15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday next, at 10.30 a.m.
– Will the Minister for Civil Aviation state whether it is a fact that the seaplane Guba has had difficulty in- securing a mooring place at Williamstown, and has he investigated the necessity for the provision of a suitable seaplane base at Melbourne? Does he intrad to avail himself of the offer made by the Melbourne City Council to make £50,000 available towards the cost of providing the necessary base, in the event of the Government deciding to take action in the matter?
– I have not the whole of the necessary information with me at the moment to enable rae to reply fully to the question, but I shall obtain the latest particulars and advise the honorable member.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether, as reported in the press, the Government intends to spend a further £25,000 on alterations to the present residence in Canberra of the Governor-General ?
– The matter is under consideration at the present time, and, as soon as a decision has been reached, an intimation will be made to the House in’ regard to it.
– Is the Prime Minister now in a position to inform the House as to the total tonnage of pig iron to be supplied to Japan under the contract with the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited?
– I have promised to obtain the figures for the honorable member, and I shall get them almost immediately.
– In view of the statements by the Prime Minister, as reported in the press, that he will see that all Commonwealth works are carried out under award conditions, will the Minister for Works ensure that the works carried out by the States in co-operation with the Commonwealth are conducted on that basis ?
– The Commonwealth will not take over any State works, nor will it hand over to the States any Commonwealth works. All Common-wealth works are carried out under award conditions. We are endeavouring to bring about co-ordination, so that there will be no lapping or overlapping of Commonwealth and State activities. The intention is to provide a maximum amount of employment, and particularly to employ unskilled labour, in conjunction with the States, always taking care that the works do not overlap. Everything possible is being done to give the greatest amount of relief possible, and to carry out the works that are of the most urgent and useful character, particularly those having a defence value.
– In view of his stated desire to provide work, particularly for the unskilled section of the unemployed, will the Minister for Works even now consider the necessity to undertake most of the works on which unskilled labour is used through the Department of Works, and not by contract, since the contract system corners the work for a select few and leaves for the majority no work at all ?
– We are concentrating on those works which will provide the maximum amount of work for the unemployed. We are consulting the States to ascertain in “what way they cau assist us. Several State governments have offered the service of their technical staffs. The suggestion made by the honorable member for West Sydney is already in practice to a certain degree because many small jobs are being undertaken through the Department of Works.
– You will continue to apply that policy?
– Yes, where it is sound to do so.
– If several works arc being undertaken through the Commonwealth Works Department, why is it that the responsible officers of the department in Sydney know nothing about them, and say that they have employed no men since last June?
– It is not correct to say that the officers of the Commonwealth Works Department do not know what is going on, because they are preparing schedules of the works and giving preference to jobs which will provide employment for unskilled labour. Officers in the various States are ascertaining what works can be started before Christmas.
– Why is it that your officers say that no men have been employed since last June?
– That is incorrect.
– It would clear the matter up if the Minister would, at the week-end, confer with the employment officer of his department in Sydney and inform the House next week as to how many men have been employed through that officer on Commonwealth works since June.
– I shall see if it is possible to supply the figures.
– In view of the fact that the Commonwealth Works Department is unable to draft plans and specifications for public works in Tasmania, will the Minister for Works transfer to the Tasmanian Government the responsibility so that the works may be put into operation immediately.
– There is no need to do that, because the works are being carried out expeditiously. Plan3 have been prepared.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether he has yet received a. reply from the Leader of the Opposition with regard to the attitude of the Opposition to the recruiting campaign for strengthening the militia forces?
– I know, of course, only what has been published in the press as the statement of the Leader of the Opposition. When I made a general appeal to all sections for co-operation, I expected to receive it, and I still do so. I had said earlier, through the press, that whatever form the participation of the members of the Opposition would take, I should be prepared to meet it in that regard. [ still believe that the Government will have the co-operation “of honorable members generally. The manner in which they, are prepared to assist is a matter for themselves.
– Seeing that it is proposed to hold a constitution session early next year, will the Government print and circulate among the people, through members of the Parliament, copies of the excellent speeches delivered on the subject of the amendment of the Constitution by the right honorable member for Yarra and the Attorney-General?
– Consideration might be given to that matter, but the printing and distribution of those two speeches would not be entirely satisfactory, in that neither speaker attempted to cover the whole of the ground. Each merely indicated the nature of the difficulties. There are so many more points that would occur to the minds of honorable 1 members themselves that I am afraid an incomplete picture would be presented to the people by the circulation of those speeches. Something more than that is required before the people are asked to give consideration to the subject. I shall go into the matter.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs yet in a position to inform the House as to the nature of the recommendations of the Tariff Board in regard to canary seed ?
– All I can say at this stage is that a report has been received from the board on the subject, and will be presented to the House in due course.
– With a view to -removing a great deal of public misconception as to the national capital, and fostering the national sentiment which we all consider to be highly desirable, will the Minister supervising Commonwealth publicity give consideration to the preparation of a film of Canberra, along the same lines as those followed in regard to other films made by the publicity branch?
– I agree that it is a very good idea to have a film made of the national capital on the lines suggested, and I shall do everything I can to see that effect is given to the honorable member’s wish.
– In the GovernorGeneral’s speech, it was indicated that the Commonwealth Government intended to confer with the governments of the States, with a view to the introduction of measures for the promotion of the well-being of the Australian aborigines. Will the Prime Minister state whether the Government has yet taken any action along those lines?
– At the request of the Prime Minister, I may state that I expect, before the end of the session, to be in a position to make a pronouncement of Government policy in regard to the aborigines in Commonwealth territories. It is believed that during next year a conference of Ministers in charge of native affairs in the several States, at which I shall be present, will be held to discuss the possibility of the adoption of a common policy with regard to aborigines throughout Australia.
Visit by PRIME Minister - Development-.
– In view of the fact that, before the last elections, the Prime Minister gave a promise to the member for the Northern Territory that he would visit that portion of Australia, will the right honorable gentleman, at an early date, give effect to his promise, and thus be the first Prime Minister of the Commonwealth to visit the territory?
– I .should be very glad to have an opportunity to pay a visit to the Northern Territory, but I am afraid that the programme that lies ahead of me, and of Ministers generally, in the ensuing months at any rate, makes it impracticable. In any case, I think that the honorable member will recognize that the Minister for the Interior, during his recent visit to the territory, covered the ground so completely that for a time it is unnecessary for another Minister to go there.
– Will the promised statement of the Government’s policy for the development of the Northern Territory be made in sufficient time to allow nf a full discussion of it in this House?
– A pronouncement will be made this session, but I am not able to indicate exactly when.
– Will the Treasurer inform the House whether the Commonwealth Government has any liability in connexion with semi-governmental loans issued with a State government guarantee, and, if it has, will he take steps to ascertain the total amount of such loans?
– If one were to give a quick answer, the reply, I think, would be “No The Financial Agreement puts the final responsibility with regard to State loans on the Commonwealth, and, if the State governments had to borrow in order to back up their guarantees in respect of loans to a semi-governmental authority, I suppose that it might be said that the Commonwealth Government is, in some measure, in the final analysis, responsible.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral be in a position to make a statement to the House on the proposed re-organization of the Australian Broadcasting Commission before the Christmas adjournment?
– What has resulted from the investigation by the PostmasterGeneral of complaints about the administration of the Australian Broadcasting Commission generally?
– The investigations are still proceeding and as soon as conclusions have been reached the House will be informed. The honorable member will have ample opportunity to debate the matter.
– Will the Ministry consider the advisability of. placing the management of broadcasting in Australia under the Postmaster-General ?
– We should be very happy to consider any representations which the honorable member cares to make.
Appointment as Governor-General.
– Can the Prime Minister inform honorable members why the appointment of the Duke of Kent as Governor-General of the Common wealth was announced twelve months before the expiry of the term of the present Governor-General? Is the appointment of the Duke of Kent the result of a recommendation by the Commonwealth Government or by the Government of the United Kingdom?
– The appointment was made as the result of a recommendation by the Commonwealth Government. It was made in the belief that the people of this country would be glad to have a member of the Royal Family as their GovernorGeneral.
– In view of the growing importance of the Jewish refugee problem, and of the decisions of the international conference at Evian, will the Prime Minister say when he will place on the table of the House the report of the Australian delegate to the conference which was distributed in Cabinet some time ago?
– As soon as we have examined the position we shall give the necessary information to Parliament.
– Has the Prime Minister received any communication from the British Government concerning Jewish refugees? If so, in view of the many suggestions that have been made that the Government should take some action to solve this problem, will he lay it upon the table of the House? Will the right honorable gentleman also undertake to make a statement to the House on the subject before the Christmas recess ?
– The Government has not received any specific request from the British Government on this subject, which is,however, receiving the consideration of the Cabinet. I hope to make a statement on the subject next Tuesday.
– What progress has been made with the proposal to place meteorological officers on ships crossing the Tasman sea in order to obtain weather data of value to aviation? Has the Minister for the Interior considered the appointment of such an officer to the Awatea?
– In recent months there has been considerable reorganization of the meteorological branch and a close liaison has been established between that branch and the Civil Aviation Department. Meteorological officers are at present at every official aerodrome to co-operate with the aviation authorities. I shall have inquiries made into the honorable member’s question about the appointment of a meteorological officer to the Awatea.
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation inform me what has been the outcome of the consideration that was given to the proposal to rename Mascot aerodrome “Kingsford Smith Airport “ as a tribute to the late Sir Charles Kingsford Smith?
– That matter has been left in abeyance because most of the senior officers of the Civil Aviation Department are occupied with the Kyeema inquiry.
– Is the Minister for
Civil Aviation yet in a position to indicate at which country centres in New South Wales radio beacons will be established?
– It has been impossible for the Departments of Works and Civil Aviation to tabulate the information sought by honorable members without taking officers off other important works. I am, however, preparing a list of the works that are being carried out in each federal electorate so that honorable members will know what is being done. The list will also contain a complete schedule for each State and a summary for the whole of the Commonwealth.
– Is the Minister for the Interior yet in a position to inform me how many highly skilled men were lost to the Commonwealth when it decided as a matter ofpolicy that the Lithgow Small Arms Factory should not undertake certain work?
– That question was asked only yesterday and I have not yet obtained the information.
– Has the Minister for Defence any report to make concerning the unfortunate disaster that occurred at Laverton yesterday in connexion with the Air Force? Can no means be devised to avoid such a succession of these tragic happenings?
– A fatal accident occurred yesterday at Laverton in which an instructor, a trainee, and a Moth aeroplane were involved. The machine, -when flying at an altitude of approximately 1,000 feet went into a spin and hit the ground with the result that the instructor was killed and the trainee slightly injured. I have not yet received any further report concerning the accident.
– I ask honorable members to reserve any further questions until Tuesday, or to give notice of them.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a hill for an act to amend the Commonwealth Bank Act 191M932.
– I bring up the bill and move -
That it be now read a first time.
I wish to inform honorable members that a memorandum is being circulated in connexion with this bill. It is not exactly of a explanatory nature, but it shows, printed in different types, the sections of the principal act affected by this bill as they now stand, and as they will appear if amended as proposed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act relating to the imposition, assessment and collection of a tax upon wheat and flour and upon certain goods in the manufacture of which flour is used, and for other purposes.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
Consideration resumed from the 24th November (vide page 2097), on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division I. - The Senate - namely, “ Salaries and allowances, £8,210”, be agreed to.
– In addressing myself to the budget and its proposals, I realize that, as the subject was under consideration throughout the whole of Wednesday night and until 7 o’clock yesterday morning, and was also considered yesterday until midnight, a great deal has already been said on it. With a good deal of this I agree, but with a good deal of it I disagree. The most important subject dealt with in the budget is defence; but, probably, that which is causing the most concern to the general public has relation to our new national health and pensions insurance scheme. The more the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act is considered, the more serious, unjust and exorbitant appears to be the taxation that it will impose upon the people of this country. I regard it as one of the most objectionable measures inflicted upon the public since federation. The health benefits provided by it are nebulous. This legislative infant narrowly escaped execution at birth. Now that its swaddling clothes are being unwrapped from it, we are able to see it in all its hideousness. I feel sure that Ministers and honorable members generally who supported it must be ashamed of it. It should be designated to the waste-paper basket without delay. The measure, in my opinion, imposes most unfair penalties upon employers and employees alike, and may, in every respect, be classed, in respect of its alleged health benefits at any rate, as disgusting. It is so iniquitous that it should be repealed without delay. If it actually comes into force it will cause to be extracted from the people of this country in the first year of its operations no less a sum than £12,000,000, at a time when we have been told that all of our available resources should be devoted to the provision of adequate defence measures for this country. Probably in five years time the Crown alone will be required to provide £10,000,000 annually for the purposes of the act, and within a very few years not less than £30,000,000 will have to be contributed annually by the people of Australia in one way and another for so-called health and pensions insurance purposes, yet the Parliament will still be required to provide large sums of money for invalid and old-age pensions under the- existing law. One of the most serious complaints against the new act is that it does not provide assistance for persons who are unemployed or for women and children. When the measure was being passed through Parliament we were assured that a supplementary bill would be introduced to provide similar benefits for certain primary producers and self-employed persons under a voluntary scheme. We have since been furnished with a general idea of the form of that bill. I was staggered to find that it was proposed that primary producers, many of whom are in receipt of less than the basic wage, should be required to pay 4s. a week for benefits under two headings. Such a scheme would be absolutely ridiculous, and I do not think for a moment that the Parliament would pass it. As honorable members are aware, I bitterly opposed the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act at every stage, and, as I have watched the preliminary steps that have been taken to bring the measure into operation, I have found my opposition to it hardening. Whatever admiration any honorable member must have had for the act when it was passed must surely have been turned to disgust by now. Recently. I invited the attention of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) to a proposal which could be adopted to avoid the worst effect of the act, and yet make some use of the organization which is being developed by the National Insurance Commission. I proposed that approved societies should be asked to submit a scheme on the lines of our friendly societies, a national subsidy being paid to enable them to broaden the scope of their benefits and enable persons of both sexes, and also children, to be covered. The scheme would have relation, of course, only to men and women in receipt of less than a certain stipulated remuneration. My scheme would also have afforded benefits to unemployed persons. If it were adopted, and the Treasury would make some contribution towards the fund proposed to be established, it should be practicable to make an equitable arrangement through approved societies to carry into the fullest effect the ideas that I enunciated. Such a scheme would avoid making heavy inroads into the income of our lower-paid city and rural workers week by week, and would be much more valuable generally than the scheme of the act which we recently passed. It may be claimed by some honorable members that the Government was in duty bound to introduce a national health and pensions insurance scheme in consequence of the mandate it received at the last elections. I readily concede that all parties in this Parliament advocated some form of national insurance during the last general election campaign, but I do not believe that anybody realized that a British expert on national insurance would be able to persuade a government of this country to adopt some of the provisions, of our new act. The contributions side of the national scheme is undoubtedly heavily overloaded, and many people will not be able to afford to pay the contributions required from them. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey), more than any other member of the Government, has been responsible for that legislation, and he should now be big enough to realize that the people of Australia are not satisfied with it. He has made the mistake of following too slavishly the scheme in operation in the Old Country. This is to be deplored, particularly in view of the fact that, in respect of social services, Australia has for many years outdistanced the old conservative European countries. All of the States have their baby clinics and child welfare centres where free and expert attention and advice are given for the care of city children right from the cradle. In respect of hospitalization, also, we have made far greater progress than the old countries, whilst our strong friendly society movement is unrivalled in any other country. We have left the older countries far behind in social legislation. Surely, we cannot now be expected to abandon all our excellent social services in favour of a less progressive scheme. The criticism which has been levelled against this legislation because of its failure to provide for unemployment insurance has to some degree, perhaps, been unjust.
