15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 10.30 a.m. and read prayers.
– In view of the reported statement of Judge Wells, that “flogging was the preferable punishment for delinquent natives in the Northern Territory, as jail made them fat and derelicts when they came out “, will the Minister for the Interior, during his projected visit to the Northern Territory, investigate the position generally, and particularly in connexion with the suggestion that the entire native population of Australia shouldbe brought under an administration similar to that which now exists in New Guinea?
– I propose, while in the Northern Territory, to give full consideration to every aspect of native administration. I shall investigate the possibility of applying to aborigines in the Northern Territory methods of native administration similar to those applied in Now Guinea.
– Will the Prime Minister, on a date to be suitably arranged, accompany representatives of the Sydney branch of the W aterside Workers’ Federation, including the secretary, Mr. Mullins, and myself, on a tour of inspection of the waterfront at the port of Sydney, with the object of seeingat first hand the conditions under which the waterside workers there are picked up for employment? Will the right honorable gentleman also bewilling, at a later date to be conveniently arranged, to discuss with representatives of the Sydney branch the matter of a central picking-up place? Under existing conditions, these men have to remain in the streets - practically in the gutters - a considerable distance from the. places at which their work has to be done, waiting to be picked up. These conditions have prevailed for so long that the men are keenly anxious to have the matter placed on a more satisfactory basis.
– Mr. Mullins interviewed me in regard to this matter some time ago. I understand that the Acting Attorney-General proposes, in company with the Solicitor-General, to pay a visit to Sydney within the next few days, with a view to making an inspection. I also would be agreeable to make a personal inspection on a suitable date, as the honorable member has suggested.
– Some time ago I introduced to the Prime Minister a deputation of representatives of the timber industry. The Minister for Trade and Customs was present, and Ibelieve that eventually the representations then made were handed to him. Has the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs investigated the position ? If so, has he come to any decision in the matter?
– Certain preliminary investigations have been madeby the department, but it has been found neces- sary to make further inquiries. TheChief Investigation Officer of the department is leaving for Adelaide next Monday.He will then visit the principal States concerned, and later present a report to the Prime Minister.
– On a number of occasions, questions have been asked in this House and elsewhere at that time non-official postmasters, and the Minister representing the Postmaster-General has promised to make a statement in regard to the matter. Is the honorable gentleman yet in a position to make that statement?
– A report was received and handed to the PostmasterGeneral, by -whom it was taken to Cabinet. There have been some preliminary investigations, but a definite decision has not yet been made on account of pressure of other business. The Government, however, intends to give effect to certain recommendations, and the improvements to be effected will date from the 1st July, next.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether there was any Cabinet discussion of the policy of Australia in relation to ex-German colonies before the Minister for External aif airs left for !New Guinea? If so, are the pronouncements by that right honorable gentleman in New Guinea a reflection of that policy?
– There was no specific discussion of the matter prior to the departure of the Minister for External Affairs for New Guinea. Some months ago - I have forgotten the exact date - a declaration was made by the then Minister for External Affairs (Senator Pearce) on behalf of the Government. The reply given by the Government to questions asked in this House and elsewhere at that time was that it was not considering the return of any colonies.
– In view of the reflection which the Treasurer cast on the sex of the Labour candidate for Geelong, Mrs. Brownbill, *ar Geelong West last Monday night-
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).Order! In charging the Treasurer with having cast a reflection the honorable gentleman is expressing his own opinion. That is not permissible when asking a question.
– I am sorry if I have transgressed the rule which governs the asking of questions. In view of the nature of the statement which the honorable gentleman made as Commonwealth Treasurer at Geelong West last Monday night, lias he yet conveyed to Mrs. Brownbill, the endorsed Labour candidate, an apology for the reflection which he cast upon her sex?
– The honorable gentleman is entirely out of order, for two very distinct and important reasons. In the first place, the matter to which he refers is in no sense connected with the administration of the Treasurer in the discharge of public affairs, and in the second place, he inferred that the Treasurer had made certain reflections which required an apology.
Question not answered.
– Was the visit of the Treasurer to Geelong last week-end made on public business connected with the Commonwealth Government, or merely for the purpose of participating in a State by-election against the lady candidate, Mrs. Brownbill?
– The visit was made in my own time and at my own expense. I had to receive two or three deputations in Geelong, having done which I participated in the by-election campaign. That was only right and proper. During my visit, I made no reflections whatsoever on any candidate.
– Has the Minister for Defence yet received a report from defence experts as to airport investigations in Melbourne? If so, can he indicate to the House the nature of the recommendations he has received?
– I have already re-, ceived full reports in connexion with both Fishermen’s Bend and the existing airport, at Essendon. As the matter has not yet been fully considered by Cabinet, however, I cannot make the details available to the House, but I assure the honorable member that the reports indicate that Melbourne can be well served by the existing organization at Essendon if certain improvements are effected there.
– Will the Acting Minister for Commerce state whether the report is correct that the British Wool Buyers’ Federation has decided to boycott Australian wool sales because of the abolition of the draft allowance? If so, is the representative of the Commonwealth in London taking any action to .counteract this move ?
– I have no knowledge of any boycotting arrangement having been made on behalf of the British Woolbuyers’ Federation. The draft allowance on wool is a State matter, and does not in any sense come under the purview of the Commonwealth.
– In the absence of the Minister for External Affairs, will the Prime Minister state whether any official information has been received from the Government of the United Kingdom concerning the landing of Japanese forces within eight miles of Hong Kong, as is reported in this morning’s press?
– Up to this morning I had received no such information. Some information on the point may come to hand during the day.
– Will the Prime Minister state what steps the Government proposes to take in order to prevent the raising of commodity prices, which action the employers will naturally take “with a view to meeting the additional cost imposed on them by the operation of the national health and pensions insurance legislation? What protection is to be afforded to insured persons in order to prevent such a contingency as their having to pay not only their own contributions but also, by reason of the increased cost of commodity prices, the contributions of the employers?
– That question cannot be answered without anticipating debate on the bill, but if the Prime Minister wishes to answer it he may do so.
– I agree with your ruling, sir. Honorable members will be entitled to raise this matter and others during the debate on the bill.
– In view of the care exercised by the Government to ensure that no vote shall be taken on private members’ day with respect to the disallowance or otherwise of any Northern Territory ordinance, and also in view of the statement of the Minister for the Interior on the floor of this House - made in all good faith, but nevertheless misleading - that ordinances may be disallowed, will he give the assurance that the usual practice of operating on these ordinances will be discontinued until a vote has been taken on Ordinance No. 2 of 1938, which I have given notice of my intention to move to disallow?
– Will the Minister for Defence state whether the reports which have appeared in the press, alleging industrial discontent in defence factories and in the aircraft factory at Fishermen’s Bend, give a fair account of the position, or whether they are exaggerated and tend to convey the impression that certain unionists are attempting to “ bail up “ the country by preventing urgent defence works from being carried out?
– There is no foundation whatever for the rumours -or statements that have been made in connexion with works that are being carried out in the various organizations under the control of the Defence Department, or those associated with the aircraft corporation in Victoria. I assure the honorable member that the employees in all government activities arc doing their work satisfactorily, and that I have received no intimation of any industrial unrest.
– In reply to a question which I asked him some time ago about a certain report upon the Boock break-of-gauge device, the Minister for the Interior informed me that that report had been superseded by a report hy a conference of engineers of ways and works in Sydney. I wish to know how many of the members of that conference were mechanical engineers, and what was the nature of their report?
– I understand that the engineer for ways and works on every railway system is a mechanical engineer. The majority of the members of the conference referred to, agreed to a resolution definitely adverse to the adoption of this device. The minority favoured qualified opposition to it.
Formal Motion vor ‘Adjournment.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Gr. J. Bell).I have received from the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The death of Leading Seaman H. J. Storer “.
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
.- I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I greatly regret having to take this action, for it may be interpreted as an attempt to make political capital out of the unfortunate death of one of our naval ratings, but as my endeavours by correspondence .with the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby), and also by the asking of questions in the House, have failed to obtain satisfactory information for the sorrowing mother of Seaman Storer, no other course is open to me. The replies of the Minister foi- Defence to my original questions on the subject referred to inquiries from departmental officers and also from the Naval Board of Inquiry, but the mother is still not satisfied. Even as late as the 23rd May I ha’d a letter from this distressed woman, in which she pleaded with me to take the case further. She assured me that naval ratings and also an officer from Garden Island had told her that her son was not drowned, but was left to perish encased in a lifebuoy that was thrown overboard from the Sydney, which followed the Canberra, from which vessel he was washed overboard. The Minister for Defence has admitted that the man was seen after he was washed overboard. We want an open inquiry into the whole matter. The Minister has given permission to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and myself to read the confidential departmental file on this subject. I absolutely refuse to take this course, for I should not be able to impart to the sorrowing mother and wife the information obtained in that way. It is not fair to invite a member of Parliament to examine a confidential document on a subject of this description and then deny him permission to make its contents known to persons so vitally concerned as are the mother and wife in this case. Many hundreds of mothers, not only in New South Wales, but also elsewhere, in Australia, are seriously concerned about the reports that have been published on this subject. They are asking why an open inquiry cannot be held into such serious allegations. In the first letter that I received from the mother of Leading Seaman Storer it was stated that -
Seaman Storer w&3 washed overboard from the Canberra ami about two hours afterwards ha was seen to give the SOS signal. The lifelines were never taken out from where they were locked away, and one of the. destroyers almost rescued him when the Admiral on the Canberra gave orders for the vessel to proceed. I have spoken to a few’ of the men and they say that if that order -had not been given, Seaman Storer would have been alive to-day.
This is a very serious allegation, and although the Minister may be satisfied that everything was done that could have been done, the information furnished to the mother of this seaman suggests that this is not so. It is said that the visibility was very had at the time this accident happened, ‘but one of the naval ratings is alleged to possess a snapshot of Leading Seaman Storer encassed in the buoy. Yet he was left to perish.
– Can the honorable member furnish any statements of this nature?
– I cannot, unfortunately, because the naval ratings concerned would be subjected to punishment if they gave information to me. Regulation 130 dealing with this subject says -
Members of naval forces are forbidden to publish or communicate to the press any information without special authority,’ either directly or indirectly. They will bc held responsible for any statements contained in communications to their friends which may subsequently be published in the press.
The mother of Seaman Storer states that her son was seen encased in the buoy after ho had given the SOS signal, and the fact remains that this lifebuoy was not picked up. The Minister informed me that no regulation required that all buoys should be picked up, but I understand that it is the custom to pick up- all buoys thrown overboard in such circumstances and that vessels are not permitted to leave the vicinity of a happening of this kind until every buoy has been secured. The mother of Seaman Storer also said in her first letter to me : -
I saw an officer from Garden Island and he told mc that the ship must stay and pick up all lifebuoys that had been thrown over. Now why did the Canberra leave when they had not picked up all the lifebuoys that had been thrown overt One was missing, and, in my belief seaman Storer was still in it when they left him to perish.
She also said -
Seaman Storer did not drown: bts perished. Now had such a thing happened anywhere else hut in the Navy some one would have been punished. Why should the officer of the Navy go free? Why not make him answer in open court and show what a blundering idiot LanePoole (Admiral of the Royal Australian Navy) was. I cannot fight it myself, because I have been told I have not enough money. You are the only one that I know of to ask for help.
The unfortunate mother pleads with me to take the matter further. In her latest letter to me she again asks for an open inquiry. The Minister for Defence has definitely declined to grant this request, for he says it would be against all naval traditions. But surely we should break down these old traditions when they are so unsatisfactory and allow to occur such incidents as this and also the recent episode in connexion with the Dorsetshire off the Queensland coast. A certain official in Queensland wished to board that vessel to take charge of the body of a man alleged to have been murdered in Australian territorial waters, but he was told to go about his business.
– The honorable member may not discuss that subject on this motion.
– All I say is, Mr. Speaker, that such incidents should not be permitted to occur. The officers of our Navy are mainly selected from British naval officers, and unfortunately they frequently show a degree of truculence when any civil authority has need to deal with them.
Undoubtedly the mother of Seaman Storer has been informed by eye-witnesses that her son was left to perish. If this is so, the responsible person should be pun.ished. The Minister for Defence, in replying to my questions on this subject, said that no useful purpose would be served by holding an open inquiry. He added, in effect, that it was against the traditions of the* Navy to hold such inquiries. That may be so, but are we to tell this distracted mother that nothing can be done to relieve her distress? I am not making any charges in connexion with the case. I am simply requesting that an inquiry be made into the statements of persons who have alleged that they have definite information to divulge ! If such an inquiry were made, it would afford, to those who volunteered information, protection against the regulation which I have quoted. There should be no secrecy about the matter. An inquiry by the Naval Board does not meet the circumstances of this case. Seaman Storer’s mother has declared, on what seems to be reliable evidence, that her son was left to perish in a most brutal and callous manner. Surely it is -in the interests of the Navy that the facts should be made plain beyond all doubt. Otherwise serious reactions may occur. We should ascertain who is speaking the truth about this tragic occurrence. Statements have been made that men on hoard the Sydney, which was the next boat in the line after the Canberra, were able to snap a photograph of him, but as the vessel was ordered to proceed upon its way to Jervis Bay no action could be taken to rescue him. It is doubtful if everything possible was done. Why were not all the vessels allowed to continue the search. The Canberra was the largest vessel and would require more space for manoeuv- ring. The smaller vessels, particularly the Sydney, could have manoeuvred more quickly. The Sydney threw Storer a lifebuoy, which he caught, but the lifebuoy from the Canberra he missed. The alleged photograph was taken by a naval rating on the Sydney, which was not allowed to continue the search. It is admitted ‘that the sea was rough, but many of the men were prepared to go overboard with ropes. That also has been told to the unfortunate mother. They were not permitted to go overboard. Some of them were keen to launch a boat, but they were told that the sea was too rough. I am not anxious to make accusations, but I do say definitelyand clearly that when an unfortunate mother is being told such things as these an open inquiry should be held in the interests of all concerned.
Mr.THORBY (Calare- Minister for Defence) [11.3]. - I regret the way in which the honorable member forHunter (Mr. James) has approached this matter. No doubt every honorable member of this House regrets that Leading Seaman Storer was lost overboard, but 1 am quite sure that no one here will accuse any one on the ships of being callous or brutal in deserting a. fellow seaman on the high seas. That much can be granted on behalf of any seaman of whatever rank, whether serving in the navy or in the mercantile marine. Seamen are at all times willing to risk their lives to rescue fellow seamen in distress. I have gone through the departmental file very carefully, and discussed the matter with Admiral Lane-Poole in my office where we were removed from the official atmosphere associated with inquiries in other quarters.
Thehonorable member for East Sydney interjecting,
Mr.THORBY.- I object to being insulted by the dishonorable member for East Sydney.
– I did not hear the remark which the Minister says was insulting.
– I ask that the reference made to me by the Minister be withdrawn, and that an apology be made.
– The Minister must withdraw his remark.
Mr.THORBY. - At your request Mr. Speaker, I withdraw the remark, but I object to being insulted and interrupted in such a way.
Mr.Ward. - It is beyond my capacity to insult the Minister.
– It is beyond the honorable member’s capacity to be civil or decent.
As I was proceeding to explain, the squadron sailed from Hobart on the 14th March, 1938, and” all that day experienced boisterous weather. By 6 a.m. on the 15th March it was blowing a full gale, with a strong wind and the sea confused by a heavy easterly swell. Almost continuous driving rain had reduced the visibility to a maximumof one mile, while frequent blinding rainsqualls sometimes reduced it to a few cables. H.M.A.S. Canberra was light, having a draught forward of only 15 feet, and aft of 18 feet 11 inches. There was a sea on the starboard quarter, and the ship was rolling from 25 degrees to 30 degrees each way. She was not shipping any seas, only occasional spray. As the rain had made the decks very slippery, all precautions had been taken in the middle and morning watches. Lifelines had been rigged fore and aft on both sides of the upper deck, and areas considered dangerous, such as the forecastle, the 4-inch gun deck, and the quarter-deck had been roped off. At 8.24 Leading Seaman Storer, with severalother ratings, was standing amidships in the torpedo space. The torpedo space might be considered as the safest part of the upper deck, as, apart from the lifelines that had been rigged on either side, the torpedo tubes form a type of bulwark both to port and starboard. The ship gave an unusually heavy lurch to port. Leading Seaman Storer slipped on the wet deck, slid on his back rapidly right across from starboard to port, shot under the lips of the port tubes under the guard rail, and went overboard. The alarm, “ Man overboard port side,” was immediately given by the ratings who witnessed the accident, and was passed instantly to the bridge. I have discussed the incident with officers who were on the bridge, and every statement given before the inquiry has been confirmed independently by me. Orders were at once given from the bridge for the port lifebuoy to be released, and the lifeboat crew to stand by, while the Canberra was manoeuvred to turn back on her course in order to pick up Leading Seaman Storer. It was raining very heavily, and visibility was bad. The accusation made by the honorable member for Hunter is that the other ships were ordered away, and that the unfortunate seaman was left to perish. Such an accusation is unreasonable and unfair.
– The accusation is made by naval ratings and not by me.
– The honorable member has repeated it several times in this House, and has made other charges that are much worse. The Admiral explained to me, and his statement was borne out by other senior officers with whom I discussed the matter, that it was essential for the safety of the men on board the ships that only one vessel should remain in the sea in the vicinity of the man overboard. Any reasonable man must admit that it would be courting disaster to hav( even two vessels manoeuvring round one man in such a sea. It is only common sense to recognize the wisdom of the order given to the others to continue on their course so that the Canberra, which was considered the most suitable ship for the purpose, could turn round as quickly as possible on her course and endeavour to pick the man up. It is true that the man was sighted on a lifebuoy. The Canberra came within a short distance of him, but he was on the wrong side of the ship. Everything possible was done by throwing lines of different types, and every endeavour was made to manoeuvre the ship so that he could be picked up. The heavy gale caused the ship to drift at a greater speed than the man in the water. It was explained to me that a man on a lifebuoy in the water would hardly drift at all, but the Canberra drifted at a fairly fast rate. It was essential to bring the Canberra round so that the seaman in the water would be on the lee side of the ship. Otherwise he would have been battered to death against the side of the ship. All those things were taken into consideration by the officers. It was pointed out to me that a warship cannot be manoeuvred in a few yards, and that the ship has to have a fair amount of way on in order to respond to her rudder. Those were some of the difficulties. It is preposterous to say that the man was deserted when the ship remained in the vicinity and searched hour after hour. The charts have been produced to show me every inch the ship went over. She zigzagged from 20 minutes past 8 in the morning until it was pitch dark at night and there was no hope of continuing the search. Everything humanly possible was done, and it is outrageous to suggest that any one on the ship was guilty of deserting a fellow man in the water.
