15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon.G. J. Bell) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Treasurer state what portion of the £200,000 allocated for the vocational training of unemployed youths has been paid to the States, and whether, when this amount is exhausted, it is the intention of the Government to allocate a further sum for a similar purpose?
– The amounts already allocated and paid to the States are as follows: -
In the case of Victoria, the amount was paid to-day. I regret that I cannot commit the Government in regard to future policy.
– Has any amount been allocated to Western Australia? If so, what?
– The matter is one for application by the State Government. The amount allocated to Western Australia is £14,000, but so far as 1 know, there has been no such application. All of the States that have applied have had payments made to them.
– Will the Minis ter for the Interior state whether the two reports of Mr. Simms, secretary to the Commonwealth Railways Department, on the investigations that he made generally abroad, and separately in South Africa, in relation to transport, have yet been presented to the Government? If so, have they been printed ? . If not, will the honorable gentleman have them printed and made available for the information of honorable members as early as possible?
– I shall make inquiries, and advise the honorable member later.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) - by leave - agreed to-
That during the unavoidable Absence of Mr. Deputy Speaker, Mr. Speaker be authorized to call upon any of the Temporary Chairmen of Committees to relieve him temporarily in the Chair.
– I ask the Minister for. Trade and Customs whether artificial wool items are admitted into Australia underthe tariff relating to artificial silk. Has the honorable gentleman given consideration to the matter of having them included in the list,of items to which the tariff on wool applies?
– If the honorable member refers to staple fibre-
– I do.
– Staple fibre to. some extent comes into competition with woollen goods . because of its mixture with pure wool. The matter has been referred to the Tariff Board, and an inquiry into it will shortly bo held.
– ls the inquiry into the conditions of employment in allowance post offices, which the Prime Minister announced is proceeding at the present time, being conducted by the Postal Department itself, by the Public Service Commissioner, or by a subcommittee, of Cabinet? Will the right honorable gentleman indicate when a report may be expected?
– X am not in a position to say when the report may be expected. The inquiry is being conducted by the Postal Department, and immediately the report is received it. will be considered by the Cabinet.
– In view of ths urgent necessity to - arrest the spread of infantile paralysis, and to treat those affected by the disease, will the Minister for Health give to an application for financial assistance by the Government of Tasmania consideration as favorable as that given to Victoria? Will the right honorable gentleman also state whether »ny amount is available from the Lord Nuffield fund for the purpose of assisting’ the States to give treatment to sufferers from the disease?
– 1 am advised that the amount allocated under the Lord Nuffield bequest has not been fully availed of.- I shall ascertain for the honorable member the exact amount available. I understand that the Health Department of Tasmania and the Nuffield fund trustees are collaborating at the moment, and that plans are well in progress. If the Commonwealth is approached by the Government of Tasmania, and the conditions are the same, it will give to that State consideration equal to that given to Victoria.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) asked me when it was expected that a return to the writ for the election of a member for the Northern Territory would be received. I find on inquiry that, on account of the great distances to be covered, a different system prevails in the Northern Territory outside the.subdivision of Darwin. It involves the posting of a ballot-paper to every elector enrolled on the closing of nominations. The completed ballot-paper must be posted to the returning officer not later than the date fixed for the holding of the election, but it may be received by that officer at any time up to two months after the election date. Those two months will not expire until the 29th December next. It is expected that the result of the election will be advised by telegram on the 30th December next.
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General inform me why, seeing that the minimum postage on a letter is two pence, the obsolete chocolate lid. stamp is accepted on occasions as full postage on 1 oz. letters throughout the Commonwealth?
– I shall obtain a reply to the honorable member’s question.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) asked a question regarding the bulk handling of wheat, and the possible risk associated with it. I now find that this matter was considered fully by the National Health and Medical Research Council at its meeting last month, when it- was decided to recommend the making of a grant to enable the Health Department of New South Wales to mak« further investigations in continuation of those previously undertaken by the industrial hygiene staff of the department.
– Is it proposed to bring down a bill dealing with seamen’s compensation? If such a measure is to be introduced, will the Minister for Commerce bo willing to receive representations from the Merchant Service Guild and the maritime unions before the bill is framed?
– We shall be indeed pleased to grant an interview to the organizations to which the honorable member has referred.
– In view of tie fact that there are six different marriage acts in the six States, will the Attorneygeneral consider the introduction of a bill in this Parliament next year for a uniform marriage act?
– The honorable member’s question relates to a matter of Government policy as to which I cannot make a reply, but I shall bring the question under the notice of the Cabinet.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether the Government has yet had an opportunity to consider the requests submitted to him by a deputation on behalf of poultry farmers for assistance with regard to export trade?
– The Government has not yet considered the matter, but I am glad to be reminded of it, and shall bring it under the notice of the Cabinet without delay.
– When investigating the alleged shortage of farm labour, and need for immigration, will the Prime Minister also consider the wages and conditions of employment offered for farm labour?
– That question will receive consideration.
– A fortnight ago I sent a telegram to the Prime Minister on- behalf of- the business -community of Hobart protesting against any change in the daily delivery of air mails from the mainland States. The right honorable gentleman promised to reply later. Have any steps been taken to, maintain the present service, or. does the Department intend, to permit the daily air mail which reaches Hobart between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. to lie undelivered?
– I have forwarded a letter to the honorable member in reply to his request, and he should receive it during the day. He will then see that all the difficulty has disappeared because special provision has been made for a second plane to carry the mails to the Tasmanian capital on their arrival from the mainland.
– In view of the statement by the Prime Minister regarding the necessity for improved trade relations with the United States of America, will the right honorable gentleman give consideration to the more liberal granting of permits for the importation of American goods in cases where they do not compete with Australian manufacturers?
– All the matters referred to by the honorable member and others associated with the examination of the position, will be taken into consideration.
– -Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General have inquiries made with regard to the problem of temporary employees at the Sydney General Post Office, particularly in the female section, who have been in the service of the department for a number of years? Will he inquire regarding their permanent appointment before others are appointed to the work they are doing?
– I shall bring that matter under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral, and endeavour to obtain an answer as soon as possible.
– Has the Prime Minister yet come to a. decision regarding the numerous letters that I have sent to him from organizations of unemployed in my electorate requesting a cash grant for relief at the Christmas period? I admit having, been informed that the requests have been noted, but I desire to know whether the Government proposes to give them favourable consideration.
– The Government does not intend to make a cash grant. The sum of £100,000 which the Parliament is asked to make available was allocated with the object of supplying employment to those who need it at Christmas time, and in that way it is proposed to help them.
– ls the Minister representing the Postmaster-General aware that a considerable number of temporary employees in the Postal Department are being pat off at the present time, and will he have steps taken to see that these nien are kept in employment, particularly until after the Christmas period?
– I am not aware of the position, but I shall bring the matter under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral and obtain a reply for the honorable member.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 1st December (vide p. 92).
DEPARTMENT of Defence.
Proposed vote, £5,992,000.
– Yesterday, when the Defence Estimates were being debated, considerable interest seemed to be aroused as the result of the offer made by the Leader of my party (Mr. Curtin) to cooperate with the other side, and consult with it with regard to the best means of defending this country. Apparently, the nature of the offer has been misinterpreted on both sides, and it is difficult to say in what spirit it lias been received. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) said that he would welcome cooperation if it came. In view of the Labour party’s policy with respect to defence, I think that there is no doubt that co-operation will come in accordance with the party’s policy, which is one of adequate home defence. As one who has in his electorate perhaps the largest number of men employed in the manufacture of munitions, I feel concerned about the way in which the defence vote is to be spent. It is essential that we should have an opportunity to manufacture in this country, in government factories, all of our defence requirements. Most people, even some honorable members opposite, whose policy it is to favour private enterprise, admit that it is wise, if not essential, to confine as much as possible the manufacture of arms and munitions of war to government factories. There is a feeling of alarm that the Government intends to offer what are described as trial orders to manufacturing firms to encourage them to undertake the manufacture of munitions in their establishments. Those who have studied what has happened during a. time of war must realize that no nation can hope to have sufficient factories to produce all its war requisites, but they also recognize that it is at such a time that the manufacturing firms whose interests are being protected should voluntarily co-operate with the Government; to supply as far as possible the defence needs of the country. It would be a tremendous error to give trial orders, which may result in the establishment of private manufacture of arms and munitions, and thus bring about in Australia what everybody agrees is detrimental to other countries where private armament firms greatly influence or almost control the foreign policy of various countries. That might seem a very broad statement to make, but anybody who has read the literature referred to by the honorable members for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) and Herbert (Mr. Martens), and by some honorable members opposite, must realize that there is an. immense amount of weight in the material they have put before the general public. The public mind in Australia, if I interpret it correctly, undoubtedly leans towards an insistence that we should maintain within complete governmental control the manufacture of whatever munitions and resources of war are required here, while, at the same time, giving private enterprise an opportunity to co-operate if manufacturers so desire. But we must regard with some uneasiness the prospect of handing over the drawings and designs of essential parts of our defence armaments to private enterprise, because by that means the control of the manufacture of arms and munitions in - this country will be gradually weakened and may finally disappear. I am strongly opposed to such a policy. Let me give an illustration of what is likely to take place in the near future. Because the manufacturers of Australia were unwilling to undertake the production of sheet and strip brass, the nickel and silver-plating industry was making pool headway. Practically the whole of the sheet and strip brass requirements of Australia was imported from overseas, but as it is essential for the successful manufacture of munitions in this country to have an industry established here for the manufacture of sheet and strip brass, a sheet-rolling mill was built at Maribyrnong in Victoria, which employs nearly 200 nien in the manufacture of sheet and strip metal for subsequent use m the manufacture of shell cases and other munitions of defence which we require to-day. Unfortunately, hovever, there is a feeling of alarm amongst the employees of that factory, because of the recent announcement of the Government that itintends to hand over its manufacture to private concerns; and I think that, there is a good foundation for their fear, because a firm which previously refused to manufacture strip and sheet brass now finds that it would be a profitable production to undertake. As a matter of fact T believe that its representatives ure seeking to influence the authorities to decrease the quantity being manufactured at Maribyrnong and hand over its manufacture to private enterprise. The Maribyrnong mills have supplied the very basic product that is required for sheet metal working and nickel plating work which has become a popular, and is Incoming an artistic, industry in this country. T think honorable members on both sides should be very jealous about handing over to private enterprise the making of these basic requirements for defence. It may be the policy of honorable members opposite to do so, but, seeing that we shall require that metal continuously for the manufacture of munitions, and, in view of the Government’s new defence policy, iti larger quantities in the future, what reason is there for taking this manufacture away from the Government’s own munitions establishments, where the requisite plant already exists and skilled and trained men are already employed who can do- the work as well as it could be done by anybody else? Those are the men who to-day stand in fear of losing their employment because they believe, with good reason, that the Government proposes to hand over this work to private enterprise. I should like the Minister to ascertain if their fears are baseless. If sui-.h a policy as I have outlined is to be applied, it will he very dangerous in time of war because part of tho mim ‘dons establishment plant which has been temporarily idle will have to be staffed with men. I sincerely trust that this matter will be carefully looked into.
On the question of the general defence policy, we are in agreement that adequate defence measures should, be taken for Australia. Just what those measures are is a- matter of opinion. I believe, however, that the best method of defence is to have a healthy and virile race free of the malnutrition troubles which have been emphasized fr.om time to time by the former Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes). Reports presented to this Parliament show the alarming state of affairs that 40 per cent, of the children of this country are suffering from malnutrition, and we are forced to realize that the standards of health existing 20 years ago have gradually gone down. The best way to have a healthy and virile nation is to increase the purchasing power of the people so that they may be able to secure food of sufficient calorific value and containing sufficient vitamins to ensure them good health. .1 believe that the Labour party’s general policy provides the best means for the defence of Australia. I agree, to some extent, with the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), whose remarks are backed by the opinion of others perhaps better qualified to speak on this subject than are honorable members of this House, that we are outside the range of immediate attack - at any rote, of attack without warning - even in these days of speedy flying machines and other forms of aggression which have been developed in the last decade. If we can provide large sums of money, for the actual manufacture of arms and munitions, we should be equally prepared to provide large sums of money for having a healthy and virile race. The only wa li in which the standards of the people can be raised is by changing the social order so that all members of the community will receive benefits.
I was glad to hear the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) express the view that it was necessary to give effect to the policy for the standardization of our railway gauges. ‘I believe that only with a proper system of railway communication in this country can this country be successfully defended. I heard the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) say that even in these days of mechanization it was still necessary to rely largely on the infantry. That being so, provision should be made for their rapid transportation from one place to another. When the new railway line between .Port Pirie and Port Augusta was being opened, the Prime Minister said that it would take a month to transport an army corps, with all its equipment and impedimenta, from one side of Australia to the other, yet, in spite of that, no serious attempt is being made by the Government to remedy tha position. In his election speech of 1934, the Prime Minister said that it was necessary to undertake the work of standardizing the railway gauges of Australia, but although three years have passed since then, nothing substantial has been done in that direction. I was glad to hear the honorable member for Bendigo support the proposal for the standardization of railway gauges. It shows that some of the new members feel as we do that it is absolutely essential that this work should be put in hand, instead of being made merely the subject of electioneering propaganda. . Any one who has studied railway transportation must realize that, for defence purposes, our present railway system is hopelessly inadequate. The Government should take active steps to give effect to the decision reached in August, 1926, at the Premiers Conference in Adelaide. It was there resolved that a fresh investigation should be made; but that investigation has not yet been begun. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has made it clear that we on this side of the House would support the proposal for a uniform railway gauge, so that the
Government should experience no difficulty in beginning the work.
– The Government has already promised to put the work in hand.
– It has made so many promises that I am beginning to fear the worst.
– The Leader of the Labour party promised in 1929 to have the work done.
– Yes, and had it not been for the wilful obstruction in the Senate by the members of the party to which the honorable member belongs, the work might by now have been well on the way to completion. The honorable member’s party, however, was determined, if possible, to prevent a Labour government from obtaining the credit for carrying out this very necessary work.
– A considerable amount of work was done in South Australia last year.
– It was a comparatively small link of only 50 odd miles. I have no desire to understate the value of what has been done, but it cannot be claimed that it represented a serious attempt to honour the promise of the Prime Minister. One vital section, from a defence point of view, is that between Kalgoorlie and Perth. It has been estimated that the conversion of this section would cost £6,000,000, but I believe that, if a fresh investigation were made, it would be found that, with the use of modern machinery, the, work could be done for very much less. I refer new members to the reports of various authorities on the subject of the standardization of railway gauges, and its bearing upon our defence policy. Those reports contain much valuable information which bears out what I have been saying. At a later and more appropriate time I hope to put this data once more before Parliament.
I am at a loss to understand why the practice of manufacturing parts for seaplanes was discontinued at Maribyrnong. Some time ago, in company with another member of this Parliament, I made an inspection of the works, and was shown chassis and seaplane floats actually in process of construction. Now, for some reason, this work has been discontinued, and the skilled sheet metal workers, who had been engaged upon it are being absorbed by private firms at Fishermen’s Bend and elsewhere. The Government should realize the advantage of keeping skilled tradesmen of that kind in its own factories in case of emergency. As the member representing Maribyrnong, I should like to know just how the money which has been allotted is to be spent within the Maribyrnong area. I know that the figures cannot be given in absolute detail, but, at the present time, an air of mystery seems to surround the whole matter, and I should be grateful for some further information.
.- Last night, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) touched on a matter of great interest when he said that private firms should not be allowed to manufacture munitions for excessive profit. He stated a principle with which most honorable members of this House will agree, but I suggest that there . is no reason for supposing that the Government intends to institute such a system. I suggest this is raising a false alarm. For many years past this Parliament has passed legislation and framed tariffs, the purpose of which has been to foster and establish secondary industries in Australia, particularly industries which, in a time of national emergency, might readily change over to the production of munitions of war and supplies. Members of the Opposition have at various times supported this policy. Now, however, it is suggested that the Government should itself establish factories in various parts of Australia for the manufacture of military supplies and equipment. When making such a proposal, has any thought been given to the establishing of technical plants and the other numerous essentials? It would cost a tremendous amount of money to establish and equip the necessary factories, and once established, they could be used only for the manufacture of munitions which might never be needed, as, indeed, we all fervently hope. When we analyse our proposed defence expenditure we find that many millions of pounds are expended on supplies in
Australia. Such supplies are acquired through Government contracts in Australia, and invariably at a very low cost indeed. I sincerely trust that the advisory council, which the Government has suggested will be established, will be speedily functioning in this country, and that the principle that I understand has been laid down in Great Britain will be followed here, so that, if a national crisis should arise, all the factories of the country will be brought under Government control or, at least, the profits made in them will be controlled by Government or Parliamentary authority.
– In making my initial bow in this chamber, I take the opportunity to thank honorable members of all parties for their courtesy and extreme helpfulness in assisting me in the rather difficult business of ascertaining just what a new member should do and how he should do it. I have received great help from honorable members of all parties. I sincerely trust that when I reach the end of my Parliamentary career I shall be able to say that the same feeling of good fellowship has existed all the way through. I recognize that a clash of opinions is inevitable in this chamber. I hope to be able to hold my own views, but I shall at the same time respect the views of other honorable gentlemen.
The subject of defence now under consideration is of the utmost importance to Australia. I have listened with great interest to the contributions of honorable members to this discussion. I quite realize that as the budget-papers were tabled last August many of the arguments now being advanced have already been considered. I feel it incumbent on me, however, as a new member, to explain my own position. I listened last night with great respect to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) in the debate on the Address-in-Reply, and I came to the conclusion that in that gentleman the Opposition had a very fine advocate for defence, but my feelings for him were tinged with sympathy as I listened to ‘his followers practically repudiate the promise of co-operation that he had given to the Government. I use the word “ repudiate “ because by the time certain other honorable gentlemen had expressed all the qualifications they had to make to their Leader’s offer of co-operation there was not too much left.
I consider myself to be a moderate individual. I hold views similar to those held by hundreds of thousands of electors throughout the Commonwealth. As a member of the Country party I am prepared to examine the good points of every case put forward by the Opposition, and to give my support to what I consider to be desirable whether the proposals are advanced from the Opposition or the Government side of the House. 1 sincerely regret that such an important subject as the defence of Australia should, in some respects, be regarded as the shuttlecock and plaything of party politics. Certain honorable gentlemen have jeered at other honorable members who have advocated the taking of effective steps for our defence.
– Who jeered?
– I shall go into that point a little later. “We must all recognize that since the prorogation of the last Parliament, conditions throughout the world have gone from bad to worse. The Sino-Japanese clash, for example, has since then assumed very serious proportions. Yet we hear some honorable members - and I refer particularly to the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) - asking “Who are the potential aggressors?” It should not be necessary to ask such a question in this chamber. The question was probably asked twelve months ago by China, and it has had its answer. It was probably asked five years ago by Abyssinia and it has had its answer. I hope to God we shall not have an answer in the same way as those countries have had it.
Without any doubt the recent election campaign was fought almost entirely on one issue. Such subjects as national insurance, invalid and old-age pensions, and various matters relating to party politics, no doubt received some consideration, but the real issue during the election campaign was the defence of Australia. I venture to say that if the Labour party had clung with tenacity to a policy of defence which provided for the co-relation of the defence activities of all parts of the Empire, it might today have been occupying the Government benches. The view that I hold on this subject bus probably been enunciated many times in this chamber. I believe that the only effective way for us to defend Australia is to co-operate with other units of the Empire. I appreciate the fact that the Government is proposing a defence expenditure of more than £11,000,000 this financial year, but if the proposed expenditure were double or treble that amount it would be insufficient and inadequate unless it had relation to the defence programmes of other units in the British Commonwealth of Nations.
A great deal has been said about the provisions of guns and armaments, but the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) must realize that guns and armaments are not, of themselves, sufficient. We need man-power to man the guns. I do not think that the young men who are to-day shouldering the burdens of soldiering in our militia forces are getting a fair deal at the hands of the Defence Department. More is required than the manufacture of rifles. A rifle is useless unless it is in the hands of the man who has the ability to shoot accurately. The plight of about 250 young men in Murwillumbah, in my own district, who have not been provided with proper facilities to practise shooting, is similar, 1 have no doubt, to that of many other young men in other towns throughout the Commonwealth. These young men have to take turn and turn about with half-a-dozen members of the local rifle club on a Saturday afternoon if they are to improve their marksmanship. This, as the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) said last night, is a matter that requires the careful consideration of the Defence Department.
The training of air pilots is also an urgent necessity. Aeroplanes are very good up to a point, but they, like guns, are useless without efficient men at the controls. Throughout the country districts of Australia hundreds of the finest potential pilots in the world are eager for the opportunity to learn the art of flying, but. they cannot do so because landing grounds are not available in their particular areas. They are prepared in many instances - 1 might say the majority of” instances - to pay out of their own pockets for their training, but there are no adequate landing grounds on which they can be taught the profession of flying. 1 urge the Minister for Defence Thorby) to make available a fairly considerable sum of money - I have not bad time to see what actually is provided in the Estimates - for the development of landing grounds.
Although it might seem not to come within its scope 1 also include in this discussion on defence the opinion that the proposed trade agreement between Great Britain, Australia and the United States of America may be one of the most effective defence measures that we can evolve. lt seems apparent to anybody who is at all a student of world affairs that the great hope of civilization in the future is a combination of the English-speaking peoples. We see in Germany a Nazi dictatorship under which all the people who do not happen to be at the helm have lost their freedom and individuality. We see the same tiling in Italy and in .Russia and other countries arc trending in the same direction. It will remain for Great Britain and the English-speaking peoples to combine, and this trade agreement might be the means of cementing them, and ultimately be one of the greatest securities from the defence viewpoint that could be evolved. I do not intend at this juncture to take up very much of the time of the committee, but I did desire to contribute something to this particular discussion on the question of defence, because it; will be a most important thing in- the life of this country for some years to come. With all sincerity, I express the hope that honorable members on all sides of the committee will drop from consideration of defence any hope of party political advantage, and will combine for the benefit of Australia as a whole in order adequately to protect our shores.
. T think I need not remind honorable members that the defence expenditure for this financial year is to come from three sources - approximately £6,000,000 from the budget, £3,000,000 from two trust, funds, and £2,500,000 from loan funds. It was particularly to the last item that the Leader of the Opposition directed the attention of the committee. He suggested, in conjunction with various other observations of a financial nature, that the Government should now reconsider the decision reached towards the end of tb<> last Parliament to raise this sum o1’ £2,500,000 by borrowing £2,000,000 staling on treasury-bills from the Commonwealth Bank, and subsequently liquidating that debt to our own institution from the proceeds of a public loan. When- I had the privilege of dealing with this matter before in committee, I pointed out that the decision to rely on the loan for the equivalent of £2,500,000 in Australian currency was reached by reason of the very unusual obligations on the Government for this financial year, which 1 previously gave in detail, and which amount to £8,680,000 over and above the similar obligations for the previous year. I pointed out at the time that this was the biggest increase of financial ‘obligations from one year to another that had ever happened in the history of federation.
