15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Prime Minister in a position to make a statement in regard to national insurance, setting out in what form the proposed committee is to he set up, what will be the basis of representation on it, and what precisely will be its functions?
– A statement in respect of national insurance will be made to the House this week - tomorrow,I hope.
– Is the Prime Minister able ito inform me whether the royal commission appointed some time ago_ to inquire into medical services in connexion with the national health and pensions insurance scheme has yet made any report to the Government? If not, when is the commission’s report expected!
– The sittings of the commission were suspended by reason -of the death of its chairman. No new chairman has since been appointed, so the work of the commission is in the same state as when the chairman died. No report has been received by the Government. This is one of the matters which the Government is taking into consideration in relation to the whole subject of national insurance, and upon which its general intentions will be announced this week.
– The Sydney Sun of Thursday last published the statement that British tinned plate interests had made representations to the Government to use its influence to prevent the manufacture of tinned plate in Australia. Will the Minister for Trade and Customs state whether those representations have been made? If they have, has the Government given any consideration to them; if so, with what result!
– by leave-On Tuesday of last week I promised to make a statement to the House in the matter of the establishment of the tinned-plate industry in Australia.
The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has submitted proposals for the manufacture of tinned plate. These proposals have been reviewed by the Government. Successive Commonwealth governments have been anxious to see this great industry established in Australia. To this end, a deferred protective duty was incorporated in the Customs Tariff in 1920. Up to the present, the whole of our requirements have been imported. Australia’s dependence on tinned plate is vital, as it is .used for the canning nf many essential foodstuffs, as well as for a large number of other commodities. The project involves a capital expenditure of from £2,500,000 to £3,000,000 in the tinned-plate plant alone, whilst substantial additional outlay will bc required for ancillary services. Direct employment would he given to about 1,000 hands. In addition, an appreciable number of men would he employed indirectly, such as in the mining of iron ore and coal, in the production of the necessary steel, and in transport services. The Government is intensely interested in the proposal to establish this industry in Australia, and has decided to refer the matter immediately to the Tariff Board for public inquiry and report. All interested parties, including the canners of Australian foodstuffs, will therefore be afforded an opportunity to express their views on the proposal. The TariffBoard is being asked to ascertain whether assistance shouldbe given to the production of tinned plate in Australia, and, if so, the form which such assistance should take. In order that this inquiry may be completed as expeditiously as possible, the Government of the United Kingdom has agreed that any evidence which tinnedplate manufacturers of the United Kingdom may desire to submit shouldbe given to the Tariff Board within eight weeks from the date of reference. Under the Ottawa Agreement, the arrangement is that United Kingdom manufacturers should have three months in which to furnish evidence. As the result of this special arrangement, the Commonwealth Government expects to receive the Tariff Board report in about ten weeks’ time.
The Government of South Australia is interested in the proposal to establish the tinned-plate industry in Australia, and has formulated a plan for an extensive water reticulation system to provide adequate supplies of water to.Whyalla in the event of the industry being established and that site being chosen. The Commonwealth Government has under consideration a request from the Premier of South Australia for Commonwealth cooperation in this matter.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether the Commonwealth Government has communicated with the government of States other than South Australia, and particularly with the Government of Tasmania, in regard to the establishment of the tinplate industry in this country?
– The fact is that the Government of South Australia communicated with the Commonwealth Government.It was because of the special representations made to the Commonwealth on behalf of the Government of South Australia that I made particular reference to that State. I am not aware that a request has been made from any other State in regard to this subject, but I shall make inquiries on the point.
– Will the terms of reference to the Tariff Board be made available?
– I can make them available.
– Will the Minister for
Civil Aviation state whether it is the intention of the Government to interfere with the existing route and arrangements for the distribution of English air mails after their arrival at Darwin? If so, why? Does the honorable gentleman not think that the present arrangements are giving entire satisfaction?
– I have not made any submission to Cabinet in regard to this matter. When questioned by the press recently concerning the proposed rationalization scheme, which was under consideration by my predecessor, I stated that before finality could be reached I should have to inquire as to whether the Postmaster-General’s Department proposed to recommend to the Government the flying by night of interstate air mail services, as I considered that it would he unwise to enter into a five-year agreement with the companies which might preclude a step of this sort being taken in the near future. No action has been taken by me, because the matter is one for recommendation to the Government by the. Postmaster-General.
– I ask the PostmastermasterGeneral whether he has any intention to introduce night flying between the capital cities of the various States, or to alter the present routes by which air mail from England to Australia is conveyed from Darwin ? Has he any plans in mind to expedite the service?
– No single Minister could make the decision for which the honorable gentleman asks or answer his question in its entirety. I am considering a system for the carriage of mail by air which would automatically involve night flying. I propose to confer with the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr.
Fairbairn) with, a view to the Director^ General of his department conferring with the Director-General of my department to study the essentials, as the result of which it is possible that a statement will be made to the House.
– Can the Postmaster General inform the House what amount was paid last year by the- Australian Broadcasting Commission to the Australasian Performing Right Association, and say how much was ultimately passed on to Australian, British and foreign authors and composers, and how much went into the pockets of individuals who are neither authors nor composers?
– For my own personal satisfaction, I have been making inquiries in regard to this matter. In answer to the first part of the question, I should say, from memory, that the amount is something like £44,996 17s. 5d. The information asked for in the second part of the question is not at the disposal of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, although I believe that it could be made available if the Australasian Performing Right Association were willing to release it. I understand that the exPostmasterGeneral sought information of this nature during his regime, and that his request was refused. I assure the honorable member that were it possible to supply him with the information I should be only too delighted to supply it.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether the Government will take into consideration, in- any
Amendment of the Electoral Act, the- abolition of the alphabetical listing of the names of candidates on the ballotpaper for the House of Representatives, and the substitution therefor of some such method as that of drawing lots for positions on the ballot-paper?
– That suggestion will be considered by the Government.
-In view of the long delays in dealing with claims lodged in the Arbitration Court for the variation of awards covering work on the waterfront in Victoria, which also cover questions of interpretation, I ask the
Prime Minister whether he will communicate with the Registrar of the court to see whether, in order to prevent the engendering1 of ill-feeling, such delay cannot be avoided?
– I ‘ shall refer the matter to the Attorney-General, who will, I have no doubt, communicate with the Registrar immediately.
– Is the Prime Minister yet in a position to inform the House when the conference to consider the present parlous condition of the wheat industry is likely to be held?
– I understand that the preliminary meeting of officers will be held on Monday, the 22nd May.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral seen a press report to the effect that the Chief Secretary of New South Wales, Mr. Gollan, is conferring with certain racing interests in relation to the use of silent -telephones in connexion with starting-pi-ice betting? Has he noticed that that gentleman is reported to have said that he proposes to apply to the Postmaster-General’s Department for information concerning the numbers of silent telephones? Does the PostmasterGeneral intend to make that information available so that the State police officers may tap private lines and overhear private conversations? If that should happen is it not likely that many business men, and also members of Parliament, who have silent telephone numbers for purposes not connected in any way with starting-price betting, will be likely to discontinue using them and so occasion loss to the department?
– I have not seen the statement referred to by the honorable member, nor have I had any conference on this subject with the Chief Secretary of New South Wales. If such an application were made I should very seriously consider whether I should make the information available.
– As the term of appointment of the members of the Australian Broadcasting Commission will expire on the 30th June, I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether when the Government is considering the making of new appointments, it will bear in mind the desirableness of appointing one representative from each State, including Western Australia and Tasmania, to the commission, so that it may be really Australia-wide in its outlook?
– The term of office of the present members of the commission expires on the 30th June. The remainder of the honorable member’s question relates to government policy, upon which honorable members will, no doubt, be advised in due course.
– Is the Prime Minister yet able to say whether it is the intention of the Government that Parliament shall complete its consideration of. the Commonwealth Bank Bill during the present sessional period?
– I hope it may do so. To some extent this will be governed by the progress made with the rather urgent hills to be considered this week and next week. I feel fairly confident, however, that during this period of the session we shall ‘be able to make an advance with the Commonwealth Bank Bill.
conference with newspaper Representatives.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether the projected conference between representatives of the Commonwealth Government and representatives of the newspapers concerning Air Force accidents has occurred, and, if so, with what result?
– A conference was held in Sydney on Monday between representatives of the press, the Australian Journalists’ Association and allied interests and myself on this subject, and an arrangement has been made that, in the event of an Air Force crash occurring, any press photographer who arrives on the scene will at once get into touch with the Air Force officer in charge, who will co-operate in the taking of any photographs. If a photographer arrives at the scence of an Air Force crash prior to the arrival of Air Force personnel, an undertaking was given at the conference that any photographs taken would be submitted to an Air Force officer before publication. These arrangements, of course, apply only to Air Force accidents.
– If the Minister for Defence has’ within the last two weeks received a report from the men at Richmond, who are using Avro Anson machines, will he see that it is placed before any hoard of inquiry which is setup to investigate the most recent air force accidents.
– I have not seen such a report, but if the honorable gentleman can give me details of the document to which he refers, I shall be glad to place it before the inquiry.
– I ask the Prime Minister’ whether he is in a position to give an assurance as Prime Minister, similar to the assurance he gave twice while he was Attorney-General, that certain amendments to the Bankruptcy Act will be brought down during the current session of Parliament?
– I shall communicate with the Attorney-General and urge upon him the desirableness of carrying out any undertakings that may have been given by his predecessor.
– Is the Prime Minister yet in a position to make a statement to Parliament concerning the progress made by his Government in the proposed appointment of Ministers at Washington and Japan? Has he exchanged any communications with the governments of those countries? If so, with what result?
– I am not yet able to make a statement on this subject, but I assure the honorable member that at the first possible opportunity such a statement will be made.
– by leave - I am making a short statement in regard to the manufacture of motor cars, because in the various discussions that have taken place, it has turned out to he necessary that the general principles in the Government’s mind on this matter should be plainly set out. I therefore desire to set them out in the following terms : -
The Commonwealth Government has not made any decision as to what its desires would be on the subject of the proportion of the capital of any company formed which should be Australian subscribed. Proposals which are under consideration embrace the following: -
– In view of reports which are current in Sydney that the discipline at Royal Australian Air Force aerodromes is very slack, and that airmen are allowed to take up aeroplanes while they are physically unfit due very largely to the excessive consumption of liquor on the night before-
– Order ! The honorable member for Barton must be aware that he is distinctly out of order.
– “Well, I shall leave that bit out. Will the Minister for Defence see that the regulations are so tightened up- as to lessen the likelihood of accidents.
– The honorable gentleman’s question is an unwarranted slur on a fine and efficient body of men, and no useful purpose would beserved in answering it.
– Last week I addressed a question to the Prime Minister with reference to the Commonwealth Bank making funds available to building societies for the purpose of building homes, and the right honorable gentleman said that he would obtain information. Has the right honorable gentleman any information as to what attitude the Government is likely to adopt towards the making available of money by the Commonwealth Bank for this purpose?
– The honorable gentleman’s request was duly conveyed to the department. I shall ascertain what result has been achieved and let him know.
– I have to inform honorable members-
– I am exhausted trying to catch your eye.
– The honorable member for Hunter is offensive and his reflection on the Chair is quite unjustified. He is so frequently offensive in this direction that I am afraid he will never be otherwise.
I have to inform honorable members that I have received-
The honorable member for Hunter is disorderly. He is carrying on an audible conversation while the Speaker is on his feet.
– I never spoke. You are not telling the truth.
– Honorable members will sympathize with the honorable member for Hunter perhaps if he has been wrongfully accused of disorderly conduct, but the Chair is sure that it made no mistake. It is impossible for the Chair to control this honorable gentleman because of the temper he displays. I shall ignore it on this occasion, but I warn the honorable member that never again shall I do so.
– I do not think the honorable member made any comment. There was some discussion going on-
– Order ! As the honorable member for “West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) will realize, even if the Chair made a mistake, that does not justify the offensive manner of the honorable member for Hunter.
Bill returned from the Senate without requests.
Bill returned from the Senate without requests.
– I have received from Dame Enid Lyons a letter thanking the House for . its resolution of sympathy.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from the 11th May, 1939, vide page 332).
There shall be payable out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is hereby appropriated accordingly, to the widow of the late the Right Honorable Joseph Aloysius Lyons an annuity at the rate of £500 per annum. upon which Mr. Curtin had moved by way of amendment -
That the following words be added to the clause: - . . . “ for the maintenance and benefit ‘ of herself and for the maintenance, education, benefit and advancement of the children of the late Right Honorable Joseph Aloysius Lyons.”
– I rise not to take part in the discussion of this clause but merely to convey certain information to the committee.I have received a letter from Dame Enid Lyons in relation to this bill in which she says -
My dear Prime Minister,
My late husband was the servant of the Australian people, and he died under circumstances known to all. I have felt it not unseemly, therefore, that the people of the Commonwealth, through their parliamentary representatives, should be permitted to make whatever provision they desired for the future of his dependent children; for that reason I have hitherto remained silent.
The whole matter, however, has become extremely distressing to me, and its discussion, I have no doubt, difficult and even painful to Members themselves. So I feel thatI must now speak.
It is my earnest wish, and indeed the only course acceptable to me, that any bill dealing with this matter should be passed only upon a basis approved by all parties in the House.
Furthermore. I should like it understood that any annuity other than that designed to protect my children in the event of my death, would continue only until such time as the restoration of my health should put me in a position myself to provide for their needs.
I have read the letter to the committee at the request of Dame Enid with whom I have had some conversation about this matter on the telephone, who feels, not unnaturally, that there has been some criticism, not ‘necessarily in this House, but some public criticism, which involves her position. She therefore desires that her position should be made clear. The Government has given consideration to the request just stated in her letter, but has come to the conclusion that the determination of what is a just and equitable provision for her and her family is a matter for which it and the Parliament must accept responsibility. It would, we think, be unfair if we were to allow the very natural and very understandable feeling of Dame Enid in this matter to come between us and what we thought to be. a reasonable provision by this parliament for ber and for her family, in all the circumstances that are known to honorable members. Consequently while we have a most profound respect and regard for her and for her wishes, we still feel that we must ourselves accept responsibility for doing what we consider to be right, and will proceed with the slightly amended proposal which the Government has indicated already to the committee in the amendments circulated by the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender).
.- When I was speaking during the secondreading debate on this bill I gave various reasons for my opposition to the proposal of the Government to grant an annuity of £1,000 per annum to the widow of the late Prime Minister. I said that, having regard to all the circumstances, the proposal then advanced was a preposterous one. Now I find myself opposed to the amendment before the committee proposing an annuity of £500 for Dame Enid Lyons. My opposition to both proposals is based on the belief that all applications for assistance of this kind should be treated ou an equable basis. This Parliament should not be asked to deal differently with the case of one widow as against another;, it should bc guided by a principle which should be applicable to all. I cannot see any great deal of difference between the provision which should be made in this case and that which should be made in another. Every honorable member knows that there are very many other deserving widows in the community whose deceased husbands have rendered valuable service to the Australian community, and, having fallen on bad times, have been unable to make provision for the support of their dependants after their death. This Government has not, in the past, displayed any desire to grant any monetary assistance to these people. I have had forwarded to me by some person, who evidently believes that the attitude of honorable members generally in regard to this matter is not justified, a cutting from a newspaper accompanied by a photograph depicting, three children asleep in bed at the Travellers’ Aid Society Hostel. The cutting reads -
Three little girls stepped ofl* the train from Shepparton at Spencer-street 3’esterdsiy with a note from their mother, a 39-years-old widow, asking the Travellers’ Aid Society to take care of them pending her arrival by push bike to-day or to-morrow.
After four years of hard struggle to provide for her children, Mrs. Taylor -sold her furnishings for a pittance at auction, and lind scraped together the fares for her children in a brave effort to make a new home in Melbourne.
She hail only enough for her children’s fare so will ride the 113 miles on the push bike that has served as her transport to casual jobs us cook, help and house assistant.
What I desire to bring to the notice of the Government is that, although honorable members read of cases of this sort in the daily newspapers and know that they occur frequently in every State of the Commonwealth to-day, no action is taken by this Government to provide any relief for these unfortunate people; but when it comes to a proposal in respect of a particular case in which some honorable members are directly concerned they do not hesitate to talk about the necessity foi: giving “warm and generous consideration “ to it. Warm and generous consideration should be given to every proposal that comes before this Parliament for its consideration; but if. is apparent that members of this Government are content to reserve their warm and generous consideration to a particular case in which they themselves are interested. Honorable members know of innumerable cases of hardship in the cities and country towns to-day. We all know of cases of unfortunate women, many of them barely able to spare the time away from their washtubs to attend the funerals of their husbands, forced to return to the washtub for the rest of their lives to eke out a bare existence. I say that those circumstances should not exist here. What has the Government done to put an end to them? It has given those people any amount of sympathy, but it is not sympathy that they want; they want just treatment. During my secondreading speech, I referred to what the Government was doing for the people in need of assistance in the Australian Capital Territory. When we point to the conditions existing in the States, we are told that it is. a matter for the State governments: - that it does not really concern the Commonwealth. Well,, so far as. the people in the Australian Capital Territory are concerned, the Government, cannot escape responsibility for them. Here in this Territory to-day an unemployed man, his wife and eight children’, receive fi 10s. 2d. a week on. which to. live, yet in this bill it is suggested that a- widow and her family need £20 a week.. All I can say is that the Government: takes a distorted view of these things. Honorable members opposite are fond of praising, our democratic institutions, so let them now see that equal treatment is meted out, irrespective of the station in life of the recipients. The Government introduced and had passed a national insurance hill “providing for the payment of 12s. 6d. a week pension to a widow and 3s. 6d. a week for each dependent child. If we are to have widows” pensions they should be made to apply uniformly. We should not say to one widow, “ You enjoy a different standard of life from the rest of the community, and you must receive a widow’s pension at a higher rate”. I do not believe in that. Every member of the community should- be able to live like a civilized human being, and to educate his or her children in such a way- as to give them an equal opportunity with any other child. This Government, however, does not subscribe to that opinion. When dealing with the widows of workers, it has usually only sympathy to give them, or, when it does provide a pension for them, it takes care that the husband, while alive, hap. contributed to it. Even then, under the National Insurance Act, the payment of a widow’s pension is so hedged about with conditions and restrictions that not many would benefit. It is said that this is a special case. Well, why is it? Why should it be treated as a special case? I do not recognize that the widow of the late Prime Minister or her dependent children are in need of a greater quantity of food than are the dependants of a worker killed in the course of his employment. I cannot see that they should he treated any differently. As a member of the Labour party I believe: that every consideration should be given to applications for assistance, no matter from what quarter they are received. All such applications should be considered on their merits, and the first consideration should be the need of those whom it is proposed tq help. Knowing the. ability of the late Prime Minister and the business capacity of his widow, I am not yet. finally satisfied that they did not make adequate provision for the maintenance of those dependent upon them. It is true that a committee of this House met for a short period, and made a cursory examination of the situation, but I am not satisfied that it made a thorough exploration. Because I am not satisfied on that point, and because I believe that the Government’s proposal is preposterous, I intend at the appropriate time to vote against the Government’s proposal for a pension of £1,000, and I decline also to support the amendment providing for a pension of £500, which I believe to be excessive, but I would support a proposal for granting to the family, after an adequate inquiry into its circumstances, such aid as might be deemed necessary, though certainly not to the excessive amount proposed by the Government or in the amendment.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), in moving the amendment before the committee, submitted the argument that had the late Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) lived to become a private member again, his wife would be little better off financially than she is as a widow to-day. supposing this amendment were carried. I do not think that we can so easily brush aside what is fitting and proper at the present time for the widow and family of a Prime Minister who occupied that distinguished position, and carried out his onerous duties, for over seven years.
The Leader of the Opposition has freely stated that he regards the prime ministership as a position entitled to the greatest possible respect, and that the Prime Minister of the central government of a Commonwealth of federated self-governing States occupies a position somewhat similar to that of the President of the United States of America. I agree with the Leader of tha Opposition in that, and so, I believe, do most thinking Australians who believe in our democratic system of government sufficiently to pay the respect which is due to the man who is, or has been, its head. The present Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) became a private member after having been Prime Minister over a very long term but by most honorable members in this House he is regarded always as an ex-Prime Minister and they respect him the more on that account. The right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) I respect, not only for his great personal qualities, but also because he, too, has carried this great burden at a time when it was excessively heavy. To me that gentleman will always be a former Prime Minister. If we believe that this great office sets a seal upon a man, entitles him to respect above that given to his fellows, and entitles him to the gratitude of the community, does it not place an obligation upon us, as the representatives of the nation, to see that the widow and family of one who has filled that great office shall never be allowed to suffer the hardships of too greatly reduced circumstances? I think it does. We owe that much to the widow of any Prime Minister, but in the case before us the circumstances are so very remarkable that it is extremely unlikely that they will ever be repeated. I believe that the people would wish to see the children of the late Prime Minister enabled to complete the kind of education which they, as children .of the Prime Minister, had embarked upon. I ask honorable members to reject the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition, which, I consider, would make such completion impossible. In the circumstances, anything savouring of pettiness would, I think, be a blot on the good name of Australia, and I hope this committee will carry the bill in the amended form as proposed by the Government.
