15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G, J. Bell) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr.FORDE. - Will the Prime Minister state whether there is any truth in the rumour that the Government has received representations in regard to a scheme for subsidizing friendly societies, as an alternative to the national health and pensions insurance scheme? If so, has consideration been- given to it, and is the right honorable gentleman in a position to make a statement concerning it?
– I know of no such proposition, but I shall endeavour to ascertain whatever facts there are in connexion with it.
– What advice are honorable members and the public to follow with regard to queries concerning national insurance? Are they to accept the answers given by the” Deputy Commissioners in the various States, or the statements made by the Treasurer in this House during the passage of the national insurance legislation ? I point out that in certain instances the information varies considerably.
– Without a knowledge of what the honorable member has in mind I am a little in the dark as to how to answer his question. If he will be good enough to give me examples of divergence between what I said during the debate on the national insurance legislation, and advice now given by the Deputy Commissioners, I shall be able better to reply to his question.
– In view of the fact that it is not now intended to commence the operation of the national insurance scheme on the 1st January next, is it intended to lay on the table of the House the regulations made pursuant to the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act before the recess?
– I am unable to say whether the regulations will be ready by the time the House rises for the Christmas recess. If they are, they will certainly be laid on the table without delay.
– A week or two ago I asked the Treasurer if a ruling had been obtained as to the liability of a farmer’s family fornational insurance contributions. The honorable gentleman promised to let me know at an early date. Has he yet considered the matter, and, if so, what is the decision?
– I regret if there has been any apparent discourtesy on my part in regard to the matter. I was under the impression that the reply to the honorable member’s question had been furnished to him. If it has not, I shall see that he gets it without delay.
– If a person is employed on domestic or other work for one day a week, or part of a day each week, regularly every week, will that person be liable to contribute to the insurance scheme ?
– If I am to answer offhand, I should say, “Yes “, but I prefer to consult with the National Insurance Commission, and give a considered reply.
– I have received a letter from a constituent who cleans a doctor’s plate every morning in the week, and for this service, which she has been performing for five years, she receives 1s.6d. a week.Will this person come under the provisions of the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act?
– If the honorable member is trying to draw me into a controversy on the subject of doctors and national insurance I decline to be drawn, but if the information is genuinely required, as I expect it is, I ask him- to give me notice of the question, and I shall obtain a reply for him.
Mr. FRANCIS, as chairman, brought up the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, relating to the proposed erection of a gaol at Darwin, Northern Territory.
Ordered to be printed.
– ‘Can the Minister representing the Minister for Health indicate how soon Cabinet will be able to consider the report of the National Medical and Health Research Council, recommending the desirability of holding a national fitness campaign, with federal central administration?
– I personally have given a good deal of consideration to that report, but at this stage cannot say when it will come before Cabinet for its deliberation.
– Will the Treasurer inform me whether it is a fact that budgetary provision was made last year for the expenditure of £100,000 on a national health campaign ? If so, what has become of the money? Is it still available for expenditure on a fitness campaign if the Government should decide to take that course?
– It is correct that £100,000 was paid into a health trust fund last year for a national health campaign. Some amount of the money has been expended. If the honorable member desires further information I shall be glad to obtain it for him.
– Has the Minister for the Interior seen the press report which states that 392 migrants arrived in Melbourne yesterday by an Italian liner, that 122 of them landed at Melbourne and 206 were booked for Sydney and Brisbane, that they consisted mainly of Italians, Albanians, German Jews, Polish Jews, Czechoslovaks, Esthonians, Bulgarians, Macedonians and Jugoslavs, and that they landed with an odd assortment of baggage, bundles of clothing, and musical instruments? Has the honorable gentleman received any intimation to the effect that these migrants are likely to engage in occupations which will interfere with the economic position of Australia? Further, does he not consider that the time has arrived for the Commonwealth to take some action to restrict the mass entry of aliens into Australia ?
– Replying to the last part of the question first, I cannot say that the time has arrived when the Commonwealth Government should do something to prevent the mass entry of aliens to Australia, because there is no mass entry. The position .is, that no alien may come to Australia without firsthaving, as an individual, secured n permit to do so. The overwhelming proportion of aliens who secure permits and come to this country are dependent relatives of aliens who previously had secured permits, had come to Australia, and had established themselves in this country. The fact tha.t numerous southern European aliens, who, as individuals, have secured permits, choose to come in a vessel belonging to an Italian line is perhaps natural, as they are voyaging from the Mediterranean. I have no intimate details of the case mentioned by the honorable member, but I shall have inquiries made and if there are any particular features associated with it I shall give it special consideration.
– Will the Minister for Works state whether all works estimated to cost over a certain prescribed amount are being referred, for investigation and report to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works?
– Defence works are not referred to the Public Works Committee.
Chairmanship of Industrial BOARD
– Will the AttorneyGeneral state whether applications were called to fill the position of chairman of the Industrial Board in the Australian Capital Territory? If not, what was the reason? Was the Government aware when the position was filled that Mr. L. L. Hill, the appointee, had been recalled by the Government of South Australia from the position of Agent-General for that State in London? Can the right honorable gentleman also state what particular qualifications it was considered Mr. Hill had for the position?
Mi-. MENZIES. - Applications were not called for the position. It is not the practice to call for applications for appointment to tribunals of this kind. I was aware that Mr. Hill had been AgentGeneral for South Australia and that his appointment terminated for no reason which had any relation to his personal qualifications or character. The qualifications possessed by Mr. Hill for his present appointment were outstanding in two respects: first, he had a wide knowledge of industrial problems; and, secondly, he has the judicial temperament of approach to their solution.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Commerce been drawn to the numerous public protests of stockowners, and also of municipal and shire councils throughout the Ulmarra district, against the action of the authorities in constructing dips for cattle in spite of the assertions that have been made that the district is an absolutely clean area? These protests have been accompanied by requests that the Commonwealth Parliament should withhold funds from the State authorities and so prevent a waste of public money in this particular area.
– Although I am the member for the district referred to by the honorable member, no protests such as he has referred to have reached me. I know from my personal experience that the whole Clarence River district is regarded as a tick infested area, and that the rest of Australia will not be safe until it is made clean.
– Is the Minister for Commerce able to inform me of the result of the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held yesterday at’ Canberra concerning the wheat industry?
– I hope to be able to make a full statement on the subject at a later stage.
– I direct the attention of the Minister in Charge of Civil Aviation to a statement attributed to him which appeared in yesterday’s press to the effect that seventeen high frequency Adcock direction finders are to be installed at seventeen Australian , aerodromes. No mention was made of any station excepting Perth and Darwin on the far north-west Imperial air route, a distance of about 2,500 miles.Is it proposed to exclude such important centres as Geraldton, Carnarvon, Port Hedland, Broome, Hall’s Creek and Wyndham which are important landing grounds on this route ?
– The location of the Adcock direction finders is affected by two important considerations. They are intended to replace the Bellini Tosi finders on certain stations on which aircraft land either in the early morning or late at night. That particular type is affected by the rising and the setting sun. As the new Adcock apparatus is not affected in this way, it is being installed in places where aircraft land in the mornings and evenings. If the honorable member will communicate to me any particular places that he has in mind I shall have inquiries made respecting them and furnish him. with a personal reply.
– Will the Minister for Works inform me whether in future he will be in control of all works expenditure in the Northern Territory except that for the defence purposes?
– Yes, I shall be ; but it will be necessary for rae to maintain close contact with the Minister for the Interior and also other Ministers so that the Government’s works programme may be carried out as expeditiously as possible.
– Recently I brought under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral the circumstances of certain returned soldier linemen employed in a. temporary capacity in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department upon whom notices have been served terminating their employment. I believe these notices were issued just prior to the present Minister accepting this portfolio. I ask the honorable gentleman now whether he has been able to take any steps to -withdraw the notices at least until such time as employment may be found for these individuals on some other public works ?
– The position is being considered, and in the meantime the notices are being held in abeyance. A conference is pending between the Minister for Works and myself. It is being held under instructions from, the Prime Minister.
– The honorable gentleman has toldus that no retrenchment is being effected in his department.
– The purpose of the conference is to avoid retrenchments.
– If the Postmaster-General finds it possible to safeguard the positions of returned soldier temporary linemen in his department, can he make the decision retrospective in order that it might cover returned soldier temporary linemen formerly employed ?
– I cannot answer the question offhand, but I promise to take it into consideration.
– When the PostmasterGeneral is considering with the Minister for Works the re-absorption of some of the returned soldier temporary linemen by seeking to provide employment for them on defence works, will he also take into consideration the claims of men recently put off, and those likely to be put off, who are not returned soldiers ?
– The matter will receive consideration.
– Will the Minister for Defence inform me what method was adopted in choosing the factories at which munition annexes are to be established by the Commonwealth Government? I also wish to know the amount of money spent up to date on this work, and how much of it, has been allocated for plant? I ask the honorable gentleman also to supply me with the value of the munitions produced in these plants up to date, and the method that has been adopted to fix the prices of the articles produced?
– The Advisory Defence Panel has advised the Defence Department which firms should be selected in this connexion. I must ask the honorable member to give me notice of the remaining parts of his question.
Overlapping of Am Routes
– In view of the statements which have been made that there has been a considerable amount of overlapping of the various air routes flown by civil aviation companies, can the Minister for Civil Aviation say whether that overlapping has been rectified, and can the honorable gentleman supply to the House a list of the routes flown by the various companies since he has taken charge of his new department?
– A little while ago there was considerable duplication of routes flown by civil aviation companies in Queensland, and in and around Victoria, a great deal of which has already been eliminated by several companies merging into one or entering into arrangements designed to avoid it. An inter-departmental committee is at present working out a plan which will avoid further duplication of air routes in the future. I suggest to the honorable member that he should wait until the committee has completed its deliberations and made adefinite report on the subject to the Government. When that is done plans will be prepared showing the whole of the air routes, the subsidies paid, timetables, and fares and freights charged.
– In view of the difficulties experienced by residents of northern Tasmania by reason of the restricted shipping service between Tasmanian ports and Sydney, can the Minister for Commerce do anything to expedite the introduction of a weekly shipping service between the Tamar and Sydney? Inconvenience is caused at present because there is only a fortnightly shipping service to Sydney. I should be glad if the Minister would indicate if his department has any influence in regard to the establishment of a more suitable service, and if it can do something to minimize the difficulties of the Tasmanian people in this respect.
– The matter will receive consideration, and the honorable member will be furnished with a reply al a later date.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral endeavour to follow the splendid example set by the New Zealand Government of entering into arrangements with the British Government to impose a charge of only lid. on letters sent by air mail to England?
– If the honorable . member will discuss the question with me I shall be pleased to go into it with him.
– Will the Prime Minister lay on the table of the House the report of the Inter-Government Committee on Refugees held at Evian, andalso the report of the Australian delegate to the conference, which has already been circulated to the Cabinet?
– I shall see if it is possible to have the papers tabled.
– Shortly after the Ministers of State Act was amended in 1935 to provide additional funds for the payment of an extra minister, the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) resigned from the Ministry. I desire to know from the Treasurer what became of the extra money provided. The ministerial fund has again been increased, and I should like to know whether, if another Minister should resign, the same procedure will be adopted in regard to the provision of the extra money?
– I cannot be expected to answer off-hand a question of that kind, or to make a dissection of the cabinet fund, but if the honorable member will raise the matter during the debate on the Ministers of State Bill-
– The matter to which I have referred is not covered by that bill.
– I cannot disclose the amount taken from the cabinet fund by individual Ministers.
– In view of the keen interest manifested by the PostmasterGeneral in the organization of the Australian Broadcasting Commission while he was a private member, will he state whether he has yet considered proposals for the re-organization of the commission? If not, will be promise to make a statement on the subject before Parliament adjourns for the Christmas recess?
– That is a matter of policy which Cabinet must decide.
Training of Pilots
– At the present time, the Royal Australian Air Force accepts recruits for training as pilots only if they are between the ages of IS and 24. In view of the suspicion that exists that some recent crashes were attributable to the youth of the ‘pilots, will the Minister for Defence consider altering the regulations to enable older men to .be recruited for training as pilots?
– Consideration will be given to ,the honorable member’s suggestion.
– When Senator A. J. McLachlan held the position of Postmaster-General, I made a request that more storage accommodation should be provided at the Hobart Post Office, but I have not yet received a reply. Will the new Postmaster-General investigate what storage space is needed,, and take steps to ensure that it is provided?
– I shall be much obliged if the honorable member will discuss the matter with me.
– Will the Minister for Public Works, in order to provide for his own comfort and that of his colleagues, have the front Government bench in this chamber extended?
– If the honorable member will give notice of his question 1 shall consider having it referred to the Public Works Committee.
I have received from the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose, of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The standardization of railway gauges “.
Five honorable members having risen %n support of the motion,
.- I move-
That the House do now adjourn.
The standardization of railway gauges as generally understood in Australia is covered by a report of a royal commission presented in 1921. The report was made after lengthy and careful investigation, and the commission recommended the construction of a trunk railway line of 4-ft. 8 1/2-in gauge from Brisbane to Perth, and the conversion of the Victorian and South Australian railways of 5-ft. 3-in. gauge to the standard gauge of 4-ft. 8J-in. I regret that it has become necessary to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of drawing public attention to the . failure of the Government to give effect to the promise of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) in 1934 that this work would be undertaken as one of its major schemes for the relief of unemployment. It would give far greater satisfaction, I feel sure, to all sections of the House to know that the Government had taken action that would have made such a step unnecessary. The reason for the neglect appears to be the complete incapacity of the Government to carry out its promise, whatever might have been its intention or desire at the time the promise was made. An examination of the report of debates, and replies to questions asked by myself and other honorable members, will show that responsible Ministers, including the Prime Minister, have persistently endeavoured to evade the’ issue, instead of facing their responsibilities. This cannot be allowed to continue. Those members on the Government side who support the policy of the Prime Minister, have, in the main, allowed the matter to slip, apparently viewing it as one that will provide another attractive piece of window dressing for the United Australia party and the Country party when the next elections are approaching. The honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr), who is not at present in the House, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin), and others on’that side of the House, have signified their approval of the proposal to standardize railway gauges, but they did not stand up to support this motion. That kind of thing disgusts most people. They profess to believe in this very necessary undertaking, but they are. not prepared to support a motion to discuss it with their votes. When the Government has been criticized for its failure to get on with the work Ministers have sought to divert attention, or to sidetrack criticism, by referring to the lack of co-operation among the States, or by talking about what the Labour Government did or did not do. Excuses of that kind only earn the derision of the people. The’ Scullin Government was in office for two years during the worst economic depression in the history of Australia, whereas the Lyons-Page Government has been in power during a period of comparative prosperity. No intelligent person will be deceived by an attempt to compare what was done during the two periods. The Government cannot put forward any legitimate excuse for the delay, but no doubt will claim again that it has not had the co-operation of the States and that, as the railways are, for the most part, State owned, the responsibility for the failure rests rather with the States than with the Commonwealth.
Let us further examine the Government’s . promises. * Standardization of railway gauges was not only put forward at the election in 1934 by the Government as one of its major schemes by the carrying out of which it proposed to meet the unemployment problem, but also it was part of the Governor-‘General’s speech at the opening of the newly elected Parliament in October of that year. After setting out . that the Government would survey the unemployment problem through the agency of the then Minister for Commerce (Sir Frederick Stewart), and that the major portion of his labours would be directed to what was designated as “ the great problem “, the GovernorGeneral’s speech said that the honorable gentleman would be relieved of much of his work so that he could direct attention to principal matters. It made reference to the selection: and prepara tion of works of size and importance that could be done by the Commonwealth (a) alone, and (b) in collaboration with the States.
This is not one of the matters which can be side-tracked by suggestion of insuperable political difficulties, for not only are the Government’s supporters committed by the Prime Minister’s promise hut also the Opposition is committed to it by its own platform and its leader’s election policy speech. It was the firstmentioned work of major importance in the speech of the Prime Minister. Even in 1931 it was referred to by each of the party leaders as a necessary work that should be undertaken.
The Inspector-General of the Military Forces of whose official opinion at a time like this when the Government is asking Parliament to authorize the expenditure of more and more millions of pounds on defence, every one should take notice, said in 1921-
Thelinking up of our capital cities by- railways, beyond striking distance from the coast and the establishment of a uniform gauge throughout the Commonwealth are matters of paramount importance. ‘ “ Paramount importance “ ! I emphasize that. In 1923 he said-
It is beyond question that a uniform gauge will avoid many of the disadvantages of possible troop movements caused by breaks of gauge with the necessary transfer from one system to another. Apart from the delay, inconvenience and the wastage of man-power at transfer stations, the disorganization of units due to the varying capacity of trains of different gauge is serious and may mean considerable delay at a critical time.
The Government talks about defence but with full power to do so, makes no provision to deal with an essential part of it. We have never had an indication that the Government is considering this matter except a statement that there is to be a conference of Ministers of Transport some time in the new year. The same expert said in 1925 -
The disabilities under which Australia is suffering on account of the breaks of gauge in its civil transportation, and the difficulties which wouldbe imposed upon military transportation in war, are generally recognized and it is regrettable that the production of a practical scheme to remedy the matter has been so long delayed.
In these circumstances it is necessary to look elsewhere for the reason for failure to proceed. The only conclusion which can be reasonably arrived at is incapacity which arises from the elements of which the Government is. composed. There are other promises which it has failed to fulfil or even to make an attempt at fulfilling, but its failure to give effect to its promise to bring about the standardization of the railway gauges is particularly glaring because of the urgency of the work as an essential measure in malting provision for the defence of Australia. There are many people in authority, including highly-placed military experts, who have made it clear that the standardization of gauges is an integral part of any scheme of nation-wide defence. These range from Lord Kitchener, who in 1911 made reference to the disadvantages of breaks of gauge in military operations, to the Australian Inspector-General of Military Forces who on three successive occasions emphasized the need for the problem to be dealt with in the interests of Australia’s proper protection. Who are the military authorities who now say that it is unnecessary to standardize gauges? The Prime Minister said on Monday that it was not necessary to proceed with the work. Will the Government disclose the identity of these experts who hide in official dugouts and either will not, or are not permitted to, have their qualifications and information tested? The Prime Minister and other Ministers when questions have been asked have side-stepped the issue by assurances that the matter was under consideration or that it was to be the subject of a conference.
At the Premiers Conference, held in Adelaide in August, 1936, the amount of consideration which this subject received can be estimated from the fact that twelve lines of space is given to it in a report of approximately 12,000 lines, covering S3 pages. It reads: -
STANDARDIZATION OF RAILWAY GAUGES.
– I present the following report of the sub-committee on the standardization of railway gauges: -
In view of the progress which has been made in road and air transport, this committee considers that, before any decision is arrived at with respect to standardization of railway gauges, a further inquiry by a competent body should be made, having special reference to the economic and defenceaspects.
The latest reply given on the matter by the Prime Minister is that it is to be the subject of consideration at a conference on transport matters early in the new year. This Parliament after approving of an expenditure of £43,000,000 in the next three years is now being asked to commit itself to further heavy expenditure on defence, and the public mind is being prepared with suitable propaganda based on fears the veal cause of which, if any, has been kept from the knowledge of the elected representatives of the people. I know nothing of what the real cause is for the expenditure of this additional money on defence, but if it is necessary because an attack on our territory is feared, some thing practical should be done to enable us to move troops with facility to points of danger. Not one word has been said by the Government so far on the question of standardizing the gauges, either out of the £43,000,000 for ‘the three-year programme o’r the special vote which is to supplement it. The Prime Minister at the opening of the connexion link of 56 miles, between Port Pirie and Port Augusta said: -
The new route was constructed as a result of the joint efforts of the State and Federal Governments and indicated that when the interests of Australia as a whole were involved, governments could act unitedly for the common good.
The Prime Minister’s election speech presented the Government’s policy for the interests of Australia as a whole. It included the standardization of gauges and the Government demonstrated its capacity to handle the job, a major one at that, involving 6,450 miles of railway, by completing in four years 566 miles of line, at the rate of 14 miles a year. What an effort! At that rate of progress it would take 460 years to complete the job. Yet that is all this Government is capable of doing.
I must confess that when I listened to the Prime Minister who had just returned from his triumphal overseas visit, speak so enthusiastically of the Government’s gratification, and indicate its hopes for the future, and when I heard at the banquet provided that night at Port Pirie the carefully prepared speeches which were delivered by the then Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan) and the then Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson), although driven to calculation of figures as to the rate of progress since the royal commission had made its report, I, too, felt a spark of hope that a rejuvenated Prime Minister was at last about to get his Government into action. My hope, like that of many others who listened, was dashed to smithereens on the altar of the Government’s irresolution, incapacity and reliance on conferences.
On the 22nd October, 1937, I asked the Prime Minister whether -
In view of the heavy increase of expenditure upon defence and us no definite steps have yet been taken to put into operation any part of tlie Government’s policy concerning the standardization of railway gauges, will the Prime Minister state whether the Government will consider the appointment of a non-party parliamentary committee to examine and report upon defence expenditure including the possible effect upon defence of the standardization of railway gauges?
The Prime Minister replied -
The matter will receive the consideration of the Government.
That is the end of it. It has been forgotten ever since.
The honorable member for Flinders and others have since that time commented on the need for examination of expenditure on defence by a parliamentary committee. It will probably be under consideration when the Government finally falls to pieces ; signs of its disintegration were very apparent recently and are obvious now. “Under consideration,” or “on the agenda for discussion by a conference,” or “ the matter will be inquired into “ are the refuges in which the Government shelters itself when confronted with the need for going into action. It spends the intervening periods in devising ways and means of reconciling the divergent views of its polyglot components sufficiently to enable it to carry on the policy of shutting up Parliament while its leaders make overseas visits and return with some new display of showy propaganda which will divert attention from its otherwise conspicuous failures.
Although the matter is one which, until recently, received only occasional publicity in the daily press - with the exception of the Melbourne Age, which has ably and consistently -advocated it over a period of years - the press is now almost unanimous in advocating that this work should be commenced without further delay. If time permitted, I would quote from many recent articles, but as it does not, I shall make only a few quotations. As far back as 1924, the then Prime Minister of the same sort of government as that which now exists, Mr. Bruce, speaking at Lithgow on the subject of a standardized railway gauge throughout Australia, declared that the problem would have to be faced some time. He must have had in mind a governmentcomposed of members of the United Australia party, whose chief characteristic is that they face urgent matters at some time in the dim and distant future. He went on to say that “Its solution depended upon the vision displayed by the people; if they dallied, then the burden would be heavier.” The Melbourne Age made the following statement in a leading article : -
It is obvious that a uniform trunk line would be of incalculable value in time of national emergency. It should be ranked as an absolute necessity. … A uniform gauge is a sound productive investment in peace, an imperative need to full efficiency in war.
On the 15th October last, the Age published the following comment: -
In view of the great practical value oi unification to Australia, it is not unreasonable to suggest that half the cost be met by the Commonwealth, which would leave £1.500,000 a year divided between the live mainland States. From a defence point of view the value of the railway network cannot he overemphasized. The main highways have not been built to carry heavy military loads, and even now require continual maintenance. lu the last six years Victoria has spent in unemployed relief works sufficient money to have converted the gauges in Australia to the standard of 4 ft. 84 in.
