15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr.Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until
Wednesday next at 3 p.m.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether it is the intention of the Government that the House shall meet on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of next week, and also indicate the day on which the sittings will be resumed in the following week, so that honorable members may be in a position to make public and private arrangements?
– A week or so ago I intimated to honorable members that the
House would meet on Wednesday of next week. It appears that it will be necessary, after next week, to sit on four days in each week, commencing on Tuesday and ending on Friday, for the remainder of this part of the session.
– I wish to inform honorable members that the request of the Leader of the Opposition in regard to the resumption of the debate on the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill has been given consideration, and the Government has decided to accept his suggestion to resume the debate, not. on Thursday of next week but on the following Tuesday.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the report of a speech attributed to the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies), at a dinner given by the London Chamber of Commerce in honour of the Australian delegation to the Ottawa Revision Conference which was attended by leaders of the British Government and of all branches of industry in Great Britain, which contains the following statement: -
Empire preference had been advantageous to all British countries, but they must be prepared now to review not only its principle but its detailed incidence. A review was necessary to ensure that it remained an agent of development and not of restriction.
As this report precedes the Ottawa Revision Conference, and could be read to mean that Australia is prepared to sell out to the foreigner, will the Prime Minister say whether there has been any change in the Empire trade policy of the Government?
– My attention has been drawn only within the last few minutes to this report of a speech by the AttorneyGeneral. Before expressing any opinion in the matter, it is necessary to ascertain exactly what the AttorneyGeneral said.
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether, as Vice-chairman of the Joint House Committee, you have received from the Government any communication, or any definite word, as to the extensions or additions that are to be made to Parliament House? If you have not, do you not consider that the Government has treated the Joint House Committee very cavalierly ?
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).I have had no communication from the Government, beyond the original . con.versations with the Ministry when it was decided that some additions must be made to this building to provide the accommodation that is needed.
– Will the Minister for the Interior state whether the press report is correct, to the effect that the Government proposes to proceed with certain additions to Parliament House in opposition to the advice of the Joint House Committee?
– The Government does propose to proceed with certain extensions to Parliament House, to provide essential additional accommodation, particularly for Ministers and members. A proposal was submitted to the Joint House Committee for its consideration. For certain reasons the committee reported against it, “but up to date no satisfactory alternative has been found possible of being devised hy the Joint House Committee, the Department of the Interior, or anybody else. The Government, therefore, proposes to act upon the advice of the chief architect of the Department of the Interior, and to proceed with the additions originally contemplated.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether it is a fact that the Principal Commonwealth Designing Architect was not asked to report on the best method of making accommodation available at Parliament House, and is it not also a fact that he is opposed to any alterations or additions to Parliament House?
– As to the latter part of the honorable member’s question, ‘his statement is quite out of accord with the facts. The Chief Architect has never at any time raised objection to any alterations of the present Parliament House. As to the first part of the question, the Chief Architect of the Department of the Interior has been in frequent and long consultation with myself and other Ministers and certain honorable members who have interested themselves in this matter. He was made available for consultation with the Joint House Committee when it made its first report on the proposed alterations, and I have arranged that he should be available again today to confer with the committee.
– A fortnight or so ago I asked the Prime Minister a question relative to the export of 1,000,000 tons of iron ore annually from Yampi Sound to Japan. The right honorable gentleman then said that the Government was considering the matter, and that he would make a statement upon it later. Has the Government yet come to a decision, and is the right honorable gentleman now ready to make the promised statement ?
Mv. LYONS. - I think the honorable member will remember that a question on this subject was asked yesterday. I am hopeful that I shall be able to make a statement upon it next week.
– Has the Government Deen informed that the Warden’s Court at Broome, Western Australia, yesterday recommended, subject to the endorsement of the Minister for Mines, that leases held by the Yampi Sound Mining Company on Koolan Island be forfeited on the ground of nonfulfilment of statutory labour conditions? If -the Government has not received ‘this information, will it take steps to ascertain what is the real position?
– I shall inquire into this matter.
– Will ,the Minister representing the Postmaster-General obtain particulars of, and advise me as to the amount collected last .year, as well as the total collections, from the air mail subsidy? Further, how much has been credited to civil aviation, and when was this practice first adopted?
– I shall ascertain if the figures are available, and inform the honorable member later.
– Notwithstanding the criticism of the Auditor-General in regard to the approval given by the war pensions entitlement tribunal to the payment of pensions to returned soldiers in certain doubtful cases, will the Minster representing the Minister for Repatriation give the assurance that in all doubtful cases the benefit of the doubt will be given to the returned soldier?
– I shall bring the honorable gentleman’s question before the Minister for Repatriation, and furnish him with a reply to it a3 soon as possible.
– Will the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral take steps to accelerate the provision of public telephone cabinets? This question is provoked by my personal knowledge of many cases in which approval for their provision has been given, but no action to that end has been taken although a considerable time has since elapsed.
– I shall bring the honorable member’s complaint under the notice of the Postmaster-General.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether the usual reply received from the Postal Department with regard to public telephones to the effect that the department considers the site is a suitable one but that telephone boxes are not yet available is used as a means merely to stall off the installation of telephones, or whether there is a genuine shortage of materials in the department for the manufacture of telephone boxes? If there is such a shortage, will the Minister see to it that labour is employed in making these materials available?
– The honorable member can safely depend on the information coming from the department as being absolutely correct. The other aspect of the matter raised by the honorable member I shall bring under the notice of the Pos tm a s- frrGeneral. .
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General see that the promised report dealing with the conditions of non-official postmasters is submitted to this House during .next week’s sittings?
– A fortnight ago I told the honorable member that this report would be available last week. It was then under consideration by the Postmaster-General and the DirectorGeneral of Posts and Telegraphs. If possible, I shall lay it on the table of the House next week.
Tariff Board’s Report
– In view of the fact that approximately £700,000 has been collected by the Government by means of a duty on imported motor chassis, for the purpose of establishing in Australia an industry for the manufacture of motor car engines, does the Prime Minister think it is reasonable that the report of the Tariff Board on this very important matter should have been held by the Minister for Trade and Customs for over six months, and not be made available to honorable members? Will the right honorable gentleman give the definite assurance that the Government will make some pronouncement in regard to its intentions relative to the establishment of this industry?
– I believe that the circumstances surrounding the delay which has occurred in the presentation of this report have previously been explained to honorable members. I can only give the honorable member the assurance that no time will be lost in dealing with the matter; it will be taken up as early as possible.
– Will the Acting Minister for Commerce say whether the Government has yet considered the payment of a bounty on citrus exports to countries other than New Zealand ? If so has it reached a decision in the matter? If not, will the honorable gentleman give to the House an undertaking that the matter will be treated as urgent, in order that exporters may make their arrangements for the current season?
– This matter will he decided by the Government after the future of the citrus industry has been discussed by the Australian Agricultural Council. In reply to the latter part of the question, I may say that there is nothing to prevent sellers from making their arrangements now, because any bounty paid by the Government will go to the growers and not to the sellers of citrus fruits.
– Is the Acting Minister for Commerce aware that some agents are endeavouring to exploit the possible payment of a bounty by the Government on the export of citrus fruit in order to force upon the growers lower prices for their product, thus making the bounty one to buyers rather than growers? In the event of the Government deciding to grant a bounty, will the Acting Minister give an assurance that growers will be fully safeguarded in this respect ?
– I am afraid that I have been forced to the conclusion that the exporters propose to do just what the honorable member has suggested. They want the Government to announce what bounty will be paid, so that they can quote to the growers a correspondingly lower price. The Government will not be a party to anything of the kind. Its policy in this respect is that bounties are paid to tide an industry over a difficult period, and that once an industry is in a position to fend for itself it should no longer receive a bounty. If the Government decides to pay a bounty on the export of citrus fruit, care will be taken to ensure that the bounty goes to the growers, and not to the traders.
– In view of the early opening of a new broadcasting station at Hobart, will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General take the necessary steps to expedite the building of a studio in that city, in order to bring it into line with other cities in the Commonwealth ? If not, why not ?
– I shall see that the honorable member’s request receives every consideration.
– by leave - Prior to 1920, assisted migration was handled by the respective States. In 1920, the Commonwealth and States entered into a joint scheme, the division of responsibility being -
Commonwealth. - Recruitment, medical examination and transport.
States. - Reception, settlement and aftercare.
The United Kingdom and Commonwealth Governments contributed towards passages on a 50-50 basis. In 1930, on account of the economic depression, the Commonwealth restricted assisted migration virtually to nominations involving the reunion of families. In 1936, economic conditions having improved considerably, the Commonwealth proposed to the States that assisted migration be partially resumed. The views of the States varied considerably, and the Commonwealth decided to deal with the matter on a State basis, and to grant assisted passages to the extent desired by any State.
In February, 193S, South Australia lodged a requisition for household workers, whilst New South Wales decided to resume assisted migration covering individual nominations involving the reunion of families, juveniles, youths for farm work and household workers nominated by approved organizations.
In March, 1938, the Commonwealth decided, with the co-operation of the United Kingdom Government, to grant assisted passages in favour of -
persons of British stock resident in the United Kingdom who would be in possession of -
The Commonwealth also approved the grant of a passage money contribution equal to one half of the tourist steamer fare from India to Australia in favour of British army officers and other ranks and civil servantsfrom Indiaretiring from time to time on pensions, together with their wives and families.
In its national insurance legislation, the Commonwealth will make provision for reciprocity with the United Kingdom Government to enable insured migrants torecieve benefits under the Australian scheme in consideration of rights held by themunder the British scheme.
In advising State Premiers of the decision to proceed with assisted migration, the Prime Minister expressed the hope that the States would co-operate and continue to submit such nominations as mightbe acceptable to them. He also requested that the various State immigration authorities might refer to the Secretary, Department of the Interior, for consideration, any nominations received which might notbe acceptable to them.
New South Wales is co-operating fully, whilst South Australia has agreed to the personal nomination system, and has submitted personal nominations. Victoria and Western Australia have submitted a few personal nominations. The New Settlers’ League of Queensland, which is subsidized by the United Kingdom, Commonwealth and Queensland Governments, has submitted a nomination in favour of youths for farm work and household workers. No nominations have been received from Tasmania.
Nominations received direct by the Department of the Interior will be carefully investigated in order to ensure that nominators are in a position to honour their obligations towards migrants intro duced on their nominations. Steps are being taken to ensure that before being granted an assisted passage, each migrant will he examined by the migration authorities at Australia House regarding suitability for life in Australia, in addition to being up to the required medical standard.
As the overwhelming majority of migrants will be introduced under the nomination system, or under State requisitions, it is not anticipated that there will be any difficulty in regard to their assimilation. It is not proposed to arrange for the introduction of any other class of migrant under the assisted passage scheme, unless the migration authorities at Australia House are satisfied that the migrant is likely to become successfully established in Australia. His trade or calling, andthe class of employment he proposes to seek after arrival, will be the principal factors.
The following group nominations have been approved : -
Church of.England Migration Council, Sydney - 200 household workers. 200 youths for farm work.
These are expected to arrive at the rate of 25 household workers and 25 youths a month. The youths will receive training at Scheyville Training Farm, and will be placedin employment by the New South Wales migration authorities. Their aftercare will be attended to by the Church of England Migration Council in cooperation with the British Settlers’ Welfare Committee. The household workers will be placed in employment by the Church of England Migration Council, which will also be responsible for their after care.
Salvation Army, Sydney - 300 household workers. 120 youths for farm work.
It is expected that these will arrive at the rate of 25 household workers and ten youths a month. These nominees will be placed in employment by the Salvation Army, which will undertake responsibility for their after-care. It is anticipated that the first parties will arrive in about three months’ time.
Personal nominations covering 144 persons have been approved. These nominations have been accepted from relatives and friends in Australia, who will place them in employment and attend to their after-care.
SouthAustralia has requisitioned for 42 household workers, who will arrive over a period of six months. The State Government will be responsible for their placement and after-care.
Under child migration schemes the following nominations have been approved: -
Upon reaching sixteen years of age, the boys will be placed in farming employment, and the girls in household work. Institutions responsible for their nomination will attend to their after-care.
The various schemes may be summarized as follows: -
Assisted passages will be provided by the United Kingdom and Commonwealth Governments on a 50-50 basis. In order that the authorities at Australia House will be in a position to advise applicants regarding their prospects in Australia, information will be collected and despatched regularly to Australia. House concerning sections of industry and individual occupations in each State.
The present migration scheme differs from the joint Commonwealth and State scheme of 1921 only to the extent that no provision is made for land settlement, and that the Commonwealth will accept nominations submitted direct by nominators in addition to those endorsed by State governments.
– I give that undertaking.
-Will the Minister for the Interior, while giving consideration to the migration scheme he has just outlined, also consider the case of the many thousands of migrants in my electorate who are now out of employment, and who are anxious to go back to England?
– If there are any cases which may be regarded as worthy of special consideration I shall be glad to hear of them.
– There is a boatload prepared to go now.
– Will the Acting Minister for Commerce make inquiries with a view to informing honorable members regarding the balance of trade between Australia and Canada, and the effect of the trade agreement between the two dominions ?
– I shall have inquiries made, and the honorable member will be furnished with what information the Government is able to provide.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation whether consideration will be given to a request to amend the provisions in the act relating to the pension rights of the wives and children of service pensioners in order to bring them into line with those provided in thecase of the wives and children of the recipients of war pensions ?
– I shall bring the matter under the attention of the Minister for Repatriation, and a reply will be furnished later.
– In view of the recent mishaps to shipping on the northeastern coast of Australia, will the Acting . Minister for Commerce state what action has been taken to make a proper survey of the waters in this region, as well as of those in the vicinity of New Guinea?
– I shall make enquiries, and provide the honorable member with an answer next week. In regard to one of the mishaps, it was reported that a light on the coast was not working properly at the time, but investigations have proved, beyond doubt, that the report was incorrect.
