15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon.G. J. Bell) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the proposed raising of the sales tax from 5 per cent. to 6 per cent., and the considerable cost involved in the collection of such a tax, will the Treasurer ascertain the amount that could he collected if a 1 per cent. turnover tax were imposed instead of a 6 per cent. sales tax?
– I shall endeavour to obtain that information as soon as possible.
– Is the Minister for Defence aware that on a number of vessels which are being taken over by the Navy Department in Sydney, the seamen and other employees are being displaced by naval ratings? Is ho further aware that efforts are being made to induce seamen and others to continue to occupy their positions at a much lower rate of pay than is provided forby the award? If he is not aware of this, will be make inquiries to see if it be possible to keep in employment the majority of the men formerly employed on these vessels, and thus prevent the unemployment position from becoming worse than it is to-day?
-I have requested honorable members on more than one occasion, not to ask Ministers whether they are aware of certain facts. By phrasing his question in that way, an honorable member makes, in effect, a statement of fact. A question could quite easily be couched in different terms, and yet convey the meaning intended.
– Certain ships have been taken over on behalf of the British Admiralty, which will provide the crews. I am not familiar with any specific case of other ships having been taken over, but I shall be glad to investigate the suggestions placed before me by the honorable gentleman and inform him personally of the result.
Mr. JOHN LAWSON laid on the table the report and recommendation of the Tariff Board on the following subject : -
Ordered to be printed.
Purchase of Exportable Surplus
– Is the Prime Minister yet in a position to inform the House of the conditions of the purchase by the British Government of the exportable surplus of the butter produced in Australia?
– I regret that I am not yet able to make a statement on that matter; it will be made just so soon as the negotiations are completed.
– Can the Minister for Defence inform the House as to whether or not the rumour is correct that New
South Wales police interned certain aliens, who were released under instructions from the Federal authorities, and were later re-interned?
– I understand that certain enemy aliens were interned, were temporarily released pending further inquiry, and were subsequently reinterned. I believe that the number of such cases is about three, but I shall have inquiries made to see if there has been any widespread action of that kind.
– I lay on the table the following paper : -
Report of Committee appointed to survey the possibility of establishing a combined administration and to recommend a capital site.
– Will the Minister in charge of Territories state whether or not it is the intention of the Government to have the report printed, and to have copies of it made available to honorable members?
– Copies will be made available to honorable members.
– If the Prime Minister is not able to intimate now the approximate duration of the session and the ensuing adjournment, will he take an early opportunity to do so, in order that honorable members may make private arrangements ?
– It is not practicable at present to make a statement on that matter, but I shall keep it in mind and make an announcement as soon as possible.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs state whether the Government has yet received the report of the Tariff Board on tinned plate, and, if it has, when it will be available for the perusal of honorable members ?
– The Government has received the report of the Tariff Board on tinned plate, but it is not yet possible for me to say when it may be made available to honorable members. I assure the House that there will be no undue delay in making it available.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether it is a fact that prices of sausage casings, skewers and other butchers’ requisites, have been increased by331/3 per cent. ? Does the Government intend to apply immediately the price-fixing regulations in respect of these requisites, in order to prevent such profiteering?
– An order was gazetted this morning fixing the prices of the two items mentioned by the honorable member at the level which ruled on the 31st August last.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce state whether, in the event of the Government assuming control of the wheat production of Australia, arrangements will be made to ensure that existing agencies which have so far been handling wheat will continue to be employed, whether as agents of the pool or otherwise! Further, when will a general statement be made of the proposals of the Government in respect of wheat?
– It is impossible to indicate at this stage just what methods will be adopted, but, as the Prime Minister has already announced, a full statement of government policy in respect of wheat and other commodities will be made to this House in the very near future.
Appointment of Administrative Head
– I ask the Prime Minister whether there is any truth in the report published to-day in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Canberra times, that the Government proposes to appoint Major Treloar, Controller of the Australian War Memorial, to the important position of administrative head of the Ministry of Information? Will the right honorable gentleman also inform the House as to whether or not this gentleman is the Major Treloar who was associated with Mr. Eric Campbell, a member of the .New Guard - a Fascist organization in this country - who paid a visit to Germany, had a conversation with Herr Hitler, and upon his return to Australia praised the Hitler regime?
– No appointment to the office referred to by the honorable member has yet been decided upon. I am not able to supply the honorable member with any personal information concerning the gentleman to whom he has referred, because I have not the honour of knowing him.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he is aware that, in connexion with stored wheat upon which advances have been made, one condition provides that “ at any time after the loth day of .September the purchaser may fix the purchase price in respect of any of the wheat on which the purchase price then remains unfixed “ ? As some firms, it is reported, have stated their intention to enforce this provision, will the Government take action to give protection to the grower, pending the Government’s decision in regard to the taking over of our wheat supplies?
– The circumstances to which the honorable member has referred, and also the significance of the date, the 15th September, are being kept in mind by my colleague, the Minister for Commerce. I hope to make a statement on this subject in the near future.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether arrangements have been completed for the sale of the Australian wool clip to GreatBritain? If not, will the Government take steps to include in the terms of sale a provision that if a greater quantity of wool is available than is required by the British Government, and the surplus is resold to foreign countries, the Australian producers will get the benefit of the world price? Will this point be covered in the contract of sale?
– The Government will make whatever pronouncement it can make in relation to the sale of Australian products overseas just as soon as it can do so, for it realizes the great importance of these matters to many people. The details are actively in negotiation at present, and the point raised by the honorable member and many other points are being kept in mind.
– Is the Minister for External Affairs able to confirm the reports current of the neutrality of Italy and Japan, or can he give the House any information concerning the probable attitude of these countries?
– The neutrality of both Italy and Japan has been proclaimed and prevails at present. I have no other information to give to the honorable member.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce have an immediate investigation and check made of the operations of jute merchants in relation to wheat sacks? Is it a fact that on the 18th August wheat sacks were quoted at 7s. 9d. a dozen for October and November delivery, and that on the 30th August all previous quotations were withdrawn? Is it also a fact that on the 5th September similar wheat sacks were quoted at from 9s. 6d. to 10s. a dozen for October delivery? Will steps be taken to prevent this exploitation of the wheat-grower by the fixation of prices, and will such prices be made retrospective ?
– Last Friday, the price of cornsacks and woolpacks was fixed, by announcement in the Gazette, at the prices ruling on the 31st August. In addition, in order to conserve stocks on hand in Australia, a proclamation was issued prohibiting the export of cornsacks and woolpacks.
– In view of the importance of providing the public with reliable war-time information, I ask the Prime Minister whether he can give an undertaking that a man with the necessary experience will be appointed to the Ministry for Information? In order to ensure co-operation in this matter, will the right honorable gentleman confer with press authorities in Australia in connexion with it?
– With the idea of doing what the honorable member has in mind, I have decided that my colleague, Sir Henry Gullett, who has had wide experience in these matters, shall ‘become the relevant Minister. All questions of staff will be determined as soon as possible, and every possible step is being taken to facilitate contact with press and broadcasting organizations.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform me when it is likely that the report of the Tariff Board on the manufacture of tractor wheels in Australia is likely to ‘become available? Will he also indicate whether attention is being given to the necessity for maintaining supplies of suitable soft woods for case and box making in Austral i« ?
– The report of the Tariff Board on tractor wheels has been received by the Government, and it should be possible to table it in the House within h few days. The Government is giving consideration to the other matter mentioned by the honorable member.
– by leave - I desire to inform the House that the Government has been in communication with His Majesty’s Government in Canada with regard to means of ensuring all possible cooperation between the two Dominions, in view of the difficult period which lies ahead for the whole of the British Empire.
The Government of Canada has suggested, and the Commonwealth Government has cordially agreed, that a material contribution to this end would he made by an exchange of high commissioners between Ottawa and Canberra. The Government of Canada has notified ns that if the Commonwealth Government is agreeable, it proposes to appoint a High Commissioner to Australia. In reply the Canadian Government has been informed that such an appointment would be warmly welcomed by the Commonwealth Government, which, for its pai-t, would be ready to make a reciprocal appointment to Ottawa as soon as the necessary arrangements can be completed.
An announcement of the Canadian Government’s intention to appoint a* High Commissioner in Australia is being made in the House of Commons at Ottawa today.
It is the intention of the Commonwealth Government to proceed with the appointment of an Australian High Commissioner in Canada as soon as possible.
This step, I have no doubt, will have substantial advantages during the period ahead, but it is not to be regarded as resting solely upon war-time needs. Honorable members will be aware that the exchange of High Commissioners between dominions has been from time to time suggested as a regular .practice and as a natural corollary in the present structure of the British Commonwealth to the exchange of High Commissioners between the Dominions and the United Kingdom. There is good reason to suppose that this feeling of the desirability of much closer contact between the governments of the British Commonwealth outside the United Kingdom as a normal practice has also been present in the minds of other dominion governments, and the House will be aware that there are in Ottawa already a High Commissioner of the Government of Eire and an accredited representative of the Government of South Africa.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether there will be an insuperable difficulty in the way of the projected Minister to the United States of America fulfilling in addition to what must be part-time duties in that country the duties of High Commissioner to the Dominion of Canada?
– That suggestion had not occurred to me, but the Government will take it into account.
– Is the Minister for Civil Aviation yet able to make a statement concerning representations which I and other honorable members have made to him with the object of securing the restoration of the air service between Adelaide and Melbourne via Mount Gambier?
– I have made very careful inquiries into this matter which, naturally, is of great concern to the honorable for Barker, as Mount Gambier is in his electorate. Mount Gambier enjoyed this service for some years until it was stopped under re-adjustment plans recently made. I have arranged for the inter-departmental committee which is inquiring into air lines and subsidies to investigate the matter, and have also discussed it at considerable length with the managing director of Australian National Airways, which organization is giving consideration to the running of an experimental service, at the company’s own expense, which will include a stop at Mr Gambier. But honorable members generally should bear in mind that this company and others have had some of their aircraft taken recently for other purposes, and it is unlikely that any additions will be possible to their activities.
– Is the Minister for Civil Aviation able to give the House a considered statement of the details of the proposal, which has been vaguely reported in the press, for assistance in the training of pilots in the Civil Air Reserve ?
– I shall make a statement on this matter to the House in the course of the next few days. In the meantime, I can give the honorable member a copy of the application forms which are being distributed to those who wish to apply to join the Civil Air Reserve. The form gives practically all of the detailed information that is available at present.
– In order to allay anxiety among the cotton-growers will the Minister for Trade and Customs announce what legislation will take the place of the Cotton Industry Bounty Act 1934?
– A statement will be made at the earliest possible moment.
– Is the Minister for
Trade and Customs able to make a statement about the establishment of a board to regulate commodity prices? I am particularly concerned to know what will be the representation of Western Australia on such a board and whether due regard will be had to the representations of commercial interests. Will the advisory boards be set up in the outer States?
– The Prime Minister has already made a full pronouncement on the subject. Briefly the proposal is that there shall be in Canberra a controlling authority consisting of a Commonwealth controller of prices and two assessors. In each State there will be deputy controllers who will have the services of an advisory body acting in an honorary capacity.
– In order to make tlie position clear, will the Minister state if the price fixation will be on the basis of both wholesale and retail prices existing on the 31st August?
– Has the attention of the Minister been drawn to the considerable increases during the last few days of the prices of commodities not covered by the price-fixing proclamation? In view of what has happened, will he see that the list is extended to cover all commodities and make the proclamation retrospective to the 31st August?
-This morning an order was gazetted fixing the prices of a wide range of foodstuffs and other necessary commodities at the level ruling on the 31st August last. From time to time, as circumstances require it, additions will be made to that list.
– I understand that the price of sugar has been fixed throughout Australia at 4d. per lb. wholesale. I understand, that the Commonwealth Government has the power to fix the retail price, and I desire to know whether it will exercise that power?
– The order gazetted in respect of sugar applies to not. only the wholesale price, but also the retail.
– The price of sugar varies from 4d. to 4J per lb. Will the Minister state at which of these figures the price is to be pegged?
– The price is to be that which was in operation on the 31st August last, whatever that price may have been.
– That is, the price in force at that time in each State?
– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation seen the report of the engineer of the Cessnock Municipal Council that the aerodrome at Cessnock could be so extended as to provide of sufficient runway to meet the needs of the largest aeroplanes? In view of the fact that Newcastle has no proper defence aerodrome will the Minister give consideration to the clearing of 300 or 400 yards of land in order to extend the aerodrome at Cessnock as suggested? The work would have value not only from the point of view of defence, but also in absorbing the unemployed in the Cessnock district.
– I have not seen the report, but on my return to the department I shall ask for it and study it carefully. The Civil Aviation aerodrome inspector who made an investigation at the Cessnock aerodrome reported that, even if the aerodrome were extended as suggested, it would still not be adequate for aircraft of all types. My own observations led me to the same conclusion. It appears that the contours of the ground are such that the suggested extension would not provide a greater runway. I assure the honorable member that 1”. shall give the matter further consideration. I know how anxious he is.
– The engineer claims that all that would be necessary would be a little filling.
– I shall look at the report. The Department of Civil Aviation is advised by the Air Board about the strategical value of aerodromes.
– I have received a telegram stating that the price of wheat at port in Western Australia this morning was ls. 8d. per bushel compared with 2s. 8d. in Sydney. What is the reason for the discrepancy?
– I shall bring the matter under the notice of the Minister for Commerce with a view to obtaining an appropriate reply.
– Has the Prime Minister yet had time to confer with State Ministers or Commonwealth Arbitration Court officials with a view to instituting some method of dealing with sweating in the clothing industry?
– I am afraid I personally have not, but I shall ascertain from the relevant department What steps have been taken.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Defence been drawn to the fact that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited yesterday forwarded fourteen trucks of iron ore to be delivered to a Dutch ship bound for a German port? Is that correct? Does the Minister know the intended destination of that iron ore? “Will he take steps to see that no iron ore is shipped from Australia to other than British ports?
– I know nothing of the case mentioned, but I shall have immediate inquiries made.
– In view of the fact that it is impossible to obtain supplies of cornsacks and wool packs from Calcutta at the prices fixed, what provision does the Government intend to make to ensure sufficient supplies for the ensuing harvest and shearing?
– The matter raised is at present receiving the closest attention of the Government. AH necessary steps will be taken to ensure an adequate supply of woolpacks and cornsacks at a price which is fair and reasonable having regard to the cost of landing the goods in Australia.
– I understand that the price of cornsacks has risen by 3d. per dozen. “Will the Minister for Trade and Customs tell the House whether the .price will remain at the level ruling on the 3.1st August or whether there will be a margin ?
– An order was gazetted on Friday fixing the price of cornsacks and woolpacks at the level ruling on the 31st August last, pending any further order gazetted with the authority of the Minister for Trade and Customs.
– As there have been price increases since the end of August, will steps be taken to prosecute those guilty of charging inflated prices, as well as making them refund the amount overcharged ?
– The Government will take prompt and effective action in respect of any breach of the National Security regulation with respect to commodities, the prices of which have been fixed.
– In view of the reported decision of the Oversea Shipping Association to increase freight rates by 25 per cent., will the Government issue a regulation fixing the rates as those in force on the 31st August?
– The matter of shipping freights is engaging the attention of the Minister for Commerce at the present time. I remind the honorable member, however, that it is one thing to fix prices charged within an area over which we have jurisdiction, and another thing to fix prices charged by persons who are outside our jurisdiction.
– In connexion with the Government’s plans for preventing profiteering in connexion with the supply of goods for defence purposes, is it the practice of the Government, in arriving at what it considers to be a reasonable price, to make allowance for the payment of interest on the capital actually invested in the undertaking, or does it make allowance for payment of interest on the whole of the declared capital, including bonus shares?
– It is not clear whether the honorable member is referring to goods bought by open tender, or to goods supplied through the defence annexes. If he will make his question precise, and put it on the notice-paper, I shall furnish him with a reply.
-Will the Minister for Information state who instituted the system of issuing passes for getting into Parliament House, and will he state ‘what useful purpose the system serves ?
– I do not know whether the honorable member meant to address his question to me, but. as a matter of fact, there is as yet no Minister for Information.
– What check is made of the export of metals from Australia to neutral countries in order to ensure that their ultimate destination is not an enemy country?
– That matter is receiving the closest attention of the Government.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether, at the conference of State and Commonwealth Ministers held in Canberra during the week-end, consideration was given to the desirability of introducing moratorium legislation? If so, does the Commonwealth Government propose to introduce a bill this session?
-The conference did consider the question of a moratorium, but it was unanimously agreed that, at the present stage, no necessity for such legislation existed. It was, however, decided that all the governments concerned would watch the position closely, particularly with reference to individuals who, by reason of being engaged upon war service, might find themselves under special disabilities. If any action is needed it will be taken promptly.
– Can the Minister for Defence state what is the position in regard to the German freighter Lahn which was reported last week to have been taken into custody by the sloop Yarra after having been located by a defence force bomber? Was that report untrue?
– I stated in reply to a similar question last week that the statement was untrue. The whereabouts of the vessel is still a mystery.
– YesterdayI tried to get on board a ship in Sydney to interview some one, but was stopped. Will the Minister for Defence state on whose authority people are prevented from boarding ships, and what is the reason for this action?
– I am unable to give a satisfactory answer to the question at the moment, other than to say that this action has been taken in connexion with the examination service which is in operation at our principal ports. I should be glad to discuss the matter with the honorable member later .
– I understand that Commonwealth and State public servants, who are members of the Militia Forces, have, while in camp, had the difference between their militia and civil pay made up by their departments. Is it correct that this practice is to be discontinued ? If so, will the Prime Minister give consideration to the fact that some of these young men are married, and would be unable to keep their families on militia pay alone?
– This matter was discussed at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held in Canberra on Saturday last, and it was thought desirable that a uniform practice for the whole of the Commonwealth should be adopted. A ruling was ultimately evolved, but I cannot say offhand precisely what it was. I shall make a statement in regard to it later.
– On Friday, I suggested to the Prime Minister that he should issue a statement assuring the cricket and racing executives in Australia that the Government did not intend to interfere with sport. Does the Prime Minister propose to make this statement?
– All I can say is that, consistent with the discharge by all persons of their obligations at a time like this, I shall be disappointed if I cannot go in company with the honorable member to the Sheffield Shield games during the summer.