On Uie 18th October last, the Argus published the following: -
One outstanding problem that has not been faced - probably because it seems formidable
What a commentary on the Government - that it cannot face anything because it seems formidable! The quotation proceeds - is the problem nf transport. It must be faced. Courageous nien must be found to face it.
I doubt whether mcn of courage to implement national policy are to ‘be found in the ranks of the Government. The quotation concludes -
And in view of the time the completion of thu practical work will occupy, it- must be laced now. . . . Our great highways are magnificent for thu motorist; with caterpillar traction, necessary for the transport of heavy military material, they “would be crushed to pulp and powder within a few weeks. Only on sited rails laid upon substantial foundations could these great burdens be carried. The railways must be used for that purpose. They cannot bc used as they are to-day, because many are single-track for long distances. TI 10 incidental advantages of embarking upon the undertaking now include the absorption of the unemployed, the provision of work for newcomers (assuming that the policy of encouraging immigration is to bc put into immediate operation) and the stimulus which it would give to general development. The direct effect of developmental works upon our ability to defend Australia should not be overlooked. For these reasons, this great enterprise is desirable; for effectual defence, it is necessary.
These are people who have been giving the matter consideration over a long period of years. They now realize that if the Government undertakes further expenditure without tackling this great work, it will not be facing up to the situation. The Melbourne Herald^ on the 29th October last, published the following: -
The unsuitability of- existing roads for military traffic is one of the aspects for serious review. Bridges a’nd culverts have been constructed for light traffic and road formations are unsuitable for continuous streams of heavily-laden vehicles. The problem of moving the normal traffic diverted from the sea tn the land intensified by the heavy demands of wartime would fall on the railways. These have been designed to carry freight within the States to the capital cities, but not for the conveyance of large volumes of traffic across the borders. . . .” The need for the unification has been stressed by the highest railway authorities in Great Britain recently.
I realize that the time available to me to make these quotations is limited; but I think that I ought to quote some recent remarks of Lord Craigmyle, chairman of the Peninsula and Oriental shipping group, and also a director of the Bank of England. He stated -
If you could only have a uniform gauge, say of 4 feet 84 inches throughout the continent I am sure it would be a great help to commerce in Australia. At first, of course, it would be to the disadvantage of shipping, but I think that in the long run it would be in the interests of shipping companies trading to Australia, because the prosperity of shipping to Australia depends on the prosperity of Australia. No doubt the provision of a uniform gauge would cost millions of pounds, but I can think of no better investment. Nothing is so calculated to hold up the progress of Australian industry as the continuation of the present system of varied gauges. I am looking forward to having a talk on the subject with Lord Stamp, who is at present in Australia and is one of my colleagues on the Board of the Bank of England.
There are other quotations which time will not permit me to make. They all go to show that the newspapers have now reached the stage of being practically unanimous in their approval of the scheme. The Government, by sitting with its head buried in the sand and refusing to tackle this problem, while asking this Parliament to vote millions of pounds for other works, is doing rank injustice to the whole of the people of Australia. [Leave to continue given.’] I thank honorable members for giving me the opportunity to discuss the matter further and to quote the following from another article published in the Argus of a recent date, headed “ The Nation’s Need “-
It goes without saying that the most useful first step in such an expansion is to undertake public works of a character that will facilitate national defence, such as the unification of railway gauges. To embark on such projects requires a far-sighted and courageous financial policy - a policy of casting bread upon the waters in the confidence that it will return after many days. Many big problems are interwoven in the one transcendant problem of making Australia safe from external aggression.’ For their solution they call for big men with big ideas.
The Melbourne Herald on the 10th November last published the following contribution by a political correspondent, presumably from Canberra -
That old political plaything, standardization of at least Interstate railway gauges, should be given a swift and final survey. It should then be decided upon and carried through. The fullest employment of our workers must all through be a first principle. Indeed the whole defensive project would almost justify itself if it got rid of the very wasteful and expensive fag-end of relief work upon hole and corner shows, which as a rule contribute neither to defence nor to anything else. lt concluded with the following: -
The latest administration has not had an auspicious opening. But it is not yet doomed. If it will boldly and spaciously lead, the Parliamentary parties and Australia as a whole will gladly follow.
The Argus on the 11th November last published the following: -
The seeming inability of federal Ministers to see the relation of developmental works to defence preparations is very disconcerting. It does not appear that any serious consideration has been given to the question of railway gauges.
That is how the matter strikes everybody. The Government promises, but does not appear even to give consideration to the fulfilment of its promise. It boasts of its accomplishment in connexion with the Port Pirie to Port Augusta section. If that rate of progress be continued in relation to the balance of the standardization project the work will not be completed before we are all mummies. Honorable members who sit behind the Government do not attempt to stir it to action in matters which they know ought to be tackled. I continue the quotation -
Yet the relation of rail transport to military measures is close and obvious. Mobility is not in the motto of the Ministry. To make railway communication efficient and rapid is a real military measure, and one of the highest importance. The bitumen-surfaced high-‘ ways would break like pie crust beneath the loads of military material which it would be necessary to move from point to point if we were at war. Such changes in the railway system should be undertaken at the earliest moment. If the altered system never carries a gun, the work will remain as something permanently useful - a national asset, as Mr. Dunstan would call it.
The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane), by interjection, has referred to New South “Wales. That State’s share of the work has already been done. Apparently there are people in New South Wales who do not wish the whole project to be completed, and put forward new schemes involving millions of pounds which have no relation to the accepted scheme. I venture to affirm that New South Wales would derive considerable benefit from the prosecution of the balance of the work on the original plan. In it are situated the steel works, which would produce such things as axles, points, crossings, rails, girders and other materials required. Queensland and Tasmania would benefit, because they would assist in supplying the necessary timber. In any case, there is an obligation on the people of New South Wales to see that other States obtain their share of the work, particularly as national security is involved. The Government appears to be able to stand up, or lay down, to a good deal of deadly criticism, and yet continue on its sleepy and inefficient way. At no time previously has there been such unanimity as there is now amongst the leading newspapers of Australia in regard to the urgent need to proceed with this work. Public opinion has at last been aroused in such a way that the Government’s hesitancy and incapacity stand out in bold relief. Nothing but a bold, even if a belated, effort will convince the country that the Government has either the will or the constructive energy needed to handle the project. In to-day’s Canberra Times appears a report which should make clear the position which the railways occupy in relation to interstate traffic. Sir Ragnar Colvin, First Naval Member, is reported as having said that, for every 1 ton of produce carried on the railways, 16 tons are carried on ships between Australian ports. While the breaks of gauge continue to exist, this state of affairs will operate, to the great advantage of the wealthy private shipping companies, and to the disadvantage of the Government-owned railway systems. The financial groups exert considerable influence, and it is apparent, that their interests have been utilized with a view to preventing the consummation of the scheme to the point where it could be seen that Australia is almost disastrously situated should it be called upon to transport troops for defence . purposes. I repeat and emphasize that although the New South
Wales and Queensland portions of the scheme recommended by the royal commission have been completed, both of those States would benefit from the further prosecution of the scheme, particularly New South Wales, because of the fact that the iron and steel industry is situated within its boundaries. Employment would be stimulated from one end of the Commonwealth to the other, and we should not have to ask for Christmas grants for -the unemployed from a government which is unable to visualize and undertake a big project. The issuing of new money would not be necessary. More than sufficient has been expended in each period of seven years since the royal commission presented its report, to cover the cost of the scheme. In the last seven years, no less than £30,000,000 was expended on the railways of Australia, in connexion with rolling-stock and other requirements. The scheme could have been completed for less than that.
– What States have incurred that expenditure?
– The States as a whole I shall take an opportunity during the budget debate to give full particulars to the honorable member, who apparently needs stimulating, because he knows nothing about the subject.
I conclude by saying that honorable members have the opportunity in this debate to express their views regarding the need for proceeding with a generally accepted plan, and of urging this jaded custodian of the people’s authority into some semblance of activity. I trust that, although the Standing Orders prescribe a time limit for the debate, private members will regard the subject as of such importance as to warrant an extension of the time, so that expression may he given to the feelings of both Government and Opposition members on a matter which cannot longer be neglected with safety, and which is of paramount importance to the citizens of Australia.
I draw attention to the absence from the chamber of Ministers ‘and ministerial members. If we were debating a proposition from which they might derive an advantage they would be in attendance as they were yesterday during the discussion on the Ministers of State Bill, but as the matter is one concerning the benefit of the people they are absent from their places in this House. They know that the charges I am making cannot be satisfactorily answered. They realize quite well that they have neglected to fulfil the promise made to the people, and they prefer to Leave one Minister to carry on the debate. No matter is of greater public importance, and nothing would be of more benefit to the nation at the present time than the standardization of the railway gauges. No doubt ministerial members are in their party-room trying to patch up the ever-growing differences that exist in their ranks. I trust that they will indicate to the Government that it must proceed with this work, which is useful in peace time as well as for defence. The result could not fail to be of real advantage to the whole of the people of Australia.
KIt. McEWEN (Indi- Minister for the Interior) [3.35]. - The subject brought under our notice by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) is of the highest national importance, and his decision to discuss it would have obtained the almost entirely unanimous approval of the House had he not seen fit, unfortunately, to reduce the issues involved to the level of the most paltry party politics. In doing so, the honorable gentleman did a great disservice to the cause he has espoused. However, ] do not propose to take my cue from him. I shall endeavour to discuss the subject apart altogether from party political controversy, and perhaps my best course would be to recount the history of it.
The standardization of the railway gauges of Australia has been considered by practically every Commonwealth Parliament for many years. After I have dealt with the historical background, I shall indicate what the Government proposes to do in the immediate future. Probably this will be the last opportunity that an honorable member will have to raise the issue as the honorable member for Maribyrnong has raised it this afternoon, for the Government intends to call a conference of Ministers of Transport of the various states early in the new year, and to submit to it various proposals, first and foremost of which will have relation to the. standardization of our railway gauges. As a matter of fact, the
Commonwealth Government has, on several occasions, attempted to secure an agreement with the State governments for action on this subject, but so far its efforts have not met with very great success.
The matter was first brought under definite notice at a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held at Melbourne in July, 1920. It may be said that this was the first occasion on which the standardization of our railway gauges came within the realm of practical politics. On that occasion it was resolved -
That this conference is of opinion that two experts from outside this country should be appointed, along with one Australian outside the railway services of the Commonwealth and the States, to consider and report upon the unification of thegauges, the question as to what gauge it is desirable to adopt, and the question of the cost of conversion.
The Commonwealth and the States agree to abide by the decision of this tribunal.
The Commonwealth to bear one-fifth of the total cost, and four-fifths to be borne by the five States concerned on a per capita basis.
The royal commission then envisaged was subsequently appointed. It made exhaustive inquiries, and recommended the 4-ft. 81/2-in. gauge as the standard gauge for the Australian railways. The scheme it submitted made provision for -
These works were estimated to cost £21,600,000. The 4-ft. 81/2-in. gauge railway from Port Augusta to Port Pirie has since been constructed. At Port Pirie it joins the5-ft. 3-in. gauge railway to Adelaide. It may be noted, in passing, that the only two effective steps in connexion with this scheme have been taken by Commonwealth governments, and non-Labour governments at that. The Bruce-Page Government was responsible mainly for the construction of the 4-ft.81/2-in. gauge railway which links Sydney and South Brisbane; and the
Lyons Government was responsible for the building of the 4-ft.81/2-in. gauge railway from Port Augusta to Port Pirie. This work was done while my predecessor, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), was in office. ‘
– Does the Minister say that the Commonwealth Government paid for the construction of the Kyogle to South Brisbane line?
– It had to pay a great deal more than its own share, as I shall show presently.
– The State governments have certainly not honoured their promises in this regard.
– The royal commission reported against the provision of standard gauge main trunk lines in Victoria and South Australia without, at the same time, converting all the broad gauge lines of those States to the standard gauge. The commission’s report was considered at a Conference of Premiers with the Prime Minister in Melbourne in November, 1921, when it was resolved -
That the adoption of a uniform gauge is. in the opinion of this conference, essential to the development and safety of the Commonwealth.
That the commission’s recommendationof a 4-ft. 81/2-in. gauge is accepted.
It was further resolved that the Commonwealth should circulate to the States a draft agreement to give effect to the recommendation of the commission. In due course, this draft was circulated.
Further conferences with the Premiers were held in Melbourne in 1922, and in 1923, but agreement could not be arrived at between the whole of the parties. Victoria and South Australia were unfavorable to the work being put in hand at the time; it being contended that the time was not opportune, taking into consideration the high cost of money, and of wages and materials.
However, by an agreement between the Commonwealth and the States of New South Wales and Queensland, dated the 16th September, 1924, one section of the work recommended by the royal commission, namely, the 4-ft. 81/2-in. gauge railway linking Sydney and South Brisbane via Macksville, Kyogle and Richmond Gap, was undertaken. This work was completed and the railway was opened for public traffic on the 27th
September, 1930. Pending complete agreement among all the parties, the Commonwealth Government is bearing the amounts which would be debitable against Victoria, South Australia, . and Western Australia in connexion with the expenditure on the Sydney to South Brisbane section. I make that remark in reply to the interjection made a few moments ago by the honorable member for Herbert.
– The other States were not prepared to accept responsibility, because they could obtain no guarantee that the remainder of the whole plan would be carried out.
– There is absolutely no foundation for that interjection. Anyhow, within the next few months, those State governments will be given an opportunity to indicate their attitude. Personally. I hope that an agreement will be reached to proceed with other sections of this important work.
Although the provision of a 4-ft. 81/2-in. gauge railway from Port Augusta to Adelaide, forms part of the uniform railway gauge scheme recommended by, and included in the estimate of the royal commission, the portion between Port Augusta and Red Hill has been the subject of special legislation by both the Commonwealth Parliament and the State Parliament of South Australia. The 4-ft. 81/2-in. gauge railway has now been extended by the Commonwealth from Port Augusta to Port Pirie, and a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge railway has been built by South Australia from Red Hill to Port Pirie, thus linking Port Pirie and Adelaide by a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge railway.
The estimate submitted by the royal commission on the 22nd September, 1921, will no doubt be of interest to honorable members. It was as follows : -
This estimate was reviewed at a Conference of Premiers with the Prime Minister in Canberra in January, 1929, when it was decided that “ Railway Commissioners of Commonwealth and States should confer and bring up to date the estimate of the cost of carrying out the proposals for unifying railway gauges made by the royal commission on the uniform railway gauge, 22nd September, 1921 “.
The revised estimate was submitted by the Railway Commissioners on the 21st October, 1929. It excluded the Grafton to South Brisbane section, since completed. The details are as follows: -
This estimate includes provision for increased operating costs and the cost of transfer of passengers, livestock, goods, and other commodities during the conversion period, but does not include interest on moneys required for the work. The 1929 estimate was based on the then current rates of wages and prices of materials, and assumed that the work would be commenced not later than the 1st March, 1931.
The Railways Commissioners estimated that the preparatory work in Victoria would occupy approximately four years, and the actual conversion three years, making a total of seven years. The preparatory and actual work in South Australia was not expected to’ occupy anything like this period, but would be co-ordinated so as to ensure the conversion on the most advantageous basis for both South Australia and Victoria. The work in Western Australia was planned to occupy approximately five years. The Commissioners stated : -
Once the work is started, it must be completed within the specified period of seven years, otherwise the railway transport services in two of the States (Victoria and South Australia) will be seriously disorganized, and the cost of the work materially increased.
Although it was estimated that the work would be completed in seven years, financial provision was proposed to be made during each of eight financial years. The Commissioners estimated that the moneys required for each year would be as follows: -
This expenditure, whilst heavy, is not nearly the equal of the annual capital expenditure in connexion with the railway systems of Australia For the eight years ended the 30th June, 1937, the capital expenditure, quite apart from ex penditure on the maintenance and operation of the railways, was as follows : -
It will be seen that, despite curtailment in depression years, the capital expenditure was approximately 66 per cent, above the estimated cost of the uniform gauge work.
The following table shows what the annual expenditure would be by the Commonwealth and by the States, assuming the Commonwealth made a contribution of 20 per cent., and the balance was borne by the States on a per capita basis, on a round figure of £21,000,000 : -
– Does the statement show to what extent the State Governments of New South Wales and Queensland have met their obligations with regard to particular lines?
– No ; but I shall be glad to secure the information for the honorable member. The statement provides an almost complete historical record of what has been done in connexion with this important matter.
– Has the Minister any figures showing the contemplated saving each year if the standardization of gauges is proceeded with?
– No; but I shall make some references to savings presently.
– Has the Minister any estimate of what the Commonwealth would pay on a 331/3 per cent, and 50 per cent, basis, instead of a 20 per cent, basis as originally agreed upon?
– No. The apportionment of the cost, on the basis on Commonwealth paying 20 per cent., is given in the following table: -
This estimate was reviewed by the Federal Government and the State governments were advised that the Commonwealth re-affirmed the 1921 proposals and was still willing to pay one-fifth of the cost. The matter was listed for discussion at a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers in February, 1930; but the item was adjourned for consideration by a subsequent conference. During the remainder of the life of the Commonwealth Government of the day no subsequent conference was held.
Since the estimate was revised by the Railways Commissioners in 1929, there has been a reduction of the basic wage under industrial awards, &c. The works would be carried out in the States of Western Australia, South Australia, and Victoria, and in those States the basic wage now shows reductions on those applying when the revised estimate was prepared in 1929, as follows: -
The reductions would not apply in the same degree to the skilled workers receiving wages above the base rate, but in any case they would be substantial. In addition to the reduction of wages referred to, there has been a reduction of the prices of materials since the 1929 estimate was prepared. It is estimated that labour charges on the actual work can be taken as representing approximately 50 per cent, of the total expenditure, although actually there would be a much greater percentage of expenditure on labour, because nearly all expenditure on sleeper supplies is labour, as also is the greater portion of the expenditure on rails and fastenings. As practically the whole of the materials to be used would be of Australian manufacture, wages would form a very large proportion of all expenditure. From these facts it will be seen that in the past the Commonwealth has not only accepted responsibility for a substantial share of the cost of the standardization of gauges, but also has done everything possible to advance the matter to a practical conclusion, in agreement with the States. Unanimity among the States however, was not achieved, and the responsibility for the non-completion of the standardization of gauges,as recommended by the royalcommission in 1921, does not therefore rest with the Commonwealth.
Another matter which should be referred to while this issue is under consideration is that of through railway freights. At present it is often cheaper to rail goods from districts adjacent to State boundaries for a longer distance to the capital of the producing State than to rail them the shorter distance to the capital of the neighbouring State. [Leave to continue given.] This is due to each State charging’ its local rate as for a separate journey to and from the border for interstate traffic, instead of one continuous mileage rate on the tapering principle for the total distance being charged, as would be done for a journey of a similar total mileage within the State. This position must affect the flow of certain goods traffic such as grain, wool and livestock, to the nearest port, as well as increase costs to primary producers and entail the haulage of traffic over longer distances than that to the nearest port. Passenger fares and parcels rates are similarly charged. The areas principally affected by this unfortunate discrimination in respect of border rates are -
District - States affected.
Riverina (N.S.W.) - New South Wales and Victoria.
Northern (N.S>W)-New South Wales and Queensland.
West Darling (N.S,W.)– New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia.
South-eastern (S.A.). - Victoria and South Australia,
Mildura and Mallee (Vic.) - Victoria and South Australia.
There are certain exceptions where special competitive through goods and parcels rates, local special goods rates, and special throughintercapital fares are provided to meet competition by sea and road ; but generally speaking, this unfortunate discrimination in respect of border rates exists, and is a very serious factor.
An exhaustive analysis of the whole of the intersystem goods and livestock traffic in Australia for the year ended the 31st December, 1922, which occupied twelve months and cost £10,000, was made by the Australian railways commissioners. This analysis was made in order to ascertain the effect on railway revenue and freight charges to the public by the introduction of through-rating for goods and livestock traffic. The Australian railways commissioners refused, on account of the adverse effect on railway finances, to introduce the system of through rating. It was contended that a uniform system of rating, without regard to State boundaries, would tend to the gravitation of traffic to the market or port geographically entitled to it. Apart from the restraint on trade, commodities are hauled unnecessary distances, entailing very serious economic waste. Owing to the present rating system, in many cases railway hauls are much longer than would be the case if the traffic crossed the border en route to the market or port of the adjoining State. There is no uniformity in the classification of goods in the different Australian railway systems; neither is there uniformity in the scales of the tapering rates. Both the classification and the scale of tapering rates have been framed on a State, rather than an Australia-wide basis. Some year3 ago, the Australian railways commissioners made an exhaustive investigation as to the financial effect of through-rating interstate traffic as against charging the sum of the local rates as at present. The investigation was made in respect of traffic for the year ended the 31st December, 1922, and showed that there would be a total saving to railway patrons, in reduced charges on goods and livestock traffic, of approximately £272,000 per annum. This, of course, would mean a corresponding loss of income to the various railway systems. The analysis showed that the loss to New South Wales on account of the Riverina traffic going to Melbourne and the Northern Rivers traffic going to Queensland would amount to over £380,000 per annum, whilst, by conversion to this through-rating system, Victoria would gain about £96,000 and South Australia £38,000 per annum. Other systems would have minor losses. These figures do not include the parcels or passenger traffic. Since this investigation was made sixteen years ago, newfactors have developed. The expenditure of twelve months’ labour by selected staffs in each capital city at a cost of not less than £10,000 is obviously notwarranted to bring the 1922 figures uptodate, as they broadly reflect- the present position with, of course, fluctuations of the actual financial result which is, in detail, unknown. Broadly, after taking all these new and changed factors into full consideration, it may be concluded that the introduction of interstate through-rating would result in great savings in freight charges and would encourage traffic to flow to its nearest port.. No doubt, it would involve serious losses of railway revenue in certain States and cause embarrassment to their railway finances, but that would have to be considered against the greater national aspects which are involved.
In 1936, the Commonwealth again listed the matter of standardization of gauges and through-rating for discussion at the Premiers conference held in Adelaide. The honorable member for Maribyrnong has drawn attention to the report on the subject contained in the proceedings of that conference. The matters were considered by a transport committee of the conference, consisting of Commonwealth and State Ministers for Transport. The committee, which displayed no enthusiasm for the further standardization of gauges, made the following recommendation, which was approved by the conference to which the honorable member for Maribyrnong has referred : -
In view of the progress which has been made in road and air transport, this committee considers that, before any decision is arrived at with respect of standardization of railway gauges, a further inquiry by a competent body should bc made, having special reference to the economic and defence aspects.
– Does the Minister consider the Transport Committee to be a competent authority?
– No ; but the whole matter has been under consideration hy representatives of all the railways commissioners in Australia since that time, who, in my opinion, are competent authorities.
– There has been no advertisement of that fact.
– The Transport Committee also recommended, and the conference approved -
That a conference of Ministers of Transport should be held at a date to be agreed upon for the purpose of considering railway and transport matters generally.