– Did the Minister consult any one apart from senior officers?
– Yes. Leading Seaman Storer was sighted on the lifebuoy by some of the ships of the squadron following H.M.A.S. Canberra, but weather conditions prevented him from being kept in sight, and as the Canberra was turned back on her course it was essential that the other ships should get out of the way, leaving the Canberra with room to manoeuvre without danger of collision. It was out of the question to attempt to lower a lifeboat in the heavy sea that was running .and with the violent motion of the ship. All preparations were made to rescue Leading Seaman Storer from the ship. Lookouts with binoculars were stationed at various points, and picking up parties with lifebuoys and graff lines were stationed forward and aft. At 9.10 a.m. Leading Seaman Storer was sighted, but most unfortunately the ship had wind and sea on her port beam and was swinging to starboard following the receipt of a report that an object had been sighted on another bearing. Every endeavour was made by using maximum wheel and full speed on the engines to get the ship’s head up to windward, but the response of the ship was too slow and her drift too rapid. She passed over 100 yards to leeward of Storer. A lifebuoy with a graff line attached was launched in the hope that he might swim to it. It was imperative to get the ship turned into the wind, and so she moved past and beyond him. Long before the ship could be got into the wind he had been lost sight of in the driving rain, and although by 9.27 a.m. the ship had been manoeuvred back to what waa presumed to be a similar position, he was not sighted again.
– Did they not see the buoy?
– Not the buoy he was in. .Many buoys were thrown overboard, which perhaps accounts for the report made to the bridge that an object was sighted. While manoeuvring to that object the ship came within 100 yards of Storer, but the wind and drift were too great for the ship to reach him. A systematic search was then commenced and continued right through the day of the whole area in which Storer could be. The Canberra steamed up and down and across the track on which it was most probable he was drifting. The greatest handicap was the poor visibility. Nothing was seen of him or of the lifebuoy, and at sunset the search was reluctantly abandoned.
– How many lifebuoys were abandoned?
– I cannot say exactly.
– Only one was not recovered.
– I cannot say that. The honorable member has said that there is a regulation to the effect that every lifebuoy must be picked up. That is incorrect. Lifebouys are picked up if possible, but the safety of a ship would never be risked to pick up a lifebouy in a sea of this description unless a man was on it. It was recognized that’ it would be suicidal for any man to jump overboard in such a sca, and to have had several men in the sea would only have added to the difficulties. The best advice of experienced officers was that no one should jump overboard, and that it would be futile to launch a lifeboat. The boat would have been smashed before it could leave the davits. That if they had launched a lifeboat on the lee side it would never have been able to get away from the vessel was confirmed by every one of the officers on duty on deck at the time. The fullest inquiry was made by the Naval Board, and evidence was taken from a number of men. Those who were on deck beside the unfortunate man were asked to make statements. They were not requested to make them on oath. Nothing was left undone by the board to ascertain the whole of the facts associated with the disappearance of this. seaman. On the day of the occurrence a dangerous sea was running and lifelines had already been rigged that morning on both sides of each of the vessels. The main deck3 were roped, and seamen not required on duty on those decks remained below. Naval courts of inquiry are convened^ mainly to establish the facts of occurrences, and evidence tendered is always on oath.
– Who were the members of the Court of Inquiry?
– The inquiry was conducted by the Naval Board in Melbourne, the members of which were not in any way associated with the occurrence.
– But they are associated with naval administration.
– That may bc so, but they are the most competent authorities to conduct an inquiry into an occurrence of this description.
– An inquiry into the cause of death could have been just as properly conducted by a coroner.
– Not in a case of this description, because the whole of the conditions surrounding the accident, not only the actual falling overboard of the unfortunate nian, but also the subsequent handling of the ship, and the type of sea. running, could only be appreciated and investigated by competent seafaring men. They only are capable of understanding the difficulties of manoeuvering a large vessel like the Canberra in a heavy sea. As for the need for a coronial inquiry, there has been no suggestion of foul play in connexion with this unfortunate happening.
– Quite so.
– As I have already said on several occasions, in order to satisfy myself, as a layman, that everything possible had been done to rescue the man, I made it my business to investigate the whole matter thoroughly. No evidence was given that any necessarysteps were neglected ; no information was suppressed, and no effort was made to prevent any person from giving evidence at the inquiry.
– The honorable gentleman cannot say that information has not been suppressed because he has refused to make available to honorable members generally the whole of the files dealing with the occurrence.
– I offered openly in this House to make all the papers concerning the incident available not only to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) but also to the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) in view of the fact that the mother of Leading Seaman Storer lives in the honorable member’s electorate. Neither gentleman has suggested, however, that he is prepared to take advantage of that offer.
– The honorable gentleman does not state the position properly. He offered to allow us to see the files for our confidential scrutiny.
– I did not use the word “ confidential “ ; I said that I was prepared to make the files available to the honorable gentlemen in my office.
– Without restriction?
– I made no conditions, except that I said that I would not make them available to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) for the simple reason that I could not trust him. I repeat again my offer to make the whole of the papers available to the two honorable gentlemen I have named.
– And to the honorable member for East Sydney?
– No; I adhere to my previous decision in regard to him.
– The Minister is not quite fair to me. He has apparently forgotten that I have not been here all the week.
– 1 regret that the honorable member has been absent from the House owing to sickness, and I can only repeat that my previous offer to him still holds good. If he feels that there is anything he would like to see in the files, I shall be glad to make them available to him.
– Including the whole of the depositions before the Board of Inquiry?
– Yes. After perusing all the papers, I feel sure that he will feel as satisfied as I am that everything possible was done to save the man’s life, and that the various orders given were given in the best interests of the lives of the other men.
In reply to the statement by the honorable member for Hunter that the smaller craft were more suitable for use in rescue operations, I am satisfied from the information which has been made available to me that if the smaller craft, the destroyers, had been used, serious risk would have been involved not only of losing more men but perhaps also of losing the craft, themselves. It would not have been possible to manoeuvre small craft quickly in the very heavy sea then running. In the parlance of a layman it would have been necessary for them to have turned in a very large circle. That did not apply to the Canberra, which was the largest vessel present. Furthermore, the Canberra was under the direct control of the Captain and the Admiral of the Fleet. In their judgment it was the most suitable ship to be utilized to endeavour to effect a rescue. Admiral Lane-Poole was just about to terminate his appointment to the Australian Station. ljeave to continue given.]
Captain Wilson was also about to terminate his appointment with the Australian Navy. Both were due to sail for the United Kingdom to take up other duties. That is -why I took the opportunity to discuss this matter fully with them before they left Australia, realizing how necessary it was to have all the information in regard to it -which it was possible to secure. In addition,” I have discussed this unfortunate occurrence with other officers who were able to give me all the information they possessed without any official restriction. All of them, including those who were on the bridge at the time the accident occurred, have confirmed in detail what I have already said in this House and what appears in the official file.
.- The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) is to be complimented for his persistence in attempting to force an inquiry into this very sad happening. The Minister for Defence (Mr .Thorby) has told us more about it to-day than we have been able to ascertain by repeated questions, indicating that the action taken by the honorable member for Hunter to-day was quite justified. Furthermore, this debate will give opportunities to honorable members to draw particular attention to the unsatisfactory methods adopted in _ the Australian Navy to-day, methods which are antagonistic, in many cases, to the interests of the Australian community. To-day, there are certain practices in the Navy which I am sure would not be allowed to continue if the Australian people were fully aware of them. The Minister said, in answer to an interjection, that he was prepared to make available both to the Leader of the Opposition and to the honorable member for Hunter the whole of the papers in connexion with this matter, but that he would not make them available to me, because he could not trust me. The Minister knows very well that if the papers were made available to me, in the public interest I would disclose any information contained in them which I thought fit.
– On the other hand, I gathered from the Minister’s statement that, even though there were matters that required to be publicly exposed, I would not expose them.
– That is not so.
– I think the Minister himself has made out the best case possible for the holding of an open inquiry. He advanced the very foolish argument that there was no need for a coronial inquiry into this matter, and said that, because of their special knowledge of naval matters, the members of the Naval Board were the proper persons to conduct an inquiry of this sort. I ask him, whether, in the case of a motor accident involving a loss of life, he would suggest that the only persons competent to hold an inquiry would be motor mechanics? The Australian public will never be satisfied that everything possible was done to rescue the unfortunate seaman until an open inquiry is conducted. The Minister said that he discussed the matter with Admiral LanePoole, who was on the bridge at the time. 1 contradict that, statement. When the man went overboard Admiral Lane-Poole was in his cabin.
– I said that lie was on the bridge within two minutes of the occurrence.
– The Minister said further that he had made personal in vestigations. The honorable member for Hunter asked if he had interviewed any of the naval ratings.* I now ask him to supply the names of the naval ratings whom he interviewed. Let me inform the House as to the procedure adopted in inquiries of this sort. Is it not a fact that a naval rating who desires to retain his position in the Navy would not be foolish enough to make any statements likely to reflect upon the conduct of his superior officers? Otherwise, he would find himself immediately outside the service. To-day, the brass hats of the Navy have set themselves above the civil authorities.’ In my opinion no group of officers in any service in this country should arrogate to themselves authority above that possessed by this Parliament. Evidently the Naval Board can conduct an inquiry of this description and refuse to give information to the Parliament in regard to the manner in which it was conducted or the evidence submitted to the Board. Since the present Minister has been in charge of the naval forces conditions have become even worse than they were previously. Every day we hear complaints that the rights of naval ratings are being taken away from them. The welfare committees,, from which much was expected by the naval ratings, have ceased to operate on the vessels of the Royal Australian Navy. To show how far the authorities will go to suppress any attempts by naval ratings to have their grievances brought under the notice of their elected representatives in this House, . I quote Naval Regulation 130, which reads -
Members of the naval forces are forbidden to publish or communicate 1o the press any information without special authority, either directly or indirectly. They will be held responsible for any statements contained in communications to their friends which may subsequently be published in the press.
If a naval rating wrote to me as his parliamentary representative, desiring to have some matter affecting his interests brought under the notice of the Government, and I were foolish enough to disclose his name, he would be out of his job immediately. As naval ratings are given the right to vote in Commonwealth elections, no restrictions should be placed upon them preventing them from exercising their right to bring matters under the notice of their elected representative in this Parliament. I was not aware of chis regulation until comparatively recently; now I know why, when I have brought matters affecting members of the Royal Australian Navy under the notice of the Minister, he has always been particularly anxious to know the name of the naval rating who supplied the information. I shall give him no correspondence which has been sent to me, nor shall I ever disclose any names, because those who know the reputation of the Minister cannot trust him.
– The honorable member is not discussing the subject associated with the motion.
– The Minister has said that everything possible had been done in this case. It may have been. The honorable member for Hunter has not said that it was not, but we are not prepared to accept the unsupported word of the Minister or of the Admiral. We want an open inquiry, so that the public may be satisfied that nothing was left undone to save this man. As a matter of fact, a naval rating told me that there was something more that could have been done. He said that there was on board the ships some apparatus for throwing lines from the ships to the wharf when they were berthing, and that if a message had been sent from the flagship to the destroyers they could have thrown lines out, and given Leading Seaman Storer a better chance of rescue. That was not done, however. Moreover, many of the ratings believe that at least the cruiser Sydney should have been allowed to remain behind to continue the search, that vessel being the most suitable for the purpose. These points are being discussed by the ratings themselves, and it is futile for the Minister to say that they are all satisfied that everything possible was done .to rescue the man. Therefore, we demand an open inquiry. We want these men to he given the protection of Parliament so that they may come forward and fay what they know of this occurrence. The conditions prevailing in the Australian Navy to-day were, for the most part, imported from overseas. Most of the naval “brass hats” have been imported, and they do not understand Australian conditions, or the Australian outlook. I believe that the honorable member for Hunter has at least established the need for the holding of an inquiry. Although many questions were asked previously on this subject, it was almost impossible to obtain any information from the Minister as to what had happened. We obtained a little more information to-day, and it is probable that there is still more to come, which only an inquiry could bring out. I appeal to honorable members to vote for the motion, so that an open inquiry may be held, as it is the only way in which the whole of the facts will be made available to the public.
– It is deplorable that spleen and bitterness should be imported into a discussion of this kind. Every honorable member deplores the death of Leading Seaman Storer,- but an impartial examination of the facts makes it clear that everything possible was done to save him. I do not think that the Defence Department has ever previously been administered by so devoted a Minister, or one more assiduous in the performance of his duties, and the most exhaustive inquiries have been made into this most unfortunate occurrence. I have a relative who is an engineer on board the Canberra, and witnessed the whole incident, and he, as well as some of the lower deck ratings who also witnessed it, have assured me that everything possible was done to rescue this man, having regard to the tempestuous conditions prevailing at the time. It was not a question of saving an officer or a rating, but simply of saving a fellow human being. There is no doubt that the Admiral did the right thing in sending the other ships ahead, in order that one ship might have the opportunity of doing” what it could to effect a rescue.
– The Admiral was in bed at the time.
– The Admiral does not control the ship.
– The evidence is that the Captain was on the bridge within one minute of the man going overboard, and that the Admiral was on deck in two minutes.
– Lt is not usual for the Captain of a ship to remain continuously on the bridge. As a matter of fact, the Captain usually spends very little time there. That part of the work is attended to by his navigating officers. That practice prevails in the Navy as well as in the mercantile marine. The Minister has said that every naval rating who had any evidence to offer was asked to come forward and give it at the inquiry.
– Then why not let them give it at an open inquiry?
– It would appear that what they have to say has been fairly widely broadcast, seeing that honorable members opposite know so much about the matter. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) said that photographs had been taken. I have seen a photograph showing the Canberra at the head of the line, with the torpedo boats behind. I have been told that, on this occasion, the sea was so rough that very often it was impossible, from one ship, to see the vessels ahead, and the ships were rolling to an angle of 30 degrees. I have been informed by my son-in-law on the Canberra, that Leading Seaman Storer went overboard at the only place where it could possibly happen, this being the only opening in the rails. Nobody could have done more in the circumstances than did Captain Wilson, who was in command of the Canberra. The Admiral gave certain orders to the fleet, but is was the Captain who was in charge of the rescue operations on board the Canberra. The sea was so rough that it was impossible to launch a boat, and men on tho Canberra had to be restrained from diving overboard to Storer’s rescue. because to do so would have been suicidal. It is a tradition of the service that everything possible must be done to save life in such circumstances, and I take off my hat to the impulsive men who were prepared to risk almost certain death in a futile effort to save a comrade. This feeling was not confined to the ratings only, but was shared by every one on board. Surely we can give naval officers credit for the same humane feelings that we profess to harbour .ourselves. It has been asked why an open court should not inquire into the occurrence. The answer is that, according to the law, incidents that occur at sea, even including the loss of life, shall be dealt with in the way prescribed, that is, by a special inquiry held on the vessel itself.
– Such a body of inquiry is, in the circumstances, the approved court.
– Everything that happens outside the three-mile limit belongs to the sea, and international custom prescribes the procedure that shall be followed. We all know that requests have been made that open inquiries be held into accidents attended by loss of life in the Air Force, but who is qualified to inquire into the efficiency of the force or of machines, or parts of machines, better than the experts in the force itself ? The same principle applies in the matter now under discussion.
– But would there not be a formal inquiry on shore in the case of the death of a seaman?
– Not if it occurred at sea. The captain of the ship is hound to create a court of inquiry on his ship to deal with the matter. The principle is the same as in the military forces where such inquiries are held, and the report furnished to a higher authority, which decides whether or not any further action need be taken.
– Then the matter may be regarded as entirely confidential?
– Such matters generally are. The honorable member, who has been a Minister, must realize that in matters of State, many things must be kept confidential.
-. - That does not apply to deaths.
– I do not suggest that anything should be hidden in case3 of this kind. I appreciate the motives which have actuated the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James). He may have gone a little beyond the bounds of decorum in some respects, but his object was to satisfy the widowed mother, to whom all our sympathy goes out. The unfortunate thing is that, although the man was seen floating in the water, conditions were so bad that the vessel could not be brought near enough to enable a rescue to be effected under shelter provided by the lee of the ship. Surely honorable members realize that the Captain of the Canberra would not have left if it had been possible to do any move. The fact that the ship stayed in the vicinity from 8.20 a.m. until it was too dark to see, shows that everything possible was clone. All on board were deeply moved by the occurrence, and no one more than the Captain. Never in his life, he said, had he left a man behind, or lost one at sea, and it was- a dreadful thing to him to have to go away without having picked the man up.
– Lt was not the Captain, but the Admiral, who ordered the rest of the fleet to go on to Jervis Bay.
– Yes, and in the circumstances it was undoubtedly the proper thing to do. There would have been serious danger of a collision, with the possible loss of other lives, if the whole fleet had been kept in the vicinity. If the honorable member for Hunter and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) peruse the official file on the subject, it ought not to be necessary to carry the matter any further.
.- I very much regret that there has been occasion to raise this matter at all. It is quite true that the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) undertook to allow the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) and myself to peruse the file. He accompanied the giving of that permission with a flat refusal to allow the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) to have any knowledge of the contents of the files. In the circumstances, I construed his invitation as being akin to those given on previous occasions when he has said that I might look at files in his department for my confidential information. In view of the fact that, whatever I saw, I was not to communicate it to the honorable member for East Sydney, the Minister will realize that I was justified in believing that I was not to communicate it to the rest of the House either. If he bad sought permission to make a statement on this subject a week or a fortnight ago, when it was first raised, and had told the House what he has told us to-day, the present, demand for an inquiry would never have been pressed. That is apart from the desirability, or otherwise, of an open inquiry into all accidents in the Navy or Air Force resulting in the loss of life.
– That has never been the law.
– I am aware of that, but the time has arrived when, in view of the fact that these departmental inquiries fail to save los3 of life through the recurrence of similar accidents, we ought to consider the substitution of open inquiries for special departmenal inquiries.
– How could inquiries save lives?
– I” suggest that open inquiries would enable us to take steps to provide for a greater measure of protection for the men involved than has been possible as the result of previous departmental inquiries. The point to be considered in this particular matter is that the evidence given was given by naval ratings to their superior officers and to nobody else.
– If there were the slightest suspicion of any neglect would not the board have ordered a courtmartial, which, virtually, is an open inquiry ?
