15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 2.30 p.m.,and read prayers.
– As chairman, I bring up the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, together with plans, relating to the proposal to erect a hostel at Canberra. In doing so, I point out that only seven days have elapsed since this matter was referred to the committee for inquiry and report.
– Can the Prime Minister give to the House some information as to the identity of the persons who, in London, are conducting, on behalf of the Commonwealth, the negotiations for the sale of Australian primary products to Great Britain, and also state whether or not the AgentsGeneral of the States are taking any part in the proceedings, with a view to watching the interests of the individual States?
– The negotiations for the purchase of Australian products are being conducted directly between the United Kingdom Government and the
Commonwealth Government. The Commonwealth Government is acting with the advice of the producers’ organizations in Australia, and the High Commissioner is acting as the Commonwealth’s spokesman in London. The Agents-General in London are not engaged in the negotiations, just as the State governments are not engaged here. It is a matter between the Australian producers, the Commonwealth Government and the United Kingdom Government.
– Insome districts, employees in various factories have volunteered for service with the Militia Forces in quite considerable numbers. Those who haveenlisted include key men in industrial undertakings. I have received from the management of a factory which is responsible for the livelihood of probably 200 individuals in the town of Ballina, a telegram which reads as follows : -
Militia taking hands from factory to camp for month, cause stoppage in works. Can anything be done about this?
Can the Minister for Defence endeavour to prevent the dislocation of industry by the taking of key men ?
– Instructions were issued some little time ago to all commanding officers to comb from the existing Militia Forces men engaged in essential industries. That combing process is now proceeding. If the honorable gentleman finds that any difficulty has arisen, I shall be very glad to straighten the matter out.
– Are fresh applications for enlistment in the Militia Forces nowbeing accepted?
– As has already been announced by the Prime Minister, all vacancies which occur in Militia units, due to any cause whatsoever, are being filled from the waiting list which now exists.
– In the matter of deciding who are and who are not key men, will the honorable gentleman see that the responsibility is thrown, not on commanding officers, as is now the case, but on proper tribunals set up in each State on the lines of the tribunals which decide the matter in the United Kingdom?
– There is in existence a provisional list of reserved occupations. This list has been circulated to commanding officers, and on it they are taking action. It is purely provisional, and will be revised in the light of experience.
– Can the Prime Minister state whether the Government has yet fixed the price of wool? If not, does he intend to inform the House so soon as it has done so ?
– That price has not vet been fixed. Should it be fixed while the House is sitting, I shall inform the House of the fact. I am hoping that the matter will be brought to finality very shortly.
Mr. JOHN LAWSON laid on the table reports and recommendations of the Tariff Board on the following subjects: -
Cordage rope and twines n.e.i.
Valves for wireless telegraphy and telephony and bases for such valves.
Ordered to be printed.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs yet in a position to make a definite pronouncement in regard to what action has been taken for the assistance of the cotton-growing industry? Is there to be a re-enactment of the bounty legislation?
– I am not able at the moment to answer the honorable gentleman’s question, but I shall make the promised pronouncement during this week.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce whether the Government will give favorable consideration to the extension of the constitution of the Australian Wheat Board, to provide direct representation for the Queensland wheat industry by means of an appointment from the Queensland Wheat Board?
– I shall duly convey the honorable member’s representations to the Minister for Commerce.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs been informed that, because permits are being granted for the export of sheep skins, Australian exporters are buying skins at prices which make it impossible for the local fellmongering establishments to compete? If so, will the honorable gentleman give favorable consideration to the announcement of a fixed price for sheep skins, so that those who are employed in the fellmongering industry may not lose their employment ?
– This matter is receiving the close attention of the Government.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Customs explain the alleged seizure by customs officials of scientific apparatus, and a number of pilot balloons, the property of Dr. Milliken?
– The Customs Department did not seize the balloons in question. These balloons were sent to Australia by Dr. Milliken. They arrived a fortnight ago, and had been on the wharf in Sydney with no one to take delivery of them. Dr. Milliken, who is an eminent scientist, proposed to use the apparatus in connexion with scientific work. He arrived in Sydney only yesterday, and in order that the apparatus might be admitted to Australia free of duty he was asked to sign a statement to the effect that it would be used for scientific purposes. He did that without any demur, and was at once given delivery of the balloons.
– Will the Government consider following the example of the British Government which , has assumed responsibility for war risks on primary produce while in store awaiting shipment overseas? If the Government is not prepared to do this, will it make provision to enable the disposal boards to take out war risk cover at reasonable rates?
– That and every other cognate matter, will be considered by the appropriate boards.
– Is it a fact that the contract for the air service between Sydney and New Guinea provides for only one service a week, and that the service was duplicated by the contracting company without receipt of any further subsidy on the understanding that if the additional service justified itself, a subsidy would be paid? Is it also a fact that the Government has now refused to subsidize the second service which, for that reason, is to be discontinued? Has the Government received any protest from the company concerned, or from the public, regarding the proposed discontinuance of the additional service?
– I have received a telegram from Carpenter and Company informing me that it is the intention of the company, as it is losing money on the unsubsidized service, to discontinue it. Some time before I took over the department, a contract was made with Carpenter and Company to run one service a week between Sydney and Rabaul, that service to be subsidized. Later, the company asked, and was granted permission, to run an unsubsidized service. Now it proposes to cease that service.
– Was a promise given by the Government that if the second service was proved to be necessary a subsidy would be granted in respect of it?
– No such promise was made. I explained in a letter to Carpenter and Company that, under an arrangement by which agreements for six months were to be made with companies that did not have longer agreements, no further subsidies were to be given until the whole position had been inquired into by an inter-departmental committee which is still sitting. It is intended that this committee should submit its report in time to renew the six-month agreements which terminate at the end of this year.
– Will the Minister for Supply state what steps are being taken to ensure that, as far as possible, supplies of clothing for the Military Forces in the various States will be obtained in the capitals of the States concerned, and will facilities be provided in each State capital to enable prospective tenderers to obtain information regarding contracts?
– There is a district contracts office in each capital city for the purpose of distributing contract tender forms, and of supplying full information to prospective tenderers for Government supplies. In order to equalize competition between the manufacturers in the various States, the Government some time ago instituted a policy of considering all contracts on a free-on-rail basis in each capital city, thereby eliminating freight as a factor which might operate to the detriment of manufacturers in the more distant States.
– In view of the fact that the price of barley is so low, will the Government take steps to establish a home-consumption price for this commodity ?
– Consideration will be given to the honorable member’s suggestion.
Legislative Council - Royalty on Gold.
– Can the Minister in charge of External Territories state whether in the Mandated Territory of Samoa, which is administered by New Zealand, non-government members of the Legislative Council are nominated, or are elected by the people ?
– I regret that I cannot give the information for which the honorable member asks, but I shall make inquiries.
– Is ita fact that when a vacancy recently occurred in the Legislative Council of New Guinea and residents, by signed petition of 500 names, asked for their representative to be appointed, their petition was ignored by the Administrator and a missionary appointed, thereby creating grave dissension among returned soldiers and others? If this be correct, will the Minister immediately arrange for an elective council to be instituted?
– I have no knowledge whatever of the accuracy of the statements made by the honorable member. All I can do is to assure him that the Government is satisfied with the way the Legislative Council in the mandated territory is carrying out its duties.
– Has the recommendation of the Administrator of New Guinea with regard to the proposed abolition of the gold royalty imposed on prospectors yet been made available to the Government? Will the Minister make the proposals available to this House before Cabinet finally arrives at a decision regarding them ?
– I hope to be able to meet the honorable gentleman’s wishes.
– For the training of the special defence force will the Minister for Defence consider the establishment of military camps in States other than New South Wales and Victoria? In the past, there was a large military camp at Enoggera, and it would be greatly appreciated by the trainees and their relatives if it were possible to have the men trained in their own. States.
– While I appreciate the reasons which induced the honorable member to suggest that members of the force should be trained in their own States, it is desirable, in order to avoid dispersion of resources, and to promote efficiency, to concentrate training a? much as possible.
Atittude towards Military Preparation.
– Has the Minister forInformation any information to give regarding the attack by the British Broadcasting Corporation on the Baily News?
– Not yet but I have taken steps to obtain a report. When it comes to hand I shall advise thu honorable member.
– by leave - Yesterday the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) stated that he had been obliged to pay a price for timber in excess of the price ruling on the 81st August. Customs officers have visited the premises of the firm mentioned, and the manager has admitted that he was charging a price slightly in excess of that charged on the 31st August. To-day, customs officers are visiting the premises of timber merchants in other capital cities of the Commonwealth for the purpose of making investigations into timber prices. Information so far obtained indicates that the price of timber has risen above the level ruling on the 31st August. I now want to warn those timber merchants who have increased their prices above the actual prices ruling on the 31st August that unless action is taken immediately to reduce prices to the actual level ruling on the 81st August, and to refund amounts charged in excess of those prices on sales effected since the 9th September the Crown Law authorities will be immediately instructed to launch prosecutions.
– Will the Minister instruct the inspectors of his department to visit wholesale and retail establishments engaged in the sale of foodstuffs with a view to seeing if there have been any increases of the prices since the 31st August, and if it be discovered that such increases have taken place, will he issue the same warning and instructions with respect to the action the department proposes to take against such persons as were issued to those engaged in the timber industry?
– Have instructions been given by the Loan Council to the
Victorian Government to control expenditure in connexion with the construction of the new Royal Melbourne Hospital at Parkville?
– No such instructions have been given.
– In view of the statement made by the Prime Minister last night that the Government proposes to send an expeditionary air force overseas, I now ask the right honorable gentleman whether the decision was made at the request of the British Government or was an offer made voluntarily by this Government ?
– In all matters connected with the carrying on of this war on behalf of the British Empire, the Government of Australia is in the closest communication and consultation with that of the United Kingdom.
– Is the Minister for Defence aware that the nonpublication of weather reports is causing serious inconvenience to country people, particularly primary producers? Does he consider that this restriction is really an essential war-time precaution in Australia, having regard to the present war position; and if so, can he indicate for how long it is likely to be imposed?
– The restriction relating to the publication in the press of weather information has been withdrawn. The restriction relating to the broadcasting of weather forecasts still remains. The length of time that that restriction will remain in force will depend on factors which are at present beyond our control.
– Is it a fact that yesterday, in another place, Government supporters were defeated-
– Order ! The honorable member may not ask a question relating to the proceedings of another place.
– Perhaps I may be permitted to put the question in this way: Is it a fact that during the Prime Minister’s sound slumbers at about 2.15 a.m. this morning, the Government was decimated in this House and that only twelve generals were left in the from trenches whilst three members of the rank and file were swimming the river to neutral ground ? Does the right honorable gentleman not think that the decisions in both Houses should be conveyed to His Excellency the Governor-General with a view to ascertaining whether he wishes to dissolve both Houses of the Parliament?
– That is a valuable suggestion which I have been taking into consideration.
Shortage of Wool Stocks
– In view of the serious position of hat manufacturers in Sydney through their inability to select wool stocks owing to the delay in the deliberations of the Central Wool Committee, can the Minister obtain a speedy determination of the committee’s discussions?
– The Prime Minister has already intimated earlier to-day, in response
Lf> a question, that one very important phase of the negotiations in connexion with the disposal of the Australian wool clip, namely, the question of price, is still under consideration, Until that primary issue is settled other incidental determinations must stand aside.
– Is it a fact that
I he Commonwealth Prices Commissioner already holds a number of important positions, and is it his intention to abandon them in order to give his whole time to the very necessary work of price fixing in Australia.
– I am unaware that the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner holds any positions other than his position as Commonwealth Prices Commissioner. I can assure the honorable gentleman that he is devoting the whole of his time to his work in connexion with price control.
Appointment of Labour Representative
– Has the Government considered the requests made from time to time that when the Australian Broadcasting Commission is re-constituted a Labour representative be appointed?
– The whole matter of the re-appointment of the Australian Broadcasting Commission will be given consideration by the Government at an early date. The honorable member’s suggestions will be then taken into consideration.
– This morning I received three letters from different parts of my electorate stating that there is a decided fear in tho minds of farmers and wool-growers in Australia that insufficient woolpacks and cornsacks will be available for this season’s wool clip and for the coming wheat harvest, which is anticipated to be very large this year. Is the Minister for Trade and Customs able to make a statement in regard to the matter ?
– I intend to make a full statement on that subject tomorrow, but I can assure the honorable member that there are no grounds for the fear that ample supplies both of cornsacks and woolpacks will not be available for the forthcoming wheat harvest and wool clip.
– I ask the Minister for Supply and Development whether it is a fact, that a large quantity of magnesium used in the manufacture of aeroplanes at Melbourne is imported? If so, will tinMinister take steps to protect the local magnesium industry and to obtain from Tasmania all supplies of magnesium needed for the manufacture of aeroplanes ?
– I believe that only a very small quantity-
– I have a telegram which says “ large quantities “.
– I repeat that only a small quantity, and that in a wide variety of forms, is used by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation.
– If there has been a recent issue of the New Guinea Y ear-Book, will the Minister in charge of External Territories make copies available to honorable members?
– I amunaware of any such issue, but I shall make inquiries and let the honorable member know the result.
– Further toa question asked last week by the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy), I ask the Treasurer what action the Government proposes to take to prevent an increase of rates of interest on overdrafts and mortgages ?
– That is not a matter on which I can make any satisfactory pronouncement in answer to a question, but as soon as it is possible for a statement of policy to be made on that urgent matter, I shall make it.
– Whilst I appreciate the fact that the Government cannot control at the source the price of goods imported from overseas, I should like to know from the Prime Minister whether the Government intends to take any action in Australia to prevent undue inflation of the prices of imports?
– Insofar as the price of goods is,as suggested by the honorable member, inflated outside Australia, plainly we can do nothing about it. Insofar as the price of imported goods is reflected either in the same or other goods in Australia, the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner will be charged with the responsibility to get in touch with the matter, and see that no further loading at all events is imposed on the Australian people.
– Is it a fact that the Mascot telephone exchange which was to have been converted from manual to automatic by June, 1939, has not yet been converted?
– I am not aware of the facts as set out by the honorable member, but I shall have inquiries made, and give the honorable member an answer at a later date.
SUPPLY (Grievance Day).
Question proposed - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and that the House resolve into a Committee of Supply.
.- I rise, Mr. Speaker, to discuss, not this particular question, but to direct your attention to the fact that when the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is speaking, the loud-speaking apparatus about the chamber gives forth successive waves of sound, and I am wondering whether, before general business is started, something cannot be done about it.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).The apparatus referred to by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) is a microphone, not a loud speaker.I understand that some honorable members hear noises which come from the amplifying apparatus used by the right honorable Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes). If it is serious, of course, the right honorable gentleman will try to avoid causing further inconvenience, but I am surprised to hear that the right honorable member for Cowper has been affected.
– The whole trouble is, I think, that this instrument apparently has a peculiar sympathy for me.
Question resolved in the negative..
Debate resumed from the 20th September, . 1939 (vide page849), on motionby Mr. Ward-
That thebill be now read a secondtime.
.- The bill has been so adequately explained to the House by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) thatI do not propose to traverse the ground covered by him. It has already been made clear by the Government that certain parts of this measure will not be accepted. The Government, I understand, does not propose to accept that part of the bill which deals with the question of the limiting of compulsory service, and as that is so, I do not propose to take up the time of the House in discussing that. But 1 wish to say something about the very important questions raised by clause 4. Clause 4 deals with a problem that has beset practically every legislature of the civilized world, for every legislature has had, in the last third of a century at any rate, to deal with the conditions under which compulsory military service shall be required, and in dealing with that problem, has been faced with this question : What is to be done with a person whose conscience forbids him to render military service or to bear arms? There is a distinction between rendering military service and bearing arms. A person with a conscientious objection to bearing arms may not object to rendering non-combatant service. Another person’s conscience may forbid him to render military service, either combatant or non-combatant. When thu original Defence Bill was enacted in Australia in 1903, a clause was inserted providing that persons who have religious objections to military service or to bearing arms, should be exempt, I think, on such conditions as the Government might prescribe. Objection to bearing arms and to rendering military service were both recognized. The ground of the objection had’ to be a religious one. A person claiming exemption had to satisfy the prescribed authority that his conscientious beliefs forbade him to bear arms. If he did that, he could be exempt from active military service, but not from non-combatant military service. There was no’ provision at all to protect the person who objected on conscientious grounds to noncombatant service as well as combatant service. Fortunately we never had occasion in this country to test the adequacy of the provisions of that act, but in other countries the problem did arise and it was dealt with in different ways. Both the United States of America and New Zealand required that a person seeking exemption from military service had to prove that, before the war, he had been a member of a religious body whose principles forbade him to bear arms. But, even if he proved that, he could not be exempt from non-combatant duty. A similar provision existed in Great Britain. It was then found that those provisions were not adequate to deal with the actual spiritual problem which arose, because a number of people objected to being in any way part of the military machine. It is quite true that the overwhelming majority of conscientious objectors were persons whose objection was to combatant service only, but there was also a substantial number of people whose objections were to rendering any form of military service, whether combatant or noncombatant. I think that the ratio was about 12 to 1. That is, out of thirteen conscientious objectors, twelve objected to combatant duties only, and the thirteenth objected to all forms of military service. There was a tendency to dismiss these objections very lightly, hut in some cases it was proved that the objections were very genuine and sincere. In Great Britain, and particularly, the United States of America, men underwent considerable hardship and suffered severe penalties in order that they might assert their spiritual objection to participation in war in any shape or form. The result was that the genuineness of the objections of men who said, “I will not in any way form part of the military machine, and I will not render combatant or noncombatant service “, has been realized in every country. The Military Service Act, which was passed in Great Britain this year, recognizes that state of affairs, and provides for the protection of persons who object to military service altogether. There are three classes of objectors. First, there is the person who objects to being registered at all; secondly, there is the person who objects to undergoing military training, and, thirdly, there is the person who objects to the discharge of combatant duties.
– Then there is the man who has cold feet.
– The interjection by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) is unworthy of him. because he knows well that many conscientious objectors underwent very severe punishment and, in some cases, endured greater hardship than people who went to the war. Many of them died because of the severe handling they received.
-Not so many as died on active service.
– That is so, but they died owing to ill-treatment. In spite of protection given by the Government, conscientious objectors were taken abroad and ordered to perform combatant duties. In the United States they were imprisoned in cells, chained by the wrists to windows, and forced to stand all day long. All sorts of penalties were inflicted upon them.
– That sort of thing was not done in this country.
– That is quite true, because, as I said before, the occasion did not arise. There was no conscription here. What we are pressing is that before the temper of the people becomes heated by the actual development of the war, lest these things should be done, provision should be made for the protection of conscientious objectors. That is what clause i of this bill proposes. We seek recognition ofthe conscientious objector who refuses to bear arms, and also of the conscientious objector who refuses to render military service in any shape or form, because he objects to being part of the military machine. There are many such people. Actually their number may not be large in relation to the total population, but should the occasion arise it will be perfectly clear that there are quite a number of men in this country who would be prepared to endure all sorts of penalties rather than violate what they believe to be their conscientious obligation to refuse to carry on a war. They believe thatwar is only possible because of the readiness of people to participate in it. In England the chief body concerned in this matter is the Peace Pledge Union, which has made a sincere offer to the Government that its members will discharge whatever civilian duties the Government may see fit to impose upon them. When this bill was being drafted, conscientious objectors in Melbourne stated that they did not desire the people of this country to think that they would not render any service at all. They wished their exemption to be made conditional upon their rendering whatever civilian service to this country might be required. . I understand that the Government is not preparedto accept that position. What the Government is prepared to do, however, is of substantial value, and I would sooner see the measure carried in a form acceptable to the Government than totally rejected. Although the Government does not intend to affordany recognition to the person who is a conscientious objector to any form of military service, it does propose to meet the position of person? whose conscientious objection is to combatant: service only. The difficulty it that a conscientious objector has to satisfy the prescribed authority that he hasa conscientious objection. That authority may be a. military officer or. for that matter, anybody, and from the decision of that prescribed authority there is no appeal. The portion of this bill that the Government is prepared to accept is the part providing that a person claiming exemption from combatant duties because of conscientious objection shall be entitled to prove his case before a court, and if the decision goes against him, he shall be entitled to appeal from that court to a higher court.
– How long would that take?
– I do not know. I should have thought that the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane), who professes devotion to Christianity, would have realized that a number of his coreligionists might desire to be protected.
– The position is not as the honorable member has stated.
– It is not a question of the time it will take, but of the vindication of the rights of men who feel bound to take a certain action because of their spiritual beliefs.
The honorable member for Barton interjecting,
I warn the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) that he must cease interjecting.
– The honorable member for Barton should remember that the attitude of the Christian churches towards conscientious objectors is quite different now from what it was during the last war. At that timethe
Christian churches regarded, conscientious objectors as shirkers who would not do their religious duty. To-day the Christian -hu relies throughout the world are adopting quite a different attitude. I regret very much that the Government is not prepared to accept al] of the provisions of i he bill in relation to conscientious objectors, but 1 am -glad that it is prepared to go some distance. In fact, its present attitude will meet the case of twelve out :>f thirteen conscientious objectors, according to the figures that I have cited. Under the conditions which the Government is prepared to accept, conscientious objectors will in the future be assured that the validity or genuineness of their objection will be examined, not by a person who is prejudiced against them, but by a court. They will also know that they will have the right of appeal from one court to another.
I hope that the second reading of the bill will bo agreed to speedily, so that we may have an early opportunity to discuss the amendments which the Government proposes to introduce.
.- It i* impossible fairly to examine the details of this measure without having clearly in mind the circumstances which have led to its introduction. I understand that the bill is before the House in consequence of an agreement reached, following upon negotiations, between the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), and representatives of the trade union movement throughout Australia. The purpose of those negotiations was to try to ovoid the threatened boycott of the national register. With that laudable object in mind, the Government undertook to give to the Leader of the Opposition mid his party an opportunity to bring this measure, and certain other measures, before the Parliament. We must assume that the agreement was reached in good faith and that the Prime Minister pronosed to afford the Leader of the Opposition an opportunity to bring these matters forward under such circumstances as would enable them to receive adequate consideration. The Prime Minister would have acted in bad faith had he agreed to allow the. Leader of the Opposition to Wing those bills forward with the inten tion of using the weight of numbers in order summarily to dispose of them. In the circumstances, it behoves the members of the two parties which support the Government to consider the proposals of these measures in good faith.
L find myself unable te agree in toto to the provisions of this bill, but I can give some approval to some of its provisions. I certainly should not feel justified in taking exception to the whole bill. This measure comes before the House shortly after the country finds itself at war, hut it has arisen out of discussions and a dispute concerning a previous measure submitted to the Parliament, in order to make preparations deemed to be necessary because of the possibilities of war. We therefore have to examine, in an atmosphere of war, the provisions of a measure which was drafted, doubtless, in an atmosphere of the possibility of war. While this Parliament and Government will be obliged to devote themselves to the adoption of all military measures necessary for the prosecution of the war,, it must be recognised that one condition will contribute more to the successful prosecution of the war than any military measures that can possibly be conceived. That condition is the establishment and maintenance of the unity “of the people of Australia. I believe that had this agreement not been reached, Australia would have found itself committed to, and engaged in, a war at a time when the whole social structure of the nation was cleft from top to bottom and our people were in the throes of a. most serious industrial dispute. It is a matter for congratulation that the Leader of the Government, the Leader of the Opposition, and the representatives of the trade union movement of this country met in a fair spirit of compromise, in the knowledge of the possibility of Avar overhanging the nation, in order to take steps to preserve unity among our people. By doing so they did a tremendous service to the nation, for they avoided precipitating the people into a first-class industrial dispute, the results of which no one could foretell. Such a dispute having been avoided. I consider it behoves us to examine, in a fair spirit, the proposals now before us in order that we, too, may make whatever contribution we can to the maintenance of unity among our people. It is in that spirit thatI shall examine this measure.
The two points at issue are clearly defined. The first one relates to compulsory military service. The question is whether Australians should be compelled to serve, if necessary, in the defence of this nation not only within the borders of the continent but also, if in the opinion of the Government the necessity to do so arises, within the territories of the Commonwealth. It has been a provision of the law of this country since the very early days of federation, if not, indeed, since the first defence act was passed, that no Australian should be compelled by the Government to serve in a military capacity beyond the borders of the continent. That seemed to be regarded as fair and adequate for a considerable period, but as recently as last April, in the atmosphere of war that then enveloped us, a bill was introduced which contained a provision that the Government should have authority, if necessary, to enforce or, to use a happier word, perhaps, to send Australian troops, mobilized under the provision of the Defence Act, to territories of this Commonwealth to take their part in the defence of our own nation.
– That is not quite the position, because under section 49 of the Defence Act that power already existed; but there was no power to raise forces within the territory itself, as the Defence Act did not apply to territories.
– We do not accept that as the correct interpretation of the law.
– Whether it be corrector not will not substantially alter my point of view, or the arguments which I shall use, to support the attitude which I propose to adopt towards this bill. I hold the view that the defence of this country and its territories can be regarded only as a whole; that those who would wish to participate in the defence of Australia should be equally willing and prepared, if necessary, at the direction of the Commonwealth, to engage in defence measures within the territories of Australia. That matter came up for discussion by this Parliament as recently as last April ; it was then deliberated upon and a certain decision was arrived at.
The first of the proposals embodied in this measure seems to me to be substantially nothing but a revocation of the amendment of last April. I supported that amendment, and would find it quite impossible to reverse my attitude in that regard to-day; consequently, I am unable to support that particular aspect of this measure. The second matter raised in the bill relates to the conscientious objector. It is, and has been, accepted in all British communities that there are persons who, in quite good faith, take conscientious objection to participation in warfare. Provision is already made in the law of this country, of the United Kingdom, and of all other dominions of the Empire, to ensure that there shall be some recognition of the position of the conscientious objector. Now, however, in the successful endeavour to avoid precipitation into a conflict on the conduct of the national register, the Government has given to the Leader of the Opposition this opportunity to bring before the Parliament in this bill proposals which embody what the honorable gentleman, and evidently his party, regard as further necessary safeguards to cover the position of the conscientious objector. As I see the matter, the Government has done this in a fair spirit. It has not attempted to reject this proposal out of hand, whilst at the same time it is clear that it is unable to accept it in toto. It has circulated certain amendments which, as I read them, leave substantially intact those further safeguards for the conscientious objector which are in this way initiated. Upon examination of the original measure and of the Government’s amendments, I find that I am able to support the measure subject to those amendments being made.
I was interested in the very fair statement of the case which the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) put forward. He argued from his point of view the case for the acceptance in full of theseprovisions relating to the conscientious objector, and intimated that, as the Government found itself unable to accept those provisions in full, he was prepared, as a step towards his ultimate objective, to accept that portion of the proposals which the Government is willing to support. That is where I stand.
I believe that we now have before us a very important issue, affecting the capacity of this country to wage war successfully.I consider that the very foundation of the waging of a successful war is the achievement and maintenance of complete unity among the people of the nation concerned. If the Government were to refuse to pay regard to the very legitimate points of view that are held with regard to the conscientious objector, it could not hope to achieve or maintain that necessary unity of the Australian people.
– That unity will not be preserved if men are sent to the territories against their will.
– in all good faith, I differ from the honorable member on that point. Although we shall not achieve 100 per cent. unity in that direction, I believe that we shall approach very close to it. Nothing could contribute more to the initiation of disunity among the Australian people than the rejection, out of hand of these proposals which originated in a fair conference, a conference that was dominated by aspirit of compromise. I can regard only with a feeling of the utmost satisfaction, the spirit, of compromise which must have prevailed when the Prime Minister met the Leader of the Opposition and the trade union loaders, with the result that there was avoided precipitation into a conflict which would have cleft our social structure from top to bottom, and would have rendered it impossible for this country to commence war with the degree of unity that prevails today. That, above all else, inspires in me complete confidence in the successful outcome of the war. Not only in this country, but also throughout the British Empire, we find ourselves united toa degree which must surely be unprecedented as to the issues on which we are fighting, and as to the stand that we are determined to take. I wish to make my small contribution to the maintenance of the unity of the Australian people by saying that I shall support this measure subject to the limitation imposed on it by the amendments circulated by the Government, which are in themselves deletions.
-i make it quite clear that the Government does not propose to accept clause 3.
-Clause 3 dea ls with service in the territories. That is a matter upon which I, with others, have already cast a decisive vote in this Parliament.
– The honorable member has made the declaration that the people had decided against overseas service, and that hp accepted their decision.
-From that position, I have no intention of retracting. I appreciate the fact that a vote for the second reading of this measure, once given, may be construed as subscription to the principle of the restriction of service to the area within the borders of the Commonwealth. I wish to leave no doubt as to whore I stand. I accept the statement of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street), that it is the intention of the Government to oppose that portion of the measure which eliminates service in the territories. That, being the case, I feel safe in voting for the second reading of thebill. I should have some doubt about, doing even that, were I not quite sure that the Government intended to bring this measure to a conclusion to-day. I should not wish to see the second reading carried, and the measure be then left on the notice-paper, with doubts in the minds of certain persons as to what attitude would be adopted by honorable members in the committee stage. Therefore, I should like to be given the assurance that it is intended to proceed to a completion to-day.
-i give the honorable gentleman that assurance.
-Having received that assurance, and for the reasons that Ihave stated, I propose to support, the second reading of the bill, subject to the incorporation in it of the amendments circulated by the Government,.
.- This bill has been drawn by the Opposition as part of a trilogy, to cover points of disputation and doubt regarding the law of this country, and also to make clear what obligations are imposed upon workers in industry as well as in respect of military service. Doubts and fears, which are very real to those who, as the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) has said, are among the most important elements in the constitution of this nation, and without whose ready observance of the law and adherence generally to the requirements which the Government may have in the days ahead, would, I venture to affirm, create in Australia a position which no person would wish to see.
I do not propose to recapitulate the circumstances associated with my meeting with the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), and the subsequent conferences that were held, other it han to say that at .those conferences the Prime Minister stated that, insofar as the law required alteration to meet the point of view of the unions, he would agree that I should be given facilities to introduce into this Parliament such amendments of the law as we thought ought to be. considered, he on his part undertaking to make a fair and an unbiased examination not only of the principles, hut also of the details, of those bills. He would not give then, nor has he ever given, any undertaking to support either the principles or the details of the bills. He made that quite clear. At the same time, he made it equally clear that the bills were to be considered on their merits; there was to be a reasonable opportunity for the presentation of the case in support of the changes sought by the Opposition, and in addition, the forms of the House would not be used to prevent either the discussion or the determination of the bills. He ventured to express the hope that the Parliament would consider these proposals on their merits. The procedure yesterday and to-day represents, in my judgment, a complete fulfilment by. the Prime Minister and the Government of all of the undertakings - insofar as they were undertakings - given to the conference; and on my part, ,1 have completely discharged all of the obligations into which I entered, in that the bills have been drawn and presented.
One measure, which constitutes a part of the general review by this Parliament of the changes of the law sought by the Opposition, has been passed by the Parliament, effecting a very important change of the law in the opinion of the unions, although it is true that the unions regard it as of more significance than does the Government. It is also true that in this matter the Opposition, being representative of the trade unions, and knowing their point of view, probably regards the bill spoken to yesterday by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and to-day by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) as representing more important principles than the Government itself, or honorable gentlemen sitting opposite to mc, will concede. In substance, there are two principles. The first principle is that the trade unions of Australia object to conscription ; they say that the law has provided for conscription for the defence of Australia only in the event of invasion. Throughout the existence of this federation, the word “ Australia “ has been understood to mean the defence of the people and the territory of the continent of Australia. That does not mean that Rottnest Island or Tasmania, or any other of the islands around the coast of Australia, are not to be regarded as part of Australia, but it does mean that those territories which have been added to the Commonwealth under various arrangements, and other territories which may subsequently be added, ought riot to be made the subject of conscribed service. The bill does not remove any obligation on the part of Australia to defend New Guinea, any more than any pronouncement that the Government has made relieves Australia of the obligation, as the Government sees fit, to defend various parts of the British Commonwealth of Nations. We say that if it is necessary to send men on overseas service in order to defend Australia, those men should be enlisted voluntarily. That is the repeated declaration of the Government, and it represents the twice-registered decision of the Australian people. That is the declaration of the La’bour party, it is part of the Labour party’s platform, and it represents our interpretation of the traditional outlook of the Australian people. Before the last general elections, the Prime Minister, as Leader of the Government, and myself, as Leader of the Opposition - and at that time the Government was representative also of the third party in this House - made it quite clear to the people that whichever of us was given a mandate to administer tlie affairs of Australia, neither would resort to the conscription of the Australian people. Recently, an amendment of the Defence Act, was passed through this Parliament at the instigation of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street), who put his case very fairly, as he always does. He said that there has been in the Defence Act ever since it was passed, an obligation on the citizens of Australia to serve in the defence of territories of the Commonwealth. That point is. con tested by the Labour party. I remind honorable members that we arc not altogether without eminent counsel, ami the construing of the Australian Constitution is a matter upon, which opinions may differ. The difficulty of determining the matter becomes obvious when we recall that the High Court itself, when asked to construe sections of the Constitution, not only fails upon occasion to arrive at ti unanimous verdict, but also has been known to reverse a verdict previously given. Therefore, in order to clear up this legal point, we have introduced this bill. “We say that if it is the wish of Parliament that the man-power of Australia shall be compelled to servo in overseas territories, well and good. Then, by rejecting the relevant portion of the bill, Parliament will have made that; much clear. I accept the- view of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), though I do not agree with his opinions. He said that he would vote for the second reading of the bill, but not for that part which would alter what he understood to be the law recently passed in regard to service in the territories. He added that hp would consider what should be done in regard to other portions of the bill. 1. feel tha.t the issues have been sufficiently stated, and I do not propose to argue them further. We say that there- should be no conscription of the Australian people for the defence of Australia’s overseas territories, which may be described as extra-territorial to the continent of Australia. We say that they ought to be defended by forces voluntarily recruited. .At this stage we do not desire to argue the merits of conscription or voluntary service. We recognize the obligation of Australia to defend these territories, but we say that they should be defended by forces voluntarily enlisted. We say that voluntary enlistment has never failed in .Australia. It is the declared policy of this Government, and wo- believe that it, is the traditional policy of the Australian people. If honorable members take the opposite view, all I ask is that they do not reject, the other portions of the bill.
The other point involved in the bill is that dealing with conscientious objectors. I have read the suggested amendments of the Minister for Defence, and while I would naturally prefer that the provisions should be left as drawn by ourselves, if we cannot get them, we are prepared to take what we can get. I accept the view of the honorable member for Bourke that no one can get ‘his way in everything, and in a Parliament least of all is one man or any group of men entitled to his or their own way. Thus, whilst I would prefer the classes as we have drawn them., we ure prepared, if necessary, to accept the amendments of the Minister, which will, at any rate, be an improvement on. what obtains now. It is true that these bills come ‘before Parliament because the Government, having regard to all of its responsibilities, and the Opposition, as represented by myself, with, a full and sober realization of its responsibilities, agreed on a procedure which, we believe, will remove a state of affairs that would be detrimental, not only to this Government, but also to any govern ment, during a time of emergency. In the interests of the Australian people, and for the protection of their rights, and the rights of the members of this Parliament, these bills have been submitted to the House in the spirit which the honorable member for Indi has very ably interpreted.
