14th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr.CURTIN. - I ask the Prime Min ister whether there is any truth in the newspaper report that a certain happening in Victoria has not led to any change of the Government’s plan in respect of the holding of the federal elections? If that he true, and as the Government has a plan in connexion with the elections, will the right honorable gentleman, in order to avoid business confusion and difficulty to the various interests concerned with the date of the poll, now let the Parliament know on what date it is contemplated that the elections shall be held ?
– First, it is true that the happening in Victoria will not affect the date on which the federal elections will be held. Secondly, the Government has not a plan in regard to the elections. I have made that clear.
– It never had a plan.
– May I say to the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr.
Scullin), that when he went to the country as Prime Minister he had not a plan; he was driven there. We made a plan for him, and later fixed him.
– I did’ not twist on my party.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Unless honorable members preserve order I shall not allow any more questions.
– I was endeavouring to point out that there is no definite plan and no fixed date for the elections. It is not the practice to announce the date of an election until the Parliament is about to be dissolved. When that stage is reached, I shall take the Souse into my confidence. The position will not be altered until the Government is ready to make an announcement.
Position or Australian trade Commissioner.
– In view of. the unsettled state of affairs in Shanghai, can the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs inform the House as to what steps, if any, are being taken to ensure the safety of the Australian Trade Commissioner, who is now located in that city?
– No special steps are being taken in respect of the Australian Trade Commissioner. He remains at Shanghai, as do other trade commissioners, and consular and diplomatic representatives, with whom he will act in concert.
– According to a press report, Mr. Speaker, you ruled last night that an honorable member is not compelled to make himself heard if he does not wish to do so. Does that mean that an honorable member will not be acting contrary to the Standing Orders if he merely mumbles to himself, and no one else can hear him?
– Was the honorable member not present when I gave my ruling?
– I was not.
– The ruling that I gave was that an honorable member was not compelled to make himself heard by another honorable member. In the case in question, the honorable member was not muttering; the Chair could hear every word that was said.
Shortage of Supplies in London.
– Will the Minister for Commerce state whether the reported shortage of supplies of Australian frozen and chilled beef in London is due to the change over to the export of chilled beef, or to an increased demand for beef in Australia or to any other conditions?
– Any shortage in London would be due, not to the change over from frozen to chilled beef, but to seasonal conditions in Australia. The great bulk of the beef exported from Australia comes from Queensland. All the complaints that have been made have come from southern capital cities. The total consumption in Australia is roughly 70 per cent, of the production, and that remains fairly constant.
– Can the Minister for Defence give the reason for his department’s stifling of the enthusiasm of young men in the country for the formation of light horse units? I have received a letter in which the complaint is made that permission has been refused in two cases in which efforts were made by 20 or 30 young men of splendid type, to form a light horse brigade.
– May I suggest that the honorable member should use a more suitable expression than “ stifling “. There is no stifling of enthusiasm by the Defence Department in connexion with the defence of this country. One of the great difficulties associated with defence, as the honorable member well knows, is the difficulty of financial limitations.
– They are willing to find their own horses.
– A campaign was launched recently with the object of raising the strength ‘ of the militia to the peace-time establishment of 35,000 men. That object waa achieved. There are other important matters demanding expenditure. The simple fact is, that the Military Board is unable to see its way to spend the money that would be necessary to increase the units of the nature described by the honorable member while, in its opinion, there is more important work on which tha money could be spent.
– Will the Minister for the Interior make arrangements for the Commonwealth Gazette to be supplied to a greater number of post offices than is the case under the present grading of post offices, in areas in which the activities of- the Commonwealth are greater than the average, such as along Commonwealth railways, where the people are interested in matters such as the calling of tenders?
– The Commonwealth Gazette is controlled by the Prime Minister’s Department. There is a Gazette officer who, I believe, deals with the matter of what appears in the Gazette, as well as with its circulation. I suggest that the honorable gentleman get in touch with that officer.
– Will the Minister for Defence lay on the table of the House all papers connected with the transfer of Colonel Winter from head-quarters to Brisbane ?
– I shall give consideration to the matter.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether it is the intention of the Government to submit to the House for adoption during this session the report of the Standing Orders Committee, which completed its deliberations this year?
– I had hoped that it might be possible to do something of the sort, but I am afraid that there will not be sufficient time. Some of - the noncontentious amendments might be adopted. I shall be glad to confer with honorable members of the Opposition to see whether some, if not all, of the amendments might be disposed of. In fact, I have received from a member of the Standing Orders Committee, the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), a suggestion along those lines.
Motor Industry - Tools op Precision - Trade Balance with the United States of America.
-In view of the disorganization of both the body-building and assembly sections of the motor car industry, owing to the difficulty of procuring the delivery from England of a sufficient number of chassis, will the Minister for Trade and Customs consider the relaxation of the prohibition- on imports of chassis from the United States of America, so that those persons who have been displaced can get back into the industry?
– I. am afraid that the honorable member is not in possession of the true facts, when he says that there has been unemployment or displacement of labour.
– According to the Minister, nobody has the true facts.
– I made the same remark the other day in regard to the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), because he, too, was astray in his statements. It will be found that employment in the motor body-bulding industry and in the motor industry generally is growing, not diminishing.
– At Holden’s, 212 men have been put off.
– That may be. But the Ruskin Company in Melbourne has landed a hugh order, which it says will be the means of giving employment for many additional men. What is lost by one firm is more than made up by another. It is a fact, as I informed the honorable member for Hunter, that the largest firms are not importing up to the quota fixed. The quota year was one of large imports. Certainly,- some firms can sell more than the quota. The idea of the trade diversion policy, however, was to divert trade into British channels, from a country that “was not buying from us as much as it should have bought. That policy has been successful, in that it has definitely been the means of securing the establishment of new industries in Australia, providing a great deal of employment, and diverting to the United Kingdom orders for chassis of a value of over £400,000.
– In view of the complaints that are continually reaching honorable members concerning the difficulties that surround the motor industry by reason of the restraint imposed on trade by recent regulations, will the Government consider as an urgent matter the taking of steps to relieve the position ?
– The difficulties to which the honorable member lias referred are constantly under the attention of the
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs yet given consideration to the letter forwarded to him by tlie Chamber of Automotive Industries of New South Wales on the 12th August last in which reference is made to the serious inconvenience suffered by the motor trade in consequence of the Government’s so-called trade diversion policy? In amplification of my question I direct attention to the following paragraph of the letter: -
The information that the department is not in a position to give full consideration to this matter because the Government’s intentions in this regard have not been disclosed, has been received with alarm by my members, and I have been directed to ask if you will be so good as to do everything you can to enable your department to deal with such a vital request.
Has the Minister come to any decision on this subject? If so will he announce it so that the anxiety of those engaged in this industry may he allayed?
– There have been criticisms and a good deal of hostile propaganda in regard to the Government’s trade diversion policy. I do not recollect the particular letter to which the honorable member has referred, but I have in mind some propaganda from the Tariff Reform League on the subject. Some of the letters that have been received have a note of authority in them, and some are very much the reverse. Inevitably, the policy of diverting trade from one country to another must cause disabilities and difficulties to certain businesses, but the Government must act, and has acted, in the national interest. It has not been actuated by any desire whatever to injure particular businesses or industries. The advantages of the trade diversion policy to the nation far outweigh the disadvantages of it to certain sections of the community.
– “Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform me whether it is a fact that there is no prohibition on the importation into Great Britain of American motor cars ? If so, how can the honorable gentleman reconcile the unfriendly policy of this Government towards the manufacturers of motor cars in the United States of America with the policy of Great Britain, one result of which is that purchasers of motor cars in Australia are forced to buy English cars which they do not wish to buy owing to the shortage of American cars? ‘
– In most countries of the world any class of motor car can be imported under certain duties. American motor cars are not prohibited from entry into Australia; they are merely subjected to a very generous quota, while British chassis are free. The number of American . and Canadian motor cars imported here considerably exceeds the number of British cars imported. As Great Britain is by far the best purchaser of Australian primary production it is only right, however that Australia should do everything it possibly can to encourage the purchase of British products in this country.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform me whether it is a fact that 70 per cent, or 80 per cent, of each motor car of American origin sold in Australia is actually manufactured in this country and that, as a rule, only the engine and chassis are imported?
– That is so. It is claimed that 80 per cent, of such finished motor cars is of Australian origin. ‘ The body, the tyres, the batteries, and many accessories, are manufactured in this country. If the Government’s trade diversion policy comes to full fruition, the whole motor car will be manufactured here before very long.
– In view of the improved trade balance between Australia and the United States of America, will the Minister for Trade and Customs bring under the notice of the Government the desirableness of completely revising the quota system which at present governs importations from America?
– That is a matter of policy which cannot be stated in answer to a question’. The Government, however, is unlikely to place further quotas upon imports from the United States of America. It is desirable, of course, that our trade with the United States of America should be placed upon a better footing and wc hope tl] at a trade treaty more satisfactory to both countries may replace the trade diversion policy as early as possible.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform me why the importation of motor cars from the United States of America is governed by the quota system, whereas the importation of American tools of precision and certain machinery which is not competitive with the manufactures of Australia, is totally prohibited?
– Because the total prohibition of the importation of motor vehicles would undoubtedly have involved many persons in serious hardship and disability the quota system was adopted. Tools of precision and the machinery which, doubtless, the honorable member has in mind could be prohibited without incurring any serious dislocation of trade locally. Moreover, such requirements could bc obtained from Great Britain and other good customer countries. For that reason a total prohibition of such imports was decided upon by the Government.
Protection of Northern Waters
– Has the Minister for the Interior noticed the paragraph in this morning’s press to the effect that, as the result of an interview between representatives of Japanese pearlers and the Administrator of the Northern Territory, the arrested lugger’ Dai Nippon Maru is likely to be released, and that Mr. Yamai, president of the Caiyo Pearling Company, had assembled 110 pearlers and warned them that they must not enter territorial waters off Arnheim Land ? If any agreement has been made, will the Minister stipulate that the northwest coast of Australia shall be free from these marauders?
– I am not aware of any agreement having been made of the nature described in the newspaper report referred to, but I shall look into the matter.
– Can the Minister for Defence, either as Minister controlling civil aviation, or as Minister representing the Postmaster-General in this House, say when it is likely that a decision will be arrived at as to the internal mail services required to link up with the over- seas service ?
– Any alteration of the internal services is contingent upon the British air mail service being in operation. Until that stage has been reached, there is no occasion for any alteration. The matter is being held up for the present pending some further advice from Great Britain and final settlement of the details of the arrangements in connexion with the British air mail service. Every effort is being made to expedite the conclusions on the matter.
– Have the negotiations with the Dutch Government for the establishment df air services been completed and, if not, when are they likely to be finalized ?
Sir ARCHDALE PARKHILL.Finality in this matter may be expected at any moment; the negotiations are nearing completion.
– I ask the following questions of the honorable the Treasurer - Is he aware that, at a recent public meeting at Ashfield, the mayor of that suburb said that, after making arrangements for his account to be transferred to the Commonwealth Bank, he was informed by the local manager that the bank could not take his business because he proposed to transfer it from a private bank ? Is he aware that a member of the Opposition endeavoured to open a trust account at the Commonwealth Bank, Sydney, and was so put about by the requirements of the bank that he transferred the business to another bank which readily accepted it? Is he aware that a member of the Opposition who endeavoured to open an account at the Commonwealth Bank, Sydney, was asked by an official to state his reasons for wanting to open an account at the Commonwealth Bank? Is be aware that the policy of the Commonwealth Bank is to discourage the opening of accounts, and has the policy the approval “of the Government?
– I am not aware of the circumstances which the honorable gentleman has recounted, but if he will be good enough to let me have particulars, I shall take them into consideration.
-The form of the honorable member’s questions is not in order. It is not in order to ask “a Minister whether he is aware of certain facts. Questions may not be’ asked merely to test the knowledge of Ministers.
– In reply to a question which I asked some time ago, the Prime Minister informed me that Mr. H. C. Brown, the Auditor-General, had visited London, Toronto and New York, to examine the accountancy practice in operation at those places and that bis expenses to date amounted to £709. Is the Prime Minister aware that Mr. Brown is shortly to be retired from his position, and can he say whether it is the practice of the Government to send abroad for experience, highly paid officers of the Public Service who are nearing retirement ?
– I understand that_ the term for which the present AuditorGeneral was appointed will expire shortly; I do not know the exact date. It is not the practice of the Government to do as the honorable gentleman has suggested. In this case, the Auditor-General advised that it was desirable that he should have an opportunity to examine the accounts at the places mentioned, and, in the light of his recommendation, the Government approved his visit.
– Is it not a fact that the Auditor-General may act independently of the Government in these matters ?
– Within Australia he may act independently, but I am not sure of the position in regard to places outside Australia.
– Can the Minister for Health supply any information concerning an offer which, it is understood, has been made to him, to make available, for the prevention and cure of infantile paralysis, the remedies and treatments of Mr. Neil Featherstone, of Brunswickstreet, Melbourne, which have been successfully used for at least the last eight years in dealing with this disease ? Is the Minister aware that many specific cases of cure, with the names and addresses of the patients, have been brought under the notice of his department, and also the Victorian Infantile Paralysis Board? Has the department made any investigation of the claim and, if so, with what result ?
– The treatment of infantile paralysis by Mr. Neil Featherstone’s methods was brought under my notice last week by a deputation of representative citizens of Canberra, who furnished me with the names and addresses of persons who, they alleged, had been cured by such treatment, and supplied particulars of such cases. I have no knowledge of the treatment myself, but I told the deputation that I would bring their representations before the officers of my department immediately, and would also communicate with Sir John Harris, the Minister for Health in the Victorian Government. I have done as I promised, but beyond that I am unable to express any opinion.
– Is it correct that earlier this year the Government approved of the purchase and issue of aeroplanes to aero clubs in New South Wales and Victoria on certain conditions as to payment, but that a similar application by the Aero Club of Western Australia was refused?.
– I am unable to say offhand whether the position is as stated by the honorable member, but I should be astonished to find that it is so. I am sure that I shall be able to obtain details which will clear up the matter to the satisf action of the “honorable member. I shall let him know later the result of my inquiry.
– Can , the AttorneyGeneral say why provision has not been made for publications connected with awards and judgments of the Arbitration’ Court to be made available at the Commonwealth Offices in Sydney? I asked for this to be done some months ago, but, apparently, no notice was taken of my request.
– Ear from no notice having been taken of the honorable member’s previous request, I understood that it had been complied with. I shall find out if the position is as he has stated and, if so, why no action has been taken.
– I desire to ask a question of you, Mr. Speaker. Is it a fact that a first-aid cabinet is now being constructed at Parliament House for a ski club by employees of the Parliament, out of material the property of the Commonwealth Government? If so, who authorized ‘the carrying out of the work ?
– I have no knowledge of the matter to which the honorable member has referred, but I shall make inquiries.
– Oan the Minister for Commerce say whether it is his intention to send a message of good-will and conveying good wishes to Mr. Dunstan, the Premier of Victoria, in connexion with the forthcoming State general elections?
– If the honorable member lives long enough he will have an opportunity to see what I shall do and say.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. Last night, in the course of his address, the honorable member for East .Sydney (Mr. Ward), in accordance with his usual custom of introducing personalities into the debate-
– Order !
– He stated “that because of knowledge the honorable member for Hume had received concerning the termination of the dispute with Japan, he had deferred the offering of his wool, and had, to the extent of about £3 a bale, secured enhanced prices after the settlement.” That statement is absolutely and maliciously untrue. Mosthonorable members, as well as all persons associated with the sale of wool, know that wool is catalogued for sale in rotation, according to its arrival from the wool shed. I am prepared to give any mutually agreed upon impartial person access to my accounts with the wool firms which sold my wool. If it can be shown that, at any time, I have altered the due date for the sale of my wool, I shall contribute £100 to any charitable institution he wishes to name, provided-
– The honorable member may not make such statements in the course of a personal explanation.
– In view of statements made by several honorable members during the discussion on the Federal Aid Roads and Works Bill that a portion of the money should be devoted to the provision of facilities to assist fishermen, can the Treasurer say whether he has had an opportunity to pass on to the States the representations made?
– I think the State governments are aware of the views which were expressed, and I cannot believe that any good purpose would ‘be served by bringing to their notice the speeches delivered in this chamber. It is open for the honorable member himself to draw the attention of any State Premier to any expression of wishes in this matter.
– I desire to draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to a question which appears on the notice-paper for the 7th September. It deals with a matter of great public importance, namely, the increased price of butter.
Can you inform the House whether the fact that the question is on the noticepaper prevents other questions of a like character from being asked before that date? If so, can you say whether there is any limitation to the post-dating of questions with a view to stifling other questions on matters of public importance?
– Unless there are good reasons for deferring questions until a later date, such questions should not be placed on the notice-paper to the detriment of other questions which may be asked without notice. I assume that in this instance there are good reasons for the action taken. I shall ascertain the exact position.
– I desire to ask you a question, Mr. Speaker, concerning the incident at yesterday’s sitting during which I was named and suspended.
– If the honorable member’s question is a proper one I shall answer it, but not otherwise.
– It is a proper’ one. The report of the proceedings which I have obtained indicates to me that I was suspended for continually interjecting. In the printer’s proof of the speech that I made on that occasion yesterday I find that in the few minutes before the incident occurred the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) made innumerable-
– The honorable member must resume his seat. I shall not answer his question as it has nothing whatever to do with the incident.
– Has the Minister’ representing the Postmaster-General noticed a published statement by the management of the Broadcasting Commission to the effect that any politician who speaks over the national network on any subject or on any occasion receives a tremendous personal advertisement? Is the Minister able to say whether that statement expresses the opinion of all the members of the Broadcasting Commission?
