14th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the answer given to me yesterday, that the New South Wales Traders Protection Association, aftera meeting held on the 3rd June, 1937, announced that on and from the 7th June, 1937, all butter must definitely be retailed at not less than1s. 5d. per lb., will the Acting Prime Minister draw the attention of the Government of New South Wales to this interference with the principle of freedom of trade? Will the right honorable gentleman also ask the retailers association to consider the rights of men who, for conscientious reasons, believe in supplying the general public with butter at a lower rate than that fixed? Further, will he use his best endeavours to persuade the Traders Protection Association to do the just thing by the consumers of New South Wales?
– When the honorable member’s question appears in the records of Hansard, I shall forward it to the Government of New South Wales for information and action.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs in a position to reply to my question, which was asked the other day, in regard to the dismissal of employees from the Crown Crystal Glass Company Limited?
– by leave - I promised the honorable member, in response to his inquiry, that I should order a full inquiry to be made into the matter. I have now received the report of those investigations, and it unfortunately verifies the fact that the cut glassware section of the Crown Crystal Glass Company Limited has been closed. Inquiries which I had made this morning, indicate that the principal reason advanced by the local manufacturers for the closing down of the works was the fact that large importations were being made from Czechoslovakia at prices with which the local company found it impracticable to compete. The company also stated that six months’ stock of locally-made cut glassware was on hand at the time of the closing of the works. It is true that imports have increased. They were valued at £91,000 in 1934-35, and at £109,000 in 1935-36, whilst for the first nine months of the current financial year the figure was £119,000. The sales of the Australian manufacturers, though, have also progressed. They were £42,000 in 1934-35, £56,000 in 1935-36, and £62,000 in1 936-37. If I may refer honorable members to the Tariff Board’s report on this subject, it will be found that, despite the high duties which have obtained in the past on this commodity, the local manufacturers have secured only 25 per cent. of the local market. This definitely indicates that in a luxury line such as . cut glassware, purchasers will exercise their preference, no matter what the cost. The local manufacturers ascribea further reason to the closing down of the works, namely, insufficient tariff protections, and higher wages. In this connexion it might be of interest to honorable members to learn that the total protection which the local manufacturers receive against German and Czechoslovak cut glassware is 85 per cent. ad valorem, made up by : -
In an examination of a matter of this nature, which is connected with an international treaty, one must consider the benefits which Australia is receiving consequent upon these treaties. Although treaties were concluded with only three European countries, namely, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, and France, other countries, such as Germany, also received the same treatment as that accorded to the treaty countries. The principal overseas countries supplying cut glassware to Australia are Czechoslovakia and Germany. Our export figures for the first three months of this calendar year during which the treaties have been in operation, compare with the three months of the previous year as follows: -
It is therefore apparent that Australia is getting its share of the bargain.
I cannot let the occasion pass without referring to the profits made by Australian Glass Manufacturers Company Limited over the last few years: -
Taking into account its action in dosing down the cut glassware section, these profit figures appear to indicate that this company’s concern is rather the preservation of its dividends more than the interests of its employees, by maintaining the cut glassware section in production.
If this company considers it has insufficient tariff protection on the cut glassware section, because of wage increases or for any other reason, then, in the best interests of its employees, it should have made a proper approach to this Government before taking such a drastic step. I have always said that if those engaged in an industry think that the protection is inadequate they may approach the authorities with a view to having it increased.
– Three State governments have passed an act dealing with a film quota, while the Commonwealth Government has withdrawn its bounty on the production of films in Australia. Has the Minister for Trade and Customs seen the’ report which appeared in the press yesterday, that Mr. Stuart Doyle had said that the Commonwealth Government was not encouraging the production of films in Australia, that it had withdrawn its bounty, and that he was going overseas to get business? Will the Government consider the desirability of helping the industry generally, and promote the production of films in Australia by the granting of a bounty?
– The honorable member’s question opens up a big subject. The Commonwealth has assisted the film industry in Australia by granting it adequate protection, amounting to 4d. a foot, on ordinary films and 8d. a foot on feature films imported from foreign countries. I do not think that any section of the Australian film industry can claim that British importations, which are free, have put it out of business, because, strangely enough, American films still predominate on the Australian market. The Commonwealth encouraged the better production of films in Australia by adopting my suggestion that prizes should be offered for the best films of the year. That, I believe, definitely improved the quality of the film’s produced. It was not intended to be an annual award, but at the time definite encouragement was given by it to scenario writers and producers. The comments of the Australian producer who is proceeding to England are hardly fair to the Commonwealth Government. The difficulty is that apparently Hollywood has very nearly a monopoly of production because of the greater facilities it possesses. In spite of the help given to the Australian industry, it has not been able to compete with Hollywood.
– Can the honorable gentleman tell us approximately what amount the 4d. a foot would represent on an ordinary film of average length?
– I shall obtain the information for the honorable member.
– Is it true that the duty on foreign films is levied only on the original copy imported, and that hundreds of other copies may be printed from it, these copies being, in fact, duty free?
– That is a fact. Copies may be made from the imported film, and that is why the duty was raised from 4d. a foot to 8d. a foot. As a matter of fact, the original proposal was to make the duty1s. a foot, but the Opposition protested so strongly that the Government compromised.
– Can the Acting Treasurer say when the Government expects to receive the report of the commission that is inquiring into the disabilities of the States that have asked for financial assistance from the Commonwealth? Will he expedite the consideration of the report by the Government as soon as it is received, so that it may be released to the States and they may have an opportunity equal to that of the Commonwealth of considering it when framing their budget proposals?
– I anticipate that the report will he received within the next fortnight. I fully appreciate the reason for the suggestion that there should be an expeditious consideration of the. report, and it will be sympathetically considered.
– Is the Acting Prime Minister yet in a position to inform us as to when we may expect the report of the Monetary and Banking Commission ?
– I promised the Leader of the Opposition that I would obtain this information for him at the earliest possible moment. I am not yet able to give it because, although one portion of the report was received about a week or ten days ago and the Treasury has been informed that the balance of the report is available for printing, it is now desired that the whole of the report shall be included in the one document. It seems that it will be impossible for the Government to consider the report and present it to the House before the approaching adjournment; but as I consider that all of such reports should first be made available to honorable members, I am prepared to send them a copy of this one, together with a statement of the Government’s views concerning it, after it has been considered.
– Two nights ago, during the course of a speech in this House, in answer to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr.Forde), I made a reference to the recent flotation of a loan in London by the Sydney Water Sewerage and Drainage Board. I pointed out that that loan had been approved by the Loan Council. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) asked me whether the approval of the Loan Council was given unanimously. I regret that my reply was not completely accurate, although, of course, I spoke as I understood the position to be. I said that there were no dissentients. In point of fact, there was one dissentient, the State of South Australia.
– Has the attention of the Acting Treasurer been drawn to the following press statement: -
Mr. W. Forgan Smith, who arrived by the SS. Orama to-night, said Australia’s financial standing was high at the moment. The undersubscription of the recent Commonwealth conversion loan had no significance. It was due solely to the disturbed state of Europe, and the nervous condition of the money market.
I ask the right honorable gentleman to direct the attention of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to that statement.
Opposition Members. - Surely that is not a question.
– I have noted with considerable interest the statement of the Premier of Queensland.
Talk by the Leader of the Opposition.
- by leave- Recently the Acting Prime Minister extended to me an invitation to broadcast a talk on a certain subject. I accepted that invitation, and forwarded to the general manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission a copy of my proposed remarks. The commission has given its approval to the suggested talk, which will be broadcast at 9 p.m. next Monday.
– Some years ago, a clock, the gift of Mr. A. E. Morgans, an ex-Premier of Western Australia, was placed in the Coolgardie Post Office, but the Postal Department had it removed and sold. I communicated with the department some time ago, and was informed that it was prepared to replace the clock. Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General ascertain when that action is likely to be
– I shall convey that request to the Postmaster-General.
– I have received a telegram from a gentleman who fears that the Tasman air mail contract is already destined for Imperial Airways Limited. Will the Acting Minister for Defence state whether a contract has been made with, or an assurance has been given to, Imperial Airways Limited, and if not, whether tenders will be called in the ordinary way so that all competitors may have an open field ?
– I assure the House that no undertaking whatever has been given, but various matters have already been investigated.
– I asked the Acting Minister for Defence whether it was intended to call tenders for the TransTasman air mail service? If not, what is the reason?
– I thought that I had made it clear that no agreement in this connexion has yet been reached. The matter has been discussed, and in the event of an agreement being arrived at, tenders for the contract will, no doubt, be called in the usual way.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral yet had time to make a progress report concerning the discussion which took place in Melbourne recently in connexion with an approach by waterside workers to the Arbitration Court?
– This matter has been considered. Some little time ago, an application was made on behalf of organizations of waterside workers for an order of preference. The Arbitration Court, in dealing with the matter, made, among other observations, the observation that it was prevented by one of the regulations from awarding preference. The position now is that the Government proposes to alter the regulations to permit the Court to exercise its ordinary jurisdiction, if it thinks fit, in relation to preference, subject, of course, to the protection of the position of the volunteers.
– In view of the reported remarks in to-day’s press of the Federal Treasurer (Mr. Casey) in regard to trade between the United States of America and Australia, and the statement of the Premier of Belgium in connexion with the encouragement of freer trade, I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether the Government proposes to withdraw certain customs regulations which restrict trade between Australia and other countries? If not, will the right honorable gentleman find some means to restore to the notice-paper my motion for the disallowance of a customs regulation in order that it maybe discussed and a decision may be reached, by Parliament in regard to the restrictive policy?
– I have discussed with the Attorney-General and officers of the House possible methods of restoring to the notice-paper the motion which stood in the honorable gentleman’s name; but up to the present no practical means of dealing with the matter have been devised. The subject is still under consideration.
– Has the attention of the Minister for the Interior been directed to the report of an award which was made in Port Augusta against the Commonwealth Railways Department, and which was laid upon the table of the House yesterday? The Public Service Arbitrator, in making that award, stated that it was not within the province of the tribunal t.o say that any apprentices should be employed in the future, but that he thought it necessary, in the public interest, to say that it was regrettable that the Commonwealth had discontinued the apprenticeship system. In view of that statement, will the Minister take immediate steps to re-introduce the apprenticeship system in the Commonwealth railways?
– I understand that the apprenticeship system has already been re-introduced; but I shall confirm that impression and inform the honorable member of the details.
– I lay on the table of the House reports and recommendations of the Tariff Board on the following subjects : -
Crochet Hooks manufactured from Casein, Celluloid, and similar materials.
Cycle Tubing; Wrought Iron and Steel Pipes n.e.i.
Fruit Juices n.e.i. and Fruit Syrups, nonspirituous.
Iron and Steel Galvanized Telescopic Flush Pipes of lj inches or li inches internal diameter.
Non-spirituous Preparations, viz.: - Flavouring Essences, Extracts, and Ethers; Fruit Aromas.
Oilmen’s Stores, n.e.i., being Groceries, including Soap Dyes and Condition Foods,n.e.i.; Food for Birds (excepting canary seed and mixtures containing canary seed) ; Goods put up for household use, n.e.i., Goods n.e.i., put up for retail sale.
Spirituous Preparations (non-medicinal), viz: - Essences, Extracts, Fruit Ethers. Aromas and Flavours. Lit”” Juice and other Fruit Juices and Fruit .Syrups, Spirituous Preparations n.e.i.
Textile Boot and Shoe Linings imitating leather.
Ordered to be printed.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral if it is a fact that insurance companies throughout the Commonwealth propose ‘to increase the rate of premiums for the insurance of motor cars? If so, will the right honorable gentleman give consideration to the introduction of a measure for the purpose of dealing with insurance on a Commonwealth-wide basis, in order to restrict avaricious companies from exploiting motorists?
– I have seen in the press the statements to which the honorable member has referred. As to the question of policy to which he invites my consideration, that matter will be considered in common with other matters of policy by the Government at the appropriate time.
– Can the Minister for Commerce say if it is a fact that the Dairy Products Equalization Committee, which was set up to protect the butter industry by stabilizing returns to the producers as between home and overseas prices, has increased the wholesale price of butter in Australia by a further 6-£ per cent, as against the price which ruled in 1934, notwithstanding the increase of the wholesale price on the overseas market by approximately 54 per cent, during the intervening -period? Will the right honorable gentleman ascertain if this action has been taken in a spirit of pique in an endeavour to penalize consumers, following the defeat of the referendum on marketing? If he does not possess this information, will he obtain it and make it available to the House ?
– I do not thinkthat there is any need for me to make investigations in regard to the latter part of the honorable member’s question, because there is no industry in the whole of Australia which .has done more than the dairying industry to endeavour to stabilize the financial position of the Commonwealth. I understand that the position of the dairymen, as- is generally known by those who are associated with agricultural industries, has been extraordinarily precarious, and it is a reasonable thing for the men engaged in that industry, who have exercised .commendable restraint in the past, to alter their prices if they so desire.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether it is a fact that the former Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties failed to negotiate a trade treaty with representatives of the Government of Canada, and that ths Canadian Minister left Australia recently without having accomplished anything? Are negotiations still proceeding, and if so, who is controlling them? Also, at what end is a decision awaited ? Was the resignation of the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties due in any way to his disagreement with the Cabinet over the proposed trade agreement with Canada?
– The negotiations between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of Canada, which led to the presence of Mr. Euler in Australia, are being continued without interruption.
– Has the attention of the Minister for the Interior been directed to the alleged shortage of houses in Canberra? I understand that 250 applications for residences cannot be fulfilled. In view of the policy of the Government to transfer the Defence Department and the Postmaster-General’s Department to Canberra within the next “few years, which will entail the provision of 500 additional houses, can the Department of the Interior or the Government announce a comprehensive policy with regard to the erection of homes in this city in order to meet the present demand?
– Consideration is being given, in connexion with the framing of the forthcoming Estimates, to next year’s building programme for Canberra. For the last twelve months, a sum of £211.000 was spent by the Commonwealth on the erection of houses in the city.
– I wish to ask the Minister upon whose shoulders the mantle of the Minister in charge of trade treaties has descended whether negotiations are still proceeding with foreign countries in regard to trade treaties; if so, with what country, and with ‘what prospects of success?
– As I explained in an answer to a question -a few days ago, negotiations have been maintained with the United States of America for this purpose since 1933. The Government has also been in negotiation with Canada.
– What is the present position inq regard to negotiations between the Commonwealth and New Zealand in connexion with citrus fruit and potatoes ?
– Representations have been. made with regard to the lifting of the embargo on Australian oranges, and particularly oranges from -‘New South Wales, which have been subject to greater restriction. As a result, the restrictions by the New Zealand Government on the importation of oranges has been completely removed for four months in the year, and an attempt is now being made to have it removed during the months from October to December.
– I have received the following communication dealing with the use of Western Australian jarrah for public works in the Northern Territory :-
We have been trying to induce the use of jarrah for building here, but, as the whole of the specifications for Government buildings ure drawn up in Canberra and specify only cypress pine, we get no opportunity whatever of quoting for jarrah. As you know,* jarrah is an infinitely superior building timber for tropical conditions.
Will the Minister for the Interior give the matter his consideration with a view to learning why jarrah is not specified for work of this kind?
– I shall make inquiries to see whether Western Australian timber can be used for Government works in Darwin.
– Is the Acting Prime Minister aware that fears are being expressed that the economic rehabilitation of primary producers is ‘being delayed because of the difficulty experienced in making Commonwealth funds available, this being due to the refusal of the Commonwealth Government to participate in the raising of loan funds ? Will the Acting Prime Minister state whether, in fact, any requests from State governments for money for debt adjustment purposes have been refused for this reason?
– I understand that the original requests from various State governments pursuant to the Loan Council allocation in connexion with farmers’ debt adjustment, have all been met. It is true that an arrangement was made whereby the Commonwealth Government undertook to refrain from loan raising for public works so that more loan money might be available for use by the States for debt adjustment purposes. The amount raised is determined by the Loan Council, and of the money to be raised a choice must be made by the State governments themselves as to whether it is used for public works or for debt adjustment.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister ask for a report from the State governments showing the results achieved under the farmers’ debt adjustment scheme up to date? The States are handling Commonwealth funds, but this Parliament receives no information as to what is being done.
– Continuous contact is maintained between the Commonwealth Government, through the Department of Commerce and the Treasury, with the various State governments in regard to this matter. The accounts of the State governments are also examined periodicallyby the Commonwealth Auditor-General, but I shall have a statement prepared showing the exact position as it exists to-day.
– Is the Commonwealth Government content that the pace in regard to its own debt adjustment efforts should be setby the State governments, which have a majority of votes on the Loan Council, and which consider debt adjustment matters concurrently with their own public works borrowing policies?
– This Parliament decided, and its decision was endorsed by an overwhelming majority of the electors, that, in accordance with the terms of the financial agreement, all government loan raisings should be under the control of the Loan Council. What isbeing done now in regard to debt adjustment is in accordance with that provision of the Constitution under which the Loan Council was established.
– Has the attention of the Acting Prime Minister been directed to the remarks of Mr. Forgan Smith, Premier of the Labour Government of Queensland, in the course of an address to members of the Queenslanders Association of New South Wales, and reported in to-day’s press? Mr. Forgan Smith stated that criticism of the visits of Ministers to other countries was shortsighted. It was an excellent policy, he said, to send Ministers overseas, as public men of all countries should have a firsthand knowledge of various movements and their significance. In view of the short-sighted criticism to which Mr. Forgan Smith refers, will the Acting Prime Minister give honorable members an assurance that the Government is fully alive to the desirability of maintaining regular contacts between members of the Government and public men of other countries in order that this first-hand knowledge may be obtained ?
– I am glad to notice that the extract quoted by the honorable member indicates the attitude of the Queensland Labour Premier on this matter.It is common knowledge that visits of Australian public men abroad, and their utterances, have done much to dispel ignorance, and, in some cases, misapprehension, regarding Australian affairs. That has been of great value to Australia.
– Why not let public men from overseas visit Australia to see the poverty here?
– The Government is very anxious that public men representing other parts of the British Empire should visit Australia.
– Having regard to the very substantial profits declared by some industrial concerns in Australia, notably the Australian Glass Company, is the Minister for Trade and Customs taking steps to refer to the Tariff Board for investigation the question of the extent to which the protection of Australian industries contributes to those profits, so that the public may be assured that protection is being used only in a legitimate way, and not for the exploitation of the consumer under conditions of monopoly or limited trading?
– The glass, paper and rubber industries are only some that have been investigated by the Tariff Board at the request of this Government for the first time for more than twenty years. The protection they receive ensures to them only a part of the Australian market, and in that is unlike the protection afforded to the primary industries, which gives them the whole of the Australian market.
– Has it ever been brought to the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs that the greater part of the products of our primary industries has to be exported overseas, while the products of the secondary industries are sold almost wholly in Australia ?
– Yes, that hasbeen brought to my notice many times by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), and he was saying it in this House before I ever became a member. Nevertheless, the fact remains that the duties which protect the primary producers are, generally speaking, higher than those which protect the manufacturers.
First report brought up by Mr. Hutchinson, read by the Clerk, and - by leave - agreed to.
– Who was responsible for drawing up the ballot-paper in connexion with the recent referendum ? Was it entirely done by the Electoral Office, or was the Chief Electoral Officer subject to any direction by the Cabinet in regard to its preparation?
– The form of the ballot-paper was drawn up entirely by the Electoral Office.
– During the sitting of the House on Monday, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) asked me whether I had seen a report appearing in the press regarding the dissatisfaction expressed by certain officers or typists in regard to the price charged for meals in the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms. I had not seen the report to which the honorable member referred, but I promised to make inquiries, basing them on what the Leader of the Opposition said at the time. The position is that up till last session in the room where parliamentary officers and some officers of the public departments, including lady typists, had their meals, a charge of1s. 6d. was made to typists in the parliamentary service for lunch or dinner on a menu which differed from that tendered to other girls sitting at the same table. Last session, however, the price was increased to 2s., and the menu was precisely the same as that supplied to honorable members in their refreshment rooms. Certain girls receive what is known as a tea allowance of 2s. if they have to be away from their own homes or from their boarding establishments for more than one meal. Others are not entitled to a tea allowance because they do not have to remain away from their usual place of residence for two meals. In order to meet the circumstances of the former group, an improved menu was provided, and a charge of 2s. was made, the previous arrangement being cancelled. I understand that that caused the dissatisfaction to which the Leader of the Opposition referred. I have investigated the matter, and found that it has been decided to revert to a menu which provides a meal of two courses for which ;i. charge of ls. 6d. will be made, and that the proposal is satisfactory to all concerned.