The States must accept the responsibility for the rejection of the Commonwealth Government’s original proposals in that direction; they refused to surrender their powers under the Constitution in that respect. Here again we see the need for a re-alignment of powers under the Constitution in order to enable the national Parliament to legislate effectively in the interests of the people as a whole. I listened with interest to the suggestion that a convention should be held to deal with alterations of the Constitution. The only alteration which would satisfy me would be the abolition of State parliaments, and, I suggest, this issue should be the first to be submitted to the people by way of referendum. I have not the slightest doubt that it would be carried. I do not agree with the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) that to prepare the way for such a referendum considerable time will be needed in order to educate the people to the wisdom of the proposals which may be submitted. If there is one thing which the people desire it is that State parliaments should be abolished.
– Does the honorable member suggest that that was demonstrated on the occasion of the last referendum ?
– I do not suggest that every one is in favour of the abolition of State parliaments, but I have no doubt that the majority of the people are, and would immediately adopt such a proposal if it were submitted to them hy way of a referendum. If the Commonwealth fails to take the initiative in this matter as soon as possible, there is a danger that State governments and State public servants will make the most of the delay to organize opposition. Under one parliament we would have one people with one destiny, and local matters could be entrusted to local councils.
Defence is the most important subject dealt with in the budget. I oppose the suggestion that the Government should immediately re-introduce compulsory military training. I wholeheartedly support its accepted policy of voluntary training, and I trust that we shall experience no difficulty in bringing the strength of our militia up to the pro posed minimum of 70,000. Earlier this year it was suggested that as much as £43,000,000 would be immediately required for defence, but it is now hinted that £50,000,000 may be insufficient for this purpose. I believe that more could have been done in the past to maintain our defences. Nevertheless, had not this Government made reasonable provision in that direction six years ago, we should find ourselves very much worse off than we are to-day. In recent years we have done twice as much as any of the other dominions in making provision for defence. For that fact we can now feel thankful.
– In that case we should be safer than any of the other dominions.
– I am aware of the views of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) on defence. He declares that there is no danger of war, and that the Government exaggerates the need for defence preparations. However, members of the British Labour party, who, I suggest, are in a far better position i,o realize the dangers arising from the present unsettled international position, do not hold that view. In fact, they believe that the very substantial measures adopted by the Government of Great Britain are not sufficient. It is not a matter of preparing for dangers which may arise at some time in the future: the dangers already confront us. I do not deceive myself that three great aggressor nations have not arrived at an arrangement whereby, if any of them he involved in war, the others will come to its aid. In any consideration of our defences we cannot over-emphasize our dependence on the British fleet, and should that fleet be engaged elsewhere our position would he very precarious indeed. Honorable members opposite who are inclined to deprecate any suggestion that Australia could possibly be in danger of attack should read their own paper, the Labor Daily, which, within the last few days, published a report that a formidable naval squadron was present in our waters during the recent international crisis.
– The Prime Minister denied that report.
– The Prime Minister has no official knowledge of it. As the honorable member does not always believe what the Prime Minister says, I suggest that he read his own party’s paper on the matter, which, as late as yesterday, repeated that report. Whether it be correct or not, it provides an illustration of what is possible in the northern parts of Australia, particularly Queensland. Considerable attention is being paid in the Government’s present programme to the defence of the Northern Territory, but, I suggest, no attacker would wish to invade the Northern Territory, because that part of the country would be of little use to an invading farce. The northern part of Queensland, however, would be prized by any enemy. It is one of the most productive portions of the Commonwealth. We should, therefore, do everything possible to defend it by establishing and maintaining a sufficient force of all arms in order to be able to repel, as soon as possible, any attack that might be made from that direction. Under its present programme, the Government should make provision for the manufacture of munitions in some of the inland towns in Northern Queensland.
– Does not the honorable gentleman regard the north-west of Australia as being just as important as the north-east ?
– I have not referred to the north-west. Its claims are so often advanced by many honorable members who can speak of nothing else, and I have no desire to encroach upon their ground. If T may be permitted to mention Queensland, I suggest that there is every reason why substantial forces of all arms should be maintained in the northern portion of that State. Great Britain would probably be fully occupied in Europe and in protecting its outposts. British territory in the Pacific would be largely at the mercy of foreign powers, and Australia would face a serious situation. Anything that we can do to guard against disaster should be done while the opportunity exists.
There has been some opposition to the trade agreement entered into between the
United Kingdom and the United States of America. Ihe honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) claimed that greater consideration should have been given to bring the United Kingdom to an understanding that it should trade with us. In the light of the facts, that was a curious statement for ihe honorable member to make. Great Britain is the only country to which Australia can look as the market for its excess production of wheat, meat, wool and fruit.
– It is the only country which has opened its doors to us.
– That is because we have closed our doors to other countries.
– Australia is Great Britain’s third best trade country. Statistics for 1937 - the latest available - show that in that year Australia sold to Great Britain goods to the value of £71,805,000: and bought in return goods valued at £37,530,000. Those figures illustrate clearly the success of Australia’s representations in the Old Country and the desire of Great Britain- to trade with Australia to the fullest degree possible.
A matter of considerable interest at the present time is the effect of the trade agreement on the export of canned fruits from Australia. It has been said that the Government was willing to sacrifice the canned pineapple industry in the interests of the trade in other canned fruits. This is now proved to be untile. I cannot agree with any action which would injure or destroy an industry which makes possible closer settlement to a degree greater than in any other primary producing industry in this country. The information which has been made available shows that, in respect of apples and peai-3, the preference will be reduced from 4s. 6d. to 3s. per cwt.
– For a part of the year only.
– That, is so: the old rate of 4s. 6d. per cwt. will still operate during the Australian season. In respect of tinned and bott’ ed fruits and syrups there is to be a reduction from 3s. 6d. to 2?. 2d. per cwt., whilst the 15 per cent, ad valorem duty on grape fruit is to be entirely removed. In regard to fruit salads there is to be a change from an ad valorem duty of 15 per cent, to a specified rate of 5s. 6d. per cwt. The ad valorem duty of 15 per cent, on pineapples is to be changed to a specific rate of 5s. per cwt. Loganberries will be subject to the specific rate of 4s. 3d. per cwt. instead of an ad valorem duty of 15 per cent. The alteration in respect of pineapples will benefit the better or higher-priced product which is the grade supplied by Australia. The fears that the delegation was prepared to disregard the claims of the Australian pineapple industry have been proved to have been unfounded. Some sacrifice is worth making in order to strengthen the ties between the United Kingdom and the United States of America, but in this instance no sacrifice at ail has been called for. Acting on advice received from its Agent-General in Great Britain and from Australia’s Trade Commissioner in Canada, that increased markets for canned pineapples, existed in both countries, the Government of Queensland, through its Department of Agriculture, took action to increase the production of pineapples. In 1937, Queensland produced 774,000 cases of pineapples, but, as the result of the efforts to expand the industry, the production for the first ten months of the present financial year reached 1,2.18,000 cases. Then prices dropped, the Australian market became glutted, canning factories closed down, and growers were left to face up to the position. I have placed before the Government a request for a bounty of £20,000 a year for three years on the export of pineapples. Instead of expending . millions of pounds on such schemes as national insurance, the Government should do something to assist industries, the development of which would be of lasting value to this country. The Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) said that he would give attention to this request when the treaty had been announced and, consequently, I hope that before Parliament adjourns for the Christmas recess a bill to provide assistance to the growers of pineapples will be introduced, so that they may be able to compete in the world’s markets against pineapples grown in other countries under cheap-labour conditions.
A good deal has been said lately regarding the necessity for the standardization of Australian railway gauges. Some have advocated that this work be undertaken immediately in the interests of the defence of Australia. In my opinion, the defence value of the change would be negligible in comparison with the cost. It would do the troops good to stretch their legs at change-of-gauge stations while the transfer of ammunition and equipment took place. I suggest that machinery be installed at such places to expedite the transfer. If we have millions of pounds to expend, let us devote it to hydro-electric and water conservation schemes in different parts of Australia. This country will always suffer from periodic droughts, and. money expended in conserving water would be a good investment. If additional storage were provided for the water which falls ia abundance, but is now allowed to run to waste, there would not be the same call on the Treasury to find money for drought relief, and, what is more important, there would not be so much suffering among primary producers, nor would the resultant distress in our cities be so great as it is now.
– The debate on the budget is one of the most important phases of our parliamentary procedure. The papers presented by the Treasurer give an indication of the Government’s financial plans for the ensuing twelve months; they show what taxes are to be imposed, and how the revenues thus obtained are to be distributed. Without taxation, revenues cannot be obtained, and consequently the development and progress of the country would be retarded. I, therefore, propose to make some observations on the subject of taxation, laying special stress on the principle that the barden should be placed on the shoulders of those best able to bear it. This budget discloses that additional revenue is to be obtained by means of increases of the sales tax, income tax, land tax and excise duties. Justification for the heavier im- posts is claimed on the ground that the Government intends to expend larger sums than in former years in providing for the defence of Australia. No honorable member will disagree with the intention of the Government to defend Australia, but there is considerable diversity of opinion as to how that defence can best be provided. That point, however, does not arise at the moment, as 1 propose to confine my remarks on this subject to the raising, rather than the expending, of the money. Whether Australia can best be defended by strengthening the navy or by increasing the Air Force, money for the purpose must be obtained, and, therefore, taxes must be imposed. T propose to deal with the methods adopted in this budget by the Commonwealth Government to raise revenue. The methods proposed will not place the burden upon the shoulders of those best able to bear it.
Before coming to the actual points of criticism which I propose to level I think it desirable to make one or two observations concerning what has happened during the last seven or eight years, and to indicate to honorable members, if for no other purpose than to bring the facts under their notice again, the forms of taxation employed to meet the circumstances which existed, particularly in 1930 and 1931, and also the promises then made of what would happen when the financial and economic conditions improved. In 1930 and 1931 additional taxation had to be imposed. I do not intend to deal in detail with the conditions which then prevailed at that time because they are still in the minds of honorable members; but I shall outline the circumstances which faced, not only this Parliament, but also the State parliaments. The financial resources of the Commonwealth and of the States were so restricted by forces, over which neither the Federal nor the State Parliaments apparently had’ any control, that other sources had to be tapped to meet the pressing needs of governments. Those needs concerned mainly a large number of persons who depended for their existence upon the return which they obtained for their labour. The problem of raising revenue became important, particularly to the States and in certain directions to the Commonwealth. At that time the Commonwealth Government introduced into this Parliament for the first time a system of taxation which previously had never been adopted in this country, namely, the sales tax. _ That system had been in operation in the sister Dominion of Canada, and the Government brought to Australia an expert to lay down the basis upon which that form of taxation could be applied. It was declared and generally understood, not only by this Parliament, but also by the electors as a whole, that the sales tax was only a temporary and, in fact, emergency tax. It was also stated most definitely that at the first opportunity it would be repealed. But that promise has not been honoured. The sales tax has produced enormous revenue, and although the rate of tax has varied slightly, it is still in force. In the present budget the rate has been increased to 5 per cent., and it appears to me from the trend of events that this socalled emergency tax, which was first introduced in 1930 and 1931, has become a permanent feature of our taxation. The electors, therefore, think that in such matters very little reliance can be placed upon the promises of governments. However, my chief complaint arises from the fact that if the circumstances warrant a continuance of an emergency tax, such as the sales tax, it is entirely wrong for any government to repeal or reduce other taxes which were in operation for years before an emergency tax was introduced. To use an emergency tax to provide benefits to others is “ putting it over “ the people and the Parliament, and should not be countenanced. Since 1932 the Commonwealth Government has reduced the land tax in progressive stages by more than 50 per cent., and at the same time it has maintained a system of emergency taxation, which, it was alleged, was imposed only to tide the Government over a period of temporary difficulties. Therefore, it is clear that advantage has been taken of the situation which existed in 1930-31 by some powers and influences to shed their responsibilities and to place them upon others. Power has been exercised by people who have influenced the Government to reduce the land tax by over 50 per cent, and still retain an emergency tax, thereby shifting the burden and responsibility of the sales tax on to the shoulders of a large number of persons who are quite unable to bear it. The Federal Land Tax Assessment Act was passed on the 17th November, 1910, and its objects, according to the debates at that time, were twofold. In the first place it was declared that the tax was to provide revenue for defence and social services. Those declarations coincide somewhat with the proposals embodied in this budget. At that time the representatives of the people in Parliament held the view apparently that where land and property became involved, it was the responsibility of those who owned it to make their contribution in the form of taxes towards the defence of the country. The defence of a country in the main means defending the material things of a country; those who possess them must eventually benefit after a success at arms. For instance, the Common-wealth controls New Guinea under a mandate. I recall those who fought in the Great War, and, after enduring hardships and making great sacrifices, returned to Australia. Although the Commonwealth was given a mandate over New Guinea, how many exsoldiers own any land in that territory? How many have a right to what the terri tory is able to provide for those who have interests there? It cannot be denied that New Guinea has become a source of tremendous profit to Burns, Philp and Company Limited, W. H. Carpenter and Company, and a large American company engaged in sluicing for gold. Before an Australian ex-soldier can settle in New Guinea he must be in possession of sufficient money to ensure that in the event of his being unsuccessful he can be returned to Australia. Studying the subject from the material side - not that I want to argue that all things should be regarded from a materialistic point of view but I am forced to realize that economic factors are determined upon a materialistic basis - landed property and what it provides become a most important factor in our every-day life. Consequently the changed control of a country after the Great War, or in fact any war, naturally affects the ownership of almost everything within it? borders.
As I have already indicated the federal land tax was imposed in 1910 mainly to provide revenue for defence and social services; and in the matter of social services it could very reasonably be argued that, if the conditions in any country are good, the people of that country are likely to be more enthusiastic in regard to its defence. Apart from defence federal land tax was also imposed as a means to break up large estates, but in recent years other methods have been employed by interested parties to overcome this aspect. The object of the tax was clearly expressed by the late Mr. And:drew Fisher, who, in moving the second reading of the bill under which it was imposed, said -
Unimproved value taxation is a sound principle and while the incidence will tend to break up large estates and help to develop the country, from an economic point of view, without any other embarrassing conditions. St is a proper kind of taxation for the purpose of raising Commonwealth revenue.
The late Mr. G. A. McKay, the first Commissioner of Federal Taxation, in giving evidence before the Dominions Royal Commission, said -
The graduated method deals more severely with the owners of the largest landed estates. The reason for the discrimination is twofold. There is the primary object of securing from those deemed best able to bear the impost the revenue needed to meet the growing financial necessities of the Commonwealth in connexion with defence and social betterment schemes. A secondary and very important object is to facilitate settlement.