– Will the Minister for Defence state whether, for ihe distribution of overseas air mails throughout Australia, tenders will be called by the Government, or subsidies granted to the existing air mail services?
– The Government has decided upon certain principles governing the distribution of overseas air mails on their arrival at Darwin. The agreement with Imperial Airways Ltd. and Qantas is for the delivery of mail to Sydney by flying boat services, under a subsidy arrangement which will be embodied in an agreement to be submitted to this Parliament for ratification. Mail addressed to South Australia will be carried direct, from Darwin to Adelaide, and that for Western Australia will be carried direct to Perth. Details in regard to the carriage of mails from Darwin to Adelaide, and from Darwin to Perth, have not yet been completed, but the Civil Aviation Board has carried out a comprehensive survey of the internal air routes of Australia, and a scheme has been placed before the Government to utilize existing air services and organizations, as well as existing personnel. The object is to avoid overlapping on air routes, and to give inland areas the maximum service possible with the facilities available.
Mk. JAMES- In reference to the death of Leading Seaman H. J. Storer, I have received a letter from his mother in which she says - that about two hours after Seaman Storer had been washed overboard from the Canberra he was seen to give the S.O.S. signal and that the lifelines had not been taken out from where they had been locked away; also that one of the destroyers had almost rescued him when the Admiral, who was on the Canberra, gave orders for them to proceed. “I have spoken to a few of the men, and they say if the order had not been given Seaman Storer would have teen alive to-day”, she writes, adding - “Is it not a fact that when a number of lifebuoys had been thrown out of the ship, the ship must stay in the vicinity until everyone of them is picked up I “ She declares that one of them was missing. “ When I heard of my son’s death,” the letter continues, “ I saw an officer from Garden Island and he told me the ship must stay and pick up all lifebuoys that had been thrown over. Now, why did the Canberra leave when all the lifebuoys that had been thrown over had not been picked up; one was missing and in my belief Seaman Storer was still on it when the vessels sailed away”? In view of the letter, will the Minister for Defence have an immediate further investigation made and a report submitted upon the circumstances of his death?
– We all regret the sad circumstances associated with the accident which brought about the loss of Leading Seaman Storer. I have already had most exhaustive inquiries made. First there was the ordinary Naval Board inquiry. Then I conversed on this matter with the Admiral in charge of the fleet - Rear Admiral Lane-Poole. 1 went through the whole of the files of the inquiry containing the evidence of the officers and men of the Canberra and other vessels. I have been in correspondence with the widow and mother of the missing seaman and I am sorry to say that the information conveyed in the letter quoted is incorrect.
– Why, this letter is from Storer’s mother !
– I quite appreciate that. I have had opportunity to go through the whole of this case in detail with the First Naval Member.
– All “ cooked “ evidence.
– I take exception to that and ask that the honorable member withdraw the statement and apologize to the House.
– What does the honorable member desire to have withdrawn, and who is accused?
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has suggested that the evidence that went before the Naval Board was “ cooked “ evidence.
– As there i3 nothing offensive to the honorable member in that, the Chair cannot order the remark to be withdrawn, but the interjection is out of order and I call the honorable member for East Sydney to order.
– Is there not a regulation specifying that all buoys must he picked up?
– That has nothing to do with the case. When Leading Seaman Storer went overboard the matter was immediately reported to the bridge, because several of his mates were standing close by and were caught themselves in the sea which carried Storer away. It was only a matter of minutes before the cruiser was brought to andRearAdmiral Lane-Poole was on the bridge with the commander of the vessel, Captain Wilson. The evidence shows clearly that a considerable number of buoys and, later, lifelines were thrown overboard, but the sea was so rough that it was not considered advisable to lower a boat. The reason why the destroyers were ordered to proceed was because it was impossible for the Canberra to alter its course and cross the track of the light cruisers. To enable the Canberra to get on the lee side in order to lower a boat, it was essential that the other vessels be ordered out of the line. It was inadvisable to order the smaller craft to lower boats because there was too great a risk of many more men being lost. With all sincerity I say that everything possible was done. That is the opinion of naval men who were not associated with the accident but who at the inquiry gave careful scrutiny to the whole of the evidence of the men concerned.
Railway Transport of Troops
– Is the Minister for Defence able to obtain information from senior officers as to how long it would take to transfer a. division of men with artillery and all equipment from Port Augusta toFremantle on a railway gauge that is not broken should hostilities occur there? Also, should the railway be built to Darwin, how long would it take to transport men similarly equipped from Port Augusta to Darwin and how long would it take to transport a division of men to those places by boat, using our natural seaway?
– There are special committees associated with the Defence Department whose special responsibility is to deal with problems of transport in event of emergency. Those committees have been strengthened recently and I have had opportunity to discuss the matter personally with members of the transport organizations. I can assure the honorable gentleman that the points that he has raised have been considered and figures have been worked out that meet the needs of the Defence Department, but it is not in the interests of the Commonwealth that that class of information should be made public.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether any representations have been made by the Government of New South Wales to the Postmaster-General’s Department for the abolition of broadcasts of race meetings.
– So far as I am aware no such representations have been made, but further information may be in the possession of the Postmaster-General and I shall make inquiries.
The following papers were presented : -
Northern Territory - Report on Administration for year1936-37.
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act - Repatriation Commission - Report for year 1936-37.
Customs Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1938, No. 40.
Customs Act and Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1938, No. 38.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointment of W. A.Wynes, Department of External Affairs.
Question resolved in the negative -
That Mr. Speaker donow leave the chair and that the House resolve itself into a Committee of Supply.
Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 1)
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Consideration resumed from the 11th May (vide page 10S2), on motion by Mr. White (vide page 427) -
That the schedule to the Customs Tariff 1933-36 be amended as hereunder set out . . .
.- In discussing the tariff it is not my intention to traverse ground already traversed. I -wish to reply to some observations that have been made concerning the cause of the loss of markets. The tariff schedule that was brought down by the Scullin Government was introduced, unfortunately, just before a depression such as Australia had not known before, but I doubt whether the policy it embodied could have been carried out with any success to Australia even had conditions been most prosperous. The intention of the Scullin tariff was to emulate certain countries overseas by adopting a policy of self-sufficiency. Such a policy is all right for countries which use most of their production, but not for a country like Australia which exports about 80% of its wool and wheat and other produce. I fear that only disaster could have attended it had it been persevered with. I appreciate the spirit that animated the member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) who was then Minister for Trade and Customs in his endeavour to introduce it, but Australia, which must depend on the overseas markets for the sale of its exportable products, is in a vastly different position from those countries which consume most of their own products. No doubt the honorable member visualized a great expansion of our secondary industries, the establishment of newfactories and the employment of thousands more of our own population, but our experience of the policy he tried to apply shows that there must be reciprocal trade between nations. Honorable members opposite made the inaccurate assertion that the tariff policy of the present Government amounts practically to one of freetrade, but that is not correct. It is necessary to adjust the tariff to provide an opportunity for the employees in Australian secondary in dustries to compete with the manufacturers of .other countries.
– We did not say honorable members opposite were freetraders.
– They went very close to saying that.
What happened when the Scullin Government told the other peoples of the world that this country could live without them? Of course, we could manufacture in Australia the vast majority of the goods that we require, and the Government at that time certainly adjusted the trade balance, but only at the expense of thousands of workers in our primary industries. For example, Australia till then -had a favorable trade balance with Belgium, which specializes in glass manufactures, and we had been purchasing most of our glass requirements from Belgium; and in return, that country bought from us raw materials such as wool, wheat, barley and other primary products. But, when we told Belgium that we did not require its glass, it replied, c: Very well. We can do without your primary products”. Belgium had been purchasing from Australia about £7,000,000 worth of commodities annually, whereas Australia had at no time purchased from Belgium more than £1,000,000 worth of goods per annum. Belgium, therefore, discarded our products, and in giving effect to its new policy of retaliation when it was calling for tenders for the supply of meat for its army, it stipulated that every country in the world except Australia could compete for the business. As the result of that, many hundreds, and. possibly thousands, of employees in Australia were thrown out of work. Another example is that of our trade with France. France had been buying from- Australia up to £17,000.000 worth annually of our raw materials, and we were purchasing from that country only from £4.000.000 to £5,000,000 worth of’ goods, such as superfine silks, face powders, perfumes, and cosmetics, in which that country specialized. After the Scullin tariff, France purchased from us only the goods that it could not obtain elsewhere, and Australia lost millions of pounds on the transaction. Again. Japan was our second best customer for wool, and had been purchasing from us about £15,000,000 worth of that commodity every year, whilst our purchases from Japan of manufactured goods were of the value of from £5,000,000 to £6,000,000 a year. That position continued without interruption until the trade diversion policy was introduced. As the result of the Scullin tariff, however, our overseas trade, both exports and imports, was paralysed. We recall that, when the wheat and wool markets collapsed, every State, except Queensland, sent deputations to the Government seeking relief for the primary producers, who ha.d to be assisted by bounties- and in other ways. We have all heard “what the- present Government has not done for the primary producers “ ! I shall attempt to show something of what it. “has done for them.” The sum of £12,000,000 has been made available by this Government to the governments of the States to enable distressed farmers to retain their holdings. The representatives of some constituencies are apt to overlook this fact. We sometimes hear certain honorable members complain that the Government of New South Wales has failed to carry out a closer settlement policy. I consider that that Government did much to promote closer settlement when it distributed the money made available by the Commonwealth to enable farmers to remain solvent during the depression and to retain their properties.
I am a member of the party which the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) referred to last night as the “ supposed “ Country party. The honorable, member reminds me of a remark made by the mother of. a soldier, who, when the regiment to which her boy belonged was. marching by, called out, ‘ They are all out of step except my Jimmy “. During the course of the honorable member’s remarks- last evening, he accused the present Government of having placed a levy on wool, and for the purpose of advising him I informed him bv interjection that the Government had not imposed the levy. It was introduced at the request of every producers’ organization in Australia, with the exception of one in Queensland.
– Were the growers consulted by referendum?
– No. The Graziers’ Associations of New South Wale3 and Victoria, the Primary Producers’ Union of Australia, the Federal Wool-growers’ Council of Australia, and the Farmers’ and Settlers’” Association, all joined on behalf of their members in a request to the Government to impose a levy on wool, and they asked it to frame the necessary legislation to make the contribution compulsory. The part played by the Government was merely the introduction of the necessary legislation, at the request of those organizations. Therefore, I suggest to the honorable member that, before challenging statements made for the purpose of assisting him, he should become conversant with the facts. I am advised by my friend the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) that the representatives of the Country party organization in Victoria are on the Australian Wool Council, which supported the request.
– The levy was imposed at the request of the Farmers’ and Settlers’ Association and the Graziers’ Association. Did the small graziers have a voice in the matter?
– I take it that the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost) is associated with the fruit-growers’ organization. The various branches of that organization send delegates to a conference at which the resolutions of the various branches are placed before the conference, and, as the result of the decisions of the conference, the policy of the organization is determined. That is exactly what happened in connexion with the wool levy. The Farmers’ and Settlers’ Association, and the Graziers’ Associations of New South Wales and Victoria and the southern Riverina, through their delegates, approved of the request submitted to the Commonwealth Government to frame legislation making the levy compulsory. I heard that graziers throughout New South Wales, in isolated cases, said that their branches had not approved of the impost. Probably those men were unable to say whether certain branches had. or had not approved of the levy, because they were not members of the association.
Men of that type measure plans calculated to benefit Australia as a whole by considering to what extent the proposals will affect their own pockets, lt was necessary to make the levy compulsory, just as the Labour party considers it necessary to compel workmen to buy union tickets. In every community we find a number of men on the land who are ready to take advantage of benefits brought about by the action of their fellow producers, provided it costs them nothing. The impost of 6d. a bale on wool was made to prevent such men from “scabbing” on their fellow producers.
What caused the trouble with our friends the Japanese was the trade diversion policy, and the restrictions placed on imports from Japan by the Minister then directing the negotiations for trade treaties, the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett). That was how the .trouble came about. Not until the last day of the sittings of the House was the policy announced; honorable members were given no opportunity to discuss it, and had to return to their constituencies as it were blindfolded. Honorable members opposite tried to make political capital out of the situation by saying that the importation of substitute material should not be permitted, and that the Government in formulating its trade policy had not acted in the best interests of the woolgrowers. They suggested, in fact, that this Government should do the very thing which they would not have been prepared to do if they had been given the opportunity. When Labour was in power it permitted cheaply manufactured artificial silk piece goods to come into this country from Japan in such unlimited quantities that our textile trade with Great Britain Was threatened. Japanese exporters were permitted to flood the country with cheaply manufactured artificial silk materials which would have resulted in throwing all our textile workers out of employment.
– We said that we were in favour of 100 per cent, protection of Australian manufacturers and that we were totally against the diversion of trade from one overseas country to another.
– lt was possible to buy ladies’ underwear and other articles, of apparel at films like Coles’ and Woolworth’s at prices as low as 6d. a garment. Had that been allowed to continue, Australia would have been flooded with cheaply manufactured goods until we would have been able to purchase those same garments at from 2d. to 3d. each. The Australian woollen textile industry would have been completely undermined and wages generally would have been reduced. Girls employed as domestics would have been forced to purchase only those goods which their paltry wages would afford. The only way to protect the woollen industry is to place restrictions on the importation of cheaply manufactured goods from countries whose costs of manufacture are far below those of this country, and to provide for the payment of a scale of wages that will permit the purchase of Australian goods. Those who wish to buy woollen goods will then be compelled to purchase goods manufactured in this country from Australian wool.
