincerity of the members of the Country party and the United Australia party, I myself moved an amendment of the definition of a wheatgrower . to provide that a wheatgrower would not include any member of the Commonwealth or State Parliaments. Honorable members will, I think, agree that to ascertain whether or not a person is a member of Parliament would not lead to delay. To show how honorable members voted on my amendment, I refer honorable members to the division taken on it. Members of the Country party allied themselves with members of the United Australia party and every one of them voted against it, because they were anxious to get their hands on some of the money to be taken out of the Commonwealth Treasury.
We find that, on another occasion, the Government placed a tax on flour in order to provide funds for the assistance of wheat-growers. Many people tried to justify the imposition of that tax, which was a direct tax on the food of the people. Though the Labour party opposed it very strongly, what did honorable members opposite have to say about it ? I quote from the remarks- of one honorable member opposite to show that at least on some occasions government supporters become conscience stricken and are prepared to say what they think. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Perkins) is reported in Hansard, vol. 145, page 1014, of the 11th December, 1934, as having said. -
A member of this House told me recently that last year he had bought out two of his neighbours, and paid a fairly high price for the land. That gentleman is expecting to benefit by the passage of this legislation … I feel that there should have been no departure in these bills from certain principles that governed the granting of assistance last year . . when the sales tax on flour was being discussed here about twelve months ago . . . we were informed that the flour tax would be discontinued as soon as possible. Of course, it was discontinued without undue delay, because an election was to take place . . . I am hot against the granting of assistance to the farmer’s, but I am definitely opposed to the view of the Minister in charge »f War Service Homes (Mr. Thorby), who declared a few minutes ago that there was no harm in taxing the poor and no harm in giving the proceeds of the tax to the rich . . . Thousands of people, including some honorable members of this Chamber, now growing wheat, are not wholly dependent upon that part of their activities, yet they will benefit by the passage of these bills unless amendments are made in committee. These people are better able to do without the proceeds of such taxation than the poor people are to pay it … . We were a comparatively happy family in dealing with our wheat industry relief legislation last year, because we knew that none of the money we were providing would go to rich people; but since then the members of the Country party have undoubtedly brought pressure to bear in certain quarters . . .
Those are the remarks of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, concerning the manner in which members of the Country party had used their positions in Parliament to benefit themselves.
The Government has provided a considerable volume of employment for its wealthy and influential supporters in the last six years, creating many well and highly-paid positions without any regard as to whether they were necessary or not. There have been trips abroad allegedly for the purpose of gaining experience which, it was claimed, would be of value to this Parliament and the people of this country, yet when the persons so favoured returned from these extensive and costly tours they were either elevated to the High Court Bench or shifted to another department in which the knowledge they had gained, if any, was of no use to the Australian community.
Let us look at what this Government has done. It has delegated its powers to commission after commission, until democracy has become a mere joke. It is no wonder that the people despise their members of Parliament and the Governments of Australia. This Government established the Australian Broadcasting Commission and appointed to it persons who had been actively associated with its own particular brand of politics in past years. It appointed the Petrol Commission. I do not know what happened to that commission, but
I do know that it cost many thousands of pounds. The Government appointed the Commonwealth Grants Commission, the Wheat Commission, and the Monetary and Banking Commission. I think that you, Mr. Speaker, will recollect, as will other honorable members, that that last commission was the best joke of all, because, while it was sitting, I was able to place before this House information which showed that some evidence that was to be given before it by alleged experts, was actually discussed and edited previously by the Federal Treasurer (Mr. Casey) and the Secretary to the Treasury, Mr. Sheehan. [Leave to continue given.”] That particular evidence was discussed, and certain corrections were made’ in it, before it was submitted to the commission. When the matter was raised in this Parliament, some honorable members departed from the principle that was involved in order to discuss the manner in which I had become possessed of the information. That was not the important fact with which honorable members should have been concerned. It was, that a commission had been appointed which was supposed to be composed of impartial men who would be untrammelled in their investigations and not influenced in any way in any decision that they might make, yet, a responsible member of the Government and an officer of the Treasury actually discussed, and corrected, evidence before it was submitted to the commission. It is obvious to any one who views the matter fairly that the purpose of all of these commissions that have been set up by this Government was, not to secure information for the public or to do anything likely to benefit the community, but rather to cover up the operations and protect the interests of those whom the Government represents.
In the last six years, members of the Government have had many trips abroad at the expense of the people. They have visited many countries. As a member of the Australian community I fail to see in what direction the majority of these trips have been of any benefit to the people of this country. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has visited England, France, Belgium, Italy, the
United States of America and Canada. The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) has visited England, France, Holland, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Italy, British Malaya, the Netherlands East Indies, Indo-China, and the Irish Free State. The Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) has visited England on two occasions, France, the United States of America, and Canada. The Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) has visited Egypt, England, the ‘ United States of America, and New Zealand. The honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) has visited Canada, the United States of America, England; France, Belgium, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland and Switzerland. The Minister for External Affairs (Senator Pearce) has been to New Zealand, New Guinea, Papua, and Norfolk Island. The honorable member for Parramatta (SirFrederick Stewart) has been to NewZealand, Switzerland, and England. Thehonorable member for Parkes (SirCharles Marr) has been to New Guinea, and Papua. Sir Walter Massy-Greene has been to New Zealand. The Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, Sir John Latham, as Attorney-General, visited England, Switzerland, the Netherlands East Indies, Malaya, Hongkong, France, Indo-China, Japan, the Philippine Islands, and China. The High Commissioner for Australia, Mr. Bruce, visited Canada, the United States of America, Switzerland, and England. In the aggregate, the absences of these gentlemen from Australia amount to over five years, and the cost to the taxpayers, as far as we are able to ascertain it, totals £50,000. For what purpose? The AttorneyGeneral went abroad when a certain case was to come before the Privy Council. Despite the fact that he was well paid in the position that he occupied, the right honorable gentleman was offered, and accepted, a fee of 2,000 guineas to represent the Government of Victoria and certain primary-producing interests in this country. I think it will be agreed that he could not have advanced his case one step further had he not been briefed by those particular interests. Every fairminded member of this Parliament will also agree that he did nothing to raise the status of his office when he accepted a fee from interests outside- of this Parliament while he was the representative of the Australian Government in the same case. While the ‘ Minister for Defence was Postmaster-General, he attended a postal congress in Cairo. In justification of that attendance, it was urged that he would gain very valuable information for his department; yet when he returned to Australia, in order that the best use might be made of the information that he had obtained, he was made Minister for Defence! It should be clear to any fair-minded member of the community that the excuses which members of this Government have advanced for their jaunts abroad have been designed to cloud the issue, and delude the people in regard to the exact position.