– I strongly approve of this bill, and my only regret is that it had to come from the Opposition, and not from the Government. It appears to mc to bc long overdue. Conscription has been a bone of contention in Australia ever since ibo last, war. Though we, who are members of Parliament, have known all along that the Defence Act prescribes that no man shall be compelled to servo outside Australia, except with his own consent, that has not been known generally to the public. It has not even been impressed on the public by members of the
Opposition. One reason why I am particularly pleased this bill has come before the House is that it definitely removes from the arena of fictitious political controversy this issue of conscription. I hope that once the bill is passed we shall hear no more from the Opposition of that desire which they profess to believe is always burning in the breasts of persons who are not members of the Labour party to send men for service outside Australia against their will. Although this has ‘been good propaganda in the past, I appreciate the fact that the Opposition is now surrendering that line of argument, and as evidence of its good faith has brought this bill ‘before Parliament. Therefore, 1 could not in any circumstances vote against the second reading of the bill, and I shall be surprised if any member of this House, who has any regard to political values in Australia, will vote against it, especially in view of the fact that the Government is proposing certain amendments which safeguard its national policy, and which members of the Opposition are prepared to accept in a spirit of resignation, if not enthusiasm. I understand from statements of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) that the Government is accepting the bill substantially, with one or two reservations. One is that it will not accept the proposition that we should apply the principle of purely voluntary service for the defence of the territories; another is that it will not accept the proposition of the open door for conscientious objectors. It proposed to keep that door partly closed. Some mouths ago, speaking on a proposal submitted by the honorable .member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), I referred approvingly to the proposition that compulsory service should be limited to home defence. I still say that I can see no logic in disapproving in general terms of compulsory service for overseas, while, at the same time, approving of it for the defence of Commonwealth territories which lie overseas. There is a good deal of hard common sense in the contention of the honorable member for Bourke that the time may come when, our territorial ambits will have extended considerably, and the obligation to serve compulsorily in the defence of those territories may take Australian citizens many thousands of miles away.
– It could not be done without the concurrence of this Parliament.
– I recognize that. When I spoke in the way I have described - and I voted accordingly - we were not at war. To-day, we are. The Government adheres to its contention that the Defence Act imposes on Australian citizens the obligation to defend, not only the continent of Australia, but also those overseas territories which are under the political control of the Commonwealth. I consider that it is a very grave responsibility for honorable members in time of war to alter any fundamental matters of government policy affecting the conduct, of the war. An issue such as this, which will undoubtedly be raised again iti this Parliament in the years to come, is better determined in times of peace. All of these issues are better determined in times of peace than in the hectic and more or less unnatural atmosphere engendered by wartime conditions. Eventually the Government will have to define beyond any shadow of doubt the limits of responsibility to be incurred by Australian citizens in the protection of territories which are now attached to the Commonwealth or which may become attached to it in the future. For these reasons i see no particular objection to the Government adhering to its policy having regard to the wartime conditions with which we are faced, though i do not believe any great harm would be done if this proposal were limited as desired by the Opposition. If volunteers are wanted at any time to protect New Guinea, Papua or any other place of strategic importance to Australia, it will be just as easy to recruit them from the free manhood of Australia as it would be to ger. them to go overseas to assist the Mother Country. As a matter of fact, it might be easier, because they would regard service of that kind as a form of home defence.
I understand that this bill is the outcome of an agreement made between the Government and the Opposition.
– That is so. The Government undertook there would be ample opportunity to discuss and determine the merits of the bill-
– I take it that the Opposition is satisfied with the Government’s proposal to delete clause 3.
– Not at all. We are quite satisfied with what the Government intends to do with conscientious objectors; we shall accept that as the best we can get ; but we would be much more satisfied if the Government were prepared to accept clause 3 as it stands.
– 1 understand from statements made by the Minister for Defence and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) that the spirit of the agreement entered into by the Government and the Opposition has been observed, and that there is no disagreement between the Opposition and the supporters of the Government upon the salient and fundamental feature of our defence system that there shall be no alteration of the provision now contained in the Defence Act and that men shall not be called upon to serve outside Australia.
– There is a very sharp division of opinion in regard to that matter.
– I understand the position perfectly. Both the Government and the Opposition are as one upon the maintenance of the principle that Australian citizens shall not be required to serve outside Australia except in the territories under our control.
– The Government says that, but not the Opposition.
– I understand that the Opposition is 100 per cent, solid on the principle that there shall be no conscription for service outside Australia. The Government itself also takes up that attitude.
– But the Government says that Australia includes the territories.
– I disagree with the Government upon that point but, having regard to the war-time conditions that prevail, I accept its decision. I say again that all of these matters should be determined in peace time and not during the turmoil and stress of war.
I do not consider that the provision for the exemption of conscientious objectors from military service should be made too flexible. We know that that provision is very liable to abuse and that no subject arouses more bitter controversy during a war period. Fortunately the general community is not materially concerned about the conscientious objections of a handful of individuals ; but one individual imbued with a fighting spirit can make a lot of trouble during a war period if he considers that he is not getting fair treatment. There is, however, another kind of -individual, only too ready to take advantage of exemptions provided for the genuine conscientious objector, who suddenly discovers that he has deep-seated religious convictions which prevent him from rendering military service with the people amongst whom he lives. That aspect has to be considered very carefully by the Government. I believe that the Government’s proposal, which appears to meet with at least the partial approval of the Leader of the Opposition, is satisfactory. I would not favour pressing the point of view of the Opposition to the length of having a fight in this House; T trust that there will be no fight over this rather contentious matter.
On the question of whether this bill was really squeezed from the Government :l,i pistol point by the trade unions of Australia, I would say that it is true that the trade unions took up an attitude over the national register which, in my opinion, would not have met with the approval of the great majority of the people. I do not think it would be possible for trade unions to take up that attitude during war time without getting into very serious conflict with the people. When the Opposition made that hard, and in the minds of some people, sordid, bargain with the Government no state of war existed, and we had no idea that war was so imminent. I would have taken a very different view of the matter but for the fact that the Leader of the Opposition made it virtually his responsibility to step in at a critical stage when we were threatened with a very big industrial disturbance and negotiate with the PrimeMinister. The result was satisfactory to the Opposition.
– And. I trust, to the Government.
– I would not say that. A lot of people took the view that the Leader of the Opposition and the trade unions had really adopted a form of bushranging “ for the purpose of exacting concessions from the Government. People believe that a mean advantage was taken of the difficulties of the Government at that time. The Leader of the Opposition took the responsibility of throwing the weight of his party into a drive for a bargain with the Government, and at once what was an industrial issue became wholly and .solely a political issue. No course was left open to the Government but to accept the best terms it could in order to avert a major industrial upheaval throughout Australia. I believe that that is the only criticism that can be levelled against this bill. My answer to that criticism is that we have to consider the part which the Opposition plays in the government of this country. It is an integral part of the government machine, and when the Opposition forces the hand of the Government to make some political concession in order to avert an industrial upheaval we must regard it as one of the consequences of the democratic system under which we live. I am not prepared to vote against the Government on this hill because of any disagreement or quarrel that may have developed during the negotiations between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition some months ago. I trust that no honorable member in this House who claims to support the Government will do anything to indicate to the people of Australia that we in this House are not in complete harmony upon the fundamental principle that no compulsion shall be applied on a man to enlist for service outside of Australia except for the protection of territories under its control.
.- As this debate progresses it has been gradually revealed that this hill is the result of an arrangement made between the Government and a section of the Labour movement. I think it has been admitted that this arrangement arose from the opposition to the National Register Bill, although some members of the Opposition, if not enthusiastic in Parliament, declared that they would support it because it would be the law. Is that not so? But a certain section of the Labour movement opposed this and there has been conflict: now, of course, we are told about it. The honor able member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) did not say anything about that when be introduced the bill, but we have learnt as we have gone along. Honorable members have recently spoken about the fine fellow-feeling on this fundamental issue on which we have all agreed. Yet members of the Government party have not been, consulted. With the knowledge that at the present moment we are at war, the honorable member for East Sydney based his text - I compliment the honorable gentleman on his presentation of the bill - on the statement of Sir John Forrest in which he said - I cannot give his exact words - that the Military Forces would not he used compulsorily outside the Australian territory.
– That was the Citizen Forces.
– He did not specify the Citizen Forces exactly. Australia then had no external territories except Norfolk Island, nevertheless, Australia had taken a keen interest, even before federation, in certain territories in the Pacific. In 1888 at the Colonial Conference Mr. Deakin, on behalf of the colony of Victoria, declared that if Britain would not annex the New Hebrides the colony of Victoria would itself send a. warship and take the islands. That was the conference at, which Lord Salisbury presided. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) is an authority on Australian history, and he will remember that. In 1883, too, the Premier of Queensland, who was alarmed at the expansion of German influence in the Pacific, put it to the Government of the United Kingdom that New Guinea should be taken over by the British Crown. The Government of the United Kingdom was not enthusiastic, so the Premier of Queensland, acting on his own responsibility, sent the magistrate of Thursday Island to take possession of New Guinea. With him went a detachment, not a detachment of volunteers, but a detachment from the permanent artillery. Those soldiers did not go of their own free will. They were ordered to go. That, is a bit of historic fact that the honorable member for East Sydney should have known when he used Sir John Forrest’s statement as if it were the fiat for all time.
– Purely a buccaneering expedition !
– Call it what you like. The first Englishman to set foot on this land, Dampier, was a buccaneer. He set out from England on a buccaneering and exploring expedition and did great work for the British Empire. A great many people, if they care to search back, will find buccaneering blood in their forbears. The border Scotch, in many instances, boast of it. Honorable members have been taking that section of the Defence Act which this bill seeks to amend as being capable of use to conscript our men for service in New Guinea in support of the white planters and other residents there, or to defend Norfolk Island, if either were threatened. That is true. Whatever conversations between the rime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and a part of the Labour movement, took place in time of peace. We are now at, war, a fact that seems to have been forgotten here ; and since we are at war, section 59 of the Defence Act now prevails. It is just as well that that should be read, because the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) did not seem to appreciate the fact that such a section exists. Section 59 reads -
All male inhabitants of Australia (excepting those who are exempt from service in the defence force) who have resided therein for six months and a.re British subjects and are between the ages of 18 and 60 years shall, in time of war, he liable to serve in the militia forces.
– I said that we all knew that.
– That section has been in the Defence Act almost since federation.
– It was not in the original legislation.
– As presented to Parliament by Sir John Forrest, no. But it goes right back to the early history of this Commonwealth.
– To 1903.
– That is so. That section has been in the Defence Act over these past years, and I have never heard of any great protest from the Labour party against it. From that section, one cannot understand that men, in time of war, are to be just volunteers. Men would expect to be called up.
– The same act lays it down that there shall be no conscription for service overseas.
– Yes, but in the recent Defence Act, Australia was made to include the territories.
– The honorable member for New England voted against that provision.
– That does not matter. Australia has extended its territory to New Guinea, which Australia took during the war as its first action. It was the only territory that Australia got from the war in which it lost 60,000 men.
– Did Australia have to fight for New Guinea?
– Certainly. We had our first casualties in New Guinea. At a time like this when we are embarked on war, some honorable members here say that that territory, which we have peopled with our own returned soldiers largely on the expropriated properties, should not be assured of protection. The British number approximately 1,000 in New Guinea. The white population in Papua is about the same number. Yet some honorable members would leave those 2,000 people to fight unsupported sooner than call up men of a different generation compulsorily to go to their assistance when they were threatened. The Government has a number of amendments to move which nobody has had time to peruse.
– Clause 3 will be deleted.
– The bill should be thrown out on the second reading. This is not the time to talk of weakening the Defence Act, because that is just what this bill, in a measure, would- do. It contains mainly two provisions, one, that we should not fight in the territories, and the other relating to conscientious objectors.
– We would not conscript men to fight in the territories. There would be no need to do so.
– There is no misunderstanding. The bill is that the Government be not permitted to call up men compulsorily to be sent to the territories to fight. The Government should not support that.
– It does not.
– Neither should the Opposition support it. A time of war is not the time to say that we will allow the stepping stones to Australia to he captured simply because we will not send men to the territories unless voluntarily, and that we will fight only if the enemy lands in Australia.
– Hear, hear !
– It is the idea of isolation in this fight in the mind of the honorable member for East Sydney that prompts this bill. Are we not to use our man-power to support our outposts? If any trouble comes to us from the north, it will be through New Guinea, the second largest island in the world, sparsely peopled with white people, but heavily populated with a primitive people for whom we are responsible and to whom we are bringing some measure of civilization, and rich in natural resources, particularly gold, something that other nations will covet. Such an island should be defended to the last ounce of our strength.
– Does the honorable member not think that it would be? It was defended in the last Avar.
– The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McHugh) was a soldier and bc should think back to the last Avar. He is aware that we do not know what will be the duration of this Avar. We do not even know what its result Will be. We are calling our Militia into camp - rather tardily I thought - and Ave have made a gesture to Great Britain by deciding to send some air force personnel to help it. But who can predict the line up of the Allies? Consider Russia Avith its 200,000,000 people whose position in the conflict is so uncertain. We do not know whether Russia Will throw its weight with Germany and. fight against us; nor do we know Japan’s position. To weaken the Defence Act and say that if the calamity should happen that we have heavy casualties, and then not send men to defend our outposts is unpardonable. The Opposition’s stand is that in no circumstances are men to be called up under section 59 of the Defence Act, and the same would apply to Norfolk Island. Norfolk Island has been an Australian possession for nearly a century, and is
peopled with 1,500 descendants of the crew of the Bounty and others who have settled there. Norfolk Island is governed by a distinguished Australian soldier. Yet the Opposition, would have Australia leave those people in isolation rather than call up a few men to defend the island if the occasion arose. Honorable members must be aware of what has been happening right down the coast of Asia. Island after island has been annexed. Islands right opposite French Indo-China are among them. If some people see an opportunity to pick up another jewel of the sea they will not hesitate for a moment. Why then bring down this bill which may jeopardize the government of the moment - it may even bc a Labour government - in its successful prosecution of a Avar? There is no need for this bill. It should never have been brought down.
The other aspect Avith which I wish to deal is that which concerns the conscientious objector. At the outset I say definitely that if any person, because of religious scruples, objects to fighting 1 would respect those scruples.
– A nian has a right to have honest faith of a non-religious nature.
– That: is so. I do not argue that, but it is a matter for some tribunal to establish. The honorable member knows, however, that such a thing may be what is known as “ SAvinging the lead “ or evading duty. It happened in the last Avar in the army and in other places. Now it will happen, as it happened then, that men will try to evade their responsibilities, and let the burden fall on others.
– What did the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) say in respect of service in the other war?
– We should not go into that. If a man has conscientious principles, in which he sincerely believes, t” being a combatant, those principles will be respected, but there is no reason why he should not do fetching and carrying for the others who are risking their lives. What would be the fate of a conscientious objector in. Poland ?
– What happened to them in
New Zealand in the last war?
M r. WHITE. - We all know what happened, but at present the British Empire is on the defensive against a most ruthless form of tyranny. It is a repetition of Prussianism on a worse scale. An otherwise enlightened nation of great ability has had its feelings played on for so long and fanned by this madman of Europe that he can lead them to any violence, and he is embarking on a new adventure in crushing a democracy.
Mr.Ward. - What democracy?
Opposition Members. - Oh !
– Call it what you will, then. There are different forms of democracy. Our idea of democracy in Australia is different from that of democracy in the United States of America or in France, where, for instance, there is no women’s suffrage. Would the honorable member call Russia a democracy?
– Germany ?
– Well those are two nations which are at present crushing the gallant Polish nation whose liberty we guaranteed and which was working out its salvation again after having been crushed 150 years ago at the hands of the same nations. That is what we are facing to-day.
– Why did we not fight for Czechoslovakia ?
– I think that we should have.
Opposition Members. - What about Spain - and Abyssinia?
– It is very hard to take part in all wars. The Leader of the Opposition said, in the piping days of peace when it was easy to say it, that there was no danger coming to Australia - I do not think he would say it now - and that Australia should not. supply units that would be a salvage corps for other nations. Honorable members ask why Great Britain did not take part in the civil war in Spain or in the Italo-Abyssinian conflict? The answer is that we can only take part in wars within the limits of our own strength and ability. For centuries the British Empire has upheld the rights of the weaker nations. In the last war, Britain lost 1,000,000 lives in giving assistance to Belgium, which was being oppressed by the same people who, once again, have plunged the world into wa r.
– Was the honorable member in favour of intervention in the Spanish conflict?
– No, that was a civil war. I say to the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), who has frequently made uncomplimentary remarks about the British Empire and the British navy, that civil war is the worst thing that can happen to any nation. I saw something of the horrors of civil war in Russia, and I can imagine nothing worse. For that reason I say that Great Britain advisedly did not intervene in Spain. This is a matter in which the minds of honorable members should be ranged beyond the precincts of this Parliament and beyond the limits of this bill. They should visualize once again those days of twenty-four years ago and realize that the nations of the world are once more in a death struggle, in which our resources of energy and man-power must be taxed to the limit if we are to win through. We must think of the Empire as a whole and not cloud our minds with insignificant measures of this kind, providing that Australia shall not send men compulsorily to defend external territories of the Commonwealth. The rights of conscientious objectors are provided for in the Defence Act. They will not be forced to undertake combatant service, but there is no reason why they should be exempted from duties in clerical administration and other non-combatant work which otherwise would keep ablebodied men out of the line. If this measure were carried, the administration could be cluttered up for months by conscientious objectors appealing from one court to another.
– That is not so. The present position is that a conscientious objector could be dealt with by a nonjudicial officer by way of court martial, and from the decision of that tribunal be would have no appeal. The alteration which this measure proposes is that a conscientious objector should, in the first instance, be dealt with by a court, and then if the decision of that court were unfavorable to him, he would have the right of one appeal only.
– I thank the honorable member for Bourke for his explanation. It seems to me that this is the wrong time to permit a state of affairs in which there might be a long queue of men who had been dealt with by the non-judicial tribunal, waiting to have their cases brought before the appeal court. We must realize that our fellow-citizens are reasonable men and are quite capable of ascertaining fairly whether or not a man is genuinely desirous of securing exemption for valid conscientious reasons. The honorable member for Bourke said that conscientious objection to military service was a principle which was supported by the churches, but I point out that the churches also support the fight which we are waging against Nazi-ism or Hitlerism, that pagan creed which has been degrading Christianity throughout the world. We must cease dealing with such trivial matters as this bill, and realize that we have a much wider responsibility than to discuss the rights of conscientious objectors, or to discuss whether or not a man should defend his fellow-citizens in New Guinea, Papua, or Norfolk Island.
The hill is unnecessary and I shall vote against it. c
.- I am prepared to support this bill because of the two matters of principle with which it deals. First, it attempts to limit the area over which compulsory military service under the Defence Act may operate, and, secondly, it seeks to liberalize provisions relating to conscientious objectors. I would not have risen merely for the purpose of making that statement, because that could be sufficiently declared by a vote upon the bill; but there are one or two other matters arising out of this bill, and more particularly arising out of speeches delivered in respect of this bill, that impel me to say a word or two. As I understand it, this measure Ls what is known as a private member’s bill, and I think that the right of private mem- . bers to introduce legislation into this chamber is something which should be fostered, and its exercise encouraged. As a matter of fact, the practice has fallen into disuse and it very rarely happens that a private member ventures to introduce a bill into this Parliament, the reason of course being that such bills usually get short shrift. If the Government happens to approve of a particular principle, it may in some special cases - I think there is only one in the history of the Australian Parliament - encourage the introduction of such a bill and facilitate its passage. But in controversial matters, private members’ bills have always been discouraged consequent upon the fact which has been more than once referred to in this chamber, that the tendency is for the whole power to reside in the Executive and in administrative bodies. The usual practice, therefore, is for the Government to introduce measures merely for the purpose of giving the Executive the power necessary to exercise its authority when Parliament is not in session. That phase of the matter has been well discussed in other bills that have been before the House, in respect of which I have expressed opinions which, in some cases, have been accepted, and in other cases rejected, by the House. There are some rather curious features about the history of this measure, which has been introduced by members of the Labour party, and, in that regard, I was -very interested to hear the closely reasoned speech of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) . I do not in some respects agree- with the view expressed by that honorable member, and I am not prepared to accept it as a whole. The honorable member said that negotiations had taken place between the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and into these negotiations had entered certain influential representatives of the trade union movement. He submitted that, in order to anticipate and prevent a great industrial upheaval, and a sharp division in the ranks of the people at a time when we ought in a special manner to be united, the Government had agreed to the introduction of these bills by members of the Opposition without” committing itself, as a Government, to supporting the measures. My first comment is that this commonly expressed view that there should be no division of opinion in the country or in the Parliament at this time of great strain can be very easily over-accentuated. Sharp differences of opinion have already manifested themselves in this chamber, a fact which has been proven by its decisions on certain measures. Those decisions have been arrived at, and those divisions of opinion have been manifested, entirely in the spirit expressed by the Leader of the Opposition himself when he said something to the effect that intelligent work by a parliament was not to be achieved by having an opposition composed merely of Tes men “ to the government, but that useful criticism was called for, examination of bills demanded, and fearless and free expression of opinion expected, from an opposition. That has been the case. Although the war has been in progress only a. fortnight, differences of opinion have been, manifested already on at least two important bills which might be considered to be of the character of war measures, and the House has been divided in opinion. One measure was the National Security Rill, and the other was a bill dealing with regulations which was introduced by an honorable “member on this side of the House. Without presuming to rediscuss bills which have already passed through this chamber. I might say that our argument in each case was directed to an important matter of principle, namely, the maintenance of the rights of Parliament as against the autocratic or dictatorial rights and powers of the Executive Government. The view that “ the more we are together the happier we shall be “, and therefore we should stifle opinion in order to appear to enjoy unanimity which, in fact, wo do not enjoy - a view expressed by the honorable member for Indi - is not and cannot be shared by me at all events to the degree he would like.
– There is a distinction between difference in debate in this chamber and bitter controversy among the people of the nation.
– The honorable member for Indi has made his interjection at an appropriate point. He spoke of a possible industrial revolt or uprising, which was anticipated and prevented by the spirit, of conciliation manifested by the Leader of the Government, the Leader of the Opposition, and certain trade union leaders. The probability of that revolt has, in my opinion, been greatly exaggerated by certain honorable members, including* the honorable member for Indi.
The Opposition in this Commonwealth Parliament speaks for a very great political party. lt would be fair to say that it speaks for about half of the people of Australia ordinarily, as demonstrated by the results of the last general elections. The Labour party is the accredited political Opposition in this Parliament. May I briefly call attention to the structure of the party in view of the remarks of the honorable member for Indi concerning the possibility of a grave industrial upheaval. The Labour party is composed, on the one hand, of industrialists, and, on the other hand, of a great number of persons who are not industrialists and have not the honour to be associated in any way with the Trades Hall. The Labour party, as a political power, originated when the industrial unions of this country, then without political power, decided that it was desirable to capture the political” machine, if possible. That decision arose out of great industrial upheavals of the ‘nineties. Labour has proceeded along those lines. It may be said that the party was born out of the loins of the industrial, movement, but, it is something much greater and bigger than the industrial movement, strong and enduring as that movement is. The Labour party lays down the law and practice, politically speaking, of the working classes of this country, and has done so for many years. But great as is my respect for the industrial movement, because it has been such an important factor in. the development of the Labour party, I should be the last person to concede for a single moment that, any one section lays down the policy of the party. That policy, I repeat, envisages obedience to the law, once the law has been .made by Parliament. It holds that the law, having been made, should be subscribed to and obeyed until changed in accordance with the wellknown methods that, are appropriate to a democratic institution, such as this Parliament. The Labour party, as and when a government, exacts swift obedience to its laws.
It is true that the industrialists made a demonstration. I think it would have been wiser had they been permitted to make their demonstration in the manner peculiar to themselves to serve their own purposes. Actually, they did serve their own purposes in that they succeeded in “ putting the wind up “ the Prime Minis- ter, who seems to have become alarmed - unnecessarily so, in my opinion - for the very good reason that the authoritative spokesmen of the Labour party had declared that it was unthinkable that those who accepted and adhered to democratic institutions should raise the standard of revolt against; laws passed by their own Parliament. Let me make it clear thatI am not in any personal sense jealous of the rights of parliamentarians as these remarks may suggest. That is not the question. But I am very jealous of the authority of the Labour party to speak for its members through its accredited spokesmen and not otherwise. The honorable member forIndi, in my opinion, has exaggerated, the trouble to which he referred.I rather commend my friends of the industrial movement, with whom, of course, I urn on the friendliest possible terms of co-operation, on having succeeded in stirring up the Government and the Prime Minister. They are to be congratulated on that account. But the industrial movement is not bound by political policy and a written constitution based on the representative principle in the same way as the Labour party is.
– A certain amount of credit should be given to the Prime Minister.
– I do not desire to be ungenerous or unjust to the Prime Minister. Any credit tohim should be accorded to his heart rather than to his head. That is my view. In a democratic country, there are recognized methods of dealing with these matters through democratic institutions.
I am quite satisfied with the Labour party’s constitution and methods of approach to these problems. Of course, the party could and does hope for a greater measure of support than it has had in recent years from the electors. That, also, is beside the question at the moment. What has happened in this case is, on the whole, a precedent which in my opinion should not be followed. Negotiations outside Parliament between sections supporting the Opposition may be all right up to a point. Anything in the way of negotiation or discussion, which makes for better understanding and which facilitates the introduction and passage of legislation through this Parliament, is good. But when we find that bills are drafted outside Parliament in circumstances which make us wonder just where authority does reside, then it is natural that a confused state of mind should exist in the legislature itself such as has been manifested in this debate. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson)has supported the Labour view, on another occasion, on one aspect of this measure; but, obviously, he is under some misapprehension as to what has happened and as to what was stipulated by the Government, and agreed to by other parties.
– I do not think we know what was agreed to.
– We do not know what was agreed to; but. we know the results of the conference for this bill has been introduced. What I am insisting upon at the moment is that too much importance may have been attached by certain speakers to a demonstration that occurred outside the Parliament, although the demonstration was entirely in keeping in its objective with the attitude adopted by the Opposition in the Parliament.
– Apparently the honorable member thinks the Government capitulated to it.
– The Government almost capitulated. At least, it thought it wise to make a. plausible pretence of capitulation.
Mr.Street. - Capitulation to what?
– To the theory that my friends in the trade union movement had some authority to negotiate with the Prime Minister, on behalf of Labour, as to legislation which was to be submitted to this Parliament.
– That is not capitulation.
– The Minister will recognize thatI merely said it was something like it.
– The honorable member will not even give the Government a cushion to fall upon.
– I am _ not at all grateful to the Government in this matter. As an inveterate upholder of democratic institutions, I do not approve of the lines that have been followed, for clearly they have to led to misunderstandings and misstatements by certain honorable members concerning the extent of difficulties which are said to have existed upon the general question of obedience to, or revolt against, the laws of this country.
– I think the Leader of the Country party suggested that there had been capitulation after revolt.
– The honorable gentleman suggested revolt, and I suggested capitulation. I stand to that.
– Representations were made by persons having authority within a limited sphere. There were declarations that persons should not render obedience to the existing law, and the Prime Minister apparently accepting that as .being in some way an expression of the view of the Labour party, entered into negotiations. I, as an uncompromising upholder of the authority of the Labour party in politicai matters affecting the working class, do not compliment the Prime Minister upon having done that.
I accept the bill for two reasons : First, that it endeavours to limit the scope of the operation of compulsory service; and secondly, that it improves the law - upon which I compliment the draftsman - in regard to the conscientious objector.
There is one phase of the matter that has not been discussed, namely, the difference between the legal entities - the mandated territory on the one hand, and the ordinary territory on the other hand. I am more strongly against the extension of compulsory military service to the mandated territory than I am to its application in the ordinary territory. There may very well bc some sufficiently sound reasons in law and in fact for regarding our territories as a part, of Australia, but there can be no justification, either in law or in ethics, for regarding the mandated territory as being ours; it is merely a trust, for which we arc responsible to a Mandates Commission. Although the Prime Minister of the day, who is now the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes), insisted upon having in respect of this particular mandated territory a greater measure of freedom than was to be enjoyed by other mandated territories, still that distinction between a territory that is ours and one that is held in trust is not to be disregarded. I consider, therefore, although I am totally opposed to conscription in any circumstances, that the’ argument against the extension of compulsory military service for the defence of a mandated territory is much stronger than the argument against its extension to an. ordinary territory which is ours, and therefore to be defended by us.
In the light, particularly of the speech of the honorable member for Indi, I considered it advisable to have recorded my views in respect of one or two aspects of this bill, to which, however, I give support in every particular.
Mr. PATERSON (Gippsland) .5.5].- .1 regard clause 3 as the crux of i his bill. I believe in universal military training for the defence of Australia and its territories, and in voluntary enlistment for overseas service, in the sense in which I understand the term “ overseas “. F could not possibly regard the territories of Papua and New Guinea, for example, as being properly described as overseas territories. Geographically, there is less reason to regard Papua as an overseas territory than to regard Tasmania as such. The distance from Cape York to the southern coastline of Papua is only about 85 nautical miles, which is about one-half of the distance from the southern coastline of the mainland of Australia to. Tasmania. Is it possible that any honorable member can be blind to the menace which would confront this country in the event of those territories that are just to the north of us falling into enemy hands ?
– Tasmania is a State of the Commonwealth.
– Undoubtedly; but geographically it would be even more foolish to regard Papua and New Guinea as overseas territories - I stress the word “ overseas “ - than it would be to regard Tasmania as such.
-New Guinea goes up to two degrees from the equator.
– Australia goes up to about eleven degrees from the equator. One could imagine the pilot of an. aeroplane being able to observe in front of him the coastline of Australia and, turning round, the coastline of Papua, without any difficulty on a reasonably clear day. If such a territory fell into the hands of an enemy owing to the fact that we were half-hearted about assisting those who are in it to repel an attack, we should be compelled to fortify the northern coast of Australia against attack from that territory. Can one imagine our permitting ourselves to get into such a situation? The very nearness of these islands, as well as our responsibility regarding our mandate, demands that we regard them as part and parcel of Australia, certainly for defence purposes. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) attempted to distinguish between a territory which actually belongs to us - like Papua - andNew Guinea, which we hold under mandate.
– It is a real distinction.
– I regard it as a case of “splitting hairs”; the one is as near to us as the other, and they simply have an imaginary border-line between them. That we should do more for one in the way of defending it against attack than we should be prepared to do for the other, is too absurd for serious consideration. I believe, not only that there are good tactical and military reasons which impel us to regard these islands as part and parcel of Australia, but also that common sense dictates the same thing.
I have another objection to clause 3. It seems to me that, at the present juncture, when Great Britain and its dominions should present the most steadfast and united front, when they should be an example of unwavering steadfastness, such a provision would be misunderstood and misconstrued in some countries overseas. Indeed, I do not think that a great stretch of the imagination is needed to suppose that it might even be used as a background for the mendacious propaganda for which Germany is showing such inventive genius to-day. In German eyes, the Australian. Parliament could quite easily be depicted as being only half-hearted in support of Great Britain in the tremendous fight it is waging on behalf of democracy to-day.
I do not wish to be misunderstood in my reference to clause 3. By all means, let us stick to voluntary enlistment for genuine overseas service- I entirely agree with that - but do not let us make the tactical blunder of unnecessarily flaunting before the eyes of certain European nations legislation of a type which can easily be construed as intended to limit the degree of support that we are prepared to give to the Old Country in its unselfish fight for the weak against the strong, for reason against force, for the law of civilization as against the law of the jungle. I object to clause 3 very strongly on those grounds, so strongly that I do not feel that I can support even the second reading of thebill.
– I desire, first, to associate myself with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) in expressing satisfaction at the manner in which the Government has fulfilled its promise to the people whom it met in conference. I was associated in that conference with the Leader of the Opposition and the accredited representatives of the trade union movement of Australia, and I believe that the Government was serious in its efforts to help to develop in Australia a public opinion: favorable to the settlement of disputes by negotiation. The Labour party has stood for that policy for as long as I can remember. In the early days of the last war, Labour representatives from each of the six States, sitting in conference in Perth, urged the Government, and sent messages to leading men all over the world who could bereached, urging them to endeavour to arrive at a settlement of the conflict by negotiation. Had the great Labour movement of the world succeeded in those days, in their request that the war should be settled by negotiations and not by suppressed military victory or a crushing defeat, we should probably have been saved from the events of to-day.
The policy of round-table conferences has been recognized by great students all over the world as the only sane and commonsense method of dealing with disputes. I express appreciation of the manner in which the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) and the Prime Minister, who met us on several occasions, kept their promises in regard to the matters discussed. I also express appreciation of the broad and tolerant manner in which the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) has tackled this matter. We are imbued with hope when we see that honorable members whose political beliefs differ from ours are beginning to realize the need for and the wisdom of meeting in a conciliatory manner around the table to handle all big disputes.
– In this case, conciliation was preceded by a threat to strike.
– Conciliation and arbitration al ways result from something which is not satisfactory. Machinery for the settlement of disputes would not be required if disputes did not occur. Some honorablemembers have not viewed the bill in its proper perspective. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), for instance, suggested that Labour is opposed to defending the territories of the Commonwealth.
– That was not my suggestion atall.
– T he honorable member said that it would be ridiculous to say that Australia should not defend its territories. Nothing in this bill suggests that, nor has any honorable member on this side of the House made a suggestion along those lines. The point at issue is whether the territories are to be defended by voluntary or conscript forces. The Labour party contends that the history of Australia and the present outlook of its people prove that there is no need whatever to resort to compulsion. When the Minister for Defence moved an amendment to the Defence Act some months ago. some of the reasons bo gave for doing so were accepted by all parties in this House. He said that the Government had learned that it was not possible on a voluntary basis to organize the defence of vital points in the territories of the Commonwealth. The Government had not even sufficient power to organize half a dozen men to guard the cable station at Norfolk Island.
-i said that the powers conferred by the Defence Act did not extend to the territories.
– That is so. The Minister also said that the Government wished to have the authority to protect oil-storage tanks in New Guinea or dismantle those considered dangerous. But the amendment then proposed did not presage compulsion, and no one objected to it. It was made obvious that every section of the Parliament favoured the defence of the territories. The question now before the Parliament is whether the scope of the Defence Act should be widened so that the Government may compel Australians to give military service in the territories.
– That is where the Opposition differs from the Government.
-Th a t is so. I do not wish to sidetrack the issue.Ido question of whether the Labour party is prepared to take part in the defence of the territories does not arise. I merely state that we are opposed to compulsion.
– And so were the “ diggers “ during the last war.
Mr.Anthony. - A majority of them favoured compulsion.
– The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) will agree,I think, that some of Australia’s greatest fighting men, and all Australians were good fighting men, did vote against conscription. About 59 per cent. of those who were abroad voted in that way.
– It would be more accurate to say that 59 per cent. of them voted in favour of conscription.
– Perhaps I should have said that 49 per cent. were opposed to conscription. Few returned soldiers will deny that the voting was almost evenly balanced among the men in the trenches. Most of the men who had returned from the war when the referendum was taken were opposed to conscription,but the marvellous thing is that nearly 50 per cent. of those who were actually living under unnatural conditions inthe trenches voted against it.
The proposal to introduce compulsory service either inside or outside the Commonwealth is an insult to the loyalty and patriotism of the Australian people, who are naturally opposed to compulsion in any form. They hate the idea of conscription, but they have never failed to respond to an appeal for volunteers and they will not now. The Minister knows that his department has been almost inundated with volunteers on every occasion that it has called for them. Thousands of men have volunteered recently for service in every branch of the armed forces, even for the proposed air arm to be sent overseas. To introduce a system of compulsion now would be to encourage an inferiority complex among the people; it would show that their loyalty had been under-rated and iri my opinion damp the ardour of volunteers.
