15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon.G. J. Bell) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
. - by leave - In pursuance of my promise to the House to make a full statement upon the international situation at the earliest possible moment, I desire to say that latest official communications received by the Government warrant a more hopeful outlook for the preservation of peace; but the situation is still most delicate, and the Government feels that the interests of peace will best be served by refraining from a discussion of the matter at present.
– Is the Minister representing the Postmasters-General yet in a position to give to the House any information regarding the result of the investigation of the position of nonofficial postmasters?
– by leave- It will be remembered that some time ago the Government announced its intention to arrange for the basis of payment to nonofficial postmasters and telephone officekeepers to be specially reviewed. A comprehensive study of the matter has been made, and I am now in a position to indicate the conclusions reached. Perhaps it would be as well to explain at the outset that the only practicable method of providing postal, telegraphic and telephonic facilities in a locality which is sparsely settled, and in which there is no substantial volume of business, is to place the office in the charge of a suitable local resident. In the great majority of cases, the post office work is inappreciable, occupying only a small proportion of the postmaster’s time, and the revenue earned by the office is, relatively speaking, quite small. In view of this, it is an established principle that these offices shall, as far as practicable, be placed in the hands of only persons who are engaged in some business or avocation from which they derive a livelihood, and which demands their attendance during ordinary hours of business at’ the premises in which the office is conducted. Nonofficial postmasters and persons in charge of offices at which only telegraphic and telephonic facilities are provided, that is telephone offices, are remunerated on a basis related to the actual volume of business transacted at their offices, and additional payments are made for office accommodation and lighting, as well as for the performance of special services, for example, letter receivers, after-hour attendances for postal purposes and extended telephone exchange service.
It will be apparent that the payments to non-official postmasters at small offices cannot be regarded as in the nature of full income, but must be related to the extent of services which have to be rendered. Under any other circumstances, the cost of providing facilities at such offices, which is now very much in excess of the revenue they earn, would be enormously increased, or, alternatively, the department would be forced not only to refuse necessary services, but also to withdraw many important existing facilities. It is the Government’s wish, however, that the remuneration paid to non-official postmasters at offices where the volume of business is small should take into account to a greater extent than hitherto the hours during which service is made available, and for this reason a special allowance is being introduced in respect of all the smaller post offices where the annual payment for the normal services rendered is less than £50 per annum.
The allowance is adjusted on the basis of 100 per cent, increase in respect of the smallest office, which is usually that of a telephone office-keeper, with decreasing percentages until the allowance expires where the normal payment made totals £50. The Government has also decided to increase the rate on which the normal payments are based. The increased payments will take effect from the 1st July last. The additional payment which will be made to the allowance postmasters, based on the existing volume of business, will total £41,000 per annum. The question of making special payment for the relief of non-official postmasters on holidays, or during periods of sickness, has been exhaustively examined, but no further adjustment for such purposes can be made, it being recognized that the basis of payment covers the full extent of services rendered.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation say whether an instruction has been issued to the Repatriation Commission that no regard is to be paid to evidence, other than medic.il evidence, submitted to the commission by .applicants for service pensions? If this is the case, will he consider widening the scope of the evidence to be heard .before the tribunals of the commission?
–I shall bring the question under the notice of the Minister for Repatriation and furnish the honorable member with a reply as soon as possible.
Mir. FAIRBAIRN.- With regard to the undertaking which the Minister for Defence gave during the last Parliamentary period that he would inquire- into the superannuation provision made for members of the naval, military and air forces, is he now able to make an announcement regarding any proposals to render such provision adequate in the near future?
– That matter is being investigated by the boards controlling the defence services, and I hope that a report will be presented to the Government in the near future.
– Has the Minister for the Interior taken, or does he propose to take, any action to secure the registration of the names and addresses of aliens within Australia?
– It was announced during the last Parliamentary period that the Government would consider proposals for the registration of aliens. The Government still intends to do this, but” I am unable to indicate when the system will be introduced.
– In view of the possibility of a home-consumption price for wheat being fixed, and in view of the fact that there is no rural award applying to the employees of wheat farmers in New South Wales, will the Prime Minister take steps to have a referendum held on the subject of the extension of the industrial powers of the Commonwealth, with a view to obtaining the opinion of the consumers ?
– The experience of past efforts to increase the industrial or any other powers of the Commonwealth has not been such as to encourage the Government to make another attempt to obtain increased powers in the near future.
– Has the Minister for the Interior taken further action with’ regard to the investigation of the present method of electing senators ? -
– A motion relating to that matter appears on the notice paper.
– Has the Treasurer yet succeeded in defining “ manual labour “ and “ non-manual labour “ for the purposes of the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act ?
– No simple definition is obtainable. For a considerable time the National Insurance Commission has been going through long lists of occupations, and assessing the occupations as either manual or non-manual, in accordance with all the. information available. This work is still in progress, and will probably continue for another month or two.
– Can the Treasurer say why, when appointing an actuary to the National Insurance Commission at a salary of £1,750 per annum, the Government did not consult the Actuarial Society of Australia, and can he give the reasons why the position was not offered to any actuary in Australia?
– Before making the appointment, .the Government .took all proper steps to acquaint itself as to the availability of actuaries with the necessary qualifications and experience.
– What authority is responsible for the appointment of officers under the National Health and Insurance scheme? Is it a fact that officers were taken from the Electoral Department to fill high positions, although they had no knowledge of similar work to that which they will be called upon to perform, whilst officers of long standing and experience in the Pensions Department were overlooked ?
– The Public Service Board is the proper authority for the making of such appointments and it is responsible for all the appointments that have been made. The chairman of the National Insurance Commission was consulted, but as the offices in question come under the Public Service Act, the Public Service Board is the authority responsible.
– These appointments are a proper racket.
– Is it the intention of the Government to employ on the staff of the commission people who are not now in the Public Service, and, if so, how is it proposed to recruit them?
– Yesterday, I answered a somewhat similar question. All these appointments are in the hands of the Public Service Board, which body, in terms of the Public Service Act, is obliged to appoint persons from within the Public Service unless it certifies that there are no persons in the Public Service capable of performing the particular duties to be carried out. The result of that policy is that the majority of the appointments - I think all except about three of them - have been made from within the Service.
– The Minister has not answered the latter portion of my question. I desire to know whether it is a fact that officers from the Electoral Department, who have had no experience of similar work, have been selected for high positions in preference to officers of the Pensions Department with considerable experience and some knowledge of similar work. If so, can he give the reasons for such appointments?
– I have no authority in the making of these appointments, nor have I any knowledge of the particular appointments to which the honorable member has referred. I understand that the regular method of inviting applications through the Commonwealth Gazette was followed in all cases by the National Insurance Commission. 1 point out; moreover, that all appointments are subject to appeal ‘by persons in the Public Service who believe that they have greater claims to the positions than the person provisionally promoted. All such appeals are heard by the Public Service Board before positions are filled permanently.
– The way these appointments have been made constitutes a scandal. It is a serious matter.
– When a large number of appointments are being made it is impossible for any Minister to give personal consideration to the qualifications of the applicants. Moreover, it would be improper for him to do so.
– Is it not improper to allow the Commonwealth Public Service Board to do what it likes?
– What is the position, of intermittent workers under the National Health and Insurance scheme,
For instance, will a man who works, say, one week in five, come under the scheme, and will he be called upon to make contributions?
– The question raised by the honorable member cannot be adequately answered offhand, as it covers a. wide and indefinite field. If the honorable member will place his question on the notice-paper, and make it a little more precise, I shall do my best to give to him an adequate reply.
– Have any arrangements been made by the Government to make advances to approved societies to cover the preliminary expenses incidental to their formation?
– I am not aware of any financial assistance to approved societies other than a payment of1s. for each member enrolled before the 31st March, 1939.
– Has any money been paid to the societies in advance?
-I do not think so. They will be allowed to incur expenditure not exceeding1s. to cover initial costs for each member, but I am almost certain that no money has yet been paid out to them.
– If an insured person pays contributions from the ago of sixteen years until he reaches the age of 60 years, but does not comply with the requirement for . 117 contributions in the last three years of his employment will he lose hisright to insurance altogether? Has no provision been made for a person in such circumstances?
– Again I must say that I do not think I can give an adequate reply offhand to a complex question. I am not speaking facetiously when I say that, in any event, that problem will not arise until 1978.
– In view of the difficulties that honorable members are experiencing in satisfying the public concerning national insurance, when is it expected that the regulations made pursuant to the national insurance legislation will be laid on the table of this House so that honorable members may be in a position to advise their electors concerning the operation of the scheme?
– In respect of the publication and the final framing of the regulations, the National Insurance Com mission is calling a further meeting of persons connected with approved societies to be held in Canberra towards the end of October. An opportunity will then be gi ven to those persons who are most concerned with the regulations, to discuss the commission’s proposals. A consultative council is to be formed of representatives of approved societies. The gathering in Canberra may be taken to be an advance meeting of that consultative council. Great care is being taken to see that the regulations are being framed in a fair and proper way, and I think that the discussions’ at the forthcoming meeting of representatives of approved societies will be very helpful both to themselves and to the commission. The regulations will not be finally framed until after the end of October.
– Is it the Government’s intention to appoint inspectors particularly in the Strathfield, Kirribilli and Potts Point districts, to see that people who employ domestic servants and gardeners adhere to the terms of the national insurance legislation?
– The act will beadministered fairly and impartially in all parts of the Commonwealth.
-What will be the position of an insured worker who has paid 26 weeks’ contributions, received 26 weeks’ sickness pay, and then after exhausting his free insurance period, goes back into industry? How long will he have to be in industry a second time before qualifying for further sickness benefit?
Mr.CASEY. - When the measure was before this chamber, the honorable member was not backward in submitting cases such as this, and I thought, apparently wrongly, that, during the long discussion on the subject, I had managed to convince him of the way in which the free insurance period worked. However, it is not possible to answer offhand a question such as he has asked or to give adequate replies, without notice, to the many questions regarding the scheme which honorable members may desire to ask.
– What about the booklet which was to be prepared?
– Many booklets have been prepared and circulated.
– I have asked the question of the commission but it has not been able to answer it.
– That provides an almost complete alibi for me. Problems of this sort can be much more adequately replied to if the questions be placed on the notice-paper or addressed in the form of a letter to either myself or Mr. Brigden.
– During the debate on the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill the Treasurer intimated to the House that it was his intention to have printed a special volume of Hansard containing the whole of the debates on the bill. I ask him whether he has proceeded with that proposal, and if so, when honorable members may expect to have the volume.
Ma-. CASEY.- With great respect, I did not give such an undertaking; I was asked if I would do so and I said that the matter would be considered. The expense of issuing such a volume made the Government decide not to proceed with it, in view of the fact that the ordinary volumes of Hansard containing the whole of the debates are available to honorable members. The Government also thought it better and more effective to publish hand-books, descriptive of the national insurance scheme in the simplest terms, because, after all, it was thought that people might be able to get more concrete information in that way than by reading the long and discursive debates that took place in this Parliament.
– With reference to the statement by the Treasurer that regulations will not be prepared until about the end of October, I ask him now for au assurance that before the close of the sittings at the end of this year the regulations that up to that time have been prepared will be placed before the House for discussion?
– There will be no delay in bringing the regulations .before the House.
– I ask the Treasurer whether he, like other honorable members resident in Victoria, has received large budgets of correspondence protesting against the act and threatening him with summary political execution if he fails to exert his best endeavours to have it repealed?
– I am unable to reply with truth in the affirmative.
– Is the Treasurer prepared to give an assurance to this House that no appointments of persons outside of the Civil Service to positions under the Commonwealth Health and Pensions Insurance Act have been made up to date?
– Will the Treasurer state in precise terms what is the position in regard to appointments from outside the Public Service? What are the qualifications required and what is the precise method adopted?
– I thought, apparently mistakenly, that I had made the position clear in regard to such appointments. Appointments of persons outside of the Civil Service are not made by the Public Service Board unless the board is able conscientiously to certify that no person within the Service is qualified to do the job required.
– -With regard to the statement of the Treasurer that it is not now intended to carry out the promise of the Government to prepare and issue a special volume of Hansard containing the debates in this Parliament on the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill, I ask him whether the reason for deciding against publication in that form was the stifling of the debate by-
– Order !
– The stifling of the debate resulting in-
– Order ! The honorable member, after having been called to order, is repeating what he has already said; he is distinctly out of order.
– Or is it because, as the result of the methods adopted, the Opposition had the last say?
– The question is not in order. The honorable member will resume his seat.
– Is it the intention of the Government to make a contribution to approved societies of 5s. per annum for the purpose of enabling them to make an agreement with medical officers to cover children and wives of married contributors under the national 0 insurance scheme?
– The Government’s intentions in that connexion will be made known when the amending bill is brought before this chamber.
– Will the Treasurer state definitely and in precise terms what methods will be adopted in appointing persons from outside the Public Service to the staff of the commission? Will there be a test as to efficiency to carry out the work required or will the appointments be in the gift of the commission itself?
– I regret that I have nothing more to add to what I have already said in regard to this matter.
– If it can be proved that workers, not necessarily engaged in the Government service, are able to receive under existing Commonwealth legislation benefits equal to those they would receive under the national insurance scheme, will such workers be exempt from contributing to the national scheme?
– No ; that would bo in conflict with the act.
– In view of the statement which appeared in the press some time ago to the effect that approximately 30 persons would he employed in each State on national insurance work and a subsequent statement to the effect that the total number of the staff would be increased to 500, and a later statement, made about a month ago, that 700 appointments would he made throughout the Commonwealth, I ask the Treasurer how many appointments he really expects to be made before the end of the next financial year? Will he also tell me at what rate he expects the appointments to increase thereafter?
– -I have not the least idea.
– I ask honorable members to put any further questions on the subject of national insurance on - the notice-paper. The asking of such questions without notice cannot continue.
– Can the Prime Minister state what stage has been reached in the negotiations regarding the Pacific shipping service? Does the right honorable gentleman expect that the present proposal will be proceeded with?
– The proposal for the construction of two new liners for the trade between Vancouver and Sydney has been deferred for the present. Sir Edward Beatty, chairman of Canadian Pacific Steamships Limited, in a joint statement with Lord Craigmyle on the 24th July last, stated -
Plana and specifications for the two new liners were submitted to selected ship-builders who were asked to make quotations for the construction of the vessels. Unfortunately however, shipbuilding prices reached an uneconomical peak and the company decided that construction at present was impracticable. The postponement is regretted, but the company expects a resumption of the discussions.
The Minister for Commerce and the other members of the Cabinet, who recently accompanied him abroad, were in touch with the position in London, and certain aspects of the matter were discussed by Sir Earle Page when he was passing through New Zealand on his return to Australia.
– When AirMarshal Sir Edward Ellington recently made a report to the Government regarding the Royal Australian Air Force, did he also carry out an investigation in relation to the Civil Aviation Department?
– The report which has been furnished contains direct references to certain activities associated with the Civil Aviation Department.
– What is the reason for the payment to the InspectorGeneral of the Australian Military Forces, Lieutenant-General Squires, of a salary which is considerably more than that paid to the Chief of the General Staff of the Australian Military Forces, Major-General Lavarack?
– The salaries of officers of the Defence Force are governed by their rank, and that of the InspectorGeneral was fixed in accordance with British Army rates by agreement between the Governments of the Commonwealth and the United Kingdom.
– It is reported that the train service to Canberra, which has been the subject of much criticism - most recently by a prominent overseas artist - has been the subject of negotiations with the New South Wales Railways authorities. Can the Minister for the Interior say what action has been taken by the Railways Commissioner of that State to bring the Canberra train service into line with the existing services between other capital cities of Australia ?
– The subject raised by the honorable member is primarily under the control of the Government of New South Wales and the Railways Commissioners of that State. I understand that this issue was raised while I was in North Australia recently. I shall ascertain what developments have taken place, and acquaint the honorable member with the result.
– Can the Minister representing the Postmaster-General say whether it is correct, as reported in the press, that when the Postmaster-General’s Department inquires into complaints of overcharging for telephone services, it is the practice for an officer to listen to confidential conversations and to record portions of them ? If that be so, will the Minister take immediate steps to terminate the practice?
– I shall submit the honorable member’s question to the PostmasterGeneral.
– In view of the bitter experience of the coal-miners in 1929 as a result of the non-observance of a. federal award by the coal proprietors-
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).Order! The honorable member is not in order in making a statement.
– If you listen to me, you will see that I am in order.
– The honorable member will resume his seat.
– In view of the fact that in the past the coal-owhers have refused to observe a federal award, and that the government of the day took no action against them, what guarantee-
– Order ! The honorable member must ask a direct question, and not make either statements or imputations.
– What guarantee will the Prime Minister give to the coalminers that the findings, if any, of the compulsory conference that has been called by Judge Beeby, will be observed by the coal-owners, and what action will the Government take to enforce any such decisions ?
– If one wanted to enter into a discussion of the subject raised by the honorable member, I think that there would be an obvious retort, but I do not propose to do that. This matter is now before the Arbitration Court and at this stage I do not propose to express any views in regard to it. . It will be for the court to decide.
– Can the Minister for Commerce say whether any progress was made during the recess with regard to Australia’s trade with New Zealand ? Certain arrangements were forecast in the press; it would be of interest to know the actual position.
– On my way back to Australia I took the opportunity to discuss this subject with the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Mr. Savage, and the Minister ofFinance, Mr. Nash. Several matters which have been the subject of some conflict between the two dominions are now under consideration.
– Are you aware, Mr. Speaker, that radio station 2CA, Canberra, has announced that it will broadcast a commentary on Parliament from the floor of the House? If so, can you say whether permission for the broadcast has been given? If not, will you take steps to prevent the public from being misled by such statements?
– No permission to broadcast the proceedings in this chamber has been given, nor will a broadcast take place without my permission. I am afraid, however, that I have no power to prevent a broadcasting station or a newspaper from misinforming the public.
– In view of the diverse statements that have been published regarding the possibility of a trade agreement between the United States of America and Australia, will the Prime Minister authorize the publication of a statement setting out the actual position?
– Statements have already been made on the subject, but if there is any further information which can be made available to the public it will be published.
Debate resumed from the 21st September (vide page 30) on motion , by Mr. Casey -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Yesterday I suggested a course of procedure on this bill which at least had the merit of dividing the laborious work associated with the proceedings in this chamber somewhat more equitably between you, Mr. Speaker, and the Chairman of Committees; but the Treasurer preferred to adhere to the procedure now being followed.
I do not propose to delay unduly the passage of this bill. The circumstances which mark the meeting of the Parliament are such that provision has been made for this financial year only until the 30th September. This makes it imperative that His Majesty shall have voted to him a further sum of money to carry on the services of the Commonwealth until such time as the consideration of the Budget and Estimates for the current year can be completed. But I desire to exercise the right which Parlia menthas long had to refuse Supply until certain matters of moment have been satisfactorily dealtwith by the Government.
I regret that the Prime Minister (Ma-. Lyons) is not present in the chamber, for I wish to refer to the fact that during the last few months I have discussed with him the grave developments which have taken place in the coal-mining industry of Australia, and have urged upon him that steps should be taken by the Commonwealth Government to try to avert the economic loss which the stoppage in this industry must cause. The Prime Minister, in June last, said that he would consider the matter. Knowing that time was on the wing, I telephoned to him from Perth some time in July, but failed to get any further assurance. When the matter reached the stage of action I again asked the right honorable gentleman to exercise the power of his high office in a conciliatory way to bring the parties together so that at least an attempt could be made to reason the matter out. His reply was that if it was an interstate dispute it was a matter for the Commonwealth Arbitration Court; if it was a State dispute, it was a matter for the State tribunals. In effect, he said that, as Prime Minister, he felt that, regardless of the character of the dispute, the matter was not one for action on his part. Most certainly the right honorable gentleman did not do anything to avert the trouble. But aside from the niceties of the law, the economic consequences of the coal situation must be obvious. The Commonwealth Government must be aware of the important incidence of such a dispute upon its own budgetary position and also that of New South Wales. It must also realize that the dispute must seriously affect business, trade, commerce, and industry generally, in a crucial way. I cannot understand why, in a time of great national peril, this important industry should have been allowed to drift as it has without the Commonwealth Government, having regard to its great responsibilities, initiating some action to ensure continuity of operations. Having regard to the major importance of coal in the economic structure of the Commonwealth, and to its vital relation to the safety and development of the country, the Government cannot dispose of its responsibility with the generalization that it is a matter for either Commonwealth or State tribunals. The Government’s preparations for defence, which it has asked this Parliament to regard as urgent, necessitates the cooperation of every industry and every business activity, and there should be a realization on the part of the Prime Minister that if steps are not taken to cause operations in the coalmining industry to be resumed on a basis of justice, defence preparations must inevitably be prejudiced, and other industries must undergo serious regression. A stoppage must inevitably cause serious results, even though these may not be immediately apparent.
I contrast the replies of the present, Prime Minister to the requests that I have made to him in this connexion with those given by the Leader of the last Labour government to requests made to him in this Parliament by former leaders of the parties which now support the Government. On the 21st November, 1929, speaking from the place in this House where I now stand, the present Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia (Sir John Latham), who was then leader of His Majesty’s Opposition, said -
The mines have not been re-opened and it must bc conceded now that the Commonwealth Government cannot re-open .them unless it can successfully use its power of persuasion upon the parties concerned.
He went on to say -
That is exactly what the previous Government endeavoured to do.
Later he observed -
Another conference is to be held on Saturday and I sincerely wish it well. It is the only step which the Commonwealth Government can take to settle this trouble.
– Was there a dispute at that time?
– There was.
– I venture to challenge the honorable gentleman’s statement. The High Court said that there was no dispute.
– I cannot compete with the Attorney-General in legal controversy and would not be so presumptuous as to attempt to do so, but I remind him that the advisers of the Government of that time were so conscious, or so convinced, that an award had been broken, or that the law was being violated, that proceedings had been instituted against one coal-owner under the Commonwealth Arbitration Act. I admit that these proceedings by the Crown were not proceeded with, but this was not because the Crown was dissatisfied with the grounds on which the proceedings were initiated ; it was because it was felt by the then Prime Minister that conciliation, rather than penalization, would earlier terminate the dispute. That, at any rate, was the defence that was advanced in the House for the withdrawal of the prosecution. It is significant to note that the then Leader of the Opposition asked the following question in the House on the 22nd November, 1929 :-
It has been announced in the press that the Federated Engine Drivers Association does not propose to send representatives to the conference on coal-mining matters, that is to be held a.t Canberra to-morrow. Will the Prime Minister use all his influence to induce that association to be represented at the conference 7
So far from being opposed to a conciliation conference in order that the matter might be reasoned out, as the present Government seems to be, the then leader of the parties now supporting this Government was most eager to encourage a conference. The Prime Minister of the day was, in fact, urged to take some special trouble to induce an unwilling organization to attend the conference and participate in its deliberations. Sir Earle Page, who was then a member of the Opposition, said -
The main business of this Parliament is to end the dispute at the earliest possible moment.
He went on to say -
The honorable gentlemen who now occupy the ministerial bench arc, for the time being, the leaders of the Australian people, and, if they will take strong action to bring about a rational settlement of the coal-mining dispute, they will have the support of every member of the Country party.
The Attorney-General now says that there was no legal dispute and that therefore the only action that could be taken was to convene a conference. My point is that conferences were held, and that the then Prime Minister did his very utmost to conciliate the parties. Although the eon- ferences failed, we at least had an exemplification of the fact that the Government of the day was conscious of th~e widespread economic effect that a stoppage in the coal-mining industry would have, and felt that it was obliged to do its utmost to bring the parties together in an endeavour to settle the dispute. This Government has not done that. As a matter of actual fact, it has refused from the very beginning, and long before the strike actually occurred, to interest itself in the matter, or to conciliate the parties, or to bring them together in any way.
I say to the country that the problems of the coal industry are much wider than can be bridged by any mere arrangement entered into between the employers, as such, and the unions, as such. No award, either Commonwealth or State, in relation to the payment of wages, can deal with the matter in a sufficiently comprehensive way so as to ensure a settlement of all the problems associated with this industry. I regret that this matter has reached the stage that it has. The only difference between the Prime Minister and myself is that whereas, so far back as last June, months before the dispute reached the stage of stoppage, I at least endeavoured to invoke conciliation in order that the development might be arrested, the Prime Minister did nothing. He is now faced with the consequences of his inaction. The state of affairs which we have confronting us is due to the fact that the men felt that their grievances are so deep-seated and comprehensive as to involve action by the governments of the States and of the Commonwealth as well as action by the employers. If it is desirable for this Government to call conferences to determine how the wheat industry shall be stabilized, and conferences of apple and pear-growers to decide how the problems of their industry shall be dealt with, it seems to me that it would have been an advantageous rather than a disadvantageous step, if, as a preliminary to the making of awards and the formulation, of legislation in respect of the coal-mining industry, the Prime Minister had called a conference of both sides, as requested by me last June.