– A court martial is an open inquiry by officers in which certain persons may or may not be impeached. 1 make no reflection upon the competence of the officers of the Australian Navy, but I think it is futile to expect members of the rank and file of any service to express themselves with the utmost freedom in submitting testimony before a board consisting exclusively of their officers.
– A courtmartial is the freest possible form of inquiry.
– The Acting Munster for Commerce must know that that form of inquiry is not identical with that which is constituted in respect of civil life. In this case a naval rating lost hi3 life, but the point is that this man was more than n naval rating; he was a citizen of the Commonwealth, and his case calls for more than a departmental inquiry. It calls for an ordinary civil inquiry. In respect of another matter which is relevant to this subject, I asked the Minister if he would not hold civil inquiries, whether he would attach to departmental inquiry boards a stipendiary magistrate, or a lawyer, so that we could rest assured that the personnel of such boards “would include at least one representative of the citizens generally. The Minister refuses to do that. I fully believe that everything possible was done to save the life of this unfortunate seaman. I believe that by spending ten hours in making a search in the vicinity of the accident, H.M.A.S. Canberra did everything possible to save this man. I believe that, but I want the people of Australia also to believe it. They, however, will not be satisfied merely by my reading the depositions submitted to the departmental inquiry board. They would be satisfied if an inquiry were conducted at which the civil population of Australia was represented. I see no reason why the city coroner at the first port of call at which H.M.A.S. Canberra called, after losing one of its ship’s company, should not have been added to the board. When any members of the Navy or Air Force lose their lives through accidents, a stipendiary magistrate, or a lawyer, should be appointed to the inquiry boards in order that the public of Australia might have greater confidence in the findings of such boards.
– Most honorable members will agree every opportunity should be given for the ventilation of matters of public importance in this House. They will also agree, however, that it is a pity that a privilege of this nature should be violated by the introduction of extravagant statements. It is quite easy for an honorable member to take up a matter of public importance exercising the minds of the people at a particular moment, and by weaving into it a mass of extravagant statements, create an atmosphere that is entirely foreign to such a matter. I have listened with attention to the remarks made by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), and also to the statement of .the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby). I agree. with the Leader of the Opposition when he says that he believes that every step possible was taken in an endeavour to save this seaman’s life. But matters of an ex traneous nature have been introduced into this debate, and I think such statements should be answered in order that a false impression may not be created outside. In this respect I refer to the statement made by the honorable member for Hunter that photographs are in existence showing this man clinging to a buoy. In view of the statement by the Minister that at 8.25 a.m. on this particular date such a heavy sea was running that unsafe areas had been roped ofl; on the vessels, and, in addition, that the visibility was poor because of a blinding rain-storm, it passes all comprehension that any seaman was able to take a photograph from the deck of any of the. vessels. Such statements are extravagant, and with all due respect to the honorable member for Hunter, I submit that if a photograph of that nature were available, then the seaman possessing it would surely have accepted the opportunity to place it as material evidence before the Board of Inquiry.
– Visibility could not have been so poor if other photographs, which the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) declares he has seen, were taken at the time.
– The honorable member for Parkes qualified that statement. However, I point out to the honorable member for Hunter that whilst it would be quite possible to take a photograph of vessels in a blinding rainstorm, it would hardly have been possible to take a photograph under the conditions then existing.
– At 9.27 a.m. there was a break in the weather.
– That would be after the Sydney had passed on, so it precludes the possibility of a photograph having been taken from tha-t. vessel as suggested by the honorable member for Hunter. If such a photograph were available, surely it could have been submitted as material evidence to the Board of Inquiry. As to the Board of Inquiry itself, I suggest that the men composing it are fearless men actuated by a high sense of duty; and absolutely honourable. It is on record that similar boards of inquiry have gone so far as to recommend the court-martial of persons of higher rank than those composing the board. If the photograph mentioned by the honorable member for Hunter were available, surely anyone alleged to be in possession of it -would have endeavoured to see that just punishment was meted out to those responsible for the loss of the life of one of his mates. Our naval ratings are closely bound by ties of comradeship, and the least that can be said is that the mates of this particular man were lacking in comradeship if it is true that they suppressed evidence of this nature. I submit that uo man would be so heartless as to fail to produce such evidence in these circumstances, when by doing so he might lie doing justice to an unfortunate comrade.
Examining the suggestion that a rope should have been thrown overboard, I ask honorable members to visualize conditions on the particular date. The vessel is travelling at a rate of fifteen knots in a high sea and blinding rain. A buoy is thrown to the man swept overboard and there is talk about someone going over with a rope. Why, the way the vessel would have on at the moment would have been such as to preclude anything of that kind being done. Whilst I. applaud the impulse of those men who even thought of such a course, such a suggestion surely could not be seriously considered. The Minister has said That he is prepared to allow those definitely interested in this case, namely, the honorable member for Hunter, in whose district the mother of this unfortunate man resides, and the Leader of the Opposition., to read the depositions taken at this particular inquiry. Surely those are the only persons entitled to be given an opportunity to peruse these papers, which are of a confidential nature. Any other honorable member cannot claim to be directly interested unless, of course, he had personal knowledge of the conditions under which this man lost his life. I am concerned with the attitude adopted by the Leader of the Opposition, that if he viewed the files he would be stultified in making any disclosures which he might feel bound to make respecting a matter of public importance. Surely he does not expect honorable members to believe that the Minister would try to hide any facts which, the Leader of the Opposition would be likely to feel he should disclose. If he is sincere in that view the Leader of the Opposition must, go further and admit that in that case it would not be logical for the Minister to make any of these files available. But that is not the case. The Minister is prepared to give to the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Hunter the fullest opportunity to peruse these files, and I am amazed at the construction placed by the Leader of the Opposition on the Minister’s offer. The honorable member also questioned whether naval ratings would give evidence freely before a board of inquiry consisting of their superior ‘officers. In view of his statement to-day that he was satisfied that everything possible had been done to save this seaman’s life, I am surprised to near the Leader of the Opposition cay that fresh material evidence would be forthcoming at an open inquiry because the ratings who gave evidence before the departmental board would not have spoken freely before ‘ their superior officers. I accept the assurance given by the Minister. I think, however, that his case would have been considerably strengthened, and honorable members would have felt more satisfied that the maximum effort had been made to save this man’s life, if the cruiser, after having come within 100 yards of the unfortunate man, had dropped a flag buoy to mark the particular position. When heavy 3eas are running, and there is little or no visibility, the obvious thing to do when a member of the crew falls overboard is to mark the spot with a buoy. The drift of a flagged buoy would be approximately the same as that of a man in the water, and, after reversing the course of the vessel, it could, be brought as close as possible to the scone of the accident. The Minister is satisfied on the evidence that everything possible’ was done to save the life of this seaman. The Minister is a humane man, and he would go to any length to see that justice was done.
– The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) has complained that the privileges of the House are being used in this case-
– Abused !
– That makes matters worse. He now says that honorable members’ privileges are being abused, because an attempt is being made to obtain an impartial inquiry regarding the loss of a human life.
– I was referring to the extravagant statements that have been made.
– The honorable member said that the privileges of the House have been abused, because an attempt was being made to inquire fully into the circumstances surrounding the loss of a young nian, whose mother is suffering a terrible bereavement.
– That is definitely unfair.
– I do not wish to be unfair. I am merely stating the position in accordance with my reaction to the facts. If any honorable member of this House had had in the Navy a son whose life had ‘been lost in similar circumstances, and if ho had been advised through various channels of the failure of the responsible officers to take the necessary steps to save the life of his son, what attitude would he have adopted in this Parliament? If I were in such a position, I would not rest until I had compelled the authorities to hold an open inquiry, and I should expect every father to be equally insistent. I am satisfied that a prima facie case has been established. Of course, I do not suggest that the Minister is responsible for the loss of the life of this seaman, nor can such an inference be drawn from the way in which honorable members of the Opposition have approached this matter; but the Minister happens to occupy a position in this House which enables him to prevent the holding of a thoroughly impartial inquiry.
– Am I not in a position to investigate the matter on behalf of this House ?
– Yes, but if I were Minister for Defence I should try to remove all possible doubt regarding it. It seems to me that the Minister is merely adhering to the traditional course in accidents of this kind.
– I swept tradition aside when I invited the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member particularly concerned to enter my office and peruse the evidence relating to this matter.
– The Minister has gone part of the way, but I ask him to go a step further. If he were prepared to allow the case to bo investigated by a select committee of this House, we should have an inquiry that would- be as satisfactory as possible. Whatever the capacity of honorable members may be, they represent various sections of the people in this National Parliament, and they arc at least competent to examine those concerned in this unfortunate accident. If such a committee could satisfy the Parliament, it would also satisfy the public, and, in some degree, the unfortunate mother. Even the honorable member for Wentworth is not entirely satisfied that all that could have been done was done. He still feels that certain methods that were not adopted could be employed with advantage in the event of a similar occurrence in the future. An inquiry by a select committee would show that this Parliament closely watches the actions of, and the methods adopted by, the naval authorities in such circumstances.
The necessity for confidential relations between the defence forces and the Minister does not arise in connexion with the request for an open inquiry into the circumstances in .which Seaman Storer lost his life. I admit that the movements of the Navy, and the work that it is doing in the defence of the country, cannot be disclosed in detail to the general public. I am mindful of the fact that our enemies, if we have any - I hope that we have not - are always trying to obtain information about movements of the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force, and, of course, these particulars cannot be made public property. But, by holding an open inquiry into this fatality,- there would be no danger of an enemy securing information that would be prejudicial to the safety of the nation. Honorable members of the Opposition are concerned entirely about the lives of the men employed in the Navy. In civil life, the whole of the resources of the State are made available, irrespective of the cost, in sifting to the bottom any suspicious circumstances connected with the death of even the youngest child in the community, in order that the guilty party may be discovered and dealt with according to the law. The preservation of the life of a new-born babe is regarded as of paramount importance, and t see no reason why, when the Army, the. Navy or the Air Force happens to be concerned, we should depart from the high traditions of British law and practice.
A great deal has been said about the thoroughness of the inquiry that has already been held, and we have been told that it was conducted by honorable men; but are we not all human? The man is not yet born who has not a natural tendency to protect himself against Maine. If high officials of the Navy are called upon to hold an inquiry into the cause of the death of a member of the service, they are not likely to bring in a verdict that would reflect discredit upon themselves, or condemn the methods adopted in the service which they command. Obviously, it is impossible to have a satisfactory inquiry conducted within the service itself. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), in emphasizing the tendency in human nature towards self-protection, referred to motor car accidents. I point out that if an employee were electrocuted at the White Bay power house, the members of the family of the deceased would not be satisfied with an inquiry by the engineer in charge or the superintendent of the undertaking; 1101 would the civil authorities be content with such an inquiry. Would the superintendent be likely to return a finding that would suggest negligence on his part, or that proper precautions had not been taken to prevent accidents? It is safe to say that, although the inquiry might elicit most of the facts of the case, the finding would not reflect on those in charge of the works. Therefore, although honorable members opposite may consider it, to he their duty to support the Minister in this matter, such action will not be in his interests, because he must naturally hear more about this affair in other places, where he will be called upon to justify his administration. It is not sufficient that he has had a talk with the Admiral about this case. [Lea,ve to continue given.] I thank the House for its generosity in permitting me to conclude my remarks. Naval ratings who are called upon to give evidence at a departmental inquiry necessarily feel their position. I have not been in the service, but I have worked in dockyards associated with it, and I know how difficult and dangerous it is for the employees to say certain things,” even if they are true. If they bear testimony that reflects on their superiors, they may be subject, for years afterwards, to hostile treatment.
– How do they give evidence in any inquiry?
– If a select committee were appointed, we in this Parliament would know the facts, and would be able to defend the naval ratings in the event of any attempted victimization afterwards.
– Honorable mem.bers.might be forced into the position of defending some of the naval officers.
– That may be. I do not view this matter from the point of view of the ratings alone.
– It would seem so.
– Naturally I am concerned more about the men on the bottom rungs of the ladder than with those higher up, because their difficulties of redress are greater. What is required i.? justice, without regard to the feelings of anyone. Navy Regulation No. 123 provides -
The use of outside influence to support applications for personal advantage, or to represent complaints, is contrary to discipline, and the only proper course is to apply through the recognized official channel. Any attempt to obtain favorable consideration to requests or grievances by other means will prejudge the application, and Will be severely dealt with.
That means that any member of the naval forces, whether he be a rating or an officer, who approaches a member of this Parliament in respect of any grievance will have his ca.se prejudged. He would be adjudged guilty merely by reason of the fact that he had approached others to have his complaint ventilated.
– That system obtains right through the public service.
– It does not. Officers of the public service have appeal boards, to which they may apply for redress. In addition, there are the civil courts to give them protection. Even in his own interest, the Minister would be wise to break tradition beyond the stage that he lias suggested, in order that this matter may .be cleared up and the minds of other parents with sons in the Navy set at ease.
– This debate has arisen out of an accident to a member of one of the armed forces of the Commonwealth. Honorable members opposite appear to have overlooked the fact that those armed forces - whether land, air or sea - are governed by certain laws which are approved by this Parliament. The fact that such laws and regulations ave in operation suggests that they are regarded as fairly satisfactory. It would appear that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) thinks that a man who joins the Navy as a seaman is worthy to enjoy all the rights and privileges of an Australian citizen, hut that should he gain promotion, he ceases to be cornpotent to come to a fair decision in respect, of anything affecting one of the lower ranks. In my opinion, there is no fairer court, than a military court. No person on the lower rungs of the ladder, as the honorable member for West Sydney described the naval rating, can get justice and redress more easily than in a. military court. In the civil courts of the land the Crown Prosecutor puts the worst possible case against the accused ; in a. military court the position is reversed. The instruction to persons who prosecute, as laid down in the Manual of Military Law-
– .Order ! It does not appear that such instructions are relevant.
– The Minister should cite the naval regulations.
– They are the same.
– It appears to me that instructions given to a prosecutor in a military court have nothing to do with the specific case now before the Chair, but, as the Minister for Defence states that the naval regulations are the same, the Acting Minister may proceed.
– I shall not read the instructions.
– Should the Acting Minister decline to read them, he cannot blame the Chair.
– The Chair made it evident that it did not want them read.
– Order ! It appeared to the Chair that what the Minister proposed to read was not relevant to the motion, but, as I have said, the Acting Minister may proceed, so that I shall be clear on that point.
– I was endeavouring to reply to what I understood to be the suggestion of the Opposition, namely, that a case of this description could receive fair treatment only in a civil court; that in a military court evidence would not be heard fairly or sifted impartially.
– Instructions to a Grown Prosecutor appear to be irrelevant, seeing that there can be no Crown Prosecutor in this case.
– I was endeavouring to prove that the fears of the Opposition ‘are not well founded. Under the laws in force in this country to-day, a man who is on one of the lower rungs of the ladder, whether in the Navy, the Army or the Air Force, is protected in a way in which he is not protected in a civil court. However, I shall not read from the manual, but shall pass it across the table foi’ honorable members of the Opposition to peruse. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) knows that, in respect of accidents in the mercantile marine, there is a court of marine inquiry. He knows that after a merchant ship has got beyond the 3-mile limit, it is under the jurisdiction of the captain, who has practically the powers of a court until the vessel again reaches territorial waters. It is unfair to suggest that a civil court in - this community would give a better hearing, or come to a fairer decision, than would a naval court. It may bp that, matters of a highly technical nature would arise during the hearing. The Navy is accustomed to doing certain things under certain conditions, and, with all due respect to coroners in this country, I submit that the naval authorities are better able to judge these matters than are landsmen whose only knowledge of shipping is what they can see from the shore.
– All evidence of a technical nature could be given at the coroner’s inquiry.
– The Naval Court is the proper’ place. In this instance there was a Court of Inquiry, consisting of officers of other ships who knew the conditions. All the evidence was placed before that body. The naval regulations do not prevent ratings from giving evidence. In this case, evidence was not even given on oath; statements were taken by the Court of Inquiry from men on the Canberra. Those statements should have been sufficient to enable the court to arrive at a fair decision.
– Why does the Acting Minister object to tho Naval Board of Inquiry having a civil member who has had some experience of investigations into the loss of life ?
– Evidently the Leader of the Opposition believes that no confidence can be reposed in officers of the Navy - that such men are not competent to judge conditions in their own service. The Opposition apparently would place more reliance on one civilian, who may know nothing about sea conditions, than on the officers whom the country pays to control its ships. This Parliament need have no hesitation in placing full confidence in the men in control of the Australian Navy. If every person serving in the Navy who had a grievance were entitled to approach members of Parliament, and ask them to move the adjournment of the House or for the appointment of select committees, the time of Parliament would be fully taken up with such matters.
– The action of the Government in this instance tends to make such action necessary.
Regrettable as are the circumstances surrounding the death of this man, I contend that it is most desirable that such matters should be kept within the Navy. Apparently, members of the Opposition think that the men in charge of our naval vessels are not prepared to do their duty.
– The Acting Minister apparently misunderstands the Opposition. Parliament is responsible for the existence of the Navy, and it should be satisfied that the Navy is properly managed.
– The Minister for Defence has already offered to break tradition by allowing the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) to peruse the files in connexion with this case. If, having perused those documents, they are still not satisfied that justice has been done, it will then be time enough for them to take action such as has been taken today. But until that opportunity has been availed of, the time of Parliament should not be taken up with a motion of this nature. I would be as careful as any one to see that a proper inquiry was made into unfortunate happenings such as the death of the man referred to in this motion, but I have sufficient confidence in the men in charge of the Navy to believe that they would, in every instance, carry out the instructions laid down in the naval regulations approved by this Parliament. I believe that those instructions have been carried out in this instance, and will be carried out in the future, regardless of who may be hurt in the process.
.- Every honorable member regrets the unfortunate circumstances out of which this motion has arisen. It would appear either that there has been a fatal misadventure, or that something little short of manslaughter has occurred. If proper precautions were not taken, and every effort made to save the life of this man, those responsible have much to answer for. I disagree with the Acting Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron) and other honorable members who believe that the proper authorities to inquire into these matters are the heads of tho service concerned. On numerous occasions, when fatal accidents to members of our naval or air forces have occurred, a proper investigation by a coronerhas been unsuccessfully demanded. The Minister and those honorable members who support him contend that the only persons fitted to make investigations are the heads of the departments concerned. The logical conclusion of that argument is that only expert criminals who are capable of concocting the perfect crime should be entrusted with the investigation of. a murder. The contention that only the heads of the service shall inquire into the occurrence is ridiculous ; such an inquiry is only an appeal from Caesar to Caesar.
