15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 10.30a.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the proximity of the harvest season, and the reluctance of buyers to operate in the dark, is the Minister for Trade and Customs in a position to make known the degree of tariff protection recommended by the Tariff Board on canary seed, so that the growers may he able to dispose of the seed they have on hand?
– A report has recently been received from the board on this mailer. It will shortly be given consideration by the Government, and action upon it will then be taken.
Additional Hotel Licences
– Will the Minister forthe Interior state whether it is the intention of the Government to grant additional hotel licences at Darwin? If so, what isthe present position?
– Certain applications for additional licences have been made to the Licensing Court at Darwin. It is not within the authority of that court to grant additional licences, its function being merely to make recommendations tothe Minister. I am awaiting the receipt of its recommendation. When it is received, I shall give the matter early consideration.
– Can the Acting Leader of the House furnish me with information regarding statutory rules of the Department of Trade and Customs in respect of the embargo on the export of iron ore, the first regulation having been repealed and a now regulation promulgated applying the embargo only to hematite and magnetite iron ore? Has this been done with a view to enabling iron ore to be exported from any part of Australia other than Western Australia?
– I shall bring the honorable member’s question under the notice ofthe Department of Trade and Customs and furnish him later with a full reply.
– I lay on the table-
Tariff Board - Annual report for the year
The report is accompanied by an annexure, containing a summary of the Tariff Board’s recommendations which have been finally considered by the Government, and setting out what action hasbeen taken in respect of each recommendation.
As practically the whole of the Tariff Board’s recommendations included in the annexure as tabled are covered by Tariff Board reports which have already been made available to honorable members, it is not proposed to print the annexure. I move -
That the report be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Curtin) adjourned.
Motion (by Sir Earle Page) agreed to-
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday next at 3 p.m.
– Will the Treasurer state whether it is a fact that the Commonwealth Bank is compelling clients to close their accounts, even though those accounts are now, and always have been, in credit? Further, is it a fact that the bank gives no reason to the client for its intimation that the account shall be closed? Is that the sort of practice of which the Treasurer approves? If it is not, will he see that the representative of the Commonwealth Government on the Bank Board intimates to the board generally the wishes of the Government in the matter?
– The bank conducts its business without interference by the Government. If I were to offer a personal observation, I should say that it is extremely unlikely that the condition of affairs is as the Leader of the Opposition has suggested.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Customs indicate to the House whether the Tariff Board has completed its inquiry into the cotton industry. If so, when may its report be expected?
– The inquiry is not yet completed, and no report has yet been received from the board.
– In view of the delay that has occurred in the submission of regulations clearly defining those who are eligible for enrolment under the national health and pensions insurance scheme, and of the possibility of quite a number of people being enrolled who ultimately will be found to be not entitled to enrolment, will the Treasurer say what provision the Government proposes to make in regard to the per capita payment to friendly societies in connexion with the enrolment of members? Is it the intention of the Government to withdraw financial assistance in respect of those who should not have been enrolled?
– I think that the honorable gentleman is rather unduly alarmed. As I announced in reply to a previous question, the final drafting of the regulations, and their tabling, are being purposely delayed until after a meeting has been held in Canberra with representatives of a large number of approved societies in the course of the next few weeks. The commission does not propose to pay, until after the 1st January next, the ls. a head in respect of persons who are enrolled as insurees. Meanwhile, the friendly societies and other bodies which are forming approved societies are defraying their own expenses. The amount of ls. a head will be by way of recoupment, and will be payable after the 1st January.
– What about those who ultimately will be shown not to be eligible for enrolment?
– The matter of eligibility and insurability will be determined well, before the 1st January. No doubt some adjustment will have to be made after that, but I believe that it will cause no major difficulty. I do not pretend that national insurance will come into full operation on the 1st January, with all the problems, major and minor, finally solved. It is an extremely large enterprise. I think that the preliminary arrangements are being conducted as well as they possibly can he, but I expect that in such an enterprise certain adjustments will ha.ve to be made after the 1st January. I apprehend no insuperable difficulty in respect of those adjustments.
– I think that the Treasurer has missed the real point of my question. Friendly societies are already enrolling persons in approved societies. When the regulations are issued, some of these may be found not to be eligible.
As it costs as much to enrol a person who is not eligible as to enrol one who is eligible, does the Government intend to pay the ls. a head in respect of those who ultimately are found not to be eligible ?
– If the honorable gentleman wishes to have an authoritative reply, I must ask him for notice of the question, but if he will be content with my personal reaction, I should say that payment will be made only in respect of those who are eligible or insurable.
– Will the Treasurer state whether it is the intention of the National Insurance Commission to constitute the Approved Societies Consultative Council before the 1st January next ?
– My impression is that it is, but I shall obtain a more authoritative reply and advise the honorable gentleman.
– Will the Treasurer state who will be eligible to attend the proposed conference relating to approved societies? Will it be open only to those societies which have applied for registration, or to those likely to apply? What matters will be discussed at the conference, and will decisions be reached by a majority vote? Is the conference to he called for the purpose of obtaining information, and will it set up a consultative council and various committees.
– ‘The conference is being called with the object of assisting the National Insurance Commission, and also those persons who will be prominent in the administration of approved societies. It is contemplated at the .moment, that the gathering will be large, and that the conference will cover as wide and as representative a field as is . possible. I do not anticipate for a moment that there will be any voting on the subjects discussed. It will give the commission and others present an opportunity to inform their minds on the novel task of forming and conducting approved societies. The conference can be regarded as the forerunner of the consultative council of approved societies, and I expect that informal discussions will take place. I know that Mr. Brigden and the capable officers assisting him will give careful consideration to all the matters that will be discussed. It is to be a friendly gathering, as informal as is possible, and is to meet with the object of assisting the commission and approved societies.
– Will the Treasurer explain why all important appointments under the national health and pensions insurance scheme have been allotted to public servants? Has not the Treasurer received applications from many capable persons outside the Service? Are we to assume that those public servants who have been appointed to positions were, prior to their appointment, not fully employed ?
– The employees under the national health and pensions insurance scheme will, of course, be public servants working under the Commonwealth Public Service Act. That act provides that the Commonwealth Public Service Board is expected to make such appointments from within the Service, unless it is assured that there is no person within the Service adequately equipped to perform a particular task.
– “ That there is no available person.”
– It is not that.
– I do not think it is a question of availability. If a suitable person is available the board has no option. It is quite true that many honorable members have received applications from persons seeking appointment under the national health and pensions insurance scheme: Some of these are very highly equipped and quite suitable to fill some of the vacancies.
– What were the public servants who have been appointed doing previously ?
– They were in other departments. A fairly large number - probably twenty - senior officers in the Public Service have been appointed to positions under the national health and pensions insurance scheme, which will mean that promotions will be made in the departments from which they have been drawn. During this financial year, or the following financial year, a considerable number of juniors will be admitted to the Service
– Will the Treasurer make available to the House a list of the names of approved societies formed in Australia under the national health and pensions insurance scheme ?
– I shall do so.
Advertisement in Great Britain.
– What comment has the Minister for Commerce to offer on the statement of Major Russell King, a member of the Australian Dairy Export Board, that Australian dairy products are not sufficiently advertised in Great Britain, and that, if results are desired, much more money should be spent? What action has been taken by the Commonwealth in respect of advertising of this type?
– I have not seen the statement of Major Russell King, but the position is that the advertising fund available for publicity in Great Britain consists of contributions by the Commonwealth Government - which have been increased by £22,500 a year during the last three years - and by the various industries concerned. If there has been any diminution of this fund, it will have been by way of diminution of the contributions of the industries concerned, and if more advertising is needed, the obvious course is for the extra amount to be provided by those industries.
– During the recent absence from Australia of the Minister for Trade and. Customs a special inquiry was conducted by officers of his department in respect of Oregon or Douglas fir logs. Has the honorable gentleman received a report in the matter, and will he say what the position is to-day?
– A departmental inquiry was held in respect of the rates of duty on oregon logs and junk. The two experts differed in their views on the matter of the adjustment. The matter is so technical that reference is being made to the Tariff Board on that particular point. I cannot promise the honorable member that there will be any adjustment until a report has been received from thu board.
– Has the attention of the Minister for External Affairs been drawn to the press statement that Mr. A. H. Chisholm, an Australian journalist and naturalist, who has just returned to London from a visit to Berlin, had reported to the High Commissioner for Australia in London that German scientists are showing a marked interest in the resources of New Guinea? Further, has the right honorable gentleman seen the statement that Australia is failing in its duty in not advising the “world of those resources, and in leaving the work largely to Americans? In view of the well-known work of Australia in regard to the development and colonization of New Guinea, will the right honorable gentleman take steps to cause this gross misrepresentation to be removed?
– I had not seen the paragraph referred to until my attention was directed to it by the honorable member. I am rather at a loss to know what Mr. Chisholm has in mind. I deny entirely that Australia has been laggard in its effort to develop the resources of New Guinea. I .believe that the statement has really been made because of the way in which Australia has developed the resources of New Guinea, and exposed to the world the fact that in that territory there is one of the richest gold-fields in the world. I shall look into the matter and see to what extent, if any, an official rejoinder is called for.
– During the absence of the Minister for Customs abroad the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs introduced a regulation debarring the importation of certain types of undesirable literature. A statement appeared in the press recently to the effect that a representative of one of the American firms, whose publications have been banned, had arrived in Australia and proposed to interview the Minister for Customs in an endeavour to have the ban on that firm’s publications lifted. Has such a representative waited upon the Minister, and has there been any weakening on the part of his department in the matter of preventing undesirable literature entering Australia ?
– Apparently the honorable member is referring to the fact that a representative of the Macfadden publications visited Australia and protested against that company’s publications being banned. A lady interviewed the Assistant Minister and myself, and it was explained that the publications in question had been banned because they came within the category of those, which were regarded as undesirable. Her attention was directed to the objectionable features, and she was told that if subsequent magazines did not contain the matter to which exception was taken the ban would be lifted, but not otherwise.
– I direct the attention of the Acting Leader of the House to the position which has arisen, in connexion with the wool trade between Czechoslovakia and Australia. A cablegram has been received which reads -
Tlie land of the Sudetens which is being transferred to the German Reich comprises some very important textile industries. These industries will now be included in the Reich’s economic system, and therefore, a very important “free” customer of the wool trade is gone. Dealings with these Sudeten customers will, from now on, be hampered by the trade restrictions which applied to the Reich’s economy.
It is further reported in cablegrams received this morning that the British Prime Minister, after a brief respite, intends to follow up the Munich conference with a comprehensive measure of trade proposals. Will the Acting Leader of the House consider the advisability of requesting the Commonwealth authorities in London to approach the British Prime Minister with the object of making representations to the Czechoslovak Government, and also the German Government with the object of retaining as much as is possible of our trade with Czechoslovaks, particularly the wool trade.
– I can assure the honorable member that the trade position in Europe, especially in central
Europe, is being followed closely by the Commonwealth authorities in association with the British Government. The suggestion of the honorable member will be taken into consideration.
– I have been asked by correspondence and in other ways whether the Attorney-General will, at his earliest convenience, be agreeable to meet, either in Melbourne or in Canberra, representatives of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Waterside Workers Federation to discuss anomalies and injustices which still prevail on the waterfront, with the object of having these anomalies and injustices removed?
– I shall be pleased to meet the representatives of the organizations mentioned, either in Canberra or in Melbourne, whichever is the more suitable to those concerned.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green) asked me a question regarding the furlough rights of certain employees in the Defence Department. The Minister for Defence is now able to advise that it is understood that an amending public service bill to provide for eligibility for furlough of certain employees in the Department of Defence is now in course of preparation by the Attorney-General’s Department.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Sales Tax Exemptions Act 1935-1936.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 21st September (vide page 28) on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division 1. - The Senate - namely “Salaries and Allowances, £8,210,” be agreed to.
.- I move-
That the consideration of the General Estimates be postponed until after the consideration of the Estimates for Addition, New Works, Buildings, &c.
My reason for proposing this procedure to the committee is as follows: - In the two Supply Bills that the Parliament has already passed there is a total of £2,500,000 for Treasurer’s Advance. That is designed principally to enable public works that were in progress on the 30th June last to be continued, and also to enable the Government, pending the passage of specific appropriation legislation, to pay grants to the three claimant States on the same basis as last year. The Treasurer’s Advance also is of course designed to enable the Government to meet relatively minor unexpected expenditure which inevitably crops up from time to time. The public works with which the Government has to cope from revenue involve the expenditure of something like £7,000,000, and the amount of money that is to be paid to the States in the form of grants is about £200,000 a month. These two items are a heavy drain upon the Treasurer’s Advance, so it is customary, indeed essential, that the Government should, as early as possible, provide some relief to the Treasurer’s Advance from them. That relief Can be provided only by Parliament appropriating it, as soon as possible, money for new works and buildings and for the grants to the claimant States. That is why I propose to the committee that consideration of the General Estimates should be postponed to let us go at once into the question of new works and buildings, so that not only the works which were in progress on the 30th June last shall be allowed to continue, but also that the new works shall be gone on with. That is the only reason why I suggest this not novel procedure - it has been the practice of Parliament for a great many years - to postpone the General Estimates pending the discussion of the Estimates for New Works and Buildings.