– -Will the Minister in Charge of Treaties consider replacing with Australians the native crews on vessels trading to Nauru Island? Will he discuss this matter with the Government of New Zealand, seeing that the commission consists of representatives of the Government of New Zealand, Australia and Great Britain?
– Before giving an affirmative answer I shall look personally into the matter and discuss it with the honorable member himself.
Establishment in Country Towns.
– In view of the fact that a state of war exists will the Ministor for Defence reconsider his decision with regard to the establishment of militia units in large country towns such as Narrabri, and permit units to be formed and trained in those centres?
– That question will be given consideration by the Government.
Acquisition by the Commonwealth.
– As the League of Nations is not now able to hold an effective meeting, is it not desirable in the interests of defence that Australia should take over the Mandated Territory of New Guinea?
– I am afraid that I have nothing to say that would vary the previously announced decision of the Government in relation to New Guinea.
Appointment or Mr. J. H. Ashton
– What was the nature of the representations made to the Treasurer by the Graziers Association of New South Wales in support of a request that Mr. James H. Ashton be appointed to the board of the Commonwealth Bank? What are the special qualifications possessed by Mr. Ashton which the Government considers warranted his appointment? Were the qualifications of any other citizens considered in connexion with the filling of the vacancy on the board, and, if so, will the right honorable gentleman advise the House as to the names of the rejected applicants? In what respects were Mr. Ashton’s qualifications considered to be superior to those of the other applicants; and will the Treasurer furnish the House with details as to how the selection was made?
– I gather that this is a question without notice; if so, I shall have to do my best, though I am afraid that I shall not be able to answer it catechetically. No representations from the Graziers Association were received by the Government. In selecting the Director for the Commonwealth Bank, the Government was anxious to choose a man with special knowledge of rural industries, the retiring director having possessed that qualification. It was also desired, if practicable, to appoint somebody from the State of New South Wales who might be available to sit on a committee of the board in Sydney for the purpose of the prompt working of the banking institution. In making the appointment, the Government had in mind the names of a number of gentlemen whose qualifications were considered, and it finally selected Mr. Ashton, he being a man of very wide experience on the land, of undoubted knowledge in relation to pastoral matters, of ability, and of youth, to which the Government attached some importance in connexion with this appointment. He was, therefore, selected entirely on his merits, and the Government considers that he will be admirably qualified to discharge the duties of that office. It is not the practice to announce the names of those whose claims have been considered and rejected, and I do not propose to depart from that practice on this occasion.
The following bills were returned from the .Senate without amendment: -
Trading with the Enemy Bill 1939. Judiciary Bill 1030. National Security Bill 1930.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Trading with the Enemy Bill 1039. National .Security Bill’ 1939.
REFERENCE to Public Works Committee.
Debate resumed from the 7th Sept., 1939 (vide page 138), on motion by Mr. Perkins -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act. 1913-1930, the following proposed work bc referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report, viz.: - The erection of a hostel at Forrest, Australian Capital Territory.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
SALES TAX BILLS (Nos. 1 to 9) 1939.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from the 8th
September (vide page 335), on motion by
I.. That iii lieu of the rate of tax imposed
. (vide page 333).
Questions resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolutions adopted.
That Mr. Spender and Mr. Fairbairn do prepare and bring in bills to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
Motion (by Mr. Spender) - hy leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions in regard to the first and second readings, committee’s report stage, and the third readings, being put in one motion covering several or all of the Sales Tax Bills Nos. 1 to 9, and the consideration of several or all of such bills together in a committee of the whole.
Bills (Nos. 1 to 9) brought up by Mr. Spender, and read a first time.
– I move -
That ae bills be now read a second time.
– I think that we might at least go through the formality of examining these bills before they are passed.
– I came here prepared to deal with quite another matter, and I should like the debate on these bills to be adjourned.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Curtin) adjourned.
Consideration resumed from the 8th September (vide page 333), on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division I - The Senate - (namely “ Salaries and allowances, £8,040 “, be agreed to.
– I may say without reference to anything that has happened earlier to-day, that it is very important that the general principles of the budget should be considered by the committee before any of the legislation arising out of the budget is passed by the House. We know that on many occasions in the past, owing to the urgency of having certain taxes approved in order to avoid loss of revenue, Parliament has agreed to interrupt the budget debate so that such matters might be considered; and no doubt, if it should be shown in the course of the debate on which we have now entered that the general discussion of the budget, is likely to take so long as to endanger revenue, the Government would be entitled to ask the committee to consent to a deferment of the concluding speeches of the debate. By that time, however, sufficient will have been said to enable the Government to elicit what is the point of view of the committee as a whole towards the general principles of the budget. It so happens that the revenue will not suffer in respect of the sales tax as the result of our not passing the bills to amend the principal act immediately, because the other day we took the requisite steps to protect the revenue in respect of the proposed increase of sales tax.
I think that I may say that this budget is historic, not only because it was delivered within a week of a declaration of a state of war with Germany, but also because it is the first Commonwealth budget to contemplate an expenditure exceeding £100,000,000. We have to bear in mind that the budget which provides for this very great expenditure was not drawn in fact to provide for a state of war, but really was drawn to make provision for the safeguarding of the country in the face of what was recognized to be a threatening danger. We are not now dealing with a budget contemplating all the expenditure immediately involved in resisting an enemy. That budget will be a second instalment of the Government’s programme with respect to the financial requirements which the Government must have in order to discharge what appears at the moment to be an obligation, the consequence of which we cannot now foresee.
It would be absurd to attempt to review the whole financial position of the Commonwealth as though we were to-day engaged in our normal duty of considering what is the position of Australia, and to what extent the Commonwealth Government and the State Governments are handling our economic and financial affairs in a satisfactory way. Suffice it to say that the estimate for the present year of £102,500,000 of revenue, represents, when all is said and done, an increase of approximately £4,000,000 over the revenue collected in the last financial year, and is approximately a little less than £12,000,000 more than was collected in the year before last. The rising revenue of the Commonwealth in the last four years has been, I venture to say, hardly noticed by the people of Australia, yet, indeed, it has been colossal. The committee should bear in mind that for the financial year which ended on the 30th June, 1936 - just three years ago - the revenue of the Commonwealth was £82,600,000, and that last year it was £98,500,000. That is to say, we collected £16,000,000 more last year than we did three years previously.
There is a belief, which is a mistaken one, that the growing requirements of the Commonwealth in respect of revenue, and the increased taxes that have been imposed on the people have been due to the greater defence expenditure of the Commonwealth. That simply is not true. The facts are that out of a revenue of £82,600,000 during the financial year ended on the 30th June, 1936, a little more than £6,000,000 was expended from revenue on defence, and, in the following year, although we obtained a little less than £4,000,000 more in revenue, we spent only £750,000 more from revenue on defence. In the year 1937-38, when we had a total revenue of more than £90,700,000, we spent on defence from revenue only £S,800,000, and, the rest came from the builtup trust funds which were provided out of the surpluses of previous years, or from loan accounts. During the financial year now under review, which was marked by the crisis of September, 1938, the disquietude arising from the Munich Pact, and the realization of danger indicated in the speeches of the previous Prime Minister right throughout that financial year down to the end of March, and the speeches of his successor since then, although revenue had increased from £90,000,000 during the previous year to £98,500,000 the provision for defence from revenue rose, not by £8,000,000 as revenue rose, but by less than £2,000.000. In precise’ figures, the expenditure on defence from revenue in 1937-38 was £8,800,000 and last year it was £10,100,000. That is an extraordinary state of affairs. Let me put it this way : Three years ago, the revenue was £82,000,000, whereas last year it was £102,000,000- an increase of £20,000,000.
Three years ago we spent on defence a little ‘more than £6,500,000 of our revenue, and last year, we spent on defence a little more than £10,000,000 of our enormouslyincreased revenue. It is obvious that the slogan, coined by the Prime Minister in recent weeks, “ Business as usual “, has meant for the Commonwealth an increased expending activity throughout all departments. I make no protest about that - this Parliament has approved of the budgets submitted in past years - but I hope at this juncture that there will be complete realization on the part of the Australian people of the fact that the great increases of taxes and of revenue which the Commonwealth Government has had in past years have not been based on any enlarged utilization of expenditure for purposes of defence. It can be said that an appreciable proportion of this increased revenue has come from the proceeds of taxation - that, I venture to say, is clear - but I do not think that the country yet realizes what are the precise circumstances in which the Commonwealth Government has had surpluses in recent years. Let me state the matter in this way: In 1931-32, the financial year in the course of which the Labour government went out of office and its successor came into office - and it can be said to have remained in office ever since - direct taxation yielded £17,000,000 odd, whilst in the present financial year it is anticipated that £17,100,000 will be collected. That is to say, the direct taxes imposed by this Government in the present financial year, with the prospect of grave obligation to safeguard Australia against possible aggression, will only yield the same amount as was collected in 1931-32, at the depth of the depression. It is perfectly true that in the year 1931-32, there was a substantial deficit, and that last year there was no deficit; but in 1931-32 the yield from indirect taxation was £36,800,000, whilst this year it will be approximately £62,800,000. I can contrast clear cut the kind of taxation which this Government has practised. J can show that during the year in which it inherited office, and in the present year, it will collect from the Australian people the same amount by way of direct taxation, notwithstanding that this year, as will be acknowledged, the Australian people are far better equipped to pay direct taxes than they were in 1931-32. Although this year the Government proposes to collect almost precisely the same amount by way of direct taxation as was collected in 1931-32, it will collect from indirect taxation the staggering amount of £26,000,000 more than was the collection from that source in 1931-32. The extraordinary feature of the total yield from taxation this year being £26,000,000 more than was the total yield in 1931-32, is that that increase will be derived exclusively from the proceeds of the increased yield from indirect taxation. Let the Australian people bear that clearly in mind, because these indirect taxes are not related to the capacity of the people to pay them.
– What about the States?
– I shall come to that point. The general principle of direct taxation which this Commonwealth practises is that there should be taxation according to the capacity of the individual to pay it. We exempt from taxation all of those whose incomes are under £250 per annum, and also allow a series of concessional deductions for various causes, with the result that a married man with a wife and two children needs to have an income in excess of £400 per annum before he is called upon to pay direct taxes to the Commonwealth. I know that he pays to the States - I shall come to that later - but this is the central truth: that the resources of this Commonwealth Government to discharge the obligations of government, have been built up as the result not of increased taxes on the rich but of taxes which, in their incidence, are unrelated to the capacity of the people to pay them, and which, by and large, have to be paid at the same rate by the great mass of the people, even though they have low incomes, as is the case with those other sections of the community that have high incomes.
– The honorable gentleman’s party was the worst offender in the imposition of indirect taxes.
– No; the honorable gentleman misconstrues our policy. We are not in favour of revenue tariffs; we believe in a tariff to protect Australian industries, and our method is one by which imports would not be encouraged which would be to the competitive detriment of Australian manufactures. I take the same ground in regard to electrical equipment, and boots and shoes, as is taken by the honorable gentleman in regard to potatoes and onions; that is to say, I think it is a reasonable proposition that the Australian market should be safeguarded to the Australian producer of potatoes, of boots, of sugar, of meat, and of wheat.
– Whom was the Labour party protecting when it put the tax on tea ?
Mr.CURTIN.- For a period the honorable gentleman was a member of the Government which did this sort of tiling, and I believe that he is now in a state of most eager readiness to repeat the performance, if the obstacles which confront him can be surmounted by whoever has been deputed to try to gallop over them. I have referred to the enormous increase of indirect taxation. In total, the receipts from taxation are the highest ever collected in the history of this Commonwealth. The figure is indeed staggering. The significance of it is that the receipts from direct taxes are at present the same as they were in 1931-32, notwithstanding the acknowledged increased ability of the Australian people to pay more in that form, but the receipts from indirect taxes have jumped by £26,000,000, and that represents the aggregate increased yield from all forms of taxation. During the six years to the end of 1937-38, the Government systematically reduced the income and property taxes. These were taxes which the workers were exempt from paying to the Commonwealth. Therefore, whilst the Government was practising forms of taxation which drew more and more from the masses of the people as consumers, it was relieving the burden on the well-to-do and those who ordinarily would be called upon to pay Commonwealth income tax in its various forms. An authoritative return furnished to me shows that the approximate remissions of land tax total £8,800,000, of property tax £16,000,000, of company tax £5,600,000, of life assurance company tax £4,500,000, and of shipping companies’ tax £150,000, making a total of £35,000,000. Consequently, had the rates of direct taxes operating in 1931-32 been maintained, the increase gathered to the Commonwealth from direct sources would have been added to by approximately £35,000,000 from those taxpayers alone. I say to the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) that while the Commonwealth has been reducing taxes on the rich, the State governments have been imposing direct taxes on the poor.
– On the rich, too.
– On the rich as well. Whilst, in the year ended the 30th June, 1938, the total yield from State income tax - the ordinary income tax which the States have operated before and since the depression, and which contains a number of exemptions and concessions - was £16,000,000, the other forms of direct taxes which the State governments have imposed, taxes at the source without any concessions, aggregated £13,500,000. That £13,500,000 has been collected by the States as the result of their having brought into the direct taxation field thousands of families which, according to the fundamental principle of taxation, have always before been regarded as immune from the obligation to pay direct taxes. Unemployment relief taxes are imposed at flat rates, and reach right down to the very lowest ranges of income. Single men and women with very low incomes, married men on the basic wage in some States, have had to pay direct taxes at the source to the State governments. While the State governments were enforcing on these people taxation of that kind, this Commonwealth Government was responsible for their beingcharged an increased price for bread, cigarettes and beer, and it was imposing a sales tax on certain of their requirements. By and large, the imposition of new direct taxes by the States because of their budgetary difficulties arising from the depression, and the continuance by this Government of this exorbitant rate of indirect taxation whilst making enormous concessions in respect of direct taxes to the wealthy section of the community, have created the most extraordinary anomaly that last year wealthy companies throughout Australia, including manufacturers - I inform the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) - made larger incomes than had ever been made in the history of Australia. They were living, as it were, in a veritable era of prosperity. They were the persons whom the previous Treasurer (Mr. Casey) had in mind when he said that Australia had entered upon an era of prosperity. It was truly prosperity for the rich, but very little improvement, indeed, in respect of the welfare of the great masses of the people, and no improvement whatever for those who were on sustenance, part time, or a rationed allowance. In this short retrospect of what has occurred in the last six years, I direct attention to the unfair working of the recent financial policy of Australia, not because I anticipate any opportunity to correct what has taken place in the past - because I know that the Government must have more revenue now than it had last year or in the preceding year, and I realize that increased taxes of various kinds are inescapable - but in order to make clear that, in whatever lies ahead of us, we certainly ought not to borrow from the rich to enable us to finance the war, whilst continuing to tax the poor. That, at least, ought to be clear.
I shall now refer to the land tax, and I find the situation very interesting. Land tax was reduced substantially by 331/3 per cent. in 1932-33, and by 162/3 per cent. in the following year, making a total reduction of 50 per cent. Last year the rate was increased by 11 per cent., and the increase brought in an additional £140,000. For the whole period that the remissions were in force it is estimated that the remissions alone totalled £9,000,000. The report of the Royal Commission on Taxation disclosed that 67 per cent. of the land tax that had been collected up to the time the review was made came from city owners; and the owners of city properties, honorable members will hardly need to be reminded, are wealthy people, they are not poor widows, for people of that class do not own properties in Pitt-street, Sydney, and Collins-street, Melbourne. Only wealthy corporations can buy real estate in those localities. Consequently the remissions of land tax conferred a very much larger immediate benefit upon city property owners than upon farmers, pastoralists, and the like, none of whom has to pay land tax at all unless he owns land the unimproved value of which exceeds £5,000. I have before me a return showing the result of the remissions from land tax, and it is extremely interesting. It should be particularly interesting to honorable members of the Country party who allege that they favour the remission of the land tax in order to help the poor farmers. Here is a list of some of the remissions -
I may say, in passing, that David Jones Limited has its “ farm “ in Castlereaghstreet, Sydney. These Sydney examples could be multiplied almost without end, and similar returns could be obtained from every other capital city in Australia.
We are now at war and one of the chief trophies of war is land, and especially land which hasbeen made valuable as the result of the increase of population. The unearned increment from the land which flows to the fortunate owners of property is very great, and I hardly think that any honorable member could deny that those who enjoy this unearned increment should be called upon to make a much greater contribution towards national security than they might be called upon to make in normal times, and certainly a much greater contribution than should be expected from the mass of the poor people of the community who are now being called upon to pay an extra 1 per cent. in sales tax on a very great
variety of the goods which they use. The fortunate owners of land have a big stake in the country and they should be prepared, without complaint, to increase what I may call their insurance premiums. They have much more to gain from national security than many other people.
I shall not offer any objection to the proposed increases of taxation indicated in the budget. For that reason I did not offer any objection to the Sales Tax Bills reaching a certain stage a few moments ago. It is proposed to increase the rate of income tax by 10 per cent. That is a fair thing. It means, in effect, that a person who paid £10 in income tax on a certain income last year will pay £11 on the same income this year, and a person who paid £1,000 on a certain income last year will pay £1,100 on a similar income this year. It is also proposed to increase the rate of company tax from ls. 1.8d. to ls. 7.8d. in the £1. In other words, an extra 6d. in the £1 is being put on this tax. That also appears to me to be reasonable. The Treasurer estimates to receive an additional £2,360,000 from these sources. Added indirect taxes will, it is estimated, bring in an extra £3,750,000. This will be provided by the increase of sales tax, and the other fiscal measures introduced last Friday. I agree that it is sounder practice to increase the rate of sales tax than to bring back into the field of this taxation items which had previously been removed from it by the Parliament. I approve of that practice. The exemptions have been made in the light of experience. Some of them are desirable because of the importance of the goods to industrial operations, and others are desirable because the goods are commonly required for consumption by ordinary citizens. With regard to the increases of excise duties, all that I can say is that I am forced to acknowledge that money must be obtained from some source. 1 know that teetotallers will be exempt from the payment of the extra imposts on beer and spirits, but, in the main, any alternative tax would probably fall more heavily upon wives and children than will this one. It is far preferable, as I see it, to tax beer, if it is necessary to tax anything, than to tax tea, and to tax cigarettes than to tax soap or other household com modities. By and large, I have no fault to find with the method which the Government has adopted to obtain an increased revenue. In the past the Government has been too quick to reduce direct taxes on the rich, and too eager to impose these almost hidden taxes on the poor.