.- During the second-reading s’tage of this bill, one naturally felt rather constrained to avoid making any comments in regard to the circumstances of the widow and family of the late Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) ; and one would be more restrained after hearing the letter which was written to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) by Dame Enid Lyons. This Parliament, however, also has a duty to the many thousands of widows of this great country of ours. In his concluding remarks, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) said, in effect, “ Do not let this be a blot on this country of ours “, and urged the House not to carry the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). Apparently the honorable member favours giving the full £1,000 a year. I ask the honorable member for Gippsland, if it is not a blot on this country to suggest giving to one widow £500 a year for herself, and another £500 a year for her family, and at the same time to introduce legislation such as the National Insurance Act, which, although a contributory scheme, provides only very meagre benefits for widows and children. In order to receive a widow’s pension under the proposed national insurance scheme - the future of which will, I understand, again be discussed to-morrow - the husband must have contributed for a period of two years. Even then what pension would be paid? The widow’s pension would amount to the magnificent sum of £39 a year, or 15s. a week. Is that not a blot on the community? I say, definitely, that it is more than a blot. It is a tragedy, that adequate provision is not made for the mothers who, according to opportunity, have rendered service to their fullest capacity. I point out, also, that under the national insurance scheme, it is proposed to pay &o a widow 3s. 6d. a week in respect of each dependent child. Even under the terms of the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition the children of the late Prime Minister would have £200 a year to divide amongst themselves, and the widow would have £300 a year. Like the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), I feel that I cannot support even that amendment, and at the same time allow the tragic circumstances of thousands of widows’ and children throughout the Commonwealth to continue. All my life I have been associated with one industry, the coal-mining industry, in which there are a great number of casualties. I have seen widows fighting valiantly to retain their homes for themselves and their children, only to be carried off to mental hospitals as the result of such an unequal fight. Yet the honorable member for Gippsland speaks of “ a blot on the good name of Australia “. I submit that it is a much greater blot that we have not done something far better than we have for the widows of this country generally, and that it is proposed to single out one home in this fashion for special consideration. What of the thousands of widows ‘ throughout the Commonwealth ? I have come in contact with many of them. One widow who has fourteen children comes each, year to my home, to fill in an iniquitous questionnaire stating whether or not any of her family have secured employment. When some of her children obtain work her pension is reduced accordingly. For the purpose Of assessing a widow’s pension, 50 per cent, of the grossearnings of any unmarried son or daughter living at home is regarded as the income of the mother, and the pension is reduced by that amount. Similarly, 25 per cent, of the earnings of a son or daughter not living in the home is regarded as the income of the mother. Even in all these circumstances, the widow’s pension has been regarded by some people as a generous provision. That pension, I point out, exists only in the State of New South Wales.
– The legislation was introduced by Mr. Lang.
– Yes, by that “bad” nian !
– Good luck to him for having done it.
– No provision for widows is made in any other State of the Commonwealth. I have before rue many letters, including two from Melbourne and one from Devonport, the home town of the late Prime Minister, protesting against this injustice. These are only a few of the many letters which I daresay all honorable members of this House have received. We should all like to be generous in making provision for the widow and children of the late Prime Minister, but why should we go beyond the bounds of what is fair and reasonable? Can anybody justify the continuance of the payment of this money to the children until the youngest child reaches the age of sixteen years, as is suggested in the amendment circulated by the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender). That would mean that the eldest child, who to-day is 23 years of age, would be 33 years of age when the youngest child, now six, reached the age of sixteen years. The eldest child and, for that matter, other members of the family might then be earning £10 or £5 a week, yet, by allowing discretion to the trustee, Dame Enid Lyons, it is proposed that they should still share in this annuity. Nobody could justify such a proposal in the eyes of the great mass of the people of Australia, generous as wc should like to bt It is not our money which we propose to vote away in this manner. It is the people’s money. We should not allow our hearts to rule our heads. If generosity is to be shown in this case, then it should also be shown to the unfortunate widows and dependants of those men who paid the supreme sacrifice in the Great War and to widows generally. What of their children? Honorable members are aware of what happened to these men and their dependants in 1931 under the Premiers Plan, and what is happening to them to-day. Many returned soldiers whose health had been impaired by war service were able, despite that fact, to work for so many years that, when their death occurred, the authorities refused to grant a pension to their widows on the ground that the disability from which they suffered was not due to war service. I reiterate that, if we wish to make provision for the widows of ex-members of this Parliament, either private members or a Prime Minister, a fund should be established to which all would contribute. In the past, legislation to provide for the widows of ex-members has. been passed without dissent, because the amount proposed was reasonable and fair. The present proposal definitely introduces class distinction, for which we do not stand. Although my sympathies are wholly with Dame Enid and her family, that fact will not induce me to support a grant that is out of all proportion to what is fair and reasonable, while many thousands of unfortunate widows have to eke out a miserable existence. The sorrow that I feel for Dame Enid and her family must be shared with the many other unfortunate widows whose condition is as bad as, if not worse than, that in which she has been left. The committee of honorable members which was appointed to inquire into this matter did not go far enough; it did not. make .the minute inquiries that were necessary. It may have reported the position disclosed by the information placed before it; but no one can say without doubt that that is the exact position. I have heard no denial of the statement that the late Sir John Higgins left an annuity of £2,500, which reverts to Dame Enid on the death of his sister. We have the right to know whether or not it is true that investments on behalf of the family of the late Prime Minister were responsible for the fact that his estate was worth only £100.
– Order ! The’ honorable member’s time has expired.
– Honorable members will have great difficulty in justifying opposition to this proposal of the Government on behalf of Dame Enid and her children. We have to deal with cases as we find them. The honorable member who has just resumed his seat (Mr. James) has referred to soldiers’ pensions, whilst other honorable members have referred to ordinary pensions. The honorable member for Hunter did not mention the fact that the pension granted to the widow of a general who was killed at the war was considerably greater than that of the widow of an ordinary private. We must agree that the considerations which arise in the case of a Prime Minister are greater than those encountered in the case of ordinary members. We are now dealing with the case of a Prime Minister - the first citizen of the Commonwealth - who died in harness. It is indisputable that the duties of his office were the cause df his death. It is for this nation to say whether or not it is prepared to contribute to the support of his widow and children in recognition of what he and Dame Enid have done for it. Quite apart from the debt which this country owes to the late Prime Minister, I believe that it is also considerably indebted to his widow and children. The duties which devolved upon Dame Enid during two visits to Great Britain, Europe and the United States of America, together with those which she undertook in Australia, caused a breakdown of her health and paved the way to the illness from which .she is now suffering. During her absence from this country, and afterwards, the elder girls of the family had to act as mother and housekeeper for the younger members in two homes, one in Tasmania and the other in Canberra. They were thus unable to associate with their schoolmates or to prepare themselves for a commercial or professional life. We owe to them at least that which the Government proposes to provide, in order that they and the younger members of the family may be enabled to fit themselves to take their rightful place in the community.
During his period of office, as honorable members well know, the late Prime Minister was jibed on more than one occasion with having served his masters, the financial institutions. His family should regard as the greatest honour the fact that at his death he left, according to the official statement, no more than £100. This proves that at no time did he accept for his services anything beyond the small remuneration provided for the occupant of the office that he held. His family must feel proud to know that he followed a straight hours( in the interests of the community, being actuated only by his desire to serve. I feel sure that every citizen of this Commonwealth will join in expressing appreciation of his services in the words, “ Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
.- It is with some trepidation that I engage in this debate, because I would not wish that any words of mine should prove hurtful to those who have suffered such a sad bereavement as has fallen to the lot of Dame Enid. Nor would I add to her distress of mind or to that of the members of the late Prime Minister’s family. But I owe a duty to those whom I represent in this Parliament, on whose behalf I have been requested to enter a very strong protest against the proposal of the Government to grant an annuity of £1,000 per annum to Dame Enid and her family. In the main, the protests that I have received are from women’s organizations - from women who have had the responsibility of motherhood and the obligations of family life, and who quite appreciate and understand the difficulties which the late Prime Minister’s widow and family may expect to experience. But they feel that that does not justify the granting of an amount which so greatly exceeds what has been given to any widow in the past. The Prime Minister and the Government would show appreciation of the feelings of Dame Enid were they prepared to take cognizance of the wish expressed in the letter that was read to honorable members this afternoon. A reduced amount would be more acceptable to Dame Enid, if she could feel that it was unanimously granted by the members of this Parliament, than one which caused a serious difference of opinion. Even at this stage, I urge the Prime Minister to heed the request in Dame Enid’s letter. Her wishes in a personal matter of this description should not be disregarded. In the communities that I have the honour to represent in this Parliament, are many mothers with families just as large as that of the late Prime Minister, and they feel the heavy responsibilities which consequently devolve upon thom. No matter how severe may be the degree of adversity that overtakes these widows, they can call upon only a meagre ration relief for the sustenance of their children. I do not wish for a moment to see Dame Enid Lyons put in that position. Nevertheless, I cannot close my eyes to the widespread disapproval of the action which the Government is proposing to take. Surely the time is long overdue when a comprehensive scheme for widows’ and orphans’ pensions should be adopted. The hardships of widowhood should be relieved irrespective of social or political position. Even the proposition of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), in this case is, I am sure, far more generous than the great majority of our people would endorse. I suggest that we should do. justly if we provided for Dame Enid Lyons and her family the maximum amount of pension possible under the best pensions scheme that the Commonwealth Parliament has hitherto approved. If that were done, I feel there could he no room for complaint. I emphasize the views expressed by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James). I well remember reading some time ago that a distinguished private citizen of the Commonwealth intended to make provision in his will for an amount of £2,000 to Dame Enid Lyons, yet no clause of the bill even suggests that such a contingency should be borne in mind. Apparently the Government intends that whatever pension is decided upon for Dame Enid, shall be continued irrespective of legacies or deeds of gift under which she may benefit. Such circumstances should be provided for in the bill. We should not overlook the fact that thousands of widows in this country are as affectionately attached to their children as is Dame Enid to hers, and they regard their responsibilities just as seriously as Dame Enid can possibly do. One other point I shall make as briefly as possible. Not so long ago, attention was directed in this country to the necessity for parents to make provision for larger families; in fact, the mothers in Australia were subject to some reproof on this subject. These are moments surely for quiet reflection. The very fact of the existence of families places responsibility upon the parents to see that the children are and can be properly maintained. I do not wish to say more on that point. I do not feel at all happy about the proposal of the Government, yet I wish adequate provision to be made for Dame Enid and her children. I repeat, however, that ray proposal that such provision should be on the basis of the maximum benefits provided in any Commonwealth pensions legislation would adequately meet the case.
– I should not have risen to participate further in this discussion except for the rather remarkable attitude adopted by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) this afternoon. The right honorable gentleman did not attempt to justify either the Government’s original proposal or its amended plan; nor did he discuss the alternative advanced by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). In what, to my mind, was singularly bad taste, he read a private letter written by Dame Enid Lyons to himself, in which she set out her feelings regarding the discussion that this bill has evoked.
– It was not a private letter. It was intended for the information of honorable members.
– In my opinion the only purpose that could have been served by the reading of the letter was the stifling of discussion. If that were not the Prime Minister’s object in intruding the letter into the discussion I cannot think what end he wished to serve.
– He acted at the request of Dame Enid, so that her view would be made clear.
– If any feeling has been displayed in this discussion it is due entirely to the clumsy and haphazard way in which this bill was drafted and presented to the House. The measure, in its original form, was criticized, not only by the Opposition, but also by honorable members opposite. Of four Government supporters who spoke during the second-reading debate three asserted that the case demanded some investigation and that therefore the bill should be temporarily withdrawn. It was at that stage that the Prime Minister, realizing that a blunder had been made, suggested that the matter should be referred to a committee. The debate was thereupon adjourned and the committee deliberated. I was somewhat involuntarily a member of the committee in that I was nominated without my knowledge. The extent of the investigation made by the committee would not have satisfied any government department, the officers of which are called upon to investigate pension claims and social service payments. The only information made available to the committee was that which the Prime Minister had at his disposal at the moment. The committee made no recommendation to the House or to the respective political parties. All that its members did was to report to their respective parties the exact information made available to them. After considering that information the several parties reached certain decisions. Since that time both the United Australia party and the Country party have been guilty of a remarkable volte face. The Government’s original proposal was that Dame Enid Lyons should receive a pension of £500 a year for life, and that the children should receive a pension of £500 a year until the youngest of them attained the age of 2! years. It is quite apparent that the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) committed his Government on this matter. It is equallyapparent that he made the commitment before he could possibly have had any detailed information of the circumstances of Dame Enid Lyons and her family. He committed himself at a time when sentiment wholly swayed him and when, because of the surrounding circumstances, considered judgment on the matters at issue was impossible.
– He knew all the details of the case.
– He knew very little. A good deal of humbug and sentimentality has been evinced in relation to this subject. If the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) is satisfied that his leader was able to sum up the position at the time he made his first declaration on this subject, I certainly am not satisfied that he had sufficient information to guide him to a. decision. His first declaration was made before the late Prime Minister was even buried.
– He had all the details in his ‘possession.
– The Opposition is not alone in seeking to place some sort of a means test on this case. The Government itself has done so. “When the committee considered the whole situation the. representatives of both the United Australia party and the Country party decided that it would be unwise to provide maintenance for the children of the late Prime Minister after they reached a certain age. Therefore they agreed that the pension for the children should diminish by about £71 a year as each child reached the age of 18 years. In other words, as each child attained capacity to maintain itself, either wholly or partially, the pension was to be reduced. Under the original proposal of the Government the pension of £500 a year for the children until the youngest of them reached 21 years of age would have involved an expenditure of £8,000:- Under the amended proposal, which the representatives of the United Australia party and Country party on the committee agreed to, the amount involved would be £3,800, or less than half the original amount. Now that the party steamroller has been over them, we find honorable gentlemen opposite supporting an entirely different proposal costing £5,000. The amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition has the approval of the majority of his supporters, and I shall therefore vote for it. That amendment provides for a pension of £500 a year to the widow and family, the widow to handle the whole of it and to accept the responsibility of maintaining the family. If the late Prime Minister had been a private member dependent upon his parliamentary allowance, after meeting all of the usual calls and expenses attendant on a member’s calling, the amount of £500 a year would have been a reasonable sum for him to apply from his salary to the maintenance of his home. It cannot be claimed that the Opposition is niggardly in suggesting that the late Prime “Minister’s family should be placed in almost precisely the same position as that in which the families of most honorable gentlemen who are still living and doing their work are placed. I challenge any Government member to satisfy public opinion as well as his own conscience that it is not equitable that, as the children of the late right honorable gentleman grow older and become partially able or completely able to maintain themselves, the allowance made to them by this Parliament should be reduced. The amendment contains a further provision to ensure that should anything happen to the widow, the children will be adequately maintained until such time as they are able to maintain themselves. This is not a time when we should concern ourselves about whether the late Prime Minister drew an adequate salary while he was alive. The question we have to consider is whether his widow is in any worse or more difficult position in the maintenance of her family than the widow of any other deceased member of this Parliament; yet the Government’s proposal is that for the next ten years we shall pay to the widow and her family a pension which is seven times greater than any pension that has ever been paid to the dependants of any other deceased member of this Parliament. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) said “ We must make some special provision because of the rank that the late right honorable gentleman held in Cabinet.” I should remind the honorable gentleman, if he were here, that a former Minister of the Crown died in the poor-house in Adelaide, his only possession being the gold pass that he received for having served as a Minister for more than three years. No provision was made for his family. Where was the sentimental talk of the honorable member for Gippsland in those days? The honorable member can justify, because of the eminence of the position of the late right honorable gentleman, the payment to his family of a pension which is seven times greater than any pension similarly voted by this Parliament. Well, I cannot. I find it difficult even to support the amendment moved by my leader, but it is a party decision and I intend to stand by it. The committee of honorable members which met the Prime Minister on this matter came to no decision as to the amount of the annuity that should be paid, but there certainly has been a change of face on the part of those who represented the ‘Country party and the United Australia party on that committee. We stand by the proposition that was made by the leader of this party. It is before the committee and I hope that it will be accepted. I feel sure that it is the opinion of all honorable gentlemen and the public at large that if we do what the Opposition wants to be done we shall do justice to the widow and children of the late Prime Minister. [Quorum formed.]
– I rise with a good deal of diffidence to make some brief observations on this bill. Some assistance should be provided for the widow and children of the late Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), but I do not think that to the degree that is set out in the hill the taxpayers of Australia should be expected financially to support them. I have been surprised at several aspects of this matter. One is the peculiar silence of the majority of members on the Government side of the committee on a matter on which some expression of opinion should be given. Another is that, despite all that has been said in many places, particularly in the press of
Australia, of the high services rendered by the late Prime Minister, there has been no spontaneous move by the general public of Australia to subscribe a sum of money for the purpose of giving support to Dame Enid Lyons and her family. Its absence is remarkable. In view of the high praise that has been given to the services of the late Prime Minister, I feel that we have not tackled -this problem in the right way. It calls for a spontaneous expression first of all. by members of this Parliament. In view of the general expression of hostility we who have been in touch with the electorates realize that it would have been a much better gesture if the members of this Parliament had taken up this matter voluntarily. That would have made for a genuine expression of the ideals that have been expressed by a good number, and felt, no doubt, by all of us. It is far from my desire that I should suggest any cheeseparing in making provision for a widow and children, particularly the widow and children of one who served his country so well as did :tb& late Prime Minister ; but I, in common with many other speakers, feel that there has been too much neglect on the part of past governments in dealing with the widows and children of others who in humbler stations have equally served this country. I have in mind many soldiers’ widows and children, with whom I frequently have correspondence. We have to make a tremendous fight in many cases to overcome hurdles of red tape in order to obtain for them even a meagre amount of assistance. The same applies to widows of workers who have been worn out and have fallen by the wayside in doing this country’s work and in accumulating its wealth. We have not done justice to them, and I take this opportunity to bring that point of view before honorable members. The same applies equally to many of the widows and children of those who were on the land, those who have struggled in primary industries, and have left heavy responsibilities to their widows and children. I hope that any precedent that we create in passing this legislation - I am not opposed to it - will bring a greater realization of the responsibility of the ( Government to deal more generously with those other sections of the community which in a humbler way play an equally important part in our whole scheme of things. It would have been better in this case, I believe, if every member of this Parliament had offered to contribute even £100. Honorable members may laugh at that, but I make the suggestion in all sincerity. I am surprised at the laughter.
– Levy a percentage of honorable members’ salaries.
– That would be a percentage. I should be prepared to do that myself, and I am one of the least affluent of all honorable members. If that were done an annuity-could be purchased from any insurance company. If the members of the public cared to come into the scheme, the door could be left open to enable them to do so. That is the suggestion that I make in all sincerity, but if we do pass this legislation we must in the future take into consideration those other sections of the community which are suffering disabilities similar to those of the widow and children of the late Prime Minister, and I hope that honorable gentlemen, if they should be called upon to deal with legislation of this character in the future, will be prepared to be just as generous as they are asked to be in this bill.
– But the honorable gentleman’s £100? There are about 100 members of Parliament. The honorable gentleman is getting too high for me.
– I suggest £100 from private members, and, say, £200 from Ministers. That would give, approximately, £12,000, with which an annuity could be purchased from any insurance company, obviating a heavy impost on the taxpayers who, I believe, are largely opposed to this proposal.
– Does the honorable gentleman., suggest £100 from every honorable member for every widow?
– No. I refuse a private debate with members of the committee. I do not oppose this legislation. As I hope to obtain mercy, so do I desire to be merciful to others.
.- It is with pleasure that I welcome this bill. I do’ so for the sole reason that it should establish the splendid principle that every widow left unprovided for should be helped in her hour of trial. Whether she be resident in the north, south, east or west of Australia, the only fact to be considered is that she is in need and, perhaps, has little ones depending on her. We might do well to emulate the reverence of the ancient Greeks for their children. We are told by the historians that the ancient Greeks would never hand over their children as hostages to the enemy for the carrying out of an agreement. Although they would offer as hostages generals and politicians, they would never offer a child, because they did not know what a genius that child might become. They realized the value of their children. Lately, I have been endeavouring to obtain milk for little children such as those whom Christ nearly 2,000 years ago took into his arms and blessed. In -this great land of ours, which is richer than any other land and blessed with a. bountiful supply of all the things that are needed for the comfort of man, it is a tragedy to see little children in need of food, shelter and clothing. My sympathies are with every good man and every good woman. I know of no other couple in Australia who set a better example than the late Prime Minister and his dear lady; but although I have been their personal friend for many years, I feel that no consideration should be given to- the widow of the late Prime Minister which this Government is not prepared to give to every other deserving widow in the community. Only recently I had brought prominently to my notice the distressing case of a man and wife with twelve little children, victims of the recent bush fire in Victoria, who tried without avail to find a home in the mighty city of Melbourne in which to live. Although the man was willing to pay a fair rental for a house they were unable to obtain one. I, myself, am a landlord. I tried not to be, but I found that I could not sell my property. If I could sell it I would be a landlord no longer, because I do not believe in landlordism unless legislation is enacted to protect the interests of both landlord and tenant. In respect of the relationship between landlord and tenant we might well emulate the good example set by Russia, where the worker is charged only a percentage of his wages as rent, no matter what accommodation he needs.
Order ! I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the clause.
