15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chairat 11 a.m., and read prayers.
New Capital at Salamau a.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs any statement to make in connexion with the new capital of New Guinea? If so, will he also table the report submitted by the commission that investigated the matter?
– X now propose to ask the leave of the House to make a statement on this subject. I may say, in. reply to the latter part of (he honorable member’s question, that the report ofthe commission willbe tabled, but reference to it will be made in the statement I am about to make - by leave. - The Commonwealth Government has reached a decision in the matter of the selection of a now site for the administrative head-quarters of the Mandated Territory of New Guinea. As honorable members are aware, serious volcanic disturbances occurred atRabaul on the 29th May, 1937, and subsequent days.In view of the proximity of the volcanoes to the township and the nature of the area generally, the Government considered it advisable to have a full investigation made regarding the future seismic and volcanic dangers to the township, witha view to determining whether the administrative head-quarters of the territory should be retained atRabaul. Dr. Ch. E. Stelm,Vulcanologist of the Netherlands East Indies Vulcanological Survey, and Dr. W. G. Woolnough, Commonwealth Geological Adviser, were commissioned to visit Rabaul and to carry out. the investigations. They submitteda report in which the following advice was tendered : - . . Onaccountof the possibility of volcanicactivity nearRabaul, we are therefore forced toa conclusion that reasonably earlyevacuation of Rabaulas the main administrative centre must be seriously considered . . . We are of opinion that the risks involved in maintenance and extension of the townare incomparably greater than immediate loss inseparable from early abandonment.
In order to assist the Commonwealth Government in the selection of a suitable site, to which to transfer the administrative head-quarters from Rabaul, a committee was appointed to visit the territory and to report as to the most suitable locality for the purpose, having in mind the need for any early transfer from Rabaul and the future development of the territory. The committee, in a report dated the 27th April, 1938, submitted the following proposals: - 1.Lae,on thecoast in the MorobeDistrict of the mainland of New Guinea, to be the site of the administrativehead-quarters. 2.Salamana, also on the constabout twenty miles from Lae, to be thepor t for theadminis- t rati ve head-quarters,and tobe developed as the chiefportof the territory.
The committee also pointed out that certain works arc necessary to assist the development of the territory. As, however, the committee was of the opinion that these works must proceed irrespective of the location of the administrative headquarters, they were not taken into account by it in estimating the cost of removal of the administrative headquarters. The works referred to are the development of Salamana as a port, and the construction of a road from the coast to the gold-fields in the Morobe district.
In view of the expenditure involved and the fa r-reaching effects of the decision to be made, the Cabinet arranged that I should visit New Guinea to obtain firsthand knowledge of the territory, so as to assist the Government in coming to a decision in the matter. By the use of aeroplanes, Iwas able, during a brief visit to the territory, to inspect a large area of New Guinea, and to see a number “ of the sites that might be considered suitable for the new administrative headquarters. I visited Rabaul. Bitapaka, Salamaua, Wau, Edie Creek, Bulolo, Upper Watut, Lae, Bamu and Madang. The report of the committee, and the information I have been able to furnish to my colleagues, have been considered by the Government, which has reached the following decision: -
It is proposed -that the necessary finance for the foregoing projects should be provided in the following manner: -
It is difficult to estimate the time that will be necessary to prepare Salamaua, for the administrative head-quarters, and to build the road from Salamaua to Wau, but both projects will be placed. in hand immediately. No legal enactment, either by this Parliament or by ordinance of the territory, is necessary to effect the transfer of the administrative headquarters, and there is, therefore, no obstacle to the necessary technical preparations proceeding forthwith. A bill will be necessary to provide for the guarantee by the Commonwealth Government of the loan for the road from Salamaua to Wau, and this will be introduced at an early date. An opportunity will be afforded for a general discussion of the whole matter when the bill is before the House.
– Seeing that the new capital will be situated some distance from the present one, and that a considerable amount of constructional work, such as road building, will have to be undertaken, will white or black labour be engaged? If white labour is to be used, will the right honorable gentleman give consideration to the selection of volunteers from distressed areas, such as the coal-fields of New South Wales?
– The honorable gentleman put a similar question to the Prime Minister yesterday, but perhaps he is not familiar with the economic circumstances of the Territory of New Guinea. These are vastly different from those of Australia. I shall take an opportunity, per.haps during the forenoon, of making some confidential observations to the honorable gentleman on this matter. If white labour should be required, I shall certainly not forget the honorable member’s constituents.
– Is the Treasurer correctly reported in to-day’s issue of the Canberra Times, which attributes to him the statement that the arguments in favour of Sydney being selected as the site for the School of Aeronautics are strong? If the Treasurer has given consideration to the opinion expressed by the professor of engineering at the Sydney University, to the effect that it would be inconsistent to establish the Chair of Aeronautics at the Sydney University, having regard to the fact that the Aeronautical Research Laboratory and the Commonwealth Aircraft Factory are both located in Melbourne, can he indicate whether a decision on this matter will be reached before the Parliament goes into recess?
– The Government lias been accumulating information on which to frame a decision, but, owing to the pressure of more urgent matters recently, it has not yet reached a final decision. I hope that within the next few weeks it will be able to make a determination, as far as the matter rests on a Government decision. I doubt if there will be a possibility of having it adequately considered before the House goes into recess.
– In view of the inconvenience caused by the break in the cable by means of which telegraphic and telephone communication is maintained between Tasmania and the mainland, will the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral take steps immediately to establish an up-to-date wireless telephone service to be used only in cases of emergency, such as when a break occurs in the cable ?
– The request of the honorable member will be placed before the Postmaster-General. I can assure him that the department is doing its best to minimize the inconvenience due to the present unfortunate circumstances.
The following papers were presented : -
Ecuador - Treaty regarding Extradition - Supplementary Convention between United Kin.dom. Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, and Ecuador (Quito, 4th June, 1934).
Extradition Treaty between United Kingdom and Denmark - Notes extending proceedings between Iceland and New Guinea and Nauru (London, 25th November, 1937).
Nationality Lavs, Conflict of - International Convention (The Hague. 12 th April. 1930).
Yugoslavia - Legal Proceedings in Civil and Commercial Matters - Convention between United Kingdom and Yugoslavia (London, 27th February, 1936).
– I lay on the table the following paper : -
Egypt - Final Act. Convention and other documents regarding abolition of Ca nit.11lations in Egypt (Montreux, 8th May, 1937).
The instrument of ratification of the Commonwealth Government was deposited with the Egyptian Government on the 27th April, 1938, and took effect as from that dr.te.
– The Minister for Defence stated some little time ago that he would seek an opportunity to discuss personally with Mr. Dunstan, the Premier of Victoria, the subject of an air-port for Melbourne at Fishermen’s Bend. Has that conversation yet taken place, and, if so, with what result?
– I discussed the subject with Mr. Dunstan when he was in Sydney. .Since then, representatives of the Commonwealth and State <Governments have held further discussions and also a conference. I hope within the next few days to be able to make a recommendation on the matter to the G Government
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to a report in the local press to ‘the effect that the Government intends to take steps to depose the Chairman of Committees from his position in consequence of his vote on the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill? If so, will he intimate what steps will be taken?
– I have not seen the report, and I am not interested in it.
– Has the attention of the Acting Minister for Commerce been drawn to a report in this morning’s press to the effect that a quota has been fixed for both inward and outward shipping traffic between Australia and Japan under which the Australian shipping line will be granted per cent, of the traffic and the other foreign shipping lines 77£ per cent, of it?- Is the statement authentic, or is it merely newspaper guessing on information obtained in Japan?
– I have read the report to which the honorable member has referred. I cannot say whether it is true or untrue. It may be a very shrewd guess.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Commerce whether it is not a fact that of the four shipping” lines trading between Australia and the East, one is an Australian company, and the other three, foreign companies? If this be so, will the honorable gentleman give the House an assurance that a quota of 22½ per cent, to the Australian company would not be regarded by the Government as adequate ? Will he also say that, in the circumstances, the Government would not contemplate agreeing to any quota of less than 25 per cent, for the Australian line?
– This subject, which has been under the consideration of the various interests concerned for a long time, is one for the Australian shipping companies to deal with, rather than the Government. I assure the honorable member that as soon as any definite information is available, I shall inform the House of the effect of it.
– Is the Acting Minister aware that the Japanese Government is actively interesting itself in the preservation of the interests of the Japanese companies? If this be so, does he not think that the Commonwealth Government should do all in its power to see that in this matter, which may affect the negotiation of trade agreements, the interests of the Australian shipping line are preserved?
– The Commonwealth Government has been actively engaged throughout the negotiations in endeavouring to get the greatest possible percentage of freightage for the Eastern and Australian Line which trades to Japan. It will continue those endeavours with a view to achieving a settlement which will be satisfactory to shippers of both Australia and Japan.
– I direct the attention of the Minister in Charge of Development to a recent press article on the whaling industry, which stated that unless the killing of humpbacked whales off the coast of Western Australia were regulated by international agreement, such whales might eventually be exterminated, thus destroying a potential valuable Australian industry. Will the Minister say what steps have been taken to secure an international agreement for the protection of the whaling industry of Australia? I should also like to know what his department has done in recent weeks to encourage this industry? Apparently negotiations initiated some years ago by the honorable gentleman’s predecessor were not brought to a successful issue.
– As I understand it, the honorable gentleman’s question is in two parts. The first relates to the discouragement of the killing of whales, and the second, to the encouragement of the killing of them. The protection of whales to prevent their extinction has been discussed internationally for a number of years. I am not certain, offhand, whether Australia has adhered to the relevant Convention, but the Australian delegation at present overseas is making inquiries into the whole matter. As to the second part of the question, the development of the whaling industry is a matter for private rather than government enterprise, but if the honorable gentleman will give me further indication of his wishes I shall be glad to furnish him with a more adequate answer.
– I ask the Prime
Minister whether the Government will give immediate consideration to the taking of any steps that may occur to it which would be helpful to bring about a reduction of shipping freights, particularly between Australia and Great Britain.
– The Government will be glad to give consideration to the question and to take whatever steps it can in the direction indicated.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Commerce whether applications for the positions of Assistant Trade
Commissioners at Tokio and Shanghai have yet closed. If so, how many were received, and is an appointment likely to be made in the near future?
– Applications closed last Saturday week. The 75 applications received, of which 58 were from the Public Service, are now being considered. I hope, at an early date, to be able to announce the names of the successful applicants.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether he can give the House any information concerning the proposed removal of broadcasting station 2FC from its present site, and particularly when the change to the new location decided upon by Australian Broadcasting Commission is likely to be made.
– It, is intended to remove station SPC to another location, but I am not able to say Hie exact date when it will be done.
– Referring to certain views I expressed last night in speaking to the motion for the adjournment of the House respecting the appointment of Mr. W. F. Tart as Publicity Officer to the Defence Department, I wish to know from the Minister for Defence whether it is correct that a panel of five names was submitted to him? If so, will he supply the names and qualifications of each candidate?
– As I explained last night, I do not deal with this matter personally. I have made further inquiries; on the subject and am informed that the papers dealing with it will arrive in Canberra this morning. Apparently the honorable member has obtained advance information.
– In view of the press report that Sir Isaac Isaacs, exGovernorGeneral and former Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, has expressed the opinion to the chief president of the Australian Natives Association, Mr. S. J.
Herron, that the Inter-State Commission Bill is ultra vires the Constitution and has taken six specific objections to the measure, the sixth being -
Of seven paragraphs in the bill specifically defining functions of the commission, at least five provide powers in conflict with the mandate given by the Constitution.
I ask the Prime Minister whether he is prepared to accept the view of this high constitutional authority and also whether he will proceed no further with the measure ?
– It is not in order to invite the Prime Minister to answer arguments advanced by another person.
– My answer to the honorable member’s question is, “ No “. The points raised by Sir Isaac Isaacs will be dealt with in my second-reading speech on the bill.
– I ask the Treasurer whether, when he is dealing with additional sales tax exemptions, he will consider the desirability of granting such exemption in respect of ‘corrugated galvanized iron tanks used for domestic purposes in country districts?
– The bill to which I referred a few moments ago in my notice of motion will not deal with new exemptions. It is a relatively minor measure to correct some outstanding anomalies in the existing law.
-1- Is the Prim.e Minister yet in a position to make a statement regarding the proposed agreement relative to a new shipping line in the Pacific?
– I am not; but in consequence of information recently obtained, I hope that a decision in this connexion will shortly be reached.
– I direct the attention of the Minister of the Interior to paragraph 133 of the Payne report which refers to the inconvenience occasioned to the people of the Northern Territory by reason of the fact that the RegistrarGeneral for the territory resides in Canberra and not in Darwin. Seeing that the Minister has recently seen fit to extend the Canberra control of ‘the Northern Territory in certain directions, I wish to know whether he will give favorable consideration to the Payne recommendation that the RegistrarGeneral for the Northern Territory, should, for the convenience of the people there, reside at Darwin?
– I understood the honorable member to state that I had recently taken action to extend the Canberra control of the Northern Territory. If he made such a statement, it is incorrect. The reverse is the case. The specific recommendation in the Payne report, to which he has referred, seems to me to be equitable, and I shall consider the subject further while I am in Darwin.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether compensation for damage done to their properties by the recent earthquake and volcano has been given to planters and traders in New Guinea, and if so, has a committee been set up to govern the procedure in which the compensation payments are made?
– A committee has been set up and has made certain recommendations, but to what extent those recommendations have been accepted, and as to what amount has been paid, I am not in a position to speak definitely at the moment. When I was at Rabaul, I was waited upon by some people who had applied for compensation, and I was able to inform them that the matter would be dealt with speedily. Communications were sent to the department with a view to that end. I shall ascertain this morning how the matter stands and inform the honorable gentleman.
CLAIMS against the commonwealth.
– In view of the fact that the Japanese are testing our statutes and using Australian brains to do so, I ask the Prime Minister if he will confer with the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) by radio-telephone or immediately recall the right honorable gentleman so that the statutes may be made water-tight ?
– I expect that the legal action referred to by the honorable gentleman will be completed before the return of the Attorney-General.
– In view of the fact that the Income Tax Assessment Act gives a statutory exemption of £50 in respect of each child of less than sixteen years, will the Treasurer take steps to amend the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act in order to provide a similar exemption in the case of invalid dependent children of more than sixteen years of age who, at present, are debarred from receiving the invalid pension because of the earnings of their parents?
– The Commonwealth Income Tax Assessment Act is designed expressly to exclude all those persons on lower rates of income. I cannot believe that there is any real necessity to do what the honorable gentleman has asked, but if he will give me his proposal in writing, I shall examine it.
.- I move-
That the billbe now read a second time.
As honorable members are aware, there is already an act on the statute-book providing for the establishment of an InterState Commission, namely, the InterState Commission Act 1912, but, the provisions of part V. of that act, empowering the Inter-State Commission to enforce its findings, weredeclared invalid by the High Court some years ago. Less than twelve months ago a bill was before this Parliament designed to repeal the 1912 act and to enact entirely new provisions relating to the functions and procedure of the Inter-State Commission. That bill necessarily lapsed upon the dissolution of the last Parliament.
The bill now before the House is almost identical with the bill of last year, the only important difference being that the number of members to constitute the
Inter-State Commission has been increased from three to five, and a reduction of salary has been made whereby the chairman will receive £2,000 per annum and the other four members £1,500. The total salary cost under this bill will, therefore, be only £1,500 in excess of that provided for by the bill of last year.