It will be seen that he declared that the second consideration was to facilitate land settlement. He also said that the tax was primarily for the purpose of meeting defence and social service expenditure. I further declare that the idea behind the imposition of this tax was to attempt to give back to the people some small portion of the immense values which are created by the people as a whole by reason of community effort for the development of the country. Mr. Ure, one time Lord Advocate of Scotland, in justification of this form of taxation, said -
First, I would say that land differs from all other form of property in this that its existence is not due to its owner; secondly, it is limited in quantity; thirdly, it is absolutely essential to existence and production; and, fourthly, it owes its value exclusively to the presence of the market created by the activity of the community.
An illustration of the immense increase of land values due to the activities of the community is provided by the figures relating to the increased values of Sydney properties. 1 quote these instances not because I have a parochial outlook on this matter, and am interested only in it as far as it affects the city from which I come, but also because I believe that these figures reflect the true position that exists all over the Commonwealth. In March, 1914, the firm of David Jones Limited purchased the corner bounded by Elizabeth, Market and Castlereagh streets for £80,000, and on the 12th March, 1920, it purchased the girls’ high school site, now occupied by the St. James Theatre and David Jones Limited, for£124,000. One-half of the site was sold to Sir Benjamin Fuller and Mr. John Fuller for £100,000. This land, which originally cost David Jones Limited £204,000, was valued on the 12th July, 1936, by the city valuer at £612,340. The unearned increment in this case is, therefore, £408,304, which represents an increase of 200 per cent, in 24 years. The factors which have contributed to this increase are -
Many suburban business men have complained that the granting of these rail and tram concessions tends to draw people into the city who would otherwise shop in their own suburbs.
– That applies also in country areas, not in respect of a few miles, but hundreds of miles.
– That is so; it does not tend towards decentralization. The appalling conditions that exist in small country towns to-day, owing to the lack of activities brought about as the result of centralization, provides the subject of a very interesting discussion. Whereas, twenty years ago, each little country town was self-contained, having itsown wheelwright’s establishment, its own blacksmith’s shop, &c, providing employment for the young fellows of the town, to-day most of the work is done in the cities and in the larger provincial towns.
– That is the problem which we should tackle, not unification.
– I think every honorable member will agree that this is a matter of great importance. 1 have often visited country towns and when walking about the streets have wondered how they continue to exist in view of the scarcity of available occupations for the absorption of their residents. The position is becoming more and more acute as the years go by. The lack of avenues for employment in country towns is one of the most serious problems with which country people have to deal. Although I do not represent a country electorate, I am not unmindful of the difficulties of country people in this respect.
Reverting to my point regarding the extraordinary increase, by way of unearned increment, of the value of city properties, as I have shown, it has been brought about by developments which have taken place at the expense of the community as a whole, and not at the expense of the city landowner, except as an individual entity in the community. In order to provide the improvements which have resulted in the acquisition of this huge unearned increment, indirect taxation has had to be increased enormously in recent years. That enormous increase has fallen upon the shoulders of the great masses of the people. In other words, the people have had to contribute in large measure towards this huge unearned increment in respect of city properties. Because these things are happening, I maintain that the principle of calling upon city landowners to pay the full measure of tax should be sustained.
Another illustration of community improvement is provided by the extraordinary increase of the value of a property known as the Hotel Cecil at Cronulla. In a statutory declaration accompanying a relief application under section 66 of the Land Tax Assessment Act, the vendor, Cecil O. J. Munro, M.L.A., declared that the improved value of this asset was £25,000. On the 1st July, 1936, he sold the hotel to Tooth and Company Limited for £60,000. The increase of value in this case was due to the projected construction of the Sutherland to Cronulla railway. Munro made his sale after the State Government had decided to build the line, but was unable to capitalize to the full the effort of this community improvement for his own personal advantage. Still another illustration is afforded by the recent proposal of the Sydney City Council to provide a park at King’s Cross. The owner of portion of the land proposed to be taken over is Minerva Centre Limited, of 62 Macleay-street, Sydney. The proposed resumption price was £30,000 ; but the City Council’s valuation on the 1st July, 1936, was £20,000. The other piece of land to be taken over is owned by the Hollander Estate, of 64 Macleay-street and Elizabeth Bay-road. The proposed resumption price was £57,200; but the City Council’s valuation on the 1st July, 1936, was £18,750. On the 1st July, 1936, the City Valuer, Mr. Baird, valued these two properties for municipal rating at £38,750, yet the council now proposes to pay £87,200 for them. The difference between these two figures shows that land values have increased by approximately 125 per cent, in the short period of two years and . three months. Assuming of course that there is a perfectly bona fide desire on the part of the Sydney :City Council to provide the park, and’ that the price demanded for the properties’ is’ fair, it again indicates how an enormous increase of the value of a property can be created by the community efforts of the people. Therefore, I again repeat that any tendency on the part of the Government to lessen the burden of land tax on the owners of city properties is contrary to the principle that individual members of the community should be called upon to pay for what they have undoubtedly gained at the expense of the community as a whole.
I may not have mentioned before, but I take the opportunity to do so now, that there seems to be a general idea that land tax imposes a burden mainly on the holders of country land, or as is often said, the struggling farmers. The royal commission’s report on taxation, how- ever, disclosed that no less than 67 per cent, of the total land tax collections is paid by city owners. I have never been able to understand why members of the Country party in this House invariably approach this question as though only country people were subjected to land tax. After listening to members of the Country party deal with this subject, it would seem that the land tax affects only struggling farmers, whereas, as a matter of fact, struggling farmers pay little or no tax, because they are granted a general exemption in respect of unimproved land of £5,000, whilst in addition there are the claims under the hardship clause of the act; and even if a farmer owns land of a value in excess of £5,000, he has but a small tax to pay.
– The owners of city properties can pass the tax on.
– I expected an interjection of that kind. The point is that it does not matter what tax is applied, if a person happens to be engaged in an industry or business of any kind, and has power to fix prices, he can pass any impost on. That tendency to pass additional imposts on is only limited by intense competition of various interests engaged in the same business. I do not think any of us will deny that, under the capitalist system, where authority is vested in an individual, or in a combination of individuals, to fix prices, prices will continue to be so adjusted as to cover imposition of taxes of, all kinds. We have only to consider, for instance, the price fixing by the oil combine. Another glaring instance of price fixing is provided by the fact that when the Sydney County Council calls for tenders for the supply of electrical gear, or cables for its transmission lines, although it may receive tenders from four separate firms, the amount of each tender is invariably the same. Of course, it must he obvious that these interests get together and decide beforehand -on a fixed price. We had an instance of that yesterday, when it was announced that the brick combine in Sydney had increased the price of bricks. The new price will be charged by all of the brick manufacturers in Sydney. It is very difficult to control price fixing under our present system.
– Did I understand the honorable member to say that suburban people had complained that city firms enjoyed ail undue advantage over them by reason of the granting of railway concession fares.
– Yes. The present system of centralization is embarrassing suburban business people, and is making very serious inroads upon the value of their assets and investments. That, I believe, is contrary to the general welfare of the people of the country as a whole. The following table shows the amount of tax that the companies mentioned will pay at the existing rate of 45 per cent, of the former rate, the amount they would have paid at the former rate, and the amount remitted in each case each year : -
Concerning those figures I may say, in relation to Sargent’s Limited, that the price of meals is just as high as it ever was, and that the wages of the employees are, if anything, lower than formerly. If I could obtain comparative information in relation to Goldsbrough, Mort and Company, Australian Estates Limited, the New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Company, the Australian Pastoral Company, the Australian Agricultural Company, and Clarke and Company, it would confirm the case I am making. The specific figures I have given relate, of course, to city interests.
It has frequentlybeen declared in this Parliament that remissions of taxation invariably result in additional employment. That has not been the case in connexion with remissions of land tax, at any rate, for many of the firms which I have just named have recently expended large sums of money on real estate in Sydney.
I wish now to deal with one or two other aspects of land taxation. More than twelve months ago, I directed attention to the fact that, apparently, especially in New South Wales, big pastoral companies in which absentees were largely interested, and also some other individuals who hold land on what is known as perpetual lease, are able to avoid taxation altogether because the Taxation Department has not evolved a formula to determine the degree of taxation that should be imposed on land held under that particular tenure. This is a serious matter. The failure to impose taxation on large areas held under perpetual lease must result in a serious reduction of revenue for the Government. Although I directed the attention of the Treasurer to this subject more than a year ago, he has, so far, not made any reply to my contentions. It is time that a catechetical reply was furnished.
Crown leases become liable to tax provided that the unimproved value of the leasehold exceeds £5,000. The relevant section of the act provides -
For the purposes of this section - (a.) The unimproved value of a leasehold estate means the present value of the annual value of the land calculated for the unexpired period of the lease at 4½ per centum according to calculations based on the prescribed tables for the calculation of values.
That is a very involved mass of words which it is very difficult for the lay mind to understand. I am informed, however, that, in order to provide for the taxation of properties covered by this provision, it is necessary first, to devise a formula, and, secondly, to draft regulations for its application. Apparently, leases held for any term from one year up to 100 years can be taxed because the necessary regulations have been brought into force, but perpetual leases are, apparently, at present not subject to taxation. Very large areas of land are held under perpetual lease, and it is extraordinary that the lessees should have been able, so far, to avoid the payment of any tax in respect of them. I am not able to say whether a perpetual lease means a lease for a term exceeding 100 years. All sorts of legal technicalities are involved. 1 know, however, that dealings in Crown leases excite considerable discussion from time to time. The subject has been very frequently referred to in the Parliament of New South Wales. I urge the Treasurer to give immediate attention to the situation to which I am directing attention. Seeing that the Government is, in these days, in great need of funds for defence purposes, and also for unemployed relief undertakings, it is high time that this source of revenue was drawn upon, particularly as many absentee landholders are involved.
– Are these leases subject to land tax in New South Wales?
– I regret that I am not familiar with the existing land tax provisions of New South Wales.
– They are not subject to State land tax.
– Such leaseholds are not subject to land tax in Queensland.
– One extraordinary factor in connexion with this matter is that, although the Commissioner of Taxation, so I am informed, has evolved a formula for taxing lessees in respect of their perpetual leases, the regulations necessary to bring it into force have not yet been drafted. I am sure honorable members would welcome a clear statement from the Treasurer on this important subject. As it is of paramount necessity to obtain additional funds for defence’ works and also to assist to put in hand projects for unemployment relief purposes, this unsatisfactory situation should be cleared up without further delay. No one will deny that absentee landholders who are largely under this heading should contribute their full share of taxation to the revenue of the country.
I have already observed that big city firms arc reaping substantial profits in consequence of the remissions of taxation made by this Government. Such remissions are, in fact, the equivalent of a gift of additional capital to these interests. The amount of £64,412 per annum which has been remitted to the Bank of New
South Wales, for example, if capitalized at 4 per cent., would be equivalent to £1,610,300. Moreover, since the reductions of land tax were made, the Bank of New South Wales has acquired, in Sydney alone, real estate costing £805,540. [Leave to continue given.] This same institution has also made extensive purchases of real estate in the capital cities of other States and also in some suburban areas and country towns in New South Wales. Time will not permit me to give other examples. It is abundantly evident, however, that remissions of land tax in respect of these financial institutions have enabled them to purchase a large amount of property. The tax remission policy of the Government in respect of big financial institutions has definitely not resulted in the provision of additional employment.
– Was not the land tax increased as an emergency measure during the depression when salaries were reduced ?
– The land tax was first imposed in 1910. It was increased by means of a super tax of 20 per cent, in 1921- 22. The super tax was lifted in 1922- 23. In 1927-28 the rate of ordinary tax was reduced by 10 per cent. A further reduction of 30 per cent, was made in 1932-33, and in 1933-34 the rate was reduced to only 55 per cent, of the original rate. I think that is a complete answer to the interjection of the honorable member for Lilley. It will be admitted that in 1910, Australia was becoming more aware of the necessity for providing for its own defence; that the time was approaching when Australia could not be so dependent upon Great Britain. Accordingly, and in order to raise additional revenue te meet the proposed increased expenditure on defence, the Fisher Labour Government imposed the land tax. The object of that tax was first, to provide the money required for defence; secondly, for improved social services; and thirdly, it aimed at the breaking up of large estates. Nobody likes taxation, but the government of the country cannot be carried on without it, and it was realized at the time that, additional revenue had to be obtained from some source. The arguments used in 1910 in favour of the land tax cannot be faulted now. Time and experience in the working of the act have justified its imposition. Its advantages, and the reason for the defence policy laid down by the Fisher Government, are brought home to us every day by happenings in other parts of the world. In Czechoslovakia, for instance, large numbers of people have during the last few months been driven off their properties and their homes through the cession of the Sudeten area to Nazi Germany. The properties of which they have been so quickly deprived no doubt took generations to acquire. Those people would, I imagine, be only too willing to pay a tax for the defence of their homes which they have been forced to vacate in a few weeks, leaving behind them in some instances everything except a few personal belongings. I am quite sure property owners in any country if they were given the chance would readily contribute taxes for their defence; and, further, those who own large properties should, as I have mentioned, be made to pay their full share towards the defence of the country. I, therefore, submit that the Commonwealth Government was totally unjustified in making remissions of land tax from time to time, particularly to large city property owners, whilst at the same time retaining an imposition such as the sales tax, which originally was an emergency measure and intended to be temporary in its operation. In my representations in this matter, I have in mind not only the interests of the people in my district; I am equally concerned with the welfare of all those engaged in primary production with whom, in my earlier life, I was closely associated. I do not agree with the argument often stated in the House that the land tax is a heavy impost on country interests, apart from those who have large tracts of country and those people are mainly wealthy pastoral organizations. I know that large sums of money intended for the relief of necessitous farmers find their way into wealthy organizations in the city areas. “While putting forward a plea for farmers, big city interests are seen to he raking off the . benefits. Something should be done immediately to stop that. I am pleased to have this opportunity to place my views before this committee. I hope that the position of leases in perpetuity will be examined by the Treasurer and that a statement in regard to my submission will be made by that honorable gentleman. I hope also that in its efforts to raise money to meet the increased defence expenditure, the Commonwealth Government will see that taxes are levied upon those sections of the community which are best able to pay them.
– Almost every problem that comes up for discussion in this Parliament sinks into insignificance beside the fact that the lives of very many Australian people and the security of thousands of others depend greatly upon events occurring in other parts of the world over which the people of Australia have no control. In the persons of at least four members of the Cabinet we have evidence of the supreme importance to us of world happenings. I refer to the Minister for External Affairs, the Minister for Commerce, the Minister for Trade and Customs and the Minister for Defence. Those Ministers are appointed to control departments which must exist because Australia cannot live to itself. Australia is part of the world, and is affected by what happens in other countries. There are three ties which bind Australia to the rest of human society. The first tie is the paramount fact that Australia is part of the world and cannot at will detach itself from the world. In fiction it is recorded that Lemuel Gulliver, in his wanderings, discovered the island of Lilliput, which was in the fortunate position of being able to detach itself at will from the world. But that island existed only in the imagination of Jonathan Swift, the satirist and author of the story. Australia, for good or evil, is part of a troubled world and cannot dissociate itself from its happenings. Australia is also a voluntary member of that great community of nations, the League of Nations, which, unfortunately, is not playing such an important part in world affairs as we hoped it would. Australia is also a member of another community of nations, the British Commonwealth of Nations. Doubtless every political party in. Australia stands for adherence to this community. The party to which 1 belong affirms its support of Australia’s adherence to the British Commonwealth of Nations.