The Treasurer referred to the loan expenditure of the Commonwealth. In the present year loan expenditure by the Commonwealth will jump from £4,000,000 to £23,000,000. That is a substantial advance. . As I understand the budget, and as I understood the Treasurer’s speech in introducing it, we have to consider these proposals as preliminary. This is a budget for preparation and not a budget for conflict. The increase of loan expenditure by £19,000,000 is very great. I understand that at the Loan Council meeting a general statement was made to the effect that £41,000,000 was to be raised this year for allocation among the Commonwealth and the States. The Commonwealth said to the States in effect: “We shall have to spend much more money on defence this year, and, therefore, you will have to spend a good deal less on works. But the money we spend on defence will contribute to the provision of employment in the States. Defence work will be as good an employment-maker as would be the works programme that you would normally carry out “. I question those premises. I direct attention to the fact that, despite the increase of expenditure on defence, the amount of employment available in recent months has steadily declined. Until a week or two ago the unemployment figures were assuming proportions well above the pre-depression norm. Defence expenditure does not provide nearly the amount of employment which the same amount of money would provide if .expended by the States on ordinary public works. Moreover it must be recognized that the Commonwealth has been obliged to concentrate its defence expenditure in one or two places. Certain States have had a far greater advantage in this regard than certain other States. Defence expenditure is not distributed on anything like a per capita basis. I do not argue, that it should be expended on a per capita basis, but I mention the point in order to emphasize my view that it is not to be taken that defence expenditure is, in fact, equivalent to the normal works expenditure by the States. That dictum must definitely be negatived.
The Commonwealth Government must look at these matters realistically. The State governments are at present responsible for a very great variety of employment in the maintenance of industries of many kinds, and in the carrying on of public utilities. The whole burden of rinding work for the unemployed has been thrust upon the States . by the Commonwealth Government. Idle men in Australia are, when all is said and done, not desirable at any time, and certainly not in the circumstances in which we now find ourselves.’ Every idle man who is capable of being usefully employed should be immediately placed in some occupation. There is something that he can do for the national well-being. The Commonwealth Government, apart from its proposed defence expenditure, contemplates in the budget the slogan which the Prime Minister has announced as “Business as usual”; but the Government must also envisage the right of the States to adopt a similar slogan. It should be recognized that the work which the States normally provide is definitely of value in contributing towards the preparedness of the Commonwealth. It should be regarded as a collateral activity. If the maintenance of our railways, for example, is unsatisfactory our whole transport system may become seriously impaired. If water conservation schemes are not proceeded with at various country places we may find ourselves at some future time in a fatal difficulty because certain units of our defence forces cannot be provided with water. A great variety of the activities of the States, whilst not having their direct bearing on defence, certainly have a very important indirect bearing on it. Who can foresee by what processes, or in what ways, this conflict will be waged? In these circumstances it is not fair for the Commonwealth Government to say to the States “ As we shall have to obtain more money from loan sources to provide for defence, the States will have to do with less “.
We must realize that the country is actually at war. That being so, I say quite frankly to honorable members opposite who may be opposed to the general principles of the Labour party in respect of banking and monetary policy, that it will be impossible for the Government to rely on orthodox banking and financial practice to safeguard the interests of Australia in the years immediately ahead of us. In peace times it is strongly held that the industries of a country cannot be expanded and its developmental projects cannot be pressed beyond the limits of the country’s central banking resources. I shall not argue that point at the moment. I merely remind honorable members that all of the banking and financial theories which had been adhered to throughout the world prior to the 4th August, 1914, as the only principles upon which banking and finance could be satisfactorily conducted, were thrown overboard immediately after the war commenced. The world finished that war with a burden of debt which, if anybody had contemplated it for any other purpose, would have’ resulted in his being branded a sheer lunatic. Much water has flowed under the bridges since then. Neither the Australian public nor any other public will be satisfied with the statement, “ You cannot defend your country merely because you haven’t the money”. That idea will not be accepted. Nations are defended with man-power, physical equipment, guns, munitions, material things, and their capacity cannot be limited by the amount of currency that they have or by any particular measure of credit which any expert or band of experts likes to fix. The principles enunciated by tha Treasurer on .Friday concerned the upholding of orthodox financial policy. How is it that a country which was bankrupt a few years ago, disarmed a few years ago, is now able to have the most formidable military machine that ever threatened the universe? Where did Germany get the money for its re-armament programme? Where did Japan get the money for its tremendous attack upon the competitive standards of the rest of the world in its export trade? Where did Japan get the money for the rationalization of ite secondary industries? Whence came the money for that tremendous recapitalization of industries of Japan and Germany in the last decade? The upholders of capitalistic finance and orthodox principles must face realities. For two years I and everybody else have been told that Germany was on the verge of bankruptcy, that its export trade and internal economy were collapsing and that it would have to go to war because of that. Whatever be the cause, the truth remains that the war on which the world has entered, like the war that was waged 25 years ago, will not be ended because any of the parties is short of money. It might be ended because of a shortage of shells, a shortage of men, or a shortage of foodstuffs; it will be a physical deficiency rather than a mere absence of financial documents “which will be the determination of whether or not a country has the capacity to withstand its foes in the conflict upon which we have entered.
However much the Treasurer might dispute it, those who have construed the report of the Royal Commission on the Monetary and Banking Systems in a. variety of ways make it quite clear that the responsibility for financial policy in this country does not lie with the trading banks. It does not even lie with the Commonwealth Bank. It lies with this Parliament and with the Government that is responsible to this Parliament. That at least is not a misconstruction of the report of the royal commission. Responsibility for financial and monetary policy is here. I am not in any way inclined to echo the suggestion that you can give money to everybody and that there is no end to what you can do with the monetary and banking systems. I take the entirely opposite view. There are most certainly limits to what can be done in that respect, but those limits, which are predicated when in peace time the Labour party asks for money to keep the unemployed occupied, are violated immediately war breaks out. We can have money to equip a soldier, but not an artisan; to provide wages for a naval recruit, but not a school teacher. That contradiction, which is inherent in the financial history of the last twenty years, is due for examination. Since the beginning of 1934-35, according to figures supplied to mc by the Federal Treasury, we have borrowed £90,857,000. That amount does not include portion of what was borrowed during 193S-39, but the return is sufficient to meet my purposes. On the amount of £24,843,000 which was borrowed in 1934-35, this country will pay in interest £11,125,000.
– That is for the States and the Commonwealth ?
– Let me put it to the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. J oily) this way: We borrow £24,000,000 and we get £24,000,000 worth of assets, for which we have to pay, not only the £24,000,000 originally borrowed, but also £11,125,000 in interest. So, in order to get £24,000,000 worth of assets for the Australian people, we ultimately have to pay about £36,000,000. This policy lias gone on for so long that the interest obligations of the Australian governments, Commonwealth and State, constitute the major item in the budgets, with the result that we cannot provide for social services or material improvement of the country, because we have to pay so much to the money lender for the accommodation that we have had in previous years. For the £90,857,000 which has been borrowed in the last five years we shall have to pay, in interest, £48.818,000. This country has got for that £90,857,000 waterworks, sewerage or railways. Some of the money was used for defence. Some, in fact, was used for farmers5 debt adjustment.
– What is wrong with that?
– Nothing. It is very good. But all that we have gained is £90,000,000 worth of assets, which will cost us £138,000,000, assuming that they are assets of enduring character.
– Which they are not.
– I know that they are not. A great part will have vanished into thin air long before the loans are due for redemption.
It is quite conceivable that, before we have got very far in the present year, we shall be asked to authorize the Government to expend £50,000,000 for the purpose of defending the country. That money may come from taxation or from loan, but there must be a limit to the taxes which the Australian people can be asked to pay, when we take into account the fact that the taxation in Australia is now approximately £120,000,000- £80,000,000 Commonwealth and £40,000,000 State. That is a figure which would have been incredible if those who sat in this Parliament a few years ago had been asked to contemplate it. The Treasurer’s general statement about the use of credit for the purpose of meeting national requirements is a statement that I do not accept. There will have to be some use of bank resources and some use of national credit. I point out, as the right honorable gentleman did, that the Commonwealth Bank Board has recently applied a policy which it would not have applied a few years ago.
– “ More flexible “.
– Yes, the Prime Minister said that the Commonwealth Bank’s policy was more flexible. It would be easy for me to say that the Commonwealth Bank Board’s attitude has some regard to the kind of government in power, but I think that that would be improper.
Opposition Members. - But quite true.
– I sincerely hope that it is not the case. The Commonwealth Bank Board says that its policy has no relation to the type of government, but that it does have relation to the circumstances of the time. What were the circumstances? The circumstances were that the Government led by the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) from 1929 to 1931 desired an expansion of credit, or a provision of credit, if honorable members like that, term as being just as good, for the purpose of putting idle men to useful work. It desired money in order to provide means whereby the wheat industry of this country could be placed upon a better basis. Both of those purposes would have contributed towards the subsequent capacity of the country to be a better place in which to live. More men at work would have given us more assets. But the Commonwealth Bank Board would not accede. Its refusal, it said, was due not to the type of government but to the circumstances of the time. Here were hundreds of thousands of men idle. They could have been usefully employed, but the bank would not supply the means. Now, the Bank Board has, in different circumstances, provided some expansion of credit in order to carry on government services. There was no expenditure for a purpose which would have been reproductive, but there is to be expenditure for the purposes of defence, for the purchase, of guns. I acknowledge that guns can be regarded as an insurance provision, making subsequent life of the nation possible, and I can understand a man borrowing money to pay fire insurance on his house. That would be far preferable to discontinuing the insurance. I agree thai it is reasonable to borrow for defence, because the danger is great, but, from the economic point of view, there is greater justification for the Commonwealth Bank Board to provide means for the building of bridges and roads, sewerage works, and the like, than for the purchase of guns and munitions which are elements of destruction. So, if I acquit the Commonwealth Bank Board of being biased against Labour, I must convict it of having an entirely false impression of what is a proper use for expansion of credit. One or the other horns of the dilemma it can sit on. I venture to say that the Commonwealth Bank Board, like every body else, has learned something since the depression. The Treasurer himself may not take notice of that report, but the Bank Board itself has done so. The royal commission seriously criticized the administration of the Commonwealth Bank during the years of the depression.
– The Commonwealth Bank lent heavily during the depression. The short-term debt on the 30th June, 1931, was £58,000,000.
– But there has been no great contraction of the short-term debt since then. In spite of all its surpluses, this Government has not substantiallyreduced the accumulated deficits.
– The advances to cover deficits have been on account of the deficits of the States.
– Ours, as well as the States. But the short-term debt was largely on account of the States. That is true. But the honorable member knows that if this Government had not reduced direct taxation, it would have had much larger revenues and could have taken over the responsibility for unemployment, which it has always refused to do. The increased debt of the States is due to the fact that the Commonwealth Government left to the State governments the major responsibility for dealing with the acute difficulties arising out of the depression. We slid out of all our responsibilities in that regard.
At this time, there are hungry people in Australia, and there are unemployed people in Australia. I put it to the Government that, as we are facing a common danger, we ought to realize that the common necessities ought at least to be guaranteed to every one. We want a united people, and all of those factors which should contribute to the disorganization of our organic life should be dealt with immediately. We ought not to have hungry men, women and children in Australia to-day, nor any one out of work. I do not ask the Government to hand out any substantial dole to the unemployed, because I do not think that that is the right way to go about the matter. The right way is to employ them, to speed up production. Let us remember that, no matter how much our surplus of this or that commodity may be, we may live to see the day when we would wish that even that surplus had been larger. I do not know what intensification of production is practicable, but I believe there ought to be room greatly to increase the number of men employed in all factories and accessories relating to the servicing of the defence forces, including clothing factories, munitions factories, leather factories, &c. Idle men ought to be brought in. If it is objected that many of those men would have no training for the particular work concerned, there could be a transfer of a certain proportion of skilled men from private factories, whose places would be taken by others now unemployed. There should be some adaptability to ensure that no man shall go hungry because he cannot get a job. In face of the stark realism of our situation, it must be palpable to all of us that we cannot afford to have men idle now. The first requisite is to arrange with the States that they shall have sufficient money to employ those out of work, or, failing that, the Commonwealth should accept the respon- . sibility of directly employing the men itself. I estimate that there are at present 200,000 men out of work, and these men should be brought into industry. We should not permit any longer the intolerable inequality which disfigures our social life. We are one people, and at this time, whatever the classes may think, I am sure that even the Prime Minister will say that all of us have a common destiny, even as we face a common danger. What affects some must affect all. Therefore, first let there be work for every one, so as to provide for the needs of all Australians. We can do it. We have the resources. Australia is a great storehouse of food. We have far more than we need for our own requirements. What is the problem with which we have been most concerned recently? We have so much wheat, so much meat and so much fruit that boards and experts have to be employed in order to find out how we can sell some of those commodities to people thousands of miles away. We have far more than we could possibly use ourselves, even if we were to do the right thing and immediately supply those in our own country who have hitherto been insufficiently supplied. Even after doing that we would have a huge surplus, which is described as Australia’s exportable surplus. I believe that, at this crisis, the people of Australia and Great Britain have a complete unity of interest. We have immense food resources. We ought to make them available to the people of Great Britain. Having made the provision we ought to make for satisfying the needs of our own people, we ought to make in this budget provision for the expenditure of £1,000,000 on food supplies to be offered immediately as a free contribution to the people of Great Britain. That, I know, would be equivalent to making a grant of £1,000,000 to the Government of Great Britain, but it ought to be transferred to Great Britain in the form of food. Already the people in Great Britain are threatened with food rationing. That, I know, is largely because of shipping difficulties, but if we were to make this offer, I believe that the Government of Great Britain would be able to arrange for the necessary shipping. Having regard to the need to conserve our man-power because, not knowing what dire perils threaten us, our maximum present resources may become the very minimum which we shall need, we ought to take the view that it is our duty to feed and clothe our own people and, to the utmost of our power, the people of Great Britain.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- This is an historic budget. It ‘was intended primarily to prepare the country for defence, but, before it was delivered, it became necessary to accept it as merely a provisional budget, because we are now at war. In the near future it will be necessary to prepare a war budget. It is also an historic budget, because it is the first time in our history that we have had to raise £100,000,000 to meet our requirements. Because of the emergency we are passing through, increased expenditure is to be expected. We anticipated increased taxation and increased borrowing, and we have not been disappointed. We cannot tell how long the war will last, and it is inevitable that still further taxation and still more borrowing will be necessary in the future. The people of Australia appreciate the position, and are willing to bear their share of the sacrifices necessary for the successful prosecution of the war. The budget wisely spreads the additional taxation equitably among all sections of the community. It provides for an increase of both direct and indirect taxation. Income and property taxes are to bc increased by 10 per cent. Company taxation is to be increased by 6d., and there is to be a uniform increase of the sales tax by 1 per cent, on all items paying duty at the present time. There are, in addition, slight increases of duty on beer, spirits and petrol. The budget, in fact, provides for a steady increase of all forms of existing taxation. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) said that he had no objection to the increase, or to the methods adopted to bring it about, and it is not often that we have the endorsement and approval of a Leader of the Opposition for a budget.
The budget shows that there has been steady national development. Only in respect of the prices of certain primary products ha s there been ‘a decline, and, a s the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has indicated that the British Government proposes to buy the major portion of our exportable primary products at a reasonable price, this should go a long way to make up the deficit in regard to primary products.
My main purpose in rising was to make it quite clear that I am not at all happy about the way in which we are preparing this country for the defence of the Empire and Australia. I appreciate very much the fine lead which has been given by the Prime Minister. He has created great confidence in the community, the people having reacted most favorably to the appeals he has made. The nation is very steady, very solid, and very anxious to play its part as an integral portion of the Empire. Nevertheless, I am not at all satisfied with the progress made by the Defence Department and its Minister in building up our defence forces, and raising them to war efficiency. That is my considered opinion, and it is shared by an extraordinarily large number of people in this country. The young men of Australia readily responded to the appeal to double our Militia Forces. In record time the strength of the Militia was increased from 30,000 ito 70,000. Even then, the young men continued to offer their services until the Minister for Defence expressed himself as being so well satisfied that he was able to decline all further enlistments. Most of these new men, as well as those who had previously enlisted, have been in camp for sixteen days’ training. They acquitted themselves remarkably well, and won the unstinted praise of every one for their enthusiasm and application to the work. I saw many of them myself, including infantry, light-horsemen, engineers and field ambulance units. I was immensely proud of them, and their spirit was reminiscent of the Australian Imperial Force. Nine months or more have elapsed, yet many thousands of troops in Queensland have not received their uniforms. This is not fair to the recruits, and does not invite respect for the Defence Department. Over and over again I have received complaints in regard to this delay, and by air mail to-day I received this further letter of complaint -
My son joined the 7th Field Engineers, Ipswich, last January, and up to date is unable to obtain his uniform equipment.
I got in touch with Ordnance Officer, Brisbane, to-day, who stated matter was entirely in hands of Quartermaster at Ipswich. The Ordnance Officer did not seem to take much interest in my complaint.
I could quote many other letters complaining in a similar strain. This problem should be tackled with greater enthusiasm and thoroughness. Though we are now at war, insufficient activity is being displayed by the department towards the rapid training of our young officers and non-commissioned officers. An the result of the rapid increase of the strength of the Militia, more than onehalf of the junior officers and noncommissioned officers in many units are holding only provisional ranis. These young men were promoted because they had extraordinary qualifications and were keen to push ahead in the military organization. They are, naturally, anxious to learn their duties in order to become 100 per cent, efficient. Why have they not been encouraged by being called up into special schools to give them a chance to gain the military knowledge they are so anxious to acquire?
– They are being called up.