En order to deal with this matter adequately and briefly, I should like the privilege of going a little beyond the defence side of our financial obligations, because it is impossible to reply to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition unless I cover the same grounds as he did, and cover the majority of the aspects of finance. The Government’s problem is to meet all of its obligations, defence and otherwise, from the budget, and from other sources open to it. It is impossible to treat the defence matter as an isolated item, because all of the financial obligations of the Government have to be before it. I go further than that, and say that no one year’s financial obligations and means of meeting them can adequately be covered on their own, and the Government, and the Treasurer in particular, have to look forward from one year into the next and frame, as far as possible, the means of meeting the obligations which the Treasurer is reasonably certain will confront the Government in the next year. In two cases we have had trial budgets for the next financial year. There are many obligations for next financial year over and above those which confront us this year. In particular, I point out national insurance which will entail an obligation of £2,000,000 on the budget in addition to, not in place of, nil the other obligations which we have at present. Our defence expenditure next year will certainly not be smaller than this year, and may even be larger. I do not wish to commit the Government to even an approximate- figure in respect of the defence obligations next year, but at least we know that the amount involved will probably be somewhere on the same level as this year. Next year also provision for rural debt-relief will be at least as big as this year. Out of the £12,000,000 which we’ allocated for division among the States for the adjustment of rural debts we shall pay £2,500,000 this year, bringing the total payments to date to £4,300,000. The debt adjustment boards in the various States are working hard, and the applications from the States for money next year will take as much as, if not more than, they have taken this year. Then again we shall have next year the normal increase in respect of federal aid roads and an increase in respect of invalid and old-age pensions. All these matters shape themselves towards the probability that next year’s obligations will be at least as heavy as they are this year, and possibly appreciably more. This has to be taken into account. Another fact that has to be taken into account is- that next year we shall have a large loan obligation maturing in December; that is a State and Federal obligation to convert and pay off an amount of approximately £70,000,000. That fact is limiting the calls that we can make on the loan market in Australia this year, and the necessity to deal easily with the loan market in respect of new moneys will remain on us, not only until the 30th June next, but also until the conversion is made. All these things, both in respect of this year and of the coming year, the Government has to take into account. When the budget came up in the light of the circumstances of four or five months ago the Government decided to go ahead with an overseas loan. Without wearying the committee as to the details of the matter I can say that the Government has decided, to go on. with the proposal to borrow this money overseas. That decision has been made in the light of the reasons I gave the committee when the budget was first introduced, and in the light of the circumstances that have since developed. I do not remember the terms the Leader of the Opposition used in criticizing this procedure, and in suggesting that we should now reverse our previous decision, but I repeat what I said on the previous occasion, namely, that the Government does .not propose to make borrowing overseas in any way a permanent part -of its policy for the financing of defence or any other obligations. This is a special operation to meet an unusual situation - unusual in respect of not only defence,” but also many other heavy financial obligations. The whole of this money is to be spent overseas on items thai are not, and under existing conditions cannot, be manufactured in Australia.
– Will there not be similar obligations in future years?
– One cannot look with any degree of certainty far into the future. The Government lias no present intention to pursue this method of finance; it is to meet the peculiar set of circumstances that exist in this year.
The Leader of the Opposition went on to suggest that in place of this loan we might more steeply graduate the taxation rates generally on the people of Australia, taking more from those who are better able to pay and less from those who are least able to afford it. I would say in reply, as I have said on previous occasions, that this Government has always had in mind, when framing its taxation proposals, the factor of ability to pay. I know of no country that has such steeply graduated income tax rates as has Australia. In respect of federal taxation, the rich man pays more heavily and the poor man not at all.
– What about indirect, taxation?
– I intend to refer to indirect taxation. I remind the committee that there is first the statutory exemption of £250 a year, then, a deduction of £50 in respect of a wife who has less than £50 a year in her own name, then a deduction of £50 in respect of each dependent child, and finally a long list of other deductions in respect of medical expenses and the like, the not result of which is that any average family man with two or three children would need to have an income in the vicinity of £450 a year before he would be called upon to pay federal income tax. Therefore, it cannot be said that the Federal Government has been unmindful of its obligation to ease the burden on those who are in the lower income range. Then in respect of sales tax, although that is an indirect tax, and normally indirect taxation hits the rich and the poor alike to the extent that they consume commodities, in framing the list of exemptions the Government has always borne in mind the regimen of the Federal Arbitration Court for the man on the basic wage. The fact is, that the man on the basic wage or thereabouts pays the absolute minimum in respect of sales tax. In regard to other forms of indirect taxation, it is not, of course, possible for the Government to do anything to shield one individual rather than, another from the incidence of . customs and excise. The Leader of the Opposition appealed to the Government to review the incidence of direct and indirect taxation in Australia, by both the Commonwealth Government and the governments of the States. I would say to him in reply, that the matter is constantly under review. Each year, I attempt to frame recommendations that will ease the burden at the lower end, which, naturally, by inference, must increase it a-t the upper end.
Another matter connected with defence which arose in the previous Parliament and has direct relevance to the vote now under discussion, is the . provision of 200,000 for equipment and the like in respect of the Empire air mail scheme. [ ventured to interject, during a speech which I believe the Leader of the Opposition made, to the effect that the Government would not make use of this appropriation until the Empire air mail scheme had received the approval of this Parliament. I wish, in part at least, to withdraw that full undertaking, for the following reasons: It transpires that there is a certain limited amount of equipment, in the way of launches and the like, the bulk of which will be manufactured in Australia, for which, if the Empire air mail scheme is not to be held up, orders must now be placed. Although the amounts are not large, I should not be acting rightly did 1” not acquaint the committee with the fact that the Government; proposes lo place orders in Australia in respect of some of the more urgent of these matters. The total amount will he about from £35,000 Vo £38,000. The early stages of the scheme would quite definitely be held up for several months if we were not able to place those orders now.
That is all that I wish to say at this stage. If any further information is desired on -the finance side of defence, I shall be glad to supply it later.
Mi-. CURTIN (Fremantle) [3.36]. - The explanation which the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has given to us i3 in identical terms - in substance, at any rate - with the statement- on the subject that he made in the last Parliament.
– It will be equally applicable to future years.
-!’ should say so, hav-‘ ing regard to the fact that our overseas obligations are not likely to become less. The remarks that I made at an earlier stage in the discussion of this item have not. I think, been adequately answered. Basically, I point out that the cost of defence has increased this year, compared with last year, by approximately a little over £3,000,000, despite which fact we are not asking that increased provision shall be made out of the revenues of the Commonwealth, except to an amount of £273,000. Last year, the vote from revenue was £5,700,000, and this year the vote sought is £5,900,000. But the expenditure last year exceeded the vote by approximately £140,000. Therefore, it is fair to say that last year we found out of revenue approximately £6,000,000, and this year we are asked to find out of revenue approximately £6,000,000.
What are the considerations behind the enlarged programme of national defence?
Are they not surely these: That the world situation is much more grievous to-day than it was when we were dealing with the previous budget, and that, as the result, the Government has felt itself compelled to ask the Australian people lo agree to the largest peace-time defence programme in the history of federation. The Treasurer has to be reminded that, in his general budget statement, he has said that this country is now enjoying a degree of prosperity unexampled in our history. The honorable gentleman also pointed out, in an earlier statement in the present Parliament, that the receipts by the Treasury iti the first five months of the present fiscal year indicate a return far in excess of his estimate; that is to say, the Treasury expects, I believe with great propriety, a surplus of at least £1,000,000 on this year’s financial transactions. Yet, despite the fact that out of our current income we are better able to pay for our defence than we have been for many years, and that we are asked to provide for defence more than has ever previously been provided in peace time, the Treasurer does not contemplate taking any substantial portion of the anticipated increased revenue in order to provide for what he would declare to be the supreme national obligation. That appears to me to be a most extraordinary method of financing the most urgent aspect of the nation’s expenditure. The colleagues of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), one of whom is not now with us, have been most enthusiastic in asserting that this nation is better able to do things now than it has ever been previously, and that that is attributable to the beneficent effect of their administration. Yet they now say that they are unable to find out of the revenues of the nation in this current financial year more than was found last year, despite the fact that the country has to provide an additional £3,000,000 upon defence compared with the expenditure last year! I put it to the committee and the country that, as we are called upon by every reasonable consideration to do more in our national defence this year, we ought to do it out of current revenue instead of mortgaging the country and imposing an increased burden upon posterity. That is the essence of my criticism of the financial policy of the Government in respect of its defence programme this year.
The Treasurer has referred to the conversion during this calendar year of loans aggregating £70,000,000. Australia is still a debtor country so far as the United Kingdom is concerned. Surely that should give rise to the greatest reluctance to increase the national debt! Surely it ought to impel a desire on the part of the Government to tell the people of Australia - who, according to the Treasurer, are extremely fortunately circumstanced in regard to the prosperity that; they are enjoying - that it is able out of current income to pay more for an insurance policy for their security than would have been reasonable to expect in previous years! But the Government abandons that plain, commonsense treatment of the position, lt is attracted, no doubt, by the increase of London funds, and believes that it is better able to borrow for peace-time preparations for defence than to increase taxation upon certain special interests in Australia. I reject the assumption of the Treasurer that the poor do not contribute anything to . the upkeep of thi3 Commonwealth.
– I did not say that.
– The honorable gentleman pointed out that a married man with a wife and two children is exempt from Commonwealth income tax, .because of the statutory exemption of £250 and the deductions in respect of spouse and children. Such a man, the honorable gentleman said, would probably need an income of £450 a year before he would become liable to pay Commonwealth income tax. But consider the amount of taxation which such a family contributes to the improved customs and excise revenue, which yesterday was referred to by the Treasurer!
– The poor also contribute indirectly to the income tax.
– Their activity enables a very great deal of prosperity to be experienced by those who come within the ambit of the Commonwealth income tax. I have challenged the Treasurer repeatedly to have a survey made of the incidence of taxation as a whole; but that is another matter. This Government reduced the land tax, ‘and as the result it gave the great vested interests in the capital cities relief from taxes, which, since 1911, had been regarded as one of the ordinary sources of revenue of the Commonwealth Government. Approximately £1,500,000 is estimated to have been remitted, not to pastoral companies, or the primary producers, but to the ownei’3 of large city buildings.
– Is that quite fair?
– It is the literal truth.
– That pastoralists were not exempted ?
– I have indicated that the greater part of the relief went to the owners of city buildings.
– All ‘those farmers, pastoralists, and primary producers who came tinder the scope of the federal land tax obtained proportionate relief.
– They got a 50 per cent, reduction, but at the best of times the primary producers contribute to the federal land tax approximately only from 25 per cent, to 30 per cent, of the total yield of that tax. That is the important point to consider.
– Now tell us what was done with, regard to the sales tax.
– The Government remitted sales tax to a large extent. I admit that a great deal of that has given positive relief to the consumers of Australia, and that the greater proportion of the tax that now operates is probably not an impost upon the workers in the sense that they are consumers of goods. Yet all indirect taxes press ultimately on the community disproportionately to the capacity of individuals to pay them.
If we have to borrow now, in a year of unexampled prosperity, to provide for our defence in the future, what is to be our competence to make financial provision in the years of actual emergency? Yesterday I drew attention to the economic portents. I shall be no party to’ any endeavour to overstate what may be the outlook in that regard. I shall not in any way encourage that psychological attitude to, depression which we all know to he very fruitful of trouble, but economic considerations suggest that we have reached a very high point in the upward curve. I am not alone in saying that countries which now fail to make pro vision out of their present income to meet future difficulties are, at the best, failing to exercise that degree of caution which statesmanship would demand, and, at the very worst, are buying a present cheap popularity, disregarding altogether what may be its consequences in a few years. We contemplate in-creasing our overseas debt by £2,500,000, Australian currency, and 1 submit that we ought not to do that. We ought not again to enter on the policy of borrowing overseas for any purpose. I could understand the Commonwealth Bank and the Government in conjunction, having regard to seasonal influences on Australian economic life, looking forward to a period in which climatic adversity would greatly reduce our yield of wheat and wool, and as a result, should that coincide at a point when prices were low, there would then be a grievous decline of Australian export realization. Should such a situation arise there would be a big dip into our London funds. The dip might be so steep that we might be unable to make sufficient provision for it. I should not object to the authorities in London piling up even from loan a fund for drought reserve; but for no other purpose would I be prepared to consider Australia again resuming overseas borrowing; not even for defence- purposes. 1 admit that the remissions of taxation which have been effected are very considerable. The Treasurer is a member of a Government which claims to have reduced income taxation to the extent of about £5,300,000, as compared with the rates operating some years ago. We ought to tax for this £2,500,000 or save it in some way, rather than persist in the course the Government intends to follow, notwithstanding the fact that it ‘ has £1,000,000 more in the revenue for the current financial year than it expected to have when the budget was framed.
Mr. CASEY (“Corio – - Treasurer 1 [3.53]. - I am sorry the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has resisted my invitation to him to take a slightly broader view of defence finance, and consider it in relation to our total financial obligations for not only this, but also next financial year. The obvious line for a critic to take is to concentrate on one particular problem and show how, beyond doubt, that problem could be solved. I, personally, could solve any one of our financial problems, if I bad that one alone to deal with. But the function of a government is to take the whole of the problems with -which it is faced, and to try to solve all of them to the best of its ability. It is true, as the honorable gentleman said, that we could solve the defence financial problem in a way that would suit everybody, including the honorable member, were there no other difficulties to consider. I direct attention to the list of additional legitimate obligations falling on the present Government in this financial year, over and above last year. We have to find an extra £3,500,000 for defence: £2,000,000 for invalid and old-age pensions: £830,000 for postal works; £700,000 for federal aid roads; and £1,000,000 for rural debt adjustment. I shall not enumerate all of the items, but the total is £8,700,000 of additional finance to be found. The honorable member points the finger of scorn at the fact that we are practically taking only the same amount out of tin budget for defence this year as last year. We could have taken the whole of the £11,500,000 out qf the budget, but then a number of other matters would have had to bc thrown on to the Trust Fund or the Loan Fund.
– Arc any of these items non-recurring?
– The extra amount required for an additional pay day for invalid and old-age pensioners might be said to be non-recurring, and a similar remark is applicable to the Newnes shale oil agreement and certain other matters. I hope to take a more appropriate time to discuss all these points.
The Leader of the Opposition taxed the Government with a lack of responsibility in respect of this very small borrowing overseas. I remind him of the Government’s record since it came into office in December, 1931, in respect of the London market and our overseas obligations. Since 3931, the overseas debt has been reduced by £12,700,000. We converted £200,000.000 worth of loans, with consequent savings of £4,000,000 Australian currency each year in overseas interest payments. The London interest bill in 1931 was £28,150,000, and this year it is £22,700,000. We are sending £5,500,000 less overseas for interest now than six years ago. I could show the much better position in which we now stand, compared with the pre-depression period, with regard to our overseas obligations, and their influence on our external balance. We are continuously decreasing our London debt, and I suggest that the story is one of which any government in any country might well be proud, considering the circumstances of the last, six or seven years. I ask the committee, in considering this small loan, to have regard to that background. In h year of particularly heavy obligations we propose to borrow £2,000,000 sterling in London, and, looked at in a balanced way, I consider it to be a perfectly legitimate operation.
– How much of that ia required for purposes peculiar to this year, and will not be applied to the following year ?
– I cannot analyse the position offhand. On a future suitable occasion I should like to enter into a debate upon Australian finances as a whole - loan, revenue and trust fund. I should welcome a debate of that kind.
– Can the Treasurer not say how much of the £8,700,000 of extra expenditure will recur in following years ?
– In the appropriate place, that would be a perfectly fair question; but it involves a dissection of, not only the items to which I have referred, but also all the items of the budget.
– Why is it necessary to borrow £2,000,000 overseas?
– I thought that I had given at least some hint as to the Government’s reasons for requiring this loan.
– I am not satisfied with the attitude of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey). He gave a review of the increased expenditure this year as a justification for starting again on the perilous policy of borrowing overseas, and he accused the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) of not taking a broad view by considering all matters, as well as that of defence. I think that my leader did take a broad view. The Treasurer gave a list of special items of expenditure, showing an increase this year over last year of £8,700,000, and this was put forward as a justification for embarking on a policy of overseas borrowing. The Treasurer has control of the finances, and he has behind him efficient officers. I asked him how many of the items that make up that £8,000,000 arc non-recurring. He mentioned two. I do not think that the two would amount to £300,000. The point is that we must assume that every one of these items of increased expenditure will recur next year, the year after, and the year after that, and we shall have conversions in Australia, not only this year, but also every year for a quarter of a century. Now, if the Government is justified in commencing borrowing overseas for these reasons, it will be equally justified next year, the year after, and so on. The Treasurer has spoken about the obligations we shall have to meet overseas.
The Leader of the Opposition did take the broad and long view when he drew attention to the fact that there will come a day when the receipts from overseas for our exports will not be so high as they are to-day because of droughts or of a reduction of prices, and we shall have then to meet increased interest payments overseas because of this resumption of the disastrous policy of the Bruce-Page Government. I agree that the beginning is small- £2,000,000 is only a small amount - but it is big when added to the other large calls we have to meet. The Treasurer has said that we have increased items of expenditure. Oan he indicate that they are non-recurring? He mentioned old-age pensions; there will probably be an increase in subsequent years, and there are other provisions that are contemplated in future budgets. The Government is avoiding its responsibilities by going overseas to borrow, and by doing so is starting on the downward hill again that is so perilous to this country, and is doing all this in a year which it claims is a most prosperous one. It is an outrageous policy. I agree wholeheartedly with what the Leader of the Opposition has said concerning it.
– As the newly-appointed Minister for Defence, I fully appreciate the responsibilities that have been placed on my shoulders. May I take this oppor tunity, on the first occasion I have had to speak in the chamber since assuming office, to say that I sincerely hope honorable members on both sides will recognize that if at any time more than another a matter should be dealt with on a non-party basis it is that of the defence of Australia and the vote for the Defence Department. Personally, I regret that any honorable member on either side should take advantage of a discussion on the defence Estimates to introduce personalities or party propaganda, or any matter of that description with a view to making political, capital out of an honest endeavour on the part of this Government to honour its obligations to the people of Australia to put the defence of this country on the most effective basis possible.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) in. his opening remarks on this section of the budget made certain utterances for which I pay him a tribute. He offered on behalf of himself and of his party full co-operation in the efforts of the Government to carry out a comprehensive defence policy in the interests of the defence of this country. I express my personal appreciation of the assurances given by the Leader of the Opposition, which I hope will be honoured not only by him, but also by every honorable member who supports him.
– What” about the members sitting behind the Minister?
– I have already appealed to honorable members on both sides of the House to endeavour to raise the debate above that of party politics, and I have given full credit to the Leader of the Opposition for his assurance that he would endeavour to do so. I hope that his followers will honour that assurance. I regret that any member of this House would accuse this Government of being a. war-making government. Does any honorable member or any person in Australia claim to have all the sympathies on his side or in his personal make-up ? Does any one say with honesty that he is more sincerely anxious to maintain peace than any other honorable member? I say, with all sincerity, and with all intent, that any honorable member who makes such a claim is a political hypocrite. No honorable member can claim all the virtue of being the only peaceloving individual in Australia or in this Parliament. Furthermore, any honorable member who claims that his party is the only group or that he is the only individual anxious to maintain peace is a political hypocrite. I hope that, not only during this debate, but also as long as I occupy the responsible position I hold, I shall have the whole-hearted support and co-operation of every honorable member in this House. At all times I shall more than welcomeany constructive criticism or any suggestion which any honorable member .may make either ou the floor of this House, or to me personally, and I give the assurall ce that whatever the suggestion may be it will be fully considered by the competent technical officers associated with every branch of the department which I administer. The Government has been accused of wasting millions of pounds on defence. I say that there is no greater urgency than that thu Government should make up the leeway that may have developed in the Defence Department during the depression years. Irrespective of what government, may have had control of the finances of this country at that time, we have to admit that during the depression years expenditure was curtailed, and that such curtailment reflected on the efficiency and completeness of the Defence Department and the defence forces in every direction. The Government is making a determined effort to endeavour to overcome the. shortcomings of previous years, and to put the Defence Department into the most effective condition possible, for the purpose, not. as some have suggested, of making war, but of maintaining peace, recognizing the one sound principle that the strengthening of our national defence is the best safeguard of peace. The greater the degree of security we have the less is the chance of an aggressor taking advantage of our weakness. Money expended out of the defence vote to-day is to be utilized firstly to strengthen the various sections of the defence forces in the mo3t effective way on the advice of the best officers we have in Australia and the best, officers we can borrow outside Australia. In addition, we have to recognize another very vital principle which
I venture to say answers the queries raised by the Leader of the Opposition and the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) when they criticized the Government for its proposal to borrow £2,000,000 overseas to meet the urgent additional commitments of the Defence Department for this year, lt is imperative that certain urgent works be carried out within Australia without delay. In ordinary circumstances expenditure on defence works of certain types can be spread over a number of years, but if we are to honor our obligations to the people to strengthen our defences in the shortest time in order to make them effective, it is essential that we should not hesitate to borrow £2,000,000 when necessary to complete the maximum amount of work during the financial year. We can then repay the amount borrowed for that purpose over a period of years. That is the course which is being followed at the present time. I ask honorable members to recognize that we have been carrying out step by step most of the work covered by the items referred to by honorable members.
It has been suggested that the break of gauge in the railway systems is a serious disability in the defence of this country. I do not desire to indulge in party political recriminations, but I cannot refrain from reminding honorable members that it was the present Government which showed its sincerity and its determination to eliminate the breaks of gauge by proriding for the building of the Port Augusta to Port Pirie section of the transAustralian line on the standard gauge of 4 ft. Si in. One honorable member has said that that is only a minor matter. That is not so; a result of that work has been a reduction of the travelling period by approximately 24 hours, and the elimination of the 3 ft. 6 in. gauge from Terowrie to Port Augusta, and the avoidance of some of the heaviest grades in Australia found in the Flinders Range. The completion of that work gives a continuous rail system from the important port of Port Pirie right, through to Kalgoorlie. To take the minds of honorable members back a little further I remind them that it is not long since the Govern - ments of New South Wales and Queensland were assisted to eliminate another break of gauge by the extension of the ½ ft.8½ in. gauge from Kyogle to South Brisbane, thereby linking up Queensland with New South Wales in one continuous rail system. These are merely steps in the right direction, but’ we have gone as far as finances would permit. Yet honorable members criticize the Government for borrowing £2,000,000 overseas toaccomplish further urgent -works in the interests of the defence of this country, and at the same time condemn us for not having launched into the expenditure of £20,000,000 to eliminate the existing breaks of gauge in the railways systems throughout Australia, but I remind honorable members opposite that when the Labor Government was in office no attempt was made to do so.
Some honorable members have criticized the Government because of the proposal to encourage private enterprise to enter into the field of the manufacture of munitions. When I use the term “munitions” I mean it to include all classes of supplies for the Defence Department. It would be utterly impossible for any government to establish organizations in this country sufficient to meet the requirements of the Defence Department during any emergency. What we have done is to enter into contracts with private firms for the supply of what are termed “educational orders,” the object being to ascertain what firms are in a position to contract for and supply essential ‘ requirements of the Defence Department in the event of emergency. I give honorable members on both sides the definite assurance on behalf of the Government that there is no intention on its part to neglect the development of its own munitions establishments at Mari- byrong and Lithgow. Provision has been made for considerable expansion of those establishments in order that the essential requirements of the Defence Department may be supplied. There are, however, many other kinds of military equipment that have always been supplied by private firms. I refer to fabric for the making of uniforms, to food supplies, and to vehicles of various kinds, all of which have, as a rule, been supplied by private enterprise. The Government has been criticized for buying goods from private firms inside Australia, but it was suggested that there was no cause for criticism if goods unprocurable in Australia were bought from private firms outside the ‘ country. My reply is that it is of advantage to Australia as a whole to purchase our equipment within Australia, even from private firms, if such equipment is not produced in the Government’s own factories. In this way employment is provided for Australians who are, in turn, consumers of our own raw materials. It was this consideration which influenced the Government to encourage the establishment of a new factory for the manufacture of aircraft in Australia for defence and civil purposes. The Government has done everything possible to encourage private investment in such enterprises with the threefold object of providing direct employment in the factories themselves, of providing employment in the industries which supply the raw material for those factories, and of making Australia, as far as possible, self-contained in case of national emergency. The Government recognizes that most people in this country are employed by private industry, and not by governments.
The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) suggested. that, in the purchase of munitions, the Defence Department should not overlook the claims of firms in the smaller or more distant States. With that very object in view I have already approved of a scheme which will put all parts of Australia on an equal footing; namely, to accept tenders for the supply of material on an f.o.b. basis. The Commonwealth will shoulder the disability of distance if the supplier happens to be in Adelaide or Perth when the goods are required in an eastern State.
– Does that apply to Tasmania too?
– Yes. The object is to distribute Defence Department orders as widely as possible, and to remove the handicap of small suppliers in distant States. If any honorable member can put forward a suggestion worthy of consideration it will receive sympathetic attention in an honest endeavour to bring our defence organization to the highest pitch of efficiency.
I sincerely trust that no honorable member will indulge in cheap criticism of officers of our defence forces, particularly of senior officers, who are doing their best in the interest of Australia. They are not in a position to reply to criticism, and I ask honorable members not to take advantage of the privilege they enjoy in this Parliament in order to criticize or condemn officers of any branch of our defence forces.
– Is the Minister suspicious that some recent promotions may be criticized ?
– I am not suspicious of anything.
– Then is the Minister making a threat?
– I am not making a threat: I am making an appeal.I appeal to honorable members to refrain from public criticism of officers of the defence forces. If they feel that they have cause to criticize an officer I ask them, in the first place, to come to me personally and lay the facts before me If there is any justification for the criticism, or any cause for an investigation, 1 shall do my utmost to meet the position. What I have reason to fear is that things said by responsible members in this Parliament may be magnified outside in such a way as to undermine discipline, and destroy the faith of the people, in our defence organization.