That decision, I have no doubt, was made because of the very genuine desire of my predecessor to achieve something definite in this direction, notwithstanding the entire lack of enthusiasm displayed by the representatives of the State governments at that particular time. The Commonwealth Government considered it desirable that the States be consulted regarding the preparation of an agenda for this conference of Ministers for Transport, and, early in 1937, it invited the States to nominate representatives as members of an agenda committee to confer with representatives of the Commonwealth in the preparation of a draft agenda. Meetings of the agenda committee have been held from time to time, and the Commonwealth proposes to invite the State Ministers for Transport to confer with Commonwealth representatives at a conference to be held early next year.
One subject, if not the most important amongst those to be considered by the conference, will be the standardization of railway gauges in Australia. This was placed on the agenda at the initiative of the Commonwealth and Victoria. That fact, I think, provides a complete answer to the charge levelled by the honorable member for Maribyrnong that this Government and its predecessors have been recreant to their trust in connexion with this issue. It is a live issue at the moment. I hope to be presiding within the next few months at a conference of Ministers of Transport, and I assure the House that if this matter is viewed with the same seriousness by the State Ministers for Transport as it will he regarded by me, we may look forward with confidence to some action being taken in connexion with this vitally important undertaking.
– Has the Government considered increasing its quota above the 20 per cent, originally offered ?
– That is a matter for discussion by the Minister for Transport. I shall raise no obstacle in that regard.
– The matter is one of importance from a defence point of view.
– The Minister for Defence will presently have something to say on that aspect. The break of railway gauges is the one thing which, perhaps more than anything else, emphasizes and tends to perpetuate State consciousness, thereby preventing the full realization of Australian nationhood, something we possess in name, but not in fact. I suggest that if we can eliminate this break of gauge we shall take a big step forward towards breaking down State consciousness, and towards removing the evils associated with it. It is not, however, sufficient to eliminate the physical break of gauge if we permit the continuation of the break of gauge on the rate books of the various railway systems. I know that to bring about a complete system of through rating would cause serious loss to at least one State, but I a.m not prepared to accept that as an insuperable barrier to the achievement of the ideal of one gauge and one system of through rating. All Commonwealth governments, irrespective of- party, that have been in power since the royal commission sat on this question in 1921, have been earnest in their desire to achieve a standard railway gauge for Australia. I hope that while I am in office I may be able to contribute something further towards the achievement of this objective, even if I am not able to bring the scheme actually to fulfilment.
. -I warmly commend the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) for bringing forward this matter of major public policy, and for endeavouring to stir the Government into activity. I desire also to congratulate the honorable member upon the very informative and helpful speech he delivered this afternoon. There is no doubt that he has made a thorough study of the subject.
The Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen), in his reply, was at some pains to try to exonerate his Government from blame for the delay that has taken place, and he indicated that there was some hope for the future in a conference that was to be convened early in the new year. Unless that conference is more fruitful than some recent conferences have been, I cannot believe that there is much ground for the Minister’s optimism. If this Government is not wholly responsible for the delays that have taken place it cannot escape all responsibility. I am convinced, however, that the problem will not be solved until we have federal control of the railway systems of Australia.
– Then do not blame the Commonwealth in the meantime.
– I believe that there are certain interests, from which State railway commissioners, and others in the railway services, are not wholly dissociated, which are primarily responsible for the delays that have taken place.
– That is an important factor.
– I hold that opinion strongly. I feel that a golden opportunity was missed, during the period of the depression, to do something towards standardizing railway gauges. At that time, there was an unprecedented number of unemployed, and materials could be bought more cheaply than at any time before or since. That was the time for the Government to launch a scheme for the standardization of gauges as a major undertaking for the relief of unemployment. A considerable saving would have been effected, and the work would by now have been far advanced. The present position in regard to our railway gauges is absurd. Two things about Australia, are inexplicable to observant visitors, and to those abroad who are interested in our affairs. They cannot understand how we tolerate the existing duplication of governments, and they cannot understand why we permit the existing breaks of railway gauge to continue. These things are put forward as showing how backward Australia really is. I was a member of a parliamentary committee which, in 1925, investigated certain aspects of defence and the supply of munitions. “We had a very distinguished member of the Australian Military Forces before us for examination who stated in evidence that it would take six weeks to transport a division of troops, with the necessary equipment, from the east of Australia to the west. If that is so, and I have no reason to believe otherwise, it indicates what a serious threat to the security of Australia is inherent in the present sys tem of varying railway gauges. Although developments in road transport have done much to remove some of .the difficulties,’ it remains true that, in certain circumstances, railway transportation cannot be dispensed with. If railway gauges were standardized, important savings could be effected by having uniform rolling-stock, stores and supplies, and by having standardized repair shops and equipment throughout the whole of the Commonwealth..
I suggest that the Commonwealth should make an earnest endeavour to solve this problem. If the States are not prepared to co-operate, the Commonwealth should move to secure such power as would enable it to assume control of all the railway systems of Australia. The Prime Minister in his policy speech of 1934 made a definite promise that the standardization of railway gauges would be regarded as a question of major importance, but it is only when the Opposition arouses the interest of members of the Government in this matter that it is permitted to have any knowledge of what the Government’s intentions are.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- 1 welcome this opportunity to discuss this important national question, but I regret that the honorable gentleman who moved the adjournment of the House in order to initiate this discussion should - endeavour to make party political capital out of it. Many efforts have been made to right the wrong that was done in the development of our railways systems in the early days, but, in recent years, all of the efforts by the Commonwealth Government towards the standardization of the railway gauges have been hindered by some of the State governments, on which lies the responsibility for the failure to standardize the railway gauges. I have no doubt, and I am sure that every honorable gentleman shares my feelings, as to the ‘urgent need to standardize the Australian railways systems, and I regret the lack of desire of some of the State governments to cooperate with the Commonwealth Government, which has caused the delay.
– It would be hard to justify that statement.
– The only efforts that have been made to carry out the recommendations of the Royal Commission on the Standardization of Railway Gauges, which were made in 1921, have been made by the Bruce-Page Government and by the Lyons Government. The Bruce-Page Government constructed the standard 4-ft.81/2-in. gauge line from Kyogle to South Brisbane; the Lyons Government constructed the standard gauge line from Port Augusta to Port Pirie.
– Does the honorable member ignore the trans-Australia line?
– If the right honorable gentleman would listen he would know that I am referring to the efforts that have been made since 1921. Special Premiers conferences on this question were called by the Commonwealth Government in 1924 and again in 1934.
The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) interjected earlier in the debate that New South Wales should receive its share of any standardization work. I point out to the honorable gentleman that the responsibility for the tangle of railway gauges in Australia to-day lies with New South Wales.
In the year 1851 the adoption of a 4- ft. 81/2-in. gauge was proposed and strongly supported in the new colony of Victoria and in the province of South Australia, but the Government of New South Wales preferred a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge, and in July, 1852, an act of council was passed whereby the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge was made compulsory under heavy penalties in the colony of New South Wales. This gauge was then reluctantly adopted in Victoria and South Australia and the Melbourne to Hobsons Bay railway was built with a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge in June, 1853. In the following August, New South Wales passed an act revoking the 5- ft. 3-in. standard which it had forced on Victoria and South Australia, and adopted the 4-ft. 8-1/2-in. standard which had been preferred by Victoria and South Australia.
The Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) referred to the royal commission which was appointed in 1921. It was an independent commission, and it consisted of Mr. R. Blake, of England;
Mr. F. M. Whyte, of the United States of America; and Mr. J. J. Garvan, of Sydney. The Minister pointed out that the proposal placed before the royal commission for inquiry was the linking of Fremantle and Brisbane through the’ capital cities with a uniform railway gauge of 4 ft. 81/2 in. At that time it was estimated that the cost wouldbe £21,600,000.
The amount to be expended within each State was allocated as follows: -
It was proposed that the work should be done by the expenditure over eight years of the amount of £2,700,000 a year. I submit that that amount of expenditure would not have been difficult in those days. It would not be excessive to-day, but as the result of the delay, the estimated cost has risen. In the case of Victoria alone it was estimated that the cost of altering the permanent way was- 1897, £350,000 ; 1913, £3,569,000 (ten times greater), and 1921, £5,240,000 (fifteen times greater). Every year of delay adds to the cost and adversely affects the development of Australia. Other nations have had to tackle this problem and as the result of their having clone so, they have made greater progress than is being made in Australia to-day. The United States of America started the conversion of its seven differentrailway gauges in 1886, and approximately 13,000 miles of railways were converted to a standard gauge. In consequence, the United States of America has reaped the benefit of enhanced prosperity. Australia’s prosperity would increase if the breaks of gauge were eliminated. The royal commission of 1921 reported -
Any time or money spent on a thirdrail or mechanical device will bo wasted.
Experience has shown that that is so.
Earlier in my speech I referred to the fact that the Bruce-Page Government was responsible for the construction of the line from Kyogle to South Brisbane. Towards the cost of that standard gauge line the Governments of the Commonwealth, New South Wales and Queens- land contributed. Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia should have contributed but did not do so, the Commonwealth consequently paying not only its own share but also that of Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. That alone indicates the enthusiasm and anxiety of the Commonwealth to convert the Australian railways systems on a standard gauge basis. The adoption of a uniform gauge is essential for Australia from economical and defence viewpoints. In times of drought or other trouble, if the gauges were standardized, rolling stock which was not needed in one State could be lent on an economic basis to other States. There could be a free interchange of rolling-stock. Because this exchange is not possible, every State has to construct sufficient rolling stock to be able to meet the peak period of production, and this is not economical.
It would require 100 trains to shift an army division. We have in Australia seven divisions, five infantry and two cavalry. It would be difficult enough to transport a division from one part of Australia across the continent on a standardized railway gauge, but it would be a colossal task to try to do so with breaks of gauge. A uniform gauge is therefore of great importance to assist in the development of the defence measures. lt has been said that the breaks of gauge aro of benefit to troops because they provide the means by which the troops can have a rest out of the carriages, but that rest could easily be provided in other ways. The standardization of the gauges should be started without delay in order to serve the interests of Australia from the point of view of defence and economic developmental needs.
– I support, the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) because I believe that the standardization of railway gauges is a question of national importance that the Government must be- prepared i.o face. It has been stated in the press on a number of occasions that military authorities say that it is not necessary for defence reasons to standardize railway gauges, but personally I cannot believe that any man with military experience would make such a statement.
Defence experts may say that there are other measures more necessary for defence than the standardisation of railway gauges, but they would not deny that standardization is absolutely vital to the effective defence of this country. Before the standard gauge line from Port Pirie to Port Augusta was constructed, I investigated the question of the time that would be taken to shift a military division from Sydney to Perth and estimated that it would occupy about five weeks. That is a crime against the defence of Australia.
The removal of the breaks of gauge, like the abolition of the extra impost on interstate telegrams, would help to develop a national spirit in Australia. The Commonwealth Government must face the fact that these steps are necessary to foster a better spirit in this country.
Victoria at present is suffering from a severe drought and is dependent for forage on the more favoured portions of New South Wales. The extra cost which would be saved in bringing forage from New South Wales to Victoria and the cost of transport of other goods over the two railways systems would go a long way towards meeting the cost of standardization of the gauges. These artificial barriers between the States are fundamentally wrong.
– Victoria wants everything.
– I assure the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) that New South Wales is the most vulnerable State in the Commonwealth and in the event of war against Australia would be the first to be attacked, and that residents of New South Wales would squeal like hades for Victorians to come to their assistance. Practically every honorable member agrees that this is a vital matter, which Australia as a nation must be prepared to face.
– I believe that all honorable members will commend the enthusiasm and knowledge which the mover of this motion, the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) has brought to the subject before the Chair. The honorable member possesses specialized knowledge on this particular subject, and anything that he may say in connexion with it must receive very serious consideration.
I wish to make a few remarks concerning the standardization of railway gauges from the viewpoint of the department that I am at present administering. I shall endeavour to discuss the matter in its proper perspective in connexion with the whole of the defence problem of Australia. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin), whose military knowledge we all respect, “hit the nail on the head “ when he said that it is a matter of degree of priority. What priority does standardization of the railway gauges take in the defence problem of Australia? The Commonwealth Government is at present undertaking the rehabilitation and strengthening of the fighting forces, and the development of the local production of munitions. This policy, of course, is directed towards obtaining security from the most likely form of attack. When these proposals are completed, Australia will be reasonably well protected against scales of hostile seaward bombardment or air attack, and against raids that might be made by enemy landing parties.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) gave an illustration of the length of time which would be involved in moving troops from east to west, “and the honorable member for Hindmarsh fixed the time at six weeks. There are two big factors which govern this matter. One is the size of the attack made on the threatened spot and consequentially the size of the force it would be necessary to move.
– That relates to a division. What is the number of troops in a division?
– About 20,000. For the policy of defence against raids, which is the present aim of the Government, the interstate movement of large bodies of troops is not envisaged ; consequently, from a purely military viewpoint, for the implementation of this policy it cannot be said that the standardization of the railway gauges is urgently needed; the existing facilities would very well meet the army requirements for that form of attack. The combined defence and developmental programme on which the Commonwealth Government is engaged represents a very large financial commitment; and the Government is .at present considering extra financial provision for the remaining requirements, including any additional preparations recommended by the service boards as the result of the recent emergency. When further preparations are undertaken to resist large-scale attacks on the vital centres of Australia, Parliament will again be asked to provide, first, the most direct forms of defence, represented by man power, war materiel, and preparations for additional supplies of munitions. It is obvious that those must take priority over the improvement or the development of our railway systems. It would- be totally unwise to devote to the standardization of our railway gauges the very large sum required for the work while man power, materiels and munitions remained inadequate. In the event of a large-scale attack, it might be necessary to concentrate troops by interstate movement. Everybody must agree that for this purpose the ability to move troops without the delay caused by breaks of gauge would be an enormous advantage. The honorable member for Bendigo. I have no doubt, has a very good personal recollection of what happened to the Turkish army when, in trying to escape, it encountered a break of railway gauge. The movement of large bodies of troops, however, is governed by railway capacity, which in turn is dependent on a large number of factors. The defence requirements of the railway systems can, in effect, be met by carrying out the following projects in order of priority :
The development of transfer facilities at break-of-gauge stations.
The duplication of certain sections of our railway lines.
The ballasting of lines which may be required for heavy military traffic.
The provision of certain new railwaylines; and finally, the standardization of certain lines.
The process of. standardizing the gauges of the whole of our railway systems, however desirable it may be, cannot in the last resource be said to be essential for effective defence against the most likely form of attack; it is paramount first to re-arm the defence forces for that purpose, lu accordance with resolutions passed at a recent conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, the Government is examining earlier items of priority with a view to further consultation with the States on the subject.
– What is the idea of increasing the militia if there is no danger of invasion?
– It has been decided to increase the strength of the militia to 70,000 in order to deal with defence against raids, not against invasion. ‘ The number is to be increased because, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) said quite recently in this House, the advice has been tendered to the Government to step up the man-power in order of priority so as to make it equal with that of material. Shortly stated, that is the reason why the militia forces are to be doubled.
As other honorable members wish to speak on the matter, I merely remind the House that, from a purely defence viewpoint, to implement a policy of defence against raids, the standardization of the railway gauges cannot be said to be essential.
Sir -Frederick Stewart. - Would we have time to change our policy when an enemy has changed its tactics and invaded instead of raided?
– I do not know whether the honorable member heard me when I mentioned the order of priority which it is considered it is essential that railway works should take, commencing with the improvement of break-of-gauge facilities where breaks of gauge occur.
– According to the honorable gentleman, standardization comes last.
– Yes. From a purely defence point of view, it is believed that the improvement of break-of-gauge facilities, the duplication of certain sections, the ballasting of certain other sections for heavy traffic, and the provision of some new railway lines, are more essential in order of priority than is the standardization of the railway gauges.
– Does the Minister think’ that if the British fleet were tied up in European waters, Australia would have only raids to fear?
– I do not envisage a situation arising in which Australia could not get help from the British fleet.
– I have listened with more than ordinary interest to the debate on this particular matter. I join with other honorable members in congratulating the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford)’ on the thoughtfulness he has displayed in the preparation of the material for the speech he has’ made to-day. I know from contact with that honorable member that he has given a good deal of consideration to this matter over a period of years. As an ex-railwayman, he has an inside knowledge of the disabilities caused by breaks-of-gauge. In some degree I can join with him, because, as most honorable members know, I also have some knowledge of railways and railway works.
I cannot say that I was very greatly impressed with the opening remarks of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen). In the first place, he attacked the Opposition on the ground that it was making this a party political question. I assert that the attitude of the Opposition has been amply justified to-day, because it has brought from the Government a statement of its future proposals in this regard. Digressing for a moment, the policy of the Government seems to be one of secrecy. The House is told nothing of what action it proposes to take until the Opposition moves a motion for the adjournment of the House or a censure motion. It is interesting to note that the Minister for the Interior went to a lot of pains to justify the Government’s ineptitude in this matter. It is merely begging the question to say that the Commonwealth Government has resolutely set about tackling the problem of the breaks of gauge. Practically only at election time do we hear anything of the project. An attempt to “ pass the buck “ to the States is not an answer to the charge levelled by the Opposition. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) in 1934 made a very definite statement as to what was to be done. How much has been done since that time? The honorable member for
Maribyrnong has demonstrated how long it would taKe to effect the standardization of the whole of the railway gauges of Australia at the rate of progress so far made by this Government.
The Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) has tackled the matter from the point of view of the Department of Defence. He has made the amazing statement that that department regards standardization as of the least importance. He has spoken of providing transport, of ballasting certain already constructed railways, and of building new lines. It may be argued that the general standardization of the railway systems throughout Australia could be placed last; but, in my view, the standardization of essential trunk lines for the purpose of moving troops from one point to another, even if only to provide against raids, is essential, so that transport may be effected in the most expeditious way. It is easy to visualize the hopeless mess Australia would be in if it became necessary to shift large numbers of our population quickly.
The necessity for standardized railway gauges in Australia has been discussed since the very early days of settlement in this country. Away back in 1840 the issue was before the public. But as the years have gone by, different States have built railways of varying gauges. It seems to me that the time has now come for the ‘Commonwealth Government to take the initiative. Nothing will be done to correct the present deplorable condition if we wait for agreement among the States. The Prime Minister declared in his policy speech in 1934 that the standardization of railway gauges would he an important element in government policy if his party were returned to power. Yet in 1938, we are told that all the Government can do is to call another conference in 1939 ! The 1934 promise of the Prime Minister has therefore gone the way of many other promises he has made. The right honorable gentleman could have given effect to his undertakings if he had been strongly disposed to do so, for his Government has always had a majority in both Houses of the legislature. Yet, although eminent visiting railway men, as well as military leaders, from other countries have referred in almost scathing terms to the impossible position created by our different railway gauges, nothing has been done in any effective way to remedy the position. The Government has lamentably failed either to declare a policy on the subject or to put in hand any effective work. In the United States of America, the gauges of 13,000 miles of railway have been standardized since 1S86, and to-day the United States of America has 305,000 miles of 4-ft. 8$-ki. gauge railway.
– What was the cost of the standardization operations?
– I have not those figures at hand. If the United States of America could carry out an undertaking of this description Australia could also do it.
I entirely -disagree with the view expressed a few moments ago by the Minister for Defence (Mr. .Street.) on the importance of standardized railway gauges for defence purposes. Military experts have declared that under existing conditions it would take five weeks to transport 20,000 men from the eastern States to Western Australia. Surely some effective steps should be taken immediately to correct such a major disability. Although the Government proposes to spend £43,000,000 on defence works within the next two or three years, no effort is to “be made, apparently, to standardize our railway gauges. I strongly support the attitude of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) on this subject. Sir FREDERICK STEWART (Parramatta) [4.58]. - Like the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) I agree that the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) has brought under our notice a subject of transcendent importance to the Commonwealth-; and I endorse the view of the Minister that he somewhat spoilt his action by importing into the discussion a degree of political rancour which the circumstances do not justify. I take second place to no honorable member in this chamber in my anxiety to see our railway gauges standardized; but if we wish to look for the real culprits to blame for the delay that has occurred, we must look beyond the Commonwealth Government. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) spoke truly when he said that there was little hope of any real advance being made in connexion with this matter until such time as the whole of the railways of Australia are under Commonwealth control. I would even go farther than that. I believe that, unwittingly or otherwise, the honorable member for Hindmarsh exculpated the Commonwealth . Government from blame, although some of his colleagues have roundly condemned it. I was pleased to hear the Minister for the Interior say that the subject will be revived in the new year. I hope that the resurrection on this occasion will be effective. Reference has been made in the course of this discussion to a promise purported to have been made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) in his policy speech in 1934. Too much has been made of the right honorable gentleman’s observations on that occasion, for all that he said was that, in seeking means by which the unemployed, people of Australia could be put back into work, consideration would be given to large public works such as the standardization of our railway gauges.No definite or specific promise wasmade under this heading. Had a definite undertaking been given, I might still have been Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Employment, for I could have bound the Prime Minister down to a definite promise.
-Why did not the honorable member retain his position?
– As ethics have no part in the make-up of the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney), he would not understand my reasons if I gave them. As the Minister for the Interior stated, the ‘Commonwealth Government has been chiefly responsible for the only two works that have been put in baud to implement the 1921 report of the Royal Commission on Railway Gauges. He referred to the construction of the Kyogle to South Brisbane line and the Port Augusta to Port Pirie line. I was rather surprised that he did not dwell a little longer on the part that the Commonwealth Government had taken in the construction of the Kyogle to South Brisbane line. The plain fact is that certain States are still delinquents in connexion with that work, in that they are not bearing their share of the cost of it.
– What States are they?
– Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. I also recall that when this subject was revived in 1934, and it was suggested that many of our unemployed men could be put to useful work on railway gauge standardization enterprises, the greatest difficultyI encountered, in endeavouring to secure an agreement, was with the Victorian Government, which wa3 unwilling to fall into line with the other State governments. Fair play to the Commonwealth Government demands that these facts should be made public.
– Has any honorable member suggested that the whole of the. blame rests upon the Commonwealth Government?
– Any one listening to this debate this afternoon would be justified in reaching such a conclusion.
– The Commonwealth Government should carry the blame.
– I leave the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) to fight it out with his colleague, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). Two main reasons may be given for undertaking this important work. The first is commercial. Every one must be well acquainted with the tremendous disadvantage that our breaks of gauge impose upon commercial enterprises in the transport of goods from one part of the Commonwealth to another. But, in the limited time at my disposal, I propose to concentrate my attention upon the second reason for undertaking this work; that is, its defence significance. For many years the defence authorities had indulged in a great deal of shilly-shallying and back-pedalling on this subject. I was sorry to hear the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) say a few moments ago that, in order of priority in defence undertakings, the standardization of our railway gauges was a long way down. It is hard to reconcile that view with the statement made recently by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to the effect that, in defence work, priorities need not be considered, for no difficulty would be encountered in securing all the finance necessary to implement a complete defence policy. While it may be true that, so long as our defence experts consider our immediate danger is more likely to come from raids than from invasion, the standardization of our railway gauges might not be of vital importance; but what will happen when these experts change their views, or when prospective enemies of Australia change their views, and invasion becomes more likely than raiding?
– When troops have to be transported for great distances, it is essential to detrain them now and again, and that could be done at break-of-gauge stations.