– I have not heard anything about it. Every encouragement should be given to them to widen their knowledge. I am not quite satisfied by the Minister’s interjection because E believe that they should have been called up long ago. Why this long delay ? What could they know of attack and defence, advance guard and rear guard actions, map reading, field sketching, gas warfare and trench construction? To become efficient in this work young officers and noncommissioned officers should be given the opportunity to receive instruction. In this war, as in the last, everything will depend upon the leadership of the young platoon officer. The officers and non-commissioned officers of the Militia Forces should be in camp now learning to equip themselves for the task ahead of them. Only when they have been properly trained can they in turn train recruits of the rank and file placed under their charge. When they are trained and ready to command their respective units, battalions and regiments should be called up to carry put mon! advanced training in attack and defence, and in company, battalion and brigade manoeuvres. It took over six months to train and harden the members of thu Australian Imperial Force for active service. In view of that, why is there to-day so much delay in training our Militia Forces ? In a leading article published in the Melbourne Herald of the 11th September, headed “Australia is an empty camp”, the writer says -
A week of war has passed, and the Australian public is frankly uneasy at the delay in planning for Australia’s participation. What has been done in Australia so far is no more than is being done by neutral countries who are policing their own territories. The Australian people do not contemplate their share of war as that of passively carrying on their normal life behind the protection of Britain, benefiting, perhaps, by the sale of our foodstuffs and materials. It is Australia’s war that is being fought. … It may be admitted that the Government cannot yet determine where, and how, Australia’s manpower will most be needed. But it can be said with great definiteness that hy the extent to which Australia’s manhood is trained and ready to strike, wherever and whenever it is needed, the democracies will be so much the stronger to win the war. . . . The brave declaration that Australia is with Britain in this Avar, lias, so far, been followed up with little but official explanations and excuses for putting limitations upon Australia’s participation. . . . Are we to wait until we are called upon to fight before wc start to train our nien to fight?
A week of war lias passed, a week that has. only emphasized the magnitude of the task before the democracies, and yet there is no call or movement of urgency from our national leaders. Surely nothing is more urgent than that we should now be enlisting and training our available manhood for the war in which we have pledged Australia to fight. … If the Defence Department confesses ‘ itself incapable of the job, let the Government put the men into camp, and, with the help of those who fought in the last war. they will train themselves. . . .
That article expresses views which I hold very strongly, and which I commend to the Minister’s careful perusal. Finally, I should like to know why the Minister is not using the Australian Imperial Force Reserve?
– I am only tpo anxious to do so.
– Some time ago the Minister asked the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia to co-operate with him in the enlistment of a reserve of ex-members of the Australian Imperial Force to guard essential services and vulnerable posts, such as electric supplies, petrol depots, water and gas supplies, railway bridges, junctions and bridges, &c. “What are the men of the reserve doing to-day? The jobs for which the reserve was to be formed are to some degree being carried out by the lads of our Militia Forces. Why should our militiamen be called upon to carry out Australian Imperial Force Reserve duties? If the proposal for the enlistment of an Australian Imperial Force Reserve were carried out with enthusiasm, ex-soldiers would be only too glad to be able to render efficient and loyal service by the protection of our valuable national assets. Has anything yet been done beyond the announcement seven or eight months ago of the proposal to form the reserve? It seems that the ex-soldiers are being fooled in this matter. I regard it as the birthright of every young Australian to be trained by the nation to play his part in the defence of his country. We have stopped .recruiting. As soon as we have trained our young officers and noncommissioned officers recruiting should be speeded up again and the additional men can be trained and equipped. I should like to see more spirit and dash put into the training of the Militia personnel upon whom we have to rely for the defence of this country. There will be no dearth of young men offering if they are given the opportunity to train. Inquiries are made all over the Commonwealth by young men anxious to train and equip themselves for the defence of their country. I make no apology for refraining from discussing other important matters, because I believe that in these troublous times practically everything must be subordinated to the defence of this country.
.- This budget, which outlines the proposals of the Government for the expenditure of approximately £100,000,000, is the most important that members of a Commonwealth Parliament have ever been called upon to discuss. I rise to condemn the Government, not for the increased taxation which it must impose in order to raise sufficient revenues to meet the emergency confronting the nation, but for the means by which it proposes to do so. In other words, I object to the incidence of the taxes which are to be increased. It is on this point that the Opposition finds itself so definitely in disagreement with the Government. To meet the emergency the Government has decided to increase taxation in various directions along lines that have been followed on former occasions. In looking round for means by which to supplement its income it was not prepared to exact greater contributions from the wealthy land-owners who support it. The accumulated remission of land tax during the regime of the Lyons Government was approximately £9,000,000. After allowing for the statutory exemption of £5,000, the total unimproved value of land assessed for Federal land tax purposes is £258,000,000 and the cities pay approximately two-thirds of this tax. I believe, as I am sure the majority of the people do, that those who have their greatest assets in the land of this country should make a large contribution towards its defence in times of emergency. We find, however, that instead of demanding larger contributions from the wealthy landownci-3, the Government proposes to adopt the practice of its predecessors and increase the sales tax which is borne by everybody in the community, rich and poor alike. The sales tax imposes the greatest burden on the poorest sections of the community, particularly the invalid and old-age pensioners. During recent years in this country the primary industries have steadily but surely been going to the wall. It is safe to say that had it not been for this war, this tragedy that has come again upon humanity, larger and larger bounties would have been asked for by the primary industries. Those engaged in the wheat industry are carrying a load of debt amounting to no less than £140,000,000, and those engaged in the wool industry are staggering under a load of debt amounting to £169,000,000. All of the other primary industries are in a similar position. That is the rural picture. Now let us consider the secondary industries. Employees in secondary industries .have their wages fixed in accordance with the cost-of-living index figures by the Arbitration Court or by wage-fixing tribunals. We find, however, that increases of wages disappear with advancing costs of commodities. Then we have the unfortunate unemployed numbering approximately 250,000 and still another large army represented by those receiving under the basic wage. Last year, according to a publication issued by the Statistician of Queensland, Australia’s national income in the year 1937-3S was the largest in its history. .Bearing in mind the condition of the primary industries, the unfortunate plight of the wageearners; and the fact that a big percentage of people are getting no wages at all, it will be realized that the national income must be going somewhere. Last year, 1937-3S, we had the largest national income in our history, and I should like to indicate where some of our national income is going. In the opinion of the Labour party, those who, in fact, own this country should contribute most to it in a time of national need. I have before me a list of companies, including General Motors-Holdens Limited, T. J. Richards and Sons Limited, Goldsbrough Mort Limited, Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, the Eudunda Farmers Cooperative Society Limited, the South Australian Farmers Co-operative Union Limited, and nine associated banks and insurance companies, all of which are making huge profits out of their operations in Australia despite the position of thousands of unfortunate people in the community. Last year they made an average profit of approximately £750,000.
– Some of them made much less than that.
– That is so, but some of them made considerably more.
– It is very unfair to include companies which made much less than that.
– I am not unfair. That is not a policy of mine. Truth is all that matters here, nothing else. These figures are the latest obtainable from the Registrar of Companies. The profits made by the organizations to which I have referred range from £17,000 to £5,250,000. General Motors-Holdens Limited in South Australia made £1,600,000 and its employees received jobs whenever contracts were let to that firm. It can be seen that the increased mechanization of industry is benefiting not the workers generally, but merely the people who own the industries and those who own the land upon which the industries are situated. A very few people in the community are becoming richer and richer while the great masses of the people are becoming poorer and poorer. I challenge contradiction of that statement by any banker or economist or his representative in this chamber. The same trend is obvious in all countries.
In this time of crisis, we cannot see very far ahead, but I am one of those who are not very optimistic with regard to the outcome of the war. I hope that we shall win, but in my opinion it is a first-class tragedy. Having participated in the last war, I know what occurred then and what the people had to suffer, and have a very clear appreciation of the difficulties which the country must face in time of war. It, is a bad thing indeed if, in a time of crisis, we have not a government which has the courage to place the burden of taxation on those best able to bear it - the wealthy land-holders. An exemption of £5,000 would ensure that such taxation would not harm the poorer land-holders of the community.
– Why does not the honorable member join a national government and make sure that that is done?
– There is no need for that, but I believe that the honorable member himself is trying very hard to get into the Government. Indeed, I understand the way has been made clear for him to do so. Personally I wish him luck. I point out, however, that his party has been in and out of the Government so often that one is reminded of Mohammed’s coffin, which, according to legend, hangs for ever half-way between heaven and earth.
– The honorable member himself had a similar experience in South Australia some years ago, and he should be sympathetic.
– On no occassion did I enter a government which did not include in its platform the principles of the party to which I belong, and which I believe to be right. Rather than support a. government which did not stand for those principles I would remain in opposition, or, if necessary, in private life.
The question of taxation leads us to the general question of finance which was dealt with in the final portion of the Treasurer’s budget speech, and also by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) a few minutes ago. The whole budget and the economic life of the people of this country hinge on finance. As I see it, the financial position of this country to-day- is that nine banking companies control the monetary policy of the nation. A larger and larger percentage of the people is giving thought to these matters, and 1 am of the opinion that, if we do not tackle the difficulties of monetary and banking control in a satisfactory way, we shall feel on our shoulders the hands of younger men who wish to push us out and do the job themselves. We have in this country a national bank - the Commonwealth Bank - but it - has never been effectively used in the interests of the people generally. In the interests of national security, the Government now intends to use the credit of this nation to whatever degree is necessary to protect it from intruders, but it is also our duty - and just as important a duty - to protect the people within this country by giving them economic security. When that is done we shall be in a much stronger position to assist the other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations. I draw the attention of the committee to the fact that we, as a people, are paying £50,000,000 a year in interest. It is estimated that private interest also amounts to approximately £50,000,000 a year, so that, in the aggregate, we are paying £100,000,000 a year in interest alone. That cannot continue. Let me just take the matter a little further. In England, 75 per cent, of the colossal total taxation revenue is devoted to payment for past wars, and foi1 preparation for future wars. Is not that an indictment of our civilization? We in Australia are pursuing the same course, and I am satisfied that, as this country is estimated, to be worth £7,000,000,000, and our national income is up to £700,000,000 a year, credit should be made available at cost to finance the war and safeguard the financial structure of this nation. Otherwise, budget by budget, we must increase taxation. All economists and students of finance agree that there is a limit which taxation may reach without increasing greatly the already large army of - unemployed. I arn convinced that the orthodox banking methods of the world must be fitted in with modern industrial developments generally. We have solved the problem of production and we have solved the problem of manufacture. To-day manufactured goods are being produced in rapidly increasing quantities. In transportation and in communication, all forms of -human activity have been revolutionized, but out-of-date and cumbersome methods of banking are retained, and finance generally is in the same position as it was when the first usurer decided that interest was a good thing. I disagree with the Government policy in relation to taxation. I believe that landholders of this country should be obliged to contribute a very much larger share than they have up to the present, and I hope that the Government will, as was hinted in the budget, call upon the resources held by that very wealthy’ section of the community which really owns this country, and oblige its members to pay their just contribution to the nation in this time of national crisis.
I wish the Ministers every success in the trying times ahead because I realize the great strain which will be placed upon them. Honorable members of the Opposition will assist them in whatever way possible, but, if we see an injustice, we shall fight against it in the interests of the people who suffer by an unjust distribution of the load.
– I listened with great interest to the speech made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), hoping to get an indication of the attitude which he and his party propose to take towards the Government and Government supporters, not only in relation to this budget but also in connexion with “the immediate prosecution of the war. I found his remarks interesting but extremely disappointing, and I venture to say that the honorable gentleman has never delivered a more barren speech on the major problems of this country. I tried to follow him very closely in his analysis of the financial position of the Commonwealth, and I was completely nonplussed at the line of reasoning which he pursued. He seemed to be very anxious to criticize without taking the responsibility of offering any constructive suggestions which the Government might adopt. I was struck by the peculiarity of his attitude in a time of crisis like the present, when one would expect him boldly to declare what he would do if he were in charge of the Government. He was very careful to avoid making any definite or concrete proposals which he would like to see implemented, and merely made suggestions which appeared to crystalize in two points: First, that a terrific slug of direct taxation should ;be imposed - immediately, I presume - on the so-called wealthy classes; and, secondly - and this was the most curious part of his speech - thai- the credit resources of the banking institutions of Australia should be handled - man-handled would be a more appropriate term - by the Government without delay, having regard to the emergency situation with which it is confronted. We know that whenever a budget is brought down those are the two most favoured lines of attack by our friends who sit on the Opposition benches. 1 think that we are entitled to expect, in on emergency such as we - have not witnessed for the last 20 or 25 years, that those honorable members who wish to criticize what is being done, should make an effort to be at least constructive. 1’ challenge any honorable member of the Opposition to disprove my statement that there was nothing constructive in the speech of the Leader of the Opposition.
To use a homely phrase, the mountain laboured and brought forth a mouse. I admit that it was quite a good-looking “ mouse “, and one that we have to examine closely and with a certain degree of sympathy. The honorable gentleman concluded his portentous address by suggesting that, if we wanted to make an effective contribution to the. defence of the Empire, we should include in the budget the sum. of £1,000,000 for’ the purchase of foodstuffs, to be sent to the British nation as a gift. Considering the magnitude of the occasion, and the heavy responsibility which rests on the Leader of the Opposition, who told us the other day that he prefers the role of a helpful critic to that of an active participant in the Government, we are entitled to expect something more from him. I do not complain about his little “ mouse “ ; the idea that it embodies is quite attractive, and OIl U that I should be prepared to support. But what good would it do? Would such a gesture not actually make Australia look ridiculous? We are proposing to spend so many millions of pounds that another million would not matter. If the British people would regard it as evidence of our practical sympathy and our desire to help, I should advocate its inclusion in the budget, but I venture to affirm that it would be of no practical value in solving the defence problems of this country. If £1,000,000 would be so valuable in assisting Great Britain to win the war, why not increase the amount to £5,000,000 or £10,000,000 and do the job properly? We could easily do that if the Government of Great Britain were to regard it as a valuable contribution. But I am sure that the Government and the people of Great Britain will expect a much wider gesture of sympathy from the Australian people in the near future.
I wish to deal cursorily with the financial analysis in respect of taxation made by the Leader of the Opposition. The honorable gentleman was not really candid in this respect ; he appeared to wish to make party political capital out of the Government’s present difficulties, and at the same time to win for his party a certain degree of party political credit. According to his analysis of the budget, the great burden of taxation imposed on the people of this country is in the form of indirect taxes; in other words, the poor are taxed and the rich are exempt from such taxes. By way of interjection I asked what the States were doing, and the honorable gentleman made rather a joke of the matter by referring to a horse race; and when he eventually dealt with the subject he was again disappointing. It appeared . that he wished to evade that very important aspect of this matter. 1 have perused the figures, and shall submit evidence to show that he was not efficient and in some respects was not actually honest in his criticism, because he did. not give the facts. I find that indirect taxes to be imposed by the Commonwealth under this budget are estimated to yield £62,860,000, whilst the direct taxes are expected to yield £17,160,000; and the Treasurer (Mr. Menzies) has told us that that is only the beginning of what the Commonwealth may have to raise. The Leader of the Opposition convicted himself out of his own mouth. After painting a woeful picture of the inequity of taking so much from the poor and so little from the rich, he admitted that the total burden of direct and indirect taxation is to-day about £120,000,000, of which the Commonwealth takes about £80,000,000 and the (States about £40,000,000. There, he left the matter; he drew no conclusions whatever. But I do. “We know very well that the bulk of ‘State taxation is direct, that very little of that £40,000,000 is not taken directly out of the pockets of the people in the same way as the Commonwealth income tax is taken. Therefore, if we combine what is taken by the Commonwealth and the States, we find that 50 per cent, of it is direct taxation and 50 per cent, indirect taxation. So that, in some mysterious, perhaps magical way, which the Queensland phenomenon referred to might analyse and explain, our Governments have managed to strike a natural and logical balance in respect of the incidence of the taxation imposed on the people of this country. The Leader of the Opposition would entirely discount the incidence of direct State taxation, even though he admitted that the total of the Federal and State taxation is an almost insupportable burden on the people. I have shown on his own figures and on the budget estimates that 50 per cent, of it is
Mr. Thompson. indirect and 50 per cent, is direct. I cannot see that one could have a better balance than that.
– The honorable member admits that the bulk of federal taxation is indirect?
– I do; but that cannot be considered alone, in view of the fact that there is only one body of taxpayers. The honorable gentleman knows very well that he receives his Federal assessment simultaneously with his State assessment. When we are talking of the incidence of taxation we have to take cognizance of what else the people have to carry in addition to what is imposed by the Federal Government. The governments of .the Commonwealth and the States have had regard to the proper incidence of taxation, with the result that, to-day one-half of what is imposed is direct and the other half indirect. They have struck an almost perfect balance.
– Does the honorable member think that that is fair?
– In fact, it is more than a fair arrangement, because a good deal of the indirect taxes are paid by the so-called wealthy classes in the form of luxury taxes. The Leader of the Opposition evaded a very important aspect of Commonwealth obligations. A considerable proportion of the direct and indirect taxes is returned directly to the poorer people of this country. In this budget, there is provision for £16,700,000 for invalid and old-age pensions. I make no reference to repatriation pensions, which also are increased this year to a total of over £8,000,000.
– Are not those person? also taxed ?
– Yes. But the amount thus paid out represents almost the whole of the direct taxes taken from the people. The Leader of the Opposition omitted to mention that fact, in his criticism of the financial policy of the Government. I draw attention also to his evasion of reference to the practice followed by his own party when it was previously in office. He seemed - almost with his tongue in his cheek, I should say –4o take some pleasure in hurling at this
Government and its supporters the allegation that it was responsible for increasing the direct burden on the poorer people of the country by the imposition of the sales tas. He did not pause to admit, although he was reminded of the fact, that the sales tax was entirely the invention of his own party, when it was in power and was faced with difficult financial problems. Nor did he mention that his party had had to meet tremendous deficits in the Commonwealth mainly as the result of the depression. It did not stop to strike any fine balance between direct and indirect taxation, but came down with a terrific load of £25,000,000 of extra taxes in a day.
– The honorable member is having a nightmare.
– That was the total burden of extra taxes imposed on the people of the Commonwealth during the right honorable gentleman’s tenure of office. It was subsequently reduced by a government of the same political persuasion as that which now holds office, by an amount of £15,000,000, leaving a balance of £10,000,000, which remains operative to-day, and which will very soon be increased until probably the total will far surpass the amount collected by the last Labour Administration. The sales tax was introduced, I admit, during the depression.
– We: did not collect more than £53,000,000 in both direct and indirect taxes any year.