– What the Minister is saying now is in grave danger of being unduly magnified.
– When I was Acting Minister for Defence during the absence of Sir Archdale Parkhill, it repeatedly happened that honorable members asked questions in the House which I could not reply to publicly.
– Or would not.
– I believed that it was not in the best interests of the Commonwealth that the information asked for should be made public. I desire to repeat an assurance which I gave to the Leader of the Opposition that I shall go as far as I possibly can to make available to honorable members any information which they desire, but I ask them to recognize that there are some matters which 1 cannot make available to the public, or even to this Parliament.
The various points raised by honorable members during this debate will be given careful consideration. All constructive suggestions will, if possible, be adopted, and I hope that honorable members will give me their wholehearted co-operation in my- endeavours to provide for the defence of the people of Australia.
.- Most of us recognize that the major issue during the last election campaign was, not whether the -people would support a policy of war, but whether they would support a policy of defence as outlined by the Government. The people have given their verdict. We appreciatethe information furnished this afternoon by the new Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby), who showed that the Government intends to make Australia selfsupporting as far as possible in regard to the supply of munitions and war materials. We must also recognize that a commonsense- policy must be pursued. It would place an unbearable burden upon the people if the Government were to attempt to bring into existence sufficient factories to produce all our requirements in the event of war. It is a wise policy to make provision for converting into munition factories in case of need, some of the splendid private factories already operating in Australia.
The honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) referred to the training of air pilots. In my electorate. I have frequently received a complaint from young men and their parents regarding what they consider the excessive cost of training. It would be a very good thing if the Minister could do something to reduce this cost. In time of war, the casualties in any air force are very heavy, so that it behoves us to train as many pilots as possible in peace time.
– Does the honorable member think that it would be an advantage to subsidise municipalities desirous of constructing aerodromes?
– I think it would be a very wise thing to assist them. The
Government has already restored some of the benefits formerly enjoyed by rifle clubs in the way of ammunition supplies, but still more might be done in this direction. I have received complaints with regard to the delay of supplies and the provision of butts and targets. In some instances, they are situated in unsuitable localities, where they are dangerous to the public, and should be removed. It is good training for our young men to be. taught to use a rifle, and use- it well, and the Government should do everything it can to assist rifle clubs throughout the country.
Recently, a request was made to the department from a district in southern New South Wales, for the establishment of a light horse brigade to bf! attached to the Seymour “Victorian district, which is about 100 miles distant. The request was refused,- and those interested then asked that the brigade be. formed and attached to the Wagga division, but that was also refused. When I brought the matter tinder the notice of Lbc Minister for Defence, he said that it was impossible to accede to the request because the full number of trainees, namely, 35,000, authorized by the Government had already been enrolled. Therefore, although these young men were so enthusiastic that they were prepared to provide their own horses and saddles, they were denied the opportunity to receive training as light horsemen. In the circumstances, I think that the number of trainees might very well have been increased. As an alternative, the applicants suggested that they might be allowed to form a mechanised unit. Returned soldiers of the district, who had been officers in the Australian Imperial Force, offered to take full responsibility and make their services available for training purposes. That was five months ago, but nothing has yet been done to encourage these young men to achieve their ambition.
Requests have been made from time to time for the provision of drill halls in various parts ? of the country. One district even offered to provide land free of any cost to the department if a drill hall would be built on it. At the present time, there is only an old house available for training purposes. Those responsible have been advised that the department appreciates their liberal offer of land, but that, for financial reasons, the hall, a matter of ?250 for 50 trainees, cannot yet be erected.
One other matter on which I wish to make a few remarks concerns the military training of our young men. Some years ago, Australia had in operation a system of compulsory training. The Government may not consider it advisable to re-institute that system, but I am quite satisfied that thousands of our young men would gladly engage in a system of volunteer training under suitable conditions. Those of us who are more advanced in years know that military training which involves a certain amount of discipline is a very good thing for aimless young men, and I therefore urge the Minister for Defence to consider whether steps cannot be taken to give effect to such a policy.
. I regret that the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) has left the chamber. The honorable gentleman asked for any suggestions that might lead to more efficient activity in his department, and also for a. frank statement of any grievances that might be rectified; yet he has left the chamber, and so is unable to hear what is being said. Whatever may be said of the tendency of Ministers to refrain from answering legitimate questions that are asked, at any rate, it is not too much to ask that they should be present when the Estimates for their departments are being discussed.
– The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) gave the Minister for Defence the office to “ scram. “.
– The Minister for Defence has, unfortunately, had to leave the chamber to discuss an urgent matter with the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), but I assure the honorable member for Hunter that his remarks will be carefully considered.
Mr. JAMES. A matter to which I direct particular attention is the condition of the drill hall at Cessnock. When the former Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) visited the aerodrome nt Cessnock his attention was directed by the local people to the necessity for providing a wooden floor in the drill hall in that locality. The deputation:, which was representative of both the trainees and the local branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers’ Imperial League of Australia, pointed out that the concrete noor was altogether too hard and cold, and the Minister promised that he would investigate the complaint. These representations were made three years ago, but, so far, nothing has been done, although I have since that time again and again directed attention to the matter.
If volunteer training is to be made effective the conditions must be improved. Up to date, very little encouragement has been given to young men to volunteer for training. I honestly believe that a proper system of defence should be developed in Australia. That is the view of the Labour party as a whole. But the development of such a system requires, as a preliminary, a sympathetic administration. If the Defence Department thinks it can justify the use of drill halls with concrete floors it is in error.
I also direct attention to the need for improving the parade ground in Cessnock. The old parade ground was reconditioned by the local footballers. The fence around it had fallen into disrepair, and was riddled by white ant3; but the footballers graded the ground, and brought it into fair condition. Unfortunately, water still lies in pools on parts of the ground after rain. I ask that steps be taken to have the ground properly drained and maintained in good order. I have very little doubt that if the complaints I am making related to a Defence Department property in an electorate represented by a government supporter something would be done, but because they concern defence property in the electorate that I represent my complaints fall on deaf ears. The Government should bear in mind that approximately two battalions, and a rnining battalion, went on active service from the Newcastle district. Many “>f the ex-soldiers now living in that area are keenly interested in the training of their sons, and it is surely not too much to ask that sympathetic attention should be paid to the requests that I am making on their behalf.
I also appeal to the Government to provide in its defence programme for the absorption in training squads of one kind and another of the unemployed youth of this country. I asked yesterday whether the Government would consider the establishment at country aerodromes of the facilities for the training of pilots for both civil and defence purposes. In the northern districts of New South Wales there are, according to a recent census, approximately 7,000 young men between the ages of fourteen and 25 years who have never done a day’s work, yet certain government supporters boasted during the election campaign that the unemployment problem had been practically solved, and that the Labour party could not continue to condemn the Government for inactivity in this regard. I challenge any honorable member to cite figures to show that unemployment in my electorate has decreased. The fact of the matter is that the situation is still tragic throughout the northern coal-fields, lt is so bad, in fact, that I have appealed to the Government from time to time for grants of clothing for the unemployed. The only response made has been the provision of a certain amount of used clothing that has been, scrapped by the Defence Department. A quantity of such clothing was made available last Christmas, and I was called upon to inspect it to judge whether it was fit to be worn. Unfortunately, in. travelling to the locality by motor car, I struck a telegraph pole, and was in hospital for three weeks.
– What happened to the pole?
– My head was badly damaged. All I know about the pole is that I received an account from the Postmaster-General’s Department subsequently for damages amounting to £3 8s. I am prepared to admit that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) did something to meet the complaints that I made on that occasion ; but, if the Defence Department debited the Treasury with £3,000 in respect of the clothing then made available, it undoubtedly robbed the Treasury, for the clothing was absolutely useless. It was so bad, in fact, that the Cessnock Municipality and the Kearsley Shire Council refused to take delivery of it, and sent the truckload back to the base. The garments were fit only for th« incinerator.
I urge the Government to give earnest consideration to the provision of some training scheme to help the unemployed youth of the coal-fields. On Sunday mornings, when I am at home, I am visited by many of my constituents and their sons. It is heartrending to hear the stories and to see the condition of these people. Surely there is room in our naval, military and air forces for the absorption of at least some of these young men, many of whom have excellent educational qualifications. I know quite a number of young men who have passed the leaving standard, and yet cannot get employment. Steps should be taken by the Defence Department to establish training schools at country aerodromes, so that young men who desire to be trained as pilots and mechanics may receive instruction. The expense of such a system would not be very great. The Government would, of course, need to provide buildings for the accommodation of the young men during their period of training. Such a policy would be in conformity with the promises made by Government supporters during the election campaign. .
It is regrettable that, again and again, when reference is made in this chamber to the need for help for the unemployed, members of the Government should declare that unemployment is a matter for State, and not Commonwealth, action. Surely the open sore of unemployment on the body politic: of Australia cannot be allowed to continue to fester. The Commonwealth Government should, without delay, do everything possible to apply a remedy to it. It is of no use for honorable members opposite to follow the example of the ostrich, and bury their heads in the sand. Unemployment is still rife in many districts.
Appropriate action through various branches of the Defence Department could do something to provide for the needs of the young men who are growing up in Australia. If we expect our young men to fight for their country we must give them a stake in it. It is of little use to talk a/bout patriotism to young men who are left to scramble through life without any adequate preparation.
Not only are many drill halls unsuitable for military training, but other facilities are also unsatisfactory. 1 have gone into numerous drill halls, which have been merely unlined, galvanized-iron sheds, with cold, concrete floors, and are entirely unsuited for the purposes for which they were being used. There is need, also, to give more attention to the provision of suitable rifle ranges. The Main Roads Board of New South Wales has taken the main road from Wallsend co Kurri Kurri, the town in which I live, right across the local rifle range, with the result that vehicular traffic in the locality was exposed to great danger. Those using the rifle range were therefore required to transfer their operations on Saturday and Wednesday afternoons to a different range, and in consequence had to incur substantial travelling expenses. A request has been made that the department should .bear the transport costs in this connexion. In many localities are young men who have gone out into the bush and carved out a rifle range themselves. All that the department has done has been to provide .targets and rifles. This is not a fair thing.
I hope that my remarks will be sympathetically considered. I am not talking merely for talking’s sake. I have made several explicit requests, and I shall expect favorable consideration to be given to them.
.- A great deal has been said lately about the propriety of the Government’s proposal to borrow £2,500,000 in London for defence purposes. This course should not be followed. I congratulate the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) upon the good work that he has done since he has been in office, but I sincerely trust that he will not, countenance any return to the conditions w’hich prevailed between 1919 and 1929, during which period there was extravagant borrowing abroad. We all know that >a certain State Premier, who could not get the money he wanted in England, went to America for it, and paid as high as 6 per cent., and even 7 per cent., in interest charges. This increased production costs enormously. The door is being opened again to a policy which when it operated previously had consequences which could be described as tragic. If the Treasurer can possibly manage to raise the needed money locally instead of abroad he will be wise and choose the local market, I shall not oppose the policy, but I do urge the Treasurer to see if it is not possible to arrange for the financing of this work in Australia.
In regard to defence generally, I direct the attention of the committee to the speech made many years ago by Mr. Calvin Coolidge, when he was President of the United States of America, in which, he argued that- it was the duty of the legislature to pass legislation in times of peace setting out the duties and responsibilities of every section of the community in times of Avar. One has only to look at the history of Great Britain to see the truth of his dictum. In the Great War enormous fortunes were made, not by the shilling-a-day soldier, but by those to whom the country turned for munitions of war, vessels, and foodstuffs. When the soldiers were fighting for one shilling a day, men employed at home in factories and the like earned £7, £8, £10 and more a w.eek. The costs to the government were enormous and there was immense profiteering. Evidence of the truth of this is provided by the vast fortunes left by men who manufactured munitions and shipping and have died recently. The duties of every person in times of war should l»o prescribed in times of peace. The fullest consideration should be given by the Government to this aspect of the defence policy, and by laying down clearly the duties of every section of the community when war occurs, it would make impossible a repetition of the profiteering that we witnessed during the last war.
Another aspect of defence upon which [ wish to touch is that of governmental assistance to rifle clubs. These bodies are worthy of every assistance that the Government can provide to them. I know of more than 20 places in Western Australia where the formation of rifle clubs is prevented by the failure of the Defence Department to render them the necessary assistance. There is no doubt that training of men in rifle clubs is of value.
I believe in compulsory military training not only for the defence of the country, but also because I believe that it improves the young men themselves. The discipline they learn must be of great advantage to them in after life, if a man is not prepared to do his little bit towards the defence of his country there should be no room for him in it.
The Minister referred to the officers of his department. Before he made his statement concerning the work of the Defence Department I had intended to say that many of the works which it carries out should be referred, not perhaps to the Public Works Committee, but to a sub-committee of that committee, which would be pledged <to secrecy. To illustrate the need for an investigation of all defence works on behalf of this Parliament, I need refer only to two works on which I consider there was a shocking waste of money. Expenditure was wasted on the construction of a naval base at Fremantle, and, similarly, £750,000 was expended at Flinders which we were subsequently told by the authorities was not suitable for a naval base and could only be used as a training camp. I was a member of a public works committee which happened to go to Flinders on another work and, from my observations, I can say that the money expended there was not justified in any sense, and was in fact wasteful extravagance. That may not occur again - I do not say that it will - but there should be some control over expenditure on public works by the Defence Department, and I repeat that a section of the Public Works Committee”, sworn to secrecy, should be given power to make investigations and report to the Ministry, or, if the Ministry takes no action, to Parliament itself. I have had very long experience of the work of the Public Works Committee and have encountered extravagance due, not only to incompetency, but also to a wasteful disregard of the value of money. To prevent a repetition of that I make my recommendation in spite of what the Minister suggested. I do not wish to reflect upon what has been done lately but I know from experience that in the past there has been a grave waste of public funds, particularly on naval bases. I hope that we shall not have anything of a like nature £n the future.
.- I wish to combat the statement made by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) about what lias been done by this Go.vernment in respect of the breaks of railway gauges. The honorable gentleman made it appear that by the construction of a standard gauge line from Port Augusta to Port Pirie 24 hours had been saved on the East-West trip. When 1 say that all this Government has done has been to construct a standard gauge line over the short distance of 56 milesduring the six years in which it has been in office, it will be seen that it has done only a trifle towards the standardization of the Australian railway gauges. There remain to be converted to the standard gauge 6,475 miles of railways in the different States. I do not say that the Minister did so deliberately, but he misled the committee and showed a lack of knowledge of the facts when he said that a saving of 24 hours had been made on tha East-West trip.
– -lt is a fact, or, at least, it, will be very shortly.
– It is illogical to say that the construction of 56 miles of standard gauge line between Port Pirie and’ Port Augusta can be responsible for the saving of 24 hours on the journey. As a matter of fact, the only time that has been saved is six hours in one direction and nine hours in the other direction ; and that saving has been due largely to the very fast train that has been put into commission on the run from Adelaide to Port Pirie by the railway authorities of South Austral ia. It is a train which in its general modernity is not even second to the Spirit of Progress which makes the run from Melbourne to Albury, on which many of us travelled the other day. I concede that 24 hours will eventually be gained over the entire distance but only when new engines are put into service, and not because of the construction of the Port Pirie to Port Augusta line. I remind the committee also that, although it is about two decades since the East-West railway was completed, it is only recently that the lino has been ballasted and made safe for the faster trains that will reduce the time of the trip by 24 hours. As I have pointed out, up to the present the time saving that has been effected is only nine hours one way and six hours the other, and that saving is really of up use to through travellers because they have to spend it waiting in Adelaide.
The small proportion of work that, this Government has done towards the standardization of the Australian railways system is only the beginning. My-only excuse for dealing with the matter of railway gauges as an aspect of defence is the fact that it will be within the* memory of most honorable gentlemen that when Lord Kitchener came to Australia many years ago to advise the authorities on defence matters, the first thing he noted in his report was that before national defence could he regarded as even having started, a uniform railway gauge must be provided. It was our primary duty to standardize the Australian railways system, he said. He pointed out that it would take a month to transport troops from Sydney to Western Australia over the six different breaks of gauge that were encountered on the trip. If a potential enemy attacked Australia and selected Western Australia as its landing place, it would mean that troops could not be moved from the eastern side of the country in less than a mouth to the defence of the western part where 75 per cent, of our gold producing mines are situated. Although many years have passed since Lord Kitchener made his report, all that has been done towards the standardization of the gauges is the construction of 56 miles of line between Port Pirie and Port Augusta and about 94 miles between Kyogle and Brisbane. There remain to be started 6,500 miles. In these circumstances the standardization of the gauges should be undertaken as rapidly as possible.
As far back as 1921, a committee consisting of the various railway commissioners, Federal and State, went into this matter and decided that the cost of standardisation of the whole of the trunk lines would be £21,000,000. It is possible that the cost to-day would be greater. The programme formulated by the commissioners was for the work to be carried out over a period of eight years, which would mean that the annual cost would be about £2,500,000. If this work were done, the efficiency of our defence would be immensely improved, and moreover, the- work would not have to bo repeated, which is rather unique insofar as defence works are concerned. For instance every few years, we have to tow our naval vessels out to sea and sink them in order to maintain our Navy in an uptodate condition. From the defence viewpoint a uniform railway gauge would be a lasting link.
– And be of immense value also in peace time.
– Yes. Furthermore, in my opinion, if it were embarked upon, the work would entirely remove the problems of unemployment in Australia during the period of its construction. It would speed up the work at the Broken Hill Proprietary Works at Newcastle, and would give work in the timber areas of Western Australia where 375 miles of trunk line have yet to be converted to the standard gauge. We would place youths in skilled trades in the iron and steel industries, and there would be an end to the lackadaisical way in which the problem of the unemployed has been dealt with up to the present. I trust that this Government will go ahead with the policy of standardization. It would mean an expenditure of £2,500,000 a year; and if the money had to come off the vote for other defence works, it would still bc worth while. It is work that must ultimately be done.
I join with the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) in his plea for assistance to rifle clubs. There is a strange but strong antipathy towards rifle clubs in the Defence Department which takes the view that it is difficult to work them in with ‘ordinary military services. The men are keen and the maintenance of the clubs costs very little. At Yuanmi in my electorate, there is a large body of miners who are anxious to start a rifle club, but they cannot get the permission of the department. It seems strange that Australians who are enthusiastic to do something useful for Australia should be debarred from doing so, especially when it is remembered that Ave may again have the demand for sharpshooters that we had in the Great War. When I Avas Minister for Defence, there was a departmental objection to rifle clubs in which I did not share. I do not pretend to have the experience of men who have been in the department for years, but I do know that men who remain in one job for a considerable time are apt to become conservative and that it is difficult to break them away from tradition.
In out of the way places, such as Broome, on the north-west coast of Western Australia, the Defence Department is allowing Japanese to fish for pearl-shell without hindrance, and the white pearlers feel that the racial question might crop up at any time. I have been informed that the Japanese have openly told the white pearlers that they intend to fish from North Australia 6,000 tons - the whole of the world’s requirements - of pearlshell this year. During the last year, the price of shell has dropped from £180 to £130 a ton, at which it is unpayable. The flooding of the market is due to the supineness of those who are responsible for the control of our waters. I lay the blame on the Department of Defence, but the Commonwealth says that the States should police their own grounds. Last April, the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Page) stated in the press that the Commonwealth intended to police Avith its new boats all the waters right round to the coast of Western Australia. The Government now says that it proposes to confine its operations to the 1,000 .miles of the Australian littoral in the Northern Territory. The men on the north-west coast of Western Australia, many of whom are returned soldiers, wish to be given the right to practice machine gun firing, which they believe to be necessary. They believe that if they were trained in machine gunnery, they would be better able to protect themselves if necessary. They won ld be able to deal with racial riots if they were armed.
.- There are one or two observations that I desire to make on this vote. I have noticed that inva.ria.bly the opening speeches on the defence vote are conciliatory in tone. Both sides express the desire to co-operate for the best defence of this country, but gradually the debate becomes more acrimonious. I intend to revert to the conciliatory tone.
Ever since I entered this Parliament I have urged that defence should be a non-party matter. I have always contended that the Leader of the Opposition, whoever he might be, should be a permanent member of the Council of Defence, because, in my view, it is right and proper that the Opposition should be privileged to be present at all discussions and to be consulted upon matters of national defence. I hope that the Government will again consider my request that the Leader of the Opposition should be made a permanent member of the Council of Defence.
On the actual defence policy of this country, the Opposition and those who sit on this side of the chamber are in disagreement. Both want to defend Australia, but their views differ in regard to the steps to be taken to that end. Ministerial members are prepared to act on the advice of experts, who have devoted a lifetime to the study of matters relating to defence.
Different honorable members have discussed the matter of the standardization of the railway gauges of Australia. There can be no two. opinions in regard to the desirability of proceeding with that work. From the viewpoint of defence, a uniform gauge would make for the speedy mobilization of troops, which, in existing circumstances, would be very greatly hampered. But there is more than one viewpoint in regard to the practicability of the proposal. I believe the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. a. Green)will agree that the estimate of £21,000,000 made some years ago would probably be found to be very conservative to-day.
– The cost would be lower to-day, because labour is cheaper.
– I shall not argue the point with the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), who has an expert knowledge of the subject and has the proposal very much at heart. 1 should very much like to see the work put in hand, because, apart from the extra convenience to travellers, it would considerably enhance our prospects of providing adequate defence for this country because of the quicker mobilization that would be made possible.
I also agree with those who have said that the manufacture of munitions should be entirely under government control. But, rather than spend a large amount on the development of our government factories, so as to make them sufficient for our needs in time of war, it would, I think, be advisable to place trial orders with private firms so that we might have some idea of their capabilities should the necessity for their use arise. In such a contingency, the Government should step m and assume control over those establishments that were used for munitions purposes.
A little while ago the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) said that he would be pleased to receive constructive suggestions from honorable members. There are one or two matters that I should like to bring under his notice. The majority of them I have already submitted to his predecessor. The first relates to the length of the training year for our militia forces. At the moment, there is a training year of twelve days, six of which are spent on home training parades, and six on continuous training in camp. A wide military knowledge is not required to realize how little can be achieved in that period. With a camp of six days, one day is ‘Occupied in marching in, and another in marching out. If there is a Sunday in the period, the time of training is reduced to three days, and with a Saturday afternoon, on which sports are held, the actual training period is almost wiped out. I hope that the Government will consider the advisability of lengthening the period of the training year to the sixteen days which was the case some years ago.
It has been for some time the policy of the Government not to open new training centres. I speak particularly of those light horse districts of which 1 have personal knowledge. There are numerous demands for the opening of new centres, but they are always met with the answer that no new centres can be opened. That is rather hard on those men - willing, keen, anxious and of good type - who desire to serve in different parts of the country, but are unable to do so.
I noticed the other day in the press the statement that the Government is endeavouring to bring back into the staff corps certain officers who have left it. That draws attention to a matter which L have previously raised, namely, the very serious shortage of trained staff officers, of which there are only about 250. The size of Duntroon has been increased, and that establishment is now turning out many more trained officers, but it look3 as though the fixed defences will absorb most of the output for the next few years, and that the other arms of the service will have difficulty in obtaining permanent officers to carry on their training operations. ‘ The shortage of officers makes one wonder whether the conditions offered by the service are sufficiently attractive. The permanent officers have placed upon them a very serious responsibility, because they are technical advisers and the instructors of our militia forces. For this purpose we should have the best men it is possible to obtain. I urge the Government to inquire as to whether the conditions offered to those who wish to enter any of the three arms of the service are sufficiently attractive to induce men of the best type to submit themselves.
Another matter that I have previously raised is that of the activities of the Survey Corps, a section of the permanent force which is responsible for the. making of maps. Generally speaking, there is a very great shortage of maps in Australia. I know that the making of maps is an expensive process. For a number of years, the system in vogue was for the Australian Survey Corps, out of its grant, to print and sell maps, the proceeds from the sales being paid into Consolidated Revenue instead of being credited to the Survey Corps, which means that the more maps the Survey Corps sold the less work it could do. That would seem to be an extraordinarily left-handed way of carrying on. If the Government has not already taken action, I hope that it will give consideration to the matter.
Mr. CASEY (Corio- Treasurer) [5.111. - In the absence of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby), perhaps I may be permitted to reply briefly to some of the observations that have been made.