– I am aware that some people are reluctant to see this work put in hand because of what they regard as its unconscionable cost. But the Minister for the Interior has reminded us that, although the ultimate cost of the standardization of the whole of the railway systems of Victoria and South Australia, and of the trunk lines from Kalgoorlie to Brisbane, is estimated at £21,000,000, it has never been proposed that the whole amount shall be provided in one financial y*ear, or that the burden of providing it shall fall upon one Treasury. 1 hope that at the conference which is to he held, the Commonwealth Government will be prepared to liberalize its offer, having regard particularly to the commercial and defence aspects of this question. The Minister also said, and quite truly, that it would be quite useless to adopt a uniform gauge of 4 ft. 8^ in. unless at the same time the artificial barriers which exist between the States were removed.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time. The time allowed for this debate has now expired.
– I move -
That so much of thu Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the. debate being continued until a quarter-past six o’clock p.m.
At the request of a number of honorable members who desire to speak on this important question, I approached the Government to ascertain whether it would be prepared to allow the debate to continue until 6.15 p.m. My proposal was agreed to on the understanding that the
Opposition would agree to Government business being proceeded with at 8 o’clock to-night.
– I would like to indicate that in consideration of the terms mentioned by the Deputy .Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), the Government is willing to support the motion.
Motion agreed to.
.-l support the motion moved by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford). I desire at the outset to tender my congratulations to the honorable member for bringing this matter forward, not only on this occasion, but also on other occasions, because, in my opinion, it is one of vital importance to the welfare of this country. The charge that he has endeavoured to make party political capital out of it cannot be sustained. His justification for bringing the matter prominently under the notice of the Government and of the people generally, is the promise made by the Prime Minister on the hustings, but never honoured, .that the standardization of railway gauges was a part of his policy that would be put into effect. The Commonwealth in the past has undertaken a rather unique duty in the construction of railways in parts of Australia where the State governments themselves could not possibly contemplate the task. The railways constructed by the Commonwealth in outback and desert regions of more than one State have no possibility of ever being profitable. State governments have restricted their railway construction to serve those areas where they are likely to secure a financial return for their investments. It has been said during this debate that Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia contributed -nothing towards the building of the Brisbane-Kyogle railway. It is true that the financing of that venture was left to Queensland, New South Wales and the Commonwealth; but, of course, only those two States derived any immediate benefit from the construction of that line. When it is able to secure the essential standard-gauge railway from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle. Western Australia will be quite prepared to pay its share of the money expended on that work. I think that sometimes the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, Mr. Gahan, is rather over-anxious to try to make a profitable venture out of his desert railway, which traverses the Nullabor Plain, formerly called the Victoria Desert, 400 miles wide, and larger in area than the State of Victoria. Because of this anxiety on his part the employees on the East-West railway, who are called upon to work under adverse conditions in desert areas, have had to fight to secure decent conditions. However, I have no wish to pursue that matter further at this stage. We have every reason to be proud of the railway service between Port Pirie and Kalgoorlie. Not only have we air-conditioned cars supplying maximum comfort to passengers not equalled by any other railway system in the Commonwealth, but also the time occupied by the journey from the eastern States to Perth has recently been cut down by one day. The services rendered by the staff could not be bettered. The Commonwealth has constructed, not only the East- West line, but also a line from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs, 1,000 miles inland, and a line from Pine Creek to Birdum. The huge capital expenditure involved in the construction of the EastWest line, amounting to approximately £7,000,000, precludes any possibility of the venture being a profitable one for some considerable time. I am visionary enough to believe that when Western Australia is able to absorb a larger population, the East- West line will begin to return interest on the capital investment. This will occur, not, perhaps, in my time, but in the not very distant future. Whilst five years ago the grouped railway systems operated by the Commonwealth earned £77,000 less than working expenses, the latest figures show that they have earned £31,436 above working expenses. This increase in five years looks hopeful for the future, particularly when it is considered that the primary objective in the construction of these systems was not to secure a return for the expenditure involved.
I was very pleased, indeed, to hear the illuminating remarks of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) to-day in regard to this important subject, and I feel sure that honorable mem bers generally would be pleased to listen with interest to many more speeches of that kind. With a good deal of diffidence, knowing his wide knowledge of the subject, I totally disagree with his contention that the Commonwealth railways are not essential from a defence point of view. If the Government’s campaign to increase the voluntary enlistments in the militia from 47,000 to 70,000 is successful, it is. necessary to arrange for the expeditious transport of troops and war material in the event of emergency. I have no desire to be regarded as a scaremonger when I inform honorable members that if I were the enemy and knew something about this country, I should attack that portion of the continent least able to defend itself. That, of course, would be the coast line of Western Australia. Once an enemy contacted the shore line of Western Australia, he would be within 400 miles of the finest gold-mines in the Commonwealth, which produce £10,000,000 worth of gold per annum. And once in possession of those mines, he would be in a position to dictate terms to the eastern States. One means by which Western Australia’s unfortunate position in this regard might quickly be remedied would be the conversion of the existing track of 3-f t. 6-in. gauge from Port Pirie to Broken Hill to the standard gauge of 4 ft. S-J in. That would immediately bring Western Australia into direct touch with the eastern States and would enable the ready and effective transport of troops and war material from Brisbane and Sydney to Kalgoorlie and Perth. I advocate that as a desirable first step in a general scheme for the standardization of railway gauges which could be undertaken relatively cheaply. If that work were put in hand, the rolling-stock of the whole of the New South Wales railway system of over 6,000 miles could be diverted to South Australia and Western Australia in case of an invasion of the western coast-line of the Commonwealth. My suggestion should commend itself to the Government if it is prepared to do something in regard to this matter in a really big way. It might be said, of course, that people from Victoria and South Australia would not be very keen about the undertaking of that work at the present times - naturally, they would want the big scheme undertaken first - but, in my opinion, it is one that should commend itself to people generally because of its importance from a defence aspect. In order to point out the desirability of something being done to bring about the unification of railway gauges, I cite the following figures relating to the mileages of lines of different gauges in the various States : -
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) has performed a useful service in bringing up a question which is of such great interest to the whole of Australia. We know that he has considerable technical knowledge of this subject, and that he is enthusiastic with respect to the standardization of railway gauges, and for that reason I listened with great interest to his speech this afternoon. Perhaps, at the outset, I might be permitted to allude to a characteristic interjection of the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane), by which he showed to the House what his attitude is with respect to this question. In his opinion, it is, apparently, not of great interest to New South Wales, but is rather one for Victoria and South Australia to look after. Might I say to the honorable gentleman that it was through the action of New South Wales many years ago that Victoria was induced to construct its railways on the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge and that, as a loyal New South Welshman, he cannot altogether rid himself of responsibility on behalf of his State for what happened. The position, if I might briefly recall the circumstances, was that at that time the New South Wales Government had the services of an Irish engineer, who naturally thought that the 5-ft. 3-in gauge of his own country on the other side of the world was the best gauge to adopt in Australia. He succeeded in convincing the New South Wales Government that that was the best gauge, and that Government took the matter up with the Government of Victoria which, prior to that, had intended to adopt the 4-ft. 8-1/2-in gauge. It was only due to pressure from the New South Wales Government of some 80 years ago that Victoria was induced to adopt the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge for its proposed railway system. [Quorum formed.]
– I remind the honorable member for Barton further that the Irish engineer in New South Wales was succeeded by a Scottish engineer, who had just as strong a belief in the 4-ft. 81/2-in. gauge as had his predecessor in the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge, with the result that he succeeded in inducing the Government of New South Wales to change its opinion, and to begin building on the 4-ft. 81/2-in. gauge. The Government of New South Wales tried to get the Government of Victoria to change also, but the Victorian Government evidently thought then that as it had somersaulted once on the advice of New South Wales in order to adopt the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge, it would now adhere to that gauge. This had the rather extraordinary result that the State of New
South Wales, which had intended to build on 5 ft. 3 in., evenutally built on 4 ft. 81/2 in., while Victoria, which had intended to build on 4 ft. 81/2 in., actuallybuilt on 5 ft. 3 in. The honorable member for Barton cannot relieve his State of all responsibility for what happened.
I desire to remind honorable members of what was done by the Bruce-Page Government in connexion with the building of the Kyogle to South Brisbane line, which was the first step to standardize the gauges. By the construction of that line from Kyogle through the Macpherson Ranges to South Brisbane, 100 miles was cut off the distance between Sydney and the Queensland capital, a good deal of climbing was avoided, and there was a saving of seven hours. The Commonwealth Government not only accepted its own responsibility in accordance with the agreement to provide one-fifth of the cost, but ‘ also provided the amount which really should have been furnished by Western Australia, Victoria and South Australia. The only two States which contributed anything, besides the Common wealth, were Queensland and New South Wales. While that railway was being constructed - and the work was done while I was Minister for Transport in the Bruce-Page Government - we were also conducting negotiations with the Government of South Autsralia in an endeavour to induce it to agree to the next step in the process of standardization, which would provide a 4-ft. 8-1/2-in. gauge line right through from Adelaide to Kalgoorlie. There is no harm in mentioning now that at that time we tried to induce the Government of South Australia to sell to the Commonwealth the Red Hill line as far as Salisbury, a junction about thirteen miles north of Adelaide. The Commonwealth Government intended to convert this line to a 4-ft. 81/2-in. gauge and to extend it from Red Hill to Port Augusta. We did not succeed in inducing the Government of South Australia to agree to this proposal. Then that government was defeated, and the depression followed. The next step occurred during the life of the last Parliament, when I was Minister for the Interior. After a great deal of effort, we succeeded in getting the Government of South Australia to accept a compromise by which it agreed to extend its 5-ft. 3-in. gauge railway from Adelaide to Red Hill, a few miles northward to Port Pirie, and we brought the transcontinental down as far as Port Pirie, which made a much better break-of-gauge station than Red Hill would have done, because it was a town of considerable importance. Now passengers may travel from Melbourne to Kalgoorlie on only two trains, whereas previously they travelled in four different trains. They travelled in one from Melbourne to Adelaide, in another from Adelaide to Terowie, in another from Terowie to Port Augusta, on a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, and then in a fourth from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie, on the 4-ft.81/2-in. gauge. Then, in order to continue their journey to Perth, they had to change again to a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge train. As the result of the construction of this new line via Port Pirie, the total distance between Adelaide and Port Augusta was reduced by 70 miles, and instead of there being inclines of 1 in 40, and curves with a radius of 40 chains, the steepest incline now is 1 in 100, and there are no sharp curves. This, together with the speeding up that has taken place on the Commonwealth transcontinental line, has enabled a day to be saved on the total journey to the west. The next step - and I speak as an Australian rather than as a Victorian - should be to construct a 4-ft. 81/2-in. gauge railway line from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle. After that, very serious consideration should be given to converting the present 3-ft. 6-in. track from Broken Hill toPort Pirie to 4 ft. Si in. If that were done, it would be possible to use the same rolling stock from Brisbane to Fremantle.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- This debate is unique in that not one of those who has so far spoken has opposed the motion for the adjournment of the House. Transport is a matter of national importance, and is intimately bound up with the welfare of the people. I am not convinced that the conference, which the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) told us is to be held in
Melbourne next year, will result in the standardization of our railway gauges. We are only too familiar with the procrastination of this Government in connexion with this and other matters. I should like to receive an assurance from the Minister that the Government intends to increase its quota of the cost of carrying out this work, because only in that way will it be possible to induce the smaller States to become enthusiastic supporters of the scheme.
Much has been made of the importance of this work in our defence scheme, and it has been suggested that other works should, perhaps, have priority over it. Practically every question that has been before this Parliament recently has been clouded by .the raising of the defence issue. Defence seems to be first and foremost in the minds of honorable members. This I regret, because the standardization of railway gauges was an urgent problem long before we had any potential enemies on our flank. Honorable members are tending to make a fetish of defence matters. The Government is even inaugurating a campaign of national fitness for defence purposes, but I do not agree that the people should he made fit simply that they may become cannon fodder. This matter of the standardization of railway gauges should be viewed from the angle of social and economic welfare to the community, rather than of defence.
In 1846, a royal commission in England reported in favour of a uniform gauge, and an act passed in the same year made 4 ft. 8£ in. the standard gauge for England. On the 30th June, 1848, the Colonial Office suggested to tha Governors of New South Wales and Western Australia that a uniform gauge should be decided on, “ with a view to the probability of the meeting, at some future, though probably distant, period, of the lines, not only in the same settlement, -but by a junction of those constructed .in the adjacent colonies.” The English commissioners favoured the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge which had been adopted by South Australia, and the British authorities asked New South Wales, which then included Victoria, and Western Australia to conform to that gauge.
Because of the break of gauge of Australian railways, it is impossible for rolling-stock to be interchanged except in a small measure between Victoria and South Australia. If we take privatelyowned railways into consideration, South Australia has six different gauges, Western Australia, Victoria and New South Wales four each, Queensland three, and Tasmania two. The Commonwealth Territories, Federal and Northern, are the only areas with one gauge each, and those gauges are not the same. The actual position in regard to railway gauges in Australia is set out in the following table: -
The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) made an excellent contribution to this debate, but what he suggested would not be sufficient to meet the needs. “When the 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge line was constructed from Kyogle to South Brisbane, it was assumed that 4 ft. 8$ in. was to be the standard railway gauge for Australia, but there is no guarantee of that, because who knows but that the Defence Department will suggest at the conference next year that a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge should be the standard. It has been my experience since I entered this Parliament that the Defence Department from day to day has altered its opinions and decisions.
Standardization of the railway gauges would enable a State to draw on the rolling stock of other States if its own rolling stock were, for the time being, insufficient to cope with the traffic that would result from a good season. In the present circumstances in New .South Wales the delivery of wool, wheat, and other primary products is often delayed because of the insufficiency of rolling stock.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), who is to be commended for initiating this important and interesting discussion, has given a great deal of the time to research into the subject of the standardization of railway gauges. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) was Tight when he declared that, quite apart from the huge cost which the conversion would entail and the absence of any practicable plan, delay was due to friction among the States and between these and the Commonwealth Government. That spirit too often prevents successful co-operation between the Commonwealth and the various States on matters which concern railways, health and social services, and even defence. Tho national spirit which should characterize discussions of such matters is swamped by waves of interstate friction and jealousy. Sooner or later the people of Australia will demand a revision of the Constitution in order that the national machinery should run more smoothly. [Quorum formed.]
My main reason for speaking is to redirect the attention of the Government, towards the possibility of the exploitation of what is known as the Boock breakofgauge device as an alternative to the construction of a standard gauge. That device has been investigated by several Australian experts and I understand that it has” been the subject of favorable reports by many of them, including the chief engineer of the New South Wales railways, Mr. Young, and Sir George Julius, whose mechanical genius needs no elaboration by me. A model of the device was exhibited recently in King’s Hall, and, accordingly, most honorable members must be aware of the way in which it is operated. Is is a simple process and I shall not spend time in discussing its working. The main feature of it is that its adoption would involve expenditure of a trifling amount of money, compared with that which would be involved in the standardization of railway gauges. Whereas the standard gauge would mean the re-laying of thousands of miles of railway tracks, all that would be involved in the use of the break-of-gauge device would be an alteration of the rolling stock. As a preliminary, the principals of the Boock break-of-gauge device have offered a practical demonstration. I urge that, even if the Commonwealth Government be involved in the outlay of a few thousand pounds, it should finance the construction, on full scale, of a working model of the device in order that its efficacy could be tested. I feel that the device is worthy of a trial in view of the fact that it has been commended by experts.
– I join with other honorable members in commending the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) for his persistency in advocating the standardization of the Australian railway gauges. The view expressed by experts in Australia and in other parts of the world is that the standardization of the railway systems in Australia is one of the most vital subjects which the Commonwealth Parliament could discuss.
There is a misunderstanding as to Victoria’s attitude towards the standardization of the railway gauges. It has been suggested that Victoria holds back from guaranteeing its share of the cost, but it can be said truthfully that Victoria has been and is still anxious to play its part in the development of the project. The only obstacle so far as Victoria is concerned, is that it has never been able to obtain an assurance that the standardization, if re-started, would be carried to its conclusion. It fears that it would be left out of the scheme. The difficulty in the past has been that the standardization work has been done in dribs and drabs. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) suggests that it should be continued to be done in such a way, hut that is not the way in which a work of national importance should be undertaken. A definite guarantee should be given to the various State governments that the work will proceed on a long-range plan without interruption. If that assurance were given, not one State in Australia would hold back from guaranteeing its share of the cost. It is the absence of such an assurance that has made Victoria diffident about giving a definite promise that it would pay its share of the cost. Hitherto, it has been suggested that the standardization should be undertaken only in portions of South Australia and Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales not participating. The only way in which to achieve unanimity among the States on this question is by bringing them all within the project.
Most honorable members in this debate have stressed the defensive value of this standardization of our railway gauges. I agree with what they have said, but I take this opportunity to lay stress on another important aspect, namely, the good effect that standardization of the railway gauges would have on Australia’s economic development in peace time. The breaks of gauge at the borders which entail double handing costs and two freight charges impose an enormous and unnecessary burden on industry, and, if they were eliminated, the saving to the people of Australia would amply repay the cost of their elimination.
The Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) said that the history of the advocacy of the elimination of the breaks of gauge went back to 1921. Actually it goes back to 50 years earlier than that, but conversion of the gauges first became practical politics in 1911-12 when, strange to say, in spite of the claim by the Minister for the Interior that Labour had done nothing towards solution of the breaks-of-gauge problem, the Fisher Labour Government caused the construction of 1,000 miles of standard gauge railway, whereas in the 37 years since then anti-Labour governments have authorized the construction of only 300 miles. It is regrettable that tho party political aspect of this matter should have entered the debate, but, as it was introduced by the Minister for the Interior, it is only fair that I should bring before honorable gentlemen that which he refrained from mentioning.
The construction of a standard gauge in Australia would be of enormous benefit in reducing the number of unemployed, because at least half of the work would be done by unskilled workers for whom there is great difficulty in finding employment and on whom the State governments for many years have had to expend millions of pounds annually. I cannot cite exact figures, but I have no fear in saying that the expenditure in recent years on the provision of relief work and sustenance in the States for the unemployed has been more than double what it would have cost to standardize the Australian railway systems.
It has been said that the locomotive is the greatest mechanical pioneer in the development of a country, and I believe that for many years to come, the locomotive will play an important part in the destiny of Australia. In the last fifteen years, as the result of road and sea competition, the Australian railways have slipped back. The breaks of gauge and the additional handling costs thereby involved have made it too costly for manufacturers to use railways for the transportation of heavy articles from one end of the country to the other. As the result, industries have been situated within comfortable reach of ports, so that they can benefit by the cheaper sea freight charges. The aeroplane factory at Fishermen’s Bend is a case in point. Iron and steel works are similarly affected. They have been developed two or three hundred miles away from where the raw materials are mined in order that they may use the cheaper sea transport. Completion of the standardization of railway gauges would make it possible for the development of an iron and steel industry in “Western Australia at the site where the ore is mined.
With standardization making it possible to transport commodities which could be turned into the raw material for the manufacturing industries of Australia, there would be nothing to prevent the establishment of a large iron works with a rolling plant installed, right alongside the iron ore deposits of Western Australia, just as electricity is generated in close proximity to the brown coal deposits of Victoria. Leading captains of industry all over the world nowadays say that the most efficient, the only scientific, way, to commence new developmental processes, is to establish them at the point of production of the raw material. Western Australia would be a very necessary competitor of the only great iron works in this country.
I suggest that in peace time, as well as for purposes of defence, one of the most efficient works of this Government, even if it saddled itself with the greater portion of the cost - and I think that it ought to do so, because it controls the purse strings of this country - would be the completion of this scheme. If the plan suggested by the Minister this afternoon, which has given a lot of courage and hope to those who have advocated this scheme for so long, visualizes a complete plan which will bring all under an Australiawide scheme, no State would be hesitant; in paying its share of the cost. All of us can remember the visit to Australia of a great military expert from England to advise us as to the best methods to adopt in order to organize our forces generally. He made the remarkable statement that, in comparison with other countries, the Australian nation would be like the babes in the wood in war time, because of its complicated multiplication of railway gauges. Throughout Germany there is one mass of steel rails, every inch of which is of a standard gauge. (Leave Lo continue given.] I have seen the railways in some other countries. The reason for the adoption of standardization throughout is to minimize costs. I have seen in this country, at peak periods, in connexion with the handling of not only heavy commodities but also large numbers of people, half the rolling-stock out of use because it could not be shifted from one railway system to another. The same thing applies to our tramways systems. All over the world, experts in transport have, pointed out these anomalies, and have said that the aim should be to make possible the shunting of every piece of rolling-stock on to every line of railway in the country.
– One thing which emerges clearly from this debate, if indeed there were any need for it to emerge, is that honorable members on both sides- of the House believe that some effort should be made to standardize the railway gauges of Australia. This subject has been before the people of Australia for as long as I can remember, and it i3 a matter for regret that nothing concrete has been done towards the desired end. If ever the fallacy of the application of multiple control to big national subjects needed exemplification, it has been provided by Australia. The day is approaching when essential national services will have to be handed over to some supreme authority, and the sooner it arrives the better. The Commonwealth Government and every State government lost a golden opportunity to undertake a work of real value during the depression years, particularly, when they expended vast sums on the relief of unemployment in other directions, the great bulk of the money being wasted. Even to-day millions of pounds are being raised in Australia, particularly by State governments, for works for the relief of unemployment, and we know that a good deal of it is being wasted when it could be applied to the provision of employment, not only directly, but also indirectly, on this work, which would provide a cure for what is undoubtedly a national malady. One can travel the entire length of Europe on the one gauge of railway. I believe that one can join a train in London, bt transported across the channel without leaving it, and continue on to Romp, Vienna, Berlin, and as far north as Riga, before encountering a break of gauge. The break of gauge was a tremendous mistake made by Australia in the early days. From every aspect, but particularly for the relief of unemployment, this work should be pressed on with as early and as quickly as possible. Every endeavour should be made to bring the States into line. The difficulty of bringing the States into line and of securing a. real national view ou the problem of transport was made apparently only a short time ago, when the Commonwealth took a referendum on the subject of aerial transport, and found honorable members opposite advocating a policy which was :i direct contradiction of that which was placed before the country.
– That is not true.
– That shortsightedness was without parallel in the history of Australia.
– It is not true.
– Order ! The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) is out of order.
– On a point of order, I ask for the withdrawal of what I say is not true.
– The honorable member cannot ask for a withdrawal of a statement merely because, in his opinion, it is not correct. He is out of order in saying it is untrue.
– It cannot be denied that a considerable section of honorable members opposite was as responsible for as any other factor, or possibly was the predominant cause of, the failure of that referendum to achieve the object of the Government. From every aspect, this matter is of first-rate national importance. As a country man, I can speak of the vast amount which would be saved by obviating the present wastage of stock. Any one who has been to the border of the two States of New South Wales and Victoria must have seen the knocking about which stock receives in being un trucked, stood in the yards, and retrucked. There is enormous wastage because of this fact, particularly with fat lambs and fat sheep.