This morning the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), asked a question in which he directed attention to the appointment as InspectorGeneral of the Military Forces of Lieutenant-General Squires. I understand that Lieutenant-General Squires has been appointed at a salary of £3,647 a year and that the next highest-paid military officer is the Chief of the General Staff, Major-General Lavarack, an Australian, who receives. £1,395, plus an allowance of £600 a year. The British officer brought here by the Government to fill the position of Inspector-General, therefore, receives actually £1,652 a year more than is paid to the Australian officer. I say to the Government that the salary paid to this British Inspector-General of the Australian Forces, namely, £3,647 per annum, appears to me to be excessive in view of the fact that, because of the expanding costs of defence, the Government has heavily to increase taxes in order to carry on the business of Australia. There ought to be some relativity in this matter ; I cannot regard the defence of Australia as calling for the salary of one of the officers engaged in the defence of Australia to be on a scale far above that- paid to the Secretary of the Treasury or to the Secretary of the Department of the Interior, or even to the Prime Minister himself. It appears to me that not only do we look upon defence as an imperative duty cast upon us to be spread by general sacrifice over the whole community, but also as a career in which very large salaries are to be gained. We have to look upon it not only as a thing that we must do, however regrettable it may be, but also as a profession which is to be highly remunerative to those who succeed in it. I can understand that, but I refuse to believe that a British InspectorGeneral should be paid very much more than an Australian officer. It appears to me to be a little ridiculous that this high salary of £3,647 a year should be paid to the imported Inspector-General. I acknowledge that this man may be in the forefront of his profession; I accept that he may be able to do for us that which we are unable to do for ourselves. In principle, expenditure on defence is a form of insurance; it is costly, but it is a payment that we make because of circumstances which we regret, and because of passions and disquietude in the world at large. We know all that, but we also know that every penny that we expend on defence is a penny that we cannot expend on education or on the development of civic life and the improvement of social services. We know that it is a regrettable curtailment of social and economic progress, that results from the world having not yet evolved an order of common sense and decent international relationships. It, therefore, appears to me a little incongruous that this salary should be paid. The Chief of the Naval Board receives a salary of £2,500 a year, plus £500 a year for house allowance. He, too, gets £3,000 a year. Rear-Admiral distance, who is in charge of the seagoing forces, and is also an Englishman, receives £1,725 a year. Way may happen at some time to Australia, and it is the fear of war that obliges us to increase so substantially our defence expenditure last year, this year and next year - but this expenditure becomes greater than it otherwise would be because of the extravagant salaries which are being paid to the tall poppies of the air, army and navy. I have no doubt at all that the salaries paid to the gentlemen whom I have specified indicate a general inflation of salaries throughout the services. It is reported that the Government proposes to bring another gentleman to Australia as Air Marshal. That position is not occupied at the moment, but Air Vice-Marshal Williams, an Australian, receives £1.750, and an allowance of £250 a year. Bearing in mind the payments to other imported officers, I venture to say that the English Air Marshal will also receive £3,000 a year. These items I have mentioned indicate all round extravagance. I fear that a great deal of the defence burden, which the nation will have to carry for years to come, is expenditure for which we shall not get full value. I am greatly disquieted by the expenditure of the Minister for Defence for- the purchase of aircraft for the Air Force. The report of Air Marshal Sir Edward Ellington cannot be accepted as other than at least a severe questioning of the efficiency of the aircraft which the Royal Australian Air Force now has at its disposal.
– A vote of noconfidence in the Minister for Defence.
– I am not making any accusations. I let the report speak for itself. It should penetrate at least our common sense that that is what it means. The report carries, as it. were, screamingly across every page, “ I mean much more than I say”, and for that reason, I believe that we need to have some better evidence than the department has so far given to us that this colossal burden which defence imposes upon us is not greater than it should be, because of unduly high salaries reflecting throughout a wasteful expenditure which is not giving efficiency in respect, of materials and equipment.
– Can the honorable gentleman specify the wasteful expenditure?
– I refer the honorable gentleman to much that is contained in Sir Edward Ellington’s report. I shall not particularize at this stage. I said at the outset that I did not propose to do other than indicate certain points which could be referred to in the budget debate, during which I understand the Minister for Defence will make a full statement on defence. I have dealt with a few points as they appear, so that in the meantime the Minister may equip himself more thoroughly to deal with the matter.
The ministerial delegation which has just returned from abroad cost about £17.000. I know that all delegations abroad are costly, but I sincerely hope that when the report of this delegation is before us we shall at least have indications that excellent results have accrued to Australia. I have no doubt that the Deputy Prime Minister (Sir Earle Page) will be able to show that Australia has gained millions of pounds as the result of the mission. He did so on a former occasion, but I think it was an over-statement. I sincerely hope that he will avoid an over-statement in regard to the benefits that Australia has had from the latest mission, and will give us a frank and balanced account. Judging by his speeches since his return, the money may have been well expended, because it has resulted in bringing to the right honorable gentleman the importance of establishing Australian secondary industries. That appears to me to be a result which is worth something, but I am not quite sure that the right honorable gentleman’s education is not too costly.
One other thing which the right honorable gentleman discovered while he was away was that Australia needed a population of 30,000,000 to be safe, and that there was no possibility of getting this population unless he arranged for European migration to be resumed. He paid a visit to Denmark. Since then I understand that the Danish trades unions have been in communication with the Australian trades unions asking if the very rosy pictures painted by the Deputy Prime Minister of what would happen to the Danes should they migrate to Australia, were justified. The declaration that we are to embark once again on extensive propaganda to induce Europeans to settle in Australia, brings me to the reflection that the Government needs to look at this matter more from the viewpoint of the future of Australia as an English-speaking community, and as an outpost of the British race, than merely from the narrow economic viewpoint. 1 look back over the history of Australia and express a great deal of satisfaction with the types of migrants that have come here from all parts of Europe. I have nothing te say against those of any race; some of them have become splendid Australians.
The position in Europe to-day is such that we must act cautiously lest, by our policy of migration, we convert this country into a second disunited Europe. During the last few years there has been a disposition on the part of migrants from certain European countries to settle in colonies in Australia. That, I venture to say, is not the type of migrant that we welcome. On the contrary, it will occasion for us future political problems which the Commonwealth Government will find awkward, if not worse. I am not able to say to the Minister for Commerce that I regard his activities in respect of the migration of people from Europe to Australia as anything other than probably a sidewind to distract attention from the other phases of his mission. I sincerely hope that we shall not be unduly bothered with any plan in connexion with the resumption of migration. 1 believe that there is in Australia a problem which, if tackled by the Commonwealth and State Governments in the right spirit, would so improve our living conditions as to induce a flow to Australia of the right type of individuals - family units rather than masses of people - whom we could welcome as future citizens of this country. The massing of great numbers of people overseas and introducing them to Australia willy-nilly appears to me to be bad in itself, and the wrong way to approach this problem. If, as I have suggested, we improved the conditions of our people so that everybody would have a reasonable chance of earning a decent livelihood, that fact in itself would constitute the greatest magnet to attract the right type of migrant to Australia.
I should .like the Treasurer to tell me why the National Insurance Commission decided to spend £90,000, apart altogether from the 5s. a member to be paid to approved societies, for administration. The latter payment seems to me to be a proper provision, but the initial contribution of ls. a member, aggregating £90,000, has, I understand, been used by many approved societies to reimburse canvassers who have gone into workshops, factories, and other employing establishments to induce employees to join a particular approved society on the promise, implied or otherwise, that they will get certain advantages. These people are simply commission agents. Their mission is to get the greatest number of persons to join the particular approved society in whose interests they are working, not because it is the best society and not because they are giving effect to the wish of the Government, or the Insurance Commission ; but simply because they are receiving a fee of ls. for every signature which they get. This I regard as a great waste of Commonwealth money and is an injustice to the whole of the national insurance legislation.
– The approved societies a re being subsidized from other sources as well.
– That only adds to the evil of which* I complain. It was never contemplated that these friendly societies or trade unions should engage in a Avar with one another in order to increase their membership. I am staggered at the great number of approved societies which have been authorized by the commission. It would he better to have larger and few organizations, in the early stages of administration of the scheme at all events. The Treasurer himself must know that Sir Walter Kinnear made it clear that in Great Britain the number of approved societies has been steadily reduced by amalgamations and mergers, or because some of them were incapable of carrying on effectively. If we start the Commonwealth national insurance scheme with too many approved societies I am afraid that there will be confusion and possibly inefficient administration, in many of the smaller bodies. It would have been far better to restrict the approved societies to trade unions and friendly societies. This would have greatly simplified the administration and minimized the risk of confusion amongst the workers as to whether they should join this or that particular society.
– The principle of minimum membership governs the number of approved societies.
– I know; I think, however, that arrangements could have been made to limit the number, as has been done in other countries.
– We could only do that by fixing the minimum membership at, say, 5,000 or 10,000.
– It is not obligatory on the commission to approve the registration of every society that purports to have, or believes it will have, 2,000 members.
– The approval given is only provisional at present.
– I know it is; but provisional registration of these approved societies is responsible for the competition amongst them for additional members. I think I should say to the friendly societies, having regard to the stand which we took to free them from the threatened competition of insurance companies, as approved societies, that I am shocked at the way in which they have made war upon one another in order to increase their membership and so strengthen their position under the scheme. I tell them that they have no business to waste public money by paying canvassers in order to add to their members. They are deserving of a strong rebuke by this Parliament. Their advertising and other propaganda appears to me to be entirely unwarranted. I say also to the trade unions that in any scheme of compulsory enrolment in approved societies no fee should be charged either to establish the initial organization or to increase membership. I agree that certain equipment will be required to get the scheme going, and I believe that some advance would have been necessary, but I think the commission should have said to these societies - “ We shall give you so much in advance but you must present documents to show that you have expended the money in accordance with the provisions of the act”. This might have complicated somewhat the accountancy work in the Treasury, but we would not have had to spend £90,000. I presume the money will not come out of the funds of the Insurance Commission.
– Then that expenditure must lessen the ultimate benefits under the scheme, and it really represents an increase of the cost of administration, which I fear is going to be very high.
– It is a non-recurring expenditure.
– The payment of1s. a member to canvassers may be nonrecurring, but the subsidy of 5s. a head to approved societies is a recurring expenditure. It therefore appears that in the first year of administration the Commonwealth will spend the best part of £500,000, which will be reduced to £400,000 in succeeding years. . I do not feel disposed to say any more about this subject at this moment, as I recognize that the bill must be passed without undue delay.
– I do not propose to traverse all of the ground covered by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), but I shall deal briefly with his remarks in connexion with the unfortunate strike of the coal miners. I am surprised at some of the things which he said. I was not in the chamber when the honorable gentleman commenced his speech, but I understand that he said that I had expressed the view that I was not concerned about this unfortunate dispute.
– The right honorable gentleman has done nothing about it.
– ‘He has provoked the men.
– The honorable member knows that what he has said is not correct. I am concerned about every industrial trouble in Australia. My history shows that I have always been concerned about the working conditions of the Australian people, and I think I can say, without boasting, that during the last few weeks I have given proof of my sincerity in this matter. I am sorry that anything has been said that would indicate that any member of this House desired to make the present ‘ trouble in the coal-mining industry a party issue. The Government has been very much concerned about this trouble, as well as about the recent strike of engineers at the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation’s factory, Melbourne. Its desire always has been to end these troubles as quickly as possible and to get the men back into employment. It appreciates to the full the injury ‘that is done to those who strike; to those who are dependent on them; and to those who are indirectly affected by every industrial dispute. The one guiding principle which I have always kept in mind in connexion with industrial disturbances is that difficulties must be dealt with by the properly appointed tribunals - by a State authority if the dispute is confined to that State, and by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court if the dispute extends beyond one State. It is of no use to try to place the blame for the non-settlement of a dispute on one or the other side of this chamber. Employees who strike, or employers who lock out employees must take the responsibility. If there is a tribunal properly constituted to deal with any industrial disputes, that is the body which should deal with them. As an indication of the principle which guides me in these matters, I point out that when the trouble occurred in the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation’s factory recently, I did all that I could to bring the parties back into the courts so that the grievances might be considered by a judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. That is the principle which this Government, and I as its leader, approve. It will be remembered that in 1929, the people of this country registered a definite opinion in regard to these matters. I would also point out that at that time, honorable members opposite fought with me to uphold the people’s decision that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court should be the sole authority to deal with interstate industrial disputes. My attitude is the same to-day. We were successful in our efforts to get the men engaged in the dispute at the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation’s factory back to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and I express my appreciation of tho assistance which the Government received from honorable members opposite, including the Leader of the Opposition, and particularly the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), and the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy), who interviewed me in Melbourne when I arrived from Brisbane and directed my attention to the urgent need for action to end that dispute. Following that interview, I did what I could, backed-up by honorable members on this side as well as honorable gentlemen in Opposition, to get that dispute before the proper tribunal. I am glad to say that the men are again in employment, and I am perfectly sure that the outcome of the hearings will be satisfactory to all concerned, and particularly to the community. The principle which guided me on that occasion is the principle for which I stand today in connexion with the dispute in the coal industry. When the Leader of the Opposition introduced to me representatives from the coal-fields, I made it clear, as the honorable gentleman will remember, that if the trouble was a State dispute, then the proper State authority should deal with it. I said in so many words “Before this trouble occurred, you were working under an award of the_ Industrial Commission - that award still has several months to run. The chairman of that tribunal (Mr. Justice Cantor) later declared that there had been a breach of the award. Let the miners put up their case and the employers put up theirs. We must be guided by Mr. Justice Cantor’s statement and accept his decision.” It has been suggested that appeals were made to me to intervene at an earlier stage. But its it was still a State dispute, it would have been an impertinence on the part of the Commonwealth Government to interfere in the matter. I made it clear to the deputation that if it became an interstate dispute, as apparently it would, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court would be the body to deal with it. It has now become an interstate dispute, and the Commonwealth Arbitration Court is dealing with it. I hope that it will be settled satisfactorily. I take the view that once we depart from the principle of arbitration by properly constituted tribunals, we shall be .building up a great deal of trouble not only for the. community generally, but particularly for the workers who are most concerned. If, as has been urged on each of those occasions, we stepped aside from the appropriate tribunal - in one case the State, and in the other instance the Commonwealth tribunal - and call the parties together, I, as was suggested, acting as chairman of such a conference, we should be departing from the principles which have guided us up to the present time. Such a procedure would be an invitation to those engaged in other industries to follow that example. If such a precedent were established, the Prime Minister of the day would -become chairman of such tribunals from time to time, and the bodies, Commonwealth or State, already appointed to deal with industrial disputes, would not be called upon to act.
– The present Minister for External Affairs, when Prime Minister, did appoint two tribunals, notwithstanding the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
– If properly constituted tribunals had been in existence to deal with the wheat industry and the apple a ad pear industry, it would not be necessary to set up special tribunals for those purposes. There is an appropriate tribunal to deal with every State and interstate industrial dispute, and, therefore, the setting up of another body would not be justified.
I made an appeal publicly to the men who intended to strike, and advised them not to take such a course. I could do no more than that at the time. I have done everything I could to have the dispute dealt with by the right tribunal. I asked the union representatives if they could state a sound reason why a special tribunal should be appointed to. deal with the dispute in the coal-mining industry, when the Commonwealth Arbitration Court was there for the purpose, but no argument justifying such an action could be advanced. It was said that in Broken Hill the miners had a minimum wage, but that in the coal-mining industry there was no such provision. In reply, I asked : “Did the miners at Broken Hill get that minimum wage from a special tribunal, or from a properly constituted general tribunal?”
– They got it as the outcome of a protracted industrial struggle with the employers.
– -What I am pointing out is that there was no special tribunal; the minimum wage was obtained from the ordinary tribunals. I say without hesitation that the coal-miners have an opportunity to have their case heard by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. I would condemn their action if they did not go there, and I would also condemn the action of the employers if they did not avail themselves of the court. I can only express the hope that a satisfactory settlement will be . reached, and that it will be obtained as the result of reference to the court, where the representatives of both sides will have an opportunity to present their cases.
.- I have listened attentively to the remarks of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons). The right honor able gentleman professes to be concerned regarding the settlement of . all industrial disputes in Australia, but his actions have not shown him to be so anxious regarding the dispute in the coalmining industry as his speeches would suggest. When representations have been made to him, he has displayed a desire to avoid consideration of the dispute .by the special tribunal constituted under the Industrial Peace Act 1920, which makes special provision for the coal-mining industry, and its peculiar needs. Why the right honorable gentleman has refused to summon a conference under that act I do not know. His only excuse, according to replies sent to me, is that he desires to bring arbitration in Australia under one authority, and to scrap those tribunals that were brought into being for particular industries. Everybody knows that the coal-mining industry has more peculiarities than any other industry in Australia. Recognizing this fact, the Parliament, in 1920, passed a special act providing for the appointment of not only the coal tribunal, but also many local tribunals, for the hearing of threatened disputes. It will be noted that, under section 4 of the act, “Industrial dispute “ means an industrial dispute extending beyond the limits of any one State, and includes -
The section further states - “ Industrial matters “ includes all matters relating to work, pay, wages, reward, hours, privileges, rights, or duties of employers or employees.
Under Part IV. of the act, provision is made for the setting up of special tribunals, and section 13 states -
The Governor-General may appoint a special tribunal or tribunals for the prevention of or settlement of any industrial dispute or disputes.
Subsequent sections indicate the nature of these tribunals. There is to be an equal number of representatives of employers and employees respectively, and t hey are to appoint a chairman by agreement between themselves.
The Prime Minister has never invoked this law for the settlement of the dispute, although it was threatened as far back as June last. I brought the matter directly under his notice in this House by asking questions regarding it. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) had interviewed the Prime Minister and informed him of the threatened dispute, so the right honorable gentleman had ample time to invoke the law specifically enacted to deal with disputes in the coal-mining industry. The act provides that, when a special tribunal is constituted, it shall remain in existence during the pleasure of the Governor-General, and the tribunal appointed in connexion with the coal-mining industry is practi cally intact to-day, with the exception of the chairman and the late Mr. Daniel Rees, M.L.C., who was formerly President of the Miners’ Federation. This tribunal could have been summoned to deal with the present dispute, and I want to know why it was not. Nobody can answer this question except the Prime Minister, who, in a telegram to me, when I had made representations to him at the request of the miners, stated that no good purpose would be served by calling the tribunal together, as the Commonwealth Arbitration Court was the tribunal to which the dispute should be referred.
The miners have strong objection to going to the Arbitration Court. They have no faith in any arbitration, particularly owing to the experience they had -in 1929-30, to which the Leader of the Opposition has referred. I was in the Parliament at that time, and I continually exhorted the government of the day to take action. Finally it was decided to do so, and, as indicated by the Leader of the Opposition, the action against the late Mr. John Brown was withdrawn because it was considered better to endeavour to bring about a settlement of the dispute by conciliation rather than by a prosecution further antagonize the parties. So the Government withdrew the proposed prosecution. Suffice it to say that no settlement was arrived at. The men were actually starved into submission after thirteen months’ fighting for the observance of an award of the Coal Tribunal. This award was ignored by the mine-owners, and the miners were compelled, after that long period of misery and starvation, to submit to the wage reduction of 12½ per cent. Owing to that experience the miners have lost faith in arbitration of any description.
They have been summoned to a compulsory conference in Melbourne today in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and they will appear before a judge who knows nothing about coal-mining. We can appreciate the position of these men when they are compelled to go before somebody who does not know a coal mine from a flour mill, who has never been down a mine, and who has had no experience whatever of the operation of the act of 1920 to which I have referred, which was passed for the specific purpose of dealing with disputes in the coal-mining and other industries. The Coal Tribunal was constituted of men who had had a life-long experience of, or associationwith, the coal-mining industry. The late Mr. Charles Bubble, who was the chairman, was not a coal-miner, but he had been associated with the Newcastle district from boyhood, and he had a complete knowledge of the industry. Why take the dispute to Melbourne to be heard before a judge of the Arbitration Court who would not know coal from bitumen?
I say definitely that the miners have had a raw deal at the hands of this Government. A deputation visited Canberra in June last, and it included the general president and the vice-president of the Miners Federation, the latter being president of the Northern District of the Miners Federation. These representatives sat in the parliamentary gallery and heard questions asked by me regarding the industry, yet the Prime Minister had the audacity to say, according to press reports, that he had never been approached in regard to this dispute. When he was pinned down upon the matter, he said that he had never been approached by the leaders of the Miners Federation. Whilst I am not a leader of that body, I claim that my advent to this Parliament is due entirely to my activities as a member of the federation, in whose affairs I have taken a prominent part for many years.
Sitting suspended from 12. 45 to 2.15 p.m. [Quorum formed.]
– Yesterday afternoon, in reply to a question, the Prime Minister repeated a statement which he had made previously. He said that he had never been approached by responsible officers of the Miners Federation to call together the parties in the coal dispute. I, as a member of the Miners Federation, had been requested by that body to seek federal intervention in the dispute, and I did so. Nevertheless, the Prime Minister refused to call the parties together, notwithstanding the existence on the statute-book of legislation designed specifically to deal with disputes in the coal industry. This morning the right honorable gentleman said that the miners had broken an agreement into which they had entered, and which had three or four months to run. The miners deny that the agreement was for any specified term. Moreover, they claim that as the award of Judge Cantor covered only one State, whereas the organization to which the miners belong extends throughout the Commonwealth, federal intervention is justified. I do not admit that the agreement was broken - in this connexion I prefer to believe what the miners’ representatives say - but even if the agreement were for a specified term, I repeat that the tribunal had only State jurisdiction and not jurisdiction throughout the Commonwealth. With the exception of Western Australia, every State is involved to some extent in the present dispute. The miners at Collie, Western Australia, who are represented in this House by the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), are not directly ‘affected because since the termination of the last war they have not been subject to many of the conditions which form the basis of the grievance of miners elsewhere in Australia. For instance, they already have a working day of seven hours. The increasing use of oil for power has had a serious effect on the coal-mining industry, but the chief cause of trouble is the long working day in the mines. This subject has been discussed at international conferences, with the result that a working day of seven and a half hours has been recommended. It will be seen, therefore, that the coal-miners at Collie are in an entirely different position from those elsewhere in Australia. Moreover, the miners at Collie receive more for each ton of coal that they win, notwithstanding that the quality of the coal obtained there is far below that of the New South Wales mines. The honorable member for Forrest knows that that is so. As a miner who for five years worked in the Collie district, I know something of this subject. Again, the speeding up of production has led to a neglect of safety precautions, and naturally the men are greatly concerned. The greater number of fatalities which have occurred during the last five or six years in the coal-mining districts of New South Wales is due mainly to the reduction of the number of safety men. Fewer men are now employed in erecting timber to support the’ roof in dangerous places. At one time it was thought that coal dust did not affect the lungs of miners to the extent £hat men working in metalliferous mines were affected by stone dust, but due to the fact that stone dusting has been -adopted in the gaseous mines of northern New South Wales, stone dust is breathed into the lungs of men in the coal mines and consequently they, too, are suffering from the effects. The miners have asked for an inquiry into this aspect of their work. The cost to the Miners Federation of fighting compensation cases has increased by 100 per cent, during the last five years. Unhappily, fatal accidents have increased alarmingly. These facts should make honorable members realize that the miners are merely seeking justice, and the right to safeguard their lives. All honorable members will admit that they are engaged in a dangerous occupation. Explosions are always likely to happen in coal-mines, and Australia is no exception to the general rule. There have been occasions on which as many as 20 or 30, or even more, men have been blown to pieces because of an explosion of gas in a coal-mine. Instead of engaging in conversation, honorable members opposite should pay attention when an honorable member asks that something be done to protect the lives of men working in this essential industry. I commend to honorable members the study of a book entitled The Coal Struggle of the Mineworkers, which they m’ay obtain from the Parliamentary Library. It contains a report by the Chief Inspector of Mines in which the number of fatal accidents durin the years 1928-34 is given. A study of the f ollowing table will show that fatal accidents have increased enormously during recent years: -
It will be seen that the rate of fatal accidents per 1,000 of employees in 1934 is higher than for any other single year shown in the table. The awful conditions prevailing in the coal-mining industry and their effect on miners were set out in evidence submitted to Judge Winnecke by Mr. Idris Williams, President of the Wonthaggi Miners. He claimed that sickness in the coal-mining industry was much more acute than in other industries, .and pointed out that the balance-sheet of his own organization revealed that for the eight and- a half months from July, 1933, to March, 1934, payments from the union’s sick and benefit fund amounted to £1,311 6s. The quantity of coal produced at the Wonthaggi mine is small compared with the output of the mines in New So’uth Wales. One mine in which I worked paid from its sick fund over £1,000 during the twelve months ended last June. That is typical of the 65 mines in my electorate. During the debate on national health and insurance I gave some particulars of the scheme in operation among the miners in New South Wales. There again we have the proof positive of how the miners are suffering because of the methods that have been adopted to avoid explosions, namely coal dusting, dampness in the mines, rheumatism, nystagmus, and other occupational diseases. The miners ask for a reduction of the hours of labour and the adoption of adequate safety measures to ensure that these disabilities, which in the past have necessitated heavy contributions to the sick funds of their organizations, would not he permitted, to continue. The benefit schemes adopted by the miners in various parts of Australia have been of a purely voluntary nature, and were in operation for many years before the Commonwealth Government ever thought of bringing down a national insurance scheme. In the past these miners’ organizations have done splendid work in providing at least some compensation to miners stricken down with occupational diseases. The miners ask that the whole of their complaints be- examined and decided upon by a commission of inquiry capable of giving adequate consideration to the whole matter. I have mentioned what the president of the Victorion Miners Federation had to say in order to show that the complaints are not by any means confined to the New South Wales coalfields; they are made in all States. Anybody who has studied the Industrial peace Act knows that it provides for the settlement of industrial disputes of this sort, and that that act provides for the appointment of a properly constituted tribunal to deal with every phase of mining from the point of production to the ultimate disposal of the product.
