14th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon.G. J. Bell) took the chair at 10.30 a.m, and read prayers.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister seen an article which appeared in yesterday’s Melbourne Age, to the effect that an Osaka business man, Mr. Tonlitaro Izuka, has entered into a contract with the Government of Tasmania to purchase 15,000 tons of iron ore this year and 300,000 tons in 1938, at the price of 15 yen - equivalent to 30b. a ton, at the mine - and that Mr. Izuka will go to Tasmania in July to discuss the establishment of a joint JapaneseTasmanian enterprise to develop further production?
– I have not seen the paragraph quoted. If Japanese interests propose to go to Tasmania to make an arrangement of the sort mentioned, it would be made under the aegis, of the Government of Tasmania.
Cruise in Tasmanian Waters.
-Press reports indicate that the new cruiser H.M.A.S. Sydney, is to make a cruise in Australian waters in the early future. Will the Minister for Defence state whether it will be possible for that unit of the Australian Navy to include the river Tamar in its itinerary while in Tasmanian waters ?
– I shall have inquiries made to ascertain exactly what itinerary hasbeen mapped out for the different units of the Australian squadron, and on what dates they will be visiting various ports.
Stimulation of Local Sales
– As the Minister for Commerce has now received replies from the States in regard to their co-operation with the Commonwealth with respect to and their contribution to a scheme for the stimulation of the sale of apples and pears in Australia this year, will the right honorable gentleman say whether the Commonwealth will now make available the suggested grant of £5,000 for this purpose?
– That grant is already available, and very active steps are being taken by the Department of Commerce to assist the necessary publicity.
– I lay on the table reports and recommendations of the
Tariff Board on the following subjects : -
Cutback Bitumen; Asphaltic Flux (being a residual oil) for use in the manufacture of road-dressing preparations and Crude Petroleum for use in the same purpose: Cutback Distillate Oil for use in the preparation of Bitumen for road making.
Cylindrical Cement Driers and Coolersand similar cylindrical containers.
Handset Telephones and Bell Boxes for use with telephones.
Wicker, Bamboo, and Cane, all Manufactures of, n.e.i.: Wood, all articles made of, n.e.i., and all articles specified in Tariff Item 303(a); Bobbins, Pirns, Spools and similar articles manufactured of wood or wood in combination with other materials imported as parts of machines. and move -
That the reports be printed.
I may mention that a further 45 reports will be tabled during nest week.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Talks by Senator A. J.McLachlan.
– Can the Acting Prime Minister now reply to the question that I asked yesterday concerning arrangements for ‘broadcast talks by Senator A. J. McLachlan on the tobacco industry and the fisheries industry? I desire the right honorable gentleman to inform me as to whether these talks are in exposition of government policy, and if they are, whether they do not at once involve political controversy, and in any event are a distinct advertisement for the Minister, who is to be a candidate for re-election to the Senate in thenear future? Would it not be better to have these talks given by experts who are connected with the industries concerned?
– I have not yet had an opportunity to ascertain exactly what the position is in regard to the addresses which the Minister in charge of Development proposes to give on these particular matters, but I assure the honorable gentleman that Senator A. J. McLachlan would deal essentially with matters that are of general interest and are absolutely of a non-party political nature.
– In view of the arrangements that have been made for Senator A. J. McLachlan to broadcast addresses over the national network, will the ActingPrime Minister recommend to the Australian Broadcasting Commission that I be allowed to give addresses over the national network on the cotton industry and the sugar industry ?
– I have not the slightest intention of making that suggestion. The matters to be dealt with by the Postmaster-General, if he speaks, will be similar in every respect to other statements that have been made by different members of the Government during the period that wireless broadcasting has been in existence.
– That is absolute nonsense. There will have to be a straightening out of this broadcasting business. These addresses are merely political propaganda.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he will undertake to make representations to the Australian Broadcasting Commission to the effect that a member of the Federal Labour Opposition should be given the opportunity to broadcast over the national network every time a Minister of the Crown makes such a broadcast?
– I would no more give an undertaking of that kind than 1 would ask members of the Opposition to associate themselves with the work of the departments of State. When the people of Australia desire the Opposition to take over the government of this country they will say so. When the government with which the honorable member was connected was in office, no objection was taken by members of the Opposition to Ministers of the Crown making such similar speeches as they desired over the national network dealing with uncontroversial matters. The real attitude of the members of the Opposition on this subject was shown yesterday when the proposed broadcasts on the subject of youth employment was being discussed.
– If the commission will not do the fair thing, it mustbe changed.
– Following upon the inauguration of the trade diversion policy of the Government, under which prohibitions were enforced against certain imports, a number of new industries sprang up in Australia and expansion took place in other industries to meet the extra business that was offering locally. The raising of additional capital and the incurring of additional expenditure were involved in the establishment of new plants. In some quarters there is a feeling of anxiety.
– Order ! The honorable member is giving a lot of information and not asking a question.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Customs allay the anxiety which exists as the result of press references to a possible modification of government policy ?
– The policy of the Government has always been to give adequate protection to Australian industries. This is shown by the figures relating to factory employment. In the event of any change of policy which involved the replacing of the licensing system by a trade agreement with the United States of America, as the former Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) has indicated and as has been suggested in this House by other honorable members, the industries referred to would not be left uncovered but would receive adequate protection.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister state what steps have been taken to secure the information that I have sought regarding the leasing of the Yampi Sound iron ore deposits, and when I may expect to receive it?
– The honorable gentleman will recollect that in my reply to him the other day I said that if he desired me to communicate with the Government of Western Australia I should be only too pleased to do so, Should this he his desire, I shall take that course immediately.
– Certainly itis my desire.
rosebay Site - Queensland Sites.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Defence “whether it is a fact that the department is making an examination of localities other than Rose Bay for the establishment of a base for the overseas flying-boat service? If so, will consideration be given to an examination of Jervis Bay, which is in Federal Territory ?
– Instructions have been issued and are being carried out, to investigate and survey all available water areas within a reasonable distance of Sydney, both for the purpose of future requirements and in the event of their being required for emergency landing grounds. The honorable member’s representations in connexion with Jervis Bay will be borne in mind.
– Has the Acting Minister for Defence seen the report that appears in the press this morning, that the opposition to the establishment of the base at Rose Bay has been renewed more strongly than ever by the Government of New South Wales? Has he seen the further report that if the Federal Government insists on making Rose Bay the base, the Government of that State may refuse to allow the resumption of portion of Lyne Park and the roadway at the waterfront? If this action is taken by the State authorities, will the Minister consider the establishment of the base at Botany Bay which, according to one of. the world’s leading authorities, Captain P. G. Taylor, possesses facilities that are equal in every way to those of Rose Bay?
– The whole of the statements to which the honorable member has referred are nothing but propaganda, which is being put forward by those who are opposed to the establishment of the base at Rose Bay. No misunderstanding exists between the Governments of the State of New South Wales and the Commonwealth. I have been in close consultation with the State authorities throughout the negotiations, and they have a thorough knowledge of what, the Commonwealth Government is doing at the present time.
– Will the Acting Minister for Defence inform me whether the inauguration of the EnglandAustralia air-mail service by thetying boats is being delayed because of the wrangling over the choice of a suitable base at Sydney, and the failure of the Government to arrive at a definite decision on the subject ?
– Whether or not Rose Bay be selected as the Sydney base is having no bearing whatever upon the inauguration of the service. The work of establishing the various bases is proceeding as expeditiously as possible.
– Is the honorable gentleman in a position to announce the decision of the Government in regard to bases for the flying boats on the Queensland coast?
– Two surveys have been carried out. One concerns an area adjacent to Townsville and another an area adjacent to Bowen. It has not been definitely decided which of these two is the more suitable.
– Will only one be selected ?
– Yes, but several emergency grounds have been surveyed. I am waiting upon the report of the experts as to which is the more suitable base to fix - that is, which will give the greater facilities and the better conditions.
– Can the AttorneyGeneral say whether it is competent for the Commonwealth Parliament to ratify the conventions of the last maritime conference, or is it necessary to refer some of them to the States? If the Commonwealth has complete power in the matter will he say when it is proposed to take action ?
– If the honorable member will place his question on the notice-paper, I shall take steps to compile a comprehensive statement setting forth the position as it exists.
– Will the Government give consideration to the suggestion of the New South Wales Minister for Labour,
Mr. Dunningham, that a tribunal consisting of a judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and a judge of each of the State Arbitration Courts, should be constituted to determine a uniform basic wage and standard working week for Australia?
– I have not seen the statement quoted by the honorable member, and I am not in a position to offer an opinion on behalf of the Government.
– Will the Minister for the Interior make inquiries regarding railway freights between Sydney and Canberra, with particular reference to rates between Sydney and Queanbeyan, and Queanbeyan and Canberra? Is it a fact that the freight on, say, a case of South Australian oranges is greater from Queanbeyan to Canberra than from Sydney to Queanbeyan?
– I shall make inquiries, and furnish the honorable member with a reply.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral make available for my perusal the statement of claim made by and on behalf of the Friends of the Soviet Union, and the explanation which is said to be associated with that claim ; that is, the civil claim on the one hand, and the information on the other?
– I believe that the documents are in Canberra, and I shall make them available to the honorable member.
– Has the Government renewed its request to the Government of the United States of America for a trade treaty between that country ;iud Australia, and if so, with what result ?
– The Government has maintained continuous negotiations with the Government of the United States of America since 1933, but so far without result.
– What is the present position regarding negotiations with Canada for a trade treaty?
– They are still proceeding.
– by leave - Variousgovernments have, since the inception of the aero club movement in Australia, lent numbers of “ Moth “ aircraft, Cirrus and Gipsy engines and quantities of allied technical stores to aero clubs in all States. Much of this equipment was made available from Royal. Australian Air Force stocks after it had become surplus to Service requirements, or it was of a type not in general use by that Service. Practically all of the loans were made from seven to ten years ago, so that the equipment is now well-worn, and of little, use for training purposes.
The need for modernizing the equipment of the clubs is fully recognized, it being firmly believed that the high maintenance costs of the out-of-date aircraft now used are, to a great extent responsible not only for the unsatisfactory financial position of certain of the clubs, but also for the relatively high cost of training and practice flying by pupils and pilots. (
To assist the clubs in the purchase of more modern aircraft, the Government has approved of the departmental aircraft, engines, &c, at present on loan being handed over to them as gifts, though subject to the conditions that all sales and conversions of such equipment must first have departmental approval, and that proceeds from sales must be applied exclusively to the purchase of new equipment.
In extending this concession to aeroclubs, the Government feels that the new equipment they purchase will lessen flying risks, attract new pupils and give trainees and qualified pilots valuable experience on modern kinds of aircraft - all very desirable objects.
– I move -
That the House at its rising adjourn until Monday next at 3 p.m.
It is proposed to meet on Monday next because we wish to finish with the Supply Bill in time to enable it to be passed by the Senate before the 30th June, the end of the financial year. Honorable members will recall that we have, during this session, been trying to confine the sittings’ of Parliament within reasonable hours, and it is considered that, in the interests of everybody’s healthj it will be betterto meet on Monday so that late sittings may be avoided.
– I hope that the Government will reconsider this proposal. Many honorable members have already made appointments in their constituencies for Monday next. I expected that Parliament might finish its work this week, but if that is not possible I object to the House being called together on Monday next in order to do two days’ work, because it will be necessary for us to travel on Sunday. If Parliament is to sit on only two days next week, why is it necessary to meet on Monday? Of course, if there is enough work to occupy us for the whole week, I should be pleased to make such arrangements as would enable me to attend on Monday, but otherwise I object to the proposal.
.- The Government cannot get away with this proposal. The Acting Prime Minister (Dr. Earle Page) knows quite well that the Government can carry on for a fortnight or three weeks after the 30th June without getting Supply. This proposal has been made merely so that the session can be closed as quickly as possible, enabling Ministers to run away where we cannot find them. They are making Parliament a laughing stock amongst the people.
– Where was the honorable member last week, anyway?
– I did not come here last week because I had no wish to participate in the flummery and humbug that took place during those two days. I do not object to Parliament meeting on Monday because it means another days work - so far as I am concerned it can meet from Monday to Saturday if there is anything to do - but when certain days of sitting have been stipulated, honorable members make engagements in their constituencies so as to fit in with those days.
– Why not stay in Canberra and attend to the business of Parliament?
– I have important business to attend to in my electorate and besides, the elections are coming oh. In no circumstances do I want to break the engagements I have made, and if I have to leave for Canberra on Monday morning I cannot keep them. If Parliament meets on Monday it will close down on Tuesday or Wednesday at the latest, and probably the Government will apply the gag before the schedule to the Supply Bill is put through. The Government should take its job more seriously, and afford honorable members reasonable time to discuss the measures brought before Parliament. I object to Parliament being closed so early next week, and I object to its meeting on Monday. If it is necessary to alter the days of sitting in this way, at least two weeks notice should be given. Let me point out that Labour members have work to do in thei’r electorates. They keep in close touch with their constituents in their endeavour to relieve distress, and they are associated with voluntary organizations engaged in the same work. Of course, honorable members opposite never engage in that kind of work, and the only interest they have in their electorates is when they are invited to attend some guzzling party. During the long recess, a great many matters accumulated to which honorable members desire to refer in Parliament, and now the Government proposes to close the session after a few days.