The honorable member for Gippsland mentioned the shortest distance between Australia and New Guinea. He omitted to state, however, that the point from which he took his measurement in Australia is in an uninhabited area. Had the distance been taken from an inhabited area it, would have been much greater.
– Apparently the honorable member is not concerned about the hundreds of Australians in New Guinea.
– The honorable member for Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) does not understand my point of view. I said that it was not necessary to urge the Australian people to defend New Guinea, because they would do so voluntarily. Whatever value may be placed upon my own muscle and brain power I offer it freely for’ tho defence of Australia, and I believe that every man in Australia will do likewise, but I will fight against compulsion for tho mainland, the territories and for overseas.
– Of what value are muscle and brain power if they are not trained ?
– That is not pertinent. The question at issue is whether it would be wise for the Defence Department to introduce compulsion when it can get all the soldiers it requires by the voluntary method.
– The Government maintains that it possesses powers of compulsion.
– I took part in a deputation to the late Right Honorable Andrew Fisher, the then Prime
Minister, in the first year of the last war to ask him not to introduce compulsory overseas military service. He said that the Defence Act gave the Government power to conscript every able-bodied man for the defence of the Commonwealth. But when the deputation pointed out the distinction between offence and defence, he said that so long as his Government remained in office, conscription for overseas service would not be introduced. Therefore, I agree with the Minister that the Government has power under the De fence Act to introduce compulsory service within Australia. But why bring that np when the Government knows very well that Australians abhor the idea of conscription, even for home service? Many of the military experts in whom the Government reposes confidence are opposed to compulsion. They contend that they can obtain better results by the voluntary method. In every part of Australia to-day, even though uniforms and equipment are lacking, men are tumbling over each other in their eagerness to enrol for the defence of the country, if I understand the characteristics of the Australian people, that will always be the. case. Out some of the things that some members have said are an insult to the courage, capacity and loyalty of Australians.
– Nothing that was done in -Tune of this year, or since, has altered in any way the obligation for service that has existed for the last 26 years.
– The Government widened the scope of the Defence Act in order to obtain power to compel men to serve in New Guinea. That is an extension. I do not think compulsion would be necessary. I urge the Minister to revise his attitude to clause 3. I assure him that tho Government can obtain all volunteers it may require without resorting to conscription. Merely to talk about compulsion will have a bad effect on voluntary enlistments.
– The Government has not spoken of compulsion. That subject has been raised by the honorable member himself.
– It has always been understood by the people of Australia that any reference to conscription for overseas service means conscription for service anywhere outside the bounds of the Commonwealth.
Clause 4, dealing with the’ rights of conscientious objectors, provides that a fair hearing shall be given to those who claim to be conscientious objectors. In time of war reasonable consideration of such claims cannot be expected from military men. Conscientious objectors should not have their cases determined by a handful of experts whose minds are already made up about military matters. The clause simply provides that any man or woman who claims to have an objection to military service of any kind shall have the right to trial in a civil court. People have such objections and there are some who for three or four generations of a family have been conscientious objectors, then a civil court should be able to determine that they have a just claim to be exempted from service. That is all we ask for; we go no further than that. I do not think it needs any pressure of argument to convince the Minister, but I want to try to convince those who are opposed to the proposal. The Society of Friends and the Quakers are very widely established organizations with branches in every country in the world. For as long as we can remember they have held the same views as they hold to-day. Whilst they would not bear arms, whilst they will choose to be put against a wall and shot rather than take part in military operations, they go out to Spain, China, Russia, Bulgaria and other countries ravaged by war to succour the suffering people. To-day, in China, the Quakers are nursing the wounded and feeding the destitute in the midst of war itself. Although they display an absolute lack of fear, and are prepared to carry out their work under fire, they will not put their hands on a military weapon. These people’s claims should be given very serious consideration by a civil court or by courts.
– They are already exempt under the provisions relating to religions objections.
– That is not so. If this measure be not passed they may be brought to trial before some kind of military tribunal at whose hands they would never get what we regard as justice in peace time. It is impossible to get what I might term our peace-time conception of justice from a military tribunal operating during the stress of war, not because those who constitute the tribunal are different from ordinary people, but because the environment in which they have to work stultifies their judgment.
– Those things do not happen here.
– That is true, but it is quite likely that they may happen if conscription is introduced into this country. In England during the last war some of the finest British people, including Ramsay MacDonald, Lord Snowden, and dozens of other men I know were persecuted mentally and physically because they were conscientious objectors. Hundreds of conscientious objectors were forcibly fed, stripped and placed in cells in which rifles, uniforms, &c, were placed to torment them. They were kept in those cells for weeks on end in an attempt to break down their will power. Every means was used to test the strength of their convictions. Finally, the press of Great Britain when the war was half over stated that these people had a genuine claim to be classed as conscientious objectors.
– The honorable member does not suggest that anything of that kind would happen here?
– I hope not.
– The honorable member is not sure.
– No. My uncertainty is engendered by my knowledge of other things that have happened here.
– How does one join the Society of Friends or the Quakers?
– The Society of Friends and the Quakers are not looking to increase their adherents among people who do not have their faith, or who have the outlook of the interjectors. As every one knows, by the middle of 1916 England was passing through some of its blackest days during the war, and conscientious objectors were being actively persecuted.
On the 27th July, 1916, the Manchester Guardian published the following statement : -
The final test of sincerity is the willingness to face consequences, and the supreme test the perseverance to death. The conscientious objector has been mocked and flouted as a slacker and a coward. We think him a mistaken man, but we have never been in doubt that in many cases he is perfectly genuine in his views. We hope that people will now be satisfied that the conscientious objector may at least bc what he professes to be, and is not necessarily a mere coward masquerading under a fine pretence.
– ls not provision made in ihe Defence Act for the exemption of conscientious objectors ?
– Under the Defence Act a3 it stands at present a conscientious objector may be given a military trial. No provision is made for appeals against the decision arrived at. I believe that the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) is willing to listen to reason and to examine this matter carefully for himself. We shall have an- opportunity to test his sincerity when the vote is taken on this bill. His interjection warrants me in that belief. Apparently he believed that that safeguard is already in the act; but I assure bini that it is not otherwise there would have been no necessity for the introduction of this measure. The act give3 a military tribunal power to test the bona fides of a conscientious objector. I do not believe that there are very many people in Australia who could be classed as slackers. If a. man claimed that, because he was a Quaker, he was unable to take up arms but expressed a willingness to do Red Cross work his bona fides should be tested by a civil court; but to say that he should have to submit himself to trial by two or three military officers in the midst of the stress and turmoil of war would not be fair. He should also be given the right of appeal to a higher court. That is all we ask.
– How will the honorable member test a conscientious objector?
– Inquiries could be instituted in- order to ascertain what company the person interrogated had kept and details of his past history. There are a dozen ways. I urge the Government to accept this bill as it now stands. Although I do not believe that we shall ever have to resort to compulsion we should take ample steps to provide against any unsatisfactory features that might arise if compulsion ever became the law of the land. I fought against conscription during the last wai-, and I would do so again to-day. During the conscription campaign I was insulted and frequently had to defend myself in a physical sense. No man in Australia, was more proud than I when I saw printed in gold letters in the hall where I served my apprenticeship, the referendum records, showing that on two occasions Australia had rejected conscription. My pride was all the greater when I reflected that Australia was the only nation that played its part during the last war without having to resort to compulsion.
– I desire to speak briefly on this bill because I do not intend to cast a silent vote upon it. The question of conscription does not arise in this discussion. We have a bill before us which is the outcome of negotiations between the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). I believe in negotiation and co-operation, particularly between the two parties, but this bill embraces principles which are foreign to the accepted principles of members on this side of the House. The Minister states that he proposes in committee to remove these provisions from the bill and to bring forward amendments of others. It would appear, therefore, that in bringing down these amendments the objective is to take out the vital parts of the bill and leave it a mere skeleton. No doubt the Government knows its mind best in this matter. I accept the Minister’s views in this direction, though I emphasize that it would have been better had the Government itself undertaken the task of introducing the bill.
.- I do not agree with the views expressed by some honorable members opposite. I am no believer in compulsion. Australia proved during the last war that it was able to raise voluntarily a splendid fighting force which proved its mettle on the field of battle and won international acclaim. The spirit of Anzac is not dead to-day. There is no reason why Australia should not again confidently expect its sons to respond nobly to the call to arms.
By introducing legislation which is not required and which results in the creation of suspicion andbad feeling among the people of Australia, the Government, instead of bringing about unity in this Commonwealth, is bringing about disunity.
– The honorable member must discuss the bill.
– I am dealing with methods of compulsion.
-I must ask honorable members to confine their remarks to the bill. I realize that the question of compulsion has already quite improperly been introduced into this discussion. I now ask honorable members not to deal with that matter, otherwise the limits of the debate will be far too wide.
– The speeches delivered this afternoon were based upon the question of sending men outside Australia for military service.
– To the territories.
– They are outside Australia.
– Order!I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the bill.
– I do not believe that there is need for compulsion of any description, nor do I believe it right that we should use compulsion to send men outside Australia for the defence of our territories. The Government cannot show that it has ever been essential to compel the Australian man to recognize his obligation to look after Australia and its territories. A bad impression has been created in the minds of the people. The belief has been implanted in them that the Government is willing to go to any length to establish in this country the totalitarian-state methods of compulsory training and service. Voluntary service has been traditional in Australia ever since the days of the A ustralianImperial Force and the peoples’ rejection of compulsionattwo referendums. That there is no need for compulsion in military service has been shown by the rush of volunteers to the Militia in answer to the Government’s appeal. The military authorities cannot cope with all of the young men who have offered their services. Those facts justify my criticism of attempts to interfere with the voluntary enlistment. Our voluntary system has been just as successful as the compulsory systems practised in other parts of the world, and I hope that this Government will accept the principle that we have held sacred for twenty years. To maintain our democracy, we must maintain the established methods on which it has been based. What can be done by voluntary enlistment was displayed for the whole world to sec in the last international conflict.
As for the other part of the bill, I do not think there will be many objectors in Australia. There are a few who would not fight for the preservation of this country. Nevertheless, there are men who love their fellow men so much that they would not lift a pin against them, let alone kill them. They are loving people. Might is right in the world to-day, and some one has to take up arms to defend his country and home, but I do think that consideration should be had for those honest, and sincere men whose personal convictions forbid them to fight. As I said, I do not believe that the numbers of conscientious objectors would be great enough to cause trouble, and I appeal tothe Minister to accept the Opposition’s proposal to give protection to the few that there might be.
– I emphatically protest against clause 3 of this bill. I regret that I was not here when the bill was introduced, but my absence to-day while the bill has been under discussion was due to fact that I have been in conference with a group of people whom the Opposition would treat as foreigners and whose country, New Guinea, it would treat as foreign soil. I listened with a good deal of interest to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway). My interest was mainly directed at understanding what he was driving at. When, after a long while, realization dawned on me it became evident to me that the honorable member must be guilty of having a child mind. As well as I could, I took down what he said. His remarks show that, he looks upon New Guinea as a foreign land and declares that to send troops there would be sending troops on foreign service. Foreign service to defend the “ diggers “ up there! There are only 500 of them. Their numbers make a very thin line. I protest against the policy of the Opposition, because it does violence to my sense of reason and geography, and because it is a policy of cowardice that claims that wo should be not ready to rush to the aid of 500 “diggers” in New Guinea, which is actually part of Australia. At question time, if it had not been for the fact that [ had to take a long-distance telephone call from my home, I should have asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) a question in these terms -
In view of the fact that there arc so many Australians in New Guinea, ami the fact that last year they paid as a 5 per cent, tax on gold production £120,000, and in view of the grave danger that exists there, will the Prime Minister give to the people of New Guinea representation in this House on lines similar to those on which the people of the Northern Territory are represented here?
L have been in conference with representatives of the white people in New Guinea for many hours. My question sums up their plea. As Australians in an Australian territory, they want representation in this Parliament. Yet the honorable member for Melbourne Ports and other honorable members do violence, [ am sure, to their own sense of reason, but certainly to mine and to my sense of the fitness of things, by declaring that the region in which these Australians live is foreign. Their attitude is that if we sent soldiers to New Guinea this afternoon we should be ordering them to foreign service.
– That is not true.
– If there is any other interpretation that, I can place on the remarks of honorable gentlemen op posit*’: 1 shall most willingly retract. These men from New Guinea have been here to-day. They will be here to-morrow and in Sydney at the week-end. “We have conferred together and they say, “We shall be in for a very lean time if anything happens up there within the next few months unless we can get evidence that the Commonwealth Parliament, will take action to reinforce us.” Those are their words. They are all “ diggers “, all our own men. One man left Wau by air on Friday, was in Sydney on Monday and got here to-day to place the case for the “‘diggers” and all other white residents in New Guinea, particularly that section of New Guinea which we administer under mandate. 1 feel sure that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green) must bo familiar with the situation. At any rate, I am. The position is that the German’ missions have so undermined the position of our own people in New Guinea that in the present world situation there is a grave menace to our hold on the country. Honorable members are all aware that our mandate is not a full mandate. If I had my mind and the “ diggers “ had their way, Australia would despatch troops to New Guinea this afternoon. We cannot admit to the world that we are babies, that we have child minds, that we have never grown up. We must be realistic and factual, even if some members have forgotten our geography. It is not always that, I find myself in agreement with the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), but I agree with every word and syllable of what he said this afternoon. In fact, he stole my thunder when he described New Guinea as being analogous to Tasmania. The honorable member made out a very good case. I am amazed to think that members of the Opposition should deliberately deceive themselves and imagine that they can deceive the people. Self-deception is something on which we should not waste time in this Parliament. While T have breath in my body I .shall be advocating that the people of New Guinea be given representation in this House. Those people look upon me at the moment as their mouthpiece.
– The honorable member lias no vote.
– I have a vote on all ordinances affecting the Northern Territory and I am pressing that the member for the Northern Territory, whoever he may be in the future, should have full voting rights.
– The honorable member must not proceed any further along those lines.
– This country will never be guilty of the cowardice that is implied in the Opposition’s bill. New Guinea is part of the protective screen in the PacificOcean which extends from the Malay
Peninsula, through the Archipelago and, touching Darwin as the apex, passes through Port Moresby to the Caroline Islands andSamoa. When I attended the science congress at Canberra early this year, I met the famous explorer, Sir Douglas Mawson. If honorable members only knew what he saw in the south, they would be amazed. He told me of whaling fleets from the north in which there are vessels each capable of treating three whales in line. Beneath the decks there are powerful diesel engines and ample supplies of oil. Nothing less than seaplane carriers! If honorable members opposite could realize that they would be advocating the throwing out of a protective screen as far south as the Pole. Every Australian should look to hislaurels, and, instead of deceiving themselves, honorable members opposite should be doing their part towards ensuring that neighbouring lands shall form part of our protection.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 - (1.) This act may be cited as the Defence Act (No. 2) 1939. (2.) The Defence Act 1903-1939 is in this act referred to as the Principal Act.
Amendments (by Mr. Street) agreed to-
That after sub-clause (1.) the following subclause be inserted: - “1a. Sub-section (3.) of section one of the Defence Act 1939 is repealed ‘”.
That the figures “ 1939”, sub-clause (2.), be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the figures and words “ 1934, as amended by the Defence Act 1939”.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (No compulsory service except for home defence).
Question put -
That the clause be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. Rosevear.)
Majority . .4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause 4 -
Section sixty-one of the Principal Act is amended -
by omitting from paragraph (i) of subsection ( 1 . ) the words “ who satisfy the prescribed authority that their “ and by inserting in their stead the word “ whose “ ;
by inserting in that sub-section after paragraph (i) the following paragraph: - “ (ia)Persons whose conscientious beliefs do not allow them to perform any duty of a military character, whether of a combatant nature or of a non-combatant nature; and”;
by adding at the end of that subsection the following proviso: - “ Provided further that the exemption by virtue of paragraph (ia) of this sub-section shall be granted on condition that, during an actual invasion of Australia, the persons so exempt shall perform such civilian service as they may be, fromtime to time, required to perform.”;
by omitting from sub-section (2.) the words “or (i) “ and inserting in their stead the words “(i) or (ia)”; and (e)by adding at the end thereof the following sub-section : - “ (3,) In this sub-section “ conscientious beliefs” includes any ground of conscientious objection whether the objection is of a religious character, it is or is not a part of the doctrines of the religion of the objector ; and “ actual invasion “ means -
In the case of an inhabitant of any overseas territory (as defined in section three of this act) - actual invasion of that territory, and
In the case of an inhabitant of Australia (as defined by the same section) - actual invasion of Australia ass so defined; and ineither case includes anattack from the sea or from the air.”.
Amendments (by Mr. Street) agreed to -
That the word ‘“‘by”, second occurring, paragraph (a), be omitted.
That paragraphs (b), (c) and (d) be omitted.
– I move -
That all the words after “this”, proposed new sub-section 3, be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ section ‘ conscientious beliefs ‘ includes all conscientious beliefs whether the ground thereof is or is not of a, religious character, or whether the beliefs are or are not part ofthe doctrines of any religion.”.
– What does that mean?
– I consider that the amendment is perfectly clear. It provides that a conscientious belief need not necessarily be of a religious character or part of the doctrine of any religion. The court will determine whether or not the belief is a genuine one.
– It is still necessary to satisfy a prescribed authority?
– Yes. Section 61a of the Defence Act provides that the “ burden of proving exemption from service rests on the person claiming exemption”. Then the objector has the right of appeal.
.- An entirely new principle is being introduced in this clause. I am used to hearing it said by lawyer members of Parliament that it is for the court to decide the law if there is some doubt about it, but I have never heard it suggested that the courts should decide a matter of this description. It is for Parliament to lay down what it thinks is a conscientious belief, and the decision should not be left to the whim of somebody who may be appointed to deal with the matter. Objection has been taken in this chamber to what may be the “prescribed authority”, and it has been suggested that members of the defence forces may constitute a prescribed authority.In certain eventualities there may be appointed to a court somebody whose views on this question are well ascertained beforehand. lit is the duty of this committee to say what constitutesa conscientious belief.
– There is the right of appeal to the Supreme Court and to the High Court.
– That is so. I should say that this clause was drafted by eminent lawyers who never overlook an opportunity to extend litigation. If conscientious beliefs are held by the type of people who held them during the last war. I do not consider that they are likely to run from court to court making appeals. In my opinion, this clause is too wide. It is full of loopholes and it is an abject surrender on the part of the Government to pressure from Communists and from the Australasian Council of Trade Unions.
.- This is the most important clause of the bill and if the Government surrenders now it will open up ground for grave dissension in the future should compulsory military training be introduced.From the speeches made by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) and others during the second reading of this measure, one might draw the conclusion that conscientious objectors had a strong case.I endorse that view. Those who belong to the Quakers and other similar organizations which are against active participation in war, areentitled to have their cases examined by a tribunal; but this clause leaves the door open to anybody who may proclaim that he is a conscientious objector, although his objection may only arise because of the fact that ho is required to do military service. It therefore places upon the magistrates or judges the onus of deciding something that this Parliament itself should decide. Applications for exemption would be determined according to the personal prejudices and opinions of the particular magistrate presiding over the court. This clause must be rejected or great difficulties will arise in the event of the introduction of compulsory military training.
.- The Defence Act provides that a conscientious objector must satisfy a prescribed authority that to bear arms is against his conscientious beliefs. This amendment provides that a conscientious objection of any kind may be valid and it also covers the case of a man who has a conscientious religious objection even though the doctrine of his religion is not opposed to military service. For instance, a difficulty might arise in the case of a Roman Catholic. Although Roman Catholics as a whole do not believe in refusal to participate in a just war, there are in Europe a number of Roman Catholic pacifist organizations which object to participating in a war in any way. If this clause be carried, such an objection will be recognized. I submit that the clause is a fair one and that the burden of showing whether or not a conscientious objection is a valid one will rest in any case upon the person claiming exemption. The only difference will be that, instead of going to a tribunal formed of soldiers or of civilian officers, the applications for exemption will be heard before a court, and an appeal will be allowed from that court to a higher court.
Silling suspended from 6. IB to 8 p.m.
– The amendment now before us will, if agreed to, permit of conscientious objection on grounds other than religious beliefs. A .very striking example of a case of conscientious objection on other than religious grounds was provided during the last war by Mr. Bertrand Russell, who, because he had a genuine objection to participation in the war, suffered a great deal of humiliation and punishment. His health was seriously undermined. The Parliament of the United Kingdom last year passed the Military Training Act, which, after a great, deal of discussion, provided that conscientious objectors should be divided into three classes. These were, first, men who objected to registration in any way; secondly, men who objected to undergoing any military training; and, thirdly, men who objected to performing combatant duties. The Government is not prepared to go as far as that in this bill, although many men in this community have objections to registration and to any kind of military training. The British act also provided that conscientious objectors should have the right ro approach a local court, presided over by a county court judge, the bench of which should include at least one person appointed after consultation with the trades unions. In the event of an adverse decision, a person was also entitled, under the British act, to approach an appellate tribunal appointed by the Lord Chancellor, the bench of which must also include at least one person appointed after consultation with the trades unions The British act is therefore much more favorable to conscientious objectors than this measure will be if the amendment of the Minister is approved. If it should become necessary to call persons to arms for the defence of this country, I am sure that the Government will find that it will be necessary to make concessions to many persons who, on conscientious grounds, object to military service in any shape or form.
– I hope that, this amendment will bc defeated. The Government has made a great mistake, in my opinion, in submitting it to the committee. Conscientious objection should be permissible only on religious grounds. It appears to me that this amendment has been framed to suit a body of men, among whom I would include the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who wish to shirk their responsibility to defend their country. If this provision is agreed to, such people will have as wide a paddock in which to lose themselves as any one could wish to have. It will be most unfair to the courts of this country if provision is not included in the bill to define conscientious objection much more effectively than does the present amendment. It was unfortunate that the honorable member for East Sydney should have introduced the bill, for, to my mind, it is clearly designed to give to him and others like him a way out.
– Cannot the honorable member for Barton consider the amendment on ils merits?
– Its only merit is that it will give a way of escape to persons like the honorable member for East Sydney and half a dozen Bolsheviks who are members of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions. I say this in reply to tho sophistries of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), and the religious pleas of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn). If ever a case came before a court under a provision of this kind the court would have just cause for complaint that the legislature had failed to define adequately the meaning of “ conscientious objector “. Many cases come before our courts, from time to time, in which magistrates and judges are obliged to complain about the inadequacy of definitions. We should define “ conscientious objector “ very clearly. Hitherto in Australia conscientious objection has always required a religious background. We have been proud of our religious tolerance.
– The honorable member for Barton does not display religious tolerance.
– Personally, I would give the honorable member for East Sydney no quarter. I feel sure, however, that the clause is designed to help him to escape his obligations. If the Russian* ever invaded Australia I have no doubt that the honorable member and others like him would remain in the rear of our attacking forces in order to drive their stilletoes into the backs of the people fighting for us and for our liberties and democracy. While I am always ready to fight for the interests of the Workers and those who are under-privileged, if I were forced to choose between state capitalism, as it is called in Russia, and Nazi-ism, in Germany, and the system at present in operation in Australia, I should unhesitatingly select our own system,’ although 1.’ hope that by a process of evolution we shall gradually improve the status of the people of this country who are on the lowest rungs of our social ladder. I feel that I have a just grievance against the
Government for agreeing to any alteration of the existing law in regard to conscientious objectors. While we are prepared to be loyal to our Prime Minister and to the Government, I think the right honorable gentleman will find it exceedingly difficult to tie some of his own Ministers down to this amendment. 1 am exceedingly sorry that this measure should have been introduced in a time of war. The amendment is far too broad in its scope and should be defeated. I intend to vote against it, and I am also opposed to the clause which it seeks to amend.
.- Not long ago when the National Health and Pensions Insurance’ Bill was ‘before this Parliament, an effort was made to secure exemption from its provisions for Christian Scientists in Australia who declared that they were opposed, on religious grounds, to the use of medicines and medical science and that they abstained from calling upon such services.
– The Labour party voted in favour of the exemption of Christian Scientists.
– Unfortunately for them, the Christian Scientists did not have the aid of the powerful red inter, nationale which is behind this proposal to secure exemption from military service for persons who allege that they are conscientious objectors. If this hill is passed the heart of Hitler will be cheered. It will be great propaganda for Germany to be able to announce that the Australian Parliament has declared not what Australia will do in the war but what it will not do. If we pass this bill “ there will bc a hot time in Germany to-night “.
Question put -
That the amendment (Mr. Street’s) be agreed to.
The commit/tee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. Rosevear.)
Ayes . . . . . . 46
Noes . . . 14
Majority . . 32
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move–
That the definition of .: …h’.,1 invasion” In: omitted.
In view of the rejection of clause. 3 by the eomrn.it Ito. this definition is not needed.
Amendment agreed to.
.- The decision just made will go down in the history of thi.? Parliament as one of the greatest surrenders to threat and to minority dictatorship that has ever been made, “During the last period of the session, this Parliament passed a certain law, which included the penalties for which the Government asked. A very small minority of the people of this country, representing probably not 1 per cent. - the noisy Communist element in the trade union section - held a gun ni the head of the Government, and the Government capitulated. The Government also made a threat that it would appeal to the country on this question. There was no cause for an appeal to the country. The Government had the law, and could apply the penalties for non-observance of it. Out of that terrific weakness arose the scenes that this chamber witnessed last night and this afternoon. If this be the best that the Government can do during a time of war, if it be the be3t exhibition of backbone the Government can give, this country is in for a sorry time. It is bad for a community such as ours when a. government gives way to threat. Such a government surrenders, if not its authority, at all events a good deal of the respect in which it is held by the community. Members of the Government must accept the whole of the responsibility for the position with which we ure faced to-night.
This Parliament was called together a few days after the outbreak of war, but so far it has seen very little in the way of war measures.
– Order! The honorable member is getting quite wide of the clause under discussion. The tenor of his speech is more suitable to one made on the motion, for the second reading of a bill. The clause deals with exemption from service. So far the honorable member has not connected his remarks with that subject matter.
– I feel that I am in order.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I. think that the honorable member is not in order.
– The passage of the amendment by a combination of Government and Labour forces is something for which this country, this Government, and this Parliament, will be sorry before long. An entirely new principle has been introduced into the definition of “ conscientious objector “. From now on, conscientious objection will not depend ou a man holding certain religious beliefs. Any man who goes into a court and says that, under the rules of the Communist party, of which he is a member, he ls a conscientious objector. willbe entitled to the benefits of the provision to which the Government has agreed. Neither the Parliament, the Government, nor the country need be proud of what has been done. I am extremely sorry that we have got into such a state thus early in the present unfortunate national situation. Barriers are being broken down, loopholes are being made, and a set of circumstances is being provided in advance, which will cause a good deal of dissatisfaction and very great hardship before we have progressed very far.
.- The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) is not, I think, familiar with the act as it stands at present. Section 61 of the principal act makes the following provision : -
The following shall be exempt from service in time of war so long as the employment, condition, or status on which the exemption is based continues.
A long list of exemptions is given, including the following: -
Persons whose conscientious beliefs do not allow them to bear arms.
There is not a definition of “ conscientious beliefs “ in the principal act ; it is completely undefined. The amendment just passed by the committee defines “ conscientious beliefs “, and in point of fact the definition is not limited to religious beliefs, but includes all conscientious beliefs, whether the ground thereof is or is not of a religious character, or whether the beliefs are or are not part of the doctrine of any religion. I again refer the committee, as the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) did a little while ago, to the British Military Training Act 1939, passed in May of this year. Dealing with conscientious objectors in section 3, that act says -
The provision of this act requiring persona to apply for registration in the Military training Register shall be deemed to be complied with by any person if, at the time at which he is required by these provisions to apply for registration as aforesaid, he furnishes the prescribed particulars about himself, and makes application in the prescribed manner to be registered as a conscientious objector in a special register kept by the Minister.
It goes on to say -
A person may apply to be registered in the register of conscientious objectors on the ground that he conscientiously objects -
That goes ever so much further than the amendment now before the committee. This clause defines the expression “ conscientious beliefs “ which, up to now, has been undefined.
– During the last war, it was interpreted in England as applying only to religious beliefs.
– We do not know whether that is so or not.
– It was never interpreted here at all.
– That is so. I maintain that no new principle, as was suggested by the Leader of the Country party, has been introduced merely because the term “ conscientious belief “ is being defined for the first time. This is admittedly a wide definition, but the individual must satisfy the court that the grounds on which he makes his claim are well founded. If he cannot do that he will not be exempt.
. The statement of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) cannot be allowed to go unanswered. He said that we have witnessed a retreat by the Government under threat from a minority dictatorship. I think that Ave are entitled to remind the honorable member that the Opposition in this House represents, if not half the community of Australia, at least very nearly half. As a matter of fact, we are the largest single party with a single purpose in this Parliament, and we are. therefore, entitled to impress our point of view upon the Government. If this is a democracy, let us have a taste of it, and let our democratic ideals be impressed upon our legislation. Speaking of minorities, let me further remind the honorable member for Barker that people who live in glass houses should not throw stones. During the last nine years, the party which the honorable member now leads, has been able to obtain for its supporters a very great deal by minority dictatorship - so much so, indeed, that feeling throughout Australia to-day is, in a large, degree, against his party. Even, among members who now directly support the Government, there is resentment of the fact that the Country party has for so long been able to impose its wishes by dictatorship methods upon the administration. We make no apology for having been able to convince the Government that the changes embodied in this bill are necessary because, as I have said, our opinion on these matters is the opinion of at least half of the people of Australia.
.- The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has a very inaccurate impression of the Australian national character. In voicing his criticism just now, he cast a reflection on the personal character of every member of the Government which is endeavouring to put into force measures necessary for the defence of the country. I remind him that those of us who form the Government are just as much members of the Australian community, and just as true Australians, as is the honorable member himself. We recognize our responsibility to the people quite as much as he does, or as do those who sit behind him. He has shown that he has completely misinterpreted the spirit of the people who make up the Australian community, whether they give their political support to the Government or to the party opposite.
– And if he gets into the Government, the Assistant Minister (Mr. Holt) will, presumably, get out.
– I have always paid the, honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) the compliment of accepting what he has said as representing his sincere, opinion. I hope that the interjection he has just made does him very much les.* than justice. The amendment provides that, if it becomes necessary to pui into effect the compulsory sections nf the Defence Act, two classes of persons will be able to take advantage of this provision ; those who, whether on religious or other grounds, are conscientiously and sincerely opposed to participation in war, and that other section, very much smaller than the honorable member for Barker has suggested. who, because of slackness and a desire to shirk, will seek to evade their responsibility. If our men are called upon to serve in the defence of Australia, they do not want to have standing beside them men who tie slackers, men who would be prepared to take advantage of this provision to evade an obligation which every Australian with any spirit at all would be only too willing to shoulder. The fact that one advocates compulsory military service does not necessarily mean that one would, willy-nilly, force all persons to take up arms, whether or not they are prepared to do so. lt means, however, that we. recognize the obligation of every citizen of Australia to participate in the defence of his country, and if compulsory military service were in force, there would be. a greater readiness to serve because men would feel that the obligation rested equally upon every section of the community. There are in Australia many young men who would be perfectly willing to serve in the Militia. Forces if they felt, that the obligation to do so had been imposed upon every one. That would be tho reaction if we were to put into force the compulsory provisions of the Defence Act. It would not necessarily moan that we intended to dragoon every one into accepting military service, including those who had conscientious objection, and those who so little appreciated the rights and privileges of citizenship that they were unwilling to take up arms in their defence.
.-. It is with regret that I feel myself compelled to voice my protest against the allegations made by the leader of my party against certain members of this House, including myself. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) said that members nf this Parliament who have just cast a vote on a certain measure have done something of which- they will not be proud. 1 believe that it is outside the scope of recognized ‘ parliamentary -behaviour for an honorable in ember to make reflections on the bona fides of any vote cast by honorable members in this Parliament. It is for reasons on which I need 1101; dwell, but which will be apparent ro every honorable member of this Parliament, that T feel such a sincere regret al being obliged to protest against the allegation of the honorable member for Barker against myself, the Government and members of the Opposition. My vote was cast for reasons which I was at pains to explain during the afternoon. I repeat that, in my opinion, no greater service can he rendered to the people of this country, at this time when all energies must be best towards the successful prosecution of the war, than to endeavour to achieve and maintain national unity. In common with all other civilized communities, we recognize the right of the conscientious objector to refuse to participate hi war. The Parliament of every British community has passed legislation to meet this position, and now this Parliament has exercised its right to deliberate on the form of the law which shall deal with the problem of conscientious objection to military service. It is inevitable that, during the progress of a war. controversy should arise on this subject. We have a.n opportunity hern to settle the matter in the happiest circumstances, when the Government, the Opposition, and members of the third party can get together in a .spirit of coin promise in order to lay down, during the opening stages of the war, the conditions under which exemptions shall be granted to conscientious objectors. We have an opportunity now to eliminate one of the most potent sources of friction among the community. if we seize it, this most contentious matter will be removed beyond the realm of dispute, and we shall be able to present n more united front in the prosecution of the war. In advancing these thoughts, I arn merely reiterating the reasons which I advanced this afternoon when indicating the manner in which 1. proposed to vote upon this measure, and it seems a strange and regrettable thing for n ie to find that, in defending myself against, a certain charge., I have to reiterate these reasons. I. wish to dissociate myself from the charge that the step which this Government has seen fit. to take has been dictated by a minority. I believe that it is a step taken by tin: exercise of the free will of the members of this Parliament, f inn acutely conscious of the possibilities of the minority imposing their will when the. opportunity presents itself.
Mr. ANTHONY ( Hie[,mond) [8.46 . - If I had thought that the amendment which wo- have just passed would bring about unity among Australian people, that it would remove all cause of dissension, and define the position of the conscientious objector.’ 1 would have voted for it to-night; but, unhappily, I cannot see it from that point of view. .1 challenge any member of the committee to show bow the definition of the conscientious objector has been improved. On the contrary, it has been widened inimitably to include everybody in the nation as a conscientious objector. It has nol, as the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) has claimed, made the definition of n conscientious objector any clearer. I. sincerely regret that, the Government has seen fit to give this bill a place on the notice-paper at a time when the Parliament should have been engaged in constructive efforts towards Australia’s prosecution of the war. God help ns if, during these last few weeks. Great Britain had been engaged in a discussion of this port, instead of considering how best, to defend the shores of lOngland and the Empire! It is regrettable that the Government of Australia, the very first government to say “We are in this war because Great Britain is at war “, should on this occasion only say what it will not do, and what the people “f Australia will not do. The only solace. I can get from the carrying of an amendment such as this is that it implies that the ground Iia? now been laid for the Opposition to embrace the principle nf compulsory military training, if it does not mean that, it is of no value at all. lt can only be of use if compulsory military training is adopted in this country, because the question of the conscientious objector can only arise in the event of Australia adopting that system of training. If that is what the Opposition h as in. mind I applaud it for what it, has done, but, if not, it appears that the Opposition has brought in this amendment merely as a means of opening the door to Communists and others who have, no real conscientious objection to military service other than a deep-rooted objection to accepting their fair share of the burden of the defence of their country. 1 do not allege that the
Opposition is not equally as willing as any other . section of the community or the members of the Government party to do its part in making adequate preparations for the defence of Australia; but 1 do allege that there are numerous individuals in the community who do not hold conscientious objections to military service on religious grounds who will shirk their responsibility when the occasion arises. This amendment may be the means by which they will he able to achieve their ends.
