15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Treasurer seen the article sent from Canberra and published in the Sydney Sunday Sun, stating that the Government is not framing its proposed banking legislation on the lines recommended by the Monetary and BankingRoyal Commission because of the threat that to do so would mean the withdrawal ofa substantial amount of party funds? Is there any truth in the statement?
-I have not seen the statement,and it is not true.
Mr.HARRISON.- Has the attention of the Treasurer been drawn to a report in this morning’s press that Sir Alfred Davidson, in reply toan observation of the honorable gentleman that the Government proposes to introduce certain banking legislation, said that no doubt its present intention was to give tothe Commonwealth Bank authority to requisition a portion of the funds deposited with the trading banks; that this portion would have to be provided by the trading hanks in cash; that this cash would have to be obtained by the reduction of one or other of the assets of the trading banks; and that he feared that this will retard expansion and cause unemployment? If the assumption of Sir Alfred he correct, will the Treasurer, before framing the proposed measure, give consideration to the possible effects feared by him in the direction of retarding expansion and causing unemployment?
– I think it would be inappropriate for me to indulge in a long disquisition in connexion with the matter in this House. I shall make no reference to the views expressed by Sir Alfred Davidson, except to say that, as the Government has not finally made up its mind as to the form of some of its banking proposals, I find it somewhat difficult to discover how any person who is not a member of the Governmentcan have accurate knowledge of those proposals.
– Can the Treasurer inform mo whether the promisedRural Mortgage Bank Bill will be introduced before Parliament adjourns at the end of this week, so that during the recess honorable members may have an opportunity to consider it?
– I cannot give a definite answer to that question. The Government has a great deal of urgentbusiness to place before Parliament before the adjournment, and I cannot undertake that this bill will be introduced.
– Has the Acting Minister for Commerce seen the statement by the Minister for Lands in Western Australia, Mr. Troy, that he has no knowledge of the arrangements that were made at the meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council on the 12th and 13th May last, relative to the stabilization of the wheat industry? If so, is the statement in accordance with fact?
– My attention was drawn to the statement by a telegram which I received fromWestern Australia last week. It is not accurate. Mr. Troy did not attend the meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council, the Government of Western Australia being represented by Mr. Wise, Minister for Agriculture. A decision was arrived at unanimously, and was tabled subsequently in this Parliament, pledging the governments of the States to investigate this matter, arrive at a decision upon it, and report back to the Australian Agricultural Council.
The following papers were presented : -
High Commissioner fur Australia in London - Report for 1937.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointment of T. R. Henderson, Department of the Interior.
Customs Act and Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act -Regulationsamended, &cStatutory Rules 1938, Nos. 56,60.
Dairy Produce Export Control Act - - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1938, No. 57.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at Darwin, Northern Territory - For Administrative purposes.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations amended, &c.- Statutory Rules 198, Nos. 58, 59.
– Has the attention of the Acting Minister for Commerce been drawn to the lack of facilities for the handling of stock at the Canberra abattoirs, by reason of which the animals treated there are subjected to cruelty? If not, will he have the abattoirs inspected, and use every effort to secure their removal to a permanent and more suitable site?
– Some little time ago, the Director-General of Health,Dr. Cumpston, reported on the condition of the Canberra abattoirs, which, when constructed in the early days of the Federal Capital City, were intended to be of a purely temporary character. The department is preparing plans embracing improvements, and I shall acquaint the honorable member with their nature at a later date.
– From time to time, the Chair has informed the House of the rules governing the asking of questions, and has requested honorable members to refrain from drawing attention to statements made by different persons, practically inviting a Minister to say whether thestatements are true or otherwise. Honorable members must understand that questions of this nature must be discontinued.
-Will the Minister for
Defence have funds made available immediately to the Inverell Rifle Range on account of the fact that, owing to the transfer of the site of the range, the Inverell Rifle Club is involved in considerable expense, and, consequently requires immediate financial assistance, if possible, from the Defence Department?
– I shall have inquiries made, and advise the honorable member as to the exact position.
-Can the Treasurer inform the House as to whether any decision has been arrived at in regard to the rate to be provided for the administration of approved societies under the national health and pensions insurance legislation? If not, when is a decision likely to be made?
– A final decision in the matter has not yet been reached. Several weeks’ work will have to be done before the. matter can be finally determined.
– Can the Treasurer inform me whether the Government has yet determined the terms of reference to the royal commission which is to inquire into the rates to be paid to medical practitioners under the national health and pensions insurance scheme? If so, will they be made available to the House ? If not, will honorable members be given some idea of what they will be before they are finally determined ?
– The final form of the terms of reference has not yet been fixed. A certain amount of work has been done in connexion with the matter, but until Ministers are able to obtain some freedom from the sittings of the House I doubt whether it will be possible to complete the consideration of the subject.
– In view of the crisis that is developing in the coal industry, which will culminate in a general stoppage of work if steps to prevent it are not taken, will the Prime Minister convenea conference of the parties to the dispute with a view to their arriving at a solution of the points at issue?
– As I am not satisfied that a crisis is developing - and I sincerely trust that it is not - there is no need for me to answer the latter part of the honorable member’s question.
– Has the attention of the Treasurer been directed to recent paragraphs in the press to the effect that the Government is interesting itself in the financing of another expedition to the Antarctic by Sir Hubert Wilkins? The Treasurer’s name has been mentioned as being particularly interested.
– Order !
– Is the honorable gentleman unable to inform us of the Government’s intentions in this respect?
– I have noticed references in the press to this subject, but I have made no statement on behalf of the Government or myself about it. I merely noticed that Sir Hubert Wilkins was considering the organization of another expedition: but, so far as I know, it has nothing to do with the Commonwealth Government.Its only significance to us is that Sir Hubert Wilkins is an Australian.
– Is the Minister for Defence aware that naval trainees at Port Melbourne, the principal naval depot of Victoria, are compelled to do their exercises in the streets? If he is not aware of the situation, will he consult with the officers of his department and request them to make contact with the Port Melbourne Municipal Council to see whether a reserve cannot be made available for this purpose?
– I am not aware of the details in this matter, but I shall have inquiries made to sec whether improved conditions can be made possible.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the agreement in connexion with the Empire air-mail service will be submitted to Parliament for ratification before the coining adjournment?
– The agreement will be submitted to Parliament, and I think it will be necessary for it to be ratified quite early.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether the Government is satisfied with the reception of the broadcast of the current test match, England versus Australia? Was not the reception after the luncheon adjournment on Saturday so unsatisfactory that it was impossible to hear what was said ? In the circumstances is it not possible to continue the ball to ball description, as it is given up to the luncheon adjournment, for the remainder of the day’s play? Is it not a fact that an effort has been made to economize in connexion with this broadcast, notwithstanding that the broadcast listeners contribute nearly £1,000,000 a year in licence-fees ?
– by leave- The Australian Broadcasting Commission, in an endeavour to provide a detailed running description of the play during the test matches, arranged with the commercial stations to secure a cabled description of the play, and to make use of the
Empire short wave broadcasting service during periods when reception was satisfactory. It was known that short wave transmission between England and Australia was unlikely to bc satisfactory until midnight and consequently the short wave service is only used after that hour.
A committee of the national and licensed stations determines when the short wave description shall be made suitable for re-broadcasting in Australia, and 1 arranges the time for the cross-over to that service and the discontinuance of the cabled messages. The committee then monitors the short wave description. In the event of its becoming unsatisfactory, arrangements have been made to permit cables to bc resumed within not more than fifteen minutes, during which period, of course, the short wave service would continue. In the event of the cabled description being thus resumed, the short wave service via the Empire broadcasting station would still be monitored and, should it later improve, the committee would request the post office to arrange for the re-broadcasting to bc resumed. I think it will be clear from what I have said that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is doing everything possible to give a satisfactory service.
– Some time ago i. was informed in reply to a question, that the Commonwealth Government was inquiring from the State governments what action they proposed to take regarding matters included in the Geneva maritime conventions which fell within State jurisdiction. I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether replies to those inquiries have yet been received from the State governments? I also wish to know whether the Government proposes, before the adjournment of the House this week, to ratify such portions of the conventions as fall within its own province?
– I should like an opportunity to refresh my mind as to the nature of the replies received from the State governments and also as to whether additional information has been obtained since the honorable member previously asked a question on this subject.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the relegation of the InterState Commission Bill to No. 8 on the notice-paper for to-day is to be taken as an intimation that the Government does not intend to proceed further with this bill during this period of the session?
-Candidly, I am not very hopeful that the bill will be passed during this period of the session; but if it is not passed, it will be the first measure to be submitted to Parliament when it resumes its sittings later in the year.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Administrator’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to provide a guarantee by the Commonwealth in respect of a loan to be raised by the Administrator of the Territory of New Guinea to meet the cost of certain road construction.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Hughes and Mr. Casey do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Hughes, and read a first time.
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendment) :
Senate’s amendment - After clause 1 insert the following clause: - 1a. This act shall come into operation on the day on which it receives the Royal Assent.
– I move: -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Thisbill has been returned from the
Senate with an amendment to enable the bounty restoration to be paid to cottongrowers at once, instead of 31 days after the Royal Assent, as is required by the Acts Interpretation Act. This amendment has been made necessary owing to the original bill having been unavoidably delayed by other legislation. Honorable members will, I am sure, readily agree to the more expeditious payment proposed, in view of the fact that cotton-growers have received low prices this season and many of them are still suffering from the effects of the droughts of the previous two seasons.
.- This is a measure that I can support. My only objection to the bill is that it does not go far enough, and that it does not give the stability to which the industry is entitled. What the industry wants is an Australian price for the cotton-growers based on the cost of production, also a continuity of that price. I hope that the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Perkins) will be able to give some guarantee that the members of the Tariff Board, before they conclude their investigation of the cotton industry, will visit the central Queensland cotton-growing district in order to see for themselves the difficulties under which the cottongrowers are working. It was intended that the board should pay a visit to the district about a month ago, but owing to wet weather the trip was abandoned.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).Order! The honorable gentleman is exceeding the question before the Chair.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Chairman. I suggest to the Acting Minister that while it is important that the bounty should be paid forthwith instead of being held up for a month, it is necessary that a long range policy should be decided upon giving an Australian price to growers in order that the cotton-growing industry should develop and prosper.
.- I do not think that any honorable member will have any objection to the objective of the Senate’s amendment, but I think that it should not be agreed to without some comment on the delay on the part of the Commonwealth Government which has made it necessary for this new clause to be inserted. The effect of the new clause will be to bring into operation the act at an earlier date than would be possible were the strict procedure laid in the Acts Interpretation Act followed. The new clause is necessary only because the bill was introduced late in the year. I can well remember that the intention of the Government to re-introduce the raw cotton bounty was announced a considerable time before Parliament met. If Parliament had been called together in February or March, as we were originally led to expect it would be, the bill would have been passed in the normal way, and there would have been no delay in the payment of the restored bounty and no necessity for this special provision. The Acts Interpretation Act was passed by this Parliament and the Government knew that it contained the provision that no legislation shall become operative until a month after the date of Royal Assent. This bill, at any rate, could not have been difficult to draft. Parliament was not called together at the date originally intended on the score that extra time was necessary to enable legislation to be prepared. In the closing days of practically every session of the Commonwealth Parliament, bills are hurried through or amendments are introduced to avoid compliance with the law as it has been passed by Parliament. I do not propose “to vote against this amendment, but I “think that it warrants the protest that, T have uttered.
– It is’, unfortunately, true that the Tariff Board promised to visit the central districts’ of Queensland, and that wet weather prevented it from carrying out its promise. I am not sure whether the board has sufficient time to enable it to make that visit now, but I shall bring the honorable gentleman’s remarks under the notice of the board, and endeavour to have the board make the visit. I have nothing to say on the point raised by the honorable member for “Wakefield. (Mr. Hawker). I have already stated the reasons for the delay in having the measure -passed.
Motion agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Administrator’s message) :
Motion by (Mr. Casey) proposed -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to grant and apply out of Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum for invalid and old-age pensions.
.- I should like to know from the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) when it is proposed to repeal that section of the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act which requires the relatives of an applicant for a pension to support him if they are able. The section was inserted in 1932, and as all the other emergency provisions which were put into the act at that time have since been repealed, and as the Treasurer has expressed himself as sympathetically disposed towards the repeal of this section also-:–
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).The honorable member is not entitled to discuss that matter on this bill.
– I appeal to the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to ensure that the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act is administered in a more liberal manner.
– The honorable member is not in order in discussing such matters on this motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
That Mr: Casey and Mr. Perkins do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out tho foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to provide £15,000,000 out of Consolidated Revenue Fund for the payment of invalid and old-age pensions. It has been the custom to appropriate from Consolidated Revenue approximately one year’s expenditure to enable the normal fortnightlypayments to be made at the rate, and under the conditions prescribed in the act. The last appropriation of £15,000,000 was made in June, 1937. The total amount appropriated by Parliament up to the present is £210,250,000, and the estimated expenditure up to the 31st June will be £208,110,000, leaving £2,140,000 to meet future expenditure. A further appropriation, therefore, becomes necessary. I give the usual assurance that this measure in no way affects rates of pensions, or the conditions under which they are paid.
.’ - Did the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), when considering the proposals to appropriate this sum of money, give any thought to the request of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) and myself regarding pensioners suffering from miners’ phthisis.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).The honorable member is out of order in discussing that matter in connexion with this bill.
.- Some days ago, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) and I mentioned this matter, and the Minister who was in charge of the House at the time promised to bring it under the notice of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey)-
– I remind the honorable member that the subject he is discussing does not relate to the bill. He will have an opportunity to discuss it when Supply is under consideration.
– The purpose of this bill is to appropriate £15,000,000 for the payment of pensions, and I thought, that I should be in order in putting forward a request that the amount should be increased for a certain purpose.
– The honorable member may proceed ; I am not sure what line of argument he proposes to follow.
– Before the depression, no deduction was made from a pensioner’s permissible income because he was receiving from the State a. pension for miners’ phthisis.
– That cannot be dismissed on this Appropriation Bill. Honor able members will realize that, if I were to permit a debate on this subject, it would be permissible to traverse every phase of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act during this debate.
.- In this bill it is proposed to appropriate £15,000,000 to be placed in a trust fund under the Audit Act. In the last report of the Auditor-General it is pointed out that there has been a sudden increase of 30 per cent, in regard to invalid and oldage pensions payments in New South Wales, as compared with those in the other States.Iha ve been advised that a different method has been adopted in that State with regard to the medical certificate specifying whether a person is totally and permanently incapacitated or not.
– Order! The honorable member is now discussing the administration of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. That cannot be done on the Appropriation Bill.
– This bill proposes to appropriate the sum of £15,000,000.
– Order ! The reading of a bill authorizing the appropriation of money does not afford an opportunity to discuss the administration of an act.
– Although I contend that the matter I wish to discuss comes within the scope of the bill now before the House, in view of your ruling, Mr. Speaker, I have no option but to resume my seat.
– I seek a ruling from you, Mr. Speaker. Clause 3 of the bill now before the House provides for the appropriation of £15,000,000. In criticizing the appropriation of £15,000,000 as insufficient tor the purposes for which it is to be appropriated would I be in order in pursuing the subject I have already mentioned?
– There are many phases of the act that might be discussed, if it were permissible to do so, upon a bill which appropriates money to meet the costs of pensions, but it would not be in order to do so. I remind the honorable member again, that ample opportunity to discuss the matter which he desires to raise will be afforded when the Supply Bill is under consideration.
Question resolved in the affirmative
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Message from the Administrator reported transmitting the Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure for the financial year ended the 30th June, 1037, and recommending appropriation accordingly.
In committee (Consideration of Administrator’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That the following further stuns be granted to His Majesty to defray the charges for the year 1030-37, for the several services hereunder specified, viz: -
Part I. - Departments and Services - other than BusinessUndertakings and Territories of the Commonwealth.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means founded on resolution of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Mr. Casey and Mr. Archie Cameron do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Supplementary Estimates which have just been tabled cover items of expenditure for the year ended the 30th June, 1937, for which no specific approval has yet been given by Parliament and which has been met temporarily out of the provision for Treasurer’s Advance pending submission to Parliament in the form of the Estimates now before the House. As honorable members are aware, parliamentary authority for this expenditure was included in a lump sum appropriated in the Estimates-in-Chief for the year 1936- 37 under the heading “ Advance to the Treasurer “. It has been the custom to make this provision so that the Treasurer may make advances to the various departments of such sums as are necessary to meet urgent and essential unforeseen expenditure. Particulars of such expenditure in the form of Supplementary Estimates are now submitted to Parliament for covering appropriation. As copies of the “Estimates are being circulated amongst honorable members, I do not propose to refer to the items in detail at this stage. The amount voted for advance to the Treasurer for 1936-37 was £2,000,000; of that amount £998,583 was used for ordinary departmental services and war services payable from revenue, while £535,619 was used for additions, new works and buildings, particulars of which will be submitted in the form of Supplementary Estimates almost immediately. Parliament is now being asked to appropriate £998,583, but the total of the original Estimates has been exceeded by only £72,261.This is because, in many cases, these new charges were made contingent upon savings of a like amount in other items as the result of an endeavour by the Treasury to ensure that additional expenditure should, as much as possible, be met out of savings in other directions. In the first place, we attempt to make it conditionalupon equivalent savings being made in other votes. That is why there is such a very big difference in this case between the amount to be appropriated and the amount by which the original appropriations were actually exceeded. Full details of the expenditure now submitted have already been furnished to Parliament in the Estimates and Budget Papers for 1.937-38. In this year’s Estimates, the expenditure for 1936-37 is set out alongside the amounts voted for 1937-38. The details are also shown in the Treasurer’s financial statement for the year 1936-37.