The reason for the increase of the number of members is, I think, apparent. The duties of the commission conferred on it by this bill will rapidly grow to pro-‘ portions that would be too large for the commission always sitting as a single body to cope with. By providing for a commission of five members it will be possible for that commission to appoint sub-committees and thus enable it to deal with nearly twice as much business and to sit concurrently in different parts of the Commonwealth. To this end provision has been made in the bill for the appointment by the Inter-State Commission of a committee of two members vested with all the powers of the InterState Commission, excepting the very important power of making a decision as the commission. Any such committee must report back to the commission itself and the full commission, guided by that report, will reach a decision and make its report to the Governor-General.
The purpose and functions of the commission are set forth in Parts III. and IV. of the bill and may be divided into four groups.
First and foremost is the Interstate Trade and Commerce Enquiries. Clause 18 empowers the commission to enquire into and report to the Governor-General upon -
Thisis the initial and most important sphere in which the Constitution intended that the duties of the commission were to be exercised.
Honorable members are well acquainted with the negotiations from which our Constitution emerged, with the spirit of compromise which made that Constitution possible, and with the surrender of powers by the States. They are also aware that in surrendering these powers certain safeguards were inserted in the Constitution, in order to afford some guarantee that interests peculiar to certain States should not be overlooked. Nowhere is this desire for. safeguards more real than in the provisions of the Constitution relating to trade and commerce. In this sphere the States were surrendering tremendous power. No longer might they protect or encourage their domestic trade by restricting the entry or establishing the free flow of goods from overseas. The power over customs and excise passed exclusively to the Commonwealth; the Commonwealth was also given power to legislate for overseas and interstate trade and, although not an exclusive Commonwealth power, any legislation of the State touching these matters was to be subservient to the Commonwealth legislation. Trade; intercourse and commerce among the States was to be absolutely free. Can it be wondered that the States wanted some machinery which if it would not in all cases guarantee, would at least go a long way towards ensuring, that the interests of the States would be protected.
Consequently, one of the safeguards which the States inserted in the Constitution was that contained in section 101 which provides-
There shall be an Inter-State Commission with such powers of adjudication and administration as the Parliament deems necessary for the execution and maintenance, within the Commonwealth, of the provisions of this Constitution relating to trade and commerce, and of all laws made thereunder.
Whilst one can readily appreciate the purpose and the wisdom of the framers of the Constitution in inserting such a measure, one cannot but be critical of the apparently conflicting provisions in the Constitution as to the nature of the” proposed tribunal. Although the tenure of office specified would indicate that the Inter-State Commission was to be a nonjudicial body, the fact that an appeal from its decisions was given to the High Court in its appellate jurisdiction led many to believe that the Inter-State Commission was a body capable of exercising the judicial powers of the Commonwealth. Accordingly, the act passed by this Parliament in 1912 vested the Inter-State Commission with certain judicial functions. How in the case of New South Wales v. Commonwealth, in 1915, the power of the commission to exercise judicial functions was challenged before and disallowed by the High Court is well known to honorable members. Suffice it to say that the High Court held that insofar as the Inter-State Commission Act purported to constitute the Interstate Commission as a judicial tribunal it was invalid.
The very basis of that legislation appeared to have been taken away by that decision. For the remainder of their terms the Inter-State Commissioners continued to function as something equivalent to a. standing royal commission, but since then no new appointments have been made and the act has remained inoperative on the statute-book.
As the result of the High Court decision it is not competent for Parliament to vest judicial powers in the commission; it is not possible, therefore, to empower the commission to enforce its own findings. No doubt we are all a little disappointed that those powers cannot be conferred on this body, but in this respect, unless and until the Constitution is amended, Parliament is helpless. That, however, does not mean that the Inter-State Commission cannot serve the Commonwealth as the framers of the Constitution intended it should. The framers of the Constitution intended this body to be the policeman of federation with respect to the trade and. commerce power, or, as Mr. Dea kin put it, the eyes and ears of the Parliament. This bill proposes to give the Inter-State Commission the widest possible powers of inquiry over matters relating to interstate commerce and to report to the Governor-General. If that report indicates that remedial or preventive action is necessary, such action can then be taken, perhaps legislative action by this Parliament, perhaps executive action by the Government, or even, in some cases, where the report discloses a. contravention of a law, an action instituted in the High Court, which court will then be enabled to take the action necessary to restrain the contravention. Consequently, by adding the powers of inquiry and report which this Parliament proposes to vest in the Inter-State
Commission to the functions which this Parliament, the Executive Government and the High Court possess, it is felt that the objectives of the States when framing the Constitution will be adequately achieved.
No longer will a State claiming to be adversely affected by federation rely upon agitation or its ability to convince this Parliament that it suffers a disability. If it feels that it is adversely affected by federation it, may invoke the jurisdiction of the Inter-State Commission which is being constituted primarily for the purpose of hearing such complaints. Armed with the findings of the Inter-State Commission the Commonwealth will then know just what the state, of affairs is that it must remedy, and how best it may remedy it.
– Could not the Commonwealth know the state of affairs from the representatives of the States?
– I have just said that the establishment of the Inter-State Commission will prevent the necessity for States having to agitate or appeal direct to this Parliament. This bill will enable the setting upof an impartial body to investigate the claims and to ascertain if there is any injustice or contravention of the law. The commission will be watching affairs from day to day and it will become more expert as time passes.
I know that it is the desire of certain honorable members to specify certain aspects of interstate trade and commerce into which the Inter-State Commission should inquire, but I ask why specify a list of particular matters that are indisputably embraced by these two general paragraphs relating to interstate trade and commerce. The specifying of certain matters cannot add to this wide general meaning; on the other hand it may, by implication, cut down that width of meaning.
I turn now to the second phase of the commission’s functions, that empowering the commission to decide that certain preferences or discriminations in respect of State railway rates are unfair or unjust. In this connexion, certain criticism was levelled at the bill of last year because its operation was confined to State railways. Such criticism however, fails to appreciate the purpose of this part. Part IV. of the bill does no more than provide the necessary machinery for carrying into effect the specific provisions of the Constitution. The Constitution contains many prohibitions addressed either to the Common-wealth or to the States, or to both. So far as the Commonwealth is concerned, section 99 of the Constitution specifically states that the Commonwealth shall not, by any law or regulation of trade, commerce, or revenue, give preference to one State or any part thereof over another State or any part thereof. This prohibition is absolute. It is not confined to cases in which some tribunal deems that the discrimination or preference is unfair or unreasonable. It is not made dependent upon the prior finding of any such body as the Inter-State Commission that there is indeed a preference. It is not, for that matter, confined to Commonwealth railways. It is an absolute prohibition directed to the Commonwealth, forbidding it to give any preference to one State over another State, by a law apper-taining to trade, commerce, or revenue. So far as the States are concerned, the prohibition is not absolute. Section 102 of the Constitution permits this Parliament, by any law with respect to trade or commerce, to forbid, as to railways, any preference or discrimination by any State or by any authority constituted under aState, only if that preference or discrimination is undue and unreasonable, or unjust to any State. Even here, due regard must be had to the financial responsibility incurred by any State in connexion with the maintenance and construction of its railways. Most important of all for our present purposes, honorable members should note that those preferences or discriminations are not to be deemed undue and unreasonable, or unjust to any State, unless so adjudged by the Inter-State Commission. Unless and until the Inter-State Commission is constituted, and machinery is provided whereby it can reach its conclusions -as intended by section 102 of the Constitution, no action by this Parliament or by the High Court can give effect to the undoubted meaning of that section.
That is what Part IV. of this bill purports to do. First, it exercises the power conferred by section 102 of the Constitution to declare unlawful the matters specified in that section, duly preserving the provisions of that section and of section 104, requiring certain matters to be taken into consideration in determining whether the preference or discrimination is undue and unreasonable, or unjust. Honorable members will note how restricted is the operation of this provision in its application to States when compared with the prohibition directed against the Commonwealth by section 99 of the Constitution.
In the ease of the Commonwealth, no preference at all, whether by railway rates or otherwise, may be given to one State over another ; in the case of a State, it is merely provided that the preference is not to be undue and unreasonable, or unjust, and whether it is undue and unreasonable,1 or unjust, having regard to certain specified factors, is made dependent upon the prior adjudication of the Inter-State Commission.
– And the will of the Commission will prevail over the will of the States.
– In certain directions, where there are concurrent powers the Commonwealth power is predominant. That is the second purpose of Part IV. - to provide for machinery whereby complaints of any contravention of that part may obtain the adjudication of the InterState Commission, without which no further action could be taken. This adjudication may be obtained at the instance of any one of the numerous authorities specified in clause 23 of the bill. Clause 24 requires the commission to submit to the Governor-General a report of all such investigations, and if that report discloses a contravention of the part, clause 25 empowers the Attorney-General to institute proceedings in the High Court to restrain that contravention.
– ‘Could a State institute filly inquiry?
– A State could invoke an inquiry by this commission and the commission would carry out that inquiry.
The third phase of the commission’s activities relates to Commonwealth grants covered by paragraphs c, d and e of clause IS of the -bill. In 1933, Parliament passed the Commonwealth Grants Commission Act, constituting the Commonwealth Grants Commission for the purpose of inquiring into and reporting to the Governor-General upon questions arising out of grants of financial assistance to States. That commission is still functioning, but this bill proposes to a abolish the act and the commission and to vest the functions of the commission in the Inter-State Commission. The terms in which these powers of inquiry and report are conferred on the Inter-State Commission are identical with the terms in which those powers are at present exercised by the Commonwealth Grants Commission.
But the bill goes further, and by paragraph / of clause IS proposes to add a wider field of investigation, namely -
Any matters concerning the financial relations between the Commonwealth and a State which are referred to the commission by the Governor-General. .
This power is closely connected with the question of Commonwealth grants; but it may include other matters, as, for example, questions arising under the Financial Agreement.
Lastly, paragraph g of clause IS requires the commission to inquire into and report to the Governor-General upon any other matters which the GovernorGeneral refers to the commission.
– The members of the commission will be busy-bodies
– I am afraid that they will not have sufficient time to become busy-bodies. Where such other matters are connected with those referred to in the preceding paragraphs, the terms of paragraph g will be useful as obviating any technical limitation to specific provisions of previous paragraphs. So far as paragraph g refers to matters unconnected with those in the preceding paragraphs, it empowers the Commonwealth to refer to the Inter-State Commission’ questions which would otherwise necessitate the appointment of a royal commission. Whether this power can conveniently be used will depend largely upon the volume of business before the commission. It is anticipated that the volume of the commission’s business will be heavy, but the Government nevertheless hopes that use may be made of the powers contained in paragraph g, and by referring certain inquiries to the Inter-State Commission often to obviate the necessity to set up a royal commission. In this connexion, it is interesting to note that it was as a kind of standing royal commission that the Inter-State Commission continued to function after the decision in the Wheat Case in 1915 until the date on which the members’ appointments terminated.
– Because they continued to draw their salaries.
– But the fact remains that they continued to act as a sort of royal commission during that period.
It is not necessary to speak at length on the machinery portions of the bill. The majority of these provisions will be found in bills constituting other nonjudicial tribunals and are, therefore, familiar to honorable members. As already mentioned, the bill provides for the establishment of a commission- of five members, one of whom must have been a Justice of a High Court or a Judge of a Supreme Court, or a practising barrister or solicitor.
– Is he to be the Chairman?
– Not necessarily. All members are to be appointed in the manner specified in section 103 of the Constitution - that is, for a period of seven years. The chairman’s salary has been fixed at £2,000 per annum, and the salaries of the other commissioners at £1,500 per annum.
– Will the commission be empowered to engage a staff? Is it intended to place any limit on the expenditure that it may incur annually?
– Of necessity, it must have a staff. In that regard, there has been no difficulty so far as the Commonwealth Grants Commission is concerned, and I do not anticipate any trouble with a body constituted as this will be, and consisting of men of very high standing and great ability. I think that we can trust a body of that kind, as we can trust our own Parliament, to do what is right.
– Is there not the possibility that, because of the number of authorities which will be able to demand an inquiry, compared with the number which, can demand one from the Commonwealth Grants Commission, the number of inquiries will be increased and the expense correspondingly greater?
– Because there will be more inquiries, and also because we wish to conserve the time of the commission, the Government proposes to increase the number of members, so as to make it possible for more work to be done than could be done by a body of three.
– Has any estimate been made of the probable annual cost?
– I do not think that there has been, but if it be possible to make one it will be made during the discussion of the bill in this House.
Part V. requires the commission to make an annual report which must be tabled before both Houses of the Parliament. Provisions in the bill relating to the taking of evidence, summoning, examination and protection of witnesses, and production of documents, are all similar to provisions in existing acts dealing with such matters.
– It is not clear that evidence shall be taken on oath. That ought to be made clear.
– I am not quite sure on that point. Mention may be made of the requirement that the commission must take- evidence in public, unless in the public interest it considers it desirable to take- that evidence in private. Where such matters as trade secrets are involved, however, the commission must take the evidence in private when so requested.
There can be little doubt that it is. highly desirable that the legislative and administrative functions of any Parliament are greatly assisted by the existence of permanent bodies empowered to inquire into .difficult subjects and report to the Parliament. Particularly does this apply to a Federal Parliament such as this. This Parliament is concerned not only with the welfare of the whole of the Commonwealth but also with the interests, sometimes divergent, of the six States forming the Commonwealth. Many bodies already in existence are designed to assist Parliament in this respect. I need only refer to the Tariff Board, the Commonwealth Grants Commission, and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. But notwithstanding the existence’ of these permanent bodies, it is frequently necessary to appoint royal commissions to inquire into certain matters. The commission which this bill proposes to establish will be a body of. experts which, by reason of their long tenure of office and the permanent records of their activities which will be kept, will have every phase of federation and its effects at their finger-tips and will be able, therefore, .not only to safeguard the interests of the States, but also to advise this Parliament on- many matters of vital importance.
The question of re-constituting this commission is not a new one; it has been under consideration ever since the expiration of the original tribunal’. Many requests for its re-establishment, have, been made, including recommendations by royal commissions. References to pages 249 and 250 of the report of the Royal Commission on the Constitution will disclose that that royal commission dealt in detail with the functions which might be conferred on the Inter-State Commission, and recommended its reconstitution. The royal commission on the finances of Western Australia as affected by Federation, and the royal commission appointed to inquire into the finances of South Australia, also recommended the re-constitution of the Inter-State Commission. On page 59 of the report of the former commission appear the words -
The creation of an Inter-State Commission is one of the terms of the federal partnership agreement. It is in the bond.
At this stage, perhaps I may refer to a question put to me at question time by the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker) in regard to criticism of this measure recently made by the Right Honorable Sir Isaac Isaacs.
– Very destructive criticism.
– But not very helpful. Having regard to the very high offices which Sir Isaac Isaacs’ has occupied, any criticism emanating from him cannot be ignored and must be treated with respect. If he has been correctly reported, it appears that his comments on this measure can rather easily be answered. In the first place,, he objects to the passage of this bill before the meeting of the new Senate on the 1st July next. It is difficult to appreciate this objection. The Senate has frequently been referred to as a States House. and the method of its constitution, whereby one half, of its members retire every three years, is designed to secure continuity. If there is anything in this objection it would follow that no. legislation should be passed after the date of the elections, and before the commencement of the term of service of the new senators. In many cases the adoption of this course would suspend the legislative machine for nine or ten months. There is surely nothing in this objection.
The next criticism is that no constitutional mandate exists for such a commission as is proposed, and that whatever mandate does exist for the establishment of an Inter-State Commission has not been followed. This objection appears to be based on the ground that the bill now before the House is not limited to the carrying out pf the specified provisions of sections 101-104 of the Constitution, but gives the commission powers of inquiry concerning certain other matters specified in -paragraphs ,c to g of clause 18.