The Minister said that the visibility when ‘Storer was washed overboard was so poor that persons on board the Canberra could see only a short distance from the vessel; yet, it has been suggested by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) that a naval rating actually took a photograph of the man in the water. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) expressed grave doubt3 as to whether the visibility would be sufficiently good to permit of such a photograph being taken. Yet we have the apologist for the Mini st 17, the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr), declaring that at about the time of the accident, photographs were taken by ratings of different ships from other ships. Without being in the Navy we all know that when ships are manoeuvring they are a considerable distance apart. If photographs were taken of ships from the decks of other ships, which would be a considerable distance from each other, the visibility could not have been so bad as the Minister alleges.
– Does the honorable member not think that the honorable member for Hunter should have produced that alleged photograph?
– That is beside the question. I am not arguing the correctness or otherwise of what the honorable member for Hunter alleges or whether it was possible to obtain the photograph. My argument is not that a photograph was taken of the man in the water. I accept the statement of the apologist for the Ministry, the honorable -member for Parkes, that there are in existence photographs of the ships taken from other ships. If the visibility was as bad as the Minister says it was, the distance between these ships would have made it impossible te take those photographs
– I said that whereas at times it was possible to see for one mile at other times the visibility was reduced to a few cables.
– I repeat that on the evidence of the honorable member for Parkes, the visibility was not so bad as the Minister alleges. One honorable member said that it was suggested by one of the ratings that a rope attached to a buoy should have been thrown out by rocket in the hope that Storer would pick up the buoy. The honorable member for Wentworth said that as the vessels would be travelling at about fifteen knots that could not have been done. - If the fleet was travelling at that rate, the condition of the sea and the visibility were not so bad as has been stated. The honorable member for Wentworth in an attempt to back up the Naval Board-
– What does the honorable member suggest is a fair speed for naval vessels?
– That is not the question. The suggestion has been made that Storer’s life might have been saved by means of a rocket-rope, and the honorable member for Wentworth suggests that the speed of the fleet would have prevented the adoption of that method. If a speed of fifteen knots was possible neither visibility nor the sea was as bad as has been alleged.
I adhere to the declaration made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) that when there is an inquiry into the loss of life in an arm of the defence force the interests of the public should not be ignored, and that, if it is not possible to grant a full public inquiry, there should be some person on the committee of inquiry to represent the public. I see no reason why there should be confidential reports. If everything is as aboveboard as the Minister has claimed and if all steps possible to sift the matter to the utmost degree have been taken, there should be nothing to prevent the Minister from making public everything contained in the files. Of what use would it be to submit the files relating to Storer’s drowning to the Leader of the Opposition and to the honorable member for Hunter in confidence if they could come into this House and make public everything that appeared in the files. If they would not be entitled to do that, the Minister would be embarrassing them by asking them to peruse the files. The Minister is trying to inveigle those two gentlemen into accepting a confidence-
– I do not bind them to secrecy. If they considered that therewas anything in these files that they should make public and that further representations should be made they would be able to use their information.
– If there is nothing in those files which would require the Minister lo bind the honorable members perusing them to secrecy, I see no reason why the files should not be made public now. Either the files contain something confidential that should not be disclosed or they do not.
.- I am of the opinion that the whole of this discussion could have been, avoided if the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) had in the first place allowed the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) access to the files without imposing upon them any conditions as to secrecy.
– .1! have never imposed any such conditions.
– The honorable gentleman will pardon mc, hut I heard him do so. The first time that this subject was broached, the Minister said that he would allow them to see only those papers that he thought fit for them to see; there were other confidential papers that he would not allow anybody to see. It is all very well to come into this House and hold a post-mortem, but in the first place honorable members were denied their rights and privileges because of certain restrictions which naval regulations impose. Not in this Parliament, but in the State Parliament, whenever I sought access to papers, I was taken to the Minister’s room and, in the presence of himself or an officer was able to examine the files. The only persons in this matter to be considered are Storer’s mother, widow and family. As a constituent of the honorable member for Hunter, the mother has said to him - “ We are not satisfied that everything has been done”. The Minister says, “I am satisfied “ ; but that is not the issue. The honorable member for Hunter is in direct contact with his constituents and he has a perfect right to peruse the documents so that, if possible, he will be able personally to satisfy Storer’s family.
– That is granted.
– It may bo granted now, but it was not granted when this matter was first raised. A Minister of the Crown should be big enough, even at the risk of his own reputation or that of the Naval Board, in such matters as this, to make information available to any honorable member. hostile though the inquirer may be; he should disclose the facts even if he should have to -fight afterwards to vindicate himself or his department. But nobody suggests that there is in the files anything injurious to the Minister for Defence or the Naval Board. I am not sure that I do not blame the honorable member for Hunter for the fact that this matter was not settled long ago. If, as he has said, two photographs are in the hands of naval ratings he should bring them hero. If I were in similar circumstances, I would say to the persons who had the photographs, “ Just give me one copy “, and I would very soon have it here as evidence to back up my case. If a man takes up a case he should not present it with loose information and say, “Someone says that a photograph has been taken “’.
– I want an inquiry in’ order to check that information.
– Tho demand for an inquiry is only a slap at the Government. It i3 a bad thing that even the affections of a bereaved mother should be dragged into this chamber, regardless of consequences, in order to make political capital. Alleged photographs are said to have been taken from the Sydney. The Sydney, according to the Minister, was ordered to resume its course. If a rating on that vessel has a .photograph of this young man in the water-
– That has not been suggested.
– The honorable member for Hunter said that a rating has a photograph of Storer in the water-
– I said that it was alleged that ratings had photographs. The honorable member s’houl’d not misrepresent me.
– I do not wish to misrepresent the honorable member. I want to do the fair thing by the mother and the widow, as well as by the Government. I do not wish to enter into a controversy as to the way in which this case has been presented, but I repeat that this debate could have been avoided if the Minister had wisely allowed the honorable member for Hunter and the Leader of the Opposition to see the documents in the first place.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 257b.
Sitting suspended from 12.47 to 2.15 p.m.
The following papers were pressented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointment of C. Belle, Department of Commerce.
CustomsAct - Regulations Amended - StatutoryRules 1938, No. 49. [Quorum formed.]
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Administrator’s message) :
Motion (by Mr.Perkins) agreed to : -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend section15 of the Raw Cotton Bounty Act 1934-1935.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Perkins and Mr. Thompson do prepare and bring in a. bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr.Perkins, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The financial emergency legislation reduced the bounty payable on raw cotton. The object of the bill is to restore the full bounty in respect of raw cotton produced after the 31st December, 1937. In other words, the full rate of bounty speci fied in the principal act of 1934 will be payable on all raw cotton produced from the1938 and 1939 crops. Section 15 of that act, which the bill proposes to amend, reads -
Any amount of bounty payable under the foregoing provisions of this act shall be subject to the reduction specified in section 52 of the Financial Emergency Act 1931.
The Raw Cotton Bounty Act 1934 provided for the payment of a bounty on a sliding scale on a. quantity of raw cotton in respect of each of the seasons from 1935 to 1939 inclusive - such quantity to be determined by the Minister before each season on the basis of Australian users’ requirements, plus 20 per cent. The rates of bounty provided in the act were: -
These rates were intended to assure growers of a minimum average net return of3¾d. per lb. of seed cotton, and it wascontemplated that the financial emergency reduction would be restored later when Commonwealth finances permitted, and if the growers’ position should warrant such action. The average net returns to growers for the first, three seasons were :
Latterly, however, cotton growers, in common with other sections of the Australian community have experienced higher costs in producing their crops, as well as increased living costs. For example, the harvesting or picking rate has advanced from l¼d. per lb. of seed cotton to l½d. per lb., and there have been other advances. On the contrary, as already indicated, the average net return to growers had. fallen by 1937 by approximately one-third of a penny per lb. Moreover, 300 farmers had ceased to grow cotton, and the total production in terms of raw cotton fell from 14,515 to 8,519 bales. However, adverse climatic conditions were substantially responsible for the low yield in 1937.
Tho prospects for the 1938 Australian crop now being harvested, and next year’s crop also, would be much worse but for the assistance proposed in the bill now before the House. Owing to record crops in America, India and Egypt last year, tremendous excess world stocks exist, and the standard price of raw cotton in the open market at Liverpool is now slightly under 5d. per lb. as against from 6d. to 7-kl. per lb. during recent years. Consequently, the average net return for the 1938 crop is likely to be as low as 3-£d. “ per lb. of seed cotton, unless the 20 per cent, by which the bounty was reduced under the financial emergency legislation be restored. Restoration will benefit growers by approximately one-third of a Id. .per lb. of seed cotton, equivalent to Id. per Jb. of raw cotton, and thus give an average price ranging between 3.Sd. and 4d. per lb. of seed cotton, or practically the same as in 1936 and 1937.
The basic principle of the present raw cotton bounty legislation is that the rate of bounty fluctuates according to the spot price of American middling raw cotton in Liverpool each week. The full rate of bounty, if this bill be passed by Parliament, will be 4;ld. per lb. of raw cotton when the Liverpool spot price is 6d. per lb. “For every point - one point equals a one-hundredth of a Id. per lb. - by which the Liverpool spot price is more or ess than Gd. per lb., the Australian bounty automatically becomes one point less or more than 4£d. per lb. Under this system, the total return to our cotton-growers, i.e., market value plus bounty, is thus stabilized at 10¼d. per lb. of raw cotton, which is equivalent, with .various adjustments, to from 3.8d. to 4d. per lb. of seed cotton. This arrangement was devised by the Tariff Board so that all raw cotton, whether Australian or foreign, required by the spinning industry, i.e., the manufacturers of cotton yarns, would always bc available to them at Australian import parity prices free of any customs duty or primage, thus necessitating smaller duties to protect all manufactured cotton goods a.nd rendering such goods cheaper to consumers. The substantial bounty on raw cotton is the means whereby the import parity price paid by local spinners is increased to an amount deemed necessary to enable local cotton-growers to earn a reasonable living.
It is important to remember that, in recent years, most other primary producers have enjoyed the benefit of prices appreciably higher than former depression values, whereas, world cotton prices have not recovered but have actually fallen ; this has resulted in a. diminution of the income of cotton-growers during a period when their costs of production have risen. As the Liverpool price falls, Australian growers lose a small amount equivalent to exchange on the reduction of sterling prices in England.
It was hoped that, under this policy, local growers would .supply all the needs of Australian spinners; but, due largely to bad seasons and partly to rising costs coupled with falling net returns, the annual production of Australian raw cotton since 1935 has fluctuated between 8,500 and 14,500 bales, whereas, the spinning mills require approximately 24,000 bales, per annum, and there are indications that their requirements will increase still further.
The Government believes that, unless the financial emergency reduction is restored, existing conditions as to higher costs and low returns will probably cause many growers to change over from cotton to other agricultural products, the marketing of some of which is already a problem of some magnitude. The effect of any trend in that direction would be still further deficiencies in the quantity of Australian raw cotton available to the spinning mills in Melbourne and Sydney, thus creating difficulties for the mills in the important matter of continuity of supplies of the types of raw cotton to which they have become accustomed.
T need scarcely mention that cotton is a very important commodity in the manufacture of high explosives, tents, clothes, motor tyres and other equipment used for military purposes. A war in the Pacific might cut off our cotton supplies, gravely handicapping military and civil activities. A healthy cottongrowing industry, up to the market created by protected cotton manufactures, is there- fore essential. In view of all existing circumstances the Government is satisfied that there is every justification for a restoration of the financial emergency reduction of 20 per cent. of the raw cotton bounty. The cost of this restoration will be about £32,000 ona 15,000 bale crop.
It is hoped that the Queensland Government, and the cotton-growing industry, will supplement this further effort by the Commonwealth to stimulate cotton production. The Commonwealth, by. its protective customs duties on various types of cotton yarn, piece goods, clothing, cordage, &c, has already provided a very large market in southern factories for Australian raw cotton; but unfortunately only from 30 per cent. to 50 per cent. of that market has been supplied by local raw cotton during recent years. In this regard, manufacturers who use Australian raw cotton are entitled to be assured of continuity of adequate supplies of this important raw material, without which they will encounter much difficulty in maintaining uniform quality in their own products.
Irrigation or the availability of underground water would give a very substantial impetus to the volume of production and also reduce costs, thus creating a two-fold benefit to growers. Further, a suitable cotton-picking machine, if available, would enable a large expansion of cotton growing to be profitably undertaken in Australia; this extension, in turn, would provide more remunerative vocations for . existing manual pickers as cotton farmers and field workers.
The Government’s announcement ofits proposal to submit to Parliament a bill providing for the restoration of the bounty has already given much satisfaction in the cotton districts. This year there are approximately 3,000 growers in the industry, some 5,000 field workers and pickers are employed, and about 60,000 acres is under crop; Production could easily be doubled and still find a remunerative market in
Australia. I therefore commend this bill to the House as a measure designed to afford well-merited relief to our cotton-growers, which I trust will result in greatly increased production and employment in this important industry.
.- The Opposition intends to support this measure, because the restoration of the reduction made by the Lyons Government in the Cotton Bounty Act 1934-35 is long overdue. That cut should never have been applied to the new act of 1934-35. There is no doubt that the cottongrowers have had a very trying experience for the past ten or twelve years, having suffered not only from low prices, but also from the ravages of drought and uncertainty as to the future. It is well to remember that the cottongrowers have settled in one of the newest and largest closer settlements in Australia - that on the Upper Burnett and Callide Valleys. Fifteen or sixteen years ago there were 20 or 30 families engaged in pastoral pursuitson land which to-day provides a living for approximately 3,000 cotton-growers and their wives and families, and supports a number of prosperous towns such as Monto, Biloela and Wowan. Unfortunately many growers have experienced difficulties. In some years they ha ve put large areas under cotton, but harvested only one-half of the crop sown.As the result their financial position has become serious. This proposal to restore the bounty will help them to some extent. They have not benefited to any appreciable extent from the payment of the bounty because of the arrangement that as world prices increased, the amount of bounty payable would decrease.
In 1927 the price received by growers forseed cotton was 4.8d. per lb.; in 1928, 4.5d.; in 1929, 4.6d.; in 1930, 4.8d.; in, 1931, 4d.;in 1932, 3.8d.; in 1933, 3.6d.; in 1934, 3.4d.;in 1935, 4.3d.; in 1936, 3.9d.; in 1937, 4d.; and this year the return willbe a little over4¼d. These figures show that during the depression years the price wasunremunerative. The restoration of the bounty will not make growers prosperous, nor will it result in an increase of the price for land, but it will bean inducement to many growers to carry on who otherwise would be inclined to abandon cotton -growing. The new areas were taken up mainly by men with practically no capital. They were obliged to live in galvanized iron “humpies” while they cleared and burnt off the scrub and planted their first Crop between the stumps. Later when they . had saved a little money, or had succeeded in obtaining credit or advances, the majority of them bought a few cows and carried on dairying and pig raising. In this diversified industry they now require all reasonable assistance from the Government in the expansion of the industry and in the eradication of pest3 which have caused damage to their’ crops. A good deal of research work is already being carried out in their interests under the supervision of the Queensland Government.
– ‘Are the growers troubled with pests every year?
– I understand that boll weevil and grubs cause more damage in some years than in others. The research station established by the Queensland Government at Biloela is doing good work, it is assisted by an advisory board appointed by the cotton-growers, but is somewhat hampered for lack of adequate funds. I hope that the Government will see its way clear to make a special grant through the Queensland Government for research work in connexion with this important industry. Action along these lines has been taken in respect of bananagrowing, the eradication of the prickly pear, foot and mouth disease, and diseases connected with the cattle industry. I understand that the Commonwealth Government pays about £3,000 a year for research work in connexion with banana growing, and gives similar assistance to the pineapple industry.
These research stations play a very important part in the development of primary industries. At Biloela, for instance, the experts are breeding cotton plants and modifying the varieties to suit varying local conditions. They also carry out soil tests for the growers. If a farmer wants to know whether his land is suitable for cotton-growing or for special varieties of cotton, he sends a sample of the soil to the experts at the research station, and they advise him what type of cotton to grow, also what kind and quantity of fertilizer he should use to improve the growing capacity of his land. Mr. “Wells, the Director of Cotton Culture in Queensland, is the chief adviser in these matters, and I feel sure that he would welcome further assistance from the Commonwelth Government in the direction I have mentioned. These experts are also developing a very wide variety of staples of cotton to suit the particular needs of Australian manufacturers, who stated that some of the finer staples grown in Queensland were too long for use in the manufacture of certain classes of materials; they preferred a shorter staple, and objected to paying the higher price for the best quality of Queensland cotton for use in the manufacture of lower grade materials which were required for the Australian market. For some time the Queensland Department of Agriculture was opposed to the introduction of these varying staples, but eventually realized that something should be done to meet the demand of Australian manufacturers for a greater variety, of types of cotton. This development of the industry has been made possible by the valuable work done by the research station at Biloela, for which I am now asking the Government to make an annual grant.
– How much?
– I am not in a position to say definitely what amount of grant should be paid. That is a matter to be determined by consultation between the Minister for Trade and Customs and the Queensland Minister for Agriculture.
– ‘How many bales of cotton are grown in Queensland yearly?
– Approximately 8,519 bales in 1937. In cotton-growing, we have developed a primary and a secondary industry. Approximately, there are 3,000 growers. They give seasonal employment to about 4,000 workers during those months when work is slack in the sugar industry.
Unfortunately, the cotton-growing industry has had a somewhat chequered career, largely due to varying government decisions in respect of the tariff protection to be afforded to it. Before the advent of the Scullin Government and since its defeat, there has been , that absence of continuity of protection which is so necessary to the sound development of any industry, but for this I do not blame the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Perkins). Cotton-growing is a. great natural industry. We produce the raw material and Australian manufacturers turn out the finished article. It is not an exotic industry or an uneconomic industry. Furthermore, it is an important factor in closer settlement.
– What acreage under cotton will provide a living?
– Owing to the uncertainty of the seasons, that is difficult to answer, but the average grower sets aside 20 acres for, the production of cotton. Some have less and some have as much as 100 acres under this crop, but experience has shown that the best and safest course is to produce cotton in conjunction with dairying and pig raising.