When the Prime Minister absolutely refused my request by telegram that he should call a conference of the parties to the dispute under the provisions of the Industrial Peace Act, he did not act in the best interests of the community as a whole. On the contrary, I am greatly indebted to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), who has spoken to-day so strongly on behalf of the miners during his speech on the bill now before the House. The immediate settlement of this dispute becomes of paramount importance, because to-day the whole world is faced with a position of uncertainty and not one of us knows what to-morrow will bring. Evidence of the precarious position of international politics is afforded by the postponement of a very important debate on international ‘ relations in this House until after Mr. Chamberlain’s second interview with Herr Hitler, because of a. general unwillingness on the part of honorable members generally to increase the difficulties confronting the British Empire in its efforts to achieve a peaceful solution of those difficulties. We are all imbued with a common desire to stand behind Great Britain in its negotiations for world peace. Yet, at this very critical period we find, on the part of the Commonwealth Government, a complete neglect of its responsibilities in connexion with an industry which, in the event of hostilities, would he called upon to play an import- . ant part in the defence of the nation. What attempts are being made by the Government to bring about contentment and co-ordination amongst employers and employees in one of the most important industries from a defence viewpoint? What has the Prime Minister done to endeavour to overcome the difficulties confronting the coal industry, or to make this country safer from attack in the event of war? The right honorable gentleman has been completely, lacking in his duty to the country in this regard. During the Great War the importance of the coal industry was so apparent and the difficulties under which it laboured so obvious, that the then Government brought down a special measure to cover that industry in all its ramifications. If the Prime Minister had done his duty on this occasion, he would certainly have called the parties together under the provisions of that legislation. 1 have made suggestions time and time again that an opportunity is provided for the re-creation of a special tribunal under the provisions of the Industrial Peace Act. Such a course should now be adopted because, right throughout the years back to 1916, mining awards came under the provisions of that act immediately they were ratified. Under the chairmanship of Mr. Charles Hibble, the coal tribunal ratified agreements relating to the wages, selling price of coal, and the various ramifications of the coal industry. 1 admit that the provisions of the Industrial Peace Act were not carried out in their entirety in that local tribunals were not set up in various districts in all States. Queensland is, I believe, the only State that has created local tribunals. I was informed by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) that an item appearing in one of the earlier budgets under the heading “Industrial Peace Act” covered expenses entailed by the local tribunals in Queensland.
To show again the extent to which the coal-owners are neglecting safety in the mines and evading the provisions of the Coal Mines Regulation Act of New South Wales, the pamphlet from which I have quoted states that the shiftmen employed solely for the purpose of ensuring safety in the mines, have been instructed to engage in the production of coal. The result has been that owing to the absence of safety precautions, numerous explosions have taken place with consequent loss of life. The Prime Minister has informed us that there is to be a conference to-morrow, presided over by
Judge Beeby. With all respect to that gentleman, he is a sick man, mid, in my opinion, is too old to preside at such an important tribunal as that. Apart from that aspect, what does Judge Beeby know of coal-mining ? I am of opinion that he would not be able to distinguish between a piece of black smut and a piece of coal. Under the Industrial Peace Act it is necessary for both parties to a dispute to agree in regard to the selection of a chairman of the special tribunal appointed for the settlement of an industrial dispute, find an important conference, such as that to be held to-morrow, should be presided over by a chairman with some smattering of knowledge of the coal industry. Under the old arbitration system men who have had no actual experience of industry are appointed to important posts as judges of the Arbitration Court. 1 believe that if we are to have an efficient system of arbitration in this country we should endeavour to appoint to important posts on the Arbitration Court Bench, only those with a thorough knowledge of the various industries of Australia upon which they will be expected to arbitrate. Appointments to the Arbitration Court Bench should be beyond party political considerations. I do not think that a move suitable man could be selected to preside over this important meeting to be held to-morrow, than my predecessor in this House, the former honorable member for Hunter, Mr. M. Charlton, who has a lifetime knowledge of the industry and whose fairmindedness is admitted by all.’
To show the extent to which speedingup has been indulged in since 1929, I quote the following table which shows for the years 1929 to 1933 the total tonnage of coal produced, together with the wages bill: -
The wages include the value of explosives to employees. In 1932, explosives cost £93,752 and in 1933, £95,981. An addi- tional 750,000 tons of coal was mined in 1934, necessitating the use of an additional 194,908 lb. of explosives, which were estimated to cost an additional £14,000. These explosives were paid for by the miners out of the wages they received. This table shows clearly that while production has been increased, wages have been reduced. The disparity, in fact, is alarming. Figures which I have taken from the latest official YearBooh for New South Wales indicate that since 1930, when the lock-out in this industry concluded, the coal-miners have suffered heavily. The reduction of their wages in 1931, compared with 1930, was £509,001. The figures for the two subsequent years were £708,900 and £758,668. In the three-year period, therefore, the workers lost £1,976,575 in wages, notwithstanding that the output from the mines increased very considerably.
Surely uo one thinks for a moment that the coal-miners would, as it were, throw themselves on the grass unless they felt that they had a very genuine grievance. Yet 17,000 of these men are today out of work and are prepared to suffer an existence on an allowance of 9s. a man plus an allowance of about 6s. a week in respect of children, in order that they may force some recognition of their claims. The sustenance payments that they will receive are, in fact, barely sufficient to provide them with food. Certainly there will be nothing left over for clothing. The men are so satisfied that they have a strong case that I believe they will fight to the bitter end to obtain relief. Not only will the men themselves suffer - and this will involve the suffering of their wives and children - but valuable assets as well are likely to be destroyed. The press has reported that the safety men, the deputy engine-drivers and firemen, the pumpers, and, in fact, all hands have been withdrawn from the mines. The towns ‘in which the coal-miners live have been plunged into darkness. The miners are suffering, but so is the whole community, and unless immediate remedial steps are taken, the nation as a whole will suffer. It is quite likely that the mines will fire or become flooded, in which event valuable machinery will be destroyed; yet the Prime Minister remains adamant. I have in all sincerity, since last June, by telegram and otherwise been pleading with him to intervene in the dispute. Yet he says that he has not been consulted by the representatives of the union ! I ask the right honorable gentleman whether I, as the elected representative of a community of which 80 per cent, is interested in coal production, may not be regarded as a representative of the men? [Leave to continue given.] I thank honorable members for their consideration.
Every honorable member must realize that the workers whom I have the honour to represent are in an unfortunate, position, but I represent not only the workers, but also the community in general. The business people and every other section of people in the coal-fields are suffering today, and so are the sick and -afflicted people in our hospitals. We all look to the Prime Minister, as the first citizen of this country, to take some action; but so far we have looked in vain.
Since I first became a member of the Commonwealth Parliament in 1928 I have pleaded in this House for justice to be done to the coal-miners. My first speeches ventilated the grievances of the coal-miners who had been unjustly locked out. I do not think anyone can say” that I have been inconsistent in this respect. Even when a. Labour government was in power, I had the courage to advance the claims of my constituents. When the Bruce-Page Government was in office I also spoke plainly upon the need for justice on the coal-fields. Mr. Bruce said, at that time, that he would not intervene in any way; but I am glad to say that I obtained support from members on his own side of the House. The then honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) appealed to the Prime Minister to listen to my remarks and do something forthe unfortunate coal-miners.
We are only asking for justice. The coal-miners have lost faith in arbitration’ because of the way they were “sold.” It will be recollected that about the time when I first entered this Parliament, an honorable agreement was ratified between the coal-miners and coal-owners in pursuance of the Industrial Peace Act. The tribunal was presided over by Mr. Hibble. Yet the coal-miners were deliberately and wilfully locked out, and the government of the day did nothing for them. Our plea now is for some measure of justice in regard to hours and conditions of work. Although many improvements of conditions of work have been made in other industries, the coalminers are still required to work in a vitiated atmosphere polluted with dust and fumes and also with gases. A request has been made for a Commonwealthwide award, but it has been said that an award can be made for New South Wales only. A tribunal could be set up by the Stevens Government, hut obviously, this would be inadequate to deal with a dispute which has extended throughout the Commonwealth. The miners have gone on strike for. the following reasons: -
Because there was 100 per cent, increase iii fatal accidents between 1930 and 1937.
Because the percentage of non-fatal accidents has reached almost incredible proportion.
Because hundreds of men ave “ dusted “ in the mines and denied compensation and cosed ure increasing at an alarming rate.
Because there lias been a GO per cent, increase per man production in the last five years, and the coal-owners have received all the benefit.
Because there are 4,000 to 5,000 youths in the mine-fields communities unable to obtain employment.
Because the hours of mining have not been reviewed in 22 years, and underground workers arc asked to work longer hours than other workers.
Because Australian miners produce more coal per man, and at less labour cost per ton, than in any other country.
Because there is no pensions scheme for men who have survived the hazards of mining up to the age of (SO years.
Because mine-workers are not allowed to enjoy fourteen days’ holiday with pay.
Because they are not allowed to draw their wages each week.
Because they are faced with the alternative of resistance or annihilation.
Commenting upon those reasons I refer first to the position of the thousands of young men who have grown up in the coal-fields and have been unable to find work. The Government is proposing to provide £200,000 in the budget for vocational training. It provided a similar amount for this purpose last year. I regret to say that because of the influence of rotten party politics none of this money has been allocated to the coalfields. The coal-miners and their sons are suffering because they send to Parliament representatives of a different party from that of the government in power. For this reason nothing is done for the young men in those areas. It is deplorable to think that old men, whose ages range from 65 to 80 years, go off to work day after day in the coal-mines in order to earn a little money to sustain their wives and families. They are afraid to knock off work because they know that if they surrender their jobs their sons will not be allowed to take them, and the whole family would be worse off. So these old men toddle off to work day after day in order to eke out a miserable existence, and, in some cases, to maintain adult sons of from 30 or 40 years of age who are forced to live in idleness. These unfortunate adults have never been able to obtain work and cannot obtain it to-day. The coal-miners ask that provision should be made to absorb their sons in industry.
Surely it is not too much to ask that adequate pensions should be provided for these old men, who have worked all their lives in the coal-mines! “Where is there an employer in any other industry who fails to recognize the long and faithful service of men who have worn themselves out in his employ? But the coal-owners have no such humane instincts. They will not even ensure work for ‘the sons of the men who have grown old in mine employment. The Treasurer said yesterday in his budget speech that unemployment had declined to about S per cent.
– Of course it is rubbish. When we question these figures we are told that they are obtained from union registers, but the young men in the coalfields of whom I am speaking have never been able to get their names on the union registers, for they have never been able to obtain work and so qualify for union membership. People who assert that our unemployment returns are a true index to the real position do not know what they are talking about. Unemployment in the coal-fields has not been reduced. I took the Prime Minister for a trip through the coal-fields some time ago and he was amazed at what he saw, but unfortunately the right honorable gentleman has done nothing to remedy the position though he promised to do something. If he is really interested in the welfare of the people at large he would give full effect to a promise that he made during one election campaign.
At least the example of Great Britain in respect of the coal industry could be. followed. Commission after commission inquired into the situation in Great Britain, and I am glad to say that ultimately the problems of the industry were faced frankly with the result that in Great Britain it is in a better position to-day than it was in years ago. Some attempt has been made to rehabilitate it there, and also to safeguard the interests of the workers. The British Government has been alive to the necessity to protect the country against a stoppage of imports of oil fuels, and it has now put itself in the position of being able to produce oil from coal in sufficient quantities to make itself independent of foreign oils for its defence needs. Seeing that Australian coal is 20 per cent, richer in oil content than British coal there is every justification for the Commonwealth Government following the example of the British Government in this respect, but nothing has been done* with the result that some day we may find ourselves in the position in which Abyssinia found itself. We may have an air force but not have fuel to fly our machines. The horror of such a situation in the ease of an attack can scarcely be imagined. This Government is spending large sums of money in developing an armed force and in mechanising our defence services generally, yet we may find that all this provision is useless if our oil supplies should be cut off. If on the occasion of an attack our defence forces prove to be immobile owing to the .lack of oil fuels we may be annihilated.
The coal-miners work eight hours bank to bank. No other industry is compelled to work a 48-hour week, but miners have to do so, despite the fact that their conditions are very much worse than the conditions which obtain in any other industry. Because the Australian miners produce more coal per capita at less cost than coal-miners in. any other country they are asking for a review of their conditions.
Men who survive the hazards of coalmining up to the age of 60 years claim that they should be pensioned off, and not compelled to work until they are 80 years of age. They claim that if it is good enough for shop assistants and government employees and other workers to enjoy an annual holiday of a fortnight it is just that they should have the same consideration. Honorable members themselves work hardly more days each year than are sought by the miners as recreation, leave. Why should the miners have to wait - a fortnight for their money? They should be paid weekly as are most other workers in this country. Their claims are just. The Prime Minister and his colleagues should not show a lack of sympathy, but should order the conference which the miners seek, so that their grievances might be ventilated and redressed.
.- On behalf of the large number of miners in my electorate I support what has been said by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James). I repudiate suggestions that the miners are mendicants, and that they are not entitled to what they are seeking. On the contrary, they are entitled to even more than they are asking for to-day, and they have been so entitled for many years. That they have not achieved their ends long before now is due to the fact that no proper tribunal has been appointed to investigate the profit-mongering methods of the coal-owners, who have watered their stocks to a vast degree. The public has never known the degree of “ bushranging” which has been indulged in by the mine-owners. Because of their getrichquick tactics thousands of millions of tons of coal remain underground, and it will never be possible for it to be mined. This is due to the fact that the owners have, as it were, picked the eyes out of the seams, and left the rest inaccessible for ever. The way in which stock has been watered is shown in the records. I had the facts recorded in Hansard and the press fifteen years ago. There are companies which started in 1904, and even before that, with capital of £50,000, £75,000 and £100,000 whose capital is now shown as millions of pounds. Those companies have reconstructed themselves time out of number. In 1914 or 1915 one company, which started with a capital of £60,000, was registered again with a capital of £3,000,000, but not ohe penny of new capital had been paid into that company from its inception. This inflation of capital was achieved with bonus shares and watered stock, and, as the result, the miners are expected to show a reasonable return on a capital investment of £3,000,000 whereas the return should be based on a capital of only £60,000. For that reason, and for other reasons which I shall cite later, the miners have to work under intolerable conditions. The miners want, not charity, but justice from an industry to which they devote their lives. Many of them even lose their lives in the service of the coal-owners. In proof of this I need only to cite the disaster at Mount Kembla mine. Many miners were killed in an explosion in that mine but, when the inquiry was held in the court house at Wollongong, the owners produced the false testimony of experts to prove that there was no gas in the mine. While this false testimony was being given, the court house itself was almost wrecked by another explosion in the same mine.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) replied to the Leader of the Opposition that the strike now in progress was originally only a State dispute. It was not a State dispute and the right honorable gentleman knows it. From the outset it had Commonwealthwide repercussions, and three weeks ago the official notification sent out from the Miners Federation indicated that, with the exception of Western Australia, the dispute would be Commonwealth wide. At the very outset the Prime Minister was advised that the dispute would extend over the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister also said that he had done all that he could possibly do. All that the right honorable gentleman did was to say that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court was available. Frankly - and I agree with them - the miners will not accept the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and who can blame them? That court functions only to force the miners back to work under unjust conditions, and it will not be accepted by them until its machinery and penalties are used against the employer when he is doing wrong. How can the miners be expected to accept this court when it will not deal even-handed justice? The miners were “ sold “ by the Arbitration Court during the last great upheaval in the industry. The then Commonwealth Government, which was not a Labour government, went to the length of ordering the prosecution of one of the mine-owners who was engaged in the lock-out. The prosecution was not proceeded with. If the prosecution were withdrawn and the owner were treated leniently it would be in the interests of peace in the industry, was the claim that was put forward in support of the withdrawal of the summons. The Government which made that plea “ shanghaied “ men in dozens out of this country. It was the Government which never hesitated to use the brutal sections of the Crimes Act on the workers but was loth to take proceedings against one of the employers. Hence, I have every sympathy with the miners in refusing the service of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in this dispute.
The whole history of that court is blackened by the way it has treated the miners and other unionists in this country when they have gone before it. In any case, it has been demonstrated before that the machinery of that court is too cumbersome to allow of effective, adequate, and quick attention to matters which come before it. That fact was recognized by the Hughes Government when it set up an industrial commission to deal with the coal industry. Mr. Justice Higgins and Mr. Justice Edmunds formed the commission, whose task was to deal specifically with the coal industry and the conditions which are peculiar to it. All that the miners ask to-day is that the Prime Minister follow the lead of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) and the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), former Prime Ministers, and set up some commission, apart from the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, to inquire into this dispute. Just because the Arbitration Court has failed is it in the mind of this Government that turmoil should be allowed to rage in the coal industry with consequent disruption in most of the other vital industries of Australia? Does any one imagine that it is with pleasure that a union leader declares a strike? Honorable members of this
House cannot know the feelings of the worker when a strike starts. I do not think that anyone will suggest that the coal-miners are looking for fight. If they hold this view they know nothing whatever about industrial organization. The miners have wives and families to care for, and it is my experience that in all Australia there is no better husband or father than the miner. His wife and family are all in all to him. Therefore, he is not likely to do anything that would inflict injury on his family and home. The miners know that whenever they take part in an industrial dispute they will have to pull in their -own belts because the home will lack many of the necessaries of life. They have a true understanding of all that a strike means before they engage in one, and we may be sure that they counted the cost in the present dispute. But owing to the mechanization of the industry, with all its fearsome accompaniments, their position had become so impossible that they were compelled to throw down the gauntlet to the owners in a desperate attempt to right, their wrongs. Unemployment in the industry has been unexampled. Mechanisation has not only despoiled the miner of his job, but has also confronted him with possible consequences previously undreamed of. Some of the infernal machines that have been introduced threaten to blow the miners to smithereens almost at a moment’s notice. This mechanization of the industry kas very largely increased the danger to workers in mines. It has also thrown thousands of men out of employment and largely increased production. What do the owners care about this? Their principal concern, in this industry as in others, is to produce for profit and profit only. The earning of dividends for shareholders is the first consideration. Miners will tell anyone who inquires into the condition of the coal industry that the introduction of machinery and the installation of electricity have greatly added to the dangers which they have always had to confront. The miners of to-day now work in a most fearsome atmosphere; a new environment that was entirely foreign to the old miner. Because of these changes he has become restive and is now demanding that for the added dangers to which he is subjected, there must be an improvement of his working conditions. An inquiry should be held and steps taken to ensure that these dangers are eliminated.
The honorable member for Hunter referred to the problem of dust in the mines. I will not repeat the statistics which he gave the House, but I heartily agree with everything he has said. On the south coast and in the district which I represent, as the honorable member for Hunter has said, there has been a great deal of trouble owing to the prevalence of dust, and claims for compensation have increased enormously in recent years. I hope the day will come when this Parliament will have the authority to initiate and will pass a workmen’s compensation law which will have the effect of preventing the thieving insurance companies from any longer filching tens of thousands of pounds from the miners’ organizations io-day. Under the existing law these unscrupulous companies contest claims for compensation before the courts and the Miners Federation has, on many occasions, been called upon to spend much more in litigation costs than the amount of compensation claimed. If a Commonwealth compensation law were in operation, and if it provided that in the event of injury to a miner resulting in the loss of an arm, a leg or any other part of his body, a definite amount of compensation would be payable from a national fund under Commonwealth control, some at least of the troubles now confronting miners in connexion with compensation claims would cease.
It has been suggested that such diseases as silicosis and miner’s phthisis, to mention but two occupational diseases associated with- mining, are now unknown in the coal industry. The owners claim that, as measures have been adopted to prevent coal dust in mines by using a metal compound spray, there is not now any danger; but combustion still takes place in mines, miners still breathe dust, and they are still liable to suffer from diseases usually associated with mining.
If any honorable member would care to visit the Institute of Anatomy in Canberra or similar institutions in other centres, he would find concrete evidence of lung troubles to miners due to coal dust. Actually, the miners are now suffering from a new complaint, due, it is believed, to the use of this metal compound used to prevent coal dust.
The statements of company-owners would be humorous if the situation of miners were not so tragic. They declare that, owing to the low price of- coal, the claims of the miners cannot be met. This is farcical. The price of a ton of coal to consumers who require it. for domestic purposes is £3 10s. But the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is in an entirely different position. It uses about one-third of the total coal mined in New South Wales, and makes it available to its various subsidiaries at 10s. or lis. a ton. As the owner of its own mines, it is not much interested in the price of coal to the people generally. In the sale of its coal, what it loses on the “ razzle-dazzle “ it picks up on the merry-go-round. That is to say, although it may not make a profit on the sale of coal produced in its mines, it certainly makes a handsome profit from its other industries. Its position is much like that of the manufacturer of jam owning an orchard. He may sell the fruit to his jam factory at a price below cost of production and be satisfied to take his profit from the sale of the manufactured article. That is precisely what is occurring in the great coalmining industry of New South Wales. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited owns a number of mines. It may not own some of. them in name, but in actual fact it owns them through its control of the directorates. In this way it keeps down the price of coal to its various industrial concerns and makes its profits from their products. Consequently, this company and others in a similar position claim that, as the coal-mining industry is not showing a profit, the claim of the miners for higher wages and better conditions cannot be granted. Although the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited may not show a profit from the operation of its coal-mines, it certainly makes hundreds of thousands of pounds profit from its other concerns, and it is able to pile up huge reserves and pay high dividends on its watered stock. Shares issued at 10s. have by successive processes been increased and stabilized at rauch higher and nominal values - £1, £2 or £3 - and shareholders have also benefited from the issue of bonus shares. All this is going on almost every day, and still this huge company is able to pay enormous dividends on its inflated capital. These are things which the miners can prove. The coal-owners and other employing interests associated with this industry, who are pouring thousands of pounds into the fighting fund of the political parties supporting this Government, know as well as we do that if the coal-miners had an “ open go “ in the courts of this country or before any other tribunal, the people of Australia would know the truth and would strongly support the miners’ claims. Hitherto the miner has not had an “ open go “ because some of those tribunals are part and parcel of the employing interests. Accordingly the hush-hush policy has to go on. The miner is told that he is the villain of the piece. The courts are loaded against him and he must continue to be treated as he has been treated in the past, as someone with no rights in this country. This may go on for a time. The employing interests may win this dispute - I do not think they will - but the repercussions will be such that the people of Australia will at last realize what has been put over them, and these gentlemen will be for all time thrown out of the position which they have too long held in this country.
.- I support the appeal of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) on behalf of the miners who to-day are struggling for their rights in the coal industry. The Government should bring the parties together and ensure an early settlement of the dispute. Thousands of pounds will be lost in the struggle that is now going on. If it is not soon settled large numbers of men will be thrown out of employment and interstate shipping will be tied up. The disturbance is merely a class struggle, assisted by the Government because of its support of the employing interests, which to-day are refusing to give decent conditions to men willing to work in Australian industries. Men employed in the coal industry take their lives in their hands every day. One of the grounds for complaint advanced by the miners is that the danger to their lives hae been increased. Every man is entitled to the utmost consideration when he volunteers to go underground and assist in the production of the wealth of this country. Some people may ask why these men continue to work in the mines if conditions are so bad. The answer is that economic necessity often forces men to .work under conditions which they know to be bad. They have wives and children to support, and so they feel compelled to go down into the bowels of the earth and risk their lives under difficult and dangerous conditions. The miners complain that the mechanization of their industry has greatly added to the danger. I point out that, in the past, on almost every occasion when complaints have been made about the presence of gas in mines and the men have refused to go down, lives have been lost when investigations have been made by the companies concerned.’ That has been tlie unhappy experience in two States during the last three or four years. It is the duty of this Government to do its best to effect a settlement in the dispute between the miners and mine-owners. In the interests of the economic development and peace in Australia, it is as essential to have an early solution of this problem as it is to bring about peace in Europe. A class war is being waged in this country. If the workers do not succeed they will be. forced to resume work under worse conditions. That should not be tolerated by any government. Members of this Parliament should do all in their power to induce the Government to bring about an immediate settlement of the dispute. I have never known a trade unionist who was prepared to embark upon a starvation strike merely for the purpose of striking. There must be a very good reason for his action when he is willing to submit to the hardships which a strike invariably involves. It is necessary, in the interests of economic development, that the present dispute should be terminated as soon as possible. The payment of the dividends of gas companies and other manufacturing concerns which rely upon coal for their production, depends on the work of the coal-miners. The case presented by the Leader of the
Opposition should be taken up by the Prime Minister, who should use the power at his command to bring the parties together.
For years the cry has gone up, “We must not interfere with the Arbitration Court “, but I well remember that when the Broken Hill miners went on strike the present Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes), who was then Prime Minister, chartered a special train to bring the representatives of the miners and the mine-owners to Melbourne. The right honorable gentleman declared “ Thisdispute must besettled”,and it was settled. The Arbitration Court has not discharged its function in such a manner as to give the workers in industry the benefits to which they are entitled. Certain applications have been before the court for years, and the men concerned have been unable to get their grievances adjusted. Such a lengthy period is occupied in obtaining a decision from the court that the workers’ faith in the tribunal has been shaken. The increase of wages, the improvement of working conditions and the preservation of the life of miners is just as important as the protection of the citizens against enemy gas attacks. Why should the wealthy class be allowed to live in idleness and luxury, while the workers slave under shocking conditions and their wives and children have to live in shacks? That there is the constant risk of a miner being killed by a fall of earth is well known. In the present dispute, the workers have merely withdrawn their services until the mines are put into a safe working condition. That is why it is desired that a tribunal should be appointed to deal with the matter. Both sides should be represented and there should he an independent chairman. In such circumstances, the miners would accept the decision readied.