– That is an indictment of the Australian, people.
– It is an indictment of those people who will not accept their fair share of the burden of defending this country. 1 listened to the claim of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) that the Opposition represents one-half of the people of Australia, but I take the privilege of going back over the ground a little, and I propose to recount the circumstances in which the bill came before us.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member would be out of order in doing so. I ask him to discuss the clause.
– The adoption of this principle at the outset of the war, a principle that can only be applied in the event of compulsory military training being introduced in Australia, presages the approval of the Opposition to the institution of such a system. If this principle is acceptable to them no doubt such a system will be adopted in due course. I sincerely trust that it will.
.- This proposal has nothing to do with compulsory military training; it has to do with the obligation which, in time of war, rests upon the male inhabitants of Australia to serve as prescribed. The compulsory -training provisions of the act cover conscientious objectors and this amendment would not affect those provisions in any way; it, would come into operation only in the event of Australian manhood being called up for service under part 4 of the Defence Act which has nothing to do with compulsory training. If the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) will look at the act he will see that different provisions are made for conscientious objectors in the case of compulsory military training. The honorable member and, I’ think, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) and others have suggested that this amendment would give exemption to Communists. Obviously, it cannot do so. The Communist thesis is well known. In all nations the Communist believes in the defence of his country, and sometimes even in aggressive war. The Communists and the pacifists are the very antithesis of one another. The members of the Australian Peace Pledge Union, for instan.ee, do not believe in taking part in any way in a war-, they oppose not only the bearing of arms, but also being made a. part of the war machine in any way. On the other hand, the Communist party believes not only in home defence, but also sometimes in aggressive war. Reference has been made to the conscientious objections of an honorable member on this side of the chamber over and over again; but he has declared his willingness to take up arms for the defence of this country. It is surely not suggested that under this amendment he could secure exemption from military service. You have probably the largest number of conscientious objectors among the members of bodies whose tenets are opposed to military service, such as the International Bible Students Association, an association very prominent in the United -States of America, the Christadelphians, and the Quakers. Persons of the class to which I have referred were the only persons originally exempted. The Defence Act made special provision for persons whose religions doctrines forbade them rendering military service. The present provision was put in the act in 1910. It exempts persons whose conscientious beliefs will not. permit them to bear arms. We are elaborating that to make it quite clear that n conscientious belief should be recognized although it is not based on religious grounds, and that a conscientious belief which is religious should be recognized even though it is not part of the religious faith of the person who holds the objection. For instance, there is the non-religious conscientious objector who believes that he should not take part in war at all. ‘There are quite a number of such persons. There are a number of others who believe that they should not be compelled to do anything at all ; they are recognized by the English act. Then there are persons who believe that they should not take part in war because it is injurious to the working class of which they are members. These are all small groups. Then there is still, another group of perc ons who say, “ I belong to a church, and although the doctrines of my church do not condemn military service, my own personal conscience tells me that for mc to render military service would be wrong “. The conscientious objections of these people are entitled to respect. If we wish to secure national unity in this country, wc have to secure it by saying that we are fighting for the principles opposed by the nation with which wc are at war. During the, last war, Germany put conscientious objectors into lunatic asylums unless they could show that their conscientious objection was based on religious grounds. France refused thom exemption altogether. Frenchmen were ordered to military service, and wore, shot if they refused. The United States of America refused to recognize conscientious objectors, and kept on imprisoning them. Every time the objectors were released from prison they were called up again, and if they persisted in their refusal to serve they were thrown back into prison. Some ‘of them were imprisoned from the moment the United States of America went into the war until after peace wa1 proclaimed in 1920. Honorable members need not be afraid that in this amendment they arc asked to do anything that will put the Communists in the position of being able to claim exemption.
– We never suggested that.
– The honorable member for Barker suggested that. The idea is to elaborate the definition of “conscientious belief” in order that the tribunal which is to deal with this matter shall know the lines upon which it is to act. Under the original act, there was no elaboration of the definition, and any tribunal set up could say that it was not satisfied that, a man’s conscientious beliefs precluded him from rendering military service. The honorable member for Richmond referred to what has been done in England. Perhaps I may be permitted to read some extracts from the records of military tribunals which were quoted in the House of Common? in debates on the Military Training Bill, which was dealt- with, in May, 1939, when Great Britain was preparing for war. The House was then considering clause 3 of the bill, which gave protection to persons whose beliefs debarred them, from undergoing military training. Tho following were some of the judgments given by tribunals during the war. This is from the Camberwell tribunal -
You ought to hi.” hanged. Ton ought. In lie shot.
This from the Oldbury tribunal - lit seems to me that there are two things you possess - cowardice .and insolence.
From Aldershot -
Von are qualifying for :i lunatic asylum.
At Gower the military representative asked an applicant if he had ever been in a lunatic asylum, and he told another applicant that he was a traitor and - only tit ti’ he mi the point of <i Gonna n bayonet.
That was the attitude taken by those tribunals in England at. a time when the nation’s feelings were heated by war. It was because of those things that the House of Commons made a number of provisions for the recognizing of all cases of objection to service. It is to guard against that sort of thing in this country that we have proposed to secure the conscientious objector’s position by saying that his claim- for exemption shall be dealt with, not ‘by laymen, civilians, or soldiers, but by a court, and that he shall have tin appeal from that court to a. High Court justice or Supreme Court judge. I cannot go into the mutter raised by the honorable member for Barker, but the Government has behaved in a perfectly honorable fashion. The Government could have refused to do anything at all. Et was not committed to do anything at all. lt was only committed to consider on merits. The Government could have said : “ We are carrying out our promise by giving you a full discussion, but we won’t do anything “.
– Why does the honorable member want this? Does it give any more latitude?
-The reason why Isupport it is that it elaborates conscientious beliefs. There will be a court to deal with the question, and there will be an appellate tribunal, instead of having it dealt with in a summary way by a civilian or a military officer. We have thought it desirable that the full meaning of the beliefs “conscientious” shall be set out in the bill. It does not go further than was intended in 1910; but it elaborates and makes clear that the opinions are based not merely on religious principles, but also on principles apart from religious principles.
.- In support of the amendment, I shall make one of the shortest speeches ever made in this Parliament. I rise to speak because I feel that I was insulted by the Leader of the Country party (Mr. Archie Cameron). I now declare that with others I treat his remarks with the contempt that they deserve.
. I dissociate myself from the remarks of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) and I take this opportunity to declare without the slightest degree of reservation that the honorable gentleman is not my leader. Neither is he the leader of the honorable members for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), Hume (Mr. Collins), or Grey (Mr. Badman). As honorable members know, we were excluded from opportunity to bring about constitutional changes in the leadership of the party-
– Order! The committee is not interested in the internal affairs of the Country party.
– I raise that because I am surprised, and the chamber will be surprised, at the attitude that has been taken up by the honorable member for Barker when the reasons for the introduction of this measure are made known. Honorable members will remember that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) met in conference with the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in order to arrive at this measure, which, as has been explained in this discussion, is the result of that conference. The then Leader of the Country party (Sir Earle Page) on the day on which that conference sat sent this telegram to the Prime Minister -
Best wishes for success of to-morrow’s conference in removing misunderstanding that might interfere with the satisfactory result of the national register.
– I received a similar telegram.
– This bill is the very opportunity to remove that misunderstanding. Therefore, if the Country party is sincere in its efforts to bring about unity and national co-operation, it will take this opportunity to do so tonight.
Mr.Brennan. - Is the honorable member in that Country party?
– No, I am not, thank goodness, as it is now constituted and under its present leadership. For the life of me, I cannot understand why, if the then Leader of the Country party was sincere in his effort to bring about unity, which is the first line of defence, it is that his former followers have strenuously opposed the passing of this measure to-night when they have the opportunity to embrace and accept the first real measure of co-operation in the interest of the Australian nation.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 5 -
Section sixty-onea of the principal act is amended by adding at the end thereof the following sub-section : -
High Court to make rules shall include the power to make rules regulating all matters of practice and procedure in the High Court or in any Supreme Court in relation to appeals under this section and determining the number of judges by whom an appealshallbe heard.”.
.-I move -
That all the words after the word “ following “be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “ sub-sections : - “ (2.)If an application for exemption under paragraph (i) of sub-section (1.) of section sixty-one of this act is refused by any court authorizedas provided in sub-section (1.) of this section, an appeal shall lie from the decision to the High Court or to the Supreme Court of the State or Territory of the Commonwealth in which the application was made. “ (3.) An appeal may be on questions of fact as well as on questions of law, and shall, at. the requestof the appellant,be by way of re-hearing. “ (4.) The Justices of the High Court or a majority of them may make Rules of Court for regulating the practice and procedure in relation to appeals to a Court under subsection (2.) of this section.”.
This amendment, as was explained during the second-reading debate, allows for appeals to be made from a decision of the court set up in accordance with section 61a, which says -
Where any question arises as to whethera person is exempt from service in the Citizen Forces, the burden of proving the exemption shall rest on the person claiming the exemption, and applications for exemption shall be decided by the courts authorized in that behalf Ivy the regulations.
This amendment seeks to establish an appeal from any decision made by that particular court, and I have no hesitation in commending it to the committee as an example of ordinary British justice.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
.- I move - [Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 11.)] (1.) That the Schedule to the Customs Tariff 1933-1939, as proposed to be amended by Customs Tariff Proposals, be further amended as hereinafter set out, and that, on and after the ninth day of September, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-nine, at nine o’clock in the forenoon, reckoned according . to standard time in the Australian Capital Territory, Duties of Customsbe collected in pursuance of the Customs Tariff 1933-1939 as so amended. (2.) That, without prejudice to the generality of paragraph (1 . ) of this Resolution, the Governor-General may , from time to time by Proclamation declare that, from a time and date specified in the Proclamation, the Intermediate Tariffshall apply to such goods specified in the Proclamation as are the produce or manufacture of any British or foreign country specified in the Proclamation. (3.) That on and after the time and date specified in a Proclamation issued in accordance with the last preceding paragraph, the Intermediate Tariff shall apply to such goods specified in the Proclamation as are the produce or manufactureof aBritish or foreign country specified in that Proclamation. (4.) That any Proclamation issued in accordance with paragraph (2.) of this Resolution may, from time to time, be revoked or varied by a further Proclamation, and upon the revocation or variation of the Proclamation, the Intermediate Tariff shall cease to apply to the goods specified in the Proclamation so revoked, or, as the case may be, the application of the Intermediate Tariff to the goods specified in the Proclamation so varied, shall be varied accordingly. (5.) That in this Resolution, unless the contrary intention appeals - “ Customs Tariff Proposals “ means the Customs Tariff Proposals introduced into theHouse of Representatives on the following dates, namely : - 3rd May, 1939 ; 8th September, 1939 ; and 14th September, 1939. “ Proclamation “ means a Proclamation by the Governor-General, or the person for the time being administering the government of the Commonwealth, acting with the advice of the Federal Executive Council, and published in the Commonwealth of AustraliaGazette : the Intermediate Tariff “ means the rates of duty set out in the Schedule to this Resolution, in tho column headed “ Intermediate Tariff “, in respect of goods in relation to which the expression is used.
Excise Tariff AMENDMENT (No. 5).]
That the Schedule to the Excise Tariff 1021- as proposed to be amended by Excise Turin* Proposals be further amended as on mid after the ninth day of September, Om1 thousand nine hundred mtd thirty-nine, at niue o’clock in the forenoon, reckoned according to standard time in thu Australian Capital Territory, as follows: -
Bv omitting tho whole of sub-item (n) of Item 11.
That in this Resolution “ Excise Tariff Proposals “ means the Excise Tariff Proposals introduced into the House of Representatives on the following dates: - 4th May, 1038; and 8th September, 1939.
These proposals provide for duties on petrol, mineral lubricating oil, &c, at the same rates as those imposed on the 8th September, 1939, in connexion with the budget. During the discussion of the customs tariff budget proposals in tha committee of ways and means early this morning, the Government’s proposal for a duty of Id. a gallon on heavy fuel oil was defeated. With the defeat of the fuel-oil proposal an extraordinary position has arisen. The whole of tariff item 229, which includes petrol, mineral lubricating oil. &c, as well as heavy fuel oil, was put, to the vote and the whole item was thus defeated, although no debate took place on petrol and mineral Imbricating oil. Petrol, in particular, is an important item in the ‘budget, and I feel that the House had no intention of objecting to any item in the budget tariff proposal excepting heavy fuel oil. Accordingly, I am reintroducing tariff item 229 and excluding therefrom any reference to heavy fuel oil, thus giving effect to what it is considered was the intention of the committee. The proposals will operate from the 9th September, 1939 - the date of operation of the original budget tariff proposals.
In view of the committee’s attitude with respect to the proposed customs duty of1d. a gallon heavy fuel oil, it follows that the corresponding impost under the excise tariff should also be terminated. An excise resolution which I have just moved provides for the deletion of item 11 (d), covering heavy fuel oil, from the excise budget proposals.
– I move -
That thebill be now read a second time.
This bill proposes certain amendments of the Australian Broadcasting Commission Act 1932. Before I explain the precise amendments, I shall make some general observations about the remarkable development that has taken place in wireless broadcasting since the . 1932 legislation was passed. I well remember that the then Postmaster-General (Mr. Fenton), in introducing the bill, indulged in certain flights of fancy. He spoke of the possibility of the big Empire broadcasting scheme resulting in Australian aboriginals in some jungle fastness listening to grand opera. Strangely enough, that very prophecy was borne out in my presence some four years later. It happened one night when I and the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) and the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Collins) were on a journey through the Northern Territory. Between the Victoria River district and the Wave Hill district one evening we were camped out in the open before a camp fire and had the wireless set that we had with us tuned into the Crystal Brook Broadcasting Station. Just beyond the range of the firelight there was a row of dusky aboriginals. We were listening in to the opera Pagliacci. The prophecy of the Minister had been fulfilled. 1 think honorable members will agree that wireless broadcasting is one of the outstanding scientific achievements during the last quarter of a century. It is a development which has made distance a thing of no moment; it is the bridge that spans the gulf of time and of space ; it has brought the wonders and beauties of the old world, and the incomparable music of the masters across the many miles that separate continent from continent, into the homes of our people; it has provided the medium through which has been established the basis of our cultural and musical development; it has rendered a mighty service to mankind. This of course is true of most countries, but it is particularly true of this country. Australia is a young country with wide, sparsely-populated areas, and it has taken full advantage of the science of radio. In an endeavour to develop this young country hardy settlers have made their homes far from the centres of population and have cut themselves entirely adrift from the amenities of city life. In pioneering this vast continent they have tost touch with many of those things which meant so much to them, but to a large degree wireless broadcasting has restored to them contact with civilization.
When the Broadcasting Bill was introduced in 1932 radio in Australia was not far removed from the experimental stage. Indeed, honorable members will remember the rather primitive sets used at thai time. There were then only eight A class stations, four regional stations, and a small number of commercial stations in Australia. Listeners’ licences numbered only 370,000, which is equal to 5.67 per 100 head of the population. To-day there are approximately 1,136,689 listeners’ licences, which represent 16.36 per 100 head of population, the increase during the last seven years being 207 per cent., and Australia is now fifth among the countries of the world in the number of wireless licences per head of population. The other four countries did not have to face the problems which confronted this country because they are, in the main, countries of small areas. Such remarkable development has taken place in wireless broadcasting in Australia that to-day, instead of only eight A class stations and four regional stations us in 1932, wo have some 27 national stations and 98 commercial stations which may be hooked up for nation-wide broadcasts with extraordinary rapidity.
Broadcasting has assumed such proportions that it must be controlled throughout the world by international conventions, because there are only a certain mim bor of broadcasting channels which can be successfully operated. These are made available to various countries, and therefore it. is the province of the Postmaster-General’s Department to police and control regulations made by international convention. So much for the technical aspect. The studio side of broadcasting has marched step by step with tho technical development. When the Australian Broadcasting Commission assumed control in 1932 there were only two orchestras functioning in Australia with any degree of permanency - one orchestra, of thirteen members in Sydney, and one of fourteen members in Melbourne. There was no permanent orchestra in any other State of the Commonwealth. To-day, in every State the
A ustralian Broadcasting Commission employs full-time orchestras, including dunce bands and military bands. There are two full-time choruses of sixteen voices, one in Sydney and one in Melbourne, and in addition there are parttime choruses of sixteen voices in other States of the Commonwealth. In 1938-39 approximately 263 full-time’ musicians were employed by the commission, and casual work was given to many hundreds more. I am placing these facts on record because quite an amount of criticism - mostly ill-informed - has been directed against the broadcasting commission with regard to the number of Australian artists employed. Criticism has also been expressed with regard to the importation of celebrity artists, such as guest conductors. I think honorable members will agree, on reflection, that the visits to Australia of overseas conductors have had a very beneficial effect on the work of our own conductors, and have raised to a marked degree of efficiency the performances of the various orchestras employed by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The commission has also established a special department to deal with the presentation of dramas and musical productions. In the early days of broadcasting, no plays of outstanding merit were broadcast, and, in the main, the control of these plays, such as they were, was left entirely to the announcers or to amateur companies. To-day, by the encouragement of local talent overa period of years, we find that approximately 66 per cent. of the plays and 75 per cent. of the musical comedies and revues which are broadcast are locally written, and the parts are played by Australian artists. Again, considerable criticism has been directed against the commission with regard to the use of records in broadcasts over the national network. I assure honorable members that a greater proportion of programme time is now devoted to live-artist programmes, but I think it will be agreed that there must also be a certain amount of recorded music, in order that listeners and students may keep in touch with world standards. We are so far removed from the cultural centres of Europe that it is incumbent on the commission to see that high standards are maintained in Australia. A great deal of credit is due to the commission for bringing overseas artists to Australiaso that we in this country have had an opportunity to acquire some knowledge of cultural and musical developments overseas.
– I suppose thePost- master-General does not suggest that the commission should be entirely above criticism.
– Certainly not, but it is right that I should submit to honorable members the commission’s point of view in relation to criticism to which it is subjected.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral inform me what is the proportion of Australian to foreign singers engaged by the commission?
– Apart from the figures which I have already placed on record I am glad to be able to inform honorable members that last year broadcasts were arranged for approximately 14,000 artists, the great majority of whom must obviously have been Australians. From the point of view of students in Australia the commission’s policy has been most valuable, for Australian artists have not only made broadcasts from the studios, but they have also toured Australia under the control of the commission and given many concerts. The policy which the commission has applied with regard to celebrity artists has also been effective, having resulted in Australian music lovers being afforded the opportunity to hear celebrity artiste of the highest standard from overseas countries. Many more celebrity artists have visited Australia since the commission has been operating than toured it in the old days when private entrepreneurs arranged for musical festivals of this description. I am quite sure that Australian artists have appreciated the advantages afforded to them from time to time of hearing visiting celebrity artists. This policy has had a marked effect in improving the standard of our own artists, and of our concert programmes in general
– Werethese tours financially successful?
– In the absence of specific figures with regard to finance I can perhaps answer that question best by informing the honorable member that in the last four years the attendances at celebrity concerts arranged by the commission have increased from 37,000 to 194,000. This shows that the Australian public has appreciated the concerts. I am also able to inform the honorable member, in general terms, that the concerts have been financially successful.
– What proportion of the attendances at celebrity concerts has been due to the free list?
– My answer to that question is that during the last Victorian season, the eight concerts were oversubscribed before the season commenced. A similar result is reported in relation to a series of eight concerts arranged in Sydney, with this qualification, that about 100 of the back seats were not taken, prior to the opening of the season. All other seats were subscribed for prior to the commencement of the season.
– Am I to understand that the Minister is referring to the distribution of tickets or to the subscriptions received in respect of concerts?
– I am referring to subscriptions. The concerts were definitely oversubscribed. In addition to the orchestral concerts, the commission has developed a scheme for popularity concerts in industrial areas. These have met with marked success in both Melbourne and Sydney.
– I know that they have been successful in Newtown.
– And the commission has shown some perspicacity by arranging a concert in Fremantle.
– I am glad to heat the interjections of the honorable members.
Other activities which were not attempted under the old. broadcasting scheme provided for school broadcasts, correspondence courses and orchestral matinees, all of which have proved to be very popular. It is estimated that approximately 90,000 children have listened to these broadcasts, and that 3,000 children have participated in correspondence courses. Obviously, this must- prove of great advantage to children living in outback areas. It is only fair that the children who live in distant country districts should be enabled to enjoy such educational facilities of this kind as the commission can make available to them. It is estimated that 50,000 children have taken advantage of the matinee concerts.
– What percentage of local talent has been used ?
– In the endeavour to encourage local talent, the commission has arranged that 90 per cent. of the manuscript used in these broadcasts has been locally written. This fact cuts across a great deal of the criticism that the commission has had to meet, in respect of local talent. It has been stated on numerous occasions in the press and elsewhere that the commission does not encourage local talent. The figures which I have just given completely rebut that criticism. Moreover, 90 per cent. of the salaries paid by the commission to concert artists have gone to Australian artists. Those figures, of course, cover the whole field of salaries for artists.
Mr.Curtin. - Do the figures include payment for clerical work and the like?
– How do the amounts paid to Australian artists like Peter Dawson and John Brownlee compare with the amounts paid to foreign artists?
– I cannot give the honorable member detailed information on that point. The commission has not sponsored tours by either Dawson or Brownlee, although Brownlee has made broadcasts recently by arrangement with the entrepreneur responsible for his Australian tour.
I wish now to make some observations concerning the proposal of the commission to publish a journal. Power to do this was conferred upon the commission by Parliament, some time ago. and a great deal of attention has been given to the subject. The journal is necessary for the publication of detailed information on programme policy and commission activities generally. It is also intended to reprint talks given over the air from time to time. The publication will be on similar lines to that of the British Broadcasting
Corporation. Whilst full acknowledgment is made of the publicity given to broadcasting programmes in the daily and weekly newspapers from time to time, it must be recognized that this information is limited in its scope. Representations have been made to the Government, and also to the commission, in opposition to the proposal to publish this journal; but having regard to all the circumstances of the case, and also to the fact that legislative authority to publish a journal has already been conferred upon the commission, the Government docs not feel that it should interfere with the commission if it desires to exercise this legitimate and reasonable statutory power. This bill, therefore, does not touch on that subject.
As honorable members arc aware, a proposal has been on foot for some time for the erection of permanent premises for the commission. Hitherto, the commission has been operating under the obvious disadvantage of the occupancy of temporary premises. This has affected its administrative capacity and has also caused many imperfections in transmissions. The plans of the proposed buildings are, I understand, in accordance with the last word in uptodate broadcasting equipment.
– Does the PostmasterGeneral consider that the proposed site for the building is the best that can be obtained ?
– The building is to bc erected in Darlinghurst. Personally, I consider this site very desirable, though I admit that there is a. difference between a desirable site and the best site. In consequence of the European situation, it has been decided to suspend building operations for the time being, but tho matter will be kept in mind, and the building will be put in hand as soon as circumstances are favorable.
– What i.s the estimated cost of the building?
– About £300,000. It will provide accommodation for the whole of the commission’s staff, and also for a number of studios.
The memorandum that has been circulated shows the effect of the proposed amendments. These are, generally, of a relatively minor character. Various
Postmaster-Generals have had the operations of the commission under review from time to time and I think it may be said that on the whole they have been satisfied that the commission is discharging its administrative duties in an effective way. It speaks volumes for the drafting of the principal act that after seven years’ experience only relatively minor amendments are necessary. Section 7 of the principal act is to be amended by clause 3 of this bill to provide that the term of office of the commissioners shall be staggered from five to three years. The purpose of this is to ensure that all of the commissioners shall not retire at the same time. This will result in continuity of policy. .Section 15 of the principal act, which, is dealt with in clause 7 of the bill, seeks to define the status of the. general manager. The new provisions follow fairly closely the relevant, provisions of the acts under which the British Broadcasting Corporation and the Canadian Broadcasting Commission operate. It is provided that a general manager shall be appointed who shall be the chief executive officer. An assistant-general manager may also be appointed. One object of this provision is to ensure that an interfering commission shall not be able to usurp the powers of the general manager, for he, and not the commission, is responsible, as the chief executive officer, for the management of the affairs of the commission. In the event of a difference of opinion between the chairman of the commission and the general manager, the new provision will ensure that no deadlock will occur.
-. - What are the relative functions of the commission and the general manager?
– The commission, which, is a part-time body, is responsible for the. formulation of policy. The general manager is responsible for the carrying out of that policy and conduct of all routine matters in connexion with the operations of the commission. All authority and power in respect of staff and so on will be exercised by the general manager. The general manager must have complete control of the staff and the working of the broadcasting organization; therefore the act must definitely provide that he shall be the chief executive officer. One cannot conceive of the chairman of directors of any concern usurping the executive authority of the general manager. This is on exactly the same basis.
– He will usurp the powers on the chairman of the commission.
– Decidedly not. There is complete distinction between the powers of the chairman of the commission, whose position is analogous to that of chairman of directors of any commercial concern, and those of the general manager of the commission, whose position is analogous to that of the general manager of any organization.
– That distinction will have to be made in the bill.
– There is that distinction in the bill. As chief executive officer, he will have a definite status. This follows the principle laid down in the British and Canadian acts.
– The powers of the commission have not been altered.
– There is no need to alter the powers of the commission, because they relate purely to the laying down of policy, not to interference with the general management of the organization, although I think that a certain amount of supervision must be exercised by the chairman of the commission.
– But the views of the management may not be in accord with the policy laid down by the commission.
– The commission will easily be able to solve that problem.
– By sacking the manager?
– Obviously, that would be the solution.
– Is there any more need to have a commission to control broadcasting, when there is a general manager, than there is to have a commission to control the Postal Department, which is a bigger business undertaking than any commission and is placed in charge of the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs?
– One is a governmentowned concern, and is under the control of the Minister, whereas the other is outside government control, and is run entirely by the commission. It was not intended, when the original act was brought into operation, that the commission should be controlled by the Government; the intention was that control should be exercised by a body independent of the Government, on the same basis as control of the Commonwealth Bank is exercised by the Commonwealth Bank Board.
– Surely the duties of the general manager and the commission will clash !
– They have not done so up to the moment, nor do I think that they can. The commission is purely a part-time organization, and as such should not have any right to interfere with the staff. It appoints a general manager, whose obvious duty it is to express its policy. He must have complete control of his staff.
– Does the Minister suggest that the general manager and the commission have not clashed?
– There has been no marked clash. Certain charges have reached me through devious channels, of which the honorable member is aware. I have endeavoured to get to the bottom of them, but have always failed to do so.
– One general manager was retired.
– That is history. The commission had to exercise its powers in that case. Surely the honorable member does not suggest that a commission which has the power to appoint a general manager should not also have the power to discharge him if he fails to carry out its policy ? I am aware of what the honorable member for Barker had in mind when he interjected. He was PostmasterGeneral prior to my assumption of that office.
Section 8 is to be amended so as to give to the commission statutory powers to organize and subsidize public concerts. Up to the present the commission, acting under advice, has assumed that it possessed such powers, and in that belief has given many concerts. But there seems to be some doubt as tothe validity of its action. Therefore, the matter is being placed beyond all reasonable doubt. There is also provision to enable the commission to organize concerts for school children, universities, churches and the like, to which no charge is made for admission.
Clauses 10 and 11 group in one section certain provisions as to what the Minister may direct may he broadcast, as to what the commission alone may determine shall be broadcast, and as to what the Minister may direct may not be broadcast. Honorable members will readily appreciate that a wider definition is needed in respect of matters of a political nature which may be broadcast by the commission. Quite obviously, most of the talks of national importance over the air have a political significance. I believe that honorable members will readily agree that the intention of the Parliament when it conferred these powers under the old act was to guard against the broadcasting of anything of a political nature, and thus avoid the use of the air as a forum for the expression of party political views. This amendment endeavours to make it perfectly clear that the commission may refuse to allow the broadcast of matter that has a definite party political significance. This will make possible a wider interpretation, and probably more extensive use of the national network.
– Will the commission be prevented from organizing concerts for some charitable function at which a charge is made for admission?
-No. As a matter of fact the commission will have full power to organize or subsidize such concerts.
– The commission broadcasts music at certain dance functions, and I understand that no charge is made. Are those invitation functions?
– I have no knowledge of that point, but I have no doubt thatsuch functions would be in the same category as the concerts of universities and other organizations which the commission aids by lending its choirs and symphony orchestras. The commission has the power to lend a dance band and make no charge.
Clause 14 embodies rather an important amendment; it deals with the power of the Minister to authorize the commission to supply technical services in connexion with the studio or other pickup points. Up to the moment, the whole of the technical services have been undertaken by the Postmaster-General’s Department. This practice has caused some confusion within the studio itself, because of the dual control that is exercised. For example, a technician from the Postmaster-General’s Department, who possesses no knowledge of musical interpretation, may take a place on the control board of the studio. In the main, those control hoards are responsible for the imperfections of our national broadcasts, which have been compared rather unfavorably with certain broadcasts made by commercial stations. These imperfections are directly attributable to the dual control exercised in the studio. The proposed amendment will give to the commission the right to supply technical services within the studio or at any other pick-up point, and under it the commission will have the power to control all staff within the studio itself.
– Has this amendment the approval of the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs?
– Certainly with the approval of the Minister.
– A number of technicians now in the postal services will he transferred to the commission. Will provision be made to safeguard their rights and conditions?
– I assure the honorable member that any staff taken over by the commission will not lose status or privileges.
– What will be their position in respect of superannuation?
– Already an inquiry has been held with a view to bringing the Australian Broadcasting Commission under the Superannuation Act. A report has been made upon the matter, and I have no doubt that in due course it will be placed before the House.
By clause 15 it is proposed to amend section 46 so as to give some clear indication as to the technical services which the Postmaster-General’s Department shall render to the commission. In the past, there has been argument between the Postmaster-General’s Department and the commission as to exactly what technical services should be supplied free of charge to the commission. For example, the rehearsals associated with every production have been denied to the commission by the Postmaster-General’s
Department, although it seems clear that they are just as much a part of the broadoast as is the actual transmission itself. This amendment will make perfectly clear exactly what shall and shall not be granted to the commission. This bill has been drafted after consultation between the chairman of the commission, myself, and the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs.
– The commission will, in fact, take over all of that side of the transmission.
– Right up to the pick-up point. Land lines, the general transmission, and the stations outside, will still remain under the control of the Postmaster-General’s Department.
In the main, I have covered the whole of the amendments. I believe that it is incumbent upon me, as the Minister in charge of both administrations, to pay a very sincere tribute to all of those who have been associated with the remarkable development that has taken place since the introduction of the original act, both on the technical side and on the studio broadcasting side. Particularly would i like to pay a tribute to the Commissioners who, as part-time officers, have laid down a progressive policy that has resulted in a remarkable increase of listeners and an extraordinary development generally of the services rendered, as well as a higher appreciation of the demands made by those listeners who seek to keep abreast of the cultural standards of Europe.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Curtin) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bil! be now read a second time.
The most important amendment which it is proposed by this bill to make to the income tax law is the amendment which will withdraw from absentee holding companies the rebate of tax at present allowed on dividends paid to them by Australian operating companies out of profits derived in this country.
The other two amendments - the out extending the definition of resident and the other granting a limited exemption from tax to any concern undertaking the search for petroleum deposits in Australia and New Guinea - are comparatively minor in character.
Clause 3 of the bill gives effect to the decision of the Government to obtain in respect of profits passing to absentee holding companies some greater contribution to the revenue than the flat company rate of tax paid by the Australian operating company on its profits. There are many absentee holding companies, some of which receive very substantial dividends paid out of profits made in Australia by Australian companies. These dividends are assessable income in the hands of the holding company, but no amount of Commonwealth income tax is payable for the reason that the Commonwealth scheme of taxation allows to a company a rebate of tax at the same rate as that at which the dividends are assessed. The Government considers that it is not unreasonable to require these companies to contribute to the cost of defending this country wherein their investments arc located.
The opinion of the Government is strengthened by the fact that, under existing conditions, absentee individual shareholders in absentee holding companies are in a favoured position in comparison with individual shareholders in resident companies and resident holding companies.
Where dividends are paid by an Australian operating company through an absentee holding company into the hands of absentee individual shareholders, it is not possible for the Commonwealth to collect any tax from these individuals because the dividends are paid outside Australia, and the shareholders, although theoretically liable to tax, have no assets in Australia which could be levied upon for payment of the tax. Where, however, dividends are paid by an Australian operating company through a resident holding company into the hands of absentee individual shareholders, payment of the tax assessed on those dividends is enforceable because the dividends are payable in Australia and recourse may be had for payment of the tax to subsequent dividends payable to the shareholder.
The consequence of the absence of Commonwealth jurisdiction in the enforcement of the tax on dividends paid to shareholders in absentee holding companies is that, owing to the graduated rates of tax payable by individuals, shareholders deriving t,heir dividends from resident holding companies, and whose rates of tax exceed the company rate, are obliged to pay large amounts of tax, while no tax is enforceable against absentee shareholders of absentee holding companies similarly deriving income from an Australian source.
The withdrawal of the rebate in the case of absentee holding companies will be a step towards the equitable spreading of the burden of income tax between shareholders generally. Although the absentee individual shareholders in the absentee holding company continue to enjoy immunity from a direct payment of Commonwealth tax, they will, indirectly, pay some tax through the absentee holding company, in that the funds available for distribution to them will be diminished by the amount of tax the absentee holding company will be obliged to pay.
I am indebted to the honorable member for “Watson (Mr. Jennings) for the questions he raised in the course of his speech on the budget which are very pertinent to this subject. The first question raised by the honorable member was: Who would pay the tax? In general, I have already dealt with this question, but I add now that the machinery of the income tax law provides that the tax should be paid by the absentee holding company. If, however, the absentee holding company defaults in payment of its liability, the tax will be collected from the Australian company out of dividends payable by it to the absentee holding company.
The honorable member also raised the issue of double taxation. The Commonwealth income tax law has recognized the principle that when tax is paid by a company on its profits, the shareholder is entitled to a rebate in his assessment at the rate of tax paid by the company or at his own rate, whichever is the less.
The argument that the withdrawal of the rebate from absentee holding companies will result in double taxation is sound only if it is agreed that the only amount of tax which the profits passing out of Australia through the medium of these absentee holding companies should bear is the fiat rate of tax imposed on the Australian operating company in respect of these profits. Honorable members will agree that the tax payable by absentee shareholders in absentee holding companies deriving income from Australia should be on the same basis as the tax payable by absentee shareholders in resident holding companies, and the Government considers that the proposed amendment is a step in this direction.
The suggestion that double taxation is involved raises the question of what constitutes double taxation. In this connexion the House of Lords has recently expressed valuable observations. To quote Lord Wright in the case of Barnes v. Hely Hutchinson -
The English company is taxed on the balance of its profits or gains - that is, on its income. The shareholder is never taxed on the company’s fund of profits, but only on the dividend which comes to him in payment of the debt which is created when the company declares the dividend. Thu tax is in every case on the individual’s income not on a fund possessed by another person, the company, even though it is the fund of profits of that company, from which the individual’s income or part of it will be paid. . . . The fund which is taxed in the hands of the company and the dividend which is declared by the company and paid to the shareholders are separate items for taxation law. It is only the latter which is the shareholder’s income.
And, later on in his judgment, Lord Wright observes that -
Whatever the precise scope of the rule against double taxation, it must at least involve that it is the same income, that it is the same person in respect of the same piece of income that is being double-taxed, whether directly or indirectly, and that the double taxation is by British assessment.