– The sitting days of Parliament have always been a subject of controversy and some heartburning. That, I think, is inevitable from the fact that Parliament is made up of members who have to come from immense distances, as well as those who represent constituencies less far removed. It is unfortunate that there is so little system, and so much change, in appointing the days for sitting. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) rather unkindly asked why we do not remain in Canberra all the time, and do the business of Parliament. How ever, the honorable member represents a Western Australian electorate, and when he comes to Canberra, it is impossible, from the nature of things, for him to preserve contact with his electorate. The people who sent him here recognize that fact, and do not expect him to visit the electorate while the House is sitting. Neither do the electors expect those who represent Queensland constituencies to visit them while Parliament is in session. This is a great continent, and we are all subject to a good deal of illinformed criticism from the press and the electorate itself regarding our attitude towards our duties. It is frequently said that we come here in a hurry and leave in a hurry to get back to our electorates. I submit that that is the most natural thing in the world - our electorates are not here, they are elsewhere and the people who send us here expect to preserve contact with us. We have to return to our electorates at every and the earliest opportunity to give an account of our stewardship and to keep appointments we make in our electorates in fulfilment of the duties we have to perform. I suggest, therefore, that of all the days which are generally inconvenient for honorable members to sit, Monday is the least convenient. It is true, as the honorable members for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) and Werriwa (Mr. -Lazzarini) have said, that we endeavour to make appointments in our electorates in anticipation that at least Monday will be free. That does not apply to those who come from great distances, but that is my position. I usually return to my electorate every week-end and make appointments in anticipation that I will not be required here on the first day of any week. The Acting Prime Minister (Dr. Earle Page) did intimate that he might have to call the House together on Monday, but he certainly did not give us notice of that as a final decision. In the meantime, it has been suggested that we might have continued sitting and finished this week the work still to be done. I join generally with those who think and argue with some feeling that the meetings of Parliament are altogether too short and sporadic, and that there is an entire want of system in regard to its sittings. That ought to be considered by this Government or any future one that may sit upon the Treasury bench. It is most inconvenient for me personally to come here on Monday, and I sympathise with men like the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, and members representing Sydney electorates who have made definite engagements and will have to break them, making explanations which are sometimes accepted and sometimes not. I certainly think that a more systematic plan should be followed in regard to the sittings of Parliament. This Parliament should sit on specified days of the week over a lengthy period of the year to enable honorable members to order their business and to discharge the business they have here as members of a deliberative assembly. More and more the tendency is to make the government of the country government by the Executive; the deliberative character of the Parliament is being lost more and more. I think every honorable member, especially private members on both sides of the House, should jealously guard the rights of tha rank and file of members who are equally responsible to the electorate with Ministers of the Crown. I ask the Acting Prime Minister to reconsider the proposal to sit next Monday or any Monday unless there are most extraordinary circumstances which do not seem to prevail on this occasion, because there is no programme of business for next week except, as far as I understand, work which will involve two, or at the most three, days of the week. Why one of those days should be Monday, I cannot understand.
.- I am opposed to the proposal that the House should meet on Monday next.
– Then vote against it.
– I think I shall, but there may be no necessity to do so; I am sure that the good sense of the Acting Prime Minister (Dr. Earle Page) will prevail upon him to alter his mind. I have been a member of this Parliament for five’ years and during the whole of that period, with one exception, this is the only occasion on which we have been asked to sit on a Monday. Ever since I have been a member of this Parliament, Monday and
Saturdays have been reserved as two certain days on which honorable members could make arrangements to interview the electors. In my own case, I have to travel, eight miles out of the city of Sydney to my electorate. I enter my protest against the proposal to sit next Monday because I have an important engagement to appear before one of the pensions tribunals in connexion with a ease which the members of the tribunal, to meet my convenience, kindly postponed from Wednesday last until next Monday. Unlike members of the Opposition we on this side have to do our work in a systematic way. Honorable members opposite tramp their electors into the Commonwealth offices, the corridors of which are frequently bailed up with undesirable people.
– Order !
– The honorable member is one of them.
– Order ! The honorable member for Barton is now certainly out of order,
– I consider the remarks of the honorable member for Barton personally offensive to me as a representative of those people and I ask for a withdrawal and an apology.
– The Chair can not demand a withdrawal and an apology for a reflection upon electors. I called the honorable member for Barton to order for his reference to any body of people in the terms which he used. Such comments are undesirable and should not be made in a debate of this kind.
– I ask for a withdrawal and an apology of the reference made to myself as the representative of East Sydney.
– Having said it I withdraw it.
– Order ! The honorable member must withdraw without reservation.
– I withdraw. I regret that the honorable member for East Sydney took exception to my remarks so quickly. What I wanted to explain was that in the corridors at. the Commonwealth Offices in Sydney there are clients from the electorates of honorable members opposite blocking the way of honorable members entering their rooms, in consequence of which many of us” have to make appointments with our electors, many of whom are old people, in our own electorates in order that we may be able to conduct our business with them without hindrance. I trust that the Acting Prime Minister will be persuaded not to ask honorable members to assemble here on Monday next; if necessary, the Parliament could meet during the ‘ following week, if there is insufficient time without meeting . next Monday to complete the business still to be dealt with.
– My objections to the motion will be brief. I do not want to cover the ground which has already been covered or to approach this question from a personal viewpoint; 1 prefer rather to consider it on the ground of ethics. It has been the recognized practice of those who happen to lead the Government at least to warn the Opposition in sufficient time of any proposed alterations of the sitting days to enable honorable members to make their appointments in accordance with the time available. It has already been stated that if we look over the records of the Parliament we shall discover that on very few occasions has the Commonwealth Parliament been called together on a Monday; frequently the sittings are resumed on Wednesdays and on many occasions on Tuesdays, and honorable members have been accustomed to the making of their arrangements in order to attend a meeting of the Parliament on a Tuesday. It appears to me that the Acting Prime Minister (Dr. Earle Page) is entirely meeting his own convenience in regard to this matter ; apparently he has appointments in his electorate during the latter part of next week, and is therefore bringing down this proposal to alter the sitting days even, so it would seem, without any consultation with his own supporters. I think it is unfair and is a definite violation of the ethics usually observed by those who have the privilege of leading the Government. That is my view in regard to it and the Acting Prime Minister ought to be - if I am permitted to use the words - decent enough to give us an opportunity to make arrangements to carry out our work in our electorates and in the Parliament as well.
– in reply - In reply to the honorable member for “West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), before this Parliament met, I intimated to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) the possibility that it would become necessary to ask honorable members to sit on Monday next. I also discussed the matter with the Leader of the United Australia party, who assured me that he had raised the matter in his own party room and that his followers generally were favorable to this course. I’ mentioned the matter to the members of my own party at the earliest possible’ opportunity and said it was anticipated that this course might be necessary. The reason why the Parliament is being assembled on Monday next is because the payments to the Public Service must be met on the 2nd July. In addition the financial year 1937-38 is the only financial year during the next eleven years in which there will be 27 fortnightly payments to pensioners. A payment will be made on the first day and on the last day of that year. In ordinary years there are only 26 payments. It is absolutely necessary that the Supply Bill should be passed through this chamber and through another place before the 1st July; and the only alternative to meeting on Monday next would be to sit very long hours at night. As a medical man, I am totally opposed to late sittings, and in that I feel sure that I have the general approval of honorable members.
Question - That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Monday next, at 3 p.m. - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority.. . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– Is the Acting Prime Minister aware that some time ago the Tariff Board made a report on the subject of agricultural machinery? If so, can he say when the Government proposes to give consideration to the recommendations contained therein?
-I shall consider the honorable member’s question.
– Seeing that several reports have appeared in the press to the effect that it is the intention of the Government to request the Imperial Government to co-operate with the Commonwealth Government in the establishment of a plant for the extraction of oil from coal, will the Acting Prime Minister say what basis there is, in fact,for such reports?
– I have not seen such reports, but from what the honorable member has said it appears to me that they are pure conjecture. A paper was tabled in the House two or three days ago on this subject, but the Government has not yet been able to give complete consideration to it.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister inform me whether the Prime Minister was empowered by his colleagues to discuss with either governmental or private interests in Great Britain the subject ‘of the establishment of a plant in Australia for the extraction of oil. from coal? Have any such discussions taken place between the Prime Minister and any other individuals or organizations in Great Britain, or was the subject brought under notice at the Imperial Conference?
– It, would-be quite competent for the Prime Minister to discuss this subject with interested people in Great Britain as, of course, he could discuss any other matter affecting the welfare of the Commonwealth. The honorable member will realise that it is not discussions but decisions that commit Australia. I will make an inquiry to ascertain what has been done in this connexion.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for Commerce to the fact that the ‘legislation provided for the payment of a subsidy on fertilizers expires at the end of this month. As this is the middle of the cropping season in certain districts, I ask the right honorable gentleman whether the Government proposes to renew the subsidy? Unless this is done an anomalous position will arise, as farmers who complete their seeding before the end of the month will receive the subsidy whilst those on adjacent properties, who do not, will not qualify.
– In a vast country like Australia, it is very difficult to fix a time within which all seeding operations will fall. It may even be found impossible to determine a date which will not exclude some seeding operations.
– I have often pointed out that the end of the calendar year would be an appropriate time to fiac.
– That would not be too good for districts on the north coast, for it would be just as difficult there as is the end of the financial year in districts further south. The Government recognizes the importance of continuity of policy on this subject, and will give consideration to the honorable member’s question.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether, in view of the high prices prevailing for wool, wheat and butter, the Government will undertake to give the House an opportunity to discuss any proposal for the renewal of the fertilizers subsidy before action is taken in that direction? At any rate, an opportunity should be given to the party to discuss it.
– This subject has frequently been discussed in the House, and honorable members have expressed their opinion on it.
– Not since prices have risen.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister give me an assurance that consideration will be given to the fixing of the amount of subsidy on the value and not the quantity of fertilizers used?
– The subject, which has been discussed by the Agricultural Council and has also been reported upon by our technical officers, will receive further consideration from the Government.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he will have a return prepared showing the total amount of bounties paid on iron and steel and also wire netting to the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited and other organizations, and also the total amount of the subsidy paid on fertilizers?
– If the honorable member will furnish me with the exact details that he desires I shall see what can be done.
– Since all the inquiries regarding unemployment have disclosed that the percentage of unemployment of both youths and adults is greater in the coal-fields districts of New South Wales than in any other part of Australia, will the Attorney-General give special consideration, in the allocation of the special Commonwealth grant of £200,000, to the claims of the unemployed in those areas?
– That is a matter that will be dealt with not by me, but by the Government, when proposals are submitted to it by the State governments.
Mr.James. - The Minister said that he would confer with the local governing authorities, owing to the conflicting reports about unemployment.
– I take it that the honorable gentleman is referring to the special grant made in regard to youth employment. If that is so, the present position is that proposals are invited from the State governments, and those will he considered by the Commonwealth Government.
– I bring up a report from the Standing Orders Committee, together with the proposed Standing Rules and Orders of the House of Representatives, dated 1937. and the minutes of proceedings of the committee.
Motion (by Mr. Prowse) agreed to -
That the report be printed.
The following paper was presented : -
Passport Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1037, No. 43.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Menzies), read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That be have leave to bring in a bill for an act to constitute a fund to be utilized for I lie purposes of medical research.
Bill brought up, and read a first time
Debate resumed from 24th June(vide page 426), on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That the message be referred to the Committee of Supply forthwith.
Upon which Mr. Forde had moved by way of amendment -
That all the words after “That” be omitted with a view to inserting the following words: - “ this House directs the Government - (1)To increase the rate of invalid and old-age pensions to£1 per week, and to liberalize the provisions of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act;
To take whatever steps are necessary to ensure progressive reductions in the number of working hours and increases in living standards commensurate with increased powers of production due to the mechanization and speeding-up of industry; and
To give effect to the Prime Minister’s pre-election promise made in 1934 that a great national housing scheme would be undertaken in conjunction with the States and local authorities.”
.- It gives me much pleasure to support the amendment submitted by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), drawing attention to the necessity for increasing the invalid and old-age pension and inaugurating a 40-hour week and a national housing scheme. The AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies) declared that the pensioners were better off to-day with 19s. a week than when they were receiving £1 a week. No doubt the Commonwealth Statistician believes that the figures on which he bases the cost of living art! accurate, but I consider that the workers have been robbed of thousands of pounds owing to the method adopted in adjusting the basic wage. It is true that the members of certain organizations of employees have been awarded increases of their wages, but it is also true that the prices of bread, meat, milk and wood have considerably increased. Members of the Lyons Government do not live in the same environment -as the invalid and old-age pensioners. I am sure that they would not care to exist on 19s. a week. Commonwealth public servants in receipt of from £1,000 to £2,000 a year were not entitled to have their salaries fully restored while the pensioners were com- pelled to live on 19s. a week. I am quite prepared to forgo my salary restoration until fair treatment has been given to the pensioners. I support the honorable member for “Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) in the request that the pension should begin from the date of the application. The department has held requests in abeyance for months, and in that way ha3 saved thousands of pounds at the expense of the aged and indigent.
Yesterday we heard the “swan song” of the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) but he failed to tell us why he withdrew from the Cabinet. He should have rendered a verse from the old song which runs - “Be a little forgiving and take me back in your arms.” We should have been interested to know something about the difference of opinion among members of the Ministry regarding the negotiations for trade treaties, of which the honorable gentleman was in charge for a considerable period. The honorable member challenged the Opposition to disclose its financial policy, on which issue, he said, his party won the last election. I am reminded of the tactics adopted on that occasion by the party now in power. I well recollect seeing an election placard depicting the leaders of Labour as burglars who were “ pinching “ the savings of the people. It is hard to imagine that any political party would stoop to such a contemptible action. The honorable member for Henty should give members on this side credit for honesty and a sense of decency in public life. If I ever accuse the honorable member of stealing the savings of the people, I shall be willing to retire from the political arena. No members of .the Labour party would stoop so low as to interfere with the peoples’ savings. What I have I hold. I will not allow anybody to take from me that which 1. possess. My savings are just as sacred to me as those of the honorable member for Henty are to him.