While the Government was remitting land tax, company tax, and other forms of taxation, not only in respect of taxpayers in this country, hut also of taxpayers outside Australia, what was it doing to assist other sections of the community? To-day it talks about what it has done on behalf of pensioners. It was this Government which first introduced into Commonwealth legislation the principle of compelling the relatives of aged and invalid pensioners to support them. It was this Government which reduced the pension to 15s. a week, penalized the inmates of institutions by cutting their allowance from 5s. to 3s. 9d. a week, and first made an attack on the homes of these unfortunate people by providing that the pension should be a charge on their property. I remember that in the past the “ Red “ bogey was used at election time. The people were told to beware of the Labour party because it wanted to confiscate their homes. The first government to introduce into this country the principle of the confiscation of the homes of the people is the Government that now occupies the Treasury bench in this Parliament. It also introduced into pensions legislation, for the first time in the history of this country, the principle which made the pension rate subject to the rise and fall of the cost of living. This was only a means of escaping from its responsibility. The Government adopts the same practice day after day, when questions are put to it. lt says that the rate of pension is fixed on a certain scale, over which Parliament has no control ; it is determined by the cost of living. Who first introduced that principle into the pensions legislation? lt was this Government. The invalid and old-age pension was never previously subject to cost-of-living fluctuations. The members of the Labour party believe that the restoration of the pensions to fi a week is insufficient ; that under a properly organized society a much larger amount could be made available to pensioners.
Doubtless the Government will claim credit for having given service pensions to returned soldiers. Let us examine what it has done in that regard. Action was taken only after many questions had been asked in this Parliament by members of the Labour party, and every effort had been made to force the hand of the Government. Being at last compelled to. do something for these unfortunate returned soldiers, it introduced amending legislation for the granting of service pensions in particular cases. Yet the latest figures disclose that there are actually fewer than 4,000 service pensions in existence in the whole of the Commonwealth. I can cite many cases of widows of returned soldiers who, being unable to prove to the department that the death of their husbands was due to war service, have had their pensions continued at the same rate as they were receiving during his lifetime and this Government, which claims to have done so much for these people, has given as little as 4£d. a week for the maintenance of a child.
Let us examine what the Government is prepared to do. During the progress of the Gwydir by-election, a Mr. Wilkins spoke on behalf of the Labour party. He had previously been an anti-Labour member for the Bathurst district of New South Wales. He complained that a private banking institution had seized his military pension in order. to pay debts which it said he owed to it. The Government, in order to try to stem the advance of the Labour forces in Gwydir, rushed the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Hughes) into the breach. That right honorable gentleman said, “ This is a breach of the Repatriation Act, and I shall take action at the earliest possible moment against the Commercial Banking Company of Australasia Limited as well as against Mr. Wilkins himself, because they have both broken the law.” Only the other day I asked in this Parliament a question on the subject. A previous anti-Labour Government, in order to try to convince the workers that the law was impartially administered in this country, issued a summons against the late coal baron, John Brown, and after the public had forgotten about the matter, or the Government believed that it had, withdrew the summons and did not proceed with the case. Evidently the present Government intended to play the same trick on this occasion. The Gwydir campaign was over, and the Labour party had won. I asked the Minister for Repatriation upon notice, when he proposed to take action. My questions, and the Minister’s replies, were couched in the following terms : -
– la it a fact that tlie Commercial Bank of Australasia Limited, between the 21st March, 1935, and tlie 1.4th May, 1930, collected the war pension of Mr. Gordon Wilkins, ex-United Australia party member for Bathurst, New South Wales, and used the money so received in settlement of a debt which it waa alleged the ex-soldier had contracted with the bank.
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. Officers of the bank in question did, over the period stated by the honorable member, collect the war pension of Mr. Wilkins and, when collected, applied it, under authority from Mr. Wilkins, in reduction of tlie overdraft of Abel Wilkins Motors Limited, (in liquidation), in which company Mr. Wilkins was a shareholder. The amounts received in this manner by the bank were not in repayment of any advance made to the pensioner or in payment of any interest in connexion with such advance.
What does all this mean? Does it mean that the money lenders may now make advances to pensioners upon the persons concerned giving authority for the collection of their pensions? If so. the pensions will most certainly be used for purposes other than Parliament intended. I understood that this Government took credit for having deliberately designed its repatriation legislation to protect the returned soldiers and other war pensioners against such happenings. It was declared, 1 thought, that the pension should be paid to the ex-soldier for his war service and that no person or institution should be able to take it away from him. But it is evidently different when the private banking companies want the money ! They, as we all know, dictate the policy of this Government. Despite all that the Minister for Repatriation has said, the Government apparently docs not intend to take action against the banking company which attached this ex-soldier’s pension.
– The protection which (he honorable gentleman has mentioned was given by a Labour government.
– That is true. It is the duty of the Labour governments of Australia to protect the people and evidently the purpose of the anti-Labour governments to take it away. In this case, it would seem that the Government is quite content to allow things to remain as they arc. But what happens whim the circumstances are different? We well remember that, some years ago, an Australian government line of steamers was operating on the high seas. This enterprise cost the country about £7,000,000. Eventually, however, an anti-Labour government decided to make a present of the line to a shipping concern controlled by Lord Kylsant for £1,900,000. The fact that the head of that great organization was a peer did not mean that he was necessarily not a crook for, eventually, he was imprisoned in Great Britain for having been proved guilty of issuing prospectuses misleading to the public.
– The honorable member has exhausted his extension of time.
.- I think we will all admit that the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General was not particularly comprehensive. The time at which it was delivered made it neither wise nor politic for the Government to embody too much in it, seeing that it is preparing the budget.
We all fully appreciate the references in the Speech to the very satisfactory change that has occurred in employment conditions throughout the country. Today unemployment has been reduced to less than 10 per cent. This is a tribute to good government quite as much as to the improved prices available for our primary products, a state of affairs which has developed principally during the last twelve months. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) had a great deal to say about the unreliability of the statisticial information upon which our unemployment returns are compiled. I remind him, however, that for comparative purposes the figures are quite reliable, because the same basis of comparison is used as that in vogue years ago, when 29 per cent. - the highest percentage of unemployment - was shown. Whatever deficiencies are present in the method of calculation to-day were present then. I therefore submit that for purposes of comparison the returns are fair and reliable. It will be remembered that five years ago, and particularly three or four years ago, a great deal was said about the impossibility of ever re-absorbing our idle people into industry. Technologists declared that it would be quite impossible to restore their jobs to them without making some revolutionary changes and it was said that there were serious faults in our banking and credit systems. The circumstances in which we find ourselves to-day, the wireless, transport, electrical and other industries absorbing our idle hands, disprove the contentions that were advanced with such confidence a few years ago.
I wish to touch briefly on the subject of defence. We well remember that not so very long ago the people of Abyssinia, who were just as anxious as the people of Australia to preserve peace, found that their policy of wishing for peace and neglecting to make any preparation for defence ended in national extinction; and our Govern ment, in my opinion, has acted wisely in providing increased amounts of money for defence purposes. The people of Australia appreciate as keenly as the people of any part of the Empire the change in world outlook that has been effected by the new policy that Great Britain has adopted in regard to armaments. About eighteen months ago the leaders of the big central states of Europe were noisily arrogant in their public utterances and were threatening the peace of the world in their armies and huge expenditure on armaments. But immediately Great Britain took the bit between its teeth, as it were, and determined to forsake its Pacific policy and. follow suit by spending large sums of money for defence, throughout the Empire, a change occurred in the attitude and psychological outlook of these militant European leaders.