The criticism that the only powers which the Parliament may confer on the commission are those contemplated in sections 101-104 of the Constitution does not appear to be a valid one. It appears to be based on an analogy derived from the decisions .of the High Court in relation to the exercise of judicial power. As members are aware, the Constitution contains a tripartite division of powers into legislative, executive and judicial. It has been held by the High Court that the judicial power of the Commonwealth may not be exercised except by courts. But while this clear demarcation exists in the decision of the court with respect to judicial power, the same line does not exist between legislative and executive powers. The court has held that the division of powers between the Executive and the legislature is not a hard and fast division, but that certain powers in their nature legislative may be conferred on the Executive. It will be remembered also that the High Court has held that judicial powers may not be conferred on the Inter-State Commission. It follows, therefore, that, in the division of the organs of government between legislative, executive and judicial, the functions of the Inter-State Commission cannot be regarded as falling within the judicial division and that the limitations which are. applicable to judicial powers are not applicable to legislative and executive powers. It follows also that the Parliament, in creating an executive body such as the Inter-State Commission, is not limited by the specific provisions of sections 101-104 of the Constitution but may confer upon the commission other powers falling within the general legislative powers of the Commonwealth under section 51. This is the principle upon which the Parliament acted in 1912 when it conferred many additional powers on the commission, notably powers relating to marketing, the effects and operation of tariffs, prices of commodities, profits of trade and manufacture, wages and social and industrial conditions, labour, employment and unemployment, bounties paid by foreign countries, population, migration and “other matters referred to the commission by either House of the Parliament, by resolution, for investigation.” So far as I am aware no challenge in any shape or form has ever been made against these provisions, notwithstanding the fact that ‘they were actually exercised for seven years, during which time the act formed the subject, of a. leading case before the High Court in which others of its powers were held to be invalid.
The next objection appeals- to be that provisions in the bill relating to State railways violate an important’ mandate intended for the protection of the States. It is difficult, in the brief reference made in the press to this objection, to appreciate the grounds of it, seeing that clauses 21 and 22 of the bill, which relate to State railways, follow very closely the provisions of sections 102 and 104 of the Constitution, including the provisions which those sections contain for the protection of State railways.
The remaining criticisms appear to be based on the view that the bill is unnecessary. This is a view which the Government does not share. As many honorable members know, this measure played a prominent’ part during the last elections in certain of the States. It is undoubted that there should be some such body to inquire into the disabilities which those States allege they suffer and into certain anomalies in the effects of federation which they allege exist.
The present Government, when it established theCommonwealth Grants Commission, took a very important step in the direction of giving justice, particularly to the smaller States; and in bringing forward this bill it is taking a still further step in that direction. It is doing something which I hope will bring about better feeling between the States and the Commonwealth, something that will create a better federal spirit throughout Australia as a whole. The fact that we propose to increase the number of the commission will, in addition to the advantages I have already mentioned, enable us to make that body even more representative than is the present Commonwealth Grants Commission. I commend the bill to the favorable consideration of the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Blackburn) adjourned.
Second report brought up by Mr.
Stacey, read by the Clerk, and agreed to.
Debate resumed from the 29th April (vide page 660), on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- When considering the proposals contained in this bill it is necessary to take the long view. It is true that we are looking for some early results, but, in my opinion, the main results will be achieved many years hence. Honorable members will agree that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, which was appointed twelve years ago, has since then established a very fine record of achievement, and that it has won the confidence of the primary producers of Australia, upon whose problems attention has been particularly concentrated. This bill is to provide a fund of £250,000 to extend the activities of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to secondary industries. Under the original charter, the council had power to conduct research into ‘all industries, but it never had the funds to pursue its inquiries into more than the primary industries. Now it will be able to turn its attention to the secondary industries. In the opinion of the Opposition, this is a step in the right direction, and we commend the bill. I do not lose sight of the importance of the primary industries, which are the foundation upon which the prosperity of Australia has been built. The primary industries supply us with food, with the raw material for other industries, and with a surplus for export, thus enabling us to maintain our credit overseas, and to meet our obligations there. In addition, they provide very considerable employment. However, the power of the primary industries to absorb labour is diminishing, whereas that of the secondary industries is ever increasing, and will increase still further when science is applied to them. The application of science to manufacture should result in many of those machines and tools of trade in which high precision is necessary, and which are now being imported, being manufactured in this country. In addition, a very large percentage of the articles now imported will also be manufactured locally, thus making Australia more self-reliant in peace or in war. That also has a very important bearing on our trade balance overseas, and no one can view recent trade returns without a certain amount of disquietude. We have seen that the markets for our primary products are closing in, while imports into Australia are increasing in volume. Although the immediate position is not dangerous, it will require only a continuation of the drift for a year or so, culminating in a drought, and the position will be really serious. Therefore, the more we can do to increase production in our own country of those goods which we are now importing, the safer will Australia be. I have said that the markets overseas are closing in, and that is true, particularly in regard to wheat.
– Do not say, “closing in “ ; say, rather, “ being destroyed “.
– We in Australia have no control over such matters. The honorable member who has just interjected would say, no doubt, that we have brought it upon ourselves by our own tariff action, but I point out that there were other motives besides retaliation for tariffs.
– Order ! I ask honorable members not to introduce the fiscal question on this measure.
– I merely desired, Mr. Speaker, to make a passing reference to the matter.
– I am aware of that and of the interjection which caused the honorable member to digress.
– I think my remarks were apt. This bill opens up a very wide vista; there is really no limit to the consideration one could give to a proposal such as that now before the House if time permitted. The proposed expenditure of £250,000 to extend scientific research and the application of science to secondary industries opens up the whole of the ramifications of our national economics which affect, not only the production of primary industries, but also the importation and exportation of all classes of goods. Just on that point it is well to recall that, some six years ago, the German Minister for Agriculture, in a very important broadcast speech, said -
Germanyhas so increased her wheat acreage that she no longer need import grain for bread. Nobody will now force us to our knees bya hunger blockade.
There you have the incentive in foreign countries to produce uneconomically wheat and other products. That necessitates us extending the field of our secondary industries so that they will be able to produce in this country the goods we are now importing in order to offset the lack of exports of primary products to those countries. A more important aspect than that, however, is the importance of having in this country a diversity of industries essentia] for our national development and for the protection of the nation. “We cannot develop this nation unless we have a balanced economy. I have never taken the part of any one who held one section against another; I believe the one is complementary to the other. Primary and secondary industries must march forward side by side in our national development. If we enlarge our home markets by the extension of secondary industries, we shall increase the markets for primary and secondary industries alike. That is amost important aspect. Another very serious and important aspect that this subject opens up is the question of population. We are constantly being told about the vast empty spaces in Australia, though in many cases statements made in that regard are exaggerated. We certainly have vast empty spaces, but a large proportion of them are not capable of settlement.
– They will always be empty.
– That is so, unless some new method of production is discovered about which science at present knows nothing.
– They could, perhaps, be developed by irrigation.
– I should like to see the honorable member endeavour to irrigate the dead heart of Australia. It is true that there are portions of Australia capable of more intense cultivation today, and it is equally true that Australia can carry a much larger population than it does at present, but it is also true that before we can contemplate large schemes of migration for the rapid filling up of Australia we must first provide for the employment of those who are already here. Having done that we can then make provision for the absorption of new arrivals. It would be of no use for a man with an empty paddock to dump a lot of fruit trees in it, and let them lie there and say, “ I shall have an orchard “. It is the same in regard to human beings. Migrants must be given a chance to dig their roots deep into the soil by employment; they should not be dumped here and scattered over the empty spaces without guidance or assistance.
Anybody who has given passing thought to this question must know that the room for expansion in Australia lies in its secondary industries. The object of this bill is to extend the capacity and efficiency of secondary industries, and because of that I support it as I have supported the extension of scientific research and the application of science to the primary industries of Australia. I am glad to see that great results have been achieved in the past, although greater, I believe, are tocome.
The two principal institutions to be set up by the funds to be established under this bill have been explained by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), and I shall not go into too much detail in connexion with them. One is the National Standards Laboratory to cost £S0,000, in respect of which there will be an annual expenditure of £10,000; the other is the Aeronautical Research Laboratory to cost £143,000, and in respect of which the annual expenditure will be £12,000.
We have at the present time, and have had over the last eight or niue years, an organization known as the Standards Association. Prior to that the other organizations dealing with standards were the Association of Simplified Practice, and the Commonwealth Engineering Standards Association. Those organizations have been amalgamated into the Standards Association. Those associations have done excellent work in the past in preparing specifications and in the formulation of methods to standardize manufacturing operations throughout Australia. We have not yet got to the higher foi;m of standardized organization and, until this measure goes through, . we have no Commonwealth authority. Without such an authority we cannot ‘have standards because, as I think the Treasurer said in his speech, a number of standards means that there are really no standards. ‘Greater facilities are needed, and more elaborate equipment is required, to bring about the proper organization ‘of standards in the manufacturing and other industries in Australia. A committee was set up by the Government some two years ago known as the Secondary Industries Testing and Research Committee. That committee has submitted a “report -which, although extremely technical, is, nevertheless, very interesting. I myself found it interesting to a degree. I have no doubt that many honorable members have read the report, but there are some portions of it which I think are worthy of emphasizing;. The committee states -
Cases have been cited in many industries of the disabilities imposed upon manufacturers by the lack of facilities in conducting certain tests, and the difficulty of securing any authoritative certificate of test as to quality or other requirements.
That is a very serious disability from which industry is suffering to-day. Successful modern production means specialization. Specialized parts of machines are made in separate factories -and institutions by the thousands and by the hundreds of thousands. There is no such thing to-day as the individual fitting together of one part with another. It has to be done on a wide scale under what is called mass production, and because of that very much greater accuracy is required in the gauges employed for measuring and testing of parts. Therefore, there arises the very important necessity for having standard gauges. Here is a very interesting and striking paragraph in this technical report which supports the arguments advanced in justification of this considerable expenditure of public moneys : -
The range of equipment from primary standard down to working gauges is extensive. At tho top of the range is the costly and very’ accurate equipment which must be housed and handled with every precaution against injury and against temperature and other influences that would impair tho accuracy of a calibration. At the other end of the range are the working gauges. In normal manufacture of medium high precision, the limit gauges measure to .1/1.000 of an inch. The master gauges for checking those would measure to 1/10,000 of an inch. The sub-standards for checking the master gauges must be accurate to 1/100,000 of an inch, and the comparators used in thu highest grade of calibrations in the standards laboratory -measure to 1/1,000,000 of an inch.
These are staggering statements. It is for the establishment of a standards laboratory equipped to carry out such highly accurate measurements that this bill has been introduced. The equipment of the maximum accuracy that is required in industry is not obtainable in Australia at the present time. In rare cases, Australian firms have used the services of this description now obtainable in Great Britain, but that is very inconvenient; hence the need for this proposal to have set up in Australia standards of this very high maximum accuracy. Of course, if a crisis arose and we were cut off, even temporarily, from the other side of the world, a standards laboratory such as I have mentioned would be very necessary.
Another very important feature of the bill is that it proposes to set up an aeronautical research establishment. Mr. H. E. Wimperis, a former director of aeronautical research in Great Britain, instituted an inquiry in Australia and has submitted anumber of recommendations which, so far as I can gather, coincide with the recommendations of the other committee to which I have referred. In his report, Mr. Wimperis said that there should be set up an engineering research establishment for experimental work in wind tunnels, in engine tests for aircraft and automobiles, and in tests foraircraft instruments. Honorable members will agree that it is important that we should be able to detect faults in the manufacture of engines for aeroplanes during the course of manufacture, and should also be able to ascertain the cause of any engine failure after manufacture. Such an institution would be an excellent help in any inquiry into the unfortunate tragic events that have occurred too frequently in recent times in Australia.
The two institutions I have mentioned will play a very important part in the industrial life of Australia.. At present, this country is very far behind most other countries, certainly behind seven or eight nations in the matterof applied science. Germany, I think, leads the world in the ‘application of science to industry ;Russia has also made rapid strides in this direction in recent years; and Great Britain and the United States of America have gone a long way; but Australia lags behind. Apropos of thisquestion, I should like to draw attention to what I regard as a very serious matter that has come under notice recently. A cable published in the Melbourne Age of the 2nd June last read as follows: -
For the development of the military and economic four-year plan, all German chemists and engineers employed by firms outside Germany have been ordered to return to Germany.
I notice that the president of the Victorian Chambers of Manufactures, Mr. F. Sanderson, has pointed out that this will mean a serious depletion of the ranks of the technical experts in Australia. He states that the chemical industries have employed many Germans, and their recall will handicap Australian firms, because no other members of their staffs are trained -to do their work. That, in my opinion, is a serious reflection on the industry itself, and it is something of which the Government should take note.
If firms permit foreign technical experts to come to Australia because men of that class are unobtainable here - and that is the position - compulsion should be laid upon those firms to have Australians trained by the imported foreigners.
– The firms generally show a preference to foreigners over Australians.
– The terms of employment of foreign experts should provide that they should train Australians to do the work. One can see what might happen.No easier way could be found for a foreigncountry to sabotage Australia in time of war than by withdrawing its experts from the key industries on which we should have to rely in a nationalemergency. Yet we have allowed foreigners to do the skilled work until their services are required for military and other purposes in their own country. When we train our own experts, we shall have some assurance that our key industries will be carried on. This precaution is particularly necessary inview of the fact that local industries have to compete with industries overseas that have employed a large number of highly skilled experts for many years.
– Many of the experts are attracted overseas by high salaries.
– Yes. Technical men are not so highly remunerated as they should be, and that is one reason why we lose them. We now have under notice an instance of German nationals having been recalled by the German Government, and some have responded to that call, leaving our key industries without trained experts. It will be useless to expend £250,000 on further research work if we do not have trained Australian experts to carry on these industries. When we have trained our experts, it will be of no use if the local market is flooded by goods dumped from overseas. We must preserve Australian industry for the purpose of ensuring national safety, as well as for national development.
Having been accustomed to speaking of millions of pounds, we may be apt to overlook the fact that the £250,000 proposed to be expended under thismeasure is a large sum. to devote merely to research and other work in the application of science to industry.
– It is an investment.
– Yes. We look forward to the results which we hope to obtain from this expenditure. The question naturally arises whether the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has the necessary qualifications to control this large fund. In my opinion it has, because for more than a decade it has co-operated successfully with State departments in carrying on scientific research. It has worked harmoniously with experts of the agricultural departments of the various States, and has also engaged in original discovery and research. The institute has established a fine record of achievement. It would bc a simple matter, of course, to point to its failures. Every effort does not lead to success, but, if there is even one success in a generation, it may more than recoup the Commonwealth for the total cost of all the investigations. A striking illustration of the truth of that statement is to be found in the successful attack on the prickly pear in northern parts of Australia. The record of the work done in that regard makes a wonderful story. Some enthusiast brought a pot plant from overseas, and distributed a few slips or seeds of the prickly pear among his friends. In a brief period, it covered vast areas of Queensland, where the climate and soil encouraged its growth. It spread over the land like an invading army. The services of hundreds of men were enlisted in an attempt to resist its onward march, but they fell back beaten. Its very thorns were like bayonet thrusts. Many of the settlers gave up the struggle, and deserted their homesteads. But what is the position to-day? Where proud man failed, :a little insect, the cactoblastus has succeeded. But it was an insect discovered by means of scientific research. These insects were gathered, cultivated, and distributed under the guidance of trained men, and they have resisted the onward march’ of the enemy. So astonishing have been the effects of this insect upon the prickly pear, that it is stated in the report of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research entitled “ Ten Years of Progress”, that 17,000,000 acres of land formerly covered by dense and impenetrable prickly pear has been reclaimed and made available for settlement. That is about 26,000,000 square miles, or about one-third the area of Victoria. It represents an area equal to a strip of land 50 miles wide, and extending from Sydney to Melbourne. That victory more than justifies all the money expended on the institute, and all the money likely to be expended on it for many years to come.