– The total additional burden placed by the Scullin Government upon the people was about £25,000,000 a year. The Government of that day could have done nothing else, and it got considerable support from the then Opposition in doing what it did. The present Government should not be blamed for doing what the Labour government of that day did. The sales tax is the only indirect tax which, in my opinion, seriously affects the cost of living of the poor people. The tax falls upon very many articles and in many indirect ways. It even affects the children’s lolly-sticks and chocolates. Because its ramifications are so great, it is a most effective way to increase the cost of commodities used by the poorer sections of the community. Originally, it was a gift from the Scullin Government, and it has been appreciated so much by successive governments that they have made it a permanent part of the financial structure of the Commonwealth. When it was introduced, I predicted that it would never be abolished, and now I am satisfied that my prophecy will hold good. I can see no reason why the Government should not increase the rate of sales tax, if necessary, to 10 per cent. The list of exemptions should be maintained as far as practicable. We have been told that only one-third of the volume of business in Australia is affected by the tax. We cannot expect to continue at that rate in a time of war. It may become necessary to extend the field to cover at least twothirds of our business activities, exempting only the goods purchased by the poorer classes. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) also referred to other forms of taxation, which I contend do not impose a real burden on the poorer people. Excise duties, which yield a considerable amount of indirect taxation, are imposed mainly on luxury articles. “The Leader of the Opposition referred, almost with tears in his eyes, to the poor man’s mug of beer, his tobacco and cigarettes, and his whisky and soda. All of those are luxuries. If men consider them to be necessary to their comfort, they must expect to pay more for them in times of national crisis than they pay in normal times.
– I criticized the sales tax, too.
– That is a legacy from the Scullin Government which subsequent governments have maintained and developed until it has become a vital factor in the financial structure of the country. I cannot understand why honorable members of the Opposition should now raise the cry that the sales tax is an iniquitous weapon of taxation which bears heavily on the poor people. The less they say about it the better, in my opinion.
I wish now to draw the attention of honorable members to other weaknesses in the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. He attacked land-owners because the land tax on their properties was reduced, and told us something we already knew, namely, that two-thirds of the land tax is provided by the property-owners of the urban areas.
– Do they pass the tax on?
– I do not know whether they do or not. One reason why it has been extremely difficult for the Commonwealth Government to increase the land tax, however much it may have desired to do so, is that under the Commonwealth Constitution it is not permissible to discriminate between groups of taxpayers or between States. Because of that the tax imposed on the city landowners must also be imposed on the country land-owners, although the values of city properties remain more ‘ or less fixed, whereas the values of country properties change almost with every season. It has been impossible for the taxation authorities to invent a legislative instrument to enable the requisite amount of tax to be obtained from city land-owners without ruining the economic position of even the wealthy primary producers. Consequently, the city land-owners have been given the benefit of any concessions made to rural land-owners. The Leader of the Opposition is aware of that difficulty.
We are faced to-day with a great emergency. As a representative of many country land-owners, I venture to say that they will not complain, even if they arc called upon to pay an undue proportion of land taxation. I do not speak for the city land-owners. I know the outlook of the country owners, however, and although I do not urge the Government to make a special attack upon them, even those who own large properties, I am sure that it will have nothing to fear from them if it wishes to increase revenue from land taxation. The country land-owners will bear their share of the burden, and ask only that other sections of the community shall do likewise. Members of the Opposition have complained about the reduction of this tax in recent years, and the Leader of the Opposition mentioned specifically that it had been reduced practically by 50 per cent., and had only been raised by 11 per cent, last year. The reason for the easing of that burden has been the great fluctuation of incomes since 1930-31.
– But the city landowners’ incomes have increased.
– The values of their properties remain more or less static, but land values in the country are subject almost to seasonal conditions. In one year, a country land-holder may be able to pay tax and in the next year hemay not be able to do so. Last year alone, the value of recorded production of Australia fell by £40,000,000. It is pointed out in the budget that this was largely due to the slump in the values of exportable primary products. In the two years 1937 and 1938 the total loss suffered by primary industries was about £70,000,000. That had a great influence on the policy of the Government of which I was a member for some time. We knew when we eased the burden on the primary producers, that we were putting more money into the pockets of the big companies referred to by members of the Opposition. Had we been able to find a way to get at those wealthy city companies they would not have escaped so long. We knew that there was no way to derive extra, taxation from them, because any measure of taxation directed at them would also fall on the primary producers.
– What about an excess profits tax?
– A war-time profits tax will have to come. Australia had such a tax in operation during the last war, and inevitably it will have one again. Now that the Government is vested with absolute power in the conduct of the war, it has many means at its disposal to raise taxation. But the war has only just begun, and I question whether it would be wise for the Government to exhaust every possible resource of taxation before the people fully realize what they have to face. I commend the moderation and judgment of the Ministry in not being too harsh at the beginning, because it does not yet know what expenditure it will Iia ve to incur. The Government would be showing signs of panic if it said now that it wanted £100,000,000 for which it had no immediate use, but which it could only keep in the till in case of eventualities. The Government knows that it. can obtain whatever money it may want through the channels of taxation and loans, provided the people have the capacity to pay.
The Leader of the Opposition referred to the part that the States were playing in this time of crisis. The Commonwealth Government should pay more serious attention than it is doing to the incidence of State taxation. It must not adopt the attitude indicated by the Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Mair, last week when he attributed, to the Prime Minister the statement that the Commonwealth was not interested in what the States did, so long as the Commonwealth had a free hand. Mr. Mair announced that, in view of that attitude, he proposed to carry on with his enormous pre-war budget, which provided for extra taxation amounting to £6,000,000. ‘ That, is more than the total increase to be spread by the Commonwealth Government over the whole of the country. If the people are to be expected to accept cheerfully all the financial strain imposed on them by the Commonwealth Government, the States must radically alter their spending policies. Now that the Commonwealth has supreme authority, it has no justification for sidestepping the people in that connexion, in view of the emergency which we face, it should compel the States to revise their budgets drastically without waste of time. The Prime Minister should sound a warning to the Premier of New South Wales before he imposes this colossal and unnecessary additional direct taxation on the people of his .State. Mr. Mair should bc asked to defer action until the question of the relations of State expenditure to Commonwealth wartime expenditure has been investigated. 1 do not wish to add to the brain-racking problems which the Government has to face. I know that it will do its best. But insufficient attention has been given to the important fact that most of the expenditure for defence purposes included in the budget is based upon the pre-war policy of the Government. The budget was framed in the belief that there would be at least eighteen months to two years to prepare for expenditure.
The truth of this is shown by the fact that £1,250,000 is provided for the purchase of 50 Lockheed bombing aircraft, not one of which we have any chance of getting while the Neutrality Act of the United States of America stands. That, should be looked into immediately. There is also an item of more than £3,000,000 for twelve torpedo boats which we have no hope of getting during the period of the war because every one of them will be wanted for Great Britain itself. It may be necessary for the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) radically to alter the whole scheme of defence expenditure.
The Government should take a strong stand with the States whose budgets have been framed on a peace-time basis. Now that we are at war it is impossible for the people of Australia to carry extra State taxation as well as heavily increased Commonwealth taxation. I admit that the major problem of unemployment is a State responsibility, but the States should be compelled to recast their requirements. In days to come this country will be engaged in a welter of loan raising - some of the loans may eventually have to be compulsory - and all interests in the community, rich and poor, will have to put their savings generously into war loans, because it will be from that source that the bulk of our defence expenditure will have to come. Therefore, before it is too late, the States must be made to prune their needs. They will have to be brought up with a round turn. The Commonwealth has the authority to do that. The Commonwealth should obtain the best financial brains available to help it. Mention was made to-day of a gentleman in Queensland. He could be brought to help. I ask the Minister at the table (Mr. Perkins) to place what I have said before the Ministry.
.- The budget that the committee is discussing is a tentative document which was prepared before the declaration of war and in criticizing it honorable members must have that fact in mind. This budget will have to be completely overhauled, but there are some aspects which are worth commenting upon. The first fact that strikes one - it struck the Treasurer (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) - is that this is the first occasion on which the Commonwealth budget has been for more than a £100,000,000. Since this huge expenditure was envisaged before the outbreak of war one can realize that the people of Australia in the very near future will have to provide to the Commonwealth Government, for the conduct of the war, an even vaster sum. When one recalls that in 1914 the Commonwealth budget was for about £20,000,000, one instantly realizes the enormous financial problem that will exist for whatever Government is in office in Australia for the next few years. But for the fact that about £7,000,000 of war debt has been taken from our shoulders and that the interest bill has been reducedby millions of pounds as the result of lower rates of interest, the expenditure for this year would be much greater even than thatwhich was contemplated when the budget was framed. If Australia is to be able to finance its future the best brains that we have in Australia will have to be used. There will have to be co-operation of all parties, irrespective of political colour so that financial equilibrium can be achieved.
Honorable members opposite have attacked the Government’s method of raising its revenues and have pointed out thatthe greater proportion of the Commonwealth moneys comes from indirect taxation. Criticism of indirect taxation comes ill from the Labour party. If an argument is based on principle it does not matter whether a government is in office in good or bad ‘times and, accordingly, it does not matter whether the Labour party was in office in a period of depression or in a period of prosperity. If it believes in a policy of direct taxation it should have applied such a policy when in office, but nothing of the kind was ever attempted. During the Labour regime the tariff - an indirect tax - rose sky-high. The sales tax was not a thing of our making; the system was imported from a sister dominion, but it was instituted in this country by a Labour government and it was imposed in such a manner that the rich and the poor bore it alike. But governments similar to this Government have exempted so many items that I challengemembers of the Opposition to name one item within the needs of the poorer classes that is subject to the tax. The fact that Labour was in office and failed to do as it now advocates that this Government should do is sufficient indication that there is something radically wrong with the Opposition’s arguments. What honorable members opposite say will not carry any weight with the Australian people, who, although they may pay only cursory attention to politics and are sometimes bewildered by the intricacies of the Federal and State spheres, are not fools.
Sitting suspended from 6.14to 8 p.m.
– I propose now to. deal with three subjects and to preface each point with the melancholy statement that we are at war. If one were to go about asking why we are at war, the reply one would most frequently receive would be, not that we are at war for the purpose of defending ourselves - though that enters into it very largely - but that we are at war because we insist upon having some decent system of international relations; that we are tired of Hitlerism, and are determined to end it. In other words, the British people are fighting, as in 1914, more for an ideal than for self-preservation, or for the preservation of this Empire on which the sun never sets. That much is set forth in Herr Hitler’s book Mein Kampf in which he said that, during the Great War, the Germans fought for the Fatherland, but the British fought for an ideal. That is why we arc at war now. The general feeling is that after Poland no one knows what might happen next. We are fighting because we want to see international relations based upon decency and right. We are fighting because we hate tyranny, persecution and oppression. We are fighting because we know that Hitlerism is something that must be smashed. We are determined that, since Hitler began the war, we shall play a big part in the peace. So far as we can see now it is going to be a hard struggle, and a long one. This leads me to my point.
During a time of crisis when the maximum effort is required of all our Australian people, in common with the people of the whole Empire, at a time when national unity is demanded as never before, we have to face the fact that, in our national Parliament, we have no unity. We have not given an example of unity to the people of Australia. From this plane which we occupy, be it lofty or otherwise, we ask the people of Australia to be completely united, while we ourselves are disunited. We have in this Parliament a minority Government, rather a strange thing at any time, but a fantastic thing at a time like this. Alone of all the Parliaments of the Empire we cannot claim stability of government, that most precious gem in the crown of any nation. I do not propose to go into the reasons for this. There was a quarrel between two boys, and after that they decided to walk on opposite sides of the road. But that quarrel took place before the declaration of war. We are now at war, and whatever personalities were indulged in, or whatever the cause of the difference, the time has now gone by for quarrels of that kind. The people now demand stability of government, if possible, a government composed of all parties in this House. That should be our aim. It was expected by members of this Parliament, and by the public outside. The formation of such a government would not necessarily imply the cessation of criticism, because there will always be criticism when there is a free Parliament. It would mean, however, the getting together in the one government of the best brains from all the parties in the Parliament. The formation of such a government now seems to be impossible. Since the declaration of the Labour party’s policy in regard to the present crisis it has become evident that there can be no national government. The Labour party’s policy as enunciated by its leader in this House, and over the air the other night, does not differ much from Labour’s old policy on international affairs. It is the old policy done up in dress clothes, with top hat, tails and white tie, but underneath is the same old skeleton. It is still something very like the policy of isolation. The Labour party, says, in effect, that it believes in the integrity of the British Empire. Well, that can mean anything; it has not yet been explained. The Labour party goes on to say that it believes in the defence of Australia. To that we all subscribe; but, says the Labour party, no matter what the international or strategical position, no matter how safe Australia may be, it will not consent to the sending of one man overseas to help the Empire.
– That is incorrect.
– That is the statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), as delivered the other night. If it is the policy of the Labour party to send an expeditionary force overseas, provided it can safely be done, I shall be pleased to hear that policy enunciated by the Leader of the party in this House, and I should be more pleased to hear him make that statement over the national network. However, the policy of the Labour party seems to be as I have stated it. Actually, it is nothing more than a policy of benevolent neutrality. Australia is to become the supplier of certain commodities to Great Britain. It is to become the Empire’s granary, the supplier of primary products and, to some extent, of secondary products also. But remember this: We are to be well paid for it all.
– The Leader of the Opposition did say that we should send £1,000,000 worth of food as a gift to Great Britain.
– If we are to do only what the Labour party proposes, we should be doing what amounts in actual fact to profiteering. This fight is for an ideal, but the Labour party proposes that, although it is being fought by our own kith and kin, we shall take no active part in it even though the Japanese Navy should come down to convoy our troops, even though Italy should remain neutral, and even though the United States of America should guarantee our security with its own naval forces. That, so far as I can understand it, is the policy of the Labour party. If it is not, I should like to hear a statement to the contrary.
– The honorable member does not understand our policy.
– I listened most particularly to the broadcast of the Leader of the Opposition the other night. His statement was couched in the simplest terms, and I think I have repeated it fairly. If I have misinterpreted- what he said-, if in fact he really meant something different, then sooner or later a national government will be formed in Australia. But, so far as I can see, it can he formed only by the smashing of the Labour party. As things are now it is . impossible for a national government to be formed. There is no reason, so far as I can see, why the two parties in this Parliament who subscribe in general principle to the same policy,, should riot come together and give Australia an example of unity, and the blessing of stable government.
– That has been arranged, has it not?
– I do not know whether it has or not. An offer was made to the- Prime Minister, and all we know is that, so far, no answering offer of co-operation has been made. In view of the gravity of our situation, I hope that personal ..animosities and personal ambitions will not be a barrier to that unity which the nation demands.
I come now to the question of defence efficiency, and again I preface my remarks with the statement that we are at war. However, so far as any real effort towards promoting military efficiency is concerned, one might be pardoned for believing that we are still at peace.’ A defence policy was enunciated twelve months ago, but not much has been done to give effect to it. Steps were to be taken to secure .a certain number of trained troops, but that part of the policy seems to have been forgotten, or abandoned on account of expense. Apparently, the authorities were not particularly concerned with efficiency. Every one agrees that if we are to play any worthy part in the defence of this country, or of the Empire, we must have trained soldiers, men who can give an account of themselves against any troops whom they may have to meet. But is that the position? Have we any considerable number of men in camp to be trained, and I lay emphasis on the word “trained”? We have not. If’ men were required for home service, or to send overseas as an expeditionary force,, or even to relieve British troops at Singapore, our front line of defence, they are not available.
– Is the honorable member himself trained?
– No, nor is the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson), or any one else. That is the burden of my complaint. The proposal that we are to take up the Militia in batches and give them sixteen days’ training is too fantastic for words, when any troops they may be called upon to meet have had at least two years’ military training. Having in mind the fact that the intricacies of war to-day are much greater than they were in 1914-18, does the Government really believe that a soldier can be trained in a camp of 30 days’ duration? It cannot be said that we are on the way to having a trained force.
– The honorable member should undergo training.
– I shall, at the right time. No expeditionary force will leave Australian shores without me. I wonder if honorable members opposite are prepared to make that statement. What to me is a most astounding and alarming position is that whilst we are doing so little, the New Zealand Government is taking action that I believe we ourselves should take.
– And it is a Labour government.
– That is so. It is prepared to play its full part, if conditions permit, in any part of the world, and to send its soldiers to fight side by side with the soldiers of the Mother Country for the principles it holds dear. The policy of the New Zealand Government is to enrol volunteers to train - I mark the word “ train “ with all the emphasis I can - and be available for service either at home or overseas. If the international situation be such that no troops can be sent overseas, is it not better to have at home trained forces rather than a half-trained Militia? The Government should at once adopt a policy of that description; it should at once call for volunteers who are prepared to train properly in camp, who will be available, should they be called upon at any time, primarily to defend this country or, if not, to defend the principles for which we have engaged in this war. I hope that, before long, some statement of government policy of that description will be made. The present militia system, so far as efficiency is concerned, may almost be described as a waste of money.
The last subject upon which I wish to speak generally is one of much less importance, but it has something to do with this particular period. I shall speak for a moment, strange to say, on the tourist trade. As we are embarking upon this difficult period, the end of which we cannot see, I believe that any suggestion that lias for its purpose the attracting of money to Australia is worthy of consideration. The tourist trade, as honorable members know, is one of the most lucrative trades in the world. It is of more benefit to Canada in some years than the wool clip is to Australia. The hotel industry is the sixth or seventh largest, industry in the United States of America, and is mainly buoyed up by the tourist trade. Again, in Great Britain, European countries and the East every year sees the expenditure of millions of pounds in the tourist trade. Americans spend annually overseas millions of dollars, if not millions of pounds sterling. To-day, because of the unsettled state of the world, it is no longer safe for them to travel to Great. Britain or the Continent.
– Let them come to Tasmania.
– Conditions in China and Japan do not attract them. Therefore it seems that Australia may prout in this respect from the unsettled state of the world. I, in common with other honorable members, have travelled in the United States of America. We know that, although the American people are intensely interested in Australia, they know practically nothing about this country. Just as there is a desire in the hearts of the Australian people to see the United States of America, possibly even before the Old World, there is a desire among the American people to visit Australia. During this period, when the Pacific is free, and American ships ure able to cross it with very slight degree of clanger, we should profit from this somewhat exceptional set of circumstances. If we can lure to these shores tourists who normally travel to the Continent or the East, but who, because of unsettled world conditions to-day, are cut off from that travel, we shall be doing something of advantage to this country, and it is possible that we shall be able to develop this trade to a degree hitherto unknown in our history. Although this point is, possibly, of minor importance as compared with the other points I have raised, it is nevertheless, worthy of consideration.
In conclusion, I repeat that we should face the period ahead as a united nation and that the example of unity should first of all come from this national Parliament.