I shall not discuss the subject of national insurance at any length for it has already been freely debated. I am pleased, however, that the Government has at last obtained sufficient information to announce that action is to be taken at an early date. In respect of both health and unemployment insurance we now have the benefit of the experience of Great Britain. Though some people seem to think that they may obtain a measure of political popularity by advocating that the workers should not make any contribution towards the national insurance funds, it must be generally realized, and Britain has proved that it is a satisfactory and fair policy for all sections of the people - those employed and those who provide employment - to contribute, with the Government, to the fund for national insurance.
The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) said that the Government had done nothing of any useful nature for our primary industries. I remind this young memberhat it is wise for an honorable gentleman who wishes to secure standing in the House to make sure of his facts before he speaks. He will find that reliability will weigh much more heavily than being overemphatic in his statements. The honorable gentleman made some utterly unreliable statements in his speech. Even the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr.
Ward) admitted that the arrangement recently made by the Government in Great Britain respecting sugar will allow this country - actually Queensland - to send 400,000 tons of sugar annually to Britain at the preferential rate for the next five years. He suggested that Aus.tralia will lose £20,000,000 by this agreement, but the truth is that the proceeds of all exports are new wealth to Australia and will be available for distribution among our producers and those with whom they deal. I remind the honorable member for Kennedy also that the butter agreement, for which this Government was mainly responsible, has been of great value to Queensland. It was Commonwealth action that gave the agreement legal authority, at any rate for a period when the Paterson scheme was threatened with a complete breakdown. This Government has also done a great deal to assist the tobacco-growing industry. Queensland has also benefited in this connexion. I noticed in a report in the press the other day that a quantity of tobacco leaf grown in the honorable member’s own electorate was realizing more than 4s. per lb. for the best quality.
– What proportion of the crop ?
– I am unable to give the honorable member figures in regard to aggregates or averages. The report stated that a certain quantity of new season’s tobacco leaf had been sold for more than 4s. per lb. Protection has been provided ranging from 4fs. 6d. up to 5s. 8d. per lb. for tobacco manufactured entirely from Australian leaf. In these circumstances it cannot be argued with any truth that the Government has failed to sympathize with, or assist these producers.
– The tobacco-growers of Victoria are perfectly satisfied.
– That is so. The meat agreement has likewise been of material assistance to the Queensland producers. At present we are enjoying a preferential tariff on Australian beef sold in England of d. per lb., and the quota fixed is beyond the limit of our export capacity. This represents approximately £2 a carcass. As the largest proportion of the beef exported from Australia comes from Queensland the northern State may be regarded as being in a very happy position.
Coming now to the wheat industry, I remind the honorable member for Kennedy that the Commonwealth Government has, in recent years, assisted the wheat-growers of Australia to the extent’ of £14,000,000. In addition, we are enjoying, under the Ottawa agreement, a preference of 3d. a bushel in respect of every bushel of our wheat sold in Great Britain. Moreover, our fruitgrowers have been granted assistance to the value of £350,000 during the last few years. This applies particularly to the prune, apple and pear-growers. The subsidy of £1,034,000 on the use of superphosphates by this Government has had a wonderful effect. The educational work that has been done has been of great value to producers, and has enabled them to increase substantially their own and the national production, and it should be continued. An amount of £174,000 has been distributed within the last two( years in bounties to cotton-growers, and practically the whole of this money has gone into Queensland. In addition to all this, the Commonwealth has provided £12,000,000 for the purpose of rehabilitating our rural industries. It is true that a considerable amount of this money has yet to be distributed, but arrangements and compositions are now being made for producers, through the States, which will undoubtedly restore stability to many of those engaged in our rural industries and rescue them from bankruptcy.
The recently arranged agreement for the reduction of overseas freights is, in my opinion, due to the fine work of the Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thorby), who is to be congratulated. The agreement provides for a considerable reduction of freights at a time when the tendency is for freights to rise. The annual value of the concessions obtained in the freight on our export goods, including wool, is £500,000 for the next five years.
What I have said proves conclusively that the Government has not been unmindful of the welfare of the primary producers. If the honorable member for Kennedy had taken the trouble to acquaint himself with the facts before making his speech he would not have made some of the statements which now appear in Hansard against his name.
I wish now to refer for a few moments to the subject of banking. A royal commission has been inquiring into this aspect of our national life, and its report is now expected. I wish to say, however, that I have been sadly disappointed at the action of the associated banks of Australia in increasing the interest rate on current account overdrafts, especially as they have enjoyed the advantage of a reduction of land and income taxes and the abolition of the super tax on income derived from property. A reduction of 40 per cent. was first made on the super tax on income from property, and last year the tax was completely abolished. Yet although the interest rate on fixed deposits has not exceeded 3 per cent., and on the average it is only 21/2 per cent., in quite a number of districts and to many clients the overdraft rate has been raised by the banks to 51/2 per cent. If some fair basis could be provided in order to allow the Commonwealth Bank to be fully competitive with the trading banks, the Government should consider it - whether or not the Monetary and Banking Commission recommends it- with a view to maintaining a reasonable interest rate for those who require finance in their undertakings. In making this statement I desire to emphasize that the competition between the Commonwealth Bank and the private banks should be equitable, and that the Commonwealth Bank should not be permitted to escape taxation for which the other banking institutions are liable.
I come now to the increasing dangers, which are becoming more and more apparent, in connexion with monopolistic concerns throughout Australia. In days gone by the Federal Government attempted to bring some form of check upon them, but it found that it was impotent under the Constitution to do so. While recognizing that fact, I point out that we do possess some power under the tariff to control quite a number of industries which have reached almost monopolistic proportions and are becoming almost a menace to the people of Australia, whom they are exploiting. I urge the Government to make a careful examination of the affairs of some of these companies, and if their powers of exploitation can be checked in any- way by a reduction of the tariff, which has been provided for their protection, Istrongly recommend that such action should be taken after the case has been re-submitted to the Tariff Board.
The first example of what I consider to be an exploiting concern is the motorbody building industry. During the last few years honorable members have been provided with some of the balance-sheets of these concerns, which have revealed what I consider to be most exorbitant profits. General Motors-Holdens Limited, of whose capital £561,600 has been subscribed by the Australian people and £965,800 by General Motors in the United States of America, a total of £1,527,400, made a profit of £134,000 in 1932-33.
– How much did the company lose before it began to make profits?
– To 1931-32, the loss was £866,386, but the company has to date shown an average profit of 13 per cent. over the whole period. In this connexion, I quote specific figures. In 1933-34, the profit was £402,333 ; in 1934-35 it was £673,057; and, in addition, £50,000 arrears of interest on the preference shares was paid that year, bringing that year’s profit to £723,000. In 1935-36 the net profit was £756,672. Honorable members will realize from these figures that, in 1935-36, this enterprise made a net profit of nearly 50 per cent. In the lasttwo years, the profit was nearly 96 per cent. of the total capital invested in that undertaking.
– It would then appear that that company could easily carry out the 40-hour working week without suffering undue losses.