In reply to those honorable members who contend that the Japanese exporters should be placated because Japan is a great customer of this country, I say that, when the Goodwill Mission led by Mr. Latham, now Sir John Latham, visited Japan an intimation was given to the Japanese manufacturers that tariff adjustments of the kind subsequently made would take place. That intimation inspired our Eastern friends to purchase more than double their requirements of wool. As a matter of fact they purchased about 800,000 bales of wool, a quantity sufficient to meet their requirements for the following year when . they knew that these restrictions would be in operation. Consequently they were able for a time to boycott the Australian wool market by standing with their backs to the wall and declaring that they would not purchase any Australian wool. Every organization throughout Australia that took exception to what the Government had done in its effort to preserve our great market in Great Britain for our surplus commodities proclaimed itself an ally of the people with whom we were endeavouring to correct our trade relations. When the honorable member for Henty was engaged in an endeavour to make a trade agreement with Japan, every effort was made to induce the representatives of that country to re-enter the market for Australian wool. Even representatives of the graziers’ associations were called into conference, but the Japanese representatives remained adamant. Their sole thought was to win, and they would not entertain the thought of compromise. However, the time arrived when it became necessary for Japan to purchase supplies of wool, and Japanese buyers again entered into competition with tha buyers of other countries in the Australian wool market.’ In the meantime, however, the market had recovered to such an extent that the J apanese competition brought about only a temporary sharp rise of 2d. per lb. ; within a few days prices receded to their former leveL The striking feature of the increasing value to Australia of the United Kingdom market which the Government was so anxious to foster is apparent from a review of the following figures relating to Australia’s exports to the United Kingdom : -
The importance of the British market is appreciated when we realize that for the vear ended 1934-35 Great Britain took more than 50 per cent, of our total exports valued at approximately £54,000,000, or four times more than that taken by any other individual country. Since 1929, the United Kingdom market has become increasingly more important to Australia owing to the contraction of foreign markets. During the last ten years, Australian exports to the United Kingdom amounted to approximately £600,000,000. Because of the immense value to Australia of the British market, the Government found it necessary to take drastic steps to protect the trade relations between Australia and Great Britain, the very existence of which was threatened by interference by a foreign country. At a time when the industries of this country were on the verge of collapse owing, amongst other things, to the depression, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition who was then Minister for Trade and Customs in the Labour Government, with great optimism, was looking forward to the establishment of new fac tories which he said would employ 100,000 Australian workers. I point out, however, that the output of those factories could not have been absorbed in this country. ‘Nor could they have been exported because we were unable to manufacture as cheaply as other countries. The Government of the day by curtailing imports offended other nations which retaliated by saying that they would purchase their primary products elsewhere. Even Switzerland, which specializes in the manufacture of clocks, watches, and electrical instruments, said that it would buy its wheat elsewhere rather than submit to such a policy, with the result that its people even attempted to grow their own wheat on hillsides at a cost of about 15s. 4§d. a bushel. The people of that country took exception to Australia, the United State* of America, and Canada following the same policy, and said, “ We shall grow our own wheat just as Germany ana France have done. We shall accept the challenge of these primary-producing countries.” To see the repercussions of a policy such as this, one can view it from the more parochial aspect of the trade relations that exist between the local butcher and the baker. The butcher may say to the baker, “ You must take my beef, but I do not want your bread.” Must the baker accept that position? He would say “ Definitely not “ and would go to “ Woop Woop “ for .his supplies rather than submit to that sort of thing. However, :the whole system broke down. Instead of the flourishing factories which the then Minister for Trade and Customs expected to see, we witnessed the collapse of a large number of secondary industries - big factories closing their doors or being carried on with skeleton staffs, and their employees walking the streets looking f or (employment, many of them going to police stations with a ticket for rations like a tribe of aborigines, because the Government was at a loss to know what best to do on account of the economic conditions that existed at the time. The falling off of exports and imports led to wharf labourers and railway ‘nen being thrown idle, while those rail way men whose services were retained had their employment rationed because (“here was not .sufficient work to keep them -fully engaged. All this was brought about by a stupid tariff policy, aided and abetted by the -collapse of markets overseas and the depression which then overtook the world.
Mr. JENNINGS (Watson) [11.48 jj. - I desire to make some observations in regard to the .tariff schedule. What I have to say will have general application to some of the items which later will come up for discussion.
I would say at the outset that a vote given against any item of the schedule by an honorable member on this side of the House cannot be regarded as a vote against the Government. In tariff matters there has never been any party alignment in the ranks of the party of which I am a member. That is the principle which I and many other honorable members adopt in connexion with the tariff.
I think it is well to remind the committee that since federation the fiscal policy of Australia has been one of adequate protection -for local industries. 1 do not know of -any party that has appealed for the suffrages of the electors which desired to alter that policy. As a matter of fact, the trend throughout Australia to-day is towards the amplification of that policy. Particularly is this noticeable among the younger generation. We must remember that three vital questions are involved in it, the first being population, the second the maintenance of the population by the provision of employment, and the third national security. Australia is a young, virile country. It possesses a vast quantity of raw material, and consequently it is only natural that it should desire to go in for industrial development. This Parliament is the place in which encouragement can be given in that direction. We have recently passed through a severe depression, from which the important fart emerged, that every unemployed man cost the State £100 per annum. It is better that all should be kept in employment than be a charge on the State. The tendency in this chamber has been to lay ‘greater stress on the importance of the primary industries than on that of the secondary industries. I believe that there should be the fullest cooperation between the primary and secondary industries of Australia. I realize the great national importance of our primary industries. It may be an old platitude that the home market is the best market, but the fact must be emphasized that the home market is easily secured and at greatly enhanced prices. I want honorable members to bear that in mind, because it is of paramount importance to the primary industries of this country. I believe, too, that the overseas market can be maintained better by the regular development of the home market. I have had experience in both the importing and the manufacturing branches of industry in Australia, and hope that I am able to give a balanced opinion on the intricate tariff question.
In past years I have had occasion to refer to important items in the tariff schedule. On one occasion the Tariff Board presented a report in connexion with the dry battery industry. Other honorable members and I -took the stand that some protection should be given to that particular industry; and as the result of the encouragement which it received from the Government of the day, it developed into one of the most important industries in Australia. A very large establishment in the electorate of the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) was recently opened by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons). It is supplying .a national requirement, but, what is more important to the consuming public, it is supplying that product at greatly reduced prices. The industry lias been developed and our faith in it was justified ; today lt is one of the most successful in Australia. It furnishes an example of what can be done in many other directions. The pottery industry, one of the oldest industries in Australia, I shall refer to in greater detail .when the particular item comes up for discussion. The Tariff Board has made some comment in the matter of the prices charged by that particular industry. The Tariff Board, is necessary to have a balanced opinion in regard to the tariff but I would say that if it is to become a price-fixing agency, and if it is necessary to inquire closely into the production costs of local industries, we should insist on the production of audited statements setting out the production costs of overseas industries which seek lower rates of duty. If the practice is fair in regard to Australia it should also be fair in regard to any overseas industry.
The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Collins) has referred to Japanese competition. I would say to the Minister and the Government that great concern exists among Australian manufacturers in this connexion. We do not want industries in Australia threatened with ruin because of the importation of cheap products. One must speak frankly in this matter. I ask the Minister to pay particular attention to this important phase. I have no com[ment to make about the progress of industrial development in
Japan, except to say that the people of that country are to be commended for it. Previously an agricultural country, Japan to-day is advancing in industrial development. I would say, however, that if a debate were to take place in the parliament of Japan similar to that in which we are engaged to-day, there would be an insistence upon the adequate protection of local industries. The people of Japan can have no objection to the Australlian Parliament protecting the industries of this .country. We admire the progress .thai Japan has made, but because of our comparatively high production costs, due to higher wages and arbitration conditions, we must insist or. our industries being given fair protection when faced with cheap products from overseas.
While in Great Britain last year, I was interested to see the development that has taken place in industry there. I noticed that large industries had been established by overseas countries. Great Britain found that, just as the policy of disarmament had failed in regard to world p;ace, so also the long established policy of freetrade had failed in recent years in regard to the development of secondary industries, because of altered world conditions. To-day the protection afforded by Great Britain to many of its industries is on the same basis as is afforded in Australia. Consequently, overseas manufacturers found that they could do better ‘by opening up establishments in Great Britain. Years ago there was in Great Britain a strong body of opinion which was adverse to the development of Australian industries. Informative, and shall I say official, opinion in Great Britain to-day is that, in taking advantage of the large quantity of raw materials that we possess, we are efficiently developing our secondary industries, maintaining our population, and inspiring confidence not only in Australia but also in Great Britain itself. Because wc have efficiently developed our industries in this way, additional British capital has been sent to Australia for the (purpose, and more is available. Because of changing world conditions w-s are encouraged to do this. We must remember that the economical development of industries in this country is of paramount importance to our people, particularly in the event of national emergency.
.- I should not have bothered to engage in this debate but for the rather remarkable statements of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Collins) on tariff policy generally, and on the policy of the Labour party, of which he appears to know more than he knows about the policy of his own party. His remarks may be divided into three sections. He attacked the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson), first because of his infancy in this chamber, and secondly, apparently because that honorable member is one member of the Country party which does not intend to be trailed at the coattails of the United Australia party. The honorable member for Hume then proceeded to defend, as best he could, the policy of the Government in regard to tariff matters, and wound up by chastising the Labour party because of its attitude towards the Government’s trade diversion policy in relation to Japan. First of all, I want to make it clear that this party has never claimed that the Country party was in favour of freetrade. As a matter of fact, we have always held that the Country party believes in free trade only in respect of those commodities which its supporters use on their farms, but that in respect of everything that they produce they are rabid protectionists. They are in favour of a dear loaf of bread and dear butter, but they insist on having cheap Japanese knives and forks on their tables. Thus we should be flying in the face of all political experience if we accused the Country party of being freetraders. They are, of course, a party of political opportunists who use their votes to protect their own industries and to reduce whenever possible the protective duties on cheap goods manufactured in other countries.
The honorable member for Hume took upon himself the difficult task of proving that the Scullin Government was not only responsible for the depression, hut was also responsible for the development throughout the world of the policy of economic nationalism. He entirely overlooked the fact that the Scullin Govern ment was not responsible for the conditions that prevailed at the time that it * came into office, those conditions being a legacy from the previous anti-Labour Government. He. omitted to mention that, even before the Scullin Government came into office, overseas prices for primary products had begun to collapse. He also ignored the fact that, due to the policy of tue Bruce-Page Government, a huge adverse trade balance has been accumulating overseas against Australia. Whether the honorable member for Hume cares to admit or not, I believe that had the Scullin Government not taken the tariff measures it did to correct our adverse trade balance, the economic position of Australia would have become worse than it actually did.
The honorable member for Hume referred to the loss of our trade with Belgium and France, and for this he blamed the Scullin Government’s tariff measures. 1 remind him, however, that, even before the Scullin Government came into office, the policy of economic nationalism was spreading throughout Europe like a bushfire. This was due to the desire of the nations to be economically self-contained, and particulary to their fear of war. They had a vivid recollection of what had occurred during the Great War. Prior to that the nations of Europe had been competing so ‘ keenly for world markets for manufactured goods that they had, almost without exception, entirely neglected their primary industries, with the result that, when war came, not one of them was able to feed its civil population, let. alone its- army. Thus, whether or not the Scullin Government had brought about any violent change of tariff policy, those factors would still have induced European countries to attempt to make themselves independent of Australian primary products. As a matter of fact, the Scullin tariff did not discriminate between foreign countries; all were treated alike. Moreover, the greater part of our trade with France was in luxury items that could be produced quite well in Australia.
By interjection I induced the honorable member for Hume to refer to the Japanese fiasco, as I describe this country’s trade diversion policy, in bo far as it affected that country. The honor- able member declared that he would debate the matter, but he skated away from it very rapidly after trying to blame the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett), for all the troubles arising out of the diversion policy. He said that the honorable member for Henty, as Minister in charge for negotiations for trade treaties, had rushed his trade diversion proposals through at the House at the end of the session without giving members of the Country party an opportunity to discuss them. It might be good policy to-day for the honorable member to send copies of his speech into the Hume electorate in an attempt to make his constituents believe that ha should not be held responsible for supporting the Government’s trade diversion policy, but I say to him that had he not followed so slavishly at the heels of the Government, no trade diversion policy would ever have been put into operation. There were sufficient mem’b’ers in the House opposed to the policy to have defeated it had the Country party been really determined to prevent the honorable member for Henty from putting it into operation. It is a ‘bit late in the day now for the honorable member to criticize what was done by the honorable member for Henty, who is no longer in the Government. It is easy to kick a man who is down- and out, but the honorable member did not kick him when he was a member of the Cabinet and had the support of the other members of the Government. Now, however, that the honorable member for Henty sits among the ministerial wreckage on the back benches, the honorable member is courageous enough. At the time, of course, he subserviently supported the policy submitted by the honorable member for Henty, but when he discovered that it turned out so disastrously for the primary producers, and particularly for the wool-growers, he did not hesitate to turn upon and rend the man he followed only a little while before.
– We were never given an opportunity to discuss the policy.
– The honorable member knew what was coming down quite well. In any case, he had an opportunity when the schedule was tabled. He could have voted against it then, and that was the most effective opposition he could have offered.
The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson), mentioned the levy on wool, and the honorable member for Hume 3aid that the levy was imposed, not by the Government, but by the growers themselves. I do not dispute that. I do not say that the Government did not legislate for the imposition of the levy at the request of the various graziers’ organizations, but I do say that the rank and file of those organizations were not consulted. A compulsory levy was placed on them at the request of the big grazing interests, and despite the fact that £60,000 has been collected, for advertising purposes, less wool was sold, and at lower prices, this year than- in any year before the levy was imposed. What, therefore, is the use of it?
– The levy was imposed to counteract the propaganda in favour of artificial wool.