The obligations imposed upon this country by the first tie, by which it is bound to the rest of the world, are great, but they are moral and not enforceable. The obligation under the second tie are more ascertainable, but still undefined; they are more or less contractual, and whether or not they can be enforced is uncertain. But the obligations under the third tie are important and can be defined within wide limits. Australia is a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations and, as I have said, all parties agree that that membership should be continued. The Labour party is no less emphatic than any other in supporting that adherence. At Perth, in 1918, there was laid down a policy which now is embodied in the Statute of Westminster, declaring the fullest measure of self-government for Australia as a British community. Afterwards the phrase “ British community “ was expanded into the “ British Commonwealth of Nations “. What does this mean? It means really, an association of the white self-governing nations within the British Empire - an association of white peoples, numbering about one-seventh of the British Empire, in partnership to control and exploit the subject peoples of the Empire, the Dark Empire. Great Britain has admitted the adult white children of the British Empire into partnership to assist in the administration and control of that Dark Empire, and to participation in any benefit derived from its exploitation. We have seen benefits from this arrangement in such proposals as the Ottawa Agreement, which gives to Empire dominions trade preferences not only in the markets of Great Britain herself, but also in the markets of the subject communities, which have no voice in the matter whatever.
Membership of the British Commonwealth of Nations imposes certain obligations upon us, but there always seems to be some conflict of opinion about the precise nature of these obligations. They can only be determined by examining the ties which bind members of that Commonwealth to ‘ one another. There are two ties. One, which formerly was more important, has now become of less consequence, and has thrown into relief the second tie, which formerly was less important. These tie3 are common subjection to the Imperial Parliament, and common allegiance to one king. As I have observed, the first tie has become weakened with the passage of time until now we have the declaration, contained in the preamble to the Statute of Westminster, which, at any rate, is the law in Australia, declaring that the Imperial Parliament shall not make a law for. a dominion without the concurrence of the dominion affected. The preamble to the Statute of Westminster does affirm the importance of the tie of common allegiance to one sovereign. Although that sovereignty is, in time of peace, more or less a symbol, at other times it is of great importance, because it is the tie of common allegiance - the legal tie that binds together people who are British nationals. When war is declared it is declared by the King, on the advice of his Ministers, or it is declared upon the King. Let us suppose that war were to be declared by Great Britain. The implications in the new dominion status are these: The King shall not declare war on the advice of British Ministers alone, but shall first consult the dominions, and cannot bind a dominion to take an active part in a war without the concurrence of dominion ministers. There exists, however, the possibility of war without a formal declaration, and the position in such a case would be very interesting. The Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) said, in this House, that no dominion would be bound to render military aid to another dominion, or to Great Britain itself, should any of these countries be involved in a war. Such a war, however, would be of tremendous significance and importance to Australia, for this reason: The allegiance which the Australian national owes to the sovereign of the British Commonwealth of Nations would prevent him from giving comfort or aid of any kind to any one who was at war with
Great Britain. Australia would be unable to trade with Britain’s enemies. That difficulty could not be resolved by a war-time declaration of neutrality. It seems to me unthinkable that people who have a common allegiance to one king should be able to declare themselves neutral in a war involving their sovereign.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 1.30 p.m.
– I regard as entirely unthinkable the suggestion that, in a struggle involving Britain, or any other member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, any nation should declare itself neutral, and at the same time declare that it continues its membership of the British Commonwealth. I can imagine that, in anticipation of a war, a member might say, “We have a right to secede from the Commonwealth basis, and we now break the tie which binds us to the Commonwealth cause. We shall reserve our right to declare ourselves neutral in the event of any war which involves the Commonwealth of which we were formerly a member “. But [ cannot imagine a nation claiming to continue its membership being also able to declare itself neutral in a struggle involving Great Britain. Apart from whether it could constitutionally or legally do so, if the question arose in Australia or New Zealand, the people would not stand for such a policy. I could conceive of the question arising in South Africa, with its mixed population, or in Canada, where the population of Quebec and half the population of the western provinces are not of British extraction. If we had a war in which Britain was involved, and Australia said, “ Part of our policy is that we should not be bound to send forces beyond our own territory”, Icould not imagine it going further and saying, “ We shall consider ourselves free to trade with Britain’s enemies, or free to accord to both belligerents equal rights “. This might mean allowing the ships of both to visit our shores to rest and repair here. Leaving aside all the implications of neutrality, could we conceive of Australia, in the event of a war in which Britain was involved, saying that it considered itself free to trade with Britain’s enemies? I do not think that we could. If Australia attempted to trade with a country at war with Britain, the natural result would be that Britain, and those members of the Commonwealth of Nations which adhered to Britain, would treat Australia as having put itself outside the pale of British nationality. Australia, moreover, would be unable to continue trade relations with Britain or with the other dominions. Any war that takes place will probably be sufficiently large to involve practically all the great powers of the world, and, in the event of a war in which Britain was involved, Australia, by reason of its connexion with Britain, would be unable’ to trade with Britain’s enemies, and would not be able to secure the transport of its goods to Britain. So a war in which Britain was involved, whether one in which it took an aggressive part or one in which it was on the defensive, would have overwhelmingly important effects upon Australia. It would mean that Australia would be liable to attack by an enemy of Britain, and would be unable to trade with the rest of the world. If it made any effort to trade with Britain, it would at once invite attack by Britain’s enemies. If it made an attempt to trade with countries at war with Britain, it would at once sever the tie binding it to the British Commonwealth of Nations. Any war which broke out in Europe would have great consequences for Australia. Even if we did not raise one man in Australia to take part in it, our whole life as a community would be transformed.
As our membership of the British Commonwealth of Nationsmakes international affairs and wars of such transcendent concern to us, it is unnecessary to ask what are the moral obligations imposed on Australia by our membership of the human family, or the contractual obligations imposed on us by our membership of the League of Nations. All parties, including that of which I am a member, declare that it is important that Australia should remain a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. It is sufficient to say that our membership means that we cannot turn a blind eye to international relations, and ignore what happens in other parts of the world. Therefore, the question arises, “ What can Australia do to remove the causes of war “ ? The causes are twofold - economic and psychological. The economic causes may be described as the seeds of war; without them war is impossible. They arise out of the rivalry between nations foi1 access to raw materials, for markets and for fields of investment. The psychological causes are the fears, hatreds and distrusts of the nations, divided as they are by differences of race and language. Lt would be impossible for a war to spring from economic causes alone. No seed will germinate unless it is ripened in a warm seedbed, and the beds which ripen the seeds of war are the antagonisms and mistrusts that exist between the nations. In that warm seedbed, there may grow a plant that will ultimately bear the blood-red flag of war and destruction. What Australia can do as a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and of the world community, is to try to remove or reduce the economic and psychological causes of war. I said earlier in my remarks that the British Commonwealth of Nations was a device to place the white minority of the British Empire in control of the subject peoples, enabling it to govern and exploit them. And it does govern and exploit them. The policy Britain has been pursuing since 1931 has been one of exploiting, in co-operation with its dominions, the imperial sentiment, and exploiting the whole of the Empire. Part of the Ottawa scheme is that subject nations, willynilly, shall open their markets to Britain and its dominions, and shall exclude the trade of other countries. Before 1931, Britain held its far-flung Empire on the basis of comparative freedom of access by the various nations. Nations saw that, after all, British control was not a very bad thing for them, “because Britain alone, of all the nations, would allow others to trade freely with its dominions. But, since 1931, we have abandoned that policy, and we are now trying to close the Empire to everybody but the British; to say that the resources and markets of the Empire shall be exploited by British nationals alone. That is one of the great causes of war, and, while it exists, we cannot expect that the danger of war will disappear. Since 1931, throughout the British Commonwealth of Nations, the economic causes of war have become more potent than formerly, and the seeds of war are more capable of producing the plant of war. The people of Australia are as much to blame as are the people of Britain for this position, and governments in Australia - in fact, each one of us - must take a share of the blame.
All we can do is to abandon the policy of exploitation, and take a stand for the internationalization of the undeveloped territories of the world. We should take a stand for placing them under international control, and we should make the first consideration the interests of the people who inhabit those territories, particularly the interests of the non-adult sections, and that the second consideration should be that there be preserved to every nation equal rights of access to those territories for the purpose of trading with them. Unless that be done, Britain must either fight for its far-flung Empire, or adopt the policy of distributing its territory piece-meal among other nations. Whether we decide to fight for our far-flung Empire or adopt a policy of appeasement, either policy will be fatal. The policy of maintaining a closed Empire must prove fatal. The policy of cutting it up into bits and giving it to different nations must also be fatal. That would he against the interests of the nations, and against the interests of the human race. If the League of Nations had remained a live, active force, and had not become a mere league of governments to keep the small nations in subjection, we could have looked to it to undertake the work of international trusteeship. ‘ But it is quite possible to do it without the League. We are members of the most imperialistic nation of the world, and other nations look to it for guidance. Portugal, which is a small nation, and Holland also, have colonial Empires. The members of the British Commonwealth of Nations could declare themselves trustees of the undeveloped territories for the use of all such nations as adhere to the system of trusteeship. That example, to my mind, would probably be followed by Britain, Portugal, Holland, the United States of America and France. It would attract Belgium, which has possessions overseas, and Scandinavian nations that have no empire. Ultimately, it would become a true League of Nations.
– Would that prevent Great Britain from giving advantages in its markets to this country?
– Yes, I am coming to that. I say that definitely. I believe that the only justification which a nation can have for a policy of protection is its desire to develop within its own country a diversity of industries. A policy of protection becomes a policy of aggression once it becomes a policy to give to some nations advantages which are denied to others. We should make attempts to establish peaceful relations with all nations on a basis of reciprocal trade. We should not give to some nations, which are willing to trade with us, advantages that we will not give to other nations, which are equally willing to trade with us. The policy of Imperial preference should be abandoned and we should be willing to make tariff and trade agreements with other peop.es. The first, I should say, will probably be with the British dominions, New Zealand in particular, and the United States of America. But we should make it clear that those agreements are not based on the fact that we are fellow nationals or that we speak the same language, but are only the beginning of a policy by which other nations, which are willing .to trade with us, will be placed on the same footing.
– Would those agreements be special to those countries?
– No. I believe that the policy of the United States of America in making agreements with any nation is right. That is the only attitude that is consistent with the maintenance of a protective policy. A country is entitled to maintain a protective policy in order to develop a diversity of industries and obviate its people being mere hewers of wood and drawers of water.
– The honorable gentleman would have in his tariff a treaty column and a general column?
– Yes. We should make it clear that all nations that are willing to make treaties with us can make them on equal terms and that there would be no preference for or discrimination against any nation.
– But there would be if there were two columns in the tariff.
– No, because every nation that was willing to establish freer relations with us would be able to do so on the same basis; but a nation which said, “We do not desire to have freer relations with you, and we shall not go one foot of the way towards meeting you “, would be subject to the higher rates of duty. The tendency to-day is for nations to be willing to make reciprocal arrangements. The nation which, though generous in other matters, stood for receiving everything and giving nothing in trade is to-day suffering as the result of its policy and has departed from it. In addition to this we should take positive steps by our conduct and language to allay fears and distrust that other peoples have of us. We should state our immigration policy in terms that are not likely to be misunderstood by other nations. It was the Labour Administration of 1905 which removed from the Alien Immigration Act the provision that alien immigrants must pass a test in a European language. The law was not substantially altered, but the amendment did remove an objection raised by Japan that its race was treated as an inferior. I do not intend to discuss these policies, except to say that they should not be framed and expressed in language capable of misconstruction, because it is perfectly obvious all over the world that what makes for war to-day is the distrust and fear that nations have of one another, small nations of big nations, small nations of small nations, big nations of big nations, and even big nations of small nations. This fear and this distrust are intensified by offences to racial pride. Everybody realizes that war to-day is a great gamble. No nation can be sure that the utmost preparations that it makes will secure its safety. The elements of accident and the unforeseen are important. It has been said that the Battle of the Marne was lost by Germany by a sheer accident. We know that the elements of accident and the unforeseen are much more important in wars to-day than they were. Not even the most powerful or the richest nation can be sure that it can guarantee the integrity and the lives of its men, women and children. It may be the opinion of honorable members that the suggestions I have made would not go very far towards diminishing the psychological and economic causes of war; but they would, in my opinion, go some way towards that end. They would be a gesture of peace. There is no peace to-day. As Henry Grattan said -
There is no peace. What we call peace is smothered war; we have sown the dragon’s teeth and we are to reap the harvest of that sowing.
That is exactly what we have done. After the Great War, lasting peace might have been obtained if the victorious nations had been prepared to treat the defeated nations honorably, but they were not prepared to do so. An important change has taken place in regard to the psychology of war. Up to and including the eighteenth century, wars were made by the rulers. The people went to war because their rulers went to war. If a ruler changed sides during the combat, the people changed with him. They had no hatred of their opponents. If, as often happened, a German prince went from one side to the other during a war, his people went with him ; they were fighting, not because of hatred, but for their prince. When the war ended, everything was forgotten. To-day, however, in order to conduct a war, it is necessary to excite the minds of the people to a feeling of hatred, which cannot be extinguished as one can switch off an electric light. When war ends, the hatred, fears and detestations that were created in the minds of the people in order to wage it, continue as objective things that have to be reckoned with. When the rulers of the allied powers went to conclude a peace treaty with the rulers of the defeated powers at the end of the last war, they were not able to make a treaty which would have ensured lasting peace and harmony because the peoples whom they represented were still infused with hatred of the enemy. What would become of the Lloyd George Ministry if they did not ‘* hang the Kaiser “ and what would become of the French Government if Germany were not placed under the French heel for ever? We must, therefore, remember that, with the growth of democracy, war becomes so much more dangerous, because the popular fears and hatreds that are deliberately generated continue after the ending of the war. Any nation that prepares for war cannot long remain constitutional and democratic. Fascism or dictatorship is a form of government which declares that the chief business of any country is to prepare for war because other countries are doing so. The dictator says, “ If we are not ready to strike others, they will strike us. If we are to prepare for war there must be no dissident voice in the community, there must be no criticism, no opposition, nothing to break the harmony of the nation, nobody expressing dissent from the national policy. We must now repress opinion in this country in order that when war comes we shall be able to continue the repression”. If the existing state of “ smothered war “ continues, we shall soon see the end of democratic institutions. In British countries wo may not realize at once that those institutions have ended, because the changes will have taken place in constitutional form. We may still feel superior to other nations which have recognizably broken away from democracy. When Augustus became Emperor of Rome, for a long time the people did not know that the old Roman Republic had ceased, because he observed the old forms and retained the old Roman offices; there was the Senate, the Consul, the Praetor, the Quaestor. But in turns he took the offices of Leader of the Senate, the Consul, the Praetor and the Quaestor, and when he relinquished each office his successor to it had only the name, but not the substance, of power. The old forms still existed but the spirit of the old republic was dead. And unless we are careful we shall be likely to see the death of real democracy and the birth of real Fascism under the constitutional forms so dear to the British heart. [Quorum formed.]