The purpose of this bill is the application of science to industry, but I believe that there will be opportunities under it for original research, scientific experiments, and adjustments to suit local conditions, which would not be possible if we relied on the application of scientific research and discovery in other parts of the world. Of course, we have the benefit of the remarkable discoveries of the past, and a fascinating story they reveal. There is only one sad side, and that is the perversion of the uses of scientific research and invention from good to evil - the tragedy of the use of scientific discovery for the destruction of human life in war time, rather than its employment in establishing and maintaining world peace. If it were used for the latter purpose, what wonderful results science could show! Nevertheless, there is a bright side of the picture, and that is to be seen in the great gifts to the human race that have come from men of science. Throughout the ages, men have toiled and given of their best for humanity, without the slightest hope of reward. In speaking of men, I include, of course, women, because nobody can think of scientific discoveries without recalling the discovery of radium by Madame Curie, who laboured beside her husband, and continued his work with wonderful success, despite mental and physical exhaustion.
We should see that the benefits derived from scientific discoveries and inventions are shared by all, so that we may ease the burden of the toilers in the industrial field. These discoveries must make for greater prosperity of the people generally, and the toilers in industry are entitled to share in those benefits. When the. genius of man has been given full’ scope, and his powers have been utilized for the benefit of all, then shall the triumph of science be the triumph of the human race.
Sitting suspended from 12.42 to 2.15 p.m.
.-I congratulate the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) upon his excellent second-reading speech on this bill. I regard the establishment of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research as one of the best moves the Commonwealth Government has ever made. It would be hard to estimate the economic and productive value of the council’s work since its inception. When I was in Canada, I was impressed by the very great attention paid in that dominion to the application of scientific methods to both primary and secondary industries. Almost every form of production there is being afforded scientific aid. In a young country like Australia, such guidance is becoming more thanever imperative. However, “ better late than never “. A fine feature of the work of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is that it is entirely free from political influence. The council has been given a free hand.
– Is that strictly true?
-The council is subject to the direction of the Minister.
– Its experimental activities are entirely in its own hands. All that the council needs from the Goernment is the provision of financial aid, though, of course, ministerial direction may be given that particular problems shall be investigated.
I am looking to the council to add to its valuable achievements by discovering, from current investigations, a virus for the destruction of rabbits. These small animals have caused damage to the extent of untold millions of pounds in Australia. In a young State like Western Australia, which has recently become seriously infested with rabbits, the settlers are totally unprepared to deal with the situation. The taking of effective measures will involve the expenditure of a large sum of money. I, therefore trust that the council very soon will be able to prove the virus satisfactory and release it to the settlers so that still further losses may be avoided. We speak frequently about the losses incurred in Australia by drought, but we should also remember that very heavy losses are also caused by rabbits. I trust that this particular work of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research will be expedited. The reports so far released encourage me to cherish the hope that the promising results already obtained will lead to complete success.
Not long before Dr. Tillyard died, he told me that practically everything in life had its parasite. Australia had a fine native flora and fauna when the country was first settled, and the parasites in the country kept in check animals and diseases that might have become a pest; unfortunately, the many pests that have been introduced without their particular parasite have involved the country in tremendous losses. I mention the lucerne flea in this connexion. The Council for Scientificand Industrial Research is to be complimented on having discovered the parasite for this flea. I sincerely hope that a parasite will also be discovered for the red-legged mite which is so destructive to all kinds of clover. The right honorable member for Yarra referred to the insect which has destroyed the prickly pear, to the tremendous advantage of certain parts of the Commonwealth. I should like to know whether the council is making investigations to discover a fungus or some other method to destroy bracken fern. If such a discovery could be made, it would mean that millions of acres of the best land in Australia would become available for production. Not only is the bracken fern in itself a pest, but it is also a harbour for foxes, rabbits and other pests.
The money to be provided under this bill is intended to make possible the scientific investigation of certain problems relating to our secondary industries, the determining of standards, and the like. This is manifestly highly necessary in order to permit our secondary industries to be more effectively developed and maintained. If satisfactory work be done in this direction no doubt the burden which these industries at present impose upon certain sections of our people will be lifted to some extent. In view of our high protective policy it is desirable that production costs should be kept as low a.s possible. No doubt articles of high quality are being manufactured by many well-organized secondary industries of this country, hut to ensure that all sections of our people shall be given a better deal in respect of prices and the like, and also that they shall be enabled to compete on more equitable terms with similar industries in other countries, it is essential that the most scientific methods shall be applied. I commend the bill and shall vote for it.
Mr. BEASLEY (West Sydney) [2.24J. - I wish to compliment the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) upon his interesting and informative survey of the work of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and I endorse his tribute to that body for the fine work that it has done in connexion with primary industries, particularly in regard to the eradication of pests. The information which he conveyed to the House was worthy to be rehearsed. I also compliment him on the attention he has given to the technical side of the Council’s operations, which it is proposed this bill will cover. Although he is not himself a technician, he has placed us all under an obligation to him because crf his obvious research into and study of this aspect of the subject, particularly in relation to standards, gauges, and the other work it is proposed will be done. His remarks have enabled us to grasp more clearly the intention of the bill.
I wish ‘ to ask the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) for some information in connexion with the measure. How far is it proposed that the work intended to be done shall go? I understand that a body is to be established to deal with Australian standards of measures, gauges and other matters in relation to the testing strength of materials, and so on. “Will an investigation bc made into the requirements of specific industries? I have in mind, particularly, the electrical industry, which is natural, since I was engaged in it before I became a member of this Parliament. For instance, will the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research concern itself with the determining of electrical standards of one kind and another for application to all parts of Australia ? It has become imperative, particularly in Australia, that more work of this description shall be done. I am aware that various committees have been formed in the different States to discuss standards. These bodies, which are “ offshoots “ of a larger body, are evidently exercising powers delegated to them by different States, but unfortunately this method has led to the setting up of varying State standards in the Commonwealth. It is now proposed, I understand, that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research shall become a central authority to determine the degree to which existing standards shall be accepted, and I want to know if its decisions will override the decisions of the State authorities in different industries where these are now operating. It may be that its decisions will have to be applied by voluntary, rather than compulsory, methods, but I sincerely trust that the whole subject will be dealt with in a common-sense way, and that State jealousies will not be allowed to perpetuate varying standards instead- of securing uniformity. We have had enough of that kind of thing in the past.
A particularly sorry state of affairs can be cited in the lack of uniformity of our railway gauges. If this central authority has not the statutory power ‘to impose its will on the States, it will at least have the power to direct attention to the futility of trying to develop the industries of this country except on standardized lines. I understand that this proposed organization will make the necessary tests to arrive at the proper formulas and to decide standard measures, gauges and the like to be accepted, I suppose, by those who seek the organization’s advice.
It is just as well to be frank on these matters. I should be loth to see Commonwealth money expended and all the benefits from its expenditure derived by the large industries to the exclusion of the .smaller ones. I want the determinations by this authority to be within the reach of not. only those organizations which are established but also those which are seeking to be established. I wish to be assured also that if money is expended in research for secondary industries there will be some reciprocation to the people of Australia by those industries which have benefited. Frequently Commonwealth money has been expended to assist industries and there has been no reciprocation by those in charge of such industries. I have no hesitation in naming the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited as an example. A great deal of Commonwealth money has been expended on behalf o.t that company in the form of concessions of various kinds, financial assistance and in research, not necessarily by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, but with funds provided direct from Consolidated Revenue. That company, after ‘ having had the benefit of all of that expenditure of public moneys, when it needed ships to trade on the Australian coast, and had the opportunity to reciprocate to Australia by having those vessels built in Australia, bought them overseas. That is the sort of thing that tends to make honorable members sour when assistance to the larger industries is contemplated. It should be borne in mind by the men who for the time being are operating these large industries that they are trustees, not only for their shareholders, but also for the country as a whole. They must recognize that the welfare of the nation is equally as important as that of the shareholders, and all-important as the dividends of shareholders may be to them, the principle of dividends to the nation should be the pre-eminent consideration. If I with other honorable members am prepared to vote Commonwealth moneys for the development of industry those industries which benefit should realize that this Parliament has in its mind not only their welfare but also the welfare of the country generally. The betterment of the conditions of persons engaged as employees in industries is also a factor in our taking action to provide assistance to industries. If I am ready to help those industries they should on their side be prepared to reciprocate and to hand back to the community some of the benefits that they receive by purchasing their requirements in Australia, even though the cost be higher than they may be 12,000 miles away. The fact should he impressed upon those industries that this Parliament is prepared to help them only if they are willing to accept these considerations.
The purpose of this measure, I understand, is that the secondary industries of Australia should achieve the highest and most scientific standards possible. The right honorable member for Yarra put it very nicely in his speech when he declared that it would be useless to expend money on research on behalf of industries unless those industries received at the hands of the Government adequate protection from foreign competition, particularly when the standard methods suggested had been applied. Honorable members appreciated the constructive speech made by the right honorable member, particularly in this matter. The research work by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research on behalf of primary industries has had beneficial results, largely because of the successful co-operation by that body with the agricultural departments of the States. It is to be hoped that the same spirit of co-operation will aPPly in regard to secondary industries. I agree that even if the standards to be established by the body to be set up under this bill do not override the standards that have already been established in the various States, at least the spirit of co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States will be cultivated on this important matter. The cooperation which has resulted so happily to the primary industries should characterize the proposed efforts on behalf of the secondary industries.
I am particularly anxious, however, that those firms which are in a big way will not be the only concerns that will benefit from the establishment of this department. The benefits must be spread throughout all sections of industry. Furthermore, in order to assist towards making Australia self-sufficient in the engineering industries, I believe that technical students at the universities and colleges and trade schools should have the opportunity to watch the research work. Lectures and practical demonstrations- should be available to engineering students from the gentlemen who will be in charge of the proposed work. If that, policy were adopted, the scientific application of the brain-power of the Australian people would be considerably assisted. I conclude with the hope that those people who will benefit from the expenditure of this amount of £250,000 on industrial research will not fail to do something practical for the nation in return.
.- It is gratifying to know that all sides of the House are congratulating the Government on this national movement in the direction of extending the operations of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to research into secondary industries. Such research has been required for years by secondary industries. The world marches on rapidly and when we review the many inventions, such as air-conditioning, wool fibre, fabricated houses, oil from coal, television, advances in air-craft, and all of the laboursaving appliances, we must realize the need for research. We have men of talent in Australia and, instead of the services of many being sought by overseas organizations, we have now the opportunity to make use of them locally.
To take only one of the recent developments, air-conditioning. What an effect this must have on industries in such tropical centres as Darwin and Townsville and in inland towns like Bourke! Air-conditioning has an important bearingon the amenities of life. Airconditioning, for instance, is necessary for the proper development of New Guinea.
When I was in Washington last year the United States of America National Research Committee was engaged on the very important effect of new inventions on industry, and employment and general living conditions. It issued a remarkably interesting report. I believe that in Australia research in the direction contemplated in this bill will enable us to plan proper adjustments and to obtain full benefit from modern inventions. The secondary industries need a bureau of standards. I understand that this bill will establish such a bureau which will deal with formulas for various essential materials which will be of great value to local industries and enable them to compete more effectively with overseas industries.
I listened with interest to the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), who made an excellent contribution to the debate. I agree with his statement that there is a good deal of exaggeration in respect of the vast open spaces of Australia. When we compare the rainfall of Australia with that of other countries and realize the fact that a large part of Australia is within the tropical zone, we know that the reason why there are empty spaces in Australia is exactly the same as the reason why there are empty spaces in other parts of the world, namely, they are not suitable for human habitation. I am pleased that the Government has introduced this measure,’ which has my strongest support.
.- I commend the Government for its action in bringing down this measure. Such a step was absolutely essential in view of the development of secondary industries. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has already done a great amount of valuable work on behalf of primary industries. The cactoblastus insect has saved Australia millions of pounds by its destruction of the prickly pear pest. The council’s experiments in the direction of exterminating the blowfly are still in progress, but, even so, the council has done valuable work in that direction. It has done splendid work in discovering a remedy for the blue mould in tobacco. Its work on noxious weeds is being extended and its efforts to combat the skeleton weed menace, are particularly appreciated. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) referred to the council’s efforts towards the elimination of the rabbit pest. If the council is successful in its attempt to deal with the rabbit problem, it will have done a work of tremendous value. In the secondary industries, it is absolutely necessary to secure greater standardization. This is too big a problem for manufacturers alone. In big engineering projects, standardization is particularly valuable, but the need for it also exists in connexion with primary industries. Any one who has purchased farm plant realizes how many different patterns there are in the machines purchased from different manufacturers, and how difficult and expensive it is to obtain duplicate parts when needed. A 2-inch or 3-inch bolt with a right-hand thread can be bought for 2d., yet the firm which manufactures the machine that turns out a bolt of the same size with a left-hand thread charges ls. 3d., although the cost of production is no greater. This furnishes absolute proof of the need for standardization. In the case of spindles carrying a particular kind of cog-wheel, die cogs at the end should be interchangeable, so that when the spindle wore it could be transferred to the other end, hut the manufacturer of the machine deliberately tapered the spindle at one end so that that could not be done, and more duplicates would be required on which a profit could be made. I urge the research committee which deals with these matters to press for greater standardization, not only in connexion with engineering and electrical appliances and the parts necessary for aeroplane construction, but also in respect of plant required in primary production.
– I rise to support the bill. We are fortunate in having a technical man in the person of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to bring such a measure before the House, and I congratulate the honorable gentleman upon its introduction. I regret that I was unable to be here when he introduced it, and that I had to make a few notes from the newspaper report of his speech. We are entitled to congratulate ourselves upon having had such a report as was made by Mr. H. E. Wimperis recently in the matter of the manufacture of aeroplanes. I was particularly struck with his remarks on page 4 of the report, which show that he has presented something that is worth while. He there stated -
It is natural that it should bo asked whether Australia, by reliance on research work done elsewhere, could not obtain all the information it will need. The answer is that it could not. The results of aeronautical investigations (whether public or confidential) carried out in Britain are, it is true, immediately communicated to the Air Board in Australia, and that such published work as may be issued in the United States of America, Germany and elsewhere is also available. But vitally important as this is, the whole of the field nf inquiry cannot be thus covered. Aus tralia will wish to know the degree to which home-produced products can safely be used in substitution for materials that have to be imported, bow far it is safe to adopt novel methods of manufacture which may suit local conditions, and, most important, to learn promptly the cause of any failure during manufacture, or use, of any aircraft component, or of the aircraft as a whole.
I am quite in accord with the suggestion of the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) that we should lose no time in making use of such a valuable brain as that of Mr. Wimperis for the training of our own people.
The Treasurer has reminded us thai, in .1936, the Government set up the committee known as the Secondary Industries Testing and Research Committee, consisting -of leading industrialists and eminent scientists. This body recommended, among other things, the setting up of an Australian standards research reference laboratory, an aircraft and engine testing and research testing laboratory, a research service, an information service, and a testing service for secondary industry. The honorable gentleman also informed us that the Government had availed itself of the services of Mr. Wimperis in the preparation of this measure. He has stressed the point that the broadening of the activities of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has a distinct defence flavour, for the reason that the two main institutions to be brought together are an essential link with the big defence effort that Australia is now making, mid that it will make in the years to come.
