15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took tie chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the broadcast statement to-day, attributed to the State member for the district, that the development of Glen Davis and the adjacent oil-field has been seriously delayed through the inaction of Commonwealth and State Governments, can the
Assistant Minister for Supply and Development state what is the position at the present time?
– There has been no holdup on the part of the Commonwealth Government. Indeed, there is on the business-paper at the present time notice of abill to ratify an arrangement under which land will be transferred from the company concerned to the Government of New South Wales. It is proposed to erect on that land the model township of Glen Davis. The intention of the Government to ratify that agreement has been officially known for some time and it is hoped that the necessary legislation will be passed during the course of this week.
– Isthe PostmasterGeneral in a position to make a statement in relation to a letter which appeared in to-day’s Sydney Morning H erald above the name of the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Mr. Cleary, in reference to overseas news? Further, will his department take steps to ensure that the commission shall have a news service without interference from the Australian Associated Press?
– The answer to the first part of the honorable gentleman’s first, question is “ No “. As to the second part, I shall give to it consideration.
Administrative Offices, Darwin
Mr. FRANCIS, as chairman, presented the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, together with minutes of evidence and plans, relating to theproposed provision of administrative offices at Darwin in the Northern Territory.
Ordered to be printed. 2nd AUSTRALIAN IMPERIAL FORCE.
– I have received a number of letters from men who enlisted in the 2nd Australian Imperial Force, but were subsequently discharged owing to their second medical examination proving unsatisfactory, stating that they had sold their tools of trade in order to. get into camp, and now find great difficulty in re-establishing themselves in industry. Will the Minister for the Army consider appointing some special tribunal to which these men could apply to have their cases sympathetically considered?
– I shall consider such cases sympathetically, but I remind the right honorable gentleman that recruits are advised to be careful about making definite arrangements until after they have passed their second medical examination, the result of which obviously is unknown when they are first taken on strength. I shall, however, look into any particular case which the right honorable member brings before me, and consider it on principle.
– Can the Prime
Minister inform the House whether it is a fact, as rumoured in Victoria, that British companies cannot get supplies of pig iron from Australian producers, although foreign companies are able to do so?
– I have not heard of these rumours, but I shall have inquiries made into them.
Planning of Darwin
– In view of the an nounced intention of the Government to plan a model city at Glen Davis, and of the continuous representations which I have made for a proper housing scheme for Darwin, where there is at present no proper system of planning, will the Assistant Minister make representations to the Minister for the Interior so that a housing scheme for Darwin may take preference over any other planning scheme in the South ?
– I shall bringthe honorable member’s question beforethe Minister for the Interior.
– Has the attention of the Acting Minister for Supply and Development been drawn to the statement of a official of the Boot
Manufacturers Association that the Minister’s statement in this House in regard to profiteering in boots was only half-baked? Further, will he say whether any additional evidence has been supplied by the Boot Manufacturers Association to justify an increase of prices? If so what is the nature of that information ?
– 1 have not received any reply from the Boot Manufacturers Association in response to my invitation to be supplied with information for tabling in the House, in relation to the serious allegations which I made against certain manufacturers. As to that portion of the honorable member’s question with regard to the specific statement attributed to a representative of the association, I assume that it relates to some remarks at a. meeting . held in Sydney on Saturday night last. In this connexion, I wish to make it clear that the Mr. Goldstein who was referred to at that meeting is not the Mr. Goldstein who was mentioned by me in this House last week.
– In view of the very serious allegations made in this House by the Acting Minister for Supply and Development (Sir Frederick Stewart) against certain boot manufacturers, charging them with conspiracy to defraud the Government with regard to the supply of defence materials and equipment, when does the Government intend, to launch prosecutions against those concerned? If it is not intended to launch prosecutions, what other action does the Government propose to take?
– The statement which I made in this House contained no such allegations as those suggested by the honorable member, although the charges contained in it were serious enough. In any . case, as this matter is to be discussed in this chamber, the honorable member, in common with other honorable members, will have ample scope to express his appreciation or otherwise of the action taken by me in connexion with the matter.
– Will the Minister for the Army make inquiries as to the wearing qualities and general suitability of the boots being supplied to the Militia
Forces and submit his findings to the Acting Minister for Supply and Development (Sir Frederick Stewart) and, through him, to the House?
– I believe that the question of army footwear is being covered in every detail by my colleague the Minister for Supply and Development. If, however, he is not investigating the wearing qualities of the boots I shall do so myself and confer with him.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior expedite the inquiry into charges made for the battery at Tennant Creek to which I referred last week, with a view to the basis of the charges being made comparable to that in operation in South Australia and Victoria?
– Everything possible will be done to expedite the inquiry referred to.
Attitude of New South Wales Government
– Is the Minister for the Army aware of the attitudeadopted by the Government of New South Wales in refusing to allow members of the Militia Force to take their annual leave during their period of military training, and, if so, will he make representations to that Government to remove its objection in order that the training of men during their annual leave maybe facilitated?
– I was not aware of the state of affairs referred to by the honorable member. I shall discuss the matter with the State Government, and see if the position referred to can be rectified.
Cases of Hardship
– Is it a fact that a young man who enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force in Brisbane, and was given a rail warrant to Sydney, was rejected when he attended at the Richmond aerodrome for attestation? Is the Acting Minister for Air aware that since then the young man has been stranded for a fortnight in Sydney because he has not sufficient funds to pay his fare back to Brisbane? If so, will he see that this man is given a rail warrant home, and also that there are no recurrences of such happenings ?
– I am not aware of the circumstances referred ‘to by the honorable gentleman, but I have seen a newspaper report to the same effect. I shall have inquiries made, and see whether any action along the lines suggested by him is practicable.
– I lay on the table copy of an agreement entered into between His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom, and the Governments of the Commonwealth of Australia, New Zealand and India on the one hand, and the Government of the Netherlands on the other hand, for the reciprocal recognition of documents of identity for aircraft personnel. The agreement became effective on. the date of the signing of the note.
– by leave - In a telegram received from Geneva, the Secretary-General of the League of Nations states that he has received a communication, dated the 3rd December, from the permanent delegate of Finland accredited to the League of Nations, intimating that on the 30th November the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics attacked Finnish frontier positions and bombed open Finnish towns from the air. The Finnish Government therefore requested the Secretary-General, in virtue of Articles 11 and 15 of the Covenant, forthwith to summon a meeting of the League Council and Assembly, and to ask them to take the necessary measures to put an end to the aggression. In pursuance of this request, the SecretaryGeneral informed the Commonwealth Government by telegram that he had requested members of the Council to meet at Geneva on the 9th December at noon, and stated that he is submitting to the President of the Assembly a proposal to convoke the Assembly on Monday, the 11 th December, which latter date he will confirm later.
Under Article 11 (1) of the League Covenant, the Secretary-General is bound, on the request of any League member, when a war or threat of war has occurred, forthwith to summon a meeting of the Council. Article 15 of the Covenant is designed to bring disputes between members of the League before the Council and empowers the Council to refer such a dispute to the Assembly. The President of the Council at the present time is the Soviet Ambassador at London, M. Maisky. Australia is not a member of the League Council. So far as the Assembly is concerned, attention is drawn to the fact that the Nineteenth Ordinary Session of the Assembly, held at Geneva in September, 1938, was not closed, but was merely adjourned. The decision to adjourn the session was stated to have been taken in view of the general political situation.
– Can the Minister for External Affairs give me any information as to whether Italy will sit on the Council of the League of Nations when it considers the case of Finland?
– I have no information on that point.
– In view of the decision of the Government to hand over to the Stales the administration of expenditure on various defence works, notwithstanding that the Commonwealth has its own Works Department, how can the Prime Minister reconcile his statement in the press that, in view of this huge expenditure, many persons now unemployed will be absorbed, with the fact that the Government of New South Wales-
– Order !
– Is it a fact that the Government of New South Wales is now transferring unemployed from State emergency relief works to these defence works, thereby saving expense to the State, while not putting one additional man into employment?
– Order! The honorable member should ask his question, not make a statement.
– As the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Grander) would say in similar circumstances, this is a matter which I shall look at. I shall give the honorable member an answer tomorrow.
– How many steeltowered air beacons have been erected in Australia? Is it proposed to replace the steel towers by wooden structures? If so, when will the work be put in hand, and what is the anticipated cost?
– I believe that about eight steel-towered beacons have already been erected. It is proposed to replace them by wooden structures because it has been found in practice that the steel in the masts distorts the beam. I may point out that Australia has pioneeredthis port of directional aid and some adjustment has been found necessary. The wooden lowers are anticipated to cost £500 each. 2nd AUSTRALIAN IMPERIAL FORCE.
– Is it intended that the leave to be given to members of the 2nd Australian Imperial Force at Christmas time is to be regarded as their final leave, or will they be given further leave beforeembarka tion ?
– Speaking subject to alteration of plans, I should saythat the leave given at Christmas will not be the final leave.
– In the different capital cities honorary advisory committees are being appointed to advise the Deputy Commonwealth Prices Commissioners. Will the Minister for Trade and Customs favorably consider a request which I have received from consumers in Perth that a woman be appointed to the advisory committee in Perth, particularly a representative of the Western Australian Consumers League?
– The Prime Minister inquired of all State Premiers whether they desired additional appointments to be made to the State advisor) prices committees, and particularly whether they desired the appointment of a woman representative to such committees. The Premier of Western Australia replied that he did not desire any further appointments to be made to the advisory committee in Western Australia. I may ad d for the honorable gentleman’s information, that the State Premiers were asked to nominate the whole of the personnel of the State advisory committees on prices.
Accommodation for Recrutting Staff
– Is the Minister aware that the facilities for the accommodation, of the recruiting staff of the Royal Australian Air Force at York-street are no different from those provided formerly at Harris-street, Ultimo? In view of these circumstances why has the allowance for the men working at York-street been reduced from. 30s. to 17s. a week?
– I am not familiar with the facts. I shall have inquiries made to see if I can supply information on the point raised by the honorable member.
Allowance to Members of Medical Profession
– I have been in formed that prior to the outbreak of the war, medical men could secure the services of a. locum tenens for from ten guineas to twelve guineas a week, and, in exceptional cases, for fourteen guineas a week. I am informed that the rate now being asked is from eighteen to twenty guineas a week and that only in a few cases is a doctor prepared to act as locum tenens for a fee as low as fourteen guineas, which used to be the maximum fee charged. In view of the fact that the allowance paid to medical men who join the Militia is not nearly sufficient to meet this high charge, will the Minister give consideration to the desirability of consulting with his colleagues in an endeavour to prevent profiteering of this kind ?
– Order ! The latter part of the honorable member’s question is out of order.
-In view of your ruling, sir, I find some difficulty in replying to the question.
– I ruled that the latter part of the question regarding profiteering was out of order. An imputation is not permissible in asking a question. I do not think that that should embarrass the Minister.
– An allowance is made to a medical officer in order to enable him to employ a locum tenens. The payment is made by way of allowance and is not considered to be at a rate which would enable him to pay fully for that service. If the facts are as represented by the honorable member, the matter might well be considered by the British Medical Association, to which I shall make recommendations.
Payment of Guaranteed Price
– Owing to the desperate financial position of many wheatgrowers, particularly those who have already completed their harvest, and their inability to meet their current liabilities in respect of wages, transport and sacks, can the Prime Minister give an indication as to when the first paymentwill be made for wheat already delivered?
– The payment will be made as soon as it is practicable to do so. The Government fully appreciates the position to which the honorable member has referred.
– When considering any adjustment that may be made in the pay of rank and file members of the Militia Forces or the Australian Imperial Force, will the Minister also give consideration to the restoration of the field allowance formerly paid to officers of the forces?
– The question of granting a field allowance has been very fully discussed by the Government. It is not intended that the allowance should be restored.
– When does the Minister for the Interior propose to request the Acting Treasurer tomake available funds for the purpose of allowing the’ Commonwealth Works Department to complete the extensions at Mascot Aerodrome ?
– I am unable to answer the question offhand. I shall make inquiries of my colleague, the Minister for the Interior, and advise the honorable member to-morrow.
Exemption of Pears
– Has cabinet yet considered the proposal that pears be exempted from the pool contemplated for apples and pears? If not, will the Minister give an assurance that that question will be dealt with at the earliest possible moment ?
– I shall convey the honorable member’s request to the Minister for Commerce and advise him of the result later.
– It is just four weeks ago since I asked the Acting Treasurer a question, but asyet I have received no answer. Is the honorable gentleman now in a position to answer it, or do I have to wait to secure the information until the downfall of the Government and its replacementby a responsible Labour government?
– I have nothing further to add to the answer which I have already given to the honorable member.
Use of Australian Timber
– My attention has been drawn to the erection of a number of galvanized iron buildings at the Northam military camp. If any more buildings are to be erected there, will the Minister see that they are constructed of wood, as the heat in that part of Western Australia is oppressive? I understand that wood is largely used in camp buildings in New South Wales.
– I shall lookinto the point raised by the honorable member.
Release from Duty on the Western Front.
– Is there any official confirmation of the statement which appeared in the press yesterday that the French Government is releasing men from the Western Front, believing that there are more men at the front than are deemed to be necessary?
– I have no information whatever which would substantiate what the honorable member has suggested.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce been drawn to a statement by Lord Templemore that the scale of resale prices for the sale of Australian wool to New Zealand, the United States of America and Canada has been fixed? If those prices have been fixed, what are they ?
– My attention has not been drawn to that statement and I have no knowledge of the kind requested by the honorable member, but I shall bring his question before the notice of the Minister for Commerce.
– Have the various defence panels been clothed with plenary powers such as are possessed by the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, or are these bodies purely acting in an advisory capacity?
– I do not quite clearly understand what bodies the honorable member has in mind.
– I referred to defence panels.
– There are several advisory panels. These bodies have an advisory function in relation to defence.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Customs tell me why the Government price for the cornsacks which recently arrived in Sydney is 12s. 4£d. a dozen as against the private quotation of lis. 6d. ?
– The price of cornsacks is based on the cost of landing them at Australian ports. If the honorable member will give me full details, 1 shall have a comprehensive reply prepared.
Report on Visit to Darwin.
– Did the’ four members of the Advisory Panel on Defence Works who visited Darwin recently make any report on the disgraceful and uncoordinated way in which defence works are being carried out at Darwin, particularly the pipe line from the waterworks? Has the Minister for the Army any report which would indicate just what those gentlemen who have technical qualifications think of the chaos?
– Order ! The honorable member continues to make assertions which are quite out of order.
– The Advisory Panel on Defence Works submitted a report which’ did not indicate the unhappy state of.- affairs suggested by the honorable gentleman. That report was made for the Minister for the Interior, and as such it is his property.
CULINARY EQUIPMENT OF THE 2nd AUSTRALIAN IMPERIAL FORCE.
– In order to save those of the recruits to the 2nd Australian Imperial Force who are without means the indignity of borrowing or attempting to borrow money in order to provide themselves with a pannikin, plate, knife, fork and spoon - and one cooked meal for the day on which they enter camp - will the Minister for the Army alter the regulation which sets out that such equipment must be provided by the men?
– Last week I asked the Acting Minister for Air whether A class pilots had been promoted and B class pilots dismissed or discharged from the service, in spite of the fact that they had more experience than the
A class pilots. Since I raised that question, has the attention of the Minister been drawn t’o the fact that B class pilots have been discharged from the Air .Force? Has the Minister any idea when tha Air Board will deign to answer the questions asked on this matter? Will the Minister use his authority, not only te. cancel discharges already effected, but also to prevent further discharges? ‘
– I should be surprised to learn that discharges have been effected as suggested by the honorable member, but if the honorable member will bring particulars to my notice, I shall see that they are investigated. In relation to the particular matter which the honorable member did bring to my notice last week, the full facts, as conveyed by him to me, have been sent to the Air Board, and I am awaiting a reply.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs reconsider the decision to restrict the importation of goods from countries which do not operate on the sterling basis in view of the fact that such restriction must penalize France and other friendly countries. Will the Minister consider, as an alternative, the imposition of restrictions against specific countries ?
– I shall consider the proposal made by the honorable gentleman.
– In view of the fact that many thousands of Imperial ex-soldiers in this country are anxious to serve in the garrison battalions for home defence, will the Minister for the Army facilitate their enlistment, or is there anything to stop them from joining?
– The only thing to stop them is the fact that the garrison battalions are at full strength. Should any vacancies occur the Imperial exservice men will receive every consideration.
– Have any of the cabinet colleagues of the AttorneyGeneral made representations to him in respect of the prospect of launching prosecutions against those who have attempted to profiteer at the expense of the Government - the boot manufacturers, for instance?
– No such representations have been made to me. If the honorable member supplies me with details I shall go into the matter.
– Last week I made representations to the Acting .Treasurer that he should advise the State governments to give full-time employment until Christmas to any persons employed by them as the result of the disbursement of Commonwealth moneys. The Minister said that he would take the matter into consideration. Has he yet done so?
– That is not the precise question that the honorable gentleman asked me.
– That is not true.
-Order ! The honorable member for Denison must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw, but on a point of order, has the Minister any right to say that the question I asked him just now was not the question that I asked him last week? I take exception to the Minister’s statement, and ask that he be made to withdraw.
– There is no point of order. The Minister said that he always had time to give consideration to any questions asked by the honorable member.
– I have, since being asked a question in the House, been in communication with the State governments in an endeavour as quickly as possible to give as much employment as is possible.
– Will the Acting Treasurer give immediate instructions to the State governments that they are to give full-time employment to the unemployed who will benefit from the money supplied by the ‘Commonwealth to the States so that the unemployed will be able to huy things for their wives and children in the same way as the honorable gentleman is able to buy things for his family?
– I have already made it perfectly plain that this money was made available by the Commonwealth for the purpose of giving immediate relief.
– And full-time employ- m ent ?
– And full time employment to as many of the unemployed as possible.
– That was all I wanted to know. I had to punch it out of the honorable gentleman.
– In view of the fact that the coal-fields districts in New South Wales, where so much unemployment’ has prevailed for many years, will not in any way participate in any defence works because the expenditure willbe controlled by the State Government, will the Prime Minister make provision to enable the completion of the aerodrome at Cessnock or a direct Christmas grant to the unemployed themselves?
– I shall consider that matter and I shall advise the honorable member to-morrow.