.- I congratulate the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) on his speech. It was a refreshing draught of peaceful sentiment in the midst of sabre-rattling. If the rest of the world took heed of the bellicose speeches which have characterized this debate there would be reactions which could lead to war. The budget debate has not lent itself to efforts to promote a more sympathetic and peaceful atmosphere among nations; and the contribution by the honorable member for Bourke, because of its contrast to the others, is all the more to be commended. If any one should stumble on what I am about to say in Hansard, I counsel him to read the preceding speech. Remarks such as were made by the honorable member should not find burial as well as birth in this chamber, they should be carried abroad. Instead of expending millions of pounds on armaments, nations should send forth ambassadors of peace so that more friendly feelings should be promoted. Such a development would allow of the expenditure of a greater amount of money, time and energy on the promotion of the economic welfare of their people, thus making this world a better place.
The budget discloses that the activities of this Government have not been directed to satisfying the needs of the people. It has displayed a lack of initiative in social reform. Some years ago we were able to claim with justification and pride that we were well to the fore in the field of social reform, buto-day, much to my regret, we lag far behind. This Government, and future governments of the Commonwealth, must devote more time to the improvement of the economic conditions of the people, so that they will be able to enjoy a fairer measure of the goods that they produce. As one travels about the country, even on the journey between Canberra and Sydney, one passes through green fields, in which fat stock are grazing, and thriving crops. Production is abundant, and no one in the whole of this country should be in want. Unfortunately, because of our monetary system, the people are not able to get access to the commodities which nature so bountifully provides, and there is much poverty and distress, not only in tho cities, but also in the country towns.
It has been my lot to spend most of my life in country centres. I know many country towns that are less prosperous now, and have smaller populations than they had many years ago. When the land was being cleared and got ready for the plough, when there was fencing to be done, and water to bo provided. Work, was plentiful, and the country towns were prosperous. Now there is only seasonal work to be done. In the pastoral districts, there is shearing and crutching and other seasonal work, but that is all. For the greater part of the year men are out of work, and this unemployment in country districts constitutes a special problem for which governments will have to find a solution. It. is not due to the depression, though the depression made conditions worse. It is a perennial problem, which calls for a permanent solution. In the western districts of New South Wales, rabbits were once plentiful, and between seasons men went out catching them, the sale of skins providing them with an income. However, in most districts, the rabbits have now been cleaned out, so that even this avenue of employment has failed. The Government should do what it can to promote the establishment of industries in country towns, so as to provide employment for local residents. So bad have conditions become that many families are migrating from the country to the cities. They realize that there is no prospect of employment, either for themselves or for their children, in the country, and so they move into the city. In some country places there are not even proper educational facilities. This, of course, is a State matter, but it is just one more factor that is driving the people into the cities.
At one time, most of the shearing in any given district was done by local men who lived in the district. Now it is practically all done by big shearing companies under contract. These firms, such as the Graziers’ Shearing Company, with their offices in the city, operate right throughout New South Wales, and, indeed, throughout some of the other States as well. They never employ local men, their attitude being that there is- less likelihood of industrial trouble with men who are working hundreds of miles away from their homes. They sign up shearers in Sydney, and then mai>e them pay their own fares to places as far away as central Queensland. When the work cuts out, they have to pay their fares back to Sydney again, if country men want to get a job shearing they must be prepared to go to some place hundreds of miles away from their own district. This is a matter of national concern. It is a grave anomaly that city residents should have a better chance of getting employment as shearers than have country men, who live in the districts where the shearing is done. This condition of affairs is reflected in the appearance of the country towns, once prosperous and thriving, but now stagnant and. depressed, with their tumbledown fences and unpainted houses.
The Commonwealth Government is doing little or nothing to provide work for the unemployed. It claims that the responsibility rests with the State governments, but the problem will never be solved until it is tackled in a national way. It is no answer to say that £2,000,000 is being made available for expenditure in New South Wales. Most of this money will be expended in the city, and the unemployed in country districts will derive no benefit from it. I have received appeals from country centres, for a share of this relief money. One country town has had no unemployment relief money for six years. The unemployment problem is always worse in country towns than in the cities, because the organization of relief is so much more difficult in country centres. It is not enough for the Government to point out that unemployment figures have fallen from 9.7 to 8.6 per cent. We have 200,000 unemployed to-day, but if there were only 20,000 persons unemployed, the position would still be serious. The conditions under which the unemployed are existing in country centres is a reproach to our civilization. On the outskirts of every country town there in a calico town or a tin town, in which are living those families who have had to move out of the town itself because they are unable to pay rent for decent houses. There they are living generally on food relief. I have a letter here from a mau in Du Duo stating ll.1 at in une such settlement outside that town there are nine families who have been ordered off by the Forestry Commission. It is no solution of the problem simply to order the people to move on. In this group there are 27 children, and all the families, with the exception of three, are dependent on food relief. It is very little satisfaction to them to know that the unemployment figures have declined, and we, as members of Parliament, should not be satisfied with the position either. Something should be done to give to people in the country a greater measure of economic security. Unless the Government ensures that everybody who is prepared to work is provided for it is not doing its duty.
We should be very careful before admitting immigrants to Australia to take the employment which seems to be scarce enough for our own people. Some of the foreigners who have been admitted have been exploited by employers. In this Australian Capital Territory there is a grazier who advanced £50 four years ago to a foreigner to bring his family to this country. The foreigner was working for him for less than the basic wage, and was entitled to two weeks’ holiday a year at £3 a week. For the last three years, however, he has not been given any holidays, so that the grazier owes him £18 in respect of thom. The foreigner has paid him back all but £16 of the money advanced to him, and his employer is threatening to sue him for this amount, although himself actually” owing £18. Primary producers who fail to treat their employees properly are pursuing a shortsighted course, because they cannot hope to develop a profitable home market for their produce unless the workers have adequate spending power. Men who have to work on a low wage are poor spenders and poor consumers.
Much more could he done for the development of country centres by the provision of better roads and water conservation schemes. Wool is produced in the country, and should be treated there as far as possible. In the last report of the Wool Board, there is reference to a process known as gas chlorination, which renders wool unshrinkable. If wool can be prevented from shrinking, the demand for it should be increased enormously, and there is no reason why the wool should not be subjected to this process in country centres. I can remember when much of the wool scouring and washing was done in country towns, and one may still see the decaying wool scours where this industry was carried on. Now the work is done in the cities, but it is time we retraced our steps, and restored country industries as a means of providing employment for the people in country towns. Recently a meat works was established in Bourke for the treatment of local stock. The new industry will serve the requirements of cattle growers in the far-north, and, already, it has provided increased employment. Unless further undertakings of this kind be embarked upon, we cannot hope to see our country towns thrive, particularly as in the past the claims of the unemployed in country centres for relief have generally been disregarded. In its last report, the Wool Board makes valuable reference to these matters. I am sorry, however, that too much of the revenue of the board has been absorbed m administrative expenses, whilst only a comparatively small amount has been devoted to research and the promotion of markets, which were the main purposes for which the board was created. The Government should keep the woollen manufacturers abroad up to their promise to subsidize this fund £1 for £1. So far they have made no contribution whatever to it, and when I asked a question on this matter a week ago the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) replied that it was still the subject of negotiations. I regret that the trade delegation which recently went abroad failed to accomplish much for Australian producers. No sooner had it returned than the AngloAmerican Treaty, which will obviously operate to the detriment of our wheatgrowers, was announced. I do not agree with the Minister for Commerce that the loss of the Empire preference of 2s. a quarter on wheat will not be a disadvantage to our growers, and apparently, neither to the growers themselves, if one may judge by the letters which many honorable members have received from various growers’ organizations. The problem of markets is bound up with that of international relations. On this point,
I commend the very able speech made this afternoon by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn). Undoubtedly, the establishment of friendly relations between all countries would give a greater impetus to trade than could possibly be achieved through the negotiation of treaties. Nations which are at enmity will not be inclined to trade with one another.
Although this Government has given some attention to the wool industry, which is easily our greatest export industry, it must endeavour to do more. Perhaps the greatest problem confronting the industry to-day is the instability of wool prices. Because of this uncertainty, most of those engaged in the industry do not know what to-morrow will bring for them. Although 61,429 more bales were sold at the last JulyOctober sales the aggregate return was nearly £3,000,000 less than that from the corresponding sales last year, whilst the average price at there sales dropped from 14.59d. per lb. to 10.15d. per lb., or a decrease of 30 per cent. The figures for the July-October sales over the last four years have been -
Furthermore, many growers actually receive substantially les3 than these figures. I need hardly stress the urgency, therefore, of some scheme to stabilize wool prices. If the industry will not agree to the principle of a compulsory pool, I suggest, as an alternative, the adoption of the principle of a reserve price. One of the greatest evils in the industry to-day is the practice of forward selling by buyers, yet we are told that it is impossible to fix the price of wool over a period of years. Having sold forward, overseas buyers, who operate at our sales, naturally tend to beat prices down. If it i3 possible for the buyers to fix the price in advance to the manufacturers, surely some scheme could be evolved “for the placing of a reserve price on this product. If this were done, countries would find it easier to finance their purchases, and would have the advantage of being able to take supplies from reserve stocks as they needed them. The scheme could be financed through the Commonwealth Bank, so that the growers would not be obliged to wait for payment for wool held in reserve. In this way our wool sales would be made less of a gamble for the grower and for the buyer, as there would be a minimum price below which wool would not fall. It has been wrongly argued that such a scheme could not be applied to wool. Wool is one of the few products which is knocked down to the highest bidder. If manufacturers adopted similar methods for disposing of their cloth they would not last in business for a year.
Another problem confronting the industry arises from the increased production of substitutes. In Germany all cloth, in the manufacture of which wool is used, must contain at least 50 per cent, of substitutes. Although a few years ago it was almost negligible, the quantity of substitute used in that country to-day is equal to half of the quantity of natural wool which Germany absorbs. A similar development is taking place in Japan. It must be obvious that as the use of substitutes increases the demand for natural wool will decrease.
I again draw the attention of the Government to the urgency of the problem of housing. In the eastern States activity in the building industry is decreasing, mainly because the financial institutions are restricting credit, whilst in New South Wales, particularly, there has been a definite falling off. As this industry offers one of the best means of providing employment governments should do everything in their power to stimulate it. As I pointed out earlier, the conditions under which many people are forced to live to-day is a national disgrace. The need for a housing scheme is nation-wide. Previous governments have given attention to this matter, but nothing has yet been done. In 1927-28, legislation was passed by this Parliament to enable the Commonwealth to finance such a scheme, and in a speech which he delivered on the 14th August, 1934, the Prime Minister said -
We ^propose to procure money, and to expend it in co-operation with the States in the building of homes for workers.
One would expect that after making so definite a promise to the people, the Government would have acted upon it long before this, but so far it has done nothing. When the Prime Minister was asked whether he contemplated taking action to give effect to that promise he said -
Any extensive scheme of housing and slum clearance would involve the raising of large sums of loan moneys. If the Commonwealth embarked upon a loan-raising programme for the purpose of assisting the State governments in this direction it would only result in the amount of loan moneys now available for ordinary State Government loan programmes being reduced.
That was a definite case of backsliding; the Government is not prepared to stand up to its promises. It is true that certain developments did take place in the building industry, but the indications are that activities in that direction are now on the wane. The Sydney Morning Herald, of the 9th November, reported -
Co-operative building societies in New South Wales have reached a stage where further development is impossible until additional loan money is made available, and several hundreds of prospective members of building societies who desire to build or purchase a home on the co-operative basis are prevented from doing so because of the inability of the proposed new societies to provide finance.
I pointed out that fact to the Prime Minister, and asked him whether, in view of his election promises, he would consider an unconditional grant by the Commonwealth to enable building societies to develop. The right honorable gentleman replied -
My attention has been drawn to the article referred to. In view of the paramount need for expenditure on defence, and the increasing obligations in regard to national insurance, invalid and old-age pensions, &c, the Government regrets that it is impossible to consider making unconditional grants for the purpose indicated by the honorable member.
That was a definite refusal by the Government to carry out the Prime Minister’s promise of 1934 to provide finance to enable homes to be built for the people. The welfare of the people is being subordinated to the Government’s defence programme. If expenditure on defence be necessary, the programme should be financed by a tax on the wealth of the people. “Wars are fought to protect wealth and property, and those with possessions should be prepared to pay for their protection. I say definitely that if credit is to be made available to finance the Government’s defence programme, it should’ also be made available to enable homes to be built for the people. This is a vital matter. The banking commission reported that the Government could safely expand credit through the Commonwealth Bank to enable homes to be built. It is a sound proposition. The policy of the Government, coupled with a deterioration of conditions generaally, including a falling off of building activities, is bringing about a state of affairs similar to that which existed before the last depression. Press reports indicate that finance for building purposes is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain. Moreover, it is said that only from 50 to 60 per cent, of the value of a property can be obtained by way of loan. Further, according to the Weekly Economic Review, interest which averaged 5.6 per cent, for the previous quarter was 5.7 per cent, for September. That interest rates are gradually rising is an indication that money is more difficult to obtain, and that restrictions are being placed upon lending. That is a wrong policy. The present conversion loan is being floated at 3) per cent., which is £ per cent, above prevailing rates. Increasing interest rates are not to the advantage of the people and do not encourage those activities which provide employment for the people. About £17,000 was expended on obtaining a report on banking and monetary systems. I believe that the purpose of appointing the commission was to ward off the demand for financial reform. Little or nothing has been done by the Government to implement the recommendations of the commission. That body recommended that, where the policy of the Commonwealth Bank Board conflicted with that of the Government, the opinion of the Government should prevail. It said also that the Government must be prepared to substantiate its opinion by legislation. Those recommendations of the commission are sound. The Government should be prepared to lay down a banking policy and accept the responsibility for it. On page 196 of its report the commission said that the Commonwealth Bank can make money available to the Government, and others, free of any charge. That is in accordance with the policy which has been consistently advocated by the Labour party for years. A wrong financial policy is being followed in connexion with the present conversion loan, which is being underwritten by the Commonwealth Bank. Instead of borrowing to convert the bonds, credits should be made available in the Commonwealth Bank to all bondholders. Should the loan not be taken up the Commonwealth Bank will have to provide credit to those persons who now hold bonds. In any case, the bank will have to find money for some bondholders. It would be a sound policy for the bank to advance money against all the bonds.
– Free of interest?