My principal reason for addressing myself to the bill is to point out that, praiseworthy as is the idea of spending £250,000 on standards, we actually have no guaranteed standard of length in the Commonwealth; all the States are working to a. different standard pf length. Further, we have no standard of level in height, based on mean sea level; all the States work on a different basis.’ In Melbourne, instrumentalities such as the Metropolitan Board of Works, the State Rivers and Water Supply Department, and the Harbour Board, work on different data, simply because the matter of arriving at the mean sea level is a highly technical process which has never been attended to in the past. That applies also in Sydney; there has always to be a plus or minus adjustment in respect of levels. When a surveyor or an engineer comes to a datum peg or a bench mark, he has to find out what level he is on - whether he is on the Harbour Board datum or the railway datum - and make the necessary adjustment. This matter should be attended to before a commencement is made with measurements on any other work. All the measurements on which we propose to spend such an enormous sum are really based on a national standard of length - on the science of measurement known as metrology. I shall show how we have developed this science by drawing freely on the notes of a fellow surveyor, the late Mr. Herborn who has left quite a wealth of valuable material behind him in the articles that he wrote prior to his death. As to what is meant by metrology, he said -
Metrology is defined us “ the science of measure “, and “ measure “ as size, or quantity, in relation to a standard.
That is the standard we are now discussing, and which we propose to inaugurate. Mr. Herborn went on to say -
The field of measuring is all-embracing. It covers every activity -of science, art, production, commerce, trade, and every phenomenon of the universe. It is said that without measuring there can bc no science.
In recent years this study lias received much attention, and valuable and interesting information has been gathered. Although the ancient measures have varied considerably in different countries, and in the sa.mc country at different periods, it is found that, in measures of length, the practice has almost invariably been to employ natural units, and also, almost invariably, such units have been parts of the human body. That practice prevailed right up to the time of the introduction of the metric system, when, owing to its impracticability for the provision of standards, it was abandoned. Attempts have been made to establish standards, based on the beats of the pendulum, and on the measurement of “a quadrant of the earth, but all have failed. The reason for having such a standard is that, in tho event of its loss, it could bc” re-established by reference to its origin.
I point out that the English standards now in use date from the reign of Henry VII. Since then the values have varied. Mr. Herborn went on to say -
The measures in use for land surveys were such as to make calculations very cumbersome. Edmund Gunter, mathematician, and professor nf astronomy in Gresham College, London, recognizing this, introduced a decimal subdivision of the chain. Since his time this innovation lias been of immense economic value. Gunter also invented the quadrant. Up to recent times the measures have been used mostly for trade and constructional purposes, but with the advance of scientific and industrial development it has become essential to establish standards of the greatest accuracy and to make units of great .precision.
We have continued to use those standards of measurement up to the present day. But there is no co-ordination among the Australian States in respect of a standard of length. Let me trace what the States have done in an attempt to bring this about. I shall deal first with New South Wales. In 1867, 10-ft. wooden bars were used to measure the Lake George base. These bars had microscopes at their terminals. That work was subsequently completed in 1S70, with 10-ft. iron bars with microscopes at their terminals. Those iron bars are now in the Sydney University. Thermometers were placed at intervals of every 2 feet, so that they could be cheeked as accurately a3 possible, and they were kept in a cellar so that the temperature would be more or less even. In 1S80, the Richmond base of verification was measured and checked by the use of both the wooden and the iron bars. In 1S95, it was decided to lay down a standard 66 feet and 100 feet in three large trachyte blocks under the basement of the Lands Department. For that purpose, two steel tapes were prepared and standardized by comparison with the 10-ft. iron bars. These tapes were used to evaluate the distances between the terminals placed on the blocks. These are the standards of reference in New South Wales. In 1935, subsidiary, and more accessible, standards of 66 feet and 100 feet were laid down on plugs in the same trachyte blocks. Feeling the need for an outright direct check, a new 100-ft. tape has recently been standardized by the National Physical Laboratory in London, and a suitable opportunity is now being awaited to make the necessary comparisons with this and the standard. In 1927, Richmond base was re-measured, with the result that it was found to be from 3 inches to 5 inches out of measurement. That is a serious matter when we are contemplating an exact geodetic and topographical survey of Australia, which is the task to which the Treasurer should devote his attention.
– When the honorable member says that the measurement of the Richmond base was found to be faulty, I presume he suggests that it was found to be shorter rather than longer than was thought.
– I forget whether a plus or a minus value had to be applied to it ; but there is a variation of from 3 inches to 5 inches.
– In what length?
– In a length of about 5 miles. I am trying to point out that, before we can start with any accuracy, we must have that basic standard fixed. Since then we have adopted chains composed of the alloy “ invar “, which varies very little in length with variations of temperature. A new procedure has had to be adopted in testing for expansion due to temperature. There are no means in Australia for testing this alloy when its coefficient of expansion changes after a period of years. I urge upon the Treasurer the need for having an apparatus to test the variability of the coefficient of expansion of this alloy.
– We have that now.
-I think the Treasurer is wrong. I understand that the military officer in charge of the survey was so concerned about, the variability that he imported an electrical apparatus for testing, but found that so much current was used at the terminals that they actually had to discard it, and they have gone back to the old-fashioned steel tape, and the utilizing of thermometers at every chain, a very tedious practice. Therefore, I urge the Government to see that the proper apparatus is brought here immediately.
In Queensland, an act was passed in 1924 to establish an official set of standards of that State. I communicated with the Surveyor-General in Brisbane by telegram, and he informed me of what had been done there. The Queensland measure is described as an act to consolidate and amend the law relating to weights and measures. It is divided into five parts, the second of which deals with standards. That act covers the ground satisfactorily so far as Queensland is concerned, but we need legislation to set up standards for the whole Commonwealth. The standards defined in the
Queensland act were based on the old wooden bars, and I was informed that it was only in 1895 that they were checked against the iron standard bar in Sydney. I urge the Government to introduce legislation to provide for a uniform standard of weights and measures for the whole Commonwealth. This would provide, among other things, a standard for surveyors’ measuring tapes.
There is also a. lack of a uniform standard in regardto height above sea level. Various authorities in New South Wales work on different data. Some time ago ‘ the president of the Victorian Surveyors’ Institute urged that a standards association be formed, and that this association should, among other things, carry out a complete range of measurements, extending over a period of at least ten years, to establish a mean sea. level datum for the whole of the Commonwealth. The State authorities seemed to think that this would be an easy matter, but. actually, it is an important scientific undertaking. The recommendation traversed the grand circle - that is, it went from one authority to another, and finally back to a source from which it emanated, but nothing was done. The president of the institute, who had made the recommendation in the first place, was a senior officer of the service, and was eventually, in his official capacity, requested to report on his own recommendation. One reason given by the States for not carrying out the work was that they lacked money, but with the £250,000 which it is proposed to appropriate in this bill, that difficulty can be overcome. I suggest that the necessary apparatus should be purchased immediately for measuring high and low tides, so that we may work out over a period - the longer the better for the sake of accuracy - the mean sea level for the Commonwealth. I repeat that at the present time, in Victoria, for instance, harbour and river boards, the State railway authorities and the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works are working on different levels. If a surveyor or an engineer wants a datum spot he should be able to refer to a national datum, and I suggest that he should refer to Canberra. We have in the survey branch in Canberra a number of very highly-qualified men, who have done an excellent engineering job in the construction and lay-but of the city. When work was first begun on the city, there were two recognized data in New South Wales, one for the Railway Department, and the other by the Public Works Department. Which of those the Commonwealth engineers adopted I do not know, but there was a difference of 23 feet between the two. Very exact measurements have been made by the technical men in Canberra, and honorable members may see for themselves every 100 yards or so, impressed in the concrete kerbs, the letters B.M., meaning “bench mark”, which refers to the datum for levels in the locality. The required information is, therefore, immediately available when any new works are undertaken in the vicinity. The trouble is, however, that this is a local datum, and dons not bear an exact relation to mean sea level for the continent, because it has never been determined with precision. This state of affairs should be remedied, and I suggest that some of the money which it is now proposed to appropriate should be devoted to this purpose, a course that was recommended to the standards association, which is replaced by this new body.
.- I support, the bill, as, I think, does everybody in the House. I was pleased to listen to t he speech of the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), who made a valuable contribution to the debate. Our only regret is that he does not speak more frequently, but we trust that” his health will, in the future, allow him to take a more active part in the debates. The money which is being appropriated in this bill will, I am sure, bc well spent. As a matter of fact, I believe that unlimited funds should be placed at the disposal of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, because the success of all our primary industries depends largely on its activities.
We all know the debt which the fruitgrowers owe to the scientific experts for their advice and instruction regarding the growing and preserving of fruit. In all fruit-growing countries, the problem of the control of pests is becoming more serious every year. It may be that, when one pest is destroyed, its parasite becomes more active, so that it in its turn becomes a pest and must be controlled. Some years ago, it was necessary to spray fruit trees only once or twice a year ; now they must be sprayed about fourteen times. Five years ago, the orchardists began spraying for a certain pest. A poisonous spray was used and eventually the pest was eradicated, but next year another pest, equally destructive, developed, and it was found that the first one had been living on the second. Thirty years ago, bird life was plentiful in Australia but, through the laying of poison for rabbits, crows, &c, the birds have been killed off, so that one may travel for miles and miles and hardly see a bird at all. The birds used to control pests of various kinds, but, in their absence, scientific methods of control have had to be developed. It is desirable that uniform methods of control be employed, as otherwise different methods would be in use in the various States, and even in the same locality, with the result that costs of production would be increased.
The council has done much to improve methods of storing fruit, and for transporting it to overseas markets. Some years ago, the export of fruit was attended by a great risk. There is still some risk, but it is being reduced every year. The council should endeavour to discover the most suitable temperatures at which to store fruit, and the best way of transporting it so that it will retain its freshness and flavour. Great advances have been made recently in England in the storage of fruit, with the result that the consumption of fruit in that country has increased by 26 lb. a head during the last five years. As the result of scientific research in connexion not only with the growing of fruit, but also with its preservation, considerable savings have been made by fruit-growers.
In my opinion, a large sum of money should be set aside by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research for research into the causes and the prevention of contagious abortion in cows. At present many thousands of cows suffering from this disease have to be slaughtered. The disease is prevalent, not only in Australia, but also in many other countries. When I -was in the United States “of America, in 1935, I was informed by a bacteriologist that in one year no less than 16 per cent, of the dairy herds in the United States of America suffered from contagious abortion. I visited a very large estate owned by a millionaire, who raised cattle for show purposes, and ascertained that, despite the fact that his cows were fed out of marble troughs, and were supplied with purified drinking water, 60 per cent, of them suffered from contagious abortion, indicating that cleanliness alone will not prevent the spread of the disease. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research should devote a great deal of energy to research with a view to the eradication of this disease in Australia. The expenditure involved would be amply repaid by the corresponding saving to the dairy farmers and to the country generally. I support the bill, and trust that the Government will find all the money necessary to enable the ‘ council to widen considerably the scope of its researches.
Mr. JOHN LAWSON (Macquarie) 1 3.18 J. - Very briefly, I wish to bestow my blessing upon this measure and to express the hope that it will achieve all that is hoped of it. I assume that, in establishing a standards laboratory in Australia, the object is to link Australia with the National Physical Laboratories in Great Britain in respect of standards, and so establish some association with leading standards laboratories in other parts of the world. Our ability to do that through the National Physical Laboratory in Great Britain will in itself be of tremendous advantage and will result in a considerable financial saying to the Commonwealth because, if it wore necessary for us to negotiate and deal directly with the standards laboratories in foreign countries instead of through the facilities that will be provided for us by the great standards laboratory of Great Britain, the expense would bc immeasurably greater than it will be if we take advantage of that link. I agree with honorable members who have stated that the need for the estabment of a standards laboratory in Australia is a very pressing one. One example of that need that comes to mind at once is in connexion with the manufacture of defence equipment in Australia. We are at present manufacturing our defence requirements in different spheres at a very rapid rate. It is therefore necessary that parts of machine guns and similar equipment, no matter how delicate or how intricate they may be, should be interchangeable, exactly and precisely, with similar parts manufactured or required in any other part of the Empire. That, in itself, provides a striking example of the necessity for regular checking and measuring, and for establishing standards that can be related closely and directly to those accepted in Great Britain and other parts of thu world. As another example, I might inform honorable members that in Great Britain there is a standard specification for flame-proof. In Australia there is no equipment available to industry for accurately testing flame-proofness. That has a direct bearing on, and is of great importance to, the mining industry, because, if it is not possible accurately to measure flame-proofness in the atmosphere in a mine, it is not possible properly to safeguard the lives and wellbeing of men working in that mine.
The development of this laboratory will have the effect eventually of tremendously improving the quality of Australian manufactures.’ It will enable Australia to compete more successfully than has been possible in the past, with manufacturers in other parte of the world. In that respect the work of the laboratory will confer a tremendous benefit on industry and on the well-being and development of this country generally. On examining the expenditure of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, I find that, in the year 1936-37, the council expended from Consolidated Revenue £138,200, and from outside sources £57,740. I emphasize that, from now on, expenditure by the council will, in the ordinary course of things, increase very rapidly, particularly capital expenditure. One can see that by examining the proposals of the Government, under this bill alone. The bil] provides for the expenditure of £250,000 for establishing and equipping a standards laboratory and an aeronautical research station.
The whole trend of industrial development goes to show that expenditure upon research into the problems of secondaryindustries will increase from now on very rapidly and steeply, particularly if Australia is to advance industrially, as we hope it will, during the next few decades.
I wish to cast no reflection on private industry when I say that, having regard to the tremendous benefits conferred upon it by the work of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, private industry has not contributed, as it ought to have done, to the expenditure of that body. I. take advantage of this opportunity to appeal to those secondary industries of the Commonwealth which will benefit as the result of the expenditure proposed under this measure to contribute more liberally and generously to scientific research work in the future than they have in the past. I think it can be truthfully said that the secondary industries of Australia are enjoying at the present time, if not a boom period, then something very closely akin to a boom. One has only to examine the balance-sheets of certain industries to see that that is so. I believe that the balance-sheet of one concern discloses that it made a profit of approximately £1,000,000 in one year, representing more than SO per cent, on its paid-up capital. Other balancesheets show regular profits of over 20 per cent. When big industries in the Commonwealth are in such a healthy financial position, it should not bc necessary for the Government to bring down a measure to appropriate £250,000 for the purposes set out in the bill now before the House. Industry which will undoubtedly derive such tremendous benefit from the work of these laboratories could very well afford to find the whole of the money necessary for their establishment. We find, in other parts of the world, that private industry has endowed research work very richly indeed. Imperial Chemical Industries Limited, in Great Britain, boasts - and I see no reason for assuming that it is an idle boast - that in respect of the problem of the extraction of oil from coal alone it has expended £1,000,000 in research work. Both the United Dairies and the
General Electric Company in Great Britain have remarkably well equipped research laboratories entirely supported out of their own financial resources. In Germany, the leading dye and chemical industry research laboratories are entirely conducted with the aid of privately subscribed money. The United States Bureau of Standards is certainly richly endowed by the government of the United States of America, but here again we find that its income from private sources totals £200,000 per annum - a very substantial sum, though perhaps not so large as it ought to be in the circumstances. I appeal to private industry, which has benefited so much in Australia’ from the protection this Parliament has afforded it, and which to-day throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth is enjoying a period of prosperity, to come forward and liberally assist the Commonwealth Government to provide these laboratories which will ultimately bring rich benefits, not only to industry itself, but also to the Australian people as a. whole.