Honorable members will accordingly appreciate that if this correctly states what constitutes double taxation, the proposed legislation cannot be regarded as offending against this principle.
Clause 4 of the bill is designed to encourage the search for and the production of crude petroleum in Australia, Papua and New Guinea. This encouragement is being afforded to these enterprises by exempting from income tax any profits that may be derived by the concern until such time as the capital expended in searching and mining operations has been fully recouped by profits. In granting this concession, the Commonwealth is following in the steps of Canada and New Zealand, which offered encouragement through income tax concessions to companies engaged in searching and mining for oil in those countries.
The necessity for locating and developing nearer sources of oil supply than those at present available is of paramount importance to the Commonwealth, and the Government desires to encourage the investigation of regions within Australia or its territories to determine whether those regions are capable of yielding oil in commercial quantities.
The Government recognizes that searching for -011 is an exceedingly speculative and hazardous enterprise, and it also recognizes that profits cannot be said to have been paid until the total capital expenditure on searching and mining for oil has been recovered. The concession which it is proposed to grant does not infringe the general principles lond admitted in Commonwealth income tax law - that there should be a recoupment of capital expended in mining operations in determining the amount of profits to be subject to income tax. The concession is limited to enterprises engaged in searching and mining for crude petroleum in a free state and does not apply to operations carried on for the extraction of substances by distillation processes such as those in operation at Newnes.
The purpose of the remaining amendment is to bring within the Australian taxable field the salaries paid to those officials at Australia House who are recruited in London. Most of these officials have had extended to them in recent times the benefits of the Commonwealth Superannuation Act, and there is now no essential difference between them and those officials at Australia House who have been sent there from Australia and who preserve the status of residents of the Commonwealth. Federal income tax is payable by residents of Australia on income derived from sources outside Australia if it is exempt from tax in the country in which it is derived. Arrangements are being made by the High Commissioner with the United Kingdom Inland Revenue authorities whereby the
Mr. Spender. . salaries of these officials will be exempt from English income tax. The effect of the amendment will be to the advantage of the Commonwealth, in that it will cause the salaries of the officials to become liable to Commonwealth income tax. I might inform honorable members that this amendment; has been made as the result of representations made by the officials themselves.
Clause 5 of the bill provides that the amendments effected by the act shall apply to assessments for the current financial year and all subsequent years. I commend the bill to the House.
.-The bill introduced by the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender) is one of the many taxing measures that we shall see during the currency of this crisis. When we are extending the field of taxation, and exploring new avenues, it is just as well that we should examine the principles that underlie taxation, in order to see that its incidence is made as just as possible. I have no opposition to offer to the bill, but I have some suggestions to put forward for future guidance and immediate action. The proposal in the bill to give a limited exemption from tax to any concern undertaking th’e search for crude petroleum will commend itself to honorable members, because it will encourage the search for and production of oil in this country. The other small amendment designed to bring the officials of Australia House under Australian taxation laws is overdue.
The principal amendment contained in the bill opens up a very important question which honorable members would do well to consider, namely, the matter of rebates given to shareholders in companies of the amount of the company rate, or the amount of the individual rate, when they are receiving their dividends, whichever is the less. This bill proposes to withdraw the rebate on company tax from absentee holding companies, and there is a very sound reason for that. The operating company in Australia pays dividends to a holding company outside Australia. The company rate is charged to the holding company, and the rebate is the same as the company rate, with the result that one balances the other, and no tax is received from the holding company. The only tax received is that paid by the operating company in Australia. While it is true that the shareholders in the holding company would be liable to pay tax, there is no legal way of collecting it, because they have no assets in Australia upon which to levy. Much revenue is lost in this way. The effect of the proposed amendment is to refuse a rebate to a holding company that is an absentee. That, however, opens up the whole question of rebates to shareholders in companies. I have considered this question for a number of years, and my feeling is turning in the direction of relieving the small shareholder of the amount he now pays in company tax. Honorable members know that the company tax comes out of the fund from which dividends are paid, and that when that tax is increased, the amount distributed to shareholders in dividends is reduced. iSo it has been held that the shareholders pay the tax. An anomaly is created, however, in that, when dividends are distributed, a rebate is given to the receivers of the dividend of the amount of the company tax or the amount of the individual tax, whichever is the less. A shareholder in a company who has a big income will receive the full rebate of 2s. if this measure be passed, but a shareholder with a small total income, probably liable to tax at the rate of only 6d. in the £1, will not receive the full rebate of 2s. His rebate will be only 6d., because he has a small income, whereas all of those whose income tax rate is 2s. and over will receive the complete rebate of the whole of the company tax. Therefore, it is true to say that those in receipt of incomes of £1,400 a year and over pay no contribution in the tax upon companies excepting that portion which, is levied on reserve funds in the hands of the company. That is an anomaly which I have looked at for many years and have referred to on many occasions. The only suggestion that could be made and has been made by a royal commission is that there should be a complete rebate of the company tax to every shareholder when dividends are distributed. Looking into the matter a little closer, however, the removal of this anomaly is not so easy as appears on the surface. It would necessitate the setting up of a good deal more administration to provide for refunds to those people who are not required to furnish income tax returns. It is in respect oi those people that the anomaly is greatest. There are quite a number of shareholders in companies who are not liable to income tax because they come under the exemption. While they have contributed as shareholders to the full rate of company tax, they are not liable to income tax in the ordinary way. I am not suggesting that the anomaly should be corrected on behalf of the small shareholders - we know that, during this time of crisis, the Treasurer is looking for more revenue - but what I suggest is that, if the rebate now granted were withdrawn, there would not be the necessity to make the company rate so high. Statistics in relation to rebates are not taken out every year. I am indebted to the Treasurer, through the Commissioner of Taxation, for the figures relating to one year. Honorable members will be surprised to know that the total rebates in that one year amounted to nearly £1,000,000 which was equal to onethird’ of the total company tax collected If no provision were made for a rebate, ±he rate of tax imposed on companies could be kept down to that level suggested in the budget speech, namely, ls. 7d., and every shareholder in a company would be placed on exactly the same footing and a saving of revenue amounting to £1,000,000 would be made which could be utilized to reduce the rate of company tax. As authority for my statement that there are a large number of people who have to contribute to this company tax who are in receipt of no other income, I cite the report of the royal commission presided over by Mr. Warren Kerr which sat in 1921-24. The commission quoted some staggering figures from the report of the Commissioner of Taxation. These figures are so staggering that I think it necessary to quote my authority for them. The commission stated that there were 200,000 shareholders of companies in Australia whose total income did not render them liable to income tax on their private incomes.
– That was their sole investment ?
– Not necessarily, they may have been on a small wage and have acquired small parcels of from 50 to 100 shares, or the shares may have been left to them in an estate. At any rate, that was the number, and at that period the exemption was very much lower than it is to-day, and further, at that time, many more enterprises were conducted by proprietary companies and not public companies. Taking that figure as a basis, I do not think it would be an over-estimate to say that there are in Australia to-day 250,000 people who have shares in companies and are taxed under the company tax who, if it were not for the company tax, would not pay tax at all. We hear a good deal of the sacrifices imposed on the poor through indirect taxation, but in the company tax we exact contributions from a large number of small income people who would not otherwise be called upon to pay a tax. I am not advocating that we should lose any revenue at this time, but I believe that whatever moneys we want to get from increased income tax should come from the tax on individual incomes, because that is based on the sound principle of ability to pay. Any further contemplated increase should not be imposed 6”n companies. The Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender) referred to a very interesting judgment of the House of Lords and cited some remarks of Lord Wright. I listened to the opinion of Lord Wright with a great deal of interest, because it places a very different aspect on this question from that which is generally accepted. Of course,, that was a legal and not a moral opinion. In effect, what Lord Wright said was that the fund taxed in the hands of a company and the dividend paid to shareholders are separate items for taxation law. He said, “It is only the dividend that is the shareholders’ income “. That decision was given in a legal case, but I think that, in practice, it could be argued that it is clearly sound from this point of view : If a man invests money in a company he considers only what dividend he will receive from his investment; he is not concerned about the funds which the company holds other than from the point . of view of its stabi lity; he regards the return from his investment as his income. It is very questionable whether he has any right to get a rebate at all. Let me give an illustration. Take two men with the same amount of money to invest. “ A “ invests his money in real estate and lets the properties; he has his income in rents. “ B “ invests his money in shares in a company; he has dividends as his income. Both invest the same amount of money and both receive exactly the same return in income. What happens? We will assume that the income they receive would make them taxable at the rate of 2s. 6d. in the fi. “A”, who draws his income in rent from property, will pay 2s. 6d., but “ B “, who draws the same income from dividends, will pay 2s. 6d., less 2s., which is the rate of company tax. In other words, he will only pay 6d. in the fi. The anomaly becomes greater the higher the company rate goes.
The way to get extra revenue is to increase the amount of income tax when the income is in the hands of the taxpayer instead of increasing on companies to any great degree. If the rebate system were abolished, the Treasurer would get the same revenue, because one-third of the company tax is now rebated and the total rebates at present amount to approximately f 1,000,000 per annum. When the rate of company tax is increased to 2s. the total rebates will amount to approximately £2,000,000. That £2,000,000 is distributed mainly amongst those who have big incomes. Very little of it goes to those with small incomes, and none of it goes to those who have incomes below the statutory exemption. If the Treasurer does not want that extra money, he can forego some of the increased rate on companies and withdraw the rebate now provided so that every shareholder in every company will be treated exactly alike so far as the company tax is concerned. I am glad that the bill is before us, because it gives me an opportunity to open up a subject to which I have given a lot of thought in the past. I confess that I have not advocated the abolition of the rebate before; I have rather turned my attention to granting a rebate to every shareholder equally ; but in these strenuous times with perhaps a consideration of administrative difficulties and a little experience in administration myself, I suggest to the Treasurer that he should give consideration to that other aspect of the matter and not pile up the tax on companies higher and higher in order to get more revenue. If the rebate were withdrawn it would be more equitable and the Treasurer would receive the same revenue.
.- I direct the attention of the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender) to the possibility of evasion of tax in this way: A company in Australia, all the shares in which are held by a holding company abroad, may, instead of distributing its profits by declaring a. dividend, send those profits to the holding company by way of advance. It is true that the accounts of the subsidiary company would show that the holding company was a debtor to the subsidiary company. Very serious consideration should be given by the Government to that aspect. It would not be fair if by the means I have set out a company” could evade payment of this tax.
– in reply - The speech of the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), thoughtful as his speeches usually are, contained two special points, which I assure him have already received the .consideration of the Government. One point concerned the abolition of the rebate system, the withdrawal of rebates altogether, and the other one, which is exclusive of that, because they are naturally exclusive, concerned the granting of certain rebates in the case of the small shareholder. There are, however, substantial administrative difficulties in the way of the second matter, although I understand the system which operates in Great Britain makes provision somewhat along the lines indicated by the right honorable gentleman. In respect of the first point, there is no likelihood that the Government will not be wanting additional money; on the contrary it will be wanting every penny that it can lay its hands on. Without saying more at this moment, I am able to indicate that the subject-matter referred to by the right honorable gentleman has received and is still receiving the consideration of the
Government. There is a great deal of merit, I agree, in both points raised.
I now turn to the matter raised by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly). The method of tax evasion he mentioned is not uncommonly employed. Where there is a holding company and a subsidiary company, the cross entries between the companies are sometimes quite amazing.
– If they are in Australia they can be caught.
– They can all be caught. In the case of dishonest companies, these entries are designed to cover profit. Let us consider another example. There are companies operating in Australia in which all the shares are held overseas by a holding company. It is not uncommon for the profit here to be hidden in false invoices, the prices charged by the company overseas, which might be a supplying company, being inflated in order to absorb the profits.
– What steps are taken to stop that sort of thing?
– Very careful steps are taken by the Taxation Department to prevent that. The department has a competent staff of investigators who inspect the books of companies and, if they see that tax is being evaded, the penalties prescribed by law are imposed. I appreciate that there is a possibility of companies seeking to evade tax by the means suggested by the honorable member for Lilley, but the principal act contains sufficient safeguards. The Taxation Department is fully aware of its responsibilities, and the competent officers in its employ, who are continually checking the operations of these companies, will he able to see readily any attempt at evasion.
– They cannot check these, companies.
– Yes, they can.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Definition of resident).
.- Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to be here when the bill was introduced ; I did not arrive until the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender) was closing the second-reading debate, so I missed my opportunity to speak on the second reading. Sub-clause c of clause 2 refers to children under sixteen years of age. No provision is made in the principal act for exemption from income tax in respect of children over sixteen years of age who are either unemployed or permanently incapacitated and yet are disqualified from the invalid pension, because of the father’s income. I have given notice of motion to remove from the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act the provision which disqualifies from the invalid pension invalids whose family income exceeds a certain level. Some people reach the age of 50 years and still have to be maintained by their parents. The justice of the claim for exemption in respect of such persons must be admitted, because it costs more to maintain them than a child. The Income Tax Department agrees that the provisions of the Income Tax Assessment Act in both respects I have mentioned act harshly, hut they point out that they have to administer the law as it stands. That being so, it is necessary for the legislature to amend the law. My notice of motion, if accepted, would relieve the position as far as the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act and invalid pensioners are concerned, but it would still leave unsettled the problem of those whose children are over sixteen years of age but are, as the result of unemployment, still dependent upon them. What I have in mind is an extension of the exemption provisions of the Income Tax Assessment Act to allow exemptions in respect of dependent children over the age of sixteen years who are either invalids or unemployed, up to a salary limit of £350 or £400 a year. It is a hardship for any one receiving an income of only £350 a year to be forced to support adult members of the family who are out of work. No assistance is. granted by the Government of New South Wales because the legislation in that State provides that if an income into a home exceeds 50s. a fortnight members of the family living in that home are not entitled to unemployment relief. The position then is that, on the one hand, unemployed people living in the home are not entitled to any assistance from the Commonwealth or State Governments and, on the other hand, the wage-earner who is in receipt of £350 a year receives no reduction of his income tax payments in respect of those people.
– It would be wrong for me to suggest that anything is likely to be done to alter exemptions already in the act. I appreciate all that has been said,but I point out that this amendment is only designed to extend the provisions of the main act to those who are employed in the High Commissioner’s office.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 3 to 5 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 19th September (vide page 719), on motion by Mr. Spender -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- Speaking on the measure which has just passed through this chamber the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender) said that suggestions which I had put forward could not be adopted in that legislation. I should like to know whether or not the action which I sought could be taken in respect of this bill. I urge that special allowances be made in the case of taxpayers with dependants over sixteen years of age who are either invalid children not in receipt of a pension, or unemployed children.
– I cannot give any undertaking to the honorable member. The act at present exempts incomes up to £250, with allowances of £50 for a wife, and £50 for each child wholly supported by the taxpayer.
– The allowance in respect of children is only granted up to the age of 16 years.
– That is so. In the ease which the honorable member has put to me, if a man had an income of £400, the deductions in respect of a wife and one child would total £100, so that his taxable income would be £50, and the rate commences at something less than 3d. in the £1. ‘
Bill agreed to and reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to provide exemption from sales tax for materials and machinery used in connexion with the setting up of armaments annexes and for uniforms purchased by members of the defence forces.
Honorable members are aware that the Government has entered into agreements with certain persons in Australia for the construction of armaments annexes for the manufacture of munitions and other defence supplies. In some cases the contractor will be reimbursed by the Commonwealth for the cost of construction of the annexes, the ownership of which will vest in the Commonwealth. In other cases the buildings will be erected at the cost of the contractor and will be leased to the Government at a nominal rental for a period of not less than ten years. The materials which will be used in those buildings which are owned by the Government of the Commonwealth will be exempt under existing provisions, but there is some doubt whether materials for the buildings which will be erected by contractors free of cost to the Government and leased to the Commonwealth at a nominal rental will be free of sales tax in the present form of the law. It is considered that there is complete justification for providing exemption for the materials for all types of armaments annexes erected at the request of and in co-operation with the Commonwealth Government. The proposal will achieve consistency and will tend to reduce the costs of the supplies to the Government of the Commonwealth.
In the majority of cases the plant and machinery for use in the annexes is the property of the Commonwealth Government and is therefore exempt under existing item 74 of the present schedule. In some cases, however, the owners of the annexes have volunteered to purchase the plant and machinery themselves free of cost to the Commonwealth Government. Under the law as it stands, these voluntary purchases would be subject to sales tax. It is considered that they should be free of sales tax and the bill now presented achieves this end.
It is important to remember that in respect both of the materials for the annexes and the plant and machinery for use therein, the exemption is conditional upon the terms of the agreement with the Government being such as to require the buildings, plant and machinery being used exclusively in the production of defence supplies for the Commonwealth Government for a period of not less than ten years. It is proposed that this exemption be effective from the 1st October, 1938.
The bill also provides for the exemption of uniforms for the members of naval, military and air force services. During the recruitment of the present Militia Forces, it was found impossible for the Defence Department to equip all volunteers with the articles of uniform and equipment which ordinarily it would issue from stores. Accordingly, many different methods were followed in equipping the various units - some were provided with uniforms and kit through the efforts of citizen committees, municipal councils and other non-governmental bodies, whilst many members purchased them personally Lorn naval and military outfitters. If the Defence Department had been in a position to issue uniforms and kit as, in the ordinary course of events, it would have done, sales tax would not have been payable. In the circumstances, the Government authorized the Commissioner of Taxation to refrain from collecting tax on uniforms and kit purchased by members of naval, military and air force units from the 1st October. 1938, the approximate date upon which recruitment of the Militia Forces commenced. I can assure honorable members that the benefit of the Government’s action has been obtained by the members of the Militia Forces and not by the manufacturers of the uniforms. The measure now before the House will validate the action which the Government authorized, and I have no hesitation in asking honorable members to support it.
The opportunity has also been taken to put beyond doubt the legality of the course which the Commissioner of Taxation has followed since the 1st October, 1932, in respect of articles of clothing and equipment purchased from the Defence Department by permanent members of the naval, military and air force out of clothing allowances to replace worn-out or lost items of uniform or kit originally issued to them. In such cases, the issuing Government Department makes a charge for the replacements. These transactions have not been regarded by the Commissioner of Taxation as sales by the Defence Department and sales tax has not been recovered on them. There is a doubt, however, whether item 74 as at present enacted, fully supports the course which has been followed and the bill now introduced will place the matter beyond doubt.
In view of the financial commitments of the Commonwealth, the Government has not found it possible to accede to the many claims for exemption which have been placed before it, and I would ask honorable members not to look upon the introduction of this bill as a suitable or proper occasion for the pressing of claims for exemption. As stated in the budget speech, the Government gave earnest consideration to the question of obtaining some of the extra revenue required by the withdrawal of the sales tax exemptions, but decided, for the time being, at any rate, not to take this course. I ask honorable members to support the bill.
– I am prepared to agree to the second reading of this bill, but I direct the attention of the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender) to one or two considerations in respect of its operation. Where a contractor has provided an annexe which will vest in the Commonwealth, it appears to me to be quite reasonable that sales tax shall not be imposed; but where a contractor has erected an annexe at his own cost and leased it to the Commonwealth for a period of ten years at a nominal rental, I presume that it will, at the expiry of that time, revert to the possession of the contractor. In the meantime its value will probably have appreciated. The contractor may therefore receive back at the end of ten years an asset of greater capital value than the asset originally leased.
– Is it not just as likely that the asset will depreciate?
– The conditions of’ the leasing of the annexes are not before us, but I presume they provide that the Commonwealth shall maintain an annexe in first-class order.
– The annexes will be used exclusively for defence purposes.
– In any case, I direct attention to this possibility. I wish to know, now, whether the retrospective provisions of the bill will provide for any repayment of tax.
– The usual departmental practice has been followed. I understand a small amount, may need to be refunded, but it will be quite inconsiderable.
– In that understanding, I offer no objection to the provision.
In view of the fact that various bodies have assisted the Government to provide equipment for the Militia which the Government could not itself provide on account of the pressure of time, it seems to be quite reasonable that sales tax shall not be imposed in such cases. The sale of defence equipment afterwards would appear to be reasonably met without the imposition of sales tax.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - *by leave** - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Spender) - by leave - agreed to: -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to insert provisions in the Flour Tax (Wheat Industry Assistance) Assessment Act 1038 relating to certain declarations made by the Minister.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
Standing Orders - by leave - suspended.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to resolve a doubt which has been cast upon the validity of the rates of tax which have been declared from time to time by the Minister in accordance with the recommendations made by the Wheat Stabilization Advisory Committee in pursuance of section 5 of the Flour Tax Act 1938, section 5 of the Flour Tax (Stocks) Act 1938, and section 5 of the Flour Tax (Imports and Exports) Act 1938.
It will be remembered that, in the course of the hearing of the case in which the constitutionality of the whole of the scheme for the relief for wheat-growers was before the High Court of Australia, this aspect was mentioned but no judicial pronouncement could be obtained in that case because the matter had not been raised in the original pleadings begun in a lower court.
Whatever doubt existed as to the matter still remains, and in this respect it might be mentioned that a divergence of opinion exists amongst eminent legal authorities as to the precise methods by which the Wheat Stabilization Advisory Committee is required to arrive at the amount which should form the basis of its recommendation to the Minister.
The doubt arises from the interpretation which should be placed upon the words “ based upon the price of wheat per bushel free on rails at Williamstown in the State of Victoria “ - “ price “ being defined as value for export. Some of the legal opinions which have been received support the committee’s conclusions, whilst others have expressed the view that a different conclusion should have been obtained.
It is not proposed at this stage to take any legislative action to attempt to clarify the formula upon which the committee should base its future recommendations to the Minister. That formula will be left as originally enacted.
It is considered that it is inappropriate at this juncture to interfere in any way with the basis enacted by Parliament upon which the rate of tax is to be calculated.
Since the passing of the original act, war has been declared, and it is possible that within a few days a pronouncement may be made as to the future control of the wheat production of Australia. The doubt which has arisen in connexion with the rates already declared may then no longer appertain. Conversely it may be necessary, at the earliest opportunity after the policy to be followed in marketing wheat during the period of the war has been formulated, to present for the consideration of Parliament an amended formula to meet the changed circumstances.
In view of the fact that the Commonwealth Government has already paid over to the State governments for distribution to wheat-growers substantially the whole of the moneys which have been collected since the enactment of the legislation in 1938, it is of extreme importance that there should be no possibility of the amounts which have already been collected and distributed having to be refunded to the persons who paid them.
The Government proposes, therefore, that there shall be no challenge to the validity of the rates which have, from time to time, been declared by the Minister since December, 1938. In making this proposal it is pointed out that vendors of flour who have been required to pay tax at the declared rates have, in the majority of cases, recovered by way of increased prices for flour the whole of the tax which they have paid to the Commissioner of Taxation.
In some few cases taxpayers refrained from paying any tax. These taxpayers have either claimed that payment should not be- enforced pending an appeal to the Privy Council on the constitutional aspect or, alternatively, that tax is nol payable because the rate has not been validly imposed. It has been reported to the Government that certain persons are taking advantage of these reasons to avoid the immediate payment of amounts which their competitors are meeting in compliance with demands made by th: Commissioner of Taxation. They are using the advantage thus obtained to sell flour at a price insufficient to recoup them the tax which they should be paying to the Commissioner. The complaint is made that they are thus depriving competitors of legitimate business and, consequently, that the trade is being disorganized.
The view is held that it is essential for the implementation of the scheme of relief, and for the preservation of legitimate trading that payment shall be made by all taxpayers, notwithstanding any intention of any party to seek leave to appeal to the Privy Council on the constitutional or any other aspect of the legislation. This legislation is accordingly submitted as a first step towards the enforcement of payment and to prevent any further delay in such enforcement.
Honorable members will appreciate that it would not be possible at this stage to make any change of rates which have, from time to time, been declared, even if that course were considered necessary or desirable.
I ask honorable members to support this measure to facilitate the collection of outstanding tax, and to preclude any possibility of the necessity to refund tax already collected on the grounds of the invalidity of the rates of tax in operation from time to time.
– I need hardly remind honorable members of the inflexible opposition of the Labour party to the principle of the flour tax which we consider disregards considerations of equity, in that it affects the price of an essential commodity for general consumption and causes the tax to fall unfairly upon the great mass of the lower paid workers. But as this Parliament ha? adopted the principle of the flour tax, the Government is asking the House te pass this bill to ensure that no section of those whom it was believed would be required to pay the tax should escape the obligation to do so. If that, were permitted a certain section which, for various reasons, had managed so far to withhold payment of the tax, would enjoy a privilege to which it is not entitled. I can agree to the principle thai this Parliament, having decided to impose a tax despite the protests of the Opposition, the law should be stated so clearly that the tax shall fall upon those who were intended by the Parliament to pay it. I understand that certain vendors of flour who have been required to pay the flour tax at the declared rates have done so, but are seeking to recover from the Commonwealth the amount so paid. One purpose of this bill, therefore, is to protect the revenue and, at the same time, provide that those taxpayers who, in effect, are only secondary taxpayers, in that they have collected the amount from other people, should not be permitted to escape the impost, although they are contesting the validity of the tax. Whatever may be the legal rights of those taxpayers who have refrained from paying any tax, it appears to me that they ought to be in the same position as an income taxpayer who disputes the accuracy of his assessment; they ought to be obliged to pay the tax and then, if , they have overpaid -or are not liable to pay, the Commonwealth should make refunds. If we pass this bill, they will have to pay the tax. I take it that they will pay it without the addition of any penalty. The truth is that the Commonwealth has had to use borrowed money in order to pay to the States the amount distributed to the wheat-growers, because these taxpayers have not paid their just dues. In that way, a burden has been imposed on the community.
– They ought to be charged interest.
– That point may be worth considering.
– It may well be that they will be charged a penalty.
– I think that they should be. Without in any way abating our objection to the principle of the flour tax, we yet subscribe to the other principle of the law that when a tax is levied every person upon whom it is imposed should be obliged to pay it. We support the bill.
.- I strongly support the passage of this particular bill, for the reason that un- doubtedly there has been certain delay in the payment of the tax on the part of many so-called taxpayers who are not really taxpayers at all. I refer to those who have been withholding the money from the Government and evading their responsibility, such as certain flour millers. They have already collected the money and are in the same category as were certain newspaper proprietors in New South Wales, who collected a newspaper tax which was ultimately declared invalid, but the newspaper proprietors retained the money they had collected on the ground that they could not refund it to those who had paid the extra id. a newspaper. The millers and others who actually handle the flour have collected this tax and are holding the money. It is essential that the Government should not only collect the amount so held, but, as has been suggested by the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney), should also impose the heaviest rate of interest possible on those who are withholding it. The most unscrupulous thing which a miller or any other person handling flour could do is collect the tax from the consumers - as it has been collected from the bakers - withhold it, and then fight the Government in the hope of being able to retain it, knowing that it could not be refunded if the act were declared invalid. I supported this tax when originally introduced, knowing that the proceeds of it were to be used to stabilize tE*e wheatgrowing industry at a time when that industry was very badly in need of the financial assistance that the principal act proposed to give. I hope that the Minister will take notice of the points that I have raised.
.- The action taken by the Government to solve this problem is the simplest that it could take. Many a time when taxes have been imposed, this particular section of the community - the flour millers - has attempted to evade them. When the New South Wales flour tax was levied by Mr. Lang, and carried further by subsequent governments, some of the millers refused to pay it, and eventually fought a case in respect of it, the result of which was that the State Government was declared not to have the power to levy an excise. This action of the Government will protect the Treasury. Outstanding amounts will be collected, and the millers will be made to realize that the Government is determined to carry out the wishes of this Parliament. I am prepared to admit that the special committee appointed to determine what the rate of tax should be was faced with a very difficult position this year on account of the drought in Victoria and the small crop. When the act was passed by this Parliament, it was decided that, as the Williamstown rate was usually the average rate for Australia, that should be the basis of the calculations ; but last year the crop in Victoria was a partial failure, and the price ruling in that State was far ahead of the export value and several pence higher a bushel than the rates ruling in other States. There were millers in Victoria who told the committee that they could not buy the wheat to make flour at the export parity, and that if the rate were fixed in accordance with the provisions of the act they could not supply flour for making bread. Such a difficult position is not likely to occur again for some time. In Western Australia and South Australia this season the price of wheat averaged 9d. a bushel less than the price in Victoria, yet the act provided that the rate should be based on the export value at Williamstown. I am glad to hear that the Minister does not intend immediately to attempt to simplify the taxation portion of the act, seeing that it is anticipated that it will take over the whole of next season’s crop. If it does, it will fix the price of wheat to the millers. If the price be fixed at what has been approved by this Parliament for the home-consumption portion of the crop - 5s. 2d. a bushel at ports - no tax will be collected, but if it should be fixed at 3s. a bushel, the adjustment of the rate of tax based on the regular price charged in all States will be a simple matter to bring the total price up to the agreed rate.
I support the bill as a means for protecting the revenue and of making those who desire to evade their responsibilities discharge their obligations.
– Will the Minister say how much is at stake?
– Up to the 31st August the amount was £100,000.
– What is the amount of the refunds being claimed?
– The bill relates to the amounts outstanding which we are seeking to recover.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
In Committee of Supply:
Motion (by Mr. Spender) agreed to-
That there be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year 1039-40 a sum not exceeding £7,433,800.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means founded on resolution of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Mr. Spender and Mr. Perkins do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Spender, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Until the Appropriation Act is passed by Parliament, it is necessary to provide by means of supply acts the funds required to carry on the essential services of the Government.
The first Supply Act for the year, which was passed in June last, covered the period to the end of September, and a further bill is now necessary to provide for departmental expenditure until the House again meets and is able to consider the Estimates and Appropriation Act. The present bill is for a period of two months to the end of November, and with the amounts already included in the last act provide an amount of approximately five-twelfths of the previous year’s appropriation.
The measure makes provision for an amount of £7,433,800 to meet expenditure under the f ollowing heads : -
With the exception of defence, in respect of which it is inevitable that some provision must be made for new proposals, this bill does not include any new commitments or expenditure which may be provided in the Estimates of Expenditure submitted to Parliament recently. Only in the exceptional case of defence, and in certain items in connexion with which the expenditure is normally heavier in the early part of the year, has the proportion of five-twelfths of the year’s estimate been exceeded.
Since the outbreak of hostilities, the Government has instituted a close examination of all items of Commonwealth expenditure, with a view to placing the finances on a war footing. All nonessential or escapable expenditure must be eliminated, and departmental expenditure reduced to a minimum consistent with efficiency. New works will be closely scrutinized, and any that are not urgently required must be postponed for a time. We are faced with heavy additional expenditure, not only directly but also indirectly, as the result of the war, and the Government is determined that all of our resources shall be available for its prosecution.
Honorable members will note that an amount of £1,500,000 is included in this bill under the heading “ Treasurer’s Advance “, which, with the amount of £2,500,000 already provided in Supply Act No. 1, brings the total to £4,000,000. The Estimates of Expenditure, recently circulated, provide only £3,000,000 for this purpose, and the necessary amendment will be made at a later date. Until the Appropriation Act is passed, it is necessary to finance from this vote all works which were uncompleted at the 30th June last, and provision for this will he included in the Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill to be submitted for the approval of Parliament at a later date. Emergency expenditure must also be met from this source.
The increase of £1,000,000 in respect of the amount of Treasurer’s Advance has been made to provide for any emergency which the Government may he called upon to meet in these abnormal times, but it is hoped that it will not be necessary to have recourse to the increased amount.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Curtin) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Spender) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of moneys be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to authorize the raising and expen diture of a certain sum of money.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Spender and Mr. Perkins do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Spender, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is to appropriate, and to authorize the raising of, loan funds to meet certain expenditure of the financial year 1939-40, which, with the exception of that relating to the war, was forecast in the Treasurer’s budget speech. The services of the hill may he briefly summarized as follows: -
To this has been added an amount of £225,000 to provide for the expenses of raising the necessary loans. The whole of this additional sum may, of course, not be needed.
The amount of £10,405,000 provided in the bill for the defence programme represents another step in the progress of Australia in defending itself against attack. This programme is an earnest sign of the country’s awakening to the realities and dangers of the present state of international unrest. The extent of the awakening and the consequent effort may be in some degree measured by a comparison of the figures of Commonwealth expenditure on defence over the last few years. They are -
It will be remembered that, at the. beginning of 1938-39, a defence programme of £43,000,000, to be extended over a period of three years, was contemplated. The necessity for a programme of this magnitude came as a shock to the people of Australia. Many were, I believe, unconvinced of its necessity. International events, and the continued aggressiveness of certain powers, however, very soon indicated that even these plans were inadequate. In December last, the Government announced that the programme would be extended to a total of £63,000,000 over the three years. Details of the increased programme, with the cost of the several proposals, and initial financial measures to meet the increased programme and particulars of the programme itself, were very fully imparted to Parliament by the former Treasurer (Mr. Casey) and the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street).
Since that date, further developments have taken place. Extension of some of the munitions factories, the Australian Imperial Force Reserve and the national register may be mentioned in this connexion. In addition, the decision, in agreement with the British Government, to manufacture in Australia the new Beaufort aeroplane for the Air Force was announced. These additional liabilities amount, in round figures, to £6,000,000.
This great programme was and is designed as the ground-work of Australian defence, and is capable of expansion to meet still greater needs. Its purpose was and is to bring our military effort within the shortest space of time to a position where it willbe adequate to deal with any likely military eventualities that we may be called upon to meet. The plans cover the mechanization of the army, the production of munitions, and the manufacture of aeroplanes, the last-mentioned representing, it is to be hoped, the permanent expansion of a valuable industry.
Finally, the programme was designed to prepare an adequate military force based on our system of militia training, and in no aspect of defence have the results been more encouraging. It will be remembered that it was proposed to increase the military establishment from 35,000 to 70,000. The response to the invitation to join up was so rapid that the enlistments substantially exceeded the numbers asked for.
I have prepared tables which set out the authorizations of capital expenditure made, or to be made, in the various financial years up to, and including, 1939-40, and compare them with the financial provision made by Parliament to meet the expenditure. These tables do not include salary and maintenance expenditure, of which £7,505,000 was charged to revenue in 1938-39, while it is estimated that £10,121,000 will be so charged in 1939- 40.
The authorizations, excluding the last year of the programme, 1940-41, are as follows : -
The following financial provision has been made by Parliament to meet the authorizations : -
It will be seen that the difference between the necessary authorizations to the 30th June, 1940, and financial provision already made, is £10,405,000. This amount has been included in the bill before the House. The programme as now laid down must be completed. It is the ground-work and basis of Australian defence, and is essential to ensure our national safety.
Before leaving the subject of the defence programme, I might mention that the £33,137,000 projected expenditure for 1939-40 will be met from the various funds in the following proportions : -
I proceed now from the amounts required for the basic programme to moneys required for the active prosecution of the war. The outbreak of hostilities necessitates an intensification of effort in the production of munitions, the training of men and the placing of all services on a war basis.
It has not been the practice in the past to mention in war loan bills themselves the purposes for which war loan moneys will be used. The items of expenditure were, however, shown in the Estimates and Budget Papers. In this case, however, I have given an indication of the main directions in which the expenditure will be made, and have made an allocation of the funds required between the three services - navy, army, and air.
Honorable members will realize that it will be impossible to finance the greater part of our war effort from revenue. As in all wars, and in all countries, it becomes necessary to raise money by borrowing for the prosecution of war. .