– Yes, in accordance with the recommendation of the commission. If the Commonwealth Bank were to. advance money free in respect of all tha bonds, money would be available for investment in industry, employment would be promoted, and the spending power of the community would be increased. Moreover, the interest-bearing debt would be wiped out, and the interest bill and tax burden reduced. If bondholders, whose investments total about £90,000,000, wished to raise credit on their holdings, the banks would advance to them at least £60,000,000. The only security which the bank would have for the return of the money would be the credit of the nation. If it be sound finance for a banking institution to advance £60,000,000 against bonds “ with a face value of £90,000,000, surely it would be sound finance for the Commonwealth Bank to issue direct to the Government against those bonds.
– The honorable member’s time ha3 expired.
.- This debate has been intensely interesting, but, unfortunately, most of the discussion has been on the subject of defence. “When I seek the reason, I find it in the fact that it is proposed to expend £16,000,000 this year on defence. Looking further afield, I find a further reason in the columns of the daily press, for they are full of propaganda urging that the defences of Australia be strengthened. This propaganda has caused many members of this Parliament to believe that the public is willing that heavy expenditure on armaments is> necessary. I do not agree with that belief. The events of the last twelve months do not justify that attitude any more than did the events of the previous twenty years, or even 100 years. As a matter of fact, recent happenings provide ground for a more hopeful view in regard to world affairs. There is every justification for adopting an entirely different policy. Last night the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin), who is a brigadier-general in the defence forces, said that when the Munich Agreement was signed Britain was ill-prepared for war. By interjection, I asked whether he thought that if the position had been otherwise Britain would have gone to war, and he replied that in those circumstances, he believed that there would have been war. That was a frank admission that lack of armaments enabled Mr. Chamberlain to save the world from war. Surely that is a definite argument in favour of the view that armaments create war, and that the absence of armaments tends to preserve peace. I am not prepared to place that interpretation on the action of Mr. Chamberlain; I think that he adopted the Christian view and believed that there was justification for some of the demands of the Sudeten Germans, and that he acted accordingly. But even if the interpretation of the honorable member for Bendigo be correct, it is evidence that, far from preserving peace, armaments promote war. On the subject of defence t hold views different from those of many honorable members. In my opinion, the proposed expenditure on armaments and defence equipment is utterly futile in a country with 12,000 miles of coastline and vast resources. The comparative isolation of Australia makes its invasion by an enemy difficult, especially as an enemy would have to keep open its lines of communication. A policy which provides for the arming of every man and woman-
– Do not bring the women into it.
– Under the policy advocated by the honorable member women would be involved.
– Only as nurses.
– The policy advocated by the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) brought misery, sorrow and suffering to the women of Australia in the years 1914 to 1918. Prior to 1914 the nations of the world engaged in an armaments race, the outcome of which was a desperate and disastrous world war, resulting in the destruction of millions of valuable lives. I believe that because of our small population and our restricted finances, it is quite futile for Australia to expend its substance on armaments. If Australia has a potential enemy in any direction, that enemy will be conversant with the defence policy which we have adopted for our protection, and to the extent to which we can arm one man our enemy will be able to arm at least five. It will also be entitled to take the same view that we take concerning a possible invasion. It would therefore appear that our energy and money are being wasted on protecting ourselves against an enemy which may never attack us. Assuming that our feeble attempt - it cannot be regarded as other than feeble - should prove successful within the limit of our resources, our potential enemy has also sufficient resource to enter into an alliance with a neighbour or even a far distant ally, and so increase its strength to a greater degree than is possible for Australia. That is one reason why I oppose the defence policy of this Government which the Australian press supports so vehemently. I sincerely believe in the adequate defence of Australia. I am opposed to the Government’s defence policy for another reason. This country has vast resources, but unfortunately there are approximately 200,000 men out of work. If their dependants be included we can safely assume that there are over 600,000 persons in need. Despite the numerous appeals which have been made by the members of the Opposition,, the Government has not clone anything to alleviate the lot of the unemployed. Ever since I have been a member of this Parliament I have urged the Government to make some provision for the unemployed, and the only reply I have received is the old excuse that unemployment is a matter for the States. We are informed that the Government has not the power or the finance to assist the unemployed, but if it can expend £16,000,000 this year on defence, surely its intelligence and capacity are equal to providing the money that would assure men of work. Certain sums are provided through the States to assist unemployment, but they are insufficient. When the Treasurer was challenged concerning money for defence, he said the Government could “ write its own ticket “ or that the sky was the limit. If that is so, surely there should be the same limit where the unfortunate unemployed are concerned. In the city of Ballarat 900 men are on sustenance. What outlook have these men in life? They have appealed to me and also to members of the State parliament for assistance. Under the Financial Agreement, the financial capacity of State governments to deal with money problems is limited. I have received the following letter from a man in Malmsbury, in the Ballarat electorate: -
Permit me to draw your attention to the state of affairs existing in the local labour market. Operations have begun at the two new ‘construction undertakings for the Water Supply Department, the Malmsbury, to increase the storage capacity of the original reservoir and the Lauriston midway between the Malmsbury and Upper Coliban reservoirs.
I have been a resident of this town since birth, twenty-seven years ago, and as you know the job is a local one, yet I am debarred from employment because I am single. Scores of men of all nationalities are gathering from all parts and start upon their arrival here, whilst the local man is penalized because he is not married. What an inducement it is, anyhow, to those contemplating matrimony. Under the present order of things he is prevented from accumulating enough to get married on. Cannot something be done to give the local young man a chance on the local jobs when they are importing strangers from as far afield as Melbourne and Bendigo? It is no use in registering for work here as there has not been a single man called up from here for years. My brother, who is a couple of years older than I, is placed in the same unfortunate position. The authorities prate and preach about defence but I’m afraid that if matters are not remedied the young men will be inclined to ask this very vital question - Defend what?
That will be the answer the Government will receive from many thousands of young men when it makes its appeal for recruits for the militia forces. The feeling expressed in that letter is general throughout the Commonwealth. A number of returned soldiers and married men are obtaining some work, but are not getting all that they need. What are the prospects of young men desiring to marry? In view of the circumstances which I have just related I cannot cooperate with William Morris Hughes in the recruiting campaign in my electorate. I refuse to do so. The Government, instead of dealing with the problem of unemployment is engaging recruiting agents and I suppose will expend a good deal on advertising its drive. In country centres which formerly absorbed young men, thousands are out of work and have no outlook in life. Many young men between eighteen and 25, who have appealed to me for work, say that their position is hopeless. I urge the Government to make a determined effort to solve this economic problem of unemployment and to use as much energy in solving it as it is applying in connexion with defence. As I wish to be constructive, I suggest that an effort should at once be made to utilize the £800,000 which the Government has in trust to establish the motor car manufacturing industry in Australia. A few days ago when the adjournment of the House was moved to discuss that subject I said that that industry lends itself to decentralization more than any other industry. In confirmation of my statement I received from the editor of the Bacchus Marsh Gazette the following paragraph in support of decentralization : -
From the employee’s viewpoint - He lives in the “best place on earth to live - an American village, or on land near that village “. He works in a small factory in beautiful surroundings, where noise and strain are reduced to a minimum. He has an opportunity to “ ease the pull on his income “ by raising vegetables, chickens, cows, or pigs.
From the employer’s point of view: A small and self-contained - or even a fairly large but segregated - plant “ develops a pride and a skill seemingly impossible where that department is part of a vast central factory “.
The men have more interest in their work, and there is almost no labour turnover because “ they are not part of the restless, constantly shifting population of a great industrial city “.
That contains a rough epitome of the advantages of decentralization. No industry lends itself more to decentralization than does the manufacture of motor cars. It might be asked how the brain trust under ministerial direction is to determine in which village and in whose electorate factories for the manufacture of component parts of motor cars should be abolished. For instance, the query might well arise, “Shall we establish at Alice Springs a factory for the manufacture of carburettors, and, in the electorate represented by the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane), the manufacture of some other component parts of a motor car? “. The question as to where the various factories for the manufacture of component parts of motor cars can be established can possibly be solved by inviting applications from people who want the establishment of these particular industries in their villages. The matter could be finally determined by the supplies of water and power and the existence of other facilities in those villages for the particular purpose required. This is the only way which occurs to me in which we could develop the economic possibilities of this country in the interests of its adequate defence. Another suggestion was made by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), who said that we should undertake the standardization’ of railway gauges in order to make possible cheap and rapid transport in a time of emergency. Still another suggestion was that we should undertake the manufacture in this country of aeroplanes for civil and military use, and that the manufacture of their component parts should be undertaken throughout the length and breadth of the country. I would go further and suggest that aeroplanes constructed for civil use should be of a type suitable for conversion to military purposes should the need arise. The expenditure of money in ‘any one of these directions would be productive of more good than will the piling up of arms and ammunition. Before I leave this subject, I should like briefly to explain the reason for my refusal to co-operate with the Government in its voluntary recruiting campaign. I agree with the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) that it would be far better to institute an intensified physical training scheme instead of one devoted largely to drills and rifle practice. I advocate the adoption of the Swedish drill system and its universal application in schools. We should do everything possible to get young Australians out of the habit of standing round in tens of thousands to watch a football match from which only a few derive the benefits of physical exercise. In other words, I would decentralize sport.
The honorable member for Barton (Ifr. Lane) interjecting,
– Order I The honorable member for Barton is totally disregarding the direction of the Chair. By his continual interjections, he is contravening the Standing Orders. I ask him to accept this as a final warning.
– I advocate a more adequate ration of food for necessitous children who would be called upon to indulge in these physical exercises. That should also be complementary to the scheme suggested by the honorable member for Fawkner. Before I depart entirely from this subject, I wish to say that I listened with interest to the remarks of those honorable members opposite of fine physique and comparative youthfulness who advocated voluntary and even compulsory military training but who. with the exception of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) and the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street), do not practise what they preach.
– What about the honorable member for Balaclava?
– If the honorable member for Balaclava is in the force now, well and good, but if he is not, he has a good excuse because of the ministerial duties he was called upon to perform before he tendered his resignation to the Cabinet.
– I am a member of the forces again now.
– Those honorable members who are in the forces show that they conscientiously believe in what they advocate. Some honorable members, however, notably the honorable member for Barton, are too antiquated to belong to anything. I am glad to know that my attitude towards militarism of any sort is shared by a large number of people in this country. I. am also fortified in the knowledge that it is supported by the inspiration of a large number of women. I have here a paragraph from the Melbourne Age, but before I read the pertinent portion of it, let me say that all my remarks to-day are based on the belief that the Government, and those behind it, are the victims of a press campaign designed to create in the minds of the people of this country a war hysteria. I am not by any means alone in that belief. The following statement was made by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, a body of some understanding of Christian duties and ideals : -
The first thing was to guard against that attitude of mind that accepted the inevitability of war.
The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) has told us that war is inevitable. As I have said, this is only a state of mind engendered by an intensive press campaign to create a war hysteria. The following resolution was adopted by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union : -
The Women’s Christian Temperance Union expresses its deep concern at the publicity methods being used to stampede nations into an armaments race, being convinced that it is inimical to world peace and contrary to the principles of the kingdom of God. We affirm our belief in international friendship as the primary essential in the prevention of war, and support the appeal of the League of Nations and international peace campaign to the British Government to call a world conference of all nations for the purpose of considering grievances which might lead to war. We also reaffirm our opposition to the conscription of youth for military training, believing that democratic nations should make an appeal H youth to build a national and international order of society, based on justice and right living.
The lady who submitted that resolution took exception to the efforts of the press to make people believe that war is inevitable. The Rev. W. Bottomley, preaching in the Unitarian Church recently, said -
From all official quarters was heard the cry that Australia must arm. She must have her own bombing aeroplanes and more warships. Every additional one of these made war more possible. Is there a country with which we could not negotiate on terms of equality and friendliness? Goodwill is the only sure way of defence. Not only is Britain arming herself, but one firm had supplied aeroplanes to nineteen different countries. These might be used to kill her own women and children. Why should not the nation take a risk in the way of life and say to all nations that it had no quarrel with them, and that it renounced armaments in the way of peace 1
I now wish to quote a few extracts in support of my contention that we should endeavour to create a peace psychology instead of a war psychology. In this connexion I shall quote no less a notability than the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies), who in an address delivered recently, said: -
Most people allow spell-binding politicians to think for them-
I take it that he meant politicians from the Government side of the House -
People too readily accept the published views of propagandists.
In another address, he said: -
There can be no greater illusion that the belief that war c;in prevent war.
When -he returned from England he addressed a meeting of the Australian Women’s National League, in the course of which he said : -
Sooner or later there must be war between those bitter opposing ideals. We are stimulating a state of mind which will be one of the greatest enemies of peace in our time.
Yet this Government, of which he is a member, has appointed the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) and the Minister for Defence to set out on a recruiting campaign which will do the very thing the Attorney-General says is creating a state of mind which makes for war. I say to the Attorney-General that whilst some of his remarks are deserving of public commendation he falls far short of consistency, and to prove my assertion I quote his own words. In an address to the Australian Women’s National League, on the 1st November, he said : -
The policy of no armaments which had been advocated a few years ago by Mr. George Lansbury was equivalent to suicide.
I recently read a book by Mr. Lansbury entitled The Battle for Peace, in which he related his experiences in travelling the world arid interviewing various monarchs, presidents, and other people who control the destinies of nations in Europe and America. In the introduction to his book, Mr. Lansbury said that he believed that a policy of appeasement would make for peace in the world. He said that if Hitler, Blum, Roosevelt, Mussolini, and, I think, Baldwin, met at a round table and discussed appeasement, peace would prevail in the world. That prophetic statement was made, in 1935. When the heads of the four leading European powers gathered round the conference table in Munich at the end of October, Mr. Lansbury could have claimed that his effort had borne fruit. I cite that as indicating that the AttorneyGeneral to my mind did not do justice to the psychological effect which the activities of Mr. Lansbury had upon the nations. During the whole of this debate, honorable members who support the Government have sought to justify its warlike activities by pointing to the fate of Abyssinia, China and other countries which have been the victims of war during the last few years. It might be as well, therefore, to consider what led up to the Sino- Japanese conflict. No one in this chamber will deny that China, before it was attacked by Japan, was in a state of anarchy. There was civil war within its borders, and the country was overrun by the armies of rival war lords. Some of them were in league with the J apanese, and actually invoked their aid in their quarrels. Because of this, and, no doubt, because also of ulterior motives of which I do not approve, the Japanese are fighting in China to-day. Had China applied the policy which I urge on this Government; had it developed its resources, fed its people, and fostered democratic institutions, there would not have been the slightest possibility of Japan invading China with success. The same applies to Abyssinia. Italy held territory on the borders of Abyssinia. The Abyssinian tribesmen pursued the same tactics against the Italians as the tribesmen on the north-west frontiers of India pursue against the Indian authorities, and Italy replied in the same way that Britain has always replied in India. Eventually, the Abyssinians, because of the chaotic conditions prevailing in their country, became the object of an Italian imperialistic attack. I do not justify what was done to them, but I do say that Australia can be saved from the possibility of a similar fate by putting its house in order along peaceful and sensible economic lines.