It was my privilege to accompany the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) when he was Minister for Trade and Customs, and also the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) on their visits to the cotton-growing districts of Queensland. When I was Minister foi- Trade and Customs I also inspected those areas accompanied by that very capable officer, Mr. Townsend, who is the adviser of the Commonwealth Government in connexion with the cotton and sugar industries, and I claim that I do know something of the hardships, trials, and tribulations experienced by those engaged, in the industry. The Labour party in both Federal and State spheres has taken a very keen interest in the development of the cotton industry. The Queensland Labour Government gave a great impetus to the industry in 1920 by guaranteeing growers 5½d. per lb. for seed cotton. As the result of that practical assistance the area under cotton increased in three years from 160 acres to 35,000 acres.. That assistance took the form of a guaranteed price, and was designed to establish on a proper basis an industry which had been struggling for years, and for which there was great scope in Australia, which was then importing, in the form of yarns, cotton to the equivalent of from 20,000 to 25,000 hales annually. The time came when the industry realized that it was national in character and that it should be treated on a national basis by both the primary and the secondary brandies of it being given tariff protection; in addition to which, instead of a guaranteed price being paid by the State, a bounty should be paid under Commonwealth legislation to enable the industry to be firmly established. Consequently, in, I think, 1925, the Commonwealth Government assumed the responsibility of providing any assistance needed by the industry. But successive federal governments, up to the. advent of the Scullin administration, in 1929, failed to alford adequate protection to both the primary and secondary branches of the industry, with the result that the growers had to export their cotton to the Liverpool market, there to be sold in competition with the product of black labour countries, whilst in the form of cotton yarns an equivalent of 20,000 bales of raw cotton was being imported into Australia from cheap labour countries. That was the problem which faced the cotton growers, and with which I, representing an area which produced 85 per cent, of the cotton grown in Australia, was confronted when I became Minister for Trade and Customs. The Scullin Government took immediate steps to place the industry on a proper foundation. It provided for a diminishing bounty up to the end of 1936, and for a stabilized price for raw cotton over a similar period. That action was taken under the Cotton Industry Bounty Bill which I, as Minister for Trade and Customs, introduced in 1930. The measure stipulated that, when the period of the bounty expired, protective duties should take their place, and that the field of protection should be widened in order to increase the demand for Australian grown cotton as production developed. The scope of the protection given was widened to cover many lines of manufactured cotton goods, such as knitted and .piece goods, blouses, coats, costumes, dresses, robes, knitted apparel, socks, stockings, and linters; also cotton seed oil. The cotton seed is saved by the Queensland Cotton Board, a body established under State legislation. That board has a mill, in which it extracts the oil from the seed, and sells it to soap manufacturers, and other people in the southern part of Australia.
– Was there any guaranteed price, to go hand in hand “with that protection ?
– An arrangement was entered into between the Cotton Board and the Australian manufacturers for the sale of the Queensland crop at the best price upon which agreement could be reached. The Department of Trade and Customs co-operated, in order that an amicable decision might be reached. Upon the inauguration of the developmental policy for which tho Scullin Government was responsible, there “were very big developments in both the primary and secondary branches of the industry. Four new cotton spinning mills were established, and an additional 2,000 persons were employed in the spinning section of the industry and an extra 1,000 persons in the knitting section. The duties imposed, and the bounty assistance given, under Labour’s sympathetic administration, had the effect of increasing considerably the acreage under cotton, as is shown by the following table -
In return for the higher Australian price paid to the growers, the Australian manufacturers asked for adequate protection “ for those products of their factories which were made from Australian-grown cotton, because they could have bought cotton at a cheaper price on the world’s markets. They said, “ If we are to sell our cotton goods on the Australian market, in competition with overseas countries, our enterprise must fail without adequate protection “. Consequently, adequate protection was given to them. But the defeat of the Scullin Government brought about a change^ of fiscal outlook, and there ensued a cutting-down of the tariff protection of this and other industries. The duties on cotton piece goods were slashed, and that brought about the cancellation of the agreement between the Australian manufacturers and the cottongrowers. The agreement had been made by the manufacturers, conditional upon the same rate of protection being continued. When it was withdrawn, they gave notice to the Queensland Cotton Board of their intention to terminate the agreement. They said that they should have the right to buy their cotton in the world’s markets .if adequate protection were taken away from their products. That caused a lack of confidence in the growing industry, and a reduction of prices. At least eight different decisions were made by the Government in -respect of its protective policy. This made the growers uncertain as to what acreage they should plant. They were so close to the bread-line that it did not pay them to run the risk of further loss, and many of them ceased the growing of cotton. The view of the manufacturers is quite understandable. They had agreed to pay a fixed price provided they were given adequate protection, but when that protection was withdrawn they terminated the agreement. Unfortunately, of the 1933-34 cotton crop, only 9,000 bales were sold on the Australian market, the balance of 4,000 bales having to be exported. Care should be taken to avoid a recurrence of this trouble. As there is room for further expansion, the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government should take every step to foster and develop this great natural industry, which is a very large employer of labour, considering that the average acreage under cotton is only 20 acres. I admit that the present Federal Government, somewhat belatedly, restored a measure of protection to the secondary branch of the industry, and that there has been an increase of the demand for Australian-grown cotton. Unfortunately, however, owing to the ravages of drought within the last few years, and low prices, the growers are not now able to meet the demand. For that reason I welcome any assistance which will stimulate the production of raw cotton and enable the industry to supply the whole of the Australian market. I hope that it will not be necessary for this industry to depend indefinitely on bounties. Assistance of this description, while desirable in the initial stages of development, should not be looked upon as permanent. Within a reasonable time industries established by the aid of bounties should develop to such an extent that protective duties may be safely substituted for bounties. Industries maintained by bounty payments are always likely to be affected in a time of depression or a financial emergency by a reduction of the bounty, or its complete withdrawal. Bounties do not give stabilized protection but induce a depressing sense of lack of continuity of policy. The cotton-grower is as much entitled to protection as is the dairy-farmer, the bananagrower, and the wheat-grower. The Labour party believes in the adequate protection of all Australian industries so that reasonable wages and conditions may be provided, and a reasonable return assured to the investors. We stand unreservedly for the payment of fair Australian prices for primary products. Cotton-growers have suffered many hardships in establishing their industry. Unfortunately, periodical droughts blight the prospects of the growers. The bright hopes of November often fade completely by March or April, and a crop which promises a good yield often only comes up to 25 per cent. of the expectations.
– Will this bounty get the cotton-growers out of their difficulties?
– Not completely, but it is a step in the right direction. The cotton-growers, as a class, are keenly desirous to pay good wages and provide better conditions for the workers in the industry. Unfortunately many of the growers are still living in galvanized iron humpies. The accommodation for seasonal workers is even worse, consisting, in many instances, of tents and bag huts. If the growers can be assured of a better return for their labour they will be able to improve the conditions of their employees. For the reasons I have given, I support the bill. .
.- I welcome the restoration of the cotton bounty to its former rate. The bounty was reduced by the Scullin Government
– It was cut down in 1935.
– It was reduced by the Scullin Government when all bounty payments were curtailed ; but this restoration is essential to the proper development of the industry. [Quorum formed.] I regret very much that only three members of the Labour party were in the House when the quorum was demanded. This is an important bill, in the passage of which all honorable members should be interested. I repeat that the purpose of the measure is to restore the rate of bounty on raw cotton produced after the 31st December, 1937, to that which obtained prior to the reduction imposed by the Scullin Government at the beginning of the depression. Cotton growing is an important factor in the closer settlement of our tropical and subtropical districts, and is a very valuable supplement to the general farming operations of Queensland.
The Raw Cotton Bounty Act 1934 provided for the payment of a bounty, on a sliding scale, on a quantity of raw cotton in respect of each of the seasons from 1935 to 1939 inclusive, to be determined by the Minister before each season on the basis of requirements of the Australian users, plus 20’ per cent. The rates of bounty provided in the act were -
These rates were intended to assure growers a minimum average net return of3¾d. per lb. of seed cotton. It was contemplated that the amount by which the bounty had been reduced under the financial emergency legislation would be restored when Commonwealth finances permitted, and the growers’ position warranted such action. The average net returns to growers for the first three seasons of the scheme were -
Latterly, cotton growers, in common with other sections of the Australian community, have experienced higher production costs as well as increased living costs. For example, the harvesting or picking rate has advanced from lid. per lb. of seed cotton to l£d. per lb. There have also been other increased costs. The average net return to growers had, however, fallen by 1937 by approximately one-third of a penny per lb. Moreover, 300 farmers had ceased, to grow cotton, and the total production, in terms of raw cotton, fell from 14,515 to 8,519 bales. Adverse climatic conditions were chiefly responsible for the low yield in 1937.
The prospects for the 1938 Australian crop now being harvested, and also next year’s crop, would bc much worse but for this bill. Owing to record crops in America, India and Egypt last year, tremendous excess world stocks exist, and the standard price of raw cotton in the open market at Liverpool is now slightly under 5d. per lb., as against from 6d. to 7$d. during recent years. Consequently, the average net return for the 1938 crop is likely to be as low as 3-tl-d. per lb. of seed cotton, unless the full rate of bounty be restored. Restoration will benefit growers by approximately one-third of a penny per lb. of seed cotton, which is equivalent to Id. per lb. of raw cotton, and thus give an average price ranging between 3.8d. and 4d. per lb. of seed cotton, or practically the same as in 1936 and 1937. The Government’s announcement of its proposal to submit to Parliament a bill providing for restoration of the bounty has already given much satisfaction in the cotton growing districts. This year there are approximately 3,000 growers and 5,000 field workers and pickers, and about 60,000 acres is under crop. If production were doubled there would still be a remunerati ve market for it in Australia. I therefore commend this bill to the House as a measure designed to afford well-merited relief to our cotton growers, and I hope that it will result in greatly increased production and employment in this important industry.
I should like to urge that the Queensland Government take a keener and more active interest in the development of the industry. Irrigation is essential to overcome the drought conditions. The areas where cotton is grown are subject to periodical droughts, which interfere with the continuity of supplies. Thus embarrassment and heavy expenditure are caused to the manufacturing side of the industry. It is more than time that facilities for irrigation were provided. Certain definite progress is made by the industry in good seasons, but it slips back during periods of drought. The cotton industry in Queensland began primarily as an export industry, and it had to enter into competition with blackgrown cotton ; it has since developed in four directions. Cotton plants are grown for the production of seed cotton ; raw cotton and various by-products, such as cotton seed oil, linters, and cattle-fodder, are produced from such cotton; cotton yarns are spun from raw cotton; and cotton yarns are used in the knitting and weaving trades, and linters and yarn byproducts for making cotton wool” and bedding materials. The industry has had a very chequered career. It first began in 1S60, when 14 acres was planted with cotton in Queensland. In ten years the area increased to 14,000 acres. That rapid advance was due to the civil war in America, which interfered greatly with cotton production in that country. America usually grows about 60 per cent, of the total world output. Upon the reappearance of American cotton on the European market, shortly after the end of the civil war, the Queensland industry suffered a rapid decline almost to extinction, because practically the whole of its product had to be exported and enter into competition with raw cotton produced by very cheap labour. The first really serious attempt to revive the industry was in 1920. It was then that a definite price was guaranteed by the Queensland Government, after representatives of the Empire Cotton Growing Corporation had visited Australia and urged the esta’blishment of the industry. For three years an average price of 5-^d. per lb. for seed cotton -was guaranteed. In 1920 world prices of raw cotton were still abnormally high owing to shortages created by the great war. The loss on realization from, the export sales then necessary cost the Queensland Government £78,928. Nevertheless, the area under cultivation rose from 166 acres to approximately 28,000 acres in those three years of the guarantee, and much new land was settled and additional employment created. In 1922 the Queensland Government asked the Commonwealth Government to assist the industry, and the Tariff Board recom mended the continuance of the system of guaranteed prices for another four years. Finally the Commonwealth Government agreed with all the States, except Tasmania, that it would share equally with the States any loss arising from guaranteed prices for seed cotton. The guaranteed prices were: In 1924, 5d. per lb. regardless of length of staple; in 1925, up to 5d. per lb. according to length of stable; and in .1926, up to 4d. per lb., according to length of staple. There being a very small local market for Australian raw cotton during these years, most of the product had to be exported, and the Commonwealth’s half share of the losses on realization amounted to £170,900. The Commonwealth Government also supplied £2,044 to assist in cotton research. During the last period many more growers entered the industry, the area cultivated increased to 50,000 acres, and the peak production of seed cotton was over 18,000,000 lb. By this time practical experience iu several States had shown that Queensland was apparently the State best suited climatically for the growing of seed cotton. In view of the increasing losses and other difficulties associated with the industry, the Queensland Government in 1925 urged the Commonwealth Government to take over the whole responsibility for assisting the industry. It was claimed that the building up of new industries was essentially a Commonwealth matter meriting tariff and/or bounty assistance. [Quorum formed.] I notice that there are still only three Labour men taking an interest in the bill. The Queeusland cotton-growers asked for a bounty of 2d. per lb. on seed cotton. Early in 1926 the Tariff Board recommended a bounty of 2d. per lb. for six years, this rate to diminish gradually each year until it reached Id. at the end of the tenth year. Concurrently the Tariff Board recommended a bounty of 6d. per lb. on cotton yarns, manufactured in Australia, provided that at least 50 per cent, of Australian raw cotton was used in their manufacture. The Bruce-Page Government decided to create, within Australia, a market for locally produced raw cotton by establishing the manufacture of cotton yarns* Small customs duties were imposed on cotton yarns n.e.i., which meant soft cotton yarns required for the knitting trade and used mainly for such articles as hosiery and underwear. At the same time a bounty of one-third of a penny per count per lb. was granted on such cotton yarns up to count No. 49. Not less than 50 per cent, of the raw cotton used in their manufacture had to be produced in Australia. Furthermore, a bounty of 1-^d. per lb. was granted for five years on all seed cotton produced in Australia. This rate of bounty, with the higher price at which the growers were able to sell their raw cotton to yarn manufacturers by virtue of the customs duties on imported, yarns, resulted in the growers receiving assistance to the extent of 2d. per lb., as recommended by the Tariff Board. The Cotton Bounty Act of 1926 appropriated £180,000 per annum, for five years, for the purpose of these bounties. In both 1926 and 1929 the Tariff Board issued extremely favorable reports concerning the value of the industry to Australia and its future prospects. The Lyons Government gave further assistance in 1932, and withdrew the extra 6d. per lb. duty on cotton yarns imposed by the Scullin Government in 1931, contrary to the recommendation of the Tariff Board. Two months later the rapidly increasing yarn production pointed to the probability of the yarn bounty placing on the budget the heavy burden of £120,000 per annum, or even more. Furthermore, it was seen that the profits of certain cotton yarn manufacturers, which had been quite moderate in the early days of the bounty, were likely to advance much beyond the limit of 10 per cent, prescribed under the Bounty Act. Accordingly, the position was fully discussed by the Minister with all the manufacturers and the general manager of the Queensland Cotton Board, and they agreed that the bounty on cotton yarn should be abolished as from the ;lst July, 1932, and that equivalent protective duties should be imposed on yarns before that date to maintain continuity of protection for the industry. At the same time the manufacturers made agreements with the Cotton Board for the purchase at satisfactory prices of all their requirements of raw cotton from that season’s crop. The gradually diminishing, bounty on seed cotton was allowed to remain. That the withdrawal of the extra 6d. per lb. duty on cotton yarn in February, 1932, did not injure the industry is abundantly proved by the statistics of yarn production. The production of cotton yarns when the Commonwealth started .to assist the industry in 1926-27, was 1,055,650 lb., and in 1933-34 it was 5,417,384 lb. Cotton yarns for cotton tweed, denims, cordage twines, blankets, &c, are now to be made in Australia. The effort to harmonize the primary and secondary sections has meant tho establishment of the industry on a sound basis. It is an industry that is essential, for the defence of the country. Cotton is required in the manufacture of explosives, and if Australia were cut off by war from the rest of the world, local supplies of cotton would be essential. The industry is thus vital to Australia, and is of great importance in the world. I congratulate the Government on introducing the bill, which will restore to the industry the measure of prosperity it formerly enjoyed, and will, I hope, ensure its continued success.
– I desire to add my quota of appreciation of the action of the Government in bringing down this bill, which effects a restoration of practically the last of the emergency cuts. It will give assistance to an industry which, I submit, will play a very important part among the land and secondary industries of the Commonwealth. The cotton industry should have prospects of developing in this country as it has in other parts of the world. With its various secondary ramifications the cotton industry is among the biggest in the world. If it can be properly, economically and soundly developed in Australia to enable it to take advantage of the local market for cotton goods which could, and should, be made within our own shores, approximately an additional 500,000 acres of land will be placed under cotton. Due to the sympathetic and practical support lent to it, not only by the Commonwealth Government, but also by the Queensland Government in the early stages of its development in that State, the cotton industry has shown wonderful progress. In 1920 only 166 acres of land were planted in cotton; at the present time approximately 60,000 acres are under cotton. That shows in no uncertain way the developments that have taken place during the intervening years, demonstrates the wisdom of the action of the respective governments in assisting to establish this industry in Australia, and amply justifies the introduction of the bill now before the House. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has stressed what the Queensland Labour Government has done for the development of the industry. For the four years ended 1923 the Queensland Government guaranteed a price of 5½d per lb. for cotton to assist in the proper establishment and development of the industry, but as the result of adverse world prices and other circumstances it was called upon under the guarantee to pay to the ‘cotton-growers approximately £20,000 per annum. Since then the Commonwealth Government has assisted the industry and, for the three years ended 1926, it was called upon to contribute, for the assistance of the industry, an average annual amount of £56,000. In quoting these figures I have no desire to discredit what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said in regard to the Queensland Labour Government ; I quote these figures merely to show that whilst that government showed its sympathy for the industry by standing up to a loss of £20,000 a year, the Commonwealth Go- vernment has rendered a greater assistance by contributing £56,000 towards its maintenance.
– What wages are paid in the industry?
– The wages are fixed by the Queensland Arbitration Court. Award rates and conditions are observed. L trust that the cotton industry and, for that matter, all Australian industries, will be placed in a position which will enable them to continue to pay decent wages so that the standard of living of the workers of this country will be maintained in conformity with the White Australia ideal. Only by the introduction of measures such as that now before the House can the cotton industry be assisted towards that very desirable end. The cotton industry, with its collateral activities in secondary industries can, and should, be developed, I repeat, into a very important industry in this country. Its development would provide an extra protection for defence purposes in case of emergency, and would provide the means of peopling our vacant lands in the sparsely developed portions of Queensland.
– And the Northern Territory.