– Now we are getting somewhere. The honorable member says that the levy was imposed to counteract propaganda in favor of artificial wool. After the honorable member had criticized the honorable member for Henty for his trade diversion policy, he himself advanced a half-hearted defence of it, by saying that it had been adopted because the country was being flooded with cheap garments from Japan, produced by people working for low wages. But what has been the attitude of the Country party in the past to the importation of cheap goods from Japan and elsewhere? Can the honorable member point to one occasion when the Labour party, fighting against the importation of cheap goods, has received the support of the Country party? As a matter of fact, the Country party has always led the attack on every attempt by the Labour party to raise duties sufficiently to prevent the entry of cheap garments. In the past the honorable member has not been concerned about cheap garments competing with wool, but now, apparently, he has experienced a change of heart. I put it to the honorable member that these cheap garments were an economic necessity for the workers of the country, and were not bought just because they came from Japan.
– I explained that.
– The honorable member explained nothing. The honorable member came here to denounce the Labour party’s tariff policy and to hoodwink this committee and the country generally into the belief that the Scullin Government’s tariff was, in fact, responsible for the economic nationalism of overseas countries that was the cause of the economic collapse of Australia. On the one hand the honorable member criticized the Minister responsible for the trade diversion policy of the Commonwealth Government, and on the other hand he tried to justify the policy inferentially because the Labour party is opposed to trade diversion. I give the honorable member the lie direct! We were not responsible.
Honorable Members. - Withdraw !
– Order! The honorable member must withdraw that expression.
– Certainly, Mr. Chairman. I was proceeding to say when I was interrupted in several places that it became an economic necessity for the workers of Australia to buy cheap garments. They had no alternative. They bought cheaply because they had to. For the same reason, they bought margarine because they could not afford butter. There was no party in this country more responsible than the Country party for the collapse of the living standards of the workers of this country. Members of that party and the interests whom they represent were the first people to go to the Arbitration Courts to have wages and conditions slashed. They had rural awards in New South Wales suspended long before the depression. They have always supported cuts of wages and living standards. In the tariff debates that have occurred in this Parliament they have made it clear that they believe that Australia has established a standard of living that cannot be maintained.
Again on the question of trade diversion before I depart from it, the same interests were responsible for the introduction of the levy on wool, and during the trade dispute with Japan, when wool prices collapsed, they held their wool back from the market and the honorable member for Hume was one of them.
– That is not so.
– Mr. Chairman, it is so. They held back their wool and the small men, whom they professed to represent, were forced by economic circumstances to sell their wool at the bargain prices that were due to the lack of Japanese competition. I challenge the honorable member for Hume to deny it.
– I do deny it. On a point of order,. Mr. Chairman, I wish to deny that definitely, and, as I pointed out in this chamber-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable member for Hume may go no further.
– I repeat, Mr. Chairman, and the honorable member knows that what I say is true -
– I say that it is untrue.
– Everyone in the wool industry knows it is true that during the trade dispute with Japan there was a calamitous collapse of the price of wool as the result of the lack of Japanese competition and that the big wool-growers of this country deliberately refrained from putting their wool on the market whereas the small men, who were not consulted in regard to the levy on wool, and who are supposed to be the special care of the Country party, were forced by circumstances to sell their wool at depressed prices. The big men held on; some of them judiciously held on to their wool until the very eve of the settlement of the dispute with. Japan.
– Not only that, but also they bought up small lots.
– True. As a matter of fact, men interested in politics, both Federal and State, were in syndicates that bought up all the wool that they could buy just before the dispute with Japan was settled. About that time, if one had £100 to spare, one could go into Parliament House in Sydney and lend it out at an excellent rate of interest, for three months, to gentlemen there who, by a remarkable coincidence were, on almost the very eve of the settlement of the trade dispute, trying to buy all the wool that they could lay their hands on. As the honorable, member for Hume admits, immediately the dispute was settled, up went the price, of wool.
– -The price of wool rose long before that.
– I admit that there was a slight rise of price before the dispute was settled, possibly in anticipation of coming events, but the most marked rise occurred when the Japanese buyers came back into the market. That is when the big men went around buying up the wool clips of the small farmers and selling them; and that is how they got their “ rake-off “. Those same gentlemen to-day declare that the trade diversion policy was justified and they try to ‘*’ pass the buck “ on to the Labour party. They declare now that the Government had to step in because the Labour party was advocating the purchase of cheap garments. That is all I have to say concerning the honorable member for Hume.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member will please leave the honorable member for Hume alone.
– I admire your impartiality sir, but the previous Chairman for three-quarters of an hour allowed the honorable member for Hume to concentrate on the Labour party.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.These personal references have gone too far and I request the honorable member for Dalley not to continue on the course that he is following.
– Very well, Mr. Chairman, I conclude on this point by advising the honorable member for Hume, if in the future he wants to deal with the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson), to settle whatever differences he may have with that gentleman privately. If he wants on the one hand to support the Government and on the other to attack it let him do it, but I tell him that when he criticises the Labour party there are men on this side of the committee who are capable of effectively answering him.
If I may divert my attack to another direction, I was interested in a statement of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison). I am sorry that
I got the call so long after him, because most honorable gentlemen will have already forgotten what he said. But he defended the tariff policy of the Government, and congratulated the Government on its balanced policy. There has never been, a government in the history of this Commonwealth that has been so unbalanced in its fiscal policy as this Government has been. It has imposed boycotts against certain nations and then abandoned them. It entered into the Ottawa Agreement and now it proposes either to abandon or to radically alter the Agreement.
– Supported by the Labour party.
– The Labour party voted against the Ottawa Agreement in the first place and it will support any move to abrogate it. In every possible way, the tariff policy of this Government ha3 been unbalanced. For instance we had placed before us a trade diversion policy that had particular reference to motor cars.. Just before this policy of trade diversion was adopted, I remind the committee, a leading British motor car magnate visited this country to negotiate with the governments of this country on matters that were hot disclosed.
– What was his name.
– There is a race horse that is named after him. This gentleman represented motor car interests in Great Britain that in the year previous to his visit showed profits ranging from 100 to 200 per cent. Immediately after he left, the Government came forward with its trade diversion policy which principally affected motor cars. It was said that by means of this policy, without going into its other justifications, we were going to develop our motor car trade with Great Britain, with which country we had a favorable trade balance, to the detriment of other countries, with which our trade balance was unfavourable, and it was added that we were going to develop our own motor car industry.
– The honorable member will surely recognise that that was quite apart from trade diversion. The sole purpose of the restrictions on the importation of motor chassis was the establishment of a motor industry in
– That was so much political “hooey”. What the honorable member for Henty did when he introduced this policy was to impose a special tax of . 7d. in the £ on foreign motor chassis and he visualised that the proceeds of that tax would enable Australia to develop a gigantic motor industry. Out of that tax a bounty on the manufacture of cars in this country was to be paid I understand that up to the present considerably more than £600,000 has been collected.
– About £740,000.
– But not one engine has been manufactured in Australia and none is likely to be. Yet the honorable member for Henty held Parliament up for two days on this policy and when, during the debate on the second reading, I interjected that the proposal to build motor cars in Australia was so much political “ hooey “ designed to cover up the other matters contained in the new policy, the honorable member denounced me and asked would I not like to see the industry established in my electorate and was I opposed to the idea of building motor car engines in Australia. One of the bitterest pills which the honorable gentleman has had to swallow is the fact that the Government, instead of putting this money into a special fund to pay bounties to enable local manufacturers to make engines for motor cars, has diverted into other channels, like the Stevens Government in New South Wale3 has done with the proceeds of unemployed relief taxes. It was never within the purview of the Minister or the Government that a motor car manufacturing industry should be set up in Australia. This was merely a ruse to make the policy of trade diversion acceptable to the people.
This Government sent to Japan a delegation consisting of Sir John Latham and a retinue of public servants. The object of thi3 costly goodwill mission was to promote trade between Australia and Japan, but, within twelve months of this expenditure, the honorable member for Henty provoked a trade war with Japan, and the result has been calamitous to the primary producers of Australia. The Government prates about its balanced trade policy, yet it follows up a goodwill mission for the purpose of improving trade relations with another country by precipitating a trade war with that country!
We are urged to accept the decisions of the Tariff Board without question. The board is required to work within severely restricted limits. If it had merely to implement a straightout tariff policy, I believe that it could carry out its job more satisfactorily than it is able to do under present circumstances. The powers of the board are seriously restricted by articles 10, 11 and 12 of the Ottawa Agreement. [Leave to continue given.] That agreement unquestionably restricts the work of the board in endeavouring to protect Australian industries. In addition to that, the Government enters into trade agreements with foreign countries such as that made with Czechoslovakia. This again hampers the operations of the hoard, and it is not surprising that that body submits some recommendations which honorable members generally do not find acceptable. This is not the fault of the board, but is due to the uncertain political atmosphere in which it works, not knowing from day to day what further restrictions may be imposed upon it. The system of Tariff Board inquiries has no inherent fault; the causes of the dissatisfaction are the restrictions imposed and the vacillating policy of the Government.
The Labour party makes no bones about the fact that it favours the building up of Australia’s secondary industries, and, as far as primary industries are concerned, no Ministry in Australia has given them greater consideration than have Labour governments. In the depths of the crisis, when the wheat men were in difficulties, a Labour Minister sought to come to their assistance; but the anti-Labour majority in the Senate, mostly members of the Country party, were responsible for the defeat of the proposals then submitted. If the Scullin tariff had not been introduced to check the flood of imports, it is difficult to estimate to what depths of depression and disaster this country might have fallen. The tariff alterations then made were necessary because of the policy of previous anti-Labour governments. There were heavy commitments to meet overseas, prices on the overseas markets had collapsed, and there was the growth of economic nationalism in foreign countries. These disabilities were inherited, not created, by the Scullin Government. Lt is cowardly for honorable members opposite, who took part in the discussions in those days, and who supported the financial proposals of the Scullin Administration, to complain about the policy to which it gave effect. The present Ministry is raking off the benefits accruing from the Scullin tariff policy under the guise of being a “ prosperity “ government. The workers in our secondary industries have a more uncertain tenure under the present Government, because of its vacillating tariff policy, than they have ever had before.
.- The debate has displayed great inconsistency in regard to policy on the part of members of the Opposition. I should like to take a broad view of the tariff problem. The Scullin Government came into power by frightening the manufacturers of Australia into the belief that the Bruce-Page Government would destroy their industries, because Mr. Bruce had promised a scientific investigation to ascertain whether Australia was carrying any inefficient industries. He bad also said that there was to be one Arbitration Court. The Opposition then informed the people that Mr. Bruce would do away with the tariff, and that it would abolish arbitration, which had proved a great bulwark in the past. [Quorum formed.]
Hitting suspended from 12.^3 to 2.15 p.m.
– Prior to the luncheon adjournment I was proceeding to show that the Scullin Government came into power by taking up the elements of the speech of the right honorable S. M. Bruce, before the Premiers Conference in 1929, when he pointed out that we were about to enter the greatest depression that Australia would ever know, and that, unlike previous depressions, which were caused possibly by drought and remedied by good seasons, the coming depression would take much more than a good season to remedy. He said that this country could not afford the duplication of Arbitration Courts; we muse choose between a court controlled by the Commonwealth or courts controlled by the States-; we must have one, and one only. However, he also said, “ We must have a more scientific tariff ; we must cause an expert examination to be made into these matters.” Well, the Opposition took up those statements, which, to my mind, were sound and sane, and eventually proved to be true. Great support was given to Opposition candidates by civil servants and other workers a3 the result of a statement issued by the Labour party during the election campaign that the BrucePage Government proposed to destroy our great Arbitration Court, for which we had so strenuously fought. To the manufacturers that party said, “ The BrucePage Government proposes to do away with the protective tariff which has built up our great national industries.” Each of those two great sections of the people hearkened to these statements with the result that the Bruce-Page Government was badly defeated and Labour, particularly because of the support given by the manufacturers of this country, came into power in Australia. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) has denied that the Labour party received great assistance from the manufacturers in the elections at which the Scullin Government was elected to office. I have good evidence that that must have been so, however, because just prior to the last federal elections, the Labour party issued to the capitalistic manufacturers of Australia a confidential circular signed by the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) as secretary of the finance committee of the party. I am sorry that the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) is not present in the chamber, because he would find the quotation which I am a’bout to make informative. The circular, which was issued to Australian manufacturers from the federal members’ rooms, Sydney, and dated August, 1937, contained the following paragraph: -
The Lyons-Page Government is to-day dominated by the low-tariff Country party. As Acting Prime Minister and Leader of the Country party. Dr. Pago, after the recent Melbourne conference, announced that the principal plank in hia party’s platform at the coming elections would be to bring the tariff back to the 1921 level - vide the Sun, the 19th July. 1937:-
The Country party will try to bring the tariff back to the 1921-1929 level. Much good work along these lines has already been done. In thu British preferential tariff there have been 1,431 reductions, and in the general tariff 600 reductions.
That policy means disaster for the manufacturer. Australian industries were saved from total disaster during the world slump by Labour’s tariff of 1920-30. Without that protection, Australia would have been flooded with cheap -imports, produced under depression conditions overseas. You cannot afford to have the tariff dictated by Dr. Page.
Ker the above reasons, the La-bou-r party believes that the Australian manufacturers are prepared to .assist it in the campaign ahead. Importers are heavily subsidizing the Lyons-Page campaign.
To secure funds to “fight the Federal Labour party’s campaign, the party has appointed a finance committee, with myself as chairman. If you are prepared to contribute to that campaign fund, you may forward amounts to me at the above address, cheques to be endorsed 1930 Federal Election Campaign Fund.
Your assistance will be appreciated.