– They did not abide by the decision given two years ago.
– If the miners fail to observe any provision of an agreement, there is always a justifiable reason for it. The employers fail to carry out their agreements every hour of the day. This fact is revealed by inquiries made by trade union officials. I urge honorable members opposite to bring pressure to bear upon their leader by pointing out to him that it is necessary to settle the present dispute in the interests of the economic welfare of the community. If the Prime Minister would exercise the power at his command, a settlement could be obtained within 24 hours.
Yesterday I addressed a question to the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) regarding the negotiations for ‘removal of the rifle range at Sandy Bay from that residential area to Glenorchy. I do not know whether the Minister considers that it is an act of courtesy to remain silent when a question is addressed to him, or whether he considers it good statesmanship to say nothing. If a member of the present Government is unable to bring a comparatively small matter such asthe transfer of a rifle range from one district to another to a satisfactory conclusion, what chance is there of any problem in Australia being settled? The Government has been endeavouring to reach an agreement with the Hobart City Council for four years, and apparently a settlement is as far off as ever. This matter has been raised in the Parliament by Senator Grant, and it has been mentioned in this House by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost) and by myself repeatedly. I am sorry that the present Minister for Defence finds his job too difficult for him. If the work is killing him, he should resign from the Cabinet. Such a change would no doubt enable the matter of the transfer of the Sandy Bay rifle range to be disposed of promptly.
I support the request made to the Minister for Defence that an aeroplane should be supplied by his department for the training of air pilots at Hobart. Many young men desire to learn to pilot defence aircraft. The request has not been submitted for the benefit of joy riders, but to enable young men who are anxious to learn to defend their country to receive practical instruction. The time has come when the training of pilots should be carried out under proper supervision.
I thank the Government for having established a fort on the Derwent River. All the high military authorities to whom I have spoken on this subject agree that it is useless to provide fortifications unless they are protectedagainst attack from the air. Yet I am reliably informed that the Government has not made any plans for the supply of anti-aircraft guns to protect the fort to which I have referred. If fortifications in that position are necessary, surely they are worth protecting. I mention these things in order to show how the defence of this country is being carried out. I appeal to the Minister not to allow the taxpayers’ money to be wasted in this way. The provision of anti-aircraft guns to protect this fort will not in any way interfere with the delicate negotiations now being conducted between Mr. Chamberlain and Herr Hitler. I say to the Government “ Do your job properly, or get out “. I am glad to see the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Street) acting in the capacity of Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, and I hope some day to see him in charge of the defence portfolio, because I believe that under his direction, many of these anomalies would be removed. It is the duty of the Government to do its job properly, and not to waste the taxpayers’ money. Those Ministers who have lately returned from overseas, where they have been trying to arrange trade agreements between Australia and other countries, have come back empty-handed, and are afraid to admit their failure. I shall not, however, criticize them for their lack’ of success, because there are other matters with which I wish to deal. In passing, however, I emphasize that I shall not allow the Government to think that honorable members on this side are convinced that it is fulfilling its obligations to the country. I particularly ask that money which has been voted for public works shall be expended as Parliament intended. Agreements have been entered into with the State governments to put in hand a number of defence works as a means of relieving unemployment. Because of the urgent necessity to improve the defences of Australia the States have agreed that other undertakings shall he postponed for a time. I want to know what defence works are likely to be carried out in Tasmania.
– The honorable member should inquire from the Premier of Tasmania what his Government is doing.
– At the moment, I
Mm concerned with the obligations of the
Commonwealth Government towards Tasmania. That Government must not think that because there is tension in Europe’ it will be free from criticism. I want to see the affairs of this country conducted wisely and expeditiously. When droughts affect production on the mainland of Australia, Tasmania comes to the rescue, and supplies foodstuffs for the people. I claim justice for my State. It may be thought that because the Prime Minister comes from Tasmania all is necessarily well with that State, but that is not so. As a part of the Commonwealth, Tasmania has equal rights with the other States; and so long as those rights are disregarded, I shall protest. It is not sufficient for Ministers to visit Tasmania from time to time and make promises, unless they act fairly by that State. It is not being treated fairly in a matter of defence expenditure and may well be called the weak link in the chain of Empire defence. I have been informed by high military officers that it is one of the strategic points in Empire defence. I therefore appeal to all big Australians who are prepared to sink their parochial outlook to see that Tasmania is given proper recognition in the Government’s defence programme. If the Government will embark on a proper programme, I promise it all possible support and cooperation, provided it acts quickly. On the other. hand, if the Ministry contains any “ duds “ who have been pushed into office by the Country party, I say that they must be replaced by capable men. I am not prepared to allow members of the “ corner “ party, who know no more about defence than a pig knows about a white shirt, although they may know something of wheat-growing and pasture improvement, to dictate the defence policy of this country, when I know that their views differ from those of trained military experts. In so important a matter- as the defence of a continent, party political considerations should be disregarded, and only the interests of the nation considered.
I wish again to refer to the removal of the Sandy Bay rifle’ range, and to point out that this work need not embarrass the delicate negotiations now taking place in Europe. I stress also the need to provide means whereby boys in
Tasmania may be trained as air pilots. In the last war men from every State were given the opportunity to participate in the defence of the Empire. Tasmanians played no mean part in that defence; they rose to the occasion, and proved themselves great soldiers. I claim that Tasmania to-day is equally entitled with the other States to train young men as air pilots. In this connexion also I expect great things from the new blood in the Ministry.
I ask for the co-operation, of every honorable member in preventing the catastrophe that is threatening Australia in- the present dispute in the coal-mining industry. Thousands of men are out of work, and their wives and little children are forced to go without even the necessaries of life, let alone its comforts and luxuries, whilst the wives and children of members of this Parliament, and others in sheltered positions, enjoy the good things of life as formerly. I appeal to every nian in a good job to use his influence to avert the tragedy that is looming in Australia, and to determine that the working conditions in mines, where now the lives of men are considered of little or no value, shall be made what they ought to be. Lot us be men, and let us say to the coalminers, “You shall work only under good conditions; we shall not permit you to be driven about like dumb oxen and forced to accept any conditions which the coalowners of this country wish to inflict upon you “. Let us do everything to ensure that the miners shall receive decent and humane treatment. The Prime Minister, if he so desired, could call together the parties to the dispute under an independent chairman and solve this problem within 4S hours. I hope that every honorable member of this House will exert his best endeavours to avoid the continuance of the dispute. The Prime Minister recently made an appeal for a national day of prayer for peace in the the world; let us set aside a day of national prayer for industrial peace within the Commonwealth.
.- I desire to say a few words in support of the miners in their present industrial dispute. I endorse the remarks of our worthy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), and also the honorable members for Hunter (Mr. James) and “Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), who have placed before us and before the people of Australia the case for the miners in a very forcible manner. Knowing that they represent mining constituencies and that they have worked in the mines and actually done the job, we must realize that the miners have a very definite grievance. Only last week I attended a public meeting in my electorate at which were present a large mixed audience of farmers, graziers and small business people. The meeting was addressed by miners, who stated in their own simple- language the grievances which made them take what was for them such an important step as to participate in a strike in the industry. They knew the consequences of such a step; they knew full well that whether they won the dispute or lost it they must inevitably be the eventual losers, but nevertheless so convinced were they of the justice of their claims on the people of Australia, that they took that vital step and declared a general strike in the mining industry throughout the Commonwealth. Not one person at the conclusion of that meeting, which as I have said comprised every section of the community, was not satisfied that the miners had genuine grievances. A resolution was carried asking the Prime Minister of Australia (Mr. Lyons) to call a conference of the parties concerned, and a request was made that it be conveyed to the Federal Parliament. I said that I would convey the expression of opinion of the meeting, that it was desirable in the interests of economic security and for the defence of Australia that a conference should be called forthwith to settle the dispute which so vitally affected every section of the community. I was astounded to think that we had at the helm of the ship of state in this country one who, despite the fact that we were negotiating troublous waters, failed to realize his responsibilities and would not humble himself, if need be, in an attempt to settle the big question at stake. The Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Chamberlain, in a memorable trip which will go down in history, recently set a splendid example by humbling himself in the cause of peace in Europe. That example might well be followed in a smaller way by the
Prime Minister of Australia. Had he done his job by the people of Australia, by the miners and by all concerned, he would have unhesitatingly called a conference of the parties to the dispute. I hope it is not yet too late to call such a conference. We have had from honorable members representing coal-mining constituencies the reasons why the coalminers feared to approach the Arbitration Court as it is at present constituted. I do not propose to go into details in this connexion, because they were explained fully by those honorable members who have a practical knowledge of the difficulties associated with the coalmining industry. Every minute and every hour that the dispute continues is vital to our economic security, and to the defence of this country, and I trust that it is not too late to call a conference of the parties which, I feel sure, would result in the men being induced to return to work. If that were done the ship of state would once more float on an even keel, because the settlement of the dispute would mean so much to the economic security of this country in these troublous times.
I desire to draw the attention of the Minister (Mr. Perkins) representing the Postmaster-General to the policy which I. think has been wrongly adopted by the Postal Department in the country districts of Australia, and incidentally tlie electorate of Gwydir which I have the honour to represent, in respect of the provision of new postal buildings. I have made on behalf of municipal councils, progress associations and other kindred associations in country towns in my electorate, applications for the erection of new postal buildings. In the larger towns in my electorate are to be seen obsolete buildings which are an absolute disgrace. Many of them were erected 50, 60 or 70 years ago, when the towns had only a handful of population. To-day, however, the population of those towns has increased, in many instances ten fold, yet these old obsolete buildings in which the staffs are endeavouring to render efficient service to the people of the community have been retained. The post offices are in. contrast to the prosperity of the towns as reflected by private buildings. They constitute a menace to the health of the employees and render the provision of adequate services impossible. The post office building at Moree is an absolute disgrace. That town is one of the most up to date in Australia and, despite the fact that it is subject to high temperatures, the rear portion of the postal building is constructed of galvanized iron. In that portion of the premises the postmaster and his family have to live, and other employees have to perform their work. When I approached the Postal Department in Sydney in regard to the provision of a new building, I was informed that the existing building was adequate for present requirements. Decisions such as this are 111:1 (le by officers in the capital cities who are housed in their own homes, and who enjoy all the social amenities that make life worth living. They work in hygienic buildings fitted with all modern appliances ; but they ask their fellow employees in country districts to work under conditions unfit for human beings. I make this most emphatic protest on behalf of the people concerned, and I ask again that new buildings should be constructed in those country centres that so richly deserve them.
I desire now to deal with the failure of the Postal Department to realize its responsibilities to the people outback by the provision of adequate telephone services, a failure on the part of the department, that calls for condemnation in this Parliament. Hardship is inflicted upon those persons in the outback who live at some little distance from the telephone exchange and are desirous of being connected with the telephone service. Prom time to time requests are made by three, four or half a dozen settlers, as the case may be, for the erection of a party telephone line to their particular locality. In 90 per cent, of the case3 there has been a deadlock because of the departmental demand for a large cash deposit to defray the cost of erection of the line. That demand is often so great as to prevent people from securing these essential services. I forwarded a request to the Postmaster-General only this morning asking that the demand by the department for an immediate deposit by four applicants for a party line service be reconsidered. To grant the request the department has only to run the additional wires alongpoles which are already erected, yet it has insisted that a deposit of £25 be made to defray the cost. The applicants have been struggling along against adverse seasonal conditions and have not the money asked for, but they are willing to give a guarantee to make regular payments over an extended period if the line is constructed. The request is a reasonable and justifiable one, and I commend it to the favorable consideration of the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. We owe an obligation toprovide the best we can for those who live in the outback, and everything should be done, not only for business, but also for health reasons, to provide them with telephone communication. I suggest that the department should adopt a more reasonable attitude towards requests of this kind. We who live in the cities are not asked to make such cash deposits, yet we enjoy much better conditions than those who live in the outback. When we applytobe connected to the telephone service we are asked only to pay the normal annual rental. . If more sympathetic consideration were given to requests of this kind, rural life would be made much more attractive.
I come now to a matter which I think is one of such importance as to warrant ventilation in this House. I refer to the unfair treatment of returned soldiers casually employed as linemen in the’ Postal Department. Many of these men have had from ten to twelve years’ service in a temporary capacity in the department, but under the regulations, before they can qualify for appointment to the permanent service, they must have been continuously employed for two years. The singular thing is that a number of these men, after being employed for one year and ten months, have been dismissed only to be re-engaged after a lapse of two or three months. I know of one instance -it is one of many, I have no doubt - in which a man has been employed by the the department for twelve years, during the whole of which he rendered efficient service and did nothave one black mark recorded against him; but because his service was not continuous for any two years during that period, he is unable to qualify for permanent employment.
It is distinctly unjust to these returned men that theCommonwealth Government should treat them so. They did all that was asked of them at the time the Empire needed their services, and I consider that the Government is guilty of a definite breach of confidence in respect of them.
– It is absolutely indecent.
– I agree with the honorable member.
Another matter to which I direct attention has relation to invalid and old-age pensioners who die in our out-back hospitals. The hospital authorities bury these pensioners if their relatives are not at hand ; but they are buried as paupers. This practice should be discontinued at once. The Government owes a sacred duty to these people who, having borne the heat and burden of the day in the out-back in pioneering and developmental work, come to the end of their lives. It is not to be expected that out of the meagre pension of £1 a week they can make, or should be expected to make, provision for their burial. The pension is barely sufficient to keep them in food. In all cases in which it is definitely proved that the old people have not accumulated any savings, the Government should see that that they are decently buried.
– That is done in Switzerland.
– I thank the honorable member for his reminder. Christian burial is the right of these people who, through no fault of their own, and owing : to circumstances over which they have had no control, cannot provide for their own ‘burial. They should not be humiliated in the eyes of the world by a pauper funeral.
I urge the Government to give this request favorable consideration. I hope that the other anomalies to which I have referred will also be rectified.
.- I wish to bring two or three matters under the notice of the Government. One, which I first raised last September, has relation to an obvious injustice caused by an anomaly in the sales tax law.From time to time attention has been directed to cases in which business firms are placed at a disadvantage because of the application of a particular section of the act to the business which they conduct. Briefly, after I raised the question of tlie position of a business firm in Launceston, the case was made the subject of a report by the Deputy Commissioner. The report dealt mainly with the goods which this firm sells to public hospitals and benevolent institutions, which, by virtue of item 81 of the schedule to the Sales Tax Exemption Act 1935-1936, are entitled to exemption from sales taxe in respect of goods purchased for their official use. This firm conducts a retailerwholesaler business. It paid this sales tax in the confident expectation tha,t it would receive a refund. As things are it is placed at a disadvantage compared with other firms which sell purely on wholesale lines. I brought this case under the notice of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) by letter, but so far nothing has been done to remove this obvious injustice. In a reply to a letter which I wrote to him last December, the Treasurer stated -
I desire to advise you that your representations have been noted for consideration in connexion with any future proposals which may arise for amendments of the sales tax law.
This law, as originally passed, was intended as an emergency measure. It now seems to have become permanent. That being the case, the Government should at least attempt to remove the obvious anomalies in the act that are revealed from time to time. I do not wish to labour tlie question, but as a grave injustice is being done it should be rectified. The firm to which I have referred deals as- generously with charitable institutions as it is possible to do. It has cut prices to the bone. Indeed, it has to do so, because competition is very keen. If it did not cut prices it would not secure the contract. The firm submits its tenders in the belief that the transactions will be exempt from sales tax, but afterwards finds that this is not so. This means the difference between profit and loss in these contracts. As injustice and inequity exist in such cases the Treasurer should take an early opportunity to introduce corrective legislation. After all, it is only a matter of dealing out even-handed justice.
Still another matter to which I have previously directed attention remains un remedied. On a number of occasions I have made representations to the Postal Department to the effect .that an adequate aircraft radio station should be provided at the Western Junction airport, near Launceston. When the air service between Tasmania and the mainland was first instituted there was no aircraft radio service, although the operating company did something in this direction. After representations had been made to the Government, following upon a number of fatal flying accidents over Bass Strait, in which valuable lives and property were lost, the Government -provided a secondhand portable radio station for Western Junction. This action was taken after the loss of the airliner Miss Hobart in 1934. I believe the station, which was mounted on wheels, was brought from some distant part of Queensland. It was lifted from its wheels and put into service on a permanent site at Western Junction, but it has always been regarded as a temporary expedient. It has now long outlived its usefulness. Probably it had done so before its removal from Queensland. Yet it still remains in service at Western Junction. It is now hopelessly out of date and should be scrapped. What does the Government propose to do in the matter? Does it intend to provide an adequate and permanent station at Western Junction? That is what is needed. We are grateful for the provision of a beacon at that station, and also for the installation of lighting around the boundary of the aerodrome. These are undoubted benefits to pilots; but the increasing importance of Western Junction merits the provision of an adequate aircraft radio station. I do not wish to stress this need unduly, but as the temporary station has now given service for four years, it is surely not too much to ask that it he replaced by better and permanent equipment. Although the Government has given no indication that it intends to take this action, I hope that at an early date it will announce a decision to this effect.
Another matter - it is evergreen so far as I am concerned as I have raised it every year since I have been a member - relates to the interference to wireless broadcasting. I have examined an appliance which eliminates this interference andI have ascertained what other countries have done to cope with wireless broadcast interference. I can always get the Postal Department to admit that something should be done, that people pay their licence-fees, and that they have the right to expect some protection from those who have contraptions, many of thorn old and obsolete, which cause this interference. Action can only be taken by the Commonwealth. There is no doubt about the revenue which accrues to the Commonwealth from broadcast licences. It is a profitable business and it is growing in importance. It would grow more rapidly if the department would undertake seriously the preparation of legislation for this Parliament which would ensure the placing of silencers on all new electrical appliances. Some companies install the appliance on their productions, but others argue that they cannot do it unless it is done generally. Noaction has been taken to abate this nuisance in the Common wealth, whereas New Zealand and Great Britain have taken action. What those countries have done can be done equally by the Commonwealth. All that I ask is that legislation be passed to compel the installation on new electrical appliances in this country of an instrument which will remove the disturbing effect on wireless broadcasting. I am not asking for retrospective legislation, or that the people should scrap everything that they have installed. All that I seek is a provision that new installations should be equipped with silencers so that eventually mechanical interference with radio broadcasting shall be eliminated. The request is very reasonable. The Radio Listeners’ League inLaunceston demonstrated to me the effect of this appliance, which is comparatively inexpensive. If thelaw provided that it should be installed in all new electrical equipment, the disturbing interference would be eliminated within a few years.
Another aspect of wireless broadcasting with which I propose to deal concerns the Station 7NT. Some time ago the Australian Broadcasting Commission obtained possession of a building in Launceston to provide a modern studio, and I understand that the initial expenditure necessary to remodel this building for that purpose has been approved. I hope that the work will be expedited so that we shall have in Launceston a building suitable for broadcasting purposes. I am informed by experts that broadcast artists in Tasmania are equal to those on the mainland, but in order to obtain the best results from them a suitable studio must be provided. I have discussed this matter with the representatives of the Broadcasting Commission, who are courteous and obliging. They have assured me that something is being done to overcome the existing disability and I ask the Minister to see that the work is expedited.
Another matter that concernsme is the way in which the Australian Broadcasting Commission overlooks the claims of Tasmania in arranging the itinerary of artists brought from overseas. As a State of the Commonwealth, Tasmania feels that it is entitled at least to have visits from those artists. In the past, artists have performed in Hobart on at least one occasion and then returned to the mainland. The people of Launceston feel that the importance of the city warrants its inclusion in the itinerary. My request is very reasonable because artists pass through Launceston when journeying from Melbourne to Hobart. What prompts me to mention this matter is the fact that the general manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission is reported to have made a statement which compares Tasmania adversely as a State with the more important cities of the Commonwealth. I regret that the general manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission has taken up that attitude, because Tasmania is an equal member of the federation with the other States. All entered into the federation for better or for worse.
– Nearly all worse.
– That may be the point of view of the honorable member for Barton, but it certainly was not the view of those who formed the federation. I am constrained to say that the views expressed, quite infrequently, I agree, by those who hold something of the same view as the honorable member for Barton, do untold harm to the Commonwealth as a whole. Tasmania as a State was accepted in this Commonwealth for better or worse and if, because of certain disabilities that arc brought about very largely by federation-
– The Commonwealth Grants Commission says that there are no disabilities.
– If the honorable member for Barton will look at the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, he will find that it has accepted the fact that the smaller States do suffer disabilities. I think even the honorable member for Barton will concede that Tasmania surfers a disability by being separated from the mainland by Bass Strait. The disabilities which the State suffers .should not be accentuated by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and we think that the small expense or possible loss that might be incurred by the commission sending artists from overseas to Tasmania should be borne by the commission readily and happily.
I hope that there will be rectification of the matters that I have raised to-day.
.- I desire to say something in connexion with the present coal-mining dispute “and, in particular, to offer some comments on the remarks of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) .on this subject. The right honorable gentleman has told us that he is in favour of arbitration. So is every honorable member on this side of the chamber. But we are in favour of conciliation, as well as arbitration, and I suggest that this dispute calls more for conciliation than for arbitration. In Queensland the Arbitration Court is composed of two laymen and a judge. The latter sits on the bench only when a Full Court decision has to be given. The work of the court is done usually by the other two men. The man who has the best name among the people of Queensland in the determination of arbitration awards is Mr. Riordan, father of the honorable member for Kennedy. He enjoys his reputation for wise decisions, because of his knowledge of industry generally, which is something that neither of the other two men understands. Because of his wide personal knowledge of industrial conditions - he has spent considerable time making a study of conditions under which people work - Mr. Riordan is able to take an active part in the framing of awards. I suggest that if Chief Judge Dethridge and Judge Drake-Brockman were to follow this excellent example they would learn much more than they can ever hope to by sitting in their offices or by just hearing evidence. The cost’ of getting witnesses to the court is very great, and- sometimes it is extremely difficult to get them” to give the information necessary in court, whereas it could be obtained easily in a conversational manner before a conciliation body. I consider that the miners are fully justified in making their present demands. “Would honorable members like to know why the workers of this country do not fully trust the Commonwealth Arbitration Court? There is a reason. Judge Beeby has visited north Queensland six or seven times to investigate waterside troubles, and although he has promised over and over again that something would be done to improve working conditions, nothing has been done. Because of ill-health he is not fitted for his job. This, of course, is his misfortune; Any honorable, member might one day be similarly incapacitated. He was a sick man when he went as far as Townsville with the intention of making a personal investigation of tlie conditions under which the lead ingots from the Mount Isa mine were loaded on to the ships, but when he reached that town he was in such, poor health that he was not able to carry out his inquiryThe workers in Queensland are hostile to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court because of the promises that have been made, but not kept, to improve working, conditions in that State. This bitterness is not occasioned because the men do not like Arbitration Court judges, but simply because the judges do not always do their job.
In north Queensland magistrates in the various towns are the recognized representatives of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court, and on different occasions magistrates at Innisfail, Bowen and Townsville have given judgments, or have made recommendations to the court which were not accepted, because, according to Mr. Murray Stewart, the Registrar of the court, they had no authority to so act, not, having received instructions from a judge. A man sitting in a city office cannot obtain first-hand knowledge of industrial conditions. A man who has personal knowledge of industry and undertakes a certain amount of research, is in a better position to know what is taking place and, therefore, should be allowed to advise the court. Such advice should not be rejected on the ground that the magistrate giving it had not” received express authority to tender it. Every magistrate in Queensland is an industrial registrar under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, and is competent to advise the court in connexion with disputes in industry. If a magistrate, acting under this authority, makes certain investigations and offers advice, he does not make a determination of the court; he merely recommends certain procedure to bring about a settlement of a dispute.
The Prime Minister has indicated that, in his view, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court should act in this dispute and bring about a settlement. I am afraid that the right honorable gentleman has not a very sound knowledge of the coal industry if he thinks that an individual judge, without any personal knowledge of the conditions, can effect a settlement that will be satisfactory to the miners. In connexion with this industry, there are a hundred and one things which any judge, or, for that matter, any other man acting in a judicial capacity, could not deal with satisfactorily without information, obtained at first-hand, of the eonditions. When the first Mount Morgan award was made, the judge spent several days in making personal observations in tlie mine. so that he might have accurate information of the actual conditions under which the men were working. As the result the award, when made, was a good award. It may be suggested that the ‘miners in Queensland are on strike because they will not obey an award of the Arbitration Court. I do not know why they are on strike, but I have a good idea, and I do not think that the reason has anything to do with an award of the court.
– The honorable member ought to know.
– The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) would not understand the reason if I attempted to explain it to him. As regards this dispute, unless there is conciliation no progress, towards settlement can be expected. The miners have not asked that Parliament should establish a tribunal that had not previously been in existence. It will be remembered that, in connexion with an earlier dispute in this industry, a tribunal was presided over by Mr. Hibble, who was not prepared to delegate, any part of his powers to a subordinate body for much the same reasons that judges of the Arbitration Court are unwilling to accept recommendations or reports from Queensland magistrates, who have been doing this kind of work for years. If Mr. Hibble had delegated some of his powers to a local tribunal, the conditions in the. coal industry would to-day have been infinitely better than they are.
It may interest honorable members to know that miners in New South Wales arc winning coal at a lower cost to-day than prior to 1914, yet the price of coal to the consuming public is not lower than it was at that time. It is reasonable to argue that if the miners are to-day producing more coal at a lower cost they have a very genuine grievance, and a right to expect better wages and conditions.