The honorable gentleman also asked “ Where is your Empire policy ? “. The Labour party has done its duty in showing its allegiance to the Empire and to the British monarchy by sending its representatives abroad to the Coronation ceremonies. Tasmania is proud to have had, as its representative in England, such a man as Mr Ogilvie, the Premier of that State. Apparently the Government intends to appeal to the people at the next election on the issue of patriotism, which has been well described as the last refuge of a scoundrel.
The honorable member for Henty said that industry could not afford to grant a 40-hour week. The Attorney-General admitted that he knew nothing about the mechanization of industry. He, of course, is employed in a professional capacity at a high salary in discovering gaps in the legislation of the country. At a recent inquiry, Professor Reddaway, of the Melbourne University, advocated an increase of the wages of the workers, owing to the enormous profits being made in industry. He even said that child endowment should be provided for out of these enormous profits. They are largely due, of course, to the armament3 race. The warning issued by Professor Reddaway shows that the workers’ standards of living have not increased in accordance with the increased profits of ‘ industry. Before the economic problems of Australia can be solved, we must reduce the hours of labour and abolish the working of overtime. Such reforms would absorb many workers into industry.
I regret the circumstances that have compelled the Governments of the several States to increase the cost of social service to taxpayers. If the state of prosperity about which this Commonwealth Government so frequently boasts were an actual fact. I fail to understand why the cost of social services to the poor have been increased by every State government. The contention of honorable members opposite that the Commonwealth has not the constitutional power to legislate in respect of a shorter working week is specious and inaccurate, and the Attorney-General, as the result of his speech the other day on this matter, has definitely closed the door on the industrial workers_who believe that the Commonwealth Parliament is empowered to introduce such legislation. The AttorneyGeneral, I regret, has adopted an inferiority complex that the Commonwealth cannot at any time introduce this necessary legislation, but the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), on a previous occasion, expressed the contrary opinion. Both honorable members rank high in the legal profession, but on this matter their views are at variance. For my own part, I am prepared to accept the opinion of the honorable member for Bourke.
– The Attorney-General is not so very good.
– That is so. The right honorable gentleman lost the dried fruits appeal case when it was taken before the Privy Council, and the advice which he tendered to the Victorian “Government was not only rejected by the highest court in the British Commonwealth of Nations but also was most -costly to that State. To-day, I and other honorable members of the Opposition are prepared to accept the opinions of legal men whom we can trust to give an honest and candid opinion on this matter. If the Commonwealth Government persists in the attitude that it does not possess the power to grant to industrialists a 40-hour working week, the only course left for the workers to adopt is to use what is known as “ direct action.” In my opinion a Labour government will be returned to the Treasury bench of this Parliament at the next election and it will prove to the Attorney-General that it is able to legislate for the introduction of a shorter working week. It will furthermore demonstrate to the sceptics that Australia will not suffer, as the result of the reduction of the hours of labor, in competition with other nations of the world, because Australians who have had a long trudge in the industrial struggle, will show that they have risen to the highest point of industrial progress in the world. On that basis, we can plan for the future and the standard of living for the workers will be raised to a higher plane than has ever before been achieved. According to data submitted to the International Labour Office in Geneva, the introduction of the 40-hour working week in industry and the abolition of the working of overtime would mean the permanent reduction of unemployment throughout the world by 33$ per cent. I have no doubt that the “ big guns “ that have fired from the Government benches during this debate realized the hopefulness of the prospects of the Labour party of winning the forthcoming Federal elections. Although we have been reminded of the f failures that Ave have made in years gone by, the Labour party to-day is an improved organization and Labour governments which hold office in three of -the States stand high in the estimation of the people.
The Attorney-General made extensive reference to the improvement of building activities throughout the Commonwealth, but I know full well that the revival of prosperity and conditions in the building trade in Tasmania is due to the efforts of the government led by Mr. Ogilvie and the manner in which that honorable gentleman is handling the affairs of state. ‘
– Stop laughing!
– Of course, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White), will claim that the credit for this improvement is due to the assistance granted to’ Tasmania through the generosity of the Commonwealth Government. I do not desire that such an opinion should go unchallenged and I shall therefore briefly analyse it. Special grants are given to the smaller States for the purpose of compensating them for the disabilities and losses which are due to Federation - that is, to circumstances over which they have no control, but over which the Commonwealth itself does have control. In addition, sums of money ,are paid to the States from loan sources, but loan money is not a gift and the Minister should not run away with the idea that in accepting it the States have no obligations to fulfil. For instance, interest must be paid on the loan and a sinking fund must be established in order to liquidate the liability in the future. Up to date, Tasmania has been able to discharge its obligations in this respect. I am gratified that the confidence displayed in Tasmania and its Labour Government is so high that private enterprise, such as insurance companies and banks, are carrying out extensive building programmes in Hobart. I accept that expression of confidence as an indication that the people of Australia are prepared at the next elections to trust the Federal Labour party to occupy the Treasury bench.
I hope that the Loan Council will grant adequate financial assistance to Tasmania in order to enable the State to proceed with a housing programme, because I understand that a portion of the money raised in connexion with the recent loan will be allotted for the purpose of housing schemes throughout Australia. Housing conditions under which the workers live are shocking, and private enterprise has failed to fulfil its obligations to the people who rent homes. The slum dwellings of Hobart, which are owned by private enterprise, are as bad as any that may be found throughout the world. I had a conversation the other day with a doctor, who said to me, “ Mr. Mahoney, I have just left a place where a man, wife and three children are living in two rooms”. 1 ask honorable members how canwe expect to rear a strong, virile race to hold this country of Australia for Australia if we allow mothers to raise their children under such conditions? Honorable members opposite will contend that the matter of housing is a State responsibility; but State governments are unable to proceed with housing schemes because the Loan Council has curtailed their works programmes, thus depriving them of the finances necessary to proceed with the proper accommodation of the working class. The responsibility therefore rests upon the shoulders of the Federal Government but the present Government has failed to carry out the promise given by the Prime Minister before the last elections that the Commonwealth would co-operate with the States in the extension of the building programme. Only one section of the people, the workers, is not in a position to occupy decent homes, because it is not possible for a man on the basic wage to obtain a home of his own. The Prime Minister, who knows so well what it means to have a large family, will appreciate the difficulties which workers experience in raising children on small incomes and in poor surroundings; but the majority of Ministers of this composite Government and their supporters live in the luxurious surroundings of Potts Point, Toorak and St. Kilda, where large families are practically unknown. I have seen the women folk of this section riding in luxurious cars to and from the cities not with children, but with poodle dogs sitting beside them. It is the boys of the working class, whose mothers to-day are rearing them in conditions of penury, and not the poodle dogs who will be called upon to defend our great country in the future. For this reason the working class should have the sympathy of the Commonwealth Government*. When I read that the Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) has delivered a lecture on the subject of the suffering of the poor,. I am disgusted, because I realize that, at the same time, the Government of which he is a member is reducing taxation on wealthy interests while neglecting tocarry out its obligations to the mothers of this country. I fail to see why the Commo a wealth Government has not introduced child endowment and widows-‘ and orphans’ pensions, because this section of the community is entitled to receive such assistance. On many occasions in the past the Minister for Health has lamented the declining birth rate of Australia, but before I should appeal to the mothers to increase the natural population, I should desire to secure for them protection against the obligation of seeking assistance for their children from charitable institutions. I emphasize that the system of society which allows one section to live in luxury and have only poodle dogs in the household, while the families of the working class are reared under desperately .hard conditions, is fundamentally wrong. The Minister for Trade and Customs will realize the truth of my statements because he lives in one of those localities of luxury to which I have referred; but I appreciate the fact that he is a good family man and a good Australian. I contend that while conditions of penury exist among the working class, it is hypocritical on the part of the Government to claim that prosperity has returned.
– Why does not the honorable member stir up the Premier of Tasmania in order to prevail upon him to alter conditions?
– The Premier of Tasmania is doing more than any other State government to assist necessitous mothers.
– Does that remark apply to Queensland?
– Yes. At the same time the Government of Tasmania is unable to introduce a system of widows’ and orphans’ pensions, which is a Com’monwealth responsibility; but I do not expect this Government to do anything for the working-class mothers. They represent the wealthy section of the community, those persons who have few, if any, children and are living in luxury.
The next subject to which I wish to refer is that of the scaling down of repatriation benefits. I remind the House of the promises that were made when members of the Australian Imperial Force left Australia in 1914 to fight for King and country, and returned in thousands, wounded and incapacitated, in the belief that they would receive the full benefits of the repatriation scheme. I have received a telegram from a man who says -
J lini ‘ dissatisfied with the treatment meted nut to mc by the Repatriation Department. They have failed to fulfil their duty and give me what I. am entitled to.
Another man lias written to me stating that a repatriation, tribunal has turned him down. I shall probably be told that f must accept a share of the responsibility for the Repatriation Act. I contend that the trouble lies in the interpretation placed on the act by medical officers employed by the department and by other individuals who are working in collusion with the Government to deprive the returned soldiers of their rights. This man was shot through the throat and the bullet came out within a fractional distance of the spinal cord. He has n gastric ulcer and has suffered a complete breakdown of the muscles of the stomach. Although he has been assessed at 100 per cent., the department claims that ho is not totally and permanently incapacitated, with the result that he cannot secure the special pension provided for such cases. He has not worked for four years, and the doctor to whom I submitted him for examination told me that he will never work again, saying, “Because he has a gastric ulcer he is unable to eat the food that is necessary to give him strength to perform daily work “. Surely a man who is suffering from such injuries is entitled to the special pension ! He has a wife and four little children, whom he must keep on £2 2s. a week.
– The honorable member is a good representative ; he ought to be able to get the extra pension for that man.
– I am a good representative of returned soldiers. Many of them, before going to the war, said to me, “ Jerry, stop behind and look after the boys who come back from the front “. I have also received a letter from a woman living in Canberra who is suffering because of the Government’s lack of sympathy and avoidance of its . duty. She has informed rae that her husband’s health is affected on account of his war experiences. Because she was married after 1931, she is subject to the emergency legislation, which reduced the pensions of soldiers and deprived those who were married after 1931 of any assistance in respect of their children. Her case is the responsibility of the Commonwealth. She knew that I intended to speak to-day, and asked me to plead on behalf of those women who were married to returned soldiers after 1931, and are thus unable to obtain the special pension for their children. These facts furnish conclusive evidence of the neglect of the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Hughes) to fulfil the promise that was made to the boys who left Australia. It must be very hard for the Minister for Trade and Customs to listen to this indictment of his Government. I believe he is sympathetic towards returned soldiers. Of course, the big financial interests have said that repatriation must cease, because it is too costly. The Minister for Repatriation was pushed out of the Cabinet because he dealt too liberally with returned soldiers, but public opinion was so strongly in his favour that he had to be re-admitted. At the last election, as well as at previous elections, there was a great deal of talk about patriotism, and the Government promised that it would look after the returned soldiers in a proper manner, lt has not done so, otherwise it would not have introduced legislation withholding benefits from returned soldiers who were married after 193:1. A conference of returned soldiers in Tasmania has voiced a protest against the Government and has asked for ameliorative legislation.
Twelve months or two years ago I asked whether legislation would be introduced to put right the case of returned soldiers who were married after 1931, and the Minister for Trade and Customs informed me that it wasto be introduced that session.
– Yes, when the Minister for Repatriation had been pushed out of the Cabinet and the honorable gentleman was administering that portfolio. Is it fair that the conditions of these men and women who are rearing good Australians should be so bad that they are unable to purchase the necessaries of life? The promise was made that when the finances of this country were in a healthy state all emer genoy legislation would be repealed.
– Order ! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
– A Supply measure furnishes an opportunity for criticism of all sorts to be voiced against the Government, and enables very important subjects to be raised; such, for example, as that during the ventilation of which the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) said, inter alia, that he was a friend of returned soldiers because of their request to him to “ Stop at home and look after the boys when they come back.” The honorable member occupied most of his time on repatriation matters which be could quickly have investigated if he would take them, along to the Minister instead of discussing then in this House. Every government has done its best in the way of repatriation. Last year, the present Government added to the scale of pensions and other assistance to returned soldiers by bringing down service pensions for tubercular men, and many other concessions, some of which were overdue. Each successive budget has added to the repatriation payments made to returned soldiers, and the Government will continue along those lines. Therefore, no member can offer any great objection to what the Government has done for returned soldiers.
– I have submitted evidence.
– The honorable member should place the particular case he has in mind before theMinister for Repatriation, who no doubt would investigate it. Discussion upon it in this House is useless unless we also have the reply of the Repatriation Department.