– The statement has not been brought under my notice and I am not able to make any observation upon it.
– Will the Minister inform me who determines which members of Parliament shall speak over the national network? Is the decision made by the manager of the commission or by the commission as a whole?
– By the commission as a whole.
– As Dr. Thompson is now investigating the subject of fishing in Brisbane waters, I ask the Minister representing the Minister in Charge of Development whether arrangement could be made for him to visit the northern’ littoral in order to conduct an investigation into the possibility of developing a fishing industry in the waters abutting on the Northern Territory which are at present being combed by Japanese pearlers in search of pearl shell?
– I shall bring the honorable member’s question under the notice of the Minister.
The following paper was presented : -
Debate resumed from 1st September (vide page 444) on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- I do not propose to participate at any length in the controversy that has marked this debate as to whether the Scullin Government of 1930 was more to be pitied than blamed, or whether the electors, in summarily ejecting it from office in 1931, and resisting the blandishments of honorable members opposite in 1934, did so more in sorrow than in anger. But we have the curious position in this House at present that the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) and a number of
Labour members are claiming credit for the action taken by the Scullin Government and asserting that much of the prosperity which has been enjoyed by the country since that time is the direct result of the policy of that Government, while at the same time a considerable number of honorable members opposite, even to this day, wholeheartedly and thoroughly disagree with the action that was taken by the Scullin Government at that time. The man in the street - and he it is who put this Government into office, and has kept it there for the last six years - may not be fully aware of the direct results of the policy of the Scullin Government, but he knows full well that, whereas in 1931 this country was in a desperate condition, the intervening six years, through the leadership of the Lyons Government, have been marked by a steady progress to prosperity. I join issue with honorable gentlemen opposite at this juncture only on the statement that the actions of the Lyons Government during its term of office have been such as to cause the Government to forfeit the confidence of the people. If we compare the relative position to-day of any section of the community with its position in 1931 we shall find every justification for an expression “of renewed confidence in this Government, and for the fullest possible support of it in consequence of the good work that it has done.
Let us consider first the position of the workers. Honorable gentlemen opposite make the somewhat fulsome and thoroughly unjustifiable claim that they alone have the welfare of the workers of this country at heart, and that any good which may have accrued to the workers through the activities of the Lyons Government has been the accidental and indirect result of benefits which it has conferred, in the first instance, upon those whom, it is alleged, support it. I point out to honorable members opposite, however, that were it not for the fact that the United Australia Party in 1931 received a substantial measure of support from the working people of Australia it could not have assumed office, and if that support had not been renewed in 1934, after a three-years regime by the Lyons Government, it would not be in office at present. Prom whatever point the subject is viewed, the fact remains that a very considerable number of’ working men and women in Australia have been, throughout its term of office, satisfied that the policy of this Government has been the best policy for Australia. Let us now examine for a few moments the condition of the workers of Australia at present. It has been pointed out during this debate that marked reduction has occurred in the number of unemployed persons in the community during the last six years. According to the information obtained from trade union returns the figures have fallen from 30 per cent, to 9.7 per cent. I am. aware that these figures have been challenged by some honorable members opposite, but they have been neither seriously nor effectively attacked. The latest figures made available by the Government Statistician of New South Wales show that of the number of persons available for employment only 6.3 per cent, were unemployed in the last quarter for which figures are available. Furthermore, if we take as employed the full time equivalent of parttime workers, only 5 per cent, remain unemployed in that State. These. figures demonstrate the remarkable improvement of the employment position that has taken place, and effectively counter any suggestion to the contrary or that the improvement has not been in a substantial measure due to the policy of this Government. Quite apart from the question of employment, the worker has found that, with the steady progress made, his personal position has also improved. The recent application to the Arbitration Court by the trade unions resulted in an increase of the basic wage by 6s. a week for the States of New South Wales and Victoria and an average increase of 5s. a week throughout the Commonwealth, the increase applying, not only to those who are on the basic wage, but also to all workers covered by federal awards whatever their marginal wage may have been. In addition, the worker is aware that the Government is preparing a programme of social security, the lack of which has been one of the least satisfactory features of our economy in the past. If we turn to the position of the man on the land - and here again the claim has been made by honorable members opposite that they alone hare the welfare of the small man on the land at heart - we find that this Government, during its term of office, has made available the sum of £12,400,000 for the relief of primary producers and in addition £4,317,000 for farmers’ debt adjustment, the latter aid being, not for the wealthier farmers, but for the struggling men on the land who, as the result of reduced prices of primary products during the depression, became involved in financial difficulty. Next take the position of the manufacturer and those engaged in commerce and industry. I dwell on the position of this section of the community, because it was really the remarks of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) in this connexion that provoked me to take part in this debate. I have heard repeatedly from the honorable member and others the accusation that this Government, and the party to which I belong in particular, accept dictation from outside interests and that the United Australia party is virtually -the “fat man’s party”; but I have never found any substance behind such an assertion. At no time since I have been a member of this House have any outside organizations or business interests, or sections of business interests, to which the honorable member referred, brought indirect pressure on me as to any line of policy which it was considered should be adopted. That, in my opinion, is the general experience of honorable members on this side of the House.
– They do not dictate to the rank and file.
– As honorable members who constitute the rank and file of the parties on this side of the House have votes, it is reasonable to assume that they would get some inkling of any influence of the character suggested. But let us pause to consider the alleged favorable or partial treatment meted out by this Government to the wealthier elements in the community. First of all, let me say that the present budget gives a clear indication that there is no substance whatever in -that charge. tV e are told that we are to a great extent back to the conditions of 1929; yet we find that, although we are now collecting £20,000,000 more from the people of this country than we did in that year, and wc are making a record amount available for invalid and old-age pensions - nearly £2,000,000 more than for the last financial year - and, although we arc on the eve of an election, no attempt is being made to reduce taxes in order to pander to any particular class or section of the community, certainly not to the wealthier elements, whose influence, it is suggested, controls our councils. If this Government is dictated to by those interests, if their influence does weigh heavily in our councils and policy, is it likely that such would be the position? If we look at the whole of the Australian economy we find the rather interesting situation that the only people in the community who have not been restored to the 1929 level are the bondholders, the mortgagees, the landlords, and, incidentally, as I am reminded by an interjection, members of this Parliament. We have returned to what is described as relative prosperity. Would it not be expected that the bondholders, landlords and mortgagees would no longer be invited to accept the same return for their investments as they were asked to accept during the depths of the depression? This evidence effectively counters any accusations of dictation by such outside influences.
There is every justification, however, for a continuance of the support by these interests of the present. Government, and not merely on the ground that some reductions of rates of taxation have taken place. The very substantial reductions of rates of taxation that have been made were graphically illustrated by the Treasurer in his budget speech when he pointed out that if depression rates remained at the present time the Government would be collecting almost double the amount estimated for collection in the present year. Yet, although rates have been substantially cut the total amount of taxation is higher than ever. That has been made possible, as was effectively demonstrated by the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden), because, owing to improved conditions, an increase- of busi- ness turnover has taken place and industry has consequently been able to meet a greater volume of taxation.
If we glance at the evidence supplied by the factory employment figures, we find that they, effectively meet any arguments that the tariff policy of this Government has had a disastrous effect on secondary industries. The number of persons employed in factories has increased from 337,000 in 1932 to 535,000 at the end of June last, showing an amazing development of our secondary industries. All of these facts provide convincing testimony of the marked improvement which has taken place and justify the claim which the Government makes for the support of its policy and the right to continue it after the forthcoming elections.
The right honorable member for Yarra, in a speech which, however polished and eloquent, was lacking in force and conviction, attacked the Government because it proposes to- finance the purchase of defence equipment in ‘Great Britain - equipment which cannot be manufactured in Australia - by issuing treasury bills to the value of £2,000,000 in London. He suggested, in effect, that this was the first heavy draught in an orgy of overseas borrowing. This Government is fully alive to the dangers of unlimited borrowing or of excessive overseas borrowing of any kind. If we consider the facts of our economy at the present time we find not only that the Government has demonstrated its awareness of this danger but also that it i3 .able to point to a remarkably secure position as far as its overseas balances are concerned. If we examine the figures for 1936-37, we find that exports are somewhat higher, and imports £30,000,000 lower, than in 1929-30. In other words home production has replaced imports to about the value of our pre-depression overseas borrowing. In view of this healthy and sound position which has resulted from the Government’s policy, can it be claimed that the Government is likely to sacrifice that security by any excessive borrowing overseas 1
In the course of this debate we have had occasion to listen to various statements of the defence policy, or policies, of hon orable members opposite. I submit that there has been a desperate attempt to create a party political atmosphere about a subject which should never be dragged into the arena of party politics. If one policy should be above the heat and atmosphere of party political conflict it should be defence, not only because we must be clear as to where wo stand in the matter of defence, but also because a defence programme necessarily must be spread over a number of years. If we are to have the absurd situation of one party being fundamentally at variance with another over defence, and the normal swing of the pendulum making it possible for a new government to upset materially the programme of its predecessor, a state of chaos would prevail amongst the defence forces and the permanent military staffs. For that reason I regret the attempt that has been made to develop a party political spirit with regard to this subject. Since it has been introduced, however, let us examine for a few moments the defence policy - or perhaps I should say with more accuracy - the defence policies of honorable members opposite, because here again we find that the Labour party is not able to speak with one clear and emphatic voice on a subject of such major importance. On examination we find that the Australasian Council of Trade Unions at its recent conference in Melbourne resolved that the defence policy of Australia should be one founded on collective security within the framework of the League of Nations, and that it should be directed to a strengthening of the Covenant of the League, and an effective application of its provisions. If that policy were carried to its proper conclusion it would involve Australia in any conflict which takes place overseas. That represents, I suggest,, one extreme of defence policy. However desirable the idea of collective security within the League may be as a fundamental objective, if we examine all the realities of the present situation we find that such a policy is not only impracticable, but also fraught with danger. This has been demonstrated by the lack of firmness which has characterized the handling of international crises by that body.
This party rejects, at any rate for the time being, the policy which is outlined in the resolution of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions. If we examine the policy of the Labour party, we find that it goes to the other extreme, and if it can be summed up in one word, it is in the word “ isolation “. Earlier in this debate and in preceding debates the Opposition’s policy has been effectively dealt with by honorable members on this side of the House, and I, therefore, do not propose to attack it at length. The Government, by contrast, stands firmly, clearly, and emphatically for a policy which, is recognizable to every man and woman in this country, and has their overwhelming support. It is the policy of the closest cooperation with other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and particularly with Great Britain. In the course of the debates on defence which have taken place this session, it lias been claimed by honorable members opposite that a policy of co-operation is scarcely in keeping with our constitutional independence. The concept of independence is, however, not incompatible with the principle of cooperation, and. indeed, if wc wish to maintain the independence . of this country, our only hope to do so lies in cooperation with the countries which make up the British Commonwealth. This argument is not founded solely on sentiment. If it were, it would bo decried by honorable members opposite. But if they ignore sentiment in. this connexion, they will be committing a grave blunder. To the people of this country the ties of sentiment arc strong, stronger than honorable members of the Opposition ‘realize. lt is inconceivable that, if Great Britain or any sister dominion were involved in a crisis and fighting desperately for its very existence, Australia would not throw the full weight of its “support behind that country and go to its aid. Any argument to the contrary ignores the realities of our own situation. Apart from sentiment, however, we have the realities of defence and trade to make clear to us the fact that co-operation is vitally necessary to our very existence.
It has been said on the other side of the House that a policy of co-operation is dangerous because of the commitments in which Great Britain may become involved which should not be accepted on behalf of the people of this country. In reply to that charge, I propose to quote at length from a speech delivered by Mr. Eden, the British .Foreign Secretary, at Leamington in November, 1936, in which he set forth very clearly just what is the basic -policy of Great Britain on foreign affairs at the present time. On that occasion, Mr. Eden said. -
British arms will never be used in a war of aggression. They will never he used for ii purpose inconsistent with the Covenant of thu League or the I’m et of Paris. They may, and if the occasion arose, they would, be used in our own defence and in defence of the territories of the British Commonwealth of Nations. ‘.Chey may, and if the occasion arose, they would, bc used in the defence of France and Belgium against unprovoked aggression in accordance with our existing obligations. They may, and if a new western European settlement can bc reached, they would, be used in defence of Germany were she the victim of unprovoked aggression by any of thu other signatories of such -a settlement. Those, together with our Treaty of Alliance with Iraq and our projected treaty with 1’S.Ypt. arc our definite obligations. In addition, our armaments may be used in bringing help to a victim of aggression in any case where, in our judgment it would be proper under the prov isions of thu Covenant to do so. 1 use the word “may” deliberately, since in such an instance there is no automatic obligation to take military action. It is moreover right that this should hu so. for nations cannot he expected to incur automatic military obligations save for areas where their vital interests ure concerned.
As a statement of policy, that is one which might very well be adopted and supported by .Tuy government in this country.
A certain amount of criticism has been directed by honorable members of the Opposition at the technical details of the Australian defence policy. I do not propose to speak as an expert, but I am amazed that there arc so many honorable members on the Opposition side who presume to do so. In fact during the debate I have developed the strong feeling that there is a fi eld -marshal’s baton concealed in the Opposition despatch box. My view is that honorable members must accept the details of defence as recommended to them by those experts who have given a life study to the subject. How can we hope to have any detailed knowledge comparable to that of those gentlemen? If we ignore their recommendations we merely put our necks into a noose and invite its tightening. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) asserted the advantages of aerial defence over naval defence almost to the exclusion of that arm, and in view of what he said, I ask the indulgence of the House to quote a passage from the report of a sub-committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence appointed to report on the Vulnerability of Capital Ships to Air Attack. This report was publishedlate in 1936, and is, therefore, thoroughly up to date. The personnel of the committee was of the highest order as it consisted not only of prominent Cabinet Ministers in Great Britain, but also of expert advisers. Dealing with the specific question of economy of air defence as opposed to economy of naval defence, the committee reported -
No doubt, one reason which has led to the selection of the capital ship for criticism is its high cost. Unofficial persons have estimated that for the cost of one such ship a great number of aeroplanes couldbe built; these estimates, sometimes covering only capital cost, sometimes only maintenance and sometimes both, have varied from100 to 1,000. Such comparisons, however made, are not, in our opinion, of any value or validity, but we thought it desirable to get at the truth on official calculations. The Admiralty and Air Ministry have collaborated in this investigation and have given us an agreed figure of 43 twin-engined medium bombers as the nearest approximation possible to the equivalent in . cost of one capital ship, taking into account all those overhead, maintenance, and replacement and similar charges which should be included to make an effective comparison during the life of the capital ship.
In that opinion of an expert body are the facts as to the relative costs of the two methods of defence.
– The more experts that are quoted the more confounded we become.
-Not only does that report not confound the policy of this Government, but it also strongly supports it. It is not only futile but also dangerous for members of this House to indulge in detailed debate on defence policy. We have the satisfaction that the policy of the Government, as carried through in the last three years, received, as the Minister for Defence has informed us, the wholehearted endorsement of the experts in
Great Britain when he placed the Australian defence measures before them.
Regarding the question of Government policy generally, we can claim, I think with justification, that the Government has done a remarkable good job in the six years in which it has been in office. We know that it has an extensive programme to carry into effect if given the opportunity after the forthcoming general elections. It is on one or two points of policy only that I wish to spend any time. The Government is about to do something definite regarding the provision of employment for that residue of unemployment from the depression - the youths from 18 to 25 who have never been able to obtain regular work. Honorable members on this side of the House hope that, thanks to the increased activity in secondary industries, the Government will be able to find avenues of regular employment for those youths by a system of training comparable -to the repatriation system adopted immediately after the war. We sincerely trust that this programme will be entered upon at the earliest, possible date and that every effort wall be made to place the youths not only in gainful employment ‘but also in employment of a skilled character that will ensure a decent standard of living for them later in life.
The other question upon which I propose to address the House is that of public health. I do not suggest that a tremendous amount of progress has not been made in recent years. Professor Harvey Sutton, writing in volume I., 1934 Australian, Rhodes Review, said -
Farr, the greatest of British statisticians, stated about 1840 that he considered the annual death rate of largo towns in England, then 25 per 1,000, might bo reduced to . 17 per 1,000. His statement was seriously doubted. To-day, the death rate of these towns is less than 12, while Sydney’s yearly mortality is less than nine per 1,000. The infantile mortality of Sydney, which in 1888 was 188 per 1,000 live births, is now less than 44, while Queensland and South Australia are down to 30 per 1,000. In 1901 figures of less than 80 would havebeen thought frankly impossible.
It was only about a century ago that public health organization began in England as the result of the fear of cholera, and the development has been rapid. In 1842 a British parliamentary committee reported on “Health of Large Towns”. The report was an epic of insanitation. It revealed the unhealthy conditioner in which the working class was then living and demonstrated that the probable length of life was 45 years. In 1921 comparable figures were 69 years for males and 72 for females.
In 1848 the first English Public Health Act was passed, and since then we have had a number of health measures. Today we are faced with a problem somewhat different from that faced in the last century, when the negative ideal of health, that of fighting disease and death, was faced. To-day, the main public health activity is directed to the positive ideal of maintaining optimum human health. Every effort must be made to give to the new generation every chance of the fullest and best growth in body and mind.
The subject of nutrition has been strongly sponsored by this Government. The High -Commissioner, Mr. Bruce, dramatically brought this subject before the League of Nations Assembly in 1935, when he spoke of the marriage of health and . agriculture, not only as a method to improve general standards of public health, but also to give aid to agricultural producers throughout the world. Despite the interest and activity shown in this direction since then, a great deal remains to be done.