– by leave - The Government has given further consideration to questions which have been raised on both sides of the House in relation to the pay of the Militia and of the special division. So far as the Militia is concerned, many honorable members have experienced acute embarrassment because they feel that they took part in a campaign to enlist men for ‘the Militia at a rate of pay of 8s. a day, and that the decision of the Government to reduce that pay to 5s. for the special war-time camp of three months is, if not a breach of contract, at least a breach of faith. I want to make it quite clear that the Government, whilst, it sympathizes with the views of these honorable members, does not concede that there is here either a breach of contract or a breach of faith. The truth is that the Militia is not now doing peacetime training, hut is serving in Australia in time of war under the Defence Act.
The decision made by the Government was made because it considers that the payments to Australian militiamen are not in the nature of wages,but should be fixed having regard to all of our vast commitments in relation to defence and with proper regard to the general circumstances of the country. In other words, the call to military service is a call to patriotism. It is not, and cannot be, a mere business deal, and I believe that no Australian expects it to be. But though this is the position, the Government has, as I have indicated, a real desire to do the best possible for the men concerned, and a real appreciation of the difficulties in which many honorable members have honestly found themselves. Those honorable members shrink from a charge of bad faith. So does the Government. Just as judges must be free, not only of bias, but of the appearance of bias, so must governments, as far as possible, avoid even a colorable imitation of bad faith. We have, therefore, decided as follows: -
I turn now to the members ofthe special division, or 2nd Australian Imperial Force. Their rates of pay, as already announced, are, in the case of a private, 5s. a day plus1s. deferred pay after embarkation, plus 3s. for a wife, plus1s. for each child under sixteen, with corresponding provisions, in the case of an unmarried private with dependants. Having regard to the circumstances, which have been a subject of discussion among honorablemembers, some upward adjustment seems desirable. We have, therefore, decided -
The result of this will be that the soldier on demobilization will have more money to tide him over his post-war re-adjustment.
When it is considered that themarried man and the man with dependants get under the decisions already announced more than in the case of the last Australian Imperial Force, honorable members will, I am sure, agree, that this represents a fair and, in all the circumstances, a liberal approach to the problem.
It may assist honorable members to understand the magnitude of the adjustments which I am now announcing when I say that, the estimated additional cost in the case of the Militia for this year is more than £900,000, while the cost of the increased Australian Imperial Force rate will be £1,000 a day for each 20,000 men.
I am not yet in a position to announce the details of the Empire Air Training Scheme, but I can tell honorable members that over its total period its estimated cost to this country will be not less than £50,000,000.
I recognize that the arrangements I have announced involve the apparent anomaly that for a few months the pay of a militiaman will be higher than the pay of an Australian Imperial Force man. But this is a temporary phase only. After the training of the present Militia has been completed, the pay to trainees in the home forces will be 5s. a day, while the Australian Imperial Force rates will be on the higher basis which I have announced. I lay on the table the following paper: -
Rates of Pay of Military Forces - Ministerial Statement. and move -
That the paper be printed.
– Another item on the business-paper for to-day makes it a little difficult to discuss this subject in accordance with the forms of the House, but I have prepared an amendment which seems to me to be in order. I move -
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “the statement be referred back to the Prime Minister to enable a further statement to be made providing for the rates of pay and allowances for the 2nd Australian Imperial Force to be 7s. a day plus1s. a day deferred pay with an allowance of 3s. a day for a wife and1s.6d. a day for each dependent child - the unallotted part of the soldier’s pay to be paid in sterling and for the militia and other mobilized forces the rate for a. private to be 8s. a day and allowances of 3s. a day for a wife and1s. 6d. for each dependent child.”
A fundamental thing to be considered at this juncture is that not only the Australian soldiers, but also the Australian nation, can be glad that this Parliament is meeting, and that the Government is under obligation to come to Parliament to give an account of what it has done and what it proposes to do, and also to take very substantial cognizance of the views that are expressed by honorable members. The debate on the subject of soldiers’ pay was initiated by my colleague, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), immediately after the rates of pay for soldiers had been announced. We have not in any way failed to make clear our view which, I venture to say, is also the view of the people of Australia, that the defence of Australiareposes in its manhood, and that the sacrifices which are to be made by the men of this country shall be made with the country fully realizing that no sacrifice made by any other section of the community can equal, either in character ormagnitude, the sacrifices which are asked of the men who volunteer forservice in the field. We have been faced with the knowledge that in all its transactions in relation to the supply of materials and equipment for the defence of the nation, the Government has acted on the premises that all costs which the contractors or employers shall incur in order to provide materials and goods shall first be made up, and then on top of it all there shall be secured to .them a 5 per cent, emolument for themselves.
– The interest mongers included !
– Something may be said on that matter a little later in the day when another matter on the noticepaper is being considered. There is this to be said in the interest of the soldiers, however, that they are being discriminated against in respect of national policy. For them, the call to patriotism; but for the employer, a strict commercial transaction in which all costs are met and a profit is permitted! That is implicit in the statement which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has just made. I acknowledge that the declaration of the right honorable gentleman represents a considerable improvement in respect of rates of pay and if I describe this as a grudging consent to political necessity, I am only giving expression to a sentiment that must arise when we consider the happenings of the last seven or eight days. To talk of the strong man - an attitude which has been ascribed to the Prime Minister by the newspapers; to talk of the inflexible determination of the right honorable member for Cowper (.Sir Earle Page), and of the Leader of the Country party (Mr. Archie Cameron) to “ stand the Government up “ to see that all that is possible is being done to ensure that the soldiers will get a reasonable rate of pay, is now talk without substance. What has happened makes it clear that some sort of agreement has been reached, basically because it was politically necessary for the Country party and the United Australia party to patch up their differences in view of what had been stated in the House.
– Otherwise, there would have been annihilation by the people.
– I have no doubt that there would have been, annihilation in many- places where it would not have been welcomed.
Let us look at what has been done. The 8nd Australian Imperial Force represents the expeditionary force. The attitude of the Labour party on this subject is quite clear. As 1 said in the House last week, having regard to ail the circumstances of the situation, we are against the despatch of an expeditionary force. I shall not argue the reasons” for that at the moment. I merely say that, since I made my statement, all the evidence that I adduced to show the paramount necessity for conserving our man-power in order to ensure the safety of Australia appears to have gathered weight. There is increasing justification for our concern that the safety and inviolability of the country should be assured to us.
Parenthetically, in discussing the 2nd Australian Imperial Force, may I say that the onus rests on the Government and its supporters to prove that the safety of the country is not lessened as the result of the decision to send away 20,000 of our most effectively trained men from what are generally acknowledged to be rather weak resources in man-power, even if maintained at their maximum.
Having said that, we take the ground that, as the Government has determined to despatch an expeditionary force, the members of it, who are volunteers, shall not be required to make sacrifices, not only in respect to themselves, but also in regard to the amenities of their own homes, completely out of all proportion to those of other sections of the community. At least, our men should be placed in such a position that there will not De exacted from them greater sacrifices in respect of their welfare and their homes and dependants than is to be exacted from contractors who remain in Australia and will make a profit out of the supplying of materials for the defence forces.
What has the right honorable gentleman done ? He has said that he proposes to increase the deferred pay of the members of the Australian Imperial Force, upon embarkation, by ls. a day. But the resources of the volunteers in the 2nd Australian Imperial Force to maintain their wives and dependants while on active service have not been increased by a single farthing as the result of this despicable compromise, made of political necessity during the last 48 hours.
– Order !
– I withdraw the adjective, hut I do not apologize for it. I repeat that the competence of the volunteers in the 2nd Australian Imperial Force to provide for their wives and children while engaged on this service for the nation in the expeditionary force has not been improved by a single farthing as the result of the statement made by the Prime .Minister to-day, which expresses to us the careful and well-thought-out consideration which the Government ha3 given to the views enunciated in Parliament last week. I ask the country, if it is futile to ask the Country party or the Prime Minister: In what way does the economic provision for the post-war circumstances of the soldiers increase their ability to meet the strain while they are actually on active service? There is a clear distinction between the necessities of soldiers and their families and dependants while on active service or for the duration of the war, and the problems that will confront them after they have been demobilized or peace has returned. Why should the soldier be required to endeavour to save something out of his miserable pittance as a soldier in Australia’s proud army in order to adjust himself to the new social and economic life that will face him after the war? I submit that that problem is the responsibility of the government of the day. It should be a matter f or Parliament to prepare for, in advance, insofar as ‘the social and economic situation which is likely to emerge from this terrible struggle can be foreseen. That is our business, not the business of the soldier! What the Prime Minister has said is that the Government will not increase the money that the soldier will draw during the war. Nor will it provide any more money for the wives and children of soldiers during the war. All that it will do is to credit to the soldier’s personal account, as a creditor of this Government, certain money which, when the man has been demobilized, will lessen the obligation of the nation to provide capital equipment to enable him to resume his civil life. If that is the kind of compromise that appeals to the Leader ff the ‘Country party (Mr. Archie Cameron), the right honorable member for Cowper’ (Sir Earle Page) and the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr.
White), I venture to say that it is not the kind that will meet the wishes of the 2nd Australian Imperial Force. It in no way abates the domestic difficulties of the men who volunteer to serve in the 2nd Australian Imperial Force. In that respect it falls far short of the request put forward last week by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. The proposal of the Government actually amounts to this: A soldier will probably allow 3s. a day for his wife ; she will also be entitled to an allotment of 3s. a day from the Government, and ls. a day will he allowed for a child. If there are two children, the weekly income will be augmented by 7s. That will leave the unallotted part of the soldier’s pay, amounting to 2s., to be paid in English shillings. The Prime Minister has not said that the amount drawn overseas will be paid in sterling.
– I said in the corresponding number of English shillings.
– I take it, that means sterling. It is certain that the soldier will spend that money overseas. For the wife and children there will be available only the 3s. a day which the soldier allots. Surely it is not expected that the soldier overseas will be able to allot 4s. a day to his wife. That would be asking too much. So far as the Australian Imperial Force is concerned, the proposal is inadequate and unsatisfactory. It does not meet any of the points raised during the discussion in this House. The allowance of 3s. a day will just pay rent, leaving about 3s. a day for maintenance. I believe that the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) meant what he said about the welfare of Australian children They constitute a tremendous responsibility on the community, particularly when they are dependent on a soldier 13,000 miles away. The Opposition has proposed that ls. 6d. a day should be paid for each dependent child, but the Government has left the rate at ls. a day, which is less than that paid by the State governments for boarding out indigent children. To members of the 2nd Australian Imperial Force who have answered the Prime Minister’s call to service, the Government says that it will allow for the maintenance of their children less than the State governments provide for the maintenance of indigent children. The proposal to add a shilling to the amount of deferred pay is no doubt inspired by the expectation that the soldier will como back with a sum of money that will make it easier for him to take his place in a community after the war, so that the demands on the Government in this respect will be lighter. I admit the magnitude of the problem with which the Government will then be faced, and it will be a good thing if men, on being demobilized, have each a sum of £50, £60 or £100. After the last war it was necessary to give the returned soldiers a gratuity to assist in their re-absorption into civil life. The present problem has arisen because the rates of pay are inadequate to enable soldiers to meet their domestic responsibilities. Many of them are buying houses, and many have other obligations. Some are paying as- much as 15s. a week on the purchase of furniture. Those who are buying their own homes are facing a much more serious obligation than those who are merely renting houses. The wife cannot leave the home and live in a cheap room because she would probably be unable to let the house, and she is committed to go on paying. the instalments. That commitment was entered into in the expectation that the husband would continue to earn £4, £4 10s., or £5, or £5 10s. a week as the case may be. There is no moratorium to safeguard the equity of the soldier, and it must be lost if the payments are not kept tip. The same problem arises in connexion with life assurance policies and contributions to friendly societies, matters which go to the very foundation of self-respecting home life in Australia.
– Does the honorable gentleman know that it was a Labour government that fixed the rates of pay for the last war, and will he tell us what they were?
– It is true that a Labour government fixed the rates for the last war, and that they were less than what the Government now proposes to fix, but does the Prime Minister know what the basic wage was in 1914?
– The Labour Government in 1914 fixed a rate of ls. od. for a wife and 4£d. for each child. The rates which we propose are more than twice those then paid for a wife and three times those for the children.
– I do not have to defend here and now the rates fixed during a bygone generation when the purchasing power of money was altogether different from what it is now.
– The basic wage then was £2 10s. a week.
– The world was on the gold standard then. Now it is off the gold standard. The right honorable gentleman is seeking to make comparisons with 25 years ago when the basic wage was Ss. to 9s. a day, and when thousands of men did not get even that much. Prices were 40 per cent, lower than they are now, yet the right honorable gentleman wants to hark back to those days. Does he happen to know what were the rates of pay during the Crimean War ?
– I never heard so much “ hot air “ talked in my life.
– I am discussing presentday problems in the light of present- day facts. The Prime Minister talks about “ hot air “. lt is not talking “ hot air “ to say that ls. a day is insufficient provision to make for the child of a member of the 2nd Australian Imperial Force. He asks what would be reasonable provision, and I say ls. 6d. a day, or 10s. 6d. a week, would, in the circumstances, be reasonable.
– Even that is nor generous.
– It is not, but we are concerned with the solvency of this country just as much as are the members of any other party. We have not put forward fantastic proposals. The proposal implicit in the amendment of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is consistent with the general standard of payment in Australia at the present time. I know that the Government will have to carry a. tremendous burden in finding £50,000,000 for the Air Force, and another £60,000,000 for defence. Our complaint is that all of the economy, all of the cheese-paring is at the expense of manpower, not at the expense of materials. The savings are not being made by reducing contractors’ profits or by readjusting the business life of the community. All sacrifices in the name of patriotism must be made at the expense of flesh and blood, not of profits.
– It sounds very well, but it does not mean anything.
– The Prime Minister has said that there may be in the minds of militiamen, as in the minds of some honorable members, an idea that the Government gave an undertaking to pay them 8s. a day while they were undergoing training. He acknowledges the obligation of the Government to act fairly to the men, so what does he say? Instead of paying them 8s. a day for one month, and then reducing the amount to 5s. a day for the other three months, they will be paid 8s. a day for the whole period of training. After that, however, the voluntary system is to be abolished, and the compulsory method of enlistment will be extended to other age groups. Men of 23, 24 and 25 will be brought in from the factories, the workshops and the fields. I do not know whether married men will be exempt, hut the rate of pay for all compulsory trainees is to be 5s. a day, regardless of their domestic responsibilities. It is untrue to say that single men have not sometimes as heavy responsibilities as married men. Many men remain unmarried because they have obligations towards younger brothers and sisters, or invalid parents. It is incongruous to make such men serve for 5s. a day while the contractors are allowed to go on making their profits, and while the business life of the community continues without interruption. It is a further example of the Government’s discrimination when it comes to the making of war sacrifices. The position of the Labour party is clear. We have stated what rates we think ought to be paid, but the proposals of the Government do not improve the capacity of members of the Australian ImperialForce to meet current responsibilities. In the case of the Militia, there is intention to enforce compulsory service at 5s. a day after the present trainees have served for three months. That is the solution of the problem offered by the Government. Of course, it is no solution of the problem at all, although it may represent a solution of the political problems of the Government.
.- I second the motion, and reserve my right to speak to it.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).I regard the proceedings before the House as somewhat irregular; they are certainly unusual. The Prime Minister has read a statement and moved “ that the paper be printed “. I realize that the motion cannot be debated without anticipating the debate on an amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) last week. I could not, in justice, or even in sense, rule out the amendment which the Leader of the Opposition has just moved and at the same time allow the debate to continue although the rates proposed in the two amendments are very similar. In the circumstances, realizing that the full debate upon the question of soldiers’ pay will take place on the question now before the Chair, I do not propose to rule the amendment out of order.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has made a much-awaited statement in reference to rates of pay for the members of the Militia and the 2nd Australian Imperial Force. I have never believed that rates of pay for the 2nd Australian Imperial Force or the Citizen Forces should be made a political issue. In the present circumstances it is very easy, perhaps, for members of the Opposition to say what they would do in regard to rates of pay. It is extremely interesting to recall that whereas only last week the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and his followers in this chamber were not prepared to send one solitary soldier out of this country, they are now prepared to give the highest rates of pay to the men who enlist for service which must, according to their view, be confined to the Commonwealth. I do not think that that attitude will receive anything but a chilly reception in the country if and when an opportunity to go to the country is afforded.
– Why not go to the country ?
– There are many reasons why we should not go to the country at the present time, the chief of them being that it would not be in the interests of the Commonwealth that the party opposite should be transferred to the treasury bench. That is a risk which we would have to take at an election.
– The honorable gentleman is not game to go to the country.
– Order ! The honorable member for Hunter must not interject.
– In the minds of many people who were not in any way hostile to the Government there has been a distinct belief, which I believe to have been well founded, that any reduction of the military pay from 8s. to 5s. a day would constitute a breach of faith on the part of the Government. I hold that view, because I was a member of the Government which decided to enlist that voluntary force at 8s. a day.
– For how many days in the year?
– Any military force which is enlisted in this country for home service knows, or ought to know, that in the event of war it is likely to be called up for full-time service. T never expected that, in the event of an outbreak of war, the rate of pay to members of the Militia would be reduced from Ss. to 5s. a day, and I think that, other members of this House who also were members of that Government, held tha same view. The action of the Prime Minister to-day is in accordance with the opinion of a majority in this Parliament, and I believe of a great majority of the people outside Parliament. I compliment the right honorable gentleman on having the wisdom to come before thi3 House and to do what I believe to be the right thing in the circumstances.
– Does not the honorable member think that the Prime Minister has weakened ?
– It is an act not of weakness, but of justice. Recognizing the justice of the claim, the right honorable gentleman -has agreed to make certain concessions and, in the circumstances, I cannot accept the view of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) that he has weakened. An interesting point ari«es out of the statement of the Prime Minister. A man who joins an expeditionary force for service overseas does not do so purely on a monetary basis. If he did, he would be uo other than a mercenary, who enlisted in order to earn a livelihood. Many other motives actuate men when they enlist.
– Have they not a responsibility to their families?
– A man with family responsibilities has also a responsibility to his country.
– Were not the Militia trainees volunteers? Why give them 8s. a <lav?
– Order ! The honorable member for Hunter must not interrupt.
-There is no analogy between the decision of a family man who enlists for home defence and a decision to enlist for overseas service.
This is one of the occasions on which we discover the weakness of the National Registration Act. Had a proper military census been taken at that time, the Government would have had a card index of every man who is fit and able to serve, as well as of the circumstances of his family, and particulars of his military service; and it could have obtained all of the men it required without calling on any volunteers at all. There can be no analogy between the circumstances of the two forces from the point of view of the men. The Government has given effect to the popular will not only in regard to rates of pay, but also in the announcement that these Militia Forces must go into reserve at the end pf three months, and will be regarded as trained troops for home defence, and that compulsory military training will be reintroduced. There will be a bigger measure of compulsory training next year than we hoped a. few days ago. I compliment the Prime Minister and the Government on having arrived at that decision.