The following paper was presented: -
Commonwealth Bank Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1037, No. 70.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without requests or amendment : -
Supply Bill (No. 1) 1937-38. Invalid and Old-age Pensions Appropriation Bill 1937.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Mr. Paterson) read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill makes provision for organized research into medical problems, and for the establishment of a fund into which shall be paid moneys received from two sources, namely, moneys appropriated by Parliament from year to year, and moneys received by way of donations and bequests. The fund will be administered by the Minister for Health on the advice of the National Health and Medical Research Council, and it is to be expended, as provided for in this bill, for the assistance of Commonwealth or State associations, universities and institutions, and persons engaged in medical research, and also for the training of persons in medical research. The National Health and Medical Research Council upon whose advice the- Minister has mainly relied, is a most authoritative body composed of the Commonwealth Director-General of Health as chairman, and two other officers of the Commonwealth Health Department, the Chief Medical Officer of each of the States, a representative of the Australian College of Surgeons and the Australian Association of Physicians, a representative of the British Medical Association, and a nominee of the four universities having medical schools who jointly appoint one representative. Along with these there will be two lay representatives, a prominent layman and a prominent lay-woman. The object of this bill, as disclosed in its title, is for research into medical problems. A review of the vital statistics and the health conditions of this country makes it clear that such a measure is urgently necessary. It is perfectly true that the death rate has been materially reduced, and that the expectancy of life has been substantially lengthened. It is true, too, that many diseases that formerly levied heavy toll upon mankind have been either swept away or held in check. Many diseases from which our ancestors suffered, such as small-pox, typhus, and other diseases which either singly or jointly were responsible for epidemics like the “ Black Death “, which swept away very nearly one-half of the population of Great Britain, have been definitely conquered, and have disappeared almost entirely from the mortality tables. Deaths from pulmonary tuberculosis have been reduced by 51 per cent, during the last 30 years. It is interesting to note, too, tb:it the death rate from diphtheria, about which certain references were made in this morning’s press, is much lower. Whereas in 1911 it was 154 per 1,000,000, in 1934 it was only 63 per 1,000,000. The position, although in some respects encouraging, leaves much to be desired, for, although medical science has made very notable advances and has definitely conquered some diseases, on the other hand, it has been hardly pressed by other diseases which in bygone days were not among the great “ killers “. It will come as a surprise to honorable members to learn that the number of deaths from heart disease in this country last year was greater than the total nun> ber of deaths from cancer, tuberculosis, motor accidents, and diphtheria. The extraordinary increase of deaths from heart diseases, I confess, startled me, and convinced me, as I think it will honorable members, that its relation to modern conditions must be clear and intimate. The pace of life has been speeded up. The dietary and habits of the people have been changed. We inherit the appetites of our ancestors, but our lives arc ordered to a very different pattern. They lived a life in the open air and earned their living literally by the sweat of their brows; their skins were active, ridding the body of much of its waste products. Now tilings have changed. Our artisans have become mere machine-minders. Many people are employed as shop assistants, warehouse attendants, clerks and typists. Their work involves little physical effort. We, the descendants of one of the most vigorous, active and adventurous races, load sedentary lives, take little corrective exercise and live on devitalized food.
– Would the right honorable gentleman say that heart disease is due to the conditions of employment or to epidemics?
– Certainly not epidemics. I conceive that the cause of heart disease is deep-rooted in the circumstances of modern life, and those conditions will exist no matter what form of government is adopted. It is necessary that a certain number of the people must be employed in sedentary occupations, and r.he ill-effects of their employment mustbe counteracted by a suitable regimen - diet,’ exercise, and personal hygiene. This is a most fascinating and interesting subject and the temptation to cover the whole field is almost irresistible, but I must endeavour to confine myself to the immediate objects of the bill.
Medical science has accomplished great things, but there still remains many worlds to conquer. Cancer and heart disease - to name no other diseases - have so far defeated its utmost efforts. And although it has reduced tuberculosis by 51 per cent, in 30 years, it is still a reflection on the community that tuberculosis exists at all in Australia. In 1930, Lord Passmore expressed the opinion - I think on good grounds - that tuberculosis ought not to exist in Australia. The National Health and Medical Research Council, to which I have referred, accepted that view, and urged that, with a view to the entire eradication of the disease, contacts bc examined and treated.
Medical research, as contemplated by this measure, is research in laboratories, and through clinical observation and investigation. Biological research may be said to date from the time of Pasteur. That perhaps, is not literally accurate, but it is undoubtedly true that since Pasteur’s time great advances have been made in biological, biochemical, chemical and surgical research. I shall quote a few of the achievements of research in recent years. By the discovery of insulin by Banting and Best, diabetes has been held in check. The discovery by Sir Ronald Ross of the species of mosquito that carries the germ of malaria led to a new treatment which proved much more effective than the old treatment with quinine. Sleeping sickness, if not entirely conquered, has been held in check. Behring discovered an anti-toxin for diphtheria, tetanus and gas-gangrene. The preparation for combating pernicious anaemia has been most successful. . Messrs. Hunter and Royle, two Australians, developed a new technique for surgery of the sympathetic system, as applied to the treatment of various paralyses. Burnet, another Australian, gained distinction by his work on psittacosis. In chemical research the use of eusolacriflavine, prontisil, and other disinfectants has proved most efficacious. During the war, Wright, an Englishman, together with other British medical men, evolved an inoculation against typhoid, which saved hundred of thousands of lives during the Great War. Australia won world-wide fame by the achievements of the Australian Imperial Force, but it would be a still grander thing if it could lead the world in the crusade against disease. Although labouring under many difficulties, Australians have already led the way in the treatment of miners’ phthisis, hydatids, and in respect of surgery of goitre, and genitourinary surgery, whilst the work performed at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute on snake venom is recognized as a classic. More could be. said of the achievements of Australians in this field, and since we are a small community; isolated from the rest of the world, and without those advantages which contiguity to great centres of population affords, these achievements speak volumes for our native talent, and the work of our universities and medical schools. Unfortunately, most, if not all, of the Australians who have achieved distinction in medical research have been forced out of this country; they have won distinction elsewhere. I appeal to the House to stop this drain on our brightest and best intellects, and provide for medical research in this country. It is a matter of vital importance to Australia. Maternal mortality is taking too big a toll of our people, but overshadowing all other considerations is the decline of the birth rate. The effect of a falling birth rate is shown by a comparison of the numbers of young lives in the community during the inter-censal periods 1911-1921 and 1921-1933. In the former period, the population under ten years of age increased by 217,085, whereas in the latter period, the increase of numbers in this age group was only 381. Had the average effective birth rate which prevailed between 1911 and 1921 continued until June, 1933, there would have been in Australia 350,000 more children under ten years of age than were actually enumerated at the census. We have become case-hardened to these facts, and yet they are for us the writing on the wall. We are a small community, scarcely more than a corporal’s guard in this outpost of Empire, and we are. surrounded by nations whose crowded peoples look with envious eyes at Australia; yet we are not to have an army of children, almost equal in number to the Australian Imperial Force. Those 350,000 children would have gladdened the hearts of their parents and, in time, have swelled the ranks of the industrial army and helped to develop and guide the destinies of this country. Had the birth rate not fallen, we should not have had to consider the introduction of migrants, for we should have had the best migrants in the world at a cost considerably less than that of bringing people here from overseas, who may or may not merge into the community. But they have disappeared and not by disease.
Research is many sided, but if it is tobe effective, it must be organized. Sporadic research is useless; it must be continuous and co-ordinated. At present research work of this kind is unorganized. Research workers in one State do not know what workers engaged in the same field of research in another or even in the same State are doing.
The council, which is composed of men whose authority cannot be denied, will superintend, direct and guide the research work. The scheme it has propounded and which the Government has adopted is well adapted to Australian conditions. It provides for -
If this plan of work is adopted we shall be sure of competently advised, controlled and systematic research work. We shall also be assured that any moneys made available for research by appropriations of Parliament, or bequests, or donations, will be expended so as to yield the best possible results.
Mr.Curtin. - Does the bill indicate the amount proposed tobe appropriated ?
– No ; but the council has suggested a sum of £30,000 per annum.
Mr.Curtin. - Will such provision be made in the budget for this purpose?
– I am sure that the honorable member will not expect me to say more than I have done on that point. The council which has proposed this wellthought out scheme suggests that an appropriation of £30,000 per annum will be necessary to give effect to it. A great deal of money has already been expended on research work in this country, particularly in connexion with cancer, but the results have not been encouraging. Research is necessarily slow. When men delve into the secrets of life and seek to discover the various processes in which life manifests itself, progress must necessarily be slow. It is certain, however, that this is one of the noblest careers to which a man can devote himself. But obviously continuity of operations, thoroughly trained workers, and appropriate equipment are necessary to ensure success. Young graduates just entering upon a medical career are not likely to take up research work unless they can be guaranteed continuity of employment and conditions which will give reasonable prospects of success.
I commend the bill to honorable members.” This is the first step the Parliament has been asked to take along a road which, willy-nilly, it will be compelled to travel sooner or later. The health of the people is of vital importance. The effect of sickness on economic output - to say nothing of the happiness, welfare and outlook of the people - can hardly be exaggerated. I have said over and over again that Australia is no place for weaklings. We want strong, vigorous men and women. No branch of human effort is so well worthy of the attention of honorable members as this to which I am now directing attention. The health of the people must be the first consideration of governments and Parliament. It is a national question entirely divorced from party politics.
While I do not deny that economic conditions may be one of the causes of illhealth, I remind honorable members that ir, is one of the easiest to deal with. If si family is under-nourished because insufficient money is available to buy the required foods, the remedy lies right to our hands. We don’t want to appoint a commission to tell us what to do. We all know what to “do. We must adjust the economic conditions so as to ensure adequate nutrition. But illhealth is not confined to poor people. It roams at will among the community. It strikes the well-to-do just as it does those who are impoverished. If inquiry into this problem were to do no more than arouse public attention, it would still be justified. I have said that medical experts have indicated that 43 per cent, of the children of Australia are suffering from malnutrition. Some people brush that statement aside as though it were of no consequence, but others will give it the attention it merits.
The Medical Research Council has already done much useful work and made many practical suggestions, of which this is one. This Parliament has already authorized research work into problems concerning our flocks and herds and plant life. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has done effective work in this direction. If it is desirable to discover the right kind of fodder for cattle, surely it is much more desirable to find the right kind of food for mankind. As Minister for Health, I have been dealing, lately, with the problem of undulant fever in cattle. It is recognized that this is a serious matter. I feel sure that no honorable member would suggest that the problem of human health should be treated with less seriousness. I ask honorable members to “pass this bill, not with careless indifference, but with such manifestations of wholehearted support as will leave the community in no doubt how the national legislature regards its objective.
The research work contemplated covers all phases of ill-health - maternal mortality, heart disease, cancer and dental caries. The Nutrition Council discovered, in the course of its inquiries, that an alarming number of children in Australia suffered from dental caries, a condition which has been accepted as inevitable. No condition is more general and none is a greater menace to health. Decaying teeth, no doubt, cause toxic conditions that affect health, but they are in themselves symptoms of constitutional disequilibrium.
I have referred to heart disease, describing it as the great killer. It is significant that 40 per cent, of the deaths from heart disease are due to the aftereffects of infectious fevers such as scarlet fever, diptheria, rheumatic fever and the like, contracted in childhood.
– Doob the right honorable gentleman say that scarlet fever, for example, always affects the heart?
– I have not said that; but these diseases always attack weaklings. Malnutrition, which does not necessarily mean under-nourishment, is one of the causes of heart disease in adult life. Inquiry into this subject would be of immense value to the whole community.
I commend the bill to the favorable consideration of honorable members, and ask them to give it a speedy passage.
Debate on motion (by Mr. Forde) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 29th June (vide page 678), on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition has no objection to this measure, and will facilitate its passage. The new agreement, which is of great importance in the relationship of the Commonwealth Parliament to the parliaments of the States, is to replace previous agreements, the first of which commenced in 1926. For many years the States complained that they were deprived of any share of the indirect taxes collected by the Commonwealth, and the decision to allow the States to use a part of the petrol’ tax on road construction represented a distinct forward step. At present the Commonwealth and the States have to share certain responsibilities, and, in the nature of things, it would appear reasonable that the control of certain works or services should appropriately be left with the States. The responsibility of the Commonwealth is to raise the money, to allocate it fairly, and, where the circumstances warrant, to impose such conditions as are proper. The agreement of 1926 limited the States to the construction of roads in certain categories which I need not specify, because that scheme has now disappeared ; but for every £ 1 contributed by the Commonwealth the States were obliged to find 15s., one-eighth of which was to be provided from revenue and the balance from loan moneys. They had to pay interest upon the loan, and also to provide a sinking fund for its reduction. The States found the financial side of the obligation rather onerous, and before 1931 said that the conditions attached to the Commonwealth roads grant jeopardized the proper treatment of roads. For instance, they could not expend any money on roads previously constructed, and furthermore the rigid nature of the agreement was not only a hardship financially upon the States, but if preserved it might also have resulted in the scrapping of roads upon which considerable capital expenditure had been incurred. In 1931 the Scull in Government conferred with the States and agreed to abolish the obligation upon, them to expend 15s. for every £1 contributed by the Commonwealth. It was also decided to enable the States to utilize the money on construction, re-construction, maintenance and repair of roads. Furthermore, the agreement stipulated that at its expiration the sinking fund portion of the money raised by the States was to be reduced from 3 per cent. to 21/2 per cent. until the debt was extinguished. Therefore the provision in this agreement in that connexion was really agreed upon five years ago. The only important alteration which the new agreement provides is to increase the financial provision which the Commonwealth makes by1/2d. from customs duty and1/2d. from excise. It also enables the money to be expended not only on the construction, reconstruction, maintenance and repair of roads, but also on other works connected with transport as a State may think fit. That appears to me to be a wise provision. For the first five years the Commonwealth Government provided £10,000,000 from revenue, and the States £7,500,000 of which the greater proportion was from loan. I do not know whether the provision in respect of one-eighth to be provided from revenue was strictly carried out, but I am assuming that it was. During the last six years the Commonwealth has provided £14,100,000, assuming that the estimated expenditure for the last year was £3,000,000, as stated by the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Menzies) last night, while the States have provided only the debt charges on about £6,000,000 of loan moneys expended to the end of June, 1931. Since the introduction of the scheme the Commonwealth has provided £24,000,000, and so far as I can see’ the States have provided £1,000,000 from revenue and £6,500,000 from loan. We can reasonably forecast that in the next ten years - the period which the agreement covers - the Commonwealth will give to the States approximately £35,000,000. This year the amount will be approximately £3,600,000, and, broadly speaking, we can regard that as the approximate distribution which will be made annually. During the next ten years the States will have a definite share of the petrol tax, which this Parliament imposes under various fiscal measures. I welcome the hill, because so long as the States exist as such, and this Parliament is, as it were, the central piece in the federal structure, it appears only right that some portion of the taxes collected by the Commonwealth shall be reserved for the States for expenditure on capital works, and thus provide employment for a considerable number of persons. Under our present method of distributing the functions between the Commonwealth and the States, the major burden of providing work for Australian citizens has devolved upon the States. But, under this measure, the States will be able to expend money derived from this source on aerodromes, fishermen’s havens, roads and services in connexion with petrol-driven trains. The bill, I think, gives elasticity to a practice which appears to me to be good, and also economically advantageous. The increase of the amount of petrol tax to be paid to the States which this measure contemplates does not mean that the Commonwealth Parliament will have to increase the tax. We are acting on the assumption that this tax will continue, and a considerable portion of it will be hypothecated for the construction of roads and works incidental to transport. The more comprehensive provisions will give additional service to the users of petrol, including those maintaining aeroplane services, and the users of petrol in connexion with fishing launches. The new agreement makes it possible, within the discretion of the States, to ensure that all those who contribute to the revenue of the Commonwealth by means of the petrol tax will, while not being relieved of the tax, have some service rendered to them by the Commonwealth or by a State government in return for the tax they pay.
.- I congratulate the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Menzies) upon having introduced this measure, which provides for the ratifica tion of a new agreement, for a period of ten years, between the Commonwealth and the States in respect of roads. I am particularly pleased, to find that the Government has introduced certain new features in the measure which provide, in effect, that all persons who directly or indirectly use petrol will derive some benefit from the tax they pay on that commodity. When the first federal aid roads agreement was adopted, our main highways and country roads were in a chaotic state. The number of motor cars and trucks had increased tremendously, and it became necessary to make drastic improvements in the matter of road construction and maintenance to facilitate motor transport generally. The light construction . of many roads rendered them duckponds in the winter, and sandheaps in the summer. Since the adoption of the federal ai roads scheme, there has been remarkablimprovement in roads generally, and the work performed in. road construction, maintenance and repairs by the main roads boards and similar authorities, with the money obtained from the petrol tax, has been of great benefit to roadusers. It has also increased the number of motor vehicle owners, and resulted in an enormous saving in repairs, and a reduction of wear and tear. Since the first agreement was adopted, road construction authorities have been able to build additional roads and also to maintain and repair others. It is futile to construct a good road and allow it to get into disrepair. Since the first agreement was adopted, approximately £31,000,000 has been provided by the Commonwealth and States for road construction, which is the most important industry in Australia. The industry is decentralized, and uses a huge quantity of material, including log and sawn timber^ iron, gravel, sand, stone, cement, wire and wire-netting, expanding metal, harness, drays, lorries, steam rollers, graders, ploughs, picks, shovels, fodder, tents, and general camping equipment. Thousands of persons are engaged in preparing material used in road construction, and tens of thousands in the actual work of construction.
The new agreement introduces several new features, including an increased grant. The original grant was £2,000,000 for road construction, but it will now be approximately £3,000,000 annually. The States’ share of the customs duty on petrol has been increased to 3d. a gallon, which will provide £600,000, which may be used to finance works associated with transport. Prior to this agreement those owning stationary engines, tractors, motor boats and aeroplanes did not derive any benefit from the tax.
I am grateful to the Acting Treasurer for having acceded to the many requests which I have made, . that the users of motor boats, particularly fishermen, should be given some benefit under the agreement. I was the first to make this suggestion in the interest of a very worthy and needy section of our people. During last session I was assured by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) that, as’ a result of the proposed variation of the agreement, funds would be made available to each of the States for the provision1 of havens, shelters, harbours, anchorages, beacons, jetties, and the like, for the protection of motor boats and the assistance of fishermen. This new feature of the agreement is the result of that promise. I hope that the State authorities will undertake this work without delay. For a long while the users of motor- boats, particularly fishermen, have been paying the special tax on petrol, the proceeds of which have been used only for the purpose of main road construction. Families engaged in the fishing industry have experienced very hard times, and much* could be done to assist their industry. I offer my congratulations to the Government upon the new feature of the agreement, which means that during the next ten years’ £600,000,000 can be made available to assist the fishing and allied industries in the direction which I have indicated.
Consideration might well be given to the exemption from the petrol tax of the users of stationary engines on farms, aeroplanes and motor boats. In some countries the users of stationary engines and motor boats are not called upon to pay petrol tax. I have advocated the granting of this concession on many occasions, but apparently there is a constitutional difficulty in the way, as well as some opposition from the major oil companies. Whilst the further relief proposed to be granted is appreciated, much could be done to assist the industries to which I have just referred. I still consider that the users of petrol who do not operate motor vehicles on our roads should be entirely exempt from the tax, and I trust that the Government will further consider the matter.
One-twelfth of the £600,000 must be used by the States if the Commonwealth Government so requests for repairing roads to and through Commonwealth property. I hope that the Commonwealth Government will ask the Government of Queensland and/or the Main Roads Board, to repair the road in the vicinity of the Archerfield Aerodrome, near Brisbane. This road leads to important country centres in southern Queensland and is in a serious state of disrepair. It is the direct road from western Queensland through Ipswich to the glorious south coast of Queensland, and accordingly is used very much.
I am pleased to learn from the Acting Treasurer, that the additional money made available to the States may be used for the purpose of assisting in the construction of aerodromes and emergency landing grounds. This will give some additional assistance to those who use aeroplanes. In the past, aeroplane owners, although they paid the tax, have had some financial assistance, because the Government has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds out of revenue for the purpose of constructing aerodromes; but special assistance has never been given previously to the users of motor boats, and I trust that the State governments will speedily determine the best way to help them. I hope fishermen and other users of motor boats will make their requirements known to the State government.
Portion of the fund could be used to develop transport services by the encouragement of petrol-driven railway vehicles, but I hope that an undue proportion of the money available will not be disbursed in this direction, as the object of the Commonwealth Government is to assist all particular interests who are users of petrol. Petrol driven trains are owned by the States, and have rendered valuable service in the back country, yet it seems to me that it would be unwise to divert any considerable proportion of the available funds to that purpose. The States already have a considerable fund for this purpose. I again congratulate the Government on the variation of the original agreement. When the amended proposals were submitted to the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, it was suggested that forestry development and the erection of public buildings should be provided for from the grant. I am glad to know that representations made in opposition to this proposal were accepted by this Government and the States, and that those industries in which petrol is used are to be assisted by this new agreement.