There are small but effective measures which this Government could sponsor and promote. One of them, which has been strongly advocated by the National Council on Nutrition, is the regular supply of milk to school children and to children of pre-school age. In this country it is remarkable that with the large supplies of fresh milk available, we have not exploited the possibility of improving the general standard of health of these children, and at the same time assisting the milk industry. This measure has, I repeat, the wholehearted support and recommendation of the National Council on Nutrition. In Great Britain last year, as the result of the activity of the National Milk Publicity Council, nearly 3,000,000 school children were provided with a daily supply of milk, either free or at half the ordinary price. I hope that the Govern ment will investigate the possibilityof taking action along these lines, and endeavour to co-operate with the States in the matter. In answer to a question which I asked on notice in the House recently, the Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) informed me that the cost of such a supply at the present wholesale rates for milk would be £600,000 for the whole of the Commonwealth. That seems a formidable amount; but, in France, such a distribution has been made with the aid of the municipal authorities. If the necessary expenditure were spread over the whole of the Commonwealth, and the services of the municipal authorities, together with voluntary bodies associated with them, were enlisted, the cost could be easily borne. The ultimate saving in invalid pensions alone would show this to be a justifiable outlay, for it would result eventually in a saving to the country.
I refer the House to the report of the first session of the National Health and MedicalResearch Council, which was recently appointed by the Government. This body has a distinguished personnel and honorable members would find its report and recommendations most interesting. Its resolution relating to the question of hygiene of childhood states -
The Council directs the attention of 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 -
Regular and complete supervision of bodily health during infancy and childhood to the age of sixteen years.
Regular instruction of all children in the elementary principles of hygiene and in physical culture.
Regular instruction of all girls in the composition and preparation of food.
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 a? being the maximum that the public will permit. It believes that a definite extension on lines indicated will receive widespread public approval.
In Australia we have had brought home to us only too vividly the dangers and difficulties which may arise when the general health of the children of the community is affected. In Victoria, alone, at the present time, we have had not only the distress in individual families arising out of the epidemic of infantile paralysis, but also a serious dislocation of trade and industry owing to the fear which the epidemic has engendered. Seeing that we have before us the resolutions of a body of distinguished and able medical officers, we should not hesitate to put their suggestions into practice at the earliest possible date, in order to confer the greatest degree of health upon the young members of the community. The children cannot speak for themselves in a chamber such as this, but their full health will lay the foundations of national security and progress in the future. I hope that the Government, in bringing forward its policy for the coming elections, will make a prominent feature of an expanded programme with regard to public health, and, in particular, a more active policy relating to the hygiene of childhood. I sincerely trust and confidently express the opinion that the Government, which has been able to carry out such effective work in the last six years, will be empowered to carry on its work in the three years ahead. I believe that no legislative measure will receive stronger or wider support from the people of this country than one contemplating the supervision and maintenance of the health of the young members of the community and the health of the public generally.
– The budget presented to the House is virtually the foundation of the policy to be placed before the people by this Government. In essence, it will have to be supported by the two parties that have constituted the Government and supported it during the last three years. The budget, therefore, is the most important matter which the Parliament has to consider at this juncture, when we are within a few weeks of going to the electors. As a member of the Country party, I do not consider that there is the slightest necessity for me to apologize for the part that that party has played in supporting this Government during the last three years. What took place prior to that period is not now of great importance to us as a party, nor do I. consider that what occurred six or seven years ago, during the regime of the Scullin Government, is of great moment to the people to-day. Much water has passed under the bridge since then: Personally, I consider that too much stress is laid on events which are now ancient political history. Of course, I do not blame honorable , members on the ministerial side for indulging in retrospective criticism, in view of the destructive and rather recalcitrant attitude of the Opposition towards the budget and the work done by the two parties which stand behind the Government, but little political advantage is to be gained by raking up the dead past.
The budget is satisfactory, in view of the Government’s heavy commitments. I do not see how the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) could have done much better than he has; in fact, I am surprised that he has done so well. The only flaw would appear to be that to which our attention has been directed by the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), who, with his usual rhetorical ability, sounded a note of alarm which, according to my view, is quite needless. Before the right honorable gentleman became Prime Minister, or even Leader of the Labour party, in fact, long before the Parliament assembled in Canberra, we were familiar with his practice of warning the government of the day against the danger of an adverse trade balance. There is no doubt that if it had been possible to heed his warnings Australia might have avoided many of the troubles which it has experienced; but, in view of the infinite capacity of the people of Australia for demanding every conceivable kind of concession, particularly in good times, I doubt whether it would have been possible for the governments of the day to act on the warnings so frequently sounded by the right honorable gentleman. We are told by him that a grave mistake in government policy is displayed by the present budget. If that is the only real error in the budget, I feel sure that the parties supporting the Government can go to the country with a strong case. This fact may account for the subsidence of electioneering enthusiasm which our friends on the Opposition side displayed during last session.
The budget generally reveals to the Australian people the very serious situation that has arisen in the national life of the Empire. The people of Australia have not had to face such a position during the last two decades. I refer to the grave chain of events throughout the world which has necessitated our plunging into a most costly scheme of national defence. We are told by the right honorable member for Yarra and some of his supporters that by borrowing £2,000,000 sterling in London we are starting once again on the bad old track that leads to financial perdition. But the position has been explained clearly by the Treasurer. This is a harmless move, and does not represent a general departure from government policy by recommencing borrowing overseas. The explanation given by the Treasurer in the budget has not been seriously criticized by financial experts throughout Australia, but only by the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), who views the matter more or less from a political angle. To my mind it is a very astute piece of work on his part, for I do not think that there is the slightest danger that the policy adopted will lead to any serious change in the present sound, economic position of Australia in relation to the Mother Country. As the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) pointed out, our overseas trade balance is in a healthy condition, and, mainly owing to that fact, the Government is able to borrow a paltry sum of £2,000,000 as a matter of expediency in order to purchase for defence purposes, armaments which cannot be manufactured in the Commonwealth. [Quorum formed.’] Apart from the complaint made by the right honorable member for
Yarra (Mr. Scullin), the only other alleged weakness of the budget is the criticism by outside interests that taxes -have not been reduced this year. Ministerial supporters can face that issue at the coming elections with a clear conscience. The taxpayers have no grouch against this Federal Government on that score, but they certainly have cause for complaint against State governments, most of which have retained the bulk of their depression emergency imposts. If this Government, during the last six years, had not reduced the burden’ of general taxation by one half, the State governments would not have been able to maintain the emergency taxes which they imposed at the commencement of the depression. The States are really deriving benefit frsm the remissions of taxes made by the Commonwealth over the last six years. Any complaint that the taxpayers may have at the forthcoming federal elections should be, not against the Commonwealth Government, but against the State governments. From my knowledge of the opinions of the taxpayers, the blame for any excessive tax burdens remaining will be placed upon the right shoulders ; in that connexion the ministerial parties of this Parliament have no cause for fear.
Although it may appear to be political heresy of the worst kind, in view of the tone of the -debate in this House during the last few days, I confess that I believe in the principle of borrowing overseas. I do not agree with the statements made by the members of the Labour party, and even by some honorable gentlemen on the ministerial side of the House, that it will be dangerous and suicidal for this Government to resume, at any time, the practice of raising loans on the London market. Provided that our economic position is sound, no political or economic objection exists to the Commonwealth, on behalf of the State governments, floating loans overseas at a low rate of interest.
– How will the loan money come here?
– How did it come here in the past?
– In goods.
– How are the goods being brought to Australia when we have ceased borrowing? That is not an insuperable barrier to the resumption of borrowing overseas. The position in Australia shows that, whether we like it or not, the time will arrive when we must have recourse again to the financial resources of the British money market. In view of the limited capital resources in Australia, the Government cannot continue indefinitely to borrow money in this country. After a few years, interest rates will rise. During the last two or three years they have risen from less than 3 per cent, to 4 per cent. If we continue to borrow under the boom conditions which now exist, we shall not be able to raise money in Australia at less than 5 per cent, or 6 per cent., and that will mean the end of any developmental policy. Eventually we shall be obliged to resume borrowing overseas unless we propose to bring to a complete halt the developmental progress of this country.
– We have done very well for seven years without borrowing money overseas.
– Honorable members have been informed by the Treasurer that, in view of the heavy obligations ahead ofus and the general tenderness of the Australian money market, it will be necessary for us to nurse this market. For that reason, the Government is borrowing in London a sum of £2,000,000 for defence purposes. The Australian money market is such a delicate structure to-day that even the raising of this loan, in addition to our normal requirements, might bring the whole fabric toppling to the ground. That demonstrates beyond all reasonable doubt that, in depending upon the Australian money market for the future development of Australia, we are depending on a rotten reed. The Australian governments have been warned of the inadvisability of borrowing this year more than £16,000,000 in Australia. Before the depression, the average rate of borrowing in the Commonwealth by all governments was about £30,000,000 annually, which was considered to be necessary for the normal developmental requirements of this country.
– That money was borrowed overseas.
– Yes; we shall go overseas for it again. If we depend wholly on the Australian market, which can furnish only about one half of the sum required for the normal development of Australia, we shall be retarding our progress. The only way out of the difficulty will be eventually to obtain cheap money from overseas.
– A young country cannot be developed out of its own income.
– Many illogical utterances about the danger of borrowing money overseas have been made. What danger has this policy ever been to Australia? We owe one half of our total national debt to our own kith and kin in Great Britain; that gives to them a definite and possessive interest in Australia. Why should not they have that interest in this country? The borrowing of money on the London market “also creates among the British people the feeling that they have a heavy defence responsibility towards Australia. I remind honorable members that £187,000,000 of British capital has been invested in Shanghai, of all places, and only the other day property in that city valued at £30,000,000 was destroyed in a few hours by Chinese and Japanese bombers. Australia offers to the British public the safest field in the world for the investment of their capital. Owing to the present short-sighted policy of restricting borrowing overseas, however, this valuable field is practically closed to British investors, and they are driven to place their money in the Far East, where it is blown sky high in a few minutes by Japanese and Chinese aeroplanes.
– There are many avenues in Australia where British capital could be invested.
– While I advocate the resumption of borrowing, I emphasize that wo should not float loans abroad indiscriminately, merely in order to relieve our own money market. We should borrow in Australia to the fullest extent that the market will permit; but when, after only a few years of consistent borrowing locally, the governments are forced to ration their loan requirements in order to prevent the market from crashing, interest rates from rising inordinately and business and industry from being destroyed, common sense dictates that we go abroad for some of our requirements. If we are able to obtain the money in London at a cheaper rate of interest, and obviate the danger of an economic crash in Australia, we are short-sighted and disloyal to our own kith and kin if we refrain from doing so. With the Australian market practically closed to them, British capitalists are driven to invest in insecure countries like China, Argentina, and Russia. If we accept their money to develop Australia, what harm are we doing to them or ourselves? How far could we have progressed in the past without recourse to the British money market? The construction of the first railway in 1850 from Sydney to Parramatta was interrupted because private enterprise and the Government of New South Wales were so weak financially that they could not raise sufficient money to enable them to proceed with the laying of the line. Victoria had a similar experience; sufficient funds were not available to enable a line to be built from Melbourne to St. Kilda. There was a noticeable lack of confidence among the public to provide funds for even that elementary national work. The Governments of Victoria and New South Wales were, therefore, driven to borrow money overseas in order to complete the first few miles of railway in Australia. Had it not been for the willingness of British investors to loan money to Australian governments, we should still be in the pioneering days of the fifties.
– Australia offers good security, too!
– Yes, this security is the best in the world. I fail to understand why the Government does not invite the British people to invest their money in Australia instead of placing it in insecure cities like Shanghai. Indiscriminate and irrational borrowing on the London market must be avoided; we should utilize our own financial resources as much as possible, while not jeopardizing our own economic stability. At the same time, we are unable to continue indefinitely to raise £16,000,000 on the local money market without causing in terest rates to rise to a prohibitive figure. The time has arrived when Australian governments should consider carefully whether urgent national developmental works that cannot be financed from revenue should not be undertaken from money borrowed overseas. I hope that we shall avoid the situation that was reached in respect of migration - that when we seek to borrow money in Great Britain for important national enterprises, we discover that investors have nothing for us. In inviting the British public to invest again in Australia, showing that we still desire their interest in us, the Treasurer is doing a national service. We should utilize all the money that we can raise on the local market for the more ephemeral governmental- purposes, including the relief of unemployment; but for our large scale national developmental works, we should obtain money from abroad. Australia is full of opportunities for developmental enterprises to which the public is largely bound. We have gone beyond the time when the States can be expected to provide for the national development of Australia. Our defence requirements constitute a much greater problem than the provision of ships, aeroplanes and military equipment. We should have a foundation for the economic structure required for the effective defence of Australia, and if such a foundation be provided it will be of inestimable value to Australia. At a meeting of manufacturers in Sydney - they are perhaps the greediest in Australia in the matter of asking for assistance from the Commonwealth Parliament - one had sufficient foresight to say that our economic and defence system is extremely weak, in that 90 per cent., of Australian factories are concentrated in Sydney and Melbourne, which are two of the most vulnerable points in the Commonwealth. He said that it was time the Commonwealth Government took cognizance of that great weakness in Australia’s defence system. Undoubtedly, the manufacturers themselves are to blame, because factories have been established in Melbourne and in Sydney to enable those controlling them to secure cheap power, and also to avoid unnecessarily high railway freights. Our industrial system has thus become centralized. In the
United States of America and in many European countries there is greater decentralization of industry than there is in Australia, and our economic system in relation to defence is in that respect perhaps the worst in the world. I admit that the Commonwealth Government cannot formulate a plan to enable it to deal effectively with the problem brought about by the centralization mania which has afflicted this country for almost a century. I am strongly of the opinion that it is the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government to establish an advisory body to deal not only with overseas and local borrowing, but also with the development of our national resources on a sound basis. For these reasons the time has arrived to establish a national, economic and developmental council, and I trust that the Prime Minister will announce in his policy speech that such a body is to be constituted. I do not suggest the appointment of another commission. I was a member of this Parliament when the Development and Migration Commission was appointed, but I had no faith in it, because its main responsibility appeared to be to find work for it to do. It did not function very long, and I do not think that it performed any really valuable work. That commission was appointed before its time, but if a body such as I have suggested were established there would be much useful work for it to do. Undoubtedly the time has arrived when the Government should secure the services of economists, engineers, financiers, railways commissioners, treasurers and others to form a national economic and developmental council. The council could determine the actual development required in Australia during the next twenty or 25 years, and study from economic, financial, and perhaps political viewpoints, the defence problems of Australia. Our manufacturing centres are so placed that, in the event of invasion, our principal factories could be blown to pieces in a short time. The council could also consider the works which are urgent, and those which should be undertaken by governmental authori-ties. The standardization of our railway gauges, which was first spoken of over twenty years ago, should now be an accomplished fact. Although a standard railway gauge throughout Australia is essential for the defence of Australia, this important problem has been attacked in only a minor way. The council could consider proposed expenditure instead of allowing governments to indulge in illconsidered developmental schemes which do not strengthen, and sometimes may even weaken, the defence of the country. Such a body could also say whether it was desirable to obtain money overseas at cheap rates for national developmental works that cannot be carried out economically by the Commonwealth or the States. If we are to be limited to the expenditure of £16,000,000 of loan money each year it is doubtful if we can achieve sufficient nationwide development to accelerate progress and strengthen our defence system. Even an interstate commission will not be a competent authority to deal with these vital problems, and it is, therefore, essential to establish a council such as I have suggested at the earliest possible date. Such a body would meet with general approval abroad, and it would be in accordance with the wishes of the vast majority of the Australian people. I may mention one instance to show how necessary it is to terminate our present haphazard method of dealing with national development and defence. The New South Wales Government has commenced the construction of a railway from Mary Vale to Sandy Hollow, at a cost of approximately £2,000,000, and the general opinion is that the railway is not needed. The State government contends that the line will be of great strategic importance and asked the Commonwealth to contribute towards its cost, but the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) said that it was of no importance for defence purposes. Owing to this conflict of opinion those directly concerned say that the railway is unnecessary, and that it is being constructed to benefit the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, which will be able to transport ore from Broken Hill to Newcastle by a shorter route, and consequently, at a lower rate of freight than at present.
– Have not some members of the Country party advocated its construction?
– It will be constructed through the Robertson electorate and that which I represent, and the presence of 1,000 navvies on the job will not assist us during the forthcoming election. If the line is being constructed merely to serve the interests of a powerful manufacturing concern such as the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited it is unjustified, and £2,000,000. may be wasted. Such projects could be submitted to a council which would have to determine whether the undertaking was of vital importance to Australia. The members of such a body would, I think, be sufficiently patriotic to give their services gratuitously. Consideration should also be given to the value of our main highways and bridges. We have been informed by competent authorities that a number of our important bridges could be blown to pieces by enemy guns within a few minutes ; yet State governments are still continuing to build similar structures. Recently the construction of a bridge across the Brisbane River was commenced which, when completed, will have cost over £1,000,000. The Sydney Harbour ‘ bridge, which cost over £10,000,000, is an excellent target for the guns of a hostile fleet. These and other similar facts have to be considered when studying the defence of the country. The safety of the Sydney Harbour bridge is of great importance to that State, because if it were destroyed its replacement could not be considered for some years.
– Whom are we going to fight?
– I trust that we shall never have to resist an invader, but as our defence expenditure is heavier than it has ever been in the history of the Commonwealth, it is essential to consider the problem of defence from every angle. In view of all the circumstances, I trust that the Government will consider seriously the establishment of a national council to examine economic, developmental and defence problems confronting the Commonwealth to-day.