During question time to-day the Prime Minister was challenged hy the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) when he declared that ho still held the opinion which he had expressed when on the coalfields, namely that he had never seen more destitution in any other part of the Commonwealth than had been brought to his notice on that occasion. But what has the right honorable gentleman, or this Government, done to improve the lot of the miners? This afternoon he said that it would be impertinence on the part of the Commonwealth Government to interfere in what he termed was a purely State industrial dispute. I contend that if the New South Wales Government is not prepared to act, the Prime Minister certainly should take some steps to settle this dispute. The right honorable gentleman must have been aware, in June last, that the present -trouble was brewing, and that unless measures were taken to satisfy the miners’ claims, this dispute would come to a head, but, the
Prime Minister took no heed of the war.n.ings. Some time ago he received a deputation of miners’ representatives, who brought before him an urgent request for Commonwealth action, yet he had the effrontery to-day to tell the honorable member for Hunter that he had not been approached officially! Surely, if any honorable member of this House approaches the Prime Minister in connexion with a matter concerning his electorate so vitally as this coal dispute affects that of the honorable member for Hunter, it is a mis-use of words to suggest that one has not been approached in a representative manner. It ill becomes the right honorable gentleman to evade his responsibility in this way and to suggest that he was not forewarned about what was likely to occur. In June last, when the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) directed the attention of the Prime Minister to the probable happenings he would have been well advised had he taken the action then suggested. Indeed, he would be well advised to take it now. It is stupid to maintain this attitude of aloofness. He should not allow his pride to stand in the way, and refuse to call the interested parties together but should take immediate steps to convene a conference with a view to arranging a settlement of the trouble, not only in the interests of the parties concerned., but also in the interests of the Commonwealth. The parties should be invited to meet together and settle this dispute, or the Arbitration Court should be instructed to arrange for a compulsory conference under the chairmanship of one of the Arbitration judges.
The judge who has taken steps to this end within the last few days is not, I regret to state, fitted to preside over it. I am not saying this out of disrespect for the judge in question, because I do not know him. I do, however, know that lie a is very sick man and the business of presiding over a conference of coalowners and miners is not one for a sick man to undertake.
It is deplorable that, although the Prime Minister has declared that this Government stands wholeheartedly behind the Prime Minister of Great Britain in his negotiations to bring about peace in Europe, ,he is not equally wholehearted in his desire to effect a peaceful settlement of the dispute in the coal-mining industry. A peaceful settlement of this trouble would be in the best interests of the country. If it is not ended soon, it will involve a considerable number of men in other industries. The Prime Minister has taken credit for what he did towards bringing about a settlement of the dispute at the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation’s factory in Melbourne recently. I do not know precisely what action he took in that matter, but I understand that tlie Government decided to amend the regulation governing the reregistration of the union concerned, enabling the dispute to be brought within the ambit of the Arbitration Court within a few days. If this action had not been taken it is possible that months would have elapsed and the area of the dispute might have been considerably widened. In this way, so I understand, the Prime Minister and his colleagues assisted materially to bring about peace in that industry. I contend that similar action could be taken in connexion with the present dispute in the coal-mining industry. Sooner or later there will have to be a conference of the parties concerned. A settlement of the trouble will not be possible without a conference’, at which, we hope, commonsense will prevail.
The Prime Minister has told us that he and his Government stand for the principles of arbitration. That may be so, but it is significant that penalties are prescribed and enforced against employees who strike, whereas often there is some difficulty in defining what- is a lock-out. When I entered this Parliament in, 1928 there was a dispute in the coal-mining industry, and the honorable mem/ber for Hunter directed the attention of the then Prime Minister to what was taking place on the coal-fields. He claimed that the miners had been locked out. On that occasion, however, we were informed that as it did not pay the owners to produce coal at the then ruling prices they could not be expected to carry on an unprofitable industry. This Government is of the same political complexion as the Government that was then in power, the only difference being a change of personnel, and I say definitely, that the principles, or the lack of them, for which it stands, are unaltered. In 1928 the Government declared there was no lock-out, and that the employers could hardly be forced to spend money on an industry that was not paying. I see no difference between the principles involved then and now. If the miners are not prepared to go on winning coal at existing wages, and under existing conditions which they regard as dangerous, this Government cannot logically declare them guilty of a breach of an award, and outlaw them.
The honorable member for Hunter has cited certain statistics which proved conclusively that there has been a definite increase of the danger to human life in this industry. That danger also exists in Queensland, though perhaps in not so aggravated a form. Nevertheless, it is there, owing to the tactics of some of these bushranging mine-owning individuals, who are not prepared to obey the laws of this country.
– There is a Labour government inpower in Queensland. Surely it could make the owners obey its laws?
– More rigid inspection is necessary. An inspector would be required for practically every one of them in order to keep the mines in proper conditions for the workers. In that State, however, the position is a little better than elsewhere in the Commonwealth, because of the more effective supervision, but statistics definitely show that a greater percentage of men are losing their health and lives because mineowners are not observing the regulations governing working conditions. The position in other States is the same. Mechanization has speeded up production and lessened the output cost, and that is all that concerns the mine-owners. They want as much as possible for as little as they are compelled to pay, and they are prepared to break every law and regulation in the land. They should not be allowed to say “ We will not negotiate “. They declare that they will negotiate if the miners are prepared to go back to work. All that the toilers in the mines have to sell is their labour. They ask for certain conditions, and because they now take action to preserve the life of themselves and their workmates they are told to carry out the undertaking given by them a year ago. Every day we see solemn obligations being set aside, but, as soon as the toiler finds that something has happened that he did not bargain for a year ago, he is informed that there is nothing to confer about, and that he should wait until the term for which the present award was given has expired. If another 100 lives are lost, what does that matter to the employers? As far as they are concerned, it means only a few more widows and orphans, for there are plenty of unemployed to take the places of men who die in the course of their employment. The animals that some employers use are treated better than the human beings in their service. I can well understand the resentment felt by the miners on account of the conditions under which they work.
The Prime Minister should announce to the New South Wales Government and to other State governments that, if they are not prepared to act, the Commonwealth Government will do so on behalf of the people generally. The right honorable gentleman should call the parties together and allow them to elect an independent chairman. I believe that if that were done a satisfactory understanding would soon be reached. If there were less arbitration and more conciliation it would be better for all concerned. Ninety per cent. of the awards of the Queensland Arbitration Court are made by consent of the parties; but, where the conditions of employment are prescribed by men who do not understand the position generally in the industries concerned, it is impossible to obtain satisfactory decisions. Much of the present friction would be removed if, after claims had been presented to the court, they were referred to conciliatory commissions and compulsory conferences were called for the purpose of settling the disputes by direct negotiation between the parties. The small mine-owners on the coal-fields to-day are prepared to negotiate with the employees, and would largely accede to their requests; but, because certain big mine-owners do not wish to negotiate with the men, this course is not followed. In most branchesof industry, although the small employers are ready to negotiate with the workers, there are certain big interests, such as the Colonial Sugar
Henning Company, which observe only the law of duress by subtle methods. This company sends inspectors but to induce farmers on the sugar-fields to sign away their right to appeal to the Cane Prices Board. No other sugar mills in Australia would attempt to do that. The others leave the matter of price to the appropriate tribunal. The coal mineowners would be prepared .to negotiate with the men if it were not for the attitude of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, which says, “ There can be no negotiations until the miners go back under the terms which the court has laid down”. When the doctors were not prepared to work under the conditions prescribed under the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act, a royal commission was appointed to enable these gentlemen to state what conditions they were willing to accept; but the Transport Workers’ Act is applied to the waterside workers when -they kick over the traces. If the Commonwealth Arbitration Court carried out its duty on the lines of the Queensland Court, by giving power to settle industrial disputes to conciliation commissioners, there would he less industrial trouble than there is to-day, and common sense would be allowed to prevail.
No better case for the improvement of the miners’ conditions has ever been presented than that prepared by Mr. Nelson, the president of the Miners Federation. It is based on official statistics issued in various countries, and it shows that the miners in Australia are producing coal more cheaply than those in practically any other country. Surely a case founded on irrefutable facts is worthy of the closest consideration. The Prime Minister said that the Leader of the Opposition cannot have it both ways, but the Labour party is as much in favour of arbitration as is anybody else. It claims that conciliation should precede arbitration, with a view to agreement being reached between the parties. Acceptance of that principle in Queensland accounts for the fact that very few industrial troubles occur in that State. The agreements arrived at by consent have never been interfered with by the Queensland court, because they have resulted from a common understanding be tween those who do the work and those for whom it is done. The only argument advanced by the mine-owners is that the existing award should run out; but I claim that, if the employers declared that they could not carry on the mines because of certain increased costs, the excuse would be found by the Government that they could not be expected to carry on at a loss: If the workers have discovered that a definite alteration of their conditions has occurred, and the Government is asked to intercede with the employers to give them an opportunity to confer, they are told to go back to work under the award, and to wait for the court to deal with the position in due course.
When a claim is submitted to the court by the employees they are lucky if they can obtain a hearing within eighteen months. I speak from experience, because for a long period I appeared before the Arbitration Court as an advocate of the Australian Workers Union. At different times we have waited for over two years to get a case on behalf of station hands heard by the Commonwealth court.
– Are there any claims at present that have been waiting for that period. ?
– I cannot answer that question, but I know that some claims have been held up for a considerable time. There are only two judges actively associated with the federal court to-day. Nobody could expect Judge Beeby to be fit for his job, having regard to his unfortunate condition of health. No matter how desirous he might be of expediting the work of the court, his physical condition would prevent him from assisting m that direction. If a member of the court is unable to carry out his duties, a. substitute for him should be provided. The court should be informed that its duties in regard to conciliation should be discharged, and that Chief Judge Dethridge and Judge DrakeBrockman should not be doing all the work. It should be told that, when a magistrate has certain power delegated to him by the court, he should not be called upon to await instructions when he sees an industrial trouble brewing. The judges now refuse to act on his reports, if he has not been specifically instructed to make such reports. That is the sort of practice that make3 the Commonwealth Arbitration Court stink in the nostrils of many of the workers. Men in various centres in the electorate which I represent in this House have gone to the trouble of investigating industrial disputes, and have made reports to the judges, but they have been practically told to mind their own business. When they have asked for authority to investigate matters, much correspondence has been resorted to before authority has been given to proceed, although the local magistrates are quite as well qualified to do this work as are those who issue the instructions, because they have been making inquiries of this kind for many years.
The Prime Minister should realize that he owes something to Australia, and therefore ho should tell the parties that they must get together and confer, whether they like it or not. The interests of Australia are at stake, and the Prime Minister should insist on the parties getting round the table without delay. If something is not done quickly, more and more people will be affected. I do not believe that the coal-miners desire that more workers shall become involved in the dispute, but the risk of disease and death has compelled them to take this stand. They have statistics to prove the truth of their claims. The Prime Minister should take prompt action to bring the parties together Avith a view to arriving at some agreement.
.- I heartily endorse the strictures passed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) on the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) for his attitude towards the dispute in the coal-mining industry. The Prime Minister cannot possibly justify the attitude that he has adopted in regard to this industrial dislocation. He has shown an absolute indifference to the need for a peaceful settlement of the dispute. During the concluding stages of the previous sittings of this House, members on this side drew the attention of the right honorable gentleman to the impending trouble in the coal-mining industry, and sought to impress on him the importance of something. being clone to get the two factions together with a view to a settlement being arrived at. But the Prime Minister turned a deaf ear to all requests for his intervention. He was not prepared to recognize the urgency of the situation, as presented by honorable members generally on this side of the chamber, and emphasized by members from coal-mining districts, as well as by the Leader of the Opposition. The explanation offered by the Prime Minister to-day is far from convincing.. He should have been prepared to take a lead at an earlier period in arranging a conference with a view to arriving at a satisfactory solution. Ho should not have allowed this trouble to go so far as to cause actual dislocation of the industry. In this connexion I am of the opinion that the conditions which surround our system of arbitration and conciliation need to be improved. The methods that we employ in this country are far too rigid, in that we require the observance of certain procedure in arbitration matters. The conciliation provisions of our industrial laws might be more freely used than they are now. Had those provisions been applied in this dispute a settlement could have been arrived at, and the present dislocation avoided. The conditions which exist in the coal-mining industry are such that the men are justified in endeavouring to draw public attention to the serious anomalies which exist, particularly the need to provide safeguards and improved conditions in the mines. The modern methods which are now being applied to the winning of coal expose to greater risks than ever before those engaged in the process of coal-mining. Unfortunately, our system of arbitration has been slow to recognize these added dangers and to take adequate steps to protect workers against them. All honorable members know the danger of explosions arising from the presence of coal dust. Any act of carelessness, or the omission to take certain precautions, may at any time cause an explosion involving appalling loss of life. A new danger now arises from the practice of spreading over those areas where the coal dust is supposed to exist a dusting material which has injurious effects on the health of the men in the mines. The possibility of contracting miner’s phthisis is a well-known risk associated with, metalliferous mining. Indeed, it is one of the greatest problems associated with the industry. Because of the new processes now being employed in coal-mines, coalminers are now exposed to this danger, and, naturally, they are concerned for their health. These new dangers demand immediate recognition and adjustment. All that is possible should be done to minimize the danger arising from this modern form of mining, and therefore I heartily support the claims of those men who go down into the depths of the earth in order to win wealth for the nation. The country should not fail to recognize its duty to them ; it should take immediate steps to safeguard their lives and to minimize the risks to which they are subjected. It is almost inconceivable that the Prime Minister should turn a deaf ear to the claims of these men. That he should fail to recognize the urgency of the situation is deplorable; that he should be satisfied with the existing protracted court procedure is tragic. The situation- is so alarming that the coal-miners have been forced to take this extreme step in order to bring the facts before the public. My earnest hope is that the conciliatory provisions of our industrial laws shall be applied more speedily to disputes than in the past. The Prime Minister will suffer no loss of prestige by calling, a conference of the parties. The criticism of the Government by honorable members on this side is well merited. The Government should realize that action more in keeping with its responsibilities to the nation is demanded of it when questions of major industrial importance arise. I am impelled to support the coal-miners in their efforts to improve working conditions in mines, and to have essential safeguards provided. I hope that their claims will be conceded at the earliest possible moment, so that, justice may be done to those who work in the coal-mines of this country.
In view of the huge surpluses which the Postal Department has enjoyed for several years, the niggardly attitude of the Department, particularly in relation to the provision of better facilities, is difficult to understand. I represent a district which, during recent years, has shown greater growth than has taken place in most of the other suburbs of Adelaide, but the Postal Department has been slow to recognize its claim to a better service. In saying this, I do not criticize the local officials of the Department. They are doing all that is reasonably possible, but I do think that the policy of the department generally could be improved. It would appear that the department has not got away from its outlook during the depression, when every possible economy had to be exercised, even to the extent of reducing services. It does not seem to realize that conditions to-day are different from those of eight or nine years ago. The provision of greater facilities to such communities as I represent is long overdue. I cannot remain silent longer.
In my opinion, a number of post offices should no longer be allowance offices controlled by storekeepers and others. The time has come when official post offices should be provided in such places. In this connexion, I urge the immediate claims of Hilton for better postal facilities. This district is as thickly populated ae are most suburban areas, .and should be provided with proper postal services. For some years a store has accepted the obligation of providing postal facilities for that district, but during recent times the service has been pushed right into the background and now a back room is actually utilized for providing postal services and conveniences to the residents of that wellestablished district. The district municipal authorities have complained to me in regard to this. It is not fair to ask the community to put up with such poor facilities. I have no doubt that in. other electorates, particularly in the metropolitan areas where allowance post offices are permitted to continue to provide services for communities important enough ,to justify the erection of official offices.
I am not at all satisfied with the services rendered by the department in connexion with letter deliveries. For some considerable time I have been asking for a mail delivery service to Kilburn which is closely adjacent to the Government railway workshops and has a population of 500 residents, but so far the department has been unwilling to acccde to the request. I shall continue to complain at what I feel is neglect of these people until such time as the department makes amends by providing that essential facility. I ask the Government to m ak, a thorough survey of Kilburn and many other districts, not only in my constituency hut in others as well, with a view to ascertaining if it is not possible to provide improved postal facilities. The revenues of the Postal Department are buoyant and there is no justification for the niggardly attitude adopted by it in respect of requests for improved postal services.
There is another phase of the Postal Department’s activities which I feel I should bring under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral. I am not at all satisfied with the class of telephone cabinets that we find installed in many areas to-day. I have a distinct dislike for the unsightly cement cabinet known as the “ pill-box “.’ There are, however, other forms of telephone cabinets which in my opinion are even more objectionable than the “pillbox”. There is, for instance, a sort of box arrangement with two spring door flaps. Any one wishing to use the telephone hai first to manoeuvre himself through the swing doors and when, eventually, he is able to use the apparatus, he finds that every one else in the immediate vicinity is able to overhear the conversation. These boxes are not only inconvenient and unsightly, but are also not in keeping with what we might expect from a Commonwealth department whose activities prove so profitable. I have found the greatest inconvenience possible in trying ‘to utilize public telephones housed in these most absurd kinds of boxes. I hope that something very much more suitable will be provided in all areas that to-day are served with inconvenient public telephone facilities of that type. These unsightly cabinets might very well be replaced by the more ornamental kind of cabinet recently introduced, which is constructed largely of panel glass. These cabinets follow closely along the lines of those used in England, are much more convenient to use and find much more favour with the community generally. I hope that the Postmaster-General’s Department will endeavour to assist local governing bodies in their desire to provide more ornamental public conveniences by installing telephone cabinets of more pleasing design. Unfortunately, in the past it seems to have been the opinion of the department that anything is good enough for the people, particularly of some of the poorer districts. I am not prepared to accept that. In the community which I represent, I wish to see the best postal facilities provided, and public telephone boxes an adornment to the surroundings rather than an eyesore. There is no excuse for not providing suitable public telephone cabinets. I suggest that the department might very well undertake a comprehensive survey of all works of this sort that need to be undertaken throughout the Commonwealth. If the present unsightly cabinets were replaced by those of more pleasing design, it would provide work for many of those unfortunate people who are out of employment at the present time.
During the recess, I had the privilege of visiting, in company with the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), some of the distant stations along the East-West railway line. One of the more important centres along the line which I visited was Tarcoola. I am afraid that the Commonwealth has not fully realized the importance and the value of Tarcoola from other than a Commonwealth railways viewpoint. While we were in that” locality we were invited to inspect certain gold-mining area? in which a number of men, who are to be commended for their enterprise, are seeking to win gold. At an earlier period this field was regarded as one of the richest finds in South Australia, but the possibilities of its successful development were not sufficiently explored to determine accurately the extent to which Tarcoola could contribute to our national enrichment. It would be a splendid gesture on the part of the Commonwealth Government to assist in helping to explore the possibilities of this field. From time to time we make grants to the State governments for the relief of unemployment and to finance such works as might be the means of relieving distress at times when an increasing number of our people is unable to secure employment. I feel, however, that much of the money provided by the Commonwealth in this way is not used to the best advantage, and, therefore, I ask the Government when making future provision by way of grant to South Australia to indicate that, in regard to the Tarcoola area, full exploration of its possibilities is desirable. Such an investigation would disclose whether the development of this field will not only provide additional employment for men who today are out of work, but also bring to the Commonwealth railways system much enhanced passenger and freight receipts than are at present derived. To-day men go out into those areas with just the bare ration of 4s. lOd. a week, and with no provision whatever to purchase the necessary fracture required to work some of the very heavy country where gold is thought to exist. As this field has never been given a full opportunity to prove its value, every effort should be made to conduct a thorough survey of its resources. If men are prepared to demonstrate their courage and their faith in this field in this way on a ration of only 4s. lOd. a week, surely this Government should be prepared to do something very much more worth while to ascertain the resources of the field than it is at present doing. Isolation is not the only drawback experienced by the men who go out to open up a mineral belt such as that at Tarcoola. I found that when they make purchases from the one and only store in that community, 10 per cent, is added to the price charged to those employed in the railway service. That is not fair. Even if the Commonwealth Government is not prepared to make a grant to aid these men, who undertake a community service by working in places such as Tarcoola, it should do something towards an adjustment of the costs that are levied upon them through a Government store when it is the only one available. Of course I fully appreciate that the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner will indicate that he cannot be expected to continue a service without at least recouping himself for any costs that may be incurred by freight and the servicing of those who purchase from the store. I am quite willing that the prices charged should provide for that, but I feel that the arrangement could be on a much more just basis than it is. It seems to me that under existing conditions an unfair impost is placed upon those engaged in avocations not associated with the Commonwealth service. Even members of the State public service employed at Tarcoola are required to pay the additional 10 per cent., and no provision is made in their remuneration for this extra cost of living. I hope that an adjustment will he made in the prices charged at government stores where such stores are the only ones in the community. In such circumstances all residents should have equal rights in respect of the purchases that they make.
During our journeyings along the railway line we discovered many anomalous positions. One of these was of such an important character that it should receive very early attention from this Parliament. I refer to the deplorable housing conditions of many of the Commonwealth railway servants, both married and single, who are required to live on that route. I anticipate that at an early date the honorable member for Maribyrnong will raise this question in the House by special motion, for it is far too important to be brought before the House with a host of other issues during a Supply debate. On that occasion we hope to be able to give concrete evidence of the disabilities under which these people work and live, and to indicate the wide disparity in the housing conditions of officers employed at the same place by two Commonwealth departments.
I do not wish to monopolize the time of the House, but I have so many grievances in mind that I am afraid the time available to me in one Supply debate will not be sufficient to air them. I shall reserve other matters that I desire to bring under the notice of the Government until such time as I shall have greater opportunity to deal with them.
I earnestly ask the Postmaster-General to give every consideration to those claims that I have made for a much improved service in the community that I have the privilege to represent. I also ask the
Government to consider the claims that I have advanced on behalf of the people who go to distant parts of the Commonwealth to win such metals as may be a source of enrichment not only to themselves hut also to the nation. I hope that every encouragement will be given to them to persevere with their work. Practical support for such men would no doubt help to provide profitable employment for many who to-day are required to go without the means essential to a proper and well-ordered livelihood and who, in these times, because of recurrent periods of unemployment, find increased difficulty in earning a living.
.- The first matter that I wish to bring under the notice of the House relates to the administration of the Invalid and Old-ago Pensions Act. The Pensions Department, in its administrative interpretations of the act, places obstacles in the way of claimants that the legislature did not intend. I refer to certain provisions relating to claims for both invalid and old-age pensions. One of these states that a claimant shall be disentitled to a pension if he directly or indirectly divests himself of property or income in order to qualify for, or obtain, a pension. The meaning of that provision is, I think, perfectly clear. A pensioner is not entitled to qualify himself for a pension by getting rid of property or income for that purpose. To become a disqualification the transfer must have been made with the object of obtaining a pension. The Pensions Department acknowledges this fact. But when a person who may at some time have disposed of or given away property applies for a pension the department says: “We do not find that this person has disposed of property with the object of qualifying for a pension. We do not even suggest that “. It has a formula to this effect. But it intimates that the practice of the department is to treat property which an applicant has given away as being still his. There is no sanction in the law for that attitude. If the department finds that property has been given away by an applicant in order that he may qualify for a pension, if has no option but to refuse a pension; but unless it finds that this is so, it has no right to treat such property as being still in the possession of the claimant. When the department declares unequivocally that it does not find or suggest that property has been disposed of to gain eligibility for a pension it acts wrongly in saying that, for the purpose of deciding whether the applicant is entitled to a pension, or of computing the amount of the pension that an applicant may obtain, it takes into consideration property which he has honestly and in good faith disposed of some time before. Several cases have come under my. notice of persons who at some time have given property to a child. Subsequently the donors have fallen upon evil days and have had to apply for a pension. After the claim has been investigated and it has been found that some time, perhaps five or seven years before, the applicant had given certain property to a child the department says to him: “ We do not suggest that the gift was made in order to qualify for a pension, but we must still treat the property as though it belongs to you in order to decide whether you are entitled to a pension, and if so, at what rate “. Voluntary gifts are irrevocable by law in every State. A donor is not entitled to recover them or to force a child to restore them. Of course, in many instances the child would not restore them. The practice of the department to which I am now referring is entirely unauthorized by law, and is unfair to claimants for pensions.
I shall refer now to another closely associated matter. ‘ The department is directed to refuse either an invalid or an old-age pension to a claimant if relatives - husband, wife, father, mother or child - have been severally or collectively adequately maintaining him. That is intended to apply to the case of an applicant who is adequately maintained by his family. But the Pensions Department extends it to cover other cases. It says: “ You are not fully maintained by your parents or your family, but your parents or family can pay 10s. a week towards your maintenance and have been doing so or have been providing you with maintenance of that value. We will give you the difference between that amount and the full amount of the pension”. That practice also is unauthorized. The relevant section of the act applies to the case where a pensioner is adequately maintained and has no need to apply for the pension at all; but it is not intended to apply to the case where a pensioner is inadequately maintained. The Pensions Department has no right, under this section, to say to the family which is contributing 103. or so a week for the maintenance of, say, an invalid child, “ We will make up the difference between the amount and £1 a week “.
I now draw attention to an investigation which took place in Victoria last year into statistics in relation to unemployment. There is, of course, very grave doubt about the accuracy of the unemployment figures upon which the Government relies. We have heard, over and over again, that the Commonwealth Statistician is satisfied with the accuracy of the figures returned by trade unions, and regards them as an accurate index to the number of unemployed persons. The report, following upon the investigation made in Melbourne last year, is referred to in the June volume of the Economic Record in an article by Mr. E. E. Ward, of the University of Melbourne,who was one of the gentlemen who took part in the investigation.