– I know in the circumstances in which the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) finds himself to-day, without having parliamentary authorization for the expenditure, he has exhausted the provision made in the two Supply Bills for the advance that he has had to carry on works. He has also had to pay to the claimant States the monthly instalments of their grants. He has introduced the States Grants Bill, but we have not yet been able to dispose of it. The honorable gentleman will, I think, appreciate that what we are doing by this procedure is to make further difficulties for the Parliament in its control of the budgetary position. We have passed two important measures which are consequent upon the presumption that wo are in agreement with the Government’s financial policy. We have passed the Income Tax Bill 1938, and the Sales Tax Bill (Nos. 1-9) 1938. Now, having provided the Government with additional revenue for this financial year without having considered at all its management of the finances of Australia, or having considered the principles underlying its present financial policy, we are asked to proceed to the allocation of the revenue, principally that portion which the Government desires to spend upon works. This procedure is confusing to the country. It is of a kind that frustrates the committee’s control over either the taxing power of the Government or the Government’s expenditure. I believe that this hotch potch and piecemeal treatment of the budget before the budget in principle has been considered by the Parliament is not only a perversion of what would be the proper procedure, but also, in fact unnecessary, and that we ought not any longer to continue this practice.
What is the position? The financial year ends on the 30th June, and, prior to that date, Parliament is asked to vote Supply, usually for a period of two or three months. Before the 30th June last we voted Supply until the end of September. Logically the Parliament should meet as early as possible in the new year. The only cause for delay should be that inevitably rising ‘from the completion of the accountancy of the Treasury. Immediately that is available, the Parliament should be summoned to review the last year’s financial transactions, to pronounce judgment upon the administration of the Government, and to consider and determine whether or not it will accept the proposals of the Government in respect of the financial policy for the current year.
If I have read correctly the history of parliamentary institutions and the control of the Commons, theoretically the amount of Supply voted in the previous financial year is for the purpose of ensuring that Parliament will have provided for continuing, on previously accepted standards, the government of the country until such time as Parliament has before it any departure from those previously accepted standards. The Government this financial year does contemplate radical departures from the policy endorsed by Parliament last year. It has decided to increase three forms of taxes. It now proposes to expend more on works. It happens that I quite agree with that increased expenditure on works, but before we are asked to deal with an increase of any tax or any specific form of expenditure, Parliament should consider the general principle upon which the budget has been framed. We should have examined the financial position of the Commonwealth. We should have reviewed the monetary and industrial and other features of our social and economic life as they impact upon the revenues and resources of the Commonwealth Government. Then, having determined that, I believe that it would be a natural concomitant that we should readily and rapidly deal with the bills which emerge as a consequence of the acceptance by Parliament of the Government’s financial policy. But what happens now? We have had one chew at the budget in respect of increased income tax, another chew at it in respect of increased sales tax, and now we are to twist over to the consideration of expenditure from revenue upon works, knowing that certain expenditure on defence works is to be from loan. We cannot get a proper perspective of the detailed expenditure for any particular department, unless we gather all these schemes together and happen to look at things which strictly are not before us. The budget proposes expenditure not only from revenue, but also from loan and trust funds; but if we carry this motion, I am to he restricted to a discussion of only those items which are contained in the specific Works Estimates.
This applies particularly to defence expenditure. There is no general picture of the whole.
I believe that the dignity and importance of this national Parliament are not sufficiently of consequence to the people of Australia, and that in order to reestablish and confirm the national significance of this . Parliament, the budget discussion should be the debate of the whole of the parliamentary session. Hitherto, the budget has been debated in a ragged manner. The debate has commenced when the Treasurer has delivered his budget speech. There has been an adjournment, and before it is resumed and completed, half a dozen things emerging from the budget have already been enacted by Parliament. The budget debate itself, since the honorable gentleman has been Treasurer, has been picked up, dropped again and interrupted repeatedly by the submission of other bills which the Treasurer pleads as urgent because he needs money or because some other need has arisen. The budget debate should be resumed, either the next day or within two days after the Treasurer has delivered his speech, by the Leader of the Opposition, and the debate should be continued without interruption until it has concluded. That used to be the practice in the great days of this Parliament, and it is because I desire that it be re-established that I intend to vote against the honorable gentleman’s motion.
– The honorable member did not mention that in the House of Commons, the Leader of the Opposition makes his speech immediately the Chancellor of the Exchequer has sat down.
– Yes, but this Parliament does not have the services of an accounts committee.
– Nevertheless, the . Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons does not see the budget before he makes his speech.
– No, but there is a procedure there which I should be perfectly willing to see adopted here.
Question put -
That the consideration of the General Estimates be postponed until after the consideration of the Estimates for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c.
The committee divided. ( Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Question so resolvedin the affirmative.
Proposed vote, £7,000.
. -Funds for public works are provided from three sources, loan funds, trust funds, and general revenue. The works proposals which form the subject of this schedule are to be financed out of general revenue. It is proposed to expend £5,423,000 from Consolidated Revenue on public works, other than defence works, and the total amount to be expended is just over £7,000,000. That is by no means the total of the Government’s expenditure on public works. It covers only public works, including defence, which are to be financed out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund. In addition, finance is provided for the State governments in respect of the Federal aid roads grants and the like, to the extent of more than £4,000,000. The loan fund is to be drawn on also in respect of a certain number of works. The amount which it is proposed to expend is made up as follows : -
The total expenditure on defence works during this financial year will be £9,922,000, of which £1,618,000 is from revenue, and the balance from trust funds and the loan fund. The proposals now before the committee provide for only a relatively small proportion of the contemplated defence works. The biggest individual item in the schedule is an amount of £3,938,000 for new works by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, which represents an increase of over £700,000 as compared with last year. The vote for public works in the territories has been increased by more than £250,000, the greater part of which is accounted for by new works in the Northern Territory, chiefly the initiation and completion during this financial year of an adequate water supply made necessary by increased defence activities, and the stationing of a larger number of men in and about Darwin. The Ministers of the various departments concerned will be glad to give further information in respect, to works to be undertaken by their own departments.
.- As the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has explained, it is proposed to allocate £7,000,000 from revenue this year for expenditure on public works. Last year we provided £3,720,000 for this purpose, of which £3,500,000 was actually expended. In addition, provision” was made last year for the expenditure of certain amounts from trust funds, as is the case also this year. That emphasizes the piecemeal consideration which Parliament gives to the works expenditure. It never has the complete programme before it at once. It is proposed that departmental expenditure shall be approximately £1,500,000 more this year than last, while business undertakings are to absorb approximately £1,600,000 more than last year, excluding expenditure from trust funds. Expenditure by the Postal Department is to increase by about £750,000, and will be only a little less than £4,000,000. All this appears to swell the total of public works expenditure by the Federal Government, and it will be urged in some quarters, no doubt, as an indication that the Commonwealth is active in providing employment. In order that the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral may have the information at his disposal when the item is before the committee, I now ask that we shall be told how much of this amount of £3,900,000 is to be expended by the department on the purchase of imported materials. I want to know to what extent this vote will tend to support the statement made during the year that Commonwealth expenditure on works may be regarded as compensating for the reduced works programmes of the States due to the reduced amount of loan money made available to them. Therefore I should like to know how much of the amounts now being voted will be spent by the Postal Department and the Defence Department on the purchase of imported materials and equipment. Because of the way in which these Estimates are presented, it is impossible for us to gauge the extent to which the works programme of the Commonwealth does, in fact, support and complement the works programmes of the States, and the extent to which it merely results in bringing into Australia a greater volume of imports.
I should like to know why the Commonwealth Government did not last year expend the total amount on works for -which authority was given. The actual expenditure appears to have been about £200,000 less than was voted, having regard to the amount taken from trust funds. ~M.r. Casey. - That is fairly close.
– I do not know that it is. The total vote was £3,720,000, and the amount expended was £3,500,000. “When we remember that the Government was using money from trust funds that had been carried forward, and earmarked in the budget for expenditure, there seems to be a failure on its part to have completed orders which it was expected would be completed by the end of the year. That appears to me to be conclusive because the amount carried forward into this year’s expenditure is set out, I think, in the honorable gentleman’s statement of finances where he referred to the balance of trust funds amounting to £1,400,000, which was to be expended in the last financial year but was not expended.
– To be committed in the last financial year.
– Yes; but we do not have to vote that money again this year. The balance represents money available for orders that have not been completed.
Provision is made in the schedule for £88,000 for armaments annexes. * I direct attention to the fact that this is in connexion with the defence expansion programme. The purpose of the provision is to establish in private factories equipment and productive apparatus in respect of munition making. We submit that it would have been far better to expend that money in the Commonwealth’s own establishments. We say it as a matter of principle. We believe that if any lesson is to be drawn from a study of the contributing causes of international disputation, the activities of those who have a private interest in the manufacture of armaments cannot he disregarded. I shall not delay the committee by a re-statement of the conclusions arrived at by a variety of commissions and authorities which have examined this matter in .other countries, other than to say that public opinion, not only in other countries, but also, I believe, in Australia, is hostile to the conception of a private manufacturer being given resources of gain to himself and his enterprise because of the transactions which he has in regard to armaments. I bring under notice the fact that quite recently a deputation consisting of Sir Robert Garran and the secretary of the League of Nations Union waited on the Prime Minister at Canberra and presented to him a resolution containing the following language -
This union views with grave concern the decision of the Federal Government to inaugurate a system of private munitions manufacture in Australia, such’ system being diametrically opposed to the spirit of the covenant, notably Article 8, and one which is considered unnecessary in view of the instrumentalities at hand, or of their ‘possible development under direct State control
I cite that resolution as expressing the opinion of a union which, whatever may be its views with regard to international treaties, embraces a number of people of varying political ideas in Australia. That resolution expressed quite fairly, I think, a number of contentions. One is that everybody must be opposed to the incubating of a special private interest of a profit-making nature in respect of the defences of the country. The second point is that, having regard to the existence of publicly-owned engineering instrumentalities in Australia, it appears to me, and I believe to most people, utterly unnecessary to create private interest in munition making. These annexes which are being built by Commonwealth money out of national revenues for private manufacturers could equally as well, and I believe more effectively, have been added as additional units to the State railway workshops in Australia. When I made that suggestion earlier in the year the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) did not welcome it; there were all sorts of objections to it. I notice more recently, however, that there has been a disposition to view that proposition more favorably. These important, and indeed very elaborate railway instrumentalities in Australia, are considerably larger than any private engineering enterprises. I ask anybody who knows Victoria to name any private manufacturer or corporation with a larger engineering organization than that under the control of the Victorian Railways Department at Newport.
– Or a more modern one.
– Yes. In New South Wales, central railway workshops and the sub-depots scattered throughout the State for railway purposes, constitute, a nucleus organization on which the Commonwealth Government -could rely as a basis upon which to develop public ownership of the means of munition making as a reinforcement of the Commonwealth’s own factories. I believe that the common sense of the resolution which I cited must appeal to us all in that it is not desirable to create this new profit-vesting interest in munition making. I believe that, from the mechanics and economics of the matter, it is necessary to utilize the State instrumentalities in view of the expensive equipment operated by them in different parts of the Commonwealth. When this item is reached, we shall have something more to say about it.
I should have liked the works programme to be dealt with after we had disposed of. the budget, because I believe that works of the type to be undertaken and the amount of money which the Commonwealth is expending on them might very well be reviewed. In my opinion, the Commonwealth Parliament ought to authorize the expenditure of very much more money on works as a means of providing employment for the people. It should be concerned with a policy of undertaking works in places where such works will tend to decentralize industrial activity in the Commonwealth. It should take into account the wisdom of spreading employment so as to spread better the distribution of the population.
I conclude by saying that we have repeatedly urged the Government to establish a National Employment Council so that the Commonwealth Government and the governments of the States could regularly co-ordinate their activities with a view to’ the general promotion of a long term public works policy in Australia. I believe that the absence of a long view in this matter means that there is too much expediency in connexion with public works which are started either to relieve employment or because of the fear of war, and which therefore cost more than would otherwise be the case. In any event, when we deal with the problem of works in Australia, Ave have to take into account the great number of instrumentalities associated with the furnishing of work. I trust there will be a general attempt to co-relate those activities. Hitherto the Commonwealth has not played a sufficiently important role in this connexion. There is a Loan Council for the purpose of raising money, and the Commonwealth Government and the Commonwealth Bank play, I believe, a very influential part in its deliberations. I believe that it would be wise to have a National Employment Council, not in order to restrict the States, but in order that it might bring about co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States.
I am not satisfied that this large expenditure on defence will be the great employment provider it is hoped to be. I have a fear that too much money is to be spent on imported materials ; and I also know that, because of its very nature, it must be a wasteful economic proposition.
– I would not have taken up the point raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) had he not made it before. The honorable gentleman referred to what he describes as the piece-meal fashion in which the financial proposals of the Government are brought before this chamber. He also referred to the analogy of the British Parliament-
– Not in this debate.