– I join with the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) and other honorable members who have supported this measure in congratulating the Government on its decision to continue to allocate sums of money for the research work undertaken by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. I believe that, having regard to the benefits which the council has conferred on industry generally during the last two decades, it is one of the finest branches of the Public Service in Australia’. In discussing a measure such as that now before the House, one cannot help contemplating what must be regarded as one of the greatest romances in our generation. I refer to the romance of the application of science to industry generally all over the world. Within the short space of two decades, scientists, who formerly confined their attention to a study of the zodiac, have turned their attention and applied their scientific knowledge to the betterment of industry in the interests of the more economical production of commodities of every description. I, like every other decent Australian citizen, arn glad that the Government is helping in this way to make this country more technical, more efficient, more scientific, and as the result, more self-contained; and I, personally, and the whole of the members of the Opposition, will always vote for a measure of the character of that now before the House; but I cannot help pointing out that scientific work in industry almost invariably results in the displacement of labour. Unless, side by side- with scientific development of industry, arrangements are made for the rehabilitation of human labour displaced as the result of greater efficiency, the whole objective of the scientific development of industry will fall to the ground. The Taylor Society, in the United States of America, another group in that country known as technocrats, the British group led by Lord Hugo Hirst, anil other groups in Sweden and Czechoslovakia have been trying for the last ten years to evolve formulas- to enable them to make greater strides, by rationalization, standardization and other means, in reducing the cost of production, and at the same time re-absorbing the human labour displaced by every forward step taken in the mechanization of industry. Whilst I recognize the efficiency and ability of Sir David Rivett and his staff, who, I think, are as capable as any similar group of men in the world, and whilst we all desire Australia to be placed as nearly as possible on a level with its industrial competitors, the Government should take a broad outlook, and should endeavour to meet the rapid changes in methods of manufacture with plans to balance the industrial ledger. If the advantages gained by industrial development with the aid of scientific discoveries are outweighed by the evils which are inevitably brought in its train, then all our progress will he in vain. The purpose of good government is to overcome these difficulties. I do not imagine that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) will consider that good government means adding to the advantages of the great capitalist groups by enabling them to produce more cheaply than in the past without giving corresponding benefits to the rest of the community.
At the present time, the coal mining industry of Australia is deteriorating, although it formerly exported coal to Vancouver on a profitable basis. The seams of coal to be found in this country are of the finest quality, and, in order to enable the industry to be carried on profitably, the latest scientific devices have been introduced, with the result that onethird of the men who have been employed in this industry for five or six generations now find, themselves out of work. A critical period has been reached in the history of one of our basic industries, because of the application of scientific discovery to it. I am sure that men employed in the industry recognize the necessity for the employment of the latest industrial machinery, but they expect this Parliament so to regulate their working conditions that they will not be crucified in the process. By good government it should be possible to solve this problem as well as others. Recognition of the importance of solving them is the cornerstone of the International Labour Office. It was stated by Albert Thomas at the Peace Conference at Washington, that the world could not get peace unless all sections of the peoples of the world strove to bring about social justice. The dangers to which attention has been directed did not arise so much, if at all, when scientific efforts- were directed to the application of scientific discovery to primary industries; but, owing to the enormous advantages which scientific developments have given to secondary industries, less human’ labour will be required each year, with the result that the hours of labour will have to be l educed, and the spending power of the people increased, to enable them to absorb the products of industry. I congratulate the Treasurer upon the introduction of this bill, for I have great admiration for the work of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. I hope that the bill will be the forerunner of similar measures, and I trust that the benefits accruing from the application of science to industry will be shared by the people generally.
.- I keenly appreciate the most interesting speech delivered by the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), who paid a well-deserved tribute to the work done by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. I am pleased to know that the right honorable gentleman has been so fully restored to health that he can once again participate in the debates in this chamber, and even take a leading part in them. I hope that, by the extension of the activities of the council, secondary industries will receive benefits comparable to those already obtained by primary industries. We are apt to refer to the great successes of the council, such as its spectacular victory in overcoming the prickly pear menace in the northern parts of Australia; but I think that an important part of its work, which is often overlooked, is that done in collecting information concerning research in other parts of the world, and disseminating it amongst those who require it throughout Australia, The average farmer discusses his problems with his neighbours, and often adopts remedies recommended by them. Commercial travellers sell preparations which are described as certain cures, and, whilst some of these are useful, others are often valueless. If the work of the council were given greater publicity, the farmers could be saved much needless expenditure. Every man engaged in farming operations should receive the excellent bulletins issued from time to time by the council. Although many farmers are already using these publications as their chief guide, many others are still unaware of this valuable source of advice and reference. The value of these publications should bc made known generally by the Government, the press, all organizations of producers and industrial leaders.
The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) has pointed out that it is not wise to leave the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, which i3 subsidized by the Government, to carry on all the research work, but that private industry should co-operate with it. In Victoria, the graziers employ, at their own expense, a research officer who works under the direction of the council, and occupies his time primarily with the problems of his district. In this way he carries out valuable research work, and disseminates throughout his own district the results of his own discoveries, as well as those made by the council. In addi- tion, he provides the council with valuable data. This system should be extended to all industries throughout Australia. This is essential, if both primary and secondary industries are to be established on an efficient basis. It is unlikely that the council will be able to do for the secondary industries what it has done, and will do, for the primary industries. The secondary industries are more centralized, and can carry on their own research work to a greater extent than oan the primary industries, because the former are nearer to the main sources of information. Nevertheless, if the council can do only one-tenth of the good for the secondary industries that it has already done for the farming community, the public will receive good value for their money under this legislation.
.- I am pleased that the Government has introduced this bill. I heartily congratulate the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) upon his speech in support of it. I assure him that the primary producers of Australia will welcome assistance of this description, for they are well aware of the need to apply scientific methods to secondary, as well as primary, industries. As the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn) has said, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has done wonderful work. This country owes a great deal, not only to Mr. S. M. Bruce for having introduced the measure to establish the council, but also to .Sir George Julius, the chairman of it, and a first-class electrical engineer, and Sir David Rivett, the world-famous scientist, who have done so much to organize its activities on business-like principles. The council, through its various agencies, has done remarkably fine work in connexion with fisheries investigations, soil drift, afforestation, export industries and pest eradication. We all greatly appreciate the capable management of these various activities, and value the highly useful information that has been imparted to our people. Reference has been made to the success of the council’s investigations into the eradication of the prickly pear, and also to the endeavours being made to discover a virus for the eradication of rabbits. I am hopeful that the information that has been made available in this connexion will be supplemented by a definite declaration, in the not distant future, that complete success may be expected from the release of an effective virus. The development of Western Australia has been greatly handicapped by the depredations of the rabbit. Unfortunately, an apparently ill-founded newspaper report led to a rumour in Western Australia that the investigations of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in this connexion had proved abortive. I was able to give an assurance that this was not so; but I hope that in the near future an authoritative statement on the whole subject will be made by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) and that it will be possible to include in it a definite declaration that the virus may be expected to be entirely effective.
J.n view of the remarks made by some honorable gentlemen in the course of this debate, I wish to say emphatically that the strength of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is due, in no small degree, to the fact that it is- entirely beyond political influence. I do not think any honorable member would disagree with the statement that, the money made available to this body has been wisely spent and has yielded a remarkable return. Like the honorable member for Flinders, I hope that stops will be taken to ensure a wider distribution of the various pamphlets prepared by the council.
The right honorable member for Yarra, referred to the development of scientific research work in Germany, which reminds me that during the war, when the importation of nitrates into Germany was rendered, impossible, the scientists of that country developed an elaborate system for the extraction of nitrates from the atmosphere. After the war German, British and American interests worked together to develop large scale operations in this connexion, with the result that it became possible for Germany to manufacture high-grade fertilizers by the use of nitrates extracted from the atmosphere, so that in a relatively short period of time the country was brought back to its old-time productivity. The right honorable member for Yarra will well remember that several shiploads of these nitrates were brought to Australia from Germany with the object of landing them in this country duty free ; but it was discovered that, although fertilizers were duty free, the Minister for Trade and Customs declared that, as it came into competition with sulphate of ammonia, it was liable to heavy duty and could not be landed until the duty was paid. I mention this, in passing, to indicate how political pressure may affect such matters.
I am sure that primary producers generally will welcome the extension of the activities of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to secondary industries, the more effective organization of which will undoubtedly lead to the manufacture of less costly machinery unci materials for use in primary production.
In conclusion, I repeat the hope that a statement will very shortly be made in connexion with the release of the virus for the destruction of rabbits.
.- I, too, congratulate the Government upon having introduced, the bill, and the right honorable member for Yarra (Air. Scullin) upon having delivered such, an interesting address. .For a number of years now the right honorable member has interested himself in subjects of this character, and we are indebted to him for having made available to us the results of his research. Just as the activities of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research have proved highly beneficial to primary industries, I believe that, directed along right lines, they will prove beneficial to secondary industries, in connexion with which a good deal of research work is greatly needed. Mention has been made of the effective results that followed the release of the cactoblastus insect in prickly pear country. I hope that we shall soon have a similar story to tell in connexion with the use of the virus being developed for use in the extermination of rabbits. . I have watched with great interest the experiments on Wardang Island, and hope that they will be of permanent value to the country. Rabbits are often described as “underground mutton “. Years ago hundreds of thousands of crates of rabbits were exported from Compton. We should get rid of the rabbits, either by developing an export trade in them or by the use the virus, for they are a destructive pest in this country.
Undoubtedly our secondary industries are in urgent need of assistance in connexion with scientific testing and research activities which offer a great field of service. As it is essential to the true progress of Australia that secondary industries should be developed side by side with primary industries - for this country cannot be permanently prosperous if its production is confined to wool, wheat and other primary products from the land - I consider that the move now being made is laudable in every respect. If the intentions of this bill are fully carried out nothing but a useful purpose will be served. Australia needs a. national standards laboratory. It is regrettable that the standards of weights and measures in the various States are not uniform. That, condition of affairs should be remedied without delay, and the machinery to be established under the provisions of this bill should contribute to that desirable end. I trust that while we are training young men to engage in standardization and testing services, we shall not lose sight of the necessity to provide them with work when their period of training is completed.* Some years ago we trained a considerable number of foresters but did not assure them of permanent employment upon the completion of their period of study. We should take care to avoid that error in this connexion.
The report of the Secondary Industries Testing and Research Committee stated that the survey had yielded an astonishing volume and variety of problems, and had clearly demonstrated the disabilities of the Australian manufacturer, who was without the assistance of a national research service, and was geographically isolated from the great research organizations elsewhere. We can be assured from that report that we need to train men in. this country to supply a national research service to Australian manufacturers. Australia needs secondary industries, but they must be successful. I hope that the time will come when we shall be able to compete in. oversea markets with other countries. In order to maintain the high standard of living of the Australian people, we must use up-to-date methods in industry. We must look to the secondary industries more than to the primary industries to absorb the people in employment, and in order to ensure that the secondary industries will be able to take the greatest possible numbers of employees, who should do everything possible to encourage research which will develop those industries. [Quorum formed.] A great field of secondary industry is to be covered by this bill. First of all, there is the all important manufacture of aircraft and automobiles. Although many honorable members do not agree with me it is my hope that it will not be long before we shall be manufacturing our own motor cars, and I trust that the ResearchCommittee will be able to give some assistance to that project. I had intended to elaborate on each of the industries which I think need research service, but as honorable members seem anxious to. bring this sitting to a close. I shall content myself with a bare reference to them. In addition to the two industries which I have just cited, industries which need up-to-date methods are those concerned with the manufacture of electrical appliances-, drugs and chemicals, varnish, rubber, leather, textiles, and probably the most important of all from the point of view of the physical well-being of the people, foodstuffs. Modern engineering also needs the greatest possible technical assistance.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).Order ! The honorable member has referred to a number of matters that are scarcely connected with the bill.
– But it is right to the point.
– The Chair thinks differently.
– If you think, Mr. Speaker, that I am not entitled to proceed on those lines, I shall refrain from doing so. I shall content myself with saying that there is a big field of endeavour for the research committees, and I hope that, the provisions of the bill will be freely availed of by industry. I support the bill.
– in reply - I join with honorable members who have paid tribute to the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin). I would welcome further incursions into debate, which he may think fit to make in the future, by the right honorable gentleman. I wish to reply to a few of the matters raised in this debate. One matter concerned the number of Australians whose services are utilized by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Ninety-five per cent, of the employees of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research are Australians. There is a very small sprinkling of employees from overseas, mainly scientists who are specialists in the subjects on which they are engaged, and in every case the man from overseas has working with him, and trying to pick his brains, a young Australian. The Commonwealth Government, a year or two ago, made £30,000 available to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research specifically for the training of young Australian scientists who would be available to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and Australian industry.
This bill will be rounded off in a relatively short space of time by a weights and measures bill to implement the Commonwealth powers set out in section 51 (15) of the Constitution. That bill will set up and make mandatory Australian standards.
– Will that include the standard of length?
– Most certainly. Until the research establishment provided for in this measure is set up, there is no immediate urgency for the weights and measures bill. I assure the House that the State governments propose to work actively in co-operation with the research establishment. At the Adelaide Premiers Conference in 1936, the following resolution was carried : -
That, if the Commonwealth Government enacts legislation covering the establishment and maintenance of Commonwealth standards of weights and measures, the ‘States will fully co-operate in regard to the’ uniform adoption throughout Australia of such standards.
Since that conference, the Commonwealth Government has been informed by letter by the Premier of New South’ Wales that he Will increase and expand his own establishment, the testing branch attached
to the State Department of Public Works, to fit in with the standards laboratory that will be erected in Sydney.
The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) referred to the amount of the contribution to be made towards the cost of research under this bill by the industries concerned. I do not feel that the ratio between the Commonwealth’s contributions and the contributions of the industries is inequitable to the ‘Commonwealth, but I shall be doing a great deal personally in order to increase the amounts of money paid to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research fund by private industry. I have given directions that, where research work is carried out merely for a minority or a small group, the whole of the cost of the work shall be borne by those for whom it is done. People in industry are playing up very well to this proposal.
I have no information concerning the matter of flame-proofness mentioned by the honorable member for Macquarie, but it is a reasonable suggestion that I shall place before the appropriate authorities.
The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) referred to the need for a uniform sea-level datum. At present there are six different sea-level datums in Australia, whereas there is need for only one. This is a problem connected with the geodetic survey of Australia. The question of the geodetic survey of Australia has been discussed frequently, but it has not been undertaken for financial reasons. The cost would be considerable. The subject is not dead, but sleeping. I can give no undertaking as to when it ‘ will be awakened, but I agree that it is essential that the earliest possible opportunity should be taken to embark on the work. In reference to the honorable member’s remarks concerning the testing of invar chains, we are fortunate in still having the services of Mr. Wimperis in London in an advisory capacity, and what the honorable gentleman has said will be referred to him.
Many interesting points were raised by honorable members during this debate, to which I could reply if I had the time. I assure them that what they have said has been noted. The Government appreciates the fact that all sides of the House are in agreement over the necessity for this measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr, Casey) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
– I take this opportunity, as I shall not have another opportunity to speak before leaving for the Northern Territory, to rectify an omission that I made from my second-reading speech. The point concerns the location of the weights and measures laboratory, which is to be set up under a subsequent bill.
– Order ! On the third reading the honorable member may discuss only the bill which is before the House. I cannot allow him to discuss a future bill.
– I shall reserve my remarks, for the adjournment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) proposed -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday next at 3 p.m.