.- 1 have listened with interest to the speeches delivered during this debate. I was particularly interested to hear the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) say how pleased he was at the co-operation that has been extended to him by the members of tin Labour party in this House in the great crisis through which we are passing Recently there has been a substantial reduction of the value of our exports accompanied by rising taxation. Any country which finds itself in that position is right up against it. However, a i this is the last year of office of this Go vernment we see some glimmer of hopi for the future, though that hope is overshadowed by the war in which we are engaged. When the national debt of the Commonwealth is increasing year by year until we face a total indebtedness of £1,295,000,000, is it any wonder that the Treasurer is alarmed and showing signs of distress in facing his obligation? as the first man in Australia? It is noi for the Opposition to formulate the policy of the government of the day, and therefore the Government has every reason to be thankful to the Opposition, which represents the majority of the electors of Australia, for the unselfish way in which it has assisted it by its co-operation in the measures necessary for the protection of this country. The Government has looked in vain for a similar measure of co-operation from the Country party The United Australia party and thi.
Country party have been fighting like Kilkenny cats and it appears that the fight will continue until one or the other is annihilated.
I must confess to some surprise that the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) should have gone out of his way to hurl insults at the Labour party in connexion with the training of the defence forces of this country. I remind the honorable member that thatis a matter for which the Government must accept responsibility. However, I do not propose to be as hard on the Government as was the honorable member.
– He slated his own Government.
– That is so, and at the same time, he attacked honorable members on this side of the House for their failure to do what the Government itself is charged with responsibility for doing. Our overseas trade has declined from £122,000,000 in 1937-38 to £108,000,000 in 1938-39. The Government of the day has to accept responsibility for these astounding figures.
I support the remarks of my leader concerning the incidence of the taxation proposals of the Government to augment its reduced income. Like its predecessors, it proposes to relieve its wealthy supporters of hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxation and to impose further sacrifices on the poorest sections of the community. The wealthy land-owners of the capital cities should be called upon to contribute a greatly increased share of the revenue. Surely it cannot be said that to impose an additional burden of taxation on the bread of the workers of this country is a statesmanlike act. It is the large working-class families that eat the most bread, and therefore it is upon them that the burden of the flour tax falls. If the Government desires to exhibit true statesmanship, it should not tax the necessities of life. Among the poorer classes, bread is a staple food. The Government has invited criticism, and I am endeavouring to give it in a friendly manner. I understand that another budget is to be brought down later, and I hope that it will contain some measure of relief for the masses of this great Australian nation in this time of national emergency. The workers to-day are paying indirect taxes amounting to millions of pounds per annum. It is of no use to claim that a large amount of this taxation is on luxuries. Such is not the case. The taxation is on such things as clothes, and it is the working people who wear out the most clothes.
In his budget speech the Treasurer made an. announcement which showed anything but true statesmanship. Ho informed us that it was proposed to increase the tax on beer, a commodity which, in some instances is a medicine, and the very life of workers employed in dangerous industries. Some of the most eminent specialists in the world to-day have stated that” it is essential for men working in industries where dust is prevalent to have a glass of beer a day. That additional taxation represents more than £9 a year - a heavy impost on the worker. It would be just as logical to tax the afternoon teas in which the idle rich indulge. I enter my protest on behalf of the industrial workers who work in coal-mines, in the cement industry, in steel works, and in the zinc industry in Hobart, in which work is carried on amidst deadly fumes. Medical authorities have advised the workers iii industries where dust is bad to consume a certain quantity of beer in order to rid their systems of harmful dust.
I am here to protect the workers upon whose shoulders fall rauch of the burden of providing the defence requirements of this country, and in some instances, of the British Empire. One would expect from the Government legislation equitable to all classes of the people; because every section of the community should play its part in providing the additional funds required to carry on the tremendous struggle in which we are now engaged. I know that the war will be a long one, and I know the tragedies thai will take place in this country and in other countries of the Empire during the struggle. We have to organize our resources, and must he prepared to give every assistance possible. I commend the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), and also the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) for their suggestion that Australia should send to Britain as a gift portion of our surplus foodstuffs.
That could be accomplished by the Commonwealth Government purchasing from the primary producers all of their surplus produce at current ruling prices. It is a logical proposal, and shows true courage and a commendable spirit of cooperation. At any rate, it is evidence of a sincere desire to help Great Britain and Prance.
I listened with interest to the criticism of the Scullin Government offered by several honorable members. In my opinion, the work of that Government, far from being a tragedy in the political economy of this country, was an achievement. “When the Scullin Government came into power, Australia’s finances were in a shocking condition owing to maladministration by the “ Tragic Treasurer “, the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), during the term of office of the Bruce-Page Government. The administration by that Government was one of the greatest tragedies in the political history of this country. The preceding Government, led by the right honorable the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes), went out of office leaving a surplus of £5,000,000. When the Bruce-Page Government concluded its term of administration there was a deficit of £7,000,000. This meant that there had been a leakage of £12,000,000, owing to incompetent administration. It was the start of the depression in.this country. Honorable members may gibe at the Scullin Government, as the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) did this afternoon, but history is just as kind to us as it is to honorable members opposite. Labour has only occupied the treasury benches for two years in the last twenty years, and even during that time there was a hostile Senate, so the party to which honorable members on this side of the House belong has had very little opportunity to put its principles into effect. Prominent members of the United Australia party have admitted to me that it was the Scullin Government which pulled Australia out of the financial morass into which it had been plunged by the Bruce-Page Government. Now the Menzies Government has to meet its problems without our assistance, and it will be interesting to see how it faces up to its responsibilities.
It is our duty to organize all of the resources of this country in order to prosecute this war in the most efficient way possible; and to that end it is necessary, wherever possible, to utilize all of the natural resources of the nation. I visualize a prolonged struggle, and I realize what Australia’s responsibility will be.
The honorable member for Deakin severely criticized honorable members on this side of the House, and said that we had not done as much as we should have in the organization of the man-power of this country. In support of his argument, he referred to what had been done in New Zealand. I am one of those who were surprised at the Commonwealth Government’s decision not to accept the recommendation of the InspectorGeneral of Military Forces, Lieuten ant-General Squires, that a standing army of 10,000 men be established. If the Government could see its way to expend large sums of money in obtaining the advice of fully qualified men on- defence matters, then it should have accepted the recommendations put forward as the result of that expenditure. New Zealand has set a fine example by establishing a standing army of . 16,000 men despite the fact that the dominion has a population of only 1,250,000. There should be no difficulty, therefore, in maintaining a standing army of 10,000 men in Australia. The only excuse offered by the Government for abandoning the proposal was “the cost will be too great “ ; but I submit that, when national security is at stake, cost should not be taken into account. There would be no difficulty in obtaining 100,000 men, if necessary, provided they were being paid as soldiers should be paid for the work which they are called upon to do. Instead, however, the Commonwealth is looking for a cheap system that is repugnant to the Australian people. I have spoken to people in all sections of the community - military and civil - and all have agreed that the best thing that could have been done in the interest of the defence of this- country would have been to establish a standing army. I know that the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) agrees with me, but I think he has gone a little cold on the idea lately.
– I have not.
– I think the honorable gentleman has agreed that it is necessary to keep down the cost of defence of this country. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) supported the proposal when he was a private member, and even to-day he believes in it, but he was prevented from bringing the scheme into operation by his colleagues in the Cabinet. The decision to abandon the proposal was made by Cabinet, which must accept full responsibility for the decision. In my opinion, the scheme was a sound one, and I defy any member of the House to say that there was anything wrong with establishing a permanent army as a nucleus for the defence forces of this country. I do not claim to be a military expert, but I have been advised from time to time by some of the finest military men in the world. Only the trained man can ensure the defence of this country.
– Why not have compulsory universal military training?
– I am opposed to conscription and other totalitarian ideas.
– Compulsory universal training is not conscription.
– It originated in Germany. That is one of the things that have brought the world to its present state. Under compulsory training, men have been taught to shoot down their fellow-workers in other parts of the world. With men so highly trained, the only logical result is an orgy of slaughter. I understand that the Government has had the advice of military experts, and that the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) was a member of the Cabinet which brought to Australia the present Inspector-General of the Military Forces. Such being the case, he should face up to the recommendations of that gentleman. When does the Minister for Defence propose to organize a standing army to the strength requisite to. defend Australia? I know that he still favours that as the best method that could be adopted. The Government cannot be unaware of the drive that is taking place in the East, and must realize that it is possible for this country to be menaced at any time. What was done by the Anzacsin a voluntary spirit can be done again without compulsion. The Prime Minister said the other day that it is pleasing to see the manner in which Australians are volunteering for the defence of this country. We do not want, and there is no need for, compulsion; it is an insult to Australian manhood
Australia should also organize the whole of its material resources. Twelve months ago, the Prime Minister of Great Britain said that when that country again became involved in war it would be a war of long duration, and the nation that had the greatest resources must win. We have to organize the resources of this country. The lack of a proper economic survey which would disclose how and where munitions could be produced at the lowest cost is partly responsible for the financial position of the Government. I asked the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) on one occasion whether he would have a survey made to ascertain where munitions could be produced most cheaply; yet nothing has been done. Munitions have been produced in the different States without regard to cost. I requested the honorable gentleman to get in touch with the hydro-electric people in the island State of which I am a representative, where it is possible to produce the cheapest hydroelectric power in the southern hemisphere.. The Tasmanian undertaking can harness just on 2,000,000 horse-power. With such enormous power, we should be able to produce munitions more cheaply than any other country. Yet nothing has been done. Why? Because the desire is to play up to the big financial and industrial magnates in the larger States who support the Government rather than to relieve the people of the burden of high costs. I challenge any honorable member, including the Minister for Defence, to prove that a real costing system was applied to the production of munitions in this country. The Minister for Defence sat pat and said that they would be produced at any cost. Not in that way will the war be won. The Government should adopt business methods, and do the job thoroughly. The Cabinet should be composed of men ofbrains, and notice should be taken of the brains that are to be found on this side of the House. We are patriots, and are prepared to co-operate to the best of our ability without asking for a portfolio in a national government.
A very important commodity which is playing a considerable part in the present war is dolomite. I understand that it has been extensively utilized in Germany, Japan and Russia in the production of munitions, gun carriages, aeroplanes, and, I understand, motor cars when steel is unavailable. If the war should continue, in two years’ time deposits of this material will have to be developed. I have been advised that Great Britain requires 4,000 tons a year, the value of which would be £540,000, and that there are no supplies in the British Isles. There was an exhibition in Berlin to demonstrate what had been done with an alloy of zinc, copper and magnesium. There are deposits of magnesium in Tasmania. I have here a sample of it, which I shall hand to the Minister for Defence. I thank the Minister for Supply and Development for his co-operation up to date. The countries that I have mentioned have succeeded in producing munitions on a far larger scale than any other country, because they have had supplies of magnesium, whilst Great Britain has not. If the war is to be won, we must be practical, and it is useless to produce commodities that are not required.
– Are there not deposits of dolomite in Great Britain and Scotland ?
–No. A letter sent to .me from London by my military advisor states that Britain has no natural deposits of magnesium ; most of the raw material is in Russia, Austria, the United States of America and Manchukuo. Large deposits are, however, available in Tasmania, and the Tasmanian Government. would be prepared to provide hydroelectric power at a very cheap rate for any company which would undertake to ‘develop- the industry on a big scale. I appeal to the Government to show some interest- in the development of the natural .resources of this country which must certainly be of great value in the prosecution of the war. Unless we give our- attention to these serious matters .we may find that it will be necessary even in Australia to destroy pet cats and dogs, as is being done in England, in- order to ensure that valuable commodities may be available to the maximum extent for sustaining human life.- This reminds me that many of the wealthy ladies of Potts Point, Sydney, and fashionable suburbs in other capital cities,” would be showing far more patriotism if they were rearing children rather than caring for- lapdogs and petting them as very few children are petted. If we desire to become a great nation we must look to. our family life.
The Leader of the Opposition directed attention this afternoon to the fact that Germany had been able successfully to cope with its unemployment problem because it had dared fo draw to the fullest extent upon the credit resources of the nation. I suggest that the same policy should be adopted in Australia. The Commonwealth Bank could easily make use of the credit resources of this country to enable important public works to be put in hand for the employment of our people, When Mr. Bruce, the Australian High Commissioner in London, was in Australia he said that in his opinion the financial methods which Germany was adopting were sound to meet the internal needs of the country. Similar practices should be adopted in Australia. We have been told that £20,000,000 will need to ba borrowed from the money lenders of this country in the next twelve months in order to meet defence requirements. An amount exceeding £11,000,000 will have to be paid in interest and other expenses in connexion with those loans. To my mind this is nothing but a racket. The financial magnates who are responsible, in the final analysis, for the political existence of honorable gentlemen opposite, should not be allowed to bleed the ‘country white in this. way. In a time of . war the Government should be able to. say- to the moneyed, interests,, “We shall, not pay you interest on the money we need.” You will have to ‘give ‘tis your money. We shall use it during the period of the war, and after ‘the* war is over ‘give- you credit “. I can” see nothing wrong in the adoption of -that policy:. ‘“If” I had my’ “W’ay all profits made by big business “above’ sa ‘certain percentage:’ would = be’ paid i iiib ‘the
Commonwealth. Treasury for defence purposes. Surely it is not too much to ask big business to pay over its excess profits to the Government in order to enable it to carry on the war. That would be true patriotism. I believe that kind of thing is being done in other countries. If we desire democracy to win a victory over the totalitarian States we must be prepared to pay the piper.
– Our boys are expected to give their lives.
– That is so. Men of my age will not be expected to go to fight. That duty will fall upon young men of from 18 to 25 years of age, at least in the early stages of the war. Some of these young men, I regret to say, have never had more than three months’ consecutive work in industry in this country. I appeal to the Government to make provision without further delay for all of the young men who are out of work to be put in regular jobs so that they may be able to enjoy some of the good things of life. They ought to be in a position to take their sweethearts to the pictures if they want to, but we have made conditions almost impossible for them. The Government should give some consideration, to these young men. The Labour party is anxious to do its best to defend this country. It feels that it can serve most effectively byremaining outside a’national government. We are the watchdogs of democracy:
– And the people intend that. you shall remain watchdogs!
– Not at all. It will not be longbefore we. shall be in office. The Labour party of Great Britain has declined to. join, a national government and its loyalty is not being criticized. We feel that. we. can do our best work by keeping a critical eye on the affairs of the country.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I hope that the patriotic outburst of the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) will have some effect in helping us to do something of a constructive form in this
Parliament to show that we have a really national outlook and are anxious to do our best to defend the country.
It is impossible to deal effectively with the budget under existing conditions. So far we have not a copy of the budget speech before us and consequently we cannot study effectively the various matters at issue and form a sound judgment thereon. Of one thing I am certain, however, and that is that the Government should immediately strive to curtail extravagant expenditure. An enormous amount of waste goes on in the Commonwealth every year. I suggest that a thorough survey be made in order to present a continuance of this policy. Even in the matter of travelling a great deal of unnecessary expenditure is incurred by typists and assistants of one kind and another going all over the country. To take another illustration near at hand [ have no doubt that anything from 25 per cent, to 40 per cent, could be saved in the cost of the new Patent building now being erected a few hundred yards from here.
We ought to be conserving all of our resources for the effective prosecution of the war. I would not limit, in the slightest degree, any expenditure that is necessary for war purposes; but I would reduce other expenditure to a minimum. The Government is about to appoint an assistant to the Public Service Arbitrator. This is another illustration of extravagance. We appointed a Public Service Board years ago at considerable expense to supervise the Public Service. As the board had done very fine work I cannot understand why the Government should have subsequently appointed a Public Service Arbitrator to nullify the effects of its operations. Icould bring under the notice of honorable members many almost impossible awards that have been made from time to time by the Public Service Arbitrator. Just fancy people being paid from 4s. 6d. to 4s. 8d. while travelling in the train and doing nothing but reading novels or playing cards ! That is the kind of extravagance that I resent.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) drew attention this afternoon to the increase of £20,000,000 a year that has been made in taxation in Australia compared with the return for three years ago. He said that comparatively very little of that money had been expended .in armaments. The Government should look into this aspect of our financial operations. The honorable gentleman also drew attention to various classes of taxation and suggested that indirect taxation did not bear as heavily on the working classes as direct taxation. I disagree with him in that connexion. The trouble with indirect taxation is that it is so insidious that people do not realize how much it costs them. Our whole financial policy is wrong. By means of indirect taxation even essential goods sometimes cost from 300 per cent, to 400 per cent, more than they should cost. A good deal has been said in the course of this debate about the sales tax. That process of taxation was introduced by the Scullin. Government in 1931. Even at that time I argued that a turnover tax would be preferable. In my opinion a turnover tax of i per cent, would yield more than the present sales tax yields at 5 per cent, and the money could be collected at very much less expense, and with a great deal less irritation to the general community. We shall have to husband all of our resources, for no one can tell what the future holds for us, or which of the countries now neutral may ultimately be embroiled in the war even as soon as the next few weeks.
If it had not been for the recent action of Germany in making a pact with Russia Australia might, by now, be very greatly concerned about the designs of a certain eastern nation upon our territory. We might have been fighting to defend our own shores by this time. The Russo-German pact may have repercussions on the Axis. Spain, I should say, would have no association with Russia and I do not think that Italy has been brought any nearer to Germany. No one can foretell what attitude Japan will take. There, however, is not the slightest doubt that both Italy and Japan will present a very big bill if they are to remain neutral in the present conflict. It is our duty to take every step necessary to make ourselves prepared. I do not believe in conscription for service overseas - in fact, I should welcome a law against that for the pacification of the people - but I have no time for the man who, whilst wanting the benefit of our laws, is not prepared to defend this country. I asked a meeting of women in Perth whether they would be prepared to send their sons untrained into the boxing ring and pointed out the analogy of our men being unfitted to meet a trained invader. We should have universal training in Australia. When it operated before, the system did a great deal of good. Rich and poor were brought together and the individual benefited as much as the nation. The universal training law is still on the statute-book and could readily be brought into operation. I entertain bitter feelings against Ministers who, in recent years, have been to Europe and have seen the approaching danger and have failed, on their return, to take the people into their confidence and point out the necessity to make Australia’s man-power ready for any emergency. For years, until the recent recruiting campaign, the strength of the Militia was only a few thousands. We all know what our young men did in the last war. The Labour party introduced universal training and its advantages were so clearly demonstrated by those who enlisted that I now hope that all parties will join together in its re-introduction. Even under the voluntary training system things are not as they should be. In Wiluna, for example, there is a large body of young men whose application for military training facilities was refused by the Department of Defence. I could cite other similar examples.