It is the practice to await the report of the Auditor-General on the accounts for the year under review before submitting the Supplementary Estimates to Parliament. The Treasurer’s financial statement was forwarded to the AuditorGeneral on the 23rd November, 1937. The report of that officer was presented to the Treasurer on the 6th April of this year, and was laid on the table of this House on the 27th April of this year.
I commend to the House the Supplementary Estimatesfor ordinary services.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Curtin) adjourned.
Message from the Administrator reported, transmitting the Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c, for the financial year ended the 30th June, 1937, and recommending appropriation accordingly.
In committee (Consideration of Administrator’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That there be granted to His Majesty to the service of the year 1930-37 for the purposes of Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c, a further sum not exceeding £535,619.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
Resolutionof Ways and Means founded on resolution of Supply, reported and adopted.
Tha t Mr. Casey and Mr. Perkins do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey, and read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill provides for an appropriation of £535,619 for items of expenditure under Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c, which have been met from the vote “ Advance to the Treasurer “ during the year 1936-37.
In presenting the Supplementary Estimates for ordinary services a few moments ago, I informed honorable members of the reason for and the procedure adopted in connexion with bills of this nature.
Although the amount provided for by the bill is £535,619, that sum does not represent the net amount expended on works and buildings in excess of the original Estimates. Actually, the provision in the original Estimates was exceeded by only £146,232, increased expenditure under post office and railways being offset by savings under other services.
The chief items making up the total are as follows : -
Of the sum of £494,910 for telephone services, £300,000 was represented by a transfer of expenditure from the Loan Fund in the following circumstances: In consequence of the difficulty of raising loan moneys, and acting on the principle which has been followed for a number of years of leaving the loanfield as free as possible for the States, the Commonwealth Government decided to charge more of the necessary expenditure to revenue. The transferred expenditure was covered by the vote for Treasurer’s Advance until parliamentary appropriation could’ be obtained. The amount of £300,000, out of the total supplementary appropriation of £535,619, has been counterbalanced by a saving of a similar amount under the loan appropriation.
The loan market has been relieved to this extent, the States have been similarly advantaged, and a consequential saving of interest will result. An additional £194,910 was required to meet the demand by the public for increased telephone facilities.
The necessity for the extra provision of £22,223 for the Trans-Australia railway was due to the speeding up” of the ballasting of the line; the additional expenditure in 1936-37 is being offset by reduced expenditure in subsequent years.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Curtin) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to - .
Thathe have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the SalesTaxExempt Act 1933-30.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This can be described generally as a measure to obviate the collection of sales tax in circumstances in which the collection would clearly be unfair and wrong. It is almost entirely a validating measure. From time to time in the course of the last six or nine months, the Government has discovered, certain relatively small anomalies in the administration of the sales tax, and has authorized the department toproceed on theassumption that, in due course and as soon as possible, exemptions granted in such cases would receive parliamentary approval. First, the bill seeks to validate exemptions authorized by the Government in anticipation of an amendment of the law. Secondly, it seeks to remove any doubts that may exist as to the validity of certain exemptions that have been administratively allowed. The provisions which are outside those two objects are of minor importance, and consist mainly of corrections of a. few inadvertent errors and omissions which occurred in the drafting of earlier sales tax legislation.
The exemptions authorized by the Government in anticipation of this bill are as follows: -
Clause 3 b - Certain piping.
Clause 3 c - Salad dressing, dry.
Clause 3 e - Invalid carriages.
Clause 3b -Goods for State public libraries.
Clause 3k - Brasslights and other goods similar to leadlights.
Clause 3 t, new item 131 - Imported goods bequeathed to Australian residents.
I assurehonorable members that these are all cases in which the taxation of the goods affected would result in glaring anomalies.
The validation of exemptions administratively allowed is provided for by clause 3, paragraphs g, h, i, r, s and t - new item 132 - and the goods affected are as follows : -
Clause 3 g - Window price tickets, &c, hand produced.
Clause 3 h and
Clause 3 i - Certain printers’ equipment comparable with equipment already exempt.
Clause 3r and
Clause 3 s - Spare gear for ships.
Clause 3 t, new item 132 - Equipment for the manufacture of taxable goods which become the property of the manufacturer’s customers.
The drafting corrections are contained in clause 3, paragraphs d, m, n, o, p and q.
Only two other matters are dealt with by the bill. The first of these relates to the definition of “ aids to manufacture “ as applied to unregistered manufacturers. Honorable gentlemen will remember that a rather complicated provision relating to this matter was included in a previous sales tax bill. In administration this provision had to be expanded in certain directions. The new definition, for which parliamentary sanction is now desired, is that under which the department is operating in the case of registered manufacturers. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) was particularly interested in this definition.
The second definition relates to “hooks and printed matter of an advertising nature “. The purpose of the amendment is to re-express section 3 / which provides for the exemption of books and printed matter, so as to exclude from the exemption advertising publications of a kind originally intended to be excluded. The amendment is considered desirable in view of the sharp divergence of legal opinion as to the scope of the existing exclusion of “ advertising matter “. The publications affected do not lend themselves particularly to simple definition. The proposed amendment is not intended to have retrospective effect.
At the committee stage of the bill I shall, if desired, give honorable members a much fuller explanation of the various clauses. I ask honorable gentlemen to appreciate that, with minor exceptions, the bill does not seek either to extend or to curtail the sales tax exemptions at present . actually being allowed. It is designed merely to give a legal basis to the understanding of taxpayers and consumers as to what is covered by the existing exemptions. I therefore ask honorable members not to look upon the introduction of. the bill as an opportunity for pressing claims for further exemptions from sales tax. On other occasions when the sales tax has been under consideration in this chamber, I have stressed the danger of - accepting amendments suggested during the discussion of the hill. Sales tax exemptions are agreed to by the Government only after the most careful inquiry over many months. It is necessary to proceed with the utmost caution, in this matter, for it has been found that one exemption leads to another and that to still another, until very soon a position is reached at which exemptions are being granted to goods which bear very little relation to the original item which initiated the agitation.
– When is this poor man’s tax to be lifted altogether?
– I can give the honorable member no information on that point.
I reiterate that the simple purpose of this bill is to make the administration of the sales tax law a little easier than it has been. ‘Sales tax administration has progressively improved in both technique and detail since the first measure was introduced in 1930.
– But it is still very irritating to the public.
– The object of these amendments is to diminish the irritation. The declining size of my mail in connexion with this particular department reveals to me very clearly that the degree of irritation is very much less to-day than it was years ago, and, particularly, since the consolidating measure was passed by this House a year or two ago.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Curtin) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. McEwen) proposed -
TI) at Orders of the Day Nos. 1 and 2 be postponed until after Order of the Day No. 3.
– I shall not oppose this motion, but I point out that this is the fourth successive day upon which the notice-paper has proved to be absolutely useless to honorable members. I am aware that it may not be easy to prepare the notice-paper; but the Government should realize that when alterations of this description are made without notice, my work, and a’lso that of other honorable gentlemen, is complicated, for we are not able in these circumstances to form even an approximate opinion as to when the bills with which we are particularly concerned will be considered. I realize that the Government is anxious to proceed with the discussion of certain business ; but I ask that it shall make up its mind in this Con.nexion at least before the business paper is printed, and, having done so, that it shall adhere to it. Several matters that have been dealt with to-day could have been discussed on another bill if the business paper had been adhered to. I do not, of course, reflect upon the business of the House; but it may be that when the bill to which I have referred comes under notice, some of these matters will again be discussed. I make this protest now in the hope that it may not be necessary to repeat it later.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 20th June (vide page 2317), on motion by Mr. MoEwen -
That the bill he now .read a second time.
– This bill provides for an amendment of the Representation Act, which had for its purpose the determining of the number of members of the House of Representatives to be chosen from time to time in the several States, and the manner in. which the Chief -Electoral Officer of the Commonwealth should determine, and at the times prescribed, ascertain the numbers of the people of the Commonwealth and the numbers of the people of the. several States. All honorable members must agree that it is important that accurate information shall be available upon which to determine the numerical strength of the different electorates, so that there may be no room for dispute. All sections of the population should be safeguarded in this particular, in order to prevent electorates becoming unduly unbalanced.
The Minister for tie Interior (Mr. McEwen), in introducing this bill, made it clear that the Government felt that it was necessary to exercise all possible care in ascertaining the figures on which the representation of the people in the House of Representatives was based. This bill has, for its direct. object, the amendment of the Representation Act of 1905, which gave expression to section 24 of the Constitution, by making provision that the figures, ascertained by the taking of a census should be the basis on which representation should be calculated. The Representation Act provided that the day on which any census of the people was taken should be an enumeration day, and that, subsequent to the first census taken alter the commencement of the act, an enumeration clay should bo appointed at the expiration of every fifth year after the then last preceding enumeration day.
Honorable members will, I think, unhesitatingly agree with the statement of the Minister that no alteration should be made to the representation of the people in the respective States, except on the basis of definite and unquestionable information as to their population. That occasions have arisen in the past when doubt existed as to the accuracy of the figures available, is shown by the- passing of the Representation Acts of 1916 and 1930, which provided that the Chief Electoral Officer should not appoint an enumeration day at the end of the fifth year. It is undoubtedly too important a matter to allow any - inaccuracy upon, and the difficulty of obtaining absolutely accurate figures should be good grounds for the acceptance of this bill.
Apart from the taking of the census, it seems to be impossible to arrive at the “ definite and unquestionable “ figures on which alteration of representation can be justified. The Minister cited- the action taken in 1930 as an example which showed that if action had been taken to alter the representation on the statistician’s estimates when no recent census information was available, one State, Queensland, would have been given an additional representative, although the census figures of 1933 proved that it was not entitled to one. The estimated figures were between 30,000 and 40,000 higher than the actual numbers which were ascertained later warranted. I need hardly remind honorable members of the unsatisfactory state of affairs that would arise’ if one State actually elected one more member than that which it proved to be entitled to when the accurate figures became available.
– The position- would be worse in connexion with a State which was deprived of a member in such circumstances.
-.- That is so. No possibility should be allowed to exist of that occurring, for it would, undoubtedly, cause a great deal of heartburning and a sense of injustice. That is something which should be avoided, and as it cannot be avoided if estimates of population instead of accurately ascertained figures are used, the action of the Government in introducing this bill is justified.
The Minister referred to seasonal abnormality, resulting from an influx of population of a temporary or transient nature. It is not difficult to visualize the possibility in such circumstances of distortion of representation taking place. For instance, had an enumeration day followed on a date which coincided with the height of the centenary celebrations in New South Wales, during which the State Government, assisted by this Government, spent a large amount of money to attract people from other places, it might easily have given that State another member at the expense of another State. A similar condition could have arisen in Victoria had an enumeration day coincided with the centenary celebrations in that State, and again in South Australia had such a day coincided with similar celebrations recently held there. We should therefore take all possible stops to avoid arousing any sense of injustice in this direction. For this reason, this bill, which aims to achieve that end, deserves the most sympathetic consideration of the Parliament, and for the principle contained in it, of the people.
The Minister gave us the figures showing the enrolment of qualified electors in all States, excluding Tasmania and Western Australia, in the existing divisions in each State, and the average number for each was nearly 59,000. Tasmania and Western Australia are of course protected as to their minimum representation.’ When the first Represen-
tatton Act was passed, the average number of electors for New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, and South Australia was approximately 26,000. The number of electors represented has more than doubled in the 35 years that have since elapsed. The total number of electors eligible to vote at the general elections in 1903 was 1,893,5S6. These, divided by the number of members in the Parliament which followed, gave electorates with an average strength of 25,248 voters.
The subsequent elections showed, as was naturally to be expected, a growth in the number of electors. The Chief Electoral Officer has supplied me with a table showing the total number of electors and the average number of each electorate for the elections which took place in 1913, 1925, 1934, and also the total number of electors enrolled at the 31st March, 1938, with the average size of electorates of each of the 74 voting members in the Parliament, and the average number of electorates if divided by 75 instead of 74. The table also includes a line showing the estimated number of electors at the probable census day on the 30th June, 1941. The details are as follows :: -
The figures given show separately the totals and averages for the five mainland States and the six -States of the Commonwealth, as Tasmania, because of its small population and the provision in the Constitution which gives to any State a minimum of five members in the House of Representatives, necessarily reduces the average. If the Commonwealth as a whole is taken, the table shows the total number of electors enrolled in 1903 as 1,893,586, and the average as 25,248. At the 31st March, 193S, the number of electors enrolled had increased to 4,093,576. which, if divided by 74, the present number of members, gives an average sub-division of 55,319. That is the actual position to-day, but if it is carried forward to the date of the next probable census day, in 1941, the figures will grow to 4,250,000, which, divided by 75, gives an average of 56,666, while, if Tasmania is excluded, the average of the mainland electorates will be 58,714. It will be seen that the it umber of electors has grown to such a degree that it has considerably more than doubled, and I venture to suggest that the time has arrived when consideration should be given to the question of adequate and effective representation.
The position in a periodof 35 years has developed to such a degree that Australian members of Parliament have to represent a greater number of electors than do any members of any other of the British Parliaments elected on adult franchise.
– And the electorates in Australia are much larger than elsewhere.
– Yes, and where the number of electorates has increased, as in South Australia recently, both the numbers and the area increased greatly. One cannot overlook the position in electorates such as that of my colleague, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green), who covers an immense area and does his Work with enthusiasm and great ability, but I am basing my contention on the formidable growth in the numerical strength of the electorates.
-do not, members of the House of Commons individually represent more electors than do individual members of this Parliament?
– No. In the British House of Commons the average number of electors for members is 51,015; the figures being: electors, 31,374,449; members, 615. The source from which that information is received is the “Electoral Expenses, &c, Returns to the House of Commons, Paper No. 150 of Session 1935-36.” It is authentic and the latest available.
According to the CanadaY ear-Book: of 1937, the position in Canada is that for the election for the House of Commons in 1935, there were 5,919,506 electors, and thenumber of members to represent them was 245, giving an average for each member of 24,161. In Canada, there are also 96 senators and, of course, there- are nine provincial parliaments as well. The Canadian position can reason ably be compared with Australia, and that country has less than half the number of electors for each member of Parliament than is the case in Australia.
I venture to suggest that the numbers of persons in the Australian electorates are growing to such a degree that honorable members of this Parliament cannot do them justice. Moreover, the numbers of matters of detail that have to be attended to are greater than they were when the numbers of electorates were less. We are adding a great- deal to the activities of the Commonwealth parliamentary machine. As an example, I instance the national insurance legislation which is being dealt with at the present time and the work which it implies.
In the neighbouring Dominion of New Zealand, for the 1935 elections there were 919,798 European electors, the number of members elected to represent them being 76, giving an average for each member of 12,102. Compare that with the position in Australia. The argument may be raised that New Zealand has no provincial or state parliaments, but one can realize that, when members of the New Zealand Parliament represent less than a quarter of the number of electors represented by the members of this Parliament, consideration should be given as to whether or not members of this Parliament are effectively able to do the work for which they are elected.
– Has the honorable member compared the salaries -paid to members of the Commonwealth Parliament with the salaries paid to members of other British Parliaments?
– No, I have not gone into that. It is not so much a question of rate of salary. It is a question of effective representation. When the number of representatives is reduced, the average number of electors in the electorates is increased. The average in the South Australian electorates to-day is more than 60,000. I feel that in such circumstances the power given by the Constitution to increase the number of members of Parliament should be used. No Constitution alteration is necessary. At the proper time consideration should be given to increasing the number of members of this Parliament as the Constitution provides may be done.
Reverting to the position in New Zealand, there are also four Maori members elected by the Maori population. I cannot give an up-to-date figure for the number of electors for each member, but, since the Maori population at the 1926 census was 63,670, it would not exceed’ the figure for the European population. In Eire the 1937 election figures showed that the number of electors was 1,7’59,032, the number of members other than senators was 138, and each member on an average represented 1.2,747 people.
The figures prove that members of Parliament in Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand, and Eire, have a lesser number of electors to represent in the legislature than in Australia. The average in Canada is less than half, and in New Zealand and Eire it is less than one-quarter of the Australian average.
The following table shows that, in comparison with Great Britain and other dominions, the Commonwealth members of Parliament represent too many electors : -
The question of representation is one which should interest members of all parties, and I trust that the debate on this bill will’ serve to awaken an interest that will lead to consideration being given to the basis of representation being put on a more reasonable numerical basis than that which now exists. Where the legislative rights of the people are concerned, it is the duty of their representatives to draw attention to any disadvantages or defects that exist, and it is in that spirit I draw attention to the position with respect to parliaments in other parts of the British Empire where adult franchise operates.
The Minister, at the conclusion of his speech, pointed out that, provided the Statistician’s estimates are approximately correct, and the population trend indicated by him continues, it appears likely that the count at the next census will show that both New South Wales and Queensland will gain one representative and Victoria will lose one. Should that occur, Victoria will be in the position that, with an estimated enrolment of 1.185,000, it will have only nineteen representatives with an average of 62,36S electors, whereas, 35 years ago, it had an enrolment of 612,472, and the average number of electors in Australia was then 26,629; in Victoria the average was less than that.
– If Victoria is to lose a member, which other State is to gain one?
– It is possible for Queensland and New South Wales to gain one additional member each, which would increase the number of members to 76, even though Victoria would lose one. It may surprise honorable members to know that it is possible for this Parliament to consist of 76 honorable members. It is too much to expect that, by the 30th June, 1941, the enrolment for Victoria will reach 1,200,000. On past figures, it would seem that an advance to approximately 1,185,000 might be a more reasonable expectation.- This would give an average enrolment, for each division as follows : -
The following table sets out the average enrolment in Victoria since the general election of 1903 :-
Allowing for the natural growth of population, and recognizing that it must baw been accepted that the activities of the Commonwealth and the work entailed on members would grow, it was surely never intended that individual members would have to cater for the needs of nearly two and a half times the number of electors than in 3903.