Some of the subjects that have been discussed during this debate are of great importance, while others are of very little moment. A former Minister for Defence (Mr. A. Green) claimed that the Government had not done all that it could have done in the matter of defence. I remind him that the Labour party rationed the active military forces while leaving the clerical officers of the department on full pay. What kind of defence policy would be propounded if Australia again had a La’bour government? The position in the world today is almost unparalleled in history, and certainly since 1914. There are totalitarian governments with dictatorships based, on the one hand, on atheistic class bitterness, and on the other hand, on national fanaticism, with all the conflicts that they engender. At any moment the conflict that is raging in Spain may strike a spark that will burst into a conflagration embracing the whole of Europe, and may spread to the East. Who knows but that. Australia may willy nilly find itself in the throes of another world war? In such circumstances the country needs a government which believes that the British Empire is the greatest factor for world peace. There are honorable members opposite who do not believe that. I know that the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) will say that that is not so. At a peace rally - I think it was called - in the Melbourne Town Hall, that honorable member said, “No country is worth losing your life for; the only objective is international.” That, I believe, is the meaning of the language that - he used.
– I did not say that.
– Is it the meaning of the honorable member’s words?
– I said that no country was a factor for international peace; that the British Empire was not a iactor for international peace,
– The honorable member is reported to have said more than that.
– I said that no country was worth taking another man’s life for.
– Now we are getting close to what was said. In other words, no country was worth losing one’s life for in. its defence. The honorable member was expelled from his party, or was on the verge of being expelled. We can never be sure as to who has been expelled or taken back into the fold. I need only cite the case of the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden) to illustrate the uncertainty of the position; he has been in and out of the party quite a lot. Because the honorable member for Bourke belonged to the Council Against War and Fascism, he was outside the movement for a while. That body has definitely been proved to be communistic. If it were a movement against war. Fascism and communism, we could all join in it, because it would approach close to the ideals of the British Empire. Then there is the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), who last year, in a debate on defence, made a violent, attack on Great Britain and the British Navy. He then said, “ I am not to be put off by the suggestion that I am anti-British “. He went on to say -
Our association with the British Navy is entirely an evil one. We have gone into Chinese waters; we have sent our battlecraft there as messengers of ill will . . . They have been emissaries of ill will wherever they have gone.
He could say that about the British Navy, which has enabled us to hold and colonize this great continent, and at the moment is removing children and other innocents from the scene of the conflict in Spain. These two members are of the intelligentsia of the party. The Labour party cannot have a defence policy however broadminded, however mild mannered, however good an Australian its leader may be.
– The honorable member knows that that is not correct. He is trying to make out that the Leader of the Opposition is disloyal.
– No. Individual members opposite may have very good ideas, but I shall explain why they would not be able to give effect to them. It will be remembered that when the Labour party was last in pow.er the then Minister for Defence said, “ Nothing will be done to the present defence system until after Christmas “ ; but a prominent member of the party replied, “ The Minister will do as the caucus decides,” and within a week the system of compulsory training was abolished because it was carried On a vote in the caucus. We used to read with delight how so and so said this or that, but it was always the caucus vote that carried the day, and decided the policy. [Quorum formed.’] Admittedly, the Labour Government was restricted in finance, but it went out of its way to humiliate the defence forces. It rationed them by putting the permanent staff corps on halfpay, while it kept others who were officers of the Public Service on full pay. It did not do that to any trades union. It certainly withdrew preference to returned soldiers, but when a protest was raised in Parliament, it quickly somersaulted. It removed the Royal Military Training College from Duntroon, and this Government has been put to the expense of bringing it back again. If the public should happen to be deceived by the rhetoric of honorable members opposite into returning a Labour government, it is evident that such a government would, of its very nature, be incapable of providing the country with a proper defence. Since the present Government came into office, it has been constantly engaged upon rebuilding the defence forces. Only recently we discovered that the Labour Government even allowed the ammuni tion supplies to become exhausted; ir would not spend the money needed to keep Stocks up to the necessary standard. This Government has given assistance and encouragement in the manufacture of aircraft, which constitute one of the most important factors in defence. For that it should be applauded by every one as assisting the most economic aspect of our defence. This Government is also encouraging the manufacture of motor cars in Australia, and we are hopeful that this will eventuate. It may not, of course, but the establishment of a motor-car manufacturing industry in Australia would certainly make us more selfreliant, and we may need to be in a position to be able to depend more upon ourselves. We live in a time when a crisis seems to be always looming. Any morning we may read that it has broken, whether by the action of Fascists or Communists, those parties which are always carrying out purges, and obliterating their political opponents. I cannot understand how the honorable member for Bourke is able to associate himself with those who are guilty of actions of that kind.
– I do not.
– The honorable member has said many favorable things about the Soviet, but I have never heard him say anything favorable about the British Empire. It is evident, therefore, that if the Labour party were returned to power, and were to consult the intelligentsia amongst its numbers - the ‘two lawyers - regarding a defence policy, itis not likely that much would eventuate that would be useful to Australia. I have quoted what the honorable member for Batman has said about the British Navy, and it is clear that in time of war, Australia would be a gift to any hostile nation if Britain were defeated, or if its forces were so occupied elsewhere that it was unable to send us assistance. I shall not say anything more on that point now.
– The honorable gentleman has said enough.
– I hope that I have said enough to show that even the honorable member himself may be in jeopardy in case of war unless our defence forces are adequate.
The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) referred the other day to the pearling industry. Evidently the honorable member did not even know that it is the States and not the Commonwealth, which control our fisheries. He did not tell us that there is not a white diver engaged in the Australian pearlfishing industry. He was attacking the Government for allegedly infringing the White Australia policy. ‘ The last white diver is in hospital on Thursday Island suffering from diver’s paralysis. At the present time, all the divers are either Japanese or Malayans, mostly Japanese. The only white men in the industry are the owners of vessels, and a few shellers. It will be recognized, therefore, how difficult it is properly to police the fishing waters. Frequently complaints are received of the intrusion of Japanese sampans into territorial waters, but when I visited Northern Queensland and Thursday Island last year, I found that these occurrences were very rare indeed. It is difficult to determine the precise extent of such intrusions, because it is not always possible to distinguish the Japanese fishing vessels from those which are Australian-owned. Some little while ago it was recognized that the need existed for a patrol along the coast of Northern Australia, and it was decided on the recommendation of the Defence Department to acquire vessels to engage in this work. Owing to the needs of the overseas air-mail service, which had just begun, it was decided that a launch, the Larrakia, should be stationed at Darwin, in order to patrol the waters in that vicinity. I was of opinion that such a launch was not suitable for customs requirements in those parts, and did not order one at the time, after seeing for myself what is needed on the Queensland coast, I have ordered one which will possess great range and speed, and which, I am sure, will be suitable for the work. It has been suggested that the Governments of Queensland and Western Australia should delegate powers in regard to fisheries to the Commonwealth. If thi3 were done customs officers could be appointed fisheries inspectors, and could assist in the work of patrolling the coast to prevent illegal fishing. So far, however, nothing in this direction has been done. In fact, the State governments have done little to protect their own fishing industries.
With regard to the 40-hour week proposal I endorse the remarks of the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett), when he said that much of the talk on this subject is political propaganda. No doubt some honorable members may be sincere, but I am certain that we have listened to a great deal of humbug. What magic is there in the number 40? Why not 39 or 28 or 20 hours? It’ the. honorable member foi Fremantle (Mr. Curtin), had suggested that the working week should be one of twenty hours, I am sure the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden) would have outbid him by saying that fifteen hours would be enough. Hours of work in industry should not be made the subject of auction by leftwingers at election time. The subject is one that should be examined and dealt with by competent tribunals which we already have. Only this week the Commonwealth Arbitration Court has granted a substantial increase of the basic wage, and we all applaud the fact. No one wants to see any one underpaid, but I remind honorable members that the court is the only competent authority to make a decision on these matters. Even if it were possible for this Parliament to pass legislation to reduce the working week, such action would completely upset the secondary industries. Honorable members should realize that the ratio of labour to raw material varies greatly in different industries, and if we, by legislative action, were arbitrarily to reduce the number of working hours for all industries, the whole system would be thrown out of gear. Some industries might then be destroyed, while others would not be receiving enough protection. Is the work of the Tariff Board to be upset by the clamouring of politicians who angle for votes by advocating this proposal or that?
Proposals by the Government for a conference on the subject broke down through Labour opposition, which tends to show how” politics and not hours dominate Labour’s thoughts. The following excerpts form a summary of events associated with that proposal which I have taken from the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures Gazette: -
When all the circumstances are considered, it is obvious that the trades union representatives had no faith in their own case for a shorter working week, presumably a 40-hour week. That palpably is the reason why they have refused to submit nominations to the conference. By their attitude throughout, it is not unreasonable to suggest that propaganda, both political and industrial, has been their chief consideration. This view is supported by a statement made by the secretary of the Sydney Trades and Labour Council, who objected to the proceedings at the conference being conducted in private.
That is not my opinion, nor is it an opinion voiced by any one here; it is an authoritative statement of the Chamber of Manufactures of Victoria. Far from Labour criticisms put forward by fluent talkers with much denunciation, lying against the Government, actually the Government has a most striking case to proclaim for the part it has played in the national recovery. As I shall show with statistics - and they will carry greater weight than the thunders of the Opposition - Australia has made a more rapid financial and trade recovery than has the United Kingdom or the United States of America. I remind honorable members that the unemployment figure which in normal times usually stands at about 5 per cent, is now down to 9.9 per cent., and as the result of the steps now being taken under the youth employment proposals it should soon he still lower. Whilst unemployment dropped from 32 per cent, in 1932 to 18 per cent, in 1937 iu the United States of America, and from 22 per cent, to 12 per cent, in the United Kingdom, the Australian figure dropped from 30 per cent, to 9.9 per cent. The extent of Australia’s recovery is, therefore, plain to be seen. It must be remembered also that in Australia we do not have the great rearmament programmes of older countries with consequent acceleration of industry, so that our recovery is the more remarkable. And it is not confined to primary industries; and as all industry has been helped by tho Government’s tariff policy, the improvement is shown most strikingly in our secondary industries. The total number of persons employed in factories has risen from 337,000 in 1931-32, to 493,000 in 1935- 36. At the present time improvement is still continuing and a preliminary estimate places factory employment for 1936- S7 at 507,000, the greatest in tho history of the Commonwealth. Statistics for 1935-36 show that factory employment in that year was greater by 40,000 than the previous record for the Commonwealth in the peak’ year 1926-27, which was before the onset of the depression. The expansion -of secondary industry in each of the States is shown in the following table : -
The Government does not claim entire credit for the improvement that has taken place, but it cannot be denied that it has done much to help Australia to climb out of the depression. When the Labour Government was in office,’ revenue dried up,and unemployment grew.
– How many persons employed in factories are boys and girls?
– Certainly a great number of boys and girls are employed. How else cau they train? During the depression, the honorable member will concede, they had no chance of secur- ing employment - few employers during those parlous times would take on apprentices, but at the present time no difficulty is experienced by boys and girls leaving school in securing employment.
– The honorable ‘ member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) said that there are too many boys employed.
– The proportion is safeguarded by regulations. Some honorable members opposite declare that there are too few boys in employment. An honorable member has reminded us that there are still 23,000 out of employment. That number is made up largely by those who lost an opportunity to secure work, because of the depression. There is now’ no lack of work for boys and, girls just leaving school.
– There are 300 boys and girls unemployed in Tasmania.
– If any of them are the sons or daughters of returned soldiers, I suggest that the honorable member should get in touch with the Legacy Club which has a very good record for securing jobs for children leaving school.
The Leader of the Opposition quoted from a book written by himself in collaboration with Professor Giblin to show that, in spite of the increase of work, employment is not keeping pace with the population. We are certainly gaining on it in Australia, and even if numbers of unemployed are ignored, the number of factories rose from 21,657 in 1931-32 to 24,895 in 1935-36, the latter figure being almost 2,000 higher than the previous record of 22,916 in 1928-29. The improvement in every State has been enormous as will be seen in the following table
The Leader of the Opposition also tried to prove that Western Australia and the other Labour States had shown greater improvement than those States administered by Nationalist governments. The Commonwealth Government does not consider its operations in relation to States; it works for the benefit of the nation as a whole. Nevertheless, every State has experienced a tremendous increase of factory employment and in New South Wales and Victoria the improvement has been greatest. I want to show honorable members that that improvement of the employment figure is not just circumstance. Some honorable members say that it is purely because wool prices are higher. Those prices have not been constantly high, whereas the improvement of employment has been continuous and not spasmodic. Wool prices during the last five years have been as follows : -
The story of Australia’s recovery from the depression is one of unbroken progress, despite the fluctuating wool prices. It cannot be ascribed solely to a fortuitous advance of the prices received for our staple export commodities. There has been a steady improvement because the tariff policy of the Government has not been applied by rule of thumb. Prosperity cannot be achieved merely by increasing tariff duties. The United States of America tried that experiment and the Scullin Government tried it here, but with what result? The duties were raised so high that revenue dried up and the Labour Government was faced with a deficit of approximately £11,000,000 in its first year of office, and unemployment was unparalleled.
– The Labour Government inherited an accumulated deficit of £11,000,000, and the national income was halved due to the world depression.
-I agree that that was so, but the fact remains that the present Government has balanced its budgets during the whole of its six years of office.
– Largely as the result of the policy of rehabilitation put into operation by the Scullin Government. We were advised by the same departmental officers that advise the present Government.
– .But the honorable member, in common with many other honorable members opposite, believes that, to balance budgets. it is only necessary to make the tariff mountain high. It is not done so easily as that or such a simple policy would be adopted in all countries. This Government has removed the duties imposed on raw materials and. essential machinery in order to assist manufacturers, and it has also removed the prohibitions and surcharges placed upon certain imports by the Labour Government. The result has been that we have been able to pay our way, effectively protect industries, and, at the same time, reduce direct and indirect taxation.