– Does the honorable member think that os. a day is fair?
– I think that most of the trainees will be single men. I admit the force of the argument that some nien will be employed making munitions while others will serve in the armed forces. I know the attitude of honorable gentlemen opposite is that there shall notbe any interference with Arbitration Court awards. In the munitions factories of Australia, many employees are working overtime, but so far no one has suggested that there should be an arbitration award for the army. Even honorable members opposite have not discovered a method of laying down the hours of work for men in the fighting service. That would be difficult, because it is the other fellow in the war who fixes the hours of warfare. These points are not without weight, and, perhaps, in the course of time, there may be need for some adjustments. The Government must realize that, with the possibility of rising costs and increased house rents, adjustments may have to be made later. There is, however, nothing in the statement of the Prime Minister to suggest that these are hard-and-fast terms which will be adhered to without variation for the period of the war, regardless of circumstances which may yet arise. In my opinion, the statement of the right honorable gentleman goes a long way to satisfy the request made by this party-
– Another retreat.
– The honorable gentleman ought to have little to say about retreats. The Leader of the Opposition spoke of what ought to be done for the men of the 2nd Australian Imperial Force when they come home. I now ask honorable members opposite whether they are prepared to say that these men shall be given preference in employment when they come back? That is the test. I predict that they will not stand for preference for these men any more than they did for the men who returned from the last war.
– The only preference given to returned soldiers was for pick and shovel work.
– Order ! The Chair has called for order a great many times to-day, but some honorable members have ignored that call. I warn them that the Chair will not repeat its call.
– This is a question which the Opposition cannot avoid. It must tell this country where it stands in regard to the men of the 2nd Australian Imperial Force when they come back from active service. I havea strong suspicion that the Opposition will be as silent as death on that subject. At this juncture, realizing the difficulties confronting the Commonwealth Government, and the Empire generally, particularly since Russia invaded Finland, and the likelihood of other similar ventures, we ought to he doing other things, and therefore I say that the statement of the Prime Minister to-day goes a long way towards doing what the Country party thinks the Government ought to do. We compliment the Prime Minister on his statement.
Motion (by Mr. McCall) proposed-
That the debate be now adjourned.
– Mr. Speaker–
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) having seconded the amendment and reserved his right to speak is entitled to the call.
– I formally seconded the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). The Government has escaped defeat on an important issue by the niggardly concession of1s. a day extra deferred pay which will not be available to the soldiers until after the war. That, concession has won the Country party over to its support, notwithstanding that the extra amount will not be paid to the soldier until after his return from the war. Probably many to whom it is promised will not return to claim it. The Government has an unenviable record of hesitation, vacillation, change of policy, advancingone day and retreating the next, and procrastinating in regard to important matters.
– It specializes in backdowns.
– It rejects the Labour party’s generous amendment moved by me, and it makes a miserable concession of a “ bob “ a day to the men who are to be. the defenders of Australia. Members of the Country party must vote for the amendment if they stand up to the statements made by its former leader, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), and its present Leader (Mr. Archie Cameron). Should that party not support the amendment, it will perform one of the most shameless political somersaults which a party, noted for its political acrobatics, has ever accomplished. By its speeches, the Country party obtains black headlines in the press, and then it scuttles off to safety by moving the adjournment of the debate because it is afraid to defeat the Government and face the electors I believe that in authorizing me to move the amendment which I moved last week, for an increase of pay to members of the 2nd Australian Imperial Force and of the Militia, the Opposition showed clearly where it stands on this subject. I believe also that we can say with confidence thatour attitude has the support of an overwhelming majority of the people of Australia. Millions of pounds are being spent recklessly, and additional millions are being wasted, because of the lack of propersupervision. The rich manufacturers, with their factories working flat-out providing supplies forthe Government, are to be paid, not a niggardly allowance of 5s. a day, but adequate and reasonable profits to cover the capital invested in their industry, plus a charge for supervision. “Cheap soldiers “ seems to be the slogan adopted firstby the Government,and then by the Country party,in order to avoid an election. I was amazedto find that before I, as the seconder of the amendment moved in this House to-day, had an opportunity to speak on it, the Government should have arranged for its whip to confer with the Country party whip to see what could be done to extricate it from the difficulties that confronted it on this question. I am referring to what took place to-day when the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock), in company with the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Gardner), approached the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) and arranged for him to jump up to prevent me from speaking. The Government says that it proposes to cut out the Militia and impose conscription for home defence. This decision has been made simply because the Government wants to get cheap conscript soldiers; it proposes to conscript young men at 5s. a day to avoid its obligation to pay the militiamen 8s. a day.
– The honorable member for Martin is not on a private’s pay.
– Order !
– That is so.
– The honorable member for Martin is not concerned with the pay of the rank and file.
– The Chair will not continue to warn honorable members against disorderly interjections. I assure them that their deputy leader does not need their assistance during this debate.
– There is an old saying, find I believe a true one, that one volunteer is equal to two conscripts, so the Government writes down the value of the services of the conscript by 3s. a day.
– It is trying to run the war on the cheap.
– I am amazed at the attitude of members of the Country party, and at how they have run away from the statements they have made on previous occasions. This is what the Leader of the Country party (Mr. Archie Cameron) said in respect of Militia pay and allowances in this House as recently as the 16th November last -
In respect of military pay and allowances, when the Government tells the fighting men of this country that they and their dependants are to receive a lower standard of living than those who are engaged in private industry, say the manufacture of munitions, it is adopting a policy which, I feel sure, will not to acceptable to the general community.
Last summer there was a great recruiting campaign. I did not take any part in the campaign.
If the Government’s promise meant anything, it meant that the rate of pay wouldbe 8s. at all times, and under all conditions.
The honorable member was speaking as a courageous man, and nobody outside this Parliament then thought that he would retreat to the position which he has taken up to-day; but, from my knowledge of the honorable member and of certain other honorable gentlemen who sit with him, I knew that the stand they then made was dictated purely by party political considerations, and that they would not be prepared to fight for it. When they were asked to stand up to vote for the increases they advocated, they ran away. The honorable member continued -
There were no tags.
– There was a tag in a technical sense. The rate of pay was to bo 5s. a day plus a peace training allowance of 3s. a day.
– Has the allowance been abolished?
– The peace training allowance has been abolished and the rate of pay is Ss. a day.
Air. CAMERON. - If that is the .position, I simply say that it is still more remarkable. The men are training under what may at any minute become service conditions, and it is something new in the world’s history to lay down the principle that the rate of pay in wartime is to be lower than the rate of pay in peacetime.
Yet, to-day, the honorable gentleman attempts to justify the scaling down of rates of pay of the conscripts. The slogan of “ Cheap soldiers “, adopted by the Government, is supported up to the hilt by the gallant Leader of the Country party. Let us consider now the attitude of the former Leader of the Country party (Sir Earle Page) in regard to this matter. The right honorable gentleman in advocating the increase of the child allowance said, in effect, that he was not satisfied, and never would be satisfied, until the child allowance had been increased. He went on to say that the young men of the Militia should be encouraged to get married and to bring children into the world. The right honorable gentleman said -
As I have said, it is important to encourage the marriage of trainees by making proper allowance for wives and children. As the result of constant pressure, .the allowance has been raided from 2s. a day to 2s. fid. and lately to 3s. for wives, while the allowance for children has been raised from Gd. to ad., and then to ls. We should not be satisfied until we make the allowances at least as generous as those in New Zealand, where wives receive 3s. a day, or-one guinea a week, and 10s. 6d. a week is paid for each child, which represents ls. fid. a day. In New Zealand, a man with a wife and two children will receive £2 2s. a week, in addition to his ordinary pay. That is not unreasonalle. In Great Britain, the family allowance is 17s. for a wife, and 22s. for a wife and child. That, however, is in sterling, which represents 21s. 3d. in Australian money for a wife, and 27s. 6d. for a wife and one child, which is almost as much as is given here.
Has any concession been made in respect of the children, wives, or dependants of our soldiers? Certainly not ! Had the members of the Country party stood up to the expectations of people who do not know them as well as we do, they would have been able to force the hand of the Government on this issue. Under pressure the
Government would have capitulated, realizing that if it went to the country on this issue to skin the soldier and, at the same time, continued to permit its wealthy manufacturer supporters to claim liberal profits, the people of Australia would quickly have relegated it to obscurity. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) was also very outspoken on this matter. Addressing this House on th, 16th November last, the honorable gentleman said -
In the proposed Australian air expeditionary force, an aircraftsman is paid 5s. a day, whereas during the last war a second air mechanic received Ss. a day, when Australian currency was at parity with sterling.
The air mechanic at the bottom of the list is to receive pay which is equivalent to that of a private in the infantry. If he should go abroad, he will receive 6s. a day, whereas a mechanic in civil employment receives approximately £5 a week. Under these conditions it is a test of the patriotism of young Australian mechanics to ask them to volunteer for oversea service.
Surely to-day, when mechanics who service aeroplanes require a higher degree of technical skill, the rates of pay should be commensurate with their ability.
A man joining the Royal Australian Engineers in any State will receive, after the deduction of allowances, approximately 8s. 0d. a day. He must be a single man and his service will be confined within Australian shores. Yet an unmarried private in the Australian Infantry Forces will receive 5s. a day, and there are allowances to the married man. A married man will receive 6s.; if he goes overseas he will get 7s. It is entirely wrong that the men who risk their lives overseas should get such a paltry rate of pay when men who enlist locally and who need not go outside Australia. - because the Government is committed definitely against any conscription for overseas service - can obtain rates comparable with the wages which. they would receive in civil life, and face no hardships.
Very little encouragement is given for other men to enlist, the chief factor being the uncertainty regarding the future and the low rates of pay.
He was supported by several other honorable gentlemen opposite who spoke in the same strain. This afternoon they will have an opportunity to show whether they are courageous enough to back up their talk with their votes, and to demonstrate their willingness to do the right thing by those men who have made tremendous sacrifices bv joining the 2nd Australian Imperial Force and in the near future are to be called upon to face the hell overseas. When they go overseas they will sacrifice temporarily, and in many cases permanently, all their worldly prospects, perhaps sacrifice their lives, in the defence of their country, yet the wives and children of many of them will be asked to carry on with a niggardly allowance of £2 9s. a week, an amount insufficient to give them more than £1 a week after paying rent. All that this Government has seen fit to grant to these brave young men is a petty concession of an increased allowance of ls. a day, not to be paid at present, but only after their return to Australia. This meagre pittance has been granted to relieve the Governments of the Commonwealth and the States, but primarily the Commonwealth Government, of the responsibility of having to come to the aid of these unfortunate nien if and when they return to Australia. Compare the treatment of these men with that meted out to the wealthy friends of the Government, the suppliers of war materials. Consider for a moment the liberal allowance paid to men like Sir George Pearce for their services as members of “the various committees set up by the Government. Although many of them are already in receipt of substantial salaries, the Government is quite prepared to pay them a further £500 a year for the additional work they are called upon to do; but when it comes to the remuneration of those who will probably be called upon to storm the Siegfried Line, and to meet the enemy face to face, the best that the Government can do is to offer a niggardly 5s. a day and deferred pay at the rate of 2s. a day, with allowances of 3s. a day for wives and ls. n day for each child. The children’s allowance is 3s. a week less than that paid by the New South Wales and Queensland Child Welfare Departments in respect of indigent children. Is there “ any reason why the charge to the taxpayers of this country in respect of the children of soldiers should be written down below that in respect of an indigent child in the States? If honorable gentlemen opposite who so recently condemned the Government’s proposal had been prepared to stand up to their protestations on behalf of the soldiers and their dependants, they would have forced the Government to grant to soldiers at least the child allowance provided by the State governments for indigent children, namely, 10s. a week. It is monstrous that the Government should come forward with this niggardly con cession. It has quite overlooKed the trend of rising prices and the fact that prices will continue to increase after our soldiers have gone overseas, when profiteers will be busily at work and commercial vampires will have their hands deep into the pockets of the wives and children of soldiers while their beloved ones are fighting on foreign battlefields. Will there be any reconsideration of this matter? We know that as soon as possible the Government will rush to cover and that, once it escapes the criticism of this House, we shall hear no more about the position. It is an obligation on the community to see that the dependants of those who go overseas are adequately and properly provided for. That is a national obligation, which nobody should try to avoid. How many of those men who are to go overseaswere receiving more than the basic wage?’ We know that many of them, as the hon.orable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) lias said, were skilled artisans, and as such were in receipt of a rate of pay much higher than the basic wage. Yet the value of their services is to be written down to 5s. a day.
– This proposal does nothing for them in the meantime.
– That is so. It is nothing but a. “ Kathleen Mavourneen “.
– Some other Government will have to pay it.
– Yes. In effect, the Government says : “ Go overseas, boys. Probably you will never come back, but to those of you who do, we say, we shall leave it to the Government then in power to pay you 2s. a day deferred pay - a shilling we intended to give to you and a bob ‘ with which we bought the Country party over in order to avoid an election “. In effect, the Government has conceded nothing, but it has, by a subterfuge, saved the faces of the Country party and certain members of the United Australia party. The Melbourne Herald, which usually supports the Government, stated in its leading article on the 11th October last-
If ho is a married man. he has responsibilites which h<> has a right to expect will be t.;k”!i nv<;r by the community.
That is fair and reasonable, but has the Government stood up to that? Definitely it has not. The article went on to say- -
The minimum of responsibility is that the community will provide decently …. for the maintenance of his home and his dependants whilst he is on active service.
The Prime Minister said that the Government had made a generous approach to the matter.
How will the Government provide decently for those unfortunate women whom the soldiers will leave behind - those women who will have to pay rent out of j£2 9s. a week? Most of the men who go overseas will be young men, and the bulk of them before their enlistment were earning the basic wage, or, if they were skilled at all, a little more than the basic wage.
– Many of them were on the dole.
– Yes. The commanding officers at the camps have pointed out that large numbers of the recruits entered camp “ absolutely broke “.
– Were any of the commandants on the dole?
– No, they and the other officers are on a much higher scale; hut we do not wish to discriminate between the officer class and the other ranks. As a matter of fact, the amendment which I moved on Thursday would have given proportionate increases to the commissioned officers. The Melbourne Herald also said -
The inadequacy of the separation allowances imposes hardship where it is unfair and unnecessary.
Was there any increase of the separation allowance as a concession? No, only this miserable extra ls. a day deferred pay which the soldiers may get in five years’ time or never. No impartial observer must fail to be astounded at the parsimonious attitude of the Government regarding the payment of soldiers who are prepared to risk their lives to fight for this country. The Government is quite prepared to see that the big business interests are protected, but it is willing to let the soldiers down. I regret that the right honorable member for Cowper, the Leader of the Country party and other honorable members, who from time to time have had a lot to say about this question, have connived with the Government in this matter.
The Labour party’s attitude is clear and definite. The most dangerous task in this war is to be undertaken by those young men who have gallantly rallied to the colours; young men who, on the admission of the right honorable member for Cowper, are the flower of Australia’s manhood; men, moved by an adventurous spirit similar to the spirit that moved the pioneers of this country, whose names are written indelibly in history. Those were the sentiments of the right honorable member for Cowper. If they represent his true feelings, he will not desert the attitude adopted by this party, which he supported as late as last week in this House. I ask honorable members to take no notice of the special pleading of the Prime Minister, but to do the very best for the men who are prepared to sacrifice everything for the defence of their country. They will do that by voting for the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. If it were not for the political ties of honorable members opposite, who are dictated to by the vested interests outside and who were told that under no consideration must there be an election because of the danger of the Labour party occupying the treasury bench, they would rally behind the Leader of the Opposition in this matter. It is the rapacious speculator, the interest-monger, and the profiteer who grows fat at the expense of Australia. who have brought honorable members opposite to heel. Last Friday, the Government was on the brink of defeat, but over the week-end the whips were cracked, not only within the parties but also outside, by the vested interests, represented by the graziers and pastoralists’ associations which are dominated by Dalgety and Company, the New Zealand Finance and Loan Company, Younghusband’s and all those other interests that are growing fat to-day as the result of the arrangements for the sale of our wool clip to Great Britain. Those are the influences behind the Government and the Country, party. We of the Opposition stand where we stood last week - foursquare behind the soldiers of Australia. If honorable gentlemen opposite do the right thing they will, irrespective of their ties to the big interests outside, support the Opposition’s amendment.
Motion (by Mr. McCall) put -
That the debate be now adjourned.
The House divided. (Mb. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– Are there any members of the Commonwealth Parliament holding rank in the Defence Forces of the Commonwealth who are drawing military pay in addition to parliamentary allowances? If so, will the Minister for Defence furnish full particulars to the House ?
– Yes, in both instances.
– Will any member of this Parliament who volunteers to go overseas with the 2nd Australian Imperial Force draw his parliamentary allowance in addition to military pay? If so, why discriminate between members of Parliament and private soldiers?
-I take it that there would be two possible courses open. An honorable member who volunteered could be given leave until the next election, or, on his own initiative, he could resign his seat. That was done on more than one occasion in the last war. If an honorable member were to resign his seat, obviously he -would also resign his parliamentary allowance. If an honorable member were given leave of absence, I take it that the practice of 1.914 would prevail on this occasion.
– On the 1st December, the ‘honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) asked mo a question as to whether the provisions of the Industrial Board Ordinance 1 939 of the Australian Capital Territory would be incorporated, in the Industrial Board Ordinance of the Northern Territory when that ordinance is made? So far as I am aware, it is not proposed to establish an Industrial Board for the Northern Territory on the lines of the Industrial Board for the Australian Capital Territory.
– Has the attention of the Minister for the Army been drawn to any cases in which officers of the Militia Forces or the 2nd Australian
Imperial Force have notified the Government that, for patriotic reasons, they do not intend to draw more than the rate of pay for a private?
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, if there is any process by which the Standing Orders can be amended in order to prevent the possibility of a vote being avoided on matters of public importance such as the one which has just been discussed in this House to-day?
Mr.- BLAIN.- The Minister for the Interior (Senator Foll) has stated to me, both by telegram and by letter, that he is in favour of sending the City Planner of Brisbane to Darwin in order to divide that town into zones, but that it is the function of the Administrator of the Northern Territory to invite the City Planner to carry out that undertaking. In view of that statement and the fact that the Administrator of the Northern Territory visited Canberra last week, I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior if the City Planner of Brisbane has yet been invited to zone Darwin? If not, will the Minister ascertain the reason for the loss, of the opportunity?