I regret that the Government has not seen fit to make some provision in the budget for financial assistance to the Australian tobacco industry. The Government should have made provision for greater assistance to the tobacco-growers.
This is a subject which might be submitted to an independent council of the nature I have ‘Suggested in order to determine whether the industry is really of economic value to Australia. There are at present about 5,000 tobacco-growers in Australia, whereas there should be more than 10,000. Last year, the Government made a very small gesture in the direction of assisting the growers by reducing by 8d. per lb. the excise duty on tobacco manufactured wholly from Australian leaf. It was estimated that this would cause a loss of £90,000 to the revenue. No figures have since been submitted to show that that loss actually was suffered; and I very much doubt whether it was as much as that. In any case, this step has utterly failed to popularize Australian tobacco, mainly because the price reduction was too insignificant. In New South Wales, I am informed, only about 2 per cent., of Australian leaf was used in wholly Australian brands, but in Victoria, where there has been a tendency for some years to market Australian brands, mainly due to the presence of several small manufacturers, the proportion used wa3 20 per cent. I doubt whether the percentage is nearly so high in other States. In Western Australia, a local manufacturer has succeeded in marketing and popularizing cigarettes made from. Australian leaf and he is now the largest buyer of local leaf in that State.
This industry produces as much revenue as the income tax, and more than the sales tax, the annual yield from it being over £S,000,000. The Tariff Board stated in its last report on the industry that no more than £6,500,000 should be taken from it in fairness to the local growers, manufacturers and consumers. The Government is, therefore, able to make much more generous concessions than it has given hitherto. Unfortunately, however, it does not seem to be particularly interested in establishing a local tobacco industry. The reduction of excise on local leaf has been more than offset by a reduction of 8d. per lb. of the excise on cigarettes manufactured from imported leaf. I am informed that this reduction has resulted in a loss of £90,000 to the Treasury, although at the time it was made the Treasurer estimated that the loss would not be more than £25,000, which the manufacturers had undertaken to return to the consumers. I am not putting these figures forward as absolutely reliable, because I have not been able to obtain - official information. The whole thing seems to be shrouded in official secrecy. I have been informed confidentially, however, that the loss was as much as £90,000, which was given to the manufacturers virtually as a .bonus to offset the loss caused by the reduction by 8d. of the excise on local leaf. The Government’s gesture of help to the local industry has not had the effect of re-establishing the industry on a sound basis. It has not resulted in a reduction of imports from the United States of America, which still supplies about 90 per cent, of all the tobacco consumed in Australia. Honorable members will agree with me that tariff protection is failing of its purpose when imports continue steadily to increase. In 1934-35, the total importation of tobacco from all sources was 17,000,000 lb., but in 1935-36, it had risen to over 19,000,000 lb. while for 1936-37 it will be much higher. The Australian tobacco yield has steadily decreased.
Mr. SPEAKER (“Hon. (J. J. Bell).The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The debate on the Supply Bill provides honorable members with an opportunity to discuss a variety of subjects - an opportunity of which they have not failed to take advantage. During this debate the fact that the Government has an extraordinarily fine record has been demonstrated intentionally by honorable members on this side of the House, and unintentionally by those on the other side. The Government has a creditable record of practical performance, not one of unfulfilled promises. The budget introduced ‘ by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) was undoubtedly a courageous statement. It was produced practically on the eve of a general election, and yet, by no stretch of the imagination, could it bo called an electioneering budget. The figures cited by the Treasurer afforded ample proof of the economic advance of Australia during the last few years. The primary industries, on which the pros perity of the country depends, are benefiting from higher prices. The wheat market has recovered in a remarkable manner. Wool prices last season were very satisfactory, and the tone of the opening sales in Sydney the other day gave us every reason to believe that the forthcoming series of sales will be equally satisfactory. We are all glad of that, because, even though the expression may bo somewhat overdone, we cannot escape the fact that “Australia rides on the sheep’s back “. Seldom have the secondary industries been in a more prosperous condition than at present. The building trade, which is a fair index to the economic state of the country, shows a most remarkable revival. Even though honorable members opposite may dispute official figures regarding the actual percentage of unemployment, they must admit that there has been a great improvement in this regard. Generally speaking, the economic position of the country is such as to justify our proper pride.
While our economic position is undoubtedly satisfactory, it must be evident that we should be foolish not to take steps adequately to defend ourselves and that economic position. We cannot dispose of the matter merely by declaring, airily that there is no danger of attack, and that it is impossible to name any prospective enemy. We all know that covetous eyes are directed by eastern countries, and by those in Europe, upon any land that has room to absorb population, particularly if it possesses “rich natural resources. That being so, I welcome the defence measures introduced by the Government, and I am sure that every right-minded Australian will do the same.
The traditional defence of the. Empire is naval, and, theoretically, of course, naval defence is the most suitable for Australia, because, if it were effective, it would obviate any possible danger of war on Australian soil. The functions of the navy, generally speaking, are twofold - the protection of trade routes and commerce generally, and the protection of the shores of the country against invasion. The provision of a navy that would be able to fulfil both those requirements is obviously beyond the power of Australia. Such a navy would have to be far greater- than Australia can afford, and it is therefore right that Australia should make the biggest possible contribution to the Royal Navy on which we have continually “to rely for protection. The Minister fop Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) has recently had an opportunity to discuss problems of imperial defence with the highest authorities at the Imperial Conference in London, and we have been assured that Australia’s defence plans have received their approval. I know that we are tempted at times to become amateur strategists, but it would be foolish for us to criticize a policy that is founded upon the decisions of high military, naval and aerial authorities in this country and in England.
Honorable members will recall that the late Earl Jellicoe suggested at one time that Great Britain should build a fareastern fleet of considerable magnitude, and that Australia should contribute towards the maintenance of that fleet. Then the Washington Naval Treaty was signed, and the far-eastern fleet was never built, because it appeared, at the time that the need for such a fleet had disappeared. However, the treaty was not renewed, and it was found that the example of Great Britain in regard to disarmament was not being followed by the rest of the world. Now Great Britain is building up its armaments again. It is strengthening its navy so that it will be able to afford Australia such help as would be necessary if this country were attacked.
Sitting suspended from 1245 to 2 p.m.
– I was pointing out that the Royal Navy is gradually being built up, and, as the navy is to constitute Australia’s first line of defence, the best part this country can play is to co-operate as much as possible with the British Navy. Speaking on the Defence Estimates in this House last year, the Leader of the Opposition said - 11 this country provides a navy for itself our people must bear in mind conclusively that the navy would be of no use unless operated in conjunction with the British Navy.
I agree entirely with that view. Speaking at the London Naval Conference last year, the First Sea Lord of the Admiralty said -
In estimating our requirements, we have to take into account responsibilities in European waters, in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific
Oceans. These imply the necessity for a fleet of sufficient strength to be able to dispose simultaneously, in more than one area, the forces adequate to meet all reasonable defensive needs.
It is for that purpose that the Singapore base is vitally necessary. Without a strong naval force in the Pacific it will not be possible for this country to rely primarily upon naval defence. The Singapore base, which is nearing completion, is essential for the protection of British interests in both the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean. Apart from the navy, however, it is essential, of course, to develop the other arms of the service In respect of the air force, I shall again quote from the speech made by the Leader of the Opposition in this House last year as follows: -
In any case, any attempt to defend this country by aircraft alone would possibly necessitate, as I have said, the creation of an air force of such a size as to be beyond the capacity of this country to maintain. Nevertheless, the power of aircraft to reconnoitre and attack at a distance, would be of the greatest importance to our system of defence. Aircraft are essential to combat the air forces of the enemy after he has effected a landing, and to perform essential functions for, and in co-operation with, the land forces.
I come now to a consideration of the place of land forces in defence. In the Last resort the principal factor in our local defence will be our land forces.
I quote those statements in order to emphasize the fact that it is a mistake to attempt to concentrate on the development of any- one arm of the service to the total exclusion of any other arm.
– Surely the honorable member will realize that I did not exclude the necessity for the maintenance of the Australian Navy.
– -No; but, as I am now dealing with a particular phase of this subject, I think the Leader of the Opposition will admit that I have quoted from his speech quite fairly and I agree with it. The organization of any force depends principally on two factors: first, the task which that force is designed to perform; and, secondly, the material and personnel available for the composition of that force. Our army peace organization to-day consists of seven divisions - two cavalry divisions and five infantry divi- sions with a peace establishment at present filled by voluntary enlistment. Our field army organization, I believe, is sound and is certainly organized in accordance with right principles. However, the training of that army consists of only twelve days a year, of which six are spent in home training and six in camps of continuous training. That period is entirely inadequate. Only those who have personally endeavoured to train troops within so short a time can realize how extraordinarily difficult it is to attain a high standard in such circumstances. It does not give the militia commanders, or staff corps officers, any opportunity to reach a high standard with the troops for whose training they are responsible. I again urge upon the Government, therefore, the need to reconsider the lengthening of the training year with a view to restoring it to the former period of sixteen days. I feel sure that such an improvement would prove popular with the present militia troops, because these are voluntary recruits, and, furthermore, would result in that increased efficiency which is more desirable than anything else. Apart from lengthening the training year, however, we might also increase the efficiency of our land forces by increasing the strength of the permanent personnel. Our present permanent force is very small, consisting of artillery, engineering and various technical units, the total strength of which is only about 2,000 men, whilst our very highly efficient staff corps lias a strength of only 250. This establishment falls far short of the necessary numbers, and I suggest the time is opportune to consider the . establishment of stronger permanent forces. A commencement of that work could be made by establishing two cavalry regiments, a brigade of infantry, and a brigade of field artillery. If that were done, it would be possible to have at all times one regiment of cavalry, one battalion of infantry and one regiment of artillery on exchange duty with an equivalent British unit ii another part of the world. The advantages of such an arrangement are bo obvious that I do not need to emphasize them, nor the advantages of also having a highly-trained body of troops in the country ready for instant action. Quite apart from these considerations, however, such a force would provide a standard at which our militia forces could aim. At present, they have no such standard to guide them, and the creation of a small standing army would, I feel sure, result in a very great improvement of their efficiency. It would, for instance, afford opportunities to officers of the staff corps to train in regimental duty and give them practice in command. Except in the case of junior officers, our staff corps officers to-day have no opportunity to undergo such training. When he graduates from’ Duntroon, an officer does a certain amount of training as adjutant to a battery or battalion, and he does a period of regimental attachment abroad; but that is the only regimental experience available to staff corps officers, and in no case does he get any practice in command. Officers in the militia are obliged constantly to work with a skeleton army and their imaginations are highly drawn upon too much in their endeavour to visualize what full strength unity would look like. The creation of a small permanent army would give them practice in handling larger bodies of troops.
We are still adhering to the fundamental principles that were laid down at the Imperial Conference of 1923, and which have been re-affirmed from time to time. Among them is the principle that each country within the Empire should he primarily responsible for its own defence. The only way we can apply that principle is through the co-ordination of the three arms of the service without unduly developing one of them at the expense of either of the other two. Our experts have advised us that our navy is to be- our first line of defence. I accept the advice of our experts, but I hope that the Government will consider at least investigating the establishment of permanent forces in order to put our land forces on a better footing. The need for an efficient air force in a country like Australia is too obvious to need emphasis, but we must realize that the power of an air force is, to some extent, an unknown quantity, because it has not yet been possible to test out with any semblance of reality the degree of efficiency that antiaircraft defences have reached during the last few years. It is generally admitted that, these defences have reached a very high standard indeed, certainly far higher than the standard existing during the last stages of the Great War, when the air arm was still inits experimental stages. Thus, any estimate of the effect of either the hitting power or the stopping power of an air fleet is based mostly on conjecture. That an attack by .air would be terrible is indisputable, but, on the other hand, wastage and replacements would bo abnormally heavy. I do not wish for one moment to underestimate the value of aircraft, because it is peculiarly suited to this country inasmuch as it possesses characteristics not associated with any other* arm. An air force can hit at a distance and operate effectively before, during and after the landing of an enemy, but we need to proceed with the greatest caution if it is proposed that we make the air our first line of defence. Associated with this aspect of our defence problem, is the very forward step made recently by this Government in the encouragement of the aircraft manufacturing industry in Australia. If Australia were at war and had to depend on overseas supplies of machines and replacements, it would experience very great difficulty in securing its requirements.
Closely interwoven with the development of the three arms of the service is the matter of industrial mobilization and the fostering .and development of our industrial resources as an aid to defence. As is generally recognized to-day, war is not merely an armed struggle in the field, nor is the defence of a country merely a matter of the numbers of sailors, soldiers and airmen available. The mobilization of the resources of a country for its defence includes all its activities, and no nation could effectively deal with an attack unless its industrial facilities and material assets were capable of meeting immediately the greatly increased demand that might be made upon them in time of war. I notice that some time ago this Government set up a committee to investigate this matter of industrial mobilization, and, I understand, that committee has already presented one report. I hope that it is working toward the objectives set out by the Minister when he was speaking on the Defence Estimates in this House last year. In common with other honorable members, I have always ‘been, of the opinion that the defence of Australia should not be a party political question. I have always advocated that the Leader of the Opposition, whoever he might be, should be a permanent member of the Council of Defence, because in my opinion it is right and proper that the Opposition should be consulted in all matters relating to defence. Unless that is done, it is unlikely that we shall have continuity of policy. One does not need to be an expert to realize how disastrous any chopping and changing in regard to our defence policy must be to its efficiency.
– If the Government’s policy were any good, continuity would be assured.
– I venture to say that the policy of the Government is that which has been drawn up by the greatest experts available, men who have devoted a lifetime to the study of defence. They have recommended that the navy shall be the first line of defence.
– In co-operation with the other two arms.
– That is what we say.
– The Opposition says that the air force shall be the first line of defence. The experts who have advised the Minister recommend that the navy shall be the first line. I am prepared to accept the advice of the Council of Defence, the Committee of Imperial Defence, and the Imperial Conference itself.
I wish to quote a short paragraph from the report of the Royal Military College for the period ended the 31st December, 1936. I recommend its perusal to all honorable members who have not yet read it. I also recommend an inspection of the college. At page 10, the report says-
Our army is a militia force maintained on a nucleus basis, and a highly trained body of instructors is necessary for its administration and training and to enable it to expand should the necessity ever arise. We are now trying to improve our militia force, but we are faced with a shortage of instructors.
These instructors come from our military educational establishments of which the most important is Duntroon, and they cannot be trained in a day. Therefore, I think it should bc realized that nothing should ever be done in the future which will in any way impair the usefulness of these institutions.
There is a grave shortage to-day of officers of the staff corps, the number being only about 250 compared with a requirement of probably 400. I hope that the Government will allow the Royal Military College at Duntroon to expand. I believe that there are some 70 cadets in residence, but trained men are not being turned out sufficiently quickly to meet the demand.
I again recommend to the Ministry the establishment of a small permanent force, the benefits of which, I believe, would be incalculable. Such a force would help in a very large measure the voluntary efforts of our militia. Only those who have had anything to do with the militia realize how voluntary are the efforts of its members.
.- I congratulate the last speaker (Mr. Street) on the tone that he adopted,; it, was quite different from that of many other honorable members opposite, the principal object of whom, apparently, is to induce the electors to believe that the Labour party is disloyal. That is a wrong attitude, which will get us nowhere.
This morning, honorable members witnessed an outburst of anger from the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), during which the right honorable gentleman referred to the Scullin Government as having been forced to the; country in 1931. He should have been ashamed of having referred to that period. I knew him as a Labour man in Tasmania for a quarter of a century. He was sent to this Parliament by the Labour party to support its principles. Such actions bring the Parliament into public contempt, and I trust that we shall have no further references to the events of that period. The right honorable gentleman must admit that I fought for him in everyway for a quarter of a century. To say the least, he acted ungenerously when he insulted a man like the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), who has been proved to be one of the greatest men Australia has known. While some honorable members opposite are quite fair, others endeavour to give the impression that the Labour party is disloyal and is opposed to the defence of Australia. I have always taken a great interest in the defence of this country. This year there is to be the huge expenditure of £11,500,000 on matters appertaining to defence. The Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill), who has just returned from the Imperial Conference, says that our first line of defence shall be the navy. I disagree with him. With the small navy that we have, a population of fewer than 7,000,000 people could never hope to withstand a naval offensive by a first-class nation. The building of additional warships will absorb the bulk of the defence provision. That money could be spent to greater advantage in Australia.
I .agree with the honorable member for Corangamite, that we should have a permanent force. There should be one in each of the States. If more money were spent in connexion with our small arms factories, a greater volume of employment would be provided for our people. The Government claims that it is desirous of assisting the smaller States. Tasmania has all the facilities necessary for manufacturing purposes, such as cheap electric power, a good climate, and the metals and minerals that are essential for the making of munitions. I claim that its potential wealth is greater than that of any other part of Australia. Yet no mention is made of the establishment of any industry in that State. The reason is that an election is approaching, and the Government believes that its best interests will be served by concentrating its activities in New South Wales and Victoria, which have the largest number of voters. Tasmania merely rears men and women until they reach the employment age, when they come to the mainland to seek positions in the industrial world. This is one of the disabilities that the smaller States are suffering under federation. At the present time, the Government is standing behind a concern in New South Wales which proposes to develop the Newnes shale oil deposits. Experimental work is to be undertaken with the object of extracting oil from shale. Tasmania has more extensive deposits of shale than are to be found either at Newnes or in any other part of Australia. The smaller States will never be developed until there is in power a government with a national outlook. I feel quite sure that we shall have such a government after the next elections.