– Yes; or it could reduce the price of motor bodies. The number of employees engaged by the company totals 7,421, and the profit made upon every employee engaged in the industry represents about £100 per annum.
– Those were the profits made on motor cars as well as on motor bodies.
– Those profits were made by a company which manufactures motor bodies only.
– But why does the honorable member describe it as a monopoly when over 100 manufacturers are making bodies ?
– I said that many interests in Australia are becoming monopolistic:, and that these profit? appear to me to be exorbitant, and I claim that iu such circumstances the public is entitled to a greater measure of protection by means of a reduction of the tariff which benefits these industries.
The output of motor bodies in South Australia was 24,329 in 1934-35, and 40,404 in 1935-36, making a total for the. last two years of 64,733. I have not in my possession the exact figures of the output of each particular company, but in view of the fact that General Motors-Holdens Limited engages approximately four-fifths of the employees in the motor-body building industry in South Australia, it is reasonable for me to assume that fourfifths of the total output of motor bodies in that State is approximately the output of General Motors-Holdens Limited. During the last two years this figure works out at 51,786 bodies, while the profit for two years is £1,469,000, which is equivalent to £28 7s. on each body. In 1930-31 the cost of the plant was written in the balance-sheets as £496,000, but in 1935, it bad been written down to £139,777. There has not been any shortage in the writing down of depreciation or obsolescence, or in the matter of applying capital profits to reserves. In the division of the spoils, the proportion of the profit left to the Australian people who provide 36.77 per cent, of the capital in this industry is 4 per cent. They have subscribed 36 per cent. of the capital that is being used in the undertaking and they receive 4 per cent, of the total profit, while the American company interested in the undertaking has supplied 63 Der cent, of the capital required, and is taking 96 per cent, of the profit; for, though not all yet distributed, the fact emerges tha.t if th<i company iT-ere to be wound up, Australian shareholders with preference shares could not c:aim more than the actual amount of their advance, and any reserves put aside out of profits would become profits to the American company. The tariff upon motor car bodies is: British, £30 to £85, or 40 per cent, a body; and foreign, £40 to £95, or 60 per cent, a body. If honorable members will note the tariff provided, they will observe that at an average rate of £50 the actual wages paid in the whole of the industry are approximately the same as the amount of protection which is granted to it by the Government.
Similar circumstances have arisen in the past with other Australian industries. With respect to one particular industry it was discovered that the Government bounty of £4 10s. on a certain commodity actually exceeded the total wages paid. If an average of £50 is provided as protection for each motor body, and such protection represents the total wages “paid to employees in the industry, such circumstances demand the attention of the Government and a review of the tariff.
I am gratified that in this connexion the cement manufacturing industry has received attention. When the Government took action in regard to that commodity, honorable members were told that the industry could not possibly carry on if nothing more than natural protection were afforded to it against British and, although I was quite in favour of protecting local cement against
Guy dumping or cutting of freights on the overseas product, I have not heard of a single instance of a cement company being forced to suspend operations as the result of the removal of the duty by the Government. Whenever a reduction of duties is contemplated, honorable members hear the story that the industry affected will go to the wall. We heard it on the occasion that the matchmanufacturing industry was brought to heel, and the duty on matches was reduced by 6d. a gross. On that occasion we were informed that large numbers of girls who were employed under ideal conditions would be cast upon the streets; but the Government was sure of its facts, and took the requisite action, and the industry is still flourishing. The Government must not permit itself to be too greatly influenced in connexion with the protection which it grants to the motor body-building industry, any more than it was in respect of cement or matches.
The manufacture, of glass in Australia provides another case in point. A few days ago honorable members were supplied with the balance-sheet of an important Australian glass-manufacturing company, and it showed that during last year the concern made a gross profit of more than £600,000, and it revealed a net profit of £231,000. As its capital is £1,105,4-78, the concern made a profit of nearly 25 per cent. I point out further that, during the last three years, its profits have averaged 20 per cent. These huge profits are being made under the shelter of the protection provided to the industry by this Government. The people of Australia are as much entitled to protection as is any industry, and when it is evident that such huge profits as those which I have quoted are made, it cannot be denied that the protection is excessive, and should be reduced. The glass-manufacturing industry has definitely become a monopoly. A few months ago, when this House was discussing a trade treaty with Belgium for the purpose of securing the re-entry into that country of Australian exports of barley and beef, the glass-manufacturing interests circularized honorable members to oppose the proposal of the Government to reduce the tariff operating against certain fancy lines of Belgium glass, because this prosperous company was conducting this section of its industry as a charitable organization and at a loss, merely to provide employment. “When it was asked to supply further particulars and its balance-sheets, no further reply was received from it. The exporters of barley and beef, whose markets were in jeopardy, are just as entitled to secure a reasonable return for their commodities as is any particular section of the glass industry.
During the last few days propaganda has been distributed among honorable members by a section of the radio industry, which is anxious about the position created by a company which, having very large financial powers and being allegedly associated with important financial interests in America, is practically able to compel small traders to pay whatever price it chooses for its local product. So far, I am assured that the local traders have not been exploited, but excessive prices are being charged for available supplies of imported wireless valves. In years gone by, certain manufacturers of wireless goods, who were not importers, obtained their requirements from bigger importers. To-day, with the restriction of imports from America through the operation of a quota, the bigger importers, who are competitive manufacturers, are able to use practically the whole of the imported wireless materials permitted under the quota, and are demanding from the smaller manufacturers 45 per cent, extra in the price for any surplus of these valves. I do not urge the Government to lift the quota entirely; but these facts demand a careful inquiry with a view to ascertaining whether or not some injustice is being done to the smaller manufacturers in their competition with the bigger companies.
Similar risks of injustice would have arisen in connexion with the manufacture of motor chassis, and I am gratified that the matter has been re-submitted to the Tariff Board for report. But the proposal for the payment of a bounty of £30, with a protection of 5d. per lb., or £40 on the chassis, would undoubtedly add to the burden of these requirements, and will assist to create a monopoly in the manufacture of motor chassis, and again menace the interests of the Australian people.
– The worst feature about that position was that no inquiry into the matter was ever held.
– That is so. I urge that very careful consideration be given to these matters, which suggest the possibility of increasing monopolistic powers in Australia, particularly in view of the fact that constitutionally this Parliament has no power to check the powers of monopolistic industries, and our only redress is through the medium of tariff reductions.
I desire to refer to two matters in connexion with postal administration. The present postage rates on newspapers constitute an anomaly and an injustice. Newspaper proprietors are allowed to send papers by post at the rate of 20 oz. for 1½d but if an ordinary person desires to post a newspaper to a friend, or to some one who cannot afford to buy one, he is allowed to send only six oz. for Id.
– Newspaper proprietors post newspapers in bulk.
– In any case, an advantage of 50 per cent, in the rates ought to be enough. I suggest that the Government might meet the position by permitting single newspapers to be sent at the rate of 10 oz. for Id. The. present limit of 6 oz. debars many newspapers of the size published at the present time.