– I shall obtain the information and supply it to the honorable member.
– I ask the Acting Treasurer, in view of his endorsement of the statement made by Mr. Gillespie, President of the Bank of New South Wales, that some reduction of the standard of living in Australia, appears to be inevitable, in what way ‘ the Government proposes to bring about a reduction of the standard of living?
– The question asked by the honorable member affects matters which will be dealt with during the budget debate and I am therefore not in a position to answer it at the moment.
– Will the Minister for the Army take immediate steps to give all soldiers in military camps a vote in order to decide whether or not they shall have “wet” canteens?
– Will you, Mr. Speaker, see that a loudspeaker is provided in the chamber so that honorable members may hear what some of the Ministers say. in answer to questions?
– I am convinced even more now than when I replied to another question relating to this matter some time ago, that the conversation of honorable members in the chamber prevents Ministers and others from being heard. The Chair has reproved honorable members on a number of occasions and I do not know what else can be done. I should be glad to prevent these conversations from taking place, but I must receive the co-operation of honorable members to do so.
– I ask the Acting Treasurer whether it will be the policy of the Government, in regard to the raising of future loans for war purposes, to arbitrarily fix the rates of interest rather than leave them to market fluctuations, just as it has arbitrarily fixed the rates of pay of Australian soldiers?
– The honorable member’s question is directed to a matter of policy which cannot be discussed in answer to a question.
Date of Continuous Service
-Can the Minister for the Army make an early announcement of the date when the Militia Forces will go into camp for their three months’ training period, so that members will have an opportunity to set their business and private affairs in order before entering the camp?
– I realize that a great deal of inconvenience is being caused by the delay in making the announcement, and I shall endeavour to have a decision made and announced as soon as possible.
– Can the Minister for the Army explain to the House the procedure by which members of State Parliaments and the Commonwealth Parliament are enabled to obtain commissions in the Army without serving in the ranks ? If some form of preference is given to them, will the Minister ensure that in future they take their chance with the rest of the public who enlist, andthus prevent dissension from arising in the ranks?
– No preference whatever is given to members of State Parliaments or the Commonwealth Parliament in the granting of commissions. In the Australian Forces commissions are given to men who rise from the ranks, except in cases where no qualified member of the Forces is available - for example, in. the event of the opening of a new training centre where there is no one with military experience. In such cases the appointment is made by selection.
– How was the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) selected ?
– The honorable member for Martin had service in the ranks, and I shall be very pleased to make available to honorable members the circumstances surrounding his appointment, because they are entirely above suspicion. If the honorable member for Dalley can inform me of any case in which, an officer has been selected without passing through the ranks, I shall be pleased to give attention to it.
The following bills were received from the Senate and (on motion by Mr. John Lawson) read a first time: -
Sulphur Bounty Bill (No. 2) . 1939.
Tractor Bounty Bill (No. 2) 1939.
Wire Netting Bounty Bill (No. 2) 1939.
Newsprinting Paper Bounty Bill 1939.
Trade Agreement (Brazil)’ Bill 1939.
Trade Agreement (Newfoundland) Bill 1939.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That Standing Order No. 70 - 11 o’clock rule - be suspended for the remainder of this month.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to consolidate and amend the law relating to trade marks and for other purposes.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
Debate resumed from the 1st December, 1939 (vide page 1980), on motion by Mr. Spender -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Mr.CURTIN (Fremantle- Leader of the Opposition) [5.14]. - This loan bill emerges as the result of a second financial statement made to the House last week, by the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Spender), who then outlined the Government’s proposalsto raise the requisite resources with which to finance, its varied and very extraordinary activities consequent upon the declaration of a state of war. In principle the Opposition will not unduly impede the enactment of legislation which is inescapable if we are to carry through the tremendous undertaking to which the nation is committed. At the same time, certain aspects of the monetary policy of the Government are worthy of notice. This loan bill comes before us as the result of a statement in which it was communicated to honorable members that no resort to increased taxation would be made in the present financial year, but that a sum of approximately £25,200,000 would he raised by loan of which about £21,250,000 would be required for the Navy, Army and Air Forces. A large proportion of that amount will be needed for the payment of allowances, and a good deal will also be required for munitions, transport, and the infinite variety of auxiliary services which are related to the general defence plans.
The Acting Treasurer in the course of his financial statement said that the financial policy of the Government involved the raising of loans from the hanking system, and also from the public, but at present did not involvethe use of the taxing power of the Parliament. He added that £12,000,000 had already been borrowed from the banking system. I do not know what rate of interest applied to those loans, nor do I know the rates of interest that will apply to the loans raised under this bill; but the Acting Treasurer stated that the National Security Regulations contained a proviso that the banks, which, 1 take it, mean the banking system, cannot now charge rates of interest on loans in excess of the rates current for similar loans on the 31st August last without the approval of the Treasurer. It is clear, therefore, that the political regulation and control of interest rates, which was regarded by some honorable gentlemen as an impossibility and was said- to be one of the silly ideas that the Labour party put forward at election time, is now to be a positive achievement. In effect, the Acting Treasurer, who is responsible to Parliament for this part of the political policy of the Government, says. that he intends ‘to control interest rates and that they will not be permitted to advance beyond a certain figure without his approval. I acknowledge tha’t this is a very sensible stand for him to take, but I draw attention to the fact that it represents a. complete revolution of financial policy and establishes a principle which we; have frequently been told is impossible: namely, the political regulation and the political veto of the actions of private banks in respect of the raising of loans and the charging of interest rates. This is a very important thing.
I notice also that in order to ensure that money will be available, the Government has intimated to. the general public that, as it desires to borrow money or, in effect and quite properly, to draw from various sources of investment the funds it needs, it intends to take necessary action to direct the course of public investment. This, again, represents a remarkable forward step in the elaboration of the national control over what hitherto has been regarded as a sphere in which it was entirely beyond the capacity of the Parliament or the Government to exercise an influence. For these developments, due no doubt to the pressure of necessity, and achieved only for that reason insofar ;is this Government is concerned, we should be glad. But not even necessity could compel unintelligent things to be done, or impossible courses to be taken. Consequently, what has been done demonstrates the practical wisdom and justifica- tion of Labour’s policy. It is interesting, therefore, to record that, owing to political necessity and the pressure of circumstance, the Government intends to control interest rates and to give direction to private investments and savings in order to carry out projects which it regards as pro-national and pro-social, or at any rate, not anti-national or anti-social in the economic sense, and in order to meet the tremendous financial necessities which it must face.
– I acknowledge the interjection of the Leader of the Country party (Mr. Archie Cameron) as pertinent. Moreover, it gives me the opportunity to point out that the fundamental difference between the honorable gentleman and myself is that I do not make my policy dependent upon my inclusion in a government. That is a distinction that is worthy of note. So long as the Government will accept my policy, I am quite content that good shall be done and I am quite “unconcerned about who shall do it.
– The honorable gentleman is generous !
– In view of the way I have been treated by some honorable members, I think it may be said that. T am handsomely generous.
The schedule of this bill is not informative. An amount of £21,250,000 is to be expended on the Navy, Army and Air Force; but we have been given no details whatever concerning the amount to be expended by the various services. I am sure all honorable members would he grateful if the Acting Treasurer would, at the committee stage, give us some details. There should be some dissection of this tremendous amount of money, and any information of that kind would be welcoined.
.- I support the request of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr.. Curtin1) for more details concerning this proposed expenditure. The purpose of the bill is to authorize loans amounting to about £25,000,000. Honorable members are entitled to some explanation as to how this vast sum of money is to be expended. I shall be glad also if the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Spender) will give me some information of the probable terms for which the loans will be current.
– I am afraid I shall not be able to do that. It will be dependent upon economic conditions.
– Surely the honorable gentleman is able to say whether they will be short-dated, or long term, loans. I shall also be glad to receive some information concerning the proposed interest rates.
It is desirable, when loans of this magnitude are under consideration, to take some note of the state of national economy. The position of Australia to-day is very different from that of 1914-15. At that time the public debt totalled £399,000,000, made up as follows - Commonwealth, £37,000,000; States, £342,000,000; semigovernment, £20,000,000. In 1939, our total national debt is £1,428,000,000, made up as follows : - Commonwealth, £397,000,000; States, £897,000,000; semigovernment, £134,000,000. These figures show an increase in the period of £1,029,000,000, or 270 per cent We must not overlook, at this time, considerations of the resources and capacity of the country to provide the money that is needed.
T wish to say something about the activities of the Loan Council, for, in the final analysis, this Parliament must’ carry the responsibility for all government and semi-government loans of whatsoever kind. In these circumstances honorable members are entitled to a report, from time to time, of the activities and commitments of the Loan Council. I have, on other occasions, referred to the important subject of semi-government borrowings. I am pleased to notice that the Loan Council has taken some notice of these activities, and arrangements have been made by which the requirements of semi-government institutions are placed before the Loan Council. But as I understand the situation, while the applications of semi-government institutions for loans are placed before the council, it does not take the same action in respect of the actual flotations as it takes in respect of government loans. If I am incorrect on this point, I shall be glad to have accurate information.
– The Loan Council is not responsible for the flotation. It simply authorizes the terms of the issue.
– Does it actually do that ? The point is of consequence, because, in the final analysis, this Parliament is responsible. The State parliaments are responsible, up to a certain stage, for semigovernment borrowings; but, as the Commonwealth Parliament is responsible, in the end, for State borrowings, it becomes responsible also for semi-government borrowings. It is not in the best interests of the nation that loans shall be floated by semi-government institutions, individually, at competitive rates. Yet that has occurred quite recently. Certain big public bodies in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane have placed loans on the market in competition. This must, of course, result in an increase of interest rates, which is the very thing that the Loan Council is supposed to prevent.
– The rates have been controlled since the outbreak of the war.
– There does not seem to be a very great deal of control, for while [ was in Brisbane I received an application form in respect of a loan that was being floated by a Melbourne semigovernment instrumentality. I should like an assurance from the Acting Treasurer that these loans are being effectively controlled. If the Loan Council is going to control interest rates and the amount of borrowing by semi-government bodies during the war, it would probably be better for it to take over the issue and control the loans altogether. These loans are being issued at rates higher than those paid by the Loan Council.
I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that the House is entitled to more information regarding the details of this proposed expenditure. Loan moneys may be wasted more easily than ordinary revenue, and that is why the House should look carefully into these financial proposals. I take it that the £25,000,000 for which provision is here made is part of the total loan programme of £48,000,000 for the year.
– That is so.
– The pronouncement of the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Spender) the other day in regard to ,the raising of loans made a distinct departure from previous Commonwealth policy. He said that money might be raised by any of three methods, by revenue, by loan, or by bank credit. To my mind, we are getting very close to the position when we shall he seeking to pay our debts with promissory notes.
– That is not so.
– If this policy is to become a permanent feature of the Government’s financial programme, I cannot see how we are to avoid some further measure of currency depreciation. I know that I am touching upon a very big question, and I do not propose to debate it any further now. I am content merely to draw attention to the possibilities inherent in the policy announced by the Acting Treasurer, and to say that they have not been lo3t sight of by the Country party. On another occasion it may be necessary to go more closely into the method of raising money. We shall watch the experiment with a great deal of interest, and judge it by results.
– I am sorry that the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Spender) has not been able to give more information regarding this proposed loan, and particularly in regard to the rate of interest.
– It has not yet been fixed.
– What is worrying me is the rate of interest on that part of the public debt which is entirely free of State taxation, and largely free of Federal taxation. This loan of £25,000,000 will, I take it, be free of State taxation. I do not know what the total amount is, but probably something between £700,000,000 and £800,000,000 of our public debt comes within this category. We are establishing a class of persons who are putting their money entirely into loans of this description. Before this war is over, it may he necessary to make tremendous efforts to raise revenue, and yet the States are debarred from taxing the income derived from hundreds of millions of pounds invested in Commonwealth loans. I believe that, even if we were to pay a little higher interest, it would be better than to issue loans free of tax. I trust that the Minister will content himself now with asking for Supply, instead of trying to get the budget through during this short session.
Mi-. LAZZARINI (Werriwa) [5.40].- I was astounded to hear the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Spender) say that the terms of this loan had not yet been fixed, and that it had. not been determined whether income would be free of State taxation. We are being asked to authorize the Government to raise a loan not exceeding £25,000,000, but the House is not to have any knowledge of the rate of interest, or whether the return from investment in the loan will be free of interest.
– Does the honorable member know of any case in which the terms of a loan have been published before the authorizing bill is passed?
– There is no reason why we should not know now particulars regarding the taxation of returns. If the States are not to levy taxation on the income from investments in this loan, those returns will bc practically tax free, because the State income tax is far the heavier.
– It depends on the income range.
– I am judging by the tax I have to pay myself, and I know that I pay at least three times as much State tax as Federal tax.
– This has been going on for a long time.
– I know, and at a time like this, when every penny of revenue will be needed, I object to allowing those who invest in gilt-edged securities to escape State income tax. This amounts simply to a hand-out to those who invest their money in such securities.
– The important thing is to obtain money for the Commonweal t!i on the best possible terras.
– There must be other ways of doing it than this. When it is a matter of raising money, proceedings are governed by business principles and nothing else, even in wartime, but when we are dealing with flesh and blood, such considerations as patriotism are expected to enter.
– 1 cannot see any reason why, at the present time, Commonwealth income tax should not be levied in- full on the income from new Commonwealth loans. After the conversion of our internal debt at 4 per cent., a specific undertaking was given that the rate of Federal tax would not be greater than that ruling at a certain date, and I believe that that undertaking was given in respect of many subsequent loans. Although one’s first impulse might be to agree with those who. say that it is unjust to relieve Commonwealth loans from State taxation, I believe that there are good reasons for doing so. In the first place, the rates of tax in the several States differ considerably. For instance, taxation is heavier in Queensland than in Victoria.
– Only on those who can afford to pay it.
– The effect of making a Commonwealth loan subject to State taxation would be that it would not represent an equal investment in all of the States; it would be more attractive to investors in “Victoria than in “Western Australia or Queensland, where the income taxes are higher. . Whatever the value of Commonwealth loans from an investment point of view, it is desirable that it shall be uniform in all of the States. Moreover, if State taxes were imposed on Commonwealth loans in reality, the tax would be paid, not by persons who invested their money in them, but by the Commonwealth Government. Persons with money to lend to the Commonwealth would expect to get some compensation in higher rates of interest for the taxes payable on the income from such loans. After all, loans are competitive.
– In such circumstances, it would be possible for the States to. depreciate the value of Commonwealth loans as investments.
– For the reasons given, we should hesitate to make Commonwealth loans subject to State taxation.
– Should not investors, as well as soldiers, show some patriotism?
– The same cannot be said about continuing on new loans the exemption from increased taxation imposed by the Commonwealth. New loans should bear in full any general increased rate which “ may be imposed by the Commonwealth.
– in reply - As to semigovernment loans, the position is that, in terms of regulations made under the National Security Act dealing with the raising of money, all such loans must, subject to certain exceptions, receive the approval of the Commonwealth Treasurer. The Commonwealth is acting in close collaboration with the States in regard to semi-government loans. Where the sum of £25,000 is not exceeded in any one year, there is freedom to make application on the market for the loan provided that it has the approval of the Treasurer of the State in which the instrumentality is situated. With respect to other loans, the State must obtain the approval of the Commonwealth. That approval applies to, not only the rates, but also the purpose of the loan. The Government realizes the burden which heavy interest rates impose on the people; it. is pursuing a course which will result in low rates.
– Does the Government control the rate of interest on all semigovernment borrowings?
– Yes. In respect of loans totalling less than £25,000 in any. one year control will be by arrangement with the State Treasurers; in respect of loans totalling more than £25,000 direct control by the Commonwealth is exercised.
The terms of this loan pursuant to this bill have not yet been determined, as, obviously., the economic position of the country is in a state of flux. The Government desires authority to borrow this money, which will be raised upon the best terms that the Government can secure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Purpose for which money may be expended).
.- A few days ago. I asked that members should be advised of the details of the contemplated expenditure on defence, and I now repeat the request. When Cabinet has approved of certain works, it is only right that members should be informed.
– I agree with the honorable member.
– The Minister promised that serious consideration would be given to the suggestion, and I hope that the request will be acceded to.
Clause agreed to.
.- I should like some information in relation to the item “ Construction of Airframes and Engines - for Payment to the Credit of Aircraft Trust Account- £292,000 “. Is this money to be expended in connexion with the new scheme of aircraft construction of which Mr. Clapp, who was previously Commissioner of Railways in Victoria, has been placed in charge? If so, can the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Spender) say to what stage the work has advanced ? If he cannot give the information publicly, I should be glad to have it furnished to me by letter.
– I shall post the information to the honorable member.
– I thank the honorable gentleman. I realize that it may not be advisable to publish in the newspapers certain information regarding defence, works. I desire to avoid the centralization of defence activities in one or two States. The work should be spread throughout the Commonwealth to the greatest degree possible. 1 cannot see in the schedule any provision for the relief of unemployment in the more distant States. There will, of course, be some concentration of expenditure in the more thickly populated States, but while that may to some degree be justified, it appears to me that the construction of airframes and engines for aircraft could be carried out at such places as Rockhampton, where 600 men are employed in railway workshops, or at similar establishments at Townsville, Ipswich, and Main Junction, Brisbane. Similarly, some of the work could be undertaken by the railway workships in South Australia. “Western Australia, and probably Tasmania also. Numbers of young men desire to come under the Commonwealth scheme for the training of artisans in the manufacture of aircraft. At present few opportunities exist for such training in places like Rockhampton and Townsville.
– That is true also of Brisbane.
– Yes, and other places also. The Acting Treasurer may be able to tell us how far-flung these activities will be, and how many young men are to be trained under the scheme. Information as to the conditions of training, such as the ages of those eligible for training, would be appreciated. Members frequently receive inquiries from young men who, for one reason or another, have missed the opportunity to learn trades. Many of these young fellows are mechanically inclined; but unless given opportunities for training, they are likely to be cast on the industrial scrap-heap.
– The Acting Minister for the Air has made a statement on the subject.
– I do not ask for information which it would not be advisable to make public, but I should be glad to receive by letter, if not in the House, information regarding this item.
.- Under the heading “Navy, Under Control of Department of Defence”, it is proposed to expend £21,500. I am interested particularly in the item “ Naval Establishments - Machinery and Plant and Wireless Telegraphy Equipment, £7,100 “ and desire to know whether that item covers the installation of equipment to connect Flinders Island with the mainland of Australia and Tasmania.
– Not under this bill.