– At any rate the honorable member has referred to what he describes as the piece-meal methods adopted by the Government in dealing with these matters. I admit that the present method of debating financial proposals of the Government, which is in accordance with , a practice that has existed for many years, does lend itself to criticism of the type used by the Leader of the Opposition. I venture to think, however, that it is more or less inevitable that that method must be continued unless Parliament meets, and the budget is presented, early in July.
– Would the requisite information be available then ?
– That is a matter outside of my personal control. It is extremely difficult for political and personal reasons to bring down the budget in this country before the middle of August, at the earliest.
– On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, I ask what connexion have the Treasurer’s remarks with the Estimates of expenditure for additions, new works, and buildings ?
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).In introducing the Works Estimates, the Treasurer dealt with the whole of the items in the schedule. The same privilege was extended to the Leader of the Opposition. It has been the custom of the Parliament to allow general discussion on the first item. That has been done in this case. The Treasurer is now replying to certain observations made by the Leader of the Opposition, and so is quite in order.
– I support the point of order taken by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard). I submit that the remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition-
– Order ! The Chair has already ruled that no point of order was taken bythe honorable member for Bass.
– If this world were perfect Ishould agree entirely with the Leader of the Opposition. Unfortunately the world is just short of being perfect. In this situation it is inevitable that taxation proposals should be brought forward immediately the budget speech has been delivered. InGreat Britain the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons makes his reply at that stage. His lips are touched with fire. He springs to his feet and makes a dashing attack on the financial policy of the Government. Of course, the Commonwealth Government is perfectly willing that that should take place here ; but in fact it has not taken place.
Others more capable than I am of dealing with the matter of annexes to factories will do so later, but , I make the general observation that it would be an extremely expensive method of coping with an emergency if the Government were to have its own munitions factories fully equipped to deal with the rate of output necessary in an emergency. The Government factories are purely key factories for munition purposes, and I believe it is essential, in view of the industrial make-up of Australia, to utilize in times of emergency a very large range of engineering establishments to supplement the relatively small Government munitions establishments.
The matter of the use of railway workshops has been raised. It has always been the intention of the Government to use those shops in the greatest possible degree. I ask the Leader of the Opposition if he believes that those shops are at present adequately equipped with plant and experienced personnel to deal, for instance, with repetition press work, machine work or precision work on a large scale, such as the manufacture of shell fuses. The requirements of the Defence Department in an emergency would be of an extremely wide character and would call for considerable outlay on plant and the services of experienced personnel.
– The rolling-stock could be made , at the railway workshops.
– That is so; but without new equipment and more experienced personnel in specialized lines, they would not be competent to manufacture anything approaching the full range of munitions requirements.
– Is it not a fact that private firms are obtaining special equipment from the Government to provide formunitions manufacture in time of emergency ?
– That point will be dealt with in detail. There is a wide range of industry in Australia. One establishment may be specially equipped, by reason of the nature of its ordinary civilian work, to deal with munitions’ of a particular type. Another factory may be the appropriate one to turn out some other particular requirement, and among the hundreds of large and effective engineering establishments in Australia there are particular ones which are equipped with specialists and specialized machinery to manufacture certain defence requirements. It would he impossible to combine under any limited number of roofs, and particularly ‘Government roofs, the equipment necessary to . manufacture the full range of defence requirements in an emergency. I believe .that the present method of dealing with the problem is the only economical and practical expedient for the purposes of the ‘Commonwealth.
I shall not deal at length with the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition in respect of a National Employment Council, except to point out that the business of co-ordinating all public works in Australia is an extremely difficult one, by reason of the fact that we are working under a federation and not under a unitary form of government. There is a large number of authorities over which the Commonwealth has little or no measure of control. These are the State governments, and the very wide range of semigovernmental organizations, all of which are spending money. Under the existing federal system, in view of the relationship that exists between the Commonwealth and State governments and the semi-governmental organizations, I think that any greater degree of co-ordination is impossible; and I say it with great regret.
– From the Commonwealth viewpoint the new works and buildings programme appeals to me mainly in regard to the question of employment. I should be loth to take any action which would delay the passing of legislation designed to achieve that purpose, but I am not satisfied with the volume of employment which Commonwealth works have provided in the past, and are likely to provide under this schedule, if the policy applied in the past is to be applied in the future. The argument that I am advancing may not weigh as heavily in some States as it does in -others ; therefore, my approach to it must be determined by my ‘knowledge of the conditions in New South Wales as against those of, .perhaps, Queensland or Tasmania, .or the other States. However, the problem of unemployment is so acute and so important from the point of view of New South
Wales that, if it were possible for me to register my opinion on the subject through the medium of a vote in this committee, I should be very happy to do so. In providing employment in NewSouth Wales, the Commonwealth has fallen very far short of what the New South Wales representatives in this Parliament expect. It is fairly safe to say that all of the work is being done under the contract system, which excludes a very large number of men who are entitled to share employment afforded by the Commonwealth.
– Somebody must get the work.
– But certain persons need not get the lot. The problem of finding employment for unskilled workers in New South Wales is almost as acute to-day as it was in 1931.
– The statistics do not show that.
– Whenever this question is raised, we are confronted with all sorts of statistics. It is idle for the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) or for any one else to formulate a definite opinion according to statistics. If the Treasurer could spend a day with me in my electorate, inquiring at any number of homes in any street, I am sure he would be surprised at the information he would obtain regarding the amount of unemployment that exists among unskilled workers. I do not make that statement in any spirit of ill-feeling. I know that unless one lives among the people who are in such circumstances and learns the conditions under which they live, one cannot have a full knowledge of the employment problems which confront them. One of the principal problems is that of young men who have never had a chance to find a niche for themselves in industry because the circumstances . of the last ten years have denied them that opportunity, and on this account they are unskilled in the widest sense of the word. The degree of unemployment among such young men is one of the reasons for the extraordinary number of applications that have been made for positions with the National Insurance Commission. The matter of providing increased employment is as vital now as it was when schemes were first introduced to give work in the form of relief. In 1930-31 and the years that immediately followed, the tendency of governments was to spread employment among as many people as possible. My ambition is to provide continuity of employment; but since that is not possible, I am trying to do the next best thing by sharing employment among the largest number. Under the contract system, that is not being achieved.
– But do not these private contractors have to employ men?
– A contractor maintains in his employment the same class of worker, and, therefore, his work is not distributed among the greatest possible number of men. Even unskilled workers may become specialized to a certain degree when they are kept constantly on one class of work with a contractor. If men who are accustomed to handling bricks, mixing mortar or cement, or digging up foundations, are engaged continuously in that class of work, they become so proficient that they are in fact skilled. If a contractor can keep in his employment 50 men who are accustomed to the class of work that he does, it is better for him to retain those 50 men than to employ different men on each undertaking. Therefore, the contract system employed by the Commonwealth in connexion with its works programmes tends to lessen the scope of employment for a large number of men who need it very badly.
– If contractors were deprived of these works, would they not have to discharge their men?
– If that occurred, those men and the men who “at present are unable to secure employment would share equally in the work which the Commonwealth has to offer. The work should be spread over the largest possible number instead of being confined as it is now to a few.
– The honorable member believes that, instead of some men having continuity of employment, a larger number should work only part time.
– Yes ; I want a more equitable distribution. It is the duty of the members of this Parliament to urge upon the Government the necessity to adopt a policy under which the largest possible number will share in the work which it has to offer.
– The honorable member looks upon his proposal as the lesser of two evils.
– Yes ; a larger number should share in the work offering.
– The department would not get the same efficiency, as some of the men would not be experienced in the work.
– That may be so to some extent; but it is the responsibility of the Government to give these men an opportunity to become efficient.
– If the honorable member’s policy were adopted, there would be complaints because the work was not being carried out on the most efficient basis.
– Surely the Government is not to close its eyes to human factors, and look upon all its proposals from the viewpoint of pounds, shillings and pence ? We were told that one of the problems of the Sudeten Germans was that the Czechoslovaks disregarded their desires and aspirations to such a degree that their conditions became intolerable.
– Surely the honorable member does not suggest that we wish to be parties to anything of that kind !
– No; but I am only citing that as an illustration, and directing attention to the fact that intense dissatisfaction, even desperation, arises in the minds of these unfortunate men who cannot get work of any kind. From whatever aspect we may view national problems, and however deeply we may go into .them, we must keep our feet on the ground and realize that, wherever practicable, every obstacle in the way of providing employment for our people must he removed. Many of these young men have never had an opportunity in life, and most of them have been deprived of the right to take their proper places in society. Time after time I meet these men on my doorstep, when they ask, “ What is the Commonwealth Government going to do for us? What chance have we to get a job even for a short period ?” What answer can I give them ? 1 have gone into this matter with Ministers and their officers and have asked them to spread the work which is offering amongst those who are so badly needing it. I was even prepared to suggest a system which could be adopted in the Works Department, under which some men could be permitted to do by day labour some of the unskilled work, associated with government undertakings even although the remainder of the work be done by contract. Surely something could be done in that direction. These men may not be able to have continuity of work; but surely they should be given an opportunity to undertake some of the unskilled labour which does not need technical advice or very much supervision.
Moreover, those seeking employment in New South Wales are also faced with the problem that preference is given to returned soldiers, who receive most of the limited amount of work offering. When the loan programme is curtailed, the volume of work provided by State instrumentalities is also restricted, and when State governments give effect to a policy of preference to returned soldiers, opportunities are further reduced. Many of those affected are sons of returned soldiers, who are entitled to a living. There are also thousands of young fellows who could not have gone on active service had they desired, because they were too young to enlist. Surely the men on whose behalf I am speaking are not to be denied a fair deal in the matter of employment. It means everything to them. Most of them have to meet commitments, the same as other men, and have no income from which to do so. If we do not help them we are not doing our duty as members of the national Parliament.
I am not exaggerating the position that exists in New South Wales. A few months ago when I thought that there was a probability of the Commonwealth Government assisting these unfortunate men, I started to compile a list of the most deserving cases - men of good charac ter with wives and families to support. When I had 70 or 80 names on the list and work could not be found for any of them, I ‘began to think that I would have to set up a sort of employment agency of my own. Eventually I had to drop the whole idea and tell these men that it was useless to approach me for assistance. My experience must be similar to that of other honorable members, particularly those representing New South Wales. Honorable members from all States will agree that the demand is pressing and is becoming more urgent every day. I appeal to the Government to prevent the work that is available being reserved by medium of the contract system for only a few as it is at present. When the Commonwealth Government’s extensive defence programme was first introduced it was thought that there would be work for many of these men. Since these statements were made, most of us have received a large volume of correspondence, also personal requests, asking if employment is available, but my experience has been that very little additional work has been provided. When I have inquired at the Works Department I have been informed that a contract had been let for certain excavation works at, say, North Head or Maroubra to a certain firm, and when I have followed the matter up I have found that the contractors were employing the same men that they had had on other jobs. Consequently there was no opportunity for those out of work to be taken on. All available work should be spread as much as possible so that every one can get a share, and in that way bring some small measure of comfort into the homes of these unfortunate people. Many of these men would be satisfied with even a month’s work at the present time. It is extraordinary how some are so easily satisfied. To tell them- that they can go to a job even if it is to last only two or three weeks is like handing them a plate of gold. Such an announcement is greeted by them with joy and gratitude. If they are told that there is a chance of them getting even two or three weeks’ work, they say that it will help them to pay their rent, which is some weeks behind, and to reduce their commitments on furniture which has been bought on the time-payment system, or provide some necessities for their children. The time is fast approaching -when they will be wanting to purchase something for the kiddies at Christmas. Are these men to be deprived of the right to give to their children that pleasure which the children of others enjoy during the festive season? The parents can bear the burden, but the children do not understand.
I have had considerable dealings with the officers of the Works Department and have always found them most courteous and willing to assist whenever able to do so. When cases of men in straitened circumstances have been brought under their notice they have stretched every possible point to assist. I know that they are loyal and efficient servants and that it is their duty to see that works are carried out on the most efficient basis. The fault is not theirs, but is that of the system under which public works are carried out. We have the organization and sympathetic officers; but it is the responsibility of the Government to formulate a policy under which the Commonwealth work which is offering is spread more evenly amongst thousands of honest and deserving men who are anxious to obtain it. It is the responsibility of the Government and of the Minister to do something immediately to help those on whose behalf I make this earnest appeal.