– The expansion of the cotton industry will help very materially towards the solution of our vexed unemployment problem. The Queensland Government took advantage of the possibilities of the cotton industry as a means of relieving the unemployment position in that State within the last few years by granting out of its unemployment relief fund3 approximately £80,000 by way of loans in order to enable cotton-growers to carry out developmental work, scrub felling, clearing and cotton cultivation. That was made possible only as the result of the basic .assistance provided in a measure similar to that now before the House. It is to the credit of those engaged in the industry that bad debts in respect of those loans amounted to less than £700. No less than 85 per cent, of ‘the money loaned has been repaid. That is a very important aspect- of assistance granted for the economic, sensible and proper development of an industry which opens up a desirable means of solving the unemployment problem. I would not associate myself with any scheme of senseless, uneconomic bounty assistance of industry. In my opinion there are very important fundamental principles to be observed before governmental assistance should be granted to any industry. First and foremost an industry should be possible of economic existence under Australian conditions; it should also be conducted by white Australians, and provide employment at rates of pay which will ensure to workers and those engaged in such industry a desirable standard of living; and, lastly, industries should be assisted only towards sound development and establishment. If an industry complies with those requirements after having been helped over its infantile, or initial, stage, it should be possible for it to stand on its own feet. The cotton industry will eventually be able to stand on its own feet if, in the meantime, it continues to receive the advantages conferred upon it by the bill now before the House.- I repeat that I am pleased that the Government has seen fit to make this contribution towards the successful development of an industry, important not only to Australia, but also more particularly to Queensland, in view of its value _ for defence purposes and because it provides a raw material for secondary industries.
.- As a representative of a primary producing district, I do not raise any objection to a fair bounty being paid to the cotton-growing industry to tide it over a difficult time. It is important, however, that ample safeguards be provided in order to ensure that the product shall be of good quality, that the bounty is not excessive, and that there shall not be a spasmodic boom, leading to the undue expansion of the industry, such as has occurred in the sugar industry, as the result of which the production is so far in excess of the local demand, that the surplus has to be disposed of outside Australia at an enormous loss to the Australian consuming public. All those safeguards are, to some extent, provided for in the legislation under review, but another safeguard is necessary, particularly in respect of Queensland industries. There is need to ensure that products which can be grown profitably only in Queensland shall he made available to industries elsewhere in Australia. In this connexion I contend that the Queensland Government has not treated the rest of Australia fairly. The establishment of the cotton industry in Queensland has been due, to a great extent, to the financial assistance provided by this Parliament, particularly during the regime of the Bruce-Page Government. I have in my hand a copy of the QueenslandYear-Book which records the development of this industry. It contains a reference to the guarantee by the Queensland Government of a certain price for cotton for the years subsequent to 1924. The book would make it appear that the Queensland Government found all the money, whereas the truth is that half of it was provided by the taxpayers of Australia generally, through this Parliament. Again Queensland has not acted fairly to the manufacturers of ply wood in the other States. It is almost impossible for industries outside Queensland to obtain timber from the Queensland forests for the purpose of manufacturing it into ply wood. Those forests are able to collect a royalty which is made possible by a high protective tariff, but makers of ply wood in Queensland are given preference over manufacturers in the other States. Clearly, that is an abuse of the protection afforded to the industry at the expense of the people of the whole Commonwealth.
– What has that to do with this bill?
– I am sounding . a warning, and showing the need for providing safeguards in respect of industries which, for one reason and another, are concentrated in one State. What has been done in connexion with Queenslandtimber is an example of the way in which the government of one State can receive a double benefit. In the first place, it receives a benefit by reason of the protection given to a primary industry, and secondly, a benefit is given to the secondary industries of that State over similar industries in other States. I mention this matter now because this is the time to issue a warning. I do not propose to offer any opposition to the bill, and I do not intend to move an amendment to it. I am glad to know that, until the recent collapse of prices, this industry was ex panding, and, generally, was in a satisfactory position, apart from setbacks due to seasonal conditions. The protection that has been afforded to it has not led to excessive increases of the cost of the raw materials used in other industries. This bill, which will restore to the industry something taken from it during the depression, is justified, particularly when it is remembered that world conditions make assistance necessary.
– I congratulate the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Perkins) on having introduced . a proposal to restore the cotton bounty. Evidently, the Government realizes that the cotton industry is of great value to the whole of Australia, not only in providing employment, but also in developing areas which previously were merely cattle stations. This industry supplies an article used largely by secondary industries throughout the Commonwealth. Probably no other Australian industry has had to overcome so many difficulties ; disease had to be combated, varieties of cotton tested, and droughts faced. The cotton industry has done much to lead to the development of an important part of the Commonwealth by the provision of railways, schools and roads where none existed previously. The producers of cotton have met with many disappointments and there is therefore an obligation on the Government to assist them. Happily, that obligation has been recognized, and the Government has assisted the industry by way of a bounty. We must remember that cotton, like sugar, is another product in respect of which our white labour must compete with black labour in other countries. Allowing for the various costs involved in production, Australian lint sells at a price which compares most favorably with that of the imported article. It is pleasing to note the expansion of our spinning industry, which last year used approximately 13,000 bales of Australian lint. That represents a drop of 1,000 bales on the figure for 1935, and 4,000 bales less than the figure for 1934, but I point out that last year was a bad year for the industry. Thus the production of 20,000 bales was very satisfactory, indeed.
Thanks to the development made possible by governmental assistance to this industry, the Cotton Board in Queensland estimates that production will reach its peak next year. The care and diligence exercised by the board in the interests of the industry is apparent from its very excellent annual reports, and the board is to be congratulated on having produced such interesting documents in order to enable the people generally, and members of Parliament in particular, to see just what is being done by the industry. The board is now endeavouring to improve the class of cotton produced. - The varieties are gradually being standardized, and it is the object of the board eventually to concentrate on those classes which experiments prove to be most suitable to manufacturers. Last year the lint percentage of seed cotton produced in Queensland was 34.658 compared with 32.76 per cent., which was the first figure recorded. This fact reveals that scientific efforts are being made to eliminate the worst of the sixteen varieties being grown at present. I congratulate the Government on having increased this bounty, which is equivalent to an additional benefit of 1.05d. per lb. to the grower. As the rate of wages bas been increased from lid. to lid. per lb., honorable members will readily realize that on. the basis of an annual production of 20,000 bales, the industry is a big payer of wages. The greatest problem confronting it is the occurrence of dry spells at unfavorable periods in the planting season, and I suggest that this is one industry in respect of which irrigation schemes could be most profitably undertaken. If proper irrigation were provided in the Callide and Upper Burnett districts of Queensland, and other cotton belts, growers would be enabled to obtain greater returns, and the resulting development of the industry would enable them to compete with their surplus production on overseas markets. I again express my pleasure at the action of the Government in having restored this emergency cut to the cotton-growers.
– In supporting this measure, I congratulate the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) for the excellent case he made out for the development of the northern districts of Queensland. So far as the bounty itself is concerned, I nin not satisfied that under present conditions equity is achieved as between the prices enjoyed by the manufacturers of cotton piece-goods and those received by the growers. There is a lag in that respect. I am not unmindful of the fact that in recent, years the manufacturers have not been making big profits, but I point out that they are able to drive a hard bargain with the growers, because the latter are forced to sell at the manufacturers’ price. Unless we can arrive at a more equitable adjustment in this direction, not only in respect of this industry but also in respect of other industries, our endeavours to develop the north must fail. It would appear that Australians as a whole are sorry that they have been endowed with that portion of the Commonwealth north of latitude 28, although it is undeniable that it is immensely rich in natural resources. Indeed, one country has just waged a war in order to occupy land many times inferior to this portion of Australia. If we do not make more serious efforts to develop the north, I cannot see how we can establish any industry there apart from the sugar industry. When I recall the attitude adopted by some honorable members towards the cotton piece-goods industry, I wonder whether, when they ask for a bounty for the growers, they are not speaking with their tongues in their cheeks. My interest in this subject is dictated solely by the reason that assistance to this industry will enable areas abutting on the Northern Territory to be rapidly developed. Cotton can be grown on second-class land. One of the main reasons why the primary section of the industry has not yet proved successful is that, the manufacturers demand that the northerners shall grow cotton, and practically give it away to the southerners who convert it into the finished product.
The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) has pointed out that, owing to the wide range of climates experienced in Australia, the growing conditions vary so much that Australia might well be 30 different countries situated in varying latitudes. Unless this
Parliament will face the facts, and assist in the production of cotton crops in the portions of Australia where they can be economically grown, the inevitable result “will be a pauper population in
Borne parts of Australia and over-wealthy sections in others. If we are not prepared to give this primary industry the support it deserves, we may as well declare that we are sorry Providence has endowed us with any regions north of the 2Sth parallel of latitude. It is gratifying to know that we have one very valuable activity in our tropical regions in which capital has gone back to the primary industry. I refer, of course, to the sugar industry, on which the economic structure of Queensland, and, in fact, our export policy, depends. The primary producers have every right to look to this Parliament for a lead.
I shall briefly indicate to honorable members why the cotton-growers in Queensland are in a bad way. They were previously downhearted because they were not in a position to drive a hard bargain with the southern buyers of their crop. Now the bounty is required to give them fresh heart. If we make it all embracing, they can still put 500,000 acres under cotton, and supply the whole of the cotton requirements of the Com.monwealth. We have men in Queensland who can do this work, and, if necessary, cotton can also be grown in the Northern Territory. We must admire the pioneers of the industry for their efforts in fighting pests, and proving that cotton can be successfully grown without black labour. Seasonal variations are such that in some years it is necessary to plant the seed three or four feet apart in the rows, and at other times, when the seasons are more propitious, the space can be reduced to 2 feet 6 inches. A man who starts out with 400 acres under cotton may experience an unfavorable season and fail badly; but, if our yeomanry, whose lands lie in suitable areas, planted from 15 to 20 acres of cotton as a sideline, they could afford to take the risk of seasonal conditions, because they could count on a living from their dairying and other activities. The further one goes north into the tropics, tho le3s the variety of crops that can he grown economically. The result is single ifr. Blain. cropping activity in most instances. Sir Henry Parkes thought that Australia would be able to develop its tropical regions, and cotton is one of the crops which should be encouraged.
– in reply - The Government is in agreement with most of what has been said by honorable members regarding the cotton industry. We all desire to promote its welfare. Admittedly, the progress up to the present time has not been rapid. No doubt, the reduction of the bounty gave the industry a considerable check, but the main drawback has been drought, and, probably, one or two other difficulties experienced in Queensland. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) asked that, in addition to the bounty, an annual grant should be made for cotton reserves. The Commonwealth is now bearing practically the whole of the cost of assisting the industry, and the expense to the Government this year in that regard will be £120,000. Neither the Cotton Board nor the Queensland Government has asked for the additional assistance suggested. Indeed, it is contended that the research station at Biloela is quite capable of meeting the further requirements of the industry.
The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) urged that care should be taken to see that Queensland does not abuse the bounty by giving preferential treatment to Queensland users of raw cotton. I assure the honorable member that there is no danger of the bounty being abused in this way. Raw cotton must be supplied to all users at the import parity price of foreign cotton, free of customs duty and primage. While that safeguard exists, there is no danger of exploitation.
The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) said that the growers were not protected against the manufacturers. I remind the honorable member that selling prices have been based upon the import parity price as it may vary from time to time. The fluctuating bounty increases this value always to 10id. per lb. for raw cotton, which returns the growers an average price of 4d. per lb. for seed cot- ton. This price is a halfpenny more than the Tariff Board recommended as a sufficient price, and was fixed by the Lyons Government three years ago. I assure the honorable member for the Northern Territory that the Government desires to foster this industry, because it realizes that it is destined to be of considerable importance in the tropical parts of Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Claus© 2 (Bounty subject to Financial -Emergency Act 1931).
.- Clause 2 is as follows -
Section fifteen of the Raw Cotton Bounty Act 1034-35 is amended by adding at the end thereof the following proviso: - “ Provided that the foregoing provisions of this section should not apply in respect of bounty payable upon raw cotton produced after the thirty-first day of December, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-seven “.
The clause amends section 15 of the Raw Cotton Bounty Act 1934-35, which section reads as follows -
Any amount of bounty payable under the foregoing provisions of this Act shall be subjected to the reduction specified in section fifty-two of the Financial Emergency Act 1031.
– What Government was in power when that act was passed?
– It was passed while the Lyons Government was in power, and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) was at that time a Minister, and voted for it.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).Order! Neither the interjection nor the reply to it was in order.
– It was not the Scullin Government which was responsible for the reduction of the rate of bounty, but tho Lyons Government which introduced, the legislation in 1934.
– Order !
.- The marginal note to clause 2 is - “ Bounty subject to Financial Emergency Act 1 931 “. I asked tho Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) what government was responsible for the passage of the Financial Emergency Act of 1931? It was the Scullin Government, and the Raw Cotton Bounty Act of 1934-3’5 was merely a continuation of the Financial Emergency Act of 1931.
– The .honorable member is not in order in discussing such matters.
.- It wa3 the act of 1934-35 which reduced the rate of bounty on raw cotton. The Financial Emergency Act of 1931 had nothing to do with it. The reduction was made by the Lyons Government, of which the honorable member for Moreton was a member.
– Order ! This discussion must cease.
Clause agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Forestry Operations at Mr Burr - Members’ Postage , Allowance - Overseas Air Mails - Pearl Shell Industry : Japanese Competition - Canberra : City Plan : Residence fob Mr. Casey : Community Hospital - Australian Broadcasting Commission : Engagement op Count Von Luckner : Hobart Stud.to - Broadcasting Legislation : Need for Review - Northern Territory Ordinances.
Motion (by Mr. Perkins), proposed: -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- During the depression, the Commonwealth made available a sum of money which was devoted to provide employment for a number of youths at Mr Burr Forestry Camp in South Australia. This has served a useful purpose, and the youths are much better off at the camp than they would be walking the streets in idleness, and drawing ration relief. Unfortunately, the money is nearly exhausted, and only a fortnight ago twelve youths were sent away. There are still 28 there, but if the Government does not make some further financial provision for them, they, too, will be compelled to go.
– That is one of the few places in Australia where forestry is being carried out on correct lines.
– I am glad to hear the honorable member say that good work is being done there. The Government should make a further grant to enable this work to be continued during the winter months. Winter is not the time when men should be forced on to the streets.
– Is the honorable member seeking a grant by the Commonwealth to the Government of South Australia for forestry operations ‘?
– I have not the full details, but I imagine that what is wanted is a renewal of the grant for forestry work that was made three years ago by the Commonwealth to the States. At the end of this month no more money will be available, and 28 young men, at the worst season of the year, will have to leave the camp, and, possibly, walk the streets. of _ Adelaide without means of sustenance.
I should be glad if the Treasurer would take into consideration the need to make available to honorable members for this month a larger stamp allowance than is the custom, for the reason that the introduction of the national insurance legislation has caused them to use the mails to a greater extent than normally. They have been called upon to post copies of the National Health Insurance Bill and speeches delivered thereon, particularly those of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), and further calls upon their stamp allowance have been made by the great flood of correspondence on the subject.
.- It is reported in to-day’s press that there will be a delay of twelve months in arranging for overseas air mails to Australia to be distributed from Darwin, and that in the meantime the distribution will be made from Sydney. When the air-mail scheme was introduced, the idea was that the mails should be carried to Sydney, and, after sorting, be distributed from there to the other States. That met with opposition, particularly from the outlying States, and, after consideration, the Government, about six week ago, came to the conclusion that the distribution should be made from Darwin and not from Sydney. That decision was highly acceptable to the people in the outlying States. It is now reported that twelve months will elapse before this can be done. The first seaplanes are expected to be in operation a month hence, but it will be twelve months before Darwin will become the centre of distribution of the mails. In the meantime they will be sent to Sydney, sorted, and then sent by train to their destinations. As the result, mails destined for Perth will not arrive there until four days after their arrival in Sydney. 1 appreciate the fact that some little time must be spent on the organization of Darwin as the distributing centre, but I cannot see that there need be a delay of twelve months. I regret that the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby), who administers the Civil Aviation Department, is not in the chamber; he was here a few minutes ago. Some statement on the position by either the PostmasterGeneral or the Minister for Defence would, I hope, be more reassuring than the reports which appeared in the press this morning.
– I direct the notice of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen), under whose department the Australian pearl shell industry comes, to the following telegram which I received to-day: -
Primarily owing Japanese shell fished Darwin waters being dumped American market no shell sold here this year. Position pearlers and town critical. Some help must be forthcoming otherwise collapse by end August. Position so serious we have asked State Government make urgent .appeal Prime Minister that Mr. McEwen visit Broome and see position first hand. Wyndham to Broome only four hours’ flying. Posting precis- next mail. (Signed) Broome Pearlers’ Committee.
Four years ago I predicted _the state of affairs that this telegram discloses. I do not place the blame immediately at the door of the Government, but I recall to the minds of Ministers the frequency of my representations for the establishment of a coastal patrol in the northern waters. A long time elapsed before a patrol boat was provided in the waters of the Northern Territory. The indiscriminate and wholesale pearl shell fishing in the Northern Territory waters by cheap coolie labour is responsible for the fact that the market in the United States of America has been glutted, depriving the Western Australian pearl shell industry of a purchaser. The slump is not due to the fact that there are foreign competi- tors in other parts of the world, but to the fact that foreign competitors are fishing, i;i 30-ton boats, waters which are morally Australian, and depleting pearl shell beds which were discovered by Australians, who were compelled to use boats that were not able to fish more than eight tons of shell. The foreign competitors will finally destroy the beds, but that is not their worry.
In matters of this kind it is well to talk frankly. Japan is responsible for 45 per cent, of the fish production of the world, but that is due, not to the quantity obtained from the waters around the islands of Japan, but to the fact that they have fished indiscriminately all over the world, without regard to the rights of other countries. That is characteristic of the race. It must be apparent to all that the Japanese race has no respect for the moral rights of other peoples. By duress the Japanese forced the Russian Government to permit them to have a free lease to fish off the eastern coast of Siberia. They have now, as may be seen from the press, extended their activities to Alaska. They tried for some time without success to cultivate salmon spawn in their own waters, and last year they went to Alaska and started to fish off Bristol Bay in that country. The Japanese, who were operating outside the 3-mile limit with high-powered vessels, equipped with steel nets 3 miles long - the Americans were restricted to nets 900 feet long - secured the salmon as they returned to home waters. The habits of the salmon are most peculiar. After spawning in fresh water rivers, they spend a year or two in local waters before proceeding to sea. Two years later they return to their home waters to spawn and die. When returning across Bristol Bay, they am caught and sent to Japan. Coastal fishing groups provide the nucleus of an industry that employs 30,000 persons, and its product is valued at £12,000,000 per annum. When the raids were first observed, more than a. year ago, an appeal was made to the United States Government on the ground that the Japanese were engaged in theft and that the entire fishing ground would be ruined within a few years if the activities of foreigners were not restricted. Representations were made to Japan in November last, but no reply was made for four months. A bill was introduced into Congress providing that salmon spawned and hatched in the United States of America was the property of that country. The Government’s jurisdiction was extended over the waters concerned. The Alaskan fishermen have since declared that salmon poaching by the Japanese continues, and that they will, if necessary, take the matter into their own hands and drive out the intruders by force of arms. I have been asked by a former Broome pearler now in Melbourne if our men would be justified in equipping a boat with a machine gun and securing by force the shell which foreigners are taking from Australian beds. Will the Treasurer ask the Acting Attorney-General to make some inquiries concerning the action taken in America so that we may know what can be done to protect our fisherman on the northern coast of Australia? It is suggested that if foreigners were kept beyond a distance of, say, 13 miles, from the coast, a procedure which was adopted years ago during a seal fisheries dispute, it would be impossible for them to fish, because they must have access to the coast between certain tides. I trust that the Minister will study all phases of this important problem which I have presented somewhat sketchily, to see if those on whose behalf I speak cannot be protected.