I respectfully urgethat there must surely be some point at which the numerical strength of the electorates should bo limited. I am of the opinion that that limit was anticipated by section 7 of the Constitution, which provides -
Until the Parliament otherwise provides, there shall be six senators for each original State. The Parliament may make laws increasing or diminishing the number of senators for each State, but so that equal representation of the several original States shall be maintained and that no original State shall have less than six senators.
It is within the bounds of possibility to increase the number of senators. If the number of senators for each State were increased to seven, the number of members of this House would be 84, and, if the number of senators would be increased to eight for each State, the number of members for this House would be 96. There is a provision for this in section 24 of the Constitution. The Constitution thus provides a way in which this Parliament can remedy the situation. I realize that if we were to select the number seven, it would be difficult to comply with that section of the Constitution which says that the number should be divided as equally as possible, because four senators would go to election in one period and three in another. However, if the number were raised to eight, we should then be in a numerical position, in respect of representation in this House, a little more than half-way between the distributions of Great Britain and Canada. I submit that thereis no reason why the people of Australia should not have as effective representation as those in Canada. I take this opportunity to draw the attention of honorable members generally, and of the Government in particular, to the need for giving consideration to the institution of a system that would afford more adequate and effective representation than we now have. I do not criticize the work of any honorable member who has ever sat in this Parliament - that is the right and privilege of the constituents - but I believe that it wouldbe to the advantage of the people generally if what I have suggested were adopted. The Opposition approves of this measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 20th June (vide page 2315), on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the billbe now read a second time.
.- The Supply Bill introduced at this stage is the usual measure to make provision for the carrying on of the administration and the Public Service during the first period of the ensuing financial year. The only distinction between this bill and those that have preceded it is that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) asks for a larger amount than is customary. He has done that because he wishes to increase the provision at his own disposal as Treasurer for contingencies that are usually covered out of the Treasurer’s Advance. Broadly speaking, the Opposition has no objection to this procedure. It is only to be expected that, as the Commonwealth expands, the unforeseen element in expenditure will make it necessary that what for years has stood as the normal figure for the Advance to the Treasurer should be increased, and I am not astonished, therefore, that the Treasurer finds it necessary to ask for an increased amount in this bill.
A supply bill, coming as it does at this stage, provides the first opportunity which Parliament has had to review the administrative work of the Government, and to sit in judgment upon it. It is important, having regard to the fact that the Treasurer and Cabinet are presumably engaged in the preparation of the budget for the next financial year, that they should be afforded some indication of what honorable members are thinking regarding the general policy of the Government, and regarding certain phases of its administration. When, on recent occasions, I have made observations of this kind, the Treasurer has taken shelter behind the cry that I have been discussing politics. I remind him that, after all is said and done, politics is a generic name given to the art of government. Furthermore, historically, the emergence of politics in English-speaking communities has been a datum point from which has emanated the authority of Parliament, and, therefore, of the people, over the law, and the requirements of the Sovereign. We refuse as a Parliament, theoretically, at any rate, to grant supply to the Crown until, our grievances have been remedied. That is not an ultimatum ; it represents an essential condition for the preservation of the parliamentary system. If the Ministry could keep Parliament in recess, or have it meet irregularly; if it were able to present disorderly legislative programmes in the sense that Parliament was not always given due notice of proposed bills, then, inevitably, democracy could not give that satisfaction which 1 believe it is inherently capable of giving as a system of government.
In the financial year just closing, the Treasurer has managed, quite fortuitously, to achieve an unexpected surplus. When he submitted the budget, . he expected a surplus of £30,000, but he will achieve a surplus of approximately £3,700,000. In the previous financial year, the Treasurer anticipated a surplus of £45,000. The actual surplus at the end of the year was £1,276,000. For the year 1935-36, he estimated a very small surplus, only £17,000, but the actual surplus turned out to be £3,567,000. Therefore, in the last three budgets, the total estimated surplus was about £92,000, while the total surplus realized was £8,543,000. This is such an extraordinarily consistent record of under-estimating the revenue that the Treasurer’s estimates cannot be regarded as having any value whatever. When he says in his next budget - as he probably will - that the Government cannot do this, that, or the other thing because of lack of funds, he will have to face this three years’ record of having told Parliament and the country that he would be just about able to balance the budget, when, in fact, the least surplus attained was over £1,250,000, while for two years the annual surplus amounted to no less than £3,500,000.
– The Treasurer under-estimated the confidence of the people in the Government. Mr. CURTIN.- As a matter of fact, he under-estimated the customs revenue.
For the first eleven months of this financial year, the customs revenue has exceeded by £750,000 the estimated revenue for the whole year, and it is probable that, by the end of the year, his estimate will be exceeded by nearly £3,500,000. Last year, the Treasurer’s estimate was not so far out, actual customs revenue exceeding the estimate by only £165,000, but for the previous year the excess of receipts over estimates was £3,368,000. Altogether, for the last three financial years, the budget surplus has amounted to £8,543,000 as against an estimated surplus of £92,000, and of the totalunestimated surplus, more than £7,000,000 represents unestimated customs receipts.
– Does the Leader of the Opposition expect the Treasurer to be gifted with second sight?
– No, I do not, but this Government has been systematically reducing customs duties, and thereby encouraging imports, with the result that it has obtained millions of pounds to play with that it never expected to have, and has, to an extent, made it difficult to maintain parliamentary control over national expenditure. Indeed, it has substituted government control for parliamentary control of finance, and may soon be in difficulties because Australia’s overseas trade balance is anything but satisfactory.
During those years in which the revenue of the country has been greatly inflated by unexpected income from customs, the volume of our exports has remained almost static. I point out to honorable members, and to the country, that this Government has managed to achieve a degree of financial stability for itself entirely as the result of sheer good fortune. The value of exports has increased, but the volume has, as a matter of fact, exceeded the 1931-32 level only in the year 1934-35. If we represent the volume for 1931-32 as 100, we find that, in 1934-35, the volume of exports would be represented by 101 ; for 1935-36 by 97 ; for 1936-37by 99 ; and for the present year by about 98. There has been no great increase of the volume of Australian primary production during the period this Government has been in power. The area under cultivation, by and large, .is substantially less than has been the case for many years. I now point to the fact that we are about to experience once again an unfortunate regression of export prices. As a matter of fact, export prices are now approximately 40 per cent, below the predepression level. The estimate of the value of our exports for this year will be somewhere between £100,000,000 and £105,000,000, whereas, as a matter of fact, in 1937, their value’ was £117,000,000.
– The honorable member ia concerned about the trade balance.
– During the years this Government has been in power, the Opposition has certainly been concerned about the trade balance, and it makes no apology for that because it was the heritage of an unfavorable trade balance which the predecessor of the present Treasurer ( M /.. Casey) left to our then lender, the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), that created, for the first time in the history of the Commonwealth, a very serious position in respect of our overseas obligations. “We do not desire that, this Government, which came in on a tide of rising fortune, should so gamble with the destinies of this country and so recklessly disregard the facts staring everybody in the face as to create another position in which the next government will again bo faced with alternatives incidental to any stringency of the overseas position. What is the indication at present? For the ten months, July to April of this year, our exports -were valued at £95,144,000 and our imports at £92,959,000; during that period the value of our imports was £17,600,000 higher than for the corresponding period of the previous year. Therefore, the indications, which have been referred to in other places, are that there has been a substantial reduction of the amount of Loudon balances, comparing the present time with a year ago. I atn not at all diffident about insisting upon the correctness of that statement despite the reply which the Treasurer gave me to-day in response to a question which I placed upon the notice-paper. I ask that this matter he seriously investigated. Very great financial obligations are looming ahead for the Government. It has- already indicated m& greatly enlarged defence expenditure, “and it is also obliged to make considerable use of its resources as the Commonwealth’s contribution to the national health and pensions insurance fund. These two factors, together with the continued increase of the amount of the provision for invalid and old-age pensions - an instance of which we had this afternoon, in that the appropriation requirement is now £15,000,000 as against £10,000,000 a year ago - indicate the very doubtful competence of the Commonwealth Government to reduce expenditure. As it is unable to reduce expenditure, any curtailment of the national income must immediately be reflected in a grievous reduction of Commonwealth revenues. At once we can perceive the dilemma which is gradually looming before this Parliament, with the rising tide of expenditure which appears not to be capable of easy diminution and, at the same time, unless there is resort to very steep taxation, a considerable fall of the revenues of the Commonwealth. Even without any drastic tariff policy I believe that the quantity of imports pouring into Australia during the next year or two will lessen slightly, or at any rate, the rising tide of imports will not be maintained. The reason for that, I venture to say, is that a large proportion of. the imports has been represented by capital equipment and by luxury goods, and that equipment is now being utilized. As the result there should not be the repeated urge for the purchasing of Australian capital equipment in other countries and, consequently, I not only hope, but also believe, that there will be. a reduction of the volume of imports even though it involves a contraction of the revenue which the Treasurer expects to receive. I sound that note of warning at this juncture in order that the Government, in preparing its budget statement, may, if it, cares to do so, take some little heed of the views held by honorable gentlemen who sit on this side of the chamber.
We point out that, although this Government was elected practically nine months ago, it has introduced nothing in the way of important legislation with the exception of the National Health and Pensions
Insurance Bill. For the rest of the time it has been engaged in purely routine work of no permanent importance, and has made no material contribution towards the solution of any of the outstanding problems of the country. i say to the Government that, notwithstanding the series of legislative devices it has employed, the problems of the primary producers of Australia still remain unattacked; they are now as they were, the basic difficulty in our Commonwealth economy. The Government has had for some time the report and recommendations of the Wheat Commission and it is its- duty to indicate which, if any, of the recommendations of that body it intends to give effect to. This country pays an extortionate amount in transport charges as the result of the high cost of petrol. Even disregarding the Commonwealth petrol tax, the difference between the cost of petrol in Australia and in other countries analogous to Australia shows that we pay too high a price. The Government appointed a royal commission to investigate this matter, and, although after very searching inquiries the commission made no positive recommendations, at least the evidence submitted to it warranted some action being taken. Having this chronic habit of resorting to the appointment of royal commissions in order to stave off all controversy in this Parliament, the Government committed itself to an investigation by a royal commission of the banking and monetary systems in Australia. There, again, under the very able chairmanship of a justice of the Supreme Court of South Australia, an inquiry that will, I think, be admitted to have been exhaustive - it was certainly expensive - was conducted, and a report and a series of recommendations were furnished. The Government, has made a variety of pronouncements in respect of the work of that commission. First, it announced during the election campaign that, as a relevant part of its banking policy, provision would be made for loans to workers. Then it said that a mortgage bank should be established to assist the producers, and also that steps would be taken to strengthen the central bank activities of the Commonwealth Bank. But nothing has been attempted in this Parliament in respect of any of the recommendations made by the royal commission. The last elections were held nine months ago, and I submit most decisively that the Prime Minister and the Government are pledged at least to bring down some kind of legislation arising .out of their acknowledgment of what the Government should do in respect of the findings and recommendations of that commission.
Another subject which should receive attention between now . and the time when the budget is brought down is the incidence of taxation in Australia on the Australian people. I have dealt with this matter previously under difficulties, because I have been unable to tackle it at any considerable length, but I say now that the incidence of taxation in Australia is due for review. I believe that those within the range of income between the statutory minimum of £250 per annum . and £7S0 or £S00 per annum - having regard to the taxation levied by the State and Federal governments and the indirect taxation also levied upon the same households and also municipal rating, water charges and the charges of public utilities in general - contribute more to the upkeep of government in Australia than would a similar taxpayer even in the United Kingdom. I acknowledge that the super-tax is much higher in the United Kingdom than in Australia, as is also municipal rating, though municipal local governing bodies in the United Kingdom provide many services which in Australia fall under the ambit of the State governments. In any case, not only do we need to know more of the impact of taxation upon the Australian people, but I should also like to know very much more about the impact of indirect taxation on the average family in Australia, because, although this Government has made a virtue of reducing direct taxation, when the figures are made available at the end of this financial year it will be found that the per capita collections of indirect taxation are higher than ever before in the history of the Commonwealth. How far indirect taxes weigh upon the worker is, at the present time, I venture to say, a matter for guesswork.
I should prefer greater accuracy of information before venturing the opinion that the net weight of per capita taxation falls evenly upon the community regardless of its occupation and its income. Something should be done iu that connexion. When 1 first entered this Parliament, a bill for the establishment of a bureau of economic research, which was regarded as of vital importance, was passed. It is still on the statute-book. Yet, despite that, all that the Government has done is to appoint as Commonwealth Statistician a very distinguished gentleman who possesses qualifications as an economist. I make no criticism whatever of him; I hope that that is clearly understood; I do not impugn his ability, his industry, or his competence; but I do suggest that his work as Commonwealth Statistician makes it almost out of the question that he should be able to give us that survey of taxation which, corning from an economist, would be an invaluable guide to this Parliament. I notice, too, that, despite the existence of ibo law for the establishment of a bureau of economic research, the Government, when it decides upon an investigation of the problems of the wheat industry, appoints a special commission composed of a personnel acquainted with the problems of that industry. I can understand the reason for that. When it sets up a commission in respect of banking, it appoints gentlemen who are qualified to review banking practices. When it decides to seek ad vice in respect of national insurance, it obtains from the British Government the loan of experts who have had experience iu the administration of national insurance. But that does not appear to be the sort of argument which influenced it in respect of another piece of legislation at present on the noticepaper. In that case, the proposal is to appoint a body with a tenure of office of -even years, to investigate anything and everything, regardless of the qualifications of its members in respect of the many problems with which they would have to deal. Incidentally, I hope that that measure will not pass. I suggest that, in a review of the incidence of taxation, the Commonwealth .Government should have regard to the change which has occurred throughout Australia in connexion with the system of taxation; that is, the taxation of incomes at the source. levied by State governments. I do not say that this Parliament has the right to review the taxation laws of the States. I believe, however, that it owes it to itself to take cognizance of the reality that the taxes imposed by the States and by this Parliament fall upon the one community, and that, consequently, it is imperative that we should have regard to the impact of our indirect taxes upon the incomes of our people. The States ought to be better considered by this Government in relation to the economic future, of Australia.
There ought to be established immediately a national employment council, the work of which would be to take cognizance of the probable future of employment in the next five or seven years, to have regard to the extent to which employment may be expected to rise or fail, and to have ready plans for “work which would result in the production of assets for the Australian people in the event of a situation arising hat would cause us again to fall into any degree of depression. We have’ been fortunate in the last few years in that the percentage of unemployment has fallen, lie would be an unreasoning optimist who believed that that ‘fall would continue until no person was unemployed. As a matter of fact, the seasonal variation of employment 13 in itself a problem. But, apart from that, we have to bear in mind that there are thousands of men who now get a living, either as relief workers or as part-time workers, entirely as the result, of expenditure by the States from loan funds, and that, should there be a sharp rise of unemployment within the next year, the States would seek .further loan funds, because the immediate impact of the situation would fall upon them.. It is bad that the whole of the loan expenditure in respect of works should be a charge on the States, and that the Commonwealth should restrict its operations to revenue account. The Commonwealth should not escape its fair contribution towards the problem of the employment of the people of Australia. Under the Constitution, we have a major responsibility in that respect, because the Constitution empowers this Parliament to deal with tha twin subjects of tile tariff protection of secondary industries and the provision of bounties in respect of industry generally. I believe it was presumed by those very distinguished gentlemen who formed the Federal Conventions that a very considerable part of the economic problems of the nation would be dealt with by the Commonwealth Parliament. The trade and commerce provision of the Constitution confirms me in that belief. But, during the last decade at least, the Commonwealth, by and large, has disclaimed all responsibility for the organization of employment. It is true that, on occasions, it has said that certain of its expenditure would stimulate employment - I cite the defence programme as an example - but we have had indications of other intentions supplementary to the defence programme. There was the trade diversion policy. I make no reference to that at this juncture, except to say that when the budget comes down, honorable members on this side of the House, and I hope honorable members opposite also, will demand that something be done with the amount of approximately £800,000 which has been collected under a tariff levied for the specific purpose of establishing the motor-car industry in Australia. We say that now is the time to make it plain to the Treasurer that, in holding that income in Consolidated Revenue and making no hypothecation of it to a trust fund or in any other way separating it from the general use that he makes of his financial resources, he is not doing the fair thing by those who were led to believe that the motor car industry would be established. That, in itself, would be bad enough, but there is worse in it. What, in my opinion, is the most grievous feature is that it is a gross breach of faith with the Parliament of this country, because the Parliament accepted a policy under which a levy was imposed, the proceeds of which were to be used in the- form of a bounty for the assistance of a given industry.- We have taken the money, but have not used it for the purpose for which we said it was needed. Parliament should violate a contract with itself and with those who paid the levy, probably in the hope that the industry would be established, only on the strongest justification. It is due to us that the Treasurer, before he conies down with his next budget statement, to intimate what is to be the Government’s policy in this connexion.