Although there is a good deal of disagreement in the matter, I believe that this has a. most vital bearing on defence.
The Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) has stressed the view that the break of gauge is not the first problem that should be tackled in Australia. He has informed the House that in the movement of troops a stopping place is needed; horses have to be watered, and so on. But there is another matter from, the defence aspect which he did not mention. I refer to the movement of munitions and guns. We must remember that a large number of our factories are in the south of Australia. The transport of these materials would be expedited if there were no break of gauge. I would go further than to deal with the matter merely from the economic’ and defence points of view, and I suggest that some interstate control of the railway systems is definitely necessary, seeing that the Commonwealth Government has not the power, and is not able to obtain it, to assume control of transport throughout Australia. When one notes the hopeless confusion caused by carriages, rolling-stock and locomotives of different types, one can imagine the enormous additional cost that is thus imposed on transport in this country. A public servant who, I think, knows a good deal about this subject, has expressed the view that in this country there are hundreds of different types of rolling-stock, dozens of different types of locomotives, and machine and manufacturing shops scattered throughout the continent manufacturing along different lines, every State carrying up to millions of pounds worth of spares for its particular rolling-stock and locomotives.
– In countries that have only the one gauge, there are locomotives of different types.
– But not the multiplicity that we have. I believe that a greater distance of similar gauge would pave the way for more complete standardization in the building of rollingstock and locomotives, thus effecting a considerable saving to the people of this country. There are rewards, apart from the aspect of defence, to be gained from the settlement of the matter. I congratulate the Government on having again called the States together in an attempt to arrive at unanimity, and hope that before long we shall see a beginning made with a settlement of the matter in real earnest.
– I wish to enlarge on the record given by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) of what has been done in the past. In the particular State from which I come, an ex-Treasurer of this Commonwealth, Mr. E. G. Theodore, as Premier, had quite a number of bridges over large rivers between Brisbane and Rockhampton replaced by new structures. Every one of them was built to carry the heavier rolling-stock and the wider gauge of railway. To my way of thinking, that was evidence of considerable foresight on the part of that gentleman. I believe that we should have a standard gauge on at least our main’ arterial lines. The distance from Brisbane to Cairns is 1,041 miles, and that coastline is a vulnerable portion of Australia. There should be one gauge from Western Australia to Cairns so that, if necessary, troops could be transported from one particular point to another at a quick rate. It has been suggested that the agitation for the standardization of our railway gauges is of recent development; but this is not so. As a matter of fact, before any railways were constructed in Australia, experts from overseas were asked to make recommendations on the subject, and the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge was recommended as the most desirable standard. The historical background of the whole subject is covered by an article which appears on page 366 of Vol. 2 of the Australian Encyclopaedia. It reads as follows : -
The Government railway gauges of each State vary in gauge, so that it is impossible for rolling stock to be interchanged, except to a certain extent between Victoria and South Australia. If we take privately-owned railways into consideration, South Australia has six different gauges, Western Australia, Victoria and New South Wales four each, Queensland three, and Tasmania two. The Commonwealth territories (Federal and Northern) are the only divisions with one gauge each, and those gauges are not the same. The standard gauge in New South Wales is 4 ft. 8-J in., and the few miles of 5-ft. 3-in. gauge in that State are extensions from the Victorian systems. All other .4-ft. 8^-in. lines are federal. The standard gauge of Victoria is 5 ft. 3 in., and of Queensland, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and Western
Australia 3 ft. 6 in. South Australia adopted the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge for her lines around Adelaide and those running towards Victoria, and 3 ft. ti in. for the rest.- During the early days of railways, the question of gauge waB much debated in England. George Stephenson adopted 4 ft. 8 J in.: Brunei built the Great Western railway in 1838 on a 7-ft. gauge. A royal commission in 1846 reported in favour of a uniform gauge, and an act passed in the same year made 4 ft. 8A. in. the standard gauge for England, and 5 ft. 3 in. for Ireland. On the 5th October, 1847, the Legislative Council of South Australia adopted 4 ft. 8$ in. for all future public railways. On the 30th Tune, 1848, the Colonial Office suggested to the Governors of New South Wales and Western Australia that ‘ a uniform gauge should be settled on “ with a view to the probability of the meeting at some future, though probably distant, period, of the lines, npt only in the same settlement, but by a junction of those constructed in the adjacent colonics:” the English commissioners of railways favoured 4 ft. 8i in., which had already been adopted by South Australia, and it would be as well for New South Wales (which then, of course, included Victoria) and Western Australia to conform. In 1848, New South Wales railway proposals were forwarded” to the- home Government, the 4-ft. 84-in. gauge was approved of, and the Sydney Railway Company contemplated building to that gauge the projected railway from Sydney to Goulburn. On the 21st May, 1850, however, F. W. Shields, the engineer of the company, strongly advocated the adoption of the Irish gauge of 5 ft. 3 in. The English commissioners said the matter was not of sufficient importance to justify opposition, and on the 14th February, 1851, the Colonial Office intimated that New South Wales could do as it liked. On the 27th July, 1852, 5 ft. 3 in. was fixed by legislative, act’ as the gauge for the railways of that colony, and the Governors of Victoria (now a separate colony) and South Australia were so advised on the 23rd August. In November, 1.850, however, Shields had resigned and returned to England, and his successor, James Wallace, reported on the 8th September, 1852. in favour of the 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge; the company in turn induced the Government to repeal the act of July, and on the 4th August, 1853. a new act sanctioned the narrower gauge. This action, taken without the concurrence of Victoria and South Australia, was strongly protested against by the Victorian Government and condemned (but not annulled) by the Colonial Office. The Melbourne and Hobson’s Bay Railway Company and the Geelong and Melbourne Railway Company had already placed indents for rolling-stock and crossings made to a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge, and Victoria and South Australia determined to adhere to 5 ft. 3 in. In 1857, John Whitton, Wallace’s successor, pointed out that difficulties would occur when the New South Wales and Victorian lines met at Albury, and endeavoured, unsuccessfully, to persuade the Government of New South Wales to revert to the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge.
On the 14th June, 1883, the railways of New South Wales and Victoria were brought intO touch by the opening of a railway bridge over the Murray at Wodonga; from that moment, the inconvenience and expense of transferring passengers, goods, livestock, &c., between the colonics became apparent. On the 10th January, 1888, the Queensland (3 ft. 6 in.) and New South Wales (4 ft. 8i in.) lines met at Wallangarra and the same inconvenience was experienced. Thenceforth, the question of unifying the various gauges, at least On the main lines between the colonial capitals, became one of practical politics. In 1889, E. M. Gr. Eddy. Chief Commissioner of the New South Wales railways, impressed on his Premier, Henry Parkes, the urgency of adopting a universal gauge; forthwith, conferences of Premiers, railway commissioners and engineers resolved, and continued for many years to resolve, that unification must come - there were such conferences in 1897, 1903, 1912, 1913, 1914, 1915, 1916, 1918 (2), 1920 (2) and 1921. The first of these that took practical steps towards the solution of the problem was that of July, 1920, between Commonwealth and State Ministers, which set up a royal commission - two experts from oversea and an Australian not connected with any Australian railways - to report on the whole question. R us tat Blake from England, Frederick Methven Whyte from the United States of America., and John Joseph Garvan, of Sydney, were accordingly appointed on the Sth February, 1921, and their report was discussed at a Premiers conference in November. They recommended the adoption of the 4-ft. 81-in. gauge, and estimated the cost of conversion of all Australian lines of other gauges (including the rolling-stock), and of the construction of certain new lines, at £57,200,000. the cost of conversion of the more important lines only - all Victorian and South Australian broad-gauge lines and the FremantleKalgoorlie line in Western Australia - together with the construction of new lines from Port Augusta to Adelaide and from Kyogle in northern New South Wales to Brisbane, they estimated at £2.1,600,000. The Premiers accepted this report in principle, deciding that the Commonwealth should bear one-fifth of the cost, the remainder being shared among the mainland States in proportion to population ; but Victoria aud South Australia afterwards withdrew for the time being insofar as their broad-gauge lines were concerned.
In 1924, the Commonwealth, New South Wales and Queensland decided to begin work on the Kyogle-Brisbane line, which will give through running from Brisbane South to Al hurT (1,014 miles) or south-west to Broken Hill (1,309 miles). This part of the scheme is now (1926) in progress. The construction of u 4-ft. 8A-in. gauge line from Port Augusta in South Australia to Redhill, 126 miles north of Adelaide, and the laying of a third rail from Redhill to Adelaide, is still under discussion ; this would eliminate two breaks of gauge and provide a clear run from Kalgoorlie to Adelaide (1,241 miles).
It is stated in that article that twelve conferences of Ministers of State have already considered this subject; yet this
Government has declared that it proposes to call another conference. This conference will consist of people of the same professional outlook and knowledge as those who attended the previous conferences. In elaboration of the remarks made about Queensland in . that article about Queensland, I direct attention to the fact that the coast of Queensland between Brisbane and Cairns is particularly vulnerable. Some attention should be devoted to it for defence purposes. Mr. Theodore no doubt had this in mind when he directed that the new bridges over the Burnett, Kolan, Calliope and Boyne Rivers should be such as would carry a railway of 4-ft. 8-J-in. gauge.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– in reply - We have had an excellent debate upon a subject of first-rate national importance, but I regret to say that the contribution of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) was disappointing. In the two minutes which remain for discussion I cannot reply fully. The honorable gentleman did no more than indicate that the Government intended to call another conference which he hoped would be successful. A declaration of the Government’s intention to treat the standardization of our railway gauges as a national undertaking to the cost of which it would contribute say 50 per cent, of the total would have indicated that the Government harboured some definite purpose in connexion with the work, and not merely shadowy good intentions. The expenditure of public money on standardizing our railway gauge would be much more effective in achieving national security than the purchase of a battleship at a cost of, say, £16,000,000. If the honorable gentlemen opposite were really in earnest in their desire to see our railway gauges standardized, they could bring pressure to bear upon the Government to ta.ke some effective action which it seems to be quite incapable of taking on its own volition. The Minister for the Interior suggested that there had never been any agreement on the part of the State go*vernments on this subject; I should like more time to deal with that aspect, but I direct his attention to the fact that in 1926 both Houses of the Parliament of Western Australia passed the following motion : -
That in the opinion of this House, the time has arrived when the federalpolicy of extending the standard gauge railway should be consummated in Western Australia.
– The extended time allotted for the consideration of this subject has now expired.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
Bill returned from Senate without amendment.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration ofGovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Perkins) agreed to : -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to provide for the payment of a bounty on the production of newsprinting paper.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Perkins and Mr. Casey do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Perkins, and read a first time.
– I move -
That thebill be now read a second time.
This bill is intended to establish the newsprinting paper industry in Australia. Several attempts have been made within the last fourteen years to manufacture newsprint in Australia, but none of them reached maturity. About the year 1929, plans for the establishment of a full-sized mill were in hand when the depression intervened and the scheme was set aside. During the depression several of the newspapers joined forces and a further unsuccessful attempt was made to inaugurate the industry. The next step taken was an investigation of the possibilities of establishing the industry on behalf of Australian newspaper publishers in general. The basis of this co-operative scheme was that all metropolitan news papers would participate in the provision of capital, and would purchase the output of the mill in quantities proportional to their normal consumption of newsprint. After many points of agreement had been reached the co-operative scheme broke down, but there emerged a scheme sponsored by a group of newspapers which uses Australian newsprint in respect of two-thirds of its requirements.
A company knownas Australian Newsprint Mills Proprietary Limited, was formed with a capital of £1,300,000 issued in £1 shares, consisting of 250,000 cumulative preference shares issued to the Tasmanian Government and 1,050,000 ordinaryshares. Of the ordinary shares 800,000 have been taken up by the newspapers concerned, while 250,000 are to be issued for the assets of the two companies which carried out the early experiments and acquired the freehold properties and concessional rights now taken over by Australian Newsprint Mills Proprietary Limited.
At the present time newsprint is manufactured in other parts of the world, principally from softwoods. However, honorable members will have gathered from the Tariff Board’s report that the sponsors of this industry, after considerable and protracted experimentation and careful surveys of available forest areas, are confident of the successful manufacture of newsprint from hardwoods. Australian Newsprint Mills Proprietary Limited is not alone in the use of hardwoods for paper manufacture. Early this year a mill commenced the manufacture in northern Tasmania of writing paper and fine printing paper, while a pulp mill is in course of erection in Gippsland, Victoria, for the production of hardwood pulp suitable for the manufacture of kraft paper and paper boards. Australian Newsprint Mills Proprietary Limited proposes to erect a factory on the Derwent River in southern Tasmania, and to utilize local timbers, principally swamp gum, known botanically as Eucalyptus Regnans, in conjunction with a certain proportion of imported chemical pulp in the first stage of manufacture.
The manufacture of newsprint will proceed in three stages. The first stage will involve the erection of a mill with one machine capable of producing 27,000 tons of newsprint annually and a mechanical pulp mill capable of ultimately supplying 75 per cent, of the pulp required. The remainder of the pulp used in the first stage will comprise imported chemical pulp. In the second stage, a second paper-making machine capable of an additional annual output of 45,000 tons will be installed, together with a chemical pulp mill, while additions will be made to the mechanical pulp mill. In the third stage, another paper-making machine with a capacity of 45,000 tons annually will be added, and suitable additions will be made to the pulp mills and auxiliary services. Employment, .principally in the bush and at the mill, is expected to be given to 266 hands in the first stage of production, while at the final stage it is estimated that 850 hands will be employed.
The bill now before the House covers only the first stage of production, during which approximately 27,000 tons of newsprint will be manufactured annually. The Tariff Board recommended that the industry be assisted in the first stage by a bounty, the funds for which should be provided by a duty, and that both bounty and duty should vary as the imported cost of newsprint varies, with the condition that the bounty should not exceed £4 a ton. The Government proposes to grant to the new industry the measure of assistance recommended by the board, but has decided to give this assistance by means of bounty without duty unless the price of newsprint falls substantially below present-day levels. No additional duty to that in “force at the present time will be imposed unless the c.i.f. and e. price of imported newsprint, plus primage, is less than £15 a ton. The bulk of the newsprint being supplied to Australia under 1939 contracts cannot be landed at less than £16 6s. a ton, inclusive of primage duty. Under the Government’s plan of assistance to the new industry, the cost of imported newsprint will not be increased beyond the present-day level by reason of that assistance. The amount of bounty which will be paid when the imported cost is £16 6s. a ton will be approximately £1 14s. a ton. The bill provides that the bounty shall be on a sliding scale. No bounty will be paid when the imported cost is £18 lis. 3d. a ton or greater. The bounty will increase as the imported cost falls, and a bounty of £4 a ton will be paid when the imported cost of newsprint falls to £12 lis. 3d. The bounty will in no circumstances exceed £4 a ton.
In the event of a material fall of the cost of imported newsprinting paper to a level below £15 a ton, the Government proposes to apply a duty at rates substantially lower than those recommended by the Tariff Board; The rates of duty will be - 5s. a ton when imported cost is below £15 a ton; 7s. 6d. a ton when imported cost is below £14 a ton; and 10s. a ton when imported cost is below £13 a ton. Whenever the duty is applied the rate of bounty will be reduced by an amount corresponding to the amount of the duty.
The bill will not operate until production of newsprint commences, and will continue for a period of four years. So far as can be seen at the moment, production will not commence until the end of 1939 or early in 1940. The question of what assistance, if any, is to be granted after the expiration of the fouryear period will be. determined only after further investigation by the Tariff Board. The Government feels that this industry will provide a welcome addition to the industrial fabric of this country. It will be established in one of the less industrialized States of the Commonwealth, and should thus meet with the approval of those honorable members who have, on various occasions, expressed a desire for the greater decentralization of industry within the Commonwealth. The establishment of the industry should eventually help to control the price of imported newsprint, and should create a supply at a reasonable price should the landed cost of newsprint rise to extreme heights as it did during and immediately after the Great War, when newsprint prices rose as high as £S0 a ton, and supplies were difficult to obtain. Finally, the industry will, when fully established, mean the investment of several million pounds of capital and the provision for a considerable amount of employment. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Forde) adjourned.
.- I move-
That the Schedule to the *Customs Tariff* 1933-1938 as proposed to be amended by the Customs Tariff Proposals be further amended as hereunder set out, and that on and after the eighteenth day of November, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-eight, at nine o'clock in the forenoon, reckoned according to standard time in the Australian Capital Territory, Duties of Customs be collected in pursuance of the *Customs Tariff* 1933-1938 as so amended. That in this Resolution " Customs Tariff Proposals " means the Customs Tariff Proposals introduced into the House of Representatives on the following dates, namely : - 4th May, 1938 ; and 21st September, 1938.
The resolution I have just introduced is complementary to the Newsprinting Paper Bounty Bill. It provides for the imposition of additional rates of duty on newsprinting paper of 5s. a ton when the imported cost is less than £15 a ton; 7s. 6d. a ton when the imported cost is less than £14 a ton ; and 10s. a ton when the imported cost is less than £13 a ton. These additional rates will be proclaimed at the same time as the Newsprinting Paper Bounty Actis proclaimed to come into operation, which will be at least twelve months hence, and even then these duties will apply only when the imported cost, falls below £15 a ton. Should the duties of 5s., 7s. 6d., or 10s. a ton operate during any month, a corresponding deduction will be made from the rate of bounty payable in respect of newsprint manufactured in Australia during that month.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
Thathe have leave to bring in a bill for an act to consolidate and amend the law relating to patents of inventions and for other purposes.
Debate resumed from the 16th November, 1938 (vide page 1570), on motion by Mr. Lyons -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- I support this measure. The Opposition has objected to it on two main grounds. First, it claims that there is no need for an additional Minister, and then it says that, if an additional Minister is to be appointed, his remuneration should be provided out of the existing fund. As for the first objection, I believe that there does really exist a need for an additional Minister. The demand for his appointment has come, not only from this parliament, but also from the public, who recognize that, because of the increased duties which have devolved on the Minister, for Defence, the administration of defence matters should he divided amongst two Ministers. We are all agreed on the principle that members of this Parliament should be remunerated for their services, and it follows that Ministers should also be remunerated for the duties they have to perform. I fail to see how any objection can be taken on principle to the Government’s proposal. There can be no doubt that the duties of government have increased with the years. Government is now concerned with many important phases of social and economic life that in the past lay outside the sphere of governments altogether. It is only reasonable, therefore, that this increasing work should be divided among a more numerous body of Ministers so that none of them shall be overloaded.
I believe, however, that the present system of paying Ministers is wholly unsatisfactory. I do not blame this Government for it, because the method of payment is prescribed in the Constitution, section 66 of which provides -
There shall be payable to the Queen out of the Consolidated Revenue fund of the Commonwealth, for the salaries of the Ministers of State, an annual sum which,until the Parliament otherwise provides, shall not exceed £12,000 a year.
That provision is unsatisfactory because, if an additional Minister is appointed, it becomes necessary to pass an act of Parliament in order to provide for his remuneration. Then if, at a later date, that Minister resigns, or is put out of office, the additional amount of money still remains in* the fund. It is not obligatory on the Ministry to reduce the fund by the amount of his salary.I believe, as a matter of fact, that when the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) resigned, the money intended for his remuneration was paid back into consolidated revenue. Of course, that is the proper thing to do, but the Government is not obliged to do it.
In Great Britain, there is a much better system in operation, one which might well be followed here, though the great difficulty is that it would be necessary to amend the Constitution. The British act provides that the salary of the Prime Minister shall be £10,000 a year. There is no mystery about what he shall receive, as there is here. It is set down for everybody to read, and that is as it should be. The relevant section of the act states that each Minister of the Crown named in scheduleI shall, subject to the provisions of the act as to number, receive £5,000 a year. The section goes on to state that Ministers named in schedule 2 shall ‘ receive £3,000 a year each, while those named in schedule 3 shall receive £2,000 a year. At the present time, there are eighteen Ministers of the Crown in the British Cabinet, but there are several other Ministers who do not sit in Cabinet. Their remuneration is also prescribed in the act, and salaries are provided for parliamentary undersecretaries, which is not the case here.
In the circumstances, this Government has no choice but to make provision for the payment of the additional Minister. I am pleased that the Government has seen fit to divide the work of the Defence Department into two sections, and I congratulate the Government on its choice of a Minister for Defence. I believe that the present Minister (Mr. Street) will make a success of the job,’ particularly as he is prepared to see the other man’s point of view. I do not believe that the public will object to the increased expenditure involved, despite the fact that honorable members of the Opposition have taken exception to the proposal on this ground. I am convinced that the Government will be well served by the new Minister, and I have no doubt that it has acted wisely.
– I listened with interest to the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and other speakers from the Government side of the House trying to justify the increased expenditure involved in this measure. The main argument advanced in justification of the Government’s proposal was that Cabinet had an increased amount of work to do at the present time. If. that is so, the Government has, at any rate, plenty of time in which to do it, because it has met Parliament for shorter periods during its term of office than has any other government in the whole history of Australia. During the depth of the depression, when the Scullin Government was in office, Parliament sat 28 days longer during a period of two years than did its predecessor, the Bruce-Page Government, during a period of six years. During the term of the present Government, Parliament has sat on fewer days than did even the Bruce-Page Government. I cannot see any reason for the appoint ment of another Minister, except that the Government desires to placate the Country party. It cannot really be claimed that Ministers are overworked, in view of the fact that so many of them have spent so much of their time on trips overseas. It has even been stated in the press that those who want to see the world should join the “United Australia party. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) expressed the opinion that the action of the Government in appointing another Minister was merely an attempt to pander to the smallest party in this House, namely, the Country party. We know that there was a public demand that the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby), who was Minister for Defence, should be relieved of his office, but members of the Country party refused to have him made a scapegoat. I agree with them in that, because I believe that the Minister for Defence, owing to the international situation, and to. the Government’s expanded defence programme, was really overworked. However, if the Government believed that he was not capable of carrying out hisduties, and that he should be replaced by some one with military experience, I cannot see why it has kept him in the Cabinet except that the Country party has demanded it. The Country party has fifteen members in this House, less than one-fifth of the total number of members, yet eight of that fifteen hold positions that carry remuneration over and above their parliamentary allowances. Four of them are full Ministers, two of whom are in the Inner Cabinet group. One is an assistant minister, and one is Chairman of Committees. Another is joint whip, and still another is a member of the Public Works Committee. We all recall the memorable statement of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) in 1934, when he and his party were outside the Government, that they stood for principles before portfolios. What has become of that policy now? At the present time, it seems to be a matter of portfolios and more portfolios, and if there is anything over, then it is still more portfolios. The party seems to have no concern with principles at all. The Country party has always been able, at the expense of the government in office, to get everything it wants, and the public has had to pay, by way of increased taxation, for the satisfaction of its avaricious demands. An example of this was the bread tax that was imposed on the poor people in return for the support of the Country party. That party is always demanding concessions and, although the Prime Minister, as we know, is not pleased with its demands, because of the pressure of the powers that keep him in office he has to accede to them. If he were courageous, he would go to the country rather than acquiesce in the creation of a new portfolio at the cost of ?1,650 a year. The appointment of an additional Minister cannot be justified on the ground that the work of Ministers demands it. Purely and simply, the appointment is being made to placate the Country party. This bill, I say definitely, is an abject surrender to that party.