.- I support the complaint of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) concerning the distribution of overseas air mails. I understand that within a month the seaplane air-mail service between England and Australia will be inaugurated, and that for at least twelve months the air mails to all parts of Australia will be sorted in Sydney, instead of at Darwin as was promised. It is very disconcerting, particularly to people in South Australia and Western Australia, to learn that for so long a time the air mails to those States will be unnecessarily delayed. I trust that the Treasurer will confer with the Postmaster-General, and that an assurance will be given that all air mails will be sorted at Darwin so that residents in the States I have mentioned will not be at a disadvantage.
.- The honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) referred recently to the alterations being made in the plan on which Canberra is supposed to be developed. The accepted design of the late Mr. Burley Griffin has been varied somewhat, but for some time the amended plan has been observed fairly closely. There now appears to be some foundation for the fears expressed that Canberra is not being developed in conformity with the Seat of Government (Administration) Act, section 12 of which reads - (1)The Governor-General may make ordinances having the force of law in the territory.
Every such ordinance shall -
The act further provides -
The Minister may at any time by writing under his hand, modify or vary the plan of layout of the city of Canberra and its environs, published in the Gazette on the 19th day of November, 1925 . . . but no such modification or variation shall be made until after the expiration of 30 days after notice of intention, published in the Gazette eo to modify or vary the plan has been given.
A copy of the instrument by which any modification or variation of the plan has been made shall be laid before both Housea of the Parliament within fifteen days of the making thereof if the Parliament is then sitting, or, if not, within fifteen days of the next meeting of Parliament.
It is admitted that the plan for the development of Canberra has not been strictly observed. The latest instance of departure from the plan is the erection of the high school building in the area reserved for the university. I cite this to show that things are not altogether right, and I know that other members are not satisfied with all that is being done. Canberra will be a beautiful city if the plan is adhered to. It is useless for the Government to say that the development of the city cannot proceed more rapidly because money is not available. I have no doubt that if it wished, the Government could find all the money necessary for the development of this city in conformity with the accepted plan. The latest venture of the Government is to build an expensive house for the Treasurer. It is common knowledge that the Treasurer was, for some years, occupying a house at Duntroon, and was obliged to vacate it following the decision of the Government to re-establish the Royal Military College at Duntroon.
Acting within the powers which it possesses, and without consulting Parliament, the Government has decided to build a house for the Treasurer in a new area. I have had a look at the site. The estimated cost of the house is £6,332, but this does not include drains and paths, estimated to cost another £175. The house is to contain fourteen rooms, excluding lavatories, bathroom, laundry and garage. As it is to be erected in an entirely new suburb expenditure will be necessary on other works such as street forming, sewerage and plantations to conform with the general plan of the city, so the whole expenditure will probably be £10,000. I admit that building operations will provide employment and that after the house is built some additional labour will be required for the maintenance of the area. I have no objection to the proposal to provide a house for the Treasurer, but when I remember that there is a long list of people who wish to settle here with their wives and families, and cannot get houses, I think the Government might have spent the money more wisely. On Tuesday, in answer to a question which I put to the Minister for the Interior, I was informed that there are 310 people on the waiting list for houses in Canberra. Of this number 24 need four-roomed cottages, 45 require houses of five rooms, and 41 need houses of six rooms. The Minister added that the Government has been giving this problem special attention with the object of increasing the housing programme as much as possible. My contention is that instead of deciding to build an expensive house for the Treasurer, without consulting Parliament and obtaining money in the orthodox way, thus apprising members of what was proposed, the Government should have utilized this money in the erection of houses for some of the people on. the long waiting list. I am informed that there are, or were in December last a number of houses available, one of which could have been occupied by the Treasurer temporarily until housing was provided for at least some of those public servants who wish to bring their wives and families to Canberra. Now there is a “ nigger in the woodpile “. This thing has been going on for a long time. The Government has definitely withheld information from Parliament with regard to what is being done, not only in connexion with its building programme in Canberra, but also in respect to other matters. Members of this House have a perfect right to expect that the statute relating to the development of Canberra shall be observed in every particular by the Government.
– Does the honorable member know how many of these Ministerial houses are to be built, or on what principle they are ‘being constructed?
– Under the present policy of this Government, anything is likely to happen behind the backs of members of Parliament. If a house is being built for the Treasurer to-day without the authority of Parliament, tomorrow one may be built for another member of the Cabinet. I take the most forceful exception to that. The effect is to break down the democratic form of government under which we are supposed to be living, and I resent that very strongly. The act of 1925 was definitely intended to insure not only the development of Canberra along certain lines, but also that this Parliament would control that development. To-day the press of Australia is criticizing this Government because of its “hushhush “ policy. We were told recently that we had to vote money for defence purposes, without having placed before us any particulars of what was proposed. Whether we accepted that decision or not, docs not matter; it was another instance of the Government’s failure to give to members of Parliament an opportunity to examine the details of its proposals. The same practice is adopted in connexion with many items of the budget, and it is being followed also in the development of Canberra. Whatever argument there may be in favour of a “ hush-hush “ policy in regard to defence matters, surely there is no excuse for it in relation to the development of the national capital! Speaking broadly, it may be argued that it does not matter one iota whether or not the people of Australia know how Canberra is being developed. But members of Parliament who are their elected representatives, should be kept informed. The act to which I have referred, was supposed to protect them against a government which attempted to adopt “ hush-hush “ tactics. The residence being built for the Treasurer will cost approximately £10,000, a sum sufficient to build ten or more fourroomed cottages for those unfortunate people who now have to live under very distressing conditions. The Government has made no effort to. improve the shocking accommodation at Molonglo, while year after year the number of persons on the waiting list for houses is growing larger without any attempt being made by the Government to reduce it. I do not blame the present Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen), because he has not been in charge of the department long enough to effect an improvement of the position.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
– I wish to make a few observations, following upon those of the honorable members for Perth (Mr. Nairn) and Boothby (Mr. Price), in connexion with press references to the proposed inland air-mail service. If those press references are correct, inevitably great dissatisfaction will be caused in every capital city west of Sydney. Only a few weeks ago, business people in Melbourne were very much perturbed at the news that they would probably receive their air mail via Sydney, instead of Adelaide. Representations were then made, and although the Government intimated that at that stage its plans were not definite, I was under the impression that if it were found necessary to send mails to Melbourne via Sydney, they would be sent by air mail at no extra charge. It would now appear that, for some months at all events, mails for Melbourne will be sent from Sydney, but not by air unless the normal surcharge of 3d. is paid. That is thoroughly inequitable. .Even if the air mail be used, Melbourne business men not only will receive their mail a day later than Sydney business men, but they will also be compelled to pay a surcharge which will not have to be paid on mail addressed to Sydney. I sincerly trust that the Government is in a position to make immediately a clear statement which will have the effect of dissipating any fears entertained in commercial circles, not only in Melbourne, but also in Adelaide and Perth and possibly in Hobart. Apparently there is no equitable reason why capital cities west of Sydney must not only receive their mails days later but also pay the air-mail surcharge. In common with many other honorable members who come from States west of New South. Wales, I hope that the Government will furnish information that will clarify the position, and allay concern.
– I direct attention to the manner in which the Australian Broadcasting Commission is treating the public of Australia, by withholding information from honorable members generally regarding the conduct of its affairs. Doubtless the Minister representing the Postmaster-General will say that the commission is beyond the jurisdiction of this Parliament. I am dissatisfied with the refusal of the commission to furnish me with a satisfactory reply in regard to the amount paid to Count Von Luckner for the broadcast lecture that he gave about a fortnight ago. I have nothing of a personal nature to urge against this visitor from overseas, but I consider that we are entitled to know the amounts paid to lecturers and artists who broadcast over the national network. I understand that a very substantial sum is being paid to Count Von Luckner, a sum out of all proportion to the value of the lecture that he delivered to the people of Australia. The enormous number of persons who pay a high fee for a listener’s licence are entitled to have their wants properly catered for. It is time that this Parliament said to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, “ You must conduct your affairs on better business lines “. Any artist or lecturer who receives a high fee from the commission should give value for its money. The dictatorial attitude of the commission is sufficient to justify the introduction of legislation, as the Government has promised, to replace tlie present commission by a body which will include one representative from each State. Not only has the commission refused to supply information, but the Government also seems to be satisfied to adopt a “ hush hush “ policy in connexion with the matter. It could demand information from the commission if it wished to do so. Unless Parliament takes a strong stand on this issue the Broadcasting Commission will undoubtedly take to itself power which only Parliament should exercise. The chairman was forced by a Labour government to resign his former position as Chief Commissioner of Railways in New South Wales, but unfortunately this Commonwealth Government saw fit to place him in an office which permits him to continue to fill the role of a dictator. I do not wish to make any personal reflections upon this person, but I am anxious to preserve the full rights of the Parliament and of the people to obtain information and to exert a helpful influence on broadcasting in this country.
It is deplorable that we cannot ascer tain the fee paid to Count von Luckner for the lectures that he has delivered. I have no wish, nor have the Australian people, to listen to this individual telling us how he sank allied ships during the war or to see him tear telephone books in two. Why was he engaged to lecture on Buffalo Bill?- What do the people of this country want to know about that subject? What can Count von Luckner know about it that is worth broadcasting? We are entitled to know the fees paid to this man and also to other persons to whom the national broadcasting network is made available. To expend on trumpery broadcasts the hard-earned money of the working class who pay at too high a rate for a listener’s licence is, in my opinion, reprehensible.
People living in the less populous States of the Commonwealth have good reason to complain of the policy of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in bringing artists to this country to perform only in the Sydney studios. Visiting artists under contract to the commission should give programmes from each State capital. The adherence of the commission to the present policy, which has been so frequently criticized, is a definite indication to rae that retired public servants are not fit and proper persons to manage its affairs. Something must be radically wrong’ for the commission to refuse to make available information to which we are entitled. It is high time that greater opportunities were given to Australian artists. The Australian people would far rather hear good local artists than the “ dud “ performers from abroad. I offer no complaint about the payment of proper fees to thoroughly qualified performers, but I resent the payment of extravagant fees to artists of mediocre ability. The fact that the Postmaster-General’s Department shows a profit of more than £1,000,000 from it proportion of listeners’ fees since broadcasting has been in vogue in Australia is surely sufficient evidence that the fee should be reduced.
The failure of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to fulfil the promise made by its chairman to build an uptodate studio in Hobart is another matter of bitter complaint. Hobart is entitled to a proper studio. Until it is provided local artists will be denied adequate broadcasting facilities, and the present objectionable system of centralized programmes will be continued, although it has proved to be a complete failure. The B class stations present much more satisfactory programmes than do the national stations. This is surely a complete condemnation of the management of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
I sincerely trust that the Government will not delay the introduction of a bill to replace the present Broadcasting Commission by a body more thoroughly representative of the whole community. Until this is done I fear that the grievances I have referred to this afternoon, and those voiced by other honorable members in this House from time to time, will remain unrectified
.- I rise mainly to associate myself with the remarks of the honorable members for Perth (Mr. Nairn), Boothby (Mr. Price) and Fawkner (Mr. Holt) with regard to the announcement that has appeared to-day that the Government may not implement its promise to distribute the overseas mail from Darwin. That would not only cause great disappointment and dissatisfaction in the outlying States - in fact, everywhere except, possibly, Sydney - but it would also create a deplorable impression that the Government’s promise that the air mail would be distributed through Darwin was given more or less with the tongue in the cheek. It has been generally supposed, on a good deal of evidence, that the Postal Department has been uniformly hostile to the distribution from Darwin, and that it is only the prior consideration of assisting air defence, and the sense of justice of members of the Government, that have led to the adoption of the policy of distribution from Darwin. If the proposal is now pigeonholed, shelved, or even seriously delayed, it will be without definite evidence that it is possible to speed up the service, and it will create a feeling that will be not only undesirable in the Government’s interest, but will also tend to mar the good feeling that should exist between the States themselves and between the States and the Commonwealth.
With reference to the remarks of the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney), I wish to put in a word on behalf of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The commission has the duty of providing programmes’ covering a wide range of subjects for a great diversity of tastes. It is to be hoped that the radio services will not suffer the deterioration we have observed in newspapers as the result of the necessity for appealing to those who like matter of the cheapest possible type. The commission should be commended for its efforts to give the discriminating section of the people opportunities to hear the very best music and entertainment it is possible to obtain in the world. Such entertainments do not compete with the work of Australian artists. The commission gives the whole community opportunities for experiences which tend to create the desire in Australia to hear better music and more high class entertainment. Such entertainments as the commission provides tend to create opportunities for Australian artists. I hope that too much attention will not be given to the efforts that are being made in certain quarters to level down the commission’s programmes to suit tastes of one type. Such tastes are amply catered for by the B class stations, and it would be deplorable if the B class programmes were the only service available.
– I had hoped that the Ministry would arrange an opportunity for Parliament to resume the debate on the fifth annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. That item still appears on the notice-paper. In a few weeks the financial year ending the 30th J une, 193S, will have been completed, but we have had no adequate opportunity to review the report for the year that closed practically twelve months ago. I wish to direct attention to a wider aspect of the matter without attempting to discuss the report. The Australian Broadcasting Commission Act has been on the statutebook for more than six years. It was practically the first comprehensive piece of legislation to regulate broadcasting in the Commonwealth. Without making any reflection on the commission, or on anybody else, I submit to the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), as Leader of the House at the present time, that the developments in broadcasting in Australia in the interim have been so tremendous that it is very desirable that broadcasting should be once again the subject of legislative review by Parliament - I mean legislative review rather than mere scrutiny of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. It appears to me to be necessary to make a number of changes in policy, so that we may take advantage of the experience we have gained since the Broadcasting Commission was established. I cannot but feel that the administration of the commission is very, very wasteful. I know that it is costly, but I fear that it is also wasteful. I duri, without discussing the- report, that the enormous increase of fees paid in connexion with concerts does not com pletely cover the very great outlay of the commission. I have yet to learn whether the commission has formulated regulations for the management of its staff. I do not know how applications for appointment to its staff are arranged or how appointments are made. I do not know whether vacancies are advertised. I do not know whether the applicant states the salary he is willing to accept, or whether the commission indicates the salary it has ‘ fixed for the particular vacancy. I know that the commission has made appointments that have not been the subject of competition; it has made definite offers to certain persons to fill certain offices. It has a subeditorial staff, and I very much question whether the gentlemen on that staff have had any journalistic training. Much doubt exists in my mind regarding the qualifications of many members of the staff for the offices they hold. I understand that there is a controller of celebrity concerts, and that he is stationed in Sydney the whole year round. I do not know what his salary is. I know that there is a federal director of music, and, in addition, there are artists’ managers in the various States. I know that it is the practice of the commission to give rather lavish entertainments to mark the arrival of distinguished celebrity artists, and that those entertainments are an occasion when representative citizens are privileged to meet the very distinguished visitors. I do not know the cost of these entertainments, and I very much question, in view of the fact that many of the artists give public performances, whether the receptions are justified, more particularly as the commission is apparently unable to continue with its constructional programme because it says it lacks resources. I believe it has made application through the Postmaster-General for money from loan funds or other sources to. proceed with the construction of up-to-date studios from which transmission can be more effectively made. Frankly, I say that I believe the time is overdue, not so much for a review of the work of the commission administratively, as for the Government to review the whole position of broadcasting in Australia, in order that Parliament might be given an opportunity to deal with the matter legislatively. In my opinion, the A and B class stations ought to be regarded as co-relating agencies in the Australian broadcasting service. I have the utmost dissatisfaction in connexion with the manner in which certain commercial stations have been given increased power, although they had accepted licences for reduced power, while other stations in a similar position have had their applications refused. The reasons given to me in this connexion are, of course, full of technical argument, but I say here that the reasons which the PostmasterGeneral (Senator A. J. Mclachlan) advances for an increase in one case, are the very opposite of the reasons which he advances for refusing an increase of power in another. When an instrumentality at Fremantle applies for increased power, he says it would be wrong to increase it, because it had accepted a licence for a reduced power; but when stations owned by a newspaper in Perth applied for increased power because they were at a commercial disability in competing with other B class stations transmitting on a higher power, the applications were granted. This inequality is a matter which calls for some scrutiny by the Parliament. It is many years since we have had a reasonable opportunity, as members of this legislature, to deal with broadcasting as such, let alone to deal with the work of the commission legislatively. The whole subject is due for review, and a new bill to control broadcasting should be submitted to this Parliament. I do not ask for an amendment of the existing act, because I think there should be an entire reconstruction of legislation in connexion with broadcasting in Australia. If the Government does not feel disposed to do that, at least it ought to avert the sorry spectacle of this Parliament being asked to review the administration of a body eighteen months or two years after the period we are asked to review has expired.