– I am very sorry that the Government has seen fit to impose the condition on the payment of the annuity to Dame Enid Lyons that should sbe re-marry it will cease to be paid. Surely in this, her great moment of sorrow, such a condition might well have been left understood. If I may call it such, a lady’s agreement might have been made in this respect. The existence of this condition is another instance of what I have been fighting all my life, injustice to women. In Australia men and women are not equal. Certainly, both alike enjoy the privilege of a vote, but is that equality preserved in the fixation of wages? According to the Pocket Compendium of Australian Statistics, published by the Commonwealth Statistician, Dr. Boland Wilson, declarations of State tribunals have fixed the basic wage in the States in accordance with the following table: -
In contrast let us again look at what is done in Russia. In that country men and women are paid the same wage. In its recognition of the equality of the sexes, Russia stands upon the pinnacle of civilization. I regret that in the figures I have just cited, no declarations are included for Victoria and Tasmania. That is a sad commentary on those responsible in those two States, and I am ashamed of my own State in this regard. The weekly basic wage rates for males fixed by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration at the 1st December, 1937,
Unfortunately the wage rates for females are not stated. Perhaps the Statistician was ashamed to set them down. The amendment to clause 3 moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) reads -
That the following words be added to the clause: -
. for the maintenance and benefit of herself and for the maintenance, education, benefit and advancement of the children of the late Right Honorable Joseph Aloysius Lyons.
Clause 3, as originally drafted, read -
There shall bc payable out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is hereby appropriated accordingly, to tlie widow of the late the Right Honorable Joseph Aloysius Lyons an annuity at the rate of Five hundred pounds per annum.
How I wish that every widow with eleven children could be provided for as generously as that! The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) made a reference to generals. From my knowledge of generals it is customary for them to stay so far back behind the front line that there is little likelihood of their being killed. It would be interesting to know how many generals have actually died in warfare.
– In the last war the percentage of generals killed was greater than that of privates.
– I am surprised to hear that. Although generals win battles at the head of soldiers, never in history was there, one instance in which generals alone won a battle. There are, however, many instances of the men winning battles when their generals have been betrayed or lost. We all remember in reading Xenophon how,’ when all the generals had been .destroyed by the Asiatic army-
– 1 remind the honorable member that the clause does not deal with the ancient Greeks.
– Again, it was the common soldiers who forced the gates of the Bastille during the French Revolution when the people struck for freedom of humanity.
With regard to the suggestion of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson), I should say that a percentage of the net income of each honorable member should be paid into a fund every year for the payment of annuities to the widow and children of the deceased Prime Minister. I remind honorable members that a former Prime Minister of this House actually received over £25,000 from a certain class of people in Australia. Why should not those people come forward now and make a contribution to a fund for the provision of annuities to the dependants of the late Prime Minister? It would perhaps, be an incentive to them to respond generously to such a call if we, ourselves, set the very fine example of establishing a contributory fund for such purposes. I suggest that a moderate contribution of 2 per cent, of the net income of all honorable members would provide, over a number of years, a substantial fund from which to draw. Those people who contributed so generously to a fund for a former Prime Minister might then be tempted to contribute again. Honorable members know very well that if this question of the payment -of an annuity to the dependants of the late Prime Minister were put to a referendum of the people, it would not be carried. Personally I should be very sorry to see the question put to a vote of the people, though after all it is the people who have to find the money. In contrast to this proposal for the treatment of one individual case, let us consider the differential treatment meted out to the thousands of other necessitous people in the community. I hold in my hand a list of the insulting questions which every applicant for an old-age pension must answer. There are no less than five hig pages of them, some pages containing no less than twelve questions. God help the poor old people who have to answer them! I suggest that we should form a committee of the House to consider the sort of questions that should he asked applicants for old-age pensions. I am sure that many honorable members would, not like to be asked these questions if they themselves were applicants. On one occasion I applied for the pension, but Mr. Watt, acting on behalf of Mr. Hughes, who was absent, would not entertain my application. According to the law I was not eligible to apply. When I looked at the questions I had to answer I shook my fist at them. I support the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition.
– Order ! The ‘honorable member’s time has expired.
.- One can well understand the feelings of Dame Enid Lyons as expressed in the letter read by the Prime Minister here lo-day, and possibly that letter might have contained stronger terms had she been forced to listen to the discussion that is now taking place. Many things have been said which would have been better left unsaid, and even the bill contains matter which might perhaps have been better omitted at this time, so shortly after the bereavement. We, in this House, have a duty, not only to Dame Enid Lyons and her family, but also to ourselves, our selfrespect and the self-respect of the nation. In some respects it may he said that democracy is tested in- a matter such as this. If in a democracy a man can attain to the highest . position of power in Australia and die a poor man, it is a tribute both to democracy and to the man. It is a tribute to the way in which he regarded his duties over a long period of years, and because he discharged those duties honestly, while all the time living without extravagance, as we know he did, and so died leaving little or no estate, it is not right that his widow and family should now be allowed to suffer. There is a responsibility upon us and upon the nation to see that the family of a man who carried out his duties in that fashion, who remained free from corruption of the kind that we hear about in other countries, is not now penalized. It will be a sorry thing for our democracy if we set upon a pedestal the man who places the acquisition of wealth before his duty to the nation.
It has been suggested that the plight of the widow of the late Prime Minister is no different from that of any other widow. As far as the actual food requirements of the family are concerned, that may be true, hut it would be a serious thing to drag a family down in one bound from the highest position in the land to the very lowest rung of the ladder. There is a feeling among every section of the community that that sort of thing is not done, if it is possible to prevent it. Particularly is it felt that it should not be done to one who filled her position. with the dignity, and honour and lack of class distinction- that characterized Dame Enid Lyons. Members opposite are, no doubt, in order in referring to the amounts drawn by other widows, but, I ask them : Would the circumstances of any of those persons be bettered if the pension here ‘proposed were reduced to such a beggarly sum that the family would hardly be able to subsist on it ? Is it not rather the preferable and decent thing to see that this family, at least, is provided for as it should be? The pension proposed is not unreasonably high. Honorable members with a family of two or three children, or even with no children, know how little can be done with their parliamentary allowances.
– It would be much more difficult if the honorable member were on the basic wage.
– If the honorable member were consistent, then all of us here should be on the basic wage. Let me tell him that I am prepared to work for the basic wage if he is. However, .1 have no wish to drag this discussion down to the level of a backyard fight. Would any honorable member of this House, or any individual throughout the nation, feel one whit better if, in two, three, or five years’ time, it was known that the family of the late Prime Minister was in want? Would any other widows in Australia be better off for that? Personally, I am confident that even they feel that the nation should recognize the great, work of a great son in the only practical way possible - not by votes of sympathy, but by looking after those he left behind.
There may be room for genuine dif’ferences of opinions as to the period for which the allowance to the children should continue - whether it should continue until the youngest child is 21, or be reduced at an earlier stage. That is a matter upon which a select committee could give guidance to the House, rather than have us tearing the bill to pieces here in what must be a painful discussion for Dame Enid Lyons and her family. As the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) pointed out, the position of Prime Minister sets a mark upon its occupant, and in this bill it is proposed that the nation should recognize the great work done by the man who was, until his death, Prime Minister. The position of Prime Minister has to be maintained according to a certain standard, and the late Prime Minister found that, in maintaining it even according to his. modest standards, he was not able to do for his family what he otherwise would have liked to do. There is a principle involved in this bill. Members- of the Opposition have directed attention to the needs of other widows and other families. I agree with them that it should be our aim to ensure that adequate provision is made for all of those who may be left in want, but that ideal is not helped forward by reducing this proposed pension to a beggarly amount. I hope this bill will go through without too much dissection - perhaps I should say vivisection. I hope that all honorable members will realize that the late Prime Minister did a great job for his country, that his widow did a great job, too, and that they both set a standard of family life which was an example to the whole of Australia. In approving of this small gratuity - for, after all, £1,000 a year for a widow and . a family of eleven is not a large sum - we shall show that the people of Australia recognize what they owe to the late Prime Minister and his family.
.- I regret the necessity for this bill, and I particularly regret the manner in which it has been brought before Parliament.
We know that very shortly after the death of the late Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), the new Prime Minister, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), made an announcement that the country would provide for the family. How he knew that such provision would be necessary I do not know. Then, on the night of the funeral, a cabinet meeting was held, and it was agreed that certain provision should be made. At first it was proposed thai there should be a grant of £25,000.
– That was never suggested.
– How does- the honorable member know?
– I was present at the cabinet meeting, and I know that no such suggestion was ‘made.
– I suppose the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) feels under an obligation to the late Prime Minister for having tolerated him in his Government for so long. I knew the late Prime Minister for a great many years in Tasmania, and I always had the greatest respect for him. He was a goodliving man, who felt that his home and family were everything. I believe that provision should be made for his family. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) said that the proposal of the Opposition represented a beggarly allowance.
– £10 a week!
– Does the honorable member for Richmond really believe that £10 a week would be a beggarly allowance? I am sure he does not. I believe that it will be sufficient in the circumstances, and it should be given to Dame Enid Lyons.* We have no right to say to her that any part of the allowance must be devoted to the education of her children, or to any other purpose. We can safely leave that to the mother. Why should we say that so much is for the widow, and so much for the education and maintenance of the children? Of course, the reason is that members .of the Government felt that £1,000 sounded a rather large sum, and so they decided to divide it.
– Let the honorable member speak for himself.
– I am speaking for myself and also for honorable members on the other side of the House who have not dared to address the committee on this measure and say what they really think. If it is considered that an annuity of £1,000 is necessary, then Dame Enid Lyons should be paid that money. But I ask what right have honorable members to dictate to Dame Enid Lyons ;just what sum will be adequate to provide for herself and what will be required for the education of her children. If I were to die and people were to say to my widow, “ “We shall give you an annuity for yourself and so much for your children “, she would tell them to mind their own business. Dame Enid Lyons should tell honorable members opposite the same thing. I cannot understand why this matter was not discussed at a meeting of representatives of all parties before legislation was introduced. I can readily appreciate the attitude adopted by Dame Enid Lyons in the letter which the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) read to honorable members to-day. She is a heartbroken woman, and because this matter was not handled in the same way as similar cases which previously have come before Parliament it has been subjected to a prolonged unpleasant debate. There should have been a consultation between the leaders of all parties before the bill was framed. If agreement had been reached at such a conference then probably no debate would have taken place. I remember putting up a fight some years ago for a grant to the widow of a former member of this Parliament. I approached the Government, and brought the matter up on the adjournment of the House on several occasions, but eighteen months elapsed before any action was taken. I will say this much, that had it not been for the efforts of the late Prime Minister, no provision would have been made for that widow at all. He and I had several private talks regarding the case, and the necessary action to provide an annuity for the widow was taken in this Parliament one night. The Treasurer introduced the legislation, no one else spoke, and the bill was put through on the voices. Only those who follow Ilansard closely knew that a pension had been granted to the widow. But there was no question on that occasion as to whether or not she had to provide for children. The maximum amount payable by way of pension to widows of exmembers is £3 a week, and no differentiation is made between those widows who have children and those who have not. As a matter of fact that point should not be raised. This Parliament, when granting an annuity for a widow, has no right to lay down conditions as to the education of the children. The mother of the children is the best judge of how they should be provided for and what education they should receive.
The Government’s proposal is degrading to this Parliament. It has been put forward in a degrading way. I trust that, if similar circumstances should arise in future - I hope they will not - the matter will be brought forward in a decent way. As the Leader of the Opposition said, a grant of £500 a year to Dame Enid Lyons, with provision for the children should she die before the youngest is eighteen years of age, is fair and reasonable.
The honorable member for Richmond was wrong in saying that the £500 proposed by the Opposition would be a beggarly allowance. If it were, then the whole of our pension system is wrong. Time after time battles have been waged in this House, with a view to raising invalid, old-age and soldiers’ pensions, but it has been maintained that £1 a week is sufficient for these people. In the circumstances, therefore, I do not think that £1,000 a year is reasonable for the widow and family of. the late Prime Minister. However, I would not like to make any such comparison. ¥e must grant to Dame Enid Lyons and her family something in keeping with the position which they hold in society. The matter was discussed at a meeting of members of the Labour party in this House, and the decision arrived at was that £10 a week would be a very liberal allowance. I also discussed the matter with some of my constituents while I was in Hobart last week-end, and the general opinion expressed was that that sum would be very acceptable and would be quite sufficient. But honorable members opposite do not agree with this, and, as the right honorable the Prime Minister has said, it is intended to proceed ‘ with the measure which, in my opinion, makes far too liberal a provision in respect of the children. It means that £20 a week will be going into the home for the next ten years, and after, that, £10 a week. I intend to vote against that proposal because I think it is wrong for the Government to spend public money in that way. It is far more than is necessary to keep that home going in reasonably good circumstances. I feel sure that Dame Enid Lyons would have preferred an agreement between the parties prior to the introduction of this legislation, and a grant of £500 a year for herself and her children, rather than have her circumstances made the subject of such a long debate. I think that £500 a year is regarded as reasonable,-not only by members on this side of the House, but also by many honorable members opposite who have had the steam roller put over them and are obliged to accept the Government’s proposal.
.- I think that this is a matter on which every honorable member is entitled, and in fact bound, to take his own view for his own guidance. Therefore, I propose to take my own view for my own guidance, I believe that the proposal made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) is a reasonable and proper one, and I intend to support it. As I said at the second-reading stage, I do not intend to vote for the larger amount proposed by the Government, and if the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition is rejected I shall vote against the bill. I think that the manner in which we should approach this proposal is this: This Parliament has adopted the practice of making some provision for the dependants of members who have died leaving their dependants without adequate means. Such action has been taken on numerous occasions, and it has become the accepted rule of this Parliament to grant a small sum, usually about “£2 a’ week, for .the maintenance of a widow and dependent children.” In those cases, of course, we were dealing willi widows of former private members, and not with the widow of a man who occupied the office . of Prime
Minister, and had a long public career. I believe that the grant to Dame Enid Lyons and her family should be more considerable than the sum which we would give to the family of a deceased private member, but I think that in making up our minds as to what amount should be paid, we should take into account two important factors. One is that the widow and children should not, at once, be deprived of the status and economic position which they occupy in society as the widow and children of a former Prime Minister of the Commonwealth. I believe also’ that, had the Government’s decision to provide an annuity not been made, assistance would have been given privately, which would have provided for Dame Enid Lyons and her children a considerably larger amount than that now proposed. Private offers, however, have not been made, and in any case I think that it is indecent for the widow and family of a deceased public man to be dependent on the goodwill of wealthy people. I am glad that that is not to be so in the case of Dame Enid Lyons. I agree that there should be some adequate provision for the widow and children of the late Prime Minister. When we discussed this bill on the second reading, we had no information to enable us to decide what was a reasonable amount. We had before us the promise made by the former Prime Minister (Sir Earle Page) in a moment when be was full of grief and sympathy, not merely because of the bereavement of the widow and the children, but also because of the friendship which he had had for the right honorable gentleman. Honorable members sought some information, and a committee representing all parties in this House was appointed to enquire into the matter. The report brought back by members who had represented the Labour party at the conference - I do not propose to say what was contained in the report - was ‘sufficient to satisfy me that some reasonable allowance should be made to Dame Enid Lyons and her family in the circumstances. What was a reasonable amount then became the question. The Leader of the Opposition has given reasons for thinking that the sum which he has ‘proposed should be paid is a reasonable one.
I entirely agree with him that the sum would be reasonable. I do not propose to regard this as a test case as to what allowance should be paid to any future Prime Minister. I do not think the matter should be discussed on that basis. Actually all that has been said on that point is beside the mark. We are not discussing whether there should be an allowance for Prime Ministers. We are merely discussing the case before us. The fact that a man who was Prime Minister of this country died without means is entirely from one point of view to his credit.No doubt the late Prime Minister had ample opportunity to make investments which would have left his widow and family with an assured future. But because the late Prime Minister failed to make provision for his dependants in the event of his death, we should not be prepared to vote a much larger sum than we think is right. I think that the Government proposal is unreasonable. I do not believe that this family and, in fact, any family, should he given a sum of money which would unsettle their futures. These boys and girls will have to work for their living, whatever allowance is made. They should be told this. The people of this country are prepared so far as is possible to make smooth the future path of these children, but not to put them in a position where for a short time they would be able to exist without effort. The sum of £500 a year is ample in the circumstances for any widow, whoever she is, but to say that she should be given £1,000 a year is merely to surrender our reason and to respond to what was the first generous impulse of the former Prime Minister. I feel that the proposal put forward by the Leader of the Opposition is reasonable and fair and I propose to vote for it. If this committee rejects that proposal I propose to oppose the measure.
.- I should not like to let this debateproceed without giving my reason for voting for the Government’s proposal. I suggest that if £1,000 a year is considered enough for honorable members of this Parliament and their dependants to live on, nothing less than that should be paid to a widow whose husband, with her assistance, rendered more valuable service to his country over a long period of time than any other honorable member of this House. I do not think that this discussion has proceeded on the high plane that it should have. Reference has been made to the poor and the needy, and some honorable members have endeavoured to make political capital out ofthe matter, and to obtain kudos from their constituents at the next election. I was pleased to hear one old lady say the other -day that, although she was a very poor woman, she thought that the Government was doing the right thing by Dame Enid Lyons, upon whom a heavy responsibility now rested.
– She could not have known who the honorable member was.
– I am sorry to say the minds of some honorable members are so biased that they cannot see any good in other men or women. I shall never base my standard of living upon the example set by the honorable member for EastSydney (Mr. Ward).
– The honorable member is not keeping the discussion on a very high plane.
– I have lifted it higher than any honorable members opposite have done.
I have been disgusted at the trend of the discussion, and at the comparisons that have been drawn. If the desire be to place a commercial value on the services of the late Prime Minister, I invite attention to the millions of pounds that have flowed into the pockets of all sections of the community, from the lowest to the highest, during his term of office. The. sum of £10,000 is the very lowest figure at which this national Parliament should assess: the value of one who rendered such signal service as was rendered by the late right honorable gentleman. Honorable members should not view the matter from the point of view of what would be adequate in the case of the poorest member of the community. I feel sure that they themselves would not be content to give their services for less than £1,000 per annum, even though many of them have reared their families and now have no domestic responsibilities on their shoulders. The general desire of parents is to give their boys and girls a better start in life than they themselves had.
This Parliament should say to Dams Enid Lyons that, although she will miss the guiding hand of her husband in the home and his influence as a loving father, it will deal generously with her financially in the knowledge that, had he not sacrificed his life in the interests of his country, he probably would have been able .to make much better provision for her and their children than was made. Why is the allowance of a Prime Minister so much greater than that of an ordinary member? Is that class distinction? Should not some reward be given to the man who shows the necessary ability to lead his fellowmen? Because the late Prime Minister, by individual effort, rose to the highest position in the gift of this country, should we now deal meanly with his widow? Should we not rather say that for at least ten years she will receive £1,000 a year so that she may do what all of us endeavour to do and some of us succeed in- doing for our boys and girls, namely, give them a better chance in life than we had ? We know that the cost of education is greater to-day than it. was when we were at school. I have very much pleasure in supporting the proposal of the Government.
– I wish to repeat briefly what I said at the second-reading stage, so that my position may be perfectly clear. I disagree with the suggestion of the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) that we ought to be very generous, almost reckless, and give whatever amount we think ought to be given. The honorable member overlooks the important fact that we have no right to consider that we are free to give whatever we personally would like to give. I suggest that we have to consider that we are handling the people’s money, and that we cannot do all that we should like to do. I am opposed to the amount proposed by the Government because I consider that it is too great, and I disagree with the conditions upon which it is based. Public servants in the Commonwealth and the States pay into a superannuation fund a portion of their salaries in order to make sure that they and their families will be provided for upon their retirement or death. The most highly-paid public servant in the land, after a service extending over nearly 40 years, would leave to his widow an. annuity of not more than £4 a week. There is no outcry on the ground that that amount is inadequate. Every one regards the Public Service superannuation scheme as a fair and reasonable one. I agree with the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost) that the proposal of the Government was conceived in an atmosphere of extreme sentiment and emotion. It was not fair to bind down to a decision arrived at in such an atmosphere either the members of this Parliament or the people of Australia. I am sure that had this case been considered as .past cases have been, months or even years after death, a different proposal would have been placed before this Parliament. I point out, also, that in the State of Tasmania the salary of a member of the legislature is only £400 a year ; yet it is now proposed that two and a half times that sum shall be given! The late Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) was an honorable member of that legislature for many years, when his family were young. We should not overlook the fact that four of the children are even now over sixteen years of age. Two of them are in their twenties, and before this grant reaches maturity at least six- of them will have passed the age of 26 or 27 years. Probably they will be parents, and have children of their own. Any proposal which envisages the participation of children at the age of 30 years or more almost borders on the ridiculous. On the grounds of logic, fairness and, justice, and considering that we are handling public money, I must object to the amount involved in this proposal. E take second place to no one in maintaining that we should provide for the widow and children of any public officer or any other member of the community, but I intend to vote against this proposal because the amount is excessive. I am also opposed to the proposal of the Opposition that the amount should i/? £500 a year.