I should not be doing my duty if I did not mention the fruit industry. Yesterday, a deputation waited on different members to place before them the parlous condition of that industry. I trust that their representations will be given favorable consideration, and that the Government will realize the great benefit of this industry to Australia. It is one of the few primary industries which has had a very bad year, through no fault of its own. Inequitable shipping regulations, and the collapse of the market in Great Britain, were responsible for very great losses being suffered by the fruit-growers. A few years ago, in one portion of my electorate, a deep-water port was established with all the facilities necessary for shipping the fruit overseas. The bulk of the fruit grown in Tasmania was then produced within a radius of seven or eight miles of this port, and the growers made application for shipping accommodation. The Commonwealth Government can exert a certain amount of influence on the shipping companies, because it has given them a monopoly of the refrigerated space. The reply to the request of the growers was that there was not sufficient wharf space to accommodate the large boats. Those interested in the matter then had the wharf extended and proper sheds erected for the storage of the fruit, so that it might be shipped from that port. But other companies were also interested in the matter. They were running small steamers, and they took the fruit from this port to the city of Hobart at a charge of 5d. and 6d. a case. Very few vessels enter that port to-day, because a monopoly controls the shipping services. But sufficient fruit could be provided there to load any number of ships. The Government should give assistance to these people and encourage them to increase their production. Help is particularly needed now for the current year, which has been difficult. The shipping companies have themselves placed restrictions upon the export of fruit. Some time ago a monopoly was given to certain interests to carry the fruit, and the freight was fixed at 3s. 6d. a ease, but the Australian Overseas Transport Association subsequently used the exchange rate as a justification for putting an extra charge of 7&d. a case on fruit for transport overseas so that although, technically, the freight rate was fixed at 3s. 6d. a case it is actually 4s. l£d. a case. It ha3 been asked “Why do the people pay it”? Unfortunately they must pay it or leave their fruit to rot in their orchards. The Government could and should do a great deal more to assist the marketing of fruit overseas. The German market, which formerly provided a market for 1,500,000 cases of our fruit, but has been closed to us for several years, may be re-opened at any time; but unless the Government takes a long view, our people will not be able to take advantage of it or of other continental markets when they re-open, for most of the orchardists will have become bankrupt and been obliged to leave their orchards. The fruit industry pays more than £1,000,000 in wages each year and makes possible the circulation of a very large amount of money. Thousands of people find employment in this industry year in and year out who could not be employed in any other industry. Skilled work is provided in pruning, grafting, and other orchard operations, and a great deal of unskilled work is also found in fruit picking and otherwise. I trust that the Government will consider seriously the adoption of some policy which will give reasonable help to these people who are doing so much to develop this industry and to occupy land which could not be profitably used in any other way.
If the- Government would even reasonably distribute through the various States its munition factories, aircraft factories, and other establishments connected with the defence of the country, we should not have quite so much ground for complaint; but actually all these establishments which provide employment are located in Melbourne and Sydney. Tasmania, as every one knows, has an unlimited supply of hydro-electric power and exceptional water facilities. If the aircraft factory had been established in Tasmania instead of at Fishermen’s Bend, and if the money made available for the development of shale oil deposits were to be spent at Latrobe instead of at Newnes, the people of the smaller States, and particularly of Tasmania, would not feel that they have such substantial ground for complaint. If the smaller States could be helped to develop their latent resources they would soon become self-supporting and would not need Commonwealth grants to assist them. Moreover, their populations would increase. To-day their young people are drifting away to other States which offer employment and better prospects of success.
As honorable members are well aware, an infantile paralysis epidemic is raging in Melbourne. This is due to the slum conditions that prevail in that city. The Government should do something effective to improve the housing conditions of the people. Russia is undergoing great development at present, but the Soviet Government of that country has had to prevent the establishment of additional factories in Moscow because of the herding of people in that city. The Commonwealth Government, however, seems to have no time to think of a problem of that description. All its activities seem to be concentrated in the big cities, the reason being that the votes are there. What is needed, of course, is that the country districts, as opposed to urban areas, should be developed.
The housing conditions in parts of Melbourne and Sydney are deplorable. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) could take members of the Government to parts of Sydney in which the housing is the worst in the world. While I was in London recently, I asked a policeman to take me to the worst street in the East End. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) was with me at the time. The’ policeman took us to a street which he said was the worst. But I have no hesitation in saying that, although we boast of the housing conditions of the people of Australia, some of the people in our big cities are housed under worse con ditions than those that we saw that day. I consider that, in consequence of the steps being taken in Great Britain to improve housing conditions, the English race in the next decade will be healthier and more vigorous than it has ever been. I understand that 3,000,000 new homes have been built in Great Britain in the last few years. In Manchester, where appalling slum conditions formerly obtained, more than 34,000 homes have been built for the workers. Yet in Australia, which is a young country with less than 7,000,000 inhabitants, this Government is allowing slum conditions to be perpetuated. The Prime Minister in his policy speech prior to the last election said that if the Government were returned to power it would cooperate with the State governments in a comprehensive housing scheme, but nothing has been done to fulfil that promise. No doubt the right honorable gentleman and his colleagues are afraid that if they press £ housing scheme on their capitalistic friends who own the hovels in which the workers now live, they will withdraw their support of the Government. Nothing effective is likely to be done in this direction until a Labour government assumes office. Fortunately, that will occur before very long. It is shameful that the housing conditions of the Australian people should be responsible for epidemics such as that at present raging in Melbourne. “We should be developing a strong and virile race in this country. The permanent forces for the defence of the nation should be decentralized; also the munition factories, the small arm factories, and other auxiliaries to the . defence system. The Minister for Defence had a good deal to say a day or so ago about the need for a strong navy, his idea being that then we should have ships to convoy overseas the vessels which carry our goods to other parts of the world. I contend that if the people of other countries want our goods they should themselves provide the convoys. The defence vote should be expended in providing defence measures on a comprehensive scale in each State of the Commonwealth. The money should not be chiefly spent in Melbourne and Sydney. If the policy that I have outlined were adopted, the people would be in. a position to defend themselves in case of attack.
.- The honorable member for .Franklin (Mr. Frost) referred a few moments ago to the housing conditions in Great Britain. He and I were in a party in Liverpool which was shown through a number of flats recently built in that city to improve its housing conditions. Each of these had two nice bedrooms, a kitchen or dining room, and a bathroom and laundry, with hot water connected to the bathroom, laundry and kitchen. The rental for each flat was 7s. 8d. a week and it included electric lighting and rates. It should be possible to do something of that kind in Australia, but before effective steps of that kind can be taken the high building costs due to our unwise fiscal policy will have to be eliminated.
My chief purpose in participating in this debate is to urge the Government to reconsider its recently adopted trade diversion policy, which, I assure it, is causing a great deal of antagonism not only in the motor industry, but also in the radio and other industries. Some time ago a firm, which I could name, wished to import a number of small oil engines of from 1£ to 5 horse-power, but the Government refused it permission to do so on the ground that such engines could be manufactured in Australia. That attitude must inevitably make enemies of people who would otherwise be strong government supporters. Action should be taken to minimize the trade restrictions that have been applied by the Government. I am satisfied that such a course would be advantageous to the country. The benefit of the Government’s action in reducing tariffs is wholly destroyed by these restrictions.
Great need exists also for more sympathetic treatment by this Government of the wheat-growing industry. If our fiscal policy causes heavy additional costs to be imposed on all the requirements of the farmers, a strong case exists for the granting of relief to the farmers in other directions. Seeing that the manufacturers of Australia are allowed to charge higher prices for their products than would apply if we had an open market, it is only right that the farmers should bc assured of a higher price for their wheat which is consumed locally. I do not believe in the unwise policy which the Government is adopting, but I contend that if.it is to apply to one section of the community it should apply to other sections also. As increased costs up to 75 per cent, have been imposed on all the necessities of the farmers, a minimum price should be stipulated for the wheat they sell for homo consumption.
– What about when wheat is 6s. a bushel?
– I should much prefer an open and free market, so that we could buy where we sell. I have suggested a payable minimum price for wheat for local consumption because the policy of the Government assures a payable price for the products of those engaged in other industries.
– What about a maximum price?
– If we could sell our wheat on the markets of the world at a price at least equivalent to what is considered to be payable for wheat sold on the local market, it might be possible for the Government to assume responsibility for the sale of all the wheat produced, guarantee the farmer a fair price, and itself retain any surplus over that price that might be realized on wheat sold overseas. I should not advise such a policy, but when certain sections of the community are put in an advantageous position in consequence of government policy, I think that other sections should also be entitled to such treatment.
I welcome the statement by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) regarding the development of the Yampi Sound iron ore deposits. An early syndicate, of which I was a member, spent about £8,000 in an unsuccessful attempt to arouse the interest of British capital in the development of the more than 100,000,000 tons of iron ore which are above high water mark on Yampi Island. The people whom we tried to interest in the project declared that it was not a feasible proposition because of the great distance to Britain. We lost our money and got out. Another company later obtained a lease from the State government and induced the investment of British capital in the development of the island’s resources. There is not the slightest doubt that Japan is lending large sums of money for the development of Yampi Sound; but I impress upon the Government that exportation of the rich deposits of iron ore will mean the employment of about 300 men in the locality. Once these men become employed there, there is no telling what development will take place. Moreover, the sale of iron ore to Japan for a few years, will pay for the development work that is being done.
– Will the company be able to supply Great Britain as well as j apan ?
– Of course. It was in 1922 when we tried to interest Great Britain, hut then the distance was considered to be too great.
– Great Britain wants iron ore now.
– Yes, but in 1922 Great Britain refused to touch it. Yampi Sound itself is a magnificent deepwater harbour which could hold the whole of the British fleet. It is sheltered by two big islands. I remind the Government that there is nothing to prevent it from imposing whatever restrictions upon the export of iron ore it likes, should the need ever arise. ‘Settlement of that part will be of great benefit to Western Australia, and I hope that the Commonwealth Government, instead of retarding the development of Yampi, will do everything in its power to assist it.
I am astonished to have heard so many honorable members strongly supporting the renewal, of borrowing in Great Britain. There is nothing to justify it. I remind the House of the extravagance in the years from 1920 to 1929, when more than £400,000,000 was borrowed, mostly overseas. In that period prices for wool and wheat exported were the highest that had ever been recorded in the history of the country, yet, when the depression came in 1930, it was found that the country had not benefited to the slightest degree from those high prices. That was due entirely to the huge amount of money that had been spent extravagantly while piling up a gigantic interest bill, unduly magnified by heavy customs duties on imports. Follies have to be paid for, and, if we must borrow, let us borrow in Australia.
No matter what difficulties I may experience in regard to the policy of the Government, there is one thing that would justify my strongest support being given to it, and that is its defence policy. I congratulate the Government on it, but I deeply regret the restriction not only in Australia, but all over the world, of the flow of trade and commerce as the result of intense nationalism. The illfeeling that has developed between countries as the result of this nationalism cannot be over-estimated. It has undoubtedly created such a feeling of antagonism between nations that from day to day we can never say that we are not going to have a repetition of the horrors of the years 1914-18. It is essential that we put our house in order, and it is because of the Government’s defence policy that I give it my support. Almost the whole world policy is one of economic nationalism, creating jealousy, hatred and bitterness, and this necessitates that we should be prepared for any eventuality. The Labour policy of defence and the attitude of the Lang group on this question, together with our association with the Home Land, makes it imperative that we should give the Government a strong majority to carry it out. The very fullest consideration should be given to the Commonwealth’s trade diversion policy, and recognition should be given not only to the injustice that is being done to other countries, but also to the ill-feeling that i3 being created among our own people.
I hope that the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) will give consideration to the request by Western Australia for Commonwealth assistance towards the development of civil aviation in that State. That is a direction in which Commonwealth assistance could sensibly be given because young aviators are being trained, and who may prove later to be of enormous value to our defence.
.- I take this opportunity to direct the attention of the House to discrepancies in the Government’s taxation administration. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey), in the budget speech, took a great deal of credit for what the Government had done regarding taxation, but the budget was not accepted exactly with open arms by a large section of its own following. The Sydney Morning Herald of the 30th August, 1937, said -
A lack of one hoped-for proposal has caused deep disappointment to many supporters of the Government.
The Treasurer said that the Government had substantially reduced taxation. On that point the Sydney Morning Herald said -
When the Treasurer claims, however, that he has almost halved the taxation of Australia, he is treading on uncertain ground.
In the last year of the Scullin Administration total collections of taxes were £53,000,000, whereas this Government collected taxes amounting to £63,000,000 in 1936-37, which is an increase of £10,000,000. In the face of that, I fail to see how the Government can claim that it has substantially reduced taxation. What it has done has been to remove the taxes from its wealthy friends, the people best able to bear them, and increase the indirect taxes - taxes upon the food of the poorer classes. For instance, the Government took action against the best interests of the country to reduce the land tax. City properties yield 67 per cent, of the land tax and country properties only 33 per cent. The rate of that tax has been reduced by 50 per cent., and the wealthy supporters of the Government have thereby benefited substantially. It is said that the land tax bill of the Bank of New South Wales has been reduced by £30,000 per annum. The land tax was introduced by the Labour government in 1910, with the object of promoting closer settlement by means of breaking up large estates and doing away with monopolistic ownership. It then achieved the results for which it was designed. In 1910 and 1911 land valued at £23,200,000 was transferred from the taxable to the non-taxable field, as the result of the breaking up of vast estates. In 1929-30, during the regime of the Scullin Government, land to the value of £10,400,000 was similarly transferred. But, in the last two years for which records are obtainable, 1932-33 and 1933- 34, when the tax was reduced first by one-third, and then by one-half, the land transferred was valued at only £2,500,000. The slump was due to the policy pursued by this Government. As the result of this policy monopolistic ownership of land is occurring once more. Country towns are becoming land-locked, and where employment was once given by many men on small holdings, employment has diminished to a considerable degree. Less money is being spent as the result of great pastoral companies owning the land and sending their profits abroad. Many towns are decaying. It is of serious moment to the people of Australia, particularly those in the outback areas. These companies which arc acquiring additional land as the result of the reduced rate of the land tax, have broken themselves up and operate under different names, and, in this way, evade much of the tax. Also they escape income tax and, as the companies never die, they are not subject to probate duties. All this was shown in the evidence before the Royal Commission on Taxation. In this direction there is room for better administration. There is a determined demand throughout Australia for land. In the outback areas of New South Wales recently thirteen blocks were made available for settlement in the western land division and over 4,700 applications were received for them. For the Government to contend that there is no demand for land is incorrect. People are definitely desirous of obtaining land at the present time. They include the sons of farmers and graziers who are prepared to produce wealth in those areas, and many others, who have spent a life time in performing work of this nature and are seeking an opportunity to launch out on their own behalf. I regret that the Government, while doing nothing to encourage the development of those areas, is actually bringing about stagnation in rural centres.
The wealthy friends of the Government have been treated liberally through the concessions given to pastoral interests. One of the most outstanding examples of those large amounts distributed among the Government’s wealthy supporters is to be found in the new provisions of the
Income Tax Assessment Act 1936, relating to the treatment for taxation purposes of the natural increase of live stock. Prior to 1936, the owner of live stock had the option either of including in, or excluding from, his income tax return the value of the natural increase on hand at the 30th June of each year. Where a taxpayer decided to include the natural increase, it followed that in each year’s assessment he paid tax on the value of all live stock on hand, including the natural increase. Where the natural increase was excluded, the payment of tax was postponed until such time as the increase was sold. The average farmer or grazier, who possessed comparatively small holdings, invariably included the natural increase in his returns, because he had very little to gain by omitting them. On the other hand the large grazier and the pastoral companies always excluded the natural increase, because, by so doing, they postponed the payment of the tax until such time as the stock was sold. The fact that it was possible for one person to include the natural increase, and for another to exclude it, created an unsatisfactory condition. The act of 1936 remedied the position by requiring all live stock owners to include in their returns the value of the natural increase. But a remarkable provision, section 35, was inserted in the act » of 1936, providing that where the natural increase had previously been omitted from tax returns, the value of such natural increase on hand at the 30th June, 1935, was to be treated as a deduction under the heading of “ stock on hand at the beginning of the year “ for the purposes of the 1936 assessment. This had the effect of excluding from taxation the value of the natural increase.
An illustration, common to large pastoral companies, will explain how the section presented a taxation bonus to favoured taxpayers. At the 30th June, 1936, a pastoral company might have on hand 100,000 sheep, representing for sake of argument, 40,000 sheep purchased and 60,000 natural increase, the latter possibly being the residue of several years. As the company exercised its option to exclude the natural increase for taxation returns, it follows that for the purposes of the 1935 assessment, the value of the 40,000 sheep purchased would only be taken into account in making the assessment, and the value of the 60,000 natural increase would be ignored.
Had the act not been amended the company would, in the 1936 assessment, have received a deduction only in respect of the value of the 40,000 sheep taken into account in the 1935 assessment. But under the amended act it received as a deduction, not only the value of the 40,000 sheep purchased, but also the market value of the 60,000 natural increase. In short it received a special deduction of at least £30,000, representing the value of the natural increase previously omitted from returns, and so it escaped taxation on an income of £30,000. The Government may contend that the company paid tax in respect of the natural increase when it was sold. If this is admitted, the company had no right whatsoever to receive a set-off against the proceeds of the sale, the set-off allowed under the act being in most cases the market value of the natural increase sold. To lay emphasis on this contention, the position is that had the increase been sold during 1935, the company would have been taxed on the total proceeds, no set-off being allowed. By selling the natural increase during 1936, a deduction of the market value of the natural increase sold is allowed. The whole business presents a striking illustration of how taxation acts can be “ doctored “ in the interests of people who are in the best position to shoulder taxation responsibilities. The big pastoralists who elected to omit the natural increase, from their returns displayed an uncanny anticipation of what the Government intended to do as a parting gesture for them in the year 1936. Whilst the small grazier, who included the natural increase in his returns, paid every penny of tax, the big interests who are able to purchase the best advice on taxation matters and to forecast correctly the trend of taxation legislation, receive a nice taxation bonus from a “ dying “ government. It is no wonder that a certain “ country doctor “ enjoyed the hospitality of London interests who shared in the natural increase bonus.