.- I join with other honorable members in expressing my pleasure at the fact that this measure has been introduced. Today, when there is complete unanimity as to the desirableness of renewing the agreement, it may be well to recall that, when the original agreement was before the Parliament ten years ago, unanimity was not displayed. The original proposal was submitted subsequent to, and as the result of, a visit overseas by the Acting Prime Minister (Dr. Earle Page), who had observed the method adopted in the United States of America of financing road construction works. He consulted with the States, and brought before this Parliament the original agreement. On that occasion considerable apprehension was expressed on both sides of the House regarding it, but the act has operated with complete success, and to-day we have absolute unanimity on the subject of its renewal on substantially similar terms.
It would be well, perhaps, for us to recall, and, through the press, to remind the public that the petrol tax is not, and never has been, imposed for the purpose of raising revenue for road construction. It is generally believed that because specific customs and excise duties have been imposed on petrol the revenue derived- has been gathered for a specific purpose; hut an examination of their history shows that they were first put into operation in the ordinary course of the imposition of revenue taxes. The tax was originally imposed at the rate of id. a gallon, and, later, the impost was increased to Id. a gallon. It stood as a revenue tax at that rate until 1926, when it was increased by 2d. a gallon, on the Commonwealth contracting with the States to pay to them from the revenue derived from the imposition of the additional 2d. a gallon a fiat rate of £2,000,000 per annum for ten years, upon the States observing certain conditions, the principal of which was that the States themselves should contribute 15s. for every £1 of Commonwealth money provided for road construction work. That agreement was ratified by the various parliaments concerned, and stood un varied until the period of the financial emergency.
In 1931, the States asked the Commonwealth Government to be relieved of their obligation to contribute 15s. for every £1 made available by the Common wealth. The Commonwealth Government agreed to this, and desired to be relieved of its obligation to pay £2,000,000 per annum. It suggested that the agreement should be Varied’ in such manner that the Commonwealth’s contribution would not exceed the amount of revenue derived from the imposition of the customs and excise duties on petrol of 2d. a gallon. A little later - still during the depression years - the States asked for, and the Commonwealth consented to, a further variation of the agreement so as to give to’ the States an additional sum equal to the amount derived from a further id. a gallon of the petrol tax revenue* That alteration was made. The States then became possessed annually of the revenue obtained from 2-H. a gallon of the customs and excise duties, and they were relieved of the obligation to contribute 15s.” for every £1 provided by the Commonwealth. About the same time - I think it was during the period of the Scullin Government - as one of the steps taken to meet the financial emergency, the petrol tax was further increased in two steps. There was a total additional impost of 4d. a gallon, bringing the total duty to 7d. a gallon.- The additional duty of 4d. a gallon was imposed, not for the purpose of promoting road construction, but as an emergency revenue tax to meet special items of expenditure. This is a point on which the mind of the public has not been clear, and the Commonwealth Government itself would be well advised to clarify the position. This, I think, is an appropriate opportunity to do so. To-day we are called upon to authorize the Commonwealth to ratify the renewal of the agreement on terms that have been further varied. The agreement is now to be renewed on a basis which will relieve the States of the obligation to contribute 15s. for every £1 made available to them by the Commonwealth Government. In addition, theywill receive a further share of the petrol tax revenue, equal to that representing1/2d. a gallon of the 7d. tax. Thus the States will receive 3d. of the 7d.
– How much will that additional grant be?
– I understand that, in respect of this financial year, the States will receive £3,000,000 for the purpose of road construction, this sum representing 21/2d. of the present tax, and an additional £600,000 to be allocated from the additional revenue as I have already indicated.
When this agreement was renewed six months ago, the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) informed Parliament that the new agreement would permit the States to use this additional grant of £600,000 per annum for considerably wider purposes than road construction; he said that they would be allowed to spend it in respect of general construction, forestry and general public works. On that occasion, as at every opportunity which has since presented itself, I strongly objected to any condition which would allow the States to spend any portion of revenue raised from a certain class of the community on works other than for two particular purposes. I said then, and I repeat now, that any revenue derived from a tax on petrol should be credited to the Consolidated Revenue of the Commonwealth and be expended in respect of the general purposes of government, or, alternatively, specifically allocated for the purpose of road construction or some undertaking from which the users of petrol would benefit. I am very glad, therefore, to see that the opposition which I, with other honorable members, have offered has, perhaps, been influential in persuading the Commonwealth to delete that proposal from the agreement which the Treasurer outlined to us. Under this agreement, the expenditure of this sum of £600,000 by the States is to be confined to road construction or public works relating to transport. The proposal is a good one, but I should like to have seen an indication in the bill, or at least a statement by the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Menzies) that it was not the desire of the Commonwealth that this additional money should be used by the States for general railway purposes. Public works relating to transport must, of course, embrace certain public works connected with railways whilst, furthermore, State railway departments are employing a certain number of petrol-driven motors, but in its present form, the agreement will place no restraint upon the States in expending as much of this £600,000 as they deem fit in respect of public works which are part of their railway programmes. I believe that expenditure in that direction would be wrong and I doubt whether it is the intention of the Commonwealth that this money should be so used. I should have preferred to read in the bill the definition, “public works connected with transport other than railways.” Failing that, 1 should be glad if the Acting Treasurer - and it is not too late for him to do so - would indicate that it is not the desire of the Commonwealth that any of this money should be used by the States in connexion with their railway reconstruction programmes.
Under the original agreement, the States were called upon to contribute 15s. for every £1 they received from the Commonwealth, but during the period of financial emergency, they were relieved of that obligation. To-day, we are emerging from that period of financial strain and certain State governments are finding themselves with more money than they apparently need for purposes of road construction. During the last five or six years, Queensland, for instance, has made a practice of transferring £250,000 from
Hie funds it raises from motor registration fees to Consolidated Revenue. This lias the effect of selecting motorists in that State for the imposition of a special lax and such a development, I suggest, has only been made possible by reason of the funds granted to the Queensland Government under the federal aid roads agreement. In this respect also, I believe that a bacl principle has been established and I am sorry to sec that the Commonwealth Government proposes ro continue a policy which will facilitate such a practice.
The proposal now before the House is essentially good. I do not believe that it should be necessary to select motorists permanently for the imposition of so high a revenue impost as is represented by 4d. of the tax on petrol. Of the revenuederived from this tax, 3d. is devoted to grants made under this agreement, but as regards 4d. of the tax the motorist is specially selected to raise revenue for the ordinary purposes of the Commonwealth Government. I quite agree that during a period of emergency, motorists, in common with all other classes of taxpayers, should be called upon to pay substantial tax. We are still meeting budgetary repayments of an emergency character, hut there should be a progressive reduction in respect of that 4d. of the petrol rax which is now paid into consolidated revenue.
.- I feel sure that the release of this estimated amount of £600,000 by the Commonwealth under this agreement will be greatly appreciated by the users of petrol. I am one of those who have held the opinion for some time that the petrol tax should be reduced. This proposal affords at least some measure of compensation. The original proposal to permit the State governments to apply the whole of this sum for any purpose which they might deem fit, found no favour with those who paid the tax’ - users of petrol - and I am glad that it has now been stipulated that the amount of money given to the States from this particular sum must be utilized in, or towards, improving transport services in this country. I feel, however, that we could improve upon that condition. Under the agreement now before the
House, the money to be provided from £d. a ‘gallon of the tax on petrol may be expended by the States on the construction, reconstruction, maintenance or repair of roads, or other works connected with transport as the States may decide. Of course the basic principle of the agreement is that this money should be applied substantially for the purposes of transport, but any State government, which is unscrupulous enough to prefer to adhere to the letter and not the spirit of the agreement, can apply the whole of this extra money to its general consolidated revenue. I hope that this Government will carefully watch the position in that respect and if any State government fails to adhere to the spirit of the agreement, will bring it forward again for amendment.
The complaint of motorists that they are forced to pay a class tax is wellfounded. The revenue derived from the petrol tax originally was very small. At that time, of course, not much motor fuel was used. In 1926, the tax was increased by 2d. a gallon for the purpose of providing the funds necessary to give effect to the federal aid roads agreement. Under that agreement, the States were obliged to contribute 15s. for every £1 made available by the Commonwealth, but subsequently they were relieved of that obligation and the amount spent on roads by the States in the meantime has been less to that extent. There is every justification, therefore, for the Commonwealth to stipulate that this extra money shall he applied, in the main, for the benefit of not only users of roads but also all other people who use petrol. These people are entitled to some concession of that nature. If petrol is used on our railway systems, then the State governments are entitled to apply portion of this money in respect of their railways. On© point which I emphasize, however, is that this Government should not permit any of this extra grant to the States to be used for purposes other than purposes of transport, and especially road construction.-
– I do not propose to deal with the history of this legislation which is well-known. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) that honorable members unanimously can support this measure, but I am not so sure as the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) has suggested, that the people, in whose interests some of us are most concerned, will be safeguarded in this agreement. For the last five or six years, we have been endeavouring to have some of the money derived from the petrol tax and made available to the States, allocated for the purpose of helping users of petrol engaged in the fishing industry, and it has. been assumed that this agreement meets their case, because this Government has suggested that the State governments could, if they so desired, use some ofthis money in that direction. On this occasion the amount has been increased, making it more easy than it was before to help these people, yet no definite mandatory proposal is made to the States, and the fishermen are again protesting against being overlooked. I received this morning a long telegram from the secretary of the League of Fishermen, which represents the whole of the fishermen of Australia, protesting against having been again overlooked by the Federal Government. I do not think that the Government has overlooked them; but it has hot laid it down, or even suggested, that the States should apply a portion of the money to the building of shelter sheds, breakwaters, or havens.
– We could hardly say that the States must use a certain percentage.
Mr.HOLLO WAY.- I agree with the righthonorable gentleman. Last year, several honorable members protested that the fishermen had been overlooked, and the Treasurer placed the matter before the States. Two years ago the majority of the fishermen around the coast of Australia had half their kit or more destroyed by the extraordinarily rough and stormy weather then encountered. In the two electorates that I have represented in this House - Flinders and Melbourne Ports - the fishermen were put back to “ scratch “ ; the savings of a lifetime were destroyed in the stormy weather of that period, because there were no breakwaters or havens to safeguard their possessions. Last year, when several honorable members mentioned the matter, the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) agreed that a portion of the money could be devoted to the provision of shelter but said that there was no particular way in which the Commonwealth could order the States to do it. These men are professional fishermen, who live practically all their lives on the sea. In some cases, two or three generations man the one boat. Although large users of petrol, no roads are provided for them and they derive no advantage, either directly or indirectly, from the collection of the tax. Petrol is one of the largest items in their costs of production. Last year some honorable members contended that the fishermen were largely foreigners. That is not true; Britishers comprise 80 per cent. of their number, and the majority are Australian natives, the balance being Australian citizens by adoption. The reason for the spread of’ the rumour that they are foreigners is that many of them have foreign names. They are descendants of Scandinavians and Greeks, some of whom came to Australia 30 or 40 years ago. But even if they are naturalized foreigners, they should receive assistance. Having examined this measure, they still fear that the State governments will again wink an eye to the suggestion of the Federal Treasurer that they should be given consideration. Fishing is a very necessary industry. Lifeboat crews are recruited from the ranks of the fishermen. Everybody knows what service those crews render for very little pay; they receive only the basic wage for putting out to sea to assist in the rescue of those who are shipwrecked. They are of a very fine type, and ought to be assisted. I urge the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Menzies) to try to get some assurance from the States that a portion of the money will be spent in assisting them. I admit that it is almost impossible to ascertain the quantity of petrol used by those who derive no advantage from the tax, so that in such cases the tax could be remitted. In’ Great Britain and New Zealand taxes of this character are not imposed on professional fishermen. The fishermen themselves suggest that if the Government will not earmark a portion of this money, to be spent by the States in giving much needed service in return for the amount that they contribute to the petrol tax, they should have some rebate or remission of the tax. I am confident that the Acting Treasurer will not neglect to impress upon the States the necessity for the expenditure of a portion of the money in the direction that I have indicated.
.- The return of a portion of the proceeds of the petrol tax to transport in the shape of roads originated in the party that now sits on this side of the House. It is interesting to note that to-day the foresight displayed by that government of ten years ago is appreciated by honorable members opposite. I understand that when the federal aid roads agreement was first introduced the Labour party opposed the measure very strenuously, only, four of its members supporting it. I am glad that in the intervening period the foresight and wisdom of the government of the day has come to be fully recognized. [Quorum formed.] I shall say no more along those lines, except that measures of this sort, which are eventually seized upon by the party that sits in opposition, generally ‘originate in the party of which I am a member.
As the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. McEwen) has said, the idea of tha federal aid roads agreement had its genesis in the visit of a Minister to the United States of America, clearly indicating once again the value of such visits. The United States of America and Australia are comparable in area.
– I take the point of order that for the purpose of expediting the passage of this measure-
– Order! The honorable member must state his point of order.
– My point of order is this : Will you, Mr. Speaker, permit every honorable member who is in favour of this measure to write out his speech and hand it to Hansard so that its passage may be expedited?
– The honorable member has not stated a point of order. He himself is preventing the expeditious passage of the bill.
– Honorable members are attempting to delay the passage of legislation. After what occurred a short while ago, and the ad verse publicity they received, one would think that they would realize-
– Order ! The honorable member must address himself to the bill.
– This agreement follows closely the lines of the previous agreement. A petrol tax is imposed on transport, and a portion of the proceeds is returned to transport by way of better roads. In this agreement, however, there is a departure from the original agreement in three respects. First, the proceeds of an additional halfpenny are to be returned to the States; secondly, the principle that the money shall be expended only on roads is departed from; and thirdly, Commonwealth roads, or roads leading to or through’ Commonwealth property, will have to he maintained by the States. I, of course, am in agreement with the measure, and am very glad that the proceeds of an additional -Jd., amounting to approximately £600,000 a year, are to be returned to the States and that the guiding principle of its expenditure is to be the improvement of transport facilities.
When this measure was first mooted in this House I was one of the first, if not the first, to protest against the provision that the additional amount provided could be expended on works of any sort. I then adopted the view, and I have, not since changed my opinion) that in this country transport should be kept as cheap as possible for the mass of the people, as it is definitely of vital importance to the nation. The idea that the money could be used by the States for any .-works whatsoever was anathema to me, and. I am glad that this measure -adopts-‘ the principle that the money shall go. back to transport. I admit that the - clause as it reads is very wide, and allows a’ good deal of latitude. I sincerely hope that that latitude will not he abused by the States.
Another wise provision is that roads leading to or adjacent to Commonwealth property shall be maintained by the Governments of the States. The wisdom of that lies in the fact that for a period of years the States have somewhat neglected such roads. They have contended that, the works being Commonwealth, works, the roads in question should be maintained by the Commonwealth. Adjacent to some of the munitions factories in Melbourne the roads are in a deplorable state of repair, simply because the municipalities and the State Government have been unable to come to an agreement to keep them in repair.
I should like the Acting Treasurer to give the reason for the ten-year period; it seems to me to be inordinately long. The lessons of the past do not justify such a lengthy term. The original agreement, which was drawn up in 1926, had to be altered about 1931. It appears that, as time goes on, conditions will alter. Even now, those in relation to transport are definitely altering. The financial condition of the States, and their financial relations with the Commonwealth, will certainly alter. Under the old agreement, the transport user benefited greatly by reason of the fact that the States had to supplement the Commonwealth’s contribution of fi by a contribution of 15s. Possibly in the very near future the States will again be in a position to make a separate contribution, and thus additional moneys will bc returned to the transport user. I maintain that a five-year period would be ample.
I draw the attention of the House to the amount collected from the petrol tax and returned to the States for road purposes. [Quorum formed.]
Since 1931-32 up to this year, the huge sum of £35,220,000 has been realized from the petrol tax. Of that amount, £12,375,000, including the estimate for this year, has been returned to the States, so that £22,545,000 has gone into the Consolidated Revenue. These figures indicate that an extremely heavy burden has been laid on one section of the community, and the time is opportune to request the Government to reduce the tax. As to the disposition of the money returned to the States, all honorable members are, I think, in agreement that the money should not be used for ordinary railway works, as for instance such work as the building of a new railway station at Spencer-street, Melbourne. The underlying idea is that the amount returned to the States from the proceeds of this tax should be devoted to the assistance of transport, which would, I presume, include railways improvement, the construction of new aerodromes, and the improvement of existing landing grounds, because aeroplanes are becoming increasingly important as a means of transport. I hope that the Attorney-General, in his reply, will give to the House some indication of what is in the mind of the Government on this point.
.- I consider that some portion of the petrol tax< collected by the Government should be set aside for the development of civil aviation. I am not thinking of that portion which is returned to the States, but of the share which the Commonwealth gathers into its own coffers from the users of petrol. Aviation- for transport purposes is becoming just as essential as motor vehicles, and the complaint I stress is that whilst companies or firms employing aeroplanes do not use roads to any appreciable extent, they still have to pay this tax of 7£d. a gallon on all petrol used ,by them. The tax may not press so heavily on people in the more thickly populated eastern States, where landing grounds are already provided for the well-developed air services; but it is a serious matter for people in the larger and sparsely populated States like Western Australia. During the last nine years, the Commonwealth has received over £44,000,000 from the petrol tax and has diverted to its own use £25,000,000. It has returned to the States only £19,000,000 for roads and such like purposes.
I am not at all pleased with the treatment which I have received from the Acting Minister for ‘ Defence (Mr. Thorby) during the last few months in connexion with representations on the subject of assistance for local governing bodies in the preparation of landing grounds.. Whenever I approached the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) I could always be sure of a hearing, but, during his absence from Australia, my representations to the Acting Minister for Defence have usually resulted in the receipt by me of long letters, containing a medley of words which meant nothing. Eventually, I have discovered that that was just what I got - nothing. I have been requested by many local governing authorities in Western Australia to submit applications for financial assistance in the preparation of landing grounds, especially on the route of the north-west air mail service. Invariably I have been advised that the department does not hold itself responsible for the improvement or maintenance of landing grounds, unless they are to be used for defence purposes. In the event of an invasion, which I do not regard as a possibility at the moment, the northern part of Australia would, by many people, be regarded as a point of danger. Therefore, we may take it that the north-west air route in Western Australia, as well as the Qantas air routes in Queensland and the Northern Territory, would be utilized for the transport of troops for defence purposes. This* being so, there is solid reason for the requests which I have placed before the department. As the preparation of landing grounds is quite beyond the financial power of local governing bodies, they have every right to expect assistance from the Commonwealth, but this, I regret to state, has been consistently withheld- up to the present time. Some portion of the revenue which the Commonwealth receives from this source should be set aside for the improvement of landing grounds in sparsely populated States.
I may be told that Western Australia, because of its size, benefits greatly from the revenue received from the tax on petrol, the basis of distribution under this bill being two-fifths in respect of area, and three-fifths in respect of population, which means, of course, that the larger and sparsely populated States receive a relatively higher proportion of the revenue. This is as it should be, because of the heavier demands made on the taxpayers in those States for the maintenance of roads and other transport services.
The civil aviation department has admitted its responsibility for the construction and maintenance of roads leading to landing grounds. This being so, it may interest honorable members to know that some of the landing grounds on the north-western air route in my State are absolutely without roads of any description. The approach from Ajana to a recognized landing ground on the northwest air route, at the 45-mile peg on the telegraph line at Junga, about 200 miles north of Geraldton, and 44 miles from the main road, is through a sand plain which makes for heavy going, and no provision is made for motor traffic. In the event of trouble, it would be impossible to get assistance to that landing ground under about two days.
Within the last two or three years there has been a very welcome extension of the Australian aerial medical services, thus rendering imperative the adoption of a positive policy for the improvement of landing grounds in the north-west portion of my State. The resident medical officer at Wyndham now has at his disposal an aeroplane, and conducts from that centre a branch of the Australian aerial medical service. Dr. A. J. Coto, who was stationed at Wyndham for some years, and a number of public spirited residents of the north-west, rendered splendid service in the organization of this scheme, which is sponsored and financed from Melbourne. Now, by means of pedal wireless transmitting sets, no fewer than 21 stations, covering a radius of about 400 miles, can communicate with Wyndham, and get prompt medical aid. Before the installation of these transmitting sets several weeks would elapse before people living on the various stations could get a call through to the nearest doctor. I should add that Dr. Coto has been succeeded by Dr. Alan King, another splendid man. The pedal transmitting sets now being used at the different stations have been manufactured by Mr. Traegar, an Adelaide wireless enthusiast, who produces them at the cost of about £50 as compared with £150 charged by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia ) Limited for sets which have not proved efficient.
In order to impress on honorable members the risks of aviation in that part of Western Australia, I may mention that if a call to Wyndham came from the mission station at Port George IV., asking for urgent medical aid, the plane would have to fly over difficult and dangerous mountain country with no landing ground whatever. If the engine seized, as some day it may, the plane. must crash and the occupants would have little hope of succour reaching them in time should they survive the fall, and these conditions obtain in every direction south of Wyndham.