The position in regard to telegraphic rates on border messages is also anomalous. I suggest that if a zoning system were introduced, on the principle of a 50-mile radius from any one point to another regardless of State boundaries, the difficulty could be overcome.
There is also need for reform in regard to the rates charged for trunk telephone calls. When a call is originated, the telephone operators are put to considerable trouble, and time is taken in getting the connexion. Then a threeminute conversation is allowed for a certain charge. If, however, the subscriber desires an extension of time, he is charged exactly the same amount for a further three minutes’ conversation, although in this instance, the exchange officials are put to no trouble in making the connexion. I suggest that if the Government cannot reduce the rate, that when an extension of time is asked for, the subscriber should be allowed an additional four minutes for the same charge as the original three.
Reference has been made to a proposal for the inauguration of a different system for Senate elections. On the 2nd October, 1934, the Prime Minister stated in Adelaide that he intended to ask the parties in this Parliament to appoint a committee to inquire into the best method of electing the Senate. I have always been in favour of the system of proportional representation, and I remember that the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) pledged himself to support it. Three years have passed since then, and I am sure that the Country party would sup port the Government in an endeavour to have such a system introduced. One of the main virtues for a Senate candidate to-day, seems to be that his name should start with A. Under the present system it is possible, as happened at the last elections, for one party, which receives only 51 per cent, of the votes to obtain 100 per cent, the representation. With proportional representation neither Labour nor antiLabour would ever hold less than twelve seats each, an’d there would be stability. There are no constitutional difficulties in the way of effecting an alteration, because the Constitution states that the present method of electing the Senate shall continue until such time as Parliament alters it. It can be done before the next election if the Government has the will to do so, and I am confident that, with the numbers behind it, and with the support of the Country party, the change could beeffected at once. The Government should discuss the matter at once with the department so that an equitable system of voting may he introduced immediately It is the proper thing to do, and I urge the Government to do it now.
.- I congratulate the mover and seconder of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, and also the two honorable members on this side of the House, who first spoke to the motion on behalf of the Labour party. I do not propose to deal specifically with the GovernorGeneral’s Speech itself, which contains the usual list of well-worn promises that have been often broken before, and that are now brought forward merely in the hope that they may appeal to unthinking people.
The honorable member who has just sat down (Mr. Nock) spoke of proportional representation for Senate elections. As a matter of fact, only the anti-Labour parties have ever opposed proportional representation, because they believed that the Labour party would never win the Senate.
– Would the honorable member vote for proportional representation now?
– I would be prepared to vote for the abolition of the Senate altogether. The honorable member supports proportional representation now because he fears the results of the general elections in October.
Reference has been made to the Government’s defence programme, and to the attitude of the Labour party to defence generally. I assert that the Labour party will take second place to none in its advocacy of an adequate defence policy for Australia, but it believes that the first and most important measure of defence for any country is the proper care of its people. At the present time, a great many of the people of Australia are not being properly cared for. This afternoon, while the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) was speaking, the Acting Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) told him, on more than one occasion, thatthe duty of looking after the youth of the nation devolved, not upon the Commonwealth, but upon the States. That may be so, but it becomes a national obligation if the States fail to discharge the duty as some of them apparently have failed, and asall of them will fail if they are unable to give effect to their social service programmes. The fault for that will not be theirs, but that of the associated banks.
It was stated this afternoon that the Government had instructed Mr. Scholfield, its representative at Geneva, to vote in favour of the adoption of a 40-hour working week. I remember that a previous representative of the Government (Sir Frederick Stewart) was given similar instructions, but when he returned to Australia, the Government refused to honour its obligations under the resolution for which its representative had voted, and even Sir Frederick Stewart himself declined to vote for the principle of the 40-hour week when the matter was tested, in this House. I have a feeling that history will repeat itself when Mr. Scholfield returns.
A few days ago, I listened to the speech of the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden), who seconded the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply. I know Mr. Fadden very well, and I was interested to hear the many clever things which he had to say in support of a government which only recently he condemned in the strongest possible terms. I have here some newspaper extracts from the “Warwick Daily News’, which purports to report certain utterances of ‘Mr. Fadden, delivered during the Darling Downs by-election campaign. The Daily News may or may not be a supporter of the Country party; it is certainly not a supporter of the Labour party.
– Those reports are not true.
– I give them for what they are worth. Here is one culled from the Daily News of the 9th September -
Country people could expect little consideration from the United Australia party, comprised as it was witha Cabinet of capital city men.
This United Australia party, on its Cabinet composition, represents purely capital city interests. Those interests have nothing in common with the people who have made and are making this groat area of the Darling Downs a better and more prosperous electorate to live in.
On the 5th September, the following report of a speech by Mr. Fadden appeared in the same newspaper : -
The United Australia party gave its allegiance to thebig financial and manufacturing interests of the cities and to the middlemen and monopolists, because it received its support and power from those people. How then, could the United Australia party serve the countryside as well as those in the city who sucked the lifeblood from the countryside?
– That part was never said.
– The report continues -
If you put a United Australia party man into the Federal House to represent the Darling Downs you are going to give your allegiance to your political enemies - the manufacturing and commercial groups and the middlemen.
No manassociated with the United Australia party -a party backed and influenced by city interests - could conscientiously serve city interests and ambitions, and at the same time adequately realize what the countryside required in the way of legislation.
Proceeding to deal with the parliamentary record of the United Australia party in its endeavour to govern without Country party assistance, Mr. Fadden said its history in that attempt was a sorry story.
The United Australia party tariff policy had nearly smashed all the industries of the country. Primary industries were subjected torepeated onslaughts and wore beaten to their knees, preference being extended by the United Australia party to Cheap, foreign, black-grown products, so that city importers -the men behind the United Australia party - should reap a harvest.
Then came the 1934 election, and the United Australia party found itself in trouble - a party virtually defeated at the polls. The Country party had to come to the rescue.
The man on the land would have received scant consideration from the United Australia party were it not for the leaven of the Country party in the Commonwealth Cabinet.
How on earth can Mr. Annand (United Australia party candidate), bound hand and foot to city interests, the forces behind the United Australia party, claim to representany section of the Downs?
The Darling Downs has no intention of being represented in the Commonwealth Parliament by Mr. Annand - a man tied to vested interests - the political enemies of the man on the land.
In another speech, reported in the Daily News of the 10th December, Mr. Fadden stated -
Country party influence in the Commonwealth Parliament has accomplished much for the people of Australia.
We know only too well what the Country party has accomplished. It succeeded in involving Australia in a dispute with Japan, and was responsible for the banning of Mrs. Freer. Mr. J.N. Lawson, M.H.R., speaking on behalf of the United Australia party candidate in the Darling Downs by-election campaign, said -
Mr. Fadden is a city accountant, who has never rendered the Darling Downs any public service, while his will o’ the wisp flitting from electorate to electorate in the hope of finding a safe seat for himself has’ obviously caused him to overlook the important fact that the people of the Downs possess instincts of fair play that will not permit political gate crashers to traducemost highly esteemed citizens.