In the year ended the 30th June, 1936, land tax amounting to £191,000 was written off by this Government. There have been many instances of large pastoral interests who were able to pay the tax receiving most favorable treatment from the Government. During this debate the postponement of the operation of the tax on bonus shares was stressed by an honorable member, who cited the example of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, which received the benefit of distributing £7,000,000 in bonus shares without having to pay income tax. Such action calls for the censure of the Government by this House.
The Government should give greater consideration generally to the rural population by taking steps to relieve unemployment in country areas, and by ensuring the continuous development of country towns. A progressive developmental policy is most necessary. I have repeatedly made requests for the provision of telephone lines and better postal facilities, because both of these essential services have been sadly neglected by the Government. As a matter of fact, in outback areas, little has been done in recent years in regard to the construction of new telephone and telegraph facilities. The Government should be prepared to give some measure of consideration to the people in this regard. The roads in the outback areas are also neglected, and much work remains to be done in connexion with them. Although I pointed out in a previous debate how the proceeds from the petrol tax could be most advantageously spent, the Government did not make sufficient provision to ensure that this money was spent on the proper maintenance of country roads. When improving country telephone services, the Government should give consideration. to the installation of rural automatic exchanges. In a few centres these exchanges have been provided, but many country towns suffer the inconvenience of the lack of a continuous telephone service. By the establishment of rural automatic exchanges such a facility could be given to the people and their social condition would be improved thereby.
The possibilities of wireless telephony in far-distant areas have not been properly investigatedby the Postal De partment. Wireless telephony has been proved to be a practical proposition by the “ Flying Doctor “ service, and if the department were to provide this facility in the Never-Never, where it would cost hundreds of pounds to erect ordinary telephone lines, the needs of the people would be better served.
The trade diversion policy of the Commonwealth Government, which restricted the importation of many lines of goods from Japan, has acted so detrimentally to country interests as to bring about a continuous loss to the woolgrowers. At the Sydney wool sales, which recently opened, the Japanese representatives did not operate. When the Government introduced its trade diversion policy last year, Japan began to develop the staple fibre industry. In May, 1936 - the month in which the Government introduced its proposals - J apan was producing about 35 tons of staple fibre a day ; but as the outcome of the restriction which was placed upon the export of their goods to Australia, it began vigorously to increase the production of this material. It was estimated that, by the end of 1936, the production of staple fibre would be 170 tons a day. The Oriental Economist, which is published in Japan, contains startling figures in connexion with the development of this particular industry. Several years . ago Japan purchased from Australia about 750,000 bales of wool; but, as the result of the trade diversion policy of Australia, Japanese buyers left the wool market for a considerable time, with a consequent loss of millions of pounds to Australian wool-growers. Since their return to the sales, the Japanese buyers have purchased only limited quantities of wool, and in the circumstances are not likely to buy so much as they did prior to the interference of the Commonwealth Government. The Oriental Economist of July last stated -
The national production of staple fiber is expanding rapidly. The Japan Staple Fiber Association, which started gathering data on the situation from March of this year, reports that the output during the second quarter ran as follows: - March, 10,000,000 lb.; April, 10,500,000 lb.; and May, 11, 622,000 lb. This was a rate of increase from two to three times that of the year before. Staple fiber production last year was 46,000,000 lb., as contrasted to 14,000,000 in 1035 and 5,000,000 in 1934.
An article in the Oriental Economist of June., 1937, stated -
The volume of staple fiber exports in the first four months of this year was 5,0(36,000 lb., valued at 3,208,000 yen. Staple fiber yarn exports in the same period were 1,597,000 lb., worth 1,594,000 yen, and the export trade in fabrics from staple fiber also increased to 2,723,000 square yards in volume and 1,100,000 yen in value. The three staple fiber items combined provided 5,900,000 yen worth of export trade for Japan in the four months, or an average monthly trade of 1,500,000 yen. If it keeps on expanding at the current rate, this comparatively newest textile item’s contribution towards Japan’s export trade should attain the importance of 18,000,000 yen for the whole year of 1937, and thus become one of the major articles of the nation’s foreign trade.
I refer again to the Oriental Economist of July last -
Production capacity of staple fiber mills here at the end of June was 220 metric tons daily. All the expansion schemes, both in the course of installation and in the pencil-and-pad stage put together, would bring the daily capacity to 670 metric tons at the end of this year, and 900 metric tons at the end of 1938. While many are skeptical whether such a great expansion will actually take place, the consensus of opinion is that there will be substantial increase with every possibility of consumption lagging behind production at some stage even if temporarily.
That clearly demonstrates that the trade diversion policy of the Commonwealth Government has given a great impetus to the Japanese staple fibre industry. Whereas previously Japan was satisfied to use wool, it is to-day developing the staple fibre industry to such a degree that its purchases of wool from Australia will be substantially reduced in future. For the incalculable harm done .thereby to our national wool industry, this Government is to blame. An even more ominous feature of. the development of the fibre industry is that the Japanese are not only producing this material for their own use, but also propose that certain quantities of it shall be included in textiles for export. Already they are substantial exporters of this article, and before long it threatens to become an important competitor of wool on the world’s market. It is evident that Australia has much to lose and very little to gain from the policy of the Government, which will react to the detriment of the people living in the outback areas. It must affect the man who grows the wool, and those who work for him. It must also affect business men in country towns and their employees, until, eventually, the effect will be felt throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth. The Government’s policy in this regard is in itself enough to condemn it in the eye3 of the people, and I have no doubt that they will show their disapproval at the forthcoming elections.
– The people have forgotten all about it long ago.
– They will remember it again when the ill effects of the policy begin to manifest themselves. The Government has also neglected to make provision for the employment of youths, or to introduce a system for the better housing of the people. It has instructed its delegates to the International Labour Conference to support a 40-hour week, but it is not prepared to introduce a 40-hour week even in its own .services. The Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator, Mr. Westhoven, in the course of a determination delivered on the 1st July, 1937, said-
From 1923 to 1935, the revenue of the Post Office increased by £4,000,000, and the capital value of the department’s assets and plant expanded from £23,000,000 to £51,000,000. These two factors would lead one to expect a substantial increase in the staff, but, actually, there has been a decrease of 100 employees in the permanent and temporary staff.
The Government has an opportunity here to put into effect the 40-hour week. Government supporters have dwelt upon the increase of employment in Australia, but they have omitted to state that, although in some industries more persons are employed, the total amount of wages paid is lessIn the New South Wales railways, even the number of employees has declined. In 1929, there were 44,000 persons employed, but, in 1936, the number was only 42,000, a reduction of 2,000. Salaries and wages for the year 1929 amounted to £12,560,000, but, for 1936, the amount had fallen to £8,776,000, a decrease of £3,784,000. The average yearly wage of railway employees declined from £280 in 1929 to £209 in 1936, a reduction of £71 a year. During the same period, the population of the State increased by 160,000.
The same trend has been noticeable in manufacturing industries throughout the country. In 1929, the number of persons employed in factories was 185,000, who received an average yearly wage of £208, or £4 a week. In 1936, the number had increased to 197,000, but the average yearly wage was only £170. In 1929, the total wages paid amounted to £38,545,000, but by 1936 this figure had declined to £33,298,000, despite the fact that the number of factory workers had increased by 12,000. Even in those industries where employment has increased, the increase is due, not to the Government’s policy, but to the general economic improvement, while the workers individually are materially worse off than they were in 1929.
It is generally recognized now that tho last days of the Government have come upon it, so that it would be foolish at this stage to make requests to it. “We shall withhold our requests, and make them to the incoming Labour Government. At the next election, the people will reward the present Government with dismissal for the disservice it has rendered to the community. To-day, the Government is being criticized even by those who wore formerly among its staunchest friends.
The Government has repeatedly evaded questions on the subject of immigration, but recently it has shown a disposition to favour a scheme for bringing inchildren from overseas to congest the labour market, although we still have a vast army of unemployed. This unemployment is greatest among our own young people with whom the newcomers would be in most active competition. If the Government is anxious to resume immigration, it should first provide work for all those who are already in the country. When these are absorbed, it is time enough to talk about bringing in more people from overseas. We must find a place in industry for the thousands of boys and girls who are now drifting aimlessly through life without employment and without hope. One way of doing this would be to shorten the working week and I hope that provision for this and other reforms will be made by the incoming Government when it has the opportunity to put its policy into effect.
– I propose to touch upon the subject of defence before going on to deal with other matters pertaining to the Northern Territory and its development, such as the meat industry, fisheries, agriculture, and malnutrition among the women and children of the north and western Queensland. Any man who has the safety and welfare of his country at heart must necessarily hesitate before speaking of defence in a time of crisis. A government that does its duty naturally does not tell even to Parliament everything it knows. If it were to do so it might divulge something that would be’ of use to an enemy. No doubt it will be argued that Parliament has the right to know everything, that if there is anything which should not be discussed in public there is power to hold a secret session as was done during the war. In theory that is all very well, but it would not work out in practice while there are men in politics who place their allegiance to party before their allegiance to their country, men who are such slaves to caucus that they would find it difficult to preserve national secrets however grave.
They are the men who would be first to yell for protection if a shell were dropped a few miles from them. They do not appreciate what war means because, instead of standing to in the trenches, they spent their youth urging men not to fight alongside us in Prance. Some of them are not to blame for not going to the war; that is a matter for their consciences. And some of them axe not to blame for trusting Moscow delegates with their secrets, because they have the peculiar bent of mind which makes it seem worth while for them to curry favour with Moscow. Because of the presence of such men in politics, particularly one or two for whom a foreign vote means the difference between election and defeat, I realize the difficulty which the Government has in making a frank statement on the details of defence, and I should be the last man in the House to ask it to make such a statement even in strict confidence. For it to do so would be for it to run. the risk of having the information leak out, perhaps to the gentlemen who were congratulated a few years ago direct from Moscow on starting the “Minority Movement”, and who afterwards scuttled to Russia for instructions and returned to Hew South Wales to inaugurate the sit-down strikes on the coal-fields.
Lack of knowledge of the full position is, however, an awkward handicap. While I am naturally not anxious to utter any criticism without having full knowledge of what the Government may be considering, I am anxious to emphasize some points, the main being that the crucial area of defence in Australia is the north. We had the spectacle the other day of a foreign boat being pulled into Darwin wharf, a boat which has been taking shell from pearling beds we have always regarded as the hunting grounds of Australian pearlers, so that a proclamation could be read calling up its crew for the service of their country against a nation friendly to us. Had the call to those men been to fight against Australia, it would have come as a shock to honorable members to realize that there would have been enough of .them to outnumber Australians on our northern coast, whilst every one of them would have had the benefit of military, or naval training, as a conscript. Moreover, they would have had sufficient fast motor vessels in their pearling fleets, backed by big Japanese firms like Mitsuis, the industrial bankers, to land at any point in the north three or four battalions, fully armed, equipped and provisioned, and with a fairly adjacent base in Palau in the Japanese mandated islands. ‘Whatever might have been the ultimate fate of such a force, the moral effect of their capture of a large area of this country would have been tremendous. Apart from this we would have to contend with the menace of being compelled to conduct a war in northern waters without an enemy landing on our shores. I impress on the Government that the development of the Japanese pearling business createsan entirely new situation in respect of the defence of northern Australia, and I plead with it to take measures to meet this menace. I am not speaking in any spirit of enmity toward the Japanese, because they have always been friendly to Great Britain, but precaution should be our first line of defence. Ten years before the Great War it was difficult to think of Germany as our next enemy. Twenty years before that period, when Queen Victoria’s grandson occupied the German throne, it would have been unthinkable, whilst 30 years before, Britain actually helped Germany with all its power to get New Guinea territory, because it was felt that Germany was a neighbour much preferable to France or any other power. We must, therefore, always provide for any eventuality. To-day the Dutch East Indies have less than us to fear from a possible aggressor, because they are densely populated, and no invader could push out that population. However, they are embarking on a programme, which, it seems to me, is comparable with that being undertaken in respect of the whole of Australia which is a greater, nation than even Holland, the mother country of the Indies. The Indies, I understand, are providing for 200 new fighting aeroplanes, some new cruisers, bases which will reach as far south as Dutch New Guinea, and a citizen army seven times the size of our present citizen force. Holland must feel, apparently, that a situation of urgency has arisen, because it has customarily been averse to the establishment of citizen armies among its native peoples. When it has armed the Indies, according to this programme, we shall have an immediate neighbour more powerful than Australia, despite our white race, and our immense resources.
I am not opposing the defence vote; indeed, I question whether it is sufficient. If double the amount were provided to put northern Australia on an adequate defence basis it would not be too much. We should have a base and a dock at Darwin which would provide head-quarters in war time for at least 10,000-ton cruisers. The present method of handling shipping at Darwin is farcical. To-day two vessels find it difficult to come into the wharf at the same time. We should have adequate guns, men and stores, and equipment in the north, whilst a number of naval and military officers should undergo regular training along the northern coast. I trust that somebody high up in our military forces has an intimate knowledge of northern conditions, though I do not know who he could be, and also I trust that some scheme for co-ordinating what knowledge does exist in respect of the north, ‘ in a time of emergency, is being considered. As a returned soldier, and a surveyor who knows the north, I shall gladly give all the help I .can in this direction, though there are probably men like General McNicol, of Rabaul, who can be even more useful because of their experience in command and strategy. I urge the Minister not to be overcome with a sense of the importance of the south, but to be guided entirely by defence, and not political, considerations. If it is worth Britain’s while to spend tens of millions of pounds on Singapore, Hong Kong and other fortified bases, when it has nothing to lose in the Orient but isolated investments and some attached colonies and dominions which are certainly not Great Britain’s lifeblood, it is even more important that Australia should spare no pains to defend itself when invasion might menace its existence as a nation. In that respect, I point out that it is the announced policy of the High Command of Great Britain that if the mandated territory of New Guinea were returned to Germany, it would not add very considerably to Germany’s resources or to Britain’s loss, but that, from a strategic point of view, the value of such action would be incalculable. I hope that honorable members will realize that fact.
This Government seems to be under the delusion that nothing intelligent comes out of the north. Ministers seem to think that it is unnecessary for Australia to adopt the practice of training tropical administrators from their boyhood as kas been done by Britain in Malaya. It seems to be an essential to this Government that administrators for the Northern Territory should have had no tropical experience. When the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) visited Darwin recently, I was not even notified, and he appeared to be more concerned with the job of placating an imported malcontent from the Newcastle coal-fields, and smoothing the way for a new administrator about whose capacity he must have been nervous, than about hearing the views of men who know the country thoroughly and could help him with constructive ideas and technical knowledge. I trust that the Minister for Defence will mobilize all those who possess exact knowledge of the north. In this respect, I hope that the Government does not agree with the policy of the Department of the Interior. Residents of the Northern Territory are most likely to feel the first and last strokes of an invasion and, apart from the fact that the open door to the Commonwealth is the Northern Territory, they would be the worst sufferers from any aggression because of lack of food resources and because of their isolation from the capital cities. I commend these ideas to the Minister in a friendly spirit, and I hope that he will regard them as coming from one who has had a better access to knowledge of the north and has lived for years closer to the point of any likely invasion than any other honorable member in. this House.
I wish now to deal with matters directly concerning the welfare of industries which are of vital importance to the Northern Territory and Australia as a whole. Replying to a question in this House yesterday, the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) stated that 95 per cent, of the beef grown in New South Wales was sold in that State, whilst 85 per cent, of the total exports of meat from Australia came from Queensland and Western Australia. I point out that a large proportion of those exports is produced in the Northern Territory and the Gulf of Carpentaria, and I suggest that the fact that so little of our meat is exported emphasizes the necessity for stabilizing the markets in our capital cities. Honorable members should make themselves familiar with the manner in which these markets are influenced by certain sections of the master butchers. In this respect, I .am concerned particularly with the- position existing at the abattoirs at Brisbane and Adelaide, because it is from these abattoirs that much of the meat that is produced in the Northern Territory i3 exported, and exploited under unfair conditions. At the moment, I am not referring to that meat produced in the Northern Territory, which ia exported from the Wyndham works. I emphasize that much meat, just under chiller standard, does not get a fair deal at the hands of the master butchers in the capital cities, and I suggest that honorable members opposite should be more concerned with rectifying this matter than in criticizing this Government for its alleged lack of ability to deal with the situation. In their efforts to defend their operations the master butchers are throwing up a smoke screen, and I ask the Government not to place too much credence in the statements made at their recent meeting in Sydney, as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald. 1 point out, first of all, that there is very little real competition at the Brisbane abattoirs for meat which is just under chiller standard. One buyer operates for many others, and the allocation or division of the spoils is made after the sale. This meat is purchased by certain master butchers or operators, who possess no holding grounds. The market under the present selling methods is overloaded with inferior dairy meat, which they go out of their way to purchase as a standby. By these tactics they are enabled to depress the price of choice meat just under chiller standard. The prices are depressed. Consequently, I ask honorable members to take notice of that. Meat which goes from the Northern Territory to Adelaide is at the mercy too of unfair conditions, namely purchase Try public auction. The men in the Alice Springs area can raise in average years only one draft of bullocks a year. They might have only 100 or 200 head, because they are in a small way. They experience a lot of worry, and many sleepless nights, wondering whether they will accidentally catch a good market in Adelaide and obtain £9 or £10 for a chiller, or encounter a depressed market and obtain only £7 for it, and thus barely cover costs.