Having explained the difficulties of the people living in the northern part of my State, I again appeal to the Acting Minister for Defence to induce the Government to set aside a portion of the money obtained from the petrol tax for the improvement of landing grounds in distant parts of sparsely populated States.
– I, with other honorable members, welcome the introduction of this bill. I have repeatedly urged upon the Government the wisdom of remitting the tax on petrol used in civil aviation. I do not know of any other country keen upon the development of aviation that is taxing petroL used for this purpose. The remission of the tax would be welcomed by all those who are interested in the progress of civil commercial aviation generally in the Commonwealth. I know that one of the main civil aviation companies of Australia annually uses 300,000 gallons of petrol, and pays more than £10,000 in tax thereon into the federal revenue.
– Does not that company pass the tax on in its charges?
– That is another matter. Owing to the severity of the petrol tax, several aviation companies which have made an effort to establish air services in this country have been compelled to abandon the enterprise. The fact that they were obliged to pay the tax made all the difference between success and failure in the conduct of their operations. I agree with the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) that we cannot, by any process of the imagination, connect aviation with the use of roads. It is only in tragical circumstances that an aeroplane has ever to make use of a road. Surely there can be nothing to prevent the granting of a re’bate on petrol used in aviation, because aeroplanes cannot land at any random spot, or pull up at any bowser pump to replenish their fuel supplies; they must obtain petrol at a registered aerodrome. For this reason, it should be a simple matter to control the use of petrol which is entirely devoted to aviation, and to grant a rebate thereon.
All honorable members will agree that everything possible should be done to develop civil aviation in this country. Australia has already a tradition for greatness in the air. When recalling such names as Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, Ulm, Sir Ross Smith, Hinkler, Hawker, Melrose, Parer, and many others, one must realize that they are an undoubted inspiration and example to the youth of this country. I have often said that I feel that the Australian people are indeed air-minded. The point that I desire now to make is that this measure gives effect to a suggestion which I have made in the past, because it will be possible, in future, for the States to use a portion of their grants from the Federal Aid Roads Fund for the improvement of aerodromes and landing grounds. That is one of the most urgent requirements of civil aviation in Australia at the present time. I am well aware from personal experience of the difficulties with which persons engaged in aviation have to contend, and how few and far between, are aerodromes and landing grounds throughout this great continent.
– Many of the pilots are “soared stiff”.
– It is not only necessary to provide suitable landing grounds in many parts of the country, but also a great deal remains to be done in connexion with our main airports. Only recently, I was one of nine passengers in a modern airliner, and a landing was made at an airport in complete darkness. Knowing the pilot well, I had implicit faith in him, and he made a perfect landing; but the experience was not at all pleasant. It seems wrong that, in regard to ground organization, we should still be lagging far behind other air-minded countries. By giving to the States authority to spend a portion of the Federal Aid Roads Grant on the provision and improvement of aerodromes and landing grounds, this measure goes a long way to achieve what I have, from time to time, humbly advocated in this House to the best of my ability. But I still urge upon the ‘Government the wisdom and justice of remission of taxation on petrol used in civil and commercial aviation.
.- From the number of honorable members who are taking a keen interest in this bill, it would appear to he a most important measure; but one aspect of it has so far been overlooked. In my opinion, the Government that imposes the tax should have the moat say in the expenditure of the proceeds. The Commonwealth Parliament is required to raise 7Jd. a gallon from the users of petrol, and the tax itself is a most unpopular imposition. At practically every service station throughout the country, advertisements proclaim that the Government is taking 7£d. out of the cost of the petrol to the motorists. In the outback areas, where people are called upon to pay up to 2s. 6d. and 3s. a gallon for their petrol, because qf the high cost of transporting fuel to those parts, the same excessive rate of tax also applies, but the people themselves receive few or no benefits from the expenditure of the Federal Aid Roads Grant. The cities, the suburban areas, and districts lying between large country centres, reap most of the advantage. Concrete roads upon which people may travel in luxury run parallel to railway lines or compete with airlines and in rarer cases, in shipping services ; but very little provision is made for the distant rural areas. Unfortunately, the expenditure of the money by the States is largely restricted to main roads controlled by the Main Roads Board authority; shires and municipalities receive no moneys from this grant to spend on roads or streets which are outside the scope of the Main Roads Board authority. As a result of this policy of the State authorities, country municipalities and shires are great sufferers. In country towns motorists who are constantly using the roads pay the petrol tax of 7Jd. a gallon ; but the unfortunate local-governing bodies are in many instances obliged to pay for the upkeep of such roads out of their own receipts from rates and local taxes. Perhaps one or two streets of large country centres might come under the heading of “ main roads, “ but the back streets have to be maintained by the local authority. In order to over come this unfair position, some understanding between the Commonwealth and the States should he arrived at, with a view to securing for the municipalities and shires a fair share of the Federal Aid Roads Grant in order to compensate them for their compulsory expenditure in maintaining their streets and roads. In many rural centres bus services operate daily and, in the course of a year, the vehicles travel many thousands of miles. Although the operators of such buses pay the petrol tax, they wear out roads which have to be maintained by the local authorities. This anomaly should have been taken into consideration by this Parliament in the past; but a discussion in connexion with the renewal of the Federal Aid Roads Agreement affords to members a welcome opportunity to urge that the anomaly be rectified.
The establishment of suitable landing grounds for aeroplanes throughout the country, which was mentioned by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green), is most important. From its share of the collections from the petrol tax, the Commonwealth Governmentshould be prepared to vote a considerable sum of money for the carrying out of this necessary work, and the States should also be requested to co-operate. For more than two years, I have advocated the establishment of a landing ground at Katoomba, which is situated on the route followed by nearly all of the aircraftserving the western portions of New South Wales. The machines fly over 60 miles of rugged, dangerous country, and in this area no landing ground is available to them in the event of emergency.
The aircraft which fly to western New South Wales use fuel upon which an imposition of 7£d. a gallon is charged; but in return they receive no advantages. No provision for an emergency landing ground is made. A clause should be inserted in this agreement to ensure that the States shall provide these urgent works, if the Commonwealth is not prepared to do so. Before aerial services can be operated with satisfaction, aerodromes and landing grounds must be constructed; aeroplanes cannot operate in safety without them. Although some understanding for the preparation of landing grounds should exist between the Commonwealth and the States, I regret that no such provision is contained in the agreement. From time to time, I have requested the State authorities to contribute towards the establishment and upkeep of aerodromes, but they decline to do so, contending that the matter is a federal responsibility. When I have approached the federal body on this matter, it shifts the responsibility to the Defence Department - and upon inquiry in that quarter, I have learned that it establishes aerodromes only on subsidized routes. Civil aviation is making rapid progress in Australia, and whether or not collections from the petrol tax are expended on subsidized air routes, landing grounds at important centres should be prepared. It is immaterial whether such work is carried out by the Commonwealth or the .States; but it should be done from this money. If the Commonwealth declines to take the responsibility, it should ensure that, under this agreement, the States, are compelled to shoulder it. In stressing these facts, I hope that the Government will grant further concessions to the outback municipalities which are obliged to impose double taxation on their ratepayers for the upkeep of streets worn out by through motorists.
– I join with other honorable members in congratulating the Government upon this measure. It is pleasing to me to be associated with a bill which meets with such general approval. While all the aspects of the petrol tax have been fully dis.cussed by previous speakers, I desire briefly to support the remarks of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) in regard to the utilization of a portion of the proceeds of the tax “for the provision of aerodromes and landing grounds. A couple of years ago, I had i he pleasure, or the trouble, of travelling through hazardous inland portions of this great continent upon which aeroplanes from time to time have been compelled to make forced landings. I am familiar with the type of country in which Sir Herbert Gepp and party were recently forced down, and where the late Mr. Keith Anderson and the late Mr. R. Hitchcock lost their lives. In these and similar inhospitable districts, “ the Flying Doctor “ is compelled to land from time to time in carrying out his work for the preservation of human life. In the light of my experiences, I heartily agree that a portion of the money collected from the petrol tax should be devoted to the purpose of providing suitable landing grounds in those areas. I recently received a request from the municipality of Albury to make representations to the Commonwealth for the purpose of having an aerodrome established in that district. Albury is regarded by the Defence Department as being an important strategical point, and an area of about SOO acres has been reserved there for defence purposes. I hope that the Government will sympathetically receive this request. Where aerodromes are necessary for defence, they should be built without undue delay from the federal aid roads fund. I asked the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Menzies) to give attention to this aspect and ascertain whether, in the interests of defence, suitable landing grounds could not be made at centres such as Albury and Wagga.
– I support the bill. The Government is doing a great service to primary producers through the grants of money which it is making to the States from the proceeds of the petrol tax. In the past, many valuable methods of assisting our producers have been adopted, and from experience the Government in its discretion has decided to make a slight alteration of the agreement, before renewing it for a period of ten years, in order to make available money from the petrol tax for the further assistance of the rural population. The bill provides that 3d. of the 7d. shall be paid to the States as a grant. The new agreement differs from its predecessors by providing for expenditure of the States’ share of the petrol tax revenue, not only on actual road constructional works, but also on other works connected with transport which is to include the fishing industry and aerodromes for civil aviation. I hope, however, that this will never permit States to spend their share of the tax on railways. As the railway authorities have their own means for raising revenue they should not be allowed to share in the proceeds of the petrol tax; this money is necessary for the development of roads in the country districts, and for other commendable purposes such as the development of aerodromes. Despite the fact that since the inception of the petrol tax more than £24,000,000 has been made available by the Commonwealth to the States for the development of main roads, there is still agitation in certain quarters in favour of the Commonwealth handing over the whole of the proceeds to the States for road construction. Two nights ago Mr. J. C. Watson, president of the National Roads and Motorists Association, issued a statement which is calculated to mislead the people of Australia, reiterating the claim that the Commonwealth- has no right to retain any of the tax. The demands of defence justify the Commonwealth in retaining that part of the tax collections over and above that payable under the agreement to the States. The persons behind this agitation do not bear in mind that the Commonwealth’s means of obtaining revenue include customs duties and excise, and that although the Commonwealth does disburse some of its revenues from those sources, it was never intended that it should disburse the whole. It is to be hoped that the Commonwealth Government will never allow its responsibility for the defence of this country to be detrimentally affected by too large a disbursement of its funds to the State governments.
The increase of the annual grant to the States from the petrol tax by £600,000 will be of great value and there is a possibility that the States will consequently be enabled to assist in the provision of country aerodromes. In my electorate many aerodromes have been constructed, either by the local authorities or by private enterprise. With the bigger aeroplanes now in use and the consequent need for longer runways, it is necessary that those landing grounds be improved, but every attempt to obtain funds for this work cither from the State Government or from the Commonwealth Government has failed. The result of the referendum on the control of aviation shows clearly that the development of country aerodromes is entirely a matter for the States. In my opinion a large portion of the extra £600,000 should therefore be earmarked for the development of aerodromes. I think also that fishermen should be given, some relief from the tax, but I oppose the continued disbursement of increased sums to the States without the Commonwealth having some say in regard to the expenditure of the money. I hope further that if it should ever be found that the Commonwealth does not need for defence purposes, the whole of the proceeds from the petrol tax that it retains for itself, the proportion which it does not need will be remitted to the taxpayers, not given to the States. It is often the case when the Commonwealth Government hands to the States an increased share of the proceeds from the tax that the States divert into other channels equivalent amounts of money from their own motor taxes, which in the normal, course of events, would be expended on road development. I hopethat before long an opportunity will occur for the Commonwealth to reduce the petro] tax and that the misconception which exists about the purpose of the tax will be swept away. Again I urge the Government to amend this bill so as to exclude any possibility of this money being expended on railways.
.- Sub-clause 2 of clause 4 of the agreement provides that the £600,000 a year by which the Commonwealth is increasing the federal aid roads assistance to the States shall lie expended upon “ the construction, reconstruction, maintenance or repair of roads or other works connected with transport as the States may think fit”. There is no doubt that that provision would permit of the expenditure of a large portion, or even the “whole, of the amount on the railways, and I do not think that it is the desire of the House that that should be so. I have had many requests from country districts asking for Commonwealth assistance in the. clearing and fencing of aerodrome.-5. Naturally, the Commonwealth’s reply is that that is a. matter for the States; but aeroplanes use an enormous quantity of motor spirit, and every effort should bc made to provide an assurance that some of the money thus diverted to the Stated shallbe spent by them in the improvement of rural landing grounds. I hope that the Attorney-General will agree in committee to insert after the word “ transport “ the words “ other than railways “. I am satisfied that an amendment of that nature would please the House, as well as those who pay the tax. This agreement is to remain in force for ten years, and if it should happen that a State diverted some or all of the money to railway development, nothing could ‘be done to prevent it.
– Does the honorable member think that the electors would allow a State government to do that ?
Mr.GREGORY. - I think so. I have a keen desire to see that some of this money is expended on aerodromes and landing grounds, and that relief is given those who follow the fishing industry.
– This is not for aerodromes; it is for roads.
– Well, alter it. If my suggestions were followed, much of the cause of the complaints of the petrolusers against the way in which the tax is expended would be removed.
– The honorable member overlooks the fact that the terms of this agreement have been settled in consultation with the States. I am afraid that I can accept no amendment.
– I remind the right honorable gentleman that this is a question of taxation and of transmitting money from the Commonwealth to the States. The House can, if it desires, amend the agreement, or otherwise vary the bill, as it thinks fit.
.- I am disappointed that there is no provision in the agreement for aid to the men engaged in the fishing industry. These men never use the roads, buthave to pay tax on the petrol they use in their boats, which carry supplies of food to a great number of people. It has been suggested that a rebate of tax should be given to them. Either the States should undertake to compensate these fishermen, or the tax, so far as they are concerned, should be lifted. The purpose of this bill is to provide money to the States for road construction purposes. The roads are used extensively by motor- users, and are kept in splendid condition ; consequently, the tax should be on them only, not on the fishermen, who do not use the roads. During certain periods of the year fishermen are unable even to make a living, but at all times they are using petrol in their launches. I appeal to the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) to take into consideration the needs of these people. It has frequently been claimed in this chamber that the petrol used by the farmers should be free of tax, but I point out that, whereas fishermen do not use the roads, the farmers use them extensively to transport their goods to the markets.
– And themselves to the races.
– Yes, and they receive bounties, too. It is not they, but the fishermen, who should receive the greatest consideration in this matter. Together with some other honorable members, I put up a caseto the Government for better treatment of those engaged in the fishing industry, but our representations seem to have fallen on deaf ears. Apparently, I must go back and tell the fishermen of Hobart that they can expect no relief from the Government. When we remember that the Government has poured out millions of pounds for the benefit of one section of the community, and that the farmers are exempt from the payment of sales tax, &c, we find more difficulty in understanding why nothing has been done for the fishermen. A small section in this House is able to boast that it can get everything it wants for the farmers, and no doubt it can, because it holds an axe over the head of the Government, and if the Government refuses its requests, the axe will fall.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).The honorable member’s remarks are irrelevant.
– Honorable members must admit that the fishermen around our coasts are deserving of some consideration. They have to go out on the high seas in all kinds of weather, and take severe risks in the prosecution of their calling. Sometimes, in bad weather, they have to lie up for days on end, anil then return without a catch, but the
Government still demands the tax on every gallon of petrol they use.
No relief is granted in this measure to those who have to pay rates for the upkeep of streets and .roads in city and country districts for the benefit of motorists. Bates are a charge oh property, and the working man who is trying to buy his own home has to find anything from £4 to £S a year in rates. It is not right to ask such men, who are struggling to buy their homes, to make such a sacrifice for the upkeep of roads that are used, to a great extent, by the wealthy members of the community. A certain amount of the money raised under this bill should be allocated to local bodies.
– They get part of the licence fees.
– They get nothing from the petrol tax, and I doubt whether they get anything from the licence fees. As a matter of fact, the Commonwealth Government refused the request that part of .the money should be allocated to municipalities. The working man should be applauded for trying to own his home, so as to place his wife and children outside the reach of the landlord, and this is not the way to encourage him to do so. He is being asked to contribute towards the maintenance of roads that are used by people who drive their motor cars on pleasure trips. They drive out at night to their clubs, racing along the roads at high speed, so that the cost of maintenance is made even heavier than is necessary. I maintain that there should be a more equitable distribution of the proceeds of the petrol tax. Of course, I can understand why government supporters are not sympathetic. Those who are well off do not feel the burden of taxation, but the great majority of the people in my electorate have small incomes, and those who are trying to buy their homes find it very hard sometimes to pay the rates.
The case for the fishermen is particularly strong, because the principle is generally recognized that those who pay taxes should receive some benefit from them. As a matter of fact, I doubt whether it is legal to collect petrol tax from the fishermen who use petrol in their boats, because they certainly do not derive any benefit from the tax they pay. Perhaps some of the legal members of the House can enlighten me on that point. There are no roads on the high seas. Although this Government has tried to carry out some extraordinary ideas m the past, I have not yet known it to lay down a road on the sea, or to smooth the waves for the benefit of the fishermen. Perhaps it will promise to do something of the kind during the next election campaign; in other words, it may pour some of the oil on the troubled waters. I trust that the Minister in charge of the bill will accept an amendment to exempt fishermen from the payment of petrol tax.
– That would not be possible under this measure.
– The Government should Day them a bounty.
– It could, but I suppose it would put a tax on the bounty. This has become known as the “ Bounty Government “, but if it goes on as it has been going, there will be another mutiny of the bounty before long. I make a serious plea for assistance to the fishermen. At least the farmers do not have to pay a licence in order to produce, but fishermen must, and, in addition, they have to pay tax on the petrol they use. These men have to go out in all kinds of weather in order to catch the fish which the wealthy members of the community enjoy at their club suppers, and we should do something to assist them.
.- The Government should stipulate, whenever it hands over Commonwealth money to be spent by the States, that those who are employed from such funds shall be paid ruling wages, and shall work under prescribed conditions. It is proposed in this measure to hand over £600,000 to the States, some of which will be used for the construction of roads to aerodromes, and works of that kind. In New South Wales, much of this work used to. be done by municipal and shire councils by means of relief grants. Now such work is being discontinued, and the men are being put on to what are known as government works, that is, undertakings carried out by the Main Roads Board and similar authorities. It will be a disgrace to this ‘National Parliament if an extra £600,000 is passed over to the States without some stipulation as to the working conditions of those who are to be employed. J hope that when the bill is in committee the Government will accept an amendment to provide that, in respect of the road work to be undertaken by the expenditure of the additional £600,000 to be handed over by the Commonwealth to the States, ruling rates of wages and conditions shall be observed. I join with the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) in protesting against the expenditure of the proceeds of the petrol tax being confined mainly to the construction and reconstruction of main roads. It has been the practice of the various road authorities in the States to utilize the road grant largely in the construction and maintenance of speedways ‘running parallel with railway lines. The condition of many of the feeder roads over which our primary producers have to carry their products to the rail head, demonstrates the futility of the present policy of spending the greater part of the money on main, roads, and almost entirely, neglecting others. The construction of first-class roads running parallel with railway systems is responsible for the very severe competition offered to the railways by motor vehicles. Many of the feeder roads may be all right,, according to the old horse and buggy standards, but they are totally inadequate to meet the demands of fast moving motor traffic. Very many of them are often impassable during wet weather. The primary producers get very little benefit from the expenditure of the roads grant. [Quorum formed.] The present road policy should bc altered, and a good deal of the money provided should be expended on the improvement of roads that do not compete with the railways. I am sure that all honorable members have been approached by representatives of shire and municipal councils and other public bodies, and by primary producers, asking that better secondary roads be constructed. Invariably, we have had to reply that no money is available for the construction of such roads, because the provisions of the Federal Aid Roads Agreement restrict the expenditure of the proceeds of the petrol tax to the construction or maintenance of main roads.
– That does not apply in “Victoria.
– That may be so, but honorable members will bear out the truth of my assertion that it does apply in New South Wales.
– There is a developmental road provision.