– But indirect taxation is £13,000,000 higher than it was in 1931-32.
– The honorable member must know that, in the Commonwealth Year-Book, the customs turnover is thrown into the indirect taxation. If he will take out a dissection of the figures he will see that direct taxation per capita has dropped from £21s. l0d. in 1932-33 to approximately £111s.1d. to-day. The total taxation remissions during the administration of the present Government have amounted to £15,605,000. In addition, the Government has been able to collect more revenue onrevenue items because it has put people back to work who were unemployed, and who, during their period of unemployment, could not afford to buy the necessaries of life because of their lack of purchasing power.
– Will the Minister quote the increases of indirect taxation that have taken place?
– The honorable member will see the wisdom of a tariff policy that does not operate so harshly that it dries up the revenue. Indirect taxation rose from £42,362,000 in 1931-32 to £51,100,000 in 1936-37. The figures for direct and indirect taxation are set out in the following table : -
Surely the honorable member will realize that, under the tariff policy for which he was responsible, duties were so high that nothing could becollected, and an enormous deficit resulted; also that a policy of tariff reform which results in people being put back to work and enables a balanced budget to be achieved is a much better one.
– It is just as well that a good foundation was laid for the present Government by the Scullin Government.
– The foundation was laid long before a Labour government was ever heard of. The first Commonwealth Government introduced a protectionist tariff. There are, however, all sorts of protectionists - there are several kinds in the party to which I belong, as there are among the ranks of honorable members opposite.
– The Minister will agree that most of the prohibitions and embargoes imposed in 1930-31 were due to the insistence of the Commonwealth Bank that steps should be taken to arrest the adverse trade balance.
– That is practically correct, but the necessity for the removal of those prohibitions and embargoes arose when this Government came into office, yet honorable members opposed their removal.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– I thank honorable members for giving me leave to complete my speech. Such generosity on their part makes me reluctant to deal at much greater length with the pointless criticism they have offered of the Government’s policy. I shall satisfy myself by more or less recapitulating and summarizing what I have already said regarding the remarkable economic recovery of Australia. I challenge any honorable member opposite to name a country in which the recovery has been so marked as in Australia. CouldRussia or Germany or Italy be. named? Honorable members opposite are silent. That, to my mind, is a complete rebuttal of their criticism. We understand, of course, that, being in opposition, honorable members opposite are obliged to attack the Government in Parliament. Parliament itself may be described as a cross section of people holding various fiscal and social views, which contains within itself all the frailties and attributes of the people at large. So long as we are compelled to adhere to the party system of government, criticism of the kind to which we have had to listen will continue to be made. Honorable members opposite have adopted, however, a Gandhi-like attitude of non-co-operation, even when such vital subjects as defence and trade have been under consideration. The Government has undoubtedly fulfilled its objective of reviving employment throughout the Commonwealth. Its tariff policy has been carefully designed to protect both primary and secondary industries. That it does so protect them is incontestably shown by abundant statistical information that is available. One or two honorable members on this side of the chamber have seen fit to attack the Government’s tariff policy, and in doing so I suggest that they have shown an inordinant selfishness. Have these honorable gentlemen ever requested a reduction of the bounties payable in respect of primary products, or of the duties to which imported . primary products are liable ? Let me remind them of the duties payable on certain primary products. The following list, which gives the ad valorem equivalent of specific rates of duty under
– Are not these duties higher than the duties imposed on manufactured goods?
– Yes. Moreover, certain items of manufactured goods, which are essential to the development of our primary industries, are treated very generously under our British preferential rates. I cite the following items : -
I direct particular attention to the item, wire netting. Our Australian steel industry is able to market its product nowadays without the help of a British preferential duty, for its establishments have reached a very high degree of efficiency. In three cases, the exchange rate provides all the protection that is needed. The honorable gentlemen on this side of the chamber, therefore, who complain of our tariff policy should, if they were consistent, argue that all goods should be admitted free, and not. merely the goods of secondary industries. Few manufacturers would clamour for the whole secondary market, as do these gentlemen for the complete primary field. However, I do not wish to labour the point, as I have said sufficient to indicate the true position.
The Government’s policy has unquestionably benefited both primary and secondary industries and restored employment to a relatively satisfactory condition. The tariff, it must be remembered, should be designed to protect industry, assist employment, safeguard the trade balance, promote and consolidate Empire trade without arousing foreign antagonisms, and find the bulk of the revenue from which invalid and old-age and soldier pensions may be paid.
Let us consider for a moment the important subject of our trade balance. Unfortunately, during the regime of the Scullin Government, the trade balance was seriously adverse.
– The Scullin Government rectified the position.
– This Government has maintained a satisfactory trade balance throughout its period of office and has also balanced its budget year by year. The Labour Administration could not balance its budget on the only occasion in recent times when it had the opportunity to try to do so. An honorable member interjected earlier in my speech that indirect . taxation had not been reduced. He was confusing taxation with the customs revenue turnover. This Government has, in actual fact, restored the purchasing power to the people and for that reason the customs turnover has increased, but this does not mean that taxation has increased. The Government’s tariff policy has carefully discriminated between revenue items and items affecting the raw material, and machinery required by our various primary and secondary industries. Certain honorable gentlemen opposite have had a good deal to say about our pensions payments and the proposed 40-hour working week. They should remember that the money for pensions cannot be taken out of a hat by some wizardry. It has to be obtained from taxation; of course little can be expected from the protective items if they are really protective. The revenue rates of the tariff have been most carefully determined so as not to impair our industrial efficiency, while raising the money to foot our pensions hill. The following table shows the estimated expenditure for 1936-37 and the percentage which each item bears to the total : -
Obviously money had to be obtained to meet these commitments and the Government has very carefully selected the channels through which it should flow into the Treasury. The problem of arranging our tariff policy is full of difficulties, for the method adopted must be capable of responding to world changes and yet be sufficiently rigid to resist pressure and propaganda. Only by a carefully directed tariff policy shall we find our way towards greater self reliance while allowing for the continued expansion of our secondary industries. That the Government’s policy has been effective cannot be denied by any unbiased observer. The prosperous condition of the country is, however, the most effective answer to the charges that honorable members opposite have made.
We are told that the Labour party favours a kind of tariff policy described as the “ new protection “. It is a re-hash of the ideas of the honorable members of the two sections of the party which sits opposite and had its origin in the mindof Mr. ..Lang. Apparently the Labour party considers that our various secondary industries should be “ vetted “ by Labour organizations. This would oblige the leaders of industry to bow the knee to the Labour czar. I quoted this morning an extract from a *trade gazette which expressed the opinion of the Chamber of Manufactures on the proposed 40-hour week that the adoption of the 40-hour week would reduce many secondary industries to chaos, for their circumstances were such that they could not safely be reduced to a uniform basis. Moreover, it must be remembered that the Japanese Government has intimated that it will not sign the 40-hour week convention or any other hours ‘ convention. The point of this remark is that we must bear in mind the industrial circumstances of other nations against whom we have to compete. Our trade policy has to be most carefully designed. Loose criticism to the effect that the Government should increase the pension by ls. a week and reduce the working week to 40 hours will get us nowhere.
The Government’s record is a complete answer to the charges of honorable gentlemen opposite and is one of which any administration might well be proud. Thousands of our citizens have been put back into reproductive work and the nation’s credit stands high. Our budget is balanced and our trade is expanding. In view of these facts, few fair-minded citizens will listen to the thunders of denunciation from the Opposition benches. Cold statistics are a complete reply to all that has been said. The counsels of perfection to which members of the Ministry have to listen will not get us any further along the road to prosperity. The policy of the Government, which has been so successful, should be - maintained.
The Ministry intends to adhere to its intention to provide adequately for the defence of this country and to do its utmost to promote trade at home and abroad. The policy of the country on these two important fundamentals should not be dependent on any caucus. No matter how inspired or splendid the leader of a political party may be, he is entitled to the co-operation of all the members of the Parliament in pursuing an adequate policy for national defence. Australia’s only hope for adequate defence and a trade and financial policy which will help it to maintain a foremost place amongst the* nations of the world, is to retain a stable government such as we have at present, which is not actuated by any sectional extremes.
.- The amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition reads as follows: -
That all the words after “ That “ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words: - “This House directs the Government -
To increase the rate of invalid and old-age pensions to £1 a week, and to liberalize the provisions of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act.
To take whatever steps are necessary to ensure progressive reductions in the number of working hours and increases in living standards commensurate with increased powers of production due tothe mechanization and speeding-up of industry.
To give effect to the Prime Minister’s pre-election promise made in 1934 that a great national housing scheme would be undertaken in conjunction with the States and. local authorities.”
I strongly support the amendment. The Labour party, in pursuing the policy outlined therein, is acting upon right lines. Members and supporters of the Government have shown in the course of this debate and, in fact, during the whole of the proceedings of this Parliamenl since it reassembled last week, that they have very little interest in the many matters of vital concern which should have been submitted to us by the Government, but which we have had to bring under notice. The national welfare appears to mean very little to them. This Government has called Parliament together very little since the last general election. The sittings of the House have totalled 147 days, which is about one day in seven for the whole period since the election. The fact that Parliament has been in recess for such long periods has prevented the representatives of the people from discussing many matters of vital concern that should have been carefully considered. There has been far too much government by regulation. The Administration seems to favour a procedure which conforms to the practice of fascism more than to that of democracy, and such tactics are not likely to commend themselves to the people at large. I believe that as soon as the electors are given an opportunity to express their minds on the Government they will hurl it from office and say in effect “ We will have no more government by regulation.”
The Government has been urged to give effect to many measures of great national importance, but it has almost invariably evaded vital issues by appointing boards or commissions to investigate them. Its delay in dealing with national insurance supports my contention. About £100,000 has been expended by the Lyons Government on boards and commissions. This Parliament is elected to accept the responsibilities of government. and its duties are not discharged by referring important matters to commissions or boards, on some of which the Government would confer even the power of taxation, in order to avoid the odium that results from the imposition of taxes. The Parliament has been kept in the dark as to the Government’s actions, and its members have had to rely on newspaper statements for knowledge of its doings.
For a number of years, many Ministers have been touring abroad. Over £50,000 had been expended by the Government up to the end of last year, and considerably more money will be spent, in connexion with the travels of the Ministers who are now overseas. The electors are looking forward to an early opportunity at the ballot-box to show their resentment of the Government’s policy. The trip made by Mr. Bruce and Sir Henry Gullett to the Ottawa Conference cost this country £6,326, but we have received little benefit from the deliberations of that conference. A few moments ago the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) quoted remarks by the Australasian Manufacturer, concerning the policy of the Labour party, but I shall tell the House what that journal has said about the Lyons Government and the Ottawa agreement. It recently stated -
What has befallen Mr. Lyons? Have the glamour and the glitter of the Coronation festivities destroyed his memory and undermined his principles? Before ho left Australia he said : “ We recognize that some of the articles contained in the agreement drawn up nearly five years ago may need alteration after experience has been gained. Therefore, some amendment of Ottawa is almost certain when it comes up for review.”
That was said in Australia. But this is what he says in London : “ I do not intend to notify the British Government of any desire to obliterate from the Ottawa agreement pledges not to impose new protection, in- not to increase; duties above the Tariff Board’s recommendation.”
Does Mr. Lyons, when he reaches Loudon, forgot that lie is the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, and that it is hie primary duty to consult the interests of the Australian people? At present, by virtue of clauses 9 to 13 of the Ottawa agreement, the Australian people and the Australian Parliament are denied the right to determine Australia’s fiscal policy, and, therefore, to promote and foster its secondary industries.
The Australasian Manufacturer does riot believe that the Lyons Government has served the ‘best interests of the manufacturers of this country, and I think they will show their resentment at the coming election. That journal further stated -
Canada, on this vital question, has manifested greater courage and a bolder statesmanship, with the result that, so far as she is concerned, the objectionable clauses of the agreement have ceased to be. Canada has got her rights because her statesmen have been courageous enough to demand them. Australia has been denied hers because Australian statesmen have been too timorous to mention them.
When Sir John Latham attended the Disarmament Conference, £7,290 was spent, but the money was wasted. To-day a policy of re-armament has been adopted. The Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) attended the Postal Congress, visiting Cairo and London, and this trip cost the country £2,953. When he returned to Australia he relinquished his portfolio as Postmaster-General, and the benefit of the experience gained by him was lost to the Postal Department.
The goodwill mission to Japan in 1934, which was led by Sir John Latham, involved an expenditure of £5,038. The leader of the delegation travelled like a rajah with a retinue of lackeys. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has suggested a Pacific pact, but the policy adopted by this Government has not promoted harmonious international relations in the Pacific, because it has given a smack in the face to Japan and the United States of America. This Government has, in fact, done more to bring about unfriendly relations between the Pacific powers than has any other administration. Instead of building up armaments, we should make every possible effort to foster friendly relations with neighbouring countries, so that- it will be unnecessary to spend millions of pounds on the implements of war. To the everlasting shame of this Government, it must be said that its policy has been detrimental to Australia. The money spent on the goodwill mission to the Far East has been wasted, and the next government will probably have to send another delegation there to retrieve the present Government’s blunder. The piling up of armaments assists the great munition firms, who make huge profits by the supply of defence equipment, and this fact probably influences this Government in adopting such a policy. A newspaper of a recent date published a manifesto regarding the position in the Pacific, issued by tha following leading professors of the University of Melbourne: -
The Senior Lecturer in Political Philosophy (W. MacMahon Ball), the Senior Lecturer in: Economic History (Herbert Burton), the Professor of History (R. M. Crawford), the RitchieProfessor of Economics (Tj. F. Giblin), the Reasearch Fellow in Economics (W. B. Redda-way), and the Dean of the Faculty of Commerce (D. B. Copland).