.- I. regard it as extraordinary that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) should decide that there is no occasion for this House to sit on two normal sitting days of the week, to-morrow and Friday, and that ut this stage he should be contemplating suspension of the work of. this House until Tuesday. I say that in the belief that the whole period of this session will come to an end almost within 48 hours of the resumption of the sittings on Tuesday, at 3 p.m. I strongly protest against this wrong and unnecessary procedure. It is an extraordinary commentary upon the action of the Government in hastening through this House, without giving to honorable members a proper opportunity to consider it, legislation which happens now to be before another place. Apparently, this House has time on its hands. We could have met earlier than we did. In any event, I believe that the state of the notice-paper does not warrant the proposed adjournment.
.- I also protest against the proposed adjournment until Tuesday next for two reasons, the first being the short period during which the Parliament has been in. session since this Government assumed office. During the whole of last year, this House sat on only 29 days, and throughout this Government’s term of office of nearly seven years the sittings have been brief. That has been stressed time and again. But a further objection to the proposed adjournment is that the third Thursday during any sittings of Parliament, is always set aside for private members to bring forward business that they wish to have considered, and tomorrow would have been that day. The whole trend of the evolution of parliamentary democracy is in the direction of taking away power from private members and increasing the power of the Executive, thus tending towards fascism and other forms of dictatorship. It is in the highest degree important that we who pride ourselves upon our parliamentary democracy should make every effort to prevent the slightest interference with the few privileges that private members still retain. Government control has been increasing throughout the years. Only last week, 150 clauses of the most important bill which has come before tins Parliament for many years were passed without debate.
– The honorable member is out of order. The question before the Chair is the day and hour of the next meeting of the House.
– I make the point that to-morrow will be the last private members’ day until after Parliament meets on some date in September next. That Supply is being sought for three months indicates that Parliament will not meet - certainly proves that it need not meet - until next September. Therefore, the next private members’ day will be the third Thursday after the resumption of the sittings. That will be the first occasion on which ordinary rank-and-file members will have an opportunity to bring forward matters which they regard as of sufficient importance to warrant the consideration of this Parliament. That will be approximately the middle of October, and it will be the first private members’ day since the election held in October of last year. The matter is of importance to me because, as the notice-paper shows, I proposed to move to-morrow for the disallowance of two ordinances dealing with the Federal Capital City, one in connexion with the Canberra Community Hospital, and the other in reference to the hospital tax, both of which come under the jurisdiction of the Acting Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron). The matter is of considerable urgency because the Government has fixed the 30th of this month as the day for the election of a new hospital board. The franchise has been completely altered.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).Order ! The honorable member may not discuss that matter.
– I submit, with all due deference, that this is the crux of the whole position, because it is the reason for urgency.
– Order ! The honorable member must realize that, while he may give reasons for being afforded an opportunity to discuss the matter, he may not deal with the proposal.
– I do not intend to discuss the proposal. The reason for the importance of the matter is that the particular legislation in question is in accordance with the policy of this antifeminist Government.
– Order ! I shall not allow the honorable member to continue along those lines.
– I know that you are only applying the Standing Orders according toyour interpretation of them.
– The honorable membermust realize that references of that nature are distinctly out of order.
– All that I shall say in conclusion is that, although the endeavour to stifle debate to-morrow is obviously made for the particular reason that I have given, there will be an opportunity, even though it be some months distant, to raise the matter in another place, when the strength of the two political parties there will be very different from what it is to-day. As from Friday week, honorable members of the Opposition will be able to have this matter raised in another place, and they will then need the support of only two honorable members of the Government party to enable them to secure the acceptance of their view.
– The honorable member is out of order.
– The fact that the election had been held on the 30th June would not then matter.
– Order ! The honorable member will resume his seat.
– I support the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker) in their protest against this House having sat on only three days during this week.
– The honorable member has already said that he proposes to leave Canberra to-morrow.
– I havewaited here for a week or ten days in order to take advantage of private members’ day. I intended to be in Canberra to-morrow, in order to bring forward a matter that I have on the notice-paper, but for the second time I shall be deprived of my right to do so. I had hoped to speak not only as the mouthpiece of the people of Canberra, who are being treated like a lot of South Sea Islanders, but also in relation to a Northern Territory ordinance which was conceived in deceit and ignorance. .
– Order ! The honorable member will resume his seat.
– in reply - In suggesting an adjournment until next Tuesday, the Government was actuated by the belief that the business remaining to be disposed of could be dealt with next week. In anycase, this House would have to meet next week in order to receive from the Senate the business that has been sent on. to that chamber. I regret that the honorable gentleman will miss an opportunity, to deal to-morrow with a matter on the notice-paper which earlier in this period of the session he was precluded from discussing because of ill health. I shall certainly endeavour to provide him with an opportunity to bring it forward next week. There is a vast difference between his attitude and that of the other honorable members who have spoken. He made no innuendoes, such as were made by the feminist member for Griffith (Mr. Baker).
– What exactly does that mean?
– The Government has no intention to deprive honorable members of any of their privileges. We shall endeavour so to arrange the business next week as to give to those honorable members who have matters on the noticepaper an opportunity to at any rate submit their own statements and initiate the discussion upon them. Those matters will then be in the same position as some Government business, which has been begun but not completed and will have to await the resumption of the sittings later in the year.
– Will an opportunity be afforded next week for a debate on foreign affairs?
– We shall endeavour to provide an opportunity for it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave. - I desire to make a statement with regard to the decision of the Government to prohibit the export of iron ore from Australia as on and from the 1st July next. Representations to the Government that its decision be rescinded have received the most careful and earnest consideration. It has been decided, however, that the decision shall stand. The Government has had before it the proposal, alternative to total restriction, that a quota system be applied in respect of the deposits at Yampi Sound. This also has been very fully considered in all its aspects, but the Government has decided that it cannot be agreed to.
At the time of the announcement of the Government’s decision, arrangements were in existence for the exportation of quantities of iron pre from Australia. The rigid enforcement of the prohibition as from the 1st July would result in hardship to shipping companies and purchasers. In the circumstances, the Government has decided to permit the export, under licence, of the undermentioned quantities of ore which were arranged for prior to the announcement on the 19th May, and which will not have been shipped before the 1st July, provided that these shipments are made on or before the 31st December next. The tonnage covered by these shipments will be - to Japan, 89,094 tons, and to the United States of America, from 55,000 to 60,000 tons.
I shall submit to the House next Tuesday a further statement setting out more fully the reasons which actuated the Government in coming to its decision.
– What companies are to bo permitted to export under licence?
– I believe that there are only two exporting companies - Brown & Dureau to Japan, and the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited to the United States of America. I shall make that information available. I have communicated with the Consul-General for Japan in regard to the matter. As it was raised in this House by honorable members, I thought that I should simultaneously inform them briefly of the decision of the Government, and at a later stage make an amplified statement giving the reasons which actuated the Government in its insistence upon its decision.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– In a few months time the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) will be preparing his budget, consequently it is only right that I should mention now the need for a refund of that portion of the petrol tax which is paid by persons employing forms of transport which do not use the roads. As honorable members know, a tax of 7d. a gallon is collected, plus 10 per cent, ad valorem. Previously, 2½d. a gallon was remitted to the States under the Federal Aid Roads Agreement for road construction purposes. Very many interests pay the tax who receive no benefit from it, and representations have been made on their behalf. Subsequently, this Parliament agreed to the remission of an extra id. a gallon to the States, and more or less suggested to them that it should be used in connexion with the construction of aerodromes, fishermen’s havens and the like.
– It could he, not “ must be”.
– I quite realize that. I understand that the practice has not been adopted to any degree. I am making this appeal particularly on behalf of those fishermen who run motorboats. There is a considerable number of them. At the present time this Government could only approve of a refund of 2d. a gallon not the full 3d. a gallon now remitted to the States. I suggest that when the Federal Aid Roads Agreement is being renewed no mention be made of the id. a gallon for other than road construction purposes. The threepence would still be allocated to the States for roads, but some means should be devised for making a refund to taxpayers who do not use the roads. On a previous occasion I raised this matter with the Minister by way of a question in the House, and lie informed me that when some suitable means were devised of giving effect to my proposal he would consider it. I understand that a system is in operation in New Zealand whereby a person who is entitled to a refund of tax may make application through the post office. He is required to fill in a form describing the engine in which the petrol is used, the number of hours it runs, its size, etc., and whether he uses any other petroldriven engine. I understand that the system works fairly successfully in New Zealand, and. I see no reason why it should not be introduced here. The authorities should study the New Zealand act with a view to introducing a similar measure in this country. Severe penalties could be imposed for any abuse of the provision.
– As I had not an opportunity to do so on the third reading of the Scientific and Industrial Research Appropriation Bill,” I desire now to add one or two observations which I omitted from my speech on the second reading of that bill. In answer to my representations regarding the establishment of a standard of length, the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), was good enough to state that the Commonwealth proposed to introduce legislation for the setting up of uniform standards of weights and measures, including a standard of length. It is necessary that this standard of length be established in a place which, for all time, will remain undisturbed, and the natural and proper place for it, of course, is in Canberra. I suggest that the Government should confer with the Director of Commonwealth Surveys in Canberra regarding a suitable spot. I do not know enough about the territory to suggest a place myself, but perhaps a site might be selected near the War Memorial. The standard should be accommodated in a well-protected place, preferably in a tunnel, to guard against variations of temperature. The most suitable length would be five chains, and after the standard had been established in Canberra, the apparatus could be lent for the setting up of a duplicate standard at the laboratory in Sydney. For that standard, the same high degree of precision would not be as necessary as in a national standard, and there would not be the same need to ensure that it should remain completely undisturbed in perpetuity. There are in Canberra survey officers possessing the necessary qualifications for carrying out this precise work, and I suggest they should be entrusted with it.
The fact that a standard is to be established suggests, of course, that it is to be used, and the obvious way in which to use it is in the carrying out of a precise geodetic and topographical survey of the continent. Therefore, part of the money which it is proposed to appropriate should be used for the beginning of such a survey, which has been already delayed too long. I suggest to the Treasurer that such a survey is closely associated with the setting up of a standard; the one cannot be isolated from the other. Surveying is a matter of everincreasing importance, and is related to the science of astronomy. The reason that astronomers have not occupied a position of prominence recently is that there has been no inducement for them to offer their services.
I also desire to make a plea on behalf of our technical men, who should be given a greater administrative authority under the Government. At the present time, they are denied this authority, particularly in the north, where so many technical problems await solution. As Professor Soddy has said, there is a reluctance to extend to technical officers administrative authority. The Treasurer is a technical man himself, and he will agree with me that technical men have demonstrated their ability to carry out administrative work, I appeal, therefore, to the Treasurer, as the only technical man in the Cabinet, and one of the few in the House, to see that his fellow technicians are given a greater share of administrative authority in the future.
.- I desire to renew the request which I made last year, and on many previous occasions, that relief from petrol tax should be afforded to those persons who are to-day paying 7¼d. a gallon tax on petrol that is not used in road vehicles. I refer to fishermen, and motor boat users generally, and to primary producers who use stationary engines or tractors on their farms. As long ago as 1925, a proposal was brought forward to exempt such persons entirely fromthe payment of petrol tax, that is, to the extent of 2½d., being the amount which is specially collected for road construction purposes and when the Bruce-Page Government was in power a promise was given that legislation would be introduced for this purpose, but it was found impossible to devise a fool-proof scheme in order to avoid fraud or improper claims for refunds. The Opposition at that time promised that when it came into power it would give this relief. However, when it was in power for two and a half years nothing was done, though I remember, as a member of the then Opposition, on many occasions asking that such action be taken. When I was a member of a previous government this matter received consideration, and Senator Massy-Greene, the then Acting Treasurer, who was visiting New Zealand on trade matters, was asked to investigate the system in operation there. However, even after this it was not found possible to devise a system to give the relief sought. I do not think that the problem is insoluble. For over ten years persons who paid tax on petrol used in non-road-using engines obtained no benefit whatever from the tax they paid. When the Federal Roads Agreement was renewed recently many honorable members joined with me in urging the Government to give some consideration to the non-road-using taxpayers, even if it were impossible to exempt them from the payment of tax. Ultimately the Treasurer made available a special grant of £600,000 a year for ten years to be divided among the States on a population and area basis, and to be used mainly for the provision of havens harbours, shelters, channelling, beacon lights, &c, for the benefit of motor boat users. Prior to the introduction of the amending Federal Aid Roads Agreement Bill, some form of agreement had already been arrived at between the Treasurer and the Premiers of the various States concerning the manner in which the extra £600,000 was to be expended. When the bill was brought down, this House objected to that proposal and insisted on amending the agreement to provide for the establishment of a fund of £600,000 to bo applied by the States for the purposes I have outlined. The agreement was altered to read “ purpose associated with transport “. This was considered the best way to express in the agreement the wishes of the House. From inquiries I have made, however, I am able to say that the States have displayed no real genuine desire to use the money for the purpose intended, and that very little, if any, of it has been spent in the desired direction. I ask the Treasurer if he will obtain a return from each of the State’s of the Commonwealth showing how its proportion of the special grant of £600,000 has been expended? Owing to constitutional limitations the Commonwealth is unable directly to apply that money for the purposes for which it was made available, but must rely on the States to carry out its wishes. I hope that the Treasurer will be able to makea statement to the House at an early date furnishing a return from the States in regard to this very important matter.
.- Some time ago a bill was introduced into this House to provide for £12,000,000 for the States for rural debt adjustment but owing to the failure of the Commonwealth to make the necessary money available, the States have been placed in a very invidious position. I am not conversant with the procedure in the other States, but I know that the Debt Adjustment Board in Victoria is finding itself seriously hampered and is in grave difficulties because of the inability of the State government to honour its undertakings in respect of debt adjustment made as the result of the promise of the Commonwealth Government that it would provide a certain amount for that purpose. A few weeks ago a large meeting of business men in Victoria appointed representatives to approach the board and the Victorian Government to press that this matter, which was causing serious concern to creditors because settlement of compositions could not be made, should be brought prominently under notice. When the Loan (Farmers’ Debt Adjustment) Bill was introduced by the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) into this House the right honorable gentleman said -
The total sum to bo. made available by the Commonwealth Government is £12.000,000. It is anticipated that the total amount of £12,000,000 will be disbursed within three or four years. It is estimated that the disbursement will amount to from £1,500,000 to £2,000,000 in the first year, and probably £4,000,000 in the second year when the machinery has been more or less perfected1.
After the bill was passed, the Debt Adjustment Board in Victoria held meetings of creditors and arranged compositions which were considered satisfactory by both farmers and creditors. Due to lbc failure of those promises to materialize, the State governments have not the necessary finance to enable the compositions to be made, and the board is placed in a serious position. Whatever may bc done at this juncture, I consider that, in order to facilitate the completion of these undertakings, it would be a good thing if each year the Commonwealth made a definite allocation of a certain amount of money to the States to be made available to their respective boards, .so that they would know exactlywhere they stood. If that were done they would be able to enter into undertakings which should be satisfactory to creditors. As honorable members arc aware, the Commonwealth Government has taken up the attitude that the pro vision of moneys to be made available for rural debt adjustment is contingent upon the unanimous approval of the Loan Council. That was not stipulated in the first instance when the Commonwealth proposed to provide £12,000,000 for the purpose outlined. I trust that the Government will do its best to rectify the unfortunate position which has arisen. In 1935-36, the first” year in which the scheme was to operate, the amounts approved for debt adjustment totalled £317,000. In 1936-37, the amounts approved by the State governments totalled £2,750,000, but only £1,500,000 was made available by the Commonwealth. The figures for the year 1937-3S are not complete, but I understand that, although £2,500,000 has been approved by the Commonwealth to meet the commitments of the States, the latter require approximately £3,900,000. I hope that the Government will see the justice of the claim for an early settlement of this matter, and that immediate steps will be taken to correct the position.