I desire to make a few observations on the subject of national insurance. Some Government supporters refuse to admit that there is any need to postpone or repeal the measure. In my opinion, it is a bad act, and should be repealed. So unjust is the basis of taxation that, within the last few days, I have received nearly 2,000 letters from people who declare that the proposal should be dropped altogether or replaced by something better. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) tells me that he has been inundated with similar correspondence, as also has the honorable member for Melbourne Ports ( Mr. Holloway). I have no doubt that the Treasurer himself, if only he would admit it, has the vaults of the Commonwealth Bank stacked with written objections, but they are stored away so that the people will not realize how much opposition there is to the measure. I trust that the Government will yet see the light, and repeal the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act.
I’ now come to a matter which savours of the parish pump, but it is of great importance to the people concerned. The fruit-growers of Harcourt have asked me to protest against the action of the Government in declining, this year, to pay an export bounty on apples. They say that they are producing at a substantial loss, and I ask the Government to state, before Parliament adjourns, that it will provide some assistance, either by bounty or in the form of drought relief, for these fruit-growers, who have experienced such a disastrous season. I believe in the granting of government relief to the unemployed, and to primary producers when they are in need of it. It has always seemed to me that the wheat-growers, by virtue of their superior organization, have usually succeeded in obtaining relief - to which, I have no doubt, they were entitled - whereas other primary producers, including potato- growers and orchardists, because they are not so articulate, have often failed to obtain their just due from the Government. When the Postmaster-General (Mr. Archie Cameron) was Assistant Minister for Commerce, he announced that the bounty on apples would not be renewed, but I hope that the Government will reconsider this decision.
.- I listened with some attention to members of the Government during the course of this debate, and with rapt attention to honorable members on this side of the House. As I think I shall be the last speaker, it is now possible to review the course of the debate. If I were judge, I should say that the Opposition has left the Government without a bone in the bag, and if the Government did the right thing it would immediately resign from office.
The Government has tried to restrict the debate to the one subject of defence. It has tried to intimidate the Opposition, and the people generally, by making out that the country is about to be raided by enemies. Members of the Government have given us to understand that enemy vessels are lurking just off our shores, and that bomb’s may be dropped at any moment on our capital cities. The Government has tried to create a war hysteria. Even while the debate was in progress, the Government selected the champion war-lord of them all to go out recruiting - I refer to the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). And the Government’ chose wisely, because there is not a man in Australia who has had more experience in the work. There is not a man in Australia who has done more to urge other men to go and fight. I can clearly recall the last war, when the right honorable gentleman, early in 1914, declared that every man should don khaki. Later, when, the troops were not being sent off fast enough to suit him and his friends, he sought to bring in conscription. To-day, there are members of this Government who are hoping that the recruiting campaign will fail, so that they will be able to conscript the youth of Australia. As I have said, the Government has chosen well. AH the right honorable gentleman will have to do is to look up the files, and find the speeches he delivered during the
conscription campaign. Another generation has grown up since then, and he will be able to put over exactly the same stuff. The only difference will be that, instead of having Earl Kitchener’s photograph on the posters, it will be his own. Everywhere the walls will be placarded with the announcement, “ Your country needs you “. Once more the young men will be urged to get into khaki. The recruiters will again be calling the men dirty shirkers, and hiders behind women’s skirts. When war does break out, they will again say to the young men, “ Go and fight, and we will look after you. When you come back we will see that you get everything. We will make this country fit for heroes to live in. Go and fight for democracy in this war to end war “.
Over 300,000 men responded to that call, and went to the war. They went to fight for democracy, to make Australia a better country than it was before they went away, and to-day the hospitals and institutions are filled with soldiers who are unable to get pensions. There is not one honorable member in this House who does not receive, day after day, appeals from returned soldiers asking him to make representations to the Repatriation Department for a pittance to keep them going. I know of men who had one leg shattered at the war, so that now the other leg, from constant using, has given way; yet, when they apply to the authorities, they are told that the condition of the leg is not due to war service, and that they are not- entitled to treatment. I have no doubt that the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) has himself received hundreds of letters from returned soldiers asking him to intercede with the department on their behalf. Every time the Labour party tries to amend the Repatriation Act we are outvoted. The Labour party declares that the promises made to the soldiers who went to the last war should be honoured.
– What about preference to returned soldiers in employment?
– What preference have they ever had ? The only preference the returned soldier gets is on the end of a pick. When there are lucrative positions to be filled, the Government puts its own friends into them, but when there is a trench to be dug down at “ Shay’s Crik “, or when there is a road to be made, they say, “ Come on, Digger, get a pick and go to it “.
If the Government really wishes to bring the militia up to full strength by voluntary recruiting, it should immediately commence a vigorous public work3 programme. Give to the fathers of these boys who in future are to be soldiers and cannon fodder, comfortable and lucrative positions; make their home life secure; give them good food, clothing and shelter. All this can be done quite easily. Let the Minister for External Affairs, who is now conducting the recruiting campaign, give an assurance to the parents of every boy who enlists that they will never be evicted from their homes. Also let an assurance be given that the State governments will give more money for food relief. Single men should get more than 7s. 6d. a week on which to live. How can the Government expect members on this side to arrange recruiting meetings in places such as Bankstown, where so many people are out of work? The largest meeting which could be arranged at Bankstown would be the weekly gathering of 800 unemployed waiting for the dole. Let the Minister for External Affairs come before these people and say, “ Your country needs you. Join the colours. Your dole ticket is in danger !” If the Government desires that there should be an- adequate militia force to protect Australia, it should first see that the people are properly fed and decently clothed. The Labour party believes in adequate defence. If it were in power in this Parliament the conditions throughout the country would be so good that there would no longer be widespread hunger or fear of eviction. It would give to the people something more than the bare necessaries of life. Then, if and when an enemy appeared, from every town, village or hamlet throughout the Commonwealth would march men willing and able to defend the country which had done the right thing by them. This week the Postmaster-General was asked if he would take steps to prevent men from being dismissed from the Postal Department before Christmas. After Christmas, however, anything may happen. Government supporters apparently have the idea that working people need plum pudding only at Christmas time. There are 365 days in a year. On every day the worker should be able to get plum pudding if he fancies it. Shortly before Christmas of last year Labour members made strong representations to the Government for a grant to provide Christmas cheer for the unemployed, and as the result of our efforts the sum of £150,000 was made available.
– The amount was £100,000.
– Now I will give away a Labour caucus secret. On Wednesday last it was unanimously decided at a meeting of the party that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) should move the adjournment of the House to bring to the notice of the Government the pitiable plight of the unemployed of this country. What happened ? Discussion was gagged. Ministers took no notice of the brilliant speech made by Mr. Forde because they realized that the facts had been martialled so effectively and the figures tabulated so accurately that the demand could not be ignored if the debate were allowed to proceed. Government supporters came to the Prime Minister at the table and urged him to gag the motion-, lest the newspapers get hold of the facts which the Opposition had so carefully prepared. This was done. Immediately the Minister for Works spoke, following the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the Secretary of the Whips’ Union (Mr. Gardner) moved the gag. To the newly appointed Minister for Works has been delegated the task of finding work for the people of this country, and after hearing what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said this week, honorable gentlemen decided that the facts should not be too strongly emphasized. Had the Government allowed the debate to continue, the Opposition would have been able to bring forward even more convincing arguments than those used last year, when we were successful in having £100,000 made available for the unemployed by way of Christmas cheer. Had we been able to state our case fully, the Government would have been obliged to make this year’s grant £200,000. Speakers on this side of the House would have been able to prove that there are more unemployed to-day than there were last year, and that those who were unemployed last year are still seeking work. When the last Christmas grant was made, I was able to obtain work for many unemployed in my electorate, but these men have done nothing since. Public works authorities in Sydney can tell the Government that the men who were recommended for temporary jobs are willing workers. In some instances the heads of departments have asked that the services f these men be retained.
The Commonwealth Government itself should undertake some part of its public works programme instead of passing it over to the States. The time will come when the Government will have to do this. With their numbers increasing in every hamlet, village and town throughout the Commonwealth, the unemployed will not continue to carry on as they are at present. They must eventually get. together. When they do I warn the Government to look out. The Ministry cannot hope to conduct a successful recruiting campaign while it permits widespread unemployment and distress to continue. I cannot imagine the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Gardner) having the effrontery to go through his electorate which adjoins mine, and in which there are 7,000 men out of work, and say to the eligible men “ Your country needs you “. “ Join the colours”. Unemployed men are getting one week’s work in five, two weeks in five, or three weeks in five if they are married and have large families. I was astounded to read in the press a week ago that, at a conference of the United Australia party held in Sydney, one delegate said that garbage bins at the homes of the unemployed were filled with chicken bones and asparagus tins. Hearing of that statement, government supporters no doubt sat back complacently during the debate on the unemployment situation in the House on Wednesday, and said to themselves “ The unemployed are not so badly off after all “. The statement was cheered by other delegates to the conference. It is obvious that these people do not understand the sufferings of the unemployed. United Australia party conferences such as that to which I have referred, frame the policy of the Government. In fact, they decide what, legislation members of Parliament shall support, reject, or amend. The idea of a national insurance scheme originated at a conference of the United Australia party, but the work of introducing that scheme was placed on the Treasurer. Every day, members of this Parliament, including, I suppose, the Treasurer, receives letters protesting against the national insurance scheme. I understand that the Treasurer’s “ fan “ mail is heavier than that of Clark Gable and Gary Cooper combined, but the letters would not be so flattering.
When the Treasurer came down with the bill, every member on the Government side cheered. The measure was opposed by every member on this side of the chamber. Sixty-four members of the House spoke on the bill, and all except four criticized it, but honorable members opposite, despite their criticism, also said “We shall stand solidly behind the Treasurer”. The bill was passed, and not one supporter of the Government voted with the Opposition. Almost all honorable members opposite who have taken part in this debate have condemned the act, and have asked the Treasurer to do something about it, because their political hides are in jeopardy. They, too, are receiving letters of protest, and before many months have passed they will be saying “ The Treasurer himself is responsible for this legislation; we have had nothing tq do with it”, although it was submitted with the full support of the United Australia party .and the Country party. With all these letters coming in, the Treasurer will find that he has scarcely a friend in the House.
– They are from Douglas Credit advocates, all of them.
– I have received them from people of all shades of political belief. I have had them from members of both the United Australia party and the Labour party, from Douglas Credit advocates, and from church organizations, progress associations and even friendly societies. The Opposition has been asked by people of all sections to induce the Government to repeal this act.
I urge the Treasurer to reconsider even the postponement of the operation of the act for six months, because I am sure that the volume of correspondence protesting against it will increase. The people still do not understand it. In 25 cases out of every 100, the person who answers questions through the press in regard to the scheme is wrong, because he merely anticipates what may be done by regulation or what the commission may decide. All we can be guided by to-day is what is contained in the act itself. The Treasurer stated recently that he did not know whether a woman who worked for an hour a week cleaning a doctor’s name plate for ls. 6d. a week would have to pay ls, a week towards the national insurance fund ; but the act declares that that woman is permanently employed, and therefore the anomaly cannot be overcome. Owing to many similar anomalies the trouble is bound to be intensified as time goes on. There is such growing antagonism to the measure that I venture to say that the Government will be forced, either to take the advice offered by the Opposition when the bill was brought down, or to repeal the act. I hope that the Government will accept the advice which the Opposition has given.
My principal reason for rising is to endeavour, even at this late stage, to induce the Government to do something to relieve the unemployed over the Christmas period. I desire it to grant even a greater measure of assistance than was given at this time last year.
Item agreed to.
The general debate being concluded,
Remainder of proposed vote - The Parliament £137,400 - agreed to.
Ministerial Addition - Suspension of Sittings for Meals - Sitting Days - Defence of Papua - Territory Development - Incident on Italian “Warship at Port Melbourne - Capital of New Guinea - Canberra Housing Conditions.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I have been asked by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) to intimate to honorable members that last night the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) was sworn as Minister for Works and Minister for Civil Aviation.
.- Mr. Speaker, I fear that when the House meets on Tuesday morning, whoever is in the chair when the luncheon hour arrives, whether it be Mr. Speaker or the Chairman of Committees, will announce that the chair will be resumed at a time earlier than is customary. I suggest, however, with great respect, that Mr. Speaker, or the Chairman of Committees, as the case may be, should vacate the chair at the usual hour, and that the meal interval should be of the usual duration. Yesterday, after an all-night sitting, the House had short intervals for luncheon and dinner, causing embarrassment to honorable members who were not in the chamber when the announcement of the earlier hour of meeting was made. Having regard to the conveniences of Canberra, I think that the meal interval should be regularly observed. There should not be an announcement varying the interval merely when the time for the suspension of the sitting is reached. I hope that the meal intervals next week will be at the same times, and of the same duration, as is normally the case. Any variation should be by agreement of all parties; it should not be done merely to convenience Ministers, for, with great respect, I suggest that Mr. Speaker and the Chairman of Committees are officers of the House and not officers of the Government.
.- 1 intend to refer to a matter of more moment than the alteration of the hours for meals - the days of sitting. I. speak on behalf of honorable members who como, from the distant States. Arrangements for days of sitting are made almost wholly in the interests of honorable members representing constituencies in Victoria and New South Wales. Instead of the House sitting from Tuesday till Friday, thus affording ample time for the discussion of all matters, for the greater part of sessions the House sits on Wednesday and rises on Friday. Honorable members from Victoria and New South Wales generally arrive in Canberra as late as they possibly can on Wednesdays and leave at the earliest possible hour on Fridays. They seem anxious to get away from Canberra. To a great degree, the House is dependent on honorable members from the distant States to maintain a quorum. They are generally in their places, whereas other honorable members are frequently absent. The Government should consider the advantages of Parliament meeting from the outset on four days a week. That would enable honor.able members from the distant States to return to their homes sooner than they can in the existing circumstances.
.- The matter of defence has been exercising the minds of honorable members this week, but I point out that no defence of Australia is complete without the defence of Australia’s territorial outposts. Yet we have the immense and fertile territory of New Guinea, with its gold, copper, rubber and tropical production as well as its untapped resources of raw metals, absolutely undefended, a small number of native police being the only organized force. We all know that, under the terms of our mandate, New Guinea cannot be fortified, but, definitely, we can fortify and defend Papua. Australia’s first claim to the New Guinea territory came in 1SS3 with the landing there of a small force of Queensland artillery. The territory became known as British New Guinea and, later, as Papua. Wing.Commander Hewitt, who flew to Australia on the record-breaking Royal Air Force flight from Ismalia, said that he who masters New Guinea is the master of Australia. I put it to the House that it is only a matter of common sense that our territorial outposts should be defended. In 1936, when I was at Thurs day Island, a deputation of about 40 returned soldiers pointed out to me that the island was completely undefended, despite the fact that there were more foreign nationals of one race on it than white, and thr^.3 times as many of them as there were coloured people of other races, lt is to the credit of the then Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) that, when I made representations to him, he had machine guns sent to Thursday Island and authorized the formation there of a machine-gun section. What happened to a recommendation that I made that Port Moresby should be made a defended port, I have not heard. The residents of Port Moresby would temporarily supply the men for a garrison if garrison guns were provided. It is obvious that any nation that chooses to occupy New Guinea controls it, and is able to establish a base there for further operations towards the south. In New Guinea there is the nucleus of a splendid auxiliary to the Air Force in its aerial services. The Lutheran missions also have their own air-craft. Just over the horizon from New Guinea are the Japanese mandates which are reported to be naval bases and which are fortified. Yet this second largest island in the world remains defenceless.