– The only developmental work undertaken, apart from the construction of main roads in New South Wales, is, as the honorable member is aware, to provide relief work for men working practically for the dole. That position certainly exists in my own electorate. The highway connecting Sydney and Melbourne is a speed track. Once Liverpool is left behind there are few places on the journey to Melbourne where it is necessary to slow down. The feeder roads, however, that connect with that highway are in a very bad state, and in wet weather, particularly at night time, constitute a grave danger to life and limb. It is essential that some of the money provided under the agreement should be diverted from expenditure on what may be termed “ polishing “ main roads to a fund specially earmarked for the improvement of feeder roads. No matter what objection may be raised by the States to any direction from the Commonwealth as to how this money should be expended, I urge the Government to give serious consideration to the necessity for the development and maintenance of feeder roads. I am rather surprised that Country party members have been silent on this point; every honorable member who represents a country constituency knows that the farmers throughout New South Wales are asking that this should be done. I cannot understand the. objection of honorable members opposite to such a proposal. In bad weather some farmers are almost isolated because of their inability to make contact with the railhead. Having discarded the horse in favour of motor transport, they now find that many of the feeder roads, even those within 70 miles of Sydney, are impassable during bad weather. Bad roads are to be seen in the Oxton Park district in my electorate, and the approaches to the Liverpool Barracks are an outstanding example of neglect. Even in dry weather the approaches to the barracks are traversed only at the risk of breaking a spring; in wet weather they are impassable. The local governing authority says that it has not the funds necessary to undertake the improvement of the roads. Such work should be carried out by the Commonwealth. In the shires, however, conditions are even worse, and at night the roads are so difficult to negotiate as to impose a nervous strain upon the drivers of motor vehicles. Provision should be made in the agreement for the payment of a specified sum to shires and municipalities to maintain the roads within their boundaries. Many shire councils have such a large area to maintain that it is impossible for them, with the limited funds at their disposal, to undertake extensive road work without imposing upon their ratepayers excessively high rates. The construction of roads necessary for the development of primary industries should be regarded asa national undertaking to be carried out by the Commonwealth in co-operation with the States, and at least one-half of the total amount to be paid out to the States under the Federal Aid Roads Agreement, should be devoted to that purpose.
– Does not the honorable member think that some of the money should be used for the development of roads leading to aerodromes?
– Maintenance of aerodromes is a Commonwealth responsibility, and the Commonwealth might also very well undertake the upkeep and maintenance of roads leading to aerodromes. I agree with all that has been said by the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) in regard to the exemption from tax of petrol used by fishermen; but I rose mainly to stress the fact that too much of the proceeds of the petrol tax is being utilized on main roads to the detriment of necessary feeder roads.
Sitting suspended from 6.16 to 8 p.m.
– At the request of the Sutherland Shire Council and the Municipality of Liverpool, Ihave made repeated requests to the Government to do something to improve a road that was surveyed by the Defence Department before the war, to connect the military camp area at Liverpool with the coast through Sutherland. [Quorum formed.]
The local governing bodies interested in this road have not the funds available to do this work. So far, however, this Government has neglected to take any action. During the Gwydir by-election, the Acting Prime Minister had some experience of country roads in that part of New South Wales, which should have made him more than willing to take steps to ensure that money would be made available under the federal aid roads scheme to improve them; but the Government is adhering to its policy of absolute contempt and indifference to the general needs of the community in this respect. It might have been thought that the Country party members of the House would have brought pressure to bear upon the Government to provide money for the improvement of country roads, but they have done nothing. The Government must be aware of the serious state of disrepair into which many of the roads in country districts have fallen. This unhappy condition of affairs can be rectified only by the adoption of the policy advocated by the Labour party. Honorable members on this side of the House are alone in their endeavours to bring under the notice of the Government the really serious problems which face the primary producers.
I appeal to the Government to insert a provision in the bill to the effect that the additional £600,000 to be made available to the States shall be used on country roads. Even that amount will he as a drop in the ocean compared with what is required to put the roads into good order. If it is necessary to spend a large sum of money on making roads into aerodromes and in improving the equipment of lighthouses, funds should be made available for those purposes from some other source. Finally, I appeal to the Government not to allow its hands to be more soiled than they are already, or to permit its reputation to be still further sullied by allowing the State governments to use money provided by the Commonwealth to pay doles to the unemployed, instead of full employment at award rates, for that is practically what is happening. If the proportion of this money which is to be made available to New South Wales is handed to the State Government unconditionally I have no doubt that it will use it for purposes which should be provided for out of its own resources, with the result that the Commonwealth grant will, in effect, be used to make possible further remissions of taxes for the benefit of the wealthy classes of the community. This Parliament should exercise constant vigilance, to ensure that money which it makes available to the States shall be expended only on works in respect of which award wages and conditions obtain. Award rates are low enough in all conscience, and the economic position of the people is such that this Government should not lend itself in any way whatever to a perpetuation of the miserable circumstances that now exist. . Unless the Government is prepared to insert a provision in the bill to the effect that award wages and conditions must obtain in respect of all works carried out by the money to be made available under the federal aid roads agreement, I shall vote against the measure.
.- The Labour party has decided to support this bill, but it is nevertheless necessary, at this juncture, for. me to make some observations concerning the method of distributing the money to be made available under it. The Government is proposing to alter the method of distribution. It is provided that the money raised by means of the petrol tax shall be expended upon works which are in some way connected with transport. That phrase has a very wide meaning, and the Government should define it. It is well known to all honorable members that motorists who speed along our highways very often cause accidents necessitating the admission of unfortunate pedestrians to hospital. Is it to be understood that on this account the construction of hospitals is a work connected with transport? The dangerous driving of many motorists very frequently causes accidents. Any honorable member who has had the experience of riding in a car driven by the Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) will know what I mean. Pedestrians who are aware that the right honorable gentleman is at the wheel of the car approaching them, take good care to keep well out of the way of the vehicle.
The Labour party desires a provision inserted in the bill that all works upon which money derived from the petrol tax is spent shall be carried out under award wages and conditions. We know that under existing conditions some of the money provided from this source is expended on undertakings in which government employees have regular employment, and obtain regular wages, but some of it is also expended on what is known as relief work. If we were in power, we would not agree to a continuation of that policy. We would demand from the State authorities a guarantee that award wages and conditions must apply to all works carried out wholly or in part by money derived from the petrol tax.
The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) desires the Government to obtain an assurance from the State authorities that a certain proportion of this money will be expended on the construction of aerodromes. The honorable gentleman has evidently altered his idea,s somewhat, for hitherto he has very strongly defended what he is pleased to describe as “State rights”, and has resisted any suggestion that the Commonwealth Government should attach conditions to the expenditure of the money which it provides for State purposes. I well remember that when measures for the granting of financial assistance to necessitous States have been under consideration in this House, and we have endeavoured to influence the Government to frame conditions in connexion with the expenditure of the grants, the honorable member has waxed very indignant, particularly when it has been suggested that in the use of such funds award wages and conditions should be obligatory. Now the honorable gentleman is adopting a different attitude. Apparently he says one thing when the wages and conditions of the workers are in question, and another thing when the provision of the additional facilities for the more favoured classes of ..the community are at issue. The Labour party considers that the proceeds of the petrol tax should be used only on works which will provide fulltime employment at award rates.
In view of the fact that a very large amount of money is spent annually by the Australian people in purchasing imported petrol, I submit that a portion of the proceeds of the petrol tax should be devoted to the development in Australia of plants for the extraction of oil from coal. This work could surely be considered as being connected with transport. If the industry were properly developed it would not only provide employment for many men who are now badly in need of work, but also relieve petrol users of the necessity for sending millions of pounds out of the country annually for supplies of spirit. I suggest to the Government that much of the money raised by means of this tax could be used to develop such an industry. I am not concerned as to whether the Government desires to establish it in any particular district. No matter in what part of Australia works may be constructed, the time has arrived when the Government, after obtaining many reports on the matter and sending its representatives overseas to obtain the latest information, should do something of a practical nature. I believe that one of the objections of the Government in the past has been that it would cost a great deal of money to establish this industry. But is not a very large sum obtained by the imposition of the petrol tax? Even if the interests of motorists only were considered, the establishment of the industry would be beneficial.
The honorable member for” Denison (Mr. Mahoney) has mentioned certain members of the community who receive no benefit as the result of the tax on petrol. I bring under the notice of the House the position of the residents of Lord Howe Island, where there are no constructed roads. These people use petrol, princinally in their fishing boats and passenger launches. They pay the petrol tax, but receive no benefit whatever from the agreement. Until recently there was no medical practitioner on the island, but a doctor has recently been provided as the result of representations made by Labour members. The residents have no hospital or operating theatre, and a portion of the petrol tax which they are compelled to pay should be used to provide these facilities. Otherwise the residents should be exempt from the tax.
– The honorable member must discuss the question before the Chair.
– I am discussing the distribution of the “money obtained from the imposition of the tax.
– This bill provides for a distribution of the money for certain purposes, and the honorable member is not in order in suggesting every other purpose to which he thinks the money could be devoted.
– Am I permitted to discuss only the amount available to the States?
– The honorable member may discuss the bill and all matters relevant to it.
– Other honorable members have referred to the construction of aerodromes. I suggest to the Acting Prime Minister that an aerodrome might be provided on Lord Howe Island. I have noticed a suggestion that the island could be used as a stopping place for aeroplanes travelling from Australia to New Zealand. Some of the money might be expended in the erection of beacon , lights for the guidance of airmen.
I join the honorable member for Denison in making an appeal on behalf of the fishermen who use petrol in their launches. These men pay the tax without receiving any direct benefit, and in my opinion they should be exempt. The honorable member for Denison suggests that if exemption is not granted to them they might be supplied with free fishing nets or be given a bounty on the fish they catch, or compensation for the fish they fail to catch
Many people are injured in motor accidents and receive no compensation because many motor drivers are not insured against accidents. The Government should consider the advisableness of using portion of the money derived from the petrol tax in paying compensation to persons injured in accidents on the highways. As there is a shortage of hospitals in New South Wales, and an antiLabour government in office in that State-
– If the. honorable member will not obey my ruling in regard to the relevancy of his remarks, I shall be compelled to ask him to resume his seat.
– Many people are not fortunate enough to own motor cars. Although they are now compelled to walk the roads, they may some day be able to join the ranks of the motorists. In discussing the expenditure of this money we should not be unmindful of those who use the roads, but have no motor car3. A portion of the funds could be expended in providing rest houses on the roadside for those who have to walk the roads. These shelters could be made quite comfortable.
– I warn the honorable member again that his remarks are irrelevant.
– I shall now deal with the condition of the roads. Most of this money has been spent in the past on main roads. Those who walk the country searching for work which anti-Labour governments will not provide for them have to traverse some abominable roads, in which there are deep - ruts, and they have to carry all their belongings with them. Since these persons have no motor cars, it is necessary that the surface of the roads should be smooth. If the State governments cannot build concrete or bitumen roads everywhere, grading machines should bc employed to smooth out the roads, and make them comfortable for these men.
Honorable members from country districts have appealed, I understand, for expenditure of this money in rural areas. The alleged representatives of country interests never fail to make some appeal for the expenditure of money in their electorates. I do not complain on that score, foi1, in my opinion, too much of this money is spent’ on works too close to the big cities. In country districts some of the roads are in a particularly bad condition. The Acting Prime . Minister, when campaigning in connexion with the Gwydir by-election, heard of a serious accident to one of the Country party candidates. I understand that one of the motor cars in which these candidates were travelling overturned.
– They were drunk.
– I would not say that, but I think that the accident was due to the excessive use of a. spirit, which was not petrol. ‘On that occasion the life of a Country party candidate was in danger.
– Order ! The honorable member will resume his seat.
– The ingenuity displayed by the honorable’ member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) is obviously intended to delay the passage of this bill. The fact that you, Mr. Speaker, have been compelled to order him to resume his seat, because he did not connect his remarks with the subject-matter of the billreminds me of an incident eleven years ago, when the first Federal Aid Roads Bill was under consideration. During thedebate on the main principle of the measure, the division of opinion was similar to that on this measure to-night. At that time, the moderate members of the Labour party supported the hill wholeheartedly, and tried to secure its passage, but the extremists in the party endeavoured to prevent it from becominglaw. Having regard to the exhibition which has been given this evening by certain honorable members from New South Wales, it is interesting to know who voted with the Government of theday when the original bill was under consideration, and to consider their fate. There was Mr. Fenton-
– I rise to a point of order. Is the right honorable gentleman in order in discussing the fate of men who voted against a similar measure ten or eleven years ago? Has that any connexion with the bill?
– The Acting Prime Minister is in order.
- Mr. Fenton voted for the measure, and. is no longer a. member of the Labour party. Mr. Riley, senior, and Mr. Riley, junior, voted for it, and both have been displaced. Mr. McGrath, the then member for Ballaarat, voted for it, and we all know the circumstances that attended the close of his association with the Labour party.
– Order !
– Two men who are still associated with the Labour party in this House supported that legislation. They are the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) and the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A.
Green). The moral to be drawn is obvious. The moderate men found that they were crucified by the extremists.
– Order ! The Acting Prime Minister must confine his remarks to the bill.
– I shall deal for a few moments with the principle that underlies this legislation. When introduced by the Bruce-Page Government some eleven years ago, it revolutionized in many respects the whole of the roads problem of Australia. For the first time in Australian history, a definite ten-year plan was ‘brought into being to deal with that problem. Up to that lime, every method applied had been spasmodic. The matter was largely in the hands of isolated shire councils, who. because of restricted revenues, were unable to purchase labour-saving machinery, and adopt modern devices for the provision of the best possible road services. But since this legislation was enacted, and money has been available to enable them first to purchase plant, and, secondly, to use that plant throughout the whole year, thus avoiding loss on overhead, a remarkable change has taken place in road services throughout the length and breadth of Australia. The honorable member who has just resumed his seat (Mr. Ward) objects to this money being spent in the city areas, and argues that the whole of it should be spent in country districts. Does he remember that Mr. Lang, who at that time was Premier of New South Wales, refused for many months to sign the federal aid roads agreement because the Commonwealth would not delete from it the provision that the whole of the money made available to the States should bc spent in country districts or towns with not more than 5,000 inhabitants ?
– Why was that policy not continued?
– It was reversed by the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) while he was Leader of the Government in this Parliament in 1931. If the honorable member cares to look up the records he will find that the provision that the States should spend 15s. for every £1 received from the Commonwealth was taken out of the agreement in 1931. Up to that time, for every £1,000,000 of Commonwealth money expended, there was also expended £750,000 of State money, and that meant the provision of a very great deal more work for the people of Australia.
As I have already said, the first thing which this legislation did was to provide an opportunity for the improvement of road conditions throughout Australia. One has only to travel to see what a remarkable improvement ‘ has been effected. It also made possible, for the first time, the bridging of streams which for 140 or 150 years had been a deterrent to transport. Ten years ago, I believe, there were not more than two bridges over all the rivers between Brisbane and Sydney. But what is the position to-day? A bridge over the Coomera and the Logan, and two bridges over the Tweed, the Clarence, the Bellinger, and the Nambucca, and so on right down the coast. It has actually been suggested that the Hawkesbury should be bridged. This has been made possible by the beneficent provision of the Bruce-Page Government eleven years ago.
The next point in connexion with this plan for the building of roads is that, for the first time in the history of roadbuilding in Australia, it has been possible to keep men employed regularly year in and year out, with the certainty that they will be able to make road-building their life’s work, and become highly efficient in the handling of different road surfaces. It has regularized employment in connexion with road-building. Manymen who were unskilled ten or twelve years ago are now highly skilled, and receive the full award rates provided for such skill. We have also been, able to develop a scientific staff of trained men to handle difficult materials, as well ‘as engineers and surveyors to plot and plan roads. A wider opportunity has thus been provided for the youths of Australia to secure decent jobs with some definite prospect of continuous careers. If there is one thing which more than another in the history of Australian road development is responsible for that, it is the definite plan which was laid down eleven years ago to spend £35,000,000 in ten years. Under the measure that the House is now considering, the beneficent operations of that plan will.be continued for a further ten years. Every penny is spent on main roads, and no relief labour is employed. Not one penny of federal aid roads money is spent on other than a definite plan, and under award rates. I agree, of course, that in every State at the present time roads are being built by relief labour. I point out, however, that that work is being financed with other money, some of which is supplied by the Federal Government, such as the £4,500,000 made available during the last four years in connexion with relief works. But that does not apply to any of the money which the States have obtained under the federal aid roads agreement.
Another direction in which the whole outlook in Australia was revolutionized was in the definite acceptance by this Parliament of the principle that the big States and the more developed States of Australia should make themselves responsible for assisting the development of the smaller States.[Quorum formed.] I have no objection to my speech being interrupted as it has just been. My sole desire is to place on record the value of this legislation to the whole of the people of Australia, not alone to those who live in country districts; because, if there is one thing which more than another affects costs of production, it is the cost of transport; and if there is one thing which more than another cheapens the cost of transport, it is good roads. Therefore, I say that this legislation, although its ostensible object is the construction of country roads, is of immense importance to every one in Australia, not only because of the direct work of a regular nature which it provides, but also because it helps to reduce the cost of living, and consequently makes the wages that are paid of more real value in regard to purchasing power.
When introduced some ten years ago, this legislation clearly expressed and gave practical effect to a principle which up to that particular time had not been definitely accepted either in this Parliament or in the country, that principle being that the great industrial areas, the more highly developed and populous eastern States, should assist in the development of the less populated and more backward States.
Mr.Curtin. - That could not have been done without the agreement of all the States.
– If any person cares to read the debates that then took place, he will find that, when the Commonwealth induced the States at a conference to agree to its proposals, the big oil companies in Australia stampeded three of the State governments. I understand that they spent in newspaper advertising throughout Australia no less a sum than £50,000 in five days. But, notwithstanding that stampede, the legislation was carried through this Blouse with the assent of three State governments. I am pleased to say that the Labour Government of Western Australia, headed by Mr. Collier, was one of the States which remained faithful to its bargain. It was not frightened, as was the Labour Government of New South Wales, by the press campaign of the oil companies.
– The Government of Victoria, with a Country party Premier, not only opposed it, but also fought it in the courts.
– The Country party Premier in Victoria came into line very much more quickly than did Mr. Lang in New South Wales. I am pointing out exactly what was in the mind of the Federal Government, and what waft carried into effect. I am not now concerned with the ineffective opposition that was raised in Victoria. What was the reason for that opposition? That State refused to give recognition to the principle that the money should be expended on a three-fifths population and twofifths area basis.
Mr.Curtin. - The right honorable gentleman must not endeavour to discredit a Labour Premier in one State, and at the same time exonerate a Country party Premier in another State, for doing exactly the same thing.
– I am not exonerating any one. I have already praised Mr. Collier for his attitude; the honorable member will be fair enough to admit that.
– That is so.
– I have also praised the honorable member for Capricornia, because he had the courage to stand up against the majority of his caucus in this Parliament and fight for this proposition. Ibelieve that he fought for it because it gave effect to the new principle that the area as well as the population of the State should be considered. The official Opposition at that time - the Federal Labour party - opposed the measure.
– It did not.
– The Leader of the Opposition, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and all the senior members of the party, opposed it. I am showing what was in our mind, and what actually occurred. The Prime Minister of the day, Mr. Bruce, in reply to the interjection, “Who pays for the tariff; does not the primary producer pay for the tariff?”, said-
If the honorable gentleman is quite sure the primary producer pays for the tariff, he might agree with the idea that the States in which great secondary industries have been built up should assist in paying for a road transport system for the benefit of the whole of the people of Australia. “
That was the motive, the driving force, behind the action then taken. Whatever opposition there was, arose from the desire that money raised in a State should be spent in that State. The Government succeeded in carrying the measure, embodying the principles to which I have referred, by a majority of sixteen in this House.
-Having said so much, the right honorable gentleman ought now toexplain what the Scullin Government did with the agreement in 1931 in order to ease the burden on the States.
– I shall show exactly what the Scullin Government did in 1931. In 1930, that Administration asked the States to discuss the matter, and informed them that it was no longer in a position to find the £2,000,000 a year for which the federal aid roads agreement made provision. It said in effect, “It looks as though we shall not be able to find for you more than £1,400,000 or a cut of £600,000 in the amount agreed on”. The Government said as a compromise: “ Instead of the actual amount of £2,000,000, which we cannot find, we are prepared to give to you 21/2d. from the petrol tax, and we shall vary the agreement in order thatyou shall not have to spend any of your own money in conjunction with Commonwealth money, in the States.” A most ridiculous proposition! The most ridiculous I have ever heard put forward! Because, contemporaneously with withdrawing the money in connexion with the planned scheme of road construction, the Scullin Government made available another grant to the States, and asked them to supplement it with other moneys for the purpose of providing relief work on unplanned roads. It said in effect: “We shall reduce the amount of money for the ten-year planned system and at the same time we shall give you money to enable you to proceed with unplanned works in order to assist in the relief of unemployment”. One of the tragedies of the depression was that, instead of much of this federal relief money being ultimately handed to the main roads authorities, whose engineers could have speeded up planned programmes of work for the following five or six years, so that they would have been completed in two or three years, it was used by the States in unplanned efforts and much of it wasted on ineffective works.
– Order ! That matter is quite outside the scope of the bill.
– At that time the present Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill.) desired to reduce the amount to £1,000,000.
– I am not aware of what the honorable gentleman endeavoured to do on that occasion; but I do know exactly what the Scullin Government did; and furthermore, I know what the Bruce-Page Governmenthad done in connexion with this matter. It had so arr anged matters that the money could not be diverted by any State Premier from the development of country roads. But the safeguards we had provided were removed by the Scullin Government. Many honorable members have declared that the States should be untrammelled in the expenditure of this money.