– I am disappointed to learn that that is so, because this is an important matter in the defence of Australia. I hope that the time is not far distant when something will be doneto provide the communication to which I have so frequently referred. The PostmasterGeneral has indicated that something might be done in this connexion, and I had hoped that portion of this money would be expended to install wireless telegraphy equipment at Flinders Island.
I have frequently stressed the need for decentralization, particularly in respect of the manufacture of our defence requirements. Unfortunately, however, centralization is becoming a feature of the policy of the Government. We have the spectacle of the centralization of Ministers in a city outside the National Capital - of which I strongly disapprove - and also of the various departments in the two main cities in Australia, namely, Sydney and Melbourne. Decentralization, particularly of those industries engaged in the manufacture of our war material, is vitally necessary for the adequate defence of this country. If those industries which are engaged in the manufacture of dc-fence supplies wore sca ttered throughout the Commonwealth, we should be in a far better position to repel successfully a raid upon this country. The policy of this Government, unfortunately, is not directed towards the achievement of that very desirable end; Only last week I was supplied by the Acting Minister for Supply and Development (Sir Frederick Stewart) with particulars relating to contracts let in Australia during recent months which showed very definitely that centralization is taking place. The figures supplied by the honorable gentleman were startling, and, to some degree, alarming, and proved that definite encouragement is given to the centralization of important and vital industries in the principal capital cities. Efforts should he made to manufacture a large proportion of our requirements of munitions in the various railway workshops throughout Australia. When the question of defence annexes was under consideration, there was a good deal of talk as to the suitability of the Launceston railway workshops to undertake the work; but nothing has subsequently been done in regard to . the matter. Apparently in an attempt to lull those who live iri the distant, States into a sense of false security, the Government believes in promising that something will be done; but in actual fact it does nothing. I have raised this question on numerous occasions, and I shall continue to do so, because the Government’s policy of centralization is inexcusable. Contracts valued at over £2,000,000 and £1,000,000 were let in Victoria and New South Wales respectively within the last few months, but very little, if anything, is being done in the smaller States. Ministers have endeavoured to white-wash the issue by saying that, although the contracts have been let in those cities, it does not necessarily follow that all of the raw materials are to be supplied from them. That is perfectly true, but the fact remains that the centralization which is taking place to an alarming degree, if not encouraged by the Government, is at least overlooked by it. The Government is composed mainly of Ministers from Sydney and Melbourne and is consciously, or unconsciously, being influenced by their leaning towards the city from which they come. I urge the Minister to give serious consideration to the desirability of adopting a policy of decentralization of key industries, because of their importance in the defence of this country.
. -I should like to say a word about the appropriation of £21,250,000 for war services under the control of the Defence Department. That is practically the whole amount to be appropriated in the scheel u I o. Honorable members are entitled to more information than is contained in the very brief description by the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Spender) of the items on which that money is to be expended. As a matter of fact, included in the item are salaries and wages and also amounts for the purchase of equipment and plant. It is most unusual to borrow money for the payment of salaries and wages of that kind. I realize, of course, that in the circumstances it is necessary to do so now, but I suggest to the honorable gentleman that we should be given some details regarding the value of the physical assets which it is proposed to purchase out, of the appropriation of £21,250,000. Gradually this Parliament is losing control over government expenditure in this way, and I take this opportunity to place on record my protest against the lack of details supplied in regard to this large appropriation.
.- With respect to the criticism directed by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly), the difficulty is to determine how much detail should be given. Many of the items are very small. and to supply details in respect of all of them would require the preparation of a good deal of information.
– I suggest that we are at least entitled to know how much of this appropriation will be utilized for the purpose of paying salaries and wages, and how much of it will be devoted to the actual purchase of plant and equipment.
– I shall endeavour to itemize the expenditure on general lines in order to indicate how much is chargeable to one particular item and how much to another.
With regard to the item dealing with aircraft mentioned by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), the provision of £292,000 is for the Supply and Development Department, and represents the amount by which the cost of manufacturing Beauforts in this country exceeds the recoveries from the United Kingdom and the Royal Australian Air Force votes. If the honorable gentleman desires further details I shall ascertain from the Acting Minister for the Air (Mr. Holt) if they can be obtained.
Clause agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 6.10 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 1st December, 1939 (vide page 1979), on motion by Mr. Spender -
That the bill be now read a second time.
. -I welcome the exemption from tax of the first 25 oz. of gold gained by a prospector. I trust that the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Spender) will take an early opportunity to visit the gold-fields because I do not guarantee that the reprieve which the Government had to-day will be of long duration. If the Minister does that he will recognize the wisdom shown ‘by the Government in sparing the small prospectors from the burden of this proposed new tax. Whilst on the subject of prospecting, I take opportunity to mention that I have received a note from a man at Hanging Rock in New South Wales complaining that, whereas the price of gold to-day is about £10 12s. 6d. an oz. he was paid by an agent only £8 an oz. and was thus defrauded of part of the reward for his toil.
– It is very difficult to police that sort of thing.
– Undoubtedly. It is not the job of the Acting Treasurer to do so, in any case. I am arranging to have the matter taken up by honorable members from New South Wales constituencies.
This tax will be imposed on gold won in New Guinea and no doubt on that won in Papua.
– Yes, Papua. The bill specifies all the territories of the Commonwealth and they include Papua. New Guinea is specifically mentioned because it is mandated territory.
– Yes, I realized that Papua would be subjected to the tax. Now, in New Guinea, under the old Mining Ordinance, a. royalty of 5 per cent. was collected on all gold and, before a prospector was allowed to go into the hinterland at one time, he had to produce £500. Of course, it was necessary before any one would be allowed to go into the uncontrolled areas of New Guinea that he should be able to produce means. The natives in those areas do not possess the same christian spirit as we would like to believe that, we possess. I made several complaints in this House and in letters to the Minister for the Interior against the indiscriminate collection from prospectors by the New Guinea Legislative Council of that 5 per cent. royalty. It showed that the people in charge there have the planter mind andno sympathy with gold-mining. However, an amended Mining Ordinance, which received the Governor-General’s assent on the 23rd September, 1939, provides that -
Where the total royalty, as determined finally by the warden under section sixty-one of this Ordinance, paid during a half-year “commencing after the coming into operation of this section by any person exclusively engaged in mining during that half-year doss not amount to Thirty pounds, the Administrator shall -
The Minister in Charge of External Territories (Mr. Perkins) has informed me that up to £600 value of gold per annum no royalty is paid. From £600 to £1,200 per annum, royalty is paid on a sliding scale, and when output reaches £1,200 per annum, the rebate of royalty ceases altogether and the full amount is paid. I am grateful for that information. What I want to know now is whether the tax now proposed in this bill will be an additional tax on gold won in New Guinea. I take it that it will. That means that once a man in New Guinea has produced 25 oz. of gold, worth about £265 12s. 6d., at to-day’s rates, in a year he will be taxed on any further gold that he produces. I trust that the Minister will reply on that aspect and that further consideration will be given to the matter so that New Guinea prospectors will have at least the same treatment as they receive from the New Guinea Administration.
I wish now to deal with Western Australia’s position. I do not find fault with any proposal to tax the amount by which the price of gold exceeds £9 per oz., hut I do consider that the tax should not be imposed on non-profit-making concerns. The Nicholas Brothers were not singled out when they took advantage of the last war to supplant the formerly imported German aspirin with their product “ Aspro “. On the contrary, after the war a tariff was imposed against German aspirin in order to ensure to the aspro manufacturers an enormous profit. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has been able to distribute 65,000 bonus shares for every 100,000 original shares. That is entirely clue to war. No step has been taken to seize those 65,000 bonus shares. The shareholders in the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited will have that concern as a source of income for life. But gold-mining is a different proposition. It depends on what comes from the ground. The less profitable that gold-mine becomes, the nearer it approaches extinction. The Minister should not hasten that extinction by imposing additional burdens on concerns which, while they are adding to the real wealth of the country by producing gold, are operating at a loss. To-day Western Australia produces 75 per cent, of Australia’s gold, and, accordingly, it will pay 75 per cent, of this tax. On the figures for last year, the tax this year will be £960,750. Honorable members from Western Australian constituencies, myself included, have not been wanting in proving that their State is a needy member, of this Commonwealth. There is a former Western Australian senator on a commission which was appointed to investigate, inter alia, the needs of Western Australia. On the recommendation of that commission, the Commonwealth Parliament last year voted the sum of £590,000 to Western Australia in order to assist it. This year the Commonwealth will take from that State £960,750. Western Australia, therefore, is paying the difference between £590,000 and £960,750 to the Commonwealth. The gold-mining industry stands second in Western Australia’s economy to the wheat-growing industry. Western Australia produces one-fifth of the Commonwealth’s wheat crop with one-fifteenth of the Common wealth’s population. The wheat-growing industry also is bankrupt, and it will stay bankrupt until there is a Commonwealth Government with courage enough to take a long-range view and put the industry on a national basis. In Western Australia the gold mines pay to the State Government ls. 5-^d. in the £1 on all profits, and ls. 4d. in the £1 company tax. The proposed gold tax is entirely just in general conditions, but it. would be altogether ruinous, wrong and unfair to impose the tax on people who are not showing profits. Take, for instance, one of the big enterprises such as the Wiluna Gold Mines. That company began operations before flip price of gold was increased, as near as possible to the centre of Western Australia. It is 700 miles by railway from Perth and when people first went there, the nearest, point on a railway line was 120 miles away. In 1922 the district had a population of seventeen, hut nevertheless it cost about 25s. to stand drinks all round. because the price of beer was 1p. fid. a pot, as it had to be carried 90 miles on camel-back from Nannine. T have never known an old prospector to ask for anything less than a pot, and consequently it does nc-t require the provisions of the Electoral Act to restrain the generosity of a candidate for parliamentary honours in the back country, tn that district to-day there .are 5,000 people brought there entirely by the gold-mining industry. Prior ro the development of the mine several miners were forced out of the district because they were unable to treat the ore. At a certain depth a sulphide zone was reached and the ore became refractory. The ground contained a large body of ore which showed only 4 dwt. to the ton, whereas it required a yield of 10 dwt. a ton to make mining profitable in normal times at the famous Golden Mile. When the company began work shortly after the gold bounty was introduced, it employed experts from all over the world. It expended £1,000,000 on an enormous plant with which a new technique for gold mining in Australia was developed, but before installing that machinery it had trial runs with a pilot plant so that it could arrive at a scientific estimate of what the pre would yield. The mine is now one of the largest in the world; it has 900 employees and the ore must travel a distance of one mile from the time it leaves the bottom of the 2,000 or 3,000 feet shaft until it is turned over the different belts, and eventually is disposed of through the treatment plant. But the East lode has now become impoverished. In ordinary times, that mine would bc regarded as rich, but although it turns out thousands of pounds worth of gold annually, it has been unable to declare a dividend over the last three years. The shares are today very much below the price at which they were originally issued. The imposition of a higher duty on crude oil cost the company an additional £10,000 a year, because its engines arc worked entirely on crude oils. This measure, as it stands now, will extract another £88,000 from the industry, although already it is hardly a payable’ one. Mines, like other commercial enterprises, will not continue to operate if they cannot show a profit; we ure iti a capitalistic world in which we depend upon profits. In these circumstances, I ask the Government whether it is worth killing the goose that lays the golden egg by- extracting £88,000 a year from an industry that must fail sooner or later, as all gold-mining does, and will fail much more quickly if a tax of the magnitude proposed is extracted from it at a time when it is not showing any profit at all. I trust that the Minister will take that into consideration. The welfare of a population of 6,000 or 7,000 people depends entirely upon the success of the mining venture af Wiluna, and it must be obvious that a tax on gold, irrespective of whether companies are making a profit or not, is, to say the least, foolishly uneconomic. The high price of gold at present enables companies to work low grade shows. There are very large bodies of ore in the vicinity of Southern Cross in Western Australia, where some ores produce about 2£ dwt. to the ton and would make a, profit by using modern machinery that will take out of the ground anything up to 50,000 tons of ore a month if no tax were placed on gold before they reached the profit-making stage. But there is not the slightest doubt that the Government will eventually cripple these companies if the price of gold continues to rise. Men all over the world are willing to gamble their money in gold -mining ventures, just as people in Sydney like to take a ticket in the State lottery.
The provision for a refund to prospectors of the tax on the first 25 oz. of their yield in any one year would not have an altogether just application. I smuggest that the Minister should keep in mind the fact that the first step in the search for gold is taken by the prospector, who goes out alone with his pick. He requires only miner’s right, which costs him about 5s. a year, and with that authority he can wander all over the country, with the exception of leased areas. As soon as he strikes gold, howover, Ik; must take out a lease, and, to develop that lease,, he must obtain financial assistance from other persons. He might take with him altogether ten men on the one lease, aud, in those circumstances, the provision should apply for each man.
– The eventuality referred to by the honorable member is provided for in clause 8 (2) 7;.
– I had hoped that that was intended.
Another point that must be considered is the rising cost of mining commodities. Recently I submitted a case in point to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. John Lawson), under whose authority a prices commissioner deals with commodity costs. In the city of Bendigo, where people employ the cyanide process to extract gold from the old dump3, the price of cyanide has risen by several pounds a ton, which has made it almost uneconomic for them to treat the dumps. I have also received complaints about price increases for zinc shavings and other mining material. I am sure that the Chamber of Mines and other interested bodies in Western Australia are continually making representations to the Goverment in this connexion, and I trust that the Government will deal satisfactorily with their requests. The people in Bendix were getting cyanide from Japan at a cost of about £68 a ton, but the price of that commodity, as supplied by Imperial Chemical Industries Limited, has now reached £100 a ton. I suppose that there is nothing like giving preference to British firms, because they can put it over us and we cannot kick about it without being regarded as being disloyal; hut British interests are putting it all over the Australians in connexion with .the gold industry, just as they have put it, all over us by buying our wool at about half-price at present world rates and then, selling it to the Americans. Apparently we cannot be trusted, so thai the British people have to do the selling and get their cut. Perhaps that is just as it should be under a government that stakes its reputation on being loyal. A Labour government would riot do that; it would sell to any country that wanted our wool and obtain the full price for Australian people. The erratic earnings of prospectors should be taken into consideration, and, with the passage of time, I believe that we shall be able to prove to the Government that taxation measures similar to those adopted on behalf of the primary industries of this country should be formulated in the interests’ of the prospector. A prospector may work for a lifetime without getting anything. A man may work for twenty years - and any one who knows anything of gold-mining knows this to be true - before he makes a strike worth £5,000, which to-day will require the treatment of a large number of ounces. He pays tax for that amount, hut I guarantee that his average earnings, taken over five, ten, or fifteen years, would probably not exceed £2 a week. There are 700 prospectors in Western Australia, sent out by the State Government, which prefers to establish them in this occupation rather than put them on the dole; and it is astonishing that, with all the knowledge of the geologists we have in Australia, it is sometimes the new chum prospector who strikes gold. As old “Cousin Jack” used to say, “The gold is where it is, and where it is there ben’t I “. These prospectors never know when they will strike gold. That fad stimulates them just as a similar uncertainty stimulates millions of my “mug” countrymen to go to the race-courses in an attempt to take down the men holding the bags.
I have received a long letter from an old friend of mine now residing in Bendigo. Being a Western Australian miner, he knows his business. He and the men with him have commenced work on one-fiftieth of an ounce grade material. Every one who knows anything about rnining in Victoria knows that the gold at Bendigo had been coarse gold, and has never . given refractory trouble. Consequently, in the remote days when stamper batteries were in use there was very little gold left by the time the material reached the sand dump. These men, of whom there are about 200, work with the cyanide process, and have about 100 horses; although they are not doing very well, they are at least showing a profit. The increased price of cyanide is very important to them, and they are very depressed about it. They made inquiries from Commonwealth authorities and learned that cyanide could not be imported from Japan at present, but that British cyanide could be imported at a price advanced by about 30 per cent. The reply I received from Professor Copland was that certain costs had increased. As Britishers, we have to take his word for it, and as Britishers, the suppliers of cyanide will take the “ dough. “. These men are, at present, having a hard struggle. They have to pay increased prices for all of their commodities. In these circumstances, I hope that the Acting Treasurer will give very careful consideration to the representations I am making. A very careful watch should be kept to see that relief is given to them before they reach the verge of defeat. They should be encouraged in every way possible to remain at their work.
.- I also emphasize the need to relieve the prospectors from the burden of this tax. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr, Green) has dealt with their position very clearly, and has referred to the way in which the men group themselves in their search for new gold. I hope that the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Spender) will be able to give me an assurance that the reference in paragraph b of subclause 2 of clause 8 really provides that each prospector in a group will receive a refund of the tax on the first 25 oz. of gold on which he pays the tax in any one year.
– Each prospector, if more than one is in the group, will be entitled to the refund.
– I have read the clause carefully, and the wording of it does not seem to be very clear to me.
-That is definitely the intention of the Government.
– It is a vital point to these men, whose incomes, as the honorable member for Kalgoorlie has said, are generally very low.
– I assure the honorable member that each prospector in the group will be entitled to the exemption.
– Prospectors are a very valuable asset to the States in which they live. The Government of New South Wales has made a small allowance to hundreds of prospectors to enable them to go out and look for new gold, as well as to work old fields.
The next point to which I refer is of national importance. The Government is proposing to tax gold won in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, as well as that won in Papua. The proceeds of such tax are to be paid into a trust account, and it is provided that the amount shall be “ applied for or in relation to the defence of the territory of New Guinea or for other purposes of that territory”. This provision raises the question whether the Commonwealth Parliament is entitled to levy a tax on persons living in the territory, which has no representation in this Parliament. I suggest that very earnest and prompt consideration should be given to the advisability of giving these people direct representation, perhaps on the same basis as that now given to the residents of the Northern Territory. In such circumstances, the people would be able to voice their views in the Parliament, even though their representative had not a vote. There is a Legislative Council in New Guinea, but the people of New Guinea are not represented in this Parliament, and the question of giving them direct representation in this chamber should be considered carefully. As wo are thinking of expenditure in New Guinea, I take the opportunity to remind honorable members that the construction of the Wau to Salamaua road is being held up, although the work is of vital importance.
– The work is proceeding. The surveyors have been on the job for a long while.
– My information is that nothing of any consequence is being done. I hope that the growing importance of the mandated territory from the defence point of view as well as otherwise, and particularly in regard to settlement, will be acknowledged, and that steps will be taken to give the people direct representation. We ought to know from the people themselves what they are thinking and what schemes they have on foot.
– It is a great place for schemers.