– Have the unemployment statistics ever been claimed to be an accurate record ?
– Yes, over and over again. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has repeatedly said that the Commonwealth Statistician relies upon them. Undoubtedly reliance in these figures has been placed by him and other Ministers over and over again. The relevant portions of the argument used by Mr. Ward may be briefly summarized. He says that 40 per cent. of the adult male workers in Victoria belong to trade unions. To test the accuracy of the returns, the investigating body had to find out upon what basis the trade unions proceeded. A questionnaire was sent to those trade unions which make returns to the Commonwealth Statistician. To that questionnaire, replies were received from 30 unions. They form from 50 to 60 per cent. of the total membership of the unions in Victoria. Consequently, they would cover from 20 to 25 per cent. of the adult male workers in the trades that these unions represent. I now quote Mr. Ward’s own words: -
The unions were asked to explain the methods by which they estimated their unemployed. Some kept unemployment registers, which members signed when they became unemployed. In unions paying unemployment benefit-
There are not many of these. The Amalgamated Engineering Union would be about the best type of them - sucha record would probably be fairly accurate, but in others, the majority, where there is no advantage in registering, for a time at least, the records and the returns based on them would obviously bo liable to error. There would be no reliable check on members working in other occupations, up to one or two years at least, when they are removed from the register. As the replies indicated, some unions try to allow for these errors by guessing the probable number affected. Such returns are based on records plus guesswork. Other unions keep no record at all, and simply send in a return based on “general observation.” The character of the occupations represented by some unions, e.g., seasonal work, prevents any accurate record being kept. Some unions return men on relief work as employed, while others, probably the majority, do not. Generally speaking, the information which unions have about unemployment amongst their own members is, ina few cases, fairly complete, and in the majority approximate to very dubious. This puts a limit on the accuracy of the returns so far as they are based on the information available.
So we see that even as to the members of the unions, the returns made to the Commonwealth Statistician are of little value. The Government treats the returns made by the unions as being not merely accurate as to their own members, but also a guide to the position of trade generally. That is to say, it takes the union as the average of the trade and argues that what is true ‘ of the unionists of the trade . is true generally of the trade. This was tested also by an investigation made in Victoria. The records of the Sustenance Department were examined and of 2,000 cases taken as examples from that record, it was found that only 12 per cent. had ever been members of a union, reporting or otherwise. Of these the majority were unfinancial, and it is said by Mr. Ward that it would be a generous estimate to say that 6 per cent. of the men were effectivemembers of the unions that made reports. So probably, almost certainly, trade union returns, as well as being a defective index of employment or unemployment, are not an index of the employment in the trade because a very considerable number of the unemployed are not members of a trade union about whom the unions can make any returns at all. Then, the investigation examined the figures of the State Government itself, and it found that the number of people enrolled at the Government Labour Exchanges is again a fuller index for the number of people unemployed in Victoria. Mr. Ward says -
There is another method of estimating the total number unemployed in Victoria. We know the number registered at the Government labour exchanges at any date for sustenance and relief work, plus the number actually on relief work. These are the registered unemployed, and if we know the number unregistered at the same date, and added them on, we would have a fairly accurate estimate of the total number unemployed. Those returned as registered at any date before the end of the month would include a certain, number who were not really unemployed, because they had found work during the month, and had- not been removed from the register.
He goes on to say -
The difficulty lies in estimating the number Unregistered at any date. The reasons why tuen do not register are- numerous. Some prefer to keep going as best they can until their resources run out, others will not register on principle, and struggle on by all sorts of means, while others, who pick up .casual work sufficient to bring them over the permissible income level, or whose family income exceeds this, cannot obtain sustenance or relief work, and so do not bother to register.
The accuracy of these conclusions was tested by taking a sample of unemployed adult males in the suburb of Fitzroy by a door-to-door canvas. Of these, it was found that 60 per cent, were registered and 40 per cent, unregistered. Mr. Ward says -
We would expect this proportion to be fairly representative for suburbs like Fitzroy^ while for other areas the proportion of unregistered would probably be higher.
That of course indicates that there are no real figures upon which we can form any real conclusion as to the number of unemployed in the State of Victoria. Probably what is true for the State of Victoria is true for the other parts of Australia. It would appear that the number of persons unemployed in Australia is greater than the figures that the Commonwealth Statistician gives us. Anybody who has the experience of representing an industrial district must believe that there is still a considerable number of unemployed persons in Australia. Probably they are greater in number than they were a while ago. A number of persons by reason of inexperience are unfitted to work. They are young men who have never worked and who cannot expect to get work upon an equal footing with trained men. I know myself of a man who was a boy leaving school when the depression started and has never worked. He has married and raised a family of three upon sustenance. He is a perfectly intelligent young fellow,’ but he has no trade at all and no chance of getting employment. We must also remember that although industry is busier than it was, machinery every day is taking the place of living workers, and a great number of people who have dropped out of employment have no chance of getting back to work. There should be co-operation between the Governments, Commonwealth and State, and the municipalities, with the object of placing men in industry and of training the untrained for industry. No doubt the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) has read the interesting report on the unemployment of youth made by Mr. Justice Wolff, of the Supreme Court of Western Australia and of the Arbitration Court of Western Australia. It is a very large report which deserves a great deal of attention. But the Governments of Australia should strain every nerve - I think that is the opinion of everybody - to put people back into industry, to provide employment by every means, to provide training for persons who are untrained. It is of no use to say that times are better than they’ were until persons, unemployed and unemployable, have work or have been trained for work. It is true that there are unemployables, hut unemployability is not their own fault; it is due to the fact that during the crisis they had no work and had no opportunity to acquire training for work.
I have been in communication with the Attorney-General’s Department in respect of the need to make provision in Melbourne for the easy sale of awards made by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Formerly they were sold by the Government Printer in Melbourne, because that was the seat of government. Now the Government Printer at Canberra distributes a certain number to the Government Printers in the different States.- It is very difficult to obtain from the Government Printer an award unless one knows exactly its number and the union and employers who were parties to it, because there is no person in the Printing Office whose duty it is to qualify himself in this matter so as to know anything about it. It is very difficult indeed for union representatives and for professional people to get these awards, lt must be much more difficult for men who want to find what is their position as employers or employees. The Registrar of the Arbitration Court distributes a certain number of the awards gratis. The office of the Registrar is obviously the place where awards should be obtainable, but the Attorney-General’s Department takes the view that it would be difficult to use this office as a place where awards could be purchased because awards are given away there. I do not see any difficulty. It is the obvious place for sale to the public of Commonwealth awards. The persons at the office of the Arbitration Court are familiar with the awards; they know the particular awards in each industry. One industry may have five or six different awards. Honorable members know what happens. In the first case the union cites a number of employers, gets an award, and then proceeds to cite other employers in respect of whom a similar award is made. That is known as the “ roping-in “ award. In the clothing trade three or four sections have different awards and each of those sections has three or four different awards. Imagine how difficult it is for a working man or woman to know his or her rate of payment when he finds that the Printer cannot supply the award unless more information is given. A while ago I had occasion to direct the attention of the Government to a happening in Tasmania. It appeared in a case brought for a breach of the engineering award, that no copy of the engineering award could be procured in Tasmania. I understand that the same thing has happened in other places. It is unfair to employers who do not know their obligations. They have to post the awards. This is very foolish and thoughtless. Many of these things are due to the fact that the Parliament and Government of the Commonwealth are at Canberra, which is so far removed from the’ cities and public opinion. I venture the statement that the Victorian Government would be much readier to meet the people’s needs than is the Commonwealth Government.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
.- The purpose of this Supply Bill No. 2 is to provide funds to enable the Government to carry on the services of the Commonwealth during the months of October and November. Supply Act No. 1, which was passed just prior to the adjournment in June last, covered the services for the first three months of the current financial year. I take this opportunity to criticize severely the Government, not only for its attitude on this occasion, but also every year during which it has been in power,, in bringing forward Supply Bills covering nearly half the financial year, instead of bringing down the budget which alone gives Parliament the opportunity to control expenditure. Since this Government has been in power the introduction of the budget has developed into a farce. Yesterday, the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), in his budget speech, announced the Government’s intention to provide for an expenditure of £93,000,000 - a record for the Commonwealth - but it is probable that nearly half the current financial year will have passed before the budget proposals have been discussed by honorable members and parliamentary approval given to the Government’s programme. We understand that the Government desires a speedy passage for this bill. Obviously, Government members have been instructed not to debate it, in order that it will be. passed within the next few hours. As I have stated, it will give the Government the funds necessary to carry on until the end of November. In Great Britain, upon whose parliamentary system our legislature is reputedly based, the financial year ends in March, and the practice is to introduce the budget, at the latest, in the following month. In this Parliament, however, the practice has grown up of bringing in the budget just whenever the Government feels so inclined. As an instance, the 1937-38 budget was introduced just prior to the last general election, and the Government fought that election on its proposals.
– The honorable member should not talk about that election. He nearly lost his political life then.
– That was due to the tactics that first returned and still keep the honorable member for Barton in this Parliament. But it will not happen next time. As an exponent of those particular methods, he knows what he is talking about. The Labour party is prepared to give full support to proposals for the adequate defence of this country. We admit that a considerable addition to expenditure is unavoidable on account of increased defence precautions, but it is strange .that the Government should choose this time to bring forward a half-baked scheme of national insurance and pensions, which will further increase expenditure .by approximately £2,000,000 a year, even at the commencement of the project.
The position of the Commonwealth at the present time is similar to that which existed prior to the defeat of the BrucePage Government. For months and even years before, that Government was defeated, the then Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) prophesied that, largely as the result of the actions of those who reputedly had such sound knowledge of finance - Australia’s increasing overseas indebtedness, due to the Government’s overseas borrowing policy, and the resultant tremendous excess of imports over exports - this country was rapidly approaching a financial depression. The then Prime Minister, Mr. Bruce, and members of his Government sneered at Mr. Scullin and others who sounded this note of warning. Apparently, they considered that, as they had only a limited time to remain in office, there was no need to bother. Their attitude appeared to be, “After us, the deluge “. Warnings of impending disaster were made also on behalf of the Australian Industries Protection League, which was working in conjunction with the Australian Natives Association and many other strongly Australian organizations.
I stress this point to-night because the” suggestions which I am going to make are supported by the best economic authorities, including the Commonwealth Bank Board in its latest report, the Bank of New South Wales in a recent circular, and by recognized writers in various unbiased economic pamphlets. Any honorable member belonging to an economic organization must realize that we are rapidly approaching another depression. This view is supported by the best informed economists throughout Australia. I am not speaking as an alarmist, but I consider it advisable that we should know exactly whither we are heading, in order that we may make adequate preparation to avoid a recurrence of the financial crisis of 1929. In 1927, and later, the Australian Industries Protection League approached the government of the day and directed attention to the danger. I remind honorable members of the very interesting pamphlet issued by that league. It contained a comprehensive economic review, and is well worthy of study.
In its communication to the then Prime Minister, Mr. Bruce, this organization drew attention to the very serious position which the Australian nation was fast approaching. It pointed put, as an indication of the momentum of the Australian financial drift and the rapid manner in which the drift was accelerating, that the adverse trade balance of ‘the Commonwealth for the first nine months of the financial year 1927-28 was almost £13,000,000, as compared with £19,500,000 for the preceding 36 months. These representations were supported by the Australian Natives Association, the Australian Institute of Secretaries, the Commonwealth Institute of Accountants (Victorian Division), the Victorian Employers’ Federation, the Victorian Trades Hall and a large number of manufacturing firms representing the following industries: - Cement, clothing, chemicals, distilleries, engineering, fruit preserving and leather. The letter from these interests pointed out to the then anti-Labour Prime Minister that -
To permit this dangerous trend to continue would be a blunder of the first magnitude. A nation of only 6,000,000 people cannot afford to hypothecate its possessions and mortgage its future in such a prodigal fashion. If ill lowed to go unchecked national insolvency must ensue. To avoid such a calamity we very earnestly submit that it is the duty of the Parliament of the Commonwealth, as the supreme legislative authority, to meet at once and take the necessary action to safeguard the financial integrity of the nation and ensure the preservation of its honour.
Every member of this Parliament who is interested in these matters should take hoed of what happened on that occasion. Not the slightest notice was taken of the warning that we were rapidly approaching national insolvency, notwithstanding that these warnings came from reputable organizations whole-heartedly Australian in character. The prophecies made by Mr. Scullin were also unheeded, and with speed unchecked we went headlong into the last depression. That happened when we were led by a Prime Minister who even to-day is regarded as having extensive knowledge of high finance.
– What is the honorable member’s prophecy?
– What I am suggesting is only for members of Parliament who are capable of understanding the postion. The honorable member for Barton would not understand.
– Order ! The disorderly interjections by the honorable member for Barton must cease.
– I repeat that this country is rapidly approaching a serious financial position such as that which existed when the Labour party under Mr. Scullin assumed office in 1929. Very likely it will be the misfortune of the Labour party once again to come into power when Australia is enduring another period of unprecedented depression.
– That will be goodluck for Australia.
– It will be good luck for Australia if we have a majority in both houses. But whether a Labour government or a non-Labour government were in office it would be better if such an unsatisfactory state of affairs could be avoided.
The trade balance at present is most serious. Without wishing to bo parochial, I draw attention to the fact that it was largely the increased exports by Queensland which gave this country its slightly favorable trade balance during the last financial year.
– That statement might start an argument with Western Australia.
– According to figures issued by the Commonwealth Statistician, during the last financial year Queensland’s favorable overseas trade balance was £12,750,000, and the total favorable trade balance for the Commonwealth was only £11,848,000, so that Queensland not only provided the whole of the Australian balance of exports over imports but in addition contributed £1,000,000 to make up for the shortage in two of the other five States. The Queensland industries largely responsible for the favorable trade balance in that State were wheat, dairying, sugar, wool, beef and mining. In reply to those who are so ready to criticize the Queensland sugar industry, I point out that last year that industry exported 427,000 tons of sugar, representing in value more than £4,000,000. There was a favorable trade balance of less than £12,000,000, and well over £4,000,000 of that was provided by the Queensland sugar industry.
The Treasurer has brought forward the usual estimates of receipts and expenditure. Unfortunately, his record in this Parliament shows that his estimates of surpluses cannot be relied upon, as they are usually very much under the actual figures. The Scullin Government would have had every justification for bringing its budget down late in the year, but only during the regime of that administration was the budget presented a few weeks after the close of the financial year. It is interesting to note that this year, although there must be increased taxes to provide the additional funds desired by the Government, the Treasurer expects a reduction of revenue from customs duties and excise. As was pointed out by the Commonwealth Grants Commission, on page 14 of its 1933 report-
Customs and excise taxation, as we have it in Australia, has two defects. It is not easily adjusted to current needs, because the greater part - normally over 60 per cent. - is the result of the protection policy, which cannot be changed from year to year to meet treasury requirements. On the other hand, it varies more quickly and seriously with business conditions than any other major branch of taxation. In 1930-31, for example, customs and excise revenue fell away by over £13,000,000 or 32 per cent., and remained at the same low figure in the next year. Total direct taxation, Commonwealth and State, actually increased in 1930-31, and even in 1931-32 it was at about the same level as 1929-30. Even if sales tax be added, the fall in total indirect taxation in 1930-31, compared with 1929-30, was £10,000,000 or 25 per cent. It follows that an Australian government, entirely dependent on customs and excise would be in a very precarious position, and that any nice adjustment of taxing powers to responsibilities is, in practice, impossible.
That is a position which must be carefully watched by this Parliament. If the revenue ‘position becomes serious, as appears only too probable, we shall not be able to depend to any great extent on customs and excise receipts, for this revenue is liable to decline by from 25 per cent, to 32 per cent., as .was experienced during the term of the Scullin Government.
– I thought that that was the form of taxation on which the Labour party relied.
– The present Government is obtaining £20,000,000 more from that source than’ did the Scullin Government.
I draw attention to the following statement by the Treasurer in his budget speech -
As regards employment in Australia, the average trade union unemployment percentage in 1930-37 was 10.0, and in 1937-38 it was S.5. A slight increase occurred in the last quarter of the financial year, the latest available figure being 8.6 per cent.
The percentages quoted by the Treasurer are quite correct, but they show how easy it is to juggle with figures. He has taken the average unemployment for last year, and has shown that in the last quarter there was an increase of 8.6 per cent. If we accept the figures inthe latest report of the Commonwealth Bank Board, and the latest circular of the Bank of New South Wales, we. find that, whereas, unemployment in the first quarter of this year was 8 per cent., it increased during the last quarter to 8.6 per cent. The Treasurer’s figures, unless carefully examined, would lead to the belief that the increase of unemployment, had been only .1 per cent., although, in fact, the increase in three months was .6 per cent. These figures support the contention of the Opposition that we need to be wary how we tread. If we could believe the statement by the Government and its supporters that prosperity has returned, members of the Opposition would, be as enthusiastic as anybody else, tout the facts cannot be ignored. /
It is unfortunate that the Government chose the present time, when the financial outlook is becoming rapidly worse, to bring into operation its long-heralded, but little expected, unnecessary and unsatisfactory national health and pensions insurance legislation. Those persons who are to be called upon compulsorily to contribute to the insurance fund will all pay in, but in probably less than 1 per cent, of cases will they take anything out. All persons in receipt of an income of- £7 a week or less are to be forced to be thrifty, whilst those receiving any sum above that are allowed to be as thriftless as they may desire. During the next year, no less than £12,000,000 will be taken from the Australian community to finance the national insurance scheme. The employers will be called upon to contribute £5,000,000, the employees ,vill pay a similar sum, and £2,000,000 will be provided by the Government. The spending power of the people of the Commonwealth will thus be reduced by £12,000,000 at a time when it is essential that the spending power of the people should be at its maximum. The great majority of the men and women who receive less than £7 a week spend every penny of their income, yet over £5,000,000 is to be taken from them. I suggest that this Government, whether it realizes it or not, has deliberately introduced a policy of deflation. The collection of this large amount from the community next year will tremendously accelerate the onrush of the depression. To-day it is called recession, but, whether it be styled depression or recession, it appears to be only too rapidly approaching.
– A proportion of the money will come back into circulation.
– That is so. It is probable, under the act, that over £2,000,000 will be spent on doctors and chemists in the next financial year, and there is provision that contributions not needed for the time being are to be invested in Commonwealth or British bonds, or left with the Commonwealth Bank; *but whether the money goes back Into circulation or not will depend upon the economic position. As far as British and Commonwealth bonds are concerned, it will depend upon whether there is confidence in the community, and whether the people who sell the bonds to the Government are willing to invest their money again. It will also depend upon whether the Commonwealth Bank is prepared to extend credit to enable public works to be carried out in this country.-
– It is easy to see that the honorable member has been reading Major Douglas and Jeremiah.
– My facts are neither from Major Douglas nor from Moscow; they come from the Australian Quarterly, a journal supplied free of cost to every member of the Economic Society in Australia. The fact that this publication is supplied free of cost shows that these societies must have considerable confidence in it. Moreover, they are societies which may be regarded as representative of ultra-conservative opinion. This journal points out that one of the reasons why this Government has introduced national insurance legislation is for the purpose of avoiding the payment of invalid and old-age pensions, and that even in that regard it has once. again made a miscalculation. I believe that, whilst that is one of the Government’s objects, there are deeper motives behind this legislation. It has been suggested that another reason has something to do with immigration. According to reports, Sir Earle Page was so enthusiastic about migration to Australia while in the United States of America, that he invited American citizens to settle in this country. Apparently, the idea is that citizens from countries which already have some system of national insurance would be more likely to migrate to Australia because of the opportunity to enter into reciprocal arrangements.
– The United States of America has no system of national insurance.
– I am aware of that. I was merely indicating how great is the desire to bring migrants here. Another ulterior motive which has been suggested is that the Government wishes to divide the community into two classes - those with incomes of over £7 a week, and those less fortunate persons whom the Government desires to treat as serfs, as in the old feudal days.
I now come to the unsuccessful endeavour of the Government to save money in respect of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. The journal from which I have already quoted proceeds: -
In spite of the fact that the contributory pensions part of the scheme is being introduced to help the Exchequer, by 1978 the total cost under the new scheme will bo £43,000,000 (as against £32,000,000 under the old act). Contributions will lighten the £43,000,000 by some £10,000,000.
Under the new scheme the amount will be £11,000,000 more.
The idea is>, then, that another £10,000,000 will be obtained from interest on a nest-egg which tlie scheme will provide for making contributions and Government subsidies so much in excess of requirements that a fund of £278,000,000 will be built up by 1978. But this actuarial invention needs close analysis. The mere saving of £278,000,000 will not make us one penny richer in 1978 unless it is still represented in 1978 by overseas investments, or by reproductive capital assets in Australia still turning in their 3i per cent, after charging fair average prices for the services provided. But in the past war expenses, uneconomic land settlement, and over-expensive forms of public works have absorbed a big part of our national savings. It is likely that a large part of the £278,000,000 to be saved will find its way into non-reproductive works, particularly defence. If this is so, it will ‘be largely a book asset only in 1978, the people will have to be taxed to raise an extra £10,000,000 for interest, and the new pensions scheme will cost us every bit ns much as the old one. It would be interesting to see our legislators planning real reproductive public enterprises and works which will ensure us an increased real national income as goods and services, in 1978. instead of applauding actuaries’ and treasurers’ sleight of hand. Again, it has been assumed that the employees’, employers’ and Government’s contributions will” be really saved out of income; but the employee will fight to have at least part of his share added to his wage, and the employer will endeavour to pass on as much as possible in the form of higher prices, while the Government will probably expand credit to meet some of its contributions; so it is likely that only part of the total amount will really be saved.
The quotation concludes -
A young nation with such a bright industrial future as ours should have a larger ambition that to travel this dubious actuarial path towards pauperized security.
That is “what honorable members on this side think that the national insurance legislation will do. These “ Notes “ point out that the Government says that although it will contribute £10,000,000 per annum, approximately a further £10,000,000 will be provided out of interest. I ask who will pay that interest. The obvious answer is that the Government will pay it. This Government cannot fool the people all the time. It will merely take the money out of one pocket and put it into another. The Government itself will pay the £10,000,000 interest, and the people will have to be taxed to raise that money.
– It does not matter who pays, so long as the interest is earned.
– The Commonwealth Government will he required to pay £10,000,000 per annum subsidy and in addition £10,000,000 in interest. What is the good of taking money out of one pocket in order to place it in another pocket? If the money is given to some one else and it earns interest, well and good; but if it be banked in the Commonwealth Bank or be invested in Commonwealth bonds, the Government itself, or the Commonwealth Bank which is its creature, will pay the interest. The information which I have cited, is contained in the Economic Notes issued by the Victorian Branch of the Economic Society of Australia and New Zealand and the Faculty of Commerce of the University of Melbourne. All my quotations this evening have been from comments by different economic societies or universities in Australia. If the Minister disagrees he may enter into an argument with them. For my part,E agree with thei’r views. Whether the money be invested in Commonwealth bonds or placed in the Commonwealth Bank, a government institution, the interest will eventually be paid by the Commonwealth.