– Not all honorable members.
– Some honorable members opposite have said so. I have always maintained and practised in this House, when in a position to do so, the principle that the Government which raises the money should have some very definite say in regard to the way in which it should be spent. That is exactly what is being done in connexion with this bill. Provision is made not merely to continue the original rate of £2,000,000 a year and the additional million of money due to the increased use of petrol; but, insofar as the extra £600,000 is concerned, two stipulations have been made. One is in respect of the construction, reconstruction and maintenance of roads, and the other is in connexion with other works associated with “transport. Both of them are reasonable stipulations and I think that they will meet with the general approval of honorable members. At any rate the provisions have met with the approval of. all of the governments of the States. During the last few days, I have been in touch with those governments, and I ascertained that the original agreement, made at the instance of one of the States which required some money to spend on forestry, was unacceptable in many quarters. I then asked the States if they were prepared to accept an amendment confining the works to those connected with transport. All of them have now indicated that they are perfectly satisfied with the alteration. The Government of New South “Wales has always indicated its past practice, which is that immediately it receives the money it pays it into the main roads fund, because out of its own revenues it finds about four times as much money as the grant received from the Commonwealth for road construction purposes. I understand that Victoria spends approximately three times as much money from its own revenues, and I have no doubt that a similar position obtains in the other States. The assertion that the State Parliaments are hopelessly inadequate to deal with their own problems,, is strange, because this Parliament is elected on the same franchise as are the parliaments of the States. The Government is quite satisfied that the conditions which are set out in this bill associate the tax raised from petrol with the objects necessary to be carried out by the use of petrol. I urge that, instead of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. ‘Ward) and other honorable members en- devouring to exercise their ingenuity in travelling under the sea and by air to Lord Howe Island and many other places for the purpose of finding a reason for delaying the bill, we should ensure it a rapid passage in order to enable it to go to the Senate and there be translated into law, so that in July the moneys payable from this fund will be available to provide work throughout Australia.
.- I am amazed at the anger which has been displayed by the Acting Prime Minister (Dr. Earle Page) in describing those honorable members who have made suggestions in regard to this measure as being extremists of the Labour party. In order to emphasize the fact that only the extremists oppose such legislation, the right honorable gentleman went back eleven years to quote a number of Labour supporters who, on that occasion, voted for this legislation and showed that they are no longer members of this Parliament, The right honorable gentleman omitted the important detail that some of those former Labour men subsequently left the Labour party and in turn were left by the party to which they deserted. In view of the fact that the Acting Prime Minister made a great point about only the extremists opposing this legislation, it is interesting to recall the names of the “ extremists “ who voted against the measure in 1926. The division list includes the names of W. M. Hughes, G. A. Maxwell, H. S. Gullett, J. H. Scullin, “W. Watson, P. G. Stewart, W. A. Watt, A. S. Rogers, E. A. Mann, P. E. Coleman, and F. Brennan. Because we have criticized the provisions of this bill tonight, we are called the extremists of 1937, by the Acting Prime Minister.
– What division does the honorable member quote?
– I quote the division on the second reading of the bill in 1926. As a matter of fact, the Opposition supports this measure, because it entirely agrees with it in principle. For years, the Commonwealth has levied an enormous tax upon the users of petrol and yet it gives no service to this class. The Opposition claims that -it is only fair and reasonable that, in the distribution of proceeds of this tax, a proportion of them should be given to the State governments who have the responsibility not only for the maintenance of roads, but also for giving some service to motorists and other persons who pay the petrol tax. The Opposition goes even further by contending that the Commonwealth at the moment is not giving a sufficient proportion of the’ collections to the States who are called upon to maintain the roads. The petrol tax is largely an imposition on motorists and is therefore a class tax, so that it behoves this House to ensure that at least a big proportion of the moneys collected therefrom are spent for the benefit of the people who pay the tax. If we agree with that statement in principle, we should see that the great bulk of the money is handed to the State governments who service the roads.
The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. . Lazzarini) was criticized by the Acting Prime Minister because he suggested that in the distribution of this money some consideration should be given to municipal councils and shires. Throughout the depression, these local governing bodies have played a major part in the matter of providing work for the unemployed at a time when the Commonwealth Government had abandoned them. As the result of shouldering heavy commitments in this regard, many of them are in a difficult financial position at the present time. The honorable member for Werriwa did not attack the principles of the bill, but dealt with the matter of administration, and suggested that the shire and municipal councils, being the authorities which maintain 80 per cent, of the roads within the districts which they control, should receive some consideration in the distribution of this money. For making this statement, he was charged with having adopted obstructionist methods and with having directed damaging criticism against the principles of the bill itself.
The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) has been accused of being an extremist and an obstructionist, because he ventured to express the opinion that provision should be made for the establishment of aerodromes and landing grounds used by civil aircraft. Commercial aviation companies are large users of petrol and consequently make substantial contributions to the petrol tax fund. The honorable member for Darling contended quite logically that if special provision is made in this bill for the States to set aside, whenever they are required to do so by the Commonwealth, a certain amount of money for the purpose of maintaining roads leading to or adjoining Commonwealth Government aerodromes, it was only reasonable to insist upon some service being given to aerodromes used by civil and commercial aircraft. Incidentally, the honorable member propounded precisely the same argument as that used by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), who was not accused of being an obstructionist. I agree with the statement made by the honorable member for Swan, that in handing over the money to the States, the Commonwealth should not entirely surrender the right to direct how it should be spent. In expressing that view, the honorable member has shifted his ground considerably in comparison with other arguments which I have heard him make upon similar matters in the past. In this regard, the Opposition has been consistent, because it contends that when the Commonwealth provides funds, it should at least have some say as to the direction in which the money shall be applied.
– The Opposition, then, is consistent in error.
– That may be so; but the opinion of the Opposition is apparently shared by the leader of the Country party, who stated a few minute’s ago that he has consistently advocated that, when the Commonwealth applies funds in any direction, it should nave some say as to the manner in which the morley should be spent. But unfortunately while he believes in that principle, he is not the leader in this instance; rather is it a case of the tail wagging the dog. The honorable member for Werriwa apparently aroused, the ire of the Acting Prime Minister when he drew attention to the fact that, although this Government is controlled by the Country party, that consideration which should be given to country roads is not given to them. The honorable member pointed out that the vast majority of the roads in country districts in New South Wales were in a deplorable condition, and he argued that the Country party, at least, should lend its support to the Labour party in its advocacy that some of these funds should be spent on these particular roads. It is no defence for the Acting Prime Minister to say that the Scullin Government, in 1931, struck out of the act the provision that the whole of this money should be spent in country districts. (He has now a glorious opportunity to restore that provision in this legislation, because we know that this Government could not exist without the support of the Country party. If he believes, as he professes, that the principle of the original act, that this money should be earmarked for the purpose of building country roads, and that the action of the Scullin Government in striking out that provision Avas wrong, he should accept this opportunity to restore that provision in the interests of country districts which he, and his supporters, claim are their special concern.
I agree, however, with the honorable member for Werriwa that the claims of municipalities in the cities and suburbs to participate in this grant should be considered. These bodies have become almost bankrupt through assisting the State Government of New South Wales - I speak of that State particularly, because I know the conditions existing there - to carry out its works programme. For that reason they should be given every consideration in this respect. I agree also with the claim made by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mt. Ward) that this Government should sec to it that, if any State government carries out works through the aid of this grant, award wages and conditions should be observed, and such undertakings should be carried out, not under relief, but full-time, conditions. I also support the argument advanced by the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) that provision should be made in this agreement whereby fishermen, who are users of petrol, will be protected in their arduous and dangerous calling by the erection of necessary breakwaters, lights and jetties.
It has been argued by the Acting Prime Minister that this legislation will help particularly to develop the smaller States. I say definitely that the Proportion allotted to Tasmania is totally inadequate to meet the requirements of that State. For six months of the year the motor traffic using the roads of Tasmania comes from other States and is exceptionally heavy. Although it might be argued that to a degree local motorists use the Tasmanian roads, the fact remains that, for at least half the year, touring motorists from the mainland make the most use of them. For that reason greater provision should be made in respect of Tasmania in the distribution of this money.
It ill becomes any member of the Government to describe members of the Opposition as extremists, or obstructionists, because they have had the temerity to suggest improvements to this legislation. It is totally untrue to say that the Opposition is opposed to the principle of this bill. I repeat that that principle can be thoroughly justified, namely, that the enormous revenue derived from the petrol tax should be applied largely for the benefit of users of petrol. Because Government members themselves, like dumb, driven cattle, are afraid to make suggestions, or to vote in favour of any departure from the terms of the agreement as it is set out in the bill, the Opposition will not remain silent when it is obvious that the agreement contains mistakes which, if not adjusted, will inflict grave injustice on some users of petrol as a section of the community.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) said that the Opposition approved of the bill, and hoped that it would have a very speedy passage.
– We do approve of it in principle. I suggest that the Opposition’s criticism of the measure has been most useful. .Should the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Menzies) be preserved after the next election and, by some remote chance have the honour to bring forward a bill of this character, he will adopt the suggestions Ave now make and, in that day, I have not the least doubt, he will take to himself full credit for these suggestions.
– I propose to reply to the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) in respect of two points which he raised. He said that he and his colleagues are not opposed to the principle of the bill. They appear in the guise of direct descendants of George Washington when they say that. Their opposition, the honorable member said, is not to the bill, but to the Government. We realize that; no matter what this measure contained or what was proposed to he done under it, they would be bound on principle to be opposed to it, notwithstanding the statements made by their leader.
The honorable member also said that country roads in New South Wales were in a most deplorable condition. Not so long ago, with the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) I made a tour of about 1,000 miles through the southern and south-western portions of that State, and did not find any of the roads in a shocking condition compared with those in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. I visited Western Australia as recently as last year. I subsequently was in Gwydir and saw the roads described by honorable members to-night. If the honorable member says that the country roads in New South Wales are in an atrocious condition - and I agree that they are - surely he will recognize that had it not been for the money provided by the Commonwealth to the States through the federal aid roads agreement, during the last ten years, they would be in a much worse condition than they are to-day, or, alternatively, the burden on the taxpayers in New South Wales would now be much greater than it is. The grievance of the honorable member on that score, therefore, is hardly justified.
– But where did the Commonwealth get that money?
– Out of taxpayers of various classes who are also taxpayers in the States. Another point which the honorable gentleman endeavoured to make was in respect of Tasmania’s share of this money; he said that that State was not getting enough. We are thus faced with the proposition by the Opposition that Tasmania should be given more of this money at the expense of New South Wales, or at the expense of the rest of the Commonwealth, because, after all, it has to come out of the same body of taxpayers to which the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) referred by interjection. From what I have heard in this debate so far I have not been able to gather any point made by the Opposition which would lead me to believe- that the Government has made a mistake in respect of this measure. After this legislation has been in operation ten years, on the basis of an agreement arrived at between the States and the Commonwealth, whereby the States receive a greater amount of money than they have ever previously received for road purposes, we shall still find honorable members opposite - as they are now, and have been for some time, and will be for a long time in the future - in opposition.
– It is with every care and deliberation that I approach this measure from a point which has not been touched upon so far in this debate, namely, the validity of this legislation having regard to the probability that the same set of circumstances will arise following its passage as did arise in similar circumstances a few years ago. It was interesting to hear the Acting Prime Minster (Dr. Earle Page) describe as extremists certain members of this Parliament who opposed the enactment of the original federal aid roads legislation. If it is logical to. call such men extremists it is equally logical to describe as extremists gentlemen who did not happen to be in Parliament at the time, but who used their prestige and their talents in other spheres with all the vigour they possessed to prevent the enactment of this legislation.
– Would the honorable member mind altering the word “ vigour “ to “ venom “ ?
– No, I would not say that venom is the right expression to use. As a matter of fact, the gentleman I have in mind has never exhibited any venom. He has always approached the matters under discussion in a calm and judicial manner. This agreement was called in question by the States of Victoria and South Australia. It is possible that the honorable member for Barker (Mr.
Archie Cameron) was a member of the Parliament of South Australia at that time.
– No; I slipped that time.
– At any rate, the honorable member was closely associated with South Australian politics before he came here, and it is reasonable to assume that he shared the opinions of his colleagues, who protested against the validity of this measure, saying that the Commonwealth Parliament had no power to impose conditions regarding the disposal of surplus revenue, lt has occurred to me that all controversies regarding the validity of Commonwealth acts, and of this one in particular, have assumed much greater significance since the recent referendum, arising out of the decision of the Privy Council in the James case. If a State government were now to challenge i he validity of this legislation, we might be faced with the necessity to hold another referendum. “When the agreement was challenged in 1926, the personnel of the High Court was not the same as it is now. There were then on the Bench the Chief Justice (Sir Adrian Knox), Mr. Justice Isaacs, Mr. Justice Gavan Duffy, Mr. Justice Powers, Mr. Justice Rich’, Mr. Justice Starke, and Mr. Justice Higgins, who was the dissenting justice in the case. Now, of those seven justices, only Mr. Justice Rich and Mr. Justice Starke remain on the Bench. In that case, the State of Victoria was represented by a gentleman named Robert Menzies, who, in the words of the Leader of the Country party, now must also be classified as an extremist. This is what he said in his address to the High Court -
The Federal Aid Roads Act 1920 is invalid because it is a law relating to road-making, and not a law for granting financial aid to the States. It is, therefore, not warranted by either section SO or section 5.1 of the Constitution. Looking at the preamble to the act and its substance, and applying the rule in Rex v. Barger (lj. the act is one to provide for the construction and reconstruction of roads, and the States are only concerned as contributors to the costs of construction and reconstruction and as agents of the Commonwealth for the purpose of carrying out the works. The defence power would only authorize an act’ for constructing roads for military purposes. The Federal Aid Roods Act is not within the power conferred by section 51 (xxxviii) of the Constitution, for the
Imperial Parliament is not the only parliament which could legislate as to road-making. If the act is one for granting financial aid to States, it does not comply with section 90 of the Constitution. Under that section the Parliament cannot attach as conditions to its grant any conditions which amount in substance to the exercise of any legislative power which is not within section 51 of the Constitution. Alternatively, .the terms and conditions referred to in section 90 are financial terms and conditions unless they are terms and conditions falling within one of the legislative powers in section 51. The terms and conditions referred to in section 90 must bo terms and conditions imposed by the Parliament itself, and not terms and conditions fixed by executive authority.
The interesting fact is that counsel who then pleaded the case of Victoria before the court, and who no doubt believed in the argument he advanced, failed to convince the court. However, as I have pointed out, the personnel of the court then was quite different from what it is now. Another point is that it is open to a State government now, through its Attorney-General, to cite a case in regard to this measure for decision by the Privy Council. No doubt I shall be told that the substance of this agreement has already been accepted by the States, but it is not known to what extent the agreement as it appears in the bill was actually accepted by the representatives of the States.
– All the terms of the agreement have been accepted in the form in which they are presented in this measure.
– I understand that discussions on the bill have taken place in the vicinity of this chamber, namely, the party room of Government supporters, and I assumed that, as the result of those discussions, the bill might have been amended in so’me respects so that it no longer represented what was actually agreed to at the Premiers Conference. Nevertheless, I accept the assurance of the Attorney-General on that point. However, even though it be granted that the agreement in its present form has been accepted by the representatives of the States, it does not follow that the States will be represented by the same persons next year, or by persons with the same view. 1 hope that, as far as New South “Wales is concerned, they will not be the same, and all the portents indicate that they “will not. It is possible that another government in New South Wales might decide to have this matter tested in the High Court, arguing that the Commonwealth should not impose conditions as to the disposal of the money.
– Would it get Robert Menzies to appear for it?
– If the Government of New South Wales briefed him, I am sure that he would give of his best for his client, and he might succeed in having the previous decision of the court reversed.
– New South Wales would 1’ose £820,000 a year if I did.
– ‘I do not know how the right honorable gentleman arrives at that conclusion. I cannot imagine that South Australia and Victoria, the State he represented before the High Court, would have objected to the original agreement if it was likely that they would be involved in losses as the result. All other aspects of this bill have been so freely canvassed that I think there is not much left to say. I thought this point of value at this stage in view of the changes that are likely to take place. If there is a 1 iittle more time left, I am sure the House would be greatly interested to hear the view point of the Attorney-General to-day in the light of the changed circumstances since he appeared before the High Court in 1926.
– I offer a few remarks in connexion with this measure in an endeavour to put a suggestion or two to “the Government in regard to the money provided from the petrol tax which appear to me not to have received the consideration lo which they are entitled. At the outset, J want to express my gratification at the fact that the Government has succeeded in agreeing with the States to a slight alteration of what apparently was originally intended as to the purpose for which the additional £600,000 is being provided for the States. It is gratifying to see that the Government is able to provide this additional money. Another particular virtue of the agreement is the length of its term. It is essential, from the view-point of the States, that they should be able to make their arrangements with regard to road construction in accordance with a long-range plan; on that account the fact that the new agreement is to operate for ten years must be very gratifying to the States. Although the length of the term of the agreement is, in the way I have mentioned, a virtue, it can become almost a vice if the money is not allocated on an equitable basis. We were told a little while ago by the Acting Prime Minister (Dr. Earle Page) that the original intention of the Government in imposing the petrol tax was to provide funds for the States to enable them to improve roads throughout their areas. It cannot be denied that wonderful improvements have been effected to our roads as the result of the expenditure of the road grants, but as time went on the rate of the petrol tax was considerably increased. I may say that it is a matter of indifference to the payers of the tax as to what government increased it; they are concerned only with the fact that they have been forced to pay more than double the amount they were originally called upon to pay when the petrol duties were first imposed, the additional tax going into general revenue.
There are one or two suggestions which I wish to make to the Government in regard to this matter. To the extent that moneys provided under the federal aid roads agreement are not spent on roads and facilities for the benefit of petrol users, the petrol tax becomes a class tax. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) has said that the road grant is not being spent on district roads in New South Wales. I may inform him that, in Victoria, there are 2,300 miles of State highways, 6,300 miles of main roads and 3,600 miles of what are termed developmental roads, the last-mentioned being those district roads which run out at right angles from railway stations, which is sufficient evidence to show that that State has been able to make good use of the money provided. It is obvious that the States have the right to spend the money for that purpose, if they wish to do so, and it does not become the responsibility of this Parliament to see that a particular State should do something which it has not been doing in the past in regard to particular roads. Petrol, which a few years ago, probably when the first petrol duties were imposed, might have been regarded to some extent as being a luxury, is to-day an important factor in carrying on the industries of this country, and is of great advantage to the community as a whole. I presume that the basis of allocation of the additional £600,000 will be the same as that made in the past. It has been stated by the Premiers of New South Wales and Victoria that 65 per cent, of the total revenue provided by the petrol tax is being collected in New South Wales and Victoria, and according to information which I have received, something less than 30 per cent, of the money collected in those two States is being spent in them. In other words, the other States are being provided with good roads largely at the expense of the taxpayers of 5ew South Wales and Victoria. However, I quite agree that part of the general revenue of the Commonwealth from the more populous States should be handed over to the smaller States because of their disabilities, and the fact that the Government, during the last year has allocated some £13,000,000 of its revenue to those States, is evidence of that necessity. But the point I particularly wish to emphasize is that, as the Government will, in the near future, be giving consideration to its budget proposals, special consideration should be, given by it to a reduction of the petrol tax for the reason I have indicated - that the extent to which this money- is not being spent on providing greater facilities for the benefit of the petrol-users, makes it class taxation. The Government has in the past found itself in the happy position of being able to reduce taxation considerably, and I submit that the petrol-users are entitled to special consideration when the budget is brought down in the near future.
– in reply - I do not propose to detain the House for more than about three minutes. I feel that the gaiety of nations ought to be added to a little more after the speech delivered by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), aided, I have no doubt, by my indefatigable friend from Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), alongside whom he is now sitting. The honorable member for West Sydney has been reading Law Reports, but has confined his researches to 1926, a time when I was not in Parliament.
– ‘The right honorable gentleman was then a well-meaning enthusiast.
– On the contrary, I was an eminently respectable barrister, and appeared for a great number of people arguing as best I could, sometimes winning and sometimes losing. It was very unkind of the honorable member for West Sydney to refer to one of the occasions on which I lost. He has discovered that in 1926 as counsel, I submitted arguments to the High Court with which the High Court ‘disagreed. As far as I remember, it disagreed with my arguments with the utmost contumely; I went out of court feeling quite battered after arguing a day and _ a half unsuccessfully. All I want to say to the honorable member is that, if he is really intent on discovering all the arguments counsel has to put for his clients during the course of his life, he ought not to stop at one case. If he went over the course of my disreputable life he would read of many cases. Let me run back my memory over some of the people on whose behalf I have appeared. I remember having appeared for a young gentleman who was charged with murder-
– What has that to do with the bill?