Mention bas been made of profiteering. 1 believe that the Ministry will do everything possible to prevent profiteering, not only in the manufacture of munitions, but also in the provision of the necessities of life. The people of Australia will be disappointed if profiteering is not put down.
Last week the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) dealt with the causes of war. Oan there be any doubt that it is the spirit of self-containment in the world to-day that is the cause of the unrest, trouble and war between nations? I have frequently asked this question: “ If you were a young man in Germany or Italy; countries with ever-increasing populations, and you found in other countries that the immigration laws operated against you and that trade and commerce so operated that your country could not buy raw materials and you could not sell your produce, would you not fight for a place in the sun ? “ The world will never be settled while economic nationalism, to which Australia subscribes, prevails. What is necessary to bring nations together is freer trade. I do not say “ free trade.” Mr. Cordell Hull is a leading exponent of such a policy. A similar doctrine was propounded in the report made by Van Zealand, who’ was commissioned by Mr. Chamberlain and the leaders of other nations. If the conditions which prevailed prior to 1914 were abroad to-day, we should not be in the midst of this dreadful conflict. Nations, like men, need a fair share of the earth’s resources and it is the better part of wisdom if these resources are available through the peaceful channels of trade. But if you close those channels these nations must turn to force in a desperate effort to achieve their needs. To show how our self -containment policy has increased I quote from an extract from the Pastoral Review of the 12th June last, which shows the rise that has occurred since 1913 of the costs of the wool industry. Shearing hand nieces which in 1912-13 were £2 10s. each cost £5 17s. 6d. to-day. Shearing combs at £2 8s. per dozen are twice as dear now as they were then. Shearing cutters cost 13s. a dozen as against 5s., hand piece forks £1 ls. each as against 6s., wire netting £50 6s. 2d. a mile against £31 2s. 6d. The list is too long to read, but the price increases range from 100 per cent, to 350 per cent. The freight on truck sheep or cattle from Warren to Sydney which was £6 5s. in 1912-13 has risen to £13 2s. lOd. to-day. I have statistics relating to agricultural machinery showing similar increases, but I shall not delay the committee with a. recital of those. Much of our unemployment is due to the fact that we have destroyed those industries which create spending power. The annual . value of our exports just before the depression was about £140,000,000, but in the four years of the depression, 1929, to 1933, the value of our exports averaged over £50,000,000 a year less. In other words, in those four years there was £200,000,000 less spending power; hence the depression- with unemployment and misery in its train. Men were tossed out of work as a result almost entirely of the fact that we have done our best to destroy almost every market available for our exports.
The Leader of the Opposition referred to economic conditions and banking. Some extraordinary statements have been made about banking. The Leader of the Opposition said that Germany had been able to get money free of interest from the Reischbank to enable it to finance its vast expenditure.
– Mr. Bruce said that was all right.
– It was all wrong. The Leader of the Opposition said that if money could be found for defence it could also be found for the unemployed. When the safety of the country is at stake everything has to be done to defend it - even the creation of credits to the extent of dangerous inflation if necessary. I refer the honorable gentleman to the circular I issued in answer to criticism of the Commonwealth Bank. One piece of propaganda about the Commonwealth Bank is that the Bruce-Page Government made amendments in the original Commonwealth Bank Act which tended to destroy its powers and lower its prestige. I have asked every honorable member to cite one amendment which has tended to do that and no one has been able to do so. The fact is that no amendment of any sort was made by the Bruce-Page Government which tends to reduce the powers of the Commonwealth Bank. On the contrary, its powers have been greatly increased. But in relation to the creation of credit to which the Leader of the Opposition has somewhat committed himself, I received a letter from one gentleman saying that Hitler was “ putting it all over us “ as far as finance is concerned. “ He was obtaining all the money he needed for defence from the Reischbank free of interest.” What Germany is doing could not be done by any other country because in no other country has the Government so much domination over the people as the Reich Government has over the Germans. But with all that, power Herr Hitler is unable to apply the policy which the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) would apparently like’ to see applied here. The
Leader of the Opposition has gone too far, and yet not far enough. He has not told us whether he supports the Commonwealth Bank policy or is in favour of social or Douglas credits. The Leader of the Opposition made frequent reference to the report of the Royal Commission on Banking and Monetary Reform, but he made a very foolish statement when he said that the commission recommended that the Commonwealth Bank should grant credits free of interest. The commission never recommended that the Commonwealth Bank should do anything of the sort.
– The report said that the bank had that power, hut it did not recommend that course.
– It has been stated that Hitler is getting money from the Reichsbank free of interest. I point out that, in Great Britain, the Government gets short-term loans for three or six months from the banks at 10s. per cent. in normal times. Even now the rate has gone up to only 16s. per cent. In Australia, at the present time, the Commonwealth and State Governments between them have on issue short-term treasurybills to the value of £77,600,000 upon which’ they are paying interest at the rate of £l 17s. 6d. per cent. Hitler is getting money on short-term loan from the Reichsbank free of interest because he has insisted on it, but even in Germany the average rate of interest on long-term loans is 4½ per cent. I have here a publicationby the League of Nations Economic Intelligence Service entitled Public Finance No. 12, in which it is shown that the German Government, in 1934, issued loans totalling 300,000,000 reichsmarks at 4½ per cent. interest, the issue price being 95. In 1935, it issued loans totalling 500,000,000 reichsmarks at 4½ per cent., issue price 98, and in 1935 it issued a total of 700,000,000 reichsmarks at 4½ per cent. During the two years ended 1936, long-term consolidating loans were issued to an amount of 3,400,0.00,000 reichsmarks. Germany finances . temporarily with short-term loans, but as the demands came upon the Reichsbank, to cover, the credit incurred by it recourse had to be taken, to issue long-term loans. That effectively disposes of the theory that any bank can continue to issue credits free of interest. No bank can issue a credit without creating a debt. Banks can finance short-term loans because it is part of the business of a central bank to sell treasury-bills to outside banks and financial organizations. The Leader of the Opposition has outlined a policy which can mean only one of two things : Either we must carry on as in the’ past, or we must adopt the stand that the Commonwealth Bank can issue all the credits needed free of interest. He has created the impression that, just as credits must be found for defence purposes in time of war, so they must be found in the same way for the relief of unemployment.
– Will the honorable member say whether there is any likelihood of the war being lost merely because we have not enough money?
– No, because we would’ have to pledge everything. Even if we were to go bankrupt we should have to carry on to the very limit.
– That does not dispose of the fact that we would, in fact, get the money.
– Yes, as we got it in the last war. Every one who is old enough will remember that, plastered on all the banks, in public buildings, even on the trains and trams, were posters calling upon the public to subscribe to the war loans. Through the Commonwealth Bank and the trading banks every penny spent on the war was provided by credits established on mortgages, and other securities pledged for the . purpose. In June, 1919, the balance-sheet of the Commonwealth Bank showed that the total amount . of Commonwealth securities held by that bank amounted to only £7,200,000. Sir Denison Miller stated that the bank had raised £350,000,000, but it was not raised by the hank; it was raised by public subscription, and in regard to the present war I hold that all loans for war purposes should be compulsory, according to income, and that the interest rate should not exceed 2½ to 3 per cent.
During the last war, England made a grave mistake by persistently borrowing money at. high rates of interest, and we did much the same thing here when we issued loans at 4£ per cent, and 5 per cent. At the very start of the war, I suggested that every loan should be a forced loan. Everybody should be compelled to subscribe according to his income, and the interest rate should nol be more than 2£ per cent, or 3 per cent. 1 make the same proposal, now. There would be certain exemptions, of course, because I do not suggest that a man on £3 or £4 a week should have to subscribe. But everybody in a position to do so should be compelled to invest in the war loans, and the rate of interest should be kept as low as possible.
I am prepared to give the Government all power necessary for the successful prosecution of a war. I believe that heavy sacrifices may be demanded of the people before this war is over. I hope that before long the policy enunciated by the Leader of the Opposition will be amended, so that all parties in this Parliament may join in a united government. The Leader of the Opposition says that in this fight for liberty our own liberty must not be molested. What does he mean by liberty? Does he mean liberty or licence? At this time, the trade unions should be prepared to make some sacrifice, if necessary, in the common cause. I hope that it will yet be possible to bring all of the parties - the Labour party, the Country party and the United Australia party - together, so that they may work towards the one great objective, the winin ing of the war.
The people in Western Australia have been having a bad time as the result of the low price of wheat. I hope that the Government will make an early pronouncement of what it proposes to do in regard to the wheat-farmers. At the present time, some of the merchants who made advances to farmers on their crops, are -demanding, in the terms pf the contract, to take over the crops at the ruling price in Western Australia of ls. 8d. a bushel, because the advances have not been repaid by the due date, the 15th September. The price of wheat in New South Wales is 2s. 8d. a bushel as against ls. Sd. in the west, so the farmers in the west would suffer a grave injustice if their wheat were taken over at the lower price. !I hope that the Government will no longer delay in making a statement on this subject. Finally, in relation to the position of the wheat-grower, I am placing my faith in the promise of the Minister for Commerce, who has assured me that a payable price will be provided. With the present low price of wheat and the necessity for the Government taking over the whole of our production, I cannot expect a guaranteed minimum price at as high a figure as one would expect, but I am hoping for a guaranteed minimum price of not less than 3s. 8d. a bushel, at the port. Less than that would mean ruin to the farmers and disaster to the nation.
Mr. BARNARD (Bass) [9.43 J. -I desire to associate myself with the statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), who outlined the policy of the Labour party and offered some valuable criticism of the budget. He also stated to what extent, and in what manner, the Labour party was prepared to assist the Government at this time. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), who has just sat down, has this to his credit: He has consistently advocated the same fiscal policy, something which is very near free tra de. Wo are now faced with the fact that unemployment is steadily increasing, this despite the fact that a great deal of money has been expended during the past year on defence work, clearly indicating that money taken out of the ordinary channels and expended for defence undertakings does not provide a maximum of employment. It has been advocated by honorable members opposite that the spending powers of the State governments should be definitely restricted in order that as much money as possible may be expended on defence preparations. Since the enlarged defence programme was put into operation very little additional money is being expended for defence purposes in Tasmania, and the greater portion of it is expended on the purchase of equipment, stores, &c. So it will be seen that if the ordinary works services of the States were to be curtailed unduly, Tasmania would be in a very difficult position in a very short time; the Tasmanian Government would still have to accept responsibility for caring for the unemployed and would have very little money coming in to meet the cost. Any slackening of the ordinary channels of expenditure under the State programmes must be given serious consideration. Unfortunately the national debt continues to increase. It has now reached the alarming amount of £1,295,000,000, and if we can accept what has been said by some honorable members, the additional expenditure resulting from Australia’s participation in the war will add to it tremendously.
We have been told by the Treasurer (Mr. Menzies) that the money required for the financing of Australia’* share in the war will be obtained in the orthodox way; in other words, it is proposed to allow posterity to carry the burden. During the prosperous years through which Australia has just passed some effort should have been made to provide money for the adequate defence of this country. The Treasurer has announced that it is proposed to obtain an additional £2,360,000 in income tax, and that sales tax and other indirect taxes are to yield an additional £3,550,000. I propose to confine my remarks mainly to the methods by which the Government proposes to raise this additional revenue. Wage-earners and the less fortunate people in the community are to be called upon to contribute in indirect taxation no less than £3,500,000. Additional sales tax will be imposed on socks, shirts and other necessaries of the poorer classes, whilst the more prosperous people in the community who could well afford to beaT a greater share of the burden are to escape with an additional impost of 10 per cent, on income tax. The Leader of the Opposition made some very telling comments with regard to the incidence of indirect taxation in the community during the years in which this Government and its immediate predecessors have occupied the treasury bench. The honorable gentleman showed quite clearly that in this squeezing process the poorest sections of the community suffer most. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) argued that, because direct and indirect taxation, both State and Federal, yielded approximately the same amount, there was not much to support what the Leader of the Opposition said. One fact, however, which the honorable member for New England omitted to take into account is that this Government and its predecessors of the same political complexion during the last six or seven years have done nothing to assist in the relief of unemployment. During the whole of this period, although the State governments have had to carry practically the whole of the burden, the Commonwealth Government has taken a good deal of credit for what has been done.
I turn now to some remarks made by the Treasurer, in his budget speech, concerning banking and monetary reform. In a flippant and light-hearted fashion the right honorable gentleman criticized those who have advocated monetary reform.
– He set up his own Aunt Sally.
– Yes, and then proceeded to knock it down. As the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender) will agree, lawyers frequently do that; it is a game which the Treasurer has often played. Referring to the power of the Commonwealth Bank to create money, the Treasurer, after quoting paragraph 504 of the report of the Royal Commission on Banking and Monetary Reform, said -
That most satisfying statement is torn from its context and presented to us, and then we are asked in effect, “ What sort of people are you’: You have been told by the royal commission that you can obtain any amount of money without charge. Why don’t you get it “ ? The belief apparently is that if we did get money under these circumstances, the result would bc that we would have no taxes, no public borrowings, and, to put it in the old phrase, “ Everything in the garden would be lovely “.
Paragraphs 503 to 506 of the royal commission’s report read - 503. The central bank in the Australian system is the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. This bank is a public institution engaged in the discharge of a public trust. As the central bank, its special function is to regulate the volume of credit in the national interest, and its distinctive attribute is its control of the note issue. Within the limits prescribed by law. it has the power to print and issue notes us legal tender money, and every obligation undertaken by the Commonwealth Bank is backed by this power of creating the money with which to discharge it. 504. Because of this power, the Commonwealth Bank is able to increase the cash of the trading banks in the ways we have pointed out above. Because of this power, too, the Commonwealth Bank can increase the cash reserves of the trading banks ; for example, it can buy securities or other property, it can lend to the Governments or to others in a variety of ways, and it can even make money available to Governments or to others free of any charge. 505. If it buys securities, the seller receives a cheque which will usually be deposited with a trading bank. When the cheque is presented to the Commonwealth Bank for payment, whether it is cashed or added to the trading bank’s deposit with the Commonwealth Bank, the cash reserves of the trading bank are thereby increased. The same result follows from the adoption of any of the other methods. <i06. On the other hand, the power of the Commonwealth Bank to increase the cash reserves of trading banks is not unlimited. The Bank is bound to pay in legal tender money whenever called upon. So long as its power to issue notes is restricted by law, its power to purchase securities or other property, and to lend or grant money to Governments ov others, is limited. Apart from the legal limitation, there is a practical limit to the note issue, in that the Bank has to consider how far it is in the general interests of the community to expand credit.
These paragraphs, read in conjunction with each other, do not take from or add one iota to the claim of those people who advocate monetary reform. To suggest to this ‘ Parliament that paragraph 504 is deliberately taken out of its context with the object of misleading people, or of suggesting that something should be done, is absolutely absurd. Nobody knows better than the right honorable gentleman himself that he is merely putting up a fictitious proposition because he wants to be able to knock it down again. The people of this country who are advocating monetary reform - and there are many - honestly believe that something can be done to meet the needs of the community by getting away from the o& banking system, which has failed to satisfy modern requirements. I have a definite object in putting the whole of these paragraphs into Hansard in reply to the flippant suggestion by the Treasurer regarding the turning on of taps in order to allow unlimited credit to flow into the community. That suggestion was made in a light-hearted manner, and it carries no weight so far as we are concerned. I do not think either that it carries much weight outside Parliament. In view of the fact that, in presenting his budget, the Treasurer took the trouble to make that statement it seems to me to be a fair and reasonable deduction that he had a definite motive for doing it. It seems to me also a fair and reasonable deduction that the power behind the throne of money has had a very material effect on the Treasurer’s mind and influences his outlook. The Banking Commission cost more than £22,000, and it investigated thoroughly the monetary and banking systems at present in operation in Australia. It made an extensive survey of the Australian economy, and the banking and general financial systems, and made many important recommendations. All that happened two years ago, and up to the present, no real effort has been made to give effect to any of those recommendations. An unbiased reading of the report leaves the impression that the commissioners found three salient needs. They are as follows: (1) strengthening of the central bank; (2) the application of correction for the discriminatory co-operation by private hanks with the central bank in the past; and (3) regulation of banking with a view to classification of banking business as a public utility rather than a province of private enterprise with unrestricted propensity for profit earning. For a considerable period following the presentation of the Commission’s report there has been a not unnatural hostility to the strengthening of the central bank. In fact, opposition to the central bank has been a feature of the private banks’ relationship with the Commonwealth Bank in the past. Here I should like to read from the journal of the Bank of New South Wales, published on the 23rd August, 1937. The article is set out under quite a number of headings. I do not propose to read all of it, because no doubt honorable members would not be very interested. There is one short section, however, which I propose to read. It is contained in the conclusions to which the Bank of New South Wales authorities have come and is as follows : - From the earliest days of our foundation, the Bank of New South Wales has always placed service to the community first and the earning of profits second. Indeed, it was charged to do so by its founders, who at a period of crisis in the history of the infant settlement on the shores of Port Jackson came together and resolved out of their private resources to found an institution to provide urgently needed financial services. The bank can claim with pride that it has been loyal to the intentions of the founders.
Those of us who have taken some interest in the economy of this continent and have followed the history of the Bank of New South Wales know just how very sincere it has been in placing service to the corn muniity before the making of profits. We know how absurd that suggestion is, and, therefore, we realize how -little value can be placed on the criticism by the Bank of New South Wales of the royal commission’s report. .Due to the criticism of the royal commission’s report, Professor Mills, who is Professor of Economics at the Sydney University and was a member of the banking commission said, according to a. newspaper report, on the 19th October, 1937-
Some of our critics have left out altogether thu part which is the whole spirit of our report. This is the one that reads “We are of opinion that the regulation of credit by thu Commonwealth Bank will in general be best achieved through the exercise of existing powers and the development of the practice of co-operation between the Common wealth Bank and the trading banks.” We went on to say that the Commonwealth Bank could not be sure of such co-operation and for that, reason alone we recommended a special power only with the consent of the Treasurer to call up minimum deposits from trading banks. We purposely refrained from specifying any definite ;i mount. If wc had specified an amount hig enough to do the whole job it would have been too large. We realized that it was a weapon of great force, but not likely to be used. It was only an emergency measure.