– That is all the more reason why we should know what is going on. I hope that the proceeds from this tax, if it is levied, will be used directly in the interests of New Guinea and especially to provide defensive measures for the country.
– I am rather opposed to this bill because I cannot understand why gold has been selected as the metal to be taxed. Why should not silver, zinc and other metals also be taxed? I should not object to the Government introducing a wartime profits taxing measure.
– I can assure the honorable member that such a bill will be introduced in the legislation that will be brought down in March of next year.
– Had I known that earlier, I should not have made my remark. Western Australia is dependent, to a large degree, on wheat and gold. As the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green) has pointed out, the rich mines of the old days have petered out. Crushings of 2 oz. or 3 oz. are very rare nowadays. More often it is a case of 2 dwt. or 3 dwt. A big American company which started operations in Western Australia has not averaged more than 3 dwt. Had it not been that the price of gold increased from the £4 5s. of a few years ago to about £10 per oz., many more mines would have had to close down. It should be recognized that many mines now operating and providing employment, in the aggregate, for thousands of men are only just able to maintain operations. The imposition of a heavy tax on the gold they produce may mean that they will have to cease operations. I feel sore about this matter when I think of the sympathetic treatment given to the big Broken Hill interests’. It is costing this country from £S0,000 to £85,000 a year in bounties on sulphur produced from Broken Hill slimes. The sulphur has to be extracted before the company can get at the minerals. In these circumstances I can see no reason why gold should bc taxed. I certainly think that definite provision should be made in the bill that companies which are not making a profit shall be exempt from the tax. Such exemption should be continued until the companies are operating profitably. Wiluna Gold Mines Limited was prepared to do all in its power to assist this country and bought as much as possible of its equipment here, but it was obliged to spend more than £100,000 in customs duties on essential machinery which had to be obtained from Great Britain. That was years ago, when the company was in anything like a flourishing condition. To-day probably about 6,000 people are dependent on the mining operations at Wiluna. Numerous gold deposits in the north-west of Western Australia could be worked profitably if conditions were more favorable, but all of the companies interested in the projects are obliged to pay high prices for the machinery they require and in fact for all kinds of equipment, and this hinders their development. If this bill is passed it will become more difficult than ever for these concerns to prosper.
I am not much interested in the position of the prospectors. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green) described the way these men worked. I know a good deal about them and if any of them “ struck it rich “ I do not think that they would mind paying the duty. I hope that the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Spender) will give an assurance in his speech in reply that companies which are not making a profit will not be obliged to pay the tax.
.- I am not opposed to the exemption provided in this bill for prospectors, rather do I think it is inadequate. I feel, however, that the whole proposal to impose a tax on gold is unjust. The Government has advanced as a reason for proposing this tax, that in a time of war it is entitled to reap some of the benefit from any increase of the price of commodities due to the war. I submit, however, that it is almost impossible for the Government or any authority it may direct to determine exactly what increase of commodity prices is definitely due to the war. There is no more justification for taxing gold than there is for taxing other articles. In certain of the primary producing industries the growers will reap profits which would not have accrued to them were it not for this disastrous war. The price of meat sold overseas has increased, as also have the prices of butter and sugar. There is even a substantial, though altogether inadequate, increase of the price of wheat. If it is just that the increased return for gold should be taken by the Government, it is also just, I suppose, that the increased return from primary products should be taken. Many commercial enterprises, such as banking and insurance companies, will reap increased profits during the war, so that the Government, if it is to he logical, should appropriate those increases also. In the circumstances, I have no alternative but to oppose this tax. I believe that the real purpose of the Government is to avoid imposing a wartime profits tax on the hig mining companies.
– That is entirely incorrect.
– It is a significant fact that no opposition to this measure has come from the big gold-mining companies, and that opposition comes only from prospectors, small co-operative companies and co-operative sluicing groups who have had a hard time during recent years. It is true that, because of the opposition that was raised to this proposal when it was first introduced, the Government has now arranged to grant some relief to prospectors, but it is inadequate. Should a prospector, perhaps for the first time in his life, he lucky enough to make a strike which returns him more than 25 oz. of gold, he will immediately become subject to this special tax, as well as to ordinary income tax. Hundreds of prospectors in my district have been searching for gold for 10, 20, or 30 years, and their average return would not be more than £1 a week. However, if any of them make a strike this year, and win 30 or 40 oz., they will have to pay the tax. This principle is not applied to the other industries, and I do not see why it should hs applied to the gold-mining industry. I am not interesting myself in this matter only because it affects my own district. I was very much impressed by the arguments of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green), who pointed out that the tax would bear more heavily upon Western Australia than anywhere else, because there is more gold-mining carried on there than-in any of the other States. I am opposed to this proposal because it is a class tax, and because it represents an attempt by the Government to impose a tax on the ‘less fortunate persons engaged in the industry so that the more fortunate may avoid heavier taxation.
.- When the proposal was before the House to take, hy way of special tax, 75 per cent, of the increased value of gold, I opposed it because I thought that the amount was altogether too much. I still think that it would be better, and more in accordance with the general principles of taxation, if we followed the rule of taxing profits- instead of capital. Moreover, there is a. special reason why a tax of this kind should not be applied to the gold-mining industry. It cannot operate equitably throughout Australia, because goldmining is confined to a few places. However, the claims of the Government have been moderated to a demand for 50 per cent, of the increased value, and we cannot shut our eyes to what has been done by way of taxation in other gold-mining countries. Gold has, in fact, acquired a fortuitous increase because of the war, and it may be. that the result of this tax will be much the same as if a tax were applied in the ordinary way on profits. It is unfortunate, perhaps, that no exemption should have been made in favour of those gold-mining companies which are not making a profit, but we must remember that land tax is levied on all land, whether it returns a profit or not.
In my opinion, the Government is justified in levying a tax on gold won in New Guinea. The Commonwealth is charged with the responsibility of defending New Guinea, and the very richness of gold mines in that area makes the responsibility all the heavier. Those who own the mines have much to lose, and they owe much to the Commonwealth for defending their property. Therefore, we are entitled to ask them to make some contribution towards the cost of defence,
I thank the Government, and particularly the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Spender) for having granted exemption to prospectors. I should like to know whether the exemption in their case will operate from the passing of this act?
– Yes, from the passing of the act.
– I should like to know, then, whether any practicable method can be devised for refunding to prospectors the tax “that has been collected from them since the excise On gold was first imposed ?
– I protest against the proposal of the Government, particularly as it applies to prospectors. I desire to pay a tribute to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green) for his speech on this subject, and for explaining the situation in Western Australia. It is my duty to speak of the situation as I know it in the Northern Territory, an area which has no subordinate legislature, not even a town council, to bring its views before the Government. As a matter of fact, the gold-miners of the territory, particularly those at Tennant Creek, are already paying an inordinately high tax because of the charges for crushing ore. During the last three weeks, I called on Dr. Ward in Adelaide, and the Chief Geological Adviser to the Victorian Government, Mr. Baragwanath, and I was amazed to learn f from them the charges made in their States for the treatment of ore in government batteries. In South Australia, where a show goes 5 dwt., the battery charge is 1^ dwt. When it goes 10 dwt., the charge is 2 dwt., while the maximum charge for a show that assays’ 15 dwt. or more, is 3 dwt. Those charges are in addition to the original charge of os. for crushing. At Tennant Creek the charge is 12s. 6d on a tonnage basis, and when it goes into the sand dump a further levy of 10 per cent, is taken immediately. Thus, a parcel of 100 tons is reduced to 90 tons. They also charge 2 dwt. for the treatment, and 1 dwt. is worth 10s. 6d. On top of that they take 25 per cent, of the 90 tons, so that the total charges amount to 33 tons out of the original 100, or one-third of the whole crushing. I know it is hard to believe that such charges are made, but it is a fact. The secretary of the Miners and Lessees’ Association at Tennant Creek is in Canberra at the present time, and I have arranged for a deputation to be heard by the Minister for the Interior to-morrow at 11.30 a.m. I have been interesting myself in this matter for some time,- and the other day I asked the following question on notice -
Is it a fact that when the sands assay 25 dwt. the amount deducted by the department per ton for treating such sands .is £5 6s. plus 12s, (id. per ton for the original crushing? lt may be more than that; but even that rate shows how exorbitant is the charge in the Northern Territory. I hope that the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, as well as his colleague in the other chamber, will be present at the deputation to-morrow, so that he, too, may become conversant with the facts.
The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) mentioned New Guinea. Although I do not represent the people of that territory, they look to me to be their mouthpiece, and on many occasions I have made representations on their behalf. They have no voice in this House, but there is, at the present time, circulating in that territory a petition asking that at least they be given representation similar to that afforded to residents of the Northern Territory.
– They first want an elective council of their own.
– If this tax be added, to their existing disabilities, the people of New Guinea will demand representation in this Parliament. They want some say in the control of their domestic affairs. All that they have at present is an ineffective legislative council. The system in operation there is a farce. An article in the Rabaul. Times of the 27th October reads -
Questions in mas Federal Parliament.
On the 2.1st September Mr. Blain in th« Federal House asked the Minister in charge of External Territories whether, in the mandated territory of Samoa, which is administered by New Zealand non-government member* of the Legislative Council are nominated or arc elected by the people.
Order! I ask the honorable member not to deal with that subject at length, as it has nothing to do with the bill.
– This tax of gold from New Guinea should not be imposed unless the residents of that territory are given some form of representation in this Parliament, or have a legislative council in fact and not the existing farce.
.- This bill is ill-advised and I hope that the Government will withdraw it.
– Will the honorable member vote against it ?
– I shall do so. I compliment the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) on having stolen my thunder. As he pointed out, war conditions may raise the prices of many commodities, and numbers of citizens may make increased profits. The only just basis of taxation is a tax on profits. Gold is not procured at the same cost in all parts of Australia. As the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green) pointed out, one of the greatest gold producers in Australia to-day is operating at a loss. It is manifestly unfair for the Government to impose heavy taxes on a concern which is making losses. I remind the House that Wiluna was established with the backing, in the first place, of the Government of Western Australia, and later guaranteed by the Commonwealth.
– Not a penny of the guarantee has been called up.
– The company operating at Wiluna is working on extremely low-grade ore, and I understand from the honorable member for Kalgoorlie that it is working at a loss. It is, nevertheless, serving a useful purpose, in that it is producing gold which is of great value in these difficult days, and in addition it is giving employment to numbers of people. In these circumstances, it is particularly .ill-advised to impose additional burdens on the industry. It may be, as has already been pointed out, that some primary producers, or some manufacturers or traders, will make greater profits than before the war. The only just way to deal with them is to increase the tax payable on such profits. It may be neces-sai-y to impose a wartime profits tax. That tax could be applied to mines in common with other industries which make increased profits out of the war. A gold tax imposes a special burden on certain portions of the Commonwealth. Although Western Australia is the biggest gold producer of all the States, it cannot be said to be the wealthiest State. That it suffers many disabilities because of federation is recognized by the Commonwealth Government in the granting of financial assistance to Western Australia each year. Why nullify that benefit by the imposition of a tax which falls more heavily on Western Australia than on any other State? I ask the Acting Treasurer to withdraw the measure and to bring in amended legislation which will include other industries, and not apply only to gold-mining.
Mr. SPENDER (Warringah- Acting that no apology is necessary for the principle which has been applied in this taxation measure. It has been urged that, instead of the basis set out in the measure, a tax on profits should be imposed ; but I point out that this is an instance of an unearned increment resulting directly from the fact that gold is tied to sterling, and that sterling has depreciated in relation to the dollar. The increased price of gold has a relationship to that factor, and no other. We are dealing with a commodity which has a direct price by reason of its exchange value. Sterling has depreciated as a result of the war in terms of the dollar, and therefore I submit that the Commonwealth’s proposal is reasonable. Originally, it was proposed to impose a tax at a flat rate of 75 per cent., but now it is proposed to take only 50 per cent, and to exempt prospectors in respect of the first 25 oz. of gold which they win, irrespective of the amount won by them in any given year. Under the tax the Commonwealth will take 16s. 6d. of of the present excess over £9 an ounce in the price of gold. It is said that were it not for this tax an increased number of companies would be engaged in working low-grade propositions. That is true, but it is important to direct attention to certain other factors. In the first place, the Commonwealth does not propose to take from the industry any power to make profits which existed when the war broke out. The price of gold has increased considerably since the war began. There is this further factor, that when the war ends and there has to be a readjustment of the relation of sterling to , dollars, and a fall in the value of gold, there may be large numbers of unprofitable goldmining ventures which will claim bounty from the Government or else throw men out of employment. It must also be remembered that, because of the varying grades of ore, it is difficult to determine which are low-grade propositions. This tax will be imposed on the unearned increment. No more just basis could be suggested. It is not irrelevant to point out that in New Zealand, the authorities take 75 per cent, over the basic rate, whilst in Southern Rhodesia and South Africa they take all over £7 10s. sterling per ounce.
– Is there not a royalty in those places?
– No, there is a flat tax. In New Zealand the Government takes 75 per cent, flat rate over £9 5s. 8d. an ounce. The Commonwealth Government has acted most reasonably; it proposes to take 50 per cent, over and above the basic price of £9 an ounce, and to grant exemptions to prospectors. lt has been suggested that the Government is levying taxes upon one industry which has benefited from the war, but has not indicated that it will tax other war profits. In the financial statement which I delivered in this House last week, I mentioned that the Government will introduce a comprehensive scheme of taxation in March or April next year. The House may rest assured that among the items to be introduced will be legislation to make certain that a substantial portion of any profits which may result directly from the war will be returned to the coffers of the Commonwealth. I also point out that the taxes to be introduced in March next will relate to earnings from the outbreak of war, whereas any amendment of taxation legislation now would relate to earnings for the year ended the 30th June last. The House may rest assured that the gold-mining industry will not be the sole contributor to the exchequer, merely because its profits have increased because of the war. All other factors will be given consideration in the Government’s scheme.
I wish .now to deal briefly with the position in respect of the mandated territory. In the first place, there can be no legal doubt as to the ability of the Commonwealth to tax residents of the territory under this bill, and there should be no doubts as to the merits of the tax. Where companies are able to earn profits from the territory, and where an obligation rests on the Commonwealth to defend it, there should be no objection to making contributions to purposes which assist in defending it. So it is that this tax is imposed; but, by reason of the fact that no mandatory power shall profit from its mandate, it is provided in this bill that the amounts collected from the territory shall be paid into a trust fund to be applied solely for the purposes of the territory, including its defence.
– What provision is being made for the exemption of prospectors?
– A prospector is covered by the bill no matter where he may be.
– I suggest that the honorable gentleman should alter the bill to exclude prospectors in New Guinea who are exempted from the payment of royalty.
– The bill extends to the territories of the Commonwealth and provides for an exemption in respect of the first 25 oz. of gold won by a prospector.
It was suggested by an honorable member that I should give an undertaking to exempt companies that do not earn profits. By the imposition of this tax the Commonwealth is not in any way altering the position which existed prior to the outbreak of war. Nothing that the Commonwealth has done has worsened the position of a company which could not earn a profit at the outbreak of the war.
– It could increase the losses of such a company.
– Of course. For the reasons I have advanced, I can give no such undertaking; nor am I prepared to withdraw the bill.
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. Spender) agreed to-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue he made for the purposes of a bil) for an act relating to the imposition and collection of a tax upon gold.
Resolution reported, and - by leave - adopted.
Debate resumed from the 1st December (vide page 1979) on motion by Mr. Spender -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I have no desire to delay the House. I merely wish to direct the attention of the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Spender) to what I endeavoured, unsuccessfully, to convey by interjection. During my second-reading speech on the Gold Tax Bill, I pointed out that after a hard fight the prospectors in New Guinea had been able to get an exemption in respect of royalties up to a substantial amount. Formerly they paid a royalty of 5 per cent, on all gold won. Clause 8 of this bill provides that they shall fall into line with the rest of the prospectors in the Commonwealth. Briefly, the position was formerly that, because of the difficulties of prospecting in New Guinea,” no prospector was allowed to prospect for gold unless he had £500.
– I have allowed the honorable member some latitude, but I remind him that it, was agreed that the two gold bills should be debated together and he has spoken already to the first bill. I ask him not to depart from the bill.
– The finds of the future will have to be made in districts of New Guinea not now under control. Because of the difficulties that prospectors will have to overcome, at least some provision should be made, either by regulation or by the alteration of this bill, for their exemption.
– I am afraid I cannot do it.
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.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
– I move -
That the billbe now read a second time.
The purpose of the bill is to ratify an agreement between the Governments of the Commonwealth and New South Wales and National Oil Proprietary Limited approving of the transfer of assets in the form of approximately 180 acres of land now held by National Oil Proprietary Limited to the State of New South Wales for the purpose of establishing a town at Glen Davis, popularly known as Newnes. Honorable members will be aware that National Oil Proprietary Limited was formed for the purpose of developing the shale oil industry in the Newries-Capertee area of New South Wales, and that the Governments of the Commonwealth and New South Wales undertook to advance to the company for this purpose by way of loan a sum of £500,000, of which the Commonwealth Government was to provide £334,000, and the New South Wales Government £166,000. Under the National Oil Proprietary Limited Agreement Act 1937, the Commonwealth and the State of New South Wales have a lien over the whole of the assets of the company pending the repayment of advances. This proposed redisposition of assets, therefore, requires the formal approval of Parliament. The area of approximately 180 acres comprises about 120 acres of freehold land held by the company, and an additional 60 acres held under mining lease. The company has made a gift of this land to the Crown for the purpose of establishing a town. The Government of New South Wales has already taken advantage of this generous gift, and has passed the necessary legislation.