– It has nothing to do with the bill; but I was reminded of it by the honorable member’s speech. He was acquitted - I do not know whether he was guilty or not. I have appeared for a young gentleman charged with burglary; I have appeared for and against the Commonwealth, and for and against the State of Victoria.
– Order ! The Attorney-General’s remarks are outside the scope of the bill.
– Well, Mr. Speaker, I felt that you might extend to me the same privilege you extended to the honorable member for West Sydney.
– Order ! The Attorney-General will realize that the honorable member for West Sydney was arguing that this bill is unconstitutional, and to support his claim quoted from the argument used by the Attorney-General before the High Court. If the AttorneyGeneral were merely pointing out the High Court gave a decision against him, and therefore this bill, if passed, will be valid, he would be perfectly in order.
– I am obliged to you, Mr. Speaker. It shows that the looker-on sees most of the game. I did not realize that the honorable member for West Sydney was arguing that the bill was unconstitutional.
– I commenced my speech by contesting the validity of the bill.
– I may take it then that the honorable member is arguing that the bill is unconstitutional. I am afraid the only useful contribution I can make is to suggest that he should go on reading. I do not know whether it is in the volume from which he quoted, but I appeared on behalf of the Labor Daily on one occasion, and won the case, which shows that one appears successfully for disreputable clients sometimes. If the honorable member will read further, he will find that the High Court, with most distressing unanimity - I may say, with most unusual unanimity - said that the act was perfectly constitutional.
– I have never questioned it.
– When I address myself to the Opposition, I do not address myself to my friend the Leader of the Opposition (Mr.Curtin). I hope that I am in order in saying that the honorable gentleman, with the greatest of sweet reasonableness, said earlier to-day “ We “ - which I take was not the editorial “we” or the royal “we”, but the “ we “ that indicates the Opposition - “favour this bill. We will facilitate its passage”. But now, I discover that there is an arriere pensee about the Leader of the Opposition. He now says, “As far as I am concerned, I favour the bill; I shall facilitate its passage, but I am not too sure about the boys behind me. Of course, whatever I say now such as ‘ I approve of this bill’, is subject to the very weighty legal objections to its validity which will be raised by my legal adviser, the honorable member for West Sydney “. I am prepared to take all the risks of the House passing the bill on just those terms.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 29th June (vide page 687), on motion by Mr. Thorby -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Without any reservations respecting the possible invalidity of this legislation, the Opposition will support the bill. The reasons which have been advanced by the Assistant Minister as to the necessity for this legislation have appealed to us as being reasonable, and we think it inequitable that those primary producers whose claims were posted on or before the 31st December, but were not received in time because of the holidays or postal delays, should be debarred from having their claims examined and, if in order, granted. We understand that certain claims for the fertilizer subsidy have been disallowed because they were not received by the Secretary to the Department of Commerce on or before the 31st December, despite the fact that they were posted in time.
.-I endorse what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has said with regard to this bill, because I have placed before the Secretary to the Department of Commerce and the Acting Prime Minister (Dr. Earle Page) a number of instances in which claims for the subsidy had been rejected because they did not comply with the stipulation that they must be in the hands of the department on or before the 31st December, although they had been posted in ample time to reach their destination within the prescribed period. During the Gwydir campaign, the Acting
Prime Minister promised that immediately Parliament met, legislation would be introduced to permit of the granting of such claims as could be proved to have been posted, but not received, by the secretary, within the period specified. This bill represents the fulfilment of that promise. It would be hard indeed on primary producers if they were debarred from participation in the subsidy on technical grounds. 1 know of several applicationsfrom my electorate which were posted before the 31st December, but which, owing to the intervention of the Christmas holidays, or because of postal delays, were not received by that date. The postmark on one envelope which I placed before the secretary of the department showed that the application had been posted on the 28th December. The gentleman concerned was Mr. Tulloch, a wine-grower of Povolbin, in my electorate. I am pleased that the Government has seen fit to remove this hardship. Under this bill, all that is necessary for claims for subsidy to be granted is for the claimant to prove to the satisfaction of the Minister that the claim was lodged before the 31st December. I take it that this legislation will have retrospective effect.
– I support the bill, but desire to have an amendment inserted in committee. The provision in the principal act fixing the 30th June in each year as the date before which the fertilizers upon which the subsidy is claimed must be used, creates an anomaly because it cuts right across the sowing season for grain crops in certain parts of Australia. I speak particularly for a district which fronts the Southern Ocean and is subject to wet and cold conditions. There we have the anomaly that certain farmers whose properties are removed from the coast, sow early and receive the subsidy - in this case 15s. a ton - whereas the farmers who are closer to the sea - on Kangaroo Island and in localities near the Victorian border - and who have to sow later in order to reap their crops at the same time as the inland farmers, receive only 10s. a ton. The same difficulty would arise if the subsidy were abolished to-day. It would mean that those who have already sowed would be entitled to a subsidy of 10s. a ton, whereas those who have yet to sow would not participate.
– The honorable member is overlooking, the fact that they would already have received the subsidy. They are one year ahead of the others.
– The Assistant Minister seems to forget that the Government forgot all about the subsidy for six months during which period’ no subsidy on super-phosphates was paid. The farmers have already suffered that injustice, and I seek to prevent them from suffering further injustices. I welcome the bill, but I warn the Government that in committee I intend to move to have rectified what I believe to be an anomaly and an injustice to a fairly considerable section of primary producers, notably the barley-growers in the southern parts of Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
Section five of the Primary Producers Relief Act 1935-1936 is amended by omitting from paragraph (a) the words “the primary producer has obtained, upon application lodged by him with the Secretary of the Department of Commerce of the Commonwealth on or before the thirty-first day of December, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-six, a certificate “ and inserting in their stead the words “ the primary producer has obtained -
upon application supported by a prescribed declaration made on or before the thirty-first day of December, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-six; or
upon application made in substitution for an application which the Minister is satisfied was signed by the primary producer on or before the thirty-first day of December, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-six, acertificate “.
– I move -
That clause 2 be amended by adding at the end thereof the following: - “ and (b ) by omitting the words during the year ending on the thirtieth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-six ‘ and inserting in their stead the words ‘ for harvesting between the first day of August and the thirty-first day of July next following in the case of grain crops ‘ “.
It is not only anomalous, but also unjust, that one farmer should receive a subsidy of Los. a ton whilst another farmer receives only 10s. for a similar kind of crop.
– I rise to order. I submit that the amendment cannot be accepted because it would involve an increase of the appropriation which could only be made by a separate message for a class of bill different from that now before the committee.
– I cannot accept the amendment.
.- Even if the amendment be out of order, I ask the Assistant Minister (Mr. Thorby) to give an undertaking before the bill leaves the committee that the real anomaly and injustice to which attention has been directed by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) will be considered by the Government, and rectified when an opportunity offers for that to be done.
– With the high price of wheat now ruling, thereshould be no need for the continuation of the subsidy.
– It is extraordinary how the venom of some honorable membersblinds them to the facts of a case. The fertilizers subsidy has never been paid to wheat-growers. It is for primary producers other than wheat-growers. I confidently ask the Assistant Minister for an assurance that the injustice and anomaly referred to will be rectified at thefirst opportunity.
– The anomaly to which the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) and the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) have referred is not nearly so serious as has been suggested. Producers who use fertilizers in sowing their crops after midnight to-night will not be entitled to include the quantity of fertilizers so used in their returns for the financial year 1936-37, but they willbe able to include it in their returns for next year. I recognize that, if the time comes when the payment of the subsidy is discontinued, such producers will lose the amount of subsidy for which they would otherwise be eligible in that particular year. It is true, also, that should a reduction of the rate of subsidy occur, such producers would only be entitled to payment at the reduced rate. There are difficulties, however, in having an overlapping period in regard to this matter. I do not say that these could not be overcome, but it is undoubtedly an advantage that the period for which the subsidy is payable coincides with the financial year. The sum of money required for the payment of the subsidy can be much more conveniently voted when the period of payment is identical with the financial year, although it might be practicable to allow an overlap if that were necessary. The points raised by the honorable member for Barker and the honorable member for Wakefield will be reviewed by the Government when future legislation of this description is being considered.
Clause agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.”
Debate resumed from page 732.
.- The Opposition will support this bill, for it provides for a long overdue coordination of medical research activities, under the headings, social research, clinical research and laboratory research. The need for greater activity in medical research must be obvious to all who have studied the statistics relating to the mortality rate from certain diseases which afflict humanity in all countries of the world. The stationary, if not increasing, mortality rate from cancer and heart disease, and especially the distressing maternal and infantile mortality’ rates, require the most urgent attention. The high mortality among children during their first month of life is alarming. Every effort should be made to conserve the health of mothers and infants.
It is important also that we should endeavour to hold in this country the brilliant young medical students who pass through our universities and hospitals, but who, hitherto, have gone abroad in large numbers to undertake research work. I believe that if greater encouragement were given to these persons to remain in this country, they would do so.’ The proposed Medical Research Council should offer a means to induce these students to do their work in Australia. It is interesting to note that a brilliant young New Zealander, and also a brilliant young Australian, have recently taken positions in the great research laboratory which has been established at Oxford through the donation by Lord Nuffield of £1,000,000 for that purpose. It would be a good thing if we could offer sufficient inducement to such men to return to Australia, to undertake the important research work waiting to be done here.
I hope that the Medical Research Council will co-operate with the research institutes already operating in the various States. Four are established in Sydney, three in Melbourne, and one in Brisbane. If the work of these bodies can be co-ordinated and unified through the proposed Commonwealth institute, it will be an excellent thing. I am not satisfied with the financial provision for the medical research endowment fund. The estimated ‘expenditure is not mentioned in the bill, but I understand that the Minister has said that £30,000 will be made available. I take it that that is the proposed annual grant.
– The council recommended that ‘ £30,000 should be made available each J ear. As time goes on, the position will unfold and the requirements of the council can be more accurately gauged.
– In my opinion, the council’s request is too modest; but, perhaps, it was afraid to ask for more for fear that the project would not be proceeded with. This year, out of a total Commonwealth revenue, estimated at £81,000,000, the sum of £8,000,000 is to be set aside for defence purposes. Compared with that sum, £30,000 appears too _ small for research of this nature. The safeguarding of the health of the nation in the way proposed in the bill is not a State responsibility; it is a big national question, which should be tackled in a generous way. I hope that as the scheme unfolds, more money will be made available, and that at no time will the council’s work have to be curtailed for the want of adequate funds. The representation on the council is satisfactory. Its chairman will be the Director-General of Health, who will have the assistance of two members of his staff. Other professional members will be: the chief health officer of each State; one person nominated by the four States which have medical schools ; a representative each of the College of Surgeons, the College of Physicians, and the British Medical Association. There will also be a layman and a laywoman. The members of the council will, I understand, receive no fees, but will be paid a travelling allowance when travelling to and from meetings of the council. Perhaps the Minister will tell us, when he replies, how often the council will meet, and where its meetings will be held.
– Two meetings of the council have already been held - one at Hobart, and one at Canberra.
– As the council has already been formed, it is important that this legislation be passed without delay and money made available to it.
– The money cannot be made available until the budget has been passed.
– That is so.
– I should like the Minister to give to the House an assurance that the vote to the council will not be expended on buildings, but will be confined to research.
– The council has recommended that all the money be expended on research; it has asked that no money be spent on buildings.
– The council could render valuable service by sending abroad men who- have distinguished themselves in our universities and hospitals so that they may become acquainted with what is being done in other countries. In England and the United States of America, large sums of money are being made available for medical research, particularly into the causes of cancer and tuberculosis. As the council will be unable to -spread its activities over the whole range of disease, hut will have to concentrate on a few diseases, I should like to know which of them will be tackled first. Unfortunately, the field is large ; there is need for research, into cancer, tuberculosis, infantile paralysis, maternal mortality, occupational diseases, and so on.
– In addition to their technical, qualifications, the members of the council have had practical experience. They will direct research along the most useful lines. More than that I cannot say at this stage.
– I hope that the Minister will keep in touch with the council, and see that it does not overlook the need for research into occupational diseases. This is a matter of considerable importance to Australia. In the portion of Queensland from which I come a good deal of mining is carried on, and I know that some thousands of men have died during the last fifteen or twenty years from miner’s phthisis. Some research has been undertaken in connexion with that disease, but there are other industries also in which the .workers are liable to contract occupational diseases. Among thom are the flour milling and glass manufacturing industries. While the professional men on the council will doubtless put their expert knowledge to good use, it will be well if the Minister takes a personal interest in its investigations. To some extent he should collaborate with the council, and I hope that he will see that they include research into occupational diseases.
– I shall direct the attention of the council to the honorable member’s remarks.
– As the health of the nation should be om- first consideration, this bill is of more importance than its size indicates. The economic struggle, with its spasmodic employment and attendant worries, is the root cause of much of the tuberculosis, heart disease, insanity, and malnutrition among the people of this and other countries. Medical research is an insurance for the whole nation ; it is still true that “ Prevention is better than cure “. Professor Harvey Sutton, the Director of Public Health and Tropical Medicine’ at the Sydney University, in addressing members of the New South Wales division of the Australian Dairy Factory Managers Association on the 26th May last, said -
If we want, physically fit adults we must provide a more adequate diet for children. There are 2,250,000 men between 18 and 45 in Australia, but only 750,000 of them are physically fit. We are spending millions on armaments for defence, and we should spend a few hundred thousand pounds to feed the children who eventually would have to do the work of the nation.
Evidence given at the recent inquiry into malnutrition revealed that there are thousands of cases of malnutrition in Australia. Among our fellow Australians there are thousands of men and women who, through lack of proper care in their youth, are now physically unfit. The following figures relating to rejected applicants for entry to the Defence Force during the twelve months ended July, 1935, should occasion us serious thought -
The Minister is aware of these startling figures, and is anxious to do something to remedy the existing unsatisfactory state of affairs. It is true that I have criticized him for talking rather than acting; but I realize that his advice regarding the necessity to increase the birth rate and avoid race suicide should have good results. On the 4th September, 1936, in one of his many statements to the press, the Minister deplored the low wages paid in Australia, and said that they were inadequate, having regard to the cost of food. He added -
I commend that conclusion to those industrial tribunals- in whose hands lies the destiny of the nation. Facts which have been cited to-day are, I think, conclusive evidence, and, in readjusting those wages in such a way, they would provide a means of ensuring for their children an adequate supply of nourishing food. If the wage received by the Australian people is less than will provide milk and a reasonable standard of living, it should be altered.
A study of the last Commonwealth census figures shows that 2,200,000 breadwinners in Australia received less than £3 a week and are maintaining 1,000,000 children under the age of sixteen years. It is not surprising, therefore, that malnutrition is rife. Owing to their low remuneration it is impossible for breadwinners to pay house rent, and also to educate, feed and clothe their children as they should be cared for. I admit that the problem is a very difficult one. It is regrettable that the wealthy members of the community do not take a deeper interest in it than they do.
The bill provides for the establishment of a fund, to be subscribed to by the Commonwealth Government and any members of the community who care to contribute. Let us hope that the Lord Nuffields of Australia will remember this fund in their wills, and that it will receive large bequests similar to those made, to universities. The Minister for Health, himself, addressing the Millions Club in Sydney recently, pointed out that, of Australia’s 2,000,000 children, 40 per cent, were suffering from malnutrition. I presume that, before making that statement, the Minister obtained expert advice on the matter. It is astounding to find, in a country like Australia, that nearly one-half of the children are not properly nourished.
– That is what Professor Harvey Sutton and Professor- Dew say.
– Yes. It seems that Commonwealth and State governments should have done a great deal more than they have to deal with this evil, since there are nearly 1,000,000 cases of malnutrition. I do not contend that these are all attributable to lack of food. Sometimes, through ignorance, parents do not give their children the right kinds of food. Even in homes in which there is an abundance of food, cases of malnutrition are discovered.
– Often in the homes of the wealthy.
– Yes ; but more frequently in the homes of the poor.
The facts that 1,860,000 persons were admitted to the public hospitals in Australia in one year, and that the infant mortality increased in one year from 48 to 50 in every thousand births, show that this subject is one of grave concern, and that something should bc done immediately along the lines suggested in this bill. Speaking in Sydney on a recent .occasion, the Minister for Health, himself, said -
It is df no uac to tell the people what they should do if they are not given the money with which to do it.
He was referring, no doubt, to the appeals which he had made to the public because of the serious decline of the birth rate in Australia and the numerous cases of malnutrition. It has been claimed by conservative governments that child endowment is not within the realm of practical politics, because it could not be financed, but I think that such a policy is amply justified. Children born in Australia are of much greater value than ‘ migrants brought here from overseas. It is estimated that each migrant costs this country £1,000 by the time his passage has been paid and he has been settled on the land. I trust that the subject of child endowment will engage the attention of the present Government. In some of the States, it has already received consideration, but no general scheme has been adopted. The latest report of the Melbourne City Council’s infectious diseases office shows that of 1,000 children between the ages of two and six years who had been medically examined, only 17 per cent, were deemed to have no physical defects. At the age of two years, 16 per cent, of the children were under weight. At three years of age 18 per cent., at four years 23 per cent., and at five years 43 per cent, were undernourished. Figures mentioned by the Minister show that whilst, for the census period 1911-21, the population under ten years of age had increased by 217,000. and for the census period 1921-33 the increase was only 381, the falling-off of the birthrate had cost Australia 350,000 valuable young lives. This position is astounding and must arrest the attention of all thoughtful people. In reply to a question which I asked in the House this week, statistics were supplied showing the percentage of birthrate in various countries at ten-year intervals since 1906 to be as follows : -
That table discloses a very serious position. In a speech delivered some months ago the Minister said that if the birthrate in Australia declined at its present rate our population would be stationary by 1960. That is most alarming for a nation whose development, security and general financial stability depend upon its acquiring a large and virile population. The financial and economic depression played an important part in reducing our birthrate. During that period 2,200,000 breadwinners had to support 1,000,000 children on an average income of £3 a week.
– Medical research into birth control has had an effect upon the present position.
– Birth control has been encouraged largely by the publicity given to the use of contraceptives. I was told of one trader who perused the birth notices in the daily newspapers, and then sent his literature to the mothers with a view to disposing of his literature at a profit. Prompt action should be taken by the authorities against those trading in commodities which have a detrimental effect upon the general health and welfare of the nation. An effort should be made to prevent such literature going through the post.
– Some chemists have been warned that their literature will not be transmitted through the post, and that should be a warning to others.
– The standard of living should be raised to encourage people to have larger families.
– The higher the remuneration received by the breadwinner, the fewer the children. How does the honorable member account for that?
– Many women would rather spend their leisure on the golf links or at afternoon tea parties, than care for healthy and happy infants. Unfortunately women find children embarrassing, and it is a national tragedy that families are much smaller than they were some years ago. The position can be improved by raising the standard of living of the masses, and preventing, so far as is possible, the circulation of literature concerning contraceptives. Honorable members are aware that while the white population is increasing very slowly the coloured peoples of the world are increasing rapidly. Some honorable members have seen the natural and happy conditions under which the natives in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea live. On a trip in the vicinity of Kavieng I saw thousands of natives indulge in a sing-sing “ surrounded by happy children and an abundance of foodstuffs. They knew nothing of the depression or serious problems confronting the world to-day. Nature is looking after them and their numbers are multiplying at a rapid rate. The members of the Labour party believe that one of the best ways in which the birthrate in Australia can be increased is. by raising the standard of living; a man on the present basic wage cannot support a wife and five or six children in reasonable comfort. In these circumstances, there is every justification to establish in Australia a childhood endowment scheme. Children are of value, and the nation should assist the mothers who risk their lives in bringing them into the world. The wealthy should be compelled to pay higher taxes to finance an endowment scheme, which, eventually, would have a very beneficial effect upon the nation. I support the bill.
.- This measure, which will be welcomed by all sections of the House, is particularly satisfactory to those honorable members who have directed attention to the unsatisfactory health of the community. At present the general health level in Australia is second, only to that of New Zealand, but there is also proof that it is not as high as it should be. We therefore welcome the bill as part of a programme which should be a means of improving the health of the whole community. Quite apart from personal considerations, honorable members should have a very keen interest in the subject, because of the extent to which “the health of the people affects Commonwealth, finance. For the financial year just concluded the Commonwealth had to pay approximately £4,000,000 to 84,000 invalid pensioners. The bill proposes to establish a fund from which research into medical problems can be financed, and follows upon the establishment . in the Commonwealth of a National Health and
Medical’ Research. Council. That council, which met for the first time this year, has submitted a series of recommendations. The first recommendation was -
The council wishes to direct attention to the importance in initiating a national scheme of encouragement to research, of - (a.) encouraging young medical graduates to take up medical research as a career, and
securing definite and assured continuity and permanence tothe research system now being inaugurated.
As graduates will not decide to take up research as a career unless the permanency of the system is assured and as. the success of this new development depends so materially upon continuity, the council recommends to the Government that such legislation be passed aswill ensure a definite annual sum allocated for purposes recommended by the council.