Then, according to the Daily News of the 4th December, the Assistant Minister, Mr. Hunter, M.H.R., stated during the same campaign -
I first knew Arty Fadden (evidently J. N. Lawson considers him “ Artful “ Fadden ) when he was a smiling small boy at school. Years afterwards I Game across a “ Fadden “ in the North who was counted the leading public accountant there, and one of the most prominent in the State.
On inquiry I found it was the same little Arty I had known 20 years before.
One might be excused for thinking that Mr. Hunter ought more properly have described the honorable member as “ artful “.
The honorable member for Darling Downs, congratulating the Government on its achievements, stated the other night that its work had been made all the more difficult because of the legacy of maladministration which had been left to it by its predecessors in office. In making that statement he was certainly not putting the position fairly. The fact is that, in January, 1929, ten months before the Labour Government took office, Australia’s credit overseas had been stopped. Attempts by the Bruce-Page Government to float loans in London had definitely failed. That condition had been brought about by a succession of adverse trade balances, and by government extravagance. The Labour Government was called upon to remedy the position. Goods that had been imported could not he paid for. Importers cashed the cheques received for goods into notes and presented them at the head office of the Commonwealth Bank demanding gold, which they shipped abroad. Had that practice continued, no gold would have been left to meet our national obligations overseas. Default was imminent. Only quick and drastic action could save the nation fromfalling over the precipice of financial disaster.
Within a few weeks of taking office t he Scullin Government passed legislation to mobilize the whole of the gold reserves. The Commonwealth Bank was given authority to commandeer the gold of every other financial institution, providing credit in exchange. By that means the gold reserves were preserved to meet national obligations abroad. That, however, was not sufficient. Imports were still arriving in excess of exports, and this constituted a menace to our financial position. The action taken by the Labour Government to rectify the trade balance is well known. It was clearly described by the then Resident Minister in London, Mr. S. M. Bruce, who, in addressing a meeting of the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Great Britain in London in 1933, said that Australia had converted an adverse trade balance of over £30,000,000 into a favorable balance of £32,000,000. He pointed out that that had been done by means of tariff action, prohibitions and high duties, and he added that by no other means could it have been done. Mr. Bruce praised Australia’s achievements in glowing terms, but he did not tell his auditors that the ministry responsible for those achievements was the Labour Government.
Speaking in Sydney on the 2nd July, 1934, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) said -
Four per cent. 1961 Australian stocks, in September, 1931, were down in value to £70 18s. 2d. On 22nd December of that year, a few -days after the present Government had been elected, they had risen to £90. 18s. Cd.
The Prime Minister sought to create the impression that Australian stocks had jumped up immediately his Government was elected. The truth is that these same stocks had risen to £90 14s. 5d. before the election was held. The success of the conversion of loans totalling £536,000,000 created confidence, and, in the three months before the 1931 election, Australian stocks rose £20. Confidence was restored to a large extent before the advent of the Lyons Government. The Labour Government presented to Parliament a balanced budget for the year 1931-32, and the Lyons Government inherited a financial position vastly different from the unbalanced accounts left by the Bruce-Page Government. Mr. Lyons, as Treasurer, had the privilege of announcing a surplus for the year 1931-32, without having done a solitary thing to bring about that result. That was due to the action of fie Scullin Government in bringing about a change from an adverse to a favorable trade balance. Nobody knows better than the honorable member for Darling Downs that a man who pays his way all the time will get credit whenever he wants it; but, if a nation does not meet its obligations, the time will come when it cannot obtain further credit. That time had arrived when the Scullin Government took office.
Reductions of interest charges have brought substantial relief to the budgets of Commonwealth and State Governments. The aggregate interest savings to June, 1936, on Australian conversions carried out under the management of the Scullin Government, amounted to more than £3S,000,000. Of that sum £’7,285,000 applied to Commonwealth loans. The aggregate interest savings to June, 1936, due to London conversions carried out by Mr. Bruce on behalf of the Lyons’ Government amounted to £8,000,000, and of that sum £1,600,000 applied to Commonwealth loans. We hear much boasting in the press of Mr. Bruce’s £8,000,000, but hardly a word is said about the Labour Government’s interest savings of £38,000,000. Unhappily, the Labour Government did not live to enjoy the benefits of its activities. When Mr. Scullin was in London, “he made strong representations to the British Government to have a substantial reduction made of the charges on our overseas war debt to the Government of the United Kingdom, with the result that the principal repayments were suspended. Later, under the Hoover moratorium, which was effected before the Scullin Government relinquished office, the interest on the overseas war debt also was suspended. This gave relief to the Commonwealth budget alone, and amounted to £27,745,000 up to June, 1936. From these facts it will be seen that the Commonwealth Government has enjoyed aggregate savings in interest and sinking fund charges for the five years 1931-32 to 1935-36 amounting to £46,600,000. Only £1,600,000 of that saving was due to action by the Lyons Government. The cost of loan conversions includes commissions, brokerage, advertising, &c. . The Lyons Government converted loans aggregating £182,000,000 at a cost of £3,000,000, whilst the Scullin Government converted £536,000,000, the conversion costs being only £81,000.
The present Government has promised to introduce a bill for the purpose of establishing a scheme of national insurance. I interjected during the course of the debate to-day, and remarked that about twelve years ago an investigation of this subject was begun. In about the year 1925, the government of the day appointed a royal commission, which took evidence for a couple of years, and submitted a case for the introduction of national insurance, but nothing has yet been done. Personally, I do not believe that anything of a practical nature will result from the present proposal, which is probably regarded by the Government and its supporters as good electioneering propaganda. ‘It will be impossible for the proposed bill to be passed by this Parliament between now and December, even assuming that the Government is sincere in the matter. It is admitted that the difficulties in the way of adopting a workable plan are enormous. As I see the position, a speech was prepared for His Excellency the Governor-General to read to the members of this Parliament about a series of broken promises which mean no more now than they did when first mentioned. Therefore, I anticipate that nothing practicable will be done. Probably the Government imagines that many people will be induced to support it in the hope that it will give effect to a scheme of national insurance and a few other proposals.
We have heard a good deal from the present Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) about malnutrition. There has been much talk over the air about the deplorable condition of the children in certain areas, and the lack of proper food for the little ones and their mothers; but nothing is done by the department to relieve their troubles. When suggestions were made this afternoon that assistance should be granted to the States for other purposes, we were told that they were purely State matters. Many statements have been made by the Minister over the air and at public gatherings, but tangible results may be looked for in vain. Three weeks before the Sydney Royal Show, when cattle were being brought in for exhibition purposes, it was stated in the Sydney press that milk amounting to hundreds of gallons had been thrown away every day. I suggest that this milk could have been used to very good purpose, and at little cost, for the benefit of mothers and children who were sadly in need of it. It should have been distributed through the well-known charitable organizations. The Minister must have been aware of this position, for he knows something of the charitable work undertaken by women’s organizations in Sydney. Perhaps in that case also the responsibility rested with the Government of New South Wales.