They pointed out that Australia might take the lead by offering to reduce restrictions on foreign trade, and they referred to-
The momentous nature of the problems to be discussed at the Imperial Conference, particularly with regard to the foreign policy of the British Commonwealth … It is a matter of regret and concern to us that there has not been moVe opportunity for public discussion of these questions in the Commonwealth Parliament.
No doubt the calling of the Parliament together this year was delayed for the express purpose of preventing it from considering the matters to be dealt with at the Imperial Conference. Australia is being governed on fascist principles.
Senator Sir George Pearce, Senator Sir Walter Massy-Greene, and the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) spent some hundreds of pounds on a trip to New Zealand, but nothing has yet been done by the Government to settle our dispute with that dominion regarding the trade in citrus fruits. The restrictions against the export of our citrus fruit remain; therefore, the money spent on the trip has been wasted.
The cost of sending the honorable member for Parramatta to the International Labour Conference at Geneva was £1,327. He was instructed by the Government to support a 40-hour week, because it was said the Government thought that this would contribute to the solution of ihe problem of unemployment. Yesterday a fid to-day, however, members of the Government stated in this House that they did not. believe the granting of a 40-hour week would be of any assistance in that direction. This policy is favoured by the Labour party, and it should be implemented. Another delegation to London consisted of the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page), the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies), the former Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett), and the Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thorby) and the cost of that delegation was £17,768. During the Gwydir byelection campaign the Acting Prime Minister (Dr. Earle Page) informed the public .that as the result of trade negotiations which he had conducted abroad, many millions of pounds were brought into the Commonwealth exchequer. But the Assistant Minister for Commerce has made a similar claim that the substantial profits which would accrue to Australia from those negotiations were the direct result of his excellent work. Perhaps if honorable members had an opportunity to consult the former Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties on the matter, he would doubtless take the credit of the success of the same negotiations to himself; but the honorable gentleman is no longer a member of the Ministry and last night he showed no disposition to inform honorable members of the reason why he resigned. In my opinion such negotiations should come within the ambit of the duties of the High Commissioner, Mr. S. M. Bruce, whose office in London costs the taxpayers of the Commonwealth many thousands of pounds a year. If such trade negotiations, which are part of his functions, are not satisfactorily carried out, he should be recalled and a Minister should be sent abroad when- ever it is necessary to negotiate in respect of such matters. I protest against the practice of Ministers of this Government continually tripping overseas and spending the taxpayers’ money, while we pay for the upkeep of an expensive rajah from whose services we receive very little tn return. I am of opinion that a large percentage of the money spent upon ministerial visits overseas has been wasted. The appearance of the Attorney-General before the Privy Council in connexion with the dried fruits appeal case cost the Commonwealth £1,599, and honorable members are sufficiently familiar with the history of that legal action to make it unnecessary for me to recount the circumstances. The case which was presented by the Attorney-General was a losing proposition from the outset, and the referendum on marketing was the outcome of it. It cost about £100,000 and as the result the Government learned that the people endorsed the attitude which the Labour party had adopted in regard to that matter. The money spent on the referendum was also squandered and no benefits to the people have accrued from it. My criticism in this connexion is also applicable to the ministerial visits overseas, because I fail to see that they have brought any great advantages to the Australian people generally.
The amendment which has been submitted by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition instructs the Government to increase the invalid and old-age pension to £3, and advocates a greater liberalisation of the pension. Today, many pensioners who are in receipt of the present miserly sum experience hardship in providing themselves with blankets, clothing and the necessaries of life. Prices are soaring and their pension is insufficient to enable them to fulfil their needs. I invite honorable members to consider the effect that the recent increase of the basic wage would have if it were applied to pensions. In New South “Wales the basic wage of £3 ’12s. will bo increased . by 6s. a week and, if the pension of 19s. a week were increased proportionately, the recipients would in future be paid 20s. 7d. a week. The increase of the basic wage as applying to females in New South Wales is 3s. a week, and the female basic wage is worked out on the principle that it is designed to keep, not a family, but one person only. If the Arbitration Court considers that an increase of 3s. a week is necessary to enable a female to meet the higher cost of living, I contend that the pensioner is also entitled to be granted a substantial increase of his pension. As was pointed out by an economist who gave evidence before the Arbitration Court, there are good reasons to support the advocacy of the claim for a higher basic wage, because greater spending power is created thereby and the money is put into the hands of poorer classes who circulate it freely. In the hands of the privileged wealthy classes, the money does not circulate nearly so freely as it does in the hands of the poor. The witness stated that any talk of depression or any anxiety that might be created in the business market caused considerable sums of money to be withheld from speculation, with the result that many people were thrown out of employment and greater hardships were imposed on the wageearner.. But the working class, which is in receipt of the- basic wage, spends, the money from week to week in order to provide the necessaries of life.
The increased number of pensioners and the amounts paid in pensions during the life of the Lyons Government have been referred to by many speakers in the course of this debate. I should not expect the situation to be otherwise, because conditions have been materially worse for many people during the last few years. Owing to the poverty which they have suffered, they have broken down in health and have been compelled thereby to apply for a pension. The figures show that there has been a much larger increase of the number of invalid pensions, due to the life of privation which many people are now living, as the result of having contracted tuberculosis or of being without proper food and nourishment. Foi- these reasons, we naturally expect that a greater demand for pension payments will be made at the present time than was the case in pre-depression years. I should like the Government to give greater consideration to pensioners generally, arid I urge it to increase the rate of pension by ls. 7d. a week in proportion to the rise of the basic wage.
The matter of the 40-hour working week has been stressed from time to time in this Parliament, and has been discussed at elaborate length during this debate. In my opinion the Government should have recognized the principle of a shorter working week when it sent its delegate to Geneva to support it. The proposal for reduced hours of labour has been favorably received by France, the United States of America, Sweden, Belgium and New Zealand, and many other countries associated with the International Labour Office have approved of a 40-hour working week. The Commonwealth Government, on the last two occasions that it sent delegates to Geneva, instructed them to support the proposal, and, in view of that fact, I fail to see why it has not granted the shorter working week to its own employees. Persons employed by the Commonwealth are working from 44 to 48 hours a week, and I consider that the Government should apply the principle of a shorter working week to its own servants and thereby set an example to private enterprise. The necessity for giving a great measure of consideration to the workers to-day lies in the fact that the introduction of so many forms of new machinery has brought about increased production. The figures show that the production per capita of persons engaged1 in industry in 1906 was £223 ; in 1913 ‘ it had risen to £290 ; and in 1934 it had further increased to £434. The principle of the shorter working week is not something new, but has been generally accepted at the International Labour Conference by nations from all parts of the globe. I am perfectly satisfied that before giving their approval of this principle they investigated its possibilities and recognized the necessity for it. The principle itself has been adopted in New Zealand. International competition, it was said by the Attorney-General, prevented Australia from adopting the shorter working week unless it was uniformly accepted by foreign countries; but are we to stand by and wait until all nations have adopted some progressive measure before we follow suit? Are we to be among the leading nations of the world or are. we to drag at their heels? At one time Australia ranked among the leaders of social progress, but for some years it lias been in the background, and we are now awaiting the lead of other nations before taking a bold step. New Zealand is now ratifying the International Convention for the adoption of a 40-hour working week in the textile industry. 1 listened to a broadcast address from Station 2BL by Mr. Lawler, of New Zealand, who stated that life in New Zealand- had improved, that conditions were happier, and that the people were considerably better off as the result of the democratic legislation introduced by the Labour Government. In this Parliament the contention has been used that a 40-hour working week should not be adopted in Australia while other parts of the world decline to follow suit. The 40-hour working week has been generally adopted in Broken Hill, although the underground miners work even fewer hours, but the cost of living has not been substantially increased on account of this innovation. For the purpose of illustrating this point, I shallcompare the conditions of Broken Hill with those of another country centre in New South Wales. In Bathurst, where the basic wage is approximately £3 lis. 6d. a week, and an average of 44 or 48 hours a week is worked, the index figure in respect of food and groceries for October, 1936, was 834, and for April, 1937, it was 850, an increase of 2 per cent. In Broken Hill, where the basic wage is £4 10s. a week, and the shorter working week is established, the index figures have increased from 972 in October, 1936, to 993 iii April last, an increase of 2.1 per cent. Thus, in Bathurst, where conditions are less liberal than ‘ they arc in Broken Hill, the increased cost of living is only .1 per cent, less than it is in the other centre. I regret that the Government is waiting for a precedent before it decides to establish the shorter working week; but in my opinion, precedents are only records of the past. Are we not to make precedents for the future? Australia should be prepared to carry out a policy which spells progress and prosperity to the people. The general principle of whether a 40- hour working week should be adopted should rest not on the contention of whether it affects industry or increases the cost of production, but on whether it will improve conditions of life and give a greater measure of welfare and economic security to the people. Measured on these latter lines it should find favour in Australia. The general principle has been adopted in other parts of the world, and this Government is certainly backward in not following suit.
During the course of this debate honorable members listened to the AttorneyGeneral extolling the remissions of taxation amounting to £15,000,000 per annum which had been made by the Lyons Government. Taxation figures show that, for the year in which this Government came into office, receipts from taxes totalled £53,000,000, whereas for the last financial year, they were about £63,000,000. In the face “of this evidence, it is difficult to understand the attempts of honorable members who support the Government, to mislead the people by stating that taxation in Australia has been reduced by the LyonsGovernment. Undoubtedly, certain taxes which are paid by the wealthy sections of the community have been reduced, but the effect of such remissions has been to increase two-fold the burdens placed on the people on the lower rung of the ladder. The land tax was originally introduced by a- Labour government for the purpose of encouraging the growth of a rural population by the introduction of closer settlement schemes. Members of the Country party have gone through different districts claiming that that party has endeavoured to bring about closer settlement; yet it is removing the land tax, which would help in a small way towards closer settlement. There is stagnation in country towns because the settlement of the surrounding districts has not increased. I say definitely that the present policy is one of re-aggregation of large estates, and not of closer settlement. The land tax was first brought into operation in 1910-11. In the first two years, land, the taxable value of which was £17,500,000, was transferred from the taxable to the untaxable field because it had passed from large to small land-holders. In 1920-21 the taxable value of land which passed from the taxable to the non-taxable field was £12,500,000.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- An examination of the amendment shows that it follows the usual course of merely attempting to forestall a portion of the Government’s legislative programme. Honorable members are well aware that before long invalid and old-age pensions will be raised to £1 a week. The Labour party, and particularly the Lang section of it, has never done anything except fool old-age and invalid pensioners. During the economic crisis, members of the Lang party traversed my electorate, forming organizations among old-age pensioners, many of whom were induced to withdraw their books and, as a consequence, suffered untold injustice and injury. Only within the last six months, an old-age pensioner to whom I had given certain advice three years ago, when the Lang-planners were active, walked into my home. As soon as I saw her I said, “ What is your trouble?” She replied, “I am going to take your advice. I am sorry that I was ever led by those abominable men who are called ‘Lang-planners’”. When I had calculated that this old lady had lost 17s. 6d. a week ‘ for three years, and Learned that a relative who had provided her with food was asking to be recompensed to . an amount of £125, which meant the mortgaging of her home, I felt that she must thoroughly appreciate what the Lang-planners and the Labour party generally had done for old-age pensioners. The Labour party has never increased the old-age pension.
– It has never had an opportunity to do so.
– And thank goodness it never will. It neither introduced the pension nor increased the rate at any time. Its only action has been to reduce it.
Some honorable members have sought to “ draw “ me with the statement that I shall not be returned to this Parliament. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) lias stated that there was a difference of only 750- votes between those that I received and those cast for the Labour candidate. I assure him that at the next election my majority will be not less than 7.000 votes. That is the opinion of Labour men who have been in the district for a lifetime; they tell me that there is no doubt about my re-election. They followed with interest the political courtship of Mr. Ourtin and Mr. Lang. -First it was said that “ Curtin had Lang “ and then that “ Lang had Curtin “. Nobody knows to-day what the position is. I am convinced that the Leader of the Opposition is still the slave of the Lang group, and that he will continue to occupy that position so long as he remains in the Labour party. There is only one place for him in this Parliament, and that is on this side of the House. The “ starling “ from East Sydney (Mr. Ward) last night placed before the House a list of men who are nonnested with different companies. Mr. J.’ T. Lang has had published that information in book form for years. I shall make an interesting quotation from a statement by a gentleman who is a member of the Labour party in the Parliament of New South Wales; ho- is a brother of the Austvalianborn Italian in this Parliament, the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), and was a Lang-planner and a supporter of Mr. Lang until that gentleman did to him what he did to the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden). This is what Mr. Lazzarini, M.L.A., had to say about his former leader : -
Lung lintl no it i mo in deal with unemployment or to restore to the workers the clauses of the Workers Compensation Act taken out of the statute-book by the Bavin Government. He had time, however, to suspend tiie Standing Orders one night and take the House pretty well through a bill called the Company Preference Shareholders Bill, through the passing of which 75,000 shares were taken from one rich capitalist to be placed in the pockets of another rich capitalist, and the Labour caucus was not consulted about it. Honorable members knew nothing of it until >[r. Lang introduced the bill on the floor of the House. We all know that he had time to placate the interests of an American iillibuster nauicd Swindell in connexion with tin-hare licences, and of another whose one purpose was to rob unfortunate men who put thuir money on the fruit machines which were manipulated to the extent of 80 per cent, in the interests of the publicans who installed 1 heni.