The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) referred to the improvement of the conditions of service of the citizen forces, particularly the desirability of making more attractive the drill halls in which they have to undergo training. Everything cannot be done at once. An amount of just under £250,000 appears on the Estimates for this year, and I believe that a similar amount was voted last financial year, to be directed towards the improvement of the conditions of the citizen forces, including alterations of drill halls, such as the substitution of wooden for concrete floors, the lining of the walls, and such like. That work has been carried out, and it will be proceeded with progressively. I can only inform the honorable member for Hunter that, if the drill hall mentioned by him has not already been attended to, it will be in time.
The honorable member also referred to the distribution of surplus defence clothing among the local governing bodies in his electorate. I am sorry that he has had occasion to “look a gift horse in the mouth.” I remind him that a great deal of the clothing made available was new. Some of it certainty had been used, a portion of it, of course, fairly considerably. I have been informed by the officers of the Defence Department, however, that the clothing rejected by the shires or municipalities in his electorate was quite readily accepted by other shires to whom it was subsequently offered.
The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) referred to the resumption - as he termed it - of overseas borrowing. With great respect, I venture to think that that is rather a harsh description of the very small operation which the Government proposes to undertake in these very unusual times. It does not bear comparison with the pre-1929 situation, when both the States and the Commonwealth were borrowing from £20,000,000 to- £30,000,000 a year, not for a particularly urgent purpose such as defence, but for ordinary works purposes. ‘ I join with the honorable gentleman in hoping that those conditions will never return. I again point out that, owing to the activities of the present Government over the last six or seven years, the amount necessary to meet the interest bill on our overseas indebtedness is now £’5,500,000 less than it was before the depression.
– Is that with exchange?
– That is with exchange. To that extent, we are quite formidably better able to meet any set-back in the future that might occur owing to a. downward trend of our export commodity prices.
– “What is the amount now sent overseas annually for interest?
– From memory, I believe that the amount’ .is about £22,000,000 or £23,000,000, compared with £28,000,000 or more at the end of 1931. A year or two earlier than that it was at least £5,000,000 greater; but, of course, it was reduced by the Government of Great Britain, which suspended the payment of interest and sinking fund on our defence indebtedness.
– Do those figures represent Australian currency?
– Can the Minister tell nic anything about the proposed removal of Fort Nelson to a site further down the Derwent River?
– That matter will be referred to the Minister for Defence. The remarks of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green), the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Street) and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) will be brought under the notice of the Minister, who, no doubt, will discuss with his officers the various matters mentioned.
It was suggested by the honorable member for Corangamite that the Leader of the Opposition might be appointed a member of the Council of Defence. I have given some thought to the suggestion, and I venture to say that such an appointment might lead to a great deal of embarrassment which would not be confined to the members of the Government. The Leader of the Opposition has an intellectual equipment which I envy, but I consider that the political embarrassment which could follow such an appointment would make it difficult for the honorable gentleman to place his intellectual forces entirely at the disposal of the government of the day.
The honorable member’s remarks concerning the Survey Corps and the making of maps reminds me that for some years after the war I was the Director of Military Intelligence, and had that branch under my control. I am conscious of the disabilities under which it works and, with the honorable member, I hope that it will be possible in future to speed up its very good work. The remarks of the honorable member regarding this matter will be conveyed to the Minister for Defence.
.*- Sir Archdale Parkhill, the immediate predecessor of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby), having been defeated at the elections, is, unfortunately, unable to carry out his promise that £30,000 would be made available on this year’s Estimates for the removal of Fort Nelson to a site further down the Derwent River which, I understand, has been surveyed by the defence authorities. Yet, in the Works Estimates of the Defence Department, no mention is made of this proposal, and no details are given as to the works to be carried out. The present Minister for Defence has appealed to honorable members not to ask questions regarding such works, but if the Minister in charge of the bill is not prepared to furnish details of the proposed new works, how can members obtain the necessary information sought by those who are keenly interested in the defence requirements of the Commonwealth? Honorable members should have some means of finding out which forts are to be modernized.
I regret that very little of the proposed expenditure on defence will be made in my electorate, although Tasmania’s hydroelectric scheme reduces production costs to a rate which is 14 per cent, or 15 per cent, below that of any other other part of the Commonwealth. Advantage should be taken of Tasmania’s cheap power by the manufacture of munitions in that State. Possibly, the result of the elections in Tasmania does not please the Government, and that. State is to be penalized for not having returned ministerial candidates in every electorate. I appeal to the Treasurer to take a broad view of the defence policy, and to realize that Tasmania, according to eminent authorities, is one of the weak links in the chain of Empire defence. Defence works are essential for the protection of the 1,750,000 tons of shipping that enters the Derwent every year. The opinion has been expressed by experts that Hobart provides a highly suitable base for a landing by an enemy desiring to attack Australia. The port is easy to enter, and the island is very fertile. When Sir Archdale Parkhill was Minister for Defence he promised me, in writing, that he would have £30,000 provided on the current Estimates for the removal of Fort Nelson to a more suitable site. How can the Opposition cooperate with the Government in defence matters when the definite undertaking of one of its former Ministers to carry out a certain work in Tasmania is apparently not to be fulfilled?
The Government of Tasmania has provided a bursary for the encouragement of the study of aviation. A request was recently made for the use of a modern aeroplane for the purpose of training young pilots, but the reply received was that the Government could not afford the outlay that would be involved. How can the youth of Tasmania be expected to become pilots without the necessary machine? Surely they are entitled to opportunities similar to those afforded in other parts of the Commonwealth. It is ridiculous for the Government to claim that it cannot provide £1,000 foi1 a plane. Members on the Opposition side are accused of being unprepared to assist in the defence of this country. At the last elections it was said by ministerial supporters that we have shirked our obligations. That is not the proper way to encourage co-operation by the Opposition in defence matters. Honorable members on the other side have not a monopoly of love of country, because members of the Opposition are just as sincere as they are in their desire to see Australia adequately defended.
– The matter raised will be brought under the notice of the Minister for Defence.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Trade and Customs.
Proposed vote, £656,000.
.- The vote for 1936-37 was £596,520, but £633,016 was expended, and the estimate was exceeded by £22,984. The vote proposed for this year represents an increase of £59,4S0. Probably the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) will be able to state the reason for the increase, and say whether it covers additional expense to be incurred in connexion with overseas trips to be taken by departmental officers who are to accompany him in connexion with negotiations which may take place with regard to a new Ottawa agreement or the proposed Ang’o-American trade agreement. As this is the Commonwealth’s greatest revenue-producing department, the total revenue last year being £42,992,000, I do not object to the slight increase of expenditure provided for in the Estimates, but I ask the Minister whether he can give an indication as to the attitude of the Government to important proposals such as the Ottawa agreement and the Anglo-American trade agreement. In an endeavour to elicit some information from the Prime Minister yesterday in regard to this matter, I asked him what was the position in regard to the proposed Anglo-American trade agreement and whether honorable members would be given an opportunity to express their views in regard to a matter of such great importance to the country. Before the session ends, the House should be frankly told what precisely is in the Government’s mind in regard to this matter and what it will not sacrifice behind the back of Parliament under external pressure. W e have had experience in the past of Ministers going overseas to conferences without any prior consultation with honorable members of this House, and yielding concessions which have been deplored by the majority of the people of this country. It is quit? possible that before the next session opens the delegation will have already left Australia. I notice that the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullet) smiles: he, no doubt, will not be a member of the delegation, though I think that there are many who might be more unhappily chosen than the honorable member for Henty. It would be interesting to learn why he is not eligible to go. It is possible that, before we meet again, the Minister for Trade and Customs will be on the water to attend one of these overseas conferences; it is even possible that by that time he may have already entered upon trade negotiations. I desire to know now to what extent he will commit Australia. Discussion of these matters before he leaves Australian shores is of great importance; discussion is of very little use after he returns because, as we have experienced in the past, when Ministers return from delegations of that sort they invariably bring down the text of the agreement and tell us that we cannot alter it or amend it, and must accept it holus bolus. We are often told that to amend it would be to repudiate it. The Ottawa agreement has taught us the supreme importance of complete foreknowledge of the policy that is to guide Australian representatives and of the limit of possible concessions before this country is committed to them. There is considerable misapprehension all over Australia in regard to the proposed Anglo-American trade agreement. Letters are constantly appearing in the Australian press in regard to these trade agreements. The Shepparton Advertiser. a Victorian newspaper, on the 29th November, 1937, contained an article by Mr. Blackburn, State President of the British Ex-Service Legion of Australia, in which the following paragraph appears : -
It has been common knowledge that, since the introduction of the Ottawa preferential duties, Californian interests have been assiduously at work in Great Britain seeking amendment or removal of foreign restrictions.
Extracts from an article in the London Times which appeared in the Australian press on the 24th November, 1937, made this comment -
In Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, the ultimate effects of the Anglo-American trade agreement arc recognized to be even more important than the concrete trade benefits which are the immediate object. The difficulty throughout has been that the concessions desired by the United States of America in the British market involve some sacrifices by the dominions.
– On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, the provision for delegations overseas is made in the Estimates of the Prime Minister’s Department. I submit that the honorable member is not in order in debating the Ottawa agreement during the consideration of the Esti mates for the Department of Trade and Customs, but I may inform honorable members that an opportunity for the discussion of these matters will be given at a later stage.
– As the expenditure to which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is referring comes under another item, he is not in order in discussing the Ottawa agreement at this stage.
-This is the first opportunity that has been presented to me to discuss this matter, and I am anxious to have an assurance from the Minister that Parliament will be given an opportunity to discuss this vital question before he leaves Australia and commits the people of this country behind the back of Parliament
– The honorable member is not in order in continuing along those lines.
– Probably when he replies, the Minister will give an assurance that will allay the anxiety not only of honorable members but also of a great number of people.
.- The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has referred to increased expenditure for the Trade and Customs Department. The provision of £656,000 for 1937-38, represents an increase of £59,480 on the amount appropriated for 1936-37, which was subsequently found to be insufficient for requirements. The increase of £22,984 in the appropriation for 1937-38, as against the actual expenditure for 1936-37, is mainly accounted for in the following statement: -
Although, the increase of £4,090 over the appropriation of 1936-37 is budgeted for the actual expenditure in 1936- 37 was £71,790, and allowing for expenditure of a non-recurring nature incurred last year, the reduction of £7,640 is shown in the appropriation for 1937-38 as against the expenditure for 1936-37. I would remind honorable members that the Department of Trade and Customs collects approximately two-thirds of the revenue of the Commonwealth, and we have to meet payments for essential services such as invalid and old-age pensions, &c, from those collections. If honorable members will go back to the earliest days of federation, they will find that the percentage cost of collection in 1900-01, with a total collection of £8,100,000, was 3.45; the percentage cost of collection now with a total collection of £44,500,000 is only 1.75, an amount less than any business would allocate for advertising purposes. I do not think that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition says that the vote for the Department of Trade and Customs is squandered or that there is any unnecessary expenditure.
– I do not.
– The committee will agree, I think, that expenditure is kept down to a minimum, having regard to the large collections.
With regard to the other point raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, I regret that I had to take a point of order -
– I said all I wanted to say.
– I do not think so; the honorable member had a sheaf of notes which he apparently intended to use. Had he been allowed to continue, he would have anticipated discussion which I announce now will take place on Tuesday next. As honorable members are aware the Prime Minister gave an. undertaking before he went to the Imperial Conference that representatives of the industries concerned, both primary and secondary, would have a chance of consultation with the Government before further discussion took place on the renewal or amendment of the Ottawa agreement. It has been said by more than one honorable member that Parliament should have an opportunity to discuss such a matter. Next Tuesday, a ministerial statement will be made as to the present position regarding the Ottawa agreement, and honorable members will be given an opportunity to discuss that statement. Of course, the Government could not commit itself, before entering into discussion on an agreement, as to what changes it will make, but at any rate this opportunity will satisfy those honorable members who desire that there should be some discussion before the Ottawa agreement is either renewed or amended.
– The Minister, will then know the point of view of honorable members.
– That is so.
– Will an opportunity be given to discuss quotas and prohibitions imposed in respect of American goods?
– That cannot be brought into the discussion which is to take place next Tuesday. The honorable member has been given an assurance that a statement will also be made on that subject.
– I warmly congratulate the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) upon his conversion to the Ottawa agreement. It was very delightful to see him so very much concerned lest anything should happen as a result of any AngloAmerican trade agreement which might be disadvantageous to the Ottawa agreement. The last, time I heard my honorable friend speak of the Ottawa agreement he said it was the greatest ramp ever put over the House. I rejoice that at last he has seen the light.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Health.
Proposed vote.. £127.600.
.- I should like to know why no annual report is submitted to Parliament by the DirectorGeneral of Health setting out the activities of his department and what has been accomplished by it during the preceding twelve months. We see quite a lot of criticism in the press and in the Flansards of the State Parliaments regarding the alleged overlapping of the health services of Australia, the Commonwealth Department of Health, the health departments of the States, and the health departments conducted by the various municipalities throughout Australia. It is pointed out that a good deal of waste and overlapping takes place. I should like to hear the com- . ments of the new Minister for Health (Dr. Earle Page) in regard to those complaints. A year .ago I asked that an annual report of the activities of the Health Department be submitted to Parliament and I was assured by the then Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) that he was in sympathy with the suggestion.
– A monthly journal is published.
– But no annual report is submitted to Parliament. When the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) was Minister for Health, he certainly put the Commonwealth Health Department on the map - whether he achieved anything great or not is another matter. It cannot be denied, however, that, prior to his administration, the department was regarded as one of the Cinderella departments of the Commonwealth. Due to the right honorable gentleman’s efforts the activities of the department attained front-page importance nearly every week in the year. The right honorable gentleman had something interesting to say in regard to the question of malnutrition and in regard to supplying milk for the children in State schools. He promised that he would forcibly put the requests of certain deputations which waited upon him before his fellow Ministers and said that if the State governments could not find the money necessary to give effect to them, the Federal Government would be asked to do so. Was it because he pushed this request too forcefully that he has been removed from the position of Minister for Health, and relegated to the more peaceful atmosphere of Minister in Charge of Territories? Now the Deputy Leader of the Government has been entrusted with this portfolio. With his knowledge of health matters, he can bring to bear upon the problems with which his department has to deal, a wealth of experience that should benefit the people of Australia. Sometimes, however, when professional men are running a department of this kind, we get fewer reforms than when the department is in charge of a” layman, who has the assistance of an able Director-General such as the present one. I should like to know what are the views of the new Minister on the important subject of malnutrition. A special committee of inquiry was set up to investigate the problem, and this committee reported that half the children of Australia were undernourished. Nevertheless, the Government has done nothing to tackle the problem. What was its object in making the inquiry if it does not propose to do anything about it? Has it brought any concrete proposals before a conference of State and Commonwealth Ministers? The committee reported that parents in many localities could not afford to buy enough milk to nourish their children, and it recommended that funds should be made available for this purpose. The State governments, even when willing, have not sufficient funds for the purpose, and they have appealed to the Federal Government for assistance. Now that the Deputy’ Leader of the Government is in charge of this department, will he take steps to ensure that these unfortunate children receive the treatment which the last Minister, however sympathetic he might have been, was unable to obtain for’ them ?
The ex-Minister for Health had much to say on the subject of the declining birth-rate. He quoted figures to show that by 1960 the population of Australia would become static, and that from that time on it might be expected to decline. Has the present Minister nothing more constructive to suggest than the last Minister had? We know that the standard of living of the people plays an important part in these matters. A survey of the figures collected during the last Commonwealth census shows that 2,200,000 breadwinners, who are responsible for the support of more than- 1,000,000 children under sixteen years of age, receive less than £3 a week each. That fact, surely, must have an important bearing on the birth-rate.
The subjects of maternal mortality and infantile mortality were also discussed a good deal by the ex-Minister for Health, but what did his department accomplish ? I expected to read in an annual report of the Director-General “of Health something touching upon these matters. I have no desire to cast aspersions upon him, because he is a capable and courteous gentleman; but what has the Government done?
.- Some time ago, the ex-Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) promised Parliament that he would have placed on the Estimates £5,000 for dental research. I should like to know what is being done in regard to this matter. I have had some correspondence on the subject with officials of the University of Adelaide, including Sir William Mitchell and other professors. I have forwarded their letters to the Commonwealth Department of Health, and have received in reply letters bearing stars, which I believe indicate that the matter is receiving extra special attention. However, what I want is action. Now that we have the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) in charge of the department, I should like to know from him what he intends to do in the matter. Oan he give an assurance that at an early date provision will be made for conducting dental research work at the Adelaide University?
.- First of all, I desire to congratulte you, Mr. Chairman, upon your election as Chairman of Committees. I hope that you will have a long and successful career in the position. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) asked whether there was any overlapping in regard to health activities between Commonwealth and State public health departments. There is, I think, the minimum of overlapping in this direction. Twelve years ago, I was able to have brought into being a Federal Council of Health, consisting of the Director-General of Health for the Commonwealth, and the DirectorsGeneral of the State health departments, who meet at annual conferences, and lay down plans for co-ordinate action. As the result, there has been a full measure of co-operation with regard to health matters between State and Commonwealth departments. The utmost care is taken to ensure that what the Commonwealth does is supplementary to and not a duplication of what is done by the States. As an example, I quote the laboratories established at various country hospitals, and, I believe, at Hobart, application is just being made. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) will be able to bear testimony to the fact that the laboratory established about ten years ago at Lismore in connexion with the public hospital there has been of the greatest value to all the hospitals situated on the North Coast of New South Wales. In regard to tick quarantine, perfect co-operation has also been achieved. An authority has been set up, representative of the States of New South Wales and Queensland, and Commonwealth departments! under the chairmanship of Dr. Roberts, which expends funds jointly contributed for the purpose of controlling or eliminating the tick pest.
During the last session of the last Parliament, provision was made for the creation of a National Health and Medical Research Council for which a sum of £30,000 was voted by Parliament. That council was brought into being for the express purpose of ensuring, not merely that Commonwealth aud State research activities would be brought into active co-ordination, but also that the research activities of the leading hospitals and medical schools in the various States would be co-ordinated, so that one authority would not be carrying out research work upon which some other authority was already engaged. The council has made arrangements for the carrying out of no fewer than 37 different research activities by 87 men specially trained for the purpose. One- subject of investigation is infantile paralysis, which has been causing much concern in Australia recently. These various research activities will absorb £21,000 a year of the £30,000 voted.
The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) raised the subject of dental research. This is another matter which the National Research Council has taken in hand. At its last meeting only a few weeks ago it recommended that research in this direction bc undertaken.
Regarding maternal mortality and morbidity, action has been taken by the council to co-ordinate the research activities of the various medical schools and hospitals throughout Australia, and provision has been made for special work in this direction. Consideration is also being given to the effect of wheat dust on the chest condition of bulk wheat workers, a matter raised by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear).
A special committee was set up some time ago to deal with nutrition. This committee has already furnished two reports, and a further report is expected in February next dealing, not only with the ‘ incidence of malnutrition, but also with such measures as may be taken to remedy the position. When this report is made a vailable, it will receive the consideration of the Government, which will then bring down appropriate legislation.
The council also set up a committee to inquire into the subject of tropical hygiene, with the object, of safeguarding the health of residents in tropical and sub-tropical areas. We have been more successful in Australia in combating tropical diseases, and in making the tropics safe for habitation by white people, than have the authorities in almost any other part of the world. Ever since the School of Tropical Medicine was established by the Bruce-Page Government in 1925, we have been making marked advances in this direction. We owe a debt of gratitude to the Rockefeller Institute which made funds available for investigation into the hookworm disease, which has been the cause of a tremendous amount of sickness in tropical areas in various parts of the world: As the result of the investigation carried out, this disease has been practically wiped out in Australia. Australia holds a world record, in that through the activities of both Commonwealth and State Health Departments, it has - been able to deal with tropical diseases in such a way as “to enable white people not only to live comfortably in our tropical areas in Queensland and elsewhere, hut also to maintain the birthrate at the highest point. This must be particularly pleasing to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde)., who has shown such concern about our falling birth-rate. ‘
The suggestion that the Health Department should submit ai annual report to Parliament has a good deal of merit in it, and I shall discuss it with the Director-General of Health.
.- I wish to refer to two hospitals directly under the administration of the Health Department. Although the Minister for Health (Dr. Earle Page) has been complimented upon the work of this department, its record in respect of these two hospitals is not at all satisfactory.
The Canberra Community Hospital, right at our own door, is not a credit to the Government or the department. It is one of the poorest that I know of, and would be considered a disgrace to many bush towns. Surely it is not too much to ask that the hospital in Canberra should be in keeping with the dignity and importance of the National Capital!
The Prince of Wales Hospital at Randwick, which is also under the direct administration of the Commonwealth Health Department, has been the subject of many complaints to me personally. All the patients in that hospital are sufferers from the effects of war; but, as the Repatriation Department has decided that only complaints due to war service may be treated there, ex-soldier inmates are unable to obtain adequate attention for many complaints not due to war service. As late as last week a man, receiving treatment, in the hospital for the effects of a gunshot wound received in the war, was. found to be suffering from some other complaint; but, as the Repatriation Department had decided that only injuries and sicknesses due to war service may be treated at Randwick, this man was not able to receive attention for his other complaint. It is extraordinary that in such a case a man is obliged to leave the repatriation hospital still incapacitated, and go to another hospital for further treatment. To be discharged from one hospital, only t6 have to enter another immediately, is an unhappy thing, and, in my opinion, quite unreasonable.
As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has said, the former Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) has talked a great deal during the last two or three years about the Commonwealth Health Department. As far as I can see, there has been very little done except talk. What has the Government or the Health Department done to stem the tide of infantile paralysis? I doubt whether the Minister for Health has visited any of the Sister Kenny clinics.
– The former Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) visited the Sister Kenny clinic in Brisbane.
– I also have had the opportunity- to inspect that clinic, and to hear the testimony of parents as to the beneficial effects of treatment received by their children in the clinic. Wonderful progress has been made by many of the children who have been treated at the Sister Kenny clinic in Brisbane. I should like to see such clinics established in other parts of the Commonwealth, and particularly where infantile paralysis is prevalent, in order that the children afficted with it might have the benefit of the treatment.
The honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) has often appealed to the Government to make supplies of milk available for poor children. I suppose every representative of a metropolitan constituency in this Parliament has had frequent evidence submitted to him of the undernourishment of children and mothers. It is the duty of this Government not only to provide milk aud other proper nourishment for children in our big cities, but also to see that the mothers of families are adequately nourished and assisted. Healthy children can only be brought into existence by healthy mothers. It is of little use to talk about these subjects unless effective action is taken.
A good deal has been said about the expenditure incurred by the Health Department in preventive measures and research work, hut an examination of the Estimates will show that far more is being expended in research into animal diseases than in research into human diseases. This seems to indicate that the Government is more concerned about healthy stock than about healthy people.
I appeal to the Minister to give close attention to the complaints that I have made respecting the Repatriation Hospital at Randwick with a view to issuing instructions that ex-soldiers treated there shall receive attention in respect of any disorders from which they may be suffering. The treatment should not be confined to troubles due to war service.
. - Obviously, the new Minister for Health (Dr. Earle Page) i3 approaching his task of administering the Health Department with both enthusiasm and interest. This i.-i most satisfactory. I am sure that he will wish to 1]Ve up to the extraordinarily high standard achieved by his immediate predecessor in the administration of this department. I agree entirely with what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has said about the intense interest and deep study which the previous Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) brought to bear on the work of this department. His dramatic speeches upon the work of the department caused the subject of the nation’s health for the first time to become an everyday matter for general conversation. I applaud what the Minister has just said in regard to seeking the co-operation of the States in the work of the department. I trust that he will endeavour to do much more in that regard than has hitherto been possible. The social services of Australia should be a model to the whole world. We can afford to aim towards this ideal. Public health is closely associated with national defence. We have a very small population, and a very great country. and. unfortunately, we have a very low, and a falling, birth-rate. We should therefore do everything possible to see that the occasional children that are born in Australia are given every opportunity to develop into good citizens. Every possible assistance in this respect should be given to the children of the poor. I assure the Government of my full support in any extension of its public health activities in the interests of the poorer classes of the community, and I trust that in. any work of this kind it will seek the full co-operation of the State governments.