As government supporters frequently accuse the Labour party of associating with Communists and other undesirables, honorable members will be interested to know on the authority of the Sydney Morning Herald that both the United Australia party and the United Country party definitely supported Communist candidates in the last State election in New South Wales. ,In its issues of the 9th and 10th May, 1935, the newspaper referred to contained the official recommendation to country electors, as well as those in metropolitan districts, as to how their votes should be recorded. Iu two districts there were only two candidates, representing the Communist and Labour parties respectively. Electors were advised to vote for the candidate who was alleged to be an Independent, but was, in fact, the endorsed Communist candidate. I have in my hand extracts from the Sydney Morning Herald of the two dates mentioned, and also a complete copy of the Communist programme, authorized by Mr. E. J. Rice, Room 7, Trades Hall, Lithgow, which urged the electors to present a united front for the Communist objectives. They were advised to vote for the Communist candidate, Mr. R. Cram. When both the United Australia party and the United Country party urged the electors to give their first preference to Mr. R. Cram and their second preference to the Labour candidate, they definitely advocated communism in preference to the policy of the Labour party. It will be seen, therefore, that when honorable members opposite profess not to believe in communism they are speaking with their tongues in their cheeks. These revelations give ground for the belief that the withdrawal of the prosecution, of which we have heard a good deal lately, was due to the fact that the parties forming the Government did not wish to injure their friends, and so decided to withdraw the prosecution.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Mr. -SPEAKER-I shall ascertain when it” will be convenient for His Excellency the Governor-General to receive the Address-in-Reply, and will inform honorable members accordingly.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That the House will, at the next sitting, resolve itself into a committee to consider the Supply to be granted to His Majesty.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) agreed to-
That the House will, at the next sitting, resolve itself into a committee to consider the Ways and Means for raising the Supply to be granted to His Majesty.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the adoption of sections 2, 3, 4, 5 and6 of the Statute of Westminster, 1931 , and for other purposes.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to consolidate and amend the law relating to patents of inventions, and for other purposes.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Acts Interpretation Act 1901-32. to repeal the Acts Interpretation Act 1904-34, and for other purposes.
Motion (by Dm. Earle Page) pro posed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I desire to bring under the notice of the Minister in charge of War Service Homes (Mr. Hunter) three cases in which it is evident that injustice has been done. The first concerns a returned soldier, Mr. J. F. Savage, of Wollongong. Mr. Savage writes -
They worked their figures well with their interest and compound interest. They are the greatest bloodsuckers that ever lived.
For a period, Mr. Savage was out of regular employment, but even when engaged on relief work lie paid 5s. or 6s. a week. When in full employment he paid more than the statutory amount. The original price of the house was £790. During his occupancy, Mr. Savage effected improvements valued at £168 5s.0d. and paid rates and taxes. He is supposed still to owe £810. I realize that that amount includes interest and compound interest.
The second case relates to a man who borrowed £825 6s. 6d. for the erection of his home. He paid £385 14s.0d. in interest and reduced his principal by £127 13s. 6d. The total amount paid by him was £6991s.11d. but he is still shown in the books of the department as owing £711 5s 9d.
The third case is that of a man who first approached the Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes). He has paid off about £300, but is still debited with almost the original cost of the house.
It is useless for the Minister incharge of War Service Homes to write letters such as those he has sent to me. I am prepared to meet him in his own electorate and ask in the presence of his constituents whether they stand for the things that those letters contain. The worst Jewish money-lender in the country would not write such letters. The returned soldiers who occupy these houses responded to the call of their country and made the sacrifice asked of them. When they enlisted, they were promised that on their return they would be given the sun, moon and stars. The promises made to them won two elections for the parties opposed to Labour. I am no supporter of private enterprise, but no private firm would treat these men as the War Service Homes Department treats them. When they were asked to join the forces, a lot of sentimental talk was indulged in, but now all sentiment has vanished, and they are being dealt with in a purely businesslike way, and subjected to the harshest of exploitation. Hundreds of families have been turned out of Avar service homes in Sydney and suburbs, and. in many instances, the houses have remained vacant for three, or even six months. While unoccupied, some of the dwellingshave been damaged by vandals who have even gone to the extreme of removing windows, doors, and stoves from them. I could instance cases of soldier occupants who paid 30s. or 32s. 6d. per week for their homes and were subsequently turned out. The Department then spent as much as £150 in renovating the houses and let them to other people, not necessarily returned soldiers, for about 12s. or 13s. a week. Those who promised the returned soldiers so much and won elections on the “ loyalty ticket “ should stand up to their promises. If the Minister is willing to meet me on the platform in his electorate, I shall be glad, but if not, I shall go into his electorate in any case and tell his constituents the truth and ask them whether they endorse what the Minister has Written to me. I ask again that these men be given fair treatment. They are at least entitled to a little more liberality than that usually extended by the most exacting business man. The cases to which I have referred are some of the worst that have come under my notice, and in dealing with them the department has given to the returned soldier no consideration whatsoever. Even in private transactions, when the unfortunate buyer of a dwelling gets into difficulties, much more lenient treatment is usually meted out to him by the seller than is given by the Government to soldier purchasers. The war service homes purchasers in New South Wales have not been given the advantage of the provisions of the Moratorium Act in operation in that State. I repeat that the treatment meted out to these men redounds to the everlasting shame of the administration.
– It is always better for honorable members to bring their cases before me privately so that I may talk over the matter with them and advise as to what can be done. It is not very nice for the people concerned to have these more intimate matters aired in this chamber. When honorable members have brought their cases before me privately I am sure that they have always gone away feeling perfectly satisfied with the result.
– The Minister has turned me down in every case. I have written numerous letters to him in regard to these unfortunate men.
– I know what the honorable member has said in his letters. With regard to the adoption of business methods, I remind the honorable member that when the war service homes were built purchasers were called upon to pay very small deposits, much smaller deposits than could be accepted by private concerns. In many cases no deposit was paid, and in still more cases the deposits were as low as from £5 to £10 in respect of houses costing between £700 and £800. In addition to that the interest charge is only 4 per cent. on monthly rests. The charge made by building societies is8 per cent. on half-yearly rests, which works out at about 10 per cent. over all. In looking back over the decisionsof my predecessors I have found that in every case the purchasers were treated fairly, and in no casewas the amount of the instalment, which includes interest and principal, greater than the . rental thatwould be charged for a comparable house rented privately. The honorable member referred to vandalism in connexion with unoccupied dwellings. I admit that some years ago a number of unoccupied war service homeswere damaged by vandals, but I do not think that the honorable member is wise to refer to that.
– What is the Minister insinuating?
– The fact that Government houses were knocked about when private houses were not,is not a matter to boast about. The damaged houseswere subsequently renovated. The honorable member has said that £130 was spent on one dwellingwhich was then rented to a non-soldier for the paltry sum of 12s. a week. In no cases have renovated houses been rented to nonsoldiers at less than the instalment - which included principal and interest - paid by the original purchaser.If the honorable member will bring specific cases before me at any time each will get the best treatment that itwarrants.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.13 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What are the figures of export and import of commodities disclosed by (a) Australian official statistics, and (6) Japanese official statistics, for the year prior to 1st June, 193C, and since 1st June, 1936?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - ‘
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Acting Minister for Defence, upon notice -
If so, (a) how many have been ordered;
y. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Acting Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The question of the future occupancy of the post of First Naval Member of the Naval Board is at present under consideration.
n asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Has he given any further consideration to the promise which he made to a deputation from the South African War Veterans’ Association, which met him in Brisbane during his visit in August, 1936, to make provision for members of that association in the Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act so far as service pensions and other benefits are concerned?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question isas follows : -
The promise made to the deputation was that the matter would be given very serious consideration. The Government subsequently considered the request but could not accede to it. Further consideration will be given to this matter when the budget is in the course of preparation.
n asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The first payment was made in June, 1936.