It is extraordinary that, since the Coalition Government was formed, there have been two increases of the salaries of Ministers. One took place in 1935, when the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Casey), who was then an Assistant Minister, was given the full status of Treasurer. At that time, a bill was brought down for the purpose of increasing the appropriation for the ministerial pool by ?1,329, in . order to pay the honorable gentlemanhis augmented salary. Shortly afterwards, the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett), who was then Minister directing negotiations for Trade Treaties, resigned from the Ministry. I asked a question to-day - -
– To which I shall reply to-night.
– The honorable member for Henty resigned shortly after the appointment of the honorable member as Treasurer, thus ending the need for the additional appropriation. Only ?500 was required to bring the honorable member’s salary as an Assistant Minister to that paid to a Minister, but the Government looted the Treasury of ?1,300. I asked a question to-day, and I repeat it to-night, as to what became of the surplus money that was left in the ministerial pool after the honorable member for Henty had resigned on the 10th March, 1936.
– I shall tell the honorable gentleman in a moment.
– It has never been shown in the budget that any refund was made. That money was kept in the Cabinet and divided between the Ministers.
– That is not so.
– Ministers were not satisfied, as other honorable members had to be satisfied, with a complete restoration of salaries and ministerial allowances to the pre-depression level ; in addition to this restoration, each Minister received an extra ?200 a year by way of parliamentary allowance. That is wrong, especially when we take into consideration the fact that most honorable Ministers have no work to do. Some Ministers are overworked. The Treasurer, to whom I desire to be fair, has too much to do, but the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies), a man of outstanding ability, is just rusting in Cabinet waiting for work to do. Consider, too, the Assistant Minister (Mr. Thompson), who never does anything except sit in the front bench and sleep, or, when he is not asleep, smile.
– That is unfair. The honorable member for Hunter has no right to say that. The Assistant Minister has done more for the economic regions of New South “Wales than has the honorable member.
– What is the matter with you? Go back to the buffaloes.
Mr. Blain risingin his place and interjecting,
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon.G. J. Bell).Order ! The honorable member for the Northern Territory should remember that he is in a House of Parliament. By standing in his place and interjecting while another honorable gentleman has the call is distinctly out of order and I ask him not to offend again.
– In 1935, the appropriation for the ministerial pool was increased by ?1,329, whereas only ?500 was required to pay the honorable member for Corio the difference between his salary as an Assistant Minister and his salary as a full-fledged Treasurer. Then we had an increase of the Prime Minis- ter’s salary by £1,500 a year. Now, in this bill, it is proposed to increase the amount of the pool by £1,650. Parliament, when the Scullin Government was in power, sat for 2S days more in two years than it sat for the previous six and a half years when the Bruce-Page Government was in office. The Lyons Government has set an all-time record for a Commonwealth government by having Parliament sit on fewer days than any other Commonwealth parliament. The Scullin Government’s performance in work was overwhelmingly greater than that of the present Government. I concede that the difficulties which confronted it were greater than those which confront this Government, but Ministers in the Scullin Government did work hard. The amount of the pool from which Ministers drew their emoluments during the Scullin regime amounted to £11,858, compared with £18,450, which is appropriated under the budget for Ministers this year. That amount is to be augmented by £1,650, which will bring the amount in the pool to £20,000. Ministers also draw the allowance paid to private members, and, as the result, they will share this year £33,450. The reason for the huge increase is the continual demands made by the Country party. Are those demands to go on and on? What will happen if another Minister goes from the treasury bench to the back benches, where we can see to-day about nine former Ministers? Will what happened when the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) resigned from the Cabinet occur again? Will the extra money which is sought in this bill for the payment of an additional Minister be kept in the pool if a Minister resigns and is not replaced? If there was a surplus which was not refunded in 1935, there will bc a surplus that will not he refunded this year if another Minister resigns and is not replaced. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) never knows when he is going to lose Ministers. They seem to be deserting the ship, and if my judgment is correct, we shall soon be facing our masters because of the discontent which exists in the United Australia party. That discontent is due to the fact that honorable members who have been loyal supporters of the United Australia party in this chamber since 1929 - I refer in particular to the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn), than whom there has been no honorable member more loyal or more capable - have been passed over because the Country party members, some of them “ Johnny-come-latelys “, havebeen pushed into the Ministry for political expedience. It is a tragedy that the Prime Minister is not fair to Western Australia in not having a representative of that State in Cabinet and to an honorable gentleman who has been loyal to him. The honorable member for Perth should have been in the Cabinet long ago and probably would have been had it not been for the influx from the Country party.
Honorable members generally have, on the one hand, had their salaries restored, and on the other hand, been robbed of the restoration by a new tax, whereas Ministers made provision to meet the outlay for that new tax by increasing their salaries still further by augmenting the amount paid into the ministerial pool. In effect, Ministers are robbing private members in order to pay themselves enhanced salaries. If the work of Cabinet were so arduous as to warrant the appointment of an extra Minister, no honorable gentleman would cavil against his appointment, but honorable members who know the little work that Cabinet does, and recall the trips abroad that Ministers undertake, know that there is no justification for this hill.
– ‘While the words of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) are still ringing in the ears of honorable members, I should like to refer to the resignation in March, 1937, of the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) , to which reference was made. It is true that no Minister was appointed to replace that honorable gentleman until, I think, November of the same year - a gap of about eight months.
– That was after the elections.
– As I have attempted, by way of interjection, to advise the honorable member for Hunter, the amount that was being drawn by the honorable member for Henty reverted to the Treasury, and was not drawn by the Cabinet as a whole or by any member of it.
– The matter was fixed up this afternoon after the question was asked.
– That is typical of the material which the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) produces. I am relating to the honorable member for Hunter and other honorable members the facts, not the distortion of them in which the honorable member for East Sydney indulges. I say again to the honorable member for Hunter, that the salary of the honorable member for Henty was not drawn by me, or by the Cabinet or any member of it; it reverted to the Treasury. No member of the Cabinet at that time was a penny better off by reason of the resignation of the honorable member for Henty.
– Where does that show in the budget?
– I can show it to the honorable member in the budget papers.
– Why did the honorable gentleman not answer the question that I asked?
– Because I had not looked into the matter and confirmed the facts. I interjected, but the honorable member chose to ignore my interjection. He entirely overlooked, in his references to myself, the fact that Senator Thomas Brennan was appointed an Assistant Minister at the same time as I was raised from the rank of Assistant Minister to that of a full Minister. Those two outstanding examples of the venality of the Government collapse of their own weight, as being completely untrue.
I have risen merely to . make some observations on the financial side of this measure. I shall attempt to make perfectly clear to honorable members the exact position that is being established. Two new full Ministers have been added and one Assistant Minister has been removed from the list of Cabinet members. The amount of £1,650 is being added to the Cabinet fund.
Perhaps I may make brief mention of the Cabinet fund, and of the way in which it is worked. For the future, eleven Ministerial salaries will be paid into a pool known as the Cabinet fund. From that pool, twelve full Ministers will be paid their salaries, in addition to three Assistant Ministers and three Whips. Also, a fund is being established from which the Cabinet will defray the cost of the entertaining it is obliged to do from time to time. This amount of £1,650, concerning which there has been so much dispute, will be added to the Cabinet fund, and from that amount two new full Ministers will have to be paid. The net result of this measure will be that every full Minister and Assistant Minister will receive less than he was previously drawing. That means that the amount being added to the Cabinet fund is quite insufficient, to maintain the rate of remuneration previously paid.
I remind honorable members that even before these reductions of Ministerial salaries are made as the result of this legislation, the salaries of Ministers in Canada and South Africa - and the latter Dominions are very much smaller in size than Australia - are appreciably more than are those of Ministers in the Commonwealth of Australia. The remuneration of a Cabinet Minister in Great Britain is appreciably more than double that of a Commonwealth Minister. I suggest that the responsibilities and anxieties of a Commonwealth Minister are not appreciably less - to put it mildly - than are those of Ministers in other self-governing parts’ of the British Empire.
I thought that these .few facts in respect of our position should be made as clear as I could make them.
– I should like to try to raise the tone of the debate, by saying that I am not suggesting any evil motives or maldistribution of money. But I cannot help thinking that the man in the street must view this addition to the Cabinet with a good deal of suspicion. It is impossible for any one in Australia who follows the history of this Parliament to help wondering why this additional expenditure has to be incurred. The Treasurer (Mr.
Casey), in confronting many problems during the last two or three years, has repeatedly met the request of the Opposition for more money for urgent needs with the statement that no greater amount could be made available. Even last week, in conference with the State Premiers, he curtailed the amount which the States said they required. He even cut the orthodox amount he would have had to pay had he maintained the expenditure at the level of the previous year. We cannot forget that, during the many months when important Ministers were absent from Australia - I am not suggesting that they had no right to go away; that does not enter into our consideration of this matter - no honorable member on this side of the House, no newspaper, and no public man in Australia, heard of any dearth of assistance in the Cabinet to meet the requirements of the period. Everybody thought that those Ministers who had been left in Australia were discharging their duties in a perfectly satisfactory manner. We heard of no complaint from them. I knew of no Minister who had insufficient time to meet any request that I made of him, nor did I hear any other honorable member complain on such an account. It cannot be denied - it is so obvious that no Minister would risk his reputation by attempting a denial - that there has been some kind of continuous intimidation, by a section of ministerial supporters, of the leader or of the members of the Government, with a view to frequent changes being made of those who hold portfolios. That feeling could not be dissipated; everybody, either consciously or unconsciously, felt that these things were going on. The changes eventuated almost as they were forecast. Knowing and’ seein’g this, we wonder whether there is any need for this additional provision of £1,650, and the extra trouble and worry of establishing new departments and fitting men into them. It is not a matter of whether Ministers individually are receiving too much. The feeling is that these re-adjustments, which have cost an additional amount, would not have been made in the ordinary legitimate circumstance of government but for the difficulty of blending the two contending parties together; the impossibility, without making provision for these additional ministerial positions, of quietening the disturbing element. If that be so, the public has reason for complaint, and it is the duty of the Opposition to protest against this measure. On that account 1 justify opposition to the biLl, with a. view to drawing the attention of the public to the fact that these additions, both of number and of money, were not brought about in the ordinary legitimate way because of the needs of the moment, but were designed to stifle some disgruntled members outside the party, or to make what some members consider is a more balanced division of ministerial positions between the Country party and the United Australia party, whose policies, so far as the public knows, are as far apart as the Poles.
.- We are called upon to pass judgment as to whether or not the provision of an extra amount in order to make possible the appointment of an additional minister is justifiable or desirable. In being asked to consent to such a measure, the House should feel quite confident that the appointment of an additional minister is definitely justified and desirable. I believe that Ministers should be amply remunerated, but I do not consider that at the present time it is necessary to appoint an additional minister. As a matter of fact, some Ministers have very little indeed to do, and the duties of the Government could well be divided up amongst the present number. One of the chief complaints that I have against Parliament granting power to appoint an additional minister is that which is felt by the citizens of this country, namely that the power to govern this country is being taken away from this Parliament and is being handed to the Ministry and to the Public Service. Ear too much power is being taken away from the Parliament. The authority of honorable members to govern is being deliberately restricted by the present Ministry. The electors send representatives to this Parliament to speak on their behalf, to deal with national problems which arise from time to time, and to secure for them a greater measure of happiness and economic security. Parliament meets very little indeed; one month, or probably two months, would cover the whole of the sittings throughout the year. The Parliament is not being consulted from time to time on matters of major national importance. Unfortunately, also, the practice of submitting matters of government policy to the full Cabinet for consideration is also being discontinued, for an inner council of seven members has been appointed to which is referred subjects that should be considered at least by the full Cabinet, if not by the whole Parliament. Four members of the inner junta could force their views upon the other members, and the inner group could then go to the full Cabinet and insist upon its policy being adopted. It must be apparent to all honorable members that this departure from the recognized parliamentary practice of this country is deserving of strong condemnation. We are well aware also that government by regulation instead of by Parliament has developed enormously since this Ministry has been in office. This has resulted in grave errors of national policy. For example, the Government not very long ago, adopted a restrictive trade policy in respect of Japan without giving Parliament a proper opportunity to consider the subject. This had an adverse effect upon the country and seriously restricted the sale of Australian wool to Japan with the result that millions of pounds was lost to our wool-growers and to the country at large. The publication of proclamations and regulations in the Gazette instead of the introduction of legislative measures in. Parliament is subversive of all principles of democratic government. In fact, it is not too much to say that democratic government is being challenged in Australia to-day. It is the wish of the Opposition that well-recognized principles of parliamentary procedure shall be adhered to, and that an inner Cabinet group shall not be permitted to filch the rights of the elected representatives of the people.
I oppose this bill because I do not believe that Ministers are being overworked. At one period, four members of the Ministry were abroad at the one time, yet the business of the country was carried on as efficiently as if they were here - though I do not wish it to be under- stood that I regard the members of the present Ministry as efficient. It is noticeable that in consequence of the dislocation in the Cabinet the Prime Minister has been called upon to discharge extra duties in an endeavour to preserve his position as Prime Minister. As a matter of fact, the right honorable gentleman has lost the confidence of his party, but that is no reason why we should permit him to divert additional public money to enable him to caulk the holes in his leaky ship. I am opposed to the bill.
.- The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr: Makin) hit the nail on the head in the course of his speech on this bill yesterday, and I endorse the views that he then expressed. I do not propose to discuss the visits of Ministers overseas except to say that during the absence of three senior members of the Cabinet for some months, the business of the. country proceeded as satisfactorily as it had done when they were here. That, of course, is not saying a great deal. Those Ministers were absent during part of the parliamentary session as well as part of the recess, and I heard no complaints at that time that their colleagues were over-worked. The present Postmaster-General (Mr. Archie Cameron) is one of the most active Ministers of the Government. He has adopted an attitude which other Ministers would do well to emulate. When he is asked about matters concerning his department he almost invariably intimates that he is quite prepared to meet honorable members who desire information to discuss the matters at issue with them. When the honorable gentleman was Acting Minister for Commerce he mingled among the primary producers of this country to a greater degree than any of his colleagues have done, and so was able to make himself conversant with their everyday problems. Other Ministers should follow his example. The plea that Ministers are over-worked cuts no ice with me, for during the absence of ministerial delegates overseas their colleagues in Australia have, on every occasion, been able to discharge the additional: duties that must have devolved upon them. Over-work is not the real reason for the introduction of this bill.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Me. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
This act shall be deemed to have come into operation on the seventh day of November, one thousand nine hundred and thirty-eight.
.- I am opposed to the proposal that the bill should come into operation on the 7th day of November, 1938, or, indeed, on. any other date; but inasmuch as the House has decided . that the bill, in principle, is to become law, I move the following amendment: -
That the words “ the seventh day of November, One thousand nine hundred and thirtyeight “ be Omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “a date to be fixed by proclamation, not earlier than two years after the seventeenth day of November, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-eight “.
It is possible that, by the date I have suggested, not only will a better frame of mind have developed in the legislature, but also that then, or about then, general elections will be held. If the elections are then over, it is possible that a new Government will be here, and that the issue of the proclamation will then be further postponed; but, if, on the contrary, the general elections have not taken place, then my honorable friends opposite, being so soon to face their masters, may exhibit a change of spirit more consistent with the policy, if I may adopt the disrespectful phrase of my friend the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), of “ dropping the loot “.’ The reasons for the hostility to this measure on the part of His Majesty’s Opposition have been very well stated by honorable members on this side of the chamber, and I must not refer to the terms of the debate further than to say that, in my opinion, if any earlier date than that which I’ have suggested were fixed for the bill to come into operation, it would create a scandal in the electorate and would be in the nature of an affront to the electors as a whole.
– Hear, hear!
– I am pleased to know that that view finds very general acceptance in the ranks of the Opposition. Why the 7th day of November, 1938? Why should this bill be deemed to come into operation on a date earlier than the passage of the bill? This is the 17th day of November, and the bill is not yet law; these salaries have not yet been approved, and the Government is so eager in the pursuit of an unearned increment to the salaries of Ministers that, not content with making the bill come into operation from the date on which, in the ordinary course, it might be expected to receive Royal assent, Ministers want to draw fourteen days’ back pay in respect of this measure. Fourteen days retrospective payment to gentlemen on £2,000 a year, and not one penny available for Christmas relief for the unemployed of this country!
– The honorable member accepted retrospective increase of his own allowance.
– Is the Treasurer happy about it; is he in need of the money ? These are the questions, or some of them, which I desire to have answered. I have the gravest objection to .retrospective legislation of any kind, and I think it is only in special circumstances, for the purpose of redressing some obvious grievance, of restoring some acknowledged right, or of establishing some unanswerable principle of rectitude, that retrospective legislation should be agreed to by this chamber. Is this bill for the purpose of establishing some acknowledged right? It is not. It is for the purpose, I would like to say if I. were permitted to do so, of making a very gross invasion upon the taxpayers’ resources for the purpose of bettering the conditions of certain gentlemen opposite. These gentlemen are now to draw £15,000 or more in the present circumstances of the Commonwealth’s finances than was drawn by Ministers in the trough of the depression when the Scullin Government made an honest endeavour to correct the unfavorable trade balance.
– That is not correct.
– It is, and I challenge the honorable member to cite the precise figures. Does the honorable member know a single thing about it, or is it not a fact that he is solely being voted into this in the party meeting, and is recording a silent vote in this chamber? He has not addressed himself to the subject at all, not a word has he uttered about it.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the clause.
– When I submit to the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) figures which I have examined, and am in a position to establish as correct, he challenges my veracity, and says they are not correct.
– Nor are they correct.
– The Treasurer will also have an opportunity to cite figures later on. It comes very easy to honorable members opposite to contradict what we say in mere terms of denial. What I want is argument in justification of this invasion of the people’s rights. What I want is for honorable members opposite to show me how it i3 that a single £1,000 cannot be obtained for the relief of the necessitous of this country - and there are many thousands of them - at a time when the Government hopes, hurriedly and silently, to push through the legislature a bill designed to give Ministers approximately £15,000 per annum in excess of what they were receiving during the depression period. Let honorable members opposite justify that ! Through the courtesy of my honorable friend, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), I am now in a position, for the information of the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey), and the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), to cite more precise figures. The parliamentary allowances of niue Ministers-
– Order ! The honorable member will not be in order in dealing with the question of parliamentary allowances. The clause relates only to the .date of commencement of the act, to which the honorable member has moved an amendment.
– I shall not attempt for a single moment to transgress your ruling on that point, Mr. Chairman, more especially as a very suitable opportunity will arise on a later clause to settle the question which has been raised by me, and disputed by honorable members opposite.
– Disputed very definitely.
– Disputed by at least two honorable members opposite. At any rate, I say, without fear of successful contradiction - and I am sure that that is a phrase which has been hallowed by long usage - that the longer wo can postpone the coming into operation pf this bill the better for the country, the better for the Parliament, and, in the long result - and that is not really my main object - the better for Ministers themselves, because while in their cupidity they are grasping at this increase of salary to-night, the time will come when they will have to answer for it to their electors. I ask them what answer they will have to give. Because I think that they have none, and because I think that at this stage all we can do is to make a substantial postponement of the operation of the bill, I move for the acceptance of the committee my amendment in the terms which I have indicated.
– We have listened to a forensic discussion by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan).
– Forensic !I doubt that.
– I shall withdraw the word “ forensic “ if the honorable member objects. At any rate,we have listened to a discussion on the part of the honorable member with that degree of sincerity which we have become used to associate with him. The clause deals with the date of operation of this alteration, and if it is necessary to advise honorable members why the date, the 7th November, was selected, it is because that is the date on which the changes in the Ministry were made; and it has been the custom of all governments, including the Government in which the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) was so conspicuous an ornament - again to use a phrase hallowed ‘by time rather than by truth - to make measures of this kind date from the time when the actual changes in the Ministry took place. Again, if the bill were in fact to have any real retrospective effect, I remind the honorable member that its retrospectivity is in regard to a reduction of the salaries of all members of the Ministry, and not in regard to an increase. Furthermore, the honorable member’s figure of £15,000 is an unfair exaggeration.
.- I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). The argument used by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) lacks conviction. He may be able to convince his friends on that side of the. House that there has been a reduction of ministerial salaries, but I question very much whether he will be able to convince the people of Australia. I go further, and suggest that he will have a much harder task to convince the electors that this provision is necessary. Certainly, the retrospective nature of this clause cannot be justified. I recall an occasion, not many years ago, when legislation was made to apply retrospectively in order to legalize the collection of £250,000 in sales tax which the Government wished to retain.
– Odder !
– I expected that, and I have no desire to digress. I challenge the. Treasurer to prove that the amendment of the honorable member for Batman is flippant. That is a favorite retort of the Treasurer when faced with an argument with which he does not agree. The amendment is a serious one; it has much merit, and I intend to support it. If this readjustment were postponed for the period proposed by the honorable member for Batman, it is probable that by then a government would be elected that would legislate for the benefit of the mass of the people. We should have a ministry who would not be squabbling among themselves, and would not be seeking parliamentary sanction to add to their number.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr, Brennan’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Salaries of Ministers).
.- I take this further opportunity to protest against the proposal of the Government to vote this additional sum of money to Cabinet Ministers. I think that we should at least have more information as to who is to get the money that is to be provided in the clause before us. The honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) said that we were entitled to know what each member of the Government received, and, whether or not we believe that the members of the Government are overpaid collectively, we should, having regard to the respective ability of Ministers, know which of them receives the most, and which the least. Ministers have told us that that is no concern of members of Parliament. I remember recently, when honorable members were trying to get some information from the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) regarding disbursements from the Cabinet fund when the number of Ministers was reduced by one, the Treasurer said that it was not a matter which concerned only members of the Cabinet and not members of Parliament, I believe, on the contrary, that it is the concern of members of Parliament. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) declared - and though this was denied by ‘the Treasurer, he did not produce any’ evidence to the contrary - that the amount paid to Cabinet- Ministers is approximately £15,000 more. now: than during the. depth of the depression. We must remember, moreover, that this £15,000 does not include the £1,500 which Parliament voted specially for the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) to meet what was considered to be his out-of-pocket expenses for entertainment. Yet the Treasurer says now that going from the Cabinet fund is not only payment for various honorable members of the Cabinet, hut also money for the entertainments given by them. If payment for the entertainment of visitors by honorable members comes out of the Cabinet fund, what does the Prime Minister do with the £1,500 a year which this Parliament voted to him for entertainment purposes in a previous measure ?
It is one thing to say that Ministers are overworked, but it is another thing to prove it to the satisfaction of the honorable members of this House and the Australian community.” It could be expected, having regard to the generous way in which Ministers treat themselves to salaries, that they would give their whole time and attention to their ministerial duties, but we find, to our amazement, that, despite the fact that they claim that they are. overworked, most of them have jobs outside Parliament. Some of them are directors of private concerns from which they obtain further emoluments, in order to qualify for which they have to attend meetings. Yet, they tell us that they are overworked. My opinion is that Ministers are paid salaries on such a generous scale that there should be required from them their full time and attention to the business of this Parliament and of the country. Ministerial office should not be treated as a part-time job. One member of the Cabinet, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson), amongst other activities outside Parliament, is a newspaper proprietor. The Treasurer does not devote the whole of his activities to the business of this Parliament and to the work of the Cabinet. He has other activities. I am informed that he is a director of certain companies and undertakings which require some of his time. If I had the time, I could run through the whole Cabinet list and find that all the Ministers have other activities’ beside those for which they are liberally .paid by. this country. .