.- Yesterday, in this chamber, some reference was made to Sister Kenny and infantile paralysis. I know something of the work that Sister Kenny has done, and when a suggestion is made that she has not dealt with any difficult cases or effected any cures, I can deny it. I know of people in Townsville, who, before they” were treated by this lady, could not walk without crutches or had to be moved about, in wheeled chairs, yet to-day are walking about. I do not say that they have been entirely cured, but the fact remains that, whereas they were apparently permanently and hopelessly crippled before they came into Sister Kenny’s hands, they can now move about unaided. Any statement to the effect that Sister Kenny has done no good is unworthy of any notice, except contradiction. Her methods of treatment have world renown, so much so that she has treated a patient brought all the way from South Africa, and that is not the only place outside Australia from which she has drawn patients. Except for rare individual doctors, Sister Kenny has had to fight against the whole of the medical profession. Generally speaking, doctors do not accept her as being capable of effecting a cure in cases of infantile paralysis despite what she, has done. Even to-day, some prominent members of the British < Medical Association are hostile to her and one of them is the Director-General of the Queensland Health Department, Dr. Cilento. Notwithstanding the hostility of the British Medical Association towards her, the Government of Queensland paid her fare by aeroplane from England to Australia so that she could give further ass stance in the matter of the treatment of infantile paralysis. T believe, that the medical people are realizing the fact that even if Sister Kenny is not able to do all that she suggests she can do, she is giving some substantial assistance in the treatment of the disease. I resent anything derogatory said concerning her. She is one of the finest women the world has ever known, and if she has not effected .entire cures, she has effected almost entire cures. I have seen her in her work. One case I can specify, is that of a little child, who, although she was a hopeless cripple before she became a patient of this wonderful woman, was within six weeks of coming into her hands able to walk 4 yards and pick up and return to her a handkerchief which she had deposited on the floor. She is performing a work of very real value.
I was pleased to hear the Minister for Health (Dr. Earle Page) deal with the matter of general health in the tropics. I hope the Minister was right in his statement relative to hookworm, but I am not so . optimistic as he seems to be. There are many people who do not believe that hookworm has been banished from the area. I trust . that it has. Generally, health in- the tropics is due to the Queensland Government having made splendid housing arrangements. In Queensland, we have a workers’- dwelling and workers’ homes act, and one can safely say. that in consequence of it, at least on a population ratio basis, more people in Queensland either own or are in process of owning their own homes than in anyother State. That has a very great deal to do. with the fact that the health of the people in the tropics is as good as it is. The wonderful conditions of life in the Queensland tropical area will be appreciated by any one who has read the reports of Dr. Cilento and other medical men. I am safe in saying that it is the one tropical area in the world where white men are doing the work they are born to do. I believe that the co-operation between the inspectors of the Health Department and the inspectorsof the Housing Department has had a material effect on the health and life of people in the tropics.
I do not wish to detract from the assistance given by this Government, but when I mentioned in this chamber my belief that Weil’s disease had not been eradicated, and asked for the Commonwealth Health Department to co-operate in steps to eradicate it, I was told that it was a matter for the State more than for the Commonwealth. I impress upon the Minister that the health of the people is a national matter. I visited the Ingham hospital, and saw the authorities at work in connexion with this disease. Of course, I did not understand technically what they were doing, but 1 was able to appreciate the menace which the disease presents in the areas where it is prevalent. Although it is largely, said that the disease which is prevalent in the Ingham and Innisfail areas is not Weil’s disease, 1 believe that it is that disease. At the same time I appreciate the fact that the health authorities are trying to do something to stem its progress. There is, however a good deal more to be done.
The Queensland Government is going to a lot of trouble at Mount Isa to combat the miners’ disease of plumbism. The Fruit Marketing Committee, the Commissioner for Railways, and some other body, the name of which for the moment I have forgotten, in conjunction are bringing into existence a large truck for the conveyance of supplies of fresh fruit to Mount Isa. I understand that 10 tons of fresh fruit are to be sent each week for the purpose of alleviating to some extent the disease, and believe that that action will have a very good effect and that the State Government is acting in the right direction. I was pleased to read in the press that the results from the provision of a costly truck for the conveyance of fruit in firstclass condition to Mount Isa will be a lessening of the danger of lead poisoning among the miners.
I rose mainly to say something on behalf of Sister Kenny, and I believe that in a very few years, those people, who to-day are apt to scorn, the work that she is. doing will come to the realiza-. tion that there is nothing finer than she in human; form. I have conversed with her on the method of treatment which she employs. She does not claim that perfection has been reached. She would like to see an international conference of workers in the field of infantile paralysis so that the experience of all could be pooled. She believes that if such a conference were held the results would be of almost incalculable benefit.
.- May I at the outset endorse the remarks made by the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) with reference to the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who has resigned the Health portfolio. On all sides of the committee it is agreed that he did a tremendous amount to advance the importance of the matter of public health in the eyes of Parliament and the public generally. We are prepared to agree, I think, that this country has not made the same advances in the development of public health measures, particularly those measures which advance the general optimum standard of health, as has possibly been the case in many European countries in the post-war years. It is with pleasure that we note that whilst we have lost a distinguished Minister from the Health Department, responsibilities of the portfolio have been recognized in its acceptance by the right honorable the Deputy Leader of the Government (Dr. Earle Page), and I express the appreciation of members on all sides of the committee in welcoming him to that portfolio The High Commissioner, Mr. Bruce, in introducing the important subject of nutrition before the League of Nations recently, spoke of the happy results that could follow from the marriage of health and agriculture, and as the two portfolios, Health and Commerce, are now in the one hand the right honorable gentleman is in a position to tie the knot on what should prove to be a very successful and. fruitful union.
I also endorse what the honorable member for Henty has said about the need for closer co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States in health matters. I understand that there has been no conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers for Health since 1926. We oan readily recognize the value of such cooperation and the happy results that would follow from an exchange of ideas and experience in the different States, and the value of the common knowledge that would be gained as the result of the pooling of the individual knowledge of the Ministers for Health in the States and in the Commonwealth. I hope that the Minister will take early steps to see that another conference is called in view of the lapse of ?o much time. I am sure that the right honorable gentleman requires no evidence from me to assure him that the general standard of, health is not all that could be desired. He needs no further evidence than the striking evidence that there are in the Commonwealth. 84,000 recipients of the invalid pension.
An interesting sidelight on health matters was furnished recently in Newspaper News, a trade journal devoted to happenings in the newspaper world. That’ newspaper set out the relative space devoted to national advertising of different commodities. I suppose most honorable gentlemen would instantly assume from their observations that most of the space would be taken up in advertising wearing apparel, but an examination of the list shows that advertisements of wearing apparel are only seventh on the list, occupying 8,000 inches as against 40,000 inches used for advertising patent medicines which come . first easily. That is an interesting commentary.
The Government has given a promise in its policy speech of expanded progress in two main directions, first, in the social services by means of national insurance, and, secondly, in. the direction of improved maternal welfare and child hygiene. We shall have a later opportunity to discuss maternal welfare and any remarks I may have to offer on that subject I shall reserve until that occasion. It is to be hoped that no undue delay will take place in giving effect to the recommendations concerning child hygiene by the two councils which have been set up by the Government. The “Nutrition Council has already recommended a daily supply of milk to school children and to children of preschool age. It points out the direct benefits that would accrue from such a policy. We have had some assurance that the Government has given sympathetic consideration to this matter, but to my mind it is worthy of more than that. Speedy action should be taken to give the recommendation effect. Similarly in relation to the general question of infant hygiene, the National Health and Medical Research Council and our own DirectorGeneral of Health have pointed out the lack of adequate supervision at the present time of the health of young people in our community. He pointed out that -
In the year 1933, when the census was taken, there were in Australia. 1.252,G02 children of school agc. Of these, 142.42!) were medically examined. That is, 11 per cent, only wlm were under medical supervision that your.
The classification does not permit of any exact statement of the number of those who were found, to be in some way physically defective but it is safe to place the figure at a minimum of 50 per cent.
No government can face with equanimity a revelation such as that by the head, of its health services. We welcome to the administration of the Health portfolio, tho right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), who has not only medical experience to support him, but also a degree of influence with the Government which should enable him to carry his recommendations into effect.
– It is somewhat extraordinary that 50 per cent, of applicants for admission to the defence forces in 1935 were rejected because of physical unfitness.
– That was in Great Britain.
– No, in Australia.
– I think the honorable gentleman will find that the figure is very much lower than that. In the days of compulsory training it was in the neighbourhood of 30 per cent., but since then the requirements have been considerably modified. Figures furnished to me by the Minister for Defence in the last Parliament, show that only about 4 per cent, are now being rejected. That does not suggest that we have improved our health standards materially, compared with those of the days of compulsory training. The Leader of the Opposition is probably referring to the permanent forces.
– I am.
– I am referring to the militia, which I think gives a better idea of general health standards, because undoubtedly a very high standard is exacted for the permanent forces. The statement of the Director-General of Health, that approximately 50 per cent, of the children medically examined were found, to be defective in some way or other, does not suggest that those rejected were crippled or maimed. It does, however, suggest that they do not possess that high degree of health which is attainable.
Bound up with this matter, naturally, are important considerations for a government on a much larger scale. No government can view the general subject o: the improvement of health standards, and at the same time overlook the desirability of providing hygienic and adequate housing for its people, and of seeing that the food consumed is reasonably cheap, that it can be obtained by all sections of the community in reasonably large quantities, and that the manner of its preparation is such as to ensure that the greatest benefits will be obtained from it. The Government lias shown its recognition of tho importance of the matter, by having already set up the Advisory Council on Nutrition. All that I would urge at this stage is that, having indicated its preparedness to accept the recommendations of that council, it will not permit any undue delay in seeing chat those recommendations are put into operation. In regard to the larger matter of housing, 1 would endorse what the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) has said. Lt has been proved in Great Britain and other countries that if largescale housing operations are to be undertaken for people on the lower-wage scale, some government assistance is essential. Even in Great Britain it was found that h government subsidy of up to 20 per cent was necessary to provide housing at rentals which could, be borne by workers on the lower wages. What I would urge ou lbc Government in this connexion is that it should not necessarily wait until the initiative is taken by some possibly dilatory State governments, but that it should be prepared to shoulder a national responsibility by itself taking the initiative. In his policy speech of 1934, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) suggested that the Government proposed to embark upon housing measures, and that it intended to give encouragement to the provision of housing. I suggest that, as the Government has the necessary finance available at the present time, and the need for adequate housing exists in so many of our larger centres, it should press on with this particular matter. An examination of the figures relating to infantile paralysis in my State would quickly prove that housing has a very direct bearing upon general health. If the figures which can be produced relating to the incidence of infantile paralysis in Victoria prove nothing else, they at least prove that the incidence of that infection is greatest in the industrial portions of the metropolitan area, and least in residential areas in different parts of the city. In the two municipalities which fall within my electorate - Malvern and Prahran - there iia ve been remarkably few cases, while north of the Yarra, in the more highly settled industrial areas, there has been an infinitely greater number. All the evidence points to the fact that where housing is unsatisfactory, and nutrition is inadequate, the insistance of the children is much weaker, with the result that greater numbers of them fall victims to this dread disease. Considerations not only of humanity but also of economy urge upon any government at the present time the necessity for improving our general health standards.
There are only two other matters upon which I wish to touch. One that was raised in the course of the debate on the Address-in-Reply is that of population. lt has been pointed out that a serious problem is being presented by the decline of the birth-rate. I have stated on other occasions, and I do so again, that it is futile to implore people to have more children unless the attempt is made to do something to remove, or at least to alleviate, the economic disabilities which ure inherent in or consequent upon, the possession of children. It has been suggested that two main causes of the decline of the birth-rate are, the fear of war and birth control. I suggest that a far more important consideration in a highly-advanced community with a high living standard is the fact that parents of children have to shoulder a distinct economic burden in the upbringing and education of those children. I hope that the Government will examine the possibilities that are presented of making greater concessions in regard to taxation to married couples, particularly with respect to children, and that it will also examine the practicability of a system of family endowment, such as is. in operation in “New South Wales.
– Brought in by Mr. Lang.
– There is, too, the investigation that is now being conducted by the Government of Victoria. I suggest that the Commonwealth might watch with interest the results of that investigation, to see whether some assistance on these lines might not be given. This is surely the most appropriate time for the consideration of these matters. We are about to embark upon an expanded programme of social services; let us, therefore, do the job completely and thoroughly, if we can. If the wage which a man is to receive were fixed in accordance with his domestic responsibilities, some encouragement would be given to the people of this country to increase their parental obligations. Whatever the cost, in the long run it would be well worth while.
The final matter that I wish to bring to the attention of the Minister has relation to the matter of dental research. In common with a number of honorable members, I have advocated a grant, which I understand is now being made, for dental research. But there is one small matter, as to which I am not sure whether any decision has been reached by the Government. I refer to representation of the dental profession upon the National Health and Medical Research Council. In the last Parliament I asked the then Minister for Health whether steps would be taken for the appointment of a dental representative, and he told me that the possibility of doing so was being explored. The right honorable gentleman recognized the desirability of the proposal, and suggested that it was only a matter of time before the result desired would be achieved. I shall be interested to hear from the present Minister for Health whether any finality has been reached in this connexion. If not, I urge him to investigate the need as well as the desirability of having a direct representative of the dental profession upon a body which exists for research purposes. It is being recognized in increasing degree in medical circles that frequently there are medical causes for dental deficiencies, and that a. far greater measure of co-operation is desir able and essential between the two branches of the medical profession.
In conclusion, may I suggest that any measure which has the effect of raising general health standards is not only humanitarian, .but also economic. At present there is a heavy charge on governmental finance for invalid pensions, n addition to the loss caused to industry as well as to individual families by reason of sickness and ill-health. Consequently, I hope that the Government will not fail to recognize its responsibility in this direction. Should it accept that responsibility and pay the cost, I think it will find in the long run that much public money has been saved.
.- 1 support the remarks of the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens), who, in my opinion, replied most effectively to aspersions that have been cast on the methods adopted by Sister Kenny for the treatment of cases of infantile paralysis. Like the honorable member I, too, have had the privilege* of seeing some of Sister Kenny’s patients before treatment, and after only a few weeks of her treatment, and I am thoroughly convinced that she is performing a great work, despite the handicaps and the obstacles placed in her way by members of an honorable profession.
But the real object of my rising is to draw the attention of the committee to the alarming extent of malnutrition in that forgotten part of Australia, western Queensland. I cite as an example of the ravages of malnutrition what investigations have revealed in the town of Mount Isa. As the majority of honorable members know, Mount Isa is 600 miles west of Townsville, in the heart of the northwest of Queensland. It is built around a silver-lead mine worked by Mount Isa Mines Limited. That company has established its own township. It has its own workers’ cottages, shops, school and hospital. On the other side of the Leichhardt River is the town of Mount Isa. Quite recently, it was visited by an officer of the Federal Advisory Council on Nutrition. This gentleman investigated the position at Mount Isa, and compared the conditions prevailing among the children attending the school on the mines side of the Leichhardt River with those in the school on what is known as the town side. The Sydney Bulletin, of the 24th November, referred to this matter, and published the following interesting facts : -
Of 124 children examined at the town schooL 44. or over 35 per cent., were found to suffer from unsatisfactory nutrition. Fifteen had nutritional aniemia at active rickets, in two there were bone defects as a result of old rickets, and live suffered from chronic septic infections ascribable to malnutrition. One was undiagnosed. Diet returns were obtained from 42 families, comprising 79 town school children. For fourteen of them, with 32 children, diet was inadequate, and of these 20 children, or 81 per cent., were obviously undernourished. This proportion was twelve times greater -than that amongst families whose diet was classed as satisfactory.
At the mines school 110 children were examined, of whom 22, or 19 per cent., were undernourished. Nutritional anemia accounted for four, twelve had active rickets, four old rickets (all sixteen among recently-arrived families), and two chronic septic infections.
It will be noted that 35 per cent, of the children on the town side were suffering from unsatisfactory nutrition, whilst, on the mines side, the proportion of under: nourished children was only 19 per cent. This problem has been investigated in the north and central west of Queensland during the last four years by Dr. Brown, of Longreach, who has received assistance from the Carnegie Trust, and I understand that a report which he is preparing is almost ready for publication. He informed me that one of the principal causes of the unsatisfactory state of the health of many children in north-western Queensland is the bad housing conditions. On the mines side of Mount Isa, the mining company has erected houses for the employees, but, unfortunately, the workers living on the town side have not the necessary capital with which to erect homes of their own, and the State Government is not in a position to make money available to enable them to build their own dwellings. Therefore they are compelled to live in corrugated iron cottages. During the summer months the temperature in north-western Queensland is well over the century mark, and honorable members can easily imagine how trying the conditions must be for the unfortunate workers who have to reside in these iron cottages.
In 1934, we heard the Commonwealth Government talking about the need for cheap milk for children and betterhousing schemes for the workers. Again this year these matters are being mentioned. Promises have been made, but we still await practical results. I was pleased when the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) referred to the necessity for housing schemes and cheap milk. The Government of Queensland, realizing that the Commonwealth Department of Health has not dealt with the problem of malnutrition as it should be tackled, has had another refrigerated van constructed in order to supply fruit to children in the out-back areas.
The honorable member for Fawkner congratulated the Minister for Health upon his appointment, and looked to him, as a member of the medical profession, to take practical steps to correct the appalling conditions that have been brought about through malnutrition. Tonight, I desir.e to appeal to the Minister, to realize, as a. medical man, how dire are the effects of this scourge. He knows that dreadful physical conditions result from infantile paralysis. This disease, as the honorable member for Fawkner pointed out, is found mainly amongst the poorer classes in the industrial areas. As a layman, I can only assume that malnutrition has a great deal to do with
I he prevalence of this disease, and that by removing the causes of malnutrition we may be able to find a solution of the problem of infantile paralysis. The bon-: ora bie member for Barton (Mr. Lane) recently said that no cure was known for infantile paralysis, but. there certainly seems to be some connexion between that disease and malnutrition.
In Queensland vc have a bush children’s scheme, under which school children from the west are brought down, to the coast during their holidays. The financial resources of those in charge of the scheme are, unfortunately, very restricted, despite the fact that they receive assistance from the Queensland Government, On behalf of the Worth Queensland branch of the scheme, I desire to thank the Minister for Defence for again making material belonging to the Defence Department available in conveying children from “Western Queensland to the seaside. I contend that the problem of malnutrition is one that should be definitely tackled by the national Parliament. Too much responsibility in such matters is already thrust upon the shoulders of the State authorities. The President, of the United States of America places no burden of a national character on the backs of the governments of the various states, and I appeal to the Minister for Health to formulate a plan, on a sound financial basis, to grapple with the evil of malnutrition. The Federal Advisory Council on Nutrition can supply him with one gratis. As I have already suggested, I believe that if a practical p’.an could bc evolved to eliminate malnutrition many other scourges would be eliminated.
.- It was not my intention to speak on the health vote until I heard the remarks about housing by the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett), the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), and the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. “Riordan). I was particularly interested in the figures mentioned by the honorable member for Kennedy, because, on the several occasions when I have passed over Mount Isa. I have observed the striking contrast between the model village erected by the mining company and the conditions of considerable squalor noticeable in the main part of the town. It is most interesting to hear that the improved housing conditions provided by the mining company in that very trying climate have had a beneficial effect oh the resident?. The figures quoted by the honorable member show the benefit of good housing on the health of the people, and also bear testimony to the value of the advanced policy adopted by a number of mining companies in late years. What has been done at Mount Isa has been repeated in a commendable way at Broken Hill in recent times. We heard from the honorable member for Henty what he considers necessary to do in the way of providing better housing in the cities, and I am quite sure that he is right. Having read the report of the Housing Investigation Committee set up by the Dunstan Government in Victoria. I know that appalling squalor is to be found in Melbourne, and those conditions are- a disgrace to that city.
I was interested to hear what the honorable member for Fawkner had to say as to the necessity for the Commonwealth Government to co-operate in some scheme of family endowment, but the point .1 rise particularly to make is that we should not imagine that the housing problem i? solely confined to the towns of Australia. 1 consider that this difficulty should be faced in the country districts as well as in the towns. I do not think that country people experience as much squalor as is found in many of the towns and cities. Yet many .young rural workers who have a liking for country life are prevented from marrying because there is no housing accommodation, good or bad, for them.
– They are not paid sufficient wages to enable them to marry.
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) approaches no problem without seeking to make cheap political capital out of it. I do not wish to praise or criticize the present Government regarding this matter ; I merely point to something to which both Federal and State Governments should give careful consideration. In the grazing areas, the working conditions are undoubtedly much better than they are in some farming areas. In the grazing districts, it has been possible to provide a better standard of wages and working conditions for the employees. They work shorter hours, and, in the main, have a considerably more interesting and congenial life than those employed by wheat, dairy and other farmers. They also have an award, which assures to them ‘ n wage at which, when they arp unmarried men working for the kept rate on stations, their conditions of living compare favorably with those of bachelors in the towns. In nine cases out of ten, station hands have adequate accommodation and good keep. They receive a wage of 45s. 6d. a week in addition to accommodation and keep, which is sufficient to enable them to save and to look after themselves quite as well as the basic wage-earner in the city is able to do so long as they arc unmarried. Many of them are able to get accommodation on the station property if they decide to marry. There again they arc placed, if not in a better position, at least in a position equal to that of those who work in the towns and. in addition, they are able to raise their families under much healthier conditions. If. unfortunately, a man happens to be working on a. station where no cottage is available, and following hie marriage has to seek one in the nearest village, possibly. 10 or 15 miles away, his position immediately becomes verymuch worse, and he is forced down to a very low standard of living. I have known recently of a number of friends of mine who have enjoyed working on a station, but because of their inability to secure a dwelling on. the station property, have been forced to abandon their employment and seek work in the city, where they have a better chance of being able to realize their ambition of marrying and raising a family, though not perhaps under as satisfactory conditions as prevail upon the station properties. .If something is not done in regard to this matter, an increasing number of young men from country districts will drift to the towns. The picture .1 have painted is in connexion with the pastoral areas, where the conditions of labour are better than those in many other areas, where, owing to the nature of the industry, it is not possible for farmers to pay as good a wage as is paid in the grazing areas. I know that when one asks foi- an investigation of this problem it is easy for honorable members opposite to say to the farmers, “ Why not pay a decent wage?”
– Hear, hear !
– It is easy for th* honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), seated in his comfortable green seat, and drawing £950 a year, to criticize men who have to meet world prices for their commodities. It is easy for the honorable member to offer cheap criticism of the dairy farmers, of whose difficulties he apparently knows nothing, or in respect of whom, for political purposes, ho wishes to admit nothing, preferring to pretend that by criticizing another section of the community he shows wonderful consideration for his own. When a man acts in that way one can only feel that his only interest in the troubles of his fellow men is to capitalize them. This matter should be above party politics altogether; it is a difficult problem, but one that must be faced sooner or later. It is futile to indulge in cheap criticism of the dairy farmers: anybody who knows the dairying industry knows also that the average dairy-farmer who has not been established for a very long time is not in a position to pay as good a wage as is paid in other industries. To the long hours worked in the dairying industry, the difficult conditions connected with it, and the low wages paid in it, there must be added this further disability that the average dairy worker has little or no prospect of ever being able to marry, secure a home and raise a family. I appeal for the most earnest consideration of this matter, which 1 regard as one of the great national problems of to-day that we are rather inclined to overlook. It is not a problem easy of solution, but, nevertheless, it is one that it is essential for ils to solve, because the rural industries are the backbone of every country in the world. The. general standard of almost every country in the world is set by the standard of the man on the land. If we permit the. dairying industry and some other farming industries to descend to the level of peasant industries, the standard of the whole community will be lowered. This problem must he tackled, and, in ray opinion, it is our duty, as the national Parliament, to give it most earnest consideration.
Mr. FROST (Franklin) [S.52J. - I was rather surprised to hear the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) stand up in his place and say. “ I shall support a housing scheme, and I shall stand behind the Government in its initiation of such a scheme “. Particularly is this surprising in view of the fact that every time a government of which the honorable member was a. member was faced with a real problem he “ squibbed “ it. Provision for a. housing scheme has been on the statute-book for the last twelve years, but what has the Government done with regard to it ? The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), in his policy speech in 1934, said that the Commonwealth was to have a housing scheme - not a paltry one, but one of great dimensions. But what did his Government subsequently do to implement its pre-election promise? The only work undertaken in connexion with housing was the renovation of an existing building in Sydney for the use of the GovernorGeneral. In the dying hours of the last Parliament the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) asked how many houses were built, and the Prime Minister in reply admitted that no houses were built and that the only work undertaken was that to which I have referred. The honorable member for Henty has said that he will -stand behind the Government. God help the Government behind which he will stand ! During the whole period in which the Government supported by the honorable member was in office nothing was done to solve this pressing problem. The honorable member went abroad and saw at first-hand the housing conditions of other peoples and what other governments were doing to improve them ; but when he returned to Australia he made no effort to influence the Government to institute a housing scheme, because the party to1 which In: belongs is not anxious to interfere with the operations of wealthy building societies which support it. The country is growing tired of this constant reiteration of empty promises.