The Opposition cannot have it ‘both ways, and the honorable member for Wimmera, cannot have it both ways. His friends, or his would-be friends, cheer ham when he castigates the Country party. When the Opposition wants money from the capitalistic manufacturers, it regards the party to which I belong as the low-tariff Country party that controls and dominates the United Australia party in this Parliament. I want honorable members to envisage the effect created by this circular. A copy of it was sent to General Motors-Holden’s Limited, which, we were informed, recently on a capital of £1,500,000 showed ‘a profit of £1,005,000, out of which the shareholders in Australia received only about 4 per cent.
– And then on only a portion of it,
– That is so. The balance of the shares are held in the United States of America, and a large portion of the profits is sent out of this country. If I had time I could refer similarly to the profits of the glass companies, and those of many other highly protected concerns in this country could be so cited. It is from such companies that the Federal Labour party cadged money to fight the representatives of the men on the land in this Parliament. For tunately, while I presume the manufacturers gave the Labour party great assistance to defeat the Bruce-Page Government, “ Once caught, twice shy.” I do not think the Labour party got too much out of these concerns because it gained little or no ground. However, Mr. Bruce’s prophecy pr.ov.ed to be true, and the Scullin Government came into power, and, to keep faith with the capitalistic manufacturers, it imposed embargoes and, in some cases, tabled tariff duties without reference to the Tariff Board. Presumably, as has been claimed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) and others, that was done to regulate the balance of trade. I have heard speeches here, notably from the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy), who signed the circular to the manufacturers, that we should get back to the Scullin Government’s tariff; yet, according to the protestations of honorable members opposite, the imposition of embargoes was only a temporary measure to rectify the balance of trade and that subsequently embargoes would have been removed. Yet when the present Government does what Labour said it intended to do, abolishes embargoes and reduces the duties on 2,000 items of the tariff, honorable members opposite keep on saying that secondary industries are being ruined. Did they listen to .the figures supplied by the Minister for Trade and Customs showing that, as the result of this Government’s policy, 104,000 more men are employed in secondary industries than ever before; more factories exist in Australia than before; and more general prosperity exists among the people generally? It cannot be denied that every increase of the tariff has been accompanied by’ an increase of unemployment in this country. That statement can be statistically proved. The Scullin Government :amE into power, and, consistent with its promise, placed heavy embargoes on the importation of certain goods into this country and increased the tariff to a prohibitive level. The now Deputy Leader of the Opposition, then Minister for Trade and Customs, in tabling new schedules, said to the House that they would result in 1,500 more men being employed in this class of employment, 500 more in that, and so on. -If his prognostications had proved to be true, there would have been no unemployment in this country. But what are the actual facts? For every four minutes he was in office a man lost his joh, and by the time his own party - not the then Opposition - put him out of office, unemployment had reached the highest level at which it had ever stood, the credit of this country wa3 at its lowest ebb, and in order to bridge the gap caused by the loss of customs revenue, amounting to nearly £20,000,000, as the result of the imposition of embargoes and prohibitions, his Government had found it necessary to send to Canada for an expert to explain how sales tax and primage duty might be imposed. The price of Australian bonds had dropped to £67, taxation was increased, and it was not known whether the Public Service could be paid. I am passing over these points hurriedly.
– That is the heritage which the Government, of which the honorable gentleman was a member, left to the Government which followed it; no wonder he is passing over these matters rapidly.
– I .believe that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) is fair enough to acknowledge the accuracy of my statement of the case. When the Lyons Government came into power, the reverse policy was introduced. Embargoes were removed, the Tariff Board was set to work to examine different items of the tariff, and since then the duties on 2,000 items have been reduced. Those that had been increased without reference to the Tariff Board were restored to their former level, a little competition was brought into trade in Australia, our bonds rose until they were returning a premium, and customs revenue flowed into the national exchequer, enabling the Government greatly to reduce the sales tax, primage duty, income tax, and all other forms of taxation. There you have one policy side by side with the other, the central operating factor being the fiscal policy. We have gone too far with the policy of protection, and have placed too much faith in it. The Deputy
Leader of the Opposition thought that, if goods were not imported, local manufacturers would be bound to get the additional trade; but he left out of consideration one factor, namely, that the primary producers of Australia were about £100,000.000 -short in their exports by reason of the fall of commodity prices. It is all very well to say that the primary and secondary industries should operate side by side. By means of legislation, the secondary industries have been pushed far ahead, and have swamped the primary industries. I say emphatically that there would have been no depression in Australia to-day but for the fall which took place in our export commodity prices. Only when there is a revival of prices is the politician able to tell the people that we are turning the corner. The right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), when Prime Minister of this country, did not appeal to the secondary industries to produce more goods so as to increase the national income and establish credits abroad. On every envelope that passed through the post, the wheatgrowers were urged to grow more wheat. When pushed into a corner, the government of the day recognized the paramount advantage of the primary industries and their value to this country.
– How much a bushel was promised to the wheat-growers?
– I should like the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) to remember that a measure was brought down by Mr. Parker Moloney as Minister for Markets in the Scullin Government, in which provision was made for the establishment of a compulsory pool, and the wheatgrowers were guaranteed 4s. a bushel for their wheat, the Commonwealth to pay one-half of the loss occasioned by the difference between the market price and the guaranteed price, and the States to pay the other half. Some of the States said that it was impossible for them to agree to that proposal. Mr. Parker Moloney wa3 then asked whether, if a State, could not pay its ‘half, the Commonwealth would pay its own half, but we were not able to get any satisfaction on that point. Subsequently, a measure was brought, down guaranteeing a payment of 3s. n bushel to tlie wheat-growers of Australia. 1 hat measure passed both houses of this Parliament and was approved by His Majesty’s representative, but not one shilling was ever paid to the wheatgrowers under it.
A good deal has been said about trade diversion. The honorable member for Wimmera does not seem to remember that the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and 1 did not approve of that policy. Had I, or indeed my friend from Swan, made the remarks that have been made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan), or the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark), we should at least have been consistent, but coming from those who imposed embargoes not only against Japan, but also against every other country, they are certainly inconsistent. Those tariff steps offended every country, with the result that we had not an international friend in the world.
– The honorable gentleman must know that the defence proposals of the Government suggest that he and others who support the Government have not many international friends in the world at the present time.
– I remind the Leader of the Opposition that at the last .great economic conference at Geneva, at which all the nations were represented, it was unanimously decided that tariffs are the greatest cause of war. Honorable members of the Opposition are the highest tariffists with whom I am acquainted, and must, therefore, accept, the position that they incite war and unfriendliness with other countries.
Prior to the imposition of embargoes by the Scullin Government, this country had a favorable trade balance with five countries, namely, Italy, France, Belgium, Germany and Japan, aggregating over £41,000,000 a year. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Collins) has mentioned that, at that time, Belgium took from us goods to the value of £9,000,000, and Australia took from Belgium goods to the value of a little less than £1.000,000. But Australia was not satisfied with that favorable position. A glass company was established in Sydney, and embargoes and high tariffs were imposed on Belgian glass imported into this country. That action, naturally,, offended Belgium. Had I been a. Belgian, I should have said that it was most contemptible. Of what benefit has the glass company been to Australia ? Its dividends have hardly been as substantial as those of General Motors-Holden’s Limited, but an insufficient quantity of glass has been produced, and the requirements of the community have not been met. That has been the case also in connexion with galvanized iron. None of these industries could survive if it were not for the credit established abroad by our export industries, 97£ per cent, of which are primary industries. It is all very well to say that primary and secondary industries should go hand in hand. Too great a fillip has been given to the secondary industries, and that has had a deleterious effect in many ways. The result of a high tariff policy is to raise the cost of production to such a degree that the goods which are produced under it cannot be sold outside of Australia, consequently expansion is limited to the demands of our own country. Itwould be an excellent thing if the commodities produced by secondary industries in Australia could be sold abroad, as are the commodities produced by the primary industries. Why did not the right honorable member for Yarra say to the boot manufacturers, “ Produce more boots and sell some of them abroad. I want money brought into this country, and credits established overseas.” Why did he not say to the shirt manufacturers, the collar manufacturers, and others, “ Why do you not endeavour to sell some of your goods abroad, and thus establish credit which will enable us to meet the cost of what cannot be produced in Australia”? Instead of doing so, he implored the wheatgrowers to grow more wheat,
– The honorable member did well out of what he grew.
– The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) must know that the tariff protection given to the secondary industries of Australia represents over £100,000,000 a year, not in times of depression, but at all times. Therefore, silence on his part would1 be commendable. I should be glad if honorable members opposite would realize that great good has been done to the secondary industries of this country. The present composite Government, by reducing the tariff, has placed them in a more favorable position than they have ever previously occupied. The finances of this country are on a sound basis, the cuts made by the Scullin Government have been restored, and there has been allround improvement of the management and administration of this country. Fortunately at the last elections the people of Australia said. “ That is so “. I believe that they will say it again if this Government continues to deal with the tariff in a scientific way.
– I have listened .with great interest to the speeches of honorable members opposite. Some of them have seen fit to criticize the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), but the honorable gentleman has been consistent in his endeavours to protect the workers of this country from unfair competition.
I appeal to the Government to accord a greater degree of protection to the fishing industry. I have in mind, particularly, the fishing industry of Tasmania. Promises have been made at various times that adequate protection would be given to this industry to stabilize it, but up to the present very little has been done to fulfil the promise. I understand that an officer of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research ha3 reported favorably upon the possibilities of establishing a lucrative fishing industry in Tasmania. A new vessel has been built to assist in the fishing investigations, and it will probably cruise around the coasts of the Commonwealth of Australia to make further investigations. Seeing that fish of one kind and another is imported into Australia to a value of £1,459,724 annually, scope undoubtedly exists for developing our own fishing resources. It should not be necessary for the Australian people to buy imported fish. If adequate protection were provided for the industry they would not need to do so. Australian fish is of excellent quality, and it should be made available to our people at reasonable prices. I regret that the Government saw fit three years ago to lift the primage duty from imported fish.
That was a blow to the Australian industry.
It is regrettable that honorable members from the smaller States have to make so many appeals to the Government to give adequate consideration to the industries that have been established within those States. It seems to me that the representatives of large States are able to obtain almost anything they ask for from the Government. I protest against this obvious preference to the larger and more popular States. If the Tasmanian fishing industry were adequately encouraged, additional employment would be provided for many of our people and they would not need to remain on the dole. Unfortunately the Government intends to continue its lenient treatment to importers. That can be understood, of course, for the importing interests made substantial contributions to the funds of the Government parties prior to the last election campaign.
I heartily support the eloquent plea of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost) for additional protection for the Australian paper making industry. The Tariff Board is making an investigation into this subject, and I hope that it will issue a favourable report. The paper-manufacturing industry could be developed in Tasmania to such an extent that employment could he provided there for thousands more men. Australia imports annually 241,199 tons of newsprint, valued at £2,593,305. The development of this industry in Tasmania would therefore clearly be beneficial to the whole community.
– “What about the paper manufacturing industry in Victoria?
– I am prepared to support the establishment of new industries in all States, but Tasmania, because of its vast forests and cheap hydroelectric power, is exceptionally well fitted by nature to become the centre of a big papermanufacturing industry. As the Government last year provided a large amount of money to establish the shale oil industry in New South Wales, it should be prepared now to do something effective to assist in the establishment of the papermanufacturing industry in Tasmania. I expect that honorable members of the Country party will protest against the granting of adequate duties on imported paper to permit the effective establishment of this industry in Tasmania, but that should not deter the Government from taking proper action in the matter. The members of the Country party always advocate low tariffs, but they also say “ We want a high price for our produce in Australia “.
– But wc do not get it.
– The honorable member must be well aware that the workers in Australia have in the last few years contributed more than £6,000,000 to the fund for the stabilization of the butter industry. Yet the members of the Country party saw fit some time ago to embark upon a wage-slashing campaign against the industrial workers. They want to buy for the lowest possible price, and sell for the highest possible price.
– We did not advocate wage slashing.
– The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) accurately stated this morning that Country party interests, at the inception of the depression,, made the first application in the Arbitration Court for the setting aside of award wages and conditions. That is no way in which to deal with the unemployment problem.
Every country in the world has its tariff. Some countries entirely prohibit the importation of goods from Australia, for fear that the entry of our goods might adversely affect the standard price of similar local commodities.
The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) thought it proper to castigate a young member of this Parliament. As another honorable member who has not been long in this House let me say that age does not necessarily signify intelligence. The honorable gentleman said in effect “You should not be allowed to question the statements of the older members, or the aristocracy, of the House “. What a statement to fall from the lips of an intelligent man! I think the younger members of this Parliament should get rid of the old tories with their freetrade policy. The honorable member seems to have no objective in life but to get cheap wire netting for the construction of rabbit-proof fences.
I again appeal to the Government to give careful consideration to the desirability of encouraging both the fishing and paper-manufacturing industries in Tasmania. If it is right to protect the sugar industry of Queensland it should be right to protect these two industries, which could be of such great importance to Tasmania.
– What about the protection of the wheat-growers?
– In the last few years this Parliament has provided between £40,000,000 and £50,000,000 in bounties for the wheat-growers. Some members of the Country party had,, in fact, in this House, voted bounties to themselves from the Commonwealth Treasury.
I congratulate the honorable member for Franklin also on his remarks concerning the need for assistance to be given to the tobacco industry in Tasmania, which has the climate and every other attribute necessary for the production of the finest tobacco leaf in the world. Tobacco experts with world experience have told me that the Tasmanian leaf manufactures into the best cigars. I commend to the Government the need to protect the Australian tobacco industry to the full because I think that the day is not far distant when locally-grown tobacco will be better than any other tobacco in the world. .Tasmania is taking the lead in producing high-quality leaf, but it is necessary that the industry be given some financial assistance. If the Government has its way and continues to remove the tariff on imported leaf, however, the American interests will capture the whole of the trade in Australia and the Australian growers will be forced off their plantations on to the dole. If heed were given to what the honorable member for Franklin suggested to-day, Tasmanian tobacco would gain a reputation equal to that which is held to-day by Tasmanian apples which are the best in the world. All that Tasmanian apple-growers need is a market and they fear no competitor.