That is the opinion of Professor Mills who says that the pith of the report made by the royal commission was the fact that they placed control over this matter in the hands of the Treasurer and by so doing, placed it in the hands of Cabinet in the first place and of Parliament in the final analysis. It is well-known that control over the issuance and distribution of credit is not in the hands of the Commonwealth. It has been very largely influenced during recent years by private banks which have controlled the situation, not as the Bank of New South Wales suggests as an act of service to the community, but with the object of protecting their own vested interests in the community at the expense of members of the community for profit-making. The question of banking, particularly in view of the royal commission’s report, should be dealt with immediately, and an effort should be made to meet the requirements of the community by a utilization of the central bank, and through the action of the Commonwealth Bank itself. I am. quite satisfied that the community as a whole is not prepared to continue to suffer as it has of recent years in this land of plenty when we can produce at a more rapid rate than at any other time in the history of the world. That applies not only to secondary industries but also to primary industries. On the one hand we find people accumulating a mass of real wealth, and on the other hand we have those unfortunates who arc not participating in the fruits of this wonderfully bountiful harvest placed in our hands by science and the ingenuity of mankind. I am satisfied that because of these things, and because our system of exchange of goods and services has failed to meet presentday needs, a state of unrest has been brought about, not. only in his country but also in many others. Unless this Parliament, which represents the spirit of democracy, tackles the problem that confronts us as a nation I am afraid that democracy will receive a shock here in the same way as it has received’ setbacks in other parts of the world. I do not suggest for a moment, either flippantly or seriously, that by turning on a tap or a number of taps we would be able to release a flow of credit into the hands of the people which would bring about a paradise on earth. The whole question is related to the need for a proper banking system which would utilize the credit of the community in the interest of the community. Further than that, I think the question of profits and of distribution, and the whole ramifications of this matter, must be explored. As a first step towards that end I suggest that the Government should tackle the question of bringing into effect the recommendations of the royal commission made two years ago. In the Treasurer’s budget statement for 1938-39 there appears the following paragraph : -
The Government proposes to bring down at an early date a measure to amend the Commonwealth Bank Act. Provision will be made in the bill to give effect to certain recommendations of the royal commission on tlie monetary unci banking system, including mortgage banking. Opportunity will also be taken to make other necessary amendments to the Commonweath Bank Act.
That was twelve months ago and, so far, we have heard nothing about even this very minor section of the report of the royal commission beyond the appearance of the Mortgage Bank Bill on the notice-paper.
– That is as far as it will go.
– As the honorable member for Ballarat suggests, that is probably as far as the matter will go. I suggest to honorable members of this House, and to the people generally, that the time is rapidly approaching when, if this Government, or a government of a like character, does not tackle this important question, the Treasury bench will be handed over to an administration that is prepared to face up to its responsibilities. The greatest necessity of this country to-day is monetary and banking reform. Although the Labour party agrees that the first step towards such reform is the adoption of all of the recommendations of the royal commission, this is the very least that can be undertaken at the present time. I do not propose to labour the question, but I do emphasize that the tremendous gap that exists to-day between production by mechanized industry and the people who are in want, and in many cases destitute, is something that cannot long be ignored. I suggest that the question should be given serious consideration, not only because of the position in which we find ourselves in the. economy of this country, but also because of the tremendous burden that confronts us in the prosecution, of the war. If this banking legislation were enacted, much more could be done through the Commonwealth Bank than is possible under its present constitution, because it is hampered and hamstrung by the vested interests which control or influence it. I want the Government to make possible the utilization of the credit resources of this country in the interests of the people as a whole. 1 hope and trust that the future will not be quite so black or gloomy for the people as surface indications now ‘ make it appear likely, that the tremendous carnage in Europe and other parts of the world will be brought to a speedy conclusion and that the economic structure of the different nations will be placed on such a basis that the principle of the brotherhood of man rather than the present brutal methods will hold sway.
.- At the outset of my remarks I congratulate the Treasurer (Mr. Menzies) on the very able manner in which he introduced the budget. The right honorable gentleman made clear to all honorable members the various important features of the budget. I also listened with very great interest to the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), particularly to that portion of his speech in which he dealt with direct and indirect taxation. The honorable gentleman pointed out that between the years 1931- 32 and 1938-39 indirect taxation had increased considerably, whilst direct taxation had remained practically stationary. I point out that a comparison of the budget estimate for this year with the receipts for the year .1935-36 will show that the reverse is the case. The estimated receipts for 1939-40 from indirect taxation - customs and excise, sales tax and flour tax - are £62,850,000. The indirect taxation for the year 1935-36 yielded a little over £52,000,000. Thus the increase in the five years amounts to £10,839,000, or slightly over 20 per cent. The estimated receipts from income tax, land tax, and estate duty for the current year are £17,160,000, compared with a yield in 1935-36 of £11,596,000, an increase of £5,563,000, or nearly 50 per cent. I submit that within recent years the increased taxes have been on a relatively higher scale in respect of direct, taxation. Incidentally, the Post Office revenue, which does not come under the head of either direct or indirect taxation, because the Post Office is a business undertaking, increased during the same period by £3,092,000, or slightly ever 20 per cent. The telephone’ revenue increased by £1,963,000, which was over 30 per cent., and postages increased by £831,000, or 15 per cent. I refer to those items in particular, for the simple reason that it must be realized that the surplus from the Post Office undertaking is largely another form of taxation. It is true that during the last financial year, the capital expenditure on additions and new works was greater than the surplus revenue. I contend that if there is any governmental activity upon which the expenditure of loan money is justified, it is the Post Office, because that undertaking shows a surplus only after paying to the Treasury an interest bill of £1,500,000 and making provision for sinking-fund payments.
The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) suggested that, in view of the present critical position, the Commonwealth Government should prevent the State governments from increasing their taxation. I suggest that the time has arrived when the Commonwealth Government should confer with the States with the object of effecting co-ordination in taxation measures. This is necessary at the present stage, in the interests of national economy. We shall then be assured that the incidence of taxation will be equitably borne by all sections of the community. In certain directions there is overlapping of taxation by the Commonwealth and State governments and municipal authorities, and if we are not careful certain sections of the community will be obliged to pay more than their fair share. So far the Commonwealth Government has relied for its revenue largely upon indirect taxation; but it is clear that it will encroach much further on the field of direct taxation in the future than it has in the past. This is plainly indicated by the figures that I have quoted, showing that during the last five years direct taxation has increased by 50 per cent., whereas the increase in respect of indirect taxation has been only 20 per cent. The State governments have had to increase their taxation considerably. It is imperative that future proposals of the Commonwealth and the States should be in some degree co-ordinated. A careful review of the position in relation to direct taxation throughout Australia by Commonwealth, State and municipal authorities for all phases of governmental activities, should prove of considerable interest to honorable members. The direct taxation to be levied by the Commonwealth Government during the current financial year is estimated to yield £17,100,000. Last year the State governments raised £41,000,000, and the municipal authorities £13,000,000, in the form of direct taxation. It will thus be seen that a population of slightly under 7,000,000 persons is being asked to bear a total taxation burden of £71,000,000.
I wish to say a few words about land taxation. As one who has had a good deal of experience in local government affairs, I have held for many years that the field of land taxation should be left entirely to municipal and local government authorities. To-day, the Commonwealth Government is raising £1,489,000 a year from land tax, and the State, governments are obtaining £1,439,000 annually from this source, giving a total of almost £3,000,000. Yet State Governments ma.ke grants to local government bodies in Australia which total £7,800,000 a year. In view of the considerable extension of the obligations and responsibilities of local governing authorities in recent years, particularly in relation to the provision of better roads, bridges, drainage facilities and the like, and also of the fact that their sources of revenue have been limited, it would be far better for the Commonwealth and State Governments to surrender the field of land tax to these authorities.
The Commonwealth Government obtains from direct taxation about £17,000,000 a year, out of which it rnakes payments to or for the States, which are estimated in this financial year to absorb £15,575,000. This suggests that it is high time to make a careful review of our processes of direct taxation. Not only does the Commonwealth Government make these substantial grants to the States, but the State governments on their part make grants totalling nearly £8,000,000 a year to local governing authorities, purely because their sources of revenue have been curtailed. It is recognized that a sound principle of public finance is that the authority which spends should be charged with the responsibility of collecting the money it spends. It must be clear to every thoughtful person, in the community that, under our existing procedure, much overlapping occurs between governmental and semigovernmental authorities. This should be corrected as far as possible.
Certain phases of governmental expenditure should also be given the most careful scrutiny. It has been stated that this is a defence budget, but against this “we have another statement than only 10 per cent, of the amount of roughly £100,000,000 that is to be raised will be expended directly out of revenue upon defence. A marked increase has occurred in recent years in the expenditure of almost every Commonwealth department. Under the heading “Departmental and Miscellaneous Expenditure “ the increased expenditure over the last five-year period has been 42 per cent. The estimate for the current year shows a substantial increase of 10 per cent, on the expenditure for last year. In view of the circumstances which face us, we should give very careful consideration to any proposal for an increase of ordinary departmental expenditure. Increases should be sanctioned for only urgent matters. Although departmental expenditure has increased so greatly in the last five years, our population has increased by something under 5 per cent. Another notable increase of expenditure has been incurred in relation in invalid and old-age pensions; the advance in the five-year period under this heading has been 30 per cent. Interest and sinking fund charges have increased in the quinquennium by 33.’; per cent. I shall not make any reference to the increase of defence expenditure, for we all realize that our commitments in this connexion are very much greater than those of five years ago.
A_n increase of the company tax of about 50 per cent, is foreshadowed in the budget. This will be very severely felt by Queensland companies. In Queensland all profits of companies are taxed in the hands of the company. Dividends in the hands of shareholders are exempt. In fairness to the Queensland Government, and because the facts are not generally recognized, I feel that I ought to mention this fact, for in the other States the dividends of companies are taxed in the hands of the shareholders.
– Nevertheless the Queensland companies are doing very well,
– That may be so. The situation in this connexion is different in Queensland from that in the other States. The high company tax in Queensland will undoubtedly have the effect of increasing the severity of the increase of the company tax by 50 per cent, that is now proposed by the Commonwealth.
I do not propose to go into any further detail on these matters at the moment, as I hope to have an opportunity of dealing with some of them when the Estimatesare under consideration.
I am very pleased to know that at last some action is being taken to bring the borrowings by semi-governmental bodies under the control of the Loan Council. This is very important from several points of view. I point out in the first place that borrowings by semi-governmental bodies now exceed in the aggregate the amount of the loans arranged by the Loan Council for State governments. The Loan Council, of course, was established to control public borrowing in Australia ; but unfortunately at that time no provision was made to control borrowings by semi-governmental bodies. The action now being taken to supervise these borrowings will have the result of avoiding undue competition on the loan market, which not only has the effect of raising the rate of interest against the municipal bodies concerned, but also has an influence upon the interest rate of loans floated by the Loan Council for governments. The steps now being taken to organize semigovernmental borrowings will undoubtedly enable the local and other authorities to plan ahead. I am quite satisfied that in many ways these bodies are able to spend loan money to much better advantage than State governments. I wish to make it clear that it is for this reason that I have advocated that the operations of semigovernment bodies should be brought under the control of the Loan Council, and not because I am opposed to the operations of the local government bodies. From my knowledge and experience I am quite satisfied that better results are achieved, in many cases, by the expenditure of loan moneys through local government bodies than by State governments. As far back as the 4th October, 1927, in a letter I wrote to the then Premier of Queensland, I advocated that semi-governmental borrowings should be controlled by the Loan Council. I received a reply from the then Premier, stating that he appreciated the wisdom of taking such action, but that at that time it was impossible for the Loan Council to consider it. He hoped that the matter would be taken up at an early date. I am pleased that it has been possible for the Loan Council to undertake this work at the present time, and I feel sure that it will be of advantage to not only the Commonwealth and the State Governments, but also the municipal bodies.
I again draw attention to the urgent need for the reconstitution of the Public Accounts Committee. If Parliament is to retain control over the public purse, it is necessary that there should be some more careful examination of the public accounts than is provided during the course of the budget debate. It is not possible during this debate to make a close scrutiny and analysis of the various items of expenditure. Australia is the only British dominion that has not such a body. In England the functions of continuous examination, inquiry and review of government accounts are carried out by a public accounts committee; the House of Commons is not content with a mere formal reception of the appropriation accounts. In view of the huge expenditure on defence it is imperative that some such review should be made. It is the duty of this Parliament to see that the large sums voted are wisely expended. I urge the Government to reconstitute the Public Accounts Committee, because in all parties in this Parliament we have men who are competent to act on such a committee and would be able to give the necessary time for the work. I hope that at an early date the Government will be in a position to announce that the committee is to be reconstituted.
Motion (by Mr. Spender) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I draw the attention of the Government to the position that has arisen through the sale to Great Britain of the Australian wool clip. Two firms are engaged in the wool scouring and carbonizing industry. I refer to the Botany Wools Proprietary Limited, Sydney, and Pacific Wools Proprietary Limited, Melbourne. Representatives of these firms state that until wools are made available to them by the Government they will be forced to dispense immediately with the services of approximately 160 employees. This matter should engage the immediate attention of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). The union secretary states that these firms have had a large number of men continuously employed in the in dustry during the last two years, and, prior to the acquisition of the Australian clip by the British Government, they had sufficient work in hand to’ keep their men fully employed until November next. The Prime Minister and the Premiers of the various States have stressed the necessity for keeping all employees at work. It is urged, therefore, that the Government should arrange to have some of the wool placed on commission with the wool scouring mills to enable the employees to be kept in work. The capacity of those two firms’ plants is 1,200 bales a week of scouring and carbonizing types of wool.
– The matter raised by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) is an important one, and it will be brought under the notice of the Prime Minister. Consideration will be given to it, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Nauru - Ordinances of 1939 -
No. 2 - Appropriation 1939.
No. 3 - Nauruan Royalty Trust Fund Appropriation 1939.
Navigation Act - Regulations amended -
Statutory Rules 1939, Nos.68,69.
Passports Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1939, No. 47.
Seamen’s Compensation Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1939. No.67.
House adjourned at 10.43 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Australian Capital Territory?
s. - The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers : -
South Wales Department of Education provides for the admission of pupils from outside the Territory -
if there is no provision in the nearest State secondary school for the course which the pupil desires to follow.
y asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answer : -
Arrangements have now been made to provide these men with full-time employment.
Assistance to Wheat-growers.
h asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
As the question of assistance to the wheat industry is urgent and vital, when will the Government announce its proposals for assistance?
– The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answer: -
The honorable member’s attention is invited to the budget speech delivered by the honorable the Treasurer on Friday, the 8th September, wherein the Government’s policy in regard to assistance to the wheat industry was outlined.
Defence Annexes at Port Augusta.
n asked the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
Has he considered the advisability of establishing a munitions branch at Port Augusta in order to make immediate supplies available to Western Australia and South Australia, while at the same time providing the maximum of safety in location ?
– Many factors mustbe considered when the question of establishing additional units of production for munitions is being explored, among which are -
If new factories are to be erected, consideration mustbe given to -
If additional munitions factories are to be established, the claims of Port Augusta, having regard to the abovementioned contingencies, will certainly receive every consideration.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answer : -
The matter has been discussed by the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner with the Department of Defence, but no decision has been arrived at, and a report has not been tendered by the Commissioner.
s asked the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) With regard to the erection of new units for the manufacture of munitions, the Government must give consideration to the questions of - (i) Desirability of extensions to existing government munitions plants: (ii) the erection of new plant contiguous to existing factories in order that services, skilled labour reserve, management, &c, may be utilized; or (iii) the erection of new factories having regard to the strategic value of alternative sites, availability of labour and raw materials, transport facilities, &c. Subject to the above-mentioned considerations, the Government believes in a policy of decentralization. To date the implementation of this policy is seen in the erection of annexes and in the proposed small arms ammunition factory in South Australia, between Adelaide and Port Adelaide.
s asked the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
When the Government’s plans regarding essential foodstuffs and raw materials arc being drawn up, will he undertake to give full employment to the facilities existing at Newcastle, such as the wheat silos, wool stores and salesroom, and cargo-handling instrumentalities?
– The honorable member may be assured that the claims of Newcastle will not be overlooked when any such plans are being considered.
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers : -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers : -
Common wealth Railways : Finances.
s. - On the 7th September, the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) asked the following questions, upon notice -
The Minister for the Interior has now supplied the following answers : -
If the other items had been included the loss would have been £670,791.
Sydney General Post Office Contract.
s. - On the 7th September, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) asked me the following question, without notice -
In connexion with the recent inquiry into the holding up of the signing of the contract for additions to the General Post Office, Sydney, I ask the Prime Minister whether the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) has made any application to the Government for the refund of the legal expenses which he then incurred? If so, has the Government made a decision on the matter? If it has decided to pay the honorable member’s legal expenses, will the right honorable gentleman inform the House of the reason which actuated it in doing so?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that, after the report of the royal commission was made public,
an application was received from Mr. Thorby that the legal costs incurred by him on. behalf of his colleague (Mr. Archie Cameron) his personal staff and himself be paid by the Commonwealth. Primarily, the Commonwealth was only responsible for the payment of the fees of the counsel assisting the commission. In view, however, of the finding of the royal commission that each Minister concerned reached his conclusions conscientiously and with regard only to the responsibility resting upon him and in the interests of the Commonwealth, the Government has decided to pay such cost? incurred by Mr. Thorby as are certified by the Crown Solicitor as ‘being reasonable.
Australians Stranded in Bombay.
– On the 8th September, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) asked me a question, without notice, as to what action the Government was taking to assist Australians who had become stranded at Bombay as the result, of the dislocation of shipping services consequent upon the outbreak of war.
I desire to state that the Government was advised of the position of these people and immediately took steps to communicate with the High Commissioner, London, with a view to ascertaining if the United Kingdom Board of Trade could arrange for a boat to be diverted to Bombay to pick them up. The High Commissioner has replied to the effect that arrangements will be made to provide berths at the earliest possible moment. In order to meet the case of those Australians landed at Bombay who may find themselves in necessitous circumstances, the Commonwealth Government has made arrangements with the Governor of Bombay to grant them temporary financial assistance. The Indian authorities are in touch with Mr. Gollan, the Australian representative of the Australian ^National Travel Association, and the Reverend Mr. Irving Benson, who was among the passengers landed at Bombay, and they are arranging for the welfare of all those who may be in need of assistance.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 September 1939, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1939/19390912_reps_15_161/>.