In my opinion the medical profession should be entirely under governmental control ; there should be no private doctors in Australia. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) said that the Commonwealth cannot leave health matters to dilatory State governments. I remind honorable members that one State government in Australia, the Tasmanian Government, has provided free medical attention for the people outback. Ten doctors have been appointed and stationed in outlying districts. They are to give their services to the people free, and they will be at, the beck and call of the outback people at all times. Their salaries are to be paid by the Government and they are provided with motor cars to assist thom in visiting their patients. It might be. said that this is doing too much for the people, but like the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn) I say definitely that we cannot do too much for the people outback. During the recent election campaign I visited some of the outlying districts in Tasmania and saw at first-hand the conditions with which many of the outback people have to contend. A case was brought; under my notice which bears on this point. A man’s wife was taken ill and, although he was a part-time worker, he wired for a doctor to attend her. After the doctor had completed his diagnosis aud prescribed treatment .he presented a bill for 14 guineas for the visit. The man took him into the next room and showed him four little children -with scarcely sufficient clothing to cover them; he turned then to the cupboard which was bare, saying to the doctor “Where am 1 to get the 14 guineas?” One cannot blame the doctor because, after all, he had to travel over 30 miles to visit his pat ent and obviously could not be expected io do that at his own expense, lie told the man that he would have to take his wife to hospital for treatment. The journey to the hospital caused her death. It is people such as these that the Tasmanian Government is assisting by its humane policy. The Labour Government of Tasmania, under the Premiership of Mr. Ogilvie, and with Dr. Gaha as its Minister for Health, is doing everything possible for the outback people. Dr. Gaha has made two trips around the world at his own expense during which he visited many hospitals in Russ:a, Germany, France and the United States of America. On his return from his last trip he recommended to the Government that free medical attention should bc provided in outlying districts. When a measure to that end was brought before the State Parliament the Legislative Council, elected on a property vote cast by the wealthy people of the State, rejected the scheme, and finally the Premier had to force its passage through the Parliament. On “the same night that the bill was rejected by the Legislative Council that body passed another bill providing ‘free veterinary service to animals. That shows the consistency of the members of that chamber.
– The veterinary service involved an expenditure of £7,000 more than was contemplated in the other bill. “Mr. FROST.- That is so. We are quite prepared to assist this Government to put such a scheme into operation, realizing that the health of the nation is a national matter and that we owe a great debt to the rising generation. The former Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) fora long time on every possible occasion spoke of the need for increasing the birth rate; the right honorable gentleman constantly preached the doctrine of larger families for Australia. But what is the Government doing to encourage people to increase their families? The birth of children in. many families is nothing but a tragedy in the home. Instead of a woman beingcomplimented on an addition to her family her friends usually sympathisewith her. In my own electorate I know of many large families being reared under better conditions than operate in the cities, but no effort is being made to make the home life of those people more attractive by the provision of adequate housing facilities. As the honorable member for Flinders has said, the tendency is for people to drift to the cities because of the lack of housing facilities in country districts. If the Government is really sincere let it assist the Tasmanian Government to provide free medical attention for the people in the outback areas. Let it also take steps to nationalize the medical profession, so that everybody, rich or poor, may be assured of the best medical attention possible. The Government need not pretend that it has no money, when we can pass £11,500,000 in a few hours for defence purposes. The Labour party would be prepared to assist the Government to carry out these necessary reforms. I have no doubt, however, that the Government, at the end. of its present term of office, will still .be making the same old promises that it has been making for the last ten years
.- First I desire to congratulate the Minister for Health (Dr. Earle Page) upon taking charge of the Department of Health. This department is one of the most important of federal activities and of paramount importance, and it is interesting to have a member of the medical profession in charge of it. We shall look forward to some important developments.
Many honorable members have referred to the subject of housing, which constitutes one of the most serious problems in Australia at the present time. Like other honorable members I have approached the Federal Government with schemes in regard to housing, but we are handicapped by the division of authority between state and Federal Governments. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn) suggests that it is a problem for town authorities to tackle,, but at present, in New South Wales, there are disputes between State and municipal authorities. I put it that the Federal Government should arrange a conference with State authorities with a view to finding a solution of this problem, and to decide upon a general housing scheme for Australia.
AVith the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), I am glad that the Department of Health has been able to institute a National Council of Medical Research, and to associate with it the work of dental research. When I was in the United States of America recently, I attended a conference of members of the medical and dental professions, more than 6,000 dentists being present. I was particularly impressed with the evidence of close association between medical and dental research. A public exhibit of dental research work was shown in an area as large as the Sydney Town Hall. We have in Australia at the present time, eminent dental authorities such as Professor Amies at ‘the Melbourne University and Professor Arnott at the Sydney University. The services of these men, who have world-wide reputations, could be enlisted by the council for research work, especially as the belief now is that many serious diseases are attributable to dental and mouth troubles.
.- After listening to the doleful tale told by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. “Fairbairn), one can only conclude that, most of the speeches delivered by Government supporters during the recent election campaign were nothing more than lying propaganda. The party to which the honorable member belongs has had complete control of Parliament for many years past. Government spokesmen declared during the election campaign that the people were never more prosperous than at the present time, but if conditions as painted by the honorable member for Flinders are the best that antiLabour governments are <able to achieve after so many years of office, the sooner there is a change of government the better. The experience of the honorable member for Flinders in regard to housing must be very limited. He told us that he had flown his aeroplane over Mount Isa, and I can well believe that that is the nearest he ever got to a workman’s home. The honorable member made some reference to my parliamentary allowance. I remind him that, at any rate, I stay in Australia, and by attending to “my parliamentary duties earn my allowance, which is more than he does. He is always tripping around the world, and treats his parliamentary allowance merely as pin money. The honorable member is interested in the grazing industry, an industry which pays the worker a miserable 45s. 6d. a week, on which married men are expected to keep a home. The honorable member accused the Opposition of trying to make party capital out of this matter, but I retort that the Government has made party capital out of the housing problem for years past. Year after year we are told that the Government proposes to do this and that, but nothing is ever done. If the Government desires really to help the people i n regard to housing, it should not only provide good houses, but also make it possible for the people to live in them. Recently, the wage-fixing tribunal in New South Wales increased the basic wage by a few shillings a week, but before the workers got the benefit of the first payment, landlords raised the rent of houses by approximately the amount of the increase.
– The honorable member may make passing reference to housing, but the subject under discussion is health.
– Do you rule that housing has nothing to do with the health of the people?
– There is a connexion between the two, but health is the subject now under discussion.
– The Lang Labour Administration in New South Wales, which preceded the present antiLabour Government, had given the workers some protection against rack-renting landlords, but that protection was removed by a government of the same political complexion as the present Federal Government. The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Jennings) referred to a dispute between the Government of New South Wales and certain municipalities regarding housing, but he did not state the cause of the dispute. The fact is that the State Government desires to carry out certain rebuilding schemes, but wants the municipalities to carry the greater portion of the financial responsibility. Also, under the Government’s proposal the cost of the new houses would be so high that the workers would not be able to live in them. In New South Wales today, despite all the talk of prosperity, families are being evicted every day. Some houses are occupied by two and three families, with five or six persons sleeping in one room. The honorable member for Flinders said that the grazing industry was much more favorably situated than were some other rural industries, and yet this industry is prepared to offer “only £2 5s. 6d. a week to its workers engaged as station hands. It is quite true that intolerable housing conditions exist in country districts. The honorable member suggested that an appeal should be made to the Graziers Association, but what is the use of that? A few 5’ears ago, a Hut Accommodation Act was passed at the instance of a Labour government in New South Wales, and the Graziers Association fought for its repeal with the result that an antiLabour government has now abolished the protection which the workers enjoyed under the act, and the graziers may house their workers as they like.
I have no doubt that the Government will say that housing is a State concern, and it will endeavour to evade its responsibility in that way. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost) pointed out that if the Government is able to find £11,500,000 for defence, surely it should be able-
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the administration of the Health Department.
– I am arguing that the amount set down for expenditure by the Government on matters pertaining to public health is not sufficient. Being; desirous of putting forward a constructive proposal, I now suggest that someof the £11,500,000 which the Government proposes to spend on defence might well be devoted to providing better houses for the people. Though both the Government and the Opposition have defencepolicies, the motives actuating the twoparties are entirely different. The Government is concerned only with theprotection* of private property; it has never been concerned with the protection of human life. To-day, the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) asked that- funds be made available tofight the infantile paralysis scourge. The Government has said that the best it can do is to make available £10,000 for the purpose to Victoria. Although the epidemic has been raging in Tasmania for some time, nothing has yet been made available to that State. Some time ago, an application was made by certain authorities in Victoria for Commonwealth assistance to provide milk for school children. That was when the last government was in office, and the then Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) said that the Government realized the seriousness of the matter, and would give the application mature consideration. Well, it certainly did ; it is still considering the application, and I have no doubt it will be considering it when its present term of office expires. The Government, if it was sincere in its expressed desire to grapple with this problem, should not be satisfied with talking about these matters; it should do something. People live in poor houses not by desire, but by compulsion.
Similarly they do not eat certain food’s because they desire to do so, but because they cannot afford the food they would like to eat. It is true that we have our various pure food acts in which certain standards of quality are stipulated. But the people are not provided with the wherewithal to huy such foods. Of what use is it to say that butter shall he of a certain quality when we deny the people the financial capacity to buy the butter?
The people of Australia will never have a proper scheme of national health until they put a Labour government into office, for the reason that anti-Labour governments are always dominated and controlled by the wealthy interests of the community and are, therefore, powerless to make changes which will really benefit the masses. If our people desire their living standards to be improved and health to be placed under national control they should put a Labour government - into office at the earliest possible moment.
The honorable member for Flinders also had a great deal to say about my attitude on certain subjects. Allow me to point out to him that during the recent elections the Government concentrated its efforts in New South Wales on the East Sydney electorate in the attempt to defeat rae. The Prime Minister himself visited my electorate.
The ‘TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member must confine his remarks to health matters.
– I assure you, sir, that the subject with which I am dealing concerns my personal health. In spite of all the Government did, I retained the seat with an increased majority.
It is an unfortunate fact that many people in New South Wales are afraid to go to public hospitals for treatment because they know very well that once they get within the doors of those institutions they will be pestered and badgered for contributions to the hospital funds. This procedure is adopted to such a degree that many people who cannot really afford to contribute to the hospitals actually do so. The hospital authorities are compelled to follow this course, for the Government practically starves them for funds. Although the anti-Labour Government in New South Wales refuses to provide adequate financial assistance for our big public hospitals, the members now constituting that government fought desperately to prevent the Lang Labour Government instituting the State lottery which has been instrumental in the course of the last few years in making many hundreds of thousands of pounds available for the benefit of our hospitals. This is something tangible that a Labour government has done in the interests of public health. It is high time that the present Commonwealth Government did something practical in the interests of public health. Up to date it has done nothing more than talk about it.
.- It is difficult to imagine that this is a meeting of the Australian Parliament, for honorable members opposite seem to be concentrating their attention for purely party political purposes on condemning and disparaging Australian conditions of life. The record of Australia in the improvement of public health will bear favorable comparison with that of any other country of the world. The quantity’ of meat, butter, fruit and milk - the four essential ingredients in the maintenance of a healthy life - consumed in Australia is higher in proportion to our population, than in almost any other country. Statistics show that in only one other country is the quantity of meat consumed by the people higher per capita than in Australia, and that is in the sister dominion of New Zealand.
– What about milk?
– During the last six years the quantity of butter consumed in New South Wales has increased by no less than 2 lb. per capita per annum, yet it might be understood from the remarks of honorable members opposite that our people are being undernourished and underfed to an ever greater extent than any other people. I give the lie to that claim. Such rotten, lying defamation should not be uttered to be spread over the world to besmirch the fair name of Australia. There is not the slightest scintilla of justification for it. Honorable’ members opposite are saying, in effect, that the condition of our public health is worse than that of any other country. The actual position is the very reverse of that. Medical statistics show clearly that during the last 30 years there has been a continuous and remarkable improvement of the public health. Since 1905, infantile mortality in Australia has been reduced by 50 per cent. Thirty years ago, the number of deaths of children between the age of one month and twelve months was 80 per thousand; to-day it is 39 per thousand, or less than half what it was 30 years ago. Such a record can scarcely be paralleled by any other country. It is significant also to note where the greatest improvement has occurred. Conditions in this regard have always been good in our country districts - so good in fact as to bear more than favorable comparison with those of other countries. But during the last 30 years, remarkable improvements have occurred in. the big cities such as Sydney. It is deplorable, therefore, that some honorable gentlemen opposite should, for paltry party political purposes, defame the name of Australia in this regard. I have had a long personal experience in this matter. I have had intimate contact with medical and physical conditions in many countries of the world and on three continents, and I declare that in not one country on those three continents are the health conditions of the children and the people generally as good as in Australia. We have a record of which we are entitled to be proud. Certain honorable gentlemen in discussing this subject have entirely overlooked the fact that the standards we aim at have always been better than those of other countries, and they have concentrated their attention on the percentage of improvement that has occurred in some other countries. Obviously greater improvements can be shown by countries which had exceptionally low standards to begin with. The statistical records in regard to public health show clearly that our standards are exceptionally high. It is intolerable therefore that statements should be made in this chamber to the contrary effect. ‘Speaking by and large the conditions of life here are better than those of practically .any other country.
That is no reason, of course, why we should not make every effort to improve them still further. During the last three years, the Lyons Government has done everything possible to improve the facilities for research into matters relating to public health. It has also done everything possible to co-ordinate all the activities that are proceeding in this direction to ensure that the best possible results shall be achieved for the money spent and that the energies and scientific skill of our research students shall not be wasted by the overlapping and duplication of effort. This Government has actually done a great deal to co-ordinate all research activities. Two years ago, when I addressed a meeting of the British Medical Association of the whole Empire which met in Australia for the first timein our history, I outlined a proposal foithe co-ordination of our research operations through a national medical council of research, and the programme was acclaimed as one of the greatest developments that could take place in our medical history. We have already done much to implement that programme. Of the £30,000 made available this year for research purposes no less than £21,000 has already been allocated to 37 different graduates of medicine to enable them to carry out definite research activities in respect of diseases prevalent in Australia. It cannot therefore be truthfully suggested that the Government has been idle. The truth is that everything possible has been done to stimulate research into matters relating to public health. This afternoon, an honorable gentlemen on this side of the chamber, admitted frankly that my predecessor in office (Mr. Hughes) had done a great deal to bring the subject of public health into the very forefront of Australian politics.
– Tell us something that has actually been done.
– 1 direct attention to the steps taken by the Government to make possible in the interests of public -health, the installation of proper sewerage systems in small country towns throughout the Commonwealth. In consequence of the appropriation of £1,000,000 for this purpose some years ago, effective sewerage systems have been provided or arranged for no less than 57 small country towns throughout New South Wales. - These systems could not have been installed had the towns concerned had to rely upon their own financial resources. An illustration of the effectiveness of this policy is provided by the important inland town of Wagga. Prior to the installation of the sewerage system there it was customary for from 350 to 400 oases of typhoid fever to occur each year. To-day, in consequence of the effectiveness of the sewerage system, typhoid fever is practically non-existent, and the previous mortality rate of about 10 per cent, from this cause bas been practically eliminated. What has’ been done in Wagga has also been done in other country towns. This is one definite result of the policy of co-operation of this Government with State and municipal health authorities.
Some honorable gentlemen do not seem to realize that in health matters the Commonwealth Government can act only in co-operation with other authorities, ft has no constitutional power to assume control of public health. It must work in co-operation with State and municipal instrumentalities. The same is true of housing. With clue respect to the Chair. I submit that the subject of housing should not have been discussed under this proposed vote. However, the Government has also done something to assist the States “to adopt comprehensive housing schemes.
Before I pursue that subject further let me remind honorable gentlemen that the establishment of the School of Tropical Medicine at the Sydney University was made possible by the Bruce-Page Government. The work in connexion with tropical hygiene in Queensland has also been made possible by reason of the co-operation between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of Queensland. Moreover, a great deal of the credit for. the research work that is at present proceeding in Australia is due to the policy of this Government.
Something has been said in the course of this discussion about Sister Kenny’s method of treating infantile paralysis. Two and a half years ago Sister Kenny came to Canberra and I went with the then Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) and the Director-General of Health (Dr. Cumpston) to see a film which had been prepared showing the effects of her treatment. Subsequently the then Minister for Health arranged that work should be started immediately at the Royal “North Sydney Hospital under -Sister Kenny’s tuition in the interests of sufferers from infantile paralysis so as to enable the value of the system to be judged. An amount of £10,000 has also been provided to assist the Government of Victoria to cope with the after treat ment of cases of infantile paralysis, and the Commonwealth Director of Health suggested that part of ‘ that money should be expended in sending a certain number of nurses to the Royal North Sydney Hospital to study the methods applied there in the Sister Kenny clinic. In the light of all this it is entirely unfair to suggest, as has been done time after time in the’ course of this discussion, that the Government is doing nothing to improve the condition of public health. As a matter of fact, everything possible is being done and I repeat that the public health of Australia is better than that of any other country in the world.
– What about housing?
– A good deal has also been done in this direction. In 1927, I introduced into this chamber a bill dealing with this subject, which provided that an amount equivalent to a quarter of the total increase in Commonwealth Bank deposits should be made available for erection of homes. In two years no less than £2,000,000 was spent under the provisions of that measure.
– What did the Labour party do about housing?
-Order 1 The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) is out. of order.
– The national housing scheme was carried on until the Labour Government of 1929 ceased the activities and wiped out the programme. Although it has not been restarted since, the Labour party was the party which-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The right honorable gentleman may not discuss housing.
– It has been suggested that economic causes are largely responsible for the lower birth rate.
– Hear, hear !
– The honorable gentleman says, “ Hear, hear “ but what is the actual position? Where are the large families reared? Is it not among the working people?
– That is so.
– The honorable gentleman says that economic causes have brought about a decline of the birth rate, but has replied to me that large families come from the working classes. The honorable gentleman cannot have it both ways. If the poorer classes, because of reduced economic circumstances, are not having large families, and the rich people do not have them, where do they come from?
Air. FORDE - We should like the righthonorable gentleman’s views on that.
– One other matter raised concerned the representation of the dental profession on the Medical Research Council. That matter has been under consideration by the Government and is being discussed by the council at present. Whatever transpires from that discussion I shall inform honorable members later.
I think that what I have said covers most of the points raised during the discussion. I rose mainly to rebut the suggestion that this country is the poorest country in health matters in the world. Nothing is further from the truth, and no one is better equipped to tell the committee that it is not the truth than the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) who during the last three or four years, has had opportunity to contrast conditions abroad with those in Australia.
– It appears to me that the Minster for Health (Dr. Earle Page) thought that he was on the public platform, to-night and was trying to persuade people to the belief that there is a wonderful wave of prosperity in this country. I do not know so much about meat as I have not the figures with me, but when the right honorable gentleman spoke about the milk consumption in Australia being higher than elsewhere, he either did noi understand the figures, or misquoted them. Tho facts are that, although Australia is largely a milk-producing country, the per capita consumption of milk in this country ranks with the lowest in the world. My source is the figures supplied by the League of Nations, which are available to the right honorable gentleman. Whatever the Minister for Health may say about what has been done or what has not been done, the fact remains, and he knows it, that the sick and infirm are denied proper hospital accommodation. As a matter of fact there is not sufficient accommodation in the hospitals for the wreckage of the last war, yet the w Government is getting ready for another war.
I join with the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost) in saying that it is time that Australia moved towards complete national control of’ the health of the people. I level no charges against the medical profession; as a matter of fact, if it had not been for the skill of one medical man, I should now be in my coffin. I do not detract one iota from the wonderful value of the medical men’s services. What I am about to say is not an attack upon them, nor is it an attack upon nurses, dentists, or the controllers of hospitals. Incidentally, I have not much time for chemists, for they have been proved to be out and out exploiters of the people. The pecuniary position of the medical man or the needs of his family, or anything of that, kind, should not be allowed to obtrude into health matters, and prevent a person needing a doctor’s prescription, dental treatment, or anything of the like, from receiving it. There is only one remedy, and that is to put health under national control. We should move towards the time when doctors and nurses, hospitals, chemists and dentists, will be made available at a national cost. From my discussions with medical men I am led to believe that many of them favour such a move. It is ridiculous, in my opinion, for the Government, after spending thousands of pounds on medical research, to allow the results to be placed in the hands of private persons to enable them to make enormous and often unnecessary incomes. I do not cavil at medical research; on the contrary I give the Government credit, for what, it has done in this direction, and consider that even greater sums should be expended. Without in any way reflecting upon the medical profession, however, I repeat my belief in the efficacy of national health services. I concede that the doctors themselves do make the rich pay for a lot of treatment that they give to the poor. It is equitable that they should do so, and if 1 were a medical man, that is the practice I should follow.
I sometimes see red when in the daily press, I find advertisements for nostrums splashed across the sheets. Whatever publication one picks up, be it the biggest newspaper or the smallest magazine, one is confronted with these glaring advertisements. The men who cause them to be published are experts in their way, and have some medical knowledge; but even the healthiest of us, at some time or other, experience twinges of pain, and these advertisements which declare that these twinges are warnings of worse to come, create a fear complex in the minds of the people, and a. psychology that is tending to destroy their faith in themselves, lt is time that this Parliament, and the State Parliaments, used some method to prevent these exploiting advertisements from being published. I have no sympathy for the men who advertise “ quack ‘’ nostrums, which place the people in the doldrums and make them so desperate that they rush in to buy the preparations of unscrupulous people. I appeal to the right honorable gentleman, who is a doctor himself, to see that something is done.
– It is entirely a State responsibility.
– The right honorable gentleman should take the matter up with the States.
– That has been done.
– If the big public institutions, the newspapers, had any concern for the welfare of the people, they would refuse some of the advertisements which besmirch their pages, and which they know well lie to the public and exploit woe, sickness and ill health. The right honorable member reprimanded me. the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and other honorable gentlemen for having mentioned the condition of public health in Australia. He should reprimand the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), because during the last twelve months, when he was Minister for Health, no one squealed more than the right, honorable gentleman about the conditions of thi Australian people. At the Millions Club he delivered a speech which he had published all over the world, in which he said that, according to the Commonwealth health authorities, 40 per cent, of the Australian people were suffering from malnutrition.
– Admittedly, many of our people are suffering from malnutrition ; but the. conditions are worse in other countries.
– I have not heard any honorable member say that the conditions in Australia in this respect are worse than they are in other countries.
– I am glad to have that admission.
– That means that the right honorable gentleman’s view is that if conditions in Australia are not worse than those in China or Japan, everything is all right. Of what use it is to say that our conditions are better th ah the conditions in some other country? That is quite apart from the point. The point is that the right honorable member for North Sydney announced that 4.0 per cent, of our people are suffering from malnutrition. A conference attended by educationalists and psychologists was held recently in Sydney. The delegates, who came from all over the world, dealt with a matter than which there is nothing more important, namely, mental health. These psychologists discussed abnormality, subnormality, and mental deficiency. If a man is unhealthy mentally, it is of not much use. worrying about his body. The conference came to the conclusion that mental weaknesses in children, not only in Australia, but all over the world as well, were directly due to an inferiority complex born in their brains from the economic condition of their parents. The psychologists said that in children of poor parents who had to go to school bootless, whilst other children wore boots, and shabby whilst other children wore neat clothes, a feeling of inferiority was born, with the result that they became inferior men and women. If, as the conference concluded, this inferiority complex, with its attendant ills, is due directly to the economic condition of their parents, it is of not much use for biologists or anybody else to track down germs. What should be done is to rectify the position by removing the economic causes of mental weaknesses to which the conference so pointedly directed attention, and which the former Minister for Health said were easy to remove. It is not necessary to know about medicine and the * make-up of the human frame’ to know that if food and conditions which arc needed for brain, bone, and sinew building are not available, the general health of the nation Suffers. I hope that this Government will do something more than has been done in the past to improve the conditions and health of the people. I have heard nothing from honorable members opposite to show that they have any intention to do anything more than utter platitudes. In my opinion, if the Labour party were in power and sought to do what honorable gentlemen opposite say should be done, the opposition would be strong.