I sincerely hope, too, that in the next budget we shall have an indication as to. the Government’s intentions in regard to broadcasting in Australia. . The national equipment, and the administration of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, ought to be reviewed. I do not, at this juncture, desire to go into the matter in detail. I merely say that a sufficiently lengthy period has elapsed since the commission was established, and there has been so remarkable a development with respect to broadcasting in the meantime, that, having regard to the importance and, I venture to say, the commercial influence of the B class stations, as - well as the very large amount of money which is at the disposal of the national stations, the Government should have a complete legislative review of the situation. I believe that some co-ordination of programmes by B class- stations should be insisted upon, and that some limit should be set to their advertising activities. I believe, also, that, like a publican who enjoys a monopoly by virtue of a licence issued to him by the Crown, the charge for the licence ought to bear some relation to the enormous amount of exploitation and income which it makes possible. My information is that the revenue of the B class stations in Australia exceeds £2,000,000 a year. I admit that, that is a very large sum ; it is much larger than the revenue derived by the A class stations from licence-fees. But I have had some experience in this kind of business. I know the value of advertising space and of advertising time. I have had a calculation made, and I challenge the federation of B class stations, particularly the ‘large newspaper interests associated with those stations, to lay their cards on the table and to say whether or not their aggregate income is less than the £2,000,000 which I suggest is the approximate figure. I also ask that some attention be paid to the monopoly that is being engendered in connexion with B class stations. I say definitely, that I am not in favour of wiping out those stations; they render a useful service to the people of Australia. I do not believe that, in the matter of informing the public mind, any community ought to be dependent upon the government of the day. Having said that, however, I also say that the alternative to government monopoly ought not to be restriction to a newspaper monopoly. Therefore, I suggest that the undertaking repeatedly given in this Parliament by previous Ministers, that the development of a monopoly in connexion with B class stations would be closely watched, is clue for immediate attention.
I hope that the next budget statement will at least be more reliable than those that have preceded it, in its estimate of revenue.
.- It has been the time-honoured custom in this House to discuss on a Supply bill matters which, because of the nature of the work of the House, could not otherwise be discussed, and which, in our opinion, ought to be included in the next budget statemet. That course has been followed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), who has just resumed his 6eat. The present proposal is to appropriate an amount of £8,S24,700 to cover Supply for the first three months of the next financial year. Provision is made only for what is necessary to carry on essential services, on the basis of the appropriation agreed to by Parliament for the current financial year.
I propose to avail myself of the opportunity to follow, to some extent, the example set by the Leader of the Opposition. The financial year will close in a few days. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) will have occasion, in the short recess that is about to .begin, to calculate what his income and expenditure are likely to be in the ensuing financial year, and when the House next meets to bring down a budget making certain provision. I hope that he will not overlook matters to which I shall direct his attention. When the bill is in committee, I shall deal with different items under the respective heads of the various departments.
The first matter to which I now direct attention is the omission to bring down in this session a mortgage bank bill.
This was definitely promised on. the occasion of the last appeal to the electors in the latter part of last year. Parliament in this session has sat for two periods, but so far that particular measure has not been brought forward. An extraordinary number of people in Australia who wish to establish themselves in manufacturing industries, have been relying upon the Government to introduce such a bill. The basic principle underlying the proposal is the granting to farmers and new manufacturers long-terra loans at low rates of interest in order to assist the farmers to meet their obligations and to improve stock, plant and holdings, and the manufacturers to commence new industries. The matter is urgent, and the promise made on the hustings by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) should be honoured without further delay. I therefore trust that if it is not possible to bring in the bill before the close of this period of the session, the Government will give an assurance that it will be one of the first measures introduced when Parliament resumes its sittings later in the year. Personally, I can see no reason why it should not be introduced at once, for I believe that, as it would readily commend itself to honorable members of all parties, it would be given a quick passage.
I wish to discuss certain aspects of the proposed vote for defence, and, in particular, to make a strong appeal for a substantial increase of the amount proposed to be allocated for rifle clubs so that they may attract new members and add to the facilities which they can offer to their present members. With a little more encouragement, the number of rifle clubs in this country could be largely increased, and the personnel of the existing clubs expanded. The members of the rifle clubs of Australia are to this country what the trained Boer population was to South Africa in the South African War. In the event of Australia being invaded, the rifle clubs, which are part of our reserve forces, would prove a most valuable arm of defence. Australia and South Africa are particularly adapted to guerilla warfare as a means of protection against aggression, and qualified riflemen wouk provide a definite means of defence until assistance could be obtained from other parts of the Empire. In the South African War, the Boers, although untrained in military manoeuvres and tactics, were able, because of their ability as riflemen and horsemen, and their knowledge and love of bush life, to make a very effective and prolonged defence of their country. Australians also have a natural instinct for bush life. They are also good horsemen and could effectively engage in guerilla, warfare if taught to shoot. [Quorum formed.’] As the defence vote of Australia has been practically doubled during the last four years, I feel that I am justly entitled to direct attention to the regrettable fact that the number of riflemen provided for has remained practically static, and to ask why more of our men are not given the opportunity to train in rifle clubs. In view of the grave international tension throughout the world to-day, we should be doing our utmost to cope with all the men who are prepared to offer themselves for training of a kind that would fit them to perform useful service in the defence of this country.
I have often been asked the question : “ Of what use are rifle clubs, and what did they do in the Great War?” T take this opportunity, as an enthusiastic supporter of the rifle club movement, to indicate not only its great value in the event of hostilities occurring, but also its tremendous service to this country in the war of 1914-18. In this connexion, I direct attention to what happened in North Queensland in 1914. No one can deny that, when the war -broke out, the rifle club members of Australia were ready to take an immediate part in the conflict. As a matter of fact, it was the riflemen of Australia who, in NewGuinea, fired Australia’s first shot in the war.
When the order to mobilize was issued by the Defence Department on the 4th August, 1914, the rifle club members, who were called up to go to their war stations, responded immediately. The partial mobilization of rifle club members in Queensland, who embarked on the transport Kanowna, will serve to prove how completely effective the Rifle Club Reserve was for its special purpose. The Kennedy Regiment, which consisted of companies at Charters Towers, Towns ville and Cairns, was ordered to mobilize and proceed to its war station at the northern gateway of Australia.- The regiment required 386 men to raise it to war strength, and sixteen rifle clubs were instructed to provide this number between them. The clubs at once sent forward 474 medically-fit men. The required 386 were selected, and embarked with the regiment. The Irvinebank Club, with an active strength of 115, sent 90 men; the Herberton Club, with an active strength of 44, sent 41 ; and the remainder of the clubs sent the balance of the 255 men required.
The calling up of these men and the medical examination, clothing and equipping of them occupied only three days. The transport left the following day, or within four days of the order to mobilize. Numbers of these rifle club members were working in the timber and mining districts of the north, many miles away from the head-quarters of their club, when’ they received the order to mobilize. This necessitated long journeys by rail, coach and horseback to enable them to reach the appointed place, and -it is claimed that the response to and the result of the call to mobilize could scarcely admit of any improvement for celerity or effectiveness.
The record, of the rifle clubs in other parts of Australia was equally magnificent. I therefore find it difficult to understand why the Defence Department does not make some more effective provision to enlist the members of these clubs, who, for a multiplicity of reasons, find it impossible to join the militia but nevertheless wish to do what they can, in their own time and at their own expense, to equip themselves for defence service.
– The Defence Department says that the rifle clubs arc not of much use.
– I think I have already shown how effective the clubs were when the call to enlist came in 1914. I have so far referred only to the activities of certain clubs in northern Queensland. But the members of other clubs who were called up for duty at the cable and wireless stations were all at their posts’ by the evening of the 4th August, 1914, and for some considerable time afterwards they carried out the duties allotted them, and won the special praise of the Defence Department for their services.
When it was known that Australia was to send troops overseas to assist the Allies, and the recruiting of the first Australian Imperial Force units commenced, the council of the Southern Queensland Rifle Association immediately offered the services of selected expert rifle shots to assist in the musketry training of the infantry battalions then being formed. The Defence Department gladly accepted the offer, and asked that the services of twelve picked rifle shots should bo made available for this duty. These riflemen were enlisted as sergeants and qualified by examination for certificates as instructors in musketry. Their duty was to instruct the recruits in the use of the rifle, give them the benefit of years of hard-won experience, encourage Them in their efforts, and endeavour to give them confidence in themselves, for it must he borne in mind that thousands of those who enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force had never fired a rifle before entering the training- camps. So the trained riflemen were enabled to give invaluable help, with the result that they not only won the appreciation of the thousands whom they instructed, but also justified their being entrusted with such an important part of the training.
The number of riflemen provided for in 1935-36 was only about 50,000; in 1936- 37 it was still only 50,000; and in 1937- 38 it was again only 50,000. The vote for defence purposes in 1935-36 was £7,013,000; and in 1936-37 it was increased to £8,065,000. It is estimated that in 1937-38 an amount of £11,531,000 will be expended, and that for 1.938-39 it will be approximately £15,000,000. For the four-year period, 1935-39, the number of riflemen provided for almost remained stationary at about 50,000, although the defence vote more than doubled in that period. Of the 50,000 members of civilian rifle clubs, 25,000 are members of clubs in country districts where it is too expensive to raise and train militia units. Of these potential infantrymen and light horsemen, 82 per cent, are between the ages of 18 and 45 years. The remainder are older and are usually foundation members who keep the clubs together. They are still good shots, and make excellent coaches for the younger men. They are usually entrusted with the management of the clubs. These 50,000 rifle club members expend from £10 or £12 per annum in carrying out their training, in participating in competitions, and in the purchase of their own rifles or the purchase of new barrels, mainly from the Commonwealth Small Arms Factory at Lithgow.
Our militiamen are rightly provided with uniforms, rifles and other equipment, and receive some small remuneration, each involving an aggregate expenditure, of hundreds of thousands of pounds ; but the rifle club members spend, out of their own pockets, at least £500,000 a year to equip themselves and to train to become efficient reserves for our military units. The. rifle clubs have men knocking at the doors to join up. Many new clubs could be formed if extra money could be granted to enable them to function effectively. On a conservative estimate from 35 to 40 clubs are awaiting formation in Queensland alone. ‘
– I know of several others in my own electorate.
– In view of all these circumstances, and of the substantially increased vote for defence purposes, I urge the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) to make provision in the next budget for a much greatly increased vote for rifle clubs, and also provide for new clubs and increased membership. I also ask him to consider very carefully the suggestions which I shall now make, to improve the efficiency of rifle clubs generally. The effectiveness of these clubs in relation to our military organization has already been proved beyond question, but as even more use could be made of them, we should do everything possible to improve the scope and training of their members. There are three ways in which this could be done : -
The more rifle clubmen Australia can have for all these tasks the better the situation will ‘be in our nucleus army, which is far too sma.ll and must be enlarged. If riflemen are to play their part fully in the defence of Australia, they should have, extra training, particularly in the use of automatic weapons, and in rapid and snap shooting. Those in the first group, men from 21 to 45 years of age, will be. better fitted if they have some form of machine gun training and rapid and snap shooting with rifles, than if their marksmanship is only deliberate. The same argument applies very definitely to the third group, who will need to be equipped with motor cars, lorries, and other means of transport to enable them to do their watching and fighting for the purpose of delaying invaders. For the second group, a lesser scale of training might suffice, but for any important guarding the members must obviously bc equipped with some form of machine guns. .Some training in rapid and snap shooting is essential and some “ fire with movement” practices would be advisable for those who would fall within the third group. As the Bren gun comes into
production and is issued to the army, our present Lewis and Hotchkiss guns will go back into store as a reserve. They should then be used for the coast defence watching and guard duties. As riflemen will have to use these weapons in war, they should have some of them issued to them in peace, so that they may become familiar with them ; and as the light-horse use the Hotchkiss gun, and a number of light-horsemen join civilian rifle clubs, there should be no difficulty in obtaining instruction in country centres. Similarly instruction in the use of the Lewis gun should be readily available to city rifle clubs because of the number of infantrymen, who have used that kind of gun, who arc members of rifle clubs. When the members of our instructional staff are available their services should be availed of for this purpose also.
Without organization on the linos I have indicated, we are not likely to get the maximum result from the defence point of view from the men in our rifle clubs. War conies with such suddenness that there is no time to re-organize. The strength of our rifle clubs and the number of clubs should, he substantially increased. There should he re-organization on a more effective basis providing for more training in rapid, shooting and in the use of the Vickers, Lewis and Hotchkiss machine guns. I appeal to the Minister for Defence to give effect to what I have suggested. Provisions for the defence of the country have been substantial since they were cut to the bone by the Scullin Government in 1931, but there has been no proportionately increased provision for rifle clubs. The members of the rifle clubs are a fine body of men who do a fine job of work, and their needs should be recognized. If the rifle clubs of Australia approve of this improved organization and training, I suggest that a free issue of the modern rifle, as manufactured, ut the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow, should be made to all efficient riflemen; their numbers should be substantially increased and riflemen, being in possession of an issued rifle, would be ready to take up their stations without delay in the event of hostilities breaking out with even greater precision than was the case in 1914.
I ask the Government to restore the superannuation deductions from the retired Commonwealth public servants from July, 1931, to November, 1933. In accordance with the Financial Emergency Act, government contributions to superannuation pensions were reduced until November, 1933. It is claimed that the Government had no right to make the reduction. It was a repudiation of the contract made by the Government with its public servants under the Superannuation Act of 1922. At a meeting of retired Commonwealth officers in Sydney some time ago, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes) is reported to have stated, in referring to this question - lt is a contractual obligation on the part of the Commonwealth Government with all retired officers and should be fulfilled.
The amount of £57,000 is involved, and it is only just that it should be refunded. Contributions to superannuation are equivalent to the purchase of a family annuity from a life assurance society. No such society would think of breaking its contract with assured persons. No government should break its contract with its servants. I hope that provision will be made in the budget to restore this amount to the many retired public servants who, from July, 1931, to November, 1933, lost part of their superannuation under the Financial Emergency Act of 1931.
– I take this opportunity to press again the need for public inquiries into Air Force accidents. The demand for open inquiries into fatalities in the defence forces is not restricted to the Commonwealth of Australia but is world wide. Reference to :the official reports of the debates in the Parliament of the United Kingdom will show that agitation has .occurred in Great Britain for open inquiries into disasters in the British Air Force. Although I have told them that the matter has been debated already in the House of Representatives, municipal councillors and others in my electorate have requested me again to urge upon the Ministry the necessity for appointing at least one private citizen, who is accustomed to sifting evidence, to the board of inquiry which investigates fatalities in the Royal Australian Air Force. That there is need for such an appointment, I do not think that any one will doubt. If the history of any other industry were half so blackened by disaster as the history of the Royal Australian Air Force has been, a royal commission would have been demanded and appointed; but, because the Air Force is part and parcel of the defence scheme and because it is surrounded by tradition, the secret inquiry methods of a century ago are still in use. Officials of the Defence Department think that what happens in.the department should be kept in the department, and that there should be no public investigation, no matter how disastrous occurrences may be. That is quite wrong. Because Great Britain slicks slavishly to the old ideas, there is no reason why Australia, which is supposedly more democratic, should do the same. On many occasions, when talking to friends on board British warships, I have heard officers and members of the crew complain that those in authority seem to think that what was good enough for Nelson was good enough for them. That idea still prevails in every branch of the defence forces. The fact is, however, that what was good enough in Nelson’s day is not good enough now, either here or in Great Britain. Every day, questions are being asked in the House of Commons about crashes in the Air Force, whether they are due to the kind of machines used, and whether the machines are defective because of the speeding-up of manufacture, and the desire on the part of the manufacturers to make the most of the unlimited orders now at their disposal. Questions of that kind are being asked by members of all parties in the House of Commons, just as they are being asked by honorable members of this House. However, I take up the attitude that, no matter what is being done in Groat Britain or elsewhere, we in Australia should do what we think to he right. I remember, during the war, joining in protests against the application to Australian soldiers of the harsher disciplinary regulations in force in the British Army, and, because Australia was able to exercise some measure of control over its own forces, and because, as a nation, we were growing .out of our swaddling clothes, our representations were heeded and such brutal methods of punishment as the crucifixion were abolished.
There is a strong and persistent demand for a public inquiry into matters appertaining to our Air Force. There is a feeling that it is not fair to the parents of cadets, to the trainees themselves, or to the force generally, to allow the officials associated with the department to try their own actions - to be judge and jury in a case affecting themselves, and which we think affects the people as a whole. I ask the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to believe me when I say that I am not actuated by party political considerations when I press for an independent inquiry. I do not criticize the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) or the Government, nor do I cast reflection upon the members of the Air Force, or on officials of the Defence Department. I make no suggestion that members of the force are anything but courageous, skilful and efficient. I believe, however, that there is a trait in the Australian character which tends to make our young men reckless even to the point of danger, which, although good, must be controlled for their own sake. It has been said that some young Air Force pilots have been sent out on long flights without having had proper training in navigation, and that, on at least one occasion, when forced landings took place - fortunately without fatal result - they were put on the right track again by civil pilots who met them. It is said that young Air Force trainees, full of daring, are prepared to embark on long, overland flights, even when they know themselves that they arc not properly equipped for the job. It is reported that civil pilots have stated that Air Force trainees should not be allowed to undertake long trips until they have received a. proper training in navigation. Statements of that kind are widely circulated, and should be sifted at an independent inquiry, at which the public is represented.
It is also said that practically all the machines in. use in the Air Force are out of date. I have been informed that all the bombers are at least six years old, and that some of the planes still in use are up to twenty years old.
– I am repeating the statements that are being freely circulated at the present time. It is also said that the text books for trainees are of no use, because they do not apply to the obsolete machines still in service. If those statements are correct - if there is even a suspicion that they may be correct - they should be sifted at an independent inquiry. They cannot be sifted to the satisfaction of the public except by . some authority independent of tha Air Force itself. Commercial aviation is a thing of comparatively recent growth in Australia, but already commercial planes have flown 60,000,000 miles, and have carried 50,000 passengers, while there have been only eight or nine fatalities. Since 1932, the record of fatalities and injuries in the Air Force is as follows: -
Those are the figures up to April of this year, and I understand that there have been three fatalities since then. There have been eight or nine crashes of Air Force machines during the last eighteen months.
– There have been more fatalities in connexion with civil aviation in Australia than in the Air Force.