I join with the honorable member for Batman in his protest that, although additional money is being paid to members of the Cabinet, not one pound is available for the relief of necessitous members of the community. The honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) compared the salaries paid to Ministers in Great Britain with those paid within the Commonwealth Parliament, but if the honorable member wishes to make comparisons he should compare the amounts of money paid to Commonwealth Ministers with that which is received by his own unemployed constituents. They are deserving Australian citizens who probably have performed much more useful work in their lifetime than have many honorable members of this Parliament. Yet anti-Labour governments say to the unemployed, “ Seven and sixpence a week is enough to keep you until we require you to don khaki and take up a rifle. Then, perhaps, we shall give you a little extra “.
– Th e honorable member is getting wide of the subject.
– I shall get back to the genuine unemployed, the honorable members of the Cabinet. They have yet to prove to the satisfaction of Parliament that they are overworked. It is ridiculous for them to claim that they are, because it could not bo imagined that, without experience, they could take up the administration of a public department except under the guidance of senior public servants. Any one would imagine, however, from what they say that they work day and night in order to become conversant with the activities of their departments. “To prove that they do not, it is only necessary to cite the fact that when they are asked questions in Parliament, unless their attention has been recently directed to the subject-matter of flic question, they ask that the questions be put on the notice-paper. The next day they read to the House the typewritten replies which have been prepared by public servants. That is the way in which the business of public departments is transacted. I do not say that there is not plenty of work in some departments for Ministers to undertake if they are sufficiently interested or capable, but, generally, it is not undertaken. Some
Ministers are merely rubber stamps. Some of them receive deputations and sign letters on behalf of senior members of the Cabinet.
I realize that the Prime Minister, in his anxiety to overcome difficulties between the parties which make up the Government, is always anxious to increase the number of Ministers. I was amazed that clause 3 was allowed by the Government to pass without amendment. I should have expected that the figure “ eleven “ would be replaced by “ fortyfive”. Then all members .of the two parties opposite could have been in the Cabinet ; probably, that is the only way in which satisfaction- could be given to members of the warring sections.
What concerns me at the moment is the way in which members of the Government and honorable members of the parties ‘ opposite expend the. public moneys without regard for those who have to pay. It is all right to vote a few thousand pounds now’ and then for this purpose and that. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) said that this, increase of the appropriation for the Ministry would cost each taxpayer a fraction of a penny, but I suggest to him that he should take an entirely different point of view. This Parliament and members of the Government should set an example to the rest of the community. Thousands of men are being displaced from employment and evicted from their homes and little children are denied sufficient food, but when the Labour party asks that something be done to assist them the reply of the Government is that its finances will not permit it. If . that be the case the Government should not be dipping its hands into the public coffer to increase Ministerial salaries.
It was indecent for Ministers to participate in the last division. They should have had sufficient decency to leave the chamber when a division was taking place on a question which concerned their own financial benefit, and the decision should have been left to other honorable members who have no pecuniary interest in- the matter. Instead of that, every member of the Government voted in the division. Ministers have displayed an unusual interest in the proceedings of
Parliament when their financial interests have been under discussion. And lined up with Ministers on the side of the Government in the division were honorable gentlemen who, although they have no immediate financial interest in this bill, hope, when some further reconstruction of Cabinet takes place, to achieve cabinet rank. I hope that honorable members of the Opposition will go, not only into their own electorates, but also into those of honorable members opposite, and tell the people how honorable gentlemen opposite, like the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), talk one way and vote another.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the clause.
– I conclude by saying that, in my opinion, every member of the Cabinet should immediately vacate ;i.ny position which he occupies other than that connected with his parliamentary duties. Ministers should resign from directorates and concentrate the whole of their activities and time to attention to the work of the nation for which they are paid such liberal salaries. Members of the Opposition should go into every electorate and explain to the people just how this Parliament disregards the requirements of the general community and how it can alway find time to legislate for the benefit of Ministers.
.- I took strong objection to this bill on the second reading, and I feel that I should again register my protest against this unwarranted claim, on the public exchequer, which results from the great anxiety of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) to placate the conflicting elements among his supporters. The attitude of the Government is in striking contrast to that of the Labour Government of New Zealand. Whereas in the Commonwealth an inner group of Cabinet has been formed, in New Zealand the government has taken the ‘ opportunity to grant responsibilities to its supporters in parliament. To avoid hurt to any Minister who has been left out of the inner group, there is to be extra emolument. If members on the Ministerial side of thu chamber did their legitimate duty they would share to an even greater degree than they do the responsibility with which they have been entrusted ; but on all occasions they evade that responsibility. This Government has been more recreant to its trust in the direction of accepting direct responsibility than any government which has occupied the Treasury bench. The record of the Bruce-Page Government took some beating, but I believe that this Government, in its delegation of authority and power to boards, commissions, and like bodies-
– The honorable member is not confining his remarks to the clause.
– I am endeavouring to show that this extra amount is not warranted. Rather than being prepared to exercise the executive authority entrusted to them, the members of this Ministry have narrowed the limits of responsibility to an even greater degree than they have been narrowed at any time in the previous history of this Parliament. Authority and power have been delegated to commissions and boards. The claim that Ministers are over-worked cannot therefore be sustained. When we realize the hopeless incompetence of the majority of those who occupy the front Ministerial bench, we must come to the conclusion that the claim for an additional amount of £1,650 is not justified, more particularly as the Government refuses to do anything during the approaching Christmas season to relieve in any way the position of those who are unfortunately circumstanced. Ministers will be hard pressed to make an adequate explanation of their conduct. There has been no attempt to justify this measure. Apart from the Minister who introduced it, no Minister has sought to substantiate the claim for the extra amount. I invite the Postmaster-General (Mr. Archie Cameron), even at this belated hour, to give some justification for the attitude of the Government. He would be hard pressed to” justify the proposed addition to the already costly list of salaries, for the maintenance of those who to-day occupy places on the treasury bench. I throw out that challenge, to him. Some members of the present Cabinet do not know how long they are likely to continue in office, because of the grave insecurity of their position even in their own party. I join with the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. “Ward), and honorable members of the Opposition generally, in protesting most vigorously against the proposal to increase the salaries of Ministers at this particular time.
. - I rise in support of the Government, because of its wisdom in proposing to appropriate this money in order to appoint a new Minister to control a highly technical department. I am amazed at the opposition of. honorable members opposite. There are several reasons for my vigorous support of this proposal, but the main reason is that I see in this the initiation of action for the benefit of the electorate that I represent, that remote portion ofthe continent, the Northern Territory. I need not elaborate on that point, because I feel sure that every honorable member realizes that that area has problems which cannot be solved by one Minister from a bureaucratic centre. In his wisdom, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) is seeking the approval of this Parliament to the appointment of a. new Minister, and the gentleman whom he has chosen for the position is, by reason of the traininghe has had from boyhood, highlycompetent to discharge the duties that are to be entrusted to him. Furthermore, the right honorable gentleman realizes that diversity of the technical problems which confront this country, beginning from latitude 45, and extending up to latitude 12, which sits under the equator at Darwin. If the object at which the Opposition is striving he attained, in ten years’ time we shall have nothing but a nondescript set of men in this Parliament- professional politicians who will not be competent to control the destinies of this country.
– Order !
– How do I propose to prove that? To-day, I intended to put a question to the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies), but by inadvertence was not able to catch the eye of the Speaker.
– Order! The honorable member is not discussing the clause.
– I bow to your ruling, sir, but I feel that you will bear with me, and will listen to the view that I desire and hope to express so as to make my position clear. The question that I intended to ask the Attorney-General bears very much on this proposal. I realize that, if the Opposition has its way, professional men and business men are to be deprived of the right to enter this Parliament, and in ten years’ time we shall have nothing but professional politicians, which the Australian people do not want.
– Like the honorable member.
– I claim to be a professional person, one of the few in this Parliament. I can prove it. In saying that, I am not being ubiquitous. I propose to read the question that I should have liked to ask the Attorney-General. It is as follows:-
In view of the apparent rigidity of one of the sections of the Constitution which, if enforced, would deprive professional and business men of the right to enter this honorable House, will this Parliament consider whether it is competent for a qualified land surveyor, who happens to have been elected to this honorable House, to accept government surveys under a scheduled’ government rate in the Northern Territory ?
That refers particularly to myself, and I am not ashamed to say so.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to resume his seat. I point out to honorable members generally, that loud shouting will not induce the Chair to give them the call.
– I consider that you, Mr. Chairman, are not empowered to make any reflection on any honorable member who endeavours to obtain the call, and I ask you to withdraw the one you have made.
– The Chair will accept responsibility for what it does.
.- I had not intended to take any further part in the debate of this -measure, but the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has indicated that, even with the increased amount to be made available, the salaries paid to Ministers of the Crown in Great Britain and in other parts of the British Empire will still be greater than those paid to Ministers in Australia. There would not be so much opposition to this particular clause if the same conditions obtained in Australia as obtain in Great Britain. The salaries paid to Ministers of the Crown in Great Britain are very much higher, admittedly, but we have to take into consideration the fact that they cease to occupy other public positions immediately they join the Cabinet. That is not the case in Australia. It has been pointed out that Ministers in this country hold quite a lot of other important positions, from which they draw additional remuneration. Recently, a Minister resigned from the Commonwealth Cabinet because his public duties conflicted with the positions he holds outside of this Parliament. The statement that the Prime Minister made a few days ago clarified the position to some degree, but it did not satisfy the Opposition. The plain fact is that some Ministers are still holding outside positions, for which they are drawing emoluments.We contend that Ministers should devote the whole of their time to their parliamentary and ministerial duties, as do the Ministers in the Government of the United Kingdom. We have been told that provision is made for three Whips. The Opposition Whip is not included. I ask who the third Whip is?
– There is the Whip of the United Australia party and of the Country party in this House, and the Government Whip in the Senate.
– I thank the PostmasterGeneral for his explanation. The remarks made a few moments ago by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) were anything but lucid. I remind him that because a man is elected to Parliament and subsequently to ministerial office he does not necessarily become a professional politician-.
– The honorable member knows that what I said is right.
– I know nothing of the kind. Persons elected to this Par liament should give the whole of their time to their parliamentary duties, but that does not necessarily mean that they become professional politicians. Election to Parliament involves some disadvantages, but individuals who stand for election should be prepared to meet the new circumstances in which they find themselves.
– They are often thrown to the wolves, and the honorable member knows it.
– If that is one of the risks it should be taken with good grace. Persons elected to Parliament should have their eyes open to all the possibilities that await them. I shall vote against the clause. [Quorum formed.]
.- I support the attitude adopted by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). I am opposed to the suggested increase of the Cabinet fund from £16,950 to £18,000. I neverobject to a man receiving a good salary if he is worth it, but I cannot agree that some honorable gentlemen’ who are to-day sitting on the treasury bench are worth the salary they receive. There has been a good deal of juggling for Cabinet positions. One honorable member has had to step aside in favour of another, and a new position has been created for still another honorable gentleman. I say quite frankly that I do not think that the Minister for Works (Mr. Thorby) should have been appointed to his new position. Ibelieve the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) appointedhim to appease the Country party.
– I must ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the clause before the Chair.
– He cannot do so.
– If the honorable member for the Northern Territory does not cease interjecting, I shall name him,
– I regard the introduction of this bill as a pure salary grab, for which -there is no justification whatever. If the Minister for- Works was not fit to hold his previous portfolio, he is not fit to hold the one he now has. Persons in ordinary employment who cannot do the work entrusted to them expect to get the “sack” and, of course, they get it. Politicians should not expect to be treated differently. The members of the Cabinet are already receiving good salaries. The introduction of this bill is a pure ramp. The Government is, in fact, taking money out of the Treasury bill in an improper way. We have a decadent Ministry on the treasury bench, and it is time it was removed. Ministers should not be glued to their position by f.s.d., particularly as thousands of women and children in this country are still suffering from malnutrition, and many workers are unable to earn enough money to maintain their wives and families in even moderate comfort..
– I must again ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the clause. If he does not do so in a more effective fashion this time, I shall have to ask him to resume his seat.
– Is that a threat or a warning?
– The honorable member will resume his seat.
– I shall not. The Chairman is absolutely biased and prejudiced.
– I name the honorable member.
– I make an appeal to the honorable member for Denison. (Mr. Mahoney) to pay to the Chair the respect that is due to it. 1 feel sure that if he reconsiders his remarks he will realize that they ought to be withdrawn, and that he should apologize to the Chairman. With the indulgence of the Chairman I earnestly appeal to him to do so.
– I withdraw my remarks and apologize. The circumstances which we now face undoubtedly justify us in criticizing the Government. There can be no excuse for increasing the Cabinet fund while so many people in this country are still without the bare necessaries of life. Necessitous mothers throughout Australia require financial assistance to enable them to carry out their noble functions and the rearing of their families. We have to keep a close watch on the expenditure of the Commonwealth in order to see that all the money, is expended judiciously and in the best interests of the nation as a whole. If Ministers are conscientious and honest in their desire to serve their country, they, should be content to accept theirpublic duties without seeking to increase their allowances. A prospective member ofParliament knows that he will be called . upon to serve his country, and that for his service an allowance will be paid to him. If he considers that membership of the national Parliament calls for too greata sacrifice on his part, he should not con- . template a political career. The getrichquick methods adopted by the present Ministry, encouraged by the Country , party, are much to be deplored. It is only because of a desire to retain in the Cabinet a member of the Country party who is not capable of holding down a ministerial portfolio, that this increase of ministerial allowances becomes necessary. Everything should be done to discourage this attempt on the part of the Prime Minister to buy the support of the Country party. If a Minister is not capable of doing his job he should resign. I protest on behalf of the people who sent ‘ me here to represent them in this national Parliament against the bushranging tactics adopted by the Ministry in seeking to increase the ministerial allowances.
– Order !
– I am somewhat surprised at the audacity displayed by the Government in asking Parliament, for this additional sum of money which honorable members are asked to vote. I can imagine, however, after listening to the very breezy speech of the honorable member from the wide open spaces, the representative for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain), that the Government must feel secure in whatever it does. I was wondering what caused him. to see any virtue in this measure, but after listening to his long discourseI realize that he probably expects to get a position on the ministerial bench of a geodetic survey of the quadrilateral triangles of which his electorate appears to -foe made up. After listening to the technical nature of his speech - and it is a great advantage to have in this chamber a man with professional talents - I realized that probably he has aspirations in the direction of a scat being found for him on the ministerial bench later on. My view is that the Government had a perfect right to increase the number of Ministers and, consequently, the amount required to pay them, if it could justify the work being done, but I do not think that honorable members have been furnished with any information which justifies an increase of the ministerial allowances. If the Government wants to add to its ranks, that is its own business, but to ask Parliament to vote a sum of money in order to cover the increased personnel of the Cabinet is quite a different matter, particularly when the Government is tottering on the verge of a precipice and indulging in a tightrope walk before disappearing into political oblivion.
– Order ! The honorable member must know that he is making a second-reading speech.
– This request for parliamentary authorization for this additional amount of money will, in my opinion, reflect upon the parliamentary life of Australia. The people will naturally ask, “ What is this increased allowance for?” I, as a representative of the people, feel very nervous as to what public opinion will do about this matter, particularly as this increase is sought at a time when the parliamentary institution is suffering from a good deal of criticism from outside. It is suggested that, as a democratic institution, this Parliament is failing to give satisfaction to the people. Is it any wonder that these suspicions arise when we find that the Ministry, for party political reasons, decides to appoint another Minister to the ministerial bench and says that it has to have an additional £1,650 for ministerial allowances, so that there shall be no further falling out amongst the parties supporting the Government? I greatly regret the introduction of this bill. The Go vernment, of course, is sure of a sufficient majority to pass it or it would never have brought the bil] down; but, in doing so, it is getting away with something it has no right to get away with, while at the same time ignoring the rights of the people, and particularly of the unemployed whose claims are not receiving reasonable consideration. For this reason, any criticism levelled against the measure by honorable members on this side of the chamber is fully justified. I regret that this legislation will have a tendency to lower the opinion of electors throughout Australia of the parliamentary institution, which, as a consequence, will reflect upon us all.
.- I question very much whether this change is necessary or worth while. The Cabinet reconstruction has been forced upon the Government by public opinion, and, if it is ineffective, public opinion will force still another reconstruction. ~ hope that it may be effective, and I wish the Government well; but at the same time I believe that no extra ‘members were needed in the Cabinet. I have always felt that the Defence portfolio, which has brought the Government so much censure, and has been responsible for the reconstruction, should have been held by a full Minister aided by an Assistant Minister able to devote his whole time to the task, preferably a Minister in charge of aviation, in the person of an honorable member such as the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn). If there had been a proper allocation of work and an appropriate division of labour amongst Cabinet Ministers, such an addition to the Cabinet as has recently been made would not have been necessary. Some Ministers obviously have too little to do, while others have too much. I say, advisedly, after six years’ experience . in the Cabinet, that had there been such an allocation and had the work been more equably divided, this bill would not have been necessary. There are many ways in which the work of the Cabinet could be expedited. One is by the adoption of business-like methods. If matters in Cabinet were discussed as a business board would discuss matters of importance, the work would be expedited, and there would be less call upon Ministers to spend so much time in Cabinet, with tho result that they would have more time to spend in their departments. Increasing the Cabinet in size, making it fifteen in number with Assistant Ministers, brings it to such dimensions that therein one gets a form of cave, cabal or junta such as is illustrated at present by the inner group which will decide policy for all Ministers who will have to share equal responsibility for whatever happens. Does any one in this chamber say that in the days of the early Cabinets in Australia, the work was done less efficiently than now? Up to the seventh Parliament, only nine, and for the greater part of the time, only eight, Ministers sat in Cabinet.
– I remind the honorable member that the committee has already agreed to tho number of Cabinet Ministers. We are now dealing with the amount of money to be provided for ministerial allowances.
– A matter discussed while this bill was before the House was whether the emoluments were sufficient, and whether members of the Government should hold directorships. I believe - and it is only my own opinion - that English practice in that respect is that when a member of parliament is called to the Ministry he gives up all directorships he may hold. I make no boast when I say that I did that when I was called to the Ministry.
– Should a Cabinet Minister give up his farm?
– I think there is a vast difference between owning a farm and being a director of a large enterprise, company or corporation which might indirectly benefit from the association of one of its directors with the Cabinet. It has been laid down by successive British Prime Ministers as a rule of prudence, if not of law, that, in the interests of the State, a Minister should surrender any directorships he ma.y hold in order to demonstrate that he is giving unselfish service to the State and not prospering his own interests by his association with the Cabinet. I believe that the increased allowance proposed in this bill is unnecessary. I believe that the work of Cabinet Ministers could have been re-allocated in such a way as to have made this proposed increased expenditure unnecessary. At any rate, I hope that the Cabinet reconstruction may be helpful, but, as I have said, I warn the Government that as the reconstruction was forced by public opinion, if it proves futile, public opinion will force a further reconstruction.
.- If we wanted an argument in favour of the rejection of this clause, we had it from the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) this evening. The honorable gentleman has just left the Cabinet and knows exactly what is necessary. After listening to the honorable member,, and to arguments advanced by other honorable members during this debate, I am perfectly satisfied that there is no necessity for the proposed increased expenditure. Whilst I believe that the Ministry should be paid adequately, I consider it unnecessary to add to the expenditure on ministerial allowances at a time when members are frequently directing questions to Ministers urging the provision of necessary works for the relief of unemployment, only to be told that no money is available. Even in this Australian Capital Territory, there is in the Property Office of the Department of the Interior a great list of applicants waiting for homes. The money proposed to be voted under this hill would at least provide some homes for those people. I register my emphatic protest against this proposal to increase allowances of Ministers. We know, of course - and it has been stated more than once during the debate - that the increase of the personnel of the Ministry was due simply to a desire to stifle the internal dissatisfaction which existed amongst members of the parties supporting the Government. Because some were inclined to be troublesome and to stop the bickering that had been going on, the Government decided upon the recent re-allocation of portfolios.
– The honorable member is not keeping to the clause.
– I am trying to show that this money could be devoted to better purposes. We know that the Ministry hesitated to pay £5,000 or £6,000 in order to test direction-finding apparatus in the various aerodromes throughout the Commonwealth, and because of this the apparatus is not yet in use, yet it is proposed in. this measure to increase the cost of ministerial salaries by £1,500. I oppose the proposal, and I hope that even at this stage the committee will reject the clause, and that the money will be put to a better use in providing homes for the people here in Canberra.
.- I would fain make a few more observations which now become relevant on this clause. This is really the vital clause of the bill. It speaks in terms of money and, as everyone knows, money talks. When I was addressing myself to an amendment moved earlier in the evening, which was unhappily lost, I quoted some figures, the accuracy of which the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) took it upon himself to challenge. He did not attempt anything in the nature of disproof. It is possible that he considered himself hampered by the fact that disproof was not quite relevant to the clause, and that it was only due to the indulgence of the Chairman, or to his momentary forgetfulness, that I was able to make the charge. But it is entirely relevant to this clause. I said that the difference between the salaries and parliamentary allowances of Ministers during the period of the depression, when the Scullin Government was in office, and during the first part of the term of the Lyons Government, and the ministerial salaries and allowances at the present time, was approximately £15,000. Actually, I understated the amount by £600. I gave it, as I said at the time, in round figures.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) - by leave - agreed to -
That Standing Order No. 70 - eleven o’clock rule - be suspended for this sitting.
In committee (Consideration resumed) :
Clause 4 (Salaries of Ministers).
In proof of what I have stated, I quote the following figures -
That was at the height of what might be called the good times. At the present time, the amount paid to Ministers in salaries and allowances is £35,100, an increase of £8,600 over even the boom period of 1928-29. However, what I have to establish for the satisfaction of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), if it is possible to satisfy him on the point, is a. comparison between the depression period and the present time. It is to this period that my second set of figures relates. When the Lyons Government assumed office in January, 1932, Ministers received by way of Parliamentary salary £650 a year, and Assistant Ministers received the same as members of Parliament, namely, £800 a year. From the 1st October, 1932, there was a £50 reduction of the Parliamentary allowance, so that Ministers received approximately £600 a year, and Assistant Ministers £750 a year. The figures for this period, when a 30 per cent, cut applied to Ministers’ salaries, and for the present period of 1938-39, are as follows:-
By subtracting £19,500 from £35,100, we get a difference of £15,600, which is the difference between the cost of ministerial salaries and allowances at the present time, and the cost during the depression period. Now, where is the Treasurer who challenged those figures? Does the Postmaster-General (Mr. Archie Cameron) desire to challenge them? I have been accused of a reckless mis-statement of the facts. What does the PostmasterGeneral desire to say ‘about it?