I have the greatest admiration for the Scullin Government, which introduced a tariff designed to protect Australian industries. The Scullin Government was the victim of circumstances which were due, in the opinion of the financial experts who came from Great Britain, to the reckless and wasteful expenditure by the Bruce-Page Government.
– Oh, no !
– Oh, yes, it is there in black and white in the report of the “Big Four”. “When that magnificent Treasurer, Sir Earle Page, took over the Treasury portfolio, the Commonwealth Government inherited a surplus of £7,000,000, which, when the Bruce.Page Government went out of office, had been converted into a deficit of £5,000,000. The Scullin Government was left to carry the baby. That the Lyons Government has reaped the benefits of the Scullin Government tariff and other measures to cope with the sorry state of affairs from which the Bruce-Page Government retreated, has been admitted to me by members of the United Australia party everywhere but on the floor of this Parliament. Give credit where credit is due ! Members of the United Australia party are game enough to give credit to the Scullin Government in the lobbies of this Parliament and in clubs, but not on the floor of the chamber. Instead, they seize the opportunity afforded by the presence of reporters in the press galleries to lay the blame for the depression upon the Scullin Government.
The policy of the Labour party is the protection of Australian industries and the Australian workers against unfair competition, and the maintenance of the best standards that it is possible to attain. “We believe also that the farmers should get the highest possible price for their products, but we do not believe that they should advocate low wages and importation of cheap goods which will put Australians out of work. The time has arrived when the farmers should change their tune. The undue influence which the Country party exercises on the policy of this country is reflected in the Ministry itself. The Country party practically has control of the Ministry. It demands the pick of the portfolios, and when members of the party are elevated to the Ministry, they proceed immediately to make a mess of things.
– Meanwhile, there are good men on the back benches.
– Yes, men representing important industrial electorates cannot get into the Ministry because the Country party has the portfolios.
The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) insinuated that the Scullin Government was responsible for the leakage of certain important tariff information which enabled certain astute business men to make thousands of pounds of profit. I remind the committee that there was a similar leakage of information before the trade diversion policy was instituted, which enabled importers to rush thousands and thousands of pounds’ worth of goods into this country before the duties were imposed, so that when the duties were imposed they could add to the price of commodities, which they had lauded at a lower rate of duty, the duty which was in force when the goods were sold.
– The honorable member is talking about Old Court whisky.
– I am not talking about Old Court whisky, I am talking about the astute persons whom the Country party protects. Information does leak out to business people because business friends of mine have told me so.
– They knew all about the 5s. a bottle excise on whisky.
– That story has whiskers on it. Ever since I have been in this Parliament I have heard the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) sermonize about freetrade. I advise the honorable member to pack up and get out of this country to a country where there is such a thing as freetrade. He will not do so however, because he knows that this country is the best country in the world for primary producers. Some primary producers are a failure, and then the other farmers, sympathizing with them, send them to this Parliament to misrepresent them. My purpose as a member of this Parliament is to do my best to protect the Australian workers, and this brings me to another most important aspect of the tariff. Some companies are making enormous profits, and T believe that the workers that they employ should share in. those profits and get higher wages. A motor body-building works in South Australia made a profit of about £1,000,000 last year. That company, I should say, has adequate protection, but I doubt whether it would have made such enormous profits but for the fact that every farmer purchased a motor car out of the money voted by this Parliament for rural rehabilitation and wheat bounties. Having enjoyed the bounty of the Commonwealth Government the farmers should not turn around and advocate a lowering of the Australian standard of living. If we were able to put every boy and girl who left school into industry and to banish unemployment, the great bulk of the food and other produce grown in Australia to-day would be absorbed in this country. I congratulate the honorable member for Wimmera on his having revealed to the committee the intriguing and price-fixing that goes on between the producer and the middleman. I should be glad to 3ee the middlemen eliminated from trade, for they pay the producers very little for their goods and then sell to the public at big profits.
From day to day events tend to strengthen my belief that the writing is on the wall and that this Government will, at the first opportunity, be dismissed from office by the people of Australia. The voting for the Senate at the last general elections was sufficient indication of the turn of the people against this Government. The Labour party then had sixteen of its nominees elected to the Senate, and when they take their seats in July some of the old conservatives will go down the road from which there will he no return. Next time the Australian people will not be swayed by the poisonous propaganda of the press and the broadcasting stations, and will throw this Government from office. The United Australia party represents the big importers and other merchants, but the Country party j acting for the time being, holds the power. I appeal to the Minister for Trade and Customs to make a visit to the wonderful island of Tasmania and see for himself the great possibilities for development that exist there. For this development, however, financial assistance is necessary. If the fishing industry, the tobacco industry and the paper-pulp industry in Tasmania could be placed on a proper basis, that State would be prosperous. Some honorable members opposite favour the protection of Australian industries, irrespective of the States in which they are established, and I hope that all representatives of the larger States will be prepared to help Tasmania in this respect. I heartily support the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who pointed out the value of our secondary industries, and the danger to our own people in allowing the importation of goods produced overseas by cheap labour. The success of the sugar-growers of Queensland furnishes a striking example of the value of adequate protection of local industries.
. - I have listened with interest to the remarks of honorable members on both sides of the chamber with regard to the tariff policy of the Government, and I am convinced that Australia cannot make good progress, and find employment for its youth, if it is content to make them merely hewers of wood and drawers of water. So many young people are now looking for work that they cannot all be placed on the land. Many of them will have to be equipped for service in secondary industries. No country has ever been built up under a policy of freetrade. It may be remarked that Great Britain was formerly a freetrade country. 1 remind the committee that it was also the principal manufacturing centre of the world. The policy of national selfsufficiency, which has been adopted by many countries, has enabled them to become self-contained. About 96 per cent, of our exports are products of primary industries, but, by encouraging secondary industries, we could provide a valuable home market for our primary producers. I regret, Mr. Chairman, that you, in your speech, blamed the Scullin Government somewhat for the position in which Australia found itself when that Ministry was in office. I think you said that there would have been no depression, had it not been for the reduction of commodity prices. I have opposed the Scullin Government, and members of the Opposition generally, because of their political views, but we should be fair to our political opponents. I have never heard any member on this side attribute the depression to the Scullin Government. The depression was world-wide, and that Government could not have done other than prevent the importation of goods from overseas by the imposition of tariff restrictions and embargoes. We had all stated on the public platforms that budgets had to be balanced. The Scullin Government brought experts from Great Britain to give advice as to how best to deal with the chaotic conditions prevailing here. The Bruce-Page Government, of which I was a member, was accused of spendthrift habits; but honorable members on all sides, and, in fact, the people generally, have been spendthrift. This accentuated the difficulties experienced when the depression overtook us.
Whilst I give credit to the present Government for the relief which has followed the lifting of tariff restrictions, and favour the development of our trade with other nations, our first duty is to build tip Australian industries, in order that we may have a virile and contented people. Even if exorbitant profits have been made by the Australian manufacturers of motor-car bodies, is it not worth while encouraging an industry that gives employment to 20,000 workers? Surely we are glad to have the great iron and steel industry established in this country. Are not the works at Port Kembla worth while? These industries are the very basis of our prosperity. If, occasionally, some of them make more profit than we think they should have, it is within the power of this Parliament to rectify the position. The people are entitled to the products of secondary industries at reasonable prices. Within the last fifteen years, the electric meter manufacturing industry has been established in Australia, and to-day it employs 1,000 technicians. Is that industry not of value to this country? The goods which it produces meet the requirements, not only of Australia, but also of New Zealand. One cannot help being convinced as to the progress made by the primary industries of Australia, but I would remind members of the Country party that those industries have not developed so rapidly as have the secondary industries1.
– But they are doing more than the secondary industries to help Australia to meet its obligations.
– I recognize that the wealth of this country is dependent upon the success of the agricultural, pastoral and rnining industries. I give my political opponents credit for having endeavoured to promote the development of both primary and secondary industries, and I suggest that it should be recognized by the Opposition that the present Government has made a genuine attempt to place the secondary industries on a competitive basis. Occasionally, I have disagreed with recommendations made by the Tariff Board, and, no doubt, I shall do so again. Every member, irrespective of the party to which he belongs, is entitled to his personal views on tariff matters. The Bruce-Page Government adopted a policy which represented a compromise between the opinions of the two parties which combined to form that ministry, and surely it should now be possible to evolve a policy which will meet the needs of the people generally.
Reference has been made to the claim? of Tasmania for assistance in establishing secondary industries in that State. No member from New South Wales has done anything to injure the smaller States. I have been accused in my own State of voting too much money to the smaller States, but I have always pointed out that they are entitled to all the assistance that can be given to them. Western Australia, which is sparsely populated, would benefit from the building up in that State of secondary industries. It is claimed that the eastern .States are getting the bulk of the trade, because the tariff helps the secondary industries which are carried on mainly in the larger States. Why do not the manufacturers of the eastern States go to Western Australia and endeavour to develop the secondary industries of that State ? Western Australia has great possibilities, not only for the development of primary production, but also for the investment of the capital in secondary industries. The expansion of secondary industries creates an increasing market for the Supply of both primary and secondary products; there are so many extra mouths to feed, so many more boots and shoes to be made for the workers and their children, and so much clothing to he manufactured to meet their requirements. Australia undoubtedly provides the best market for our primary producers and secondary industries alike.
– But the secondary industries are all in the eastern States.
– New South Wales alone contributes 52 per cent, of the total customs revenue collected by the Commonwealth, but does not c-laim that the whole of that money belongs to the people of that State. It recognizes that it belongs to the people of Australia as a whole. At any rate that is my outlook. I have always supported, and I still do so on every occasion an opportunity is presented, the complete abolition of States. 1 would divide Australia up into smaller areas, and place them under the control of county councils or local governing bodies of that kind. It should be our endeavour to create an Australian sentiment, everyone working for the common good of Australia as a whole, not setting one State against another, but evolving a common policy that will result in the provision of employment for all the boys and girls as well as adults.
I do not support enthusiastically the bringing of migrants to this country except for the purpose of supplying skilled technicians in certain industries in which the lack of highly trained men is retarding Australia’s industrial progress, but actually our industrial laws are preventing the expansion of industry.
– In what way?
– Because the apprenticeship laws require the employment of only one boy to every four adult employees.
– In what calling does that apply1?
– In the engineering trade in which I was employed for many years. One of the greatest curses of the present arbitration system in Australia is that it prevents so many young men from being apprenticed and trained in certain industries, and that has been brought about by the arbitration awards fought for by the trade unions of this country. Why have we had to bring tradesmen from the Old Country to fill jobs which should be occupied by Australians if this is not so? The wisest course is to give all fathers employed in industry an opportunity to get their boys into decent jobs.
I have always tried to be fair in my criticism of the Scullin Government and of the Labour party as a whole. I have always admitted frankly that the aim of the Labour party in the Australian political field is to develop all industries, and I expect the members of that party to concede to me the right to have the same objective. By joint efforts I feel sure that we could do much to develop the industries of Australia as a whole. At any rate we should make every attempt to get away from the sectional idea of helping only one class of people or one industry at the expense of others. Opportunities for all should be our aim. An embargo was placed upon the importation of potatoes into this country from New Zealand. Why have we not been honest with the New Zealand Government in connexion with this matter? Indeed we have not even been honest with ourselves. It is all very well to say that the prohibition of the importation of potatoes from. New Zealand was imposed because of the danger of the introduction of corky scab into Australia. I say, particularly to honorable members from Victoria and Tasmania, that J could take them into districts in both of those States that are full of corky scab.
– What districts in Tasmania ?
– When I was in Tasmania recently, a member of the Ogilvie Government took me to a place where corky scab was prevalent. If the primary producers of Tasmania and Victoria, the great potato producing State3, are honest, they will say to the New Zealand Government : “ We shall impose a prohibitive tariff upon the importation into Australia of New Zealand potatoes “ ; but instead of doing that, they induced the Commonwealth Government to prescribe a quarantine restriction designed to impose that, actual prohibition. Last Saturday morning I was taken over a tour of inspection of the properties of a number of tomatogrowers in the Mona Vale district of New South Wales, and was shown many diseases which are prevalent in that district. The growers claimed that if “’ proper care had been taken by the quarantine authorities “ those diseases would not. have appeared in their area. “While I was in New Zealand I toured 3,000 miles around the North Island and gained some first-hand information in regard to farming operations in that part of the dominion. The farmers there are very progressive, and our farmers might do very well to apply their methods. I should like to see the two sister dominions brought more closely together, instead of dragged further apart. What was the result of the embargo on the importation of the potatoes from New Zealand? That dominion prohibited the importation of Australian apples, pears and oranges, and the result was a loss to the orange-growers of New South Wales of £400,000- in the first year in which the embargo was imposed.
– The New Zealand Government has never definitely shut the door against Australian oranges.
– It has done so, and, as a member of the Government at the time this action was taken, and as a iii (in ber of this Parliament, T feel that I must accept some share of the blame, because we did not approach the matter with the dominion government in the right spirit.
We cannot have protection for all primary industries and freetrade for all the things the farmers have to buy. The time must come when men working in primary industries must be given a fair return for their labour, just as are the employees in secondary industries. While visiting a large estate at Bodalla, about ten years ago, I was informed by the trustee that he could never get men to stay there and do a decent day’s work. He raised cows, calves and pigs. He did not know what the trouble was, and I suggested to him that he should get his employees together and have a talk with them, because they evidently had a grouch of which he knew nothing. He did so and asked the men what the trouble was. After hearing their complaints, he said to his employees, “For every nine pigs born on the estate, I shall give you one-ninth, and for every five calves I shall give you one.” From that date he could not get rid of a man. Employees must be given some of the profits derived by industry,, whether it be primary or secondary. 1 do not suggest that we should say to the primary producers of Australia “ You must pay the basic wage.” I know the difficulties associated with primary industries which have to sell their products at. world parity prices. In their present position, many sections of our primary producers could not afford to pay the basic wage. Having in mind the difficulties which confront the primary industries, I have always given my support to any subsidy granted to assist them, either in a direct way, or for fertilizers, wire netting, galvanized iron and the like. My friend the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has often told us a long story about the price of galvanized iron. A country which depends for. its very existence- on what it can produce from the soil must pay heed to the requirements of its producers! Iron and steel production is a very vital matter. In Australia, iron and steel are produced more cheaply than in any other country in the world.