.- 1 intend to vote for the amendment. This is the largest amount, so far as I am aware, ever proposed by the Federal Parliament for the widow of an exmember. In the circumstances, it is excessive. In order to produce £1,000 a year, it would be necessary to invest an amount of £20,000 at 5 per cent, for ten years. It is distasteful to me and to other honorable members to discuss this matter, but as it has been brought forward it is our duty to do so. I feel sure that had the amount been what we consider fair and reasonable, ultimately it would have met with practically universal agreement, although many honorable members might with a good deal of justice have directed attention to the serious poverty that exists in this country. The wives of wage-earners in thousands of cases are living on a very small charity allowance which is not sufficient to enable them to make ends meet. We know from computation that the average parliamentary life of a federal member is eight years. Some men are more fortunate in that they secure election in constituencies which undeviatingly support the political beliefs that they espouse. Although an allowance of £1,000 a. year is paid to a member, only a small amount can be saved. It must be recognized that an honorable member has two homes to keep. Then, too, he must .periodically travel through his electorate. During these visits his hotel expenses are only a small proportion of bis outlay. It is only reasonable to say that the average member is not able to save £200 a year. He is likely to be defeated at any election. Members of the Labour party who find themselves in that position experience considerable difficulty in fitting themselves again into industry, because of advancing years, and also because they have become unaccustomed to laborious work. A public servant is in a far different category; so long as lie behaves himself he holds his position for life. Governments which preceded the present Administration, including a government led by the late Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), refused to discuss an equitable scheme <to enable members to make fair and reasonable provision for their old-age, or for their widows in the event of their death. If the late Prime Minister had remained with his former colleagues of the Labour party he would long ago have ceased to be a Minister. Like the right honorable member for *Yan** (Mr. Scullin), the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) and others he would have been a private member of the Parliament. During the years he was Prime Minister he drew, on the average, £2,500 a year in salaries and allowances, so that he received at least £10,500 more than his former colleagues.
Scores of former members of this Parliament have found great difficulty in making a bare living upon their retirement, for one reason or another, from the Parliament. It may be invidious to mention cases, but I have in mind the late Senator Turley, who rendered yeoman service in the public life of the Commonwealth. After his defeat at an election he endeavoured to resume work in his former calling as a wharf lumper, but because of his age he found it impossible to obtain employment, and he died practically penniless. I have in mind also a former member of the Parliament of Western Australia who, after serving two terms, was defeated at an election. He had been earning a good living as an officer of the State Railway Department, but he found the lure of parliamentary life irresistible. After his defeat he could not rehabilitate himself in his former employment. Three months later his wife had to accept employment as a barmaid in order to maintain the family. There is nothing wrong in that, of course, but when I recall her, as she attended parliamentary functions of one kind and another, and then realize the arduous work she had to perform in a back-country hotel,’ it seems to me that her case was pitiable. I think of another former member of the Parliament of Western Australia. He was a non-drinker and an excellent parliamentarian, but when he lost his seat he could not get work anywhere. Finally he died absolutely destitute, by his own hand in a park in Sydney. Numerous other distressing cases could be cited. In those circumstances, surely the Government would be wise to try, with the aid of honorable members of all parties, to evolve some contributory scheme to assist members who, in their old age, or after their defeat at an election, find themselves incapable of providing for themselves and their families.
I must ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the clause.
– The cases to which I have directed attention are, in my opinion, germane to the subject under discussion. The circumstances that I have outlined are surely such as should oblige us .to think more seriously about the necessity to make some provision to enable members of Parliament, who lose their seats or fall upon evil days, to meet their own needs. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) had no need to wax so eloquent about bringing children up under good conditions and giving them a good education. In dealing with this particular case we are surely under some obligation to keep in mind the position of the widows and families of former members of the Parliament. Honorable members opposite must surely realize that Ave, who represent working-class communities, cannot honestly support a proposal to provide pensions for the widow and family of the late Prime Minister on the liberal scale proposed by the Government when we know that many thousands of widows, whose breadwinners have met with untimely deaths, are in want and unable to provide the bare necessaries of life for their children. I trust that the Government will even now consider adopting the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) for it would be supported almost unanimously. We recognize that this is a special case and we are prepared to go to the extent indicated by the Leader of the Opposition to meet it, but we cannot go further.
.- I wish to state my attitude on this issue. I think that all honorable members should do so. I shall be brief. The Government is proposing to treat Dame Enid Lyons and her family generously, and I think it should treat them generously. For many years the people of Australia were well and faithfuly served by the late Prime Minister, and they will expect this Parliament to treat his widow and children generously. Not long ago this Parliament voted an extra allowance of £1500 a year for the
Prime Minister. AH future occupants of the high office of Prime Minister will receive this increased allowance. Had the late Prime Minister received it for the whole period of his prime ministership, the total would be almost as great as the amount involved in this measure. I agree with the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) that it would be quite wrong to expect gentlemen who occupy the high and honorable position of Prime Minister of Australia to be satisfied with the thought that in the event of their death their families would be dependent upon a legacy or gift from some wealthy citizen of this country. To give any kind of assent to that proposition would, in my opinion, encourage dishonesty of a kind not uncommon in many countries but notable for its absence in Australia. Only on odd occasions has there been any suggestion of that kind of thing here. We should not follow any course in this comnexion which would tend to encourage anything but the strictest honesty of purpose. The fact that the late Prime Minister died a poor man provides proof of his honesty throughout his long political career. No one can think for a moment that had he wished to enrich himself he could not have done so. He must have had many opportunities to ensure that in the event of his death his widow and family would be left well provided for in every way. It should be borne in mind that hitherto the emoluments of the Prime Minister have not been large. In fact, compared with payments for similar services in some other countries they have been extremely small. The Prime Minister of Great Britain receives a salary of £10,000 a year and is assured of a pension of £2,000 a year upon retirement. Until recently the Prime Minister of Australia received only about £2,000 a year with no pension on retirement. /Some public servants, both Commonwealth and State, receive £4,000 a year. I have in mind a commissioner of the police who will retire on a pension of £1,000 a year. I admit that he will make some contribution towards it. One railways commissioner in Australia will receive a pension of £1,500 a year on retirement. In all the circumstances I do not think that the Parliament will act too generously if in this case it adopts the proposal of the Government. However, we should see to it that provision is made now to ensure that no future Prime Minister’s widow and family will find themselves in the position in which Dame Enid Lyons and her family find themselves to-day. Although the proposal made by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) appeared to be somewhat misunderstood by some honorable members, there is a great deal to commend it. He suggested that arrangements should be made through an insurance company for honorable members to make certain payments out of their allowances inorder to ensure that in the case of their defeat after a certain term of parliamentary service, or of their death, their dependants would not be left in need. We should, ourselves, make provision for our dependants ; we should not expect the taxpayers to step in in every case. The salary of the late Prime Minister was niggardly during the greater part of his term of office, having in view the great responsibilities of the office, and we should, in consequence, deal in a fitting way with the circumstances that we now have to meet. I agree with the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) that widows are badly treated. Yet, not so long ago, when a proposal to provide a pension for widows was put forward, honorable members on this side appealed unsuccessfully for support to members of the Labour party, who now talk with tears in their eyes about the plight of widows.
Mr.Rosevear. - A pension of 12s. 6d. a week!
– I admit that it was not much; but it was something.
Mr.Gander. - Lang would have given them £1 a week.
– Lang feathered his own nest. I have never declined to support any move to provide pensions for widows. I supported the national health and pensions scheme. I still support it. I sincerely hope that this measure will be approved by such a majority that Dame Enid- Lyons will not feel that the benefit she and her family are to receive is poisoned by the unjust attacks on it.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be added (Mr Curtin’s amendment) be so added.
The committee divided. ( Chairman - Mr. J. H. Prowse.)
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Mr. Spender) agreed to-
That the following sub-clause be added: - “ (2.) The annuity provided by this section shall cease to bepayable in the event of the remarriage of the annuitant.”. clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 4- (1.) There shall be payable out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is hereby appropriated accordingly, an annuity at the rate of Five hundred pounds per annum for the maintenance, education, benefit and advancement of the children of the late the Right Honorable Joseph Aloysius Lyons until the youngest child attains the agc of twenty-one years.
Amendments (by Mr. Spender) proposed -
That after the word “ payable ‘”, sub-clause (1.), the words “ , for u period of ten years,” be inserted.
That the words “ until the youngest child attains tlie age of twenty-one years “, subclause (1.), be omitted.
.- Does the deletion of the words “ until the youngest child attains the age of twenty-one years “ mean that the children, irrespective of age, will participate in the pension?
– The amendments mean that for ten years only £500 will be payable annually to the trustee for the benefit of all the children. At the end of ten years, the youngest child will bo approximately sixteen years of age. The trustee will apply the money as she thinks fit.
– That is practically the same.
– It is entirely different.
– If Dame Enid Lyons, as the trustee, deems it fit, all of the children, irrespective of age or earnings, will participate until the youngest is 16. I think that their participation should be subject to this 16-years age limit. The Assistant Minister (Mr. Spender) used tlie words, “ until the youngest child is sixteen years of age “. If it were specified that no child beyond that age would benefit it would not be so bad.
– That would be the same as we are proposing.
– I cannot see that. The annuity of £500 for eleven children for ten years works out at 17s. 5£d. a week for each child.
– “What does?
– The annuity which .:3 to bo distributed among eleven children.
– It is not to be distributed. It is for the maintenance, education, benefit and advancement of all of the children.
– That is the same thing.
– No, one child may require more than another.
– Whatever it be, Dame Enid Lyons is to get £1,000 a year for herself and children for ten years, and not £500, because it is left to her discretion to decide on the distribution of the £500 for the children. It would be fair and reasonable if the children were allowed to participate only until they reached the age of sixteen years. Apart from all of that, this grant is not fair and reasonable when one thinks of the needs of the widows of other persons who rendered to this country service equal to that rendered by the late Prime Minister. I specify the widows and children of some of the 60,000 Australian men who laid down their lives in the war. Whether they have secured employment or not, the children of deceased soldiers have to forgo their pension of 10s. a week when they reach the age of sixteen years. There is no such provision in this legislation, and I therefore can support neither the amendment nor the clause.
Amendments agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 5 and 6 agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leave - adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Spender) - by leave - proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
.- The amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) had for its purpose a reduction of the total amount of the annuity from £1,000 to £500. In his very temperate speech, the Leader of the Opposition pointed out that the Opposition was not opposed to the principle of an annuity being paid, but thought that £500 a year was, in all the circumstances, a reasonable provision to make for the widow and family. That amendment having been defeated, we cannot vote for the third reading of a bill which makes provision for an annuity of £1,000 a year.
That the bill be now read a third time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 6.18 to 8.0 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 11th May, 1939 (vide page 310), on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of this bill according to the second-reading speech of the Minister (Mr. Casey) is to give effect to the Government’s policy of making adequate preparations for the defence of this country. I may say that efforts directed towards this end will not be opposed or delayed by any honorable member on this side of the House; but while expressing that principle, may I also say that we are bound to examine these efforts very closely. We feel it necessary to see that, whatever preparations are made, they are wisely and well defined, and that nothing is done to destroy the fundamental principles surrounding the liberty and freedom of our people. We are mindful that the agencies for war propaganda are very strong ; they have to be watched. We are aware that they are capable of whipping the people into a state of hysteria in circumstances which, if the facts were really known, would not justify it. It is imperative therefore that honorable members in this Parliament should keep their feet on the ground in the difficult times which we may encounter. We have to keep a very constant and calm watch upon these developments, for the power of the press, and of the radio, too, is exceptionally strong. These agencies for the dissemination of propaganda are constantly circulating reports containing rumours of war, movements of troops and statements made by representatives of foreign governments, many of them very often not absolutely true.
– Even leading articles in various newspapers contradict one another.
– As has been aptly said by the honorable member even leading articles are contradictory; it depends upon the point from which these occurrences are viewed. That calls for watchfulness on our part and for as calm a review of the facts as far as it is humanly possible to ascertain them. Even honorable members and ministries are not immune from the influence of hysteria worked up in this way. Therefore it becomes the plain duty of all of us to be calm and watchful in regard to these matters. Dislike and hatred of war is inherently associated with the cause of labour. The inhumane circumstances that arise as the result of war, the flagrant profiteering associated with the manufacture of armaments, should be ever present in our minds, and all true humanitarians must think deeply before they allow themselves to be drawn into any commitments that would result in the awful scourge of a war such as that through which we passed in 1914-18. I am not unmindful of the responsibilities of the Government for making adequate preparations for the defence of this country. Those of us who are not members of the Government must necessarily weigh the advice tendered by the Government. We are not expected to accept it entirely, but the Government is supposed at least to be in a position to know the facts regarding these developments. It has at its disposal information which is not available to the average member of this House or to the general public. It is fairly clear that, in these days of dictatorships in Europe, opportunities for ascertaining policies of the countries which the dictators control, are very few. Under the old system of Foreign Office representation it was possible to ascertain much valuable information from diplomatic representatives abroad and through the system of espionage; to-day that system no longer continues and we are not so successful in. obtaining reliable information. Consequently the true position in many countries is not known outside their borders. This absence of reliable information, it is true, creates a measure of uneasiness in the minds of many people, and unfortunately this disquietude creates the right atmosphere for the furtherance of the aims of the armament kings, profiteers and war mongers. As the result of the tension created by this anxiety they are able to enjoy a field day - I might almost say field years - in the pursuit of their nefarious trade. As the years go on, under these conditions, they are more easily able to whip up a feeling of hysteria among the peoples of the world which suits their purposes admirably. That, therefore, makes the task of those of us who hate, detest and condemn war ever so much more difficult. The lack of reliable information certainly makes the task of conscientious representatives of the people in this Parliament a very difficult one indeed. We are beset with difficulty in our attempts to decide what is our plain duty on the one hand in regard to the question’ of adequate defence of our country and to determine on the other hand just how far the influence and power of the armaments rings and the financial institutions which back them’ are forcing the various countries of the world into an armaments race which may eventually cause their economic destruction. It is hard for us to find a proper balance in these things so that we may be able to decide what is ‘ our plain duty to our own country in this regard. It is with these thoughts in my mind that I approach the consideration of this bill.
This measure has a very wide scope if interpreted correctly. The words “ supply and development “ compass everything associated with the general activities, both primary and secondary, of this country. I am ‘ of the opinion that in time of war or threat of war the question of supply and development would really cover much more than in peace time. I regret to have to say that in his second-reading speech the Minister did not give the House any detailed information as to how far the bill proposes to go and as to what is the real intention of the Government -in- regard to giving effect to the powers which it bestows. I am mindful of the fact that it is perhaps very good strategy’ on the part of the Minister not to give all of the information on his second-reading speech. I have no doubt that in doing so he is guided by the principle that if he does not say too much the Opposition will not bc able to question him at great length in reply. As an old-timer, the right -honorable gentleman has no doubt from his point of view followed a wise course. I make this comment not with any desire to be extremely critical of the Minister, but rather because I believe that in a measure covering so wide a field the Parliament is entitled to press for the fullest details that it is possible to obtain.
– I thought it was rather a good speech.
– As a speech it was a good one. I have no doubt that, not wishing to prolong the early stages of the discussion, the Minister said all he thought was sufficient, and left the matter at that. That, I admit, is good strategy for the Minister but of course is not acceptable to the Opposition.
The bill sets out to take a census of the material resources of Australia. That is fairly self-explanatory as far as I am able to judge. I understand that the- new department proposes to make a complete survey of the raw materials that -..this country possesses to ascertain what quantities wc- have, how far they will go, and what means are necessary to exploit them in the event of crisis or at times when it is impossible to obtain such supplies from overseas. Of all of our raw materials such as coal, oil, iron ore and primary products, oil is by far the most important in war time. ; It appears to me that modern warfare has demanded the closest attention to- the development of our oil resources. I am mindful of the circumstances that arose at the time of the application of sanctions against Italy during the Italo-Abyssinian dispute. Although a number of sanctions were imposed against Italy by members of the League of Nations the question of cut.’ting off oil supplies to Italy was never -seriously considered or applied. If that had been done it is clear that the dispute between those two countries would never have been brought to a very rapid termination. It was recognized by every ohe that a sanction on oil supplies would have been the most effective sanction that could have been applied. The subject of oil is therefore worthy of mention even at this early stage of the debate, and I am sure that other honorable members will’ refer to it as we proceed to deal with this very important measure. The Government will be faced with a real test when it has to decide how far it will exercise its power to deal with this one subject, if not anything else, under the heading of supply and development. I am anxious, of course, in the general sense, to know just how far the Government intends to go, what powers it. proposes to exercise, and what its plans are for ensuring that the country shall have adequate supplies of oil. For years past we have been discussing the subject of obtaining oil from coal and from shale. The honorable member for Hunter (Mir. James) has devoted a great deal of his time in this House to pleading for, some definite action in this regard. He has cited authorities in support of his arguments; ‘tests and experiments have been made, and numerous reports prepared. The Government has sent experts abroad in search of information, but, somehow or other, we have not yet reached the stage when anything practicable can
Be done. It is true that a previous administration entered into an agreement with a- syndicate for the exploitation of the Newnes shale deposits. Recently it was stated, in answer to a question, that this syndicate expected to begin production in 1.940. Of course, the Minister may be in possession of information not available to. other honorable members, but I am not satisfied that the progress made by this syndicate is worth while. I am still very doubtful whether it will, in fact, produce oil on the scale required. I recall that a previous syndicate, known as Chambers and Treganowan, entered into an arrangement for exploiting these deposits. They tried to obtain the necessary capital, and did a great deal of preparatory work, but in the end they had to give up because, as Mr. Chambers stated, the pressure from outside was too great. This pressure prevented them from obtaining the necessary capital, and they had to run up the white flag. I feel that, in regard to the present syndicate, also, it is really a matter of how far it will be allowed to go.
– Or does it represent the people who do not want to go on at all?
– That also is a consideration. W e know that, in a case like this, popular agitation may become so strong that even those interests which are opposed to the exploitation of coal and shale deposits may feel that it is unwise to resist openly, and may, therefore, ally themselves with syndicates formed for the purpose of working the deposits, allowing them to go along for a while, knowing well that they can be stopped before anything really effective is done. I feel that some such influence is being exercised at the present time. I have still to be convinced that flow oil cannot be obtained in Australia.
– It is quite possible that it is in some of the territories, at any rate.
– It is in Gippsland.
– I am not satisfied with what occurred on the Roma oilfields. In the early stages the reports were most satisfactory. Then, suddenly the bores were sealed down.
– The peculiar thing is that the people who sealed down those bores will not allow anybody else to bore there.
– There is certainly some hidden influence at work. We boast of our democracy, and of the powers of Parliament, but we cannot help feeling all the time that there are powers beyond Parliament which control matters of this kind. From time to time, reports are received of flow oil being discovered in New Guinea. But the same thing happens there; before very long the bores are sealed down. No doubt the interests which control those oil-fields will develop them when it suits their purpose. When supplies from other parts of the world are exhausted, they will exploit these new fields, but, in the meantime, the fields are allowed to lie idle so that prices may be maintained at their present high level and the power and influence of oil will remain in the present hands. L am certain that all parties in the House will agree to give the Government any powers it needs to tackle this problem in a resolute way, and to fight the interests which are hampering the development of our oil supplies. We can do little now without oil. Even our ordinary economic life is almost wholly dependent upon it. As for our defence system, in spite of all the millions we are spending, our defence forces could be paralysed in a few weeks if oil supplies were cut off. We have been told that great strides are being made in the development of our air force, but of what use is it to. provide ourselves with .a large number of aeroplanes if they cannot rise from the ground? Our navy, also, is largely, dependant upon oil fuel. Australia is a vast country, and, in the event of war, it might be attacked at any point. It might be necessary for us to transport our forces over long distances to the threatened area, and for this purpose oil fuel is necessary ; yet we are at the mercy of powerful commercial interests outside Australia which control our oil supplies. Unless we solve this problem we are simply wasting the money that is being expended on defence.
Pending the development of our own liquid fuel resources, our immediate duty is to provide for the storage of adequate supplies against a possible emergency. I have been informed that the total stocks at present in Australia would be sufficient for only three months. Steps should > taken to ensure that at least twelve months’ supply is kept on hand. For this purpose it would be necessary to erect storage tanks at suitable places, and that appears to me to be the responsibility of the Government. The Commonwealth Government is supposed to have a controlling interest in the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, but it now seems that that company is tied to the major oil companies just as much as those companies are tied to one another. Australia does not seem to be getting much return for its investment in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited.
If flow oil is to be obtained in Australia, and I feel that it can, boring operations must be undertaken by the Government itself. They must not be left in the hands of concerns whose interest it is not to find oil. Moreover, although I do not wish to disparage Government officials, even when the work is undertaken by the Government itself, the greatest care must be exercised to ensure that the powerful interests concerned do not, by means of corruption, thwart the Government’s purpose.
When announcing the creation of the new Department of Supply and Development the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies, paid a tribute to the work done by the Defence Department in the way of supplying the needs of the defence forces. I feel that his statement needs some qualification. Certainly the Defence Department has maintained supplies, but when we consider where those supplies have come from, we find that there is room for criticism and, in some instances, for condemnation.