At this stage, some information as to the manner in and extent to which funds were raised during the last war of 1914-18 may be of value to honorable members. At the beginning an arrangement was made with the British Government to finance our initial war expenditure by a loan of £18,000,000 at the rate of £1,500,000 a month from December, 1914. Later, another loan of £25,000,000, at £2,000,000 a month, was arranged for. The total of advances actually received from Great Britain up to 1916-17 was £47,500,000. This amount was later included in a “ funding arrangement “ made with the British Government in 1921. The British Government also met a great deal of the cost of the maintenance of the army in the field. Our total indebtedness to Great Britain under the Funding Arrangements Act was £92,480,000. Of this, £12,756,000 has been repaid, and £79,724,000 is still outstanding. The collection of debt charges, interest and sinking fund, on this amount has been “postponed” since 1931, but the amount is still included in the Treasury accounts as part of the Australian war debt. In addition to the amounts advanced by the British Government, loans amounting to £250,000,000 were raised in Australia to cover the cost of war and demobilization. Altogether our total loans amounted to about £342,000,000, part of which was for soldier land settlement. Redemptions and repayments have substantially reduced this peak debt of £342,000,000, and it now stands at £265,000,000, including the £80,000,000 owing to the British Government on which interest and sinking fund are not being paid.
The loans raised in Australia, amounting to £250,000,000, were raised by the Treasury through the agency of the Commonwealth Bank in the usual manner. This obviated the necessity for underwriting, and the expense of flotation was, therefore, kept to the low average figure of 5s. 7d. per cent. The Government expects that it will meet with an equally willing and patriotic response in the future.
During the years from 1914-15 to 1919-20 inclusive, the war charges to revenue were -
Itis impossible at the present time to forecast the financial calls which will be made on our people in respect of war finance. That they will be heavy is clear, and we must simply meet them with courage and determination as they arise.
I now turn to the last item of the bill, viz.. £2,000,000 for postal works. This is the one which, for intrinsic merit, appeals to me as a member of a civilized community infinitely more than do those items representing expenditure on war. It is regrettable that we have to spend so much on projects which are only necessary because of the threats of aggressor States, and misunderstandings between nations.
This provision is to carry out postal works of a capital nature. This expenditure is of the best type. It produces genuine assets, and is fully reproductive. Of recent years we have charged all postal works to revenue, out of a desire to leave the loan field open as far as possible to the urgent requirements of States.. It is now necessary, however, in view of the present position of our finances, to charge some of thiscapital expenditure to loan fund.
A general review of items of Commonwealth expenditure forecast in the budget is now being made, and probably some reduction of the total estimated expenditure on these works will be effected. Their progress may also be delayed to some extent by late delivery or nondelivery of necessary material.
– Has the honorable gentleman considered taking the funds of the Australian Broadcasting Commission into general revenue?
– I have not.
Mr.White. - Has it been considered?
– Not so far as I know.
– We shall have to move for that.
Sitting suspended from 11.45 p.m.to 12.15 a.m. (Friday).
Friday, 22 September 1939
.- The bill which is before the House is a loan bill, and is to authorize the raising of £22,405,000, of which £2,000,000 is for the purposes of the Postmaster-General’s Department and the remainder is divided between the preparedness programme for national security as developed before the declaration of a state of war and the emergency services associated with the services of war. I have to say this: In view of our own declaration - I speak for the Opposition - that this is a just war, that it was inevitable, we realize that there must be, if it is to be a real thing, sonic readiness to enable the Government to be possessed of the requisite resources whereby it can carry out the provisions for the safety of the country and for the prosecution of the wai’- The House has passed taxation measures -which, although adding very greatly to the burdens of the people, cannot by any stretch of reasoning be regarded as providing the total sum immediately required to prosecute the war and to provide the services in relation to the expansion of the Defence Department. Therefore, the Government is obliged to seek to borrow some substantial proportion of the expenditure which it must this year incur. We eoncede these premises; in fact we recognize them as inescapable. I merely direct attention at this stage to the statements that we made in the budget debate in which we said that we felt that the whole of this loan provision was not to be expected to be supplied by the citizens as citizens. We feel, even after reading the budget speech of the Treasurer (Mr. Menzies) and the speech of the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender) that there ought to be still available to the nation through its monetary and banking instrumentalities some portion of this £22,405,000. I should expect that the Commonwealth Bank will treat these requirements of this loan bill in the spirit which has marked the development of its policy during the last two years. I have not the least doubt that that will be done, if only because I see no alternative to its being done. I very much question if this very large loan provision could he provided by the people in addition to the programme which the Loan Council adopted insofar as provision is to be made for the States. It would appear to bc inevitable that this bill should pass.
– It is true, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has said, that we agree that it is necessary to get finance in order to prosecute the war, but there is a very strong difference of opinion as to whether piling up the debt of this country is absolutely essential or necessary. My opinion is that, while there are unemployed resources in this country, the facilities available through the Commonwealth Bank should be more fully utilized. I was not in the chamber when the Assistant. Treasurer (Mr. Spender) spoke the other day, but, I understand that he took members of the Opposition to task because they were advocating what, lie considered to be unlimited credit expansion. We do not advocate any such thing. We recognize that there is a limit to which credit can be expanded, but we believe that the only limit is the limit imposed, by the limitations of man-power, materials and equipment. Beyond those limitations we say there as no other limitation on the productive capacity of the nation. Limitations which are imposed because of financial restrictions are only artificial. I understand that one of the arguments advanced by the Assistant Treasurer was that expansion of credit would necessarily mean an increase of commodity prices. I challenge the Assistant Treasurer to give any evidence that in existing circumstances such a process would so result. If expanding the credit available through the Commonwealth Bank would result in transferring men now engaged in the production of commodities to non-productive works such as defence works, probably there would be an increase of the price of commodities. That could happen only when available man-power and other resources were already fully employed. But, if the expansion of credit only led to the employment on defence works of manpower and resources which are now unemployed, there need not necessarily be any increase of commodity prices. The result would be that the Government would be able to carry out its defence programme and ordinary activities without the need to place further burdens on the already topheavy debt structure. Honorable members know what happened after the last war. Our national debt to-day is about £1,300,000,000.
– Which is made up mostly of State debts.
– I do not deny that a considerable proportion of the total consists of State debts. I point out to the Assistant Treasurer, however, that it is the one lot of people that has to bear the burden. A few years ago, because of the necessity to pay interest, the’ Government argued that it was not able to meet commitments here and abroad without some reduction of the. living standards of the people. I look further ahead than to-morrow or next week. I can visualize the possibility, if we believe the predictions of honorable gentlemen opposite about the duration of this war, that, without the population having increased to any measurable degree, the national’ debt will be twice as large as it is now. The same number of people will have to bear twice the debt. We all know the stand taken by the Government on the debt question. It will say then that debts are sacrosanct and that the first obligation is to pay interest on loans. We shall probably be faced with the prospect of another Premiers Plan, more vicious even than the last. Because of its huge commitments, the Government will argue that it is unable to continue even the very mean social services that are now provided by the Commonwealth, and that there is no alternative but to reduce invalid and old-age pensions and soldiers’ pensions even further. I remind honorable gentlemen that the burden of repatriation pensions has been an increasing burden; the prospect is that, with the possibility of our taking an active part in this conflict, after this war our commitments in respect of pensions will be immeasurably increased. We must ask ourselves whether the Government is justified at the outset of this war in increasing the debt burden to an enormous degree because the obligations which honorable members opposite regard as paramount and sacrosanct - they are not so regarded by the Opposition - will result in denial of the amenities of life to our people. I shall not remain silent in this Parliament and see a continuation of the practice of increasing the debt burden, particularly when there is no need for an increase, because, in my opinion, by utilizing the credit of the nation through the instrumentality of the Commonwealth Bank, for the purpose of employing the resources of this country in man-power, materials and equipment that are now unemployed, the Government could continue its defence preparations without increasing the public debt by fi. It is wrong to say to the general community, “You will have to bear certain sacrifices because we are at Avar “ when at the same time the Government is providing an opportunity for that section of the people with, money to invest to benefit as the result of the nation’s war activities. For that reason, I protest against this measure, which I regard as the forerunner of many similar bills. If this war goes on for a long period of time and the Government continues to apply its present policy of financing it by raising enormous loans, the position that will be faced in the future by the Opposition will be a demand by the antiLabour forces for a reduction of the living standards of the people in order not to default on interest payments.
– The purpose for which this money is to be used is set out under different’ departmental headings in the schedule. For instance, £768,000 is to be allocated to the Department of Supply and Development. That money will be used to provide defence equipment, much of which will be manufactured in a number of private undertakings. I have ascertained in recent months, since the new Department of Supply and Development has been under way, that many employers engaged in the manufacture of defence equipment are employing a larger number of juveniles than is considered reasonable in industry. They are adopting the process of dilution which cannot be tolerated while skilled men are available. Some employers are not even paying award rates or observing award conditions.
– What does the honorable member mean by “ the process of dilution”?
– It means parcelling up the work of certain skilled trades and employing unskilled labour at lower rate& than the award provides. Such a process can be adopted by the use of machinery, and in engineering sections in Sydney factories it is a reality, and in some cases girls are employed on nut and bolt machines. Trade union organizations approach the arbitration courts and obtain awards, and when awards have been made they have to be policed. In many instances it has been found that contractors engaged on government work provided by the Department of Supply and Development refuse representatives of the union the right to police awards. The right to examine the conditions under which contracts are being carried out is thus denied. Several weeks ago a deputation presented these facts to the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) find made the reasonable request that in all contracts covering the requirements of the Defence Department a clause should be inserted declaring that the acceptance of the work was subject to tho observance of award rates and conditions and the employment of unionists with a minimum quantity of juvenile labour. Up to the present I have been unable to obtain a. reply from the Minister, but it is only fair to assume that the matter is having his attention.
– I believe that such a provision exists in some contracts.
– I know that all contracts let by the Postmaster-General’s Department provide that award rates and conditions shall be observed. The Minister was unable to give the deputation a definite reply, but I am hoping that the Government will insert such a provision in all contracts. If a manufacturer be permitted to exploit labour in that way it is most unfair and unjust. It has another serious aspect. An employer observing award rates and conditions and employing males at higher rates instead of females is at a distinct disadvantage in tendering for this class of work. I am aware that contracts for smaller commodities such as shackles, straps, bolts and nuts are being cut by the fraction of a Id., and such competition arises because employers are able to carry on in the way I have mentioned. It is as reasonable for the Government to protect the employer who is playing the game as it is for the representatives of the union to protect the interests of the workers, and if an employer is observing the industrial law it is the duty of the Government to sec that he is not subject to unfair competition. It may be said by the Minister that it is the responsibility of the trade union to police unfair employers, but, union representatives cannot demand the right of entry. I trust that the Government in respect of the work to be carried out with the money being appropriated under this measure will insist that all those undertaking defence work should observe award rates and conditions.
I also bring under the notice of the Minister that in the expenditure of this money some proper system of spreading employment should be adopted. During the last few weeks excessive overtime has been worked at Garden Island with the result that a large number of men who should share the work that is available are being denied the opportunity to do so. In certain classes of work overtime is necessary because continuity must be maintained by those who have a knowledge of the particular duties they arc performing. I know, for instance, that, in the electrical trade it is not always practicable to work in. shifts; but in the unskilled section of some of these undertakings, it should not bo difficult, when a job has to be done in « specified time, to introduce a system- of shift work. It would also be more economical, and the Government could provide employment for a greater number.
I know that the Cockatoo Island Dockyard is not now under the control of the Government, but it is to a degree under the direction of the Defence Department. At that establishment, excessive overtime is also being worked. I understand that the officers who reported upon this matter have said that a private contractor is not likely to work overtime if it can bc avoided, but the payment for work performed at Cockatoo Island Dockyard is based on a percentage of cost which means that the greater the cost the greater the percentage received by the employer. It could, therefore, be argued that this undertaking is extracting from the Government a larger amount than that to which it is entitled.
We understand that it is the intention of the Government to pay members of the mobilized and volunteer forces 6s. a day, and that they are to serve for the period of the war and twelve months afterwards or until lawfully discharged. Doubtless, a. large number of young single men will enlist, but surely the Government does not think it fair that such a low rate of pay should be provided for single men for an indefinite period. From the point of view of national interest, it should be the desire of the Government to pay a higher rate.
– Some married men also may enlist.
– Yes, but at the moment I am dealing only with single men. It should be the policy of the Government to encourage these young men ro marry, and they should be paid sufficient to enable them to do so. It is impossible to say how long hostilities will last; it may be three years or even longer. Ibc men to be mobilized will be specially selected and must be of good physique. As these young men are a great asset to the country they should be paid a rate that will enable them to live the life of other men, which is quite impossible at the pay proposed. They should receive at least the basic wage. I understand that when it was first proposed to send a mobile force to Darwin the payment of the basic wage was seriously discussed, and perhaps the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby), who was then Minister for Defence may be able to express his opinion on the subject. I believe that he suggested that conditions should be provided which would enable the men to murry.
– I stated so publicly, and
Hinde provision in that direction.
– I understand that the honorable member also suggested proper housing conditions, and that the whole matter should be placed on a proper basis. I am sorry to learn that the Government proposes to pay the men in the forces mentioned only 6s. a day, because the amount is totally inadequate to enable them to marry if they so desire.
– They should be encouraged rather than discouraged to marry.
– Yes, and the only way to encourage them is to provide satisfactory economic conditions. To provide for national development and the welfare of the people generally, the Government should see that these men are not paid a mere 6s. a day.
.- I should like to know whether, in addition to the expenditure of £2,000,000 of the loan money on postal works, it is still proposed to expend out of revenue the £2,000,000 set down on the Estimates for new works. The fact should not be overlooked that the expenditure of £22,000,00(1 for defence purposes will, to a certain degree., limit the works, programmes of the
State governments; but, that matter will be adjusted also to a certain degree by the expenditure of the defence money. Unfortunately, most of the loan money is to be used in two of the larger States. In the provision for public works favorable consideration should be given to those States that will- not participate in the expenditure of loan money to be raised for defence purposes. Owing to defence needs, there will be less money available to the governments of the States to continue their works programmes, mid the local governing bodies have already been forced to reduce their expenditure. I do not protest, because I know that expenditure on defence must be apportioned with a view to providing the most efficient service possible, with the result that the major part of the £22,000,000 will be used in two of the largest States. The establishment of military camps in New South Wales and Victoria, for instance, will necessitate the expenditure of a good deal of this money in those States, but favorable consideration should be given to the needs of the other States.
– The matter will be considered from that aspect.
Mr. HOLLOWAY (Melbourne .Ports) [12.50 a.m. J. - I have no quarrel with the Government as to the manner in which the £22,000,000 should be expended. We all realize that it is essential to use the money and a great deal more in the way proposed ; but, owing to the dilemma in which we are placed, we ought to exchange views on the question of whether the present method of raising money should be continued. If this large sum be raised in the orthodox way, approximately £100,000 will be absorbed by brokerage, underwriting and similar charges. If ordinary interest rates tire charged, and the loan is issued for the usual period of twelve or fifteen years, the interest bill will have amounted to £10,000,000 or £11,000,000 by the time the loan matures. If we continue in this way we shall probably have to multiply that liability ten or eleven times to cover the financial requirements for the coming year. We have been in deep water for a long time, and the wealth created by the community is reduced annually by about £30,000,000 to meet interest payments alone. The primary producers and almost every other section of ‘the community have been forced to slave in order to create wealth, much of which is absorbed by interest charges, to say nothing of sinking fund payments for the redemption of the debt. The private money lenders, like pawn-brokers, do not desire the Government to redeem pledges; their desire is for the Government to continue the interest payments.
The first course suggested to me is that we should exhibit loyalty to our own institutions in time of war. The credit backing of the Commonwealth Bank is greater than that of all of the private banks put together. This fact was discovered in the last war, and we shall soon realize it again in the present struggle. Some people lend money on securities on which they can foreclose, whilst others, lend it in the belief that it will enable the borrowers to create new wealth. Australia has always been regarded as one of the soundest countries in the world, and it offers the best securities for private enterprises that have money to lend. The Commonwealth Bank is as powerful and wealthy as Australia itself, and, therefore, the Government should ask the people’s bank to supply this country with the financial accommodation required for all public purposes. Even if this bank charged the same rates of interest as private banks, the interest money would come back into the national funds to assist in the prosecution of the war, or to be expended in some other direction. I know the answer that members of the Cabinet would give to my proposal. They would not say that it is not sound and practicable; their only objection to it would be that it is contrary to the policy of the Government. But the Fisher Government recognized that through the Commonwealth Bank, the credit of the nation could be used to finance public needs. When the late Sir Robert Gibson was chairman of the board of- directors of the Commonwealth Bank, he said, “ Of course I could supply this credit if the Government required it ; but the charter which the Bruce-Page Government has drawn up for me makes it impossible, unless that charter is extended to give me power to do it. My personal view, however, is in accord with the policy of the Government, which is that this bank must not enter into trade “. Sir Ernest Riddle also said that repeatedly.
– The Commonwealth Bank Act does not prohibit the board from acting as the honorable member suggests that it should.
– The present policy of the bank is not to enter into competition with private banks, and that is in accordance with the policy of the Government. The policy of the Government, rightly or wrongly, is to protect the sacred rights of private enterprise whenever possible. I do not say that that i.c dishonest, but that policy is not our policy. The Government says: “We must not allow the Commonwealth Clothing Factory to make clothes for civilians, because that would interfere with private enterprise “. It also says : “ We must not allow the Commonwealth Bank to compete with the private banks “. We say, however, that if this loan can be provided by the private banks, with the backing of the Commonwealth Bank, it can be provided directly by the Commonwealth Bank, and the amount of about £11,000,000 in interest that would be paid during the currency of the loan, would then go to the Commonwealth Bank instead of to private banks.
I ask the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender) to strike a new note in our financial procedure. Two or three new notes have already been sounded. The proposal to impose a gold tax was wise and courageous. A member of the Government was quick-witted enough to realize that this was a simple and easy means to raise money. The introduction of the gold tax bill suggested that a progressive policy was likely to be followed. I ask that it be continued in relation to the Commonwealth Bank. When Sir Ernest Riddle attended the Ottawa Conference he was entertained by brother bankers. I have documentary proof of what I am about to say. Sir Ernest Riddle was asked to outline the policy of the Commonwealth Bank. He said, in effect, “ The Commonwealth Bank does not enter into competition with private banks. It is, rather, a bulwark and a support to private banks”. Then he went on to make statements which to me were very serious indeed. He said. “If a private person comes to our bank and asks for accommodation we inquire where he is now doing his banking business. We then ask him “why he did not go to his own bank. He probably would say that he did and that his bank would not give him the accommodation he needed. If that is so, we then get one of our inspectors to investigate his security. If it is satisfactory we advise his own bank to advance the accommodation he needs. In 99 cases out of 100 it does so, but if it still refuses to do so then we accommodate him”. This is another indication that the Commonwealth Bank does not enter into competition with private banking institutions. Nevertheless, we shall have to depart, to some degree at any rate, from orthodox methods. I said months ago, when the Government proposed to provide £20,000,000 for defence purposes, that this would only be the skeleton, and that later it would have to flesh the skeleton. That time has come. We cannot continue to borrow money for war purposes at ruling rates of interest.
I urge that the Commonwealth Bank l;»e requested to provide this money at 1 per cent, or 2 per cent, to cover overhead expenses. Probably the Minister will say in reply, “ It is not right to use the national credit in that way”. My rejoinder is that in any case the national credit will be used to enable the private banking institutions to furnish the money. I can see no reason, therefore, why the Commonwealth Bank should not furnish it. If the whole of the money is not obtained from the Commonwealth Bank, probably half of it could be obtained from that source and the other half could be obtained from revenue or from the private banking institutions.
– Would the honorable member suggest that we could follow that procedure year in and year out, and so avoid the imposition of taxes?
– I do not suggest that we should go to extremes. I know that a limit must be set. ‘f do not believe that the suggestion made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) the other night, in a satirical vein, that we could put any number of taps into a barrel and turn them on and let them run, could be carried into effect. Of course, the Prime Minister himself did not think so. But I can see no reason at all why we should not authorize the Commonwealth Bank to provide the money which the Government is now seeking to obtain. I do not wish the bank to do anything revolutionary. If the Government does not feel that it can raise the money from the Commonwealth Bank at the low rate of interest that I have suggested, surely it could raise it at ruling rates, with the result that the interest would be repaid to the Commonwealth Bank and would not flow into the pockets of four or five wealthy individuals who always “rake off “ the profits. I do not wish the Government to do anything foolish, but I can see no reason why the Commonwealth Bank should not sell credit just as other trading institutions sell boot-laces. The security for this money will be the national security.
– In a time of war, certain national resources have to be directed to war purposes. If we obtain our wai finance from the Commonwealth Bank, what is to happen to the credit resources of the private banks, for ordinary channels of investment will probably not be available?
– I can see nu reason why, if the resources of the Commonwealth Bank are drawn upon to provide credit for war purposes, the resources of the private banks should not continue iu bc available, for ordinary investment. Obviously we cannot continue ordinary methods of finance. I can see no reason why the Government should not obtain £15,000,000, £20,000,000, or £30,000,000 from the Commonwealth Bank, seeing that it proposes to obtain such amounts, before very long, from the private banks.
It is regrettable in my opinion that the Government will not permit the Commonwealth Bank to enter into competition in this matter with the private banks. We must safeguard the interests of the people of this country and we ought not to follow a course which will place an intolerable burden upon posterity. Approximately half of the wealth we produce goes overseas, but that is no reason why we should not make the best use of the wealth we have within the country.
When the last war broke out the Government of the day requested the private banks to furnish the funds th tit were needed for war purposes. The private banks replied that they were unable to doso, for the burden was too great for them. Sir Denison Miller was consulted by the private banks which asked him if he could get them out of their trouble. Ultimately, the Commonwealth Rank was able to arrange for all of the money that was needed to be provided. It is a startling fact that the Commonwealth Bank of Australia was practically the only bank in the world that did not take a temporary holiday at that time. Even the Bank of England had to take a holiday. But the small branch of the Commonwealth Bank in London did not close its doors for a single day. Visitors to London were always able to get from the Commonwealth Bank the accommodation they required. I therefore urge the Government to review its policy with the object of enabling the Commonwealth Bank to marshal our resources, and provide the money that is needed for defence purposes.
– I remind the honorable gentleman that one problem we have to face is : What is to be done with private funds that are available for investment if we do not draw upon them to help us with our war finance?
– My complaint: is that the private banks are already declining to advance money. In the fine statement which the Prime Minister broadcast a few days ago, he urged the people to carry on their business as usual. He asked employers not to displace a single employee if they could avoid doing so. He appealed to them to maintain normal business operations, even at some risk, and not to run at once for safety. Unfortunately, the private banking institutions have not followed that advice. Probably the Assistant Treasurer knows more about this than I do, but already a concerted movement is noticeable in the direction of restricting credit. A struggling manufacturer in my electorate asked his bank a few days ago to help him with his wage fund for 30 employees. Thebank refused to do so. The manufacturer said : “ That is not giving effect to the Prime Minister’s slogan ‘ Business as usual ‘ “. The bank replied that it was one thing to utter a slogan and another thing to practise it. The manager of the hank told me that a concerted move was on foot among the banks to tighten up credit. That must necessarily cause unemployment. I urge the Government to leave the industrial money free and to secure its financial requirements from the Commonwealth Bank. I do not suggest that it should ask for that money free of interest.
– The honorable member can rest assured that a substantial portion of this money will come from the Commonwealth Bank.
– I hope that that will be the case. An excellent note has been struck in this House during the last few weeks. Every Minister has invited the co-operation of honorable members generally. Probably many honorable members will be able to advance helpful suggestions, particularly in respect of matters with which they have had firsthand experience very often denied to Ministers. Honorable members on this side are endeavouring to render every assistance in that direction, but we want, the Government to safeguard the economic situation of Australia during the war. If the Government intends to absorb all of our industrial money for war purposes, and to dry up our internal resources, the country generally will suffer. Some time ago, the Administrator of New Guinea endeavoured to float a loan of £150,000 for the purpose of building the road from Wau to Salamaua. Financial institutions which were approached on the matter replied that the security offered was not sufficient, but indicated that they would be prepared to advance the loan if the Commonwealth Government would guarantee it.
– The Commonwealth guaranteed the loan before anybody at all was approached.
– When he was Treasurer the right honorable gentleman (Mr. Casey) asked the House to pass a bill to give the Commonwealth authority to back that particular loan.
– It was to be drawn not from the banks, but from private sources in New Guinea.
-Is that not the same thing?
– In any case was it not the duty of this Government tohelp the people of New Guinea to secure that loan ? Otherwise we have no right to hold that mandate. Why did not the right honorable gentleman persuade the Administrator to get the money from the Commonwealth Bank instead of from private sources? Honorable members opposite know what I mean when I say that the Government should do some of its business in that way. It could thus reduce our interest bill which is keeping this country poor.
– I propose to mention one or two ways in which the Government might effect substantial economies. Of this money a sum of £2,000,000 is to be allocated to the Postmaster-General’s Department, which it. is estimated, will make a profit of £2,750,000 in the financial year. One notices in the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s last balance-sheet, an item of £13,000 for rental of telephone lines and the like. It appears, therefore, that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is very much a part of that department. When the Australian Broadcasting Commission Act was passed in 1932, the Government had no precedent to guide it in such legislation, and if chose to establish a special fund front the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s surpluses, rather than provide that such surpluses bc paid into Consolidated* Revenue. An examination of the balancesheet of the Australian Broadcasting Commission shows that it enjoys an annual income of £642,000. This is a very easy income when one considers the service rendered, although I do not suggest that the service is not good though there is necessarily some criticism. Furthermore, the Australian Broadcasting Commission has piled up a reserve fund of £142,325, and an accumulated fund of £ir>9,860, whilst last year it made a profit of £50,021. In addition, it possesses assets, presumably built up since 1932, to the value of £350,000. To-day, the business of the Australian Broadcasting Commission is outside the ordinary ambit of government business. Here is a field in which substantial economies could perhaps be. effected, particularly at a time when the Government is so badly in need of additional revenue. If this money were paid into Consolidated Revenue, overlapping would be minimized and substantial savings might result, from government scrutiny. The last annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Commission outlines a building programme involving an expenditure of £700,000 over the next five or six years. Such expenditure is hardly justified at a time like the present. Of that amount, £300,000 is allocated in respect of new head-quarters in Sydney. The PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Harrison) informed us to-night that this building was to be held in abeyance. The point I make, however, is that such a grandiose programme might never have been contemplated were the surpluses of the Australian Broadcasting Commission paid into Consolidated Revenue. This is a field which could well be surveyed by the Government with a view to effecting economies. If the bill to amend the Australian Broadcasting Commission Act is proceeded with, honorable members will, perhaps, be given an opportunity to go fully into this matter. The duty of initiating such economies, however, rests upon the Government. This suggestion is not new; it has been advanced on several previous occasions. Due perhaps to independent control of its own finances, the Australian Broadcasting Commission is naturally inclined to spend generously, and that is another reason why, at a time like the present, its finances should be brought under the direct control of the Government. I ask the Postmaster-General to give attention to these suggestions.
– Under this measure the Government is seeking approval for the raising of a loan of £22,600,000. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) was quite justified in urging it to make greater use of the Commonwealth Bank for the purpose of financing its defence expenditure. Even in normal times, we should rely mainly upon the Commonwealth Bank to finance Commonwealth and State reproductive works at lower rates of interest than the Loan Council is able to secure on the open market. I believe that the suggestion made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports will be carried out to an increasingly greater degree. There can be no doubt that when the Government goes on the market for this money the tendency will be to mop up all of the credit that would normally be available for ordinary industrial expansion and building activity, and for investment in real estate. This money, in one way or another, provides considerable employment in normal times. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports dealt fully with that aspect of the Government’s financial policy, but I should like to draw attention to one or two matters in this respect. I should like to know, for instance, who will decide how this money is to be expended. Very substantial allocations are made to different departments including £3,100,000 for general defence, £2,114,000 for army purposes, £4,462,000 for the air force, £668,000 in respect of Supply and Development and £10,000,000 for war services. I understand that a committee of experts advises the Government on the expenditure of this money. In the course of their investigations, do these experts travel further north than Sydney?
I have no intention to particularize in respect of works urgently needed in many important coastal towns of North Queensland. That part of Australia i3 particularly vulnerable, and a feeling exists among the people of Queensland that their State is being overlooked in the allocation of defence expenditure. The great bulk of this money will be expended in the two largest capital cities of Australia. The Premier of Queensland, during the course of a conversation that I had with him this morning, mentioned that for several months he had been urging the Federal Government to take a more generous view of the claim of Queensland for a greater share of the defence expenditure. Had any Minister taken a trip as far north as Thursday Island, visiting some of the wonderful ports of Queensland, or had the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) made an inspection of the state of the defences along the Queensland coast, I believe that he would, reconsider the whole scheme. I urge that the allocation of this expenditure be reconsidered by the Defence Department. Unfortunately, when the present Government arranges for a distinguished military expert to visit Australia, it is found that he has not the time to go further north than the capital city of Brisbane, and sometimes he is not even able to visit Queensland. When representations are made, wo tire told that it is quite unnecessary for him to visit further north than Brisbane. A representative gathering of the citizens of Gladstone urged that Sir Leopold Saville should visit that port and other ports on the Queensland coast, but it was claimed that time did not permit him to do so. and that in any case such a visit was unnecessary.
– The bulk of the information required is already in the possession of the department.
– The same thing could be said of every other port in Australia. Because of the growing anxiety of the people of Queensland at being overlooked, the local authorities of central Queensland about six weeks ago, convened at Rock]] amp ton a conference that I was invited to attend. All of the speechesthere delivered were to the effect that the claims of the districts which the delegates represented were being completely overlooked by the Federal Government. The Minister for Defence may be able to assure me that such is not the case, but so far he has not refuted the contentions of these representatives of local authorities.
I know tha t there will be a limitation of the loan activities of the different State governments because of the huge expenditure on defence. That will have » paralysing effect on. some of the smaller States in which money is not being expended, because road works, water conservation and irrigation works, and other necessary works will be brought to a close; expenditure will be concentrated in two or three centres, with disastrous results to the large army of people who usually follow loan works. Probably 100,000 workmen will be dismissed from their employment. At the present time the Brisbane City Council is faced with the dilemma that it cannot continue to employ 3,000 men because of its inability to obtain the necessary loan money on account of the restrictions imposed by the Loan Council. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) recently informed the representatives of the State governments that any curtailment of employment by the States would be more than counterbalanced by the huge Commonwealth expenditure on defence work. That will be poor consolation to the outlying States if the expenditure is concentrated in two or three localities. 1 consider that the criticism levelled by Queensland Ministers, notably the Premier of the State, at the whole scheme of defence outlined by the Commonwealth has a great deal to justify it. In being asked to approve of this proposed loan of £20,600,000 we are ‘given the opportunity to urge the reconsideration of the intended allocation of the expenditure. It should be possible for the Minister for Defence to assure us that the claims of the more vulnerable parts of Australia are not to be overlooked.
In ‘ view of all the existing circumstances, I shall not press the honorable gentleman for a statement showing the exact location of armaments annexes, on which there is to be an expenditure of £42,000. The one thing certain is that not one annexe is to be established north of Brisbane. Under the bill, provision is made for an expenditure of £216,000 on munitions factories, which are not to be established outside the two largest States. I applaud the very generous attitude adopted by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), who admitted that he represents all the munitions factories of Australia, and yet urged that they should not be concentrated within a mile or two of the coast, but should be decentralized. If the defence scheme is to be properly spread throughout the whole of Australia, surely ‘there should be decentralization of munitions factories, not concentration in one or two- localities. If the Minister will give the assurance that he will consider all of the points I have raised, and that every consideration will be given to the case made out by the Queensland Government at the last conference of Commonwealth and State representatives, it will not be necessary to press the matter further to-night. Those of us who come from the smaller States are responsible to the people whom we represent. There is certainly some cause for the apprehen-sion that very little is being done for those States, and that the tendency always is not to look farther north than Sydney.
Mr. PRICE (Boothby) TI .40 a.m.l.The House is dealing with a proposal involving a sum of £22,000.000. I am of the opinion that the expenditure of this money will not be spread evenly over the whole of the Commonwealth, and naturally I am somewhat concerned on. that account. A good deal is collected from South Australia, and that State feels that it should have returned to it a fair percentage of . the taxes imposed. Sir Leopold Saville recently inquired into the docking facilities that are available in Australia for capital ships. There is considerable need for something of the sort, because there are no docking facilities between Colombo and Melbourne or Sydney. Recently I represented to the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) that the claims of Port Adelaide should be considered in connexion with the provision of such facilities. I was hopeful that Sir Leopold Saville’s report would have been available to this Parliament before now, but I understand that it cannot be forwarded to the Government until he arrives in London. I hope that it will not be delayed long. Frequent references are made to the advisability of establishing the ship-building industry in Australia. I believe that the Government wishes to do’ everything that it can to encourage that particular industry. A few years ago a vessel was built in South Australia and proved a huge success. I am hoping that the time will come when once again Port Adelaide River will be a hive of industrial activity in connexion with shipbuilding.
– If warships are to be built, I should like South Australia to be given a reasonable share of the work. Every State should have returned to it a fair percentage of the money collected in it. That is not so in respect of South Australia.
I hope that this money will be used wisely, and therefore I urge that further investigations be made before it is expended. In many instances, the amounts set down are merely estimates which have not been subjected to critical examination. In my opinion, every undertaking other than those of a minor character should be investigated by ‘ii special committee, such- as the Public Works Committee. The adoption of that practice would save this country many thousands of pounds. I realize ‘that’ it is not wise to give too much publicity to the Government’s proposals in regard to defence, but my experience is that military men are not particularly well equipped to deal with financial or constructional matters.
– That is incorrect.. There are many highly-trained officers in. the Defence Department.
– As regards defence undertakings, I do not think that military authorities, as a general rule, give much consideration to what military works cost. The essential thing with them is - “We want these things - get on with the work”. It is the duty of the members of this Parliament to ensure that tho money of the taxpayers is expended wisely. Even those undertakings which are of a somewhat secret character should be referred to the Public Works Committee before they are put. in hand.
Mr. CONELAN (Griffith) [1.48 a.m. J. - I endorse the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde). On many occasions Queensland members have directed attention to the lack of defence of the northern part of this continent. It would appear that the Government has regard only to the claims of Victoria and New South Wales.
– Does the honorable gentleman suggest that the country’s defence policy should be determined on the basis of State boundaries?
– Our first duty is to protect the most vulnerable part of the Australian coast, which is in the northeastern portion of the continent.
– The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) said that the most vulnerable portion of Australia is the Tasmanian coast.
– I do not. think that the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) will agree with that contention.
– I do not.
– The Government, which is responsible for the defence of Australia, ‘ knows that any aggressor would attack from the east, and that, therefore, the eastern coast of Australia needs to be protected.
– What about, Darwin?
– Darwin has the protection of Singapore. Unfortunately, the Government is dominated by hu inner group, consisting of men from Victoria and New South Wales, who consider only the claims of those States.
– I have not met any Ministers with that outlook.
– Before the winter recess, the Minister for Defence promised that he would see for himself some of the Queensland coastline. .In to-day’s press there is reference to an armed merchant ship in the Pacific Ocean. If the report be true, it is easy to predict, what is likely to happen in the north-east of this continent, The Government should take steps to protect that part of Australia. I do not object, to the raising of this money, but I claim that it should be distributed more, equably among the States. It is true that some money has been expended by the Defence Department in Brisbane in painting the Victoria Barracks, thereby making easier its identification by an enemy. I urge the Government to take action to protect the north-eastern part of Australia.