Some of the works will receive assistancefor ten years and some for shorter periods only : -
Invalid Pensions : Examination of Applicants.
n asked the Acting
Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d asked the Acting Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
The functions of the War Railway Council are to furnish advice in such railway matters as are referred to it by the Minister, including the following: -
To consider the question of extra sidings, loading platforms and the like.
Northern Territory : Pearl-shell Industry : Arrest of Japanese Sampan.
son asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
y asked the Acting Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Trade with Italy.
M.r Forde asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What was the total value in Australian currency of imports and exports between Australia and Italy for (a) each year from 1928-29 to 1935-36, (b) the period sanctions were in operation, and (c) a similar period before sanctions were enforced.
e. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
(b)and (c) Sanctions were imposed against Italy on the 18th November, 1935, and were lifted on the 15th July, 1930. Figures relating to imports and exports between Australia and Italy are not available for the exact period covered by sanctions. During theperiod 1st December, 1935, to 31st July.1936. and the corresponding period of the previous year, imports into Australia from Italy and exports from Australia to Italy expressed in terms of Australian currency were as follow: -
y asked the -Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is it intended to give further assistance for extracting oil and bitumen from the shale oil deposits in Tasmania? If not, why not?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
A request made by the Minister of Mines of Tasmania for a grant of £5,000 towards the cost of erecting a plant for the production of bitumen from Tasmanian shale has been investigated by the Commonwealth Fuel Adviser, who has recommended that further tests and investigations be carried out in order to enable him to furnish information necessary to enable the Commonwealth Government to reach a decision in this regard. The Minister of Mines has been informed of Mr. Roger’s views.
It is now understood that a company known as the Adelaide Oil Exploration Company Limited has recently obtained authority from the Government of Tasmania to carry out investigations into quantities and the quality of shale in the Latrobe area with a view, if results are favorable, to the production primarily of oil. It would bc desirable, therefore, to await the results of this company’s operations before giving further consideration to the question of the production of bitumen.
Customs Duties on X-Ray Equipment.
y asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: - 1 and 2. It is not the practice to reveal details of treaty negotiations on individual items. The Government is prepared at all times to give due consideration to the representations of the Australian manufacturers of these machines and appliances. The department is well acquainted with the case in question through the representations which have already been made by the Australian manufacturers.
Destruction of Rabbits on Clark Island.
y asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions arc as follows : -
Trade with the United States of America.
e asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to thehonorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. Officers of the bank in question did, over the period stated by the honorable member, collect the war pension of Mr. Wilkins, and, when collected, applied it, under authority from Mr. Wilkins, in reduction of the, overdraft of Abel Wilkins Motors Limited (in liquidation) in which company Mr. Wilkins was a shareholder. The amounts received in this manner by the bank were not in repayment of any advance made to the pensioner, or in payment of any interest in connexion with such advance.
een asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
Auditor-General’s excursion abroad?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
It is considered that the expenditure is justified as owing to the greatly increased volume of Commonwealth transactions in London (e.g., loans, banking, clearing office, marketing and departmental), involving many millions of money, it has not been possible for the existing staff to carry out complete audits. It was necessary for an inspection to be made, and the following points determined : - (a.) What percentage of continuous audit is indispensable and what percentage, could reasonably be intermittent.
In the absence of local knowledge as to the systems and conditions obtaining in the respective offices in London, it is practically impossible, without an inspection, to determine the above points.
n asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained, and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
Visits Abroad by Ministers, Members, and Public Servants.
d asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he supply the names of Ministers. members, and public servants, who left Australia for overseas during the period January to May, 1937?
e. - Information is being obtained, and will be made available at as early a date as possible.
Construction of ” Larrakia.”
Mr.Ward asked the Minister for the
Interior, upon notice -
Who were the designers and constructors of the Northern Territory patrol boat Larrakia ?
Were any guarantees given by the constructors of the vessel that it would be capable of carrying out the work for which it was required? If so, what were those guarantees?
Were any tenderscalled by the Government for the construction of this vessel?If so, how many tenders were received, and by whom were they submitted ?
If no tenders were called for, why did the Government depart from this practice?
n. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y. - On the18th June, the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) asked the following question, without notice: -
Will the Acting Prime Minister inform me whether the Government has yet received from the State governments the information it desired in regard to unemployed youth? If not, are we to understand that no part of the £200,000 referred to in the Governor-General’s Speech as intended for expenditure in providing employment for unemployed youth, is likely to be made available until the surveys being prepared by the States have been made available? If this is so, will the Government take steps to expedite the preparation of that information in order that the greatest possible benefit may be obtained by our unemployed youth from the expenditure of this money?
I am now in a position to supply the following information : -
The Governments of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia have supplied full particulars in connexion with the survey carried out within their respective States in relation to unemployed youth. The Governments of Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania have agreed to carry out the necessary survey, but have not yet furnished the particulars. Until such reports are received, and definite proposals submitted by each State government, their respective claims cannot be finalized.
Appointments to Tariff Board.
Mr.Forde asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What is the personnel of the Tariff Board?
For what period was each appointment made, and when will the period of each appointment lapse?
What interests are represented on the board ?
If new appointments to the board are being considered, will the Government give an assurance that representation will be given to the employees in industry?
e. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
e. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : - 1 and 2. In accordance with the law, the maximum rate of pension is reviewed annually by the Commissioner of Pensions, and is determined automatically in accordance with the following table:-
d asked the Acting Prime . Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
At this end of 1935, when this project first came under notice, the United Kingdom authorities were consulted through the High Commissioner in regard to the desirability of reserving these deposits for Empire purposes, a nd advice was furnished to the effect that -
s. - On the 18th June, the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General the following questions, upon notice : -
I am now in a position to furnish the honorable member with the following replies : -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
y. - The information is being obtained.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
y. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are us follows : -
Postmaster-General’s Department : Conditions innon-official Offices.
Mr.Menzies. - On the 18th June,the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Collins) asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General the following question, upon notice: -
In view of the amount of service rendered by non-official postmasters and postmistresses, will consideration be given to that branchof the service with a view to improving their conditions, which are at present most unsatisfactory ?
I am now in a position to furnish the honorable member with the following reply : -
The remuneration for the conduct of nonofficial post offices is adjusted annually in accordance with the volume of business transacted. The general conditions of employment of non-official postmasters are also frequently reviewed and arc modified whenever circumstances arise which justify such a step. It considered that the existing conditionsare fair and reasonable.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 June 1937, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1937/19370622_reps_14_153/>.