.- I congratulate the Government upon the substantial increase of the volume of public works to be carried out from revenue and from loans moneys this financial year. An examination of the proposed works shows that in “ Part I. Departments Services other than business undertakings and territories of the Commonwealth “ there is an increase of £1,582,000, in Part IX “ Business undertakings “ an increase of £1,642,622, and in Part III. “ Territories of the Commonwealth “ an increase of £265,283, or a total increase over last financial year of £3,490,224. The proposed expenditure this year from revenue is £7,042,000, compared with £3,555,000 last year. The estimated loan expenditure this year is £6,400,000 compared with an actual expenditure of £4,567,500 last year, or an increase of £1,832,500. These substantial increases will be of incalculable help to employment and industry generally. There are many items in the schedule concerning which Ministers should give the committee some information. Under “Division 7, Item 2, Australian War Memorial, Canberra “, £50,000 was voted last year and the full amount was expended; but this year it is proposed to expend only £5,000. It is 20 years since the termination of the Great War, and for a long period efforts have been made to complete the Australian National War Memorial at ‘Canberra. A committee comprising members of this chamber and of the Senate and some who were formerly members of this Parliament was appointed to work in collaboration with the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) to supervise the development of this work. Will the Minister or some member of the committee explain why the completion of this important work has been so long delayed. A reference to the margin shows that £106,000 has to be expended, yet it is proposed to expend only £5,000 thi3 year. Returned soldiers and others interested in this_historic project would like to know why such an important national work has been so long delayed.
Last financial year £1,000 was appropriated for the Forestry School, but nothing was expended, and this year it is proposed to expend £3,800. I have watched the development of that institution with considerable interest. I think that the Forestry School should be developed; but I am at a loss to know why, if the Government could not spend the £1,000 that was appropriated last year for its purposes, it should now ask Parliament to appropriate a further amount of £3,800, particularly when my information is that the school is languishing because of lack of sympathetic co-operation from some of the States. The school was established for the purpose of training young men from all of the States to protect and develop our forests and, in its early years, it made good progress, but recently amongthe States there has been apathy towardsit. Some of the States indeed refuse to send students to it. The apathy in theState forestry services towards students, from the Australian Forestry School is: such indeed that when the students have graduated, they have difficulty in obtaining employment with the State services. No one seems eager for their services.
– That is the best reason why we should refuse this proposed new expenditure.
– That is the situation at least as far as Victoria is concerned. The ideals and objectives behind the establishment of the school have not been realized. The position is far from satisfactory. If the authorities could not spend £1,000 on the school last year, why is it necessary to ask for £3,800 this year ?
I now desire to refer to Item 1a under the heading Prime Minister’s Department.
– Order! The honorable gentleman is not at this stage entitled to refer to items.
– The Chairman (Mr. Prowse) ruled, when points of order were taken by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) and the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), that members of the committee have the full right to discuss the whole of the Estimates in the general debate on the first item.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The discussion on the first item is a general discussion of the Works Estimates; honorable members may not anticipate individual items.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) was allowed by the Chairman to discuss “ armament annexes, plant, materials and experimental work” which comes under Division 10 of the appropriation for the Department of Defence. There can be no special privileges for. the Leader of the Opposition. Every honorable member is entitled to the same privileges as are extended to that honorable gentleman and I ask that I be given the. .privilege that the Chairman gave to him.
– I have no desire to alter any decision given by the Chairman, and if that was the ruling given by him I shall permit the honorable member to proceed. If. I were asked to give a ruling I should not permit it myself.
– I thank the honorable gentleman. The Leader of the Opposition took objection to the policy of the Government in providing financial assistance to private engineering establishments to enable them to supply arms and munitions in a time of national emergency, but I am in entire agreement with that policy and have long advocated it; in fact, I left a memorandum on this subject when I was in the Defence Department as Assistant Minister. Our munitions works at Maribyrnong and the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow are not. designed to work at full pressure all of the time; they are merely manned by nucleus staffs. If the emergency comes - God forbid that it should! - they are readily capable of working at top pressure. Even then, however, it would not be possible for them to meet the whole of the nation’s requirements of arms and ammunition, and I accordingly commend the policy of this Government which enables privately conducted engineering works to alter the whole or part of their plant in order to concentrate their energies on the provision of war equipment. The same policy is adopted in every other country of the world. It is imperative that industrial power should be behind the troops in the lines. The only misgivings I have about this policy, as it has been applied in Australia, concern the suggestion that the Commonwealth Government has neglected to take advantage of the engineering facilities available at railway workshops. I have frequently made the strongest possible representations that State railway workshops should be prepared for their fullest utilization in time of national emergency. If it be right that private establish-; ments should be subsidized in order to be in a position to supply defence needs, it is equally right that the State railways authorities should be treated similarly. I cannot speak authoritatively of all States, but what I am about to say is true of the railway workshops in Queensland, and I should say that it would be true of the workshops in the other States. These establishments are staffed with engineers who have had university training and have vast skill and knowledge of their trade. The craftsmen generally are well trained, highly competent and efficient. The workshops are placed in situations which allow of great expansion. The best interests of the nation would not be served if the skilled artisans at these workshops were not fully used in producing arms and ammunition in the event of a national crisis ; and they could not be so used unless provision be made for them to have machinery and equipment ready for the manufacture of arms and ammunition. There has been a complaint that the work of the Defence Department is centralized in New South Wales and Victoria. Rail- way workshops exist in every State, and in them there are skilled men capable of turning out arms and ammunition of any kind if given the preliminary instruction and provided with any special machinery required. If their services were thus used the work of munitions manufacture would be decentralized to a substantial degree. Under Division 10, item 1, £S8,502 is provided for armament annexes, plant, materials and experimental work. I hope that this allocation makes ample provision for the fullest cooperation of our State railway workshops.
Last year £16,110 was expended on the purchase of a vessel for the development of the Australian fisheries industry. What has happened to that vessel ? What is it doing? Where is it working? What investigations have been carried out by it, and with what results? I discussed the provision of this fisheries research vessel with the former Minister in charge of Development (Senator A. J. Mclachlan), and he promised me that very early it would be in southern Queensland waters. It has not arrived there yet. I do not know whether the present Minister in charge of Development (Mr. Casey) has changed the plans for the utilization of the new vessel or the general policy of the Government in respect of the fisheries industry. We have heard little about the subject lately.
I am pleased to note a substantial increase of the vote for works in the Northern Territory, but I regret that I see no provision in the Estimates for a number of matters which were brought bec .. i members of the Public Works Committee when that committee was in Darwin recently. I should like from the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) a clear exposition of the Government’s policy in respect of public works in Darwin. It was stated by business men in Darwin to members of the Public Works Committee that the occupants of two-thirds of the business portion of the town had been informed that the area in which their businesses are situated is to be resumed for naval purposes.
– That is not correct.
– I am grateful to the Minister for the Interior for that information. We were advised that that was the case. We were told that the business people were warned eighteen months ago about the proposed resumption, and that since then they had had no information as to what is to happen. Citizens of Darwin have had plans and specifications prepared for the erection of new premises, and have obtained supplies of rubble, iron and other material for the erection of the new buildings ; but they cannot get permission to go ahead. The Minister denies that two-thirds of the town is to be resumed, but I should like from him an assurance that there will be no further delay in coming to a decision as to what part of the town of Darwin, if any, is to be resumed for naval defence purposes. The matter was referred to so frequently in Darwin that I felt impelled to communicate with the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) on the subject. The development of the town is being impeded at a time when there is a general forward movement after a longperiod of uncertainty in regard to its future.
The landing facilities at Darwin for persons arriving by flying boat are inadequate and dangerous. There was a great deal of discussion regarding them after the first overseas air mail arrived by flying boat from Great Britain. Extraordinarily vehement protests were made, and a considerable amount of ill feeling was engendered. I arrived at Darwin by flying boat from Brisbane, and I consider that the facilities available at Darwin are hopelessly inadequate. Something should be done to improve them. I passed through Karumba at one end of the Gulf, and Groote Eylandt at the other end, at both of which places work is in progress for the provision of facilities foi- the flying boat service. The facilities being provided there might almost be described as extravagant, but at Darwin, the first port of call for overseas visitors, they are deplorable. The rise and fall of the tide at Darwin is about 30 feet, so that the landing stage which is very steep, is usually very slippery. The boat coming alongside from the plane makes its own wave, which causes difficulty for those landing from the boat, and for aged persons it is distinctly dangerous. There is no overhead covering so that, in the wet season - and Darwin has a very wet season for six months of the year- passengers are exposed to the weather. A covering should be provided, and there should be a pontoon so that passengers may step on to a flat surface from the launch instead of on to a steeply-sloping slippery one. Darwin is the new entrance to Australia, and conditions should be such that people may enter in comfort.
A great deal of money is being spent at Rose Bay on the flying boat terminal, although there the water is sheltered, and passengers may land quickly and easily, and obtain comfortable accommodation without delay. At Darwin the conditions are very different. The landing is made difficult, and the hotel accommodation is deplorable. If we are to preserve the good name’ of Australia, and demonstrate that we are fit to hold and develop this continent, it is urgently necessary that improvements bo effected at Darwin. Recently, when the Public Works Committee was there, members were required to sleep four and five in a room. The climate is intensely hot, and conditions were such as no one should be asked to endure. In justice to the hotel proprietor, I point out that we might have been told to go elsewhere on the ground that no accommodation was available. To that ‘extent, we, were fortunate, to obtain accommodation at all. Incidentally, I might mention that we reserved our accommodation some months earlier arid were notified that it was available. While we were in Darwin we were informed that the licensing authority, whose duty it is to recommend to the Administrator the issuing of new licences, had recommended that two new hotels be constructed in the town. I saw the plans of those hotels, and they are very fine. The Administrator will pass on the recommendation to the Minister for the Interior who, I hope, will lose no time in approving of the applications and in seeing that the work may be undertaken without any hindrance.
I was very glad to observe that the provision of a proper water supply for Darwin was being prosecuted energetically. Members of the’ Public Works Committee inspected the site of the dam, and between the hours of 10.30 and 12.30 in the morning, walked over the site of the new works. The heat was intense, and members of the committee lost a groat deal of perspiration, but we were al] gratified to see that such a very fine job was being done. No city can develop without an adequate water supply, and this applies particularly to one in a hot climate. The preliminary work is well advanced, and I congratulate the Administration upon having undertaken the task so enthusiastically.
Recently, the Minister for the Interior visited the Northern Territory, and I am in tie position to say that his visit was very much appreciated. Much good will result from it, I am sure, and the fact that he spent some time among the people,’ meeting them and hearing their complaints, has done much to create a good feeling in the territory.
I should like the Minister representing the Postmaster-General to give the committee full details regarding the proposed new post office in Brisbane. Representations have been made on this subject over a long period by the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson), by his predecessor, by myself and by other Queensland representatives. We have been told that the plans and specifications for the new building are ready, and are now before the Minister. We want to know why the job is not going on more quickly. The matter ha3 been before Parliament year after year, and some progress has been made, but, in. my opinion, that progress has not been sufficiently rapid to afford us any satisfaction. The work has been delayed far too long. I” urge the Minister to hasten its progress, and to advise honorable members during this session just what it is proposed to do this year, and next year.
– All honorable members will, I think, agree that in Australia, and, indeed, all over the world, there is a growing volume of public opinion opposed to the manufacture of arms and munitions of war by private enterprise. Resolutions have been passed by bodies affiliated with the League of Nations condemning this practice as one tending to the promotion of ill feeling among nations. I know that there are fundamental differences of principle between members of the party to which I belong, .and members of the party which supports the Government. The Government is definitely pledged to a policy which recognizes the sacred right of private enterprise. Those in charge of Government” workshops have been directed not to carry out any new work, but to call for tenders and have such work done by contract. I do not, on this occasion, propose to argue the rights or wrongs of that policy; but surely, if we cannot meet each other on every point, there must be some points upon which we are able to agree. In the expenditure of public money on activities associated with defence, it should be possible to decide upon a policy that would be in the best interests of every one, and would give due effect to public opinion on this very serious question. Recently, a deputation, led by Sir Robert Garran, and representing the League of Nations Union, waited upon the Prime Minister, and put before him the following resolution : -
This union views with grave concern the decision of the Federal Government to inaugurate a system of private munitions manufacture in Australia, such system being diametrically opposed to. the spirit of the Covenant, notably Article 8, and one which is considered unnecessary in view of the instrumentalities at hand, or of their possible development under direct State control.
The gentlemen who sponsored that resolution knew something of the development of State manufacturing instrumentalities in Australia. No one can. deny that, within the last two or three decades, our public instrumentalities have developed in size and efficiency to such a degree that they are now on a par with similar establishments in any part of the world. I have seen them, and I know something of industrial organization. In the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow in New South Wales, and certainly in the munitions factory at Maribyrnong and the ammunitions factory at Footscray in Victoria, the most modern equipment and the latest high precision tools are to be found. At those places there are employed chemists and engineers who, it is admitted, are as capable and as well qualified as any to be found in the great factories and munition-making establishments in London, Essen, Rome, or anywhere else. Therefore, we should do our best to confine the manufacture of munitions as much as possible to our own national workshops.
– But those are only pilot - plants compared with what will be required in war time.
– I* disagree with that. It may be that some work will have to be done by private manufacturers, and E believe that there are private manufacturers in Australia who would put their plants at the disposal of the Government in time of need without seeking to make any profits.