Unfortunately, in the Defence Department there seems to be a tendency to underestimate the ability of Australian artisans and to lose sight of what Australia is capable of doing in regard to the manufacture of its defence requirements. Apparently, there are people in that department who have an inferiority complex with regard to Australia’s capabilities, and when orders are to be placed for plant and defence equipment of all kinds, their thoughts immediately turn to the other side of the world. This is evident particularly with regard to naval requirements. There is a tendency among high officials of the naval service to depend too much on the British Admiralty. Apparently they do not realize that it is quite possible that, in the future, Australia may be dependent upon its own resources and - will have to cease looking to a place 12,000 miles away for assistance in the manufacture of war materials. Therefore, if it is the intention of the Minister to take over to the new Department of Supply and Development, the advisers, who for years have been responsible for the policy of the Defence Department in securing equipment from overseas, very little change is likely to take place and no effort will yet .be made to develop Australian industries unless the Minister is strong enough to resist the demands of these people, and to issue instructions that if not all at least a much greater portion of the work must be carried out in Australia from now on. I do not make these observations without having given the matter considerable thought. I hope that I am not transgressing the limits of debate on the bill “now before the House, but this question of the manufacture in Australia of defence requirements from the naval side is of supreme importance. In this respect, Australia should be as self-contained as possible. At the risk, therefore, of going beyond the scope of this measure, E should like to deal with the question of naval requirements. When the Government’s naval programme was announced, it was stated that certain ships were to be built in Australia. An examination of the proposals, however, revealed that it was intended to import to this country much of the internal equipment for these ships. Some of that equipment could undoubtedly Have been manufactured in Australia. It was stated, on behalf of the Government, that 80 per cent, of the money to be expended on naval defence requirements would be spent in Australia. I have not been able to test to the fullest the accuracy of that figure, but I am inclined to think that it has been considerably exaggerated. However, on the naval side of defence expenditure, at any rate, that figure could have been brought much nearer 100 per cent, if Australian industries had been utilized to the full. We have in this country skilled artisans ready and able to do the necessary work. Many of them are out of employment. It has been argued that the cost of equipment would be greater if it were produced in this country. From the point of view of immediate expenditure that is a logical argument, but I submit that it is a very short-sighted policy. Some time in the future Australia, in the event of being engaged in hostilities, might be unable to secure its supplies from overseas and would have to depend on its own resources. It would be of little use to cry out about costs when we had our backs to tlie wall. We should be lacking in the discharge of our duty to the public generally if we did not now make some provision for such a contingency. Unless we make a start in this matter now, it may be too late. It will be said on the question of naval vessels, and in connexion with defence requirements generally, which I understand this bill will also cover, that when orders are placed with naval dockyards in Great Britain, these dockyards do not provide all the equipment and plant necessary in the construction of a vessel. There are firms which specialize in various fittings. It will also be said that we have not, in Australia, the necessary jigs, patterns and dies, and other things necessary for the manufacture of this equipment, and therefore it is much easier to go overseas and buy our requirements from wellestablished industries which have all the supplies on hand. But what is to happen when access to the workshops in other parts of the world is cut off for an indefinite period? Are we to hold our hands in the air and say, “ We have not the necessary jigs patterns and dies, and we cannot do the job”? Are we to allow an enemy to be on top of us before we take the necessary steps to make our defence industries selfcontained ? Yet that is what the present policy amounts to. I repeat that we must cease to run continually to the British Admiralty and to the British workshops. It is a suicidal policy and one which must be abandoned. Those in high positions in the defence services are doing a great disservice to Australia by continuing such a policy. Indeed by assisting such a policy, the British Admiralty is in effect’ digging its own grave from the point of view of the adequate defence of Australia. It is desirable that somebody who realizes that the integrity of the British Commonwealth of Nations is being jeopardized by the practices being applied at present should be in charge of affairs so that the policy .to which I have referred is drastically amended. Unless the Minister is prepared to ‘ stand up to these advisers and tell them that in many cases, in spite of additional costs, manufacture of all possible equipment must be carried out in Australia, thereby making sure that the necessary jigs, patterns, dies, and specifications, are available in Australia, disaster may follow. Even if only small quantities- are being manufactured, a start should be made in this direction. There is no doubt that Australian industries are capable of producing many of the articles now imported from abroad ; and a start should be made with these without delay. If the new Department of Supply and Development is to model its policy on that of the Defence Department in recent years and to follow the advice of the same high officials, then its policy will be conservative to the utmost.
In a leading article on the 11th of this month, the Sydney Morning Herald declared’ -
It must be the master, not the slave, of routine. There are too many government activities to-day enmeshed in red tape for the danger to be ignored. Nowhere, we believe, are the strangulating effects of red tape more manifest than in the Defence Department; and far too many inquirers have lately been appalled by what they have seen in that department for any official excuses to be accepted.
I think . that newspaper sums up the position well. I do not profess to be an expert on industrial manufacture, but the little practical experience I have had proves to me that my submissions on this matter are well founded. I pay a tribute to the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) for his enthusiastic response to the suggestion put to him by myself at a deputation from trade union officials that the purchase of defence requirements from overseas should be reduced to the minimum. I realize that the Minister cannot be expected to be an encyclopedia on all aspects of a department with the ramifications of the Defence Department. He may, for instance, be a good soldier, and understand the strategy of warfare, but he cannot be expected, to have technical knowledge of subjects such as engineering, or to understand thoroughly all aspects of the manufacture of defence requirements and of naval construction. Therefore, although he has the best intentions in the world, there are many occasions on which the Minister is left to the mercy of his advisers. In this instance, of course, the Minister for Supply and Development is also an engineer, so in that regard I am looking for a measure of knowledge which, perhaps, would not be found in other . Ministers. However, a man cannot be an expert in all branches. It is just a matter of what each is capable of within his own sphere of knowledge or experience. I suggest to the Minister for Defence that it might be to his advantage to allow representatives of trade unions in the metal section to tender advice to him or his officers, in regard to the manufacture of defence equipment in Australia. At a recent deputation the trade union officials were able to produce evidence of orders for equipment going abroad when it could have been manufactured in Australia, in some cases by establishments where a number of men had lost their employment. The Minister agreed that that point was a good one. It was asked, “ How could these union men tender advice if they did not know what orders were being placed ?” In many cases, the orders were completed without the public or the men engaged in the industry knowing anything about them. I put it to the Minister, quite frankly, that the union representatives are still very concerned about .this question and the effect it has on the unemployment position. It is a sad feature of our industrial position that many highly-skilled men are to-day seeking employment. Another aspect of the problem which is causing grave concern is the inability of boys to secure apprenticeships. The Minister can readily appreciate the difficulty which . arises when skilled artisans who are out of work hear from day to day about the Government’s huge defence programme, and yet find that it makes no difference whatever in assisting them to obtain employment. Reports also are sometimes very misleading. For instance, the general manager of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard, who returned from overseas a week or two ago, made a statement that 2,000 men would be employed in naval shipbuilding. I, and, no doubt, other honorable members of this House, representing metropolitan constituencies, immediately received letters asking for assistance in securing employment.
– The honorable member specializes in that.
– I hope that the honorable .member for Barton . (Mr. Lane) is also interested in this matter. I never close my door and refuse to assist a man to -secure employment. Therefore, it is not a question of specializing in it; it is a question of the plain duty of honorable members to their constituents. I think I am putting my case in a reasonable way, and I am saying nothing that would indicate what has been suggested in the interjection by the honorable member.
I found that when the statement by the manager of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard was inquired into, it meant not that an additional 2,000 men would be employed in naval construction, but that the existing staff at the dockyard would be brought up to 2,000. As there were already 1,600 men employed there, the increase would only be 400. Such a statement is very misleading. As one who knows the homes of working people very well, I appreciate the domestic side of the question. The position of the wife of a man who has been out of work for some time is one of great difficulty. When she reads these press announcements she naturally believes that opportunities are offering for her husband to secure employment, and, when he fails to do so, she begins to doubt the seriousness of his efforts in that direction. Therefore, a much greater volume of employment could and must be made available ‘by reason of this expenditure. The equipment required for these vessels need not necessarily be manufactured at the docks that I have mentioned, but the principle applied in Great Britain could be adopted with advantage in Australia; that is to say, the different workshops could specialize in the production ; of certain portions of the equipment. It could be manufactured in any part of Australia - at Thompson’s, Castlemaine; at Walker’s, Maryborough, Queensland; at the Clyde Engineering Works in New South Wales and so on. It is not a matter of confining the work to any particular district. I hold the view that industrial activity in one district is reflected throughout the community, and if there is a general uplift in regard to employment and the circulation of money, all will share in the benefit. The Prime Minister’s tribute to the work of the Defence Department in the matter of the provision of supplies should be qualified; there must be a change of heart in that department in regard to the provision of our own requirements.
The Minister stressed very clearly the fact that certain conditions are forced on Australia by reason of its being an. island continent. He pointed out that we could be cut off from outside supplies at any time, and that it is necessary to make provision against such a contingency. Nature has been -very generous to this country in the bestowal of natural resources, but we have not .taken the fullest advantage of our position in that regard. In this respect we offer a contrast to other countries of the world. I must, of course, admit that other countries are much older. But, while the resources with which nature has provided us cannot be developed in a day, we at least have the responsibility to develop them to a point which will enable the succeeding generation to reap greater advantages from them and to have a more self-contained country than we have to-day.
I hope that, as we proceed with this debate, the Minister will furnish greater details of the way in which he proposes to apply the programme that he has outlined. He has said, “ We will adopt the means that are open to us”. It is natural that I should want to know what means the Minister believes are open to him,. The right honorable gentleman went on further to declare that we had really made a good deal of progress within recent years, and that the development of our secondary industries had shown a wonderful increase; but, even so, we had only reached what we might describe as a peace-time basis, and that the aim is to progress to a wartime basis. I consider that I am entitled to draw attention to the fact that the Labour Government in 1929-31 did a great job in the development of our secondary industries. During those years circumstances arose calling for action by that Government which would not have arisen in ordinary times. Prohibitions were imposed upon imports j and secondary industries were protected to a degree which was roundly condemned by the Opposition of the day. Although for party political reasons the present Government may not be prepared to give credit to the Scullin Administration for the subsequent progress of industry in Australia, the declaration of the Minister is at least noteworthy, and the country can, with every reason, he proud of what has been achieved. Throughout, much opposition has been shown by our friends of the Country party, who hold the view that the protection of our secondary industries is on far too lavish a scale and often is to the detriment of sales overseas of primary produce. I point out, however, that the development of our secondary industries to the point of making Australia self-contained is a problem of considerable magnitude, and its value in a war period cannot be gauged as a matter of being able to sell overseas what we are able to produce but is one of being able to defend and hold what we now possess.
– That is no excuse for allowing the exploitation that has taken place.
– I very definitely agree with the honorable member. As a matter of fact, I know one very big industry in this country protected by Labour so that it has become a monopoly, which is one of the worst industries that we now have from the viewpoint of the workers. Having obtained a monopoly through our protectionist policy, it no longer welcomes any interest that we might show in it, but regards us as a menace on account of our demand for a higher standard of wages and better conditions. (Sometimes I feel that I should like to be a member of a government which was in a position to treat these people as they deserve, and to give them no quarter. It is strange, however that by reason of the circumstances of the time, we are often forced into doing things that we would not ordinarily do but which are afterwards proved to be of great benefit to this country. That particularly applies to the action taken by the Labour Government in 1930.
I should like to be told how the new department is to operate in relation to the Tariff Board and the Ottawa Agreement and other trade agreements.
– That is what we want to know.
– It appears to me that in future the Tariff Board will have to be asked to consider matters referred to it in the light of adequate preparation for defence.
– There will be a big scope for the operations of profiteers.
– The Government hones to deal with them. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) has some doubts concerning that, and so have I. I think that we ought to be given some idea as to how the Minister proposes to meet the position as it is affected by the inquiries of the Tariff Board, and the operations of the Ottawa Agreement and other trade agreements in which Australia is involved. If the Tariff Board is to consider in the light that I have suggested the matters that are referred to it, power will be conferred on it which no board should possess - power which only ‘this Parliament should exercise, and which it should not delegate to a subordinate authority. High military authorities say that for every man placed in the field seven men are needed in the workshops. Therefore, everything hinges on workshop activity and development. This is not confined to the manufacture of implements of war alone, because everything that we need in peace time we need also under war conditions. That position will become more apparent under the changed conditions of warfare.
The Minister referred to certain factories that are to he taken over by the new department, including the factory at Maribyrnong, the Lithgow Small Arms Factory, the cordite factory, the harness factory, and one or two other factories. That seemed to be the only definite statement in the honorable gentleman’s secondreading speech of what is actually to be done in regard to particular industries. I cannot imagine that there the matter will rest. If that were all that was to happen there would be no need for this department.
The Minister next turned to the matter of controlling the annexes which the Government proposes to set up. Some of them have already been set up in a number of places, which were mentioned in answer to a question asked by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), on the 4th May last. So far we have not been given very much information in respect of the degree to which the Government is involved financially in these annexes, and what power or authority it exercises over them. I believe that some of the buildings are now in course of construction, and that others have been equipped with certain classes of machinery. A great deal of interest, therefore,’ is being taken in the establishment of these annexes. What we wish to know is exactly what costs are being incurred by the Government, and what power of supervision and control will be exercised? My colleagues and I are unanimously hostile to the adoption of this method of providing material for defence purposes. [Leave to continue given.’) We are distinctly antagonistic to the private manufacture of armaments and we think we have good reason for our hostility. The establishment of these annexes is the thin end of the wedge in the introduction of the private armament ring to Australia. In our opinion, government workshops and semigovernment and publicly-owned enterprises could have been used to provide the additional manufactures needed. If annexes had to be established we very definitely affirm that they should have been established in association with these publicly-owned utilities. We are not satisfied with the Government’s proposal, in any sense, in this regard. We fail to see how costs can be supervised and profiteering prevented if the manufacture of armaments is allowed to get into the hands of private companies in. any degree whatever. The need for the supervision of costs and the control of profits was demonstrated beyond all question during the last war. I direct the attention of honorable members to certain statements made by Mr. Lloyd George in the House of Commons in 1919 in a survey that he made of armament manufacturing and of the need to control and supervise all private activities. After revealing that the huge sum of £440,000,000 had been saved to the country, he referred to the original profiteering price of the armaments firms. He said -
The 18-pouiidcr, when the ministry wa.started, cost 22s. (id. a shell. A system of costin mid investigation was introduced, and national factories were set up which checked the prices, and a shell for which the ‘War Office, at the time the ministry was formed, paid 22s. Cd. was reduced to 12s. When von have 85,000.000 of shells, that saved £35,000,000.
There was a reduction in the price of all other shells, and there was a reduction in the Lewis gun. When wo took them in hand they cost £105, and we reduced them to £3.r> each. There was a. saving of £14,000,000, and. through the costing system and the checking of the national factories we set up, before the end of the war there was a saving of £440,000,000.
Surely it is clear from that statement that costs must be supervised effectively. We feel that the Government with its exact knowledge, in consequence of its own activities, of the costs incurred is the only body that should undertake this work. It was only by the setting up of its own factories, which operated alongside the factories of private manufacturers, that the British Government waiable, during the later years of the war, to reduce the cost of Lewis guns from £165 to £35 each, and the cost of shells from 22s. 6d. to 12s. 6d. each.
Time will not permit me to discuss at greater length the details of this situation, but I have a mass of authentic information which I could submit to honorable members. I shall have to content myself, at the moment, with referring to an experience of the British Governmentduring the September crisis of last year. The private armaments manufacturing firms of Great Britain took advantage of that crisis to increase the price of air raid precautions material by 500 per cent. This matter was referred to in a cablegram in the Australian press in the following words : -
The Daily Mail states that the Home Office has called a conference of contractors to consider the 500 ner cent, increase in cost of air raid precaution materials, which occurred at the peak of the crisis.
Manufacturers will assist the Government to avoid a repetition of this retail profiteering.
The trade, unions arc prepared to adjust labour charges to new figures, but some authorities have already paid bills which have saddled the municipalities with fabulous sums.
This happened, lot, me remind honorable members, at a time when the whole nation was on its tip-toes, and when the people were in great anxiety owing to a general state of unpreparedness. This increase of the price of air raid precautions material by 500 per cent, was made by firms which prated about their loyalty. I have noticed that it is always people who prate about their loyalty who take advantage of circumstances to demand greater profits for the goods they have to sell which the nation is forced by special circumstances to buy.
– But was that statement correct?
– The records are available for examination. The mattei was discussed in the House of Commons and an inquiry was made into the allegations. It was established that the state ments were substantially true. If any honorable member wishes to wade through all the evidence that can be produced to demonstrate that private firms arc in the habit of making large profits out of the manufacture of armaments, bc will find plenty of scope for his investigations, not only in relation to Great Britain, but also in relation to the United States of America.- We know very well that the big armaments firms engaged in lobbying in an extraordinary way during the disarmament conference at Geneva presided over by the late Mr. Arthur Henderson. One firm in the United States of America was sued by a person it engaged to do this work, because it failed to remunerate him at the scale that he alleged had been agreed upon. I assure honorable members that ample evidence is available to substantiate every statement I am making.
I have no doubt that other honorable members on this side of the chamber will develop these points, for it is common knowledge that profiteering in armaments manufacture is rife in every country where armaments are manufactured by private firms. This Government must be aware of these facts, for in a speech which the Prime Minister delivered in the Town Hall, Sydney, on Monday night, he made a special reference to the subject. He said -
We have a positive function to make a real contribution to the problem of employment in Australia.
I take that statement to mean that the Government intends to stimulate activity in secondary industries. The right honorable gentleman also said -
We also have a negative function to see that in these years of crisis no people will grow rich in the defence preparations of Australia.
That means, in plain language, that the’ Government is aware that profiteering occurs. Every sensible and well-informed man and woman in the community knows that it is so. The Labour party fears and believes that ‘the establishment of -these annexes under the control of private firms, which should never have been allowed in a young country like Australia, will enable private manufacturers here to make profits out of the manufacture of war materials. Surely the events that have occurred in the old world should have been sufficient to warn us against the danger of taking this risk in Australia.
As the Government is, admittedly, bearing the major share of the cost of establishing these annexes, and is paying for the machinery that is being installed, it would have been far better to have arranged for the machinery to be installed in railway workshops and other government and semi-government establishments. The electricity undertakings owned and controlled by various municipalities could also have been used for the purpose. On all counts it is a sorry mistake to establish annexes to private factories. All of the supplies that we are likely to need in making preparation for defence could have been obtained in some other, and better, way. Unless the Government actually engages in the manufacture of the articles needed, it will be impossible to check costs and control profits. If the annexes had been attached to government and semigovernment workshops costs and profits would have been entirely under control. It would not have been necessary, then, to have made provision for special accounting systems. I do not wish to cast reflections upon the members of any profession, but undoubtedly there are accountants and accountants. Skilled accountants discover all kinds of ways to hide costs.
I am at a los3 to understand how the Government proposes to ascertain production costs in enterprises such as those of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, which has a dozen and one subsidiary organizations, with all manner of means to manipulate figures. Accountants can shift entries from this place to that, and from that place to some other place, in such a way as to make it impossible for outside investigators to follow what has been done. The deeper they go, the more intricate become the accounts. I have grave doubts whether it will be possible to evolve any system of accounting that will satisfy ordinary men and women that large profits are not being made by private firms which manufacture armaments. It is extremely dangerous to allow any of this work to be done by private firms. The private manufacture of armaments invariably leads to profiteering and to the fomenting of wars. The armaments firms are mainly controlled by those who also control high finance. Unfortunately for the people of the world, those who control high finance are more interested in profits than they are in human welfare. In the circumstances which face us to-day, while many nations speaking many languages and separated in so many different ways are dominated by the very same financiers, who have no concern or interest in anything but high profits, and who work on the same principle in all the countries of. the world, there is slender hope for the preservation of peace. Under such conditions, in the course of the years an immense amount of evidence has been accumulated to demonstrate be yond all question the evil machinations of those who engage in the manufacture of armaments for profit. Mr. Hugh Dalton, a soldier during the war, and afterwards the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs in the British Labour Government of 1929, voiced, in moving language, in the House of Commons, on the 11th March, 1926, his view of the morality of this bloody traffic. He said - Vickers had been supplying the Turkish artillery with shells which were fired into the Australian, New Zealand and British troops as they were scrambling up Anzac Cove and Cape Helles. Did it matter to the directors of these armament firms, so long as they did business and expanded the defence expenditure of Turkey, that their weapons mashed up into bloody pulp all the morning glory that was the flower of Anzac - the youth of Australia and New Zealand and our own country?
The Labour party has definitely decided that it will not countenance the setting up of private instrumentalities for the manufacture of arms in this country. It will be impossible to ascertain the profits made by such organizations as the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and the glass manufacturing interests which have been enumerated by the Government. A Labour government will in no circumstances whatsoever permit private organizations to manufacture munitions. We voice our views on this subject firmly and frankly. We are bitterly disappointed that, in spite of the history of this and other lands, this Government should lend itself to the procedure now being adopted. In view of the trouble that we have had to face in the past, and that which, apparently, we shall have to face in the future, the Government’s outlook on this subject is deplorable.
– We are setting out to avoid the very thing that the honorable member fears.
– If that is so, all I can say is that I am astonished at what the Government is doing.
– I shall develop this aspect of the subject a little later.
– Time will tell whether my view is correct. I believe that it is and I base it on specific knowledge in my possession. I have not exaggerated in any degree whatsoever in my remarks. The Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) knows, as every man who takes an interest in current events must know, that urgent need exists to avoid every measure of profiteering in the manufacture of armaments. Time will tell whether the Government has acted wisely or not. I am very much afraid that the very thing that it is setting out to avoid is the thing it will accomplish.
The Minister gave us to understand, in tlie course of his speech, that the functions of this new department were not likely to broaden. I think it inevitable that they will expand to such a degree that it, will become one of the largest departments of the Government. This is no small enterprise that the Government is setting its hand to, and, although the Minister said that it was not intended to enlarge the personnel of the department, it seems to me to be inevitable that a very large number of officers will need to be employed.
– The Government will not be able to help itself.
– That is my feeling. If this department does not grow, the Government will not be undertaking this work seriously. If this job has to be done, and if the material resources of this country have to be explored and regimented, as the Government says they must be an extraordinary quantity of work is being undertaken. It is a big job. A survey of the whole of this country in all its aspects is the biggest job any government could undertake, but the concluding remarks of the Minister on this point indicate that the Government is merely tinkering at the subject, and does not intend to go far. I am not unkind when I say to the Government, “You are being pressed by the public adequately to prepare for 4 defence and you put this forward as a means of appeasement for the moment “.