– If the honorable member says so, I accept his statement, but the record in the Air Force seems to me to be sufficiently bad to justify an inquiry. I have been informed that nowhere else in the world is the record so bad, in proportion to the numbers engaged. I do not suggest that this record is due to carelessness or recklessness on the part of officers or trainees ; to me that is no answer. There must be some other reason. It has been proved over and over again that Australians are capable of becoming excellent pilots. We have produced pilots equal to any in the world, and we know that the tests applied to those who seek admission to the Air Force are most, exacting. The defence force in Great Britain recognizes the suitability of our young mcn for air force work, and has for several years past invited applications from Australia, and at the present time is asking for Australian recruits. There seems no reason, therefore, why the record of our Air Force in regard to accidents should be so bad. I have myself recommended about twenty young men for the Air Force, and most of them have been accepted. I am certain that -all of them will make good, but there is no doubt that their parents are becoming anxious because of the number of accidents in the service, and the trainees themselves must bo beginning to feel the strain. This must have an adverse effect on recruiting.
Australia, because of its geographical position, its size, and the nature of the country, must of necessity have a large air force, as well as numerous commercial services. It is only by the use of aeroplanes in large numbers that people living in the out-back areas can keep in touch with centres of population, and be supplied - with medical attention and education facilities, lt is important, therefore, that nothing should be allowed to happen that will interfere with the expansion of aviation in Australia. The Government should appoint a State judge, or a justice of the High Court, or some other trusted person to sit with experts of the Defence Department in an inquiry into the Air Force in respect of the recent accidents. It seems that, whenever we buy defence equipment from Great Britain, whether it be aeroplanes or warships, we always get something that is just becoming a step behind the latest design. If the equipment is of a kind that is the subject of international convention, Great Britain merely sells to us something that it wants to get rid of, and fills the gap with something more up to date. Thus we are always lagging behind other countries in these matters.
The low pay and the unsatisfactory living conditions at the depots make the service unattracti ve to bur best mechanics, and it is stated that some of them have left because of those conditions.
– It is very difficult to reply to general statements of that kind ; I suggest that the honorable gentleman should state a concrete case.
– All that 1 have said is true. I submit these views to the House not with any desire to expose the condition of affairs in connexion with the Air Force or in any way to do that splendid body any harm, but as reasons why an inquiry should be conducted in order that the fears of the public may be sei at rest.
– Sir Edward’ Ellington, the Chief of the Royal Air Force, is in Australia for that very purpose.
– That is so, but I suggest that some person outside of the Air Force should he associated with him in his inquiry. If that were done, public opinion would, I feel sure, be satisfied and, at the same time, the position of the officers of the department would be strengthened. A similar request has been made in connexion with inquiries into accidents in the Royal Air Force. Very seldom either in the naval or military forces is the decision arrived at by a senior officer questioned by his subordinates. . Military etiquette accepts the rule that no officer shall over-ride or change the decision of his senior officer. Though there is a spirit of camaraderie about .that, very much to be admired, the practice leads to public disquiet when it is extended to matters of this kind. I feel sure that if in this respect we continue to follow slavishly the lines followed in the Old Country, we shall do a’ disservice, not only to this country, but also to the continued progress of our military forces. I ask the Treasurer to bring my request before Cabinet, and to give it very earnest consideration, because I feel that, in this matter, I am voicing the wishes of a great and growing mass of Australian citizens. A resolution was carried unanimously by the Williamstown Municipal Council - it has only one Labour member, so I cannot be accused of dealing with this matter from a party political viewpoint - instructing me to ask the Government to hold a public inquiry into these unfortunate occurrences. Many former naval officers, whose sons are now associated with either the Navy or the Air Force, reside in “Williamstown and, naturally, they are keenly anxious to sea that the fullest inquiry is made into the accidents.
– I shall bring the remarks of the honorable gentleman under the notice of the Minister for Defence.
– Another very important matter which should receive serious consideration, is the necessity for provision- of adequate reserves of petrol and lubricating oils to meet possible future emergencies. It is not generally known that sometimes only a week’s supply, and nearly always only two or three weeks’ supply of petrol is kept in reserve in this country. It only needs the holding up of one or two tankers ro bring about the necessity for the rationing of petrol supplies required for our ordinary peace-time operations. At present, when some hitch in the transport arrangements takes place, the oil companies have to borrow supplies of petrol from one another to tide them over a difficult period. If this position obtains in peace time, where would we stand if our supplies wore cut off by an enemy? The Minister for Defence should rake steps to ensure that adequate supplies of petrol are kept’ safely stored inland to meet such an emergency. The honorable gentleman said that hewould gladly receive suggestions designed to help him in. mapping out the future programme of his department. I now suggest to him that the five or six major oil companies in Australia, which may bo said to be the richest companies in this country, with assets worth more than those of any other six Australian companies, should be approached and asked to assist the Government in the provision of inland reserves of oil fuel. These companies employ very largo staffs and have built up very valuable goodwill and, though they have endeavoured to make themselves as nearly Australian as possible, their head-quarters arc outside Australia and they bring in the raw material from abroad. It is undoubted that the very first places selected for attack by an invader would be the valuable properties of the major oil companies because of their defence value. For the reason that they have so much to lose, and taking into consideration their Australian outlook, I feel sure that they would be quite willing to make such a contribution towards the defence of this country if an appeal were made to their patriotism and they were asked to do so. I commend my suggestion to the earnest consideration of the honorable gentleman.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– I suggest that, because of the economic strength in Australia of the major oil companies, and because of their great technical knowledge of all of those requirements which would be useful in defensive operations, the Minister should make overtures to their directors with a view to obtaining their co-operation. I believe that they would be glad to assist the Government by placing at its disposal their vast economic resources for the provision of adequate stores of petrol and lubricating oils for defence purposes. Some of us have seen miniature concrete underground tanks for the storage of petrol. These reservoirs have been made larger and larger each year in different parts of the world, until no country can now be satisfied with its defensive preparations unless it has made provision for a reasonable storage of petrol and lubricating oils. I could mention nations which, by legal enactment, have laid it down that a supply sufficient to meet requirements for a certain period must be kept in reserve. I put it to the Government that it is highly desirable that these major oil companies should be approached and asked for their assistance. Their technical knowledge makes it more than possible for them to give very valuable assistance in connexion with the matters to which I have referred. In my opinion, the experts associated with the operations of the oil companies are the real technical men who, in the future, will be required to safeguard the operations of our mechanized army. The view is generally held by expert engineers of the modem school all .over the world that different engines respond to different lubricating oils, and that extraordinarily highly developed petrols, which are never placed on the market for ordinary everyday uses, are required for special purposes.- That is knowledge which the Council of Defence should have at its disposal. I am not sure that Ave have men of that type associated with our defence operations to-day. ‘ There are very few of them iu the world. I believe, however, that if these companies were approached they would gladly co-operate with the Government, first, because they desire to maintain their goodwill in Australia, which they have established over many years; secondly, because they would regard it as their duty to do so;” and, thirdly, because of the great assets they have in this country - assets which would be the first to be attacked by an invader. I make this suggestion to the Ministry in the hope that it will be regarded in the right spirit. If the Government cares to test it out, I am sure that the representatives of the oil companies will gladly co-operate.
– I take this opportunity to speak briefly upon two subjects - defence and immigration. In the matter of defence, I again take up the attitude that I adopted in this House some weeks ago. I protest against the present overloaded condition of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby). 1 assert that he is carrying a burden which -is beyond the capacity of any human being. He is so overloaded that, in my opinion, the situation is most improper from the national as well as the defence viewpoint, and a very gross wrong is being done to the Australian taxpayer. The Government is embarking upon the greatest peace-time preparations for war Australia has ever known. It proposes to spend in the ensuing financial year far more than has been expended hitherto. There is to be a very large increase in connexion with the Navy, and a general re-casting of the whole of the naval forces. The Royal Australian Air Force is to be virtually reconstituted, and its strength is to be doubled. The situation in regard to the Army is totally unsatisfactory. The coastal defences are to be greatly added to, and the output of arms and munitions is to be expanded in every direction. Then there is the liaison between the Defence Department and industry generally. Altogether, the defence forces of Australia are to be re-established on an incomparably greater and stronger scale. I submit, as a matter of simple common sense, that this is an impossible load for any one pair of shoulders. In no other country is the Minister for Defence so heavily burdened. I trust that the note which I am striking will not be regarded by the Minister as in any sense personal. I am acquainted with his work as well as is any other honorable member, and have for it a deep appreciation. I regard the honorable gentleman as a highly efficient administrator, but consider that he is not being treated fairly. That, however, is a minor consideration. It is wrong in the national interests that he should endeavour to carry the burden which ha3 been placed on him. A story was told lately in Country party propaganda to the effect that metropolitan members entertain towards the honorable gentleman a feeling of jealousy. I have no wish to see him removed from the position he now occupies, but I do wish to see his duties substantially lessened by a partition of the services.
– How does the honorable member suggest that that should be done ?
– I am glad to have that interjection. I would not be content merely with the appointment of an Assistant Minister. We know too well the nature of the duties undertaken by Assistant Ministers. They are merely office boy offsiders to the Minister, and are never entrusted with really responsible work; they are given only minor tasks to perform. Defence has reached such proportions, and is of such first-class importance, that two senior Ministers should be allotted to it. I do not wish to pose as an authority in regard to detail. It is the function of the Prime Minister to say how the work should be apportioned. I would give to one Minister the Navy, the Air Force, and. civil aviation, and to the other all land defences - the Army, munitions supply, coastal defences, and the liaison work with the manufacturers. That, to me, would be a businesslike division of the task, which has become far too onerous to be discharged efficiently or economically by any one man, no matter from which party he might be drawn. Further, the time has come when we should split the defence secretariat. Each Minister should have his own secretariat. I cannot conceive of this vast sum, aggregating £14,000,000 or £15,000,000 a year over the next three years, being expended to the best advantage for the defence of Australia and for co-operation in Empire defence, with anything approaching fairness to the taxpayer, who has to provide it, so long as the ministerial duties have to be discharged by one. individual. Nor can I imagine this work proceeding satisfactorily, either to the nation or to the taxpayer, so long as it has to channel through one head in the Defence Department. To me it is so obviously wrong, so obviouslyrotten, an arrangement that one should not need to mention it. I hold the Prime Minister blameworthy, because he decides what portfolios there shall be and who shall hold them. He will carry a very heavy and dangerous responsibility so long as he continues along the present lines. Again I say that I have no personal feeling against the Minister for Defence, nor do I wish in any way to cast a reflection upon his efficiency or upon the industry with which he applies himself to his task. I merely say that the task is beyond him. 1 pass on now to the great subject of immigration, which, to me, next to the immediate defence needs of this country, is the most important subject that could be debated in this House. Despite that, however, it is the most neglected subject in this House. The most vital, the most arresting fact that lias come to light in Australia in recent years - it was emphasized very vividly by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) in his second-reading speech on the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill - is that the population of this country, according to calculations which cannot be challenged, and measured by our present ‘birth-rate and the existing flow of immigration, will reach its peak at a total of 8,000,000 persons, or but little more than an additional 1,000,000. That is the most arresting fact that has been disclosed in this country for a very long time.
– It will take us nearly a generation to reach that figure.
– That may be so. But worse than what I have already said is that with our present levels of birth-rate and immigration, we shall, -within 30 or 40 years, actually begin to decline in population. I do not wish to indulge in dramatic phrases; but if we allow the position to rest where it is, we are, as a nation, doomed; we must come to extinction. It is true that we may hang on indefinitely to some relatively crowded corner of the Commonwealth, but certainly 8,000,000 peoplewill not be allowed, under present world conditions, to remain in occupation of Australia in. perpetuity, perhaps not even for more than a generation. To assume otherwise is to assume something that is extremely doubtful. “We have no physical hold on Australia, and, what is worse, we. have no moral claim upon all of it. With the world closing in as it is to-day, and with each part of it becoming daily more completely known to every other part of it, seven or eight million people will not be allowed to continue in sole occupancy of this young country. Some yearsago, I described our position in a phrase which I cannot improve upon. I said that we had an option over Australia and that unless we make our option good by strengthening our garrison of the country, we shall lose it. That is not mere rhetoric. It is a commonplace which has been proved in history and which, in fact, is being proved in the news which has come to us from abroad week by week for several years past. The time has passed when, by the hoisting of a flag, a man may say “ This is my flag, and therefore this land is British “. It is impossible to believe that, if any international trouble occurs in which Australia is involved, we shall be able with eight million people, to stall off other nations which are covetous to possess this land. Even though we grind ourselves down by the heaviest taxation we shall not be able, with that number of people, to hold this country. In advocating immigration as a means to improve our position, I wish to put the case as fairly as possible. We have never had anything to fear from immigration. We certainly have no need to fear unemployment, for, if we induce a properlybalanced flow of men, women, and children to come to this country, they will make more work than they will take. This was clearly proved between the years 1908 and 1913 when we had a really great flow of migrants into Australia. In that period, when our population increased by more than 250,000, we had in operation an assisted movement, although I do not say that all the people who came here were assisted immigrants. It is extraordinary that the percentage of unemployment in Australia was lower in those years than at any other time. The people who came here with families needed homes, clothing, food and transport, and they actually made more work than they took. In a relatively empty land like Australia, with a productive capacity that is far from fully developed, our people must be much better off with a large population than with a small population. We were better off with two million people than one million, with three millions than with two millions, and with six millions than with five millions. With increased population, living conditions have improved, wages have increased, and broadly speaking, every section of the people has lived on a higher standard.
– There are still thousands of people starving in this country.
– At the moment, I am thinking wholly of British people as prospective migrants. No Australian could possibly take exception to the quality of these people. If they do, they proclaim to the whole world that they think they arc better men than their fathers and grandfathers were. Not many of us wish to do that. We cannot say, either, that wc are better people than the British people of the present generation - certainly not better than those who migrated to Australia before the war. If we feel like flattering ourselves that wc are superior to the people of Britain, we should look at our war records. One man out of every five in the Australian Imperial Force was a “pommy”. Of the British boys and men who came here between 1908 and 1914, between 60,000 and 70,000 enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. I have never heard an Australian soldier, or, in fact, any one who has studied the history of the Australian Imperial Force, say that an Australian-born could be distinguished from a British-born member of the
Force. This all serves to indicate that the quality of the British people is right.
Now I come to our safeguards. Australia could never be flooded with immigrants, however, any Government, or any group of employers might try to flood it. I did a great ‘deal of immigration recruiting work in the United Kingdom before the war, and I know that the movement is extremely sensitive. It is impossible to land 50 immigrants in Sydney or Melbourne and leave them unemployed for even a few days without bringing the whole movement to a standstill. It is the successful newcomers who make the success of the movement. If the newcomers do not .get work immediately on their arrival, the movement collapses. It can only prosper on the letters which the immigrants themselves write home to their friends in Great Britain. We would take no risks in inaugurating a big immigration movement.
I am glad that the Government is taking some steps in this direction. 7 have noted with the deepest satisfaction the re-introduction of the assistedimmigration movement. I particularly congratulate the Minister for. the Interior (Mr. McEwen) on the able work he is doing. He is showing excellent promise in his Ministry. But while I am pleased that a beginning has been made, I fear that certain aspects of the new scheme are not calculated to develop it with any rapidity. I consider that the amount of money which the British migrants have to provide towards their fare is still too high. The third-class fare from England to Australia is £36. That fare is reduced to £33 by contracting for a considerable number of berths. Under the Government’s new scheme the over-all rate charged to the assisted migrant appears to be about £13; that leaves £20 to bc paid, half by the Commonwealth and half by the British Government. I am dealing in round figures, because still lower rates are charged for children over the age of twelve years, while children under the age of twelve years are carried free. That is, perhaps, the most commendable feature of the scheme. It may thus be said that each assisted immigrant costs the Commonwealth about £10. I should like to sec the immigrant’s proportion of the fare brought down to a maximum of £S. That would mean that the Government would have to find about £12 10s. Other charges might bring the Government’s contribution up to £15 for each person. It is estimated that it costs £20 a year, or Ss. a week, to rear an Australian child up to the age of fourteen years, which would moan a total cost of £280. If, therefore, British migrants may be “bought” for £20, it is very good “buying” in the national sense. Of course, I subscribe to the view that our best immigrant is the A.ustralian-born baby, but the trouble is that babies are vanishing from the earth. Certainly, insufficient babies are coming into our cradles to save this country.
We should, therefore, be most sympathetic towards assisted immigrants, provided that they do not upset our labour market. I give way to no honorable member on this aspect of the subject. Keen as I am to see immigration stimulated, I say that it must not cause unemployment for the Australian workers. With perhaps very few exceptions, honorable members of this Parliament have the blood of assisted immigrants in their veins. Upwards of 1,000,000 people have come to thi3 country from the United Kingdom by means of government-aided passages. The movement started in the very earliest days of our settlement. lt is, therefore, very difficult now to say who did, and who did not, come to this country on tickets subsidized by British governments or early Colonial governments. So on no ground could we have any prejudice. My urge to the Government is that it makes these fares cheaper and engages in an impressive attempt to re-establish a great and profitable migration stream. For instance, we could bring 2,000 or 3,000 domestics into Australia to-day with absolute safety. They would give relief to housekeepers not only in the cities but also in the rural districts. Take another avenue of employment, the demand for lads in the countryside. Ten thousand lads from the United Kingdom could be put into employment in rural Australia to-day. I know what I am talking about because in one single year before the war, 1913, I had to do with the recruiting of 3,000 lads of from sixteen to 20 years of age for Victoria alone. With the exception of 200 or 300 who went to Sydney, all of them went to work in Victoria at the current Australian wages. I do not say that we could get easily unlimited numbers of migrants, from the United Kingdom. We were not able to get them in the pre-war days without a great deal of work and propaganda.
– Propaganda !