.- I take this opportunity to support, the remarks of the honorable members for Wannon (Mr. Scholfield) and Moreton (Mr. Francis) with reference to refunds to those users of petrol for purposes other than road transport of that portion of the petrol tax which normally goes to roads. I have particularly in mind the claim of fishermen to such refunds. When this question has been brought under tha notice of .the Minister for Trade and Customs on several occasions, objections have always been raised on the ground that it would bc extremely difficult to police the refunds. It seems hard to believe that the ingenuity of the Customs Department is not sufficiently great, to enable it to devise a method by which refunds of the petrol tax could be made to those who use petrol for other than road purposes. I do not think it, would be reasonable to refund that part of the tax which normally goes into Consolidated Revenue; but I- think there is logical argument in favour of the refunding of that part of the tax which is devoted to roads to those who use petrol for purposes other than road transport. It has been suggested that patrol used for fishing boats should be coloured in a particular way, and that if any petrol of that colour were found in a motor car or being used for purposes other than for fishing boats, very heavy penalties might be imposed as a deterrent. In my opinion, if the Customs Department is anxious to find a method of overcoming the difficulty, it is not beyond its capacity to do so.
I trust that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) will deal with the points raised by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson). There are also one or two points in respect of which I should like some confirmation. Is it not the case that the States this year asked for £3,800,000 for farmers’ debt relief; that the ‘Commonwealth Government indicated its willingness to provide £3,800,000; that the Commonwealth legislation requires that money to be provided out of loan ; and also that the Commonwealth at the Loan Council meeting, in asserting its willingness to provide the whole amount asked for by the States, indicated that this would necessitate the States being satisfied with a somewhat lesser amount for wor Its?
– Quite so.
– I understand that for 1937-38, the Loan Council decided that £16,000,000 was the largest amount that could be raised without unduly pushing up rates of interest, and that if the Commonwealth met the full demands of the States for £3,800,000, the States would have to be content with £12,200,000 for works. Is it not a fact that the States preferred to take £13,500,000 for works and be limited to the balance of £2,500,000 for farmers’ debt relief? In other words, did not the State governments themselves prefer to meet the interest and sinking fund payments on the difference between those two sums rather than have the money provided free by the Commonwealth for farmers’ debt relief? It seems to me that that has not, perhaps, been quite clearly grasped, and I should like to have the Treasurer’s confirmation of the figures- that I have given from memory.
– The practice has been followed by the Postmaster-General’s Department of putting off exempt junior telephonists on reaching the age of eighteen years.
The Department has recently issued a notice which I consider to be wrong in principle, and I should like the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to look into the matter. A monthly circular issued by the Department states - ^Employment of exempt junior telephonists. - The amended conditions governing the employment of exempt junior telephonists provide for the retention of the services of such omcers until they reach the age of twenty years, provided they agree, in writing, to continue, without increased remuneration, beyond the wage scale appropriate to exempt junior telephonists over eighteen years of agc. Postmasters in charge of exchanges where exempt junior telephonists are employed should note, and take the necessary action to obtain the written agreements referred to, and forward them to the Superintendent of the Telephone Branch of the General Post Office, Melbourne, or the District Telephone Officer approximately two months before the exempt junior telephonists reach their nineteenth birthday.
This action reminds us of what was doneduring the period of financial emergency, when the Government of the day kept exempt junior officers in employment until they had reached the age of about 23 years, but continued to pay them only the junior rates, thinking that it was better to do that than to throw them out of employment. The argument will be advanced that some of the telephonists would rather remain in the employ of the Department until they attain the age of twenty years than leave at the age of eighteen years. Their economic circumstances may be such that they would regard that as the better choice to make, but there is no justification for sweating employees. In view of the handsome profits made by the Postal Department each year, it is not fair to ask these employees to remain in the service until they reach the age of twenty years, if they are to receive only the wages to which they are entitled until they are eighteen years of age. This circular is not in harmony with the excellent bill which the Treasurer submitted to the House this afternoon relating . to the application of science to industry, and which will have the effect of speeding-up production.
– The’ honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Scholfield), the honorable member for Moreton (Mr.Francis), and the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), have raised the subject of the application of the petrol tax to those persons who do not use the roads, and special reference has been made to the small fishermen who use petrol in their ‘fishing craft. The reference to this impost as a road tax is based on a misconception. The petrol tax is a revenue impost, and an appreciable part of it is handed to the States for them to use it for road construction and maintenance, and for purposes allied to transport.
– The sum of 2-)d. a gallon is specifically apportioned for road purposes.
– And the whole of the remainder of the tax is imposed for revenue purposes.
– That point is not in dispute. .
– I should have to look up the files to enable me to discuss that matter. At any rate, this is a revenue tax, and this is hardly the time to talk of reduction of taxation, when we have the prospect of increased taxation, generally, because of our much ‘ increased obligations with regard to defence and national insurance. I shall not repeat arguments of which honorable gentlemen are well aware. This tax occasions considerable administrative difficulties, but the main point is that it is not a road tax, as far as it relates to federal taxation. The persons whom the honorable members to whom I have referred desire to shield from the incidence of this tax contribute very little, if anything, to the revenues of the Commonwealth by way of direct taxation. I suppose that the petrol tax is practically the only federal impost they have to bear, except a small amount of sales tax, for they have been relieved of practically the whole of the incidence of the sales tax.
– We suggest that they should be relieved only of that portion of the petrol tax which goes towards the cost of roads.
– That, of course, would lead me into looking up the whole history of the matter. The 2£d. a gallon happens to be devoted to roads, because the Commonwealth Government desired a method of determining what was a fair sum. of money to give to the States for roads. I shall do my best to obtain the return of which the honorable member for Moreton spoke.
The standard of length, to which the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) referred, is one of the foremost matters that will be dealt with by the standards laboratory to be established under the bill discussed this afternoon. The remainder of the honorable member’s observations will be given serious consideration, and to some of them I shall direct the attention of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen).
The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) discussed the question of rural debt adjustment. Much misconception has arisen in regard to this matter, particularly in the mind of the Premier of Victoria. I believe that it is quite true that the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page), who is now abroad, made the statement attributed to him that it might be anticipated that £10,000,000 or £12,000,000 would be made available in the course of the following three or four years. (Quorum formed. It was well known that this money had to come out of the fund raised by the Loan Council, and the sum to be made available to the States for rural debt adjustment has been discussed ever since at the meetings of the Loan Council. The representatives of the States at those meetings have largely been able to determine the sums required for this purpose, bearing in mind the -fact that, as the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) has pointed out, all this money comes out of a common pool. Therefore, the Premier of Victoria, in particular, might well have made the simple calculation necessary to show how much loan money would bc available to him for the purpose of rural debt adjustment. Victoria, in particular, which has had by far the greatest proportionate share of rural debt money, has gone ahead rapidly with the settlement of claims and the provision of the machinery to deal with them. All of the other States have estimated the amount of money that may be made available to them, but have not proceeded to settle claims on such a large scale as has Victoria.
– Western Australia has been anxious to secure more money than has been made available to it.
– Yes, but the other States adjusted their machinery to keep pace roughly with the amount of money which, oh a brief calculation, was shown to be available to them. Victoria has had a far greater proportion of the total of £12,000,000 than has any other State, and it now finds itself in difficulties which are not experienced by the other States. I quite agree with the Leader of the Opposition that the State governments wou’ld like more money, and the Government is providing an additional £2,000,000 this year to even up the process of adjustment. Hitherto Victoria has gone ahead of all the other States.
– But it has been in the process of adjustment.
– The present situation is not the fault of this Government. The State governments could have had any amounts they cared to ask for, bearing in mind only that they could not have it both ways. They knew they could have had money for rural debt adjustment, on which the Commonwealth Government would pay interest and sinking fund contributions; or that they could have had money for State works on which the governments concerned would pay interest and sinking fund contributions. Generally speaking, they preferred to have money for State works. I therefore say that the Commonwealth Government cannot be blamed for the existing situation. As the honorable member for Gippsland pointed out, the Commonwealth Government has practically retired from the loan market, except to provide rural debt adjustment money for the State govern-, ments. Although Commonwealth works estimated to cost between £7,000,000 and £8,000,000 have been put in hand this financial year, the cost of them is being provided out of revenue. I have stated on several occasions that the Commonwealth Government is maintaining its rates of taxation to an appreciable degree in order to carry out such works from revenue. This is being done so that the State governments may have the freest possible access to the loan market for their own purposes. That is briefly the position.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) referred to the position of certain telephonists employed in the Postmaster-General’s Department. I shall bring his remarks under the notice of the Postmaster-General who will doubtless adequately reply to them.
The honorable member’ for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) asked me a question recently concerning the relations of the Commonwealth Bank with certain sharebroking firms in Sydney. The ordinary stock exchange activities of the Commonwealth Bank are spread over nineteen sharebroking firms in the various capital cities, six of which are located in Sydney. In addition to the ordinary business of the purchase and sale of bonds, the bank, in connexion with its central banking functions, has to engage, from time to time, in transactions which also involve the purchase and sale of bonds. This business is restricted to a much more limited range of brokers, only about six firms being concerned in it. This course is necessary unless the bank is to be prejudiced in its operations through its affairs being disclosed to a wider circle of persons than is deemed desirable in the public interests The firm of Messrs. Sydney Evans and Company, mentioned by the honorable member for West Sydney, is held in high repute in Sydney. From time to time it has been employed by the Commonwealth Bank in both capacities to which I have referred. Lt is true that one of the junior members of the firm is a son-in-law of the chairman of the board of directors of the Commonwealth Bank, but it will be appreciated that the control and direction of administrative matters of the nature to which I am referring rests entirely with the board of directors and is not the prerogative of the chairman.
.- The plan of rural debt adjustment, to which the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has referred, is an essential feature of the Lyons’ Government’s policy and is designed to achieve two primary purposes for the Government. One of these is to take cognizance of the Wheat Commission’s report and the tremendous problem which the debt structure of the primary producers of the Commonwealth presents, involving, as it does, high charges of interest and in other respect in connexion with each year’s production. Unless something had been done to reduce the indebtedness of e I On the relatively well-placed sections of the farming community, it would have been found that the greater part of their returns were hypothecated for the discharge of interest payments to the detriment of the land industries in general. The other purpose of the Government in promoting this plan arose out of its political necessity to do something to secure Die support of the Country party. Obviously it was necessary, in the circumstances in which the Government found itself at one stage, to do something definite to solve that problem.
– Is that quite fair?
– I think it is. The Government undoubtedly faced a problem in relation to several electorates which returned Country party members to this Parliament. The Leader of the Country party (Sir Earle Page), speaking in his capacity as Deputy Prime Minister, said, when dealing with this plan, that an amount of £12,000,000 would be made available for rural debt adjustment within a period of three or four years.
– He said it might be expected to be made available.
– He said nothing of the kind. His original proposition was that £20,000,000 should be provided for this purpose. That was when he spoke purely as Leader of the Country party. When he became Deputy Prime Minister he had to prune the figure down to £12,000,000. lt was pointed out during the passage of the legislation to implement this scheme that the need for action was urgent and imperative. The Government of Western Australia promptly appointed trustees to administer the fund within that State. It believed that within three years, or at the most within five yea’rs, the total amount to be provided for use in that State would have been made available and that the trustees would have been able to discharge their whole duty in relation to it. What has happened? It is perfectly true that the Commonwealth Government has not been approaching the loan market except for money for rural debt adjustment, for it was fully conscious that had it done so, a radical contraction must have been made in the ordinary employment programmes of the State governments. Obviously, the State governments were not able either to reduce their works programmes, and at the same time provide full employment for a great number of relief workers for whom they were expected .to find work, or economically to interrupt the completion of works which had been commenced. From either point of view the State governments would have found any great intrusion of the Commonwealth Government into .the loan field embarrassing.
– It is only during the last three or four years that the Commonwealth Government has withdrawn from the loan market - that is, during the period that the rural debt adjustment legislation has been in operation.
– I am dealing with that period; but now the Government is entering the field to obtain at least some of the money available to enable it to discharge its promises to the Country party. Such action must distinctly embarrass the State governments in connexion with their ordinary employment programmes. . The State governments did not prefer to pay interest upon money which they borrowed rather than allow the Commonwealth Government to borrow money without calling upon the States to pay interest. They went on the loan market because of their necessity to raise money to proceed with their works programmes. Apart from the necessity to provide for unemployment, the ordinary developmental services of the State governments had to be maintained.
The right course for the Commonwealth Government to have taken in connexion with its rural debt adjustment scheme would have been to spread the obligation over .the whole community. Instead of doing so the Government chose to pass on a heavy burden of debt to posterity,
– That is what it does with all its burdens.
– The essential difference between the State governments borrowing for public works and the Commonwealth Government borrowing for rural debt adjustment is undoubtedly that, whereas the completion of the works programme of the State governments adds to the assets of the nation, the provision of rural debt adjustment money out of loan funds simply gives the creditors of the rural community a more reliable security than they would otherwise have.
– Does the Leader of the Opposition think that that is quite a fair statement ?
Mr.CURTIN. - I do. The facts show that machinery merchants and other securedcreditors of primary producers have benefited from the rural debt adjustment scheme.
– Does an analysis show that to be so?
– I think it does.
– The honorable gentleman only thinks so?
– In any case the Treasurer has, at present, an acknowledged surplus of £4,000,000 some of which could have been devoted to rural debt adjustment.
– How does the Leader of the Opposition suggest that the remainder should be found?
– My point is that a surplus of £4,000,000 is available in this financial year.
– We have a great deal to do with it.
– If the honorable gentleman prefers to use this fortuitous surplus for some purpose other than providing for the welfare of the unemployed, or the farmers in respect of debt adjustment, or the wheat-growers in respect of a wheat bounty that is his business. We say that the Consolidated Revenue Fund could be drawn upon to some extent for those purposes, which would avoid adding to the debt burden of posterity,
– What about the necessary expenditure for defence and national insurance?
– Evenif the honorable gentleman sets aside £2,000,000 for national insurance, he could still hypothecate the remaining £2,000,000 for some other purpose.
– Does the Leader of the Opposition consider that these subjects can be considered in water-tight compartments ?
– The Treasurer brought down a budget which estimated a small credit balance. At the end of the financial year he finds the Government in possession of an unbudgeted surplus of £4,000,000. He, therefore, has some discretion in using that money. The plain fact is that he has exercised his discretion without having made a single shilling of the money available for the assistance of the wheat-growers.
– This is purely political.
– It is fact. In spite of the obligations which rest upon the Government to complete its programme of rural debt adjustment, the honorable gentleman has decided to use the whole of the surplus of £4,000,000 for other purposes, and to borrow money for rural debt adjustment.
– How does the Leader of the Opposition suggest that the money for rural debt adjustment should be obtained ?
– We contend that the Treasurer is acting unfairly in obtaining the money for this purpose from the loan market, for by that means he is simply increasing the burden of posterity. A proportion of the surplus of £4,000,000 could have been used for rural debt adjustment, but the Government has chosen to use the whole of the money for some other purpose.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 5.28 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Wireless Broadcasting : Church Service at Ithaca.
y. - On the 20th June, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) asked the following questions, upon notice - 1.Have any houses been built in Canberra under the Commonwealth Housing Act 1927-1928? 2.Is money available, under the terms and conditions laid down under this act, to persons desiring to build homes in Canberra or other parts of Australia?
The answers to the honorable member’s questions areas follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 June 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1938/19380622_reps_15_156/>.