– Has the honorable member seen the conditions under which the nien engaged in the iron and steel industry labour?
– I have. I worked in one of those industries when conditions of employment were very much worse than they are to-day. For an industry to be entirely successful, employees must be taken into partnership with their employers. The two must work in harmony. Only if an industry is worth while, should it be given every assistance, because it provides avenues for the employment of our young people; if it is not worth while, let us face up to the position and scrap it. I repeat that if the primary producers of this country can look forward, not to competing with cheap countries for the sale of their products, but to their sale in this country, they will prosper. When I was in London in 1929, the Labour Government led by Mr. Ramsay MacDonald had just been elected. At a luncheon party at which I was present with Ministers of the Cabinet, I said to the assembled gathering “ It i3 extraordinary to me that you Labour men have been returned on a policy of a cheap breakfast table for the working man. That means that you are in favour of free trade and the importation from cheap producing countries of everything needed in England. You should see what the Australian Labour party is attempting to do for the development of Australian industries. How will you expect the working man in England to buy a cheap breakfast when he no longer has a job to provide him with the wherewithal to purchase it?” England had to alter its policy, and has had to become a more or less protectionist country. I regret that we occasionally allow our minds to drift into parochial thoughts. I shall give every support to the Country party to help the man on the land just as I shall support the representatives of city electorates in this Parliament in their efforts to develop the great secondary industries of Australia. I hope at a later stage to have an opportunity with other honorable members to rectify what we consider to be faults in the present tariff schedule. I trust that our minds will work along the lines of what is best for this country as a whole, so that we may become a virile nation and be worthy of membership of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
.- This debate appears to me to be an echo of what happened at a gathering of Premiers which, a few years ago, was addressed by Sir Otto Niemeyer. At that gathering, Sir Otto, after a comprehensive review of our financial and economic resources, said -
Australia cannot wish to remain for ever under a regime of emergency tariffs and rationed exchange. Shehas to emerge from that position, and to show signs of progressing towards emergence. To achieve this end, she depends inevitably to a large extent on the primary producer, and the power of the primary producer selling in the world market to assist depends very largely on the question of his costs and those in turn depend very largely on the general costs in Australia, which govern what he has to pay for his supplies and services.I assume that everybody in this room is in agreement that costs must come down.
He went on to say that there might be room for increased efficiency, but that there seemed to him little escape from the conclusion that Australia must lower its standards and conditions.
The policy which he definitely enunciated was that Australia mustenun- late its tariff, abandon the policy of manufacturing the goods it required, and concentrate upon primary production. To me, the provisions of the Ottawa Agreement, and the trade diversion policy, reflect what occurred at that meeting. The Australian Labour party is fighting vigorously in the interests of the Australian people as against the interests of those who sent Sir Otto Niemeyer to this country to dictate the trend of Australian politics.
I have received numerous letters from the employees who are left in the cutglass industry in my electorate, relative to this tariff schedule. A few years ago, when there was fairly reasonable tariff protection, the number of employees in these works was in the vicinity of 600 or 700. To-day, there are not 100, and they realize that if this tariff schedule is put into operation they will lose their employment, because the company cannot compete against the products of overseas manufacturers, which are being dumped in Australia. Men were brought out from Czechoslovakia and Belgium to develop the industry and to teach the Australian workmen. Those workmen proved most apt in grasping the art of cut-glass making, and a wonderful industry was established. I ask leave to continue my remarks.
Medical Fund - Italian Warships : Incident at Port Melbourne - Nonofficial Postmasters - Aliens and Old-age Pensions - Alkali Industry : Claim of Mr. G. K. McPhail.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- During the last period of the session, I brought under the notice of the House the situation which had arisen in connexion with the medical fund of the Commonwealth railway service. This afternoon, I wish to place before honorable members other phases of the situation which I think demand that this House should give further consideration to the matter. In making any suggestion in regard to matters connected with Commonwealth railway administration, my sole desire is to be helpful - to bring about harmony and a better understanding between those who are required to manage the railway service and those who are employed by it. When at Port Augusta recently, I was surprised at the number of people who placed before me grievances under which they felt they were suffering in connexion with the working of the service. I have no wish to embarrass those on whom rests the responsibility of administering the service, but merely wish to offer whatever help I am capable of giving in order that difficulties may be straightened out and the service made more efficient. When I previously raised the matter, I mentioned that there is a medical fund associated with the Commonwealth Railway service. This fund has been in operation for a considerable number of years. The obligation rests on the employee- to make a contribution to the fund, and it has been subsidized by the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner. I understand that a very satisfactory arrangement was made between the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner and the employees. Later an award made by the Public Service Arbitrator provided that certain sick leave benefits should accrue to the employees. The Public Service Arbitrator inserted that provision in his award having full cognizance of the benefits conferred by the medical fund. For some unknown reason, the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner notified his intention to discontinue the subsidy which the department was paying. This aroused a good deal of feeling among the members of the railway service. They felt that this action sought to defeat the determination of the Public Service Arbitrator. Since I raised the matter during the last period of the session, the Commissioner has been to Port Augusta and lias conferred with the board which is managing this particular fund. An agreement was arrived at, the representatives of the Local Trades’ Council accepting the suggestion of the Commissioner that the fund should be continued provided that he should not be required to subsidize it, and that the department should be responsible for its administration. I am informed that those who consented to this agreement represented only the depot section of the employees, not the whole of the Commonwealth railway service; the one exception was the Australian Workers Union representative. The men who are most vitally concerned are those who are in the line section and live a long distance from the principal centres such as Port Augusta and Quorn. It is quite true that those who represented the depot section agreed to the proposal of the Commissioner, but the Australian Workers Union repudiates the action of its representative in agreeing to what was proposed. That organization has a very large number of members who are employed in the line section of the Commonwealth railway service. I have received a communication from Mr. Musgrave, the secretary of the Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen, which was not consulted in any way in regard to the new basis on which the fund should operate, although it is substantially representative of the men who -are covered by it. Those who actually determined the matter and accepted the new agreement were the section, who had less necessity to rely on the services of the medical fund and to whom the subsidy by the Commissioner was of much less consequence. According to Mr. Musgrave’s letter to me, the employees in the depot section made a contribution of ls. a week to the fund, but I understand that that was not subsidized in the same way as was the amount paid by those who are employed in the line section, which was ls. 8d. a week. It is quite easy for every member of the depot section to see that his interests in regard to medical care are conserved, but the men on the line section, because of the distance and isolation, are not in the same happy « position and consequently suffer a disability. Surely it is only reasonable and fair that those engaged in this occupation should be consulted in a matter of this kind, to assure that uniform conditions will apply and that they will not be deprived of acknowledged advantages that the medical fund has made possible. I should think that this matter requires only the application of grace and common sense in order to reach a satisfactory decision.
I wish to refer briefly to another phase of railway employment. The officers of the Commonwealth railway service have no tribunal to which they may appeal against decisions of the Commissioner affecting their salaries and their status. In every other department of the Commonwealth Service a tribunal of this kinds exists, so that officers who are aggrieved for any purpose may have their grievances investigated. It seems to me, therefore, that a similar tribunal should exist in the railway service. I was astounded recently to learn that trusted .and most valuable officers of the railway service who had applied for leave obtained leave, but simultaneously received an intimation that upon resuming work subsequently, they would suffer a reduction of pay even by the substantia] amount of £35 a year. Several officers have been treated in this way. Surely an officer placed in such a position should ‘be entitled to have the facts investigated by an appeal tribunal. If this had been an isolated case I should have taken it direct to the Commissioner, but as it is not I feel that it is a matter which should be brought under the notice of the Government. An appeal tribunal should be available to the officers of the railway service so that whenever any question relating to their salary or conditions or their status is decided to their detriment, they may have the whole matter investigated.
– There is a right of appeal in the case of dismissals.
– That is so, but a similar right of appeal should be provided in connexion with salaries and status. I therefore ask the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to give close and favorable attention to this matter.
.- I wish to bring Under the notice of the Government and the House a mattei which more directly concerns the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes). 1 conveyed to that right honorable gentleman an intimation that I intended to discuss this subject on the motion for the adjournment of the House to-day, but apparently he did not think it necessary to be present. I cannot expect more from the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), who is in charge of the House, than an undertaking that he will bring the matter under the attention of his colleague.
On the loth February last, a nonnaturalized Italian named Orlando, who was visiting a battleship lying in the port of Melbourne, was assaulted and maltreated. It has not been denied, and it seems to be very well established, that a serious and unprovoked assault was committed. It is also well established that Orlando was at that time, and had been for some years, a resident of Australia, obedient to Australian laws, and entitled, as he thought, to the protection of the Australian law. It has been suggested, although it seems to me to be entirely irrelevant, that he was what is known as a Communist. As a matter of fact he has denied that statement and no proof of it has been submitted. In any case, it appears to me to be irrelevant and immaterial. It has also been suggested that during the visit of this particular battleship some -feeling developed in certain clubs and among certain Italian communities in Melbourne. But that, in my opinion, has nothing to do with this assault. The material fact is that, Orlando, who, like others, was invited to go aboard this battleship as the guest of the Italian commander was, while he was aboard the ship, I am very sorry to say, assaulted and maltreated in a cowardly and brutal manner by certain ratings of the ship. Although Orlando is not a naturalized Australian, he married an Australian gi’rl, and is the father of children born in Australia. All the evidence that I have been able to gather - and there is nothing to contradict it - is that he is a desirable and lawabiding person. A peculiar thing followed this assault. The victim was treated by a medical officer on the warship and, as far as I know, properly treated; but he was afterwards submitted to a searching examination as to his political views and activities in this country. In the course of the examination Orlando said -
I have not for many years taken any interest in politics. I did, when I came here as a stranger, join up with what is known as the Matteotti Club because it was the only club of Italian speaking people that I knew of.
His interrogator remarked on that: “Well, we know that it is entirely to your credit that you have long since dissociated yourself from that organization.”
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), in whose electorate this assault took place, the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), and I, constituted ourselves a deputation to the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) to discuss the matter and to see whether some redress could not be obtained for this injured man. I am bound to say that the Attorney-General received us with the courtesy that one would expect, and, what for my purpose is more important, he expressed himself as being very largely in agreement with our point of view, which was that it is quite intolerable that a battleship in our own harbour, by our own permission, which is not bound by our law, but is practically a law unto itself, should be used for an assault upon a man who i3 entitled to the protection of Australian laws within Australian waters. The Attorney-General not only agreed with that view but said that it was immaterial that the man was not naturalized and immaterial, also, what his political views were. We submitted that it was really a matter for diplomatic representations, and he agreed with this view. He said in his concluding remarks -
I may say, that without endeavouring to exaggerate this matter to one of an international incident of u dangerous kind, at the same time it is necessary to state quite plainly that residents in Australia, whether naturalized citizens or not, are entitled to the protection of Australian law and entitled to the best offices of the Government under which they live, and according to these principles this matter is being investigated. As I said, I am very grateful for the fact that you have not tried to make any political capital out of the matter which concerned every one of us.
I waited patiently for something to happen. The Attorney-General gave an interview to certain newspaper representatives later and, although I have not a copy of the report at the moment, my recollection is that he intimated that the case had gone on for investigation by the Minister for External Affairs. That right honorable gentleman also expressed himself as being deeply concerned at what had occurred. When we remember that a ship of war in Australian waters is not under Australian control, but is a law unto itself, and that the law of the Commonwealth does not bear upon it - that seems to be the sum of legal opinion on the subject - and when we remember that such a ship enters our harbour by our invitation and permission, it appears to me that the very strictest caTe should be taken by their authorities to see that when Ave open our harbours to such visitors the ships that come in are not used for the purpose of outrage upon our own people or people under our protection, and that if such a thing occurs wc should obtain redress. The honorable member for Bourke joined with me in the view that it was not a serious international matter, and, indeed, I said that it was not. Nevertheless, it is an important “matter, because there are important matters of principle involved in it. As indicating the consequences of the occurrence, I said -
This incident has, unfortunately, had important and most regrettable consequences. It has unleashed violent attacks upon the Italian Government and its policy in international relations, from which I take leave, speaking f»r myself alone, to entirely dissociate myself. It has resulted in ;i demonstration of ill-will where most Australians would have preferred
demonstration of goodwill and politeness.
I cannot help thinking that the persons in charge of the ship must themselves have deeply regretted that such an incident should have occurred on their visit to Australia and should have had such consequences as I have indicated. If, all these facts having been put before the Italian Government, no redress or compensation is offered to the party who was wronged, I certainly say that a polite intimation should be made to the authorities of that country that neither that particular ship nor her commander would be welcome again in Australian waters. That would be the very least that we should do.
The Minister for External Affairs, in answer to a question, said that he had approached the Italian Acting ConsulGeneral in connexion with this matter, and that that gentleman had said that, as he was relinquishing office, he should discuss it with his successor. I dissent from the view that an Australian Minister of the Crown is required on any basis of propriety to go running after a consul in this country to make representations. On another occasion during the war I said that consuls had no diplomatic standing, that they were not diplomatic agents but trade agents, and, if they were granted certain specific diplomatic qualities, those should not be exceeded in any particular. I dissent entirely from the view that this is a matter for conversations between a consul and a Minister of the Crown in Australia. In saying that, I say it to uphold the status of Australian Ministers of the Crown in their own country. I do not think that a great deal should be made out of this matter, but I think that the man who was injured should have redress from the people who injured him. I think that a nation of the politeness and sense of justice of the people to whom I have referred, and with whom we are on friendly terms and for whom I have admiration, would seek to do. the right thing in the circumstances. I conclude by saying that we will not let this matter rest until we have had a firm answer from the Government.