– Yes, propaganda and cheap fares are necessary to get men and women of a high standard. Close tests are necessary. We do not take the unemployed from the labour exchanges; we take men out of jobs, men with good records for work and of firstclass morals. There is very little risk. Propaganda is essential to make this country known. I remind honorable gentlemen opposite that the Fisher Labour Government in 1911 and 1912 expended £20,000 a year for the purpose of publicity in England. The Cook Government that followed expended £50,000 a year in recruiting now citizens for this country. The fares were low, as low as £1 for domestic servants and £2 or £3 for boys to come to this country. If there is one thing on which expenditure is justified as giving immediate benefit and guaranteed security to this country, as nothing else will, it is expenditure on a good class of immigrant; always, of course, the machine must be under sound control and so regulated that not only does it not take from Australian labour but it also makes more work and more opportunity for everybody in this country-
I wish to say a word about the expenditure on what one might call charity migration on. which the Government is concentrating. Generally speaking, assisted immigrants are not of the pauper class. They leave jobs in England to come here and, although they arc not above accepting a few pounds towards their fares they resent any suggestion of charity. Accordingly, I hope that the Government will not go too strongly for charity migration of children, for, if it does, it will do a good deal of harm. I have had a great deal of experience in immigration work and I know that people who have never been on charity will be dissuaded from taking assisted passages if they are associated with charity. The charitable side should not be dominant and should not be too strongly emphasized. I have many times met with the objection in England, Scotland and Wales, in the course of recruiting work, that the association of assisted migration with charity should not be too strongly emphasized. Too much stress has been laid on the bringing out of children by the churches, the Salvation Army and various other similar organizations. For every one of those children there should be six, eight or ten assisted migrants. Our aim in expenditure on immigration should be the maximum number of additional people who will be of benefit to Australia both economically and from the defence point of view. It is far more profitable to make a minimum age for child migrants about twelve years than to allow children of very tender years to come to the country. A more certain idea of character will be gained if children are allowed to mature a little before being brought to Australia. I suggest to the Government that there is need for an overhaul of the present scheme, and appeal to the Treasurer to be as generous as he can in contributions towards passages of those whom we desire to bring to Australia.
.- I recall that the Acting Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron), three years ago, vehemently protested against the Government being granted Supply for three months. I emulate him to-day. The Government has no right to bring down for three months’ Supply, a bill which will be dealt with by a Senate, many members of which were defeated at the election. A more decent action would have been for the Government . to ask for Supply for a period just sufficiently long to allow the new Senate to assemble.
– I thought that it was the House of Representatives that had the say in money matters.
– That is so, but the Supply Bill will be discussed in the Senate. It is a disreputable thing for the Government to rush a Supply Bill through Parliament, before the new
Senate assembles, after which there will be a recess for about three months.
The honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) dealt extensively with migration and the declining birth-rate in Australia. I read the other day that because of the decline of population in Great Britain and as the result of their not having sufficient pupils many of the schools in that country have been forced to close. The honorable member for Henty spoke about Great Britain being a place from which immigrants to offset our falling birth rate could be obtained, but it looks as if he shouldbe in England advocating migration to that country. Recent figures show that 2,000 or 3,000 more people leave Australia than arrive from England each year. This is due, no doubt, to the mismanagement of this Government and the kindred State governments. The honorable member for Henty would not need to talk about assisting immigrants if the masses had proper purchasing power and were able to lead adecent life and to have proper homes in which to rear children.
If those conditions operated, people would come to Australia in their thousands. The honorable member spoke about our having to defend this country, but I impress upon him that he should first endeavour to make the conditions of the people worth defending.
I was amazed at the honorable gentleman advocating dragging children of twelve years of age away from their kith and kin to work as the slaves of the squattocracy.
– I suggested no such thing.
– The honorable gentleman would, for economic reasons, drag to this country children of tender years, who should have the protection and love of their parents. Ifwe can only save Australia under those conditions, it is not worth saving. If the honorable gentleman wants to bring people to this country let him try to make it a country worth while. If conditions here were improved in the manner I suggested, there would be no need to worry about assistingimmigrants ; they would come here willingly without assistance.
The matters to which I have referred, are only incidental. My main purpose in rising was to complain about the ad- ministration of the Postal Department. In- my electorate recently, two children, one twelve and the other eighteen years of age, were hit by a motor car and left lying on the road for more than half an hour until aid could be summoned by telephone. One of them died. Had the Postal Department erected a telephone in the locality, as has often been advocated, the mother of the children claims the child who died might still have been alive. I have received the following letter from the secretary of the Mount Pritchard Branch of the Australian Labour party : -
This branch requests that you bring the ruse for a public telephone at Mount Pritchard (as outlined in enclosed cutting) up mi the floor of the House as soon as possible. Kor years Mount Pritchard has fought for ti telephone, and you, sir, who have consistently endeavoured to get it, are fully conversant with the whole case. The Postmaster-General’s Department boasts of millions in profit and Yet quibbles about the few pounds guarantee money required before a public telephone can Ite installed here. In the meantime people die of their injuries and property is burned lo the ground before ambulance or brigade can bc notified. Such a state of affairs in a district so well populated as this, is little short of scandalous.
Another aspect of the attitude taken by the Postmaster-General’s Department, is the case of Mr. Griffiths, garage proprietor of Cabramatta Road. Some months ago he applied for a private telephone and was notified it would bo connected. Last week, however, he. was informed by the Postmaster-General’s department that further inquiries would have ro he made before the telephone could be installed, in spite of the fact that Mr. Griffiths hi, d, in the meantime, .paid a deposit on the installation. Now Mr. Griffiths will allow the Postmaster-General’s Department to place a public telephone on his property adjoining the garage and it is hoped that the department will accept this offer without further red-tape and consequent loss of life and property. With every confidence that you will do your best in this matter,
Yours faithfully. (Signed) David Wilson.
That is the ‘area in which this accident occurred. According to the official figures, the profits of the Postal Department, over and above revenue spent on new works, amounted , last year to £475.000 which, T suppose, went into Consolidated Revenue. I have made frequent representations for improved telephone facili- ties for such growing districts as Port Kembla, Liverpool and Green Valley. In the absence of those facilities, lives are being endangered. Robberies may occur, and the police cannot, be notified; houses may be burned down, . because the fire brigade cannot be summoned. These are not isolated areas ; they are thickly populated. I have also made attempts to obtain better postal accommodation for Liverpool and Sutherland, but always I have been told that funds are not available, despite the fact that the Postal Department is making a profit of nearly £3,000,000 a year. The department has no right to take from the public more than it is prepared to give back in the way of improved services, except perhaps, for such provision as it is necessary to make for sinking fund. It certainly is not justified in piling up huge profits which go into Consolidated Revenue, so that the friends of the Government may be relieved of taxes which they should justly pay. Population is increasing rapidly in the Sutherland Shire, and improved postal and telephone facilities are. needed in Como and Jannali. I have asked for a modern telephone exchange ar Wollongong, and my request has been supported by representations from the. municipal -authorities there. No reflection is cast upon the staff which provides the present telephone exchange service. It is doing excellent work in difficult circumstances, but the equipment is inadequate and out of date,” having been installed when the population of the Wollongong district was less than half what it is now. So rapidly is the population growing that, between the closing of the roll for the last election and the printing of it, 1,000 additional applications for registration were received, while at Port Kembla. 500 additional applications came in.
Several times during the last eighteen months I have asked that some concession be granted to the primary producers regarding the cost of putting up telephone lines. Although the area of my electorate was reduced in the last redistribution, it still includes rural areas where lines of considerable length haveto be erected in order to serve settlers, and it is too much to ask them to pay the whole of the cost. Although they are living not a great many miles from
Sydney, if they are without a telephone they are almost as isolated in case of sickness as if they were 100 miles away. An organization has been formed in Australia with the object of obtaining cheaper postage rates. It is seeking to have the ordinary letter-rate reduced from 2d. to Id., and it is extremely probable that this concession will be granted by the Government before muchneeded postal and telephone facilities are made available to the people in the outback. If the Government is able to make concessions, it should do so for the benefit of those who are doing the pioneering work in the country. The big city interests can well afford to pay the present postage rates. We are always being told that it is necessary to develop our rural areas in order that Australia may carry more population, but the Commonwealth Government is doing nothing to encourage development. Its whole policy seems to be directed towards herding the people into the large towns and cities.
I support the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), regarding the failure of the Government to redeem its promises in respect of certain important legislation. A great deal of money was spent on a royal commission which inquired exhaustively into banking. The commission presented its reports some time ago, but nothing has been done by the Government to give effect to its recommendations. None of those recommendations go as far as I should like them to, but, if given effect, they would be a beginning. The Government was being pressed to introduce legislation to reform the banking system, and it put off the evil day by appointing a royal commission to inquire into the matter. Now that the commission has presented its report, the Government is still finding excuses for delay. I have here an article dealing with this subject, which was published in the last issue of the Sunday Sun. It was written from Canberra, and is as follows : -
Pastmaster at putting off the evil day, the Commonwealth Government has abandoned its announced intention of introducing “ banking reform “ legislation during this sitting of Parliament.
Even its prepared bill to establish a mortgage bank department of the Commonwealth Bank, for the benefit of primary producers and small business concerns, is still in the legion of the. legislatively unborn.
I am not much concerned about that, because the whole purpose of such a scheme is to perpetuate debt and mortgages in this country, while the Commonwealth Bank should, in my opinion, be used in order to lift the mortgages from the primary producers. The article continues -
This bill, if the latest pronouncement of thi.’ Ministry can be accepted, will be brought down in the budget session, which will open in September. According to all accounts it will be a namby pamby thing of little moment.
Apparently the Government has shirked, the vaunted “ reform “ steps to give effect to some of the recommendations produced by the Royal Commission on Banking, which sat at a cost of more than £19,000. Its ardor for indulging in banking experiments has cooled, although the Treasure]-, Mr. Casey, still talks of doing something.
Whatever the value of the royal commission’s report - which, by the way, has been shown to be full of factual inaccuracies - it has placed the Government in a quandary.
Cabinet, in an enthusiastic burst of energy last year, agreed with Mr. Casey that something should be done and this something, it; leaked out, included strengthening the Commonwealth Bank at the expense of the private banks.
Immediately the full batteries of the trading banks were trained on the Government, which ever since, has sat inactive, unable to pluck up the courage to fire the mine which it was believed it had set beneath the banks.
Two explanations have been advanced for the Government’s hesitancy. One is a rumour, at present current in Sydney, that the Government lias been threatened with the withdrawal of substantial contributions to party funds if the “reforms” are proceeded with.
I should like to know if that is true. Of course, we know that if the. big financial institutions are threatened by legislation designed to loosen their grip on the nation, they will go to almost any lengths to protect themselves. We know that these institutions do, in fact, provide funds for the party which supports the Government. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, a concern which is closely associated with some of the banks, would be prepared to spend £1,000,000 to defeat me in the Werriwa electorate.
– I do not think so.
– It costs the United Australia party about £3 a vote at every election in the Werriwa division, and the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Lim i. ted finds every penny of it. The writer in the Sydney Sun proceeds-
Despite official denials, it is not perfectly happy inthe results of its appointment of a public servant as Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. Sir Harry Sheehan, was an excellent public servant; andhe was an excellent secretary to the Treasury.
However, reactions, not only in Australia, but in London, have not been wholeheartedly in support of the Government’s experiment of a board without a banker on it.
Possibly, therefore, the Government has received directions from London in regard to this matter, as in others. For once I find myself in almost complete agreement with what has been published in the Sunday Sun. The Government, by its failure to introduce banking legislation, has fallen down on its job, and now it is seeking Supply so that Parliament may go into recess without anything having been done. I submit that things of this kind are calculated to strike a blow at the very heart of democracy itself, and will do more to discredit responsible government than any of the wild statements of those people outside whom honorable members opposite pretend to reprobate so much.
I object to this bill to grant Supply for three months being introduced in the present circumstances. I repeat that the Government would have shown more decency and would have earned the goodwill of the people of this democratic country if it had brought down a measure at this stage asking for a couple of weeks’ Supply, and left the provision of funds for a longer period to be determined by this House in conjunction with the Senate as it will be constituted at the end of this week.
, - I desire to direct attention to what I consider is a serious neglect on the part of the Government to implement an important feature of the Prime Minister’s policy speech. I refer to that portion of it which dealt with a national health programme for the Commonwealth of Australia. I think it will be admitted by all honorable members that the improvement of national health should be among the first aims of a progressive government.
– That is a commentary on the national health and pensions insurance legislation recently introduced by the Government.
– I shall deal with that, aspect of the matter later. It has been established that diet may be made to play an important part in the prevention of disease, and further, that a well-nourished body may be enabled to acquire additional powers of resistance by the awakening of enthusiasm and by its enlistment in disciplined action. If cleanliness, good food and exercise are concerns of the individual man and woman, the means necessary for the attainment of all of them must be provided and protected by public authority. The Government has just placed before the country a comprehensive measure dealing with national health and pensions. It would be shortsighted statesmanship to consider that the provision of some sort of palliative to those to whom the effects of ill-health had come, while not, at the same time, taking definite and practical measures on the active and preventive side not only to prevent disease but also to promote higher standards of health in the community generally, is regarded by the Government as the only contribution required of it towards a health programme. I do not say that the Government has not, recognized its obligations in this regard. My accusation is directed to the fact that, having clearly recognized its obligation, it has so far showed no signs of implementing any active policy towards carrying out those obligations.
– As a lawyer, the. honorable member should look at the constitutional aspect of the matter.
-I shall deal with that in a. moment. At present, I am dealing with the Prime Minister’s policy speech, and, in order to refresh the memory of honorable members, I quote the following passage from the speech : -
Australia needs notonly a numerous but a virile population, and virility is very largely a matter of proper feeding. Nutrition,as a question with which governments should con cern themselves, was first brought to the notice of the League of Nations in 1934 by Mr. Bruce at my instance, and I am glad to say that it is now enjoying the attention of all civilized nations. The Government last year appointed a nutrition committee to inquire into and report upon the food of our people in relation to health, and throughout this year it has conducted an active campaign for the purpose of educating the community on questions relating to diet. We will follow up whatever recommendations may be made by the Advisory Council on Nutrition and the National Health and Medical Research Council.
The Prime Minister went on -
The Government is impressed also with the importance of conserving child life and maintaining the health of children at the highest possible level, and it proposes, in conjunction with the States, to consider development of a better system of care between the infant and the school ages - a system in which a daily milk ration will have a prominent place.
In the last budget, the Government provided a sum of £100,000 which may be applied iu this connexion.
The National Health and Medical Research Council has already in the strongest terms directed the attention of governments to serious neglect in adequate supervision of the bodily development of children before and during school agc. The necessity for action in these directions is apparent, and an example has already been set by other countries. The Government proposes to explore the possibilities of effective action on a nation-wide basis in these directions.
With the honorable member foi1 Swan (Mr. Gregory), I recognize the constitutional limitations upon the Government’s health power, and I also recognize that much of what the Commonwealth can do can be done only in conjunction and in co-operation with the various States.
– The Government is seeking that co-operation.
– I am glad to have that assurance from the Acting Minister for Health (Mr. Archie Cameron). My criticism, such as it is, is based on the fact that the Government, does not appear to have anything to show in this regard, apart from the action which it is taking to establish demonstration centres fe child ‘ welfare in some of the State capitals, despite the fact that almost a year has elapsed since the Prime Minister’s policy speech was delivered and these undertakings were given. The Prime Minister further stated that it was proposed to follow up the reports of the Advisory Council on Nutrition. On account of that undertaking, I refer honorable members to a recommendation made in the first report of the Nutrition Council, which has been repeated in practically, every report it has since made. That recommendation appears again in the fourth report, published in October last year, to this effect -
The provision of ii daily supply of milk for school children distributed where, on inquiry. it will probably do the most good, would be a measure of great public health value. Its ultimate effect in reducing the amount of hospitalization would probably be very great. To the extent to which this measure could also include pre-school children, so would its value be enhanced.
As the Government has -indicated that it is prepared to follow up the recommendations of the council, I direct its attention to what is being done in Great Britain on this very point. In October, 1934, there was introduced into Great Britain what has been described by the Chief Medical Officer of the Board of Education of that country as “ the largest experiment in supplementary school feeding the world has yet seen.” The new scheme, with the help of a grant from the Exchequer and a contribution by the Milk Marketing Board, has enabled children in schools recognized for grant by the Board of Education to buy for a halfpenny a bottle containing one-third of a pint of milk, together with a straw through which the milk may be drunk. This meant that parents could provide their children with milk at school for one-half or less than one-half the price which they would have to pay in their own homes. The scheme was an immediate success. Out of rather more than 5,000,000 children attending public elementary schools in England and Wales, 2,500,000, or 4’9 per cent., are taking milk under the scheme. In the schools where the scheme is in operation, about 380,000 children, who have been selected as necessitous, and showing some symptoms of abnormal nutrition, are receiving free milk. In Australia, it should be a matter of relative ease to make arrangements with local governing bodies, particularly in the various industrial centres, to put into operation “a similar scheme.
– I ask the honorable gentleman to bear in mind two points: first, that the States have complete, control of education, and, secondly, that the Commonwealth has.no power to constitute a Milk Marketing Board.
– I recognize the limitations of the Commonwealth’s power, and I’ should he satisfied if the honorable gentleman could say that the Commonwealth had convened a. meeting of responsible -health officers or of the Health Ministers of the various.. States, and had directed their attention to this particular recommendation of the Nutrition Council, and had established the framework of an organization which could be administered by the States through local governing bodies. I should be satisfied if the Acting’ Minister could say that the Commonwealth has made provision with the £100,000 to which the Prime Minister referred to assist in such a scheme, or if he could say that those responsible for tha marketing of milk had been invited to do so. If the honorable gentleman could give me those assurances and say that his efforts had met with failure, I should be prepared to accept that as some explanation of what I consider to be the inertia of the Government in respect of national health. I say, however, that the Government is not doing all it might do to implement the recommendations of the Nutrition Council.