.- The helpful and moderate speech made by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) leads me to hope that it may not be long before party differences are thrown aside and we have the one policy for the defence of this country.
– Our policy.
– Perhaps it is too much ro expect at the moment, but the honorable member’s speech was a step in the right direction, and was more helpful than I should expect from some honorable gentlemen who sit behind him. A good deal of anxiety has been expressed at the policy of the Government in negotiating with private enterprise for the production of ammunitions. It is not without cause, because the experience of other countries is that the makers of munitions are a menace. In Australia we are in the fortunate position of starting this enterprise anew. We have the benefit of the experience of older countries,, and the opportunity, if Ministers are active enough to take advantage of it, to guard against the serious intrusion of private interests which has occurred in other places. I do not like the idea of encouraging the manufacture of munitions by private enterprise, but the establishment of what are called annexes is to be commended and is necessary for tho production of ‘large quantities of munitions in a short space of time to be ready to meet the emergency which may arise at any time. The Labour party contends that the manufacture of munitions should be restricted to munition shops conducted by the Government, but it is doubtful whether we get the best efficiency from workshops under Government control. Our experience of them does not lead us to the belief that they represent the latest in efficiency. It is a good thing for Government workshops to have the spur of competition, even competition from private enterprise. If in peace time we had to carry in our own workshops a sufficiently large quantity of machinery and staff to turn out the great quantities of munitions that would be required in an emergency, the cost would be more than we could possibly provide. Vast quantities of unwanted material would have to be stored against the day when it might be required. Moreover, if this work were confined to establishments conducted by the Government, we should not have the benefit of the skilled mechanics who are to be found in private enterprises, such as the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, whose services it would be essential to use in a state of emergency. For that reason, it is necessary that there should be something in the nature of shadow factories. I understand that it is proposed to set up annexes equipped with machinery and that they shall he given trial orders to give them enough experience to show that they are capable of carrying out the work. Our power to control them in time of war will not lie so much in the legislative provisions that we make, as in the capacity of the Ministers to exercise supervision over profits. I understand that the Government is setting up means to keep a check on costs and profits, but just how far it will succeed will depend on the capacity of Ministers.
Centralization is altogether too evident in the defence policy. About two years ago the late Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the then Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) gave assurances, which the people in the outer States considered very satisfactory, that there would be a system of decentralization in the production of munitions. Military authorities were quoted as having advised that it was not desirable to keep all our eggs in one basket, and that it was most desirable, as far as practicable, to spread our munition factories. Since then, however, the policy of decentralization has been overlooked, and the Supply Committee which has been set up has, on the score of economy, completely turned down the establishment of munition factories in any but either of the greater cities of the Commonwealth. Nevertheless, now that the Government has entered upon the establishment of defence annexes, those annexes might just as well be established in any of the other capital or larger cities in the other States of the Commonwealth as in Sydney or Melbourne. Nineteen powerful firms established in or about Melbourne or Sydney have been provided with annexes. That accentuates the policy of centralization, and is not only undesirable, but also extremely unfair to the people of Australia not resident in those cities. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) the other night said that one of the first objectives of the new Ministry would be the creation of general employment, which would necessarily follow from the establishment of military enterprises. It is not right that that additional employment should be limited to the great cities in eastern Australia. The people in the other parts pay taxes, and the defence of those parts is no less important. Indeed, as they are the most vulnerable and therefore the most likely to be attacked, it would be most dangerous to neglect their defence. It is important that the people in those areas should not only have the opportunity to engage in the commerce of munitions, but also be encouraged to acquire mechanical skill in order to be able to make their proper contribution to the defence of this country.
Generally, this bill is one which will be received with commendation from all sides of the House, because it indicates that the Government is alive to defence needs. I hope that the Minister of State for Supply and Development (Mr. ‘Casey) will be able to devote to his new department the same activity as he devoted to the Treasury. I feel that his entry into the provision side of defence will result in substantial advantage. But there is an important omission from the bill which is designed to improve the material resources of the country - the omission to make any reference to financial resources. In his secondreading speech, the Minister said that this bill was complementary to another bill for the creation of a national register. The Minister said -
This bill . . . provides for the taking of what is, in effect, a census of material resources in Australia, as distinct from the national register of man-power with which the Minister for Defence is concerned.
I cannot imagine any census of material resources being complete unless it includes also the financial resources of the country.
– Cameron. - Financial resources represent material resources.
– Money is aptly described as the sinew3 of war, and I cannot imagine any government, minister, or committee, being able to complete a compendium of material resources of the country, without having regard to financial resources. I point out in reply to the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) that already in existence is an economic and financial committee, which is one of the consultative bodies to be used by the Department of Supply and Development. Its purpose, I take it, is to advise the Government on economic and financial affairs. How can it properly carry out its functions unless it has regard to the financial resources of the country? I raise this matter now for fear that if I raised it in debate on the National Registration Bill, I should be ruled out of order, because that bill deals only with man-power. I see no reason at all why there should be any omission to inquire as to the financial resources of the people. We willingly furnish our income tax returns.
– We do not do so willingly.
– We do so under compulsion, knowing of course that the policeman is always at hand if, having failed in our obligation, we are found out. There is no trouble in obtaining figures concerning income tax and the like, and I do not think there would be any more difficulty in obtaining information concerning the capital resources of people who furnish income tax returns. Income tax returns do not supply the information needed to show the financial capacity of this country. For instance, many people have property and do not make any return at all ; others have property which does not produce income. Indeed the best we can say for the income tax returns is that they give a number of clues as to where property is, but for the purpose of making a national balance sheet or making a complete picture of the wealth and capacity of this country to ascertain the degree to which we can safely go for the purchase of munitions and the like, income tax returns are useless.
– What would give that information ? Would a national planning authority be able to ascertain it?
– We should have a census of capital wealth just as we have a census of income wealth. A census was taken not long after the commencement of the last war. A questionnaire was sent out which required answers to be given as to the wealth of the people. The information gleaned enabled us, of course, to estimate the national wealth of the country. No objections were raised to the questions asked on that occasion, and I see no reason why there should be any objection to these questions on this occasion. I am anxious to hear what objection there could be.
– The wealth of Australia has already been estimated.
– Yes, but only in an extremely vague way. It is of no use to make an estimate of national wealth unless it is a reliable one. I am pleading that a census should be taken to elicit accurate information not only in respect of materials such as coal, iron and the like, the manpower of the country, what occupations the people follow, and where they may usefully assist in time of emergency, but also .to obtain what is perhaps of more material importance, information as to- what wealth there is, where it lies, and whether corporations or individuals hold it. For instance, aliens control a good deal of the wealth in this country. It may be desirable, particularly in - war time, to know just how much wealth is controlled by them. It would be well to keep some track of the distribution of wealth in order to know the movements of money that take place, particularly during a time of threatened war. I am astonished at the attitude of members of the Labour party in regard to this bill.
– The honorable member is always astonished at -us.
– Honorable members opposite never know which way they are veering these days. One of the strangest objections to the making of this, inquiry which I have heard from the Labour party is that it is only the first step towards conscription. They ask : “ If you conscript men, why not conscript wealth ?” I ask them to be consistent.. I do not propose conscription of wealth or conscription of men; but I think we should have full information, not only as to what man-power we have, but also as to what goods we have, and what is the purchasing capacity of the country. I should be very surprised if the Labour party makes any objection to the insertion of a clause which will require people to declare the amount of their capital wealth.
– I suggest the honorable member should move the insertion of such a clause, and see for himself.
– I hope to be in a position to support such a proposal. Subject to that, I believe that the Government is entitled to our commendation for taking a step in the right direction, and getting on with the job as it has done.
.- The introduction of this bill to create a Ministry of Supply and Development, mainly for war purposes, indicates that in the mind of the Government there is necessity for putting this country on a war basis. I view with fear and trepidation the creeping into this country of all of those horrors which are associated with war and preparation for war in the older countries of the world, in which armaments, and the piling up of armaments, have become a natural part of their economic arrangements. It is because I believe that this bill does not provide in any adequate way for dealing with the important matters of supply and development that I want to address myself to it briefly to-night. We are told that this bill is complementary to another; but, as a measure affecting the very lives of the people, it stands out in bold relief in lacking provision ‘for the extraction of the great wealth of detail usually asked for in other measures of this sort. In these other measures .the Government pries into the private lives of the people, into the most intimate recesses of the home, in its search for information, but in regard to detail this bill leaves everything to the imagination. In an ordinary census of any nation the searchlight is directed on everything that pertains to the individual, but when it is a matter of eliciting information from profit-makers and large property-owners, their business is regarded as sacrosanct; they must not be touched or inquired into. That principle, however, does not apply when the Government is dealing with thu human family generally. We are told that matters of real consequence in this hill ‘in respect of detail will all be left to regulation. The control of profits will be left to regulation; it will be left for regulations to lay down the details as to how the inquiry into profits will be conducted ; in effect, it will be left to the profiteers themselves to provide the Government with information as to how to deal with themselves. We cannot but view with alarm the power placed in the hands of the Minister in this bill. We know the type of men he will select. We ha vo already seen the type of men he has selected . for his war council. He has chosen .representatives of some of the biggest profiteering firms in this country, one of them a representative of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, which, the very morning after the announcement was made that we were to increase our armaments, advanced the price of iron and steel from 5s. to 20s. a ton. Yet it is these people that the press is constantly supporting, while at the same time attacking and traducing the party to which I belong. The profiteer, the usurer, the banker, and all who provide the political propaganda of the Government, are the very men who will assist it to regulate profits and control armaments. Why is there not included in the bill a schedule limiting the rate of profit? Will the Minister say now whether it should be 5, 10, 15, 20, 50, 100,- or 200 per cent. ? Will he say that he will take into consideration the watered stock, the bonus shares, and the piling up of fictitious capital of every one of those big industries’ which he will consult? Will he say what profit the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, the shipping companies, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, and- the mine-owners, should be allowed to make? If their stock were de-watered to-morrow and brought down to its original amount, they would be able to supply their commodities at a quarter of the price charged to-day, and still make an excellent profit. Why does not this bill provide for the circulation of a questionnaire? I should like to ask those who control these big businesses what wealth they have; how much of it they would be prepared to give to the nation in time of stress ; what contribution they would be prepared to make to-day if they were asked. How could their contribution compare with that of a man who sells his life in the defence of his country? You see no profiteers and war-mongers in the firing line; the capitalists and profiteers are far behind the firing line in every country in the world. During the last war we saw the capitalists of every country in the world congregated at Geneva, and busily engaged in making calculations one with the other all the time the war was going on.
The Minister (Mr. Casey) has talked about the services, of accountants in making these inquiries. I should like to ask these big companies that are to be interrogated if they have two sets of books, one for the Taxation Commissioner, and one for their own private information. A very eminent gentleman, Mr. Portus, a member of the Workers Educational Society, recently stated that he had taken under his wing a youth who, having passed his accountancy examination with honours, sought a position in the commercial world. Mr. Portus succeeded in getting him a job with what he thought was quite a good firm in Sydney. Six months later the young fellow returned and told Mr. Portus that he could not continue in the job. He said, “ They want me to keep two sets of books, one set to be specially locked in the safe for themselves, and another for the Taxation Commissioner “. Possibly the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is also carrying on this racket; yet the Government will have accountants from the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, and, no doubt, from the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited to help it conduct these inquiries to disclose the secrets of the businesses to be interrogated. During the last war the Wartime Profits Tax Act was placed on the statute-book. A firm with which I was dealing told’ me that their accountant had been sacked because he had got away with £2,000 of the firm’s money. I asked if the firm knew where he was. The reply was “ Yes, he is living in North Sydney “. I said, “ Why not prosecute him ?” The reply was : “ He fixed our books so that we could evade the payment of £5,000 wartime profits tax. He only got away with” £2,000. It would not pay us to have him arrested”. That sort of thing is going on all the time. There is nothing more immoral or degrading -than big business; the bigger the business the more degrading it is. In the libraries of the world to-day .are to be found blue books, green books and red books containing sworn evidence relating to the trade that went on between the allies and enemy countries all the time during the Great War.
Now that we are to have an enlarged defence programme we shall need something more than is provided in this shell of a bill to convince me that the Government really means to prevent the ghoulish profiteering that has occurred in every - war since the campaigns of Marlborough - who probably began it - right down to the present day. The Government proposes to make regulations from time to time to control profits, but it has not waited to define by regulation the information that it wants from the men of the nation. That is all set out in another bill. In order to determine what would be a fair profit, the Government should make the armaments firms disclose how much watered stock they have.. A nominal profit of 5 per cent, might really be a profit of 50 per cent, on the actual subscribed capital. I know of one company on the northern coal-fields of which the original capital was £150,000. Not one penny of new capital has ever been subscribed, but to-day the capital of that company stands at £3,000,000 and the company wants the miners to work in such a way as to provide a profit on the whole £3,000,000, when they ought to be providing profit on £150,000 only. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, and the other steel companies, have also watered their stock. These companies make such huge profits that they dare not distribute them all at once to their shareholders in dividends, because there’ would be’ a public outcry against them. Therefore, they pile up their profits for four or five years, and then distribute them as bonus shares. That is what happens under the limited liability system, the most callous and brutal manifestation of the capitalistic system that has yet been seen. The Government should not pay profits on watered stock, and it should make that clear from the start. If this bil] does not make an honest attempt to limit profits on the manufacture of defence requirements it is all bunkum, and there is no need for it at all. When a Minister was making another speech, I asked, by way of interjection, what was being done to limit profits, and he said that we could discuss that matter when we came to this bill. The bill contains nothing in that way except a provision for the creation of a committee to consider what profits should be earned, and the persons who are to comprise that committee are the profiteers themselves.
According to a message published in the Sun newspaper, this is what happened when the Chancellor of the Exchequer first announced Britain’s new expanded defence programme, which involved the expenditure of something like £1,000,000,000 over a period of three years -
The value of British armament shares has risen £128,000 per business hour on the Stock Exchange since 10th February, the Daily Herald states.
The values of the ordinary shares of nineteen ship-building, aircraft, armament, and steel firms have risen by £4,640,000 to £68,168,000.
– How long did the shares take to rise?’
– Three months. We know, of course, .that the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) is always trying to protect the profiteers. He will fight harder than any one against us in our endeavours to check profiteering. In 1916, when it was doubtful whether Britain would be able to continue the war much longer because of the tremendous financial drain involved in the purchase of armaments, Mr. Lloyd George called representatives of the armaments firms into conference. They told him that it was impossible to reduce prices; that they were already at bedrock, and could not be reduced. Of course, the stock of those companies was watered just as is the stock of Australian firms. Then Lloyd George, under the Defence of the Realm Act, assumed control of the armaments firms. He established a costing system, and checked the prices of all materials, and in twelve months saved £500,000,000. The 18- pound shell for which the firms had been charging the Government 22s. 6d., the Government was able to make for itself for 12s. It made 85,000,000 of them, and saved £35,000,000. Yet the ar.maments firms had sworn that they were unable to reduce prices ! The same firms had been charging the Government £165 each for Lewis guns ; the Government was able to make them for £35. We know that in point of fact, there are not English armaments firms, and German armaments firms, and American armaments firms. It is simply one great armaments ring which operates firms in various countries. According to a white paper issued by the American Government it has been proved that the armaments firms in the various countries do not compete against one another. Prices are fixed, and all the firms charge the same. When this Government proposes to permit the manufacture of arms by private firms it is placing itself at the mercy of the international armaments ring. When the American Government called tenders for war contracts worth £100,000,000 from firms in America, Britain, Germany, France and Italy, there was not one-half cent difference in the quotes from any of those countries. The following table shows how the profits of armaments- firms have increased in England since the Government embarked upon its increased defensive programme: -
– It would be more helpful if the percentage increases were given in relation to capital.
– The honorable member should say what increases of capital have taken place.
– If the capital has been increased, then it has been done by watered stock. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has increased its capital four times within the last two or three years, and it has not taken in a pennyworth of new stock. It has all been done by means of bonus shares, and that makes the position much worse than if they had not put watered stock in at all. The firms mentioned in the table which I have quoted are some of the organizations with which the Government is dealing in connexion with its defence requirements. At the conclusion of the ItaloAbyssinian war, the chairman of Imperial Chemical Industries Limited stated on behalf of the company that sanctions had not operated so far as his firm was concerned, and that right through the conflict materials for the manufacture of poison gas had been shipped to the Italians. Will this bill give the Government power to deal with profiteers who seek to sell war material to an enemy country in time of war? . Much has .been said by the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Henry Gullett), the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) himself, and others, and statements have appeared in the press, regarding the position of Italy and Germany. We have been told that these countries arc armed to the teeth. But who armed them? The answer is that they were armed by the countries which were allied during the Great War. Much of the equipment now possessed by these nations was supplied by profit mongers outside Germany and Italy. Left to their own resources, these countries could never have reached the stage of armament that they are in to-day. The profit mongers of Britain, France and even Australia, have poured material into Italy and Germany, thus permitting these nations to become a menace to the rest of the world. I ask again, is this bill going to deal, not only with the supply of munitions to the Commonwealth Government, but also with the supply of war material to enemies or potential enemies? I submit that it will no,t, and cannot. Japan, which has been suggested as a potential aggressor so far as Australia is concerned, could not have reached the state of armament which it is in to-day, without securing material from other countries associated with Great Britain, and even from industrial organizations in this country such as the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. If the Government is to permit the export of large quantities of war equipment and material to possible enemy countries, which in the future might shower bombs and poison gas from aircraft, then it is lacking in its duty to the people of Australia. It is well known that Japan is lacking in natural resources for the manufacture of war materials. That country can only build battleships because the profiteers of this country and other countries, whom it is alleged Japan is preparing to fight, allow the export of the necessary equipment to. Japan. That is not all. It is not only in times of peace that this sort of thing is carried on. It was shown in evidence at a trial iri France that 1,000 tons of cyanamide was shipped from France to Italy and that Italy re-shipped it to Germany. The defendants pleaded that they did not know that Germany was using it for the manufacture of explosives and were acquitted. The International Chemical Syndicate formed before the war, operated right through the war, and sold to all belligerent countries, dividing its profits between England, France, Germany and Italy by way of Switzerland, a neutral, country. In 1912, Krupp’s made 53,000 cannon, of which 23,600 were for Germany and 27,300 for countries which afterwards became enemies of Germany. And so this business goes on. I should like . to know if this state of affairs is to occur in Australia? I state plainly and flatly that I shall not bc satisfied that profiteering will not be indulged in in Australia merely by being told that regulations are being formulated to deal with it. This bill must be as specific in its reference to profiteers, as other legislation introduced recently is specific in regard to human flesh and blood. We are told that the bill relates to “the supply of munitions and the survey, registration and development of Australia, and for other purposes “. The bill also provides that “ The Minister may, in relation to all or of any of the matters specified in this act or in relation to such other matters as are prescribed, constitute committees and appoint persons to be members of those committees to advise the Minister “. I ask : Who will be the people who will secure membership of these committees and ‘be responsible for making the contracts? They are the people who will make the profits, and will be members of big manufacturing companies such as the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited.
– Many of them are departmental committees, which are already functioning.
– Some of them may be. If the honorable member were to tell me the names of these people and have them inserted in the bill I should be satisfied. Every time measures of this kind are brought down and the necessary appointments are to be made subsequently, a blank cheque is given to the Government to do what it likes.
The bill also provides that, “Nothing in this act shall authorize the making of any regulation rendering it compulsory for any person to disclose any secret process of manufacture “. All profitmaking concerns, and organizations associated with wealth and the production of wealth are sacrosanct with this Government. The Government refuses to interfere with them. Similarly, in arbitration courts and the like, business secrets are not to be disclosed, but the courts have power to make the workmen disclose everything about their lives and their homes. This bill is tainted from beginning to end.
I believe from the casual way in which the Minister pushed the matter aside that this measure is only a sop and a cover for the other bill. I do not believe that this bill is intended to do anything comprehensive. Otherwise, it would be necessary to set up another Commonwealth department with ramifications nearly as big as, or bigger than, those of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. It would be necessary to have a vast organization to take stock of all the resources of Australia and to deal even in a casual way with the application of these resources in time of war or in time of peace.
In conclusion, I should like to say something supplementary to the remarks made by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) in connexion with the supply of oil. A former Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Matthew Charlton, “the former member for Newcastle, Mr. David Watkins, and I were the three representatives of the coal-mining industry who, in 1924, first raised the question of oil supplies. It was then nothing like the burning question it is to-day, particularly in view of the fact that we are constantly being told by those who have at their disposal all the information that there is dire necessity for immediate defence preparation. I am prepared to accept these statements at their face value and to assist in the carrying out of defence works, but I am not prepared to assist with the profiteering which is bleeding this country. It is proposed to build aeroplanes in Australia, and to purchase oil-burning vessels. Oil is also required for many other purposes. Coming to Canberra by train, I was speaking to an engineer at Port Kembla who informed me that the ignition of the big guns just established is carried out by means of petrol. It is apparent to everybody that a huge supply of oil would be necessary to meet war-time requirements in Australia. In my opinion the talk of efforts to extract oil from shale is all so much nonsense. I think that the Newnes project was embarked upon to secure the Macquarie electorate for the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. John Lawson) at the last general elections. Nothing has been done since the scheme was inaugurated, and I do. not think anything will be done. It is now some years since the project was embarked upon and if the scheme was a vital necessity then and nothing has since been done, we are entitled to look for some reason. It seems like stressing the obvious to say that aeroplanes will not fly unless they have supplies of petrol. Of what use is it to manufacture aircraft when without fuel they would be useless?