Sitting suspended from 12.1/S to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the intermission for lunch, I was appealing to honorable members generally to forget party political considerations on this one important question of war and all the things associated with it. I said that, although we could not hope to meet one another in complete co-operation on many fundamental problems in .respect of which we hold fixed opinions, surely, on a question such as this, we should be prepared to sink all party political considerations and endeavour to fall into line with the views held by the majority of thinking people in the world. I suggested that one of the greatest factors making for war to-day was the continuance of the private manufacture of arms and munitions. In my opinion, such a policy is absolutely wrong. I do not suggest that any honorable member holds a different view in regard to this important matter, but I do suggest that some of them allow their political affiliations to enter too largely into such an important question. That is where I differ so widely from some honora’ble members opposite: I do not propose to discuss the merits of the problem whether or not we should utilize our public workshops generally at this stage, or whether we should regard private enterprise as sacrosanct, as the Government does, and refuse to permit public departments or public banking institutions to enter into competition with private enterprise. .The policy adopted by the Government in this respect is diametrically opposed to that of the party to which I have the honour to belong. That, however, is not in question at the moment. I appeal to the Government not to ‘hand over to private enterprise in Australia the manufacture of arms and munitions. That can only lead to the development of a huge armament trust such as those which have ‘become such a curse in other parts of the world to-day. I think we are all agreed upon that - every honorable member knows how the activities of the armament ring have contributed directly to international disputation and have been one of the greatest urges to war - and to go into that question would involve needless repetition of what has been said so often. There is, however, a growing volume of public opinion in Australia which desires to checkmate any development of that kind in this country. I instance the deputation which _ recently waited on the Prime Minister,’ led by Sir Robert Garran, whom we all regard very highly, which urged the Government not to permit its defence policy to extend to the private manufacture of arms and munitions. Whatever our party politics may be, we are all agreed that the armament firms have disseminated false reports concerning, the military and naval programmes of various countries of the world in order to stimulate expenditure on armaments. I do not think any honorable member would deny that, because the voluminous reports of various commissions of inquiry have proved the truth of it up to the hilt. It is also equally true that armament firms have sought to influence public opinion through the control of newspapers in their own and foreign countries, and that they have organized international armament rings which have accentuated the armament race by playing off one country against another. They ‘have also organized international armament trusts which have increased the price of armaments sold to governments. The history of Great Britain’s participation in the last war proves’ the truth of that beyond question. Surely none of us have forgotten that. It only seems like yesterday when, in the second year of the war, when everybody thought that the British forces were being gradually annihilated, Mr. Lloyd George sent that remarkable cable to the dominions after a cabinet meeting in Downing-street, that the Allies were being defeated, not on the battlefield, but in the workshops of ‘Great Britain. As the result of inquiries it was proved beyond doubt that the cost of various kinds of armaments and munitions manufactured by private companies had been multiplied two or three times. Exploitation by those firms was so great that the Government built its own factories and equipped them with the necessary machines for the manufacture of the greater part of its requirements of arms and munitions. After the war was nearly lost, the British Government was able to manufacture arms and munitions at onehalf of the price charged by the private manufacturers.
– No private manufacturer would commence the manufacture of arms and munitions in this country without 100 per cent, protection.
– I shall deal with that matter later. In 1935, an article appeared in the Sydney press which reads as follows : -
Throughout the last war, English and French industries maintained to Germany a steady stream of glycerin (for explosives), nickel, copper, oil and. rubber. Germany even .returned the compliment; she sent France iron and steel and magnetos for gasoline engines. This constant traffic went on during the war in Sweden, Norway, Denmark. Switzerland, Spain or Holland, by the simple process of trans-shipment - enemy to neutral to enemy. It is no bristling Communist who supplies corroboration, hut as conservative and well-considered a gentleman as Rear-Admiral William Warcop Peter Consett, who was British Naval Attache in Denmark between 1012 and 1917, and in Norway and Sweden between 1012 and 1919.
Every one, of course, has accepted those statements, because they have been reiterated, not only at conferences in Great Britain, but also at the sittings of the Council of the League of Nations. The articles continue -
Right up ito the autumn of 1018, Germany was permitted to raise, smelt, and ship millions of tons of Briey ore to the Ruhr, whence it returned in the form of Krupp guns or sheila. The iron-mines and iron works remained immune .throughout the war from any vigorous and systematic attempt to destroy them by French bombers.
One would hardly ‘believe those statements were it not for the fact that they have been printed in blue-books following searching inquiries conducted at Geneva. In the French Chamber of Deputies in 1919, Deputy. Barthe declared - 1 affirm that the order to spa-re the industrial establishments exploited hy the enemy in the Briey region from bombing emanated from our military authorities. I affirm that our pilots received .instructions to spare tha blast furnaces from which the enemy obtained their steel and that a general who proposed to do otherwise was reprimanded. t do not suggest that if I “were engaged in the manufacture of armaments I would act differently. The manufacture of armaments is subject to the iron law of competition, just as is any other business, which makes men forget their ethical and moral obligations to their country. It is useless to say that good men would not act in this way. I have no desire to see the business of private armament making flourish in this country. At the moment the Government is perhaps forced to resort to private enterprise for its requirements, but the practice should not be allowed to develop, and as soon as possible the whole of our defence requirements should be manufactured in our own workshops. If that be not done there will be developed in Australia a huge armament ring, such as exists in other parts of the world. Senator Borah, after inquiries conducted by a commission in the United States of America, denounced munition makers -as international criminals who would sell war implements to kill their own nationals. Senator Borah contended that complete government control of the production of munitions Avas the only solution of the problem. I think so very deeply about this question that I cannot help repeating what I said yesterday, that we should not permit the private manufacture of arms and munitions to be continued any longer than is necessary. The Treasurer, who asked what we should do to avoid it, has said on two or three occasions, when dealing with defence matters, that he draws the line as far as private enterprise is concerned when it comes to the manuf acture of arms and munitions. The Treasurer always qualifies that statement by saying that we- are hopelessly in a cleft stick. If that is so we must start to get out of it. I say that we should expend, on the Commonwealth works at Maribyrnong and other places where there is already up-to-date equipment, that £1,000,000 which we are making available to private enterprise to obtain equipment for defence works; We could have avoided the intrusion of private enterprise into this business. The Treasurer himself agreed with what I said this morning - that our State railway workshops are up-to-date - but averred that they could not help in this direction. In the October number of the Australian’ National Review there is a statement by Mr. Harold Clapp, chairman of the Victorian Railways Commissioners. I know Mr. Clapp intimately, having sat with him at a variety of conferences during the last ten or fifteen years. He is one of the most outstanding organizers, particularly in connexion with transport operations, that we have ever had in this country. That is the opinion held of him in Victoria and, I believe, all over Australia, and even outside the Commonwealth, his judgment upon such matters is highly respected. On this subject, he said -
From the aspect of defence, moreover, there is much to be said in favour of the operation, and development of air-services by the railway administrations, whose organization would be immediately and fully available in the event of emergency. Existing railway workshops in various parts of the Commonwealth, would be readily adaptable for aircraft maintenance., while the extent of the organization presents opportunities, not available to individual, relatively small-scale transport agencies, foi training and maintaining an efficient staff of artisans and pilots.
Any losses in operation during the initial stages may be viewed as in the nature of a public subsidy, already commonly granted to air-services. But, by comparison with the community loss resulting from overcapitalization and uncontrolled competition, and from the depreciation of railways in which the nation’s resources have been largely invested, such losses, if they did in fact occur, would be likely to be insignificant.
The meaning of this statement is that in the view of Mr. Clapp - and because of his ability as a transport organizer we must take notice of him - there is no private establishment, in Australia which is as adaptable to defence work as are the State railway workshops.
– The railway workshops are being used to a certain degree.
– I know that they are, but not nearly to the degree of their capacity. We in Australia have an inferiority complex regarding the standard of Australian workmanship. Honorable members do not realize that. They have a tendency to think that we cannot do things as well as they are done in other parts of the world. I have visited workshops in many countries as an industrial student and organizer. I have seen French engineers dismantling submarines in their workshops. During the process I have made comparisons - not in a boastful way, or because I think Australians are better than any other race - and have asked myself if there were any real truth in the statement so often made- during industrial disputes, that Australian workmen are not so fast and efficient, and have not the same initiative, as the workmen of other countries; and I have come to the conclusion that there is no foundation for such an assertion. A few years ago, I interviewed a man representing one of the largest engineering workshops in Great Britain, which had obtained a contract to lay tramway lines in South Melbourne. I pointed out to him that he must pay the minimum wage to everyone engaged on the undertaking. He did not think that that was the right policy. He told me that at one time he had had 80,000 men under his supervision on one big contract, and that he had never had to consult any one as to how he should handle them. He said that his policy, was to select certain men and give them 6d. a day more than the others, so that they would set a good standard of pace. I told him that he could give as much as he liked above the minimum wage to any of his employees, but that he must give at least the minimum wage to every man. I knew that there was only one undertaking in the world on which he could have had as many as 80,000 men in his employ. Those men were Egyptian coolies who were engaged on building a dam. I pointed out that he was then handling not coolies, but Australian workmen, and that if he treated them properly he would obtain better results than he would receive from any other workmen in the world. He accepted my advice, and when the undertaking was completed a long article was published in the Melbourne Herald stating that the work had been done in less than the specified time and at less than the estimated cost. The article contained the statement by the contractor that he had never handled better workmen. It is a fact, nevertheless, that there are still men in Australia who have this inferiority complex regarding our workmen. That complex is evident in regard to our railway workshops. I remember when the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) and others were fighting for the cause of men employed at the Lithgow workshops, just as honorable members on this side of the chamber did. At that time I approached the Minister for Defence and urged him not to discharge men employed at those workshops and other Government establishments during peace time. ‘I said that he should not so interpret the Constitution as to prevent Government establishments from doing work which private enterprise was capable of undertaking. Members of the Government at that time contended that Government workshops could not do any class of- work unless it was definitely associated with the naval or the military forces. I contended that we should at least do sufficient peace-time work to keep the machinery of the workshops well oiled and up-to-date, so that trained men would not be lost and machinery would not be allowed to become obsolete and rusty. As the result of that agitation, the Government began to make shearing machines in its workshops. Millions of containers for lipstick, which previously were imported from France, were made on machines designed for the manufacture of cartridge cases. I remember, also, that this Government entered into a contract with the Larkin Aircraft Corporation, which had a plant at Coode Island, where it made some very good machines. Those machines are obsolete to-day, but they were efficient when made six or seven years ago. I had experience of them, having flown from Canberra to Melbourne in one of them. The Government decided suddenly that it should not continue to purchase from the company the number of machines it had promised to take when the plant was installed. I led a deputation to the then Minister for Defence at the barracks in Melbourne, to urge him at least to keep the works in operation until the eleven apprentices who were half-way through their period of training could complete their term. The Government 2’efused to do that, however, and those young men were scattered and their services were lost to the Commonwealth. Now we have to start all over again. That time has been lost, simply because the Government’s policy was carried to the extreme, and government workshops were not permitted to enter into trade. Because of my knowledge of these matters, I now urge the Government not to let out its defence works to private factories. My answer to the Treasurer’s challenge is that we should extend the . operations of our own workshops. That has not been done to the degree that it should have been. Batches of men have been put off from the Maribyrnong workshops, and work which formerly was done is not now being done because more urgent and necessary classes of work have to be undertaken. The rolling of brass and copper sheets, &c, has been handed over to private enterprise. That is associated with defence operations, but it is probably not as urgent as other classes of work which are in hand. This is proof that the Government is not making full use of its own workshops.
Some years ago there was a stern fight between the Government and the Commonwealth Health Department, which is a very important branch of the Commonwealth’s services, and is carried on under the supervision of the DirectorGeneral of Health, Dr. Cumpston, who has proved such an asset to that important department. It became evident that from time to time this country would be unable to obtain sufficient supplies of valuable sera, which would be indispensable if certain eventu- alities arose. The Government was being exploited through the price it had to pay ; it was being starved in respect of quantity, and was not obtaining drugs, &c, of the correct standard. Experts in the Department of Health urged the Government to build a national laboratory for the manufacture of these sera. Years elapsed before the Government was convinced that the right policy was to build its own laboratories. Now these laboratories produce these expensive sera in such quantities that they are able to supply the whole of the requirements of Australia, and quite recently thousands of pounds worth were sent to China for use in relief work there. If those laboratories had not been established we should have been facing a crisis in that connexion to-day.
To-day we are facing another crisis. Recently the “War Council discussed all kinds of possible eventualities, amongst which was the question of what would happen it and when the first air raid took place in Australia. It would not matter how small such an air raid might be. Even if only one bomb were dropped it would be a terrible thing to this country, because it would be such a new experience. The council discussed how we would be situated to meet such a raid and it discovered that one of the very first things we should want would be a supply of surgical instruments. Such instruments could not be obtained in any part of Australia. The Government should see that adequate supplies of such necessary equipment can be made available immediately so that doctors and nurses can afford immediate relief in the event of an air raid. We have men and women possessing both courage and capacity, but of what use is it if equipment is not available. The difficulties with which we are confronted at present are due largely to the hidebound policy of this Government of preventing government workshops from undertaking this class of work or establishing new workshops in which such instruments could be made. When such suggestions are made we are told that it is not the policy of the Government to encroach upon the preserves of private manufacturers; but private manufacturers do not enter into this class- of business unless they are sure that it will show a substantial profit. Such work can be undertaken only by highly-trained men capable of using modern equipment to the best advantage. If a search were made through the principal warehouses and retail establishments in the capital cities of Australia it would be found that the stocks would be quite inadequate to meet the demand which would be made in the event of war. lt is the policy of the Government to conduct workshops in which only certain classes of naval and military requirements can be manufactured; but 1 trust that it will arrange for the manufacture of surgical instruments to be undertaken in some of the factories which they now control, and in that way endeavour to safeguard the lives of the Australian people. Our defence scheme cannot be complete until one of our national workshops is extended, so that that can be done. The X-ray equipment manufactured in Australia is said to be the best that has ever been produced in any part of the world.