It is expected that, as a result of the development of the shale oil industry, 4,000 people will require accommodation at Glen Davis early next year. The governments concerned and the company are anxious to ensure that these people will be provided with proper living accommodation, thus avoiding the undesirable features usually associated with a “ shanty “ town. The governments and the company realize that the success of this important new industry depends largely upon the contentment of those who are engaged in its development. It is recognized that contentment is fostered by a congenial environment and pleasant homes. A town-planning committee, presided over by the former SurveyorGeneral of New South Wales, Mr. Matthews, has already prepared plans of the town, embodying the most advanced town-planning principles. The Government of New South Wales has accepted these plans, and has provided approximately £40,000 for the lay-out and necessary amenities of the town. The State legislation provides for the disposal of the land for building and other purposes, and, where it is disposed of for building, the construction of buildings of
Glen Davis is already a hive of industry. The mine has been driven into the side of the mountain a distance of over 4,000 feet. The shale exposed is of excellent quality, yielding over 100 gallons of oil to the ton, from which about 60 gallons of petrol (jan be produced. After being taken to the refinery the petrol will” be pumped from large storage tanks, either to Newnes Junction, on the main western line, or to Blacktown, near Sydney. The company has established a modern brick kiln capable of meeting its requirements of bricks for retorts and other purposes. Large numbers of retorts are under construction; most of the cracking plant or refinery has arrived in Australia from America, and its erection at the works is proceeding: The administrative buildings, an efficient tool shop, a hostel capable of accommodating AO people and about twelve houses for senior employees have already been completed. A feature of particular interest is that the living quarters have at this early stage been furnished with hot and cold water services, electricity and sewerage. Honorable members will be interested to learn that more than £450,000 out of a total capital expenditure of £660,000 in connexion with this enterprise is being spent on Australian labour and materials. This expenditure is providing work for more than. 600 men during the constructional stage and, when the works are in full operation early next year, it is expected that this industry will take care of a total population of 4,000 people including operatives and their families. It is estimated that at least 10,000,000 gallons of petrol per annum will be produced at Glen Davis and, at the instigation of the Commonwealth Government, National Gil Proprietary Limited is now exploring the possibilities of increasing this production to 30,000,000 gallons per annum. At a time like the present, when we are faced with shipping and exchange problems in securing supplies of oil fuel from overseas, local production of shale oil or shale petrol assumes far greater importance than it would in normal times. In addition to providing increased security and employment, the industry will constitute a valuable training ground for Australian technicians.
In commending this measure for the approval of the House, I conclude by paying a tribute to Mr.-G. P. Davis, of National Oil Proprietary Limited. It is because of his generosity in making a grant of land for the township of Glen Davis that this bill is necessary. The vigor and efficiency with which he is prosecuting the development of this industry augurs well for its successful future.
Debate (on motion by Mr. James) adjourned.
Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 10). hi Committee of Ways and Means:
Consideration resumed from the 1st December (vide page 1977) on motion by Mr. John Lawson -
That the schedule to the Customs Tariff . . be further amended. . .
Division 3.- - Sugar
Item 27 (Glucose)
.- This item is “ Glucose “, and the Government proposes in this tariff schedule to reduce the duty on glucose from 10s. to 7s. British preferential tariff and from 20s. to 17s. general tariff. I ask the committee to reject this proposal in order to enable the industry to enjoy the old rate of protection. I appeal to honorable members of the Country party to support me, because the glucose industry uses as its raw material, the maize grown on Australian farms. Whilst members of the Country party are rather weak on protection when it applies to the secondary products, they are usually solid in supporting 300 per cent, protection for the products produced on the farms. So, I do hope that, in dealing with glucose, they will ensure that this Australian industry, which uses maize from the Australian farms, shall continue to have the protection necessary to enable it to supply the whole of the Australian market. Glucose is a product of maize, potatoes or wheat, but only a small proportion of Australian glucose is made from wheat; the great bulk of it is made from maize. In the liquid form glucose is used by confectioners, but in the solid or sugar form it is used by tanners. There is no justification for the proposed rate of reduction. I have read the Tariff Board’s report on glucose, and I have tried to familiarize myself with the industry. The factory which is established in Melbourne uses maize grown by white men, whilst its competitors, five manufacturers in Great Britain, import black-grown maize from South Africa, mainly, and the United States of America. From 60 to 70 bushels of maize are required to produce a ton of glucose or starch. There are also by-products of the glucose industry.
The Tariff Board in its report has formed the opinion that this Australian company makes high profits.. There is another way in which to deal with a company which is profiteering. In normal times the Constitution hampers the Commonwealth Government in any efforts to deal with profiteering. It has always been pointed out in this .respect that checking of profiteering is a matter for the State governments. But under the
National Security Act, the limitations of the Constitution no longer ‘apply.
– Temporarily, it may be, but I have no doubt that the National Security Act powers will be enjoyed by the Commonwealth Government for some time. At any rate, any profiteering that may be indulged in by this company– I do not attempt to deny any charge of profiteering - can be dealt with in a way which is preferable to reducing the protection, because tariff cuts encourage the importation of goods from other countries, and, in this instance, the interests of 230 workers in the glucose industry will he affected. I should prefer the Government to cope with profiteering in some way other than by reducing the tariff. The Commonwealth Government has set up a Prices Commissioner, with Deputy Prices Commissioners in the States, and I ask that the Government have recourse to the prices-control machinery.
Glucose has been consistently exported to Australia from the United Kingdom at prices much less than the homeconsumption prices in Great Britain. In the eighteen months ended the 31st December, 1938, 991 tons of glucose, representing 69,370 bushels of maize, were imported into this country, nullifying the protection given to the primary producers who, since the formation of Maize Products Limited, have had the benefit of an increase of duty on foreign maize from ls. to 3s. 6d. a bushel. The importation of maize from South Africa compelled the Commonwealth Government to increase the protection on maize by 250 per cent. That increase had the support of the Country party. I do not object to the primary producers getting adequate protection against the importation of raw material, because a great number of them willingly support a protectionist policy for Australia generally. I do not deny the fact that, because of the existence of that protectionist policy, increased prices are sometimes paid by the primary producers for the goods that they purchase from the Australian secondary industries; but that is inevitable, because we pride ourselves on having a standard of living in Australia which is much higher than are the standards of living in other countries where the wages are, in many instances, only half of what they are in Australia.
The honorable member is’ getting rather wide of the subject before the Chair.
– The maize-grower is entitled to the protection of 3s. 6d. a bushel against imported, maize, but the manufacturer is entitled to the whole of
Hie Australian market, and there should be an offsetting duty on the finished product. Maize Products Limited asked the Tariff Board for an increase of the British preferential duty on glucose from 10s. to las. a cwt. That company must have been amazed when it found that not only had its request been turned down, but also the Tariff Board had recommended a reduction of the duty.
– Perhaps it would have been horribly shocked if its. request had been granted. The honorable member has heard about the Arab horse-dealer who always asked four times what he expected to get.
– I am basing my opinion on what I read in the Tariff Hoard’s report.
– What is the honorable member’s proposal?
– I submit that the duty should be left where it was formerly. The original rate of duty was applied as the result of a recommendation by the Tariff Board. The Atherton Tablelands Maize Board, Queensland, opposed any interference with the duties on commodities manufactured from maize. The Maize Marketing Board of Victoria also opposed any reduction of the duties applying to maize products. The representatives at the inquiry said that a reduction would be damaging to the primary industry concerned. I have no doubt that largo quantities of maize are grown in an electorate such as Gippsland. All honorable members with any knowledge of primary production must realize that the maize-growing industry is a small man’s industry. It gives employment to a number of people, but the picking is done almost exclusively-
– The subject under discussion is glucose. tiri
– Glucose is made from maize and if the honorable member will read the Tariff Board’s report he will find that the board bases its argument on maize from which almost all of the glucose manufactured in Australia is produced because it receives a protection of 3s. 6d. a bushel. It is only reasonable that the finished product should also be adequately protected. The Maize Marketing Board of Victoria opposed the proposal to reduce the duty on glucose because of the fact that it is made from maize and the maize industry is not subsidized in any way, whereas the wheat, dairying, rice, sugar and, in fact, all other primary industries enjoy some kind of subsidy. The average price paid by the Maize Pool to growers over the last ten years has been 3s. 3d. a bushel, whereas the average farm cost of maize is ls. 6d. a bushel, which leaves only ls. 9d. for the farmer to cover land rent, shire rates, &c., and to meet the cost of living and family responsibilities. Although they receive a substantial price for their product because of the existence in this country of the glucose industry, many of the growers are not earning the basic wage. That being the case, I contend that any attempt to whittle away the protection on the finished article of glucose will militate against this large body of primary producers. The overseas competitors of the Australian factories purchase maize grown by coloured labour in South Africa and the United States of America, and in March of this year they were paying only 2s. 9d. a bushel for maize landed in England. The average price paid by Australian glucose manufacturers in 1937 was 5s. 6d. a bushel; in 1938, it was 6s. a bushel ; and in 1939, it was 5s. 2d. a bushel.
– Wha’t does the honorable member consider to be adequate protection for glucose?
– I contend that the rates of duty should remain as they are to-day. The rates that stood in the tariff schedule before this reduction was introduced - 10s. British preferential tariff and 20s. general tariff - are preferable to the Government’s proposal of 7s. British preferential and 17s. general tariff. I noticed that Mr. S. F. Ferguson, the representative of the six British glucose manufacturing firms, when giving evidence before the Tariff Board, said -
The duty, is already far higher than can possibly be justified in the light of article 10 of the United Kingdom-Australian Trade Agreement which provides that United Kingdom producersshould be given “ full opportunity of reasonable competition on the basis of the relative costs of economical and efficient production.”
That old argument was trotted out in regard to a number of secondary industries in Australia. It was contended that duties should be reduced so as to allow the British manufacturers to sell their products in competition with Australian rnanufacurers and capture a substantial proportion of the Australian market. That is unsound so far as glucose is concerned. The Australian manufacturers are entitledtothe whole of the local market because they have benefited the maize-growers substantially. As a representative of a primary-producing electorate that believes in a policy of protection, I submit to the Minister that it is inadvisable to whittle away the protection afforded to the industry. If there is any evidence of profiteering in the industry, the Minister should deal with it in another way; he has the necessary machinery and adequate powers to deal with profiteering. The cutting of the protection at present afforded would make the industry vulnerable to imports from overseas, causing unemployment in local factories and bringing about lower prices for primary producers. I ask the committee to allow the old rates of duty to stand.
.- I have listened with interest to the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) in relation to the glucose manufacturing industry. From the honorable . gentleman’s remarks one would imagine that glucose was manufactured entirely from maize, but I point out that it is manufacfactured also from wheat. The proposal of the Government is not an endeavour to strike a. blow at the maizegrowers or primary producers generally, but is a safeguard against profiteering in secondary industries. This is a case in which profiteering could be carried on in the secondary industries, for which nevertheless, I have every sympathy. Even under the proposal of the Government the maize-growers will still be protected to the extent of about 102 per cent., and I shall be very surprised if they are not perfectly satisfied, having regard to the terms of the Ottawa Agreement. I draw the attention of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to that fact. I represent a smallnumber of maize-growers and I am here to-night to watch their interests, but, as I have said, I think that they will be perfectly satisfied with the proposed protection of 102 per cent.
Item agreed to.
Division 4. - Agricultural Products and Groceries
Items 51, 58 and 98 agreed to.
Division 5. - Textiles, Felts and Furs, and Manufactures thereof and Attire.
Item 105 (Piece goods, woollen or containing wool).
.- The duties imposed under this item represent a very substantial reduction of the old rates of duty on imported woollen goods - a reduction from1s. a square yard to 6d. a square yard in the. case of British preferential tariff, and from 2s. a square yard to1s. 6d. a square yard in the case of the general tariff. I ask the committee to vote against the item. Australia is very proud of its wool industry, both in its primary and secondary branches, and I believe that it is, thoroughly efficient. Australia is the greatest wool-producing country in the world, and the woollen-manufacturing industry is a typically Australian one. We are told that many industries are exotic, unnatural and uneconomic. That cannot be said of the woollen industry. Our Australian factories have, down the years, improved the standard of their production by installing more extensive and modern plant, and employing the services of trained experts. To-day their finished products are equal to the best that can be produced in any part of the world. The woollen industry employs directly over 19,000 hands in the factories, and it provides the bulk of the raw materials, in the form of piece goods and yarns, to the clothing industry, which employs 50,000 persons, and to the knitted-goods industry, which employs another 18,000 persons. It nays nearly £3,000,000 annually in wages, and lias buildings and plant worth £6,000,000. It gives more employment in country districts than does any other Australian industry, there being 24 woollen mills outside the capital cities of Australia.’ This is, I believe, as it should he. I stand for the decentralization of secondary industries. I believe that it is a mistake to have all of our industries congregated in the big capital cities.
– Why did the honorable member not mention that in connexion with the glucose industry?
– I do not know whether the honorable gentleman is attempting to be facetious, but there is only a limited market in Australia for glucose, and there is not enough work to keep a dozen factories in profitable production. I believe in the decentralization of industries generally, and the woollen industry is a wonderful example of decentralization. My only complaint is that we have not a number of woollen mills in the country districts of Queensland. There is a very efficient woollen mill in the electorate of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), and that honorable member will be able to tell the committee something in regard to it.
– There are three woollen mills in the electorate which I represent.
– That is .very good. I should like to see numbers of mills at Rockhampton, Bundaberg, Townsville and elsewhere; in fact, I should like to see them dotted all over Australia, because they open up opportunities for employment for the young people in our country towns. One of the greatest disabilities suffered to-day by people living in country towns is the difficulty they experience in finding employment for their boys and girls on leaving school. Those 24 woollen mills situated outside the capital cities provide such opportunities, and that is why it can be truly said that the woollen industry is more decentralized, than any other secondary industry in Australia. The latest report of the Commonwealth Statistician states that, even under the present duties, imports have increased, with corresponding reductions of the number of persons employed in the local woollen industry. The report shows that imports of woollen piece goods, yarns, and wool tops in 1935-36 amounted to £338,0p0; in 1936-37 they amounted to £434,000, and in 1937-38 to £491,000. The number of persons employed in the Australian mills decreased from 19,600 in 1935-36 to 19,200 in 1936- 37, and 19,100 in 1937-38. No other secondary industry can show a better record of development than the woollen industry. I recall that at the onset of the great depression, when the Scullin Government took office, there were 8,000 persons employed on half-time in the woollen mills because of the flood of imports. Australia’s inability to pay for its imports, and .the necessity for providing adequate protection for the industry, caused the Scullin Administration to impose high rates of duty on woollen goods entering the country, and, as the result, the Australian woollen mills re-organized their factories and within three months were enabled to employ 8,000 persons on full-time. From then on the industry expanded, but the number employed has fallen off by 500 since 1935-36, and it is estimated that for every pound’s worth of woollen piece goods imported, Australian workers are deprived of about 6s. 3d. in wages. That is serious. Is there any necessity to import woollen piece goods, whether they be ladies’ light-weight dress materials, or men’s worsteds, or tweeds? The wool grown oil our Australian stations is the finest in the world. It is sent 16,000 miles away, turned into the finished article, returned to Australia, and sold to the Australian public. The whole job should be done in Australia.
The reference to the Tariff Board, which has resulted in the submission of these proposed tariff reductions, arose from a. request by the Australian Association of British Manufacturers in connexion with the Ottawa Agreement. The then Minister for Trade and Customs submitted to Parliament the agreement signed at Ottawa, together with a new schedule of duties to operate on the 14th October, 1932. These reduced the duties on woollen piece goods under the British preferential rate from 2s. a square yard and 35 per cent, ad valorem to ls. a square yard and 30 per cent, ad valorem on the recommendation of the Tariff Board after an exhaustive inquiry. That proposal practically brought the duties back to those imposed in 1926 by the then Minister for Trade and Customs, Mr. Pratten.
The Ottawa Conference was held in July and August of 1932, and the agree ment was signed on and took effect from the 20th August, 1932. The Tariff Board’s report, which was signed on the 26th September, 1932, recommended reversion to the duties imposed in 1926. In submitting that schedule, the Minister stated - it gives effect tothe formula margin of preference and other changes that were agreed to by the Australian delegation at the Ottawa Conference.
This demonstrates unmistakably that the implementation of the Ottawa Agreement in connexion with “woollen piece goods was then accomplished in every respect. There should not have been another tariff inquiry in connexion with this industry.
The Tariff Board’s recommendation for a further reduction of duties as provided in the schedule now before Parliament was not unanimous. In a minority report one very capable member of the board, Mr. W. J. Rose, claimed that the present proportion of the Australian market supplied by the United Kingdom manufacturers, 10 per cent., had as good a claim as any other to be considered “reasonable”, thus fulfilling the requirements of the Ottawa Agreement. The Australian manufacturers claimed that it was impossible to define the words “reasonable competition “.
On page 33 of the board’s majority report it is stated -
The board is convinced that there is no method of comparing relative costs in the United Kingdom and in Australia that does not introduce an element of speculation.
The Australian manufacturers’ costs of production have increased considerably since the date of the Tariff Board inquiry. The basic wage in the industry has increased from £3 10s. to £4 a week, and there have been big increases of the cost of machinery, dye-stuffs and chemicals.
On page 34 of its report, the board admits that the local industry is generally “ highly efficient “. It adds-
It produces a big proportion of its output at a cost which is below the figure which the hoardhas calculated would be reasonable for Australia.
Despite the big increase of labour costs, the development of the industry in this country has conferred definite benefits upon purchasers of woollens. Woollen and worsted goods of the same quality are approximately 20 per cent, cheaper in Australia to-day than they were ten years ago, irrespective- of the decreased price of wool.
– Are the manufacturers making big profits ?
Mr.FORDE.- If they are there is a way to deal with them. I have no doubt that if the manufacturers were showing losses we should be told that that industry being uneconomic should be discontinued . I do not favour the making of unreasonably high profits. I believe that the consumers should be protected. If it is possible, the industry should pay higher wages and grant improved conditions to the workers. It is, however, not my function to examine the rates of profit made by these companies. That is the responsibility of the Minister for Trade and Customs. The Government has the necessary machinery available to deal with profiteers, and should use it.
– The prices of these goods have dropped.
Mr.FORDE. - That is just what I was pointing out when the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) interjected. This reduction of price was brought about by the fact that the previous tariff protection secured to the Australian mills a. sufficiently large output to make production possible on a more economical and a more efficient basis. Moreover, the scope of the industry during the ten-year period has been enlarged to cover an increased range of goods of all types. A reduced tariff means increased” imports, thus reducing the Australian manufacturers’ output and automatically increasing their production costs. The experience of Australia in respect of the woollen industry has been similar to its experience in respect of certain other secondary industries which have been given access to the whole of the Australian market. In this case, as in others, a bigger output has meant lower overhead costs. This, in turn, has made possible a reduction of prices to the Australian public. In 1930, when the woollen manufacturers appealed to the Scullin Government for additional protection for lightweight dress materials, only a small proportion of goods of that quality was being manufactured in this country; hut to-day, in consequence of increased interest in the trade, the installation of the necessary plant, and the securing of the services of skilled artisans, the Australian trade is able to cater for the whole of the Australian market.
It is well known that for protection to be effective an adequate margin is essential ; but no exploitation by manufacturers at the expense of the public has taken place, nor is it possible in this industry owing to keen competition in the low trade. I ask the Minister, in any case, to give his personal attention to the taking of measures adequate for the protection of the consumers.