The council recommends that this annual amount be at first £30,000.
The formation of such a council in the Commonwealth follows upon the formation of a similar body in Great Britain. The latest report issued by the council in Great Britain shows that the Government of the United Kingdom granted to it for purposes of research during the present financial year, an amount of £165,000, which was equal to the sum allotted to it during the previous year. In addition to this money, considerable contributions to the funds of the council for the promotion of particular classes of research were made by many private individuals and organizations. In this connexion it should also be noted that Lord Nuffield made a generous andfar-sighted gift of £2,000,000 to the University of Oxford for medica research and post-graduate teaching in medical science.. The council in Great Britain has been proceeding withthe class of work which, we understand, the council in Australia will undertake for the Commonwealth. The matter of research into occupational disease which was raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) is given close attention bythe council in Great Britain, and if the honorable gentleman will, examine its latest report, he will find that particular reference is made to cotton dust asthma, a malady which affects certain workers in the cotton industry. We may reasonably assume that researches into the occupational diseases along similar lines will be carried on in Australia. The council itself must command the confidence of not only members of this House, but also the Australian people generally. It has an impressive membership and consists of distinguished representatives of medical science. I regret to note that there is no representative of dental science on the council, particularly as that body on page 7 of its report, recommended that dental research should be encouraged and recognized as part of the general scheme of its research. I understand that appointments to the council must conform with rules which govern the formation of the body; and I suggest that if it is now impracticable to appoint a representative of dentistry to that body, a subcommittee of the council might possibly be formed for the purpose of considering dental matters and a representative of dentistry could be co-opted by it. I make that suggestion to the Minister in the hope that he will give it the consideration that I feel it warrants. However, something more than the valuable endeavour of talented research workers is wanted, and something more than the recommendations of gifted men of science is necessary in order to obtain the best results. This fund, if it is inaugurated and adequately financed, will go a long way towards securing the services of research workers and giving to them the security of permanence of employment which is so essential if the best talent is to be obtained. But after having appointed research workers and set up a council to investigate their recommendations and matters akin to them, it is sincerely hoped that governments will not, as is too often the experience, simply shelve the. recommendations which the council itself will make. Having regard to the capabilities and the character of the men who are the present members of that council, their advice should receive close attention and their recommendations should be put into operation as soon as possible. It is too often found that the Department of Health, which has perhaps, little political significance, is neglected far more than the important subject matter with which it deals warrants.It is further to be hoped that, in these more enlightened days, with the evidence before us of what can be done in medical research and medical attention for the community generally, we can envisage definite progress in this direction.
The council, however, has made recommendations along lines other than those of pure research and I hope that this bill merely represents the first step in an ambitious programme for the improvement of health. In his inaugural address at the first session of the council, the Director General of Health paid particular attention to the subject of the hygiene of childhood, and following upon his remarks, special heed of the matter was apparently taken by the council, which made a series of resolutions in the following terms: -
The council directs the attentionof governments in Australia to serious neglect in adequate supervision of the bodily development of children before and during school age. The important influence on individual health in the community of supervision of the growing child up to and including the stage of adolescence has been abundantly demonstrated.
While something is being done on sound lines already, a relatively small portion of the field has been covered. The council considers that the whole system of health supervision of children should be immediately reviewed with the object of securing: -
The council considers that every endeavour should be made to ensure that each child should be medically examined at least once a year; it is desirable that the family medical attendant should be associated with these examinations as far as possible.
The training of teachers should include instruction in physiology, physical culture, and the composition and preparation of food.
The council cannot accept the present state of supervision of child health as adequate, nor indeed as being the maximum that the public will permit. It believes that a definite extension on lines indicated will receive widespread public approval.
That is another direction in which this Government, and the State governments in co-operation with it, may act with advantage to the general welfare of the community. There is no necessity for me to express the desirability of children and adolescents having a continuity of good health assured for them by adequate preventative, measures in early childhood. We have the cost of our invalid and oldage pensions bill to guide us and, as I have mentioned and has been stated by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, we have evidence that the general standard of health among the youths of Australia, particularly those who have volunteered for military service or who were examined for military service in the days of compulsory training, is far lower than it should be. Dr. Cumpston mentioned in his address how small was the percentage of children in the community who were given this medical examination, which is consideredto be so necessary if any preventive measures are to be taken at a reasonably early stage. He pointed out that -
In the year 1933, when the census was taken, there were in Australia 1,252,602 children of school age. Of these, 142,429 were medically examined. That is 11 per cent. only who were under medical supervision that year The classification does not permit of any exact statement of the number of these who were found to be in some way physically defective but it is safe to place the figure at a minimum of 50 per cent.
We may well stop to reflect that, while we spend a great deal of money and a great deal of time in educating the mind of the child, we spend no time in our effort towards educating and developing his body.We know quite surely that diet and exercise are important aspects in the retention of health, but in respect of the nature of these have we taken anything like adequate pains to secure proper results.
In this matter, we may well adopt the slogan, “ Public health is public wealth”. I have indicated two lines along which progress could be made - along the lines of research which the bill envisages, and along the lines of greater supervision of hygiene in childhood. On that point I refer to the recommendation of the Advisory Council on Nutrition, that it is not only desirable, but also necessary, that a daily supply of milk should be given to children of school age, and, as far as practicable, to children of pre-school age as well. That is another direction in which governments might well act.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has dealt with the subject of malnutrition. Isuggest that the education of the people is even more important than any consideration of whether insufficient food is available at the present time. All the evidence points to the fact that malnutrition arises, not so much from an insufficiency of food, as from an insufficiency of the right kind of food. The report furnished by the honorary physicians of the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children, Sydney, states: -
Malnutrition does not necessarily imply an insufficient supply of food. Malnutrition in children may be due to: -
Insufficient food, due to the poverty or ignorance of the parents.
Unsatisfactory selection of foodstuffs as regards constituents or vitamin content.
Some neglect of general hygiene such as a sufficiency of fresh air and bodily exercise.
Some inability to assimilate food, however reasonably selected, resulting from some constitutional defect in the child or from the presence of some diseased condition.
Here is an avenue along which the education of the people has yet a long way to go. The council refers in its report to the necessity for greater education, but, as I mentioned earlier, it is fruitless for such a body to investigate these matters and make recommendations after due consideration, unless its recommendations are given effect by the governments to which they are made. It is to be hoped, not only that a much greater degree of activity will be shown in this direction in the future, but also that there will be greater co-operation between the States and the Commonwealth. I understand that there has not been a conference of Commonwealth and State Health Ministers since 1926. Surely, in view of the importance of this matter to the community, it is desirable that those who are responsible for the administration of the different Departments of Health should meet every year or so, pool the knowledge that they have gained and the ideas they may have, and, by co-operative effort, go very much further towards an improvement of the general standard of health of the people.
The research programme mapped out calls first for an annual expenditure of £30,000. I feel confident that I can assure the Minister that he will have the whole-hearted support of the members of this House in pressing for the inclusion in the next budget of the full amount for which the council asks. If, the programme is to be carried out along the lines recommended by the council, the amount of £30,000 will be necessary. Any less amount would involve some curtailment of the programme, and it would be not only a distinct disappointment, but also, I suggest, a distinct slur on gentlemen of the capabilities of those who are represented on the council, if, in connexion with the first report that they present to the Government, they found that they were to be denied the consideration to which their qualifications entitle them. For my part I give the Minister every assurance of support in pressing for the full amount recommended by the council.
On the general question of health, including such matters as the supply of milk, the education of the public, and the other matters that have been referred to, it is obvious that expenditure of government money, whether Commonwealth or State, will be necessary. It is an expenditure which, to my mind, should not be shirked, however great the cost ; because I feel confident that the ultimate saving to the community, not only in pensions payments, but also in the avoidance of economic loss by industry, and the reduction of hospital and other charitable expenditure, would result in definite economy as far as the people of the Commonwealth generally are concerned.
I congratulate the Minister upon having introduced this measure, express the hope that it is but the first step in an extensive health programme, and commendits passage to honorable members.
– In a broad sense, I have no wish to do other than express complete approval of anything which either this or any other government may do in the direction of investigating matters that make for an improvement of the health of our people, as well as everything that can be done, by science or otherwise, to eradicate those forces which make ravages on the physical well-being of the people. But I cannot refrain from expressing astonishment at one particular remark of ihe Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) when introducing the bill. The right honorable gentleman re-erred to the fact that there are two main forces which make for ill health, one being economic, and the other being due to disease. The sickness of some persons is due largely to underfeeding, but the sickness of others is traceable to overfeeding and over-drinking. That is well recognized by medical men. The right honorable gentleman brushed aside the causes that are economic, saying that they are most easily rectified. I remind the right honorable gentleman that he has been in this Parliament for a long time and has held important positions in a number of governments. What has he done to rectify the position? He said that he did not need experts to tell him what economic factors make for ill health; he knows what they are, and in his opinion they are most easily remedied. I repeat: What i.« he going to do in the direction of providing a remedy? What action does the Government propose to take in regard to four families living in a four-roomed bouse and using the one sanitary convenience? The right honorable gentleman knows that such conditions are being eradicated in older countries; yet they are being transplanted into this country. Let members of the Ministry go into the -lum areas which those splendid men and women who are working on behalf of the different churches are exposing every day in Sydney, Melbourne and elsewhere. What are their intentions regarding the habitations to which I have referred recently - men sleeping under such cover sis is provided by bits of bags stretched across poles, on damp or wet ground, thus sowing the seeds of disease, not only in themselves, but also in their children. The extent to which the ravages of these diseases will spread in the community is hard to visualize. What does the right honorable gentleman propose to do about the man on the dole? To-day, if he is single, he receives about 6s. worth of food weekly, but nothing to provide himself with clothing or
Debate (on motion by Mr. E. J. Harrison) adjourned.
Chief Judge Dethridge : Salary Reduction and Duties - International Situation - Commonwealth Railways Employees : Long Service Leave - Tantalite - Honorable Member Wearing Hat in .Strangers’ Gallery - Defining the “ House “.
Motion (by Mr. Paterson) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I wish to bring under the notice of the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) certain matters which I shall not probably have another opportunity to raise this session. In order to obtain information from the right honorable gentleman I placed a number of questions on the notice-paper relating to Judge Dethridge, Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. One of my questions was -
What reduction of salary was agreed to by Judge Dethridge during the operation of the reductions of salaries provided for under the financial emergency legislation?
The reply I received was -
The Chief Judge voluntarily surrendered a substantial part of his salary during the period in question.
That, I suggest, is not a full’ answer to my inquiry. I wanted to know what was the actual reduction in respect of Chief Judge Dethridge’s salary. I feel sure that honorable members generally will agree that the reply is unsatisfactory.
– It is an evasion.
– As a matter of fact, nearly all of the replies furnished to my questions are evasions. Another question which I asked was as follows: -
Upon how many days, and for how many hours during the past twelve months was Chief Judge Dethridge engaged upon the work of presiding over the sittings of the court?
The reply furnished by the AttorneyGeneral was -
To obtain this information would be extremely difficult, and would unnecessarily occupy the time of officers. In any event, the question misconceives the nature of the functions of “ a judge, much of whose work must necessarily toe done at times when he is not actually sitting in court.
I did not ask the Attorney-General to describe the duties of the judge. I asked definitely on how many days, and for how many hours, during the past twelve months he had presided over the Federal Arbitration Court, and the AttorneyGeneral should know that it is not difficult to secure that information. A further question was -
Does Chief Judge Dethridge perform any duties in return for his salary other than presiding over the sittings of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court?
The reply furnished to me in respect of this question- was -
Yes, many other duties.
I wish to know just what these other duties are which, it is said, the Chief Judge performs apart from presiding over the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. I directed these questions to the AttorneyGeneral for the purpose of securing information to assist me in raising certain questions which I have been asked -to raise by representative bodies in the electorate which I represent. The replies given to me have been purely evasive, or, it may be, the Attorney-General absolutely declines to supply the information I seek. It would have been much more to the point, and more honest on the part of the Attorney-General, if he had said that he was not prepared, or was not able, to reply satisfactorily to my questions. His action in this respect simply amounts to trifling with honorable members who, in the exercise of their duties, and according to their privileges, seek information in this House. I hope that my remarks will be brought under the notice of the Attorney-General and that he will, at the earliest opportunity, supply the information for which
.- Is the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) in a position to make a statement concerning the reports at present circulating of increased gravity in the relations of European powers, arising out of the situation in Spain? The reports portend increased tension occasioning grave disquietude regarding the prospect of maintaining the peace of the world. Has the Government received any information from the British Government regarding this matter?
– I desire to bring under the notice of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) a request from the secretary of the Boilermakers Union at Port Augusta, and the secretary of the Combined Unions, for the introduction of a system of pro rata longservice leave for employees of the Commonwealth railways. Correspondence on this subject has passed between me and the Minister, and the reply of the Minister was to the effect that the request would be discussed with the Commonwealth Commissioner for Railways. At present, it is provided that men, after having completed ten years’ service, are entitled to long-service leave, but the men feel that an employee, after having completed, say, eight years service or less, and who is then dismissed for some reason, should not be deprived of all benefits under this provision. Naturally, the men appreciate what has been given to them in respect of long-service leave, and they now courteously request that the pro rata system, as suggested, be introduced.
– To-day, the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) was good enough to inform me, in answer to a question regarding the disposal of tantalite found in the Northern Territory, that no steps had been taken to secure this metal for the use of British countries, and he added that the output of the metal was very small. This metal is so rare and so valuable that it is quoted in the world’s markets by the ounce, so it is not surprising that the output should be small. The mineral statistics of the United States of America show that the ore from which the metal is extracted was produced in that country to the extent of only 100 lb. The Pilbarra fields in Western Australia produce almost the world’s total supplies of tantalite, which amounts to 141/2 tons annually.
– I call your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that a stranger is in the House with his hat on.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).Until this moment, I did not see any one in the House with his hat on. I now see the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) seated in the House wearing his hat, and he is entitled to do so.
– -One of the main uses to which tantalite is putis for the strengthening and hardening of steel. Recently, the press reported the presence in the Northern Territory of representatives of two foreign countries who are trying to secure control of Australia’s production of this metal. The Government should take steps to ensure that rare metals of this kind shall not be allowed to get into the hands of those who might use them for purposes not in accordance with the desires of British people.
– I support the statements of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. A. Cameron). I believe that some action should be taken by the Government to keep control of supplies of tantalite, of which Australia has almost a monopoly. Recently, it has been ascertained that this metal is particularly useful for hardening steel for armour-plating, and this makes it of tremendous importance. We should conserve our supplies of that metal, and take steps to prevent it from being used for offensive purposes against us. The total production of tantalite up to the year 1934, which is the last year for which figures are available, was 216 tons, valued at £52,372, the average price being approximately £250 a ton. Tantalite is claimed to be superior to steel for surgical instruments and special tools, because it does not rust. It possesses a high degree of resistance to rust and corrosion. A journal called The Mineral Industry, for 1935, states-
Although small quantities of tantalite arc produced in the United States of America, the chief source of supply is Western Australia, about 12 tons being produced there in 1934. Tantalite, a pure metal, is used for a wide variety of purposes in the chemical and electrical industries, and as a carbide in machine tools of various types where extreme hardness and resistance to abrasion are required.
If we have any national outlook, we should take steps to preserve for ourselves an asset of this kind, which cannot be produced elsewhere. I have no wish that other nations should be deprived of the use of our products when we have more of them than we ourselves need, but hern is a metal of which supplies are very limited, and the Government, should take such action as is necessary to keep those supplies under our own control.
. -With reference to the matter raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), I have heard around the House the rumours to which he referred, but I have not been able to obtain verification of them.
– With reference to the profoundly unimportant point I raised a moment ago, when I intimated to you, Mr. Speaker, that there was a stranger in the House with his hat on, you replied that you saw no stranger except an honorable member who is entitled to wear his hat. I do not attach great importance to the rule on the subject except as far as it is necessary to observe, with due respect to the Chair and the forms of the House, all of the rules. I should like you to understand that I did not raise a point which
I am unable to sustain. The position was that the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) was seated in the Strangers’ Gallery” wearing his hat. The first point I should like to have cleared up is whether the rule as to a member wearing his hat in the House extends to the Strangers’ Gallery, and whether a member is free to wear his hat amongst strangers in the Strangers’ Gallery? Secondly, was I not right in suggesting that the honorable member was acting irregularly in walking from the Strangers’ Gallery to his place in the House wearing his hat?
– It was mostirregular.
– I agree. The point is not one of supreme importance, and is not one which I think will influence my election or rejection in the electorate of Batman. At the same time, it is a matter of the rules of the House, the rules upon which you insist, sir, and I take leave to point out that the actual facts, which may have escaped your notice, were that the honorable member was seated outside the limits of the House as technically understood, and wore his hat at an even more rakish angle than is customary for the honorable gentleman while he walked from the Strangers’ Gallery to his place in the House. I submit that in both cases he was out of order.
– The honorable member in stating his point of order, to whichI replied intheterms which he has just outlined, said, “ There is a stranger in the House wearing his hat “. As an old Parliamentarian the honorable member knows that there is a distinction between the House and the chamber which covers the Strangers’ Gallery. At the timehe raised the point of order I looked around and saw no one in the House wearinga hat, but as I looked in the direction of the honorable member for Martin (Mr.. McCall) he rose from where he was sitting, removed his hat, walked into the House, and replaced it on his head.I then said that I had seen no one until that moment wearing his hat. and that the honorable member for Martin was quite in order in doing so in the House. That is precisely in accordance with theStanding Orders.
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker,I desire to know if, when thedivision bells have ceased ringing and the doors are locked, an honorable member not outside the doors’ is considered as being in the House. It is desirable that the boundaries of the House be clearly defined. For instance, it is most necessary when division bells are ringing to know whether a member is within the House or not. I remind you that some time ago the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) was sitting in a place inside the chamber, but not in his seat, and yet was ruled not to be within the House.
– The boundaries of the House are well recognized. They comprise that area occupied by the benches on which honorable members are seated. If an honorable member is inside the chamber when the division bells cease ringing he is entitled to walk to his seat, but if he remains in a gallery or at the door he is not regarded as being within the House, and, as in the case mentioned by the honorable member, may not have his name recorded in a division list. I can discover no other point in the point of order raised.
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.
– Order ! The honorable member must not base a point of order on a point of order whichhas already been taken.
– On one occasion, when I was acting as teller in company with the honorable members for New England (Mr. Thompson), Robertson (Mr. Gardner), and Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson), the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) came into the House and sat in one of the corner seats usually occupied by the private- secretary to the Leader of theOpposition. Objection was taken by the honorable member for New England to the inclusion of his name in the division list on the ground that the honorable member was not within the precincts of the House.
– I trust that honorable members are not trifling with the Chair, but I may say to the honorable member that I well remember the incident to which he referred. The honorable member for Melbourne was then sitting in the place usually occupied by the secretary to the Leader of the Opposition. It is not within the House. The honorable member for Melbourne explained at the time that he was sitting there during a division through inadvertence and thathe thought that the seat he then occupied was part of the House and he had the right to have his name recorded in a division which was taking place at the time. I asked the House if it agreed to the name of the honorable member being included in the division list as, in my opinion, he was outside through inadvertence, but as one honorable member objected, I had no option but to rule that the honorable member for Melbourne was not in the House. My ruling was in accordance with what had been done on previous occasions and was not questioned at the time.
– The matter raised by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) will be brought under the notice of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, who happens to be in Canberra at the moment.
The rare mineral, tantalite, referred to by the honorable members for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) and Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) is openly competed for by various nations, and I think honorable members will realize that Great Britain has the same opportunity to compete for it in Australia as has any other country, and is doubtless fully alive to the. fact that it is obtainable in Australia, Nevertheless, I shall look into the point raised by the honorable members.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 1 1 . 30 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
e.- On the 29th June, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) asked the followingquestion, upon notice -
Willhe give an assurance that, if confidential information is given at the request of departmental officers, he will, if so desired by the person supplying the information, undertake that such information will not be made available to any one other than departmental officers.
I am now able to informthe honorable member that it is not the practice for the department to disclose confidential information to unauthorized persons.
e. - On the 29th June, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) asked the following questions, upon notice -
Iam now able to furnish the honorable member with the following replies : - 1.12,254 tons, representing about 2 per cent. of Australia’s requirements. 2. (a) Information is not available. (b) 2,015 tons.
e.- On the 29th June, the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) asked the following question, upon notice -
What was the amount of aspirin, (a) imported into, and (b) produced in, each State and Australia during 1930?
I am now able to. furnish the honorable member with the following replies: -
Customs Duty on Triclorethelene.
– On the 29th June, the honorable member for Boothby (Mr.
Price) asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
s. - On the 28th June, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) asked the Acting Treasurer the following questions, upon notice: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 June 1937, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1937/19370630_reps_14_153/>.