– Where would the honorable member draw the line?
– We should so equip our national workshops that they can produce all of our military and naval requirements, and in that way make our defence scheme complete. The most highly-trained mechanics in Australia should be employed in our own workshops, and if they could not be fully employed on naval and military work they should he given an opportunity, to manufacture some of the goods now made by private enterprise.
– A great many of the machines in use cannot he employed on other than the production of munitions.
– Why should we go out of our way to encourage private enterprise ? Why should any government, when spending public money in the defence of the country, consider the interests of private manufacturers?
– Could we have sufficient government factories to provide all the munitions that may be required in the event of war? Would we not be justified in calling upon private enterprise for .additional supplies?
– Our aim should be to equip ourselves completely through our own workshops, not only because it is necessary to be self-contained, but also because of the dangers involved in allowing the work to be undertaken by manufacturers, who think only of the profits to be earned.
– The Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence have given many assurances that the work undertaken by private enterprise shall be “most rigidly controlled.
– Royal commissions which have power to swear witnesses have brought out in evidence that in the older countries of the world every armament ring has its contact in the various governments.
– The royal commission which inquired into the subject in England did not make that disclosure.
– My complaint is that work which was previously undertaken at Maribyrnong is now being done by a private firm in South Melbourne. I am sure that the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Street) does not favour private firms undertaking the manufacture of munitions at a profit, and all I ask is that this vile practice will not be permitted in Australia.
– Could not the Government take over certain factories in time of war ?
– Does the honorable member suggest that we must drift on until war actually occurs and then make a desperate attempt to secure the services of outside manufacturers? Experience shows that contractors were behind in their orders, and in some instances could not actually handle the volume of work they had in hand. We should not wait until we are faced with such difficulties, but should so equip our own workshops that they will be capable of producing everything that we require. We have suitable factories, qualified engineers and artisans capable of carrying out all of the work that is required. From time to time the Chamber of Manufactures has urged this Government and others not to allow government workshops to be used to produce goods which can be manufactured by private enterprise. Some years ago the Commonwealth Clothing Factory in Victoria was manufacturing naval and military uniforms.
– Equal to anything in the world.
– Yes ; and in times of peace it was also producing uniforms for policemen, letter-carriers and tramway employees, but the Chamber of Manufactures advised the Government that these goods should be made by private enterprise, with the result that a large number of the staff had to be dispensed with and valuable machines were thrown out of use. Now, when this factory is required for governmental purposes it is difficult to provide the necessary machinery and a properly trained staff.
If the Government intends to allow private enterprise to carry out some of its work, why does it not avail itself of those firms which have offered to make their factories available, equip them with the right type of machinery, and allow accountants and clerks from the Defence Department to carry out the necessary costing work ? I can give the name of one firm which is willing to do that.
– I shall be glad to have it.
– A new factory, owned by the Autocraft Manufacturing Company, is being erected at Fishermen’s Rend, in Victoria, adjacent to the Commonwealth Aircraft Factory, and is to be completed before Christmas. I have been in conversation with Mr. Robert Lane, the’ chairman of directors, in connexion with a proposal to erect workmen’s dwellings in close proximity to the factory, which is to employ 300 or 400 men. The company has another factory, which is not so large as the proposed new factory, from which the whole of the plant is to be removed. Mr. Lane informed me that this factory will be at the disposal of the Government, that his company is . prepared to equip it with machinery suitable for the manufacture of defence equipment, which the company is prepared to make at cost price. These people do not want a profit.
– Their price would include interest?
– The only advantage that they would get would be that instead of the factory lying idle it would be used by the Defence Department. . If there were any rates or taxes to be paid I assume, of course, that the Government would have to pay them.
– What do they make?
– They make all kinds of parts for motor vehicles. They do minute repetition work. They are going to do more, making all-steel bodies, for instance. They will put in the machinery to suit the Government’s requirements, because they know that they will want it later, and they will let the Defence Department use it without profit to themselves. I urge the Minister to discuss this offer with the company.
I urge upon the Attorney-General the need to provide a new building for the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in Melbourne. The activities of the Arbitration Court are losing interest in the public mind because the Government in the last few years has not given it much attention. The court is expected to carry on its duties in an old shack which is totally unsuited for the purpose. There are no lifts in the building and it is difficult for men who are not in perfect health to climb the stairs. I have seen men have to sit down and rest after having performed the feat. Arbitration Court judges themselves have made frequent complaints about the building, going so far even as to
Bay that they would have to be carried out of it. Provision should be made in the Estimates for the erection of a new building.
In all public departments in Australia and in other countries, as the result of the recommendations of the International Labour Conference, workmen are given ten or seven days’ annual leave on pay each year. Seven days is the minimum. The same policy is being applied in most of the large stores and other businesses. Some employers give annual leave after two years’ service, but generally the leave becomes due after the first year. The only employees that I can find that are not given this leave are, I am sorry to say, employed in some of the Commonwealth departments. As I have already intimated, because of governmental policy, the Department of the Interior has reduced the number of its activities, and as the result it has only a handful of permanent artisans in its employ. They are the men who do not receive annual leave, and they have asked me time after time to raise the matter in Parliament. I hope that the Minister now at the table” will bring this matter under the notice of the Minister for the Interior. In Victoria half a dozen men are affected.
I support the appeals made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), and the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), that provision should be made in the Estimates of an amount to provide work for a month in the Christmas period for the unemployed, and those who have to make do on the rotational relief work which means one week in five, one week in four or one week in three, whatever the case may be. Throughout, the year these men get deeply in arrears and continuous work for a month just before Christmas would help them greatly. It has been the practice for this Government and other governments to disburse money to the States in order that extra work might be provided near to Christmas, and I ask that consideration be given to making a specific appropriation in these Estimates.
– Time is short, and I do not propose at this stage to deal with individual items. I take this opportunity, however, to suggest that in the future honorable members should be supplied with a list particularizing the various works that are to be undertaken under these Estimates. That course is followed in connexion with the postal works. Members would then be able to see at a glance how the money was to be expended, but that is impossible under the present conditions. Honorable members are entitled to an explanation of the items under which money “is to be expended. A great deal has been said this afternoon about the activities of the Department of the Interior, but honorable members have not been able to get any explanation because there has been no Minister present. It is scant courtesy to members of the committee that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) should depart for his home town and leave them to get along the best way in which they can. There are certain matters about the Department of the Interior on which I should like information, but I know that I cannot get it. For that reason I suggest that detailed explanation of the Estimates should be supplied to honorable members. If that were done much of the committee’s time would be saved.
The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) referred to the oversupply of unskilled labour, and the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) urged that work should be provided for the unemployed at Christmas. We all agree that there is a great over-supply of unskilled labour in this country. That is due to the fact that for years, since federation at least, our policy has been wrong, particularly our policy in arbitration awards. It is because of wrong policy that there is an over> abundance of unskilled labour and a lack of skilled labour. Skilled men cannot be obtained. On Sunday afternoon last I saw, when motoring through my electorate, at least five new buildings on which men were working. Sunday shifts are being worked because it is impossible to get sufficient labour to do the work during the week. I agree with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports that it is necessary to provide relief work for the unemployed, but I disagree with the policy that has brought about the need for it. The best way in which to help these men would be to take great numbers of them and endeavour to train them so that they can get continuity of employment. Nothing leads to efficiency more than happy and contented workmen, but workmen cannot be happy and contented unless they have regularity of employment. I agree with the honorable member for West Sydney that there is a surplus of unskilled labour which will never be taken into private industry because the contractors can employ only so many; they keep with them and take from job to job the unskilled men whom they employ. It is not for governments to absorb the unemployed. For many years 84 per cent, of the employment in this country has been provided by private enterprise. I should like to see some scheme evolved whereby men could be trained,
One of the principal reasons for the vast increase of the num’ber of unskilled workmen as compared with skilled artisans is the apprenticeship award, which provides that there shall be only one apprentice to every four workmen.
Under that award, men who were engaged in engineering trades cannot even apprentice their own sons. When it was made, 1 said “ The time will come when this country will he short of technical men,” and my prophecy has been entirely borne out. The shortage of skilled artisans ‘became so acute in this country that a great number ,of artisans had to bt brought to this country from overseas.
– They cannot be ob*tained now from that source.
– No; that is because work is so plentiful in ‘Great Britain. We should do as Germany does : take control of our men and ascertain their mental and physical capacity, and train them accordingly. The only way in which continuity of employment can be provided for men who would otherwise have to subsist on the wretched dole is by training them to do the jobs for which they are most suited. Every honorable member is familiar with the men who go from door to door begging work. We should all be glad to he able to give them work, but we cannot’ They must be trained. I think that this Parliament would do well to have a long discussion on the ways and means of assisting them to be trained. It is not so long ago that a little factory started iri Goulburnstreet, Sydney, employing six men. Today, that establishment has 1,000 employees. It is much better that the deficiency of trained men should be swept away than that governments should continue the futile policy - futile from the point of view of the nation - of providing work for unskilled labour.
I agree very largely with what was said by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports about the manufacture of munitions and implements of war, but one has only to use common sense to reach the conclusion that technicians cannot be kept permanently engaged for the time which might come, ‘but which we hope will not come, when their services will be needed for the manufacture of implements of war. I understand that the Metal Manufacturers Association, which has a membership of nearly 5,000 in Australia, made an offer to the Government, through its New South Wales branch, to place the services of expert engineers at the free disposal of the Government in “order to advise and assist it in the prosecution of its defence programme. I commend the Government on what it has done in co-ordinating private enterprise for defence work. 1 believe that a complete survey should be made, not only of our industrial facilities, but also of our man power. I would make a record of all the people in Australia, ‘ and find out what they are capable of doing, so that a list might be made of all engineers and other technical experts who could be of service to the Commonwealth in time of war. I have a vivid recollection of the conditions in Sydney during the early part of the Great War. In a military camp there were in one tent ten bachelors of engineering from the Sydney University, who were allowed to go to the war as privates in the infantry. We could have used their brains in technical and engineering units. The Leader of the Opposition suggested that we should build 1,000 aeroplanes. I agree that it is desir”able, but we would need 4,000 pilots to enable us to put 1,000 planes in the air. It has been proved that it requires the services of a great many men on the ground to keep one machine in the air.
– Does not the honorable member know that in England each pilot controls his own machine?
– No, I do not know that. When I was in England, I spent a good deal of time visiting the aviation establishments, and I know that that is not the practice in the Royal Air Force. I wish it were possible for the pilot to control and service his own machine, but the fact is that the most efficient air services are those in which the pilot does not touch his machine except to fly it. One of the best air services in this part of the world, New Guinea Airways, owes its efficiency to the fact that it is under the control of a man who is paid £4,000 a year, and two assistants who each receive £1,500 a year. When a pilot lands his machine, he walks off and leaves it to technical staff to do the overhauling, greasing, &c.
I believe that a record should be prepared of all the engineering equipment available in Australia for the manufacture of munitions, and also of those persons qualified to undertake such work. If the Government is able to give the machines and men a bit of work from time to time it will help to keep things going, and it will probably not cost any more than to have the work done in our own factories. I do not favour ihe making of profits by private enterprise out of the manufacture of munitions. I believe that, in the past, many wars have been prolonged through the influence of munition makers.
– Does the honorable member know that 100 men were put off at the Maribyrnong factory recently?
– I did not know until I was informed of it by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. I am sorry that these men have lost their jobs, but I still believe that the policy of the Government in regard to the distribution of orders among private firms is wise. I hope that, on future occasions, the Minister will have prepared a complete list of the public works that it is proposed to undertake during the financial year. At one time such a list was prepared, at least ‘by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, and it was most useful to honorable members and saved agreat deal of time in the discussion of the Estimates.
.- The honorable member for “West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), with a great deal of sincerity, I believe, put forward one plea on behalf of unemployed men, particularly in the cities. He suggested that the Commonwealth Government, .instead of having public works carried out by private enterprise and sub-contracts, should itself he the direct employer, thus providing employment for many of those who are now out of work. He said that many men were employed all the year round by private contractors, and that these men monopolized, to some extent, the work offering on public undertakings. From a sentimental point of view there may be something in the argument of the honorable member, but there is also something to be -said for the men who are in continuous employment. Men who are in regular work because they have earned a reputation for the conscientious and efficient discharge of their duties are entitled to the security that their jobs provide so that they may order their lives as decent and. responsible citizens. A man on the basic wage is just as much entitled as is the man on £5,000 a year to own his own home, his own wireless set, and his own car, if possible.