There is a very important office under the Crown which might well be filled by an active Minister, thus relieving the Treasury of the need to find this additional money.” I refer to the office of Vice-President of the Executive Council. I should like to know from the PostmasterGeneral why this office, on the reconstruction of the Cabinet, has been written down to a subordinate place? He ought to know that this position provides for the direct representation of the Governor-General, and therefore of His Majesty the King, in the Cabinet ; nevertheless! the occupant of that position has been relegated to a subordinate position. Is this to be regarded as indicative of the attitude of the Cabinet to the throne? The results of the Cabinet reconstruction we have witnessed with pain and apprehension.
– I thought it was with pleasure.
– Not at all. One takes no pleasure in seeing parliamentary government, in a democracy such as ours, reduced to a condition which excites derision and contempt. We have seen two Ministers, not lost, but gone before. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) has resigned.
– Is that out of order ?
– Quite out of order.
– I merely wish to suggest thai the resignations of those Ministers afforded the most admirable opportunity to make a judicious saving of ministerial salaries. The retirement of a Senate Minister created a vacancy, providing an excellent opportunity for a consolidation of ministerial endeavour, a better allocation of work and abstinence from the appointment of what is now known as the “inner group”. But, at all events, having established my point with regard to the extravagance of this proposal and the Treasurer having accused mo of inaccuracy and having retired from the .chamber and left the matter in the hands of the PostmasterGeneral, who, in his innocence, knows nothing about it. I leave the subject. I have established the point I rose mainly to establish. I am -opposed to this clause. I shall not move any amendment, but shall vote against it in its entirety. On the face of it, it is a harmless, innocuous contribution, to (the literature of our time, but clearly it is derogatory of the dignity of this Parliament and an offence to the public conscience inasmuch as it constitutes action on the part of the Government callously to increase its own emoluments, and to lighten its own labours, by making an unnecessary appointment to’ the Cabinet, when people are unemployed-
– And starving.
– Yes, starving, or on the verge of starvation. When they read the simple legend contained in this clause they will say, “ This is parliamentary government, this democracy, this thing which we are asked to maintain at all costs lest fascism comes upon us “. But I cannot imagine them saying it with great enthusiasm. On the contrary, what they will say is this : “ If we have to put up with democracy so implemented and if we have to continue parliamentary government, at least we shall take the only course which is open to us in the exercise of our political rights, and that, is support those who would vote this clause out”.
Question put -
That the clause be agreed to.”
The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Question put -
That thebill he now read a third time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 10th November, 1938, (vide page 1460).
Clause 15 - (1.) After such date as is notified in the Gazetteby the Minister on the recommendation of the board, a contract for - (a.) the carriage by sea to any place beyond the Commonwealth of any apples or pears; or
Upon which Mr. Holt had moved, by way of amendment -
That at the end of sub-clause (1.) the following words be added: - “ but no such contract for insurance shall bc made by the board without the approval of the Minister with a person or company not carrying on the business of insurance in the Commonwealth on its own account or with a person or company which in the Commonwealth merely grants cover or receives premiums, proposals or requests for insurance business on behalf of or for transmission to any company, person or association of persons outside the Commonwealth “.
– All export control boards have been granted power by this Parliament to let contracts of insurance against marine and other risks on the products coming under their control, which are exported overseas. The Government is not prepared to impose a limitation in respect of marine insurance upon the Australian Apple and Pear Board, which is not imposed upon the other export control boards. The Minister, however; will again explore the whole situation with all the export control boards, with a view to seeing if it be possible to arrange a basis for future collaboration with the marine insurance companies domiciled in Australia. The form of collaboration could only relate to some measure of preference by the board which took into account the possible costs of administration due to Australian conditions. The Government could not undertake to coerce the boards in a matter of this kind.
– Can the honorable gentleman say that the inquiry will take place at an early date?
– I am not able to fix any date, because it is a matter which does not now come under my administration. I am simply giving the word of the Ministry that the position will be examined in respect of all export boards.
.- In view of the undertaking given on behalf of the Government, and of the fact that the collaboration will be in respect of ali export control boards, I- am prepared, with the leave of the committee, to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
.- I move -
That the following new sub-clause be inserted - “(1a.) After such date as is notified in the Gazette by , tlie Minister on the recommendation of the board, a contract for the insurance against loss or deterioration of any apples or pears while awaiting transport by sea to any place beyond the Commonwealth or while in course of, or awaiting disposal after, such transport, shall not be made except with the board acting as the insurer.”
Honorable members on both sides of the chamber have made it clear that whether the insurance be undertaken by an overseas company or by the Australian companies, a great deal of exploitation of primary producers takes place. In order to obviate that, I have moved this amendment. It provides that .the board, shall be the only insuring authority in this country in respect of this particular risk. We have had experience of insurance offices in the States, particularly in New South Wales, where the State Insurance Office commenced without any capital whatever, and operated so successfully that it was able to make a profit of £100,000 per annum after paying all the taxes for which it was liable. Any profit made as the result of the board undertaking this work should accrue to the growers themselves, and it should prove of material benefit to them. If it be argued by some honorable members that the board would not have the necessary financial resources to undertake this insurance work in case of the loss of a shipment shortly after its establishment, the Government could give the necessary guarantee to tide it over the initial period. We know that over a period of time this form of insurance would prove profitable to private insurance companies. If any profit is to be made, it should go back to the growers whom this Government says it is anxious to assist by the passage of this legislation. I trust that the amendment will be accepted.
.- The Government cannot accept tho amendment-
– In the terms in which it is couched, the amendment would not be in the best interests of the board, for the particular reason that to throw on the board the whole of the responsibility of the insurer would defeat the very purpose of insurance, which is the spreading of a risk in order to average losses, lt would confine the whole of the risk to the one commodity held by the one party. It is not necessarily assured that a profit would be made by confining the business to one particular commodity. On the law of average, over a certain number of risks, some- come through and others may go down. If the amendment were accepted, the board would bc placed in an extremely dangerous position. I was rather “disposed towards another amendment which I thought was to be moved, which would. have given the board- certain latitude to determine this matter in course of time.
– ‘Would the honorable member support that amendment?
– Yes. This amendment would place a binding obligation on the board, and might eventually encompass its ruin. I am unable to support it.
.- If the board is to be the only insurer, I do not think that the growers will have any effective protection. An insurer should be a person of substance, able to- pay if mishap should occur. In connexion with one of these boards, a loss of approximately £250,000 was incurred. Even if a moderate loss had to be borne in connexion with apples and pears, what funds would the board have to meet any claim? I understand that it has no funds, and u not likely to have any substantial amount. The growers should have some assurance that in case of mishap they will get that for which they are insured. The proposal of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) is impracticable.
.- Honorable members are labouring under a misapprehension. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has endeavoured to prove to the committee that this particular form of insurance, because it would be confined to one commodity, would not be profitable either to the board or to any particular company. In view of the speech which the honorable member made only a few nights ago, I think he recognizes that, over a span of years, all forms of insurance prove profitable to the companies which undertake them. It is only at a particular moment that the risk might be greater than the board could bear; that is, in the initial stage of its operations. If we want any evidence as to whether or not this particular insurance would be profitable to the private insurance companies, we have only to recall the lobbying of a few nights ago to secure the support of honorable members for ‘a particular amendment which has now been withdrawn. Evidently, then, the private insurance companies of this country do not hold the view of the honorable member for Richmond, that this particular insurance would not prove profitable to them.
– Combined with other insurance.
– I say to the honorable member for Richmond that, whether or not it was combined with other forms of insurance, taken over a specified span this particular insurance would prove profitable to the companies undertaking it. If they were not assured of that, they would not be so anxious to secure it. Their premiums are .fixed on the basis of covering all their risks.
In respect of what the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) has said, the last occasion on which a shipment of apples and pears was lost was when the Ferndale went down.
– There has been loss by damage, even though the ship has not gone down.
– According to the honor- . able member for Franklin (Mr. Frost), the companies will not cover loss or damage occasioned by deterioration in transit; the only risk they will undertake is in respect of total loss. Since the loss of the Ferndale, there has been a long .unbroken period of profit or income to the private insurance companies. Shipwrecks do not occur every day in the week. I think that honorable members will recognize that had a board undertaken the insurance work over the whole of the period of export it would have found it very profitable and would to-day be in possession of funds which would permit it to undertake the risk that honorable members say it would be dangerous for it to undertake on its own behalf.
Ihope that honorable members will not be misled into believing that the board would be taking an undue risk in insuring apples and pears under the provisions of my proposed new clause. The honorable member for Perth said that the board should not be asked to accept risks until it had accumulated funds. My reply is that the Government should guarantee the board against immediate loss until funds have accumulated. The honorable member for Richmond explained only a few days ago how the State insurance office of New South Wales had developed. He told us that its premiums were 50 per centless than those sought to be imposed by the private insurance companies, and that immediately the antiLabour Government of New South W ales prevented it from accepting workers’ compensation business the premiums charged by the private companies increased by 300 per cent, and in some cases even by 400 per cent. The purpose of private insurance companies is, of course, to make profits for their shareholders, whereas the purpose of the Apple and Pear Board would be to conserve the funds of the apple and pear-growers. If the board undertook the insurance responsibility it could protect the growers against deterioration while fruit was awaiting transit and also during transit. The private companies will not accept this risk. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) observes by interjection that the board would have no funds. Did the State insurance office have funds when itbegan operations? It did not. It operated for some time under the guarantee of the State Government. We contend that the Apple and Pear Board could operate under a similar guarantee from the Commonwealth Government. I ask honorable members opposite to support their words by their votes on this occasionand give the Apple and Pear Board the opportunity to protect the growers from undue exploitation by private insurance companies both in Australia and abroad.
– An obligation rests upon me to answer some ofthe statements of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward).
If his proposed new clause allowed the board an option to undertake insurance risk if it desired to do so after it had explored the whole situation, I could regard it with more favour. But it seeks to make it mandatory for the board to undertake risks which it might not be in a position to carry. The main principle of insurance is the . distribution of risks. Life assurance companies provide a case in point. On the whole range of their business, they may make a profit, but in respect of particular cases they make a heavy loss. An individual may insure his life to-day and die to-morrow. This would involve the company in loss, but the company would make up the deficiency by the premiums it received from persons who live for 50 years or so after they insure their lives. The Apple and Pear Board, if it undertook insurance risks at the inception of its operations, might suffer heavy losses in respect of the first two or three shipments of fruit it sent overseas. That would permanently injure its financial status. Reference has been made by the honorable member for East Sydney to my recent remarks respecting the profits of the State insurance office ofNew South Wales. I pointed- out that, in connexion, with its workers’ compensation risks, the State insurance office had made a profit of about £350,000 ; but its profits were made principally during the first three or four years of its operations. In that period it accumulated profits of more than £500,000, but in the depression years it suffered a loss of £189,000.
– That was after the Stevens’ Government took the workers’ compensation business away from it.
– I was fair to the Lang Government the other night. Tonight I want to be fair to the Stevens’ Government and also to the officers of the State insurance office. The reason why losses were suffered in the depression years, during which period all public companies engaged in similar operations suffered losses, was that injured persons were tempted to remain on the funds for a longer period than was absolutely necessary, as they knew that after they went off the funds their incomes would cease because their jobs would be gone.
– That would be impossible with the supervision that was exercised.
– The honorable member for Richmond is now somewhat wide of the subject before the Chair.
– I merely wished to illustrate the dangers attendant upon acceptance of the proposed new clause. The insurance principle of the distribution of risk would be departed from if we compelled an insurer to insure his own commodity. I cannot support the amendment.
Question put -
That the sub-clause proposed to be inserted (Mr. Ward’s amendment) be so inserted.
The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 11.45 p.m. to 12.15 a.m. (Friday).
Friday, 18 November 1988.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 16 to 24 agreed to.
Clause 25 - (1.) At the expiration of three years after the commencement of this Act, and. at the expiration of each three years thereafter, a committee consisting of representatives of approved growers’ organisations shallreview the operations of the board and report to the Minister as to whether or not the operations of the board should be continued and as to whether or not the constitution or powers of the hoard should be altered. (2.) The committee referred to in the last preceding sub-section shall not be deemed to be constituted for the purposes of this section unless such approved growers’ organizations are represented thereon as the Minister determines.
.I move -
That the words “ committee consisting of representatives of approved growers’ organizations shall review the operations of the board and report to the Minister “, sub-clause ( 1 ) , be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ plebiscite shall be taken of all growers in each State exporting apples and pears to overseas markets”.
Under the clause as it now stands, only approved organizations will have the right to recommend to the Minister whether or not the board should continue to function. I suggest that this right belongs to the growers; and after the board has been in operation for three years, the growers would be in a position to know whether or not they wanted it to continue. If it had not worked satisfactorily, they should have the right to vote it out. The organization might say that they were quite satisfied, while the growers themselves were anythingbut satisfied, though they would be unable to voice their opinion. Some honorable members may object that there would be difficulty in taking the vote, but there would be no difficulty in Tasmania at any rate, because there the industry is well organized. In the other States, admittedly, the organization is not so complete. There the growers may ship one year, and not the next. It will be the business of those Statesto organize their industry properly. The growers should be enrolled so that a vote may be taken at the endof three years. The holding of a plebiscite would not harass the board, and I think the Minister should accept the amendment.
– I agree with what the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost) wishes to achieve by his amendment, but I prefer the amendment foreshadowed by the Minister (Mr. Archie Cameron) at an earlier stage. I had moved an amendment providing for an election of the board by a ballot of the growers. It was agreed as a compromise that the firstboard should be chosen in the manner proposed in the bill, but that future boards should be elected by ballot of the growers. As a further measure of security for the growers, the Minister undertook to introduce an amendment providing for the holding of a plebiscite very much on the lines suggested by the honorable member for Franklin, except that it would be held only if petition were made by 500 growers. The honorable member will admit that if there existed real dissatisfaction among the growers no difficulty would be experienced in having a petition signed by500 of them. The amendment of the honorable member, however, would make it mandatory to hold a plebiscite, even though the growers were satisfied with the board, which, I feel, they would be at the end of three years. I do not think that this amendment would give the growers any greater security than they would enjoy under the amendment proposed by the Minister. Therefore, I suggest that the honorable member for Franklin withdraw his amendment in favour of the Minister’s.
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
Clause 25 negatived.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted: - “25 ( 1 ) . -If at any time within six months after the expiration of three years from the commencement of this Act, or within six months after the expiration of any subsequent period of three years, a request in writing signed by not less than live hundred growers is forwarded to the Minister asking that the question of the continued operation of this Act be submitted to a poll of growers, a poll of growers on that question shall be taken in” the prescribed manner within six months of the date upon which the request is received by the Minister. (2). - If at a poll taken in pursuance of this section a majority of the growers entitled to vote at the poll vote in favour of the discontinuance of the operation of this Act, this Act shall cease to have effect upon a date tobe fixed by Proclamation not being later than the expiration of six months from the date of the taking of the poll “.
It will be necessary presently to recommit Clauses 3 and i for consequential amendment, and to insert in Clause 3 a definition of a “grower” for the purposes of the plebiscite provided for in this amendment of Clause 25.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause 26 agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Archie Cameron) agreed to -
That the following new clause be inserted: - “1 5a. Upon the constitution, under this act, of the Australian Apple and Pear Board, any reference in any contract for the carriage of apples or pears to any place beyond the Commonwealth existing at the date of the constitution of the Board, to the Australian Apple and Pear Council shall be read as a reference to the Australian Apple and Pear Board.”
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted: - “15b (1.) Notwithstanding anything contained in this act, the board, -with the consent of the Minister, may, if it thinks fit, undertake the business of the insurance of apples and pears against the risks specified in paragraph (b) of sub-section (1.) of section fifteen. (2.) On and after a date to be fixed by proclamation and until the date of revocation of such proclamation no contract for insurance against such risks shall be made except with the board, but this sub-section shall not affect the operation of any contract made before the date fixed by proclamation pursuant to this sub-section nor any contract obligation arising at any time under such contract. (3.) Any proclamation made pursuant to the last preceding sub-section -may be revoked by proclamation as from the date fixed by such proclamation. (4.) No proclamation may be made under either of the two preceding sub-sections except upon the recommendation of the board.
I was wholeheartedly in favour of the new sub-clause moved by the honorable member for East. Sydney (Mr. Ward) which would have made it mandatory on the board to transact its own insurance business; but I had so little faith in the Country party that I thought it wise to be prepared for its rejection. My fears were realized, for we had the unhappy spectacle of the Minister making excuses for not agreeing to the new sub-clause.
– That is not so. I merely stated that the Government could not accept the amendment.
-I am sure that if the Minister were free from Cabinet ties, he would have supported the proposal of the honorable member for East Sydney. The members of the Country party should support my amendment. Most likely, the board will be influenced by the attitude of some members of the Country party, and will be inclined to transact its business, as other boards have done, through the usual trade channels. The Country party was formed to eliminate middlemen, but it has departed from its original intention. I desire to refer to the reasons given by the honorable member for Richmond (Mi. Anthony) for opposing the new subclause proposed by the honorable member for East Sydney. The honorable gentleman said that because the board would deal with only one class of product, the risk would be too great. He added that it would not have other classes of risks to balance things in the event of a disaster occurring. That argument could be advanced in regard to many types of insurance. It is known that many church organizations in Australia transact -their own insurance business and do not deal in any other class of insurance. Various State governments have their own insurance offices. In Victoria a State department deals exclusively with workers’ compensation insurance. What holds good with these instrumentalities should also bold good with the Apple and Pear Roard. It must be remembered that the insurance would be effected upon a large number of packages. Many thousands of cases of apples and pears are exported annually, in about 60 vessels. It. will thus be seen that the risk is well spread. I am convinced that the companies which transact this type of business fix their premiums on a basis which enables them to meet any losses that are likely to occur. In these circumstances I feel sure that the board would be quite safe in transacting business of this type. However, the committee having rejected the proposed new sub-clause I am now moving for the insertion of a new clause the purport of which is to give to the board the option of transacting business df this type if it thinks fit. 1 hope that it will think fit to undertake the business and that it will insure the first year’s cargoes. We must realize that as a business concern the charge made by the’ board for insurance would be based on what is necessary to cover loss, but should it be unlucky enough to sustain a heavy loss it could appeal to the Treasury or to the Commonwealth Bank to guarantee it for the loss incurred and recoup the loss out of the succeeding two or three years’ operations. If the board itself undertakes this work and for the first three years sustains no great losses it will have at its disposal at the end of that period a substantial sum of money available for distribution in a manner beneficial to the industry with which it is to deal. I have nothing further to say except to express the hope that the Government will accept my amendment and that it will receive the support of honorable members generally.
.- The Government has considered this proposal of the honorable gentleman very carefully, and Ihave to inform him that it is opposed to it.
– The amendment moved by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) differs from that moved by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and disposed of previously by the committee in that, whereas the honorable member for East Sydney proposed to compel the board to undertake a monopoly of insurance, the honorable member for Ballarat first of all desires to leave the board free to make up ite own mind as to whether or not it should undertake this business, and secondly, requires the consent of the Minister before it can undertake the business. A sub-clause further provides that, if the Minister thinks fit and the board so recommends, the board may be given a monopoly of the business. The effect of the first sub-clause of the proposed new clause is that the board may enter into the business, but it does not give the board a monopoly of the business. The operation of the remaining sub-clauses is contingent upon the board, first, after considering the matter, recommending to the Minister that it should he allowed to have exclusively the business of insuring its own cargoes and secondly, that the Minister gives his consent. That leaves the board free to undertake the business if it is likely to be profitable in the interests of the people whose cargoes are to be entrusted to it. The Minister may, however, withhold his consent to, or may approve of, the recommendation. If it is regarded by boththe board and. the Minister that the board should insure its own cargoes, the board should be quite free to do so, and if the Minister or the board thinks that the board should have a monopoly of the business, the Minister should be free to grant the board that monopoly. That is the whole scope of the amendment. It seems that, from every point of view, the clause is unobjectionable. Any objection to the proposal that the board should be free to enter this domain of business seems to be animated by the spirit that such business should be reserved for the private insurance companies, which should have the whole field reserved to them, and that any time a new risk is created, that risk should be reserved for the private insurance companies without any concern for the interests of the persons whose cargoes are being carried.
Question put -
That the new clause, proposed to be inserted. (Mr. Pollard’s amendment), be so inserted.
The committee divided. (CH AIRMAN—- Mr.Prowse) .
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Motion (by Mr. Archie Cameron) agreed to -
That the bill be now recommitted to a committee of the whole House for the reconsideration of clauses 3 and 4.
In committee (Recommittal) :
Clause 3 (Definitions).
. -I move -
That after the definition of” approved growers’ organizations” the following definition , be inserted: - “grower”, in relation to a poll of growers taken for the purpose of this act means the occupier of an orchard from which at least two hundred and fifty bushels of apples or pears were exported in each of at least two of the three years preceding the taking of the poll in relation to which the expression is used.
– Should not the definition be worded “ apples and /or pears “ ? The owner of an orchard from which are exported 200 cases of apples and 50 cases of pears, or vice versa, should be embraced in this definition.
– I understand that this definition as amended is correctly drafted in order to cover the very point raised by the honorable member.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause as amended agreed to.
Clause 4 (Australian Apple and Pear Board).
Clause consequently amended, and, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with further amendments; reports adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - No. 24 of 1938- Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act - Repatriation Commission - Report for year 1937-38.
Customs Act and Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act -Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1938. No. 108.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired on Rottnest Island, Western Australia - For Defence purposes.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinances of 1938 -
No. 26- - Canberra Community Hospital (No. 2).
No. 27 -Liquor (No. 2).
House adjourned at 12.53 a.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
k asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Mr.Holloway asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Willhe supply the total imports of glassware, including vials and/or fancy bottles and excepting beer bottles, giving quantity and value, for the last five years, under (a.) foreign duties, and (b) British duties?
s. - The answer to the honorable member’s’ question is as follows : -
Information as to the quantities of glassware imported is not available. Excluding filled bottles subject to ad valorem duty, the total imports of glassware into the Commonwealth during the last five years were valued as follows: -
y asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
In view of the reported statement that the Government of the United States of America has decided to install some 4,000 voting machinesfor use during parliamentary elections, and of the claim that the machines will eliminate all possibilities of informal voting, will count the votes, and guarantee the secrecy of the ballot, will he ascertain the facts and consider the advisability of testing the value of such machinery in Australia?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister for External Affairs,upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
;Green asked the Prime Minister. upon notice -
– The information is being obtained and will be made available at as early a date as possible.
d asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
y asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members’ questions are as follows : -
Experiments with Living Animals.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
How many living animals have been subjected to experimentation at the Commonwealth Scrum Laboratory, Melbourne, in each of the last five years?
– The information is being obtained.
n asked the Minister administering External Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members questions are as follows : -
n. - On the 10th Novem ber, the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) asked the following, questions, upon notice -
The information desired by the honorable member is as follows: -
Grants fob Mineral Research.
– On Thursday, the 13th October, 1038, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green), asked the Minister for the Interior the following questions, upon notice: -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
The period covered so far as the States are concerned was from January, 1935 to June, 1938. In addition about £38,000 was appropriated under annual votes for the Northern Territory.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 November 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1938/19381117_reps_15_158/>.