The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn) had the audacity to say that honorable members who sit on this side of the chamber exploit human misery. To-night, he did nothing except endeavour to exploit it, and to play up to his electors by saying that he is prepared to consider the conditions of these people. Why does he not demand that this Government shall do something to eradicate the very thing which is responsible for ill-health and the degradation of the physical conditions of our people? The people of Australia will not always listen to the mouthing of platitudes. If the Minister for Health considers that existing conditions are satisfactory, let- him accompany me in my motor car on a 50-mile drive during any week-end. I shall show him something which, as a doctor, he will have to consider. I shall take him to slum areas which exist in the interest of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, one of the greatest monopolistic concerns in the world, with the object of keeping unemployed men at its back door so that they may be used as a batteringram against workers inside its establishment. As a medical man, the right honorable gentleman would have to admit that it is a festering sore in the centre of one of the most quickly growing districts in New South Wales. If he does not say that it must be eradicated, that it is a direct threat to the health of every man, woman and child within a radius of 20 miles or more of the area in which they live, he is not as good a medical man as I consider him to be. If these things are allowed to continue, the prosecution of medical research, the building of a laboratory here and there, and the employment of a few trained men to study microbes with a microscope will get us nowhere. The first thing to be done is to make the economic lives of the people sound. If we build from a sound foundation, we shall have a solid structure - the home. If the mother, father and children are neglected, civilization will be polluted at its source, and whatever is done in laboratories or anywhere else will have no effect. The right honorable gentleman had better pay heed to these things, because, until they are tackled, all else will be hopeless. If honorable gentlemen opposite intend to do the job properly, let them get down to bedrock, so that the incubus which is strangling the economic life of this country will be removed. No longer should we continue to pay to the money-changers £62,000,000 out of a taxation ‘return of £92,000,000. Let the Government use that money as a start towards developing a proper economic life, so that mothers and fathers can rear their children in decent surroundings. Let us see that the sanctity of the home is something that a man has a right to protect. The worker does not want others prying into his domestic affairs any more than the wealthy will allow it. If these considerations characterize the actions of the Government, progress will be made; otherwise, its efforts will be utterly futile, and in the long run civilization will collapse around our ears.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote - Department of Commerce, £452,000–agreed to.
Proposed vote, £1,147,000.
.- I should like the Minister to explain the item “ Secondary industries research - Motor car and aeroplane engines, £1,850.” We have all been waiting for some time for the report of the Tariff Board on the manufacture of motor car engines in Australia. A couple of years ago, the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) made in this chamber an eloquent speech on the necessity for a forward drive in the development of secondary industries, in the course of which he pictured one development in the manufacture of motor car engines, and said that the establishment of that industry would provide employment for approximately an additional 30,000 per2sons. Some of us thought that he intended to take action in the direction indicated. Evidently, however, the vested interests associated with the motor car distributing firms stood in the way, and, consequently, we have heard nothing further about the project. I should like to know whether the Ministry has given consideration to the report <>f the Tariff Board. I am sorry that the Government has fallen down on the proposal. I believe that it is practicable, and that the establishment of the industry would lead to the employment of an additional 30,000 persons. How are Ave to absorb in employment a greatly increased population if we do not adopt a bold policy of this kind ? Does the Government propose to exhibit weakness as soon as vested interests say that motor car distributing organizations, in which huge sums have been invested, will be interfered with? Whenever the protectionist policy is put into operation it impinges on the privileges of certain importing interests, and there is a certain amount of dislocation. If the Government studied the matter before it brought down its proposal, why has it thrown that proposal overboard? The manufacture of motor car engines in Australia would have played an important part in helping to relieve the acuteness of unemployment. Use would be made of our indigenous raw materials, and a motor car in the light car class would be available to the people of Australia at a lower price than is being paid for such a car to-day. The defence of Australia, too, would be promoted. Should Australia ever be engaged in a war of any duration, it must be in a position to manufacture armaments. What factories are better equipped for that purpose than those that are devoted to the manufacture of motor car engines? The Minister knows quite well that we have in Australia probably the best iron ore deposits in the world. Sweden is the only country that can compete with Australia in such deposits. We have all the ingredients necessary to en able us to make the best alloy steel. Our iron and steel works can turn out steel equal to that produced in any other country. Therefore, the manufacture of motor car engines is not impracticable. In Sweden, which has a population of 5,000,000 persons, the registrations of cars number 35,000. The industry was established in that country for the manufacture of Vulvo car engines, by the Ball Bearing Company in 1927, assisted by the Government of Sweden, and, ever since, itsoperations have proved profitable. It hasan output of 10,000 units. In Australia there are 680,000 motor cars on the roads,, and the new registrations every year in two kinds of light cars total 60,000. Manufacturing units could be kept in operation producing light cars. Although I have not seen the report of the Tariff Board, from an investigation of the matter that I have made I feel sure that production in Australia would mean a. lower price to the people of this country. There are 12,500 items of motor car parts manufactured in Australia, and SO per cent, of the car value represents Australian manufacture. Probably a few small lines, such as ball and roller bearings, lighting and ignition lines, would have to be imported for a time. Will the Minister tell us when the report of the Tariff Board will be placed before honorable members, so that they may have an opportunity to study the result of its investigations. Are we to take it that the proposals brought forward by the honorable member for Henty have been thrown overboard by the Government? Can we attribute the exit of that gentleman from the Cabinet to the eloquent speech that he made in this chamber in favour of the manufacture of motor car engines in Australia? Are we to assume that vested interests have intimated to the Government that it must not proceed with this proposal, which we were told was to provide employment for an additional 30,000 persons ?
.- The- honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) has “ gone from China to Peru “ on the whole subject of motor car manufacture, and has dragged in the subject of an inquiry by the Tariff Board, as well as research into aeroplane and motor car manufacture and the like. He has made his well-known speech on secondary industries generally. For his information, may I tell him that the inquiry by the Tariff Board on the manufacture of motor car engines in Australia is still in progress.. A report was received by me, and further inquiry is nbw taking place on questions that I submitted to the board. It is comforting to hear the honorable member supporting so strongly the policy of the Government in this regard. I. am only sorry that, in the very brief period during which he w*as Minister for Trade and Customs, he did not think of some excellent idea to promote the advancement of secondary industries. I urge him not to be impatient. Since 1932, when the Labour Administration, of which he was a member, passed from its unhappy existence on the treasury bench, employment in secondary industries has risen from 336,000 to over 535,0’00 - the greatest number in the history of Australia. the CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).Order !
– I am referring to motor car manufacture. A large number of those additional employees are definitely engaged in the manufacture of spark plugs, piston rings, springs, and other motor car accessories of which the honorable member for Capricornia so eloquently spoke. In fact, no fewer than 3,000 now factories have been established. 1 am glad that the honorable member is keen to support the Government’s further encouragement of Australian industry, and its desire to see that motor cars, which would be such an adjunct to defence, and would help to strengthen us industrially, are made in Australia.
– Will the Minister explain the amount of £1,850?
– The honorable member has confused that with the inquiry by the Tariff Board. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey), who is also Minister in Charge of Development, will explain what has been done by the expert who was brought to Australia in connexion with the manufacture of aeroplane engines.
T9.59]. - The item which is giving the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr.
Forde) such great concern is portion of the remuneration that is being paid to Mr. Wimperis, who lately retired from the position of Chief Officer in Charge of Research at the Air Ministry in Great Britain. This gentleman has come to /Australia under the aegis of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. He has already been in this country for about four months, during which time he has been engaged on a close investigation of the state of the industry in Australia. He is reporting on the research necessary to accompany this industry in the future.
– Last year the expenditure under this item was £1,000.
– That represented portion of his’ salary paid to him at the request of his department. Mr. Wimperis is probably the most highly qualified aeronautical expert in the world. His total emoluments will be about £3,000 for the whole of the time that he is in Australia. He has not yet presented his report, but f expect it will be ready in a month or two. I have been in personal touch with him for some time, and I am looking forward to making further contact wi th him.
.- 1 accept the Treasurer’s explanation of the item, but I remind the committee that it is becoming a feature of the Government’s administration to bring out experts from Great Britain. The total cost incurred in connexion with (his item is now in the vicinity of £3,000. Of that amount £1,000 was spent in the last financial year, although nothing was voted. I take it that it was paid out of the Advance to the Treasurer, and that it will appear in the Supplementary Estimates.
– Last year, under another item, the Treasurer asked the committee to vote £2,500 in order to get a report on national insurance from oversea experts, but the Government spent £5,447, and we are now asked to vote another £1,000 this financial year. Apparently Ministers find it necessary to obtain further advice from experts from Great Britain. The total expenditure under the two items mentioned is between £9,000 and £10,000, exclusive of other expenditures of a like kind. The vote under the item. “ national insurance “ does not. include, I take it, the cost of assistance given by Mr. Bennett and Mr. Innes, which, no .doubt, is to be found elsewhere. The vote for Miscellaneous Services this year totals £1,147,000, which is about £100,000 more than was voted last year when expenditure was £1,053,000, although we had voted considerably more. I know it is usual to set down approximate amounts for various items in this group, many of which I entirely approve, but I ask the Treasurer why it has become necessary to have another visit from experts from the United Kingdom to advise the Government in respect of national insurance. We have had a report from Sir Walter Kinnear, and I understand it has received the fullest consideration of the Government. I now assume that this additional provision is intended to meet the cost of a further, survey by British experts of the problem in Australia, and [ am wondering when finality will be reached.
I express my satisfaction at the decision of the Government to make a handsome contribution in connexion with the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the foundation of Australia. I entirely approve of the provision which the Government is making. I believe it is very important that we should develop some pride in our history, and, furthermore, I consider that notable events associated with the life of this country should be brought home in some demonstrative way to the present generation.
I also approve of the very substantial increased provision for the representation of Australia at the Paris and Glasgow exhibitions as well as elsewhere on the Continent, and I suggest that Australia should have adequate representation at the .San Francisco exposition, which is to be held in the near future. It is of very great importance that our tourist and holiday attractions should be made known to the people of the United States of America. Having regard to the present state of world affairs there is every probability that if we are well represented at the San Francisco exposition, we may be .able to attract to the Commonwealth more American tourists than usually visit this country. I should imagine that they would hesitate before deciding to go- to Europe and that those who, in normal times, would visit Japan and China, would, for some time at least, prefer to spend their holiday vacation in other parts of the world. The sending to the San Francisco exposition of exhibits of Australian wool, meat, fruit and other product!, representative of our great industries, would be a waste of time and money, for I see no likelihood of such displays encouraging in the United States of America a greater consumption of Australian goods. I do, however, believe that a larger volume of tourist traffic could be encouraged to Australia from the United States of America, and in this way there would be disseminated among the people of the that country a more intimate knowledge of Australia than they at present possess. The consequent inflow of money into Australia would, in itself, be an important consideration. There is not sufficient known in the United States of America about the character of the Australian continent and there are, I believe, high considerations which make it desirable that the utmost goodwill should prevail between the citizens of the two countries. To the extent that the San Francisco exposition can be used as a means for disseminating information about. Australia, representation at it would be a step in the right direction.
– The item to which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has directed the attention of the committee and for which the expenditure last year was £5,447, includes the cost of the visit to this country of Sir Walter Kinnear and Mr. Ince, also expenditure connected with the work done by Mr. Innes, a prominent Australian actuary, and other experts. I do not think that the Leader of the Opposition will wish me to debate the necessity for these visits. I find it absolutely necessary in the’ Treasury to have the expert advice that these gentlemen can give as the result of half, a century of experience in these matters. That advice and experience are not to be gained in Australia. We should remember the financial responsibility that national insurance involves. This scheme will cost Australia many millions of pounds a year. The potential total capital obligation is something between £200,000,000 and £300,000,000. Viewing the matter in proper perspective, it will be realized that the expenditure of a relatively few thousands of pounds in the initial stages may save us hundreds of thousands of pounds a year. Having been closely associated with the proposals for national insurance, I should not like to be responsible for the introduction into this chamber of the measure dealing with the subject, if we had not access to men of the calibre of Sir “Walter Kinnear and others who have been here, or will come here.
I agree entirely as to the necessity for making Australia better known overseas, in order to provide some corrective of the tourist trade balance, which is two to three against us. Australians going abroad annually take about £5,000,000 with them, whilst tourists coming to this country bring in only about £2,000,000 a year. Our principal object should be to get Australia better known overseas, so that this country may become a greater investing centre than it has been in the past. I know of no country with greater possibilities than Australia has for the investment of overseas funds. Through these various expositions, and the visits of our representatives abroad, as well as the speeches of public men, both here and overseas, we should gradually get Australia better known.
.- I appreciate the comments of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), regarding the 150th anniversary of the foundation of Australia. His’ remarks, coming from the representative of an electorate on the opposite side of this continent from Sydney, constitute a pleasing gesture. The celebrations to be held in Sydney next year will, of course, be of great and national importance, inasmuch as they relate so intimately to the birth of Australia. Referring to the representation of Australia at the Glasgow and San Francisco expositions, I may mention that I visited the localities- in which those displays are to be held, and I consider that Australia would do well to be worthily represented on both occasions. One appreciates the fact that the Government has increased the subsidies to the Australian Travel Association to £20,000. I have personally observed the work of that body in London, and I can assure the committee that it is worthy of full support, as it is a valuable medium for advertising this country.
.- 1 should like to hear an explanation regarding the vote of £100,000 for the national health) campaign. How will the money he allocated among the various States? Will it be used for research work, or for the provision of subsidies to the States to supply milk to children in areas where the people are poor, as advocated by the right honorable member for North Sidney (Mr. Hughes), when he was Minister for Health ? I consider that the present Minister for Health (Dr. Earle Page) was unfair in his criticism of honorable gentlemen who spoke of certain honorable members on the Opposition side-
– The honorable member will not be in order in referring to a previous debate.
– Members on this side are not the only ones who referred to the necessity for greater expenditure on national health. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes), speaking at the Millions Club, stated that it had been shown that 40 per cent, of Australian children were suffering from malnutrition. Reports issued from time to time show the seriousness of the position. Perhaps one of the most striking comments in this regard is that of Dr. Hilda Bull who, in her report to the Medical Health Officer of Melbourne, in May, 1936’, pointed out -
Of the 219 children between two and three years of age only 20.5 per cent, were without, defect.
Of the 273 between three and four years, only 20 per cent, were without defect.
Of the 209 between four and five years, only 14 per cent, were without defect.
Of the 248 between five and six years, only 0 per cent, were without defect.
It was stated by the Minister for External Affairs; when he was Minister for Health, that approximately 1,800,000 persons were admitted to the public hospitals of Australia in one year, whilst the infantile mortality had risen to 50 in every 1,000 births. Professor Harvey Sutton, Professor of Health and Hygiene at the
Sydney University, lias said that of 2,000,000 nien between the ages of 18 and 45- years, only 750,000 were physically fit, and he has stressed the point that it is necessary to spend more money on a national health campaign.
In his policy speech, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) stated that the Government proposed, in conjunction with the States, to consider the development of a better system of care between the infant and school stages, a system in which a daily milk ration would have a prominent place. In what manner will that milk ration be made available, and when may the impecunious but willing States expect to get the necessary funds from the Commonwealth to enable them to give effect to this reform? The Minister for Health has said that the consumption of milk in Australia is very high, but I find that, whilst Switzerland consumes 5S gallons a head of the population annually, (he United States of America consumes 39, Denmark 36, New Zealand 28, Britain 23, Prance 23, Germany 23, and Australia only 20 gallons a head of the population.
In connexion with the proposed vote of £100,000 for a national health campaign, I should like the Minister for Health to state whether he can give an assurance that money will be made available for a national housing scheme. A number of speakers have shown the necessity for the provision of such a scheme. The Minister was very unfair in his criticism of the Scullin Government, which was short of funds in the depths of the depression period, and which he accused of having abandoned the proposal for a national housing plan. It is very interesting to read the report of the board of inquiry appointed by the Government of Victoria, and one sees how inter-related are the matters of housing and health. In a national health campaign, the Government should not overlook the necessity for making substantia] sums available for the States to enable them to carry out a vigorous housing policy. The board in Victoria pointed out that the rents of the so-called houses which they had inspected were being progressively increased to such an extent that many families, in order to pay the rents demanded, had been reduced to a state of semi-starvation.
The board recorded its horror and amazement at the deplorable conditions under which thousands of men, women and children existed. It pointed out that hundreds of houses contained small rooms with damp and decaying walls, leaking roofs, and rotten floors. Many were badly lighted, infested with rats and vermin and without proper ventilation. The conditions in Melbourne are similar to those in portions of the other capital cities, and I suggest that the Minister for Health, who is also the Deputy Leader of the Government, should arrange with the Treasurer to make available to the States the necessary funds to carry out a vigorous housing scheme, not only in Melbourne, where the conditions are particularly deplorable, but also in the other capital cities. The subjects of housing and national health are closely interwoven. The State governments should be provided with funds to supply milk to children in the poorer districts, and for the provision of suitable housing accommodation. This should not be longer delayed, seeing that in 1925 the Government promised to expend £20,000,000 on housing. That promise was repeated at subsequent elections, but it has never been honoured.
.- I must inform the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) quite frankly that no portion of the £100,000 mentioned is to be expended on housing.
– On what is it to be expended ?
– To inaugurate a campaign to ensure better conditions for growing children and to improve maternal hygiene. These subjects are at present being investigated most carefully by the Department of Health, and assoon as a plan has been formulated it will be submitted to Parliament.
.- I am rather shocked at the vagueness of the explanation given by the Minister for Health (Dr. Earle Page) who is asking the committee to vote £100,000 for a national health campaign. He has informed us that when the inquiry which is being conducted by the Department of Health is completed, certain recommendations will be submitted to Parliament.
– A plan is ‘being prepared.
– That does hot appear to be the right way to justify the expenditure of £100,000.’
– If this money is not made available we cannot inaugurate a plan.
– It will not cost £100,000 to produce a plan. I am prepared to support the appropriation of whatever money is required to enable the plan to be formulated, but when that is done we should at least have a classification of the various activities for which this Parliament is to he asked to find the money to promote. How much of the amount is to be expended on improving maternity hospitals throughout the Commonwealth? What amount is to be expended in improving dental facilities for children, and how much is required to provide food requirements for children whose circumstances necessitate that some subvention be accorded to them whereby they may receive sufficient food of proper quality? The Minister has no plan whatever. 1 am willing to support “the expenditure on the necessary research work, and ‘ I suggest that £5,000 or £10,000 should be sufficient for that purpose. Until a definite plan is before us we should withhold our authority. A plan is one thing and administration another. The Minister might say that the Government has decided that the State authorities shall have the responsibility of carrying out this plan. We should remember that the States control the educational system and that there are health departments and child welfare departments in the States in closer touch with the domestic life of the Australian people than is the Commonwealth Government or the Commonwealth Health Department.” I could at this stage anticipate the practicability of entrusting the administration ‘ of this matter to the States. I do not know that that is the best way to do it. It may be suggested that the Commonwealth should take the responsibility. Last year, under another item, the Government appropriated £32,000 for grants in aid of maternal and infant welfare and expended only £25. lt now asks the committee to appropriate £100,000 without any guarantee whatever that any of- the money will be expended. One half of the financial year has passed, and the probability is that at the end of this financial year the plan will be doubtful of realization. .Surely this amount is not required to meet the expenditure incurred in formulating a plan. I refrain from using the word “ dishonest “, because I do not think dishonesty is involved; but this is the wrong way in which to submit this proposal to the committee. The Minister should tell us how much he thinks the department will need in order that a plan may be formulated. When that, is done, he should give an indication of the amounts which the major proposals will absorb. Tho committee will then be in a position to offer some’ criticism as to whether or not the plan comes up to our expectations and whether the Government’s proposals will be a useful contribution to a solution of the problem. I am rather staggered to find that a year ago we should have given the Minister for Health £32,000, with which to furnish grants to assist maternal and infant welfare, and that he has expended only a miserable £25 of that sum. Apparently, that was used in sending telegrams to ascertain what the States were doing, while nothing was being done by the Commonwealth. We are also asked to vote £1,000 for maternal and infant hygiene subsidies and expenses, but how far that expenditure impinges upon the other I do not know. That is a matter of detail which a Minister, having assumed office so recently, could not be expected to explain. I am glad to find that £30,000 is asked for medical research, and I take it that that amount is to be used to give effect to the legislation introduced by the Minister’s predecessor in the closing stages of the last Parliament. I was afraid that that £30,000 was to be reduced by onehalf, but wiser counsels prevailed and the amount remained intact. If the right honorable gentleman does not give a better explanation of what he intends to do with this amount of £.100,000 I shall have to test the committee by opposing it.
Dr. EARLE PAGE (Cowper- Minister for Health) 1 10.30J.- The Leader of the Opposition has ra.sed the question first nf ail as to the amount expended on medical research. There appears in these estimates last year’s figure of £12,400 >f which £4,851 was expended in connection with .researches already being conducted. During the course of last year it was felt that the undertaking by the Commonwealth of research matters independently of the States and of the scientific institutions in the States was a hopelessly wrong procedure, and that we should try to co-ordinate not merely the research activities of the Commonwealth and the States but also the research activites of the States themselves. That was the reason why after a discussion I had with Sir Henry Newlands, the President of the British Medical Association in Australia, the DirectorGeneral of Health brought down a proposal which was submitted to the House by the late Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) for the establishment of a National Health and Medical Research ( council That council held its first meeting about February last, and it brought down proposals providing for a certain number of research fellowships which would be enabled to be continued from year to year. The object was to finable a student to be given a research fellowship to carry out certain investigations for five or seven years with the assurance that a certain amount would Vie appropriated every year. It was recommended that the amount should be £30,000.
– I support that item wholeheartedly.
– The National Health and Medical Research Council has already allocated out of that appropriation a sum . which will involve an annual expenditure of £21,400 which will he used by no less than 27 different research students. They are provided for and have nothing to do with the amount set down in last year’s vote, because that, was provided before the establishment of the council. One reason why the amount of £12,400, which was set down in last year’s estimates was not spent in full was that it was felt at that time that we should have a very definite plan of action, and at once begin. That £12,400 was provided last year as a result of a decision arrived at by the conference of British Medical Associations which met in Melbourne in the previous year, and recommended co-ordination of these activities. The Association said that it was not exactly sure of the method of procedure that should be adopted, but that it. considered that we could not at first provide more than £12,500; that amount was accordingly allocated for that purpose. An exactly similar procedure is being adopted with regard to the £100,000 for the national health campaign. The Health Department has fairly definite ideas in it3 mind as to what measure should be used in connexion with the. health of the growing child and in dealing with the improvement, of maternal hygiene. It feels that it may easily be in a position before the end of this financial year to embark on this expenditure; although its plans are not yet fully matured, we desire to be able to commit ourselves to the expenditure of this amount. The details of any commitments will be brought clown and discussed in the Parliament. If that is not acceptable to the committee, and it insists on the deletion from the Estimates of this £100,000, the responsibility for the delay in connexion with this matter must rest upon the committee. If we are not able to complete our plans so that we shall be able to make these commitments in this substantial way, we can do nothing. The matter is receiving great thought and attention and if we cannot expend the money usefully, we shall not spend it at all. Other items on the Estimates show that when we were not able to make satisfactory arrangements with the States, we did not expend the amount provided merely because we hadit there, but expended only the amount necessary to make contact with the States. I assure the committee that that will be the position with regard to this £100,000 also. As honorable members know the Parliament is to assemble early in the new calendar year, and by that time we hope to have our plans advanced.
I have been in charge of the department only for the last two days, and during that time, I have been in constant consultation with the Director-General of Health in regard to these matters.
– The Minister is missing the point made by the Leader of the Opposition. What is the plan? If we pass this appropriation now, we shall have no chance to discuss the details later.
– T.his is a matter of very great moment to us all; I admit that the health of the people is of just as great concern to . honorable members Opposite as it is to members of the Government, and that they have just as sincere a desire to promote it. That is the reason why I say that it is of no use to put before the committee incomplete plans which do not indicate properly what the Government desires. The only effect of such a course would be to bring about misunderstanding. I know of nothing less able to be appreciated than an unfinished operation. This plan is in exactly the same position.
– The Minister does not appear to be as precise politically as he is surgically.