It cannot be denied that if two or three major powers were engaged in war, Australia’s supplies might be cut off. Apart from the war aspect, our activities are severely hampered in times of peace. Machinery will not run without fuel. When the former member for Warringah (Sir Archdale Parkhill) was Minister for Defence, he brought down a proposal for the expenditure of £16,000,000 on an oil-burning battleship. He was asked would not a coal-burning ship be better, and the reply given was that a battleshipburning oil was faster. Apparently, he could not get into his head that a ship would not be of any use without a supply of oil. The same thing applies to aircraft.
I submit that the Government has no real defence policy and is not concerned with one if it is not prepared to make sure that this country has its own oil’ supply to propel, its ships, aeroplanes, and machines, in time of war. The present state of affairs shows a lack of sincerity on the part of the Government. The supply of oil stored in this country would be insufficient to last three months, and under present conditions there will never be adequate supplies. The first £10,000,000 of defence expenditure should be used to make this country self-supporting in connexion with the supply of oil. Surely if countries such as Great Britain, which is surrounded by the oil wells of the world and is itself a large shareholder in one of the biggest organizations, finds it necessary to make its own supplies of oil from coal secure, then Australia should do likewise. Unless this action is taken, I submit that the Government is only tinkering with the question of defence. I support the remarks of the honorable member for West Sydney and the submissions made repeatedly by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James). I say to the Government that if transport in Australia is to be secured in time of war, steps must be taken to see that adequate supplies of fuel are on hand. I shall not be satisfied with this bill until it lays down the rate of profit that may be made, and demands from the profiteers and the manufacturers of armaments, on pain of much greater penalties, the sama minute information as other persons are to be forced to supply with a view to the possible conscription of human life.
Mi-. PROWSE (Forrest) [10.16].- I compliment the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) on his speech, which contained a lot of “ meat “. Whilst I disagree with a good deal of what the honorable gentleman said, I yet admit that he presented his case in a manner which did credit to him.
I wish to refer particularly to the importance of oil supplies to Australia. The Federal Government has done a good deal in the past in the endeavour to discover oil in this country, so that it might be self-contained in respect of that commodity. Flow oil has not yet been found in Australia, nor has oil been commercially produced from any other source in satisf actory quantities. There could, however, be greater storage, in order to ensure a larger supply in time of emergency. I have appealed to the Government to recognize Albany as a strategic point for the storage of supplies. Invariably, oil is now stored in the most conspicuous part of a district. The oil tanks at Fremantle are the first objects visible from a vessel arriving at that port. Storage tanks are also covered with a silver paint, which causes them to glisten in the sun and thus offer an easy target to an enemy. That is a mistake. Storage tanks should be placed in the least conspicuous place, and be painted such a colour that they would be difficult to discern.
I hope that the Government will not use the powers given under clause 5 unduly to force the establishment of new industries without reference to the Tariff Board. I recognize, of course, that in war time the Government must have power over all industries and businesses throughout Australia. But a great mistake will be made if the Government rushes into the establishment of industries without inquiring into their economic possibilities.
The honorable member for West Sydney is very anxious that there shall be no profiteering in the manufacture of munitions and the like. I agree with him. But if he makes an inordinate attempt to have manufactures established in West Sydney he will find that there is just as great a possibility of profiteering occurring there as elsewhere. He has been informed that two ships can be purchased abroad for the cost of one built in Australia. It might be a good thing if, during war operations, Australia could not purchase ships abroad and was obliged to have one made in Australia; but there is an economic limit to which the Government could sanely embark on some pf these enterprises. I hope that these considerations will influence the Government in connexion with the proposal, intimation, of which was given to-day by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) with regard to the building of complete motor cars in this country. I should bo glad to know what has induced the Government to disregard the report of the Tariff Board on that matter. Has it received any further intimation from the board? I should not be inclined to support the proposal if the Government should deliberately disregard the report of the Tariff Board, and not submit to that body any further proposal before action upon it is taken. This seems to have application to the powers to be given to the Government in relation to secondary industries. I remind the House that our great primary industries are the first line, of defence of this country, and that anything which is done to hamper them will injure the whole of the Commonwealth. We should be proceeding in the wrong direction entirely if expenditure were’ incurred on the development of secondary industries and primary industries were not given such attention as would enable them to carry on their operations and establish credits for Australia abroad. I should like the Government to show its bona fides more readily in connexion with the action that it proposes to take in respect of our great primary industries. Honorable members know that in respect of the employment of labour the wheat industry is the greatest in Australia ; yet during the years of the depression that industry was a losing proposition to every person engaged in it.
– Order ! I am afraid that the honorable member is not in any sense discussing the bill.
– I realize that, and shall not transgress further. I trust that industries will be established as such, and not be merely secondary industries. There should be provision in regard not only to secondary but also to primary industries. I hope that the Government will be prepared to give effect to the policy outlined roughly in the statement of the Prime Minister, who said that justice is not a commodity which is dispensed only in courts of law, and that he proposes to apply it to all sections of the community, including the primary industries, which should be placed on a stable basis and be enabled to enjoy the Australian standard of living.
– It is impossible to over-estimate the importance of this bill, in view of the fact that it is designed to establish a new department to control in the first place the supply of the essential materials required by the Defence. Department, and to pile up. large stocks of what is essential for all the subsidiary organizations upon which the nation would be dependent in case of emergency. Secondly, it proposes to deal with development.
Nothing could be more important to the Commonwealth of Australia to-day than the development of its wonderful natural resources and the establishment of new secondary industries which could be largely supported by the orders which are being placed by the Defence Department. In the past, that department has been definitely responsible for the establishment of quite a number of new industries.
Whilst I do not intend to oppose the passage of this bill, I require certain assurances from the Minister, and particularly from the Government, regarding the intentions of the Government, as well as some reason for its change of policy in connexion with certain departments, such as the Works Department, which is really responsible for the foundation of the defence programme. If anything happened which resulted in the Works Department being unable to function satisfactorily, the whole of the defence programme would be held up. Yet this Government, immediately upon taking office, again made the Works Department a branch of an already overloaded department which is concerned with all the intricacies associated with immigration, the control of aborigines, the issue of passports, and all the domestic affairs of the Australian Capital Territory, the Northern Territory, and every other internal activity of the Commonwealth. The Works Department had been constituted as a separate and distinct department under a Director-General of Works, for the specific purpose of expediting the defence programme. This self-same government which made the Works Department a branch of the Department of the Interior, and practically the same group of Ministers who are now controlling the defence activities, then introduced legislation to establish a new Department of Supply and Development. It is all very well for these Ministers to refer to the importance of the Department of Supply, and to the wonderful work it is about to undertake. I say very definitely that the work mentioned by the Minister for Supply and Development is now being carried out very efficiently, and has been carried out for some considerable time, by certain branches of the Defence Department, with the wholehearted cooperation and support of honorary committees, which have given the most valuable technical advice in connexion with the supply of the essential requirements of the Defence Department. Whilst this departure will relieve the Minister for Defence and his senior officers of a certain degree of oversight in connexion with the supply of essential materials for the Defence Department, it will not work any miracles. In all probability the result- will be a sort of dissociation of essential parts of what, up to the last few days, was the Defence Department. Every Minister who has had any experience of departments knows perfectly well that one of the most difficult things to overcome is inter-departmental jealousies. I say that very definitely as one who has been associated with quite a number of different departments, both Commonwealth and State. Immediately this new Department of Supply and Development.is established, it will become very difficult to obtain the same degree of co-ordination as has existed in the Defence Department. I consistently advocated the dissociation of the Civil Aviation branch from the Department of Defence, for the simple reason that it was a self-contained, compact section which could be dissociated without causing any dislocation. The Minister for Defence will admit that he and I discussed this matter on many occasions, and that we agreed that it was in the best interests of the defence organization that civil aviation should ultimately be separated from n. What I cannot understand is why so much importance has been attached to the Supply and Development branch as to make it a separate department, and so little to the Works Department as to make it merely a branch of an already overloaded department. There is not a factory building, or an annexe, or a piece of road work, or a fortification undertaking necessary for defence purposes, or, in fact, any other important piece of work even to the building of a barracks, or the provision of accommodation for stores, or the building of oil tanks, wireless stations or other work, which does not intimately concern the Works Department. It is extraordinary to me that the Government should have decided that all these works should be placed under a subsidiary branch of the Department of the Interior, seeing that that department is already congested and overtaxed. The new Department of Supply and Development will not be able to work miracles. I doubt whether its work will be as effective under the new conditions as was the work of the special committees that have operated in conjunction with the Defence Department in the past.
I attach a good deal of importance to the supervision of supplies and the control of profits in connexion with the supply of materials for the Defence Department. I have read the bill through very carefully, and can find no provision for the control of the supply and manufacture of certain raw materials of vital concern to the Defence Department. It is of little use to talk about the control of the manufacture of clothing, or shells, or the provision of storage for fuel supplies, or the construction of oil tanks, unless the Government is prepared to go right to the root of the matter and control the supply of raw materials. With the knowledge I have gained in various departments I have found that practically all of the raw materials required by the Defence Department are controlled by three or four big organizations in Australia. These companies have numerous subsidiary organizations or “ pup “ companies, but the capital is drawn from only three or four sources. These parent companies dominate, and undoubtedly control, the supply of the raw materials required by the Defence Department. I therefore expect the Government to give us some assurance not merely that it will control and organize the supply of manufactured articles, but also that it will see that sufficient supplies of essential raw materials are provided for. It must satisfy itself that adequate stocks of these materials are held to meet any emergency, and to make us largely independent of outside supplies. While I was associated with the Defence Department I had some startling experiences which, of course, I am not at liberty to disclose in detail. But I know of one or two glaring cases in which the Government was spending very large sums, through the Defence Department, in providing certain items, but had to face the fact that one or two other essentials were not procurable in Australia. Obviously I cannot go into detail, but T must assert the imperative necessity, if the Department of Supply and Development is to be separately constituted, for its officers to act in 100 per cent, co-operation with the officers of the Defence Department.
I must say another thing which will probably cause criticism outside. I do not know any body of men more capable of causing confusion in connexion with the provision of defence supplies and the carrying out of defence works than some of the senior officers in the military section of the Defence Department. I do not refer to the civil administration. I have a good deal of information regarding the matter on which I am speaking, and I am of the opinion that some of the men who hold high positions in the Defence Department are not capable of controlling certain sections of the organization over which they at present have almost a controlling voice. I sincerely hope that this important factor will not be overlooked in the organization of the new Supply and Development
Department. Practical men must have control of these sections and they must not be overridden by military officials. 1 wish now to refer to the development section of the new department. It will probably be a difficult task for the Minister for Supply and Development and his senior officers to separate some: problems of supply from some problems of development; but I sincerely hope that the Government .will realize the necessity to advise and direct developmental activities. I take it for granted that it will not merely concern itself with the development of those industries which, obviously, are required for defence purposes; but will also survey all the possibilities with the object of developing certain industries which are required in Australia for the production of raw materials required for other purposes as well as for defence. I realize that it is impossible to say at any given time what will be required for defence purposes and what will be required for ordinary commercial enterprises, at least until the particular raw material ha3 passed from certain stages of manufacture to the stage of production. Millions of pounds worth of raw material in Australia, may, in a state of emergency, be required for defence purposes which, under normal conditions, may be required only Tor commercial purposes. I am keenly interested to ascertain how the Government proposes to establish the development section of this new department in such a way as to enable full advantage to be taken of the possibility of opening up new industries in what I have referred to previously’ as the safety zones of Australia. I shall refer to that in a moment. It is desirable that we should establish new industries in areas where they will be subjected to the least degree of risk from attack. Certain parts of the Commonwealth, such as South Australia, are. much safer that certain other parts of it. Some areas could scarcely be attacked by an enemy. Many industries which we need could be established in such areas on a sound commercial basis, not by the Government undertaking the responsibility, but by it encouraging private enterprise to do so. In certain areas wo need a much greater population than we have in them at present. In carrying out its policy of development, I feel sure that the Government will recognize the necessity to distribute our population as evenly as possible, and to establish industries in certain areas that are to-day sparsely populated.
– In Tennant Creek?
– No, not Tennant Creek.
– What definite steps did the honorable gentleman take in this direction while he was Minister?
– I took certain very definite steps. As a matter of fact the policy that we operated laid the foundation for the steps which this Government is now taking. We established certain industries in areas that had previously been altogether overlooked.
– Give us some specific instances.
– I could refer to industries in South Australia, Western Australia and parts of Queensland, which today are producing certain raw materials that we need. It is highly desirable that new industries should be established away from the congested parts of the eastern States, in order that our population may be more widely distributed, and the industries themselves mademore secure from attack. A wide distribution of our industries must lay the foundation for future expansion in this country.
– Decentralization is a good policy.
– The honorable member should give us some definite illustrations.
– It is only the honorable member’s ignorance that causes him to make such an interjection.
– The honorable member for Ballarat must not interject.
– Not only must new industries be established in areas now only sparsely settled, but care must also be taken to ensure that they are valuable industries, and that adequate transport is available so that costs can be reduced to a minimum.
– What did the honorable member do to develop such industries?
– The honorable member for Ballarat is distinctly out of order. He must not persist in interjecting.
– We have had a good deal of experience in the last few years of the transport difficulties of the eastern States. If a state of emergency were to arise in the next few years we should have serious transport problems on land and sea, and in the air. Our railways and roads would prove inadequate, and so would our coastal shipping facilities.
– What did the honorable member do to improve the situation?
– Order ! I again warn the honorable member that he must not interject.
– I was personally responsible for the development of the new air routes from Darwin to Perth, and from Darwin to Adelaide. I could also enumerate other routes.
– That was not developmental work.
– If the honorable member for Ballarat interjects again to-night; I shall name him immediately. He has been warned several times in the last few minutes.
– The establishment of air routes is very important developmental work. Air routes are closely associated with the wider distribution of our population and also with the establishment of new industries. The air route along the west coast of Western Australia, and the air routes through Central Australia have, in actual fact, given us a defence patrol service which now extends practically around the coast of Australia. The distribution of our factories throughout the Commonwealth in places where adequate transport facilities are available is also important for the reason that if an attack were made by an enemy it would be practically impossible for all of our services and industries to. be dislocated at the one time. Moreover, given sufficient transport services by land, sea and air we should be able to maintain our activities. Similarly, with the development of a proper system of annexes, it is hardly likely that all of our manufacturing services could be put out of action at the one time. The honorable member for Ballarat has several times asked, by interjection, what I did in a definite way to improve the position generally. I point out to him that the establishment of activities in association with the railway workshops of Australia was a very important step. The railway workshops of SouthAustralia, for example, are very valuable from a defence point of view.
– But what did the honorable member do to personally establish them?
– I name the honorable member for Ballarat for continuing to defy the authority of the Chair.
– The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) practically invited the interjection of the honorable member for Ballarat.
– Would it be in order for me, Mr. Speaker, to make an appeal to the honorable member for Ballarat?
– The honorable member for Ballarat has been warned several times that if he continued to interject he would be named. He has ignored and defied the authority of the Chair. If such conduct is to be condoned, the Chair will have no authority to control the House.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) put -
That the honorable member be suspended from the service of the House.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Hoes . . . . . . 23
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The honorable member for Ballarat thereupon withdrew from the chamber.
– As I was proceeding to explain, in addition to the question of distributing our transport organizations over as wide a field as possible, we have to look to the Government to see that everything possible is done in the development of other industries which, although they cannot be classed as industries essen- . tial to the supply of raw materials or defence requirements, are essential tothe provision of the natural national wealth of this country that makes it possible for us to finance defence proposals. The experience that I have gained in two or three governments in the last four or five years has taught me that there is grave risk of a strong tendency for any government to be obsessed with the question of defence, to concentrate to a great degree in that direction, and to neglect all of those branches of industry which provide the sinews of war. The accumu-: laition of funds from overseas trade makes it possible for us to carry our defence programme to any degree of completion. That is why I feel it essential for the Government to base its policy on the broadest possible foundation. It must not merely concentrate on the branches of industry which meet the immediate requirements of the Department of Defence, or the defence of this country in general, but must also develop the primary industries which, by their maintenance of an export trade and the creation of credits overseas, make it possible for this country to exist. With all the clamour for defence that is appearing in the press, and with the newspapers forecasting an overseas war every second day, drawing on their own imaginations for their scare headlines, there is a tendency to overlook the requirements of those industries which are the stable industries of this country, and not only provide the great bulk of employment, but also actually provide the wealth so essential to meet the heavy taxation that will be necessary to finance the defence programme already mapped out.
I hope that the Minister for Supply and Development will not overlook the necessity to maintain certain imports from overseas. They are the basis of the sales of our primary products to the United Kingdom. He must also recognize the problems of transport. Unless we can keep the trade routes open, two serious things will quickly happen. We shall find, first, the Australian market glutted through the non-export of surplus products, and, secondly, the people of the United Kingdom practically faced with starvation through the interruption of their supplies. The question of supply goes far beyond supply in the Commonwealth. It involves not only the supply of our own requirements, but also the keeping of our trade routes open to maintain essential supplies to the United Kingdom and other parts of the Empire, and, in the event of an emergency, even allied countries. A strong defence organization throughout the Empire is the greatest assurance that we can have of the maintenance of world peace.
I do not oppose the passage of this bill, or the constitution of this new department, but I question the wisdom of the Government’s action in throwing the Works Department, which is an essential part of defence organization, back into the Department of the Interior, creating once again what has so often been flescribed as a bottle-neck at the head of that organization, and depriving the Works Department of the opportunity it had to co-operate wholeheartedly with the Defence Department to lay down the foundation of the defence programme. The building programme, the defence works programme and the installation of machinery are the most important duties with which the Works Department is entrusted, and are an essential part of the defence programme. I strongly urge that the department be left as a separate entity. That would be in conformity with the policy of the Government in creating this Department of
Supply and Development which relieves the true Defence Department of a tremendous amount of responsibility and activity.
I take this opportunity to pay tribute to those responsible for the development of the defence organization and programme over the last two years. The senior officers and their staffs have worked” day and night and week-ends month in and month out to accomplish the almost impossible, and Australia owes a deep debt of gratitude to the men and women whose work, energy, intelligence and enthusiasm have accomplished a task which no human being would have thought possible three years ago.
Debate (on motion by Mr. McEwen) adjourned.
Defence Regulations : Newspaper Photographs - Naval Cadets - Sweating Conditions in the Clothing Trade - Darwin : Basic Wage and Housing Conditions. Motion (by Mr. Menzies) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I bring before the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) a matter which claims his immediate attention. I understand that defence regulations prohibit the taking by air travellers of photographs, particularly photographs which might be valuable to an enemy. I agree with the need for that prohibition, but I believe that it should be extended to the press of Australia. I tender to the Minister a copy of a Melbourne newspaper of the 13th May which contains an excellent photograph of the City of Melbourne on which points of special interest are indicated. I should think that such a photograph would be of tremendous value and interest to any power which wanted a. knowledge of the layout of the city and of the various points of vantage. It would be of assistance in a bombing raid. I ask the Minister to inquire into this matter because if the press is permitted to publish such photographs the value of the regulations to which I referred to is nullified.
Late in January, or early in February, an advertisement appeared in the South
Australian press calling for applications for entry to the Royal Australian Navy. There were several applicants from South Australia. In due course they received notice to parade for examination at Birkenhead. At this examination one or two candidates were eliminated, and successful examinees received notice to report for final examination in Melbourne. Three South Australian candidates passed the final examination in education and physique, and in all the standards set for entrance to the Royal Australian Navy, and although they were actually measured for uniforms and gloves, they have received no notification to report for service. At a later date, another advertisement appeared in the South Australian press in similar terms to that to which I have referred. Until the second advertisement appeared, the successful examinees thought that they had not been called up because possibly there had been an excess of successful applicants. I ask the Minister for Defence to inquire into this matter. I hope that he will he able to give a satisfactory explanation of this extraordinary state of affairs.
– I desire to bring to the notice of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) a rather serious matter affecting, principally, the people of Victoria. A good deal of publicity has been given during the last few months to the growing sweating evil in our capital cities. In Victoria it has reached a very high pitch, and is undermining industries from the viewpoint of both the employers and the employees. I have been approached by representatives of both sides to raise this matter in the House, particularly on behalf of the clothing and textile industries, which are the worst hit by this evil. Both industries have been working under awards of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court for the last twenty or thirty years, and the court has been trying for several years to evolve some formula by which to checkmate this sweating evil. Judge DrakeBrockman, who has become a specialist in the clothing industries, has on more than one occasion recently suggested that the Government should assist him to solve this problem by giving him greater power to help the organizations in their fight against this evil. I have received from the general secretary of the Amalgamated Clothing and Allied Trades Union of Australia a letter which contains the following paragraph -
Judge Drake-Brockman has several times referred to the necessity of the court having greater powers in dealing with the clothing industry and its multiplicity of problems, and he personally suggested that our union see the Prime Minister and ask him to amend the act on the lines suggested.