– He cannot get all that out of the basic wage.
– He may start on the basic wage as I did; he may finish up a great deal better off. A -man, even in the humblest circumstances, is entitled to possess a home, to marry and to rear a family. He cannot do those things unless, by learning his trade diligently, and applying himself with energy to his job, he is assured of continuous employment.
– We cannot all be Henry Fords.
– No, but we are all entitled to security, if only on a modest scale. However, I sympathize with the honorable member for West Sydney to the extent of recognizing that the man out of employment is entitled to an opportunity to earn a living. The economy of Australia is controlled by two factors, the employment created by private enterprise, and the employment created by the expenditure of public funds. In recent years, the volume of employment created by the expenditure of public money has increased, and all of us, whatever our polities, have come to regard it as necessary that governments should expend money on semi-socialistic enterprises in order to stem the tide of unemployment when a trade recession threatens. Since 1931, the volume of private employment has steadily increased, while that of unemployment has steadily decreased, but I am coming to the conclusion that we have just about reached the peak in private employment. I do not want to be unduly pessimistic, but it seems probable that the volume of private employment is now beginning to diminish. The Board of Directors of the Commonwealth Bank state in their last report : -
With tho check to recovery abroad, Australian export , prices have fallen sharply, wool and metals being .particularly affected.
– I think the honorable member is getting somewhat wide of the subject.
– The report of the Commonwealth Bank Board reveals that the income of Australia has fallen substantially, and I believe that the time is coming when the Commonwealth and the
States should give closer attention to the evolution of works programmes that might take up the slack of employment from private enterprise. It seems to me that the Commonwealth Bank, with the connivance of the Commonwealth Government, is applying a policy that needs some revision. I have much sympathy with the case recently advanced by the Premiers of Australia when they asked that more loan moneys should be made available. All the Premiers are finding their position increasingly difficult because unemployment is growing, while they are denied loan moneys with which to carry out public works.
– Surely it is the market that determines how much money they can borrow.
– There are no institutions in Australia, except the Commonwealth Bank, which could underwrite the loans needed for public works.
– But the money must come out of the savings of the people.
– The argument of the Commonwealth Bank, which is, apparently, approved by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), is that every pound taken by a State or by the Commonwealth in loan money is so much money lost. I entirely disagree with that viewpoint. Taking the Commonwealth public debt, which is set out on page 121 of the budgetpapers-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! I ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the Works Estimates.
– I am endeavouring to show that expenditure on works is not a loss to the Commonwealth, but that, on the contrary, it creates valuable assets and provides much needed employment.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.A much more appropriate occasion to deal with that matter willbe afforded during the budget debate.
– If I may be permitted to do so, I propose to touch upon some of the arguments advanced by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) regarding private manufacture as opposed to Government manufacture of armaments. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports appealed to honorable members generally to divest this subject of party political contention. I am of opinion that all matters appertaining to defence ought to be viewed entirely apart from party political considerations. This important subject should notbe one in respect of which one party is set against another; all parties should combine for the common good to evolve a policy best suited to the interests of this country. I would be only too happy to support any suggestions made by honorable members opposite if I thought they were for the good of the country.
– Some of them are not too bad.
– Unfortunately, I strongly disagree with anumber of them. I certainly disagree with the views expressed by some honorable members opposite with regard to the manufacture of armaments and defence material. Today in Great Britain, there are a large number of shadow factories which can quickly bebrought into operation and reach maximum output of defence materials in the event of emergency. This system is much superior to any attempt by , a number of individual factories to concentrate solely on turning out arms and munitions. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports made a strong appeal that private enterprise should not be allowed to engage in the manufacture of arms and munitions for private gain. I point out that everything produced by private enterprise in time of war, whether it beboots, clothing, hats, or shirts, or any other commodity, constitutes a contribution to our defence resources. Furthermore, an adequate safeguard against excess profit-making from the manufacture of warmaterials lies in the power of the Commonwealth to deal with excess profits in time of emergency. That power was availed of to a degree during the last war and, I have no doubt, should war break out in the future, it will be availed of again to a much greater degree. With regard to the speed at which it might become necessary to manufacture defence materials, I think that a large number of our privately controlled factories with trained staffs would be more efficient than governmentcontrolled factories. Much as I would like to agree with the views expressed by honorable members opposite in this regard, I really believe that, from the point of view of efficiency in producing goods, the system adopted by the Government has a great deal to commend it. I shall reserve my further remarks upon this subject for the budget debate.
.- The subject of the private manufacture of munitions has come in for a lot of discussion almost universally of late on account of abuses which have been proved to have taken place in Europe during the Great War. The disclosures made as the result of inquiries since then should cause Australia to set its face against ever permitting corporations of the type that existed in Europe getting a grip in this country. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) said that private enterprise should not be permitted to engage in the manufacture of munitions, but I am not able to follow the logic of his argument because he has in his own electorate a private corporation known as the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation which is engaged in the manufacture of aeroplanes for war purposes, and if his policy were carried out the first step would be to refuse that company any Government business. We must look at the position as we find it. I do not think that there is in Australia the same risk of private companies getting control of the manufacture of armaments as exists in Europe. We have, for instance, no prospect of supplying any large quantities of war materials to other countries. There is little likelihood of a condition of affairs arising in this country such as exists in Europe where belligerent countries have supplied their enemies with war material. In the event of war the first duty of the Government .would be to mobilize the whole of the engineering resources of the country. Government engineering resources would, of course, be limited to the munitions factories established at Maribyrnong and Lithgow. It is hoped however that Government munitions factories will also be established in other parts of the Commonwealth. In the event of emergency the output of Government munition factories would obviously have to be supplemented by munitions manufactured by private enterprise.
In my opinion no preparation for the defence of the country is complete unless it includes a survey of our industrial capacity. All factories should be noted and all expert men be listed and a general schedule should be drawn up of the industrial capacity of the whole nation in order that all our resources could be availed of at the earliest opportunity in the event of emergency. That, in itself, however, is not sufficient. Manufacturers should be given some experience in the manufacture of war material so that they may convert their operations more speedily should danger arise. What this country needs is private factories capable of acting as auxiliaries to Government munition factories. It has been suggested that we could utilize the railway workshops for the production of munitions in time of emergency. Although I think that idea is a good one, it has the defect that, in the event of war, the railways themselves would be called upon to provide maximum services, and consequently there would be a limitation of the time they could devote to the production of munitions. Every effort should be made to ensure that no excess profits are made out of the manufacture of war materials. I feel sure, however, that if an appeal were made to the patriotism of manufacturers, particularly those engaged in the heavy industries, to lend their technical resources not with the idea of making a profit but for the purposes of the ‘ defence of this country, the appeal would not go unheard. Generally speaking, while we should set our faces against the making of large profits by private companies engaged in the manufacture of war materials, we must realize that if the defence of this country is to be complete, we must invoke the assistance of all those engaged in industry.
These Estimates disclose that it is proposed to double last year’s expenditure on public works.
– That is, if you exclude the provision of the trust funds last year. The net increase is not actually so great as these Estimates show.
– That is true, but the point I wish to make is that in times of comparative plenty expenditure from general revenue should be less than it is in a time when less work is offering. Expenditure from general revenue on works this year is estimated to amount to £3,500,000. [Quorum formed.’] Expenditure on public works should be as great as possible in times, of depression. The corollary of that is to cut down expenditure during more prosperous times. On these Estimates, the provision in relation to defence works has been increased by £1,600,000, and in connexion with the works of other departments it is proposed to expend £1,S00,000 more than was expended last year. Over and over again we have had the experience of booms and depressions. The Government has contributed very largely to them by lavish expenditure on public works during good times, with the result that it has been unable to make the necessary provision for employment in the ensuing bad times. In framing a programme of general public works, regard should be had to the extra expense which naturally has to be incurred upon defence. This money is expended in Australia, and the expenditure is the means of providing employment, whether it be on defence works or on other public works. Having regard to the extremely heavy commitments of the Government for war purposes, the time was opportune for a curtailment rather than an increase of the expenditure on the general public works of the country. There is to be an extremely large increase on postal works and works in the territories of the Commonwealth. These are the two great spending departments of the Commonwealth.
– The Postal Department has an earning power.
– That is true; but there is a limit to the amount we shall be able to expend in later years. What we have available will depend on the revenue obtained. Just now the revenue is buoyant. The latest customs returns are an improvement on the returns of last year, but it is tolerably certain that that state of affairs will not continue. The customs revenue is in proportion to the spending capacity of the community. The more the community has to spend, the more goods it is able to purchase. This is the barometer of customs revenue. What we can expend overseas depends very largely on our wool clip, and our exports of wheat and other primary products. This year we are having a prosperous time, because last year we had a good wool clip, which fetched high prices ; but in the next financial year the amount available for expenditure overseas will be dependent upon this year’s wool clip and our exports of wheat. The prospect in the wheat industry is that the season will be a bad one. Without being a pessimist, I venture to think that we have good reason to fear that there will be a diminution of the purchasing capacity of the community, a decrease of the quantity of goods imported, and a lowering of the receipts from customs duties; consequently, the amount available to the ‘Government will be less thanit is this year. Therefore, it would have been wiser had a more conservative policy been adopted in framing the budget, and especially the public works programme of the country.
.- I support particularly the remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) in his general survey of the situation in relation to the works that are being undertaken for defence purposes. In addition, I stress the need for having annexes to railway workshops. I ask leave to continue my remarks.
Lease of Timber Lands in New Guinea - Post Office in King’s Hall - Sales Tax on Imitation Vinegar - Asbestos Development - Attendance oe Ministers in the Chamber.
Motion (by Sir Earle Page) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I direct attention to the proposal to lease an area of timber land in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea. In my opinion, the area which it is proposed to lease is too large to give to any one company. In comparison to the area of New Guinea, the quantity of marketable timber available in the territory is fairly, small. The area in question is of four square miles on the left bank and eight square miles on the right bank of the Bulolo River about three miles from Wau. Many visitors to New Guinea who have looked for timber state that over a very wide area there are only limited supplies of hoop pine, klinkii and other pine which are readily available. It is believed that, with the construction of the road that is about to be made to Wau, it will be a comparatively easy matter to get this timber to the market. I do not wish to lay a charge of corrupt practice against the Administration, or even to breathe that such exists, but I do say that a proposal of this nature arouses suspicion in the minds of the people, and that, as a matter of public policy it would be wiser to divide the area between at least two companies.
It is worthy of note that two men engaged in the sawmilling industry in the northern rivers district of New South Wales went to New Guinea two years ago. They traversed a good deal of the territory at considerable expense, looking for timber lands, and came upon these stands of hoop pine on the banks of the Bulolo River. They made application for permission to market the pine, but nothing was done in the matter except that they were asked a considerable number of questions, one question being: “ How are you going to get the timber out?” That was a very pertinent question in the circumstances, because, as is known, there are three ranges of mountains between Salamaua and Wau. It is said that there are whispers in Wau in regard to the lease of these timber lands. Although I do not think there is any substance in them, at the same time the Government and the Administration should be particularly careful to refrain from doing anything which might afterwards be construed by some people as a “ ramp “. The mandate places on our shoulders an exceedingly heavy burden. It has to be carefully and jealously guarded, so that in Europe and elsewhere it will be realized that we are administering New Guinea with fairness to the natives, and that in all other respects we are above suspicion. This is an area of no less than 20 square miles, and there are few, if any, like it in New Guinea. It will be remembered that in 1926 Mr. Lane Poole, who had had more experience than most men in Australia in his particular branch of work, made a report on New Guinea. He mentioned the timber areas which are at present being well worked by the missions along the coast, but, as far as my memory serves, and I stand open to correction, little mention whatever was made of these valuable forests of hoop pine, klinkii and cedar in close proximity to Wau. There was no idea that they existed to any extent. I suggest, therefore, that in the interests of good government tenders should be called and two leases should be given. There should be no suspicion of ill-feeling or uneasy foreboding, as has existed in the minds of some people. The two men who went up . there two years ago submitted a tender, but their proposal was turned down. I hope it is a baseless rumour that a firm in Brisbane has been granted a lease, but that is common talk in New Guinea. I recognize that in such an isolated country there are bound to be all sorts, of rumours, some of them without foundation. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes) should be very careful to avoid granting only one lease, which would confer a virtual monopoly. The Queensland forests are largely denuded of cedar, the local name for which in New Guinea is’ toona. In Salamaua a gentleman showed me a log for which, he said, he would get £100 in Sydney. If we grant exclusive eights over 20 square miles of timber which would be hard to match, even if it exists, we shall be doing what is altogether wrong in the public interest. I trust that before it is too late provision will be made for at least two tenders to be submitted. The amount of royalty is 3s. 6d. per 100 super, feet on cedar, ls. per 100 super, feet on hoop pine, and a somewhat lower rate on second-class timber. Moreover, in the conditions of tender no provision is made for reafforestation, as is required in Tasmania Section 27 of the Tasmanian Act provides -
A permit may be granted subject to such conditions as the Minister may on the recommendation of the Conservator determine, viz., for assuring as far as possible the regeneration of the most valuable species of forest trees or produce “for reafforestation planting or protection from fire.