Honorable gentlemen will remember a person named Trautwein, who bought his way into the Legislative Council of New South Wales. Mr. Gosling, the Chief
Secretary in the Lang Administration, was warned that if he put fruit machines into Trautwein’s hotels the police would seize them. Despite that warning, he put them in, and later, in evidence before a royal commission, swore that he did not know anything about their having been put in until they were taken out by the police. No decent man would remain in the Labour movement and serve under a leader guilty of such conduct. Yet the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) sits with a smirk on his face, as if it is an honorable thing to associate with a man who has proved to be dishonest and has taken his country down.
– I rise to a point of of order. The honorable member has said that I have a smirk on my face when in the company of dishonest men. I ask that that statement be withdrawn.
The remark is unparliamentary, and must be withdrawn.
– In deference to you, sir, I withdraw the remark. Speaking in regard to unemployment, Mr. Lazzarini, M.L.A., said -
The relief workers in my electorate and in tho other electorates represented by members of the Labour party, and in the electorates represented by members of the various parties in this House, tell one story - that they will never support a Labour Government led by Mr. Lang, who has been responsible for placing more men on the dole than has any other public mau in this country.
That is a statement of a Labour man in New South Wales. I ask the House to listen also to the reason- why the Commonwealth Government was not able to help the workers with any money during the Lang regime. It could not trust the Lang -Government with money to assist them. When on one occasion, that Government was given some money for a certain purpose, the money was used for an entirely different purpose. When the Commonwealth Government was trying to bring Mr. Lang to heel, the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) stood up in his place and said that the Government ought to issue a summons against him, as his Government had done. Had action been taken against Mr. Lang for every misdeed, the floor of the lower courts would have been covered with documents and the cases would probably never have reached the higher courts. The right honorable member for Yarra knew that Mr. Lang could not be trusted. Honorable members opposite know that Mr. Lang is the most dishonest man that ever rose to a position of authority in Australia.
– The honorable member said that he was better than Lenin.
– Bosh !
– Mr. Lang has dealt effectively with the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden). Next week I shall bring to the House a number of newspaper cuttings showing what Mr. Lang has said about the honorable member and what the honorable member has said about Mr. Lang. Recently, I spent a few pleasant evenings going through my book of newspaper cuttings on this subject. They make entertaining reading. They show that the two men got together with the intention to make Australia a Communist country. While the “machine” worked, “Jock” stood by ‘like an innocent child, and J. T. Lang followed him. They hugged one another for a few years, until they lost election after election. But now the honorable member for Cook is about 3,000 times milder than he was two years ago. Eventually they stopped telling the people that Russian government is better than Australian government and that the workers in Russia enjoy better conditions than do those in Australia.
– The honorable member is quoting from speeches which the Assistant Minister (Mr. Thorby) used in the Gwydir by-election.
– In his speech in the House of Assembly, Sydney, Mr. Lazzarini also said -
It ill becomes a man to criticize the action of another government when he above all other political leaders in Australia, placed more men, in proportion to the population of the various States, upon the dole and upon food relief than any other public man who held the reins of government in any State of the Commonwealth.
That is from a supporter of the Labourparty in the State Parliament of New South Wales. Recently, my worthy friend, the Leader of the Opposition, went clown on his knees and asked Mr.
Lang to take Mr. Lazzarini, M.L.A., back into the Labour movement. The Lang executive agreed to take him and others back, and now the Federal Labour party pats itself on the back, in the belief that it has accomplished something. But the honorable member for Cook is still an outcast in the desert. He is not even like the prodigal son, for if he asks for forgiveness he will not find a father who will fall on his neck and kiss him, and welcome him back into the ranks of the Labour movement. I am sorry for the honorable member, for he did a great service to the people of Australia when he got Mr. Lang by the nose, and pulled him wherever he wanted him to go. The result of that combination is that the Labour party is still in the doldrums, and will remain there for many years. Mr. Lazzarini made some further remarks regarding Mr. Lang’s leadership.
– It is a good thing for the honorable member that Mr. Lazzarini made that speech, otherwise he would be hard up for something to say.
– It was a good speech. Sometimes supporters of the Government are too gentlemanly to tell the truth about their political opponents; they exercise a great deal of restraint and forbearance; only when somebody speaks out, and puts things in their proper light, is the truth revealed. Except in Russia, where the authorities shoot, without trial, those who disagree with them, has there ever been a political party leader like Mr. Lang. Mr. Lazzarini went on to say -
To-day we listened to a speech by the Leader of the’ Opposition (Mr. Lang) which contained much misrepresentation. Why was that? It is because the Leader of the Opposition’s own party has never been consulted in these matters. I make bold to say that Mr. Lang never consulted the members of his party on the Public Accounts Committee, nor in regard to what he said when moving his motion of censure. This pasteboard “ Hitler “ thinks he is more mighty than all the mcn who stand behind him.
– “Were there not some revelations in regard to the Labor Daily ?
– It is common knowledge that when Mr. Lang wanted some money to finance the Labor Daily, he went to representatives of the liquor trade and demanded a payment. What is more, lie got it.
– The honorable member is not game to say that outside.
– At Parliament House, Sydney, some time ago, the chairman of the Wholesale Wine Licensees Association said that only a week before the secretary of that association had told ‘him that the price of an alteration of the Licensing Bill was £3,000. That was to alter a clause in the bill to enable the wholesale grocers to sell liquor by the glass instead of by the gallon. When I challenged the Government with that, I was told, “ Oh, we turned it down “. I replied, “ The liquor trade offered you £7,000 not to do it, and you took it both ways”. I said that on the floor of the House; I shouted it from the housetops, and I am prepared to say it again on oath, before a royal commission. The corruption of the Labour party is such that no decent man should bo found in its ranks.
– How these Christians love one another !
– Evidently the only im- .pression which the honorable member for Kalgoorlie has of Christ is that He was meek and mild, but there was also the Christ who went into the courtyard of the temple and horse-whipped the blackguards out of it. It will be a better thing for Australia when we are prepared to follow in His footsteps, and demand a reckoning of those who are deceiving the people and robbing the poor.
– “ He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone.”
– We are all sinners, but that does not prevent me from trying to make a man like the honorable member better. I am prepared to take the honorable member to a Sunday school class, and teach him the first principles of Christianity.
– I ask the honorable member not to indulge in personalities. Such remarks merely lead to disorder. If he will confine himself to the question before the Chair there will be no trouble.
– Mr. Lazzarini, M.L.A., referring again to this giant of the Labour movement, stated -
We have been told by this man that he has sympathy for the unemployed, and that he is appalled at their wanton betrayal by the Government. He says that, although he put more men and women on the dole than were put there by any public man who ever controlled the reins of government in New South Wales. He tells us that his heart bleeds for the unemployed, and that he is filled with indignation at the frightful trials they have to endure daily. Mr. Lang has wrecked everything that hehas ever touched, and to-day he is following his career as a wrecker. He has wrecked the Labor Daily to such an extent that we have been told on the floor of this House that hehas already dismissed six employees, and that, as a matter of fact, he is cutting out indentations in the matter set up by the “ linos.” in the hope of being able to cheapen the cost of production of the Labor Daily. Yet he glibly tells us on the floor of this House that he is putting up a plea for the unemployed.
To-day the Premier made a statement which I strongly resent. He said that Mr. Lang was the owner of a newspaper. Mr. Lang does not own the Labor Daily, but by a process of stealth he has managed to get control of it. The newspaper belongs to the decent trade unionists, to men and women whose boots the Leader of the Opposition is not fit to wipe. They put their hard-earned capital into the venture, but Mr. Lang spirited away Mr. A. C. Willis, who was largely responsible for the establishment of the Labor Daily. Mr. Lang deliberately sent Mr. Willis to London as Agent-General so that he could steal or get control of the trade unionists’ newspaper while Mr. Willis was away.
There is no record that those statements were ever objected to by Mr. Lang or by anybody else. Mr. Lazzarini continued -
In his policy speech, delivered at Auburn in 1930. the Leader of the Opposition said -
This young country wants millions to develop it. The millions are available, if you have the will to get them. Elect me and my party and we will get those millions, and the Loan Council will not stand in my way.
Mr. Lazzarini disputed with him his ability to get the money. His reply was, “ I have to fight a winning fight “. If honorable members will analyse that statement they will see that Mr. Lang meant that he had to win by a process of wind and tirade, by a process of unreliableness and misrepresentation. He played a confidence trick on the unfortunate workers of this community by telling them that he could get millions, when he knew that he had not “Buckley’s chance “ of getting a “ bob “. Evidently he was going to obtain money by attacking the banks, thus helping still further to destroy the credit of Australia. Now as regards the housing question. It has been stated by honorable members opposite that neither this Government, nor any United Australia party Government, has done anything to assist in providing homes for the people. In his last budget speech the Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Stevens, stated -
I think I should point out, and quite legitimately, that since 1934, when the reconstitution of the Rural Bank made it possible for us to review the building of houses through that bank, no fewer than 4,000 separate homes have been built, and no less than £3,000,000 has been made available for that purpose. Until the present Government assumed office not one single advance was made over a period of some years.
We all heard the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) say that most of the money recently spent on building in Australia had gone into palatial blocks of flats. The facts, of course, are otherwise. After Mr. Lang had wrecked the State Savings Bank of New South Wales, and the Commonwealth Bank had to step in, Mr. Stevens had to build up a sound rural bank which, between 1932 and 1936, advanced money for the building of 4,000 separate homes.
The Leader of the Opposition never sees the development that is taking place in the suburbs of Sydney. Those men who talk in the same strain as Mr. Lang know only the waterfront. I could drive them about the suburbs and every minute or so indicate new streets of houses that have come into existence within the last six months.
– They would lose their reputations if they were seen with the honorable member.
– On the contrary, people seeing those men in my car would say that for the first time they were in decent company. . I have a great admiration for the Australian trade unionists; I have no quarrel with’ them, but I have a definite quarrel with their leaders. I have lived in a great industrial suburb of Sydney for 39 years, and have always held the respect of the workers in that district; I helped to mould their industrial ideals and policy. I regret that their affairs suffer the handicap of being managed by men who cannot distinguish right from wrong. Among honorable members opposite I see the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark), whose fate has been sealed by the workers at Broken Hill.We sympathize also with the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney), but more so with the electors who sent him here ; he wonby a fluke, but i have no doubt that Denison will have a better representative after the next election. If honorable members opposite will refer to the first volume of the Hansard of the New South Wales Parliament for 1936 they will learn all that they need to know about their associates. I have strong Labour tendencies. The workers of Balmain recognized even in the days of the late Honorable John Storey that they had no better advocate of the interests of the working men than I was. I engaged in the work for 25 years, because I felt that I could represent the workers’ interests better outside than inside the State Parliament. But at the first opportunity they elected me to Parliament at the top of the poll. I did not have to obtain a lien on a safe seat and then have a “ seat-warmer “ elected. The honorable member forReid (Mr. Gander) almostsuffered a nervous breakdown when Mr. Lang appeared likely to say to him, “ Well, step down and I will step up so that we can have a real revolution”’. My friend the honorable member for Reid is harmless ; he does not say anything to upset any one. He simply votes and walks on. There are, however, indications that “ the member for Lang “ may not for very much longer occupy his seat. There is a young man, a Mr. Calman-
Opposition Members. - He is a Labour man.
– He was a Labour man, but he has opened his eyes and seen the truth.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
. - I support the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), which demands the restoration of the invalid and old-age pension to the rate of £1 a week. During my experience in this House no amendment emanating from this side of the Househas ever caused so much of the Government’s heavy artillery to be brought intouse to combat it. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) definitely promised to thepensioners and the people of Australia that the Government would restore theinvalid and old-age pension to £1.
– Thatis to be done.