– I desire to support the remarks made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), respecting the action of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner in withdrawing the subsidy formerly paid by him to the medical and provident fund of the Commonwealth railways. I regret that it is necessary to bring this matter before Parliament, because I realize that it is not of the wide importance that should characterize matters dealt with by this national assembly, but this is the only opportunity to bring the position of the men concerned before the Government. For that reason, and because I am honorary federal president of one of the unions most affected, the locomotive running men, I speak in support of the honorable member for Hindmarsh. I do not desire to traverse the field already covered by that honorable gentleman, but feel that I should say that the men fail to see what justification the Commissioner had in withdrawing the subsidy. “When the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator made an award for the Commonwealth railways which made provision for the payment of sick pay, the Commis sioner took the view that there was no longer any need to subsidize the fund which up till then had been carried on very successfully. Men engaged on parts of the line removed from the depots where there are hospitals are called upon to make a contribution of ls. 8d. to the benefit fund as against the amount of ls. contributed by other employees. When the new award was made, the Commissioner sent out a notification that he proposed to withdraw the subsidy that was made under Rule 11 of the fund, which reads -
The Commissioner shall, in addition to contributions by members, pay an amount equivalent to 25 per cent, of expenditure of the section of the fund, exclusive of any amount paid to members in sick allowance.
The withdrawal of the subsidy created a good deal of ill-feeling and protest. The Commissioner paid a visit to the line and apparently had a conference with men representing the organizations and, following that conference, withdrew the subsidy, apparently by agreement, but I am informed that the men away from the depot were not represented. About 150 members of my organization work in districts far removed from the depots and have no hospitals or medical facilities and they were adversely affected as the result of the withdrawal. It is for the Government to consider whether the Commissioner has done the fair thing. As a matter of fact, it seems that the Commissioner’s action was rather in the nature of a reprisal for advantages obtained under the new award. He had his representative at the arbitration inquiry and there is no doubt that the fact that a subsidized fund was in operation was capably put by that representative and taken into consideration by the arbitrator. We feel very strongly about this matter and consider that the subsidy should be retained for the men away from the depot because they are not in the bases where there is hospital and medical treatment for them. Much more could he said in order to indicate that the men have just grounds for asking the Government to inquire into this matter, but I shall content myself with the representations that have been made by the honorable mem- ber for Hindmarsh and myself in the hope that the Government will institute an inquiry, make it clear that the men are not to be dealt with unfairly, and that after further consideration the department will restore the subsidy.
.- I support the remarks made by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) in reference to the assault on an Italian man-of-war in the port of Melbourne on an unfortunate man who resides in my constituency. I hope that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes) will look into the matter and see if something can be done in the name of justice.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) and the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) have referred to the matter of a medical and sick pay fund which exists in the Commonwealth Railways and to which the Commonwealth Commissioner of Railways used to contribute. Unfortunately, I was not aware that this matter was to be raised on the adjournment, so I have not the full facts of the matter fresh in my mind, although I have teen into every aspect of it with the Commissioner, because this matter was raised just before Parliament adjourned before last Christmas. During the recess, I was in close consultation over a long period with the Commissioner on this subject. The honorable member for Maribyrnong asked for an assurance by the Government that an inquiry would be made into this matter so that the men would feel that they would not be unfairly treated. I can assure the honorable member now that, without that need for a further inquiry, the men have not been and will not be unfairly treated.
– -Some of these men have put £35 into the fund.
– No one will gain from that payment into the fund save those who made contributions. No expense has been incurred in the administration of the fund because the Commissioner has made available a member of his staff to administer the fund. The position is that there was a revision of working conditions and rates of pay by the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator, who made an award which provided improved conditions of employment over a wide range and, amongst other things, introduced a provision which provides for sick pay. That was quite a new thing and it virtually duplicated the provisions which were made in the voluntary medical and sick fund. The new award involves the Commonwealth Railways - already, I would remind honorable members, unfortunately a losing proposition - in additional expenditure in regard to employees on the trans-Australian line of between £40,000 and £50,000 a year.
– Which they should have been getting before.
– I make no comment on that. They had access to the Arbitrator, made their appeal and got this award. Bearing in mind the facts that I have stated and the fact that this Parliament is the custodian of the funds of the people of Australia, the Railways Commissioner felt that it was no longer incumbent upon him to make contributions to the fund which had as its purpose sick and medical benefits that he was obliged to provide under the new award. The Commissioner was in correspondence and personal conference with the managers of the fund and the representatives of the unions. The matter was not concluded by the writing of one or two letters, nor by one interview. Conferences and correspondence extended over a few months, until eventually, the representatives of the men agreed that, for the future, the Commissioner should withdraw his contributions to the fund; but the Commissioner undertook to continue to administer the fund, and so to contribute the actual cost of the administration.
– Did the Minister hear the honorable member for Hindmarsh. (Mr. Makin) say that that was done without consulting the men in the lines section ?
– Yes, and I heard the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), in effect, repeat that. The only comment I have to offer is that the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner made his contact with the representatives of the men on the provident fund and with the representatives of the union. If the representatives of the men, in their turn, failed to make adequate contact with, or to consult properly, the whole of the members of the union and all the employees affected, the quarrel of the latter must be with the representatives of the union.
– It will be found that the locomotive men have had no opportunity to express their views on the matter.
– I cannot enter into an argument on that point, hut the matter was not hastily decided. I have been in personal consultation with the Railways Commissioner since early last December, until two or three weeks ago, when he finally informed me that the representatives of the men had concurred in the new arrangement, under which the Commissioner ceased to contribute to the fund, but agreed to bear the cost of administration. Therefore, I think honorable members will agree that a fair thing has , been done.
.- The Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral in this chamber has promised that a statement will be made on the subject of the conditions under which nonofficial postmasters and postmistresses are employed. These officials have displayed a great deal of patience in outback centres over a long period of years. When they are on leave they have to pay some one to act for them, and they also have to ibo responsible for the cash and documents over which they have control in ordinary circumstances. This seems to me to be unfair to these officers. When they are on leave, the persons relieving them should accept responsibility for the safe custody of the money and materials over which they have temporary control. The Deputy PostmasterGeneral in Hobart, has informed me that, under the present regulations, and owing to the policy of the department, those in charge of non-official post offices must accept that responsibility. I suggest that the matter should be further investigated. In’ view of the large profits made by the department, these officials should be more generously treated in this direction as well as in others.
I have previously drawn attention to the claim to the old-age pension of Chinese who have been resident in Australia for many years. This matter has also been mentioned by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), who has referred to Chinese who have lived in Australia for many years, and have Droved to bc good citizens, but, because of certain provisions in the law relating to old-age pensions, they are ineligible to receive the pension. A number of Chinese in my electorate are similarly placed. I arn personally acquainted with an Assyrian who has been in Australia, to my knowledge, for over 30 years. He tells me that he came here when he was sixteen years of age. He has reared a family, and at times when he was more prosperous than he is to-day, he contributed considerably to the revenue of this country. I urge the Government to consider the amendment of the act to enable such persons, who have resided in Australia for a long time, and have proved themselves to be good citizens, to receive the pension. I hope that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) will consider the claims of these persons, and endeavour to make their lot in their oldage a little more comfortable than it now is.
– The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), supported by the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), has made reference to an incident on the Italian cruiser which visited Port Melbourne some time ago. 1 am without positive information as to the most recent news regarding this unfortunate affair, but I shall bring the matter under the notice of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes), and see that the honorable gentlemen concerned are informed as to the position.
The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) has spoken of the treatment received by persons in charge of nonofficial post offices. Again, I am without positive information, but I am aware that the Postmaster-General has given a good deal of consideration to the matter. Although I do not know that this consideration extends beyond the payment to be made to these officials, I shall bring the matter to the further notice of the Minister directly concerned.
Regarding eligibility for old-age pensions, 1 can only say that the provision to which reference has been made has been embodied in the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act for 25 years.
– Does the honorable gentleman suggest that that fact makes it right?
– No, but it certainly gives it a tinge of respectability. Bills relating to that legislation have been before this House on many occasions, and honorable gentlemen on both sides have not been backward in drawing attention to what they have regarded as flaws in it. I can give no undertaking that the matter will be reviewed with the object of removing the provision mentioned, but I shall go into the subject again with the Commissioner of Pensions.
On. the adjournment on the 10th May, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Curtin) and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) brought up the question of the appointment of a committee to inquire into certain alleged moral claims against the Commonwealth Government by Mr. G. K. McPhail in respect of the establishment of the alkali industry at Port Adelaide. In reply, I desire to state that, in accordance with instructions, the Crown Law Office of the Commonwealth has considered the claims put forward by Mr. McPhail - not on the basis of law, but on the basis of his contention that he has a moral claim against the Commonwealth. The Government has given careful consideration to the advice tendered by the Crown Law Office, and to the various contentions put forward by and on behalf of Mr. McPhail, and has endeavoured to arrive at the true facts of the case. It appears that Mr. McPhail bases his claims against the Commonwealth on two grounds. In the first place, he alleges that certain information supplied by him on a confidential basis to a committee appointed bythe Commonwealth Government was disclosed to Imperial Chemical Industries Limited, with the result that this Company obtained the benefit of, and put into operation, his scheme for the establishment of the alkali industry. Mr. McPhail’s second ground of complaint is that in
August, 1933, Senator A. J. McLachlan. broadcast a statement the effect of which was to frustrate Mr. McPhail’s plans to establish the industry. As to the first ground, the Government is satisfied that no disclosure to Imperial Chemical Industries Limited of confidential information supplied by Mr. McPhail to the committee took place. As a matter of fact - as appears from a letter dated the 2nd May, 1932, which he wrote to the Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Department - Mr. McPhail himself had communicated to the company as early as September, 1931, such information as he then had at his disposal. The Government is satisfied, therefore, that Mr. McPhail has no moral claim against the Commonwealth on the ground that information supplied confidentially to the committee was disclosed to Imperial Chemical Industries Limited. With regard to the second ground, there is no evidence to support the belief that the statement broadcast by Senator A. J. McLachlan had any prejudicial effect upon Mr. McPhail’s attempts to form a company for the establishment of the alkali industry. The Government has looked very carefully into this aspect of the case, but there is nothing to show that, when the statement was broadcast, Mr. McPhail was cither in the process of forming a company, or had any promise of the substantial capital support required to establish the enterprise. In view of the foregoing, the Government has come to the conclusion that the circumstances do not justify the appointment of a committee as proposed in the letter of the 28th August last, to which the Leader of the Opposition has referred.
– Can the Minister giveany reasons why, if the Government’s contentions are so well-founded, the committee might not at least be able to satisfy Mr. McPhail that his moral claims are without foundation?
– We have been in correspondence with him, and presumably he has put his case at great length. It is upon that and other information that the Government has based its present conclusions.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.45 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated : -
Securities fob Insurance Companies.
Mr.Green asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What cash or other deposits are held by the various State governments as securities from fire and life insurance companies carrying on business in each State?
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
In view of the approach of the winter months, when unemployment generally increases, will he favorably consider making available a special grant for winter relief amongst our unfortunate unemployed on somewhatsimilar lines to the fund made available in December last for Christmas cheer?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Having regard to the increased provision on the Estimates for expenditure on new works this financial year as compared with last year (an increase of approximately £1,500,000) and the amount already provided for Christmas relief, together with the large increase in the defence programme with which the Government is faced, and which will provide a considerable amount of additional employment, it is regretted that it is not practicable for an additional amount to be set aside specifically for winter relief purposes.
d asked the Acting Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
1901-102,945; 1911-122,193; 1921- 130.198; 1931-118,509; 1930-116,073.
1901-12.22; 1911-10.66; 1921-9.91; 1931-8.67; 1936-9.43.
Maternal deaths. - 1901 (not immediately available on present classification); 1911-615; 1921-643; 1931-650: 1936-696.
Infantile deaths.- 1901- 10,666; 1911- 8.369; 1921-8,952; 1931-4,996; 1930- 4,778.
y asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
In view of the extremely buoyant revenue obtained from licence-fees for wireless sets, will he consider making a substantial reduction in the rates now chargeable for listeners’ licences?
– The Postmaster-General has supplied the following answer : -
The wireless-foe will be considered in connexion with the budget proposals for 1938-39.
y asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Will he consider allowing wireless setsin schools, used exclusively for educational purposes, to be licensed free of the ordinary fee?
– The Postmaster-General has supplied the following answer: -
As intimated in a recent reply to similar inquiries, consideration has been given to such a proposal on several occasions, but the Government has found it impracticable to extend the concessions of free licences beyond those permitted to blind persons.
k asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The Postmaster-General has supplied the following answers : -
Broken Hill-Wilcannia (to improve existing facilities ) .
r asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answer : -
Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as early as possible.
Northern Territory: Development - Salaries of Public Servants at Darwin.
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y.- On Thursday, the 28th April, the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Mr.Rosevear asked the Minister representing the Minister for Hepatization, upon notice - 1.Has the Minister perused the report of the Auditor-General in which it is claimed that in twelve specifiedcases the pensions paid to ex-soldiers were not warranted on medical evidence?
Mr.Thompson. - The Minister for Repatriation has supplied the following answers : -
The only manner in which such decision of the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal can be further investigated is as a result of an appeal by the Repatriation Commission under section 45k (9) of the act. No such action is being taken in these cases. The pensions are being lawfully paid in accordance with the act.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 May 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1938/19380512_reps_15_155/>.