– We shall be just as precise politically as I have been surgically, and I think the proof of that is seen in the establishment of the Medical Research Council which has already don? a very good job of work. I cannot say now how we can expend the £30,000 provided for the council. We have made provision to expend £21,000 of the £30,000; and might be told that we should refund the other £9,000.
– The right honorable gentleman, is not fair; that £30,000 is to provide for various principles which the Parliament has had submitted to it, and of which the Parliament has approved by statute. We know what that £30,000 is to be expended upon.
– The Parliament knows only the general methods to be employed.’ This amount of £100,000 will be expended, not necessarily in the next six months, but in making commitments to ensure improvements of child health. At the moment, the Government is not able to commit itself in connexion with that particular matter. It is now being discussed by the technical officers of the Department of Health and myself.
– The Minister cannot give the committee any details at all?
– I assure the committee that if we are unable to evolve a satisfactory plan none of this money will be spent. We believe, however, that we have in our minds not only the germ, but also quite a substantial basis, of a satisfactory plan. At this stage, it would be hopeless to attempt to discuss that plan. I again ask the committee to trust the Government in respect of this matter, and I assure it that as soon as definite plans are framed they will be brought before the Parliament. I point out that the plan we may ultimately adopt may involve the expenditure of more than this amount. It may involve the expenditure of an annual amount for a certain number of years. In that case, the Government will bring down a special appropriation measure. So soon as we are in a position to state definitely what we purpose doing we shall bring down legislation, as, of course, we shall be obliged to do, in order to enable us to put our plan into effect, and, in that event, the position will be explained at the earliest possible moment.
– I draw the attention of the Minister for Health (Dr. Earle Page) to Item “ Cattle tick control in New South. Wales and Queensland, subsidy, £69,450 “, and ask that the Federal Tick Commission, should it be necessary to do so, be given greater discretion in the expenditure of that particular money. It is earmarked for the eradication of ticks, particularly in New South Wales, and the Commonwealth Government and the Government of New South Wales combine in its expenditure, but I suggest that, as the purpose of this allocation is the control of ticks, portion of it could justifiably he expended in respect of activities other than dipping, provided such activities contribute equally with dipping towards the eradication of ticks. I shall give the Minister a specific instance in which the Federal Tick Commission should be allowed to exercise greater discretion in the expenditure of this money than is the case at present. As he is aware, an effort is being made in one particular area in the Kyogle district to eradicate ticks completely, and to this end the Tick Control Board of New South “Wales proposes to erect six new dips in that locality. Realizing that these dips will be only of a temporary nature, and will be required for a period of only twelve months, the farmers in that area prefer, at great inconvenience to themselves, that such money should be used for the building of six new bridges. The Tick Control Board and the local shire council have approved of this proposal, but it is being held up, I understand, by the refusal of the Federal Tick Commission to sanction the expenditure of this money on bridges simply because that is not the specific purpose for which the money has been voted. I ask the Minister to treat this matter as urgent, because tenders for the construction of the proposed dips are about to be called for.
– How would the construction of bridges be just as effective as dips in the eradication of ticks?
– These bridges would serve the same purpose as the dips, because they would reduce the journey which the herds have to make between dips. “While awaiting the construction of the bridges, however, the farmers are prepared to put up with the inconvenience of travelling the extra distance. Furthermore, in addition to serving the same purpose as the dips, so far as the eradication of ticks is concerned, the bridges would be there for their convenience permanently, whereas the dips proposed to be. provided will be only temporary. I again ask the Minister to discuss this matter with the Federal Tick Commission with the object of seeing whether something cannot be done to arrange for portion of this money to he spent in the construction of bridges instead of dips, so that the farmers of that area may reap the greatest advantages possible from its expenditure.
– The request seems to be a most extraordinary one.
– As a matter of fact I have just dealt with the matter raised by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) in the course of my departmental duties. The reason for the proposed increase of £25,000 in the allocation in respect of this item over the sum voted for the same purpose last year is that an arrangement has been made by the governments of Queensland, New South Wales and the Commonwealth to make a desperate attempt to eradicate completely cattle tick from New South Wales during the next three years. At a conference held in Grafton about eighteen months ago, it was agreed that New South Wales should provide an extra £50,000, and the Commonwealth an extra £25,000 for the next three years, and that Queensland should forgo claims it had pending against New South Wales in respect of certain money it had provided previously for the purpose of tick eradication. This money is being spent mostly in establishing dips for cattle at intervals of two miles, because that is as far as dairy cattle can be driven in summer time, and it is necessary to dip them every fourteen days for a year. It has been found that there are certain localities where, because of impassable rivers, it has become necessary to build dips at closer intervals than two miles because there is no way of crossing these streams. Consequently, a position has arisen similar to that which the honorable member for Richmond has just explained. Discussions on this matter have revealed that these dips cost roughly from £250 to £300 each, and the Commonwealth has now agreed to allow £150 of each £250 to be used for the construction of bridges in those cases in which such construction will obviate the necessity for the building of additional dips. If we do not do that we shall be forced to build extra dips which, as the honorable member for Richmond has explained, will not be of any- use after this eradication is completed in twelve months’ time. There can be no doubt that the proposed bridges will be just as valuable and just as important in the work of eradicating ticks as the actual stock-yards constructed around the dips themselves, because it is equally important to enable the farmer to get to the dips as it is to provide the clips.
– -How much are these bridges estimated to cost?
– About £150 each.
– Does the Minister mean that the State government cannot build them?
– The money that is being spent iu this respect is being provided roughly in the proportion of about two shares by New South Wales, one share by the Commonwealth, and half a share by Queensland.
– Does it not strike the Minister «s incongruous that money voted in respect of the Health Department should be used for the construction of bridges?
– The expenditure of this money on the construction of bridges in such instances as I have outlined will contribute towards the work of tick eradication.
– .Bridges will not wipe out ticks.
– The construction of these bridges will make it possible for cattle to bc dipped regularly and, at the same time, obviate the necessity for the construction of extra dips. That is the position. The reason why Queensland is contributing to this fund as well as the Commonwealth is because these districts really hold the frontiers for the rest of Australia against invasion by ticks. If the tick pest were to spread down through that district, millions of cattle throughout the present uninfected areas would be lost. The resultant outbreak of red water fever would cause the virtual extinction of cattle in the south above the age of eighteen months, and would cost the country many millions of pounds.
.- On page 7S of the Estimates appears a small item in connexion with the expenses of the Empire Parliamentary Delegation. I desire to say that I, as a member of the delegation, did not take advantage of this.
.- Provision is made in the Estimates foi’ defraying the cost of representation at the International Sugar Conference. According to the papers before us, nothing was allocated for this purpose last year, but £677 was expended, while it is proposed to allocate a further £200 this year. Is this one of the methods by which the Government covers up expenditure by politicians on trips abroad to various functions? If not, why was not the allocation made in the Estimates for 1936?
In the Estimates for the Department of thu Treasury, provision is made for the remission in special circumstances of income tax, land tax and estate duties. For this purpose £3,350 was allocated, but £18,109 was actually expended. This money is used, I understand, for the relief of necessitous cases, and if conditions are as prosperous as we have been told by the Government, why was the allocation exceeded by so large an amount ?
In another part of the Estimates provision is made for a contribution to the International Sugar Council. I should like to know what this council is, and what work it does, so that we may be able to make up our minds as to whether or not the expenditure is justified.
Last year, £15,000 was voted to defray the cost Of the Australian National Travel Association. This is a body about which the Minister for Health (Dr. Earle Page)- might be able to give some information. This year it is proposed to increase the amount to £20,000. What is the purpose of this expenditure? I should have thought that our travelling politicians would have been able to supply all the information that might be required by any one proposing to visit Australia.
A sum of £37,500 is to be provided for overseas trade publicity. . On what is this money to be expended? I have noted a growing tendency on the part of the Government to make contributions to all sorts of international councils, and this year is no exception. The International Beef Conference appears on the Estimates for the first time this year for a sum of £250, while £30 is to be spent on the International Dairy Federation. Representation on these bodies is of direct benefit to particular industries, and if itis desirable that they should be represented, then the industries which arc benefited should meet the expenditure. Of course, we know that this Government is dominated by the Country party, and that probably accounts for the fact that public funds are being devoted to promote sectional interests in this way.
The Leader of the Opposition mentioned that last year £32,00.0 was voted for the promotion of maternal and infant welfare, but only £25 was expended. The Minister for Health stated that this was because it had been found impossible to secure the co-operation of the States. Surely that does not apply to all the States. Perhaps the Minister will be able to inform us why it was impossible to reach agreement. This year no money is to be voted for this purpose, so it would appear that the Government proposes to vacate this field altogether.
.- I am not satisfied with the explanation of the Deputy Leader of the Government (Dr. Earle Page) regarding the proposal to expend upon the provision of bridges money allocated for another purpose.
– We are doing nothing of the kind.
– Part of this money is to be spent on the construction of bridges.
– Yes, just as it might be spent, on the erection of a fence.
– In my opinion, this amounts to the misappropriation of the money. The item should be amended so that a definite sum could be allocated for the construction of bridges, and a further definite sum for the building of cattle dips. Money voted for a special purpose should not be expended on work which is the province of shire councils. I cannot accept the explanation of the Minister regarding the expenditure of this money in some districts in which he may bc interested. He should not expend this money, and the Auditor-General ought not to allow it to be expended. It would be just as reasonable to contend that the building of a bridge across the River Derwent in order to bring sick people to the Hobart Hospital is a matter for the Health Department as- to do what is suggested here. Proposals of this kind enable us to understand why the Bruce-Page Government nearly caused Australia to become bankrupt.
.- I, too, protest against the expenditure of this money in the way proposed. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has been quick to learn the financial methods of the Country party. Instead of expending Commonwealth money on the construction of temporary cattle dips, it is now proposed to utilize it for the building of permanent bridges, the construction of which is the responsibility of either the shire councils or the State government. It is time that the Auditor-General investigated the methods of finance adopted by the Country party. Time after time that party has been successful in obtaining bounties to assist primary producers, legislation to th’at end having been passed without any adequate explanation of the purpose being given. Such methods are detrimental to democracy and honest, straightforward finance. It borders on effrontery for the Minister to say that money voted for the construction of temporary cattle dips is to be utilized in the construction of permanent bridges.
– Probably the honorable member for Barton does not know that the cattle dips are more permanent structures than are the bridges.
– I am not concerned with that aspect, but I am amazed that the honorable gentleman, so early in his parliamentary career, has grasped the financial methods of the Country party. I hope that the Auditor-General will clip the wings of that party.
– From the remarks of some honorable members it would almost appear that something sinister is proposed by the Government, whereas the fact is that what is contemplated is being done openly by three governments - the Nationalist Government of New South Wales, the Labour Government of Queensland, and the Commonwealth Government. The expenditure will be shared by those governments, and the Auditor-General in each of the States mentioned, as well as the Commonwealth Auditor-General, will examine the accounts. The vote is for cattle tick control in New South Wales and Queensland, and an extra £25,000 is being made available in order to ensure that the work will be thoroughly po formed. The money will be expended in other ways tb/tn on the construction of cattle dips. A considerable proportion of it will be used for the erection of miles of rabbit-proof and dog-proof fencing, which will shut off one area from another in the same way as Queensland is now shut off from New South Wales by a double barbed wire fence. It is possible that, by the expenditure of .1,000 on the construction of fences, a considerable sum which otherwise might be spent in providing dips will be saved. In this instance, there will be a saving by what is proposed of from £600 to £1,000, which will enable a bigger area to be cleared of tick this year than otherwise would be possible. With the money saved, three or four other dips may be constructed in different locations. I repeat that. what is being done has the sanction of three governments, which are represented on the Cattle Tick Commission, and, as I have said, those governments are of different political complexions. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) said that the construction of bridges is not a function of the Commonwealth Government, but only yesterday he suggested that the Commonwealth should provide money for expenditure by the States in the control of infantile paralysis, which is a function of the States. The Commonwealth will not carry out the work in connexion with tick control ; it will be done by the New South Wales Government authorities. Except within the territories of the Commonwealth, the control of hospitals and of housing are matters under the control of the States. If Commonwealth money is found for those purposes, it can only be expended by the’ States. That is the position in relation to the expenditure now under discussion.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) asked for information regarding the vote for overseas trade publicity. This year £37,500 is to be provided, as compared with £25,000 last year. The reason for the increase of the vote is that there has been a general demand for it by Australian exporting industries, which themselves are finding substantially more than previously for the advertising of Australian products overseas. Boards controlling the export of dried, canned and fresh -fruits, as well as dairy produce and meat, desire that greater publicity shall be given to Australian products in Great Britain. Honorable members are aware that many Australians returning from the Old Country complain that our products are not sufficiently advertised abroad. What is contemplated is being done in collaboration with the industries themselves, which, as I have said, are paying more than in the past.
One other subject referred to was the Australian National Travel Association. This organization is doing a great deal to advertise Australia abroad. It has increased the amount of tourist traffic to Australia to the extent of about £1,000,000 a year. The funds for this purpose are contributed by the Commonwealth Government, which provides £20,000 a year, the government railways of the various States, including those of Western Australia and Queensland, where Labour governments are in office, the shipping companies, and also some accommodation houses. The money provided from these various sources is used with remarkable success to give the widest possible publicity to Australia overseas. During the last few years the Australian National Travel Association has published the magazine Walkabout, and this year a profit of about £3,000 has been netted from that source. The’ magazine is a very fine production, and is regarded as one of the best of its kind in the world. The profit obtained from it is also being used to encourage tourists to visit Australia.
Tho honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has referred to maternal and infant welfare. The sum of £100,000 provided under this heading is to be used in connexion with the national health campaign, plans for which are now under consideration. Infant and maternal hygiene will be given particular attention in this connexion. The amount of £32,000, to which reference has also been made, will be absorbed in the larger amount, and the plans to be developed will provide for activity under both these headings.
– I understood the Minister to say that some difficulty was being encountered in the negotiations with the States.
– So far it has not been possible to agree upon a uniform plan to secure complete collaboration between the Commonwealth and the States in this connexion, but we hope that success will be achieved in that regard.
– I should like an explanation of item 8, division 103, “ Brown coal deposits, Moorlands, South Australia - geophysical investigation, £2,500 “. How is that money to be expended, and what are the intentions of the Government in that connexion? Item 10, division 103, reads, “ Shale oil investigations - expenditure, £1,000 “. This, also, requires some explanation. I understood that the bill dealing with shale oil deposits passed in the concluding days of the sittings of the last Parliament provided for all requirements in connexion with shale oil. Is it proposed that this £1,000 shall be expended in some other directions?
– Several of the items that have been referred to involve my department.
The Deputy Leader of the Government (Dr. Earle Page) dealt with trade publicity in Great Britain. I should like to supplement his remarks briefly. During the last few years many “ travellers’ tales” have been told in Australia about the ineffective nature of the publicity given in England to Australian products. While I was in London attending the Imperial Conference, I gave some attention to this subject. After visiting many big stores and making numerous inquiries, I came to the conclusion that these tales, were hardly Worth attention. We are. as a matter of fact getting excellent results for the relatively small expenditure incurred in this direction. Mr. Hyland, the officer in charge of this work, is doing an extremely good job.
The item “International Sugar Conference - representation, £200,” relates to the expenditure incurred by Mr. A. R. Townsend, the sugar expert of the Customs Department, in visiting England to assist the Australian delegation in tho negotiations in connexion with the international sugar agreement. An amount of £667 waa expended under this heading in the last financial year. The expenditure, honorable members will realize, has thus been spread over two financial yea rs.
– The cost of Mr. Townsen d’s visit seems to have been substantially less than that of Mr. H. C. Brown’s visit.
– I cannot explain that at the moment, except by saying that Mr. Brown is a much more senior officer than Mr. Townsend. I do not know how long Mr. Brown was abroad, but Mr. Townsend was not absent for very long.
– He was away quite a while.
– I do not think he was away for much more than two months, apart from the time occupied on the journey. He certainly rendered very good service to Australia, and materially contributed to the successful outcome of the Conference. I am perfectly sure that the expense incurred in the visits of both Mr. Brown and Mr. Townsend was fully justified.
– Mr. Brown receives a. very high salary.
– That is so; but unless we pay high salaries we cannot keep good men.
Reference has been made to the item, “ Remission of income tax, land tax, sales tax and estate duty under special circumstances - £1,500,” and attention has been directed to the fact that £18,109 was expended under this heading in the previous financial year. The heavy expenditure on that occasion was due to the action of the Commonwealth Government in remitting tax on the very substantial gift of £100,000 made by Sir Macpherson Robertson in connexion with the centenary of Victoria. The remission of the tax in that instance was not possible except by special action of this kind. In addition, certain other items of taxation were written off last financial year as irrecoverable.
The payment under the heading “ International Sugar Council “’ represents Australia’s quota of the cost of the secretariat which administers and polices the international sugar agreement. Our proportion of the cost is based upon our production and export of sugar.
– With rega-d to publicity in the United Kingdom, ~, an effective advertising scheme being carried out in the big provincial cities as well as in London?
– Yes; the scheme covers the whole of England and Scotland, and, 1 believe, Wales as well, and possibly the North of Ireland.
– Yes, the North of Ireland is included.
– I saw in London a. very large map with a pin representing every town in which Australian goods are sold, and the map was almost completely covered with pins. There are literally thousands of towns and cities in Great Britain where one or more shops continuously use Australian goods. Special displays also are arranged from time to time, when windows are taken, not only in London, hut also in the provincial cities and towns; so that Australia is getting a very good run indeed.
– I found it difficult to find anything of Australian origin displayed anywhere in Manchester.
– Many of these cities are big, and half a dozen shops with displays of Australian goods in them may not be seen by every visitor, but I am much impressed with the energy and imagination being put into this job by Mr. Hyland and his staff in Great Britain.
– What is being done in the IrishFree State?
– I am unable to tell the honorable member that.
– The Minister has not answered the questions regarding shale oil and brown coal.
– The Moorlands vote is an effort to assist in discovering whether the brown coal deposits there are of economic importance. This item, speaking from memory, represents, I think, the loan of equipment and also personnel trained in geophysical surveying, in order to help to delimit this alleged large brown coal area.
– Why is the Government spending money there, when there are already large proved, coal deposits in New South Wales which are not being worked; and dozens of men are unemployed?
– I understand that this was the result of a request from the Government of South Australia, which was interested to discover if there was at Moorlands a deposit of any consequence.
Geophysical methods were required to make a test, and we happened to have the equipment and personnel to do it.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes - Refunds of Revenue, £1,350,000; Advance to the Treasurer, £2,000,000; and War Services Payable out ofRevenue, £1,261,300 - agreed to.
Message received from the Senate acquainting the House of Representatives that the following senators had been appointed members of . the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works: - Senators Brand, Brown, and Cooper.
Aeroplane Ac ciden t .
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) pro posed -
T hat the House do now adjourn.
– I regret to have to announce that I have just received a message to the effect that at Yeppoon Beach. Rockhampton, at 3.30 p.m. to-day, an aeroplane, registered as Aircraft DH50, and piloted by Owen Weaver, of Tennant Creek, Northern Territory, nose-dived and crashed. John James Hayes and Neville Hayes were killed, and two female passengers were seriously injured, one of whom, Miss Hayes, has since died. The other passenger, Miss Kathleen Weaver, sister of the pilot; has a broken leg and is in a critical condition. The machine was previously owned, by Qantas, and was being flown privately. I have instructed the Air Accidents Investigation Committee to proceed to the scene to investigate and furnish a report on the cause of the crash, and advise regarding possible future safeguards.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjournedat11.25 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated : -
e asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Invalid and Old-age Pensioners.
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
As the last old-age and invalid pensions payday prior to Christmas falls on the16th December, will the Government favorably consider paying on the 23rd December the amount due’ on the 30th December?
– It is considered undesirable in the pensioners’ own interests to pay on the 23rd December, as suggested, as a period of three weeks would elapse before pensioners received -a further instalment of pension on the 13th January, 1938. Payment on the 23rd December would also create serious congestion in post offices, in view of the fact that war pensions are payable that week and ordinary post office business will be heavy.
Mr.Holloway asked the Treasurer. upon notice -
y. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions arc as follows : - 1.(a) Pensioner inmates of benevolent asylums and hospitals are paid pensions of6s. per week. This amount is paid to the pensioner in cash each fortnight, through the authorities of the institution. (b)It is not considered that policing of the payment of these pensions is necessary because it may reasonably be assumed that, if a pensioner inmate does not receive his fortnightly instalment, he will lodge a complaint with the Pensions Department. A certificate is obtained from the institution authorities each fortnight to the effect that the pension moneys of the inmates have been paid direct to them, or, in those few cases where the pensioners are deemed incapable of handling the money, expended on their behalf.
As the administration of State institutions isnota function ofthe Commonwealth, the matter of conditions of board and lodging is not one within the control of the pensions administration.-It may be stated, however, that nogeneral complaints as to the nature of the conditions of board and lodging pro vided in these institutions have been received.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
In what eases arepersons subject to epeleptic fits regarded as permanently incapacitated within the meaning of section 22 of theInvalid and Old-age Pensions Act?
– The question of permanent incapacity is one in which the decision devolves upon the Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner, who will, of course, be largely guided by the medical and other evidence. The principal reliance is necessarily placed on the medical reports. It is not practicable to lay down a principle which could be applied to all claimants suffering from epilepsy. It may be stated, however, that as a general rule sufferers from major epilepsy (grand mal) are granted pensions. Where, however, the epilepsy is of a 1p,3s severe type (petit mal), the decision must necessarily depend on the particular circumstances of each case. The benefit of any reasonable doubt is invariably extended in these cases.
r asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will he comply with the request of old-age mid invalid pensioners throughout Australia and give them a double payment of pension at Christmas?
– The concession to which the honorable member refers, viz., an extra fortnight’s pension to old-age and invalid pensioners, would involve an expenditure of approximately £600,000. Moreover, it would not be possible to restrict the concession to invalid and oldage pensioners, and the claims of war pensioners would have to be considered. This would cost approximately £300,000, making the total estimated cost of the concession about £900,000. During recent years the Government has done everything possible towards liberalization of pension payments. The maximum rate of invalid and old-age pensions was increased from 18s. to 19s. per week during last financial year, and was again increased from 19s. to 20s. per week recently, as a result of the policy announced in the budget for the current financial year. This latter concession is costing about £800,000 per annum. The total expenditure on old-age and invalid pensions for the current financial year is £15,900,000, as compared with £14,000,000 in 1936-37 - an increase of approximately £2,000,000. Whilst being in sympathy with the claims of invalid and old-age pensioners, as the foregoing facts indicate, the Government regrets that it cannot see its way clear to recommend parliamentary approval for the additional concession now sought.
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions arc as follows : -
s asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
In regard to the recent lifting of the ban on the postal delivery in .Australia of 47 publication* relative to communistic activities, what action is proposed to have this ban reimposed ?
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following information : -
No such action is tit present contemplated.
ce asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
What fees were paid in the last financial year by the Australian Broadcasting Commission to university professors and lecturers for talks and other services?
– The Australian Broadcasting Commission is being asked to supply the information desired.
y asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
Will he arrange for his department to issue a leaflet containing up-to-date information in simple language for the average citizen to use as a precaution against the terrible disease of infantile pura lysis?
– The Victorian Department of Health has already issued leaflets; other State departments are continually issuing public advice. It does not seem that at present any advantage would result from duplicating this system of public education.
s asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
t asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
l asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1.I refer the honorable member to section 145 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act.
y. - On the 1st December the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker) asked the following questions, upon notice : -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows : -
Royal Aero Club of New South Wales.
Royal Victorian Aero Club.
Royal Queensland Aero Club.
Royal Aero Club of South Australia.
Royal Aero Club of Western Australia.
Tasmanian Aero Club.
Newcastle Aero Club.
The form of the assistance has been varied slightly from time to time since financial aid was first extended to the club movement in 1920. Current three-year agreements, dating from 1st January, 1937, provide for payments on the following basis for each club: -
In addition to the above-mentioned direct payments, the Government has approved of the aircraft and engines which have been on loan to the clubs for many years being transferred to the clubs’ ownership, the clubs being allowed to dispose of such equipment (with the prior approval of the Civil Aviation Board) provided that the proceeds from sales are credited to a special trust fund to be applied exclusively to the purchase of new equipment.
The figures for recentyears are -
Expenditure on assistance to aero clubs in recent years has been as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 December 1937, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1937/19371202_reps_15_155/>.