– Of the cattle which are brought in from the Northern Territory, 90 per cent, is the property of Vestey’s and Bovril.
– I am not certain of that. The Bovril concern, at a moderate estimate, has 1SO,000 head on its own station. Most of their cattle and Vestey’s are sent to Wyndham works under a different set of killing conditions.
– The percentage would not be nearly as large as has been suggested.
– What I am trying to impress on the Government is the desirability of assisting these growers of beef by paying greater attention to the local market than to the export trade. We could afford to give away chiller meat if we could control the depression of prices by the master butchers in connexion with the local supply. I respect the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) for his endeavors to put the matter right. State regulations prevent him, however, from doing so. Honorable members should not criticize the right honorable gentleman but should approach the seat of the trouble and endeavour to induce the State governments to take action. There is now chain killing in Sydney. The only way to solve the problem is to have the beef - graded on the hooks at- the abattoirs. If the grower himself had control of the matter, and were not, metaphorically, placed inside a barbed wire entanglement, with the master butcher outside levelling a gun at him, the whole problem would be solved. The grower would obtain a fair remuneration, and the people of Australia would know that they were getting first, second, or third grade meat, not culled dairy cows. The people of the Northern Territory who are producing this choice meat arc penalized because the culled cows of the dairymen on the coast are allowed to go on the market and depress prices, coupled with faked bidding by the drop of a thumb.
There are one or two other matters appertaining to the Northern Territory that I wish to mention.
– Does the honorable member propose to tell us that if he is not given a vote he will resign his scat?
– The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker) knows that I have a vote in respect of Northern Territory matters. The watchdog of the Northern Territory is now on his feet. That part of Australia has not previously had a watchdog.
I wish, to refer to the possibility of developing the fisheries industry in the Northern Territory. I was pleased to note that the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) had taken such a keen interest, with Dr. Thompson, in Brisbane waters, a few weeks ago. I wish to go further. I have been on most of the rivers of the Northern Territory, and have no hesitation in saying that they are alive with barramundi and other choice fish, as well as deep sea fish. There is no likelihood of the industry being developed unless the Commonwealth Government takes positive action to assist the fishermen. I ask it to allow Dr. Thompson to confer with those persons in the Northern Territory who are well acquainted with its waters, with a view to establishing the fishing industry on a basis comparable to the fleet of small fishermen in the North Sea who did such valuable work during the last war. I need not dwell on this aspect as honorable members will seize its growing importance among the foreign pearling fleets.
Another matter that demands attention is the investigation of the possibilities of the Northern Territory for agricultural production. So many reports have been made on this matter, some adverse and others optimistic, that I am rather diffident about stating my views. Scientists have visited the Northern Territory, but have not remained there long enough to work out their theories; they have scuttled back to Canberra after a visit of about a month. I urge that the Northern Territory be placed definitely on a soil survey basis. The only person that E can think of who is capable of doing that is Dr. Prescott, who needs no introduction to honorable members. “We all know that he has recently visited Russia for the purpose of studying the Glinka soil survey, the most renowned in the world. It was begun many years ago, and is one of the most remarkable achievements of recent years. As late as 1929 there was a dearth of soil surveyors; I believe that only one - from the Department of Agriculture of New South- Wales - could be found in Australia. I urge that the services of Dr. Prescott be availed of for the making of a definite soil survey that will last for all time. Some very definite informa- lion has been published within recent years. My friend, the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) has mentioned the tobacco industry, for the establishment of which the northern parts of Australia are eminently suited. He has pointed out that north of 20 degrees south latitude is the only area in which tobacco suited to the taste of Australians, by virtue of its aroma, can be grown.
– What rot! Tasmania grows the best tobacco in Australia.
– The report on which the honorable member for Darling Downs based his statement may be out of date; I trust that it is. The fact remains, however, that north of 20 degrees south latitude tobacco is grown which is superior to that grown in the southern parts of Australia. There are millions of acres of that kind of tobacco land apart from other tropical products in the Northern Territory. I mention particularly the districts served by the Daly and Katherine rivers and the Pine Creek areas. One or two growers are already growing tobacco in the Daly river district under unnatural, almost barbaric, conditions. On my representations, the Minister for Trade and Customs (“Mr. White) was good enough to allow one man to manufacture tobacco, but he is confronted with an insuperable difficulty in the excise that is imposed. The Aboriginals Department has agreed to purchase his crop at 2s. lOd. per lb., but as the excise amounts to 3s. lOd. per lb. sales at that figure would be quite unprofitable. I appeal to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) and the Minister for Trade and Customs, if they have at heart the development of the Northern Territory on an agricultural basis, to take positive action. If the excise were not imposed, this man could supply tobacco to the Aboriginals Department at a profit. When he had become firmly established, others might engage in tobacco-growing, and eventually there would be no need to continue this concession.
I cannot resume my seat without mentioning the matter referred to by the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark), that of malnutrition in inland areas. Some honorable members are rather inclined to scoff at any mention of this matter. I assure them that it constitutes a very real menace. I invite the cooperation of members representing western Queensland divisions, particularly the honorable members for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) and Maranoa (Mr. Hunter), because those two large electorates, particularly the western end of Maranoa, are characterized by almost as grim conditions as are to be found in the area adjoining it and which I represent. The whole of the trouble has arisen because of the lack of green vegetables and other resistance foods which act as a preventive against disease and tracoma. The Carnegie Institute has expressed amazement at the work that is being done voluntarily by Dr. Watson Brown at Dongreach. I urge the honorable member for Kennedy to discuss this matter with that gentleman when he is next in Longreach, as I did when travelling to Darwin by aeroplane. He would learn something of the conditions that exist in his vast electorate.
– Let the honorable member look after the Northern Territory and I shall look after Kennedy.
– I am trying to be of service to the honorable member.- Dr. Watson Brown has made personal observations of the children out there, and has found that the blood resistance to disease of children- of the third generation has been so depleted because of the deterioration of the red corpuscles as to be a national menace. A complete survey has been made up to Burketown and Camooweal, and has also extended into the Northern Territory. If honorable members were fully alive to the position, they would not refuse to help these people by the provision of green vegetables and fruits and the reduction of transport charges to enable them to leave that country on holiday at least every two years.
A matter that has not so far been mentioned in this House is the difficulty of mothers of the third generation to rear children without the bottle in the tropical regions on the North Queensland coast, such as Townsville. Honorable members may have forgotten that at the 20th Congress of the British Medical Association, held in Brisbane in 1920, some remarkable lectures were given in regard to the virility of the third and fourth generations in our tropical regions. If these reports were widely published they would cause consternation in the community. I do not agree with all that was said at that conference, but I agree with the conclusion that Australia has never enunciated the conditions to enable women to live there in reasonable comfort. I deprecate the tendency to treat as something that we ought to forget the deleterious effects of the conditions on women in our tropical regions. I urge honorable members always to bear in mind those -famous words which the late Sir Henry Parkes uttered at the inauguration of federation, that “this is a continent for a nation, and a nation for a continent “. I am afraid that we have not yet given that intense consideration, as Britain has done in Malaya, to our tropical regions that they deserve, and so have not made possible the fulfilment of Sir Henry Parkes’ ideal. I, therefore, ask that our northern areas be not forgotten in the defence and economic programme of this Government, and that the people living in these areas be granted conditions which would enable them to live in conditions more nearly comparable, in respect of social services and otherwise, to the conditions of the . people of the southern States.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Holloway) adjourned.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment : -
States’ Grants Bill 1937.
War Pensions Appropriation Bill 193?.
Motion (by Sir Archdale Parkhill) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday next at 10.30 a.m.
Trade Diversion Policy - Motor Bodybuilding - Land Tax Remissions : Attorney-General’s Speech at Roma - Non-official Post Offices - Public Service: Leave for Temporary Officers - Income Tax Penalties. Motion (by Sir Archdale Parkhill) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
Mr. HOLLOWAY (Melbourne Ports) [4.2 j. - I desire to make another appeal to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) to grant the requests that have been made to him frequently on behalf of several branches of the automotive industry to relax the Government’s trade diversion policy in certain directions. I wish to make it clear that I favour the plan the Government has adopted, as I think do most people. Everybody was glad when the Government indicated that it intended to make possible the manufacture of complete motor cars in Australia. The difficulties that have arisen are due principally to ike sudden disorganization of industry through the complete prohibition of the importation of necessary motor car parts from abroad. I have been approached on several occasions by both employers’ and employees’ organizations on this subject. Only last week the representative of the Coachmakers Society urged me to bring the matter under the notice of the Government. In recent years many members of that organization have been engaged on the manufacture of motor bodies. Some time ago a number of these men were dismissed. The Minister hopes, and, I think, believes, that most of those nien have since been absorbed in the industry, but I assure him that that is not so, for many are still waiting for re-employment. That they are still unemployed is unsatisfactory alike to the men themselves and to the employers who, with a slight relaxation of the existing policy, would be willing to re-engage them. I ask that the quotas fixed some time ago to govern the importation of motor chassis from the “United States of America be reviewed.
– I have no desire to do harm to any industry; I wish to do some good. If the Government would relax the existing stringent regulations somewhat, it would be to the advantage of everybody concerned. I do not wish to suggest that the Ottawa Agreement lias been responsible for all the difficulties ; but I ask that upon adequate reasons being advanced to support the request for some relaxation of the existing regula tions, that course be adopted. When this request has been made to the Minister, previously he has said that the scheme must be worked out in its entirety, and that the difficulties will ultimately be overcome because British interests are anxious that our business should be transferred to them. At one stage difficulties were caused in consequence of the inability to obtain a certain class of steel which was previously secured from the United States of America. Such material is now, I believe, being imported from Great Britain. But everybody is well aware that the British manufacturers, who desired trade to be diverted to them, especially in the engineering industries, are now fully occupied, In fact, it is practically impossible at present to obtain any skilled British artisans in the engineering and metal trades to accept work in. Australia, for they are fully employed in their own country. Moreover, we have been given to understand that the British manufacturers do not, at present, desire additional orders. In these circumstances, why should we continue to impose hardship on our local firms by forcing them to place orders with British manufacturers which are not desired? No harm would be done, in fact a great deal of good would follow, if the Government allowed a larger number of motor chassis to enter Australia from the United States of America and Canada than is possible under the existing quotas. Surely the relaxation of the restrictions to that extent could not affect the ultimate success of the long-range plan that the Government has embarked upon but it would mean that more people would be employed by firms like General Motors and the Chrysler companies. I do not think that members of the Government, or any member of this House, or any expert engaged in the engineering industry, believes that it will be possible for Australia in less than two decades to establish the motor car manufacturing industry in this country on anything like a big unit basis. I therefore urge the Government to give favorable consideration to the request for the admission of a greater number of Canadian and American chassis. We are all delighted. I am sure, that at present 80 per cent, of the finished American and Canadian motor cars offered for retail sale in Australia are of Australian manufacture. I happen to know one of the finest and most capable men engaged in the engineering industry in Australia who has done a great deal personally by his Australian outlook and engineering ability to make this possible. He has himself invented many little gadgets which have added to the amount of work done in Australia upon car3 sold in this country, and the American manufacturers have themselves given him leave to do his best to accomplish the thing that he desires to do. The efforts now being made to encourage the “manufacture of complete motor cars in this country will not be impaired in any respect if the existing regulations are made a little more elastic. In fact nothing but good would follow such a procedure and I urge the Government to give sympathetic consideration to my request.
.- I support the remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (.Mr. Holloway). When the trade diversion policy was introduced I supported it because I believed that Australia’s adverse trade balance with the United States of America was so serious that steps should be taken to deal with it. But the success which has attended the operation of that policy has exceeded expectations, and now the balance of trade is in favour of Australia.
– Is the improved state of affairs due to the trade diversion policy?
– Not entirely; much of it is the result of large purchases by the United States of America of Australian wool and gold. Nevertheless, it is true that the trade diversion policy has been more successful than was expected by its sponsors. The situation now is such that the Government would be justified in reviewing the position, especially in relation to those manufactures which could be imported from the United States of America without seriously interfering with the duty we owe to Britain and British manufacturers. Among the items which I have in mind are motor cycles, the importation of which from the United States of America is prohibited, although in respect of motor cars a quota was imposed. I ask the Government to re-consider the position with a view to making such amendments as will remove those disabilities which are necessarily associated with the sudden cutting off of trade.
.- I take this opportunity to correct a wrong impression created by a speech which the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies), delivered at Roma, Queensland, reports of which were published and distributed throughout the Maranoa electorate, presumably by the Assistant Minister (Mr. Hunter). As reported in the Roma Western Star of the 28th July, the right honorable gentleman said -
He did not know why any member of the Commonwealth Government should apologize for not reducing taxation when he was able to point to that record. He said that to Mr. Forde, whose reply was - “You have reduced taxation £15,000,000; you have only taken it off your friends and off the man who votes for you. You have given the reduction to them - laud taxation - and benefited the fat grazier.”
I deny that I used the expression “ fat grazier “, or suggested that any substantial benefit was given to the graziers of Australia, particularly the small graziers, many of whom are to be found in the Maranoa and Capricornia electorates. Speaking on the Supply Bill on the 23rd June, last, I said -
The Government has remitted taxes which, on its own statement, amount to £18,000,000. These remissions have lightened the burden on the backs of the wealthy sections of the community in Australia, while invalid and old-age pensioners, with their very meagre allowance of 19s. a week, have had to watch the expenditure of every penny of their income.
I made no reference on that occasion to the land tax, and I am not in the habit of referring to graziers as “ fat graziers.” That expression was used by the AttorneyGeneral in an effort to arouse resentment against me on the part of graziers in Queensland. On several occasions I have pointed out that because of the provisions allowing for the exemption of improvements and of land the unimproved value of which is not more than £5,000 no struggling farmer or grazier pays the federal land tax first imposed by a Labour government. Thus, a property valued at £20,000 with improvements amounting to £8,000, would have paid a tax of £16 in 1932; but a property valued at £8,000 with improvements valued at £3,000, would have paid no land tax at all. Those figures show clearly that the federal land tax does not strike against struggling graziers or farmers. I have pointed out on several occasions that the people who would benefit most from the tax remissions granted by the present Government are the banking institutions, insurance, shipping, commercial and land mortgage companies, and the large city proprietary stores, which own city property the value of which has increased remarkably. The total improved and unimproved land values are approximately the same, but as city land-owners pay two-thirds of the land tax, it is clear that they are wealthy persons holding land of great value. At the. instigation of those persons, the Lyons-Page Government reduced the federal land tax by one half, but, that reduction did not relieve the struggling farmer or the grazier with property valued at £8,000 and having on it improvements valued at £3,000, because, as I have said, such land was already exempt from the tax under the policy of the Labour party. I make this explanation because the Attorney-General in his irresponsible way, endeavoured to create the impression among graziers in the Maranoa district that I referred to them as “ fat graziers.” I know too well that many graziers in Queensland are in poor circumstances, and can ill afford to lose approximately £2 10s. a bale, or £7,500,000 in the aggregate, which the bungling trade diversion policy of the Government brought about, when it caused an estrangement between Australia and Japan - our second best customer for wool: - at a time when it was particularly desirable that the most friendly relations between the two countries should be fostered. It is a pity that the Attorney-General and the Assistant Minister did not, when that policy was under discussion, show the same solicitude for the welfare of the graziers that the Attorney-General tried to display at his meeting in Roma.
I find no fault with his statement that, during the last three years, Country party ministers have worked in complete harmony with Mr. Lyons and the United
Australia party members of the Government. That is evident; indeed, the gravamen of my charge against the Country party is that it has lost its separate identity, and no longer appeals to the small graziers and farmers in Gwydir and other large country electorates like Maranoa and Capricornia. It may be a separate entity in Victoria, but it is not so in the federal sphere. The graziers of Maranoa and Gwydir know that the Country party has become but a weak joint in the tail of a Nationalist party
– I wish to bring before the House a grievance that has been freely expressed by those in charge of allowance and nonofficial post offices, concerning the remuneration they receive for the work that they perform. The amounts involved are small, but dissatisfaction has been caused by the fact that the officers do not know the basis upon which their remuneration is gauged. They receive varying amounts, and when they apply for information as to how the calculations are made, all they are told is that the amounts are calculated in accordance with the amount of business done. In some cases, increased amounts of business are done and smaller amounts of remuneration are paid. I do not expect the Minister to be able to answer me immediately, but I hope that he will take up the matter with the Postmaster-General. This is a starchamber method of doing business, and it is hardly right that a big body of men who give good service to the Commonwealth should be refused information as to how their salaries are computed.
.- I direct the attention of the Prime Minister to an anomaly in the Commonwealth Public Service regarding recreation leave for temporary public servants. Public servants receive three weeks’ annual leave, but a temporary employee whose name I shall supply to the Prime Minister later, was employed for two years and eight months in a temporary position. For each of the two complete years of his service, he received three weeks’ leave, but for the eight months he had to forfeit leave and thereby lost twelve days. In the Commonwealth Public Service, there are about 6,000 temporary employees and it is fair to assume that many of them work from four to eight months and are not granted leave in respect of the periods in which they are employed. Private employers grant leave in proportion to the length of time worked, and even in “Western Australia, where the Government is hard put to it financially, temporary public servants receive one days’ leave for each month of service. It is not asking too much to expect the Commonwealth Government to remove the anomaly in its own method of dealing with temporary employees. I do not blame the present Government, but, now that the matter has been raised, whatever government is in power should rectify the position by amending the Public Service Regulations. To do so would be to give no more than ordinary justice to the temporary employees affected.