Judge Drake-Brockman has suggested a method of preference to the members of these organizations. There are 20,000 odd people associated with these industries, working in listed factories, and there are also some thousands of whom we know nothing who work in backyard factories and in bedrooms in private houses. A large number of those working in listed factories have banded together to meet the expenses of obtaining the elaborate awards they get from the courts. They have received permission from the court to inspect the factories to a great degree themselves, hut the problem has grown out of their hands. They cannot pay the salaries of additional inspectors to police the awards. The judge has suggested that if the Government will assist him by giving himsome slightly greater powers, he will be able to evolve a plan which will enable the organization to cover a larger number of people employed in the industries by a measure of preference to their members. If that is done they will be able to increase their revenues sufficiently to enable them to provide additional inspectors to see that the awards are observed. Both employers and employees are upset at the inroads of this sweating evil, rendering useless the thousands of pounds expended by the union by the absence of opportunity to police awards. They say that many of the bad conditions which existed 30 or 40 years ago, before the Arbitration Court was established, have been reverted to. Their difficulties have been accentuated by the influx of refugee migrants, many of whom are engaged in these industries. The position is now so acute that the working standards of those engaged in the industry have been destroyed. This sweating evil is also growing in secondary industries generally. In Victoria, employers are now at their wits’ end to deal with it. because of my many years of association with both employers and employees in industry at round table conferences, I have been asked by both sides to suggest to the Prime Minister that when he should have a spare hour, he should interview representatives of both employers and employees in one of the capital cities. It is suggested that the right honorable gentleman should meet a small executive body composed of three or four representatives of both the employers’ and employees’ organizations, to hear their suggestions as to how he might help them to work out some plan for stamping out this evil. I trust that the right honorable gentleman will, as soon as possible, collaborate with Judge Drake-Brockman in an endeavour to evolve some means of solving this problem, particularly as it effects the clothing trade.
– I wish briefly to bring to the notice of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) two questions arising out of conditions at Darwin. As the right honorable gentleman knows, there is, at present, a strike in Darwin. The basic wage in Canberra is £4 13s. 3d., and in Darwin it is only 6d. more, or £4 13s. 9d. I feel sure that the right honorable gentleman will realize that these figures disclose a lack of justice in the fixation of the basic rate at Darwin. I have asked the Minister for the Interior particularly, and also the Prime Minister, if he would arrange to send the chairman of the Industrial Board in Canberra, Mr. Hill, to inquire into wage conditions at Darwin. Mr. Hill presided over the body which fixed the basic wage rate for Canberra and the Commonwealth territory at Jervis Bay. I ask that the ambit of his charter should be widened to fix wage rates in all of the three territories under the control of the Commonwealth. I feel sure that the right honorable gentleman realizes that the amenities of life and climatic conditions at Darwin differ widely from those in the capital city.
Up to date no housing scheme has been provided at Darwin for workmen not employed by the Government. I feel sure that the reason why the Department of the Interior has not introduced a housing scheme there comparable to those that exist in New South Wales and Queensland, is simply because it has too much work to do. As was pointed out by the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) who has had long experience as a minister, the trouble is that the Works Department is not sectionalized. In Darwin the need is for sectionalization rather than centralization. I have no doubt that the Department of the Interior has been so much engrossed with other matters that it has almost forgotten Darwin. I appeal to the Prime Minister to see if it is not possible to utilize the services of the Commonwealth Bank to frame a workers’ homes policy for the housing of newcomers to Darwin without delay.
.- The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) has brought to my notice photographs which appeared in one of the daily papers. They are remarkable examples of the photographer’s art. The honorable member, I am sure, will realize that, whilst it is easy to draft regulations forbidding the taking of photographs - the Defence Act and the Crimes Act both contain sections giving certain powers in that regard - it is difficult to police them.
– Are the regulations sufficient for the purpose?
– Yes. It has been found that as the result of the development of infra-red photography, the mere banning of the taking of photographs from the air would not achieve the purpose desired. By the use of the infrared process it is possible to obtain nearly the same effect from a long-range photograph on the ground as from a photograph taken from the air. This matter has been considered by the defence authorities. I shall obtain the file in regard to it and give a detailed reply to the honorable member later.
With regard to the calling up of successful examinees for appointment to the Royal Australian Navy, I admit that the position as outlined by the honorable member seems to be almost inexplicable.
I shall have inquiries made immediately and shall inform the honorable member in due course.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) has raised two matters relatedto each other. The first is the matter of alleged sweating in the clothing trades. This matter came under my notice when I was AttorneyGeneral, and I had the benefit of a consultation with the honorable member, and with the secretary of the Clothing Trades Employees Union. Recently, I asked the Industrial Registrar for an urgent report, not only on the problemas a problem, but also regarding the statutory means of rectifying the trouble. I have a feeling that a short amendment of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act might confer on the court the power to deal with the matter. It is one that concerns my colleague, the Attorney-General and Minister for Industry (Mr. Hughes), and I shall talk to him about it, but if it is found that a short amendment will ease the position, and that it can fairly be made, I shall endeavour to see that it is presented to Parliament at any early date, possibly during these sittings.
As to the general problem referred to by the honorable member, it will be necessary for me to confer with my colleague regarding it; but if it is desired that I, as Prime Minister, should preside at a conference in Melbourne of the kind he has suggested, I shall be glad to do so. I shall let him know what date within the next fortnight such a conferencecan take place.
The industrial matters referred to by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) are within the jurisdiction of the Minister for the Interior (Senator Poll), who has had some discussion with me about them, but it has been difficult to get sufficient time to go into them thoroughly. I shall again take it up with him, and see what can be done.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1939, No. 23.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1939, No. 30.
Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules, 1939, No. 35.
Motor Industry Bounty Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1938, No. 119.
Norfolk Island Act -
Ordinance of 1938 - No. 4–Pasturage and Enclosure.
Ordinance of 1939 - No.1 - Lunacy Agreement.
Public Works Committee Act - Seventeenth Commonwealth General Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.
House adjourned at 11.18 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Sir ClaudeReading. Director, Trustees, Executors and Agency Company Limited.
Alex. F. Bell. - Chairman of directors, Robert Harper and Company Limited; local director (Victoria), Australian Mutual Provident Society; director, Union Trustee Company of Australia Limited; director, Lux Foundry Proprietary Limited.
M. B. Duffy. - Director, Colac Broadcasting Company Proprietary Limited.
Other than theabove, the members of the Bank Board are not members of any other directorates.
Mr.Makin asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whatwas the total amount paid to the commissioners appointed under the Inter-State Commission Act 1912?
What was the total amount of administration and other expenses?
s. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Mr.Menzies. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
On the 10th May, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) asked the following question, without notice: -
Will the Postmaster-General inform the House as to whether projected appointments to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, other than clerical appointments, are advertised? If they are not, why?
The following information has now been furnished by the Australian Broadcasting Commission : -
The commission’s policy, generally speaking, is to advertise when persons are required to fill certain positions. Recently advertisements were inserted in the press in all States inviting applications for the position of listening group organizer in New South Wales and for the position of talks and schools broadcast officer in South Australia. There are occasions when the position to be filled is of a specialized nature, and it has been possible to select some one with the requisite qualifications without advertising the position in the press.
i asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
How many triplet moving coil meters and triplet moving iron meters have been purchased by the department during the last twelve months?
– The information desired by the honorable member is as follows : -
Moving coil meters,61; moving iron . meters; nil.
Manufacture of Motor Cars.
e asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
k asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained, and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
e asked the Prime Minister, upon notice- -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Trade Agreement with Czechoslovakia.
e asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What are the Government’s intentions regarding the trade agreement entered into between Australia and Czechoslovakia?
– This matter is under consideration by the Commonwealth Government.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will he furnish (a) a list of claims for compensation made upon the Government arising out of the embargo against the export of iron ore from Yampi Sound, and (6) the decisions upon such claims?
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
Defence of Queensland.
t. - On the 4th May the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) asked a question, without notice, regarding the defence of Queensland. Whilst denying the statement that Queensland is almost completely undefended, I promised to give a detailed reply indicating the specific measures provided for the defence of Queensland.
I may say, for the honorable member’s information, that the primary consideration is that the defence of Queensland is inseparably linked with the general scheme of protecting the whole Commonwealth, and it follows that measures for developing the defence services must be framed on an Australia-wide basis.
The following specific measures are being undertaken for the . defence of Queensland and Northern Australia: -
Improvement of the fixed coast defences at Brisbane; provision of Air Force squadrons at Brisbane and Townsville; development of Darwin as a naval fuelling and operational base; development of Port Moresby as a naval, military and air base; provision of fixed coast and anti-aircraft defence, local seaward defences, fortress troops and a mobile garrison at Darwin; erection of a strategic wireless naval station at Darwin; provision of two Air Force squadrons at Darwin.
In addition, the Government has recently expanded the infantry units in the areas of Townsville and Cairns to an organization of two complete battalions, making the military units in Northern Queensland one light horse regiment, four infantry battalions, and one heavy artillery battery.
The security of the Queensland coast, in common with the rest of Australia, is effected by mobile naval and air forces operating from the defended bases at Brisbane, Darwin and Port Moresby, in the North Queensland area. The Government has aimed at a balanced scheme of defence designed to meet the needs of the whole of the Commonwealth, and in implementing the present defence programme is following a carefully prearranged order of priority so that the maximum degree of security may be provided for the whole of Australia.
Cil view of the foregoing considerations, it will be noted that the honorable member’s fears regarding the lack of defence provided for Queensland are not soundly based.
Finance fob Homes.
– On the 11th May the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) asked the following question, without notice -
Has the attention of the Treasurer been drawn to the statement- of representatives of building societies throughout New South Wales that they are unable to obtain finance foi thi building of homes, and consequently propose to. seek money for the purpose overseas? Will he take steps to have funds made available for the purpose by the’ Commonwealth Bank?
I am now in a. position to inform the honorable member that loans by the Commonwealth .Bank to building societies, or any other -borrowers, are a matter for determination by the board of directors of the bank. I am informed by the bank that it has already made substantial loans to building societies, but in the present circumstances, and particularly having regard to the requirements for defence finance and public works, it regrets that it has recently been able to approve only a limited number of applications.
House Rents in Sydney.
s. - On the 3rd May, the honorable member for Werriwa .(Mr. Lazzarini) asked the following question, without notice -
Has the Treasurer seen the report of the Commonwealth Statistician in connexion with housing, in which it is stated that the average rent in Sydney for houses of from four to five rooms is £1 ls. 3d. a week? Will he instruct the Statistician to prepare a publication showing what data he examined in order to reach that conclusion? Will he also instruct the Statistician to prepare a list, to be presented to this Parliament, of four and five roomed houses in Sydney that can he Tented a.t the figure cited?
I am now in a position to furnish the following information in reply to the honorable member’s question: -
The actual average rental of four and five roomed houses in Sydney in the first quarter of 1039, as published by the Statistician, was £1 3«. Id. The origin of the £1 ls. 3d. quoted is not known to the Statistician.
The Commonwealth Statistician states that the rental averages published by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics are not necessarily the rentals at which vacant houses can be obtained, but the average rentals which wage and salary earners as a whole arc actually paying.
The figure of £1 3s. Id. quoted above fur Sydney is based on returns supplied by tenants themselves during the last census, brought up to date from quarter to quarter by means of index numbers derived from the actual rentals of a sample of houses in the metropolitan area exceeding 4,200 in number. AH the houses included in the sample have been inspected by the field officers of the Bureau of Statistics, and conform to the standard laid down for houses which may be included in the sample.
The Census and Statistics Act prevents the Statistician from disclosing the information requested in regard to the actual addresses of individual houses.
Price of Gold.
s. - On the 4th May, the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked the Treasurer the following question, without notice -
Will the Treasurer ask his department to make inquiries with a view to discovering tlie names of the men who daily fix the price of gold throughout the world? Where does such a committee or body of men meet?
I am now in a position to furnish the following information in reply to the honorable member’s question : -
The price of gold throughout the world is not fixed by any one body of men. In the United States of America, for instance, the price is fixed by the President within limits set by Congress. As the United States of America is now the chief purchaser of gold, and the only large country in which the price of gold is still fixed directly by government action, the price of gold in other countries having a free gold market is determined within more or less close limits by the ruling rate of exchange between American dollars and other currencies. In such countries the price of gold can fluctuate “Between the “ gold points “, i.e., the prices fixed by a consideration of the costs of shipment in either direction.
The absence of any restriction in the United Kingdom on gold imports and exports has established the London market as the great free gold market of the world.
Apart from the old statutory buying price of the Bank of England (i.e., the price fixed by British legislation before the departure of Great Britain from the gold standard, viz.. £3 17s. 10½d. an ounce of gold of standard fineness (22 carat) - equivalent to £4 4s. 11 5/1 Id. an ounce of fine gold), the authorities maintain no fixed price for gold in the United Kingdom.
For. further information in regard to this matter, I would invite the honorable member’s attention to an informative statement appearing on page 24 of Volume Lj of Monetary Review, the publication issued by the League of Nations in regard to money and banking, 1937-38.
Canberra : Expenditure on Golfclub and Recreation Ovals - Road to Cotter River.
– On the 3rd May, the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
The Minister for the Interior has now supplied the following information: -
Mr.Perkins. - On the 10th May, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green) asked the following question, without notice: -
Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior been drawn to the shockingly corrugated condition of the last 7 miles of the road between Canberra and the Cotter River reservoir? As this is one of the favourite sight-seeingmotor drives for tourists visiting Canberra, will the honorable gentleman seethat the corrugations are dealt with at an early, date by the grading plant in the possession of the department?
In reply, I have to advise that the Cotterroad is being improved, as funds become available, into a first-class main road, by the straightening and elimination of excessive curvature, and the provision of bituminous surfacing. An additional length of 3 miles is being surfaced with bitumen at the present time. The Cotter end of this road became out of shape, owing to the long dry summer of 1 938-39, but this portion will be reconditioned as soon as plant becomes available, and it is anticipated that this work will be completed within the next two weeks.
s. - On the 5th May, the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McHugh) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
The Minister for the Interior has now supplied the following information: -
s. - On the 10th May, the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
The Minister for the Interior has now supplied the following information: -
In the judgment covering the Court’s determination of the basic wage (1st August, 1938) it was stated that the index number did not disclose an increase of the cost of living. The court, however, increased the rate by3s. a day in view of increases (prosperity loadings) granted generally in the Commonwealth service.
s. - On the 10th May the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) asked, without notice, whether information similar to that made available confidentially by the late Mr. Lyons to the Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers on the 31st March would be furnished to members of the Commonwealth Parliament.
I have ascertained that, on the occasion mentioned by the honorable member, Mr. Lyons spoke from notes with regard to the information then in the possession of the Government relative to international relationships. No report. was taken of Mr. Lyons’ remarks.
As the honorable member is aware, the statement made to this House by the honorable the Minister for External Affairs on the 9 th May contained an up-to-date review of the international situation.
The Government appreciates the desirability of keeping Parliament fully informed as to’ the progress of international affairs, and will ensure that this is done.
y. - On the 11-th May, the honorable members for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) and Hunter (Mr. James) asked me certain questions regarding the production of oil from coal. I am now in a position to inform the honorable members that I have received an interim report from the chairman of the Standing Committee on Liquid Fuels, Mr. P. C. Holmes Hunt, dealing with the production of motor spirit from Yallourn lignite. A scheme in this connexion was submitted by a German company known as Ruhrchemie A.G., Oberhausen-Holten, through the Agent-General for Victoria. The chairman of the Committee on Liquid Fuels states, inter alia, as follows: -
I am to off or the observation that the figures presented by Ruhrchemie A.G., OberhausenHolten, are not in sufficient detail to admit of any real check on the cost of additional items of plant, so that without more detail it is not possible for your committee to make any critical pronouncement upon them.
Accepting the figures as they stand, and making an appropriate adjustment in respect of the moisture content of the lignite, the price of petrol ex Yallourn would amount to about 13d. per gallon. This figure should be compared with the cost of imported petrol, excluding customs duty, of 5d. per gallon at capital cities, and with the estimated price of petrol from shale set down as 10. Id. per gallon in tank waggons at Sydney.
The report of the Agent-General does not make it clear whether the cost of the plant is estimated for erection in Germany or in Australia. If the latter, then more information is needed as to allowances for freight, customs duty, &c. It i3 admitted that the scheme is based on the cost of plant in accordance with German conditions, and translation to Australian conditions may mean further increase of the price of the product. In any case, this price is about three times that of imported petrol, which means that the cost to Australia of developing this industry, with an annual output of 18.000,000 gallons, would be not less than £750,000 per annum.
It is understood that the industry would provide direct employment for 000 men, so that, looked at as an employment medium, it would be very costly indeed, amounting to £1.250 a man per annum.
The cost of overground storage of imported petrol, allowing for all capital charges and for the purchase of petrol, is estimated to be not more than 8d. per gallon.
The committee is obtaining additional information in connexion with this proposal, and will furnish a further report on the matter.
In connexion with the production of oil -from coal generally, the Standing Committee on Liquid Fuels has reported as follows: -
In the case of the all important question of oil from coal, indications are that there has been substantially no economic improvement since Sir David Rivett reported in November, 1930, and since the Hydrogenation Committee appointed to inquire into the question of establishing a plant in Australia reported in June. 1937. In both those reports, the opinion was expressed that the capital costs of plants capable of producing 45,000,000 gallons of petrol per annum (the economic unit) by hydrogenation of black and brown coals were £A.11,000,000 and £A,12,000,000, respectively. It will bc recalled, also, that in the former case the estimated cost of production, allowing a return of 0 per cent, on capital and 10 per cent, amortization, was 17.3d. per gallon, and in the case of brown coal 18.1 2d. per gallon. On the more favorable assumption of 3.5 per cent, on capital and amortization in fifteen years, these figures were 13.Sd. and 14.4d. per gallon, respectively. These figures of capital and working costs indicate the economic difficulty confronting the production of oil from coal by hydrogenation in Australia.
For an expenditure of £12.000,000 overground storage could be provided and filled with petrol amounting to about 360,000,000 gallons - a year’s supply at the present rate of consumption.
Moreover, from the point of view of vulnerability, storage could be spread and located , in a number of places, whereas a large hydrogenation plant must be a concentrated unit. It would offer a conspicuous target for hostile aircraft, and if damaged could not be readily replaced.
In the opinion of your committee, the production of oil from coal by low temperature carbonization is unattractive. The quantities of petrol likely to be derived by this process are small, while without greater density of population no sufficient market can be found for the prime product of the process - smokeless fuel - to admit of large scale operations.
– On the 11th May, the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McHugh) drew my attention to the position of the wheat and dried fruits industries, and asked whether I would inquire into the possibility of establishing alcohol distilleries to treat the products of those industries. I am now in a position to inform the honorable member, in extension of my reply, without notice, that the Commonwealth Standing Committee on Liquid Fuels has expressed the opinion that molasses is undoubtedly the most economical raw material for the manufacture of power alcohol, but, even in the ease of molasses, tlie cost of the spirit is nearly four times the cost of imported petrol. Taking the value of power alcohol at 12d. a gallon, the price that could be paid by the distillery for wheat required for its manufacture would be approximately 12d. a bushel, while that which it could pay for barley and maize would l>e something less than 12d. a bushel, making due allowance for by-products. At 12d. a gallon the distillery would not be able to pay anything for raw material in the form of fresh and dried grapes in the volume in which they would probably be available, as the whole of that amount would be taken up in processing. In the light of this information, the Government is of opinion that the distillation of grains and grapes is unattractive as a method of producing power alcohol.
y. - On the 10th May, the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) asked whether arrangements could be made for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to make a study of a grass known as “Buff el” grass. I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that the council has had this grass under investigation for some time, as well as another grass suitable for arid regions known as “ Birdwood “ grass. According to an article by Di. E:- P. Phillips in South African Grasses, Buffel grass is one of the most drought-resistant grasses, but is affected by frost. It makes a very fine hay, and, under dry land conditions, gives 4 to 5 tons per acre per cutting, and may be cut twice or three times a year. The hay is much liked by stock, but the grass is not very palatable in the green state.
The council has no facilities for carrying out special studies of this grass at Alice Springs, but it is possible that Mr. H. K. C. Mair, an ex-officer of the council who is Superintendent of Agriculture in the Northern Territory, will be able to do this. It is understood that he has some seed of both Buffel and Birdwood grasses, and this could be supplemented by the council if necessary. I shall discuss the matter with my colleague the Minister for the Interior.
Non-official Post Offices.
– On the 10th May, the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) asked the following question, upon notice: -
What is the standard’, relative to revenue, required from a non-official post office having savings hank facilities, selling stamps and postal notes, and receiving telegrams, to warrant money order facilities being granted?
I am now in a position to furnish the honorable member with the following answer to his inquiry : -
In considering the provision of money order facilities at non-official post offices, regard is had to the extent of the sales of postal notes, particularly those of the larger denominations, the distance from the nearest existing money order office, the nature of the industries in the locality, and the number of money orders likely to bc issued and paid.
Naval Building Programme.
t. - On the 11th May, ths honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) asked the following question, without notice: -
Is the Minister for Defence yet in a position to inform the House when the extended naval programme at Cockatoo Island Dockyard is likely to be commenced, and whether a statement made by the general manager of that establishment, who has just returned from England, to the effect that 2,000 additional men -are to be ‘employed, means that 2,000 men over and above the existing staff will be engaged ?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that I have been in communication with the general manager of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard as promised, and am informed that before the end of this month a second boom defence vessel will be laid down at Cockatoo Island. After H.M.A.S. Parramatta is launched on the 10th June, the first “ Tribal “ class destroyer will be laid down. A month ago the employees at Cockatoo Island numbered about 1,450, and to-day 1,600 men are employed. In about two months hence it is estimated that the number will reach 2,000. In addition, there will be a great increase in the amount of work sub-let by Cockatoo Island Dockyard to outside firms.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 May 1939, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1939/19390517_reps_15_159/>.