The lease is to be for ten years. In Western Australia such leases are granted for one year with the right of annual renewal if the contractor is carrying out his work satisfactorily. In Victoria such leases are granted for three years. A section of the Victorian Act, which is administered by the Forestry Commission, provides that effective means shall be taken to prevent fire, to ensure the safety of mill employees, to provide sanitation, and to arrange for the disposal of sawdust when necessary. There is nothing to that effect in this contract. I am not “ looking for a nigger in the wood pile “ ; but I should like to know the exact conditions under which 20 square miles of valuable forest lands in New Guinea are to be disposed of in this way, particularly when the Conservator of Forests in New Guinea has said that large quantities of marketable timber are not available in the territory. In these circumstances it appears to be entirely wrong to grant one company the right to timber rights over such a large area for ten years. I believe that one company proposes to remove the timber by means of flying foxes, which is not a difficult way, to erect mills on the spot, and to manufacture veneers in the valley where the timber is produced. I trust that the Minister for External Affairs will give this matter his most careful attention so that the project will not have a smellful odour.
.- On Wednesday last the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) asked you, Mr. Speaker, why the post office in the King’s Hall was closed on Saturday morning last. I do not know whether this has happened before or whether it is likely to occur again. Honorable members who remain in Canberra during the weekend despatch a good deal of correspondence on Saturday mornings and would like to know if the post office in the building is to remain open on Saturday mornings.
.- Last December I brought under the notice of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) the action of the Commissioner for Taxation in claiming retrospective payment of sales tax as far back as 1934 on imitation vinegar which is on the exempt list. The Treasurer said that he could assure those honorable members who (had spoken on the subject that he had no knowledge of the matter, but that he would look into it at the earliest moment and see what could be done. I have received an intimation from the Treasurer concerning an interview that he had with the Commissioner of Taxation; but meanwhile I understand that a further claim has been made for the payment of the amount. I should like to be informed as to the basis on which the Commissioner justifies the claim. If that had been done I should have had an opportunity to present the case fully to the House.
– I shall bring the matter under the notice of the Treasurer.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) to what I consider to be an extraordinary state of affairs, if the facts are as they have been represented to me. I understand that yesterday a representative of the Government undertook to receive a deputation from certain companies, reinforced by Western Australian members, asking that assistance be given to an asbestos proposition, and that a Minister representing the Minister-in-Charge of Development heard the proposal. During the discussion the Minister acting for the Government acknowledged that he himself was interested in a rival company. I am rather astonished if the case is as it has been represented to me, and that the Minister said that the proponent of this proposition “ ought to get in touch with the chairman of our directors “. Will the Minister for Trade and Customs ascertain the facts in connexion with the matter?
– It is the first that I have heard of it; I have already sent for the papers.
– I have been told on authority, which I regard as unimpeachable, that the facts are as I have stated.
I should like to supplement briefly the remarks made by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green). Substantially his submission- is that too large an area is being leased under the one control, and that the proper safeguards for re-afforestation and the operation of the site have not been included in the tender form. I do not believe that the Government intends to create a monopoly in New Guinea in connexion with the hoop pine industry, but I believe that the only way in which a monopoly can be avoided is by leasing the area concerned in smaller sections. Perhaps this area could be split into two or four parts in preference to giving one company the right to exploit the whole of it. Furthermore the period of the lease is far too long. It should be reduced.
.- I call attention to the fact that honorable members are placed at a very considerable disadvantage by the absence of responsible Ministers from the chamber during the course of debates. A very notable example in this respect was provided this afternoon, when a discussion was proceeding in connexion with new works, including works of preparation for defence, on which it is proposed to expend large sums of money. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) was not present at any part of the day. Indeed, so far as I am aware, he has not been present in this chamber on any day this week.
– Yes, he has.
– I stand corrected if he lias been here one day; that is as much as he can say for himself. At the present moment defence is looming largely in the public eye. It is important from the point of view of the Ministry, and controversial from the point of view of others, including myself. The Minister will not deny that it is a matter of great public concern.
– The Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Street) has been present in the chamber throughout the day.
– The Parliamentary Secretary for Defence is not empowered, by virtue of his position, to answer questions, and he does not possess the authority of a Minister. This is a matter in respect of which the Minister himself should be here. This is merely one instance, however, in a chain of circumstances about which I complain. When they are not immediately concerned, Ministers present themselves in the chamber and then withdraw. During the last few months several senior Ministers have been out of this country for long periods. The Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) has been touring for a much greater period of time than he has been attending to his duties as Attorney-General in this country’. In his absence technical bills have been introduced, and no Minister representing the Crown Law Department has been present in the chamber at all. No Minister has attended during these debates who could deal with legal aspects arising in respect of these measures. Sometimes the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes) has been in the chamber but that right honorable gentleman no longer takes keen practical interest in legal matters. That means that we have been left without anybody prepared to take responsibility for the Ministry in matters .of technical legal character. It may very well be that there is - I happen to know that there is - a highly competent department behind the scenes, but we want a Minister in the front bench to assert his position and accept responsibility for what the Ministry is doing.
It is no wonder that there is a tendency outside the capital to belittle Canberra; it is no wonder that the instructions given to the press are, “ We do not want to hear from Canberra unless it is something absurd and grotesque “. If it is absurd and grotesque it receives prominence, but if it is a matter of moment it receives very little notice. This is the capital of Australia and it should be recognized as such and, indeed, designated rather by the term “ capital “ than by the name “ Canberra “. If Ministers of the Crown do not take the trouble to be present in Parliament, what can be expected of others whose responsibilities are not so great? We should instil in the public mind that this is the Parliament of Australia. Altogether too much parochialism affects the minds of the people of this country. That springs largely from the fact that local interests are defined by the geographical boundaries. The newspapers of Melbourne do not circulate beyond the Murray river and the newspapers of Sydney do not circulate beyond the boundaries of New South Wales. The tendency of persons in business in the States is to make little of the capital and to make much of the city interests in other capitals. If the Commonwealth Government is not prepared to set an example, a good example, it is no wonder that that is the case. My present complaint. which I make strongly, is that, whatever view the people take, this is the centre from which radiates all important Australian legislation, and Ministers of the Crown should be in their place in Parliament while matters of grave public concern are being discussed. The Minister for Defence, I understand, is engaged in a mimic war in one of the States whereas heshould be here doing a little peaceful negotiation on the floor of the House. That is my suggestion to the Minister who is now in charge of the House. For one Minister to be here and one there tickling the ears of their press sponsors and making statements now to one and now to another is inadequate. Their place is here. This is where they should assert their claims and meet their responsibilities. I protest as an individual member of this Parliament, not as anything more, against the prevalent practice.
.- The Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) seems almost like King Charles’s head to the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) because the honorable member is always attempting to condemn and attack the Attorney-General. I venture to say that a comparison of the hours of attention to duty by the present AttorneyGeneral with the hours spent on duty by the honorable member himself when he was Attorney-General would show that the present Attorney-General applies himself just as assiduously to duty as did he.
– The Attorney-General has been overseas every year.
– He has been overseas ore business associated with the best interests of this country, and if he could have won his case in 1936 we should have saved agreat deal of trouble to-day.
The comments of the honorable member for Batman concerning Canberra carry us back to about twelve years ago when Parliament first met here. The things he said might have had foundation then but not now. For the last six months this territory has been known as the Australian Capital Territory and not the Federal Capital Territory as previously. The new name will have greater significance than the old to the people, of this country and of other countries. Last week-end more than 40,,000 people visited Canberra to see its beauty.That shows that the people recognize more and more the significance of Canberra as the centre ‘of the unity of this Australia of ours. I am not one of those who believe that its reputation has gone down. That that is far from the fact is proved by the secure place which it has won in the hearts of the Australian people.
I betray no confidence when I say that before the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) went to Melbourne he consulted the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) whom he told the reasons for his visit, which were that he had to see the senior officers of the Defence Department who are busily engaged in carrying out the defence programme.
– The Minister for Defence did not consult me. He merely intimated that he desired to go.
– And that he would like a pair.
– Yes, and I courteously complied.
– It was with the. cognizance of the Leader of the Opposition that he went away from Canberra. The alternative would have been to bring to Canberra ten or twelve men and divorce them from their work.
– Bring them here. This is the capital.
– I agree. When the Minister for Defence informed me that he desired to go to Melbourne, . I asked him if it were not possible to bring the officers to Canberra. He said that there had been a demand in Parliament for some statement on defence during the budget debate. In order to make that statement as full as possible he has been in Melbourne the last two days to discuss defence matters with the senior officers of the department.
-Surely, it is not necessary to consult ten men to make one speech.
– The Leader of the Opposition has been complaining about the lack of information on defence matters; yet when the Minister for Defence goes to the greatest possible lengths in order to secure the greatest amount of information that it is possible for him to get be is condemned because he is not in the chamber. I remind honorable members that yesterday was taken up in private members’ business and that the presence of the Minister for Defence would not have been necessary. That is the position.
The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green) mentioned timber concessions. I, of course, know nothing about the matter because it does not conic within my department, and it has not been brought to my notice. I think that the honorable member said something about sawmillers from my district, and if there is any suggestion of undue influence being used I give it a flat denial.
– On the contrary I said t hat men from the right honorable gentleman’s district were “ done out of it.”
– I am glad to have that statement from the honorable gentleman. ‘ I agree with the honorable member and with the Leader of the Opposition that the matters raised are of importance, and I will see that they are brought under the notice of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) before tenders are accepted. I do not know oven whether tenders have been called. The facts brought before the House will be considered.
I was called from the House when the Leader of the Opposition spoke, but I understand that the matter to which he referred is one for the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White), who tells me that he will be glad to go fully into the matter.
– I should like to have the notes that were probably taken of the interview placed on the table of the Library or in some other place where they will be available to honorable members.
-I shall go into that matter with the Minister and see what can be done.
– The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) referred to the closing of the post office in Parliament House on Saturday morning last, and a question on this subject has also been asked by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis). I have made inquiries and I haveascertained that the post office was closed by permission of the secretary of the Joint House Committee, who has informed me that the postmaster was granted special leave on account of the illness of a relative. I have conferred with the President of the Senate and we have agreed that the office should not have been closed without first obtaining the permission of either the President or myself. If such permission had been given, due notice of the closing of the office would have been given to members, and other arrangements would have been made for the despatch of mail. I assure the honorable member for Adelaide that the office will in future not be closed before 12.30 p.m. on Saturdays.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired near Darwin, Northern Territory of Australia - For access to a Reserve for Aboriginals.
Petroleum Oil Search Act - Statement of Expenditure from 28th May, 1936. to 30th June, 1938.
House adjourned at 4.30 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:-
Employment in Industry.
Mr.Forde asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
How many persons (a) male, and (b) female, were employed in (i) secondary industries, and (ii) primary industries, in 1908, 1918, 1928, 1938, and at the dates upon which each of the last three census counts were made?
What increase has there been in male and female employees in (a) secondary industries, and (b) primary industries, comparing 1911 with 1938, showing totals under each heading for both years mentioned ?
e asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : - 1and 2. It has not been found possible to calculatethe value of the tariff preferences accorded by Australia to the United Kingdom, or by the United Kingdom to Australia in terms of absolute values. Calculations have been made on the basis of assessing the amount of duty which would have been paid on importations into Australia from the United Kingdom and importations into the United Kingdom from Australia if those importations had been charged with duty at the respective general tariff rates. On that basis the duty collected in Australia on United Kingdom goods duringthe financial year 1030-37 was £9,112,041 less than the amount which would have been collected if the same goods had been charged with duty at the general tariff rates. On the other hand, if the Australian goods imported into the United Kingdom during 1930 had been subject to the duties imposed on foreign goods of the same kind they would have paid approximately £5.534.000 more in duty than was actually charged. These figures, while serving as a guide, cannot properly bo regarded as the value of the preferences. They make no allowance for the level of the duties in force in the respective countries nor for particular advantages which are derived from quota restrictions on foreign goods.
t asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice - 1. (a) What trade representation, if any, has the Commonwealth in India, at the present time; (b) is it proposed to appoint a trade representative in India; if so, when and how is the appointment to be made? 2. (a) To what other countries, if any, is it proposed by the Government that trade representatives shall be appointed; (b) how and when are these appointments to be made?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1. (a) There is no trade representation in India; (b) the matter is under consideration. 2. (a) No decision has yet been arrived at; (b) I am unable to say at present.
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
In connexion with the provision of £200,000 last year to the States for assistance in providing technical training and securing skilled employment for youths (a) what was the amount allocated toeachState: and(b) what was the amount applied for. by each State?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
n. - On the 5th October, the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked the following questions, without notice: -
The Postmaster-General has supplied the following information : -
The charge per succeeding half oz. on foreign letters is1d. less than that for the first half oz.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 October 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1938/19381007_reps_15_157/>.