– If the German authorities at Berlin read Ilansard, they will be inclined to believe from the honorable member’s speech that Queensland is undefended.
– The Premier of Queeusland, .Mr. Forgan Smith, who is. a wise and fair-minded man, is greatly perturbed at the treatment of his State by the Commonwealth Government. Some time ago, he advocated the construction of an inland road for defence purposes, but; the Commonwealth Government was not prepared to assist, in its construction. The Queensland. Government has undertaken to provide a second-class road in that area for defencepurposes. The Government should not restrict its outlook to Victoria ami New South Wales, but should ever have in mind the claims of the continent a> a whole. As any attack on Australia would most likely be directed against either Darwin or some portion of the Queensland coast, I urge the Government to take steps to protect such place?.
– I hope that I shall not be accused of parochialism if I advocate the claims of Newcastle, which is probably more in danger of attack than is any other city in the Commonwealth, in view of the fact that Newcastle is a highly-developed industrial city which produces many basic requirements that arc necessary for the defence of Australia.
The schedule indicates that the sum of £44,000 is to be appropriated for naval establishments. For many years prior to the operation of the financial emergency legislation, there was in Newcastle a naval training establishment for young men who did not desire to join the military arm of the defence force. That training was suddenly discontinued. On several occasions deputations to Ministers, including the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street), have urged that that training be again undertaken, but the only reply that they have- received is that the plans of the Government do not include provision for its re-establishment. I again, urge the Government to reconsider its decision in view of the industrial importance and vulnerability of Newcastle.
For a long time the re-establishment of the ship-building industry has been advocated by representatives of Newcastle. Many deputations have waited on Ministers to urge that something be done in this connexion. I am glad to say that the present Government has granted some assistance, but its efforts have been somewhat nullified by its decision to restrict the bounty to ships of not more than 1,500 tons.. Newcastle has a floating dock which is capable of dealing with ships of ! 2,000 tons. Although the dock is under the control of the State Government, 1. contend that in the present emergency the Commonwealth Government should take charge of it and use it for the benefit of Australia. There are two defence annexes for the manufacture, of munitions.
– The honorable member is lucky.
– We may be in one -tense, but the presence of these annexes rnakes the danger of attack greater and. therefore, it: is a matter of urgency that we. have every means of defence at our disposal. T request the Government to take action in this matter.
. This is a bill to authorize the raising and expenditure of £22,630,000, and in the schedule is set out the manner in which the money is to be expended. A part of this money is to be expended on the Navy, and a certain sum has been allocated for naval construction and additions to the fleet. Is it the intention of the Government to station naval units on the north-eastern coast of Australia? If none of the existing units can be spared for this work, perhaps some of the ships to be built might be stationed there upon their completion. It is proposed, according to this hill, to devote £2,288,000 for naval purposes. We know the cost of building a battleship or a cruiser, so it would appear that it is the intention of the Government to purchase torpedo boats. Naval vessels of that kind would bc admirably suited for service inside the barrier reef. Some honorable members, who support the Government have visited the north, but not many Ministers have done so. If some of the Ministers, and a few of the “ brass hats “ in Melbourne, were to visit the north instead of attempting to deal with northern defences while sitting comfortably in the south, there might be less ground fur complaint. I. notice that it is proposed to expend money on. reserves of scores, including ammunition, torpedoes, &c. We know that the Government has already given consideration to the storage of fuel oil. Seeing that it is intended to station an air squadron at Townsville, I now suggest that the Government should establish oil reservoirs at Charters Towers. On previous occasions, I have brought this matter under the notice of the authorities in Brisbane, but I have received no reply. I hope that some of the money allocated for coastal defences will be expended in the north, a region which so far has not received the consideration to which it is entitled. Those honorable members who represent that area, have persistently placed the case for more defence expenditure before .’.the Minister, who has always been sympathetic, but has done nothing. It is a reflection on this Parliament, and particularly on the Government, that although the people in the north are continually pressing for increased protection Lt ha= been denied to them.
– What about Port Moresby?
– Everybody knows that it is the intention of the Government to put in hand certain works at Port Moresby.
– If the honorable member were to go there he would see that the work has been done.
– That may be, butI have not had time to visit Port Moresby, although I hope to do so later. All my spare time is taken up in visiting the various parts of my own electorate. No doubt the Government means well, but if Port Moresby is to be regarded as our first line of defence, what is the Government doing in regard to what may be termed our “ Siegfried Line “- the principal defences on the mainland? Interest will have to be paid on the money which it is proposed to raise for defence expenditure, and the. people of the north willhave to pay their share of the taxes. Therefore, they are entitled to have some of the money expended in the north.
.The £22,630,000 which is to be raised under this bill should be more equitably distributed. I pay a tribute to the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) for urging the need to defend the portof Newcastle. All honorable members must admit that what he said was perfectly true. Most of our heavy industries are situated at or near Newcastle, and much of the raw material produced in Australia is sent there for manufacture. At Newcastle is situated the major part of Australia’s steel industry, together with many of thesubsidiary industries. Two defence annexes have beenestablished there. Recently there has been continuous agitation for the revival of the naval reserve. There is another great port only 8 or 10 miles by air line from Newcastle, into which a whole fleet could sail abreast, and the waters are navigable for a distance of 14 miles. We can readily understand the concern of the people of the Newcastle district, when they read reports that submarines have been seen off the northern coast of Queensland.
– They were porpoises.
– Surely people living on the sea coast are able to distinguish porpoises from submarines. One must take notice of these rumours. It is alleged that enemy submarines have been seen off Newcastle. We do not know how far the enemy has sent his U-boats and other craft. We have read of the adventures of the Raider in the last war. Recently Australia was visited by a man who played an important part in the destruction of thousands of tons of allied shipping during the period 1914-18. He visited this Parliament.
– And tore up telephone books.
– Yes. We do not know where he is now. We do not know whether he is back in Germany or not. He may be in one of the submarines that are said to have been seen off this coast. Port Stephens has a deep harbour - its use as a naval base has been advocated for years - and if submarines, or for that matter a fleet of hostile vessels of all sorts, got into that harbour, Newcastle and the coal-fields in the surrounding districts could be shelled without hindrance, because it would not he possible to return the fire of the enemy vessels, There would be less danger of that if the Government resurrected the naval reserve that existed at Newcastle throughout the last war, and up to the time of the depression, as urged by the honorable member for Newcastle.
– No submarine will go inside any port and start shelling.
– I do not know about that. They carry big guns. We hear about submarines which shell vessels.
– Unarmed merchantmen.
– Have the coal-fields any arms ? ‘Conceding that Newcastle itself is an armed port, none of the guns there could be trained on raiders inside Port Stephens because of the shelter that that portprovides for any craftwithin it. The honorable member for Calare(Mr. Thorby) does not know the locality as well as I do. Another aspect of this matter is the Jack of suitable road communication between Port Stephens and Newcastle. I travelled from Newcastle to Sydney the other day with a military man who hadjust been to Port Stephens, where there had been sham fighting to ascertain whether an enemy could be driven off. He told me that if enemy vessels could get into the harbour, there would be no way of transporting guns to the locality because there was not a decent road there. What a situation !
What annoys me when matters of defence are discussed in this chamber, is tlie fact that if I and other honorable members, particularly those from Queensland, stress the need for something to bc done in certain localities, we are charged with parochialism. The charge is unfounded; we are endeavouring to defend Australia generally. The honorable member’ for Newcastle could not have a charge of parochialism laid against him in respect of his demand for better defences at Newcastle. It is not Newcastle as such that he wishes to see adequately defended, but Newcastle as the centre of the coal and steel industries of Australia. Naval sloops could be built at the Walsh Island Dockyard, which has lain in disuse for years. The tradesmen and all the necessary raw materials are there. Even if ships ave built at the Cockatoo Island Dockyard, the raw material has to be transported from Newcastle to Sydney. There is n© getting away from the fact that this* Government has the power to take over from the Government, of New South Wales that dockyard at Newcastle, because such power was taken by the Government in the National Security Act.
Another phase of defence that concerns me greatly is the establishment of seaplane bases. A seaplane base- has’ been proposed at Rathmines. Only proposed, mark yon !’ I have- a- week-end cottage near the site of the proposed’ base and I go there frequently. The only activity that I have ever seen is the arrival from rime to time of a seaplane from- Sydney. A seaplane’ base at Rathmines would be of importance, not only in the defence of Newcastle, bw£ also in co-operation with the Navy in Sydney. This matter should be expedited’. I have constantly impressed upon the Government the need for mem to; start work on. the’ job,, but- all that is said in letters to me’ is- that the Government has: not yet determined whether the work will be done by contract’ or day labour.
Apart from the seaplane base at Rathmines, it is proposed that there shall be what will be known as .tha main northern defence aerodrome at Williamstown, throe miles from Port Stephens. Only mapping and surveying have been done there. Why this dilly-dallying? There is an aerodrome already at Cessnock. Front time to tune it has been claimed that the Cessnock aerodrome could be used as a military air base. The Defence Department claims that it is not big enough. I dispute that. Conceding, however, that it is not big enough in present circumstances, there is plenty of land on which it could be extended. I raised this subject in a question and the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Fairbairn) promised to make inquiries. He’ did so and I understand that the authorities have reported that the only land that gould be used for extension is- too hilly. It may be a little hilly, birt it is only sand and gravel, and a plough, a’ scoop, and a few forii.es would enable the rising ground to be levelled into the hollows. To clear another aerodrome in the bush as now proposed would be much; more expensive and would occupy a longer period. The war would be over before the work was done.
It has been claimed by Government supporters that the Australian army is the best paid army in the world. That may be, but you cannot pay too much to men who are prepared to give their lives. Those who have all to lose should be taxed in order to raise sufficient money to pay our; soldiers at least the basic wage, and in order to ensure that on- their return they will receive- the- treatment that they deserve or; if they do1 not return, a’s many will not, to pay their dependants equitable sustenance. There must never be a; repetition. Of the> occurrences in the depression years 1931-32 when the pensions of soldiers and. soldier-sr’ widows and orphans-, workers’ wages- and all social services were- reduced severely kv order to meet the demand’s of the bond-holder.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Rill read a second time. hi- committee:
Ma uses 1 to 3 agreed- ro. i’hi- schedule.
.Will the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) indicate the nature of the expenditure to be incurred in Tasmania? Defence expenditure should not be confined to a particular State or area, but should be expended for the benefit of Australia as a whole. It appears to be the policy of the Government to concentrate its defence activities in the two most populous States to the detriment of other States. The limited expenditure that is being incurred in some States, particularly Tasmania, has caused wide dissatisfaction which is likely to be accentuated. The erection of an annexe at the railway workshops at Launceston would relieve the opposition to the Government’s defence policy to some degree. On numerous occasions, offers have been made to the Commonwealth Government by the Tasmanian Government to co-operate ; but no definite proposal has been forthcoming from the federal authority. In these circumstances i should like the Minister to state precisely the expenditure to be incurred in Tasmania. The State Government also suggested that Sir Leopold Seville should inspect a site for a naval base on the. Tamar. Although that eminent authority on naval construction visited Burnie and Hobart, the Tasmanian Government was informed that the department was in the possession of all the information required concerning the facilities at Launceston. If data were available concerning that port, doubtless all the information concerning other centres was also at its disposal and, consequently, there was no necessity for Sir Leopold Saville to visit Australia. Will the Minister indicate broadly where the money is to he expended in Tasmania and whether the cooperation of the State Government is to be sought? If the expenditure of loan money is to be restricted and men are to be thrown out of employment, it will be impossible to give effect to the Prime Minister’s advice to the nation, “ Business as’ usual “.
– Provision is made in the schedule for the appropriation of £33,000 in connexion with national broadcasting. For some time, I have directed attention to the contributions which the people make through the Australian Broadcasting Commission to the Associated Press for information broadcast through A class stations. When I first raised this subject I was informed by the PostmasterGeneral that the service rendered by the Associated Press to the commission was not costing the commission anything. Listening to the broadcasts of war news over A class stations one would imagine that the whole of the information broadeast was being given gratis by courtesy of the Associated Press; but from information supplied by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), an exPostmasterGeneral, it now appears that either the present Postmaster-General (Mr. Harrison) misunderstood my question or that he gave a misleading answer. He claimed that the service received through the Associated Press was not costing the Australian Broadcasting Commission anything, but we have since been informed by the honorable member for Barker that an agreement was in existence under which a substantial sum of money was paid by the commission for a service which the honorable member for Barker did not think was worth the money paid. We were informed that almost immediately after the agreement was signed it was evaded by the Associated Press by heading special items as being from “ our special correspondent “ ; such items did not come under the agreement with the Postmaster-General’s Department. It will be appreciated that this news service for which the Australian Broadcasting Commission was paying was not the best available, because the Associated Press earmarked tit-bits of reliable information and published it as from their special correspondent. Apparently a new agreement has been entered into and I have endeavoured to elicit some details as to the decision reached at a recent conference. In the first place, I asked whether the main question discussed at the conference was the financial consideration to be paid to the Associated Press by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Although the Minister’s answer was evasive- I believe his intention was to imply that the financial aspect had not been discussed. Since the question was asked another conference has been held and an agreement reached between the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Associated Press for continuance of a certain news service.
– The £33,000 provided in the schedule is for new works and has no relation to an overseas news service.
– I understand that a part of the appropriation is for final payments on works which have been completed for some time, but the Minister cannot evade the issue by the answer which he has given.
– I rise to a point of order. The amount to be appropriated is for national broadcasting services, including the completion of certain payments on new works. It has nothing to do with an overseas news, service; therefore the remarks of the honorable member for Dalley are not in order.
– As there is nothing in the schedule to indicate the nature of the works for which the money is being appropriated the honorable member for Dalley is in order.
– The committee is entitled to refuse to grant to the Postmaster-General’s Department the £33,500 asked for until the PostmasterGeneral explains, not only past expenditure by the commission, but also its future commitments. I desire to be supplied with further details regarding the financial arrangements made with the Associated Press for this new and uptodate news service. The last question I addressed to the Minister for Information (Sir Henry Gullett) was whether provision had been made in the agreement for money to bo rebated to the Commonwealth when it was found that any of the information paid for was not. correct. The remarkable reply that I received was that the financial arrangement made between the commission and the press was not the business of this Parliament. According to the representative of the Government we are not entitled to be supplied with the details of an agreement which the former PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Archie Cameron) implied had not worked out to the best advantage of the Government. The second remarkable reply received was that the
Minister for Information admitted that if the Associated Press had to give to the Government a rebate in respect of incorrect information, it would get nothing at all fj-om the Government. Sooner or later the public, by the simple process of comparing one broadcast of news with another, will get to know that the information paid for and broadcast is just as unreliable as that for which the public pays in tho daily press. The public will want to know why a new agreement was signed, and, above all, whether the Parliament is not entitled to details of financial arrangements made between a government instrumentality and private enterprise. The Postmaster-General cannot dismiss this matter merely by saying that the Minister for Information is dealing with this particular phase of government propaganda.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member has exhausted his time.
, - The sums set out in the schedule are required for the purpose of completing payments for station and studio works already in progress, and for the purchase and installation of the plant and equipment necessary for the efficient operation of the national broadcasting services. That is the only explanation that I have to offer with regard to the item. There is no necessity for me to reply to the other remarks by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), because they have no bearing on the item to which he referred.
– I ask the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) to let me have now, or later by letter, details of the buildings, works and sites referred to under the four headings - Navy, Army, Air Force and Department of Supply and Development. I realize that it would be difficult, to- stateforthwith precisely what expenditure will be required for tools, equipment and other items, but the total expenditure appears to be estimated at roughly £6,000,000. The people are entitled to know where the necessary works are to be constructed. The people of South Australia are most disappointed that apparently, not any of the money will bc expended in that State. Will the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Harrison) give details relating to the item of £227,500 for buildings, works, sites, fittings and furniture to be erected under the control of his department?
– I notice that the amounts to be provided for the Navy, Army and Air Force total about £10,000,000. I propose to inform the committee of what has happened at Darwin in regard to the acquisition of sites for naval purposes. I know that several honorable members have visited the Northern Territory in recent months, and I think that they will agree that in this matter the naval authorities have humbugged the people whom I represent in Darwin, and particularly the business people, for nearly three years. They do not appear to have been able to make up their minds as to what land they need for naval purposes. The officers employed to select sites seem to be not qualified for the work undertaken. To put the case bluntly, they desire to take about one-half of the business area in Darwin. They did. not have the courtesy to discuss the matter with me. I do not take umbrage at the fact that they offered me a gratuitous insult, but I do object to the planning committee appointed by the Government giving such an insult to my late friend, the Surveyor-General of the Northern Territory, a highly-trained technical man who won his spurs in the territory but was not given a horse to ride. It was an insult, not only to the profession of which he was a member, but also to the deceased gentleman personally. We should consider the history of the formation of the so-called planning committee, and ascertain who was responsible for that gratuitous insult, since the only man of technical ability available to guide the committee was ignored. No State government would have insulted a technical officer of such high standing. For three years the naval authorities have dilly-dallied over the selection of sites, but at last, exercising what seem to be plenary powers under the Lands Acquisition Act, they have ruthlessly acquired some of the best sites along the esplanade. The people who went to Dar win in the early days regarded these particular sites as the best available and established their homes on them. It is entirely unfair, therefore, that the naval authorities should now resume these areas and pay a meagre, in fact almost a nominal, compensation to the owners of them. The air of secrecy that has marked the operations of this so-called town-planning committee is to be deplored. The committee’s operations have been marked by the worst features of a bureaucracy.
When steps were taken to provide a proper town-planning scheme for the city of Mackay, in Queensland, a very different procedure was adopted. The present Town Planner of Brisbane, Mr. R. A. McInnis, took the people of Mackay into his confidence. Mr. McInnis is one of three persons in Australia who, to my knowledge, hold the diploma of the Town Planning Institute of London, the other two being Mr. Davidson, of Perth, and Mr. Day, of Adelaide. This is the highest town-planning qualification attainable in theworld. The letter which Mr. McInnis wrote to the Town Clerk of the City Council of Mackay showed clearly the sound and desirable procedure which he adopted. It was as follows: -
Queen Street, Brisbane.
The Town Clerk.
The Mackay City Council,
In accordance with the instructions of your council contained in your letter dated 19th December, 1932, I have the honour to submit herewith a town planning scheme for the city of Mackay, and the report thereon. These have been prepared in conjunction with the Citizens’ Advisory Town Planning Committee, appointed in pursuance of a resolution of the council passed at a meeting held on the 24th January, 1933.
At that meeting I pointed out to your council that, success in gaining much of the information required in the civic survey rested upon the willingness of both the council and the citizens to assist; that many decisions would have to be made, which would materially affect the planning, and which would be of importance to the future of the city; and that it was advisable that the various interests affected should be given every opportunity to record their views and to assist in the planning.
I do not propose to read more of the letter for those paragraphs are sufficient to illustrate my point. The procedure adopted by Mr. McInnis is in marked contrast to that adopted by the body that is masquerading as a town-planning committee at Darwin. That dilettante body which now, happily, seems to be practically extinct, did not appear to know how to set to work to do its job. I am anxious that the Brisbane City Town Planner should be consulted in connexion with the town planning of Darwin. For this reason I sent the following lettergram to the Administrator of the Northern Territory under date the 8th September: -
Have conferred Minister this morning re zoning Darwin prevent blighting Government lands and residential areas that started in Cavanagh-street then Smith-street now encroaching Mitchell-street chief value zoning lies in permanence that all future development protected against depreciation values by undesirable mixture of development while recognizing elasticity under safeguards stop Feel you realize need immediate action stop Minister informed me he preoccupied defence but would welcome your action requesting Lord Mayor Brisbane release few weeks city planner make civic survey prior to submitting zoning scheme your approval stop furtherI recently examined city planner’s valuations chart zoning valuations per acre extending from heart of city stop I submit this similarly tabulated confidential information most necessary enable departments argue resumption compensation claims near future stop telegram from Lord Mayor and Minister Local Government, Queensland, raise no objection loan city planner regards. - Blain.
Three days later I sent a copy of the lettergram to various bodies in Darwin. I did so because I am anxious that Darwin shall be planned on right lines. At present the naval and military authorities appear to be overrunning the place. But Darwin will not always be principally a military and naval centre. The civilians there will again come into their own. It will be deplorable, therefore, if, when that time comes, they find that the planning of the town has been neglected or done in a slovenly, unscientific and unsatisfactory way. I hope that sanity will prevail and that proper methods will be adopted.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- It is regrettable that honorable members who are prepared to show a lively interest in the proceedings of the committee should be required at this early hour of the morning, to address a company of “ deadbeats “. Although this bill provides for the expenditure of £22,630,000 of loan money, honorable members have not been able to obtain any details of the nature of the expenditure or the localities in which it is to be incurred.
I should like some information concerning the Government’s policy in connexion with contractors. I know of one contractor in Glebe, Sydney, who has three different contracts at present. He has a team of men who proceed from one job to the other, with the result that unemployed men who desire work on these contracts are denied it. This, to my mind, is not fair. Work of this kind should as far as possible be shared by all the unemployed who apply for it. I hope that the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) will obtain some information for me on the subject.
The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) made a reasonable request to the Postmaster-General (Mr. Harrison) for information concerning the proposed expenditure on telephone exchanges, trunk lines and other services rendered by the department, but his request was fruitless.
– I gave the honorable member the information he asked for, according to the particulars I have on the schedule.
– The information the Minister gave was not worth having.
I notice a reference in the schedule to fuel oils. No provision is being made to protect oil tanks situated in coastal towns, although representations have been made repeatedly that these should be removed to safe areas. In Newcastle, for instance, tanks at Wickham and Hamilton, which are painted white and are situated right on the coast, offer a prominent target. I also ask how it is proposed to expend the sum of £4,462,000 shown in respect of the Air Force, and land and sea plane equipment? Is any portion of this money to be expended on the seaplane base at Rathmines ?
– Will that work be done by contract or day labour?
– 1 understand that; it will I w done by day labour.
– When will it be commenced ?
– 1 cannot say at the moment.
– I should like to know also to what extent, work will be provided for the unemployed in the erection of aircraft and munitions factories. The committee should also be informed as to the nature of the experimental work for which it i3 now being asked to vote a substantial sum. Recently the Prime Minister visited my electorate, and was shocked at the distress prevailing in many areas. It was suggested to him that private enterprise should be asked to give some measure of preference to the unemployed in connexion with work to be carried out in the annexes. The right honorable gentleman approved of the idea. I should like to know whether any action has been taken in that direction. ls it proposed to carry out any defence works in areas where the unemployed are most numerous? The Postmaster-General ha« indicated that certain money will bo allocated for the improvement of telephonic facilities in country centres. We. know that many tragedies haveoccurred in isolated centres because, through lack of telephonic communication, it was impossible to summon medical aid for persons injured in accidents. Much remains to be done in this direction. The department refuses to install telephone lines in country mitres unless a revenue of £16 a. year from such services is guaranteed.
– The honorable member has exhausted his rime.
Mr. BARNARD (Bass) 1 3.25 a.m. J.I have waited in vain- for some information from Minister’s sitting at the table as to how this money is to be expended. I protest against the action of the. Government in asking honorable members to agree to this huge expenditure when at tho same time we are denied this information. I should like to be furnished with details of the expenditure proposed in connexion with annexes. A very substantia] sum is allocated for that purpose. I can understand the reluctance of Ministers to disclose information which they consider should be kept secret in the interests of public safety. It is obvious that certain details of this kind should not be disclosed, even to Parliament. How ever, I fail to see that any need for secrecy exists in connexion with expenditure on annexes. Nevertheless I have been unable to obtain information on this point. Consequently, I take this opportunity to record my protest against the expenditure of this money. The PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Harrison) has given certain information concerning the expenditure contemplated by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. At, a time like the present I do not think that the commission is justified in expending any substantial sum from loan funds on buildings.
– This expenditure is in respect, of the technical side of the commission’s activities.
– In view of the present crisis the advisability of spending so large a sum as £33,000 from loan even in that direction is open to question. It seems that the commission has quite a substantial amount, of money in hand. It would be quite reasonable for the money for this work to be provided from its own revenues.
– The money paid to the Postmaster-General’s Department goes into Consolidated Revenue; therefore the amount required on the technical side must be budgeted for.
– That is a fairly satisfactory answer on that particular aspect. I have approached the PostmasterGeneral to stress the need for additional automatic exchanges and post offices, and he has very courteously informed me of the difficulty with which he is confronted. I believe that he has a true appreciation of the needs of country centres in this respect, and if he remains in office long enough will grapple with a tremendous problem that confronts the department. Although difficulty will be experienced in obtaining equipment, I hope that he will keep the matter . in mind. I know something of the benefit conferred on the people in country centres by the automatic telephone exchanges and hope that it will be possible to increase at a reasonable rate the number installed.
Thu Minister for Defence (Mr. Street), even at this late stage, might decide to give some information, particularly in regard to annexes. Even if he were to inform me that none is to be established in Tasmania, I should at least know the worst. It cannot bc argued that Tasmania is not suited to the undertaking of this particular class of work. It has the necessary facilities, as well as men who are capable and anxious to engage in the undertaking. If the honorable gentleman’s technical advisers inform him that it is not desirable to do this work in Tasmania, and if New South Wales and Victoria can exercise sufficient influence to retain the bulk of the expenditure in those States, at least the Minister ought to say so.
– The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) wishes to know whether any armament annexes hi’6 to be established in Tasmania. I regret to tell him that at this juncture it is not proposed to establish any.
Several honorable members have asked mc for particulars of certain items in the schedule. Probably the best course would be for me to supply them individually with the lists of works, which necessarily ure long and detailed. Less than a week ago, a reply furnished to the Leader of the Opposition: (Mr. Curtin) set out in some detail the amount spent on defence works in each State. That information can bo related to this schedule.
Mr. BLAIN (Northern Territory) 1 3.33 a.m.].- This bill, by its citation, reminds me of a roaming star. I wish to make to the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) further representations in regard to the way in which money has been wasted in Darwin, and to protest against the refusal to give to the people of that town a voice in its development. Two Ways ugo, I received a letter from a territorian woman. Mrs. J. S. Litchfield, who has reared h family of three boys and three girls. Many years ago she went with her husband as a pioneer to the mouth of the Daly River. She has also taken n. keen interest in the welfare of the whole of the Northern Territory, and she now pleads with me to appeal to this Parliament, and particularly to the Minister for Defence, to see that the reserves of Darwin are not stolen from the people. Her letter reads as follows: -
Here is a matter that you might inquire about in Parliament. Why is Canberra allowing us to be robbed of all our recreation reserves and our parks? Don’t let them tiri I you it is a necessity of war; this was all arranged for long before this war was thought of. Larrakeyah Square has been taken over as portion of the military reserve. Callan Park, between the Club and the Victoria Hotels, isused for water towers and for electric transformer stations, and practically barred to the public. Cavanagh Square, opposite the public school in Peel-street, is almost all taken tip with the electric power house and its extensions, and now the Parap Reserve (gazetted during Colonel Weddell’s term as Administrator) has been taken over for a watersupply station. 1 know we need water and electric light, hut we also need reserves and parks and sports ovals, and the Government has no right to rob us of those without even gazetting the fact that they have been resumed for public utilities. Incidentally, have they thu right in take over gazetted reserves, set apart for Unrest, recreation and comfort of the people? I claim that they are doing an illegal act. How about you taking up the matter in Parliament, and making this matter public? We’ve got iki say here, we have no opportuntiy to protest against this theft of the people’s own property. Cannot you be the voice of the people ?
In a State, an act of parliament would be needed to resume a reserve, but in Darwin the people are living under a bureaucracy. Every ex-Minister for the Interior knows that I have been pounding on this matter for five years. Minister.* and members visit the territory, and return looking wise, but do nothing to prevent needless expense. I hope to have, biter to-day. the privilege of giving evidence before the Public Works Committee. I shall then oppose vigorously the proposed expenditure in Darwin on a newadministrative building, an automatic telephone exchange, and other fantastic works: but as the time at my disposal will be limited, I am taking the opportunity now to express some of my views, r complain of the waste of money. I thought that it was bad enough for settlers in. the Northern Territory to be treated as- south sea Islanders, but- tinmilliner in which this huge expenditure is being dealt with shows that the whole of the people of the Commonwealth are being treated in that way.
We all know the circumstances associated with the sending of a mobile force to Darwin. The discontent among the men was justified because there was no need to treat them so badly. They were housed in Vestey’s old meat works, which at least could have been prepared for them. No technicians - not even a plumber or a carpenter - accompanied the force, with the result that the men had to do their own well-sinking, and try to perform engineering jobs. There is something wrong with an organization which allows such things to take place.
I regret that the proposal for a compound at Darwin was not referred to the Public Works Committee.
– That matter is not covered by this bill.
– I wish now to refer to the building for aircraft at Darwin. It is well known that money has been appropriated for an air force squadron at Darwin, but the delay associated with the project is disgraceful. There must be an inquiry into this matter. On the day on which the present Minister for the Interior (Senator Foll) accepted his portfolio, I posted to him a letter in which I suggested that the Works Department should be organized, as in New South Wales, so that consultant engineers could design and supervise civil works. The Minister must personally visit Darwin in order to see what waste is taking place there.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member’s time has expired.
.Various deputations have urged the reestablishment of the naval reserve at Newcastle. When a deputation waited on the present Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) at Newcastle, the honorable gentleman promised to give consideration to this matter.
– With regret I had to refuse to accede to the wishes of the deputation.
– Now that the nation is at war, there must be a reserve force at Newcastle, which is the centre from which essential war supplies are obtained. Provision is made in this schedule for naval construction, and a fleet of auxiliaries. Are any of the vessels to be built at Newcastle?
– They will be chartered ships.
– Why cannot they be fitted out at Walsh Island Dockyard, which the Government has power to take over and equip ?
– There is no plant there.
– There is a slip there, and it would be easy to install the plant..
– The plant is already installed in Sydney.
– The defence expenditure should be spread to a greater extent than it is.
– The installation of the necessary plant would take two years.
– It would not. For five years there has been an agitation to reopen the Walsh Island Dockyard, but the request has been disregarded by successive governments. For eleven years I have urged that provision be made to make Australia as self-contained as possible in the event of war. I have urged that oil be extracted from coal and shale in sufficient quantities to make us independent of outside sources of fuel. Unfortunately, my warnings have been disregarded. Because there is no plant at Newcastle the raw material has to be taken to Sydney.
– The honorable gentleman is merely boosting a particular place for party political purposes.
– I am not. I am speaking in the national interests. I do not represent Newcastle, but I recognize its great importance to Australia. Newcastle is the Birmingham of the southern seas. Because I urge that the source of our iron and steel be protected, I am accused of boosting Newcastle for party political purposes. I am more concerned for the safety of the youths of this country than is the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby), who has never shown any interest in them. One of the tragedies of this war is that young men who have never had a job will be called upon to defend a country which has done nothing for them. Although £10,000 000 is to be expended under the heading “War Services” we can get no information as to how it is to be expended.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Consideration resumed from the 19th September(vide page 722), onmotion by Mr. Spender -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Mr.ARCHIE CAMERON (BarkerLeader of the Country party) [4.0 a.m.]. - Abill of this description should not be passed without a recognition of the difficulties with which the States will certainly be faced as a result of the intrusion of war-time conditions on their finances. This is likely to be particularly noticeable in regard to some of the smaller States, because the extension of the armaments industry will be mostly in favour of New South Wales and Victoria. The lag of two years in assessing the grants to the claimant States gives rise to many difficulties.There are points in connexion with motor taxation, and the way in which the States have been penalized because of their expenditure on road construction that one might bring before the House if there were in the chamber enough members to discuss them with. In the circumstances, however,I content myself with emphasizing the difficulties that are likely to confront the smaller States because of the present emergency.
– I regret that a bill of this importance has been brought forward for discussion at this hour. In my opinion, the debate shouldbe adjourned so that the matter might be considered at a more appropriate time. I have read through the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, and I cannot understand how it arrives at its recommendations. The allocation of defence works must affect in an important way the financial relations of the States. We have just passed a loan bill authorizing the raising of over £22,000,000, but, very little of this is to be expended in South Australia. The people of that State will be taxed in order to raise the interest on this money, but they will not obtain any benefit from its expenditure. I should bevery glad if it were not necessary for South Australia to come cap in hand to the Federal Government asking for grants. I should like my State tobe in the happy position of New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria. I have consistently advocated the establishment of secondary industries in South Australia, and I hope that one day it will be known as a manufacturing State. When that day comes, we shall not have to ask for so much Commonwealth assistance. I cannot understand why the commission has reduced the grant to South Australia, and I should like the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender) to explain the reason for it. I do not begrudge Western Australia and Tasmania the grants they are receiving, but I cannot understand why the South Australian grant, should be so low.
.- I regret that the Government has brought on this bill at this hour in the morning, but I have something to say on this subject, and I make no apology for saying it even at this hour. The three States of Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania are toreceive grants totalling £2,020,000. Tasmania has been fined £135,000 for reasons set forth by the Commonwealth Grants Commission in paragraphs 197 and 198 of its report. In paragraph 197 it states -
Tasmania has taken steps to deal with the two problems mentioned in our previous report, namely, transport and local government finance. A new transport authority has been set up, anda royal commission is inquiring into local government finance. These arc both wise steps, but whether or not good results will accrue will depend onaction taken by the government responsible.
The commission has also taken into consideration losses sustained on soldiers’ settlement schemes. There may be something in the contention of the commission, hut it is a significant fact that in its last two reports it has been able to find special reasons for reducing the grant which would otherwise have been made to Tasmania. I cast no reflection on the impartiality of the commission. I recognize that its method of fixing the grant is probably the fairest; it is certainly fairer than the method in use before the establishment of the commission; but it is difficultto understand the reasons which prompted the commission in reaching its decisions. According to the statement of the late Honorable Stafford Bird, the revenue of Tasmania in 1900 was £1,054,980, of which £466,218 represented receipts from Tasmania’s own customs, which, constituted no less than 44 -per cent, of the revenue in those pre-federation days. Tasmania, on this account, probably made a greater sacrifice for the purpose of entering federation than did any other Australian colony. The question naturally ti rises as to how Australia has fared since federation. In 1936-37 Tasmania received £883,859 from the Commonwealth out of a total Commonwealth revenue of £82,807,977, this grant representing £1.0674 for every £100 of Commonwealth revenue. The following table sets out how the State of Tasmania has fared since federation: -
Thus, from 1904 to 1937, the percentage of Commonwealth revenue represented by assistance granted to the Tasmanian Trea- sury declined from £2 5s. 2d. to £1 ls. 4d. The total Tasmanian revenue in 1936-37, the last year for which I can get figures, was £3,48S,534, and the Commonwealth’s contribution to that amount was £S83,859, representing £25 6s. 9d. per cent, of the revenue. The following table shows the decline which has taken place in Commonwealth contributions to Tasmanian revenue since 1904-5 : -
Honorable members will thus observe that since 1904-5 there has been a serious declension both in the proportion of Commonwealth revenue contributed directly to the Tasmanian Treasury and in the proportion represented by Commonwealth money to the revenue of Tasmania. Both illustrate the ever-growing financial superiority of the Commonwealth and the inequity of the financial relations between it and the States. The total Commonwealth revenue is more than seven times what it was in 1904-5 and it has almost quadrupled itself between 1913-14 and 1936-37.