.- I desire to bring under the notice of the House an important matter affecting the citizens of the Federal Capital Territory as the result of the publication in the Commonwealth Gazette of yesterday’s date, of the Canberra Community Hospital Ordinance above the signature of the Acting Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron). I would prefer to see the honorable gentleman present while this subject is being discussed, but as it is a matter which obviously must have been decided by the Cabinet as a whole, even though an individual Minister is nominally responsible for it, the Cabinet must accept full responsibility. The position at present regarding the franchise for the election of the Hospital Board in Canberra is that two of the five members of the board are elected on a universal franchise, but under the new proposals, all of the six members of the new board are to be elected on a restricted franchise. Though I regard as an advancement that portion of the ordinance providing for the election of all the members of the board, I have very different ideas regarding the disfranchisement of a considerable number of electors who at present are entitled to vote for the elected members of the board. At present the only votes which persons resident in the Federal Capital Territory possess, are in connexion with the election of members of the Canberra Community Hospital Board, and the Advisory Council. Although the population of the Territory consists very largely of public servants of all grades engaged in administering legislation, sometimes of the highest complexities, residents are hot entitled to vote for the election of a State or the Commonwealth Parliaments. Most people in Australia express astonishment when they hear that in the Federal Capital itself, residents are disfranchised even in respect of Commonwealth elections. That is not the point, however, that I intend to debate now; the point to which I wish to draw attention is that the only semblance to democratic franchise possessed in the Federal Capital Territory is the right to vote for the election of two members of the Hospital Board, and certain members of the Advisory Council. Under the new ordinance, members of the Hospital Board are to be elected only by hospital tax contributors. Under the ordinance imposing the hospital tax. every employee in receipt of £2 a week or over is compelled to pay tho tax. That provision is not affected by the ordinance with which I am now dealing. In the ease of persons who receive board and lodging, it is further laid down in the taxing ordinance that in respect of those who reside with their employers, 15s. a week shall lie taken as the value of their board, and as. a week as the value of their lodging. That means that a person in receipt of a wage of £1 a week and keep is compelled to pay hospital tax, and for the purposes of the ordinance, is regarded as a contributor. I object to the franchise being restricted merely to contributors. This provision is reminiscent of the old custom that prevailed in connexion with elections in Great Britain, and in this country also, that only those persons who possessed property of a certain rental value, or who were in receipt of a certain annual remuneration, were entitled to vote. That has been abolished in all parts of Australia, and as far as I know, also in Groat Britain. In Australia, however, in some places - in this respect Queensland is a shining example to the contrary - the franchise for local authority elections Ls limited to ratepayers. The party to which I belong has objected to that time and time again, pointing out that citizens generally have as much interest in local matters as in State or Commonwealth affairs and that, therefore, they should have the right to vote for the election of local governing bodies. Apparently the process of reasoning on which the Government has proceeded in this matter is the same old argument that only those persons who contribute towards the assistance of the Canberra Hospital should be permitted to vote for the election of members of the board. ,1 point out that the Canberra Hospital is a community hospital giving assistance to all persons in need, irrespective of whether they are contributors or not. The new ordinance in this respect reverts to a practice long discontinued. Arguments in its favour have been destroyed time and time again, and the more advanced the country in which they have been raised, the less the credence given to them. A considerable number of anomalies arise with respect to the proposed method of electing members of the Hospital Board. Tu the first place, the Government is acting contrary to “its undertaking to accept the advice of the
Advisory Council before altering ordinances governing the administration of the Federal Capital Territory. In the second place, the ordinance provides for voting by post. What reason is there for this departure from established practice. I protest against such a retrograde step. Apart from that, however, there is another aspect of the ordinance which adversely affects the citizens of Canberra, and particularly the women. A few weeks ago, when the matter of the Canberra Hospital Board was under discussion in this House, I expressed the hope that the Acting Minister for Commerce, when formulating this ordinance, would not allow his notions about women being an inferior breed to influence any decision he might make. I confess that, when I made the remark, I did not seriously think that there was any danger of women being denied a vote under the ordinance, despite the words of the Minister. It is not long ago since he said that the proper place for a woman was in the home, and that she should not take a position which could be occupied by a man.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).The honorable member is not in order in referring to what was said in a previous debate.
– Those statements also appeared in the press. As the ideas expressed by the Acting Minister are analogous to those which find favour in Germany, this may explain why he chose to greet and entertain the notorious Count von Luckner when he visited Parliament House a few hours ago. Only recently the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) made some remarks about women not being entitled to become members of Parliament. I mention the matter because there have now been several instances of ministerial expressions of opinion on this subject. The first was by the Acting Minister for Commerce, the second by the Treasurer, and now we have this ordinance, which was published yesterday in the Commonwealth Gazette. Only those persons who are employed in the Territory, and have paid hospital tax for 26 weeks out of the twelve months up to the end of May before the elections, are entitled to a vote for the election of members to the Hospital Board. Apparently,the Government has become so enamoured of the contributory system, following on a bill recently before this House, that it regards the system as something from which all blessings flow, and that only those who contribute, whether it be to the insurance scheme or to a hospital, are entitled to receive any benefits. The effect of the ordinance will be that very few women will be entitled to vote, and those who cannot vote will not be able to nominate for- election. At the first election to the Hospital Board held a few years ago., a lady resident of the Territory nominated and was elected. Under this new ordinance, assuming that her position was still the same as it was then, namely, that her husband was employed in the Service, and she attended to domestic duties, she would not be qualified to vote or to stand for election. Only a small percentage of females in Canberra will, under this ordinance, be entitled to vote. No age limit is mentioned in the ordinance, so presumably a boy or girl of fourteen years of age, who is in employment, and pays hospital tax, may vote. Another anomaly is that, if the wife of the Prime Minister, Dame Enid Lyons, were in residence in Canberra at the time of the election, she would be debarred from voting, though domestics employed ‘by her, who receive £1 a Week, plus lodging, which is equal to another £1, will enjoy a vote. The same thing will apply to the wife of the Treasurer when he takes up his residence in the house now being built for him. She will not have a vote, but the gardener and other employees will. Surely the Government should recognize the democratic principle of one person one vote, irrespective of sex or social condition. The strange thing is that, although the Acting Minister for Commerce has expressed the opinion that the most praiseworthy women are those who stay at home and look after their families, and has suggested that he has not much time for those who go out to work, under this ordinance the women who stay at home will be denied a vote, while those who go out to work will be given one. A national Parliament should not tolerate a Gilbertian situation of this kind.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I support the remarks of the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker) with regard to the Canberra Hospital Ordinance. I am not familiar with the facts, but there seems to be an analogy between it and many of the ordinances by which the Northern Territory is governed. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) should realize that government by ordinance is abhorrent in principle, and unjust in application. Ordinances are of two kinds - penal ordinances and remedial ordinances - but who is to judge when they are to be invoked? Is the decision to be left to a few bureaucrats, or is this Parliament to decide the matter? That is all I am asking for. Because I regard him as one of the most positive members of the Cabinet, I realize that the Minister personally would be agreeable to myrequest that all legislation should be discussed on the floor of this House, and I feel sure that, before long, he will see the wisdom of my contention, particularly in respect of legislation directly affecting people in remote areas. I remind honorable members that people generally form their opinions, not so much on facts as they exist, as on what they think are the facts; and that applies particularly to people living in outback districts. In their interests, therefore, the question as to whether a particular ordinance is a penal ordinance or a remedial ordinance should not be discussed behind closed doors. It should be discussed on the floor of the House. I am fortified in this view by the remark made some years ago by Lord Chief Justice Hewart that the people’s liberties were being filched by means of regulations left open to bureaucratic interpretation. I submit that this is a danger against which there is a need for constant watchfulness in Australia. To the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) I point out that, whilst we have a Regulations and Ordinances Committee of the Senate, there is no such committee of this House.
– That is an injustice to honorable members of this House.
– As this House is supposed to be the more positive, the non- existence of a similar committee of the House of Representatives is an injustice to the Federal Capital Territory and the Northern Territory in respect of which so many ordinances are promulgated. The House should appoint such a committee. I warn the Government that the matter of ordinances will be discussed rather fiercely in the future both in this chamber and in the Senate. Again, I ask the Minister for the Interior to give an assurance that he will not act either on the last ordinance which he tabled in respect of the Northern Territory, or on any ordinance tabled in this chamber in the future until it has been voted upon by honorable members.
– The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green) asked if i would visit Broome on my visit tothe Northern Territory in order to inquire into the condition of the pearling industry at that centre. I am pleased to be able to inform him that I have already arranged to do this. Following conversations which I had with the honorable member and certain honorable senators from Western Australia, the Government concurred in my decision to go to Broome, and I shall be pleased to meet representatives of the pearling industry there to hear any representations they may have to make and to submit these to the Government for its consideration. I promise to inform the honorable member as soon as possible of the date of my visit to Broome. The honorable member stated that, in his opinion, and in the opinion of the pearlers themselves, the industry at Broome was in a serious plight because of the offering for sale on the American market of pearl-shell fished in northern Australian waters by Japanese. He used the words “Darwin waters “. The position, of course, is that the control of territorial waters adjacent to the coast of a State is a matter for that particular State government. I have no doubt thatadequate provision exists in the laws of Western Australia to prevent any poaching by foreigners within the territorial waters of that State. The Commonwealth Government, of course, controls fishing in waters adjoining the Northern Territory, and an ordinance already exists to enable it to prevent any poaching in those waters. It is necessary also to provide for the policing of that ordinance. This work is watched by a patrol service which this Government instituted some time ago, but we are prepared to admit that that service is not so effective at present as it should be, and certainly not so effective as we should like it to be. Honorable members know that two additional patrol vessels will shortly be available; one will be under the control of the Department of Trade and Customs and the other under the control of the Department of the Interior. It is believed that these vessels will be able to patrol completely the waters of the Northern Territory and prevent poaching of pearl-shell or other fishing in those waters. I have called for a report from departmental officers and the Administrator of the Northern Territory as to whether these two patrol vessels will besufficient to do that work effectively, and I assure the honorable member that if those officers recommend it the Government will secure additional boats for the purpose. The honorable gentleman has presented a strong case based on what he accepted as facts, for some assistance to be given to the pearl-shell industry at Broome, and for something to be done to ensure that pearl-shell in contiguous waters to the Australian coast is not poached by foreigners. I point out to him that there is a territorial limit to our authority, but I shall act upon his suggestion and confer with the Acting Attorney-General in order to see whether it would not be possible for the Commonwealth to extend the limits of its authority in these waters. I take this opportunity, however, to appeal to the honorable member himself to use his eloquence in an endeavour to influence some of his friends in WesternAustralia to apply the point of view they hold in respect of the protection of our fisheries to this Government’s action in preserving for the use of Australia this country’s iron ore resources.
– Would the Minister object to armed parties dealing with the Japanese ?
Mr.McEWEN. - I certainly would object to private individuals taking upon themselvesthe responsibility of interfering with foreigners in that way, and I am amazed that the honorable member should advance such a suggestion, knowing him to be a peaceful man.
The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) has referred to certain alterations of the original plan of the city of Canberra. He has advanced severe criticism of the Government and of the Department of the Interior for concurring in certain minor alterations which have been made from time to time. He has expressed the opinion, very strongly, that no action of this kind should be taken without consulting Parliament, or, at least, giving it an opportunity to disallow any proposed departure from the original plan. To support his case he has actually read the statute dealing with the matter. The act, of course, is specific, and’ provides that the Minister for the Interior of the day may authorize a departure from the plan, and, in doing so, must follow a certain procedure. The proposal must be gazetted, with a plan showing the exact nature of the proposed departure, and particulars of the proposal must be tabled in the Parliament. Having acquainted himself so fully with the statute, I am surprised that the honorable member has not made himself more familiar than he apparently has with the details of the only recent departure that has been made from the originalplan. As a matter of fact, on the 2nd December last, I, as Minister for the Interior, authorized a departure which merely consisted of an extension of the radius of a crescent road by several chains. It was a most trifling departure from the plan, with the object merely of slightly extending the area of land upon which the new high school for Canberra is to be built, to make slightly more land available for the playing-fields and gardens, and to conform to the local topographical features. The proposal was gazetted in accordance with the law which the honorable member has read, and was tabled at the first opportunity in both Houses of the Parliament on the 27th April last. In accordance with the same law, it was the prerogative of the honorable member, as it was of every member of this Parliament, to move, within fifteen days, for the disallowance of the departure from the original plan. Ratherthan advance criticism of the action taken, the honorable member might have availed himself of his privileges under the law, and moved in this House in accordance with his thoughts regarding the matter.
The honorable member for Bass has also made reference to the shortage of houses in Canberra. I shall merely repeat what I have previously said in reply to questions by honorable members. The Government recognizes that there is a shortage of houses in Canberra. I told the House a few day ago that I was in conference withthe Treasurer (Mr. Casey), and with officers of my own department, who are conferring with officers of the Treasury to formulate a definite plan to overcome the shortage. I am now able to tell the House that tentative arrangements have been made under which a substantial sum of money will be placed on the Estimates next year for the purpose of embarking upon a much wider home-building programme in the Territory than has been adopted in the last few years. I have no doubt that the present shortage will be substantially overcome during the next twelve months. The honorable member for Bass referred to what he described as the “ hush-hush “ policy of the Government in regard to its various proposals. All I need Bay is that members of the Cabinet are subjected daily to severe cross-questioning, and any information sought is readily given.
The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) has spoken regarding the promulgation of ordinances relating to the Government of the territory which he represents. He has on the notice-paper a motion dealing with the matter to which he referred this afternoon, and that will be dealt with in accordance with the Standing Orders.
– Will the Minister undertake that the latest ordinance which has been promulgated will not be acted upon until my motion has been discussed?
– I cannot give the honorable member that assurance, for the ordinance is in accord with, and is actually part of, the law to-day.
. - in reply - The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) referred to grants that have been made by the Commonwealth Government during the last few years, to assist the State governments in certain forestry work. These giants, like several others, were made originally to combat theworst effects of unemployment during the depth of the depression. They have been tapered off as the unemployment situation has improved. I cannot give any undertaking that they will be continued after the 30th June.
In reply to the honorable member’s suggestion that an additional postage allowance should be provided to enable honorable members to cope with the very heavy correspondence they have been obliged to deal with, arising out of the national insurance legislation, I am glad to say that the Government has agreed to make an additional postage allowance of £2 to each honorable member of the House for the current mouth.
The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn), the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price.), the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) and the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker), referred to a statement in the press to-day to the effect that the distribution of air mail from Darwin southwards under the new service is likely to be delayed for twelve months. I have been in touch with the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) and the PostmasterGeneral (Senator A. J. McLachlan) on this subject, and I can give no reason for the publication of a story that a delay of anything like twelve months is likely to occur. A general re-arrangement of air routes within Australia, including the distribution of mail matter, is under consideration. I shall consult the PostmasterGeneral and the Minister for Defence to ascertain whether a considered statement may be made at an early date on this subject.
The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) discussed matters relating to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and also broadcast programmes, and voiced some strictures on the Post master-General in this regard. I join with the honorable member for Wakefield in deploring this broad criticism of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which, in my opinion, is doing a reasonably good job under rather difficult conditions. However, I shall bring the honorable member’s- remarks under the notice of the Postmaster-General.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) spoke broadly regarding a legislative review of broadcasting by Parliament. I have no authority to say that this subject will be brought before Parliament at an early date, but the Government has been giving a good deal of consideration to it in the light of the experience that has been accumulated during the last five or six years. I cannot say that any action will be taken. I assure the honorable member that our general broadcasting policy in respect of A grade stations has been under the notice of the Government for some time. I shall bring his remarks under the notice of the appropriate Minister.
The honorable member for Griffith (Mr: Baker) discussed matters relating to the Canberra Community Hospital, and the franchise and other matters referred to in the new ordinance. I shall bring his remarks under the notice of the Acting Minister for Health.
In elaboration of the remarks of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) on the observations of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) about Lord Hewart’s book, The New Despotism, I may say that I read this volume some years ago. Speaking as one who was a public servant and has subsequently become a politician, I venture the opinion that a good deal may be said on the other side. It would be extremely’ difficult to carry on the business of government without a fairly broad power to make regulations.
– That is admitted.
– We could have a very interesting debate on whether the new or the old despotism was preferable.
I shall bring the remarks of other honorable members that have not been referred to under the notice of the Ministers concerned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 5.50 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
y asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
On the 1st June, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
The information desired by the honorable member is as follows : -
k asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the fact that the price of wheat based on export parity has dropped to 2s. 6d. a bushel in some States, and 2s. 9d. a bushel in others, at country sidings, will he undertake that the Federal Government will cooperate withthe State governments as soon as they are willing, for the purpose of providing a stable home price for a period of years for wheat consumed within Australia?
– The Commonwealth Go vernment will consult with the governments of the States on this matter, at the appropriate time.
n asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Mr.Thorby. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - .
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
In view of the fact that the British aircraft experts who have returned to England from the United States of America have advised the Air Ministry to buy 300training aeroplanes and bombers from that country, does the Defence Department, under the circumstances, propose to insist on the delivery of war aeroplanes, the orders for which were placed in England nearly twelve months ago. andwhich, it is said, the British manufacturers willfind difficult to deliver because of the British Air Department’s urgent need of war aeroplanes ?
Mr.Thorby. - The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Arrangements have already been made for the new aircraft on order, both from England and the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, to be delivered by the time they will be required to equip the new units included in the Air Force development programme.
n asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Mr.Thorby - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The system of pay for each service is designed to meet the conditions of the particularservice concerned and aims at equality of treatment for married men as far as possible.
Mr.Ward asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
How many applications for the grant of invalid pensions were received in each State for the year ended 30th April, 1938?
How many of the applications received in each State were successful?
How many invalid pensioners in each State were medically re-examined in the same period?
How many invalid pensions in each State were cancelled asa result of such reexamination?
y. - Inquiries are being made and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
e asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n. - OnWednesday, the 1st June, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr.Ward) asked the following question, upon notice : -
What are the ailments suffered by ex-soldiers which are accepted by the Repatriation Department as being attributable to the effects of the inhalation of various forms of poisonous sud other gases whilst on active service?
The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The inhalation of the various forms of gas gave rise to varying symptoms and clinical signs in different men. In many cases, the disability in respect of which an ex-soldier is now pensioned can be clearly traced to the effects of such gassing, whilst, in other cases, there is no possible association between the present incapacity and the gassing. It is impossible to say in general terms that any particular ailments are necessarily the result of gassing, and the question has to be determined on the facts in each individual case. Of importance in arriving at such a decision are (a) the records of the clinical condition oi the ex-soldier following evacuation from his unit and treatment in hospital, and (b) the subsequent service, health and medical history in the year3 intervening between the date of the gassing and the date of the claim under consideration.
n. - On the 26th May, the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
Iam now is a position to supply the following information : -
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
n. - The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : - 1and 2. An application for permission for boys from St. Christopher’s School to practise the Australian game of football at Manuka Oval on Friday afternoons was refused. The reason for the refusal was not because the Australian game was to be played, but solely because the grassed surface is already too severely taxed by the number of footballers of both codes already using the oval. The oval is already occupied extensively (luring the week for training and match purposesby adult sports organizations and the senior section of schools’ sports organizations.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 June 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1938/19380603_reps_15_156/>.