– One of the outstanding features of this debate is that, apart from the
Minister who introduced the bill, not one member on the Government side of the House has risen to support it - a state of affaire which I have never known to exist previously. Evidently honorable members opposite believe that silence is golden, but, rightly or wrongly, the public of Australia, will . interpret that silence to mean that the bill is so disappointing that even the supporters of the Government cannot say anything in its favour. Whether that be so or not, I must confess that I am greatly disappointed with the bill. Year after year when Supply bills have come before us, I have entertained the hope that the Government would make some real effort to deal with the problem of poverty in Australia. Several speakers who have tried to convince the House that there is no real foundation in fact for the assertion that poverty exists in Australia, have referred to the Statistician’s figures relating to unemployment; but Ministers must know that the true position is as honorable members on this side have pointed out. I was the industrial officer who, with Mr. King O’Malley, first introduced the system of tabulating statistics dealing with employment and unemployment in Australia, a system which was intended to be a guide for planning work ahead. The figures covered only the organizations registered in the Federal Arbitration Court. That system, which has never been departed from, cannot give a true picture of industrial conditions in this country, because it covers only the financial members of certain unions, comprising, for the most part, skilled artisans, whereas the great bulk of the unemployed workers are unskilled. The changes which have taken place during the last two decades have increased the proportion of unemployed unskilled men. Unskilled labour has been displaced by the newer methods which have been employed in industry, and generally these unskilled men do not belong to the organizations of artisans which are registered in the Arbitration Court. The returns on which the Statistician’s figures are based come from those organizations which arc registered. The law demands that only financial members of such organizations be included in the returns, and therefore I repeat that the
Statistician’s figures do not and cannot give a true picture of unemployment in Australia, but must always understate it. If Ministers will not accept these obvious facts, I ask them to call upon their officers to supply them with reports of happenings during the last two or three years. If, for instance, the Minister for Defence would obtain reports from the different branches of the Defence Department, such as the Munitions Branch, the explosives factories, or the small arms factories, he would find that what I have said is correct. I suggest also that inquiries be made from the Public Works Departments, and the Public Service Inspectors in the various capital cities of Australia in order to ascertain the number of men applying for work. I am confident that the facts will support the statements of members of the Opposition that there is a continuous stream of men looking for work, and also prove our statements regarding the existence of poverty in Australia, for they will reveal that numbers of people in this country have insufficient food, shelter and clothing. If the Government and its supporters will not accept the figures supplied by the Opposition, I suggest also that they study the reports of the medical officers in the various capital . cities. They are published almost daily in the newspapers of this country. Some of the health officers have been told by municipal councils on more than one occasion that they must tone down their reports, because they tend to lower the credit of Australia in the eyes of other countries. We have all read the reports of State and Federal health authorities, and of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes) concerning malnutrition among our people. Those reports statu that children do not get sufficient food, and they disclose the abject poverty and the bad housing conditions that exist in this country. Poverty and slums have grown to such an extent that we now get reports from officers of State and Federal departments about certain sections or colonies of people living under slum conditions. When these reports are made public how can the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), or the members of his Government, deny that mass poverty exists in this country? Because we know of the existence of these things we anxiously await the introduction of a bill such as that now before the House in the hope that it will disclose that some new effort is to be made, some new ground to be broken, in an attempt to tackle these problems, and we are all the more disappointed when we ascertain that it contains no such provision. If the reports of these authorities are not sufficient evidence for the Government of the existence of this grave state of affairs, or if no action is to be taken to deal with the evils they disclose, then it is useless to appoint commissions of inquiry or to have State and Commonwealth medical officers. This Government has promised on two or three occasions that it will help the States to meet the problem of slum abolition. What has it done? The Prime Minister said - and this statement was repeated by Ministers all over Australia - that if his Government were returned to office it would see that every working-class family in Australia would have a home fit for human habitation. Those were almost exactly the words used by ministerial members during the last election and that which preceded it; but, later, when the Prime Minister was questioned on this subject, he said that the Commonwealth had no power under the Constitution to build workmen’s homes. Speaking generally, that may be perfectly true; but everybody knows that the Commonwealth has power to build workmen’s homes for its own employees, and that it could raise money and hand it to the States for homebuilding. The Government, however, has made no effort, either on a federal basis or in co-operation with the State governments, to carry out that election promise. All experts agree that it is useless to make speeches about the abolition of the slums unless we build new homes first. The problem can be tackled only by the adoption of a progressive and continuous plan for building workmen’s homes to take the place of the slums abolished. We must first make new homes available, and then abolish the slums. This Government, however, has done nothing to help in that direction. The conservative, handpicked banking commission recommended, among other things, that some utility, some advantage, some justice would be associated with Government loans to poorer people for building homes, &c., The Government has since said that it would not go on with the home-building programme, but that it would advance small loans to working-class people. But even that promise, like all of the others, has gone west. It would have been better had it not been made, because there would Alien not have been so much disappointment. Treating the matter as it does all others that may encroach ever so slightly on the monopoly of the private banks, the Government, unwilling itself to finance these small loans, asked the private banks to make the advances. One of the banking companies, whose head official largely determines the policy of this Government decided to experiment with the suggestion made by the banking commission. Surely the commission did not set out to advise how the private banks should make more money; it was appointed to advise this Government how best to utilize its own national bank towards solving the poverty problem that is so acute in Australia. The Government decided to choose between taking over mortgages which the private banks do not want, and small loans to working-class families in order to provide them with decent habitations. But, because some profit was to be made out of small loans to permanent employees in regular jobs and no profit could be derived from the mortgage operations, the Government decided that the profitable field should be handed over to private banking institutions, and that the unwanted mortgages should be taken over by the Commonwealth Bank at a later stage. The Commonwealth was quite willing to agree that its national hank should take over frozen assets that nobody wanted to keep, and it will obligingly relieve the private banking institutions of these dead assets, which, in reality, are liabilities, and of no use to them, but under no circumstances will it allow the people’s bank to enter into trade. Recently a. deputation of employees in the Victorian railway workshops, men on a small wage but occupying regular jobs, asked me if it was true that the Government proposed to advance small loans to working-class families who could demonstrate thatthe advances were to be properly utilized. I said that I understood that the Government intended to make such loans available and I undertook to make inquiries into the matter. Naturally I went to the Commonwealth Bank, and asked if it was true that the bank would assist struggling working-class families with some reasonable security of employment to get advances for the purchase of homes. The officer whom I interviewed said “No, we have nothing to do with it, but there is an office in Queen-street established by a private bank which deals with small loans to working-class people who wishto purchase homes. We have no association with it whatever, and we cannot deal with applications for advances.” A permanent railway employee with a wife and two children went along to the private bank to make inquiries about and advance for the purchase of a borne. He was informed that £50 was the largest amount the bank would advance, and that the loan would have to be repaid within twelve months. The official at the bank asked him how much he needed. He said that he required about £300 as a deposit on a cottage valued at £800, and that he was in regular employment and could repay the loan. He was informed that no such advance could be granted. After I had an opportunity to go into the matter, I discovered that so far as the Government was concerned, the whole thing was practically a fraud, in that the people had been cheated into believing that the Government intended to do something for them to enable them to secure their own homes.
I commenced my speech by saying that this was to me a very disappointing bill. I had hoped that with all the reports issued from time to time by various medical officers, notably Dr. Dale in Melbourne, and other eminent gentlemen in other capital cities, pointing out the large percentage of children attending school poorly clad and ill fed, the necessity for the supply of milk to children of school age and younger children, the mass groups of people occupying hovels unfit for human habitation, and the resultant menace to the health of the community - all things of which we should be ashamed - some attempt would be made in the bill now before ‘the House to tackle these very pressing problems. Having regard to the continuance of these evils, I can understand why there is such organized silence among honorable members on the other side of the House in respect of this bill. The Banking and Monetary Commission, conservative as it was, reported that during the period of crisis from which the country recently emerged this Government neglected its duty by not releasing further credit in order to endeavour to stabilize the situation and lift the country out of the depression instead of pushing it further down by false economy and deflation. It said that in such a crisis unorthodox methods should he adopted. The people of this country naturally expected that heavy demands would be made upon them to meet the extraordinary expenditure associated with the new defence plans of the Government, but there is a growing volume of public opinion against the Government’s policy of raising money to meet this extraordinary defence expenditure. A group of very sound, scholarly and intellectual people in this country believes that the Government should tap its own resources and utilize its own credit through the Commonwealth Bank, in association with the Commonwealth Treasury, in order to provide the credits necessary to meet this increased defence expenditure. Surely there is nothing radical, nothing revolutionary in that proposal, which I absolutely endorse and advocate. This Government will not do that, although some Ministers think that it should do so. I know that some members and supporters of the Government who study monetary problems in small groups agree with this proposal; but the policy of the Government is not determined altogether by -its members. It is determined by those who dominate the private banking institutions of this and other countries. Those people will not depart a fraction from the orthodox methods of raising money by loan and paying interest thereon. They believe in squeezing the people just as we squeeze an orange. I am hoping for the day when they will refuse to be squeezed any longer.
The Act that this Parliament passed in the closing hours of the previous period of this session clearly demonstrated the outlook of the Government. That measure was ridiculous and laughable in every respect. The people of New Guinea wanted a road, and the people of Australia wanted them to have it. The Administrator of New Guinea knew that the people had no assets or security to offer for the money they required, but he said to the money lenders : “ You give us £150,000 and we shall build the road. We shall put a toll on the road, so that the cost of it may be repaid “. The money lenders who were approached refused to lend the money because the people could not offer security to satisfy them. The Administrator then adopted a procedure which he knew would be ‘ successful. He said to the Government : “ Will you back the people of New Guinea to the extent of £150,000? If you do, we shall be able to obtain the money from the money lenders “. The Government agreed and the private bank institutions thereupon made the money available for a period of fourteen years at a certain rate of interest. During that period £100,000 will be paid in interest, and at the end of the time the original £150,000 will still be owing.
The Government could have adopted a different method. It will be of no use for the Minister to jeer about Major Douglas; such an interjection has no fears for me. I regard Major Douglas as one of the greatest men of the century. He would ask for much more than that which I am about to propose. I suggest that the Government could have sa;d to the Administrator: “We shall give you the money you want to build the road, for we want you to build it. But as we don’t want you to be exploited by the private banking institutions, we shall get our own Commonwealth Bank to lend you the money, and you can pay it back to the bank as you can. The money will then be available for use again in providing other services in New Guinea, and it will not simply enrich the absentee directors of the private banking institutions “.
– How would that assist New Guinea?
– The Assistant Minister, as a representative of the Government, could have said to the people of New Guinea: “We want to help you. We have dominion over you and are responsible for you. We will get our own Commonwealth Bank to advance the money to you at cost price”. If the honorable gentleman thinks that that is too revolutionary a proposal, I suggest to him that he could have requested the Commonwealth Bank to make the money available at the usual rate of interest, and when the interest was paid he could have handed it back again to the people of New Guinea for other developmental work. The main thing would have been to keep the people of New Guinea out of the hands of the private banking institutions.
– I think it was to the private banking institutions that the ‘ last Labour Government went when it wanted money.
– That is so, and the private banking institutions would not give it to us; for political purposes they refused. They said to the’ people of Australia, “If you will change your government, we will give the new government all the money it wants “. That is actually what occurred. I well remember some honorable gentlemen now on the ministerial benches, but who were at that time in Opposition, telling the people that, if they could change the government, confidence would be restored and all the money desired for various purposes would be forthcoming. It actually was so, for the bankers knew who were their friends.
The interjection of the Assistant Minister (Mr. Archie Cameron ) has proved up to the hilt my statement that this Government, and, in fact, the governments of other countries, are ruled by the private banking institutions. I did not desire to discuss this subject, but, after all, our monetary system is the key to the whole situation. It would be impossible usefully to discuss a bill of this kind without referring to banking and monetary policy.
– If the Government finds itself in a certain situation next week, it will be able to obtain as many millions of pounds as it wants.
– Of course it will; for war purposes there is no limit. L feel very disappointed, as a representative of the Australian people in this Parliament, that the Government has not displayed a little more vision in introducing this bill: For too long our eyes have been fastened on people and problems beyond Australia.
– After all, this is merely a Supply bill to meet the financial requirements of the next two months.
– That is so; but the Government has indicated that its only policy is to impose additional taxes on the people in order to provide for its defence programme. Additional taxes must mean a curtailment alike of the spending power of the people and of our whole internal developmental programme. I was hopeful that in this financial year at least the Government would have taken some notice of the reports that have been received in recent years from the International Labour’ Office, and that it would have taken some forward step to improve the social conditions of the people of Australia. We all must he aware that during the last few years other’ countries, including even the poorest of them, have done a good deal to give effect to the recommendations of the International Labour Office. Yet the Commonwealth, which is a member State of the International Labour Organization, and is, therefore, morally bound to give effect to its decisions, has so far flatly declined to take any steps in that direction.
– I think the honorable member will admit that that is due to constitutional limitations.
– Not altogether: Two or three years ago the Government could have reduced the hours of work of its own employees, and thus kept faith with the International Labour Organization’ by establishing the 40 hour week, for which its delegates voted. No difficulty would have been encountered in pursuing that policy. It could also have made strong recommendations to the State governments to give effect to the recommendations received from Geneva. I have asked State
Premiers on more than one occasion how far they were prepared to co-operate with Commonwealth Ministers in giving effect to the conventions of the International Labour Organization, and they have told me that neither Commonwealth nor State Ministers took those conventions seriously. Nevertheless, I felt sure that something would be done by the Commonwealth Government.
Something has been done at last, but it is something which will press down the standard of the people rather than raise it. The National Health and Pensions Insurance Act has been placed on our statute-book. But, unfortunately, this will do more harm than good to the working people. The more we examine that measure the more disappointed we are with it. We had not sufficient opportunity to examine the bill thoroughly while it was before this House, but since it has become law many of us have not had a peaceful night because of the bombardment of questions from our electorates. Our people have wanted to know exactly what the effect of the measure will be, and I am very sorry to’ say that we have been forced to the conclusion that it will depress rather than lift the living standards of the people.
Surely every student of social legislation must be aware that increasingly important pronouncements on social standards are being made by the International Labour Office! We must well remember the declaration of that great Frenchman, Monsieur Albert Thomas, first director of the International Labour Office, that we shall never establish international peace in the world unless we base it on social justice. In these circumstances the International Labour Office has set itself consistently to bridge the great economic gulf between the lower race countries and the higher race countries of the world. The relevant article of the Peace Treaty provided that there should be an International Labour Office, which should hold annually a tri-partite conference of representatives of employers, employees, and governments with the object of lifting the economic standards and improving the physical health of the people of every country. In conformity with this noble declaration, national insurance acts have been passed by the parliaments of various countries, and other steps also have been taken to improve industrial conditions in many lands. It has been recognized for many years that living standards could not be raised simply by advancing wages. Other steps were necessary to ensure economic stability and improve living conditions. It has been the. purpose of the International Labour Office to improve social conditions in this way.
When this Government announced that it intended to introduce a National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill, we naturally expected a measure that would be pleasing to our people, because it would give them something in addition to what they had already, but our hopes were bitterly disappointed. The only way in which the members of the Government have been able to excite any interest in, or expectations from, its national insurance policy has been by following the practices of land salesmen, and describing graphically, but unhappily without any foundation in fact, the good results that are likely to occur after the scheme has come fully into operation, and large sums of money have been contributed under its provisions. That means that the Government recognizes that the workers of Australia, because of their mean and paltry incomes, are unable to protect themselves by insurance against ill-health, accident or an old age; every penny that they earn goes in providing food, clothing and shelter.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is not in order in criticizing a previous decision of the Parliament.
– My disappointment is based upon the fact that the piece of social legislation that we passed this year will do more harm than good.
– Order !
– Very well. I shall discuss that bill later. One might expect that in a Supply bill there would be some progressive plan of work for the future, that there would be an expression of a serious intention to tackle the problems from which our people are suffering. There is, however, no such provision in this measure. Some real effort to settle the problem of poverty which does exist in this country should be made. That poverty does exist is proved by the reports of public officials. I warn the Government and the peoplethat if no effort is to be made to solvethis problem, if further taxes are imposed to meet the external danger while internal dangers are overlooked, if we allow these political sores to remain, there will be fearful consequences. While this House was discussing the international recommendation for a 40-hour week about eighteen months or two years ago I said that Australia had had a long period of industrial peace which was due largely to the fact that all the heart and spirit of the working class had been broken by the early years of the depression. I said that if the Government would not progressively deal with the problem of unemployment by the adjustment of wages and rewards to meet the technological changes that were taking place so rapidly, and if industrial prosperity was not shared by the workers, chaos and turmoil would reign again. I made that statement, not because I wanted a recurrence of turmoil and chaos, but because I wanted such troubles to be avoided. The Government has done, and is doing, nothing to cheek the threatening dangers.
Everybody, including members ofthe Ministry, knows the great changes in the methods of industry that are taking place in this and other countries. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is deserving of all the praise that can be given it for its deeds in improving and making more abundant the production of this country. Workshops, factories and mills have intensified their production. The mechanization and rationalization of industry have had the result of eliminating human labour. While this pur ogress is being achieved there should he concurrent endeavours to rehabilitate and re-absorb into new industry those persons who are no longer required in old industry. Nothing has been done in that direction. The failure to take such steps is marked in the coal industry to which reference has been made by several speakers today. One of the key industries of the Commonwealth is to-day in the position which I predicted some years ago that it would occupy. Some 3,000 or 4,000 men who have lived all their lives in the industry and, having no other calling, depend on the hewing of coal for their bread and butter and the maintenance of their families, are no longer needed in the industry. They will never be re-absorbed until the coal-mining industry is adapted to meet the new circumstances. In no other coal-mining country of the world - I say this without qualification and without fear of challenge from the Acting Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron) or from any other honorable member opposite - do coal-miners work such long hours as they work in Australia. One could hardly credit that that would be so, but it is true. In other countries changes in conditions have been made to meet the changes in the industry. Such changes have not been made in Australia and calamity is the result. We must re-organize and spread labour in a rational sensible way. In that suggestion there is wisdom, nothing revolutionary. The unions do not ask for a 40-hour week because the men are becoming lazy. They do so because it is a necessary step to meet the technical changes that have occurred. The dispute in the industry is not an orthodox strike by the miners for higher pay. It is due to the need for readjustment in order to enable the industry to carry the people that it has carried for so long.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr.BRENNAN (Batman) [9.25].- I support those speakers,who, having a very special interest in the matter through their constituences, have addressed themselves during the course of this debate to the matter of the coal-mining dispute. I profoundly regret, as an onlooker, who has no coal-miners in his electorate, but who has naturally a very deep interest in this question of all-Australian concern that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has seen fit to go out of business and content himself with a public declaration that the disputants have appropriate tribunals before which to take their complaints. That is a very poor and, in my opinion, irresponsible way of handling a big national upheaval, and it compares very poorly with the efforts which were made by the Scullin Government of which I was a member, in the dispute of 1929.
While that Government lasted, it never lost interest and never ceased to exert itself along the lines of conciliation and, as far as. possible, arbitration to settle the dispute. I think it is perfectly idle in such a case to apply arbitrary legal principles, unchanging as the laws of the Medes and the Persians, because the fact is that one cannot apply successfully purely legal formulae to the settlement of tremendous disturbances, partly legal and partly psychological, such as this dispute between the coal-owners and thb coal-miners. Very naturally my heart goes out to the miners in this struggle. Very naturally, I think that we should seek a settlement of the dispute, not along the hard lines of the written word, but in the spirit of compromise, with the recognition of the historical place of coalmining in the world’s development. It should be acknowledged by all sides that coal-mining is an extraordinarily onerous type of labour, exhausting and destroying. At least to some degree along the lines of human development and evolution, and not by arbitrary limits of agreements or awards long ago put into operation for the first time, we should seek a settlement. Why does not the Prime Minister, as has been urged by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), who is so profoundly interested in this matter, and the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), who is also an able advocate of the same cause, implement the act which a member of his Government - and not an inconspicuous member either - the present Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes)actually placed upon the statute-book. Why does not the right honorable gentleman use the Industrial Peace Act? It is perfectly idle to say that a tribunal, which the great mass of the workers regard as unsatisfactory, is available. It is idle also to say that the law must he observed. Of course the law must be observed. There is among our statutes a law which I invite the Prime Minister himself to observe and put into operation in order to effect a settlement of this trouble.
I profoundly believe that the conditions of workers in the coal-mining industry must be mitigated and relieved.
Much of what the coal-miner suffers at his work, and his family with him, must be regarded as a blot on our civilization, to be wiped out. It is not a matter to be argued about as though it were agreed to be accepted. Many things that once were looked upon as acceptable to the working classes we, in our wisdom to-day, regard as conditions that never should have been agreed upon ; they are debasing to our common human nature.
The lot of the coal-miner is a fit one for consideration in the light which, I hope, is dawning even in the minds of the most reactionary of persons in the newer order in which we live. Thus, I invite the Prime Minister to get back to realities and assume the responsibility which he has so lightly shed. Let him get it into his mind that it is idle for a Prime Minister coolly to invite people to resort to legal tribunals when the nation ‘ is practically in a state of convulsion, because in convulsions men are apt to become very impatient when they are invited to invoke the aid of legal tribunals. I leave this matter to those who are better qualified than I to deal with it, with a final word of commendation to those honorable members who have so faithfully represented the coal-miners, and so eloquently espoused their cause.
I turn now to the subject of migration. This matter was discussed recently in this chamber by the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett). Having made what I assume was conceived by him to be a most weighty pronouncement and not, for once, having had it inadequately reported in the press, he first “ wished “ his address into the columns of the Sydney Morning Herald, whence he “ wished “ it into the Australian National Review, a bright periodical edited and published in the city of Canberra and deserving a better fate. The introduction to this report states -
This arresting speech, dealing with the vital problem ot populating this country, was delivered in the House of Representatives on the 28th June, 103S, by Sir Henry Gullett. lt was not reported in the press
I am surprised to hear that, because no honorable member of this House in the past has commanded a more liberal issue of press blurb than the honorable member f dr Henty.
– He may not havewanted that speech published in the press.
– The introduction goes on to state -
Nevertheless, it is on record as a most important contemporary contribution to the question of migration. a phrase which, I have no doubt, was compiled in the inimitable style of the honorable member for Henty himself.
Sir Henry Gullett, a former Cabinet Minister, this fact might well have been overlooked had he not called special attention to it-
In fact, his words demanded attention so loudly that they were heard in the office of the Sydney Morning Herald and later, as I have said, of the Australian National Review. Splendid! On the subject of migration, the honorable member for Henty says -
The great subject of migration is, to me, next to the immediate defence needs of the country, the most important that could be debuted in this House.
– We want a few more Irishmen.
– We do want a few more Irishmen because, as honorable members must be well aware, the Irish as a race have brightened the civilizations and enriched the culture of almost every country. The only reason why I would not press their special claims as welcome migrants to Australia is the fact that, like the white people of other countries, they are wanted in their own land. They are not encouraged to migrate because there is ample room for them in Ireland. The same may be said of the people of England and Scotland.
The honorable member for Henty spoke about the migration to Australia of people of British stock. It is a fact, however, that to-day representative Britons are not recommending a policy of wholesale migration, because Britain’s population, like that of Australia, is almost static, although at a much higher figure. To-day most far-seeing leaders of British opinion realize that it is not sound policy to offer special facilities to their best young citizens to go abroad to strengthen the populations of other countries, but if migrants are to come here, they must be of the best type. They certainly should not be the product of the capitalist social system in Great Britain, which has made paupers of millions, and produced millions of under-fed, undereducated and in other respects poor Britons. We do not invite these people to come here, nor would they he suitable settlers. I incline to the view that Britain itself would be unwilling to send the best of its people to Australia when - its own population is practically at a standstill. Every wise government knows that its policy should be not to unload its citizens upon other countries, but to maintain them in their own land under a higher standard of living. According .to the honorable member for Henty the most vital and arresting fact that has come to Australia in recent years - it was emphasized by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) in his Second Reading speech on the National Health and Insurance Bill - was that the population of this country, according to calculations which cannot, be challenged, and measured hy the present birthrate and existing flow of migration, would reach its peak at a total of 8,000,000.
– The honorable member will be in order in discussing migration, but he must not refer to a debate which has taken place in this session. The honorable member for Henty expressed certain views in this chamber and, unless I misunderstood the honorable member for Batman, it is from these views that he is quoting.
-. - I am not referring lo the debate which took place in this House, but to what the honorable member for Henty said in his article published in the Australian National Review. I am not reading from Hansard. He said that that was the most arresting fact that had been disclosed in this country for a very long time, and drew the conclusion that, according to our present birth rate and the existing flow of immigration, our population would reach its peak at a total of 8,000,000 persons, or but little more than 1,000,000 above the present total. He declared that this is an arresting fact. I say it is not a fact; it is merely an interesting speculation by a capitalist from the capitalist point of view of the decadence which will naturally follow from the system which he advocates. If his prediction be proved, it will show to the point of complete demonstration the futility of the system under which we live. If, however, this country of infinite resources has the advantage of governmental direction under which, in the words of a British parliamentarian, we abandon the economics of poverty and take up the economics of plenty, if we make this land available for a rising generation of young men eager to share it, if in the application of the doctrine of the economics of plenty we encourage young men to contract matrimony and rear families, then the lugubrious prophecy of the honorable member for Henty will never be fulfilled. It will not then be necessary to beg migrants from a country that does not wish to part with them, in order to populate a country which is undoubtedly in urgent need of them.
The honorable member for Henty says that we have no physical hold on Australia, and that we have no moral claim upon all of it. I heard him in another place declare that we had no moral .claim upon Australia. I am prepared to grant that no decadent people can have a claim upon a vast geographical area, which is largely unoccupied and has rich resources unexplored, much less unexploited. I am prepared to grant that such a country, in the ordinary course of decadence, and according to the laws which apply to all living things, must ultimately fail and fall into the hands of other people able to make a better use of it. But I challenge the statement that Australians have no physical or moral claim upon this continent. As to our physical hold upon Australia, that of course raises the question of defence, and my first comment upon the public declaration that Australia, from the defence point of view, has no hold upon this country is that such a statement published to the world in these troublous days in which we live, in which, according to our opponents, at any rate, we are threatened on every side by enemies - which I do not recognize - is a well-nigh treasonable utterance. It is an open invitation to the invader to come here. It is a public declaration that if he comes there will be no resistance to him. It is a declaration of our incompetence and weakness. Of course it is not a fact, because, according to ordinary common sense, supported by expert military and naval opinion, it is impossible for any enemy to take Australia in the sense of being an invader. I doubt not that the views of the experts, fortified by common sense, are entirely right. The difficulties of distance and world conditions with all their complications make that an almost obvious fact. With that I leave the defeatist propaganda on the part of the honorable member for Henty that Australia is a ripe plum ready to be picked by any evil-minded body of persons anxious to take it from us.
It is added that we have no moral claim upon this country. Who, may 1 ask, has a better moral claim upon Australia than the Australians? I know of nobody else. We number nearly 7,000,000 people, and we claim some rights, not based upon conquest, but upon a tradition and history of unprecedented labour, development and expansion, intellectual and physical. The Australians owe nothing to anybody else for the development of this country. Prom the very moment that the British Govern- ment under Pitt placed its consignment of convicts on board its ships, for the inglorious settlement of Australia by that means, down to the present day, Australia owe3 to its own people - to their great privations and their superb individual endeavours - its present position as an independent nation among the peoples of the world. When those convicts were placed upon British ships they were put there not for the purpose of establishing an empire, but in order to get rid of the superfluous convicts, manufactured under the existing social system of Great Britain in too great numbers for the British Government to be able to cope with them. Because they could not be coped with in Great Britain, and because the social system was so oppressive and horrible that the number was too great, the bright idea was developed of sending them out to a penal settlement in Australia, the penal settlement in North America having failed by reason of the War of Independence in that country.