– I sincerely hope that it will be. Nowadays, pensions are fixed in accordance with the cost of living index number, but that provision never existed before it was introduced into the legislation by this Government. Formerly, the pension was given to the people as a right, not as charity. The charge has been levelled by Government members, particularly Ministers, that the Labour party has never done anything for the invalid and old-age pensioners. In rebuttal of that, I point out that the first agitation for a pension system in Australia occurred in the Legislative Assembly of Queensland, and was initiated by the late Mr. Andrew Fisher and other distinguished members of the Australian Labour party. The agitation was later transferred to this Parliament. and under thatpressure the pension system was first brought into operation by a Liberal government. Since that time, unfortunately, Labour has not been long enough on the Treasury bench to have an opportunity to increase the amount of the invalid and old-age pension. When the rate of pension was reduced in accordance with the Financial Emergency Act, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), who was then sitting with the Nationalist Opposition, made a definitepromise to the pensioners that immediately prosperity was restored in Australia, his party would support a. restoration of pensions, wages, and social services. As our friends on the Government benches have repeatedly stated, both in this House and outside of it, that no promise was made to the pensioners by the Prime Minister, it will not be idle for me to repeat his actual words. Speaking on the Financial Emergency Bill on the 9th July, 1931 (Hansard, Vol. 130, page 3648), the right honorable gentleman, who was then in opposition, said -
I appeal to the right honorable member for North Sydney not to persist in his amendment, because he has the assurance of the Treasurer, on behalf of the Government, that this is merely an emergency measure. Every honorable member on the Opposition side has looked upon it in that light. I was one of the first to suggest the general reduction of expenditure, because I knew that it was inevitable. Were it possible to avoid these cuts, I would certainly have done all in my power to prevent them. Not one member on this side of the eh-amber supports with pleasure the reduction of wages and pensions, and, so far as we are concerned, the reduction will not operate longer than is necessary for the restoration of financial stability. At the earliest possible moment, members on this side will stand behind any proposal for the restoration of the wages and conditions that have been enjoyed by public servants up to the present time. Possibly in three years the circumstances of the Commonwealth will have so improved that the old conditions can be restored. That promise has been reiterated from time to time by every honorable member supporting the Government. Yet, although six years have elapsed since it was first made by the Prime Minister, pensioners to-day are still being paid only 19s. a week. The Government has failed miserably in its obligations to the pensioners and their relatives throughout the Commonwealth. A schedule introduced into the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act makes provision for the pension to fluctuate in accordance with the cost of living index figure; but the framing pf it discloses that the Government never anticipated that the cost of living would rise so rapidly. It may be argued that the pension automatically increases as the result of the higher cost of living reflected in the recent basic wage increase. But we are desirous that the Government should come out in a straightforward manner and increase the rate of pension to £1 a week. Both the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Menzies) and the Acting Prime Minister (Dr. Earle Page), during this debate have pointed out that provision has been made in the pensions legislation for a variation of the rate of pension in accordance with the rise or fall of the cost of living, but I point out that the last increase of ls. a week was not made because of any rise; it wa3 provided for in the budget, apparently in anticipation of an early election. - The Government should give serious consideration to the necessity for liberalizing the provisions of the pensions legislation. Many cases come under my notice of invalid and aged persons who appear to have a just claim for a pension, but are unable to substantiate their claims. In many instances where adult invalids are residing with their parents, because the income of the parents is equivalent to or more than the basic wage, no invalid pension is granted. The departmental ruling in regard to this- matter is that, while an invalid is residing under the same roof as the parents, no pension can be granted. That is wrong in principle, and is a matter which the Government should take into serious consideration, with a view to amending tho act to provide that such children may draw a pension. Once a child reaches adult age, the responsibility for its maintenance should no longer be thrown on the parents.
Another matter to which I wish to draw attention is the number of applications for invalid pensions rejected by the departmental medical referees. During the last twelve months many scores of cases have been brought under my notice in which the medical referee has refused to accept a doctor’s certificate that the applicant is totally and permanently incapacitated for work, and therefore unemployable. When such applicants have come before the departmental medical referee for examination, he has invariably stated that, in his opinion, they are not totally and permanently incapacitated, and therefore are ineligible to receive the invalid pension. In many cases that is unjust. On several occasions I have suggested that a method similar to that employed by the State Insurance Department of Queensland should be adopted. In that State, if two doctors fail to agree the opinion of a referee is sought and the decision of the majority prevails. I urge the Government to adopt this proposal and thus enable many of the unfortunate persons who cannot obtain work and are compelled to live on government rations and charity to obtain the pension. The Government should employ a panel of medical men, and the opinion of the majority should determine whether an applicant is or is not eligible for a pension. If that proposal were adopted many who are now deprived of the pension would be eligible. I have previously mentioned the cases of aged men who may be living apart from their wives or of aged women living apart from their husbands, who cannot obtain a pension. I know of a man who has been living apart from his wife for 25 years, and, because he cannot obtain a pension is compelled to live in a small underground room. Inquiries disclosed that his wife owns three houses, from two of which she is getting the full amount of the rent, and from the third a portion ; but because she is in receipt of income, from which he does not benefit, he is deprived of a pension. Similar cases have been brought under the notice of the Government, and I trust that means will be devised whereby these deserving citizens will obtain a pension. Even if a divorce or separation were acceptable to both parties, they have not the means to institute court proceedings. Reference has also been made on frequent occasions to the need for paying full pensions to pensioners living in institutions. A person who receives a pension prior to entering an institution receives 5s. weekly while an inmate, and immediately he leaves the institution his full pension of 19s. is restored. But a person who receives the pension while an inmate and leaves the institution for any length of time is not allowed more than the institution pension, which is 5s. a week All pensioners when away from an institution should receive the full rate of pension.
I followed with interest the lengthy debate on a 40-hour working week, which is one of the most important problems confronting Australia and many other countries to-day. The honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) did not hesitate to tell the House that he is opposed to a shorter working week, and doubtless he expressed the opinion of every supporter of the Government. In view of the instructions given to the Government delegates which have attended the International Labour Conference at - Geneva to support a 40-hour working week, it is useless for the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Menzies) to say that constitu tional difficulties prevent the introduction of a shorter working week. Every honorable member opposite contends that the Government is anxious to bring about a shorter working week, because it has submitted to the workers .a proposal to form a committee to inquire into and report upon the subject. There was no necessity to make’ such a proposal ; if the Government is sincere in this matter and is anxious to assist to solve the unemployed problem, it has sufficient information at its disposal to come to an immediate determination.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Frost) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) proposed.
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I wish to make a complaint concerning the reply given on Wednesday last by the Acting Prime Minister (Dr. Earle Page) to a question asked by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) respecting the iron’ ore leases at Yampi Sound. The Acting Prime Minister 3aid that the leases had been granted to Japanese interests by the Labour Government of Western Australia. That statement is not in accordance with the facts. I suggest that even although the right honorable gentleman might wish to obtain a little political advantage, it ill becomes him to make such a misleading statement.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Commonwealth Government had anything to do with the granting of the leases?
– I do not.
– It is a matter entirely under the control of the Government of Western Australia.
– That is so. But the statement of the Acting Prime Minister that the Government of Western Australia had granted the leases to Japanese interests is not in accordance with the facts.
– Whatever I said in connexion with this matter was absolutely in accordance with facts.
– I dispute the accuracy of the right honorable gentle^ man’s statement. He should, at least, have taken the trouble to acquaint himself with the facts before he made such a statement. I knew all the facts of the situation, but after the right honorable gentleman gave his reply to the question I. telegraphed to the Government of Western Australia on the subject. I have now received the following reply to my telegram : -
Yampi leases, Munsie advises statement by Page not facts. Buckley took up leases from Crown. Connolly held reservations over balance Koolan Island and secured option over Buckley’s lease. Connolly in turn transferred whole interests to Brasserts an English Company. Wise.
I point out, in the first place, that Sir James Connolly, who is mentioned in that telegram, was at one time a Minister in a non-Labour government in Western Australia. Brasserts is only a holding company with no capital whatever. This can be discovered from reference to Hansard. Sir James Connolly received £40,000 from the Japanese for his interests. That is a matter that I would not have raised in this House but for the charge made by the Acting Prime Minister, in order to gain a political advantage, that the Labour Government of Western Australia had granted the leases to the Japanese interests.
– Why did the honorable member for East Sydney ask his question if not to make political capital out of it? He got a reply and apparently it was not satisfactory.
– Because it was not true.
– The reply was absolutely true and what the honorable member for Kalgoorlie has said indicates clearly that it was true. Every word the honorable gentleman has said confirms my statement.
– It is all very well to dish up that sort of stuff during an election campaign in New South Wales, but I am pinning the Acting Prime Minister down to the facts. He made a mistake. Certain leases were originally -ranted to a Mr. Buckley, but portion of Yampi. Sound was held by Sir James Connolly. Ultimately, he acquired control of the whole of the leases from Mr.
Buckley, and Brasserts, a so-called. English company, took them over from him and disposed of them to Japaneseinterests. So much for the reliability of the information which the Acting Prime Minister gives us when weask questions in this House! I have recited the truth in regard to that matter..
– I am very glad that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) has stated what was in his mind, but all the same the facts areas I gave them when replying to the question of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). I reiterate that first of all the complete control of the mining leases of Western Australia,, including those of - Yampi Sound, is in the hands of the Government of that State. Nobody can dispute that fact. Secondly, the granting of leases for the working of the ore deposits at Yampi Sound was also a matter entirely and solely in the hands of the State Government which did, in fact, grant leases. If the companies formed to work the leases transferred their interests in connexion with them to other companies, that also is a matter entirely and solely under the control of the State Government under its Companies Act. It has nothing whatever to do with the Commonwealth Government. If the leases in question have passed to the control of Japanese interests through certain action on the part of Sir James Connolly, and he has made money out of the transaction, as the honorable member alleges, that also is entirely due to the action of the State Government in first of all giving the leases to certain interests, and secondly, allowing any companies formed to work them to be registered under the State law. I wish to say, finally, that all the happenings in this connexion were as I pointed out the other day, entirely under the control of the State Government. The Commonwealth Government refuses to accept any responsibility whatever for what has happened.
.- I desire to bring under the notice of - the Acting Prime Minister (Dr. Earle Page) a matter relating to the shipping and mail service io Tasmania. The Assistant Minister (Senator Brennan) visited Tasmania some time ago and, by arrangement, met the representatives of several organizations in that State by whom certain facts were placed before him regarding the unsatisfactory mail and shipping service. When I asked a question on the subject I was told that I would get a reply at the appropriate time. It is more than a month since Senator Brennan visited Tasmania, and there is still a great deal of dissatisfaction regarding the shipping service. I suggest that the result of the investigation made by Senator Brennan should be made public, so that the people of Tasmania may know where they stand. The shipping service to that State has been very unsatisfactory for a number of years. In reply to another question that J. asked in this B!ouse,. I was informed that during the last financial year the sum of £53,320 9s. 3.d. was paid in subsidy to Tasmanian Steamers Proprietary Limited for the carriage of mails between Tasmania and the mainland. I suggest that the people of Tasmania are entitled to a very much better service than they are obtaining, in view of the fact that this company is receiving such a large sums of money in subsidies. Surely the Postmaster-General’s department should have some measure of control over the shipping service. It has been an absurdity for a long while that in the summer two ships should arrive at Tasmanian ports on the same day from the mainland, one at a north-west coast port and the other at Launceston. This means that two mails leave the mainland the same day and are distributed throughout Tasmania on the same day. In the winter one ship arrives on the north-west coast on Saturday and another arrives at Launceston on Sunday,’ with the result that two mail distributions are made on the following Monday. This is not a satisfactory arrangement. We are definitely not getting the value that we ought to get for the subsidy that we are paying for this mail service. I do not hold the Government responsible for the breakdown, but when the Tarooma was temporarily disabled on the 1st June, the service, as I anticipated in such circumstances, seeing that only two vessels were in commission, was totally disorganized. On the Tamar, which is the central channel of distribution, no ship operated for a period of five days. When I took the matter up with the department, and requested that it should take steps to see that the contractors adhered to their part of the agreement, I was told that they were doing so. An inquiry would have shown that this was not true. Incidents such as this are causing much dissatisfaction in Tasmania. . Furthermore, I suggest that the whole system pf distributing ‘ mail from the mainland in Tasmania should be completely overhauled.
The present arrangements have been followed for ‘ many years, but, in view of the modernization of transport, they should be remodelled so that mails may be taken off the ships immediately they arrive in port, and delivered in the distant parts of the State on tho same day. Matters in respect of air mails were also brought under tho notice of the Assistant Minister. I am obliged to raise these matters again because the reply given to me by the Acting Prime Minister (Dr. Earle Page) on Tuesday last was most unsatisfactory. It is unreasonable to hold up the Assistant Minister’s report for a month after the making of his investigation. Almost daily in the press of Tasmania complaints are published regarding the mail service to that State, and in view of the fact that the contracting company is receiving a fairly substantial subsidy, the evils complained of should be rectified immediately, I ask the Minister, therefore, if he will expedite the release of the report, or findings, of the Assistant Minister. Whether or not any new proposal has been made, we should be informed exactly what is the position.
Mr. MENZIES (Kooyong- Attorney-
General) [4.12]. - Replying to the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), I might mention that when I visited Tasmania representations in regard to the postal services were made to me also. However, a special investigation into the shipping service was conducted by the Assistant Minister (Senator Brennan), and in respect of his investigation all I can say is that when his report is received there will be no avoidable delay in dealing with it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.13 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n. - On the 23rd June the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
Parts 1 and 2 of the question were answered on the 23rd June, and I am now in a position to advise that the answer to part 3 of the question is as follows: -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 2 and3. In accordance with the usual practice, the text of this draft convention, on receipt in Australia, will be referred to the States for consideration as to the question of implementation so far as they are concerned. If the States are agreeable to the application of the 40-hour week to the textile industry the Commonwealth Government will be prepared to ratify the convention.
en asked the Acting Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made into the position regarding the new aerodrome at Derby and the honorable member will be communicated with at a later date.
y asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
What amount has been collected in light dues from overseas shipping companies during each of the last three financial years?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
r asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– It is not the practice of the Repatriation Department to disclose information relating to pensioners.
n asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice-
What is the cumulative amount of remissions of(a) land tax, (b) property tax, (c) company tax, (d) life assurance company tax, and (c) shipping company tax, for the years1 932-33 to 1930-37?
– The information is being obtained and will be furnished as soon as possible.
d asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
What amount was paid to Tasmanian Steamers Proprietary Ltd. as subsidy for carriage of mails between Tasmania and the mainland for the financial year 1935-36?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : - £53,302 9s. 3d.
n asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
CE asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Information regarding the activities of the National Safety Councils in the States mentioned has been supplied to the Commonwealth Government from time to time in connexion with representations made for the grunt of financial assistance. Whilst all mortality and bodily injury from accidents has a national aspect, the machinery for preventing such accidents is peculiarly a matter within the scope of the administration of the States governments.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 June 1937, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1937/19370625_reps_14_153/>.