.- 1 bring under the notice of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) two income tax cases in which it is claimed that the Federal Commissioner for Taxation (Mr. Ewing) has adopted a most unreasonable attitude with regard to penalties which he has inflicted in federal income tax assessments. The facts have been supplied by Mr. F. P. Kennedy, who is a former employee of the Queensland Income Tax Department and is now a chartered accountant and taxation expert in Brisbane, and is in every way a reputable citizen. He has no objection to his name being mentioned in these two cases. I understand that there are similar other cases, but that these are among the worst. The department’s inspector investigated the first case, and Mr. Kennedy acted on behalf of the taxpayer during the investigation, but at no time before that date. The taxpayer’s assets greatly exceeded the income he had returned, but for the most part the accretion had remained unidentified with any particular source of income. He had been an hotelkeeper, and therefore his income from that source was in cash, and not readily identifiable. The taxpayer advanced certain explanations to the effect that the unidentified income was from a non-taxable source. Mr. Kennedy considered that there were good reasons to believe him, and from a particular knowledge of the hotels in which he was trading, would not believe for one moment that those businesses produced the income now assessed. The State- official who handled the matter obviously realized that there was some doubt, and the Commissioner of Taxation in Queensland, Mr. Magee, dealt very leniently with the taxpayer in regard to penalty. Indeed, .had he taken a serious view the taxpayer would have been prosecuted in the police court. The penalty imposed by Mr. Magee for State income tax amounted to a flat rate of 10 per cent, of the additional tax payable. Federal assessments under three years were also dealt with by Mr. Magee in his capacity as Deputy Federal Commissioner of Taxation, and the penalty for those years was also 10 per cent. flat. The federal assessments over three years were dealt with at Canberra, and a penalty of 100 per cent, was added. The harshness of the federal decision will be more appreciated by a statement of the actual penalties. The federal penalty is £2,155 for all years. On the basis of the federal assessments issued from Canberra, the federal penalty for all years would have been £2,300. Whilst the ordinary additional tax payable in the State assessments was greater than for the federal assessments, the State penalty for all years was only £220. Mr. Kennedy states that Mr. Ewing’s attitude, when a reduction of penalty was requested, was definitely hostile and insulting, and could only arise out of ignorance of the matters with which he was dealing. I understand that Mr. Ewing called Mr. Kennedy “ a bush lawyer “ and the like. According to Mr. Kennedy practically every accountant dealing largely with taxation matters in Brisbane has experienced similar treatment, and some have definitely stated that they will not appear before Mr. Ewing again in a representative capacity. In a memorandum on this matter, Mr. Kennedy writes -
No doubt the Commonwealth Treasurer would he pleased to tell you that there is a High Court or a board of review to deal with appeals from the Commissioner’s decision. For the purpose of this case, such advice is futile. The investigation went back to the year 1913, and there is no need for me to tell you that the average hotelkeeper or small business man cannot prove his income tax returns so far back. The Board of Review has hedged itself in with all sorts of rules of evidence, which is, in my opinion, contrary to the intention of Parliament. It has been found that one is advised to appeal only to the court, and costs in that connexion, of course, are prohibitive. However, the main point at issue is that taxpayers are to find themselves in the position where one commissioner takes a lenient view of their default, and the other commissioner adopts a most extreme attitude of harshness.
Regarding the second case, I am informed by Mr. Kennedy that the department investigated the position of the taxpayer. His assets showed substantial omissions of income, but he had bad an agent to prepare his returns, and denied that he was aware of the deficiency. Mr. Magee did not prosecute him, but regarded the matter seriously, and in his assessments imposed a penalty of 50 per cent. The taxpayer’s agent at the time assured him that the assessments were correct and advised him to pay up and look pleasant. The taxpayer w;is not so satisfied that the assessments were correct, and when he subsequently received federal assessments from Canberra with a penalty imposed therein of 100 per cent., he. decided to get further advice and consulted Mr. Kennedy. In the meantime, however, his cheque book, pass books and other records had gone astray between the inspector and his previous agent. The inspector claimed that the records had been returned to the agent, but he had no acknowledgment or receipt to show that that was so. The agent denied that they were ever returned to him, and Mr. Kennedy knows no reason why he should seek to destroy the records. The taxpayer was practically helpless, but from the history of the case which he detailed to him, Mr. Kennedy was able to pick out one error, and on that point alone subsequently secured a refund of about £400. This, of course, only confirmed the taxpayer’s suspicions that there were other mistakes, but the inspector concerned refused to divulge to him any other details of the amended income. The taxpayer was prepared to go before the Income Tax Board of Review, but his death intervened in April last. As his representative, Mr. Kennedy subsequently appeared before the board; but without the taxpayer’s evidence and h is records, which had been lost, the board soon made it clear that it could not adequately deal with it. Again, he pointed out that the board had hedged itself in with rules which destroy the true function that Parliament intended it to exercise. The position is such that an inspector will apparently be able to issue assessments, get rid of the records, and then put the onus on the taxpayer to prove that the assessments are wrong. The Commissioner in Canberra, in such circumstances, is still prepared to adhere to the penalty, which is undoubtedly harsh in view of the more moderate view taken by the Deputy Commissioner in Brisbane. Furthermore, the slackness of the Taxation Department at Canberra in dealing with these matters was such that it took nearly two years for the taxpayer’s objections to be brought before the Board of Review, and, meanwhile, the taxpayer had died. The excessive federal penalty is, of course, a burning point at issue. Why should a penalty of 100 per cent, be imposed in respect of federal assessments issued from Canberra, when the Deputy Commissioner in Brisbane imposes a penalty of only 50 per cent, for State purposes? The Deputy Commissioner in Brisbane had the benefit of a personal interview with the taxpayer and should be better acquainted with the circumstances of the case and the reliability of the taxpayer than the Com;missioner in Canberra. I suggest that the cases which I have mentioned should be inquired into by the Treasurer.
– I shall ask the Commissioner of Taxation in Canberra to report to me in regard to the matters mentioned, and I shall advise the honorable member of the result later.
– The honorable members for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) and Perth (Mr. Nairn) referred to the disabilities suffered by traders in the motor industry as the result of the Government’s trade diversion policy. I frankly admit that in any change of policy of such a sweeping nature, disabilities must arise and some firms may appear to be more harshly affected than others. That is inevitable; but it must be borne in mind that the Government’s policy is general . in its application and cannot be judged by its effect upon any particular firm. The trade diversion policy -was adopted in order to divert trade from the United States of America to Great Britain and other countries that had a favorable trade balance with us, and to assist Australian industries. I was glad to hear both honorable members declare the success of the scheme in that regard. It cannot be denied that the trade diversion policy has operated successfully; it has resulted in the establishment of large new industries in Australia and has accelerated manufacturing operations considerably. With regard to motor cars, I may inform honorable members that almost a balance has been struck in the diversion of motor chassis from Canada and the United States of America to the United Kingdom. The application of the quota system has not in any way restricted employment in Australia; it has merely effected a transference of employment from one factory to another. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports mentioned this morning that one factory had to put off a number of men because it3 quota had been exhausted. I point out, however, that it was only a temporary stoppage of work. The largest firm in Melbourne, the Ruskin Company, has secured a large British order which has assured continuous work for some time to come. The Sydney firm of McGrath Limited, which handles the Hillman and Humber cars, is fully occupied and has established a branch in Brisbane. Thus there is a wider spread of employment. The motor car industry in Australia has expanded to a greater extent than ever before.
– What about the disturbance of industry and employment?
– It is something new for the honorable member to have any regard for the welfare of Australia. The honorable member generally has harsh words to say about every local firm. I have already admitted that, some disability has been occasioned to certain firms as the result of the Government’s trade diversion policy, but those firms are prospering; they have not been crushed out of existence. The Government’s trade diversion policy has resulted in a diminution of the imports of motor cars from the United
States of America and Canada by 5,138 chassis and has increased the imports of chassis from the United Kingdom by 5,194. Surely the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) will applaud that. That increase of the number of chassis imported from the United Kingdom has taken place as a result of the diversion of a portion of the motor car trade from the United States of America and Canada because of the restrictive tariffs imposed by those countries against Australia. Actually motor car registrations increased from 70,247 in 1935-36 to 72,778 in 1936-37. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports also said that certain firms have suffered great disability because of the quota system. The quota fixed for this year was based on the figures for 1936, a year of high importations, and it has been adequate for most of the firms concerned. The only large organization to express dissatisfactions, is the firm which handles the Chrysler-Dodge products. That firm desires to sell more than its quota. Others were not able to sell up to the extent of their quota.
– What about General Motors-Holdens Limited ?
– That firm has imported cars up to the full limit of its quota, but was not able to dispose of all of them. Another big company did not import up to the full limit allowed. Unemployment has not been created as a result of the trade diversion policy; on the contrary, the experience has been the very reverse of that. The honorable member also spoke of the difficulties experienced in securing motor parts, and to the shortage, of steel. The difficulty occasioned by the’ shortage of steel, which has now been overcome, was largely the fault of the companies themselves. When there was difficulty in obtaining British steel, they were warned by the department to place their orders elsewhere, and the importation of American steel was permitted under licence. Some firms delayed the placing of orders, with the result that there was a temporary shortage of steel and that brought about a certain amount of unemployment, but those men are back in employment.
– But they are left with a fair grievance.
– The companies cannot saddle the Government with the blame, although they may try to do so.
– They are saddling it with the blame and the Government will have to bear the consequences.
– I am surprised if the honorable member subscribes to their view.
– There is a general feeling of dissatisfaction in regard to the Government’s so-called trade diversion policy and the repercussions from it.
– I have no doubt that there is dissatisfaction in the honorable member’s mind in regard to it.
– Ample evidence of that dissatisfaction is to be found throughout the country.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports spoke of difficulty in obtaining parts. There is no such difficulty. Motor car companies and users can obtain the necessary parts for their machines.
– They declare the opposite._
– That has been said by the Tariff Reform League in its pamphlet which I have read. If there is a shortage of parts for cars of types not in general use a licence is given for their importation. Almost every replacement part for other cars is made in Australia. The motor accessories business in Australia is enormous, and most of the motor car agents can supply component parts equal to those produced’ in the country of origin of the cars.
– At a price !
– Does the honorable member use that argument when he speaks of wheat? Does he object to a bounty on. wheat? When it comes to selling anything not required by the primary producer, he complains that prices are too high, and yet he clamours for high prices for primary producers’ wares. I take this opportunity to make a statement in regard to the quota allocations. The subject of quota allocations for motor vehicle chassis has been under the consideration of the Government. It has been decided to grant a quota of 100 per cent, for the quota year ending the 30th April, 1939, and also for the quota year ending the 30th April, 1940. The grant of a 100 per cent, quota for the next two quota years was made necessary in order to allow certain developmental plans to be proceeded with and to give certainty to importers in regard to the future. Many of them are anxious to know whether they can get the full quantity next year and the following year; this statement will give them that assurance. Requests have been made to the department to permit the importation of a small portion of next year’s chassis quota before the actual commencement of the quota year, provided the chassis remained in bond until the 1st May, 1938. It was represented that this would be of advantage to those distributors who had sold out their quota before the end of the quota year. That would help that group of whom I spoke, whose quota had been insufficient. Such an arrangement, it was represented, would eliminate risks of delayed deliveries due to overseas, industrial and shipping trouble, and would give a feeling of greater security to the Australian business interests involved. It has therefore been decided to grant permits for the importation of motor vehicle chassis to be imported in April, 1938, up to a quantity not exceeding 5 per cent, of the total quota for the quota year ending the 30th April, 1939, provided that the chassis so imported remain in customs bond until the 1st May, 1938. The idea of the 5 per cent, is that a firm will not import the bulk of its quota, sell out with accelerated sales for a short period, and perhaps afterwards dismiss its sales staff during the remainder of the year.
The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) referred to the importation of motor cycles. That item is not subject to a quota, but, like 70 or 80 other items from the United States of America it is on the prohibited list; but no difficulty is experienced in obtaining the full quantity of our requirements from sources in the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, we are unable to let up in any way on the licensing of that item. This policy has been endorsed by the Parliament.
– I repeat that the policy has been endorsed by this Parliament, and it is not only giving definite business to the United Kingdom but is also helping Australian industry. Whilst the Government would like to give favorable consideration to the special difficulties which do arise and which honorable members have brought forward, they will agree that in adhering to this principle in spirit it cannot deal with a particular case and admit a greater quota of this or that article, otherwise the whole of the scheme would collapse. The Government hopes that this policy will draw the attention of the United States of America to the fact that Australia was not satisfied with the disparity in the trade between the two countries. I remind honorable members that the United States of America placed a heavy duty on our biggest export - wool. Later this policy may pass into one of straight tariffs and a trade treaty; that would certainly allow more freedom than the present system which, I admit, is difficult to administer although the officers of the Department of Trade and Customs and the Government are administering it impartially.
[4.44]. - The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) referred to a speech delivered by the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) at Roma. The honorable gentleman has explained fully the reasons which animated him in bringing forward this matter. But to my mind neither his explanation, nor the statement which he agrees that he made, is very different from the expression used by the AttorneyGeneral.
– The Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) stated that I called the graziers “ fat graziers “, but I did not use those words.
– I assure the honorable gentleman that I did not say that he used that expression. I have been misreported.
– The assurance of the Attorney-General disposes of the matter raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition; but to my mind there is very little difference between what the Attorney-General was alleged to have said and the statement of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde), that the parties who have benefited from remissions of taxes are friends of the Government.
– I referred to the big landholders in the large cities - the banks, the newspaper offices, and the Eke.
– Little distinction is to be drawn between big land-owners and fat graziers. However, the matter has been satisfactorily arranged by the statement of the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) that he did not use the expression, and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has had an opportunity to repeat again his time-worn statements about the effect of the land tax.
– I am gratified that the Attorney-General was present; otherwise the Minister for Defence intended to give me a raw deal.
– I inform the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Perkins) that I shall bring under the notice of the Postmaster-General the disability to which he referred in regard to that very estimable and deserving class of people who are performing a most important national duty for the Postal Department - the officers in charge of non-official post offices. Later, I shall acquaint him with the results of my inquiry.
In regard to the matter raised by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) - annual leave for temporary employees in the Public Service - I shall refer his remarks to the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), who deals with Public Service matters.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.47 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
y asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
In view of the many requests received by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports from the people of St. Kilda and Williamstown to have the latest overseas mailing information posted at their respective post offices, will the Postmaster-General give instructions to have copies of the notices now posted at the Melbourne General Post Office displayed at the above-mentioned post offices?
– Inquiries are being made and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as early as possible.
Production of Oil in Gippsland Area and Mandated Territories.
d asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
This amount is distinct from the sum of £250,000 appropriated under the Petroleum Oil Search Acts 1930. Under that enactment advances are made available to persons and companies engaged in the search for oil. The Government itself does not undertake any actual search. The moneys in the fund may also be utilized for the purchase of drilling plants for hire to persons and companies.
Under the Petroleum Oil Search Acts 1936, advances not exceeding the amounts specified hereunder have been approved - (a) Gippsland Oilfields. - Two companies operating in this area have been advised that advances will be approved subject to the companies being in a position to comply with the conditions prescribed under the acts.
A modern rotary drilling outfit is being purchased for loan to the Victorian Government for drilling in this area. (6) The Mandated Territories. - Nil. (c) Other areas. - New South Wales, £13,590; Queensland, £15,555.
A drilling plant has been purchased for hire to a company operating in Queensland.
e asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained and will be furnished to the honorable member later.
n asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
en asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The policy of the Government in this general regard will be announced in due course.
WlRELESS BROADCASTING : ADVISORY Committees :radio Valves.
e asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
y asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Since the enactment of the Petroleum Oil Search Act, what amounts of money have been allotted, and to what firms or persons, to assist the discovery offlow oil in (a) each State, (b) the Northern Territory, and (c) the territories under Commonwealth jurisdiction?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Victoria.- An intimation has been given to two companies - Austral Oil Drilling Syndicate No Liability and Lake Wellington Oil Company No Liability - that advances will be approved subject to the applicants being in a position to comply with the conditions prescribed under the Petroleum Oil Search Acts 1936.
Other States.- Nil.
The territories under Commonwealth jurisdiction. - Nil.
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
s asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– This information is being obtained and will be furnished to the honorable member later.
Postal Department: Lease of Building at Ingham : Mail Contracts.
s asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Has a lease been entered into between the Postmaster -General of the one part, and some firm or person of the other part, of a building belonging to the Postal Department situated in the main street at Ingham, for Ave years commencing May, 1938?
– A lease of the premises referred to has been in existence for some time, and was recently extended for a further term of five years from the 15th May, 1938.
y asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
With reference to contracts for delivery oi mails in country districts, now being prepared and for which tenders are being called, will the Postmaster-General take into consideration the disabilities under which residents of outback districts in New South Wales live, and give a direction to his officials, when preparing the contracts, to bc as liberal as possible in meeting the wishes and requirements of such country residents, with a view to giving satisfactory mail delivery services?
– The honorable member will be furnished with a reply to his inquiries as early as possible.
en asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The questions involve matters of policy which it is not the practice to deal with in reply to questions.
y asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
Will he indicate to the House the measures the Commonwealth Government will take to give effect to the contributory factors of proper diet and sunlight in preventing the spread of infantile paralysis, to which he referred yesterday?
– The proper diet to which I referred is simple ordinary diet and avoidance of excessive or unsuitable food. This is a responsibility of parents. The adequate use of available sunlight is also clearly a matter for the individual - it is not within the jurisdiction of the Government.
t asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained and will be furnished to the honorable member later.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 September 1937, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1937/19370902_reps_14_154/>.