– In the last six years the honorable member has missed a lot of opportunities.
– Whilst one is a Minister one cannot publicly criticize the Government. In 1936, I wrote a full report on this subject. Apparently the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) did not hear me say that earlier. We have in New Guinea splendid settlers who would render a good account of themselves if any attack should come. In the interests of tactics and strategy Port Moresby should be garrisoned. It would then be a rendezvous and haven for our naval vessels. The existing air port at Port Moresby is inefficient and, in the interests of defence, it should be improved. I consider also that an air force squadron should be established there. Other air force machines should frequently visit it so that the pilots should gain experience and the residents inspiration from the flag which is occasionally shown by the Navy. If Port Moresby were fortified it could be an arsenal from which war equipment could be dispatched quickly to New Guinea in the event of its being attacked. I counsel the Government to pay heed to what was said by WingCommander Hewitt, and hope that the Government will realize that the time is overdue for it to do something towards protecting our territorial outposts.
I read in the press remarks made by the Assistant Minister (Mr. Harrison) last night about the amalgamation of the territorial services of New Guinea and Papua. That problem presents a great deal of difficulty, but it will be of advantage if it .is solved. Prominent in the plans for the defence of Australia should be plans for the defence of New Guinea, but I have never seen any mention of it in plans for Australian defence.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).In reply to the suggestion made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), I point out that no motion has ever been submitted in the House to fix the times during which the sittings of the House should be suspended for meals. By consent, the decision has always been left to the Speaker or to the Chairman of Committees, who have always given consideration to the convenience of honorable members, and to the business at the moment before the House, and it is the Government which controls the business before the House. The Chairman of Committees, I understand, announced yesterday and. to-day that the chair would be resumed after the expiry of a shorter interval than is usually allowed for meals, and, fis no voice was raised in protest, assumed, as I have done in the past, that there was no objection on the part of honorable members. In 1912, exactly the same question was raised. The Chairman of Committees had resumed the chair at a time earlier than the usual time, and his action was challenged on a motion of privilege; but, after a long debate, it was upheld by the House. I agree that the fixing of meal hours should not be left to an arbitrary decision by the Speaker or the Chairman of Committees, and, in the absence of any standing order dealing with the matter, I suggest that a motion should be submitted at the start of each session fixing the time for’ which sittings may bc suspended for meals.
– I also wish to refer briefly to the subject of meal adjournments raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr.
Curtin )j_ The Government has Supply until the next pay-day, which is Friday next, the 2nd December. It is therefore necessary that the Estimates shall be passed by the Parliament by that day. Owing to the necessity to afford another place an adequate opportunity to discuss the Estimates it will be necessary for this House to sit through both meal hours on Tuesday next.
– Then my protest against the short meal intervals of yesterday is to have the extraordinary result that we shall have no meal intervals at all on the next day of sitting?
– Why cannot the House meet on Monday?
– Cabinet has to meet on Monday to discuss urgent business. The Government has been at some pains to give honorable members a full opportunity for discussion during the general budget debate; but owing to the necessity to conform to the circumstances that I have just mentioned, I must regretfully advise honorable members that it will be necessary for them to sit through the two meal hours next Tuesday- so that as full an opportunity as possible shall be provided for the discussion of the departmental Estimates.
– I support the remarks of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) and desire to remind the Government that it is necessary also to do a great deal more than has been done to defend the Northern Territory. It is not sufficient to expend money for defence at northern ports unless provision is made to develop their immediate hinterland on which an isolated garrison would depend for supplies. I regret that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) has not yet had an opportunity to place before us, in detail, the developmental programme which he has in mind for the
Northern Territory. I have had prepared for some time some notes dealing with the general subject of territorial development. I suggest that as the Northern Territory has hitherto been only one of many responsibilities of the Minister for the Interior, its needs have been largely overlooked. In my opinion another Minister should be appointed to the Cabinet and charged with the responsibility of the development of the Northern Territory, New Guinea, Papua, and, in fact, all Commonwealth territories except the Australian Capital Territory. If that course were adopted the big issues that are demanding attention in respect of the Northern Territory and other Commonwealth territories, would not be obscured by many more or less minor matters relating to other Commonwealth activities. I sincerely hope that careful consideration will be given to my proposal. It appears that in the near future the general subject of unification “will receive a good deal of attention by this Parliament. I can assure the Government that any proposal of that description will be strongly resisted by the people outback until such time as they are, themselves, given a greater measure of local autonomy. “What I have said applies not only to the Northern Territory but also to the north-west of Western Australia and some other remote parts of the Commonwealth in respect of which special developmental measures should be applied. If a Minister were charged with the responsibility of putting into operation a progressive policy in these particular areas it would be to the great advantage of the Commonwealth as a whole. I ask the Government to give sympathetic consideration to this proposal, which I had intended to speak upon at much greater length on an earlier occasion
.- When the Government is giving attention to the remarks of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), I hope that it will not overlook the form of the mandate under which Australia holds New Guinea. There is a danger that, in the hectic activities now on foot, allegedly for the defence of Australia, the fact may escape notice that fortifica tions in mandated territories are absolutely forbidden by law.
– I realize that we may not fortify the Mandated Territory of New Guinea. My remarks in that connexion had particular reference to Papua.
– I have no desire to misrepresent the remarks of the honorable member for Balaclava. I simply observe that, in the last resort, the Mandated Territory is under the control of the Mandates Commission. Under the Treaty of Versailles, mandates over certain territories were granted, as a polite subterfuge, to certain of the allied powers in order that the declaration that the Great War was not intended in any way to permit of territorial expansion might not be openly violated. If any fortifications or any demonstrations of military force are permitted in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, considerable international provocation would be caused.
I now direct the attention of the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies), who is the senior Minister present, to the fact that on the 15th June last, I moved the adjournment of the House to discuss a matter of urgent, public importance which I had previously raised in this chamber, namely, an assault upon an Italian subject on board an Italian warship in Australian waters. The discussion was cut short by a decision of the House while the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes) was replying to my remarks. I remind the Government that, although that right honorable gentleman treated my observations with every external mark of contempt and disregard, he nevertheless said that at the proper time the incident would be the subject of representations by this Government to the proper authorities. The Minister added - and this is substantial evidence of my complaint that my motion was treated with contempt -
I venture to suggest that the honorable member for Batman moved the motion merely to obstruct the Government in the conduct of its business.
I do not think that the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies) would subscribe to that statement, because he very courteously received a deputation on this matter, supported by a number of honorable members from Victoria, and promised that a full inquiry would be made and the result of the Government’s determination communicated, if not to the House, to the honorable members concerned. It is obvious, from press reports, that the Minister for External Affairs was impressed by the representations made by the deputation, because he actually made some preliminary inquiries into the matter. _ I think he went entirely the wrong way about it; he went knocking at the door of the Italian consul. Of course, it is a derogation of the sovereign rights of this country that the Government should waste its time in such a matter in consultation with a mere trade agent. The Italian consul has no diplomatic standing in this country. On more than one occasion I have protested against the notion that a person representing the consulate of a friendly power in Australia is to be regarded as a diplomatic representative of his country. I repudiate that theory absolutely, and, so far as I Know, there is nothing in history to justify his being so regarded. This was a matter as between governments; the Attorney-General himself promised that it would be so regarded, and, I think, he takes a serious view of it. Even the meanest of our citizens - and I do not use the term in the sense that the injured man was not naturalized - can depend on it that his person, and his rights, will be protected under British law. Par from being an unfriendly act towards the Italian Government, what we did was really a demonstration of goodwill on the part of this country towards that nation. It showed that this Government is prepared to protect any citizen who is entitled to our hospitality and protection. I am fortunate that the Attorney-General is now at the table. I am not aware that either I, or my colleagues, have said anything to alienate the good feeling which he manifests in regard to this matter. I am bringing it up” at this juncture because I have received a letter from the person injured asking me in pursuance of a promise I made, to take action in favour of his being compensated. My view is that, a proper protest having been made to the Italian Government as such, it must rest with this Government to decide whether it will do the right thing or not. The incident is not of sufficient importance to cause a breach of diplomatic relations, or even continued unfriendliness between nations. But if no compensation is offered by the Italian Government to the person injured, the Commonwealth Government, which was responsible for the admission of the visiting warship to our waters - and I am sure the officers and crew of that vessel were welcomed as visitors - should itself accept the responsibility of compensating the person who was injured by the ratings, or officers, of that ship. This Government should do what it promised repeatedly to do, that is, come to a decision on the matter, and tell us what it has done or whether it proposes to do nothing further. Why does it keep postponing this little matter, and so make it a source of irritation? Why not get rid of it one way or the other by coming to some decision ? And, when that decision is made, if it is wrong, I shall not hesitate to say so; if I think it is right, I shall be all. the better pleased. At all events, it is up to the Government to come to a decision and let us know what that decision is.
.- For some considerable time, certain people in New Guinea have been anxious to know what site has been selected for the establishment of the new capital of that territory, and when I asked a question on this matter on the 22nd November, I was requested to postpone it until the 24th November. This morning, I received the following reply -
The decision reached by the Government hi the matter of the selection of a site for the head-quarters of the New Guinea Administration is contained in the statement ma’‘e bv the Minister administering External Territories on the adjournment of the House on the 24th November.
I suggest that that is rather a discourteous way of answering my question. In the space taken up by the reply actually given to me the information which I desired could have been given. It is impossible for me to send the answer I received to the people in New Guinea who asked me to raise the matter. I now request the Minister to be good enough to answer my question in a form which would enable me to send the information to the people concerned.
.- I have already asked a number of questions of the Minister for Works (Mr.Thorby) concerning housing conditions in Canberra, and the last reply I received was to the effect that a survey was being made of housing conditions, and of the works proposed to be undertaken here, and that 1 would be advised later. I do not wish unduly to hurry the Minister, because I realize that he has only recently taken over his position. As a matter of fact, within the last fifteen months, these activities have been handled by three different Ministers. As I have stated previously, housing conditions in Canberra are going from bad to worse, and the position has now become so acute that if it be not attended to immediately slums will arise. Married people are living in hotels and boarding houses; others are either sharing houses, or living at camping grounds. In other instances, because of the lack of accommodation, men are unable to bring their wives and families to Canberra. Notwithstanding these conditions, the Prime Minister to-day gave a broad hint that the Government had under consideration the provision of additional accommodation at Government House, in anticipation of the Duke and Duchess of Kent coming to Australia next year. I have no objection to providing adequate accommodation for the Governor-General, whoever he may be, but I have a decided objection to money being expended in providing mansions for one section of a community whilst for other sections no accommodation at all is provided. While housing conditions generally in Canberra are so unsatisfactory, the proposal to expend £25,000 on the remodelling of Government House is scandalous. I impress on the Minister theurgency of this matter, and ask him to bring it under the notice’ of the Minister for Works (Mr. Thorby) in order that the investigation which he promised may be expedited, and a statement may be made to this House. During recent months the press has contained numerous references to this subject, and promises that something would be done have been made in this House. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) gave to the press an outline of the policy which he intended to implement, and promised to make a statement to Parliament, but before he did so, the Cabinet was re-organized and a new Minister was appointed to deal with house construction in this territory. Consequently, Parliament still awaits information on the subject. I ask that a full statement be presented to Parliament at an early date, so that members may know what policy is being pursued.
– The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) referred to the defence of Papua. I have read some reports on the subject, but have not yet had an opportunity to read the report made by the honorable member. I shall obtain a copy of it and inform my mind further on the subject.
– in reply - The representations that are appropriate to departments other than those under my control will be referred to the respective Ministers. As to the remarks of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), I do not profess to be up to date in my knowledge of theRaimondo Montecuccoli incident. Before I left Australia a deputation waited on me and raised various questions which appeared to me to be questions of substance. I referred them, together with such information as had been acquired by my department, to the appropriate Minister, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes). Shortly afterwards I left for England, and did not know until to-day of the motion to adjourn the House. I shall discuss this matter with the Minister for External Affairs and ascertain the present position.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.31 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The decision reached by the Government in the matter of the selection of a site for the head-quarters of the New Guinea Administration is contained in the statement made by the Minister administering External Territories on the adjournment of the House on the 24th November, 193S.
N asked the Minister administering External Territories, upon notice -
As the point has been raised by some New Guinea residents that the Territory of New Guinea should be annexed to Australia in order to make that Territory secure against any possible transfer to a foreign power, will he make the position clear as to whether annexation to Australia is possible, considering that the control of the Territory was granted to the Commonwealth by mandate from the League of Nations?
– Subject to the terms of the mandate in respect of the Territory of New Guinea, the mandatory has full power of administration and legislation over the territory as an integral portion of the Commonwealth. The consent of the Council of the League is a condition precedent to any modification of the terms of the mandate. The annexation by any mandatory power of mandated territory by unilateral action, would, however, be regarded as a breach of trust and of the conditions under which the mandate is held.
r asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The information will be obtained and a reply furnished to the honorable member as early as possible.
Postal Department : Property at Ayr - Rural Automatic Telephones.
s asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The rural automatic exchanges in use in each State are as follows: - New South Wales. Iti; Victoria, 17; Queensland, 5; South Australia, 9; Western Australia, 8; Tasmania, 5.
n asked the Minister administering External Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Price of “Hansard”.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
I understand that the Joint Printing Committee recently raised the matter with the Principal Parliamentary Reporter, and that consideration is now being given by the President and the Speaker as to whether there should be any alteration of the subscription or the number allowed to senators and members.
n asked the Minister for
Defence, upon notice -
– The information will be obtained and a reply furnished to the honorable member as early as possible.
n. - On the 4th November, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I am now in a position to supply the following information : -
n. - On the 10th November, the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) asked the following question, upon notice: -
Will the Minister for the Interior give the number of migrants who entered Australia during the years 1936-37, 1937-38, and since July, 1038, and state their respective nationalities and the States in which they landed?
The honorable member asked on the 22nd November when the information would be made available.
I have now ascertained that the information desired by the honorable member will involve a considerable amount of work. The Commonwealth Statistician has been requested to supply certain statements, but this will take some time to prepare. The matter is, however, being expedited as much as possible and the information will be supplied to the honorable member immediately it is available.
Mr. STREET-On the 22nd November, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) asked the following question, without notice
Will the Minister for Defence make inquiries regarding the number of skilled tradesmen lost to the service of the Commonwealth from the Lithgow Small Arms Factory when the
Government decided two years ago not to allow that factory to compete for the manufacture of material other than defence equipment? If he learns, as the result of his investigations, that a large number of men were lost in this way, will he undertake to reconsider this policy, so that the factory may again undertake outside orders?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows : -
The conditions under which commercial work is undertaken at the Small Arms Factory have not been varied during the past two years, and as a matter of fact the value of such work executed at the factory was greater during the last financial year than wasthe case two years previously.
The records show the following changes in skilled tradesmen at the Small Arms Factory since the 30th June. 1036: -
The total number employed at the factory is also appreciably greater than was the case two years ago.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 November 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1938/19381125_reps_15_158/>.