– I remind the honorable member that when those recommendations were made three States were engaged in the hazards of State elections.
– That may be so, but surely it is not beyond the capacity of the Commonwealth health officers - and I declare it is not, for I have the greatest admiration of them - to set up a skeleton organization directed primarily to this particular objective. I suggest that the Commonwealth, while it may have limitations to its power - r-
– The Commonwealth cannot plead limitations to its power after such specific statements in the Prime Minister’s policy speech.
– Those statements at least committed the Commonwealth to attempt to seek the co-operation of the various State governments. I should he more than surprised indeed, I should be dismayed, to find that the States themselves were not prepared to co-operate along lines such as those which would not admit of any party political controversy and which could bc directed towards improving the health of the community as a. whole. f have referred to that one particular aspect of the recommendations of the Nutrition Council and I now direct attention to the aspect of the Prime Minister’s speech which refers to the lack of adequate supervision of the bodily development of children before and during school age. Here again, I point, not to what has been done in European countries which perhaps in post-war years have made remarkable strides in government supervision of health measures and of health activities, but to Great Britain, whose “conditions are, to a great extent, comparable to our own. In that country, about a year ago, a Physical Training and Recreation Act was passed, under which a skeleton organization for a government subsidized scheme of physical training and recreation was instituted. This scheme was part of the programme of the national fitness scheme iu that country. In most continental countries in the nineteenth century, the idea of physical training and gymnastic clubs caught the public fancy, but in England development was along different lines : cricket, football, cycling, camping, and hiking, were more popular. In Australia, our interests lie more iu recreation than in physical training, but playing fields, particularly in industrial areas, are scarce, and thousands have to be spectators rather than active participants; hiking and camping cost money and need organization; so also does the provision of swimming pools and baths. It is obvious that the most important part of any national scheme must be to bring within the reach of every one facilities for .recreation, mainly in the open air. This is becoming increasingly important with every year that, passes, because of the greater opportunities for recreation and leisure which the reduction of working hours is bringing to us. There is in Australia an increasing - number of working men and women who find that they have their Saturdays and Sundays free; consequently it becomes necessary to provide greater facilities for healthful recreation. This provision is a responsibility of the national government.
– Does not the honorable member think it is their responsibility to allow others to have recreation who do not have it now?
– I do not wish the honor able gentleman to sidetrack me into a consideration of the complexities and difficulties of the primary industries.
Probably primary producers need recreation of an intellectual rather than a physical nature. But reverting to my request for a campaign sponsored by the Government, I know that the Acting Minister is investigating this particular phase. I personally am very appreciative of the interest he is showing in regard to it. The Prime Minister has publicly stated that Cabinet will consider the giving of assistance to a national fitness campaign. I hope that it “ will give early and serious attention to the matter. In Great Britain, such a scheme is now well under way, and all the accounts I have been able to obtain regarding it prove that considerable success is being achieved. 1 may be asked: How are we to finance a programme along these lines ? I should first say that we are embarking upon a programme ‘involving an expenditure of £-13.000,000 for the development of the internal defences of this country, but are not expending anything like a reasonable sum upon an equally important defence element, namely, the strength of our man and woman power. Were I asked for a specific method by which finance could be raised, I should direct the attention of the Treasurer again, as I did in my second-reading speech on the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill, to the opportunities afforded by that scheme for the raising of a fund for the specific purpose of improving health standards. Under that measure, as honorable members will recall, provision is made for the payment by approved societies to a central fund of -50 per cent, of all surpluses they are able to show after a period of five years. Unquestionably, the scheme is loaded against the younger man and woman. The benefits which they are to receive are not in the same proportion as are the benefits to be received by older persons. Consequently, as they are to pay a disproportionate amount, they should be entitled to some special consideration when these surpluses are being disbursed The suggestion which I previously made, and which I now repeat, is that a. portion of that surplus fund should be expended by the commission in the furtherance of a national fitness campaign, perhaps in providing assistance lor the provision of swimming-pools, gymnasium clubs, playing grounds, or other facilities, the objective of which would be, not only to provide healthful recreation but also to improve health standards, thus acting as a definite preventive against ill health, which otherwise might occur. I think it can fairly be claimed that that is definitely the objective at which the surplus funds of such a scheme should be aimed. The net result would he to improve health standards and reduce the ultimate degree of sickness .and hospitalization, the cost of which would have to be met out of the fund. Thus there would be a regular and recurring fund, out of which the assistance could be provided.
One could elaborate at some length other aspects of the Prime Minister’s speech, with reference to the provision of proper and nutritious food. I merely repeat the suggestion that I recently made, that there should be set up in this country a food council constituted along the lines of a similar body which is now functioning in Great Britain.
In conclusion, I remind the Government that the health measures to which I have referred occupied a prominent place in the programme that was placed before the people at the last elections. Almost twelve months have elapsed without any substantial indication having been given of the intention of the Government to give effect to them. I invite - and urge the Government to examine the position in the months that will intervene before the budget is introduced, and then to meet the House with an extensive programme covering, not only those measures which I have advocated, but also other health measures mentioned in the Prime Minister’s policy speech. Unless it does that, I feel that it will be neglecting an aspect of our communal life which, while it may not possess any immediate political significance, is possibly much more important than are many other measures on which this House spends much of its time.
.- I wish to comment on one or two matters for which provision is made in this Supply Bill. In the first place, I support what was said earlier by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), in regard to the training of pilots and their protection during and after the process of training. I do not propose to traverse the ground already covered by the honorable member. But I support strongly the view commonly held by honorable members on this side of the House and by many people in this country, that everything is not right in our Air Force. Recently I had brought under my notice the case of a young man who joined the Royal Australian Air Force and, after a little while at Point Cook, was rejected as unfit for the service. He had had considerable flying experience, but apparently the authorities at Point Cook considered that he was not fitted for the service. Neither the boy nor his father was satified with this report, and the father sent him to England to join the British Air Force. Only last week I saw pictures of him associated with officers of the Home force. Not only had he been accepted and reported upon satisfactorily, but he had also made considerable headway. If such be the case, it is an additional reason for an investigation into conditions in the Royal Australian Air Force. I know the young man personally, as well as his father, who had a very satisfactory record in the Great War and received decorations. Had the father not been in a position to send his son to England, in all probability the boy would have missed the vocation upon which he had set his heart and for which, under British conditions, he was apparently well suited. I agree with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports that there is every reason for an investigation into our Air Force, and that it should not be a secret inquiry. There should be a public investigation, with the object of allaying fears which are now exercising the minds of the Australian people.- I suggest also that the methods adopted in connexion with the training of our Air Force pilots should be investigated, with a view to the pilots being given some experience in commercial flying. If, for a period, they were associated with our commercial services,’ they could obtain experience on the large dual control planes which are operating on Australian air lines. Service with a company such as the Australian National Airways Limited would give them valuable experience of modern flying condition*.
The provision of postal facilities is an evergreen subject with every member who represents a country constituency. There is a constant urge for better facilities in outback areas. I have always endeavoured to press the claims of people living in remote areas, not only in this House, but also to officers representing the postal services. I realize the difficulties that confront the Postmaster-Genera i and the officers of his department in this regard. They have an unenviable task. This is a country of tremendous distances, and it is difficult to provide services to people in outback areas as expeditiously as may be desired. However, in view of the enormous revenue received from the postal services in recent years, a determined effort should be made to extend those services to country centres more rapidly than has been the case in the past. It is argued that these services do not pay. My reply is that people in remote areas are entitled to special consideration because of the disabilities under which they live. I know it is the desire of the Postmaster-General and the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs - a capable officer for whom I have the greatest admiration - that services in country districts should be improved. More progress should be made with the installation of automatic telephone exchanges. There should be a general review of the conditions under which outback post offices are operated. I have a fear - sometimes it is more than a fear - that considerable sweating is practised in country centres. No provision is made for annua] leave for non-official post-‘ mistresses; they are required to make their own arrangements when they wish to go away for a holiday, and while away they are held responsible for all the postal property with which they are entrusted. Et seems to me that the time is long overdue for some improvement in this regard.
I request the Government to provide additional telephone facilities for the emergency landing ground known as Umbrella Flat, near Georgetown, Tasmania. This aerodrome is three miles from the end of the telephone line. The aeroplanes which fly between Tasmania and the mainland sometimes have to land at Umbrella Flat, and, on occasions, they need assistance urgently. I have referred to several unsatisfactory episodes in this connexion recently. I understand that the Government of Tasmania is prepared to assist the Postmaster-General’s Department to extend the telephone line to the aerodrome by calling ‘upon relief workers to dig the post holes necessary to -extend the line. I urge the Government to give favorable consideration to this very reasonable request.
Some time ago I asked the Minister in Charge of Development and Scientific and Industrial Research. (Mr. Casey) for some information about the investigations of the Council for Scientific and industrial Research, into the production of power alcohol from potatoes, and he was good enough to furnish me with the latest report by Mr. Rogers, the Commonwealth Fuel Adviser, on the subject. Although the work so far done has not yielded particularly encouraging results, I hope that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research will continue its investigations, for if this industry could be established upon a commercial basis it would be greatly to the advantage of Tasmania.
The deep-sea and surface fishing possibilities of Tasmanian waters have been the subject of some investigation by the new research vessel Warreen. It has been stated for several years that fish are to be found in large quantities adjacent to the Furneaux Group and, generally, off the east coast of Tasmania. My constituents appreciate the action of the Government in permitting the new research vessel to make its first cruise in Tasmanian waters. They are also grateful for the aerial survey that has been made. I understand that the reports have been very satisfactory, and that investigations are to be continued to ascertain whether fish are present in large quantities in these waters throughout the year. I do not know when it is intended to request the new vessel to make another cruise in this area, but I urge that the matter be considered at the earliest possible date. Australia imports fish to the value of over £1,000,000 annually, and our people consume fish valued at more than £2,000,000 each year. With the rapid development of aerial transport it should be possible to provide our own requirements in fish to a much greater degree than hitherto. I express my thanks to Dr. Thompson and to the officers of the Council for Scientific an’d Industrial Research interested in the fishing investigation for their courtesy to me, and I hope that the possibilities of this industry will be revealed without delay to those who wish to establish themselves in it.
Recently I have bad occasion to complain about the attitude of the Australian Broadcasting Commission towards Tasmania. Some little time ago the chairman and other members of the commission, as well as the general manager, visited Tasmania. The general manager was reported to have made some comparisons of the amounts collected in listeners’ fees in Tasmania with those collected in some big provincial towns on the mainland. If such comparisons are to be taken seriously, the effect on Tasmania will be most unfair. I hope that the general ‘ manager of the commission will not pursue his investigations in that connexion. Broadcasting is a national service and it should be developed upon national lines, so that all parts of the Commonwealth may benefit from. it. The commission has recently leased a building in Launceston and intends to furnish it as a studio. I hope that the building will be made available for this purpose immediately. During the last twelve or eighteen months Tasmanian programmes have been relayed to the mainland, and I understand that the Tasmanian artists engaged to provide the entertainments have been highly complimented upon their talent. I do not profess to be a musician, but I appreciate the necessity for giving Tasmanian artists the fullest possible opportunity to contribute to the broadcasting programmes arranged by the commission. As the work they have already done in this connexion has proved satisfactory, there is every justification for my request that the furnish’ ing of the Launceston studio should be completed without delay. I am well aware that the broadcasting facilities in all the States need constant attention, but Tasmanian listeners and artists are entitled to more consideration than they have hitherto received.
Another matter to which I direct attention relates to the housing problem in Canberra. I have taken a good deal of interest in this subject which has aroused a good deal of disquietude lately, particularly because the Government is spending about £7,000 in providing a dwelling for the Treasurer, although, according to the latest figures, there are 310 people in Canberra awaiting houses. It is quite wrong to spend £7,000 on one house when homes could be provided for from seven to ten families for such an expenditure. It is regrettable also that this step should have been taken without first obtaining parliamentary approval. Public money should not be expended to provide a home for a person who is well able to provide one for himself while ignoring the claims of public servants and others who are on comparatively small salaries. It has been stated that the money for this building is being obtained from the vote for architectural and engineering services. If that be so, I do not believe that Parliament intended that this source should have been drawn upon for such a purpose. Honorable members on both sides of the chamber are resentful of the procedure which the Government has adopted. It is difficult to square the Treasurer’s attitude on national insurance, which was that the people - people who are less fortunately situated than he is - should have to pay for their privileges, with his attitude in respect to his own housing. Honorable members on this side of the chamber, and probably some . honorable members on the other side, would like to know whether this mansion for the Treasurer is to be the only one erected, or whether every Minister is to be provided with an expensive house. I do not think that there are many honorable members of this Parliament who want to be provided with a house of fourteen rooms with seven or eight bedrooms and three or four bathrooms, in a new suburb which has to have specially provided services. It is estimated that the cost of the Treasurer’s home will be £6,233. Drains and paths will cost another £175. The house will contain fourteen rooms, made up of eight bedrooms, three bathrooms, and two sun rooms, a garage for two cars, as well as a kitchen, laundry, and other rooms. The cost is to be provided, so it is said, out of the vote for architectural and engineering services. A clear declaration by the Government as to its Canberra housing policy for the future must be given. What is to be done to provide for the needs of the people? Many of the Ministers are not in full agreement with the Treasurer being placed in a privileged class in the. matter of housing. One might hope that the Minister for the Interior, who has been in charge of the department for too short, a space of time to be blamed for the present shortage of houses, might direct some of his energy and undoubted ability to solving the housing problem in the capital city. I feel sure that he is endeavouring to grapple with the problem, and I feel sure that he does not feel kindly towards using the engineering and architectural services vote to provide the Treasurer with a. home. It is a subterfuge that cannot be countenanced. J protest against it now, and I intend to take some action to deal with the situation in committee. Perhaps the Treasurer will be able to tell us whether the cost of this house was contemplated when the Estimates were framed last year; I recall that when the Labour party was in power, the resident Minister did not ask the Treasury to find the money to build him a home. He purchased a home for himself.
– That is wrong. Mr. BARNARD.- If the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr), who was a former Minister for the Interior, is able, with authority, to say that what I havesaid is incorrect, I stand corrected; but I understood that the home of the then Minister for the Interior, Mr. Blakeley, was purchased through a certain channel with his own money. He subsequently sold that house when he left the territory. There is an acute shortage of houses in Canberra. I was informed in an answer to a question that on the 31st May there was a waiting list of 310 persons. In the last two years 110 houses of four, five and six rooms have been built by the Government, and 29 have been built by private enterprise. Including houses of more than six rooms a total of 196 houses has been built in the last two years. Forty-four house j are in the course of construction, and contracts have been let for the erection of 21 other houses. If the Treasurer desired a house of more than ordinary magnitude, why did he not build one for himself? The honorable gentleman sold a house in London recently for nine or ten thousand pounds. Yet he asks the country to provide him with a home which will cost, by the time it is completed, about £10,000. He did not build a home for himself because his political future is uncertain, as is the future of all members of Parliament. The Treasurer was not prepared to expend his own money; yet he asks this country to provide sufficient money to build a home for him to live in while he is Treasurer. Before many years have passed he will no longer be Treasurer, and the house that is being built will be left in the hands of the Government. Twenty-two houses of a considerable size in Canberra were empty at the end of December last. If the Treasurer did not wish to build a home for himself with his own money, he could have rented one of the larger empty residences, instead of putting the country to the expense of providing him with an outsize house that;, at a later stage, will lie idle because there are not many men, not even Ministers of the Crown, who are able to pay £6 or £7 a week rent for a house of that size.
In reply to a question a few days ago, the Minister for the Interior said that there were 310 people waiting for houses, and that there were two departments of about 500 or more employees still to be transferred to Canberra. In addition to that, there are many young people in Canberra who, if they could obtain housing, would marry. This Government has expressed concern about the decline of the birth rate’, but it is doing nothing’ practical to check the decline in the Australian Capital Territory by providing houses for the people. How can the Government hope to transfer those two departments to Canberra unless housing is provided? It is not sufficient to provide office accommodation. Building houses at the rate of 50 houses a year, in the circumstances T have stated, is insufficient. The Treasurer is not much concerned with the needs of Canberra in general, but he is prepared to spend £7,000 of public money in providing a home for himself hero. Such action is worthy of the strongest condemnation. Because of political insecurity, the Treasurer is not prepared to invest his own money in the building of a home in Canberra, but he is prepared to use public moneys for this purpose, thus building his home at the expense of the poorer sections of the community. Canberra is different from other cities in that most of its residents were forced to come here because of their employment. Very few Canberra residents seem to be disposed to purchase or build their own homes, and the obligation is on the Government to provide adequate housing. During the last three or four years hundreds of homes have been built in Tasmania under the Homes Act, with money found by the Government. Although a somewhat similar scheme is in operation in Canberra, only 127 people have availed themselves of it, clearly indicating that the Government does not encourage home building. It is evident that, at the present rate of building, many of those citizens whose names are on the- waiting list for houses will have to go on waiting for years. This is not right, and the Parliament and the people should be informed of what the Government intends to do about it.
.- I do not intend to follow the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) in a discussion on housing conditions in Canberra, other than to point out that, whether the house for the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) should have been built or not, the authorities have exhibited a callous disregard for economy in selecting a site not, already served with water and sewerage. Surely it would have been possible to put the bouse on a site where those services were already available.