That was the nucleus of Australia’s nationhood. We are not ashamed of even that; we have outgrown it. There was a governor in New South Wales who, in a momentary aberration^ referred to Australia’s birth stain, and the poor fellow was never able to live it down. From that unpropitious seed there grew the great Commonwealth of which we are now proud to be citizens. It is true that great men came from England, and to that extent we may be said to be indebted to England. Great men also” came from Ireland and Scotland and from foreign countries. There is a little book in the library which I commend to honorable members. It sets out the extent to which we are indebted to foreigners in a variety of ways, as for instance, for the success of the wine industry, and for the development of the mallee. History shows, too, the great extent to which we are indebted to the intrepid explorers who travelled from east to west and from north to south in the infancy of this country. Many of them gave their lives for the development of Australia. These men became Australians, and gave their best services to promote the welfare of this country. The results are. ours. They cost the British taxpayer nothing, and we owe nothing to the Imperial legislature or to the British taxpayer as such ; nothingwhatever. We owe everything in Australia in the first place to the men who came here and made this country their own, and not to the men who remained in Britain to preach about the burden that the colonies imposed upon the British exchequer, when they were no burden at all, as British politicians took good care they should not be. We are not indebted to anybody except those fine spirits who came and acclimatized themselves in this country. From the earliest days to this day the people to whom Australia is indebted, and whose descendants have a moral claim to the country are Australians ; they are not those outside Australia who prate about the dominions or the colonies, not those who fought against our rights, not those who, as in the days of Higginbotham and Wentworth, fought our claims for self-government, not those who protested that the colonies would be a burden, as members of the British Government did. They are those great-hearted Australians who, in the civil walks of life, ventured everything for the development of this country - our fathers, our grandfathers, our great-grandfathers, men of heroic mould, who made real sacrifices, and bred in this country a race that is proud to call itself Australian, and regards with little less than contempt the word of one who, disloyal to his country and his class, says that Australians have no moral claim whatever to this country. The honorable gentleman, in this article, which, with such extraordinary skill and diplomacy, he has been able to “ wish “ upon the suffering readers of the Australian National Review, goes on to say that we have nothing to fear from migration. I am of the same opinion. Australia, it is true, has a challenging policy, which becomes better understood from day to day, and which is summed up in the phrase “ a White Australia “. At the moment I am not discussing the racial aspects of Australia’s immigration policy. I agree with the honorable gentleman that we have nothing to fear from migration. I think that the Labour party, at all events, is prepared to give the utmost encouragement to migration. Of course, it is not prepared to father a policy of assisted migration, or to make itself responsible for arbitrary and unscientific attempts to shift suffering members of one population so that they become suffering members of the Australian population. But the Labour party is generally favorable to the flow into Australia of members of the white races who are anxious and ready to come. lt is quite true, as the honorable member for Henty points out, that the fact that we have” nothing to fear was, to some extent, proved between 1908 and 1913, when there was really a great flow of migrants into Australia. The honorable gentleman mentioned the years 1908 to 1913, but he would have been more generous had he said that during the administration of the first Labour Government in Australia, when the Labour party was really in power, there was an unprecedented flow of migrants into Australia. He quoted figures, which I do not for one moment question, and then he referred to the value of British migrants. I have not heard their value disputed on this side of the House, nor am I aware that British migrants have been in any sense unwelcome to the Labour party. But the honorable member for Henty takes it upon himself to say that one man out of every five in the Australian Imperial Force was a “pommy’’. He states, “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. “
– That is correct.
– I do not deny it. I have no quarrel with the honorable gentleman’s figures. I have not even attempted to check them. Why should I do so? These men came here as our brothers; they adopted Australia as their home. I repeat that they were welcome. I make only one comment, namely, that, notwithstanding the voluntary enlistment of those 60,000 or 70,000 British boys and men, representing one in every five, the honorable gentleman, who himself never carried a sword, wanted to apply the policy of conscription to the remainder. He, and all that vast “ behind the lines army “ associated with him, were eager to recruit by force all those men who, up to that time, had not voluntarily enlisted.
There is a passage in the honorable member’s contribution which deals with “ good buying ‘’. He has introduced a fine commercial spirit into his writing, for he says -
I should like to see the immigrant’s proportion of the fare brought down to a maximum of £8. 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 8s. a week, to rear an Australian child up to the age of fourteen, which would mean a total cost of £280. If, therefore, British migrants may be “ bought “ for £20, it is very good “ buying “ in the national sense.
The honorable member for Henty was good enough to employ inverted commas to the words “ bought “ and “ buying “. He went on to say -
Of course, I subscribe to the view that our best immigrant is the Australian-born baby, but the trouble is that babies are vanishing from the earth. Certainly, insufficient babies arc coming into our cradles to save this country. [Leave to continue given.] My first comment upon that curious statement is this: The honorable member for Henty speaks of buying migrants - I do not wish to make great play on the word “ buying,” because I think that the honorable gentleman used it not in any crude sense, but merely as a picturesque form of expression. But when he speaks of a relatively good or had buy in connexion with migrants he overlooks the extraordinary materialistic disregard of family life. And in like manner, though he speaks about the deplorable fact that babies are not coming into our cradles in numbers sufficient to save this country, he has no remedy for that. He does not address himself to that unfortunate state of affairs from any viewpoint except the crude one that this country can by its superior attractions draw from other countries the people who are unwanted there. That is a very crude and inadequate way of dealing philosophically or practically with a serious question. The question is: “Why these empty cradles?” Is it because we are becoming a decadent race owing to a tooluxurious standard of living; is it because people are too well off, and too much addicted to pleasure and too little to hard labour, that they want to divest themselves of family responsibilities ; or “is it because under the cruel exigencies of our social system, by virtue of which we apply the economics of poverty to a land in which should be applied the economics of plenty, that they find it impossible to contract marriage with the certainty that they can afford to maintain a wife and rear a family? The honorable gentleman does not say a word on that subject, not a word has he uttered upon that crucial social question which we are bound to face if we are honest with ourselves. “What is the reason for the empty cradles? That is the only thing that is worth considering. It is a question psychological, moral and religious. The mere transfer of groups of population is nothing. That may proceed in a natural and orderly way. People will come here from the various countries of the world, and they will be welcomed here when that day dawns upon which it can be published to the world that Australia is in fact, and not merely in word, a paradise for the working man, and when its superabundant resources are really exploited in the interests of its people. There will be no question then of empty cradles. The marriage rate and the birth rate will automatically rise as they always do in such circumstances and as they did during those years I have mentioned. Not one word, I repeat, was addressed by the honorable member for Henty to the only really important and crucial aspect of the -population question that is worth considering at all, namely, family life and the rearing of families. We are said to have developed no moral claim to this country; but there was no question of empty cradles in the days of our parents. Most of us are members of very large families. We remember that fact, and we also remember that those families were composed of men of brain as well as brawn ; they were not of the type that Hitler and Mussolini are endeavouring to cultivate in German and Italian territories, men of brawn without brain. In dealing in this finicky way with a subject of vast importance which opens up tremendous philosophical considerations, the honorable gentleman says amongst other things that we could bring two or three thousand domestics into Australia to-day with absolute safety. I can tell honorable members how to bring two or three thousand domestics into Australia with perfect safety. We could bring domestics .from England who, dissatisfied with the conditions, under which they work in that country are looking for better conditions in Australia, to displace those young Australian women who are beginning to insist more intelligently from day to day on better, more healthful and more reasonable conditions in the discharge of their work. What is the general position of the domestic worker in Australia who is supposed to be so very independent that she is here to-day and gone to-morrow. Good luck to her, because she works the round of the clock. When, -however, the Australian domestic workers are organized as are the industrial workers, in respect of hours, terms of employment and sleeping accommodation, when the simple maxim of “ a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay” is applied, and when she insists as her brother does upon conditions appropriate to her position in life as a working girl, there will be plenty of Australian women ready to take these jobs, and there will be no particular demand for these two or three thousand domestics whom the honorable member for Henty is anxious to bring out to Australia, to jump the jobs which Australian girls to-day are refusing because of the conditions under which they are asked to work.
I do not believe for a moment that the dolorous prophecy of the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett), or of the Treasurer himself, concerning the tremendous increase of our pensions bill must necessarily be fulfilled, or that, with the awakening conscience of the Australian people, it -will, in fact, be fulfilled. I believe that long before the suggested 40-year period has expired, the present drift will have been recognized and the eyes of the people will have been opened. They will have seen that the merely adventitious remedies suggested by conservativeminded politicians of the capitalistic type provide no real solution of our social ills. As intelligent, people, they will have turned to a recognition of the obvious fact that the tremendous resources of this country must be exploited, in the interests not of the chosen few, but of the whole people. If that be done, our pension class will become less and less, and our working class, by reason of the fact that our people will have been in regular employment, will have been able to save, and will therefore pass less readily to the pensions list than has hitherto been the case. The standard of health will rise and men now drawing pensions will be in employment. Generally, it will be found, I believe, that the uplift will be so steady as to surprise many timorous souls, and, in fact, it will usher in a new and better era.
– I heartily endorse the fervent exposition of Australian national sentiment just uttered by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). I am sure that he has expressed the opinion of every true Australian in this House.
I wish to bring under the notice of the Government certain matters which concern the Repatriation Department, and to elaborate a question which I asked this morning regarding the claims of exsoldiers and their dependants for pensions. I have been informed on reliable authority that instructions have been issued to the Repatriation Department that future applications for pensions from ex-soldiers and their dependants are to be considered by the commission and other tribunals solely on medical evidence. If that is so, there is every reason for demanding a widening of the terms under which applicants may seek pensions; that is, if they are to receive any measure of justice. I have seen the discharges of many ex-soldiers which have been marked “ Discharged medically unfit “. , These men, upon their return from the war, were suffering from wounds or exposure due to the severe winters in France, but upon their return to civil life they accepted employment in various industries without bothering to approach the Repatriation Department for medical or other concessions. Even after their return to civil work they showed very little concern when they were attacked by colds or other minor ailments. Usually they went to the local chemist for a bottle of medicine, or- applied some common homo remedy. Now upon it becoming necessary for them to submit evidence to the Repatriation Department concerning their physical condition, they find that the testimony of the local chemists, or of the members of their families, or even of their mates at the war, is rejected. In these circumstances the policy of the Repatriation Department should he reviewed. I have in mind one man, now deceased, whose case is typical of many others. I knew him well. He resided in the electorate of Dalley. “When he became ill he consulted a local medical practitioner. This gentleman, also now deceased, did not keep complete records. In that respect he was like some other doctors. Consequently, the relatives of this deceased ex-soldier are not able to furnish medical evidence that he attended the doctor’s surgery for treatment. The only available, evidence to this effect is that of the members of his family, and this is not acceptable to the department. The dependants of this ex-soldier have therefore not been able to obtain pensions.
I agree with the statement of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) that this Government has done nothing on behalf of the unemployed. In the city of Sydney, particularly in my electorate, there is a larger number of unemployed than there had been at any previous time during the last five or six years. For some reason or other a great many men who have had regular employment for some time have, during the last six months, been put out of work. It has been the policy of this Government to have public works done by contract, with the result that returned soldiers, to whom the Government is supposed to give preference in employment, have been invading the federal members’ rooms in the Commonwealth Bank, Sydney, seeking the aid of members of this Parliament to obtain even intermittent work. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) may not be aware of these facts because recently he has been travelling the north of Australia, but the experience that I have had is the experience of a great many honorable members representing electorates in New South Wales. No work is being carried out to-day by the Department of the Interior under the ‘day labour system under which, formerly, mcn were able to obtain some sustenance. Although, since this Government was last returned to office, there has been a greater amount of expenditure on public works than in previous years, the contractors have received the whole of it. Very often the tenders are let to “ sweating “ contractors. One honorable member listened to a contractor in the Commonwealth Bank tell his men to “shake it up because there will be another job in a week or two “. Very often the employees either receive only part or none at all of their wages for the last week of a job. And some contractors do not pay award rates. “When I had the honour to be an alderman of the Sydney City Council, the master builders approached the Labour party to request that the undercutting contractors should not receive contracts from the council unless they paid award wages.
The Estimates contain an item of £20,000 for the Australian National Travel Association. I am wondering who is in control of that association. My attention was recently directed to some advertisements in a magazine bearing the name of the National Travel Association. The advertisements which invited tourists to visit Australia contained photographs of . Australian scenery and girls. I have never seen photography of a worse type and it certainly did not favorably depict Australia. The pictures would not attract anybody to our shores. I suggest that if the Government spends thousands of pounds on the advisable policy of advertising this country to the tourists, the expenditure should be controlled by a responsible officer of the Commonwealth Public Service. I hope that the Assistant Minister (Mr. Thompson) will direct the attention of the Government to that item of expenditure and that there will be close supervision of the advertising by the Australian National Travel Association.
– I should like from the Minister for Trade and Customs a statement as to what policy the Department of Trade and Customs applies in the banning of certain imported magazines dealing with crime and sex. I understand that magazines of these descriptions from
America are not permitted to be circulated in this country, whereas British publications of a similar nature are unchecked. It is extraordinary that the American product has been banned, and I approve of what has been done in this regard, while the British magazines are allowed to circulate without hindrance, when there is no substantial difference between their contents. I am not pleading that this class of literature should be allowed to be distributed, but, if the magazines from America are banned because of their nature, then if the Government is sincere in its policy those of similar nature from Britain should also be banned. The fact that many of these magazines have been available at the book-stalls of this country for 20 years is no justification for action to be taken. Not long ago a deputation from the magazine importers waited on the Minister for Trade and Customs with regard to this matter and asked for some guidance. They said that while they realized that the law must be obeyed, they would like precise information of the type of literature which was not to be permitted to go into circulation. The Minister informed the deputation that he himself did not have time to read the publications - I can well understand that - and, therefore, he had to submit them to the officers of his department, upon whose recommendations any action, if necessary, was taken. The Minister was then asked by the deputation whether it would be possible for the associated magazine importers and distributors to make personal contact with the officers of the department who were responsible for the censorship, but the Minister refused to permit them to do that. In fact, he declined to tell the deputation which officers were doing this work. He stated that the Deputy Controller and several other members of his staff whom he named did not do it, and said further that the Book Censorship Board was not responsible. Despite the fact that, for business reasons, members of the deputation felt that they were entitled to this information, they were left entirely in the dark and, therefore, even now they are unable to instruct their suppliers to cancel further consignments, in order to avoid further losses. The present position for them is most unsatisfactory. Importers are unaware of the policy of the department, and do not know exactly what particular class of literature will be banned. The deputation also endeavoured to get, from the Minister some idea of what would happen to publications ordered on or after a certain date. They urged that the Government should give notice that on and after a specified date, say, two or three months, certain publications would not be permitted to enter Australia, and that if any banned publications were landed, they would be seized and destroyed. In many instances importers do not know, until the publications actually arrive in Australia, whether they will be allowed to go into circulation or whether they will be banned. Even officers of the department are not sure of the position. I have been told that some officers, after examining certain publications on bookstalls, declared that there was no necessity to ban them, but after they had been pressed to take them away and read them, they were banned without notice. I have been informed, further, that requests for permission to re-ship banned magazines, in respect of which there was a doubt, to New Zealand or some other country where their distribution is allowed have been refused. From a business point of view, these people feel that they should have a more definite indication of the Government’s policy, in order that they may minimize their losses in future. We cannot blame them for trying to get definite directions from the Government. If it is the Government’s intention to ban certain publications, they should be named and opportunity given to distributors to reconstruct their businesses, and see that such publications are not brought to this country. This is not an unreasonable request. As many of the publications which have been banned have been coming into Australia for 20 years, it is reasonable that due notice should be given of the prohibition of their circulation. Another point to which I hope the Minister will refer is the suggestion that interested parties have forced the Government’s hand in this matter. I allude to the firm of Gordon and Gotch, which, I understand, handles British publications.
If it is correct as is suggested, the Government is giving special consideration to one firm of distributors’ to the detriment of others, the position is most unhealthy. I have been told that, in recent years, Gordon and Gotch, have been experiencing great difficulty in competing with other firms importing this very same class of literature from other countries and that a representative of these British publications recently arrived in Australia. Upon his arrival at Perth, he immediately set in motion an agitatation to ban certain American magazines. As he travelled towards the eastern States, the agitation attained the proportions of a raging controversy and suddenly the Government decided to take action never previously contemplated. The fact that Gordon and Gotch were permitted to continue selling throughout Australia British magazines of a similar type to those coming within the scope of the Government’s ban gives rise to the suspicion that some influence has been brought to bear. Surely, it is reasonable to urge that, if restrictions are to be imposed on the introduction of certain publications, the importers ‘ should be advised in order that they may reconstruct their businesses in order to protect their interests, as well as the public, and they should be informed exactly, and without hesitation, what class of literature is to be kept out of this country. I am not for a moment arguing in favour of the circulation of that literature. I believe it should not be permitted to circulate in this country. I am merely urging that the precise nature of . the ban should be indicated and that the allegations ofpreferential treatment which, it has been suggested, is being given to British publications -sold by Gordon and Gotch, should be cleared up.
I should like also to refer to the shipbuilding industry in Australia. This morning, or yesterday, I asked the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) a question on this subject, because I had read a report that an inquiry was being conducted in his department with a view to bringing down regulations or tariff duties which would render it impossible or unprofitable for people to continue to purchase, overseas, vessels intended for intra-state or interstate trade. I am informed that this inquiry has been made and that a report has been submitted. I -should like to be informed of the Government’s intention in this regard. Apart from the increased employment which such an action would offer to Australian workmen and the great opportunity it would present to men who are anxious to engage in this industry, there is the more important aspect of national security. Our insular position suggests the wisdom of fostering the ship-building industry in this country. “Within the last few weeks two steamers that could have been built in Australia have been purchased overseas, and the important fact should not be overlooked that they have been built for private companies that are reaping great profit from the Australian public. Despite all that has been done for these companies they seem to forget that they should at least purchase in this country the equipment they need to carry on their undertakings.
A new steamer has recently arrived from overseas for the Manly ferry service. This vessel was built in Scotland and brought out to Australia at great risk. The tariff enabled the company to go overseas for its new steamer, thus depriving Australians of employment in the ship-building industry. Everybody knows that the Manly Ferries Steamship Company owes its existence to the patronage of the travelling public, particularly the suburban residents who use these vessels in travelling to and from their daily work and also take harbour trips at the weekend. This company depends entirely upon the Australian public and particularly upon the workers of Sydney for the trade it has secured. Yet, when it has to add another vessel to its fleet, it goes 1,2,000 miles away to make the purchase instead of having the steamer built in Australia. The people of this country are entitled to something in return for what they have done for this company, whoseshortsighted policy makes it necessary for the Commonwealth Government to bring it up with a round turn by forcing it. to recognize what it owe3 to Australia. Its services could not be maintained were it not for the purchasing power of the workers, but its unpatriotic and selfish attitude tends to undermine the position of the workers by depriving thom of employment. The Government ought to take immediate action to make it unprofitable for such a company to purchase vessels overseas.
A picture appeared in yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald of the new steamer Tambua, which recently arrived in Sydney. This was built in Scotland to the order of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited. There is no doubt concerning the enormous profits that this company has reaped by reason of the fact that the Australian public consumes its product and pays a price arranged by agreement with the Government from time to time. The Australian public generally believes that the sugar industry should be developed under white labour conditions, and it has adopted a tolerant attitude to the company by paying a higher price for sugar than that at which it would be procurable from abroad. It is the policy of this country to encourage both primary and secondary industries, and the generous attitude on the part of the people calls for at least some reciprocity from the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited. The company should recognize that its requirements for the maintenance of its industry should be purchased in Australia; it should realize that the men who would be employed in building such ships in Australia would be those who consume its product, and that the development of the ship-building industry would enable the workers so engaged to increase their consumption of the company’s product. Yet, it has adopted a .short-sighted policy merely because a tender received from Scotland was £1,000 or £2,000 below that obtained in Australia. It is regrettable that the company should, walk out on the Australian public and go overseas for its new steamer, although its prosperity depends on the patronage of the people of this country.
It is also desirable to bring under the notice df the House the action of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, which, three years ago, went overseas for two vessels required for its trade between South Australia and Newcastle. I investigated at the time the amount of assistance which this company had received by way of Government bounties and reductions of freight on its products. Despite all that the Australian public had done for it, the company did not avail itself of the chance it had to do something in return, but purchased two vessels abroad. Obviously these companies have but one policy, which is to get as much as they can out of the Australian people, and to go 12,000 miles away for ships required in connexion with their businesses. There should be recognition of the fact that it is neces-sary to keep money circulating as much as possible in this country, and I think that I should receive the support of every honorable member in asking the Government to impose prohibitive duties to compel these companies to purchase their requirements, particularly steamers, in Australia. Finally, I repeat that there io a national aspect to be considered. Australia should build its own ships. The fact becomes increasingly evident that we in this country shall have to depend more and more on our own resources than in the past. Australia lias the men capable of doing the work, and also the raw materials necessary. All that is needed is a Government strong enough to make it impossible for these people to go outside Australia for their requirements.
– - The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has referred to two matters under the control of the Trade and Customs Department, namely, ship-building and the banning of certain magazines. I shall reply to his remarks on the former subject, and my colleague who administered the department during my absence abroad will explain the Government’s policy in regard to the banning of magazines. I regret that I cannot say what the report which was received yesterday recommends on the subject of shipbuilding. Although the Tariff Board reported on ship-building in Australia, in order to obtain the fullest information on the subject, the department conducted an independent inquiry. Its report reached me only yesterday. It is a comprehensive document, the inquiry having been carried out in conformity with the Go- vernment’s policy of expanding secondary industries in Australia. When it is realized that the building of a ship of 700 tons will give a year’s employment to 170 men, the value of the establishment of the industry in this country will be appreciated. However, until the report has been considered by the Government, no statement of policy can be made. I hope to make a statement of policy shortly, to the House.
Debate “(on motion by Mr. Perkins) adjourned.
The following paper was presented : -
National Debt Sinking Fund Act - National Debt Commission - Fifteenth Annual Report, for year 1937-38.
House adjourned at 11.3 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister in charge of Territories, upon notice -
Has the Government come to any decision regarding a site for the capital city of tho Territory of New Guinea?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Tho question of the site to which the administrative head-quarters of the Territory of New Guinea are to be transferred is still under consideration.
n asked the Minister in charge of Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Does he endorse the statement made by the Minister for External Affairs during the recess, which reflected on the capacity and efficiency of the Dominions Office?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
I have already slated publicly that since I have been a member of the Commonwealth Government that Government has received the greatest courtesy and consideration from the Government of the United Kingdom in the receipt of information and in the manner in which every effort has been made to consult us, and to seek our co-operation in matters affecting the British Empire as a whole. Frequently it has been necessary to communicate with the British Government by telephone. British Ministers have accorded us the utmost co-operation in this method of communication. A factor which makes for more effective consultation is the presence in Canberra of the British High Commissioner and his staff. On many occasions I have sought the assistance of the High Commissioner when an exceptionally urgent matter required attention. Never have I failed to receive the utmost help. Any suggestion for more effective and expeditious co-operation between the Commonwealth Government and the United Kingdom Government will be welcomed and, if practicable, I feel sure the United Kingdom Government will join with us in putting it into operation.
Tasmania: Communication with Mainland.
y asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The Postmaster-General has supplied the following answer to the honorable member’s questions : -
Experimental work has been in progress over a long period with a view to the ultimate establishment of radio telephone communication between the mainland and Tasmania, and it will doubtless be recollected that, during the period when the telephone cable was interrupted, a certain amount of telephone traffic was disposed of by means of the emergency radio link. This service is being developed principally as a standby to meet any other emergency which may arise.
Royal Australian Air Force: Report by Sir Edward Ellington.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What steps, in addition to those already announced, has the Government taken to implement the report on the Royal Australian Air Force by Air-Marshal Sir Edward Ellington ?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The Air and Civil Aviation Boards have been directed to furnish their comments which are expected shortly. The Air Board has also been instructed to take immediatesteps to enforce the strictest observance of the regulations and orders governing flying.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Administration op Defence Department.
n asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Preferential Duty on Australian Wheat.
e asked the Prime Minister, upon notice - ls it a fact that the Australian Government lias agreed to withdraw the preferential duty of 2s. a quarter granted on Australian wheat under the Ottawa Agreement?
– The answer to the honor able member’s question is as follows: -
The duty of 2s. a quarter is still levied on wheat entering the United Kingdom from foreign countries. Should any change be made at any time in this or other preferential duties, honorable members will be fully informed of the circumstances. remuneration of SlR george PeARCE.
y. - On Tuesday , the 21st
Tune, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) asked the Treasurer the following question, upon notice -
What is the total amount received by Senator Sir George Pearce during the period he has been in Parliament, by way of salary us a member of Parliament, and salary or allowance as a Minister of the Crown (not including travelling expenses) ?
The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
During the period May, 1901, to June, 1033, Sir George Pearce received Parliamentary allowances totalling £23,101 2s. ad. I regret that I am not in a position to advise as to (lie amount paid to Sir George Pearce from Iiic appropriation for ministerial salaries during that period.
n asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice. -
– The answers to tho honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
The principal Australian imports from Czechoslovakia aic glassware, jewellery, trimmings and ornaments for attire, gloves, buttons, special steels, artificial silk piecegoods, tissue and other paper, fancy-goods and machinery. Direct and indirect imports from Czechoslovakia during 1937 were valued at £A721,000.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 September 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1938/19380922_reps_15_157/>.