The following table compares distribution of Commonwealth money to Tasmania and the other States: -
I should like honorable members to consider how much Tasmania has really gained by the allotment of £319,605 in 1936-37, when Tasmania had paid its share to enable the Commonwealth to give to the other States, at the same time, £6,117,676. Tasmania had not only to contribute its full share to meet its own allotments, but had also to contribute its* full share towards the total allotments, including its own, of £6,447,2S1. Honorable members may remember that, a few years ago, there was a huge -wheat bounty of, I think, something over £3,000,000. The allotment to Tasmanian. wheatgrowers was something like £18,000, and worked out as a benefit of a little more than two pence a head of the Tasmanian population, whilst the increased taxation, which had to be met by Tasmania, to enable the whole wheat bounty to be paid, was between 7s. and 8s. a head. That was the price Tasmania paid for an alleged benefit of £18,000, or two pence a head of the population.
That is all history. Nevertheless, it supports very effectively my contention that for a long period Tasmania has suffered financially as the result of its association with this Commonwealth, yet whenever this subject of Commonwealth grants is raised in this Parliament, honorable members from the welltodoStates, jocularly in some cases and earnestly in others, talk about its being time for removing the burden of these grants. Such criticism is unjustified. Tasmania and the other claimant States still have to maintain the services, education, police and the like, that they had to maintain before federation as part of their economy, whereas they have lost their revenue-producing assets, customs duties, for instance. The young people are raised and educated in Tasmania and many of them, when they reach manhood, leave for the mainland where there is greater scope for them. We have only to reflect for a few moments on the large number of men who are actively associated with the Commonwealth Public Service in Canberra, holding important positions many of them, who received their early training in Tasmania.
This year, the Commonwealth Grants Commission has imposed a special penalty upon Tasmania of £23,000 in addition to the taxation penalty, chiefly on account of losses on soldier settlement. It is dimcult to understand the commission’s point, of view. Losses on soldier settlement operations were decreasing. The loss charged to revenue in 1938-39 was much less than in the previous year. At any rate, losses on soldier settlement are no; peculiar to Tasmania; all States have had worry in that regard. But the Grants Commission is an independent body and it has made its recommendations. Tasmania was afforded its opportunity to place its case before the commission, and while we may not agree with the findings or the reasons for them, there is no alternative but to accept the decision reached. For that reason, I propose to support the bill.
– in reply - When I made my second-reading speech I indicated the basis upon which the Grants Commission had worked in reaching its determinations. The commission indicated in perfectly plain terms why it is impossible to put any monetary value upon the disabilities which the States are alleged to have suffered as the result of federation, and why it has made its recommendations on the basis upon which it works, namely, a comparison of the budgets of the claimant States with those of the nonclaimant States in an attempt to place them on a fairly comparable basis. The commission’s report reveals substantial grounds in support of its findings.
First, with regard to Tasmania, the complaint is made that, as the result of disabilities which that State has suffered since federation, it has lost a share of Commonwealth revenue. I point out to the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) that, since the early days to which he referred, the Commonwealth has had increasing responsibilities. Moreover, there have been increasing benefits to every portion of the country. Certain figures which the honorable member did not put before the House are relevant for the purpose of showing that the calculations of the commission are founded on good sense and fact. In 1937-3S, the Tasmanian economy ou the whole maintained a remarkably high standard, notwithstanding the fall of metal and wool prices. The fact that the Commonwealth Grants Commission proceeds upon the basis of accounts of some time ago, results in there, being always a lag of two years. I have some very illuminating figures which show the substantial improvement of the internal economy of Tasmania and the sound basis of the commission’s calculations. Those figures are contained in the following tables : -
It is interesting to note the high values of mining production in the last two years in t/hat table, because there was a fall of metal prices. That does not suggest that Tasmania suffers many substantial disabilities as the result of federation.
– The honorable member will agree that prices have risen.
– Quite. It is because of these varying factors that it is impossible to put a monetary figure on the alleged disabilities arising from federal tion, excepting by the way in which the Grants Commission has approached the matter. Nevertheless, these are convincing figures which show a substantial improvement in the internal economy of Tasmania. I move on -
Those figures support the recommendation of the Commonwealth Grants
Commission, and in point of fact there is nothing very much of which Tasmania can complain.
– Can the Assistant Treasurer explain the reasons for the reduction of the South Australian grant?
– The grants that have been made to South. Australia in previous years have been: - 1934-35, £1,400,000; 1935-36, £1,500,000; 1936- 37, £1.330,000; 1937-38, £1,200,000; 1938-39, £1,040,000. The budgetary results of the State over the same period were -
It will be seen that the grants paid to South Australia enabled that State to achieve surpluses in four successive years. The deficit of £397,000 for 1938-39 was due in the main to the fall of prices of wheat and wool, declining railway and harbour revenues, increased road expenditure, increased wages and salaries, and additional staff. When the commission determines the amount of grant for the next year it will be based upon the year in which there was a substantial deficit, which I should think will be reflected in the grant for the next year. In regard to the improvement of taxable capacity for all States, with 100 as a base, the figures are : - 1933-34, 74; . 1934-35, 80; 1935-36,88; 1936-37, 89; 1937-38,91. The figures relating to the severity of taxation for all States, with 100 as a base, are- 1933-34, 120; 1934-35,112; 1935-36, 102; 1936-37, 103; 1937-38, 100. These show a remarkable justification for the recommendations embodied inthe commission’s report.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Assent to the following bills re ported : -
DefenceEquipment Bill 1939.
Sales Tax AssessmentBill (No. 5)1939.
Messages from the Governor-General reported on the 16th June (vide page 2121, volume 160), transmitting Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure, and Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New “Works, Buildings, &c., for the financial year ended the 30th June, 1938, and recommending appropriations accordingly.
Consideration resumed of GovernorGeneral’s messages, on motion by Mr. Spender -
That the following further sums he granted to His Majesty to pay the charges during 1937-38 for the special services hereunder specified, viz.: -
.- On the 16th June last, Supplementary Estimates and Supplementary Estimates for Works and Buildings for the financial year 1937-38 were introduced. I then moved that sums amounting to £903,892 he granted for Supplementary Estimates for 1937-3S, and a debate ensued on the motion. As the House rose that day for the winter recess, it was not possible to complete the consideration of these Estimates, It is now proposed to resume consideration of that motion, and, after that is disposed of, to deal with the Supplementary Estimates for Works and Buildings. Copies of the Estimates have been printed and circulated to honorable members.
I submit the Estimates for the consideration of the committee.
– As these Supplementary Estimates arc for the financial year 1937-38 and the money has been expended, I have no desire to delay their passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, towards making good the further Supply granted to His Majesty for Additions. New Works, Buildings, &c. for the year 1937-38, there be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum not exceeding £394,902.
When the Supplementary Estimates for ordinary services were presented, honorable members were informed of the reason for and the procedure adopted with bills of this nature.
This bill provides for an appropriation of £394,902 for expenditure on additions, new works, buildings, &c., which has been met from the vote “ Advance to the Treasurer “ during the year 1937-38. Although the amount of this bill it £394,902, this sum does not represent an amount expended on works and buildings in excess of the original Estimates. Actually, the total expenditure was £169,224 less than the appropriation. Parliament is therefore being asked to approve of new works expenditure which was more than counterbalanced by savings on other works. The main items making up the total are -
I do not propose at this stage to refer in detail to all the items which are included in schedules. The calls on the shares held by the Government in the companies mentioned were not foreseen when the original Estimates were prepared.
– I trust that in future the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender) will endeavour to bring the Supplementary Estimates before the committee within a reasonable period after the expenditure has been incurred.
-i shall endeavour to do so.
.Will the Assistant. Minister explain the item “Subscription to Share Capital, Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, £.50,000 “?
– When the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited was formed, the Commonwealth Government held a majority shareholding of one. From time to time there have been developments in consequence of the company increasing its activities. Under the Articles of Association and the agreement with the company, a provision entitles the Commonweal th to maintain a majority of the shares, although it is not obliged so to do. As improvements have been made and the company’s operations extended, costs have increased. The Commonwealth had the opportunity to decide whether it would maintain its majority shareholding and it has done so. The payment of £50,000 is in pursuance of that course.
.Although I realize that it is futile to deal with the appropriation of money already expended, I support the views expressed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) that it is essential to bring even. Supplementary Estimates before Parliament earlier. I know that the present system cannot be avoided, but I trust the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender) will honour the promise given to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and arrange that in future such Estimates are brought before Parliament at an earlier period.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended.
Resolutions of Ways and Means founded on resolutions of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Mr. Spender andMr. John Lawson do prepare and bring in bills to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
Bill brought up by Mr. Spender, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Bill brought up by Mr. Spender, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Spender) proposed -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.Will the Assistant Treasurer explain the item under division 35 relating to loans for housing in the Australian Capital Territory ?
.-I should be glad to be supplied with information regarding division 21, which relates to grants for country aerodromes.
– I have to inform the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) that applications for loans under the housing ordinance for the erection of privately-owned dwellings by residents of the Australian Capital Territory were more numerous than anticipated. The erection of the residences for which loans were granted proceeded at a more rapid rate than usual, and for this reason instalments of advances which would ordinarily be carried over to the next financialyear had tobe met prior to the 30th June, 1938.
In reply to the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), I point out that it has been the general policy of the Government that departmental funds should be restricted to expenditure on aerodromes and landing grounds required for the operation of Commonwealth subsidized air services or other defence purposes. Many applications for financial assistance towards the construction of aerodromes at certain other country centres have, however, from time to time, been received by the department from the local authorities. After consideration of the matter generally, and as an indication of the desire of the Government to encourage and assist the establishment of country aerodromes by local governing authorities, the Cabinet, in September, 1937, decided to allocate an amount of £10,000 towards assisting local authorities which had in the past shown a very practical interest in the question, and which were then urgently in need of financial assistance to complete the establishment and improvement of aerodromes, all of the States being concerned. From the £10,000 grant referred to the expenditure in 1937-38 totalled £4,737.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee. (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. John Lawson) agreed to-
Th at it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an Act to provide for the payment of a bounty on the production of tractors.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
That Mr. JohnLawson and Mr. Street do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. John Lawson, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure authorizes an extension of the bounty on the production of tractors of the internal combustion engine type for another five years at the following rates, which are the same as the net rates provided in the Iron and Steel Products Bounty Act 1922-1934 as amended by the Financial Emergency Act, 1931:-
These rates of bounty will be paid, if not less than 90 per cent. of the materials and parts used in tractors is of Australian origin. Where Australian materials and parts are less than 90 per cent., the bounty will be reduced in exact proportion thereto, but no bounty will be paid at all unless at least 60 per cent. of the materials and parts is Australian.
The rates of bounty will also be reduced concurrently with any increase that may occur in the customs duties operative at 1st September, 1939, on the types of tractors subject to bounty or on parts of such tractors except pneumatic tyres and tubes. Any such reduction of bounty will, of course, be equivalent to the value of the increase of customs duty.
Under the bill, bounty will for the first time be payable upon two-wheel tractors operated by a pedestrian from the tractor’s handle-bars. Hitherto, bounty has only been payable on four-wheel tractors operated by a person seated on the tractor. Bounty will not be payable on the various cultivator attachments to these two-wheel tractors.
The bill also stipulates that bounty may be withheld from any manufacturer to the extent that payment thereof would cause his net profit to exceed 10 per cent. of the capital actually used in the manufacture and sale of the particular tractors subject to bounty.
Other provisions of the bill relate to standard powers for. the administration of bounty legislation in general.
The bounty on Australian tractors was initiated in 1922 under the Iron and Steel Products Bounty Act, the object being to encourage Australian production without imposing any direct cost burden on users, most of whom are farmers, and especially wheatgrowers. Imported tractors have therefore remained unaffected by protective customs duties - the rates being free under the British preferential tariff, and 10 per cent. for crawler-type tractors or 12½ per cent. for other types under the general tariff.
Under the bounty, local production of tractors has gradually increased to 334 for 1938-39, with a peak output of 455 in 1937-38. During the same period, 1923-24 to 1938-39, imports of tractors have also increased very substantially, the number for 1938-39 being 4,377. The peak number, 11,026, occurred in 1937-38. The general increased use of tractors, both Australian and imported, reflects the marked development of power farming in the Commonwealth with an attendant increase of productive efficiency.
Evidence submitted during the Tariff Board’s recent inquiry into tractor production indicated that the quality and efficiency of Australian tractors have been excellent, and that the selling prices of the tractors compare favorably with those of similar imported tractors. Capital expenditure of approximately £150,000 has already been incurred by the industry, and further substantial outlay is planned by manufacturers to achieve more economical manufacturing operations.
Under previous tractor bounty legislation, manufacturers have not been permitted to receive bounty which would cause their net profit to exceed 15 per cent. of the capital employed, but the maximum rate of profit is reduced to 10 per cent. by the present bill, thus bringing it into conformity with all other similar types of bounty legislation. The maximum profit of 10 per cent. is subject to Federal and State income taxes. The alteration from 15 per cent. to 10 per cent. will result either in reduced payments of bounty by the Commonwealth, or in reduced selling prices for Australian tractors.
In accordance with the Tariff Board’s recommendation, bounty will not be paid on tractors which are exported.
The bill appropriates for bounty’ payments each financial year a sum of £35,000, which will allow for considerable expansion of local production. At present Australian tractors supply only 8 per cent. of the demand, and it is obviously desirable that Australia should be less dependent on overseas sources of supply for a product which is so essential to economical farming methods.
The industry now provides whole-time employment for approximately 250 direct workers. It is, of course, responsible for much additional employment in the manufacture in Australia of materials and parts required by tractor manufacturers.
The industry has proved itself worthy of further encouragement, and is of considerable present and potential value to the Commonwealth. Progress in manufacturing efficiency is reflected in the fact that the rates of bounty in the present bill are 20 per cent. less than those provided in the original legislation. I therefore commend this bill to honorable members as one which merits favorable consideration.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Forde) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. John Lawson) agreed to-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to provide for the payment of a bounty on the production of sulphur.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. John Lawson and Mr. Street do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up Mr. John Lawson, and read a. first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill repeals the Sulphur Bounty Act of 1923, and authorizes an extension of bounty on the production of sulphur for five years on a sliding scale adjusted to a basic rate of £1 7s. a ton which rate is payable when the average cost of imported sulphur for any financial year is £6 a. ton.
As the average cost of imported, sulphur rises or falls from £6 a ton in stages of 13., the actual bounty payable will fall or rise from £1 7s. by ls. a ton, with the proviso that the maximum rate of bounty under any circumstances shall br £1 16s. a ton.
Bounty will be payable on Australian elemental sulphur, or on the sulphur equivalent of sulphuric acid produced from Australian zinc concentrates, iron pyrites and spent oxide. So far, no deposits of elemental sulphur have been found in Australia, and thus bounty is likely to be confined for a considerable period to sulphuric acid production, tho sulphur equivalent of which is almost exactly one-third of the weight of the acid.
In accordance with similar provisions in other bounty acts, the bounty on sulphur will be reduced at any time new or increased customs duties are imposed on imported sulphur by amounts equivalent to those duties.
The bill restricts the payment of bounty so as to restrict the net profit of any producer to not more than 10 per cent, of the capital he actually uses in tho manufacture and. sale of sulphur or sulphuric acid. Only the capital utilized in the production of the actual sulphur upon which bounty is claimed will be taken into account in this regard.
All other provisions in the bill convey the usual powers which experience has proved are essential to the efficient administration of the bounty and the safeguarding of the Commonwealth’s funds.
The production in Australia of sulphuric acid was commenced in 1922, following Australia’s great difficulty during The last war in obtaining supplies even at very high prices. .Sulphur or sulphuric acid is indispensable to the manufacture of fertilizers, many chemicals, matches, certain gunpowder, and other important goods.
At the same time, the Government’s attention was invited to the serious economic waste involved in the nonutilization of the sulphuric acid available in large quantifies in certain minerals :md ores. In Australia this acid had always been wasted in the dispersal of fumes to tho atmosphere during the process of roasting zinc concentrates and iron pyrites for metallurgical purposes.
The Government realized that the establishment of sulphuric acid production in Australia would not only provide a much-needed local source of supply of sulphur thus safe-guarding fertilizers and chemical industries, but would also create considerable new employment in sulphuric acid producing plants and transport industries, additional revenue for State railways, and new opportunities for the profitable investment of Australian capital.
Accordingly, customs duties of 15s. a ton British and £2 10s. a ton general were imposed in June, 1921, on imported sulphur, whereupon the Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited and th” Mr Lyell Mining and Railway Company Limited set about the installation of the necessary sulphur roasting plants at an expenditure which finally amounted to over £1,000,000.
The duties I have mentioned were not made operative until the 31st March, 1922, and they were suspended on the 18th January, 1923. On the 1st September. 1923, however, the present Sulphur Bounty Act became law, whereunder the establishment of local sulphur production was ensured by a bounty -of £2 5s. a ton. No customs duties have applied to imported sulphur since then.
The bounty has always been restricted to the sulphur content, of sulphuric acid produced from Austraiian sulphide ores and concentrates. This policy has been of great benefit to the sections of the metalliferous industry concerned, some millions of tons of concentrates and pyrites having been treated for the recovery of sulphuric acid. In all probability the existence of fairly substantial sources of sulphur in Australia has had a favorable effect on the prices Australian manufacturers of superphosphate have had to pay for foreign sulphur.
Production of sulphuric acid is at present confined to South Australia, Tasmania and New South Wales. Four manufacturers are engaged in producing this acid, the employees numbering 320. These figures will be substantially increased when the mine at Captain’s Flat, New South Wales, is opened next year, as that mine expects to produce annually some 100,000 tons of iron pyrites which will be treated for the recovery of 50,000 tons of sulphur.
Local sulphur production now meets 27 per cent. of Australia’s requirements, but new sources of supply from Captain’s Flat pyrites and expansion of existing outputs are expected to raise local supplies to 50 per cent. or 60 per cent. of all requirements within a short time.
The original bounty of £2 5s. a ton was reduced in July, 1931, to £1 16s. a ton by the Financial Emergency Act. The latter rate will now be reduced to an average of £1 7s. a ton - a saving to the budget of 25 per cent. or £22,000 per annum on the present volume of expenditure.
During the period of the war, it is expected that the cost in Australia of imported sulphur will increase. For every 1s. increase above the present cost of about £6 a ton, the bounty of £1 7s. a ton will fall by1s. a ton. Hence the present bill is likely to save the Commonwealth appreciably more than £22,000 per annum whilst the war continues.
The bill also enables the Minister’s profit limitation powers to be more stringently applied. To such an extent as bounty would cause manufacturers’ net profits to exceed 10 per cent. of the capital they actually use in the particular sulphur upon which bounty is claimed, such bounty will be withheld in future. The permitted profit of 10 per cent. will be subject to Federal and State income taxes.
The annual appropriation of £110,000 from Consolidated Revenue under the bill is only £10,000 more than the provision in the expiring legislation, and is necessary to meet the expanded production of sulphur which is expected in Australia.
Protection of this important industry by means of. a bounty has the merit of keeping superphosphates at the lowest possible price, which is particularly beneficial to many agricultural industries. At present 90 per cent. of our sulphur supplies is used for the manufacture of superphosphates. In addition, as previously stated, local sulphuric acid manufacture renders the treatment of various ores and concentrates more economical than otherwise. Prior to the1922 Bounty Act, the sulphur contents of these materials were utterly wasted.
The sulphuric acid industry has increased its efficiency from time to time.
The latest and most scientific equipment has been installed, and production costs have accordingly been reduced. Hence the Tariff Board reports that it is now possible to maintain the industry on an expanding basis by an average bounty of £1 7s. a ton which is 40 per cent. less than the original bounty of £2 5s.
I feel sure the House will approve the bill as a progressive measure for an efficient and valuable Australian industry.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Forde) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. John Lawson) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue he made for the purposes of a bill for an Act to provide for the payment of a bounty on the production of wire netting.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. John Lawson and Mr. Street do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. John Lawson, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill authorizes an extension of the bounty on the production of wire netting for another five years. The proposed rate of bounty is 9s. 7d. a ton, which is subject to reductions equivalent to any increases that may occur in the present customs duties on imported wire netting. The bill also provides that bounty payments to any manufacturer may be reduced to such extent as they would cause his net profit to exceed 6 per cent. of the capital actually used in the manufacture and sale of wire netting. Bounty will not be paid on exports of wire netting. Other provisions in the bill are merely standard powers for the administration of bounty legislation in general.
A bounty on wire netting was first provided in the Iron and Steel Products Bounty Act 1922 - the rate then being 68s. a ton. This bounty replaced customs duties of 68s. under the British preferential tariff and 105s. under the general tariff which were imposed on imported wire netting in 1920. The change to the bounty method of assisting the industry was due to the desire of the Commonwealth Parliament to relieve users of wire netting, who are very largelyprimary producers, of the burden of maintaining the wire netting industry. Since 1922 the local industry has made remarkable progress. At that time imports of wire netting averaged 1,500 tons each year, and local production was negligible. During the last five years, however, Australian production has averaged 1.6,205 tons per annum, against imports of only. 422 tons. Moreover, Australian manufacturers have recently established an. export trade averaging over 1,600 tons per annum. These results Were achieved during a period wherein the bounty, by reason of the introduction of primage duties, was successively reduced from the original 68s. a ton to 45s. 6d. in 1930 and 12s. early in July, 1931. Later in July, 1931, the bounty was reduced by the Financial Emergency Act to 9s. 7d. a ton, which is the rate in the present bill. Wire netting manufacturers directly employ 503 persons, who receive wages of £2,4.00 a week. The industry also creates considerable indirect employment in the production of the raw materials, fuel, &c, which it uses. The capital employed in wire netting production is approximately £350,000.
The Tariff Board’s report’ of the 30th May, 1939, which has been tabled, expressed the opinion that the bounty could be withdrawn without detriment to the industry. This opinion is undoubtedly correct in regard to most of the output, which is produced by two Well and long established manufacturers in one State who are earning very satisfactory profits. On the other hand, abolition of the bounty would gravely affect the position of a manufacturer in another State who has not had sufficient time to emerge from the difficulties associated with a new enterprise. Moreover, the Government holds the opinion that it is sound and expedient for national reasons to encourage f361 manufacture, wherever possible, in more than one State, especially where the State concerned is very distant from other sources of Australian supply and is a substantial user of wire netting.
Accordingly, the present bill is being submitted to Parliament as a measure which will afford the most recent manufacturer a reasonable opportunity to establish his operations on a firm footing. In view, however, of the general position of the industry as reported by the Tariff Board, the Government has considered it advisable to provide in this particular bill that bounty shall not be paid to such extent as it would cause the net profit of any manufacturer to exceed 6 per cent, per annum, which amount of profit, of course, will be reduced by Federal and State income taxes. This is an exceptionally low rate of permitted profit, the standard rate for all other bounty acts being 10 per cent. Moreover, the permitted profit on wire netting under the expiring Iron and Steel Products Bounty Act is 15 per cent. In view of the 6 per cent, profit limitation, it is not expected that the prosperous manufacturers will be claimants for bounty under the proposed legislation, but the bounty should be a valuable factor in enabling the other manufacturer to maintain and improve his position with the prospect of rendering himself independent of the need for bounty assistance at the end of the new act five years hence. The maximum annual provision in the bill for bounty payments is only £5,000, which is considerably less than bounty payments in previous years, and is not likely to be fully expended. I feel sure that the bill will meet with the approval of honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Forde) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. JoHN Lawson) agreed to-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to provide for the payment of a bounty on the production of raw cotton.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
That Mr. John Lawson and Mr. Street do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. John Lawson, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill he now read a second time.
The .bill provides’ for an extension of bounty on the production of raw cotton for five years from the 1st December, 1939, the basic rate of bounty being 34 d. per lb. when the Liverpool spot price of American middling raw cotton is 6d. per lb. As the Liverpool price varies up or down from 6d. per lb., the basic bounty of 3£d. per lb. will be reduced or increased by an equivalent amount, except that in no circumstances will the bounty be allowed to exceed 5½d. per lb. The bill also provides that the basic rate of bounty and all adjustments thereof will be reduced at any time that customs duties are imposed on imported raw cotton. The reductions of bounty in this respect will be equivalent to the customs duties. At present imported raw cotton is admitted into Australia free of customs duty. An annual sum of £130,000 will be provided from Consolidated Revenue for paying the bounty, but this will be the maximum amount for any calendar year. This specific provision implements recommendations by the Tariff Board. Other general provisions in the bill merely give powers which are essential to the efficient administration of the bounty and the safeguarding of the interests of the Commonwealth.
The present Raw Cotton Bounty Act expires on the 30th November next, anc! the adoption by Parliament of the present bill is now essential in view of the planting operations for the next cotton crop having to commence at once. Without knowledge of Parliament’s intentions as to the future, growers might fear to plant as much cotton as usual, a development which might have adverse effects upon supplies for the expanding requirements of Australian manufacturers. The cottongrowing industry was re-started in Australia in 1920 - after a lapse «f 40 years - under a system of fixed returns to growers guaranteed by State governments for the first four seasons, and then jointly guaranteed by the Commonwealth and each State concerned for another three years. Under these guarantees, the Queensland Government lost £267,920 and the Commonwealth Government lost £170,000. In 1926 the Commonwealth decided to assume full responsibility for protecting the industry, and bounties on the production of seed cotton until 1934, and on raw cotton since then, have been paid by the Commonwealth to an amount of £1,018,643 up to the 8th September, 1939. Losses under guaranteed prices and bounty expenditure have amounted to £1,189,543, which I think must be regarded as distinctly generous Commonwealth assistance to this industry. The basic rates of bounty on Queensland raw cotton under the expiring 1934 Bounty Act were 5£d. for the 1935 season, 4fd. for 1936 and 4£d. for 1937, 1938 and 1939 - all applying to a Liverpool price of 6d. per lb., and all rates except those for 1938 and 1939 being reduced by 20 per cent, under the Financial Emergency Act of 1931. As the actual Liverpool price varied up or down from 6d. per lb. the basic rate of bounty fell or rose accordingly. These bounties have resulted in an average return to farmers of 3.9d. per lb. of seed cotton, or 29 per cent, below the 1920 to 1934 returns of 5£d. per lb. The present bill is the result of a comprehensive inquiry by the Tariff Board, whose report was tabled in Parliament to-day, and has been carefully considered by the Government.
The Board’s report’ indicates that its former high hopes for the success of the industry have not been fulfilled. It draws attention to various unsatisfactory phases of the industry which have combined to cause the average yield of Australian cotton to the acre to fall to very low levels; now much below the yields in most other countries. For triennial periods since the industry was revived in Australia, the average yields of raw cotton have been : -
Even allowing for some dry seasons recently, these figures prove that the industry has retrogressed instead of having improved its position, as it should have done, after actual experience in what was admittedly a new enterprise for practically all farmers in 1920. The Australian results are compared by the Tariff Board with the United States of America average yields from 1930 to 1937 ranging from 157 lb. to 266 lb. an acre, the eight years’ American average being 197 lb. as against 116 lb. in Queensland for the same period. The Tariff Board found that Queensland climatic conditions were too variable and prone to dry periods, to enable reasonably good yields to be obtained sufficiently often, and it suggested the obvious solution of growing cotton under irrigation, as has been done with great success in certain other countries. Cotton yields in Egypt, certain American States, Peru and Russia, where irrigation is utilized, are from three to four times as high as in Queensland, and the crops never fail. The Tariff Board also reported adversely on the efficiency of the industry in regard to cultural and rotation practices, weed control, and the selection and breeding of varieties that will resist pests, disease, and dry weather. Whilst admitting that the selection of varieties has gone a considerable distance towards meeting the needs of the situation, the Tariff Board is convinced that more could and should be done by the industry and its agricultural advisers and experts to evolve and adopt types of cotton more completely suitable to Australian manufacturers’ requirements.
The Tariff Board mentions that evidence tendered on behalf of the Queensland Cotton Board revealed that the latter body, as the authority responsible for producing and selling raw cotton, has never been consulted by the Queensland Department of Agriculture as to the types of cotton that should be grown to suit the requirements of purchasers, that is, spinners and other users. Control of such’ types had been sought for years by the Cotton Board, but without avail. The board states that it should be a stipulation, before legislation to assist the industry is provided, that adequate co-ordination be established between the Department of Agriculture, the Cotton Board, and cotton spinners in all useful matters, particularly as to the selection of the best cotton varieties.
In concluding its comments on the industry, the Tariff Board said: -
The Tariff Board’s criticisms regarding low yields, high production costs, and their causes, were brought under the notice of the Queensland Government, which undertook that its plans for improving the position should pre-eminently and almost exclusively provide for: -
The Queensland Government has also agreed to ensure complete co-operation between its Department of Agriculture, the Queensland Cotton Board, cotton spinners, and the Department of Trade and Customs, on all relevant matters, particularly in regard to the supply at all times of the types of cotton needed by users. Accordingly, the Government has decided to extend the bounty for another five years on the conditions recommended by the Tariff Board. These recommendations involve a reduction of the basic bounty on raw cotton from the present 4¼d. to 3¼d. per lb., based, as usual, on a Liverpool price of 6d. per lb., and a limit of £130,000 on the payment of bounty in any year.
In the cotton-growing industry there are now approximately 2,700 growers, 1,000 field workers, and 2,000 pickers or harvesters ; the ginneries employ 170 persons, the total employment being 5,870. The annual provision of £130,000 is thus equivalent to £22 to each person engaged, or £49 to each grower. The area planted for the 1939 season was 46,000 acres, and £115,000 was paid in a bounty of £2 10s. an acre.
At the present time, the Liverpool price is 7.28d. per lb., having risen from 5.7ld. since the war started. A Liverpool price of 7¼d., if continued throughout the 1940 crop, would mean a bounty of 2d. per lb. under the bill. Such a rate of bounty, with the annual appropriation of £130,000, could be paid on 15,600,000 lb. of raw cotton. Australia’s use of raw cotton is now approximately 20,000,000 lb., but may increase considerably in the near future.
– Can the Minister state what is the total amount paid since the inception of the bounty?
– I am perfectly certain that it considerably exceeds £1,000,000.
It is true that the reduction of1d. per lb. in the present raw cotton bounty will fall on cotton-growers, reducing their return for seed cotton by.35d. per lb. to about 3.6d. per lb. However, for every 1d. per lb. by which the Liverpool price rises, growers benefit by the exchange on sterling, that is, by¼d. per lb. of raw cotton, or one-twelfth of a penny per lb. of seed cotton. The Liverpool price, as I have just mentioned, has recently risen by l½d. per lb. During the world war cotton prices rose to 21d. per lb., and they may be expected to advance this time beyond the present parity. At a Liverpool price of 9¼d. the bounty will cease. Any increase beyond 9¼d. in Liverpool will benefit Australian cotton-growers exclusively.
The bounty of 2d. per lb., which will be payable if the present Liverpool price of 7¼d. continues, is equivalent to a Customs duty of 25 per cent. ad valorem. The basic rate of 3¼percent. on a Liverpool price of 6d. would be equivalent to 49 per cent. ad valorem. The present basic bounty of 4¼d. is equivalent to 64 per cent. ad valorem on a Liverpool price of 6d. per lb. The measure of assistance granted in the bill is regarded as sufficient for an industry which is claimed to be naturally suited to certain parts of Australia.
It is not a function of the Commonwealth, nor within its power directly, to bring about efficient production in any industry. That responsibility falls primarily upon each industry, and also upon the Governments of the States in which each industry is located. At all events, improvements in respect of production efficiency resulting in much higher average yields of cotton an acre, which should have been obtained after the industry’s eighteen years under liberal Commonwealth assistance, aggregating over £1,000,000, are available to cotton growers, and the bounty proposed in the bill will enable all of those growers who are now efficient, or who may become efficient, to derive a satisfactory income.
Debate (on motion by Mr.forde) adjourned.
The following papers were presented : -
Torpedoes, Salvage of -
International Convention (Paris, 12th June, 1934).
Additional Protocol (Paris, 12th January, 1938).
Lands Acquisition Act -Land acquired for
Defence purposes -
Rottnest Island, Western Australia.
South Arm, Tasmania.
Seat of Government (Administration) Act -Statement of Receipts and Expenditure for the Australian Capital Territory for year 1938-39.
House adjourned at 5.38 a.m. ( Friday ).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers : -
2.The rental now paid represents -Hotel
Canberra, 2.238 per cent.; Hotel Wellington, 2.912 per cent.; Hotel Ainslie, 3.695 per cent. - of the original total capital costs as shown in No.1
s asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Control of Prices.
y asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– Representations have been made by the Friendly Societies Council of Western Australia for the inclusion of all drugs in the British Pharmacopoeia in the list of gazetted essential articles. This request is now under consideration.
Lift at Federal Members’ Book, Melbourne.
y asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Concerning the information supplied by the Minister last week, in which he indicated an understatement of £147,961 in the annual losses of the Commonwealth Railways, will he say -
Whether there were any charges for sinking fund payments, long-service leave payments, and exchange on the establishment of the Commonwealth Railways?
When these payments first came into force?
Whether the Commissioner’s annual report for 1937-38 stated that operating result was exclusive of sleeper renewals?
– The information is being obtained.
s. - Yesterday the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) asked a question, without notice, regarding the progress made with the national register and the possibility of its use in connexion with the special force which is being enlisted.
I desire to inform the right honorable member that the analysis of the results of the national register census is proceeding along the lines originally planned, but the coding staff has been increased since the outbreak of war by 50 per cent. and corresponding increases are being made in other sections of the staff. The analysed results will become available progressively as the work proceeds, and it is anticipated that the bulk of the personal cards will have been tabulated by the end of the year.
On the 15th September, the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) asked the following question, without notice -
In view of the fact that employment of temporary clerks who have been appointed in connexion with the national register willbe limited to six months, will the Prime Minister reconsider the decision not to reimburse their fares from Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania, to Melbourne?
I desire to inform the honorable member that, although there would have been no difficulty in securing all the temporary clerks required for the compilation of the national register in Melbourne and Sydney, where most of the work is being undertaken, it was decided that the opportunity should be given to men in each
State to compete for the positions available. As all the clerks required could have been recruited locally without extra costs for travellingexpenses, the Governrnent did not consider that it was justified in undertaking to pay the fares of temporary officers recruited from other centres. Travel warrants were however, provided, subject to subsequent deduction of the amount involved from the salaries of the employees concerned. The officers were selected by competitive examination after public advertisement, in which it was specifically stated that the officers appointed would have to bear the cost of transport from their place of residence to Melbourne or Sydney. Persons seeking employment in this connexion did so. therefore, with a full knowledge of the conditions which would apply, and it is not considered equitable that the conditions of employment as advertised should now be altered. Arrangements have been made to deduct the fares in very easy instalments from the salaries paid to these men.
d asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Sergeant, 10s. a day; corporal, 9s. a day: private, 8s. a day; i.e. 5s. pay a day plus a peace training allowance of 3s. a day.
No allowance was payable for the wife and children of a member whether he was employed or unemployed.
s. - Yesterday the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) asked a question, without notice, as to whether Commonwealth Public Servants who are members of the Militia Forces would have the difference made up between’ their militia pay and their civil pay for the extended period of training announced by me on the 15th September. The honorable member inquired also as to the position of Government railway employees in this connexion.
The conditions which will apply to all permanent Commonwealth employees, and temporary employees (whose employment is not casual), including Commonwealth railway employees, are still as indicated in my replies to questions in the House on the 13th and 19th September.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 September 1939, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1939/19390921_reps_15_161/>.