I desire to make some reference to the speech of the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett). ‘When the honorable member was speaking of the condition into which Australia was drifting, I listened first with surprise, and then in admiration, to hear him repeat the arguments that I myself have been using for the last 20 years. He referred, as I have frequently done, to the need for bringing immigrants intothe country, and of making them successful citizens. It was when I compared those utterances with the policy whichthe honorable member has himself applied when he has been in office, that I realized that he has been consistent only in his inconsistency. Almost every act of policy for which he has been responsible in recent years has had the effect of forcing people from the country into the cities. He said that we would have difficulty in maintaining our claim to hold Australia unless our population increased, and he said that within a comparatively short time our population would have become static at about8,000,000. The area of Australia is approximately equal to that of the United States of America, and I venture to say that if the country were in the possession of any other power, the population would be much greater than at present. The area from Mr Gambier to Cairns is capable of carrying a population of 20,000,000 persons. Western Australia, alone, could carry a population of 4,000,000. A few years ago, the honorable member for Henty denounced the trade diversion policy which he himself put into effect only a little while later.
Speaking as a member of the Opposition, he stated -
Our tariff policy hasbeen such us to invito retaliation front those countries which buy our wool, and we have received a plain and, I think, a proper ultimatum from Belgium.
And I may add that it resulted in Belgium placing an embargo on our meat and barley.
Again he said -
There is danger of carrying to extreme lengths this action against the United States, or any other country. There is only one attitude to adopt,and that is to consider the balance of trade with all countries.
Yet only a few years later he brought in his trade diversion policy, which has been the cause of much animosity, and has led to retaliation.
I desire to draw the attention of honorable members to conditions existing prior to 1929. The Government of the day invited Sir Otto Niemeyer to visit Australia, and that gentleman, in his report, pointed out that those primary producing countries competing with Australia in the world’s markets would con- tinue to enjoy an advantage over us so long as our costs of production remained so high. Not long after that we invited the “Big Four” to visit Australia, and report on conditions here. They reported in similar terms to Sir Otto Niemeyer, and referred particularly to the need to encourage immigration, not only to promote the economic welfare of the country, but also to ensure its protection. They advocated the more intensive use of land at present occupied, and stressed the need for industrial research. They pointed out that the first and most’ important of Australian problems was the cost of production and its effect on export, as well as the combined effects of the tariff and Arbitration Act. There was need, they said, for a scientific inquiry into those matters. The government of the day did appoint an economic commission in Australia, and it duly reported to the Government. Mr. Bruce, who was Prime Minister at that time, delivered an address touching on all these problems, and I am informed that the address was before Cabinet for a fortnight before delivery, and was unanimously approved by every member of it. The Leader of the Country party (Sir Earle Page) and the honorable member for Henty, were amongst the Ministers who approved the speech and the policy it outlined. This address was delivered before a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, and in it Mr. Bruce directed attention to the extraordinary amount of public borrowing that was going on, the big interest bill that had to be met, and the heavy taxation that would necessarily be imposed to meet it. He mentioned the great losses that had been incurred on the State railway systems, and the need for improvement in that direction. After discussing the unproductive debt in connexion with State railways, he referred to the various sources of taxation. He cited figures which showed that in 1913 the value of Australia’s production was £221,000,000, while taxation amounted to £23,000,000 or 10 per cent. In 1926-27, the value ofproduction was £447,000,000, while taxation had risen to £88,000,000, or 19.7 per cent. I have, taken out some figures which show that the value of production for 1931-32 had declined to £290,000,000, but in 1933-34 it bad risen to £330,000,000, while taxation amounted to £91,000,000. In 1927-28, production was valued at £450,000,000, and taxation was £88,000,000, whereas in 1934-35, production was valued at £414,000,000 in Australian currency, while taxation was £104,500,000, and last year it amounted to £108,000,000. These figures serve to show the need for cautious financing and reconsideration of our economic conditions. But Mr. Bruce was more emphatic. Discussing the need for reducing the costs of production, he said -
The reality of the need for a reductionin the cost of production in our secondary industries is indicated by the fact that, since the war. conditions in competitive countries have progressively improved; wages have been increased; standards of living have been raised; and hours of work have been shortened. All these factors should have contributed materially to assist Australia’s industries in their competition -with the products of other countries. This, however, has not happened. That it should not have happened is all the more remarkable when we consider that the Customs Tariff of 1908 contained only eight items with anad valorem duty of 40 per cent, or over, whereas in the present tariff there are no fewer than 259 items with ad valorem rates of 40 per cent, or over, and 40 with rates of over60 per cent.
That statement, and not, as generally supposed, the question of the Arbitration Act caused the collapse of the BrucePage Government. The manufacturing interests realized that the Government had come definitely to the conclusion that manufacturers had failed to respond to the many concessions that had been granted to them, and had decided upon a policy of decreased customs duties. Thousands of pounds must have been expended in securing Mr. Bruce’s defeat at, the ensuing election and the result allowed how it was possible for big interests to bribe, a huge electorate. Mr. Bruce was returned in the same constituency two and a half years later by a majority of over 24,000 votes. Mr. Bruce went on to say-
Two alternatives face Australia to-day. Wither we can resolutely attack this problem of reducing our costs of production, and by so doing reduce our costs of living, expand our avenue!) of employment, maintain and augment our standards of living, and increase our national wealth, or we can refuse to recognize the needs of the position, and allow our national wealth to diminish and unemployment to increase until, faced with a national crisis, we are forced to lower our standards of living and re-orientate the whole of our nationallife. Between these two alternatives can there be any hesitation?
All the members of his Cabinet were bound by that policy. Surely they had come to the conclusion, when that speech was prepared, that the high cost of production had caused the decline in Australia. Since 1920-21, we have seen the remarkable change in the position of the primary industries brought about by the high costs of production and the retaliatory policy of other countries which resented the restrictions placed on their products. Western Australia, with its enormous areas of agricultural and pastoral lands, has no chance of developing into the important State of the Commonwealth it should be while costs remain high. The successful development, of that State has been retarded, notonly by continual increases of production costs, but also by the destruction of markets as the result of the policy enunciated by the honorable member for Henty; a policy which has created antagonism in goodcustomer countries, and a policy which we find endorsed by the present Administration. I well remember the honorable gentleman’s colleague, the former honorable member for Warringah, Sir Archdale Parkhill, denouncing the tariff policy of the Labour Government, and saying that, under it, a Minister could give permission to one man to import £50,000 worth of goods and refuse the same to that man’s opponents. Yet was not that same policy adopted by the honorable member for Henty when he refused licences to certain firms to import goods while granting them to others, thereby creating animosity in the United States of America and Japan ?
– There is now discrimination in regard to certain commodities as to who shall be permitted to export.
– A discrimination for which one day we may pay a very heavy bill. We must look for markets to assist the primary producers. It is useless to continue to expect Great Britain to take the whole of our exportable surplus. Only by the expansion of markets outside Great Britain can Australia hope to increase its primary production. The Economic
Committee of tlie League of Nations, dealing with the report of the Raw Materials Committee, formulated the following principles which, in its opinion, governments should adopt: -
Raw materials should not be subjected to any export prohibition or restriction, except in pursuance nf u.n international regulation scheme. . . . foreigners should have the same rights and facilities as nationals to develop . natural resources in any particular country or colony, subject to compliance with the laws and regulations of the countries concerned.
The committee further recommended that international regulation schemes concerning the supply of raw materials should be framed in such a way that consuming interests would have a substantial voice in their administration, and administered in such a way that prices were kept reasonably stable. In Australia, however, we . have a dog-in-the manger policy in connexion with the export of our raw materials which has caused antagonism in -two big goodcustomer countries. I am satisfied that since 1.9.13 costs of production have increased by over 100 per cent. In any consideration of costs of production, all factors must be taken into consideration. Tn my opinion, this subject, calls for some economic investigation as to the effect of the tariff. I. claim that the tariff has increased costs in Western Australia by over £10,000,000 per annum. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has had something to say in that regard, and I know he does not agree with me as to the extent of the added costs as a result of the tariff; but when all the indirect aspects of the tariff are taken into account, I think it will be seen that my estimate is not unduly high. When goods are imported and duty has to be paid, the importer charges his profit on the amount he pays in duty; the retailer superimposes his profit over that of the wholesaler; and in the case of locally manufactured goods the local manufacturers fix their prices as closely as possible to those of imported goods. Having regard to that, I claim that my estimate of the added cost in Western Australia as the result of the tariff is not excessive. In 1933, a special examination was made of actual costs in connexion with a 1,000-acre farm in the years 1913 and 1931 respectively. It was found that in 1913, the cost amounted to £2,600; by 1931 they had risen to £4,400. I say that costs generally have risen over 100 per cent, since pre-war days. I am anxious to see the State which I represent given some chance to succeed, and, with the honorable member for Henty, I desire to see people brought to this country, but not as “ wood andwater joeys “ for the manufacturers to whom all concessions are given. The representatives of the primary producers in this Parliament are placed in the wretched position of having to ask that concessions be granted to the farmers similar to those granted to the manufacturers. Why should that be so? Why should not all classes of the community receive equal treatment? If manufacturers are to be granted a home price for the commodities they manufacture in order that they may pay decent wages and return handsome profits to their shareholders, surely the farmers have the same right to demand that they should be placed in the position of being able to dispose of the product of their- labour at a price above the cost of production, or at the .price at which they would have to dispose of it elsewhere, without their having to bear the cost of freight. Why should a policy be adopted which protects one section of the community at the expense of another ?
– Secondary industries are doing pretty well in Western Australia.
– If the honorable member for Barton holds a brief for the tariff policy of this Government, he should be willing to apply it equally to the commodities produced by the farmer. I demand that the Government bring forward some clear-cut proposal to assist the farming community either by a bounty on the export of wheat- ‘
– The honorable member wants the bounty after all.
– I do not. As a matter of fact, it is the last thing I want, because once a concession of this sort is started there is no end to it. The farmers, however, are in dire straits owing to high costs and the loss of markets, and something will have to be done to extricate them from their difficulty. Mr. Page, chairman of the Tariff Board of the
United States of America for many years, drew attention to the evils that had developed in that country under the Tariff Board system. When the Tariff Board was first created it sat in private and evidence was not taken on oath. It took some years to have this altered, an alteration which was bitterly opposed by the Minister for Trade and Customs. It was the sort of trick borrowed from the United States of America. When the McKenna duties were in operation in Great Britain, Viscount Snowden complained bitterly of the efforts of big industry to get concessions and the bribery which was rampant on that occasion. Mr. T. F. Bayard, who was at one time United States Ambassador in Great Britain, was reported to have said-
In my own country I have witnessed the insatiable growth of the form of State Socialism styled protection, which I believe has done more than any other cause to foster class legislation and create inequality of fortune; to corrupt public life, to banish men of independent character and mind from the public councils; to lower the tone of national representation; blunt public conscience; create false standards in the public mind; divorce ethics from politics; and place politics on the low level of mercenary scramble.
Those who follow the work of the Customs Department here in Australia cannot fail to notice how true these words are. I rose to say to country members of the Government particularly, that if the policy of high protection is to be continued, and these concessions are to be given to one section of the community, I demand, and I think that my colleagues also will demand, that a similar policy be adopted this year in connexion with primary production, so that the farmer will be placed on the same basis as the manufacturer; this could be done either by a bounty on export or by the fixing of a homo price for wheat.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Brennan) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate with requests.
House adjourned at 10.32 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated : -
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n. - On the 20th June, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green) asked the following question, upon notice: -
What has been the total cost of construction of the. granolithic footpaths and kerbs only, in the. city area of Canberra since its inception?
The information desired by the honorable member isas follows: -
There are no granolithie footpaths and kerbsin the city area of Canberra. Concrete footpaths and kerbing and guttering only have been constructed.
y asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The Postmaster-General has supplied the following answer to the honorable member’s questions: -
It is not practicable to grant another licence for Melbourne because of the unavailability of a frequency channel for the purpose.
Mr.Curtin asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What was the amount of London, funds at the 30th June, 1937, and what is the amount at the present- time?
Mr.Casey. - Theanswer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : - “ Available reserves of international currency,” including visible stocks of gold, amounted to. £71,220,000 English sterling on the 30th June, 1937. The amount at the present time is not available,but any net reduction in London funds in the past twelve months willnotbe of substantial dimensions.
d asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
With reference to the appointment of Mr. W. B. Tart,son-in-law of the right honorable member for Cow per (SirEarle Page) to a position in the Defence Department -
Is it a. fact that applications for the position closed with the Secretary of the Defence Department?
Is it a fact that a panel of five names from the 70 applicants was submitted to the Minister?
Is it a fact that the Minister personally interviewed at least one of the applicants whose names appeared in the panel?
Docs his statement on the 21st June. 1938, that the appointment was made by the Public Service Board mean that the matter was taken out of the hands of the Secretary of the Defence Department?
If that is so, was it done for political reasons ?
– The answers, to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - (a)Yes.
Iron Tanks: Exemption from
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will consideration be given to exempting from sales tax galvanized corrugated iron tanks used in country districts for domestic purposes?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Claims for the exemption of galvanized corrugated iron tanks used in country district1’ for domestic purposes have already been listed (together with hundreds of claims in respec t of other goods ) for the consideration of the Government in connexion with any remissions of sales tax which the Government may make in the future. commonwealth railways: funds for Supply of Sleepers.
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Postal Department: Telephone and Telegraph Facilities.
On the 9th June, the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) asked the following questions, upon notice : -
What were the revenue conditions in 1929 necessary to secure in country telephone exchanges (a.) continuous service: (b)8 a.m. to 8 p.m. service; and (c) 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. service: and what are the present conditions?
What were the conditions in 1929, and what are they at present, for country subscribers to secure private telephone connexion at a ten-mile radius from an exchange?
What were the relative conditions to secure a six-party line ten miles from an exchange in 1929, and what are the conditions to-day ?
What were the total rates for threeminute talks by subscribers over 10, 30,50, 75 and 100 miles radius trunk lines in 1929, and what are the rates to-day?
What are the country charges for three minutes’ conversation from a public telephone for ten miles and 15 miles between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., and what are the charges for the same distancesfrom Sydney General Post Office?
What is the total charge (disregarding rentals) for a three-minute local call on a country exchange by a subscriber and what is the total charge to a city subscriber for each call?
Are the public telephone rates in the telephonebook lists the actual rates charged to both public exchange callers and telephone subscribers? if the charges made are above the list rates, what is the reason for retaining misleading printed rate lists in telephone books ?
What would be the cost of supplying and fixing a. coin attachment to a public telephone already installed in a country town?
Will the installation of automatic exchanges in country allowance post offices affect the allowances paid to the officers in charge of such offices?
How many have been installed?
What would be the annual loss of revenue if a. flat rate of 1s. for sixteen-word telegrams were adopted in Australia and there was no increase in the number of telegrams as a result?
What were the charges for State and interstate telegrams in 1899?
How many temporary linemen engaged on telegraph or telephone construction have been employed by the department for periods exceeding six years?
The Postmaster-General has supplied the following answers to the honorable member’s questions : -
In 1929 the conditions provided for three classes of service, viz., 9 a.m. to (i p.m., 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and continuous service. When the total annual telephone revenue reached £150, the closing hour was extended from6 p.m. to 8 p.m., and in those cases where the revenue derived from rental and local calls plus 20 per cent, of the revenue from trunk lines reached £250 a continuous service was provided. The existing conditions, which are much more liberal than those in force in 1929, provide that the hours of service shall be extended beyond li p.m., when the annual telephone revenue from all sources reaches the amounts specified, viz., continuous service £400, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. £250, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. £100.
The conditions respecting the provision of telephone subscribers’ services in country districts are governed by the extent of the departmental construction which has to be undertaken in each particular case. The existing rental charges are similar to those in force in 1929. There is, however, one. important difference, i.e., in cases where the applicant is required to contribute towards the cost of providing the service, the amountof the contri- butionisregarded as a lump sum payment of rental in advance, and is rebated tohim during the currency of the service. No rebates of this that a service is provided by the department for the whole distance, the minimum annual rental for an exclusive service connecting premises situated 10 miles radially from the exchange wouldbe £15 both in 1929 and to-day.
See answer to 2. Assuming thatthe departmental line extended 10 miles radially from the exchange, and the residents were required toerect lines between their premises andthemainline, the annual rental for a six-party service was £2015s. in 1920. The same rental would apply to-day, excepting that any cash contribution made by the applicants towards the cost of the departmental line wouldbe rebated to them over a period of years.
The information desired regarding the charges for trunk line calls is as follows: - ‘ 1929.
Both in 1929 and to-day the unit fee is added to the rates specified, in order to compensate for the use of the local plant required to complete the trunk line cull.
12.Exceptinrespectofstationsonthe Adelaide-Darwinroute,ratesforintra-state telegrams ranged from a minimum of6d. (5d. Victoria) to1s. for not more than ten words, plus1d.foreachadditionalword.In the case of interstate telegrams, the rate varied from1s. to 4s. for not more than ten words, the charge for each additional word ranging from 2d. to 4d.Rates for messages destined for or originatedat Darwinand other stations ontheoverlandrouterangedfrom1s.forten words plus1d. for each extra word to 5s. and 3d. respectively. l3. The number of temporary linemenat present employed whose periods of service, possibly entailing several separate engagements, aggregate more than six years is New South Wales 246, Victoria98,Queensland 47, South Australia50, Western Australia19, Tasmania 3: total 463.
Communication with Tasmania.
s. - On the 22nd June, the honorable memberforDenison (Mr. Mahoney) asked a question pertaining to the establishment of a wireless telephone service withTasmania for use in cases of emergency. ThePostmaster-General bus supplied the following information : -
Considerableprogress in the establishment of an emergency radio service between the mainland and Tasmania had already been made prior to the cable breakdown, and it is hoped thatthisservicewillbeavailableinafew days.
– On the 21st June, the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) inquired whether steps could be taken to resend a decision which he understood had been given by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to prevent mail contractors, who are also general carriers, from delivering to settlers newspnpers arriving for them at railway stations. Inquiries whichI have since made elicit that no such departmental decision has been given.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 June 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1938/19380628_reps_15_156/>.