On page 35 of its report, the board admits that “ many purchasers aru prepared to pay more for imported materials “ thus proving that high duties are necessary to offset the prejudice still existing in some quarters against Australianmade goods. We all know from experience that salesmen in tailoring establishments who are asked to show worsted suitings frequently produce both the Australian-made and the imported article; but they also almost un variably suggest that the imported article is superior to the Australian article. I believe that experts in the trade find it, difficult, to-day, to distinguish between the Australian-macle and the imported cloth. Ten or fifteen years ago it was, of course, easy to do so, but to-day, in consequence of the higher standard of production of the Australian mills, our cloth is as good as the British cloth.
The last war proved that the Australian woollen manufacturing industry, as a defence industry, was one of our greatest assets. Recently, after the outbreak of war, a meeting of the woollen manufacturers was called, at the request of the Government, at which it was announced that large quantities of blankets, flannel and khaki cloth were required at the shortest possible notice. Since that date all mills with suitable plant have been working night and day to supply woollen goods for the Militia and 2nd Australian Imperial Force. The prices to be paid by the Government for the goods supplied are not yet known. I sincerely trust that the Government will take -every possible step to ensure that only reasonable prices shall be charged to the Department of Supply and Development for the goods of this class that it needs. Our own factories are capable of supplying all wo need in equipment of this kind, but the Government must ensure that the price is reasonable.
In addition to the imports under the items now under consideration^ other textiles and apparel valued at £7,500,000 a year are purchased by Australia from overseas. These are included in a list, compiled by departmental experts at the request of the Federal Cabinet, of imports which it is believed can be made in Aus tralia. The Government is making commendable efforts to assist the establishment of new industries in this country, but to tamper Avith the tariff foundations of existing industries while endeavouring to establish new ones is surely the height of folly. I believe that every possible step should be taken to establish new industries’,.’ but at the same time we should take care that old established industries are not jeopardized.
I ask the Minister to do his utmost to protect our woollen industry. The duties now proposed should not be ratified. It would be a retrogressive step to ratify them. If there is any fear of profiteering the Government should take steps under its National Security Regulations to deal effectively with the position. The woollen industry has an honorable record which goes hack to p re-federation clays. It was established on a firm footing under the protectionist policy of Victoria, in the concluding years of the last century, and it has since been established in every State. There is no justification whatever for the proposed reduction of the duties by almost half. I can quite understand that the Government feels that it is under some obligation to ensure that the terms of- the Ottawa Agreement are complied with in regard to this industry; but the case submitted by the Australian manufacturers for the retention of the existing duties was, in my opinion, thoroughly sound. Our woollen manufacturers use Australian raw material, employ Australian people, and observe Australian standards. Provided there is no profiteering in. the industry - and this should be easily ascertainable - the whole of the Australian market should be reserved for the- Australian manufacturers.
.- The woollen industry of this country, which was established in pre-federation days in Victoria, has since been established in all of the Australian States, and its operations are of great value to the Commonwealth. The industry is highly efficient and covers a wide range of production. It has been proposed that the existing duty on woollen piece-goods under item 105(f) (“1) shall be reduced from ls. a square yard and 30 per cent, ad valorem, which, less exchange, is equal to approximately 9d. a square yard and 22^ per cent, net ad valorem, to 6d. a square yard and 20 per cent, ad valorem. The inquiry into the industry was made by the Tariff Board in consequence of a submission that I sent to it in 1936 in response to a request from overseas. A voluminous report has been presented by the board, which shows that the representatives of 49 firms gave evidence in defence of existing duties. The chief evidence in opposition was tendered on behalf of the Wool Textile Delegation, Bradford, England, a representative of which was fair enough, however, to say, inter aiia, that the organization was - obviously unable to assert that the present duties are excessive.
That statement in itself is significant. Nevertheless the Bradford interests requested that a reduction of duties should be granted to enable it to capture more of the Australian trade. A perusal of the report will show that the subject is complex and technical. One member of the board, in his minority report, stated - lt is impossible ,to make even the widest guess as to the percentage of trade that would be diverted from Australian manufacturers by the reductions of duty recommended by the majority of the board, but it is obvious that any increase that would be considered significant by United Kingdom interests would result in a serious loss of employment in this country.
I suggest that we do not want to run that risk. The Ottawa Agreement comes into the matter. I do not agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) that this industry was investigated in the terms of that agreement. As a. matter of fact, it just missed that.
However, a new interpretation has now been placed on the Ottawa Agreement. Article 11 of the agreement specifies that Parliament shall be “ invited to vary “ the rates of duty. The full text of the article is as follows: -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertakes that a review shall be made as soon as practicable by the Australian Tariff Board of existing protective duties in accordance with the principles laid down in Article 10 hereof, and that after thi’ receipt of the report and recommendation of the Tariff Board the Commonwealth Parliament shall be invited to vary, wherever necessary, the tariff on goods of United Kingdom origin in such manner as to give effect to such principles.
Article 10 is in these terms -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertakes that during the currency of this agreement the turill’ shall be based on the principle that protective duties shall not exceed such a level as will give United Kingdom producers full opportunity of reasonable competition on the basis of the relative cost of economical and efficient production, provided that in the application of such principle special consideration may bc given to the case of industries not fully established.
The significance of the article lies in the words “ invited to vary “. When I was putting through the tariff schedule in 1933, I understood those words to mean that any defeat of a recommendation of the Tariff Board on a British duty would involve the violation Of the agreement, and I said so 04 more than one occasion. That was also the opinion of the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) who had taken part in the framing of the agreement. He signed the agreement, but I had to carry it out. However, there was never any general unanimity on the point. The opinion of learned counsel was invoked by honorable members when the cement duties were before the ; House. At that time, I maintained that if Parliament were to throw out the Tariff Board’s recommendation in respect of the cement duties, it would constitute a violation of the Ottawa Agreement, and that was the opinion of the Government at the time. Last year, I was a member of the delegation that visited the United Kingdom to consider- the renewal of the agreement “and to make whatever adjustments might be- necessary. This point was one of the principal matters discussed.
Other matters came into it, of course. We secured preference for our exports, and an- assurance that Great Britain recognized the necessity for the development of secondary industries in Australia. In connexion with the interpretation of the agreement, however, it was finally agreed i hat, provided the law officers of the United Kingdom approved, the article in question would be taken to mean just what the words implied, namely, that Parliament “ would be invited to vary “ the duties in accordance with the recommendations of the Tariff Board, but if it did not do so, there would be no abrogation of the agreement. Up to last November, no communication had been received from the legal authorities of the United Kingdom on the matter. Perhaps the Minister for Trade and Customs can say whether such a communication has been received since.
– I cannot say.
– Evidently it has not come, because it would be brought under the notice of the Minister immediately it did. I submit to honorable members, therefore, that if they reject the recommendation of the Tariff Board on this item, they will not thereby be violating the Ottawa Agreement. Honorable members may act with a clear conscience, recognizing that the agreement will not be affected by what they do. It must also bp remembered that the situation is Very different now from what it was when the inquiry was made. The economic position in every country has altered since then. Moreover, the fact that this is an efficient industry should be taken into consideration. I have not been able to find any evidence of profiteering. As a matter of fact, the internal competition is too keen to allow it. Therefore, I should prefer the duties to remain as they are. rather than that the industry might suffer injury. I do not intend to support Hie proposed reduction of duty.
– I support the proposal-‘ of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) that Item 105f be rejected. This industry should have adequate protection, and ‘ I feel sure that the Houfe will agree, on the evidence that I shall produce, that the recommendation in the majority report of the Tariff Board should not be put into effect. The woollen industry is a truly Australian industry. All nations come to Australia to buy our wool, and Australia produces a very large part of all the wool used in the world to-day. We should, therefore, be in a position to make up our own wool into our own clothing and woollen goods. The woollen manufacturing industry was established in Australia long before Federation. Two of the woollen mills in my electorate were established before I was born. A third was established more recently, and I believe .that it is destined to play a big part in the commercial life of the community. -This industry provides a great deal of employment at good wages. Throughout Australia 19,000 persons are employed directly in it, while it employs indirectly a total of 50,000 workers in the clothing: industry. It provides yarns, &c, for theknitting industry which employs 18,000’ workers. Altogether, the woollen industry pays out £3,000,000 a year in wages. Buildings and plant are valued at over £6,000,000. The Tariff Board has declared that it is one of the most efficient industries in the country. Under the existing tariff, the importations of woollen piece goods into Australia are rapidly increasing. In 1935-36, woollen piecegoods to the value of £338,000 were imported, in 1936-37 the value was £434,837, while in I937-3S, the last year for which figures are available, the value was £491,290. The ever-increasing importation of woollen piece goods has been accompanied by a continuous decline of the volume of employment in the Australian industry. In 1935-36, the number of persons employed was 19,693; in 1936-37 the number had declined to 19,239, while for 1937-38 it was only 19.103. Statistics show that for every 20s. worth of woollen piece goods imported in Australia, the workers of this country lose approximately 6s. 8d. in wages. Since the 14th October, 1932, the duty on woollen piece goods has been reduced three times. On that date, as the result of the signing of the Ottawa Agreement, the British preferential duty was reduced from 2s. a square yard, and 35 per cent, ad valorem to ls. a square yard and 30 per cent, ad- valorem. That brought the duties back to the Pratten tariff of 1926. The second reduction was effected by the Exchange Adjustment Act introduced in 1933. Now, we have this third proposal, introduced on a report of the Tariff Board,, to reduce the protection to 6d. a square yard, and 25 per cent, ad valorem. The reference to the Tariff Board was signed by the Minister on the 11th December, 1936, since when three full years have elapsed. The report of the board was signed in Melbourne eighteen months ago, and it was not unanimous. As a matter of fact, one of the most progressive members of the board, Mr. W. J. Rose, signed a minority report. During the three years since the inquiry was referred to the board, conditions in the industry have changed greatly. Wages have increased, as have also the costs of materials, machinery, &C Economic conditions are altogether different now from what they were when the board beganits inquiry. The basic wage has increased from £3 10s. to £4 a week, and the price of machinery, dyestuffs, chemicals, and other materials have all increased. If the Minister looks at page 33 of the majority report, he will see that the board is convinced that there is no method of comparing relative costs in the United Kingdom and Australia that does not introduce an element of speculation. On page 11 of the report the following passage occurs : -
Rates of wages paid by Australian manufacturers are legally enforceable, whereas schedules of wages in the United Kingdom are not adhered to by all the mills. Furthermore, rates paid in Scotland are lower than in England, but, here again, there is no compulsion on the employers to pay these rates.
The woollen industry in Australia received a great fillip during the last war. When war broke out in 1914, Australia was relatively much worse off than it is now from the point of view of supplying the requirements of the defence forces. We had only a small number of mills, and they were by no means as efficient as they are to-day. Nevertheless, they rendered valuable service in equipping the troops for overseas service. To-day, there are about 50 mills producing woollen goods. At the request of the Government they are now working three shifts a day producing khaki clothing, blankets, flannel, &c, for the Army, Navy, and Air Force. These goods are produced in what even the. Tariff Board admits is one of our most efficient industries. Had not that industry been protected, its progress would have been retarded, and to-day we should have found ourselves in “ Queer-street “ and unable to equip our forces. Why should we allow the industry to be destroyed by a report which is eighteen months old? I do not wish to read the numerous telegrams which I have received from chambers of manufactures and proprietors of woollen mills in my own district, protesting against a reduction of the duties, and saying that, if persisted in, the industry, if not destroyed, will be seriously handicapped. I point out, moreover, that this is a natural industry which should receive the support of this Parliament. There should be no delay in agreeing to the deletion of this item from the schedule, so that the former duties under which the industry made considerable progress will come into operation. Two years ago, woollen-piece goods to the value of £338,000 were imported. Since then, the value of such importations has risen to £491,000. During the same period the number of operatives employed in Australian mills has decreased. There is no danger of undue profiteering, because there are sufficient mills operating in this country to make the competition very keen indeed, and, in addition, the Minister for Trade and Customs is now empowered to control profits.
Three or four years ago, when it was suggested that Parliament should accept whatever report the Tariff Board submitted on any matter referred to that body, I disagreed with the proposal. I have fought against that idea ever since, and I am happy to say that, at last, the British Government has agreed that if this Parliament believes that a reasonable case has been made out for the rejection of a recommendation of the Tariff Board, no breach of the Ottawa Agreement is committed. As the result of recent negotiations with Great Britain, the Tariff Board is no longer superior to this Parliament. The supremacy of the Parliament having been established, it is encumbent upon us to examine Tariff Board reports more keenly than ever. If that be done in this instance, Parliament will not hesitate to reject the Tariff
Board’s recommendation. Not often, does a member of the Tariff Board submit a minority report which is in conflict with the views of his colleagues. This is one of the very few instances in which an important member of the Tariff Board has submitted a minority report defending the former duties and claiming that they are essential for the success of the industry. In these somewhat unique circumstances, I have no hesitationin asking the Parliament to reject the duties set out in the schedule, and to restore the former duties which gave to the industry a protection of1s. per square yard or 30 per cent, ad valorem British preferential tariff. Even when those duties were in operation, there were substantial and increasing importations of woollen goods, and a gradual reduction of a number of employees in Australian factories. Not even the manufacturers of Britain would want that to continue. I ask that the former duties under which British, manufacturers had an ever-expanding share of the Australian markets be restored.
– I cannot understand why either the Government or the Tariff Board should interfere with the previously existing duties on woollen piece-goods. Australian manufacturers have been asked to establish industries in order to supply the local market with its requirements of woollen goods, and they have expended hundreds of thousands of pounds in providing the plant to enable that to be done. Their action has meant the employment of many additional workers. I know that, even under the previously existing duties, there was difficulty in running the machinery to full capacity, and I see no logical reason for interfering with those duties now. At a time when action is being taken to prevent money from going out of Australia, and to discourage the establishment of unnecessary enterprises, it is difficult to understand why the Government should interfere with the existing order. I know that at St. Kilda and Middle Park, as well as at other seaside places throughout Australia, thousands of Australian-made garments are worn. The people of Australia are satisfied with, the locally manufactured articles, and do not want imported goods. The Acting Treasurer (Mr. Spender) has told us that the Government is preparing a scheme of taxation to meet the growing defence bill. J. ask him why should the Government attempt to interfere with the turnover of establishments which are able to supply the Australian markets with satisfactory goods. Rather than . interfere with them, we should aim at giving to them a monopoly of the Australian market. If it be contended that some manufacturers are making more than reasonable profits, I reply that there are means to deal with them. We should not seek to injure’ an industry merely because some persons engaged in it are successful. They can be dealt with by the imposition of a tax on excess profits.
– Are excess profits being made?
– I donot say that they are. In. trying to find some reason for the attack on this industry it appeared to me that the Government might have though t that excess profits were being made. But even if that were so, this is not the way to deal with the problem. The wool industry has been passing through difficult experiences during the last two or three years ; unless something be done for the producers of wool or the war aids them temporarily, they will haveto seek a bounty. We have set on foot a campaign urging the people to wear more wool. The raw material for this industry is produced in Australia and manufacture takes place where the raw material is produced. Such an industry shouldbe given every encouragement, and therefore, I am the more amazed at the attack upon it. I want to see Australia become more self-contained, and I do not mind if, in the process, some people make profits. I am concerned not so much with profits as with the success of industry, because I know that profits can be regulated. In addition to being a native industry, the manufacture of woollen goods is decentralized to a considerable degree. In Victoria it is established in a number of different centres hundreds of miles apart. Of what use is a successful campaign to getthe people to use more woollen goods, and less imported artificial silk goods, if, after thousands of pounds have been expended in the erection of buildings and the installation of plant, the industry is to be attacked in this way? An argument which has been used by the Tariff Board for years, and which has been exploited by all governments,, is that we should not waste our money and our time by engaging in industries which cannot be efficiently carried on in Australia. I remember the honorable members for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) and Swan (Mr. Gregory) arguing consistently and scientifically that we should not make people pay exorbitant prices for Australian goods, the manufacture of which can never be successfully undertaken in this country. The woollen industry, however, is not one of that type; it is natural to Australia, and therefore worthy of every encouragement on the part of the Government. Why undermine this industry now? There is no logical reason why the existing rates of duty should be tampered with. Some people say that there is no need for an alteration of the duties now, because, owing to the war, there is little or no chance of woollen goods coming into this country which are likely to interfere with those of Australian manufacture. If that be so, what is gained by interfering with the duties now, or by having debates upon them? Why not let them remain as they are? It is very seldom that any secondary industry, particularly one in respect of which some criticism has been offered, is satisfied with the protection already afforded to it. The Australian woollen manufacturers . have said that they are satisfied with the assistance they have already received, and all that they ask is to be left alone. I intend to vote against the new duties. I trusty that, even at this late stage, the Minister will withdraw his proposal.
– At the outset of my remarks I should like to refer briefly to the statement of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) that the imports of woollen piece goods have been steadily increasing over a period of years. ‘That is, in fact, the case if the honorable member referred to thesum-total of woollen piece goods imported into Australia; but if one confines one’s observations to the woollen piece goods covered by the item under consideration by the committee, there is an entirely different story to tell. The plain fact is that, over the last four years, the value of woollen piece goods imported into Australia covered by this item hasbeen falling. The value of imports of woollen piece goods under this item during the last four years was as follows: -
The Tariff Board’s recommendations were made after very careful consideration of all aspects of the case. The board has recommended that the protection accorded to the Australian woollen industry be reduced by from 5 per cent, to 10 per cent, on cloths of medium weights, and by nearly 35 per cent, on some cheaper or lighter-weight cloths. In 1925 the Australian woollen manufacturers were supplying a very small share of the local market, but during the succeeding years notable progress has been made, so much so that over 90 per cent, of the demand is now supplied by local factories. This position must be regarded as most satisfactory, particularly in view of the fact that, in woollen goods, the variety required is large, while research and fashion result in the continual production of new types and designs in order to meet competition and to widen the popularity of woollen materials. During the year 1937-38 the output of woollen piece goods by Australian mills was approximately 29,500,000 square yards, valued at £5,200,000.
The Tariff Board has gone very thoroughly into the question of the protection necessary to enable the Australian industry to progress, and is convinced that there is a case for some reduction of existing duties. After a searching investigation the board concluded that, on the basis of equal efficiency in the woollen industry in the United Kingdom and Australia, the selling price in Australian currency of a wide range of woollen fabrics produced locally should not be more than 55 per cent, higher than the sterling f.o.b. prices of similar materials in the United Kingdom. Existing duties, together with other unavoidable charges, result in landed costs of woollen cloths being from one and a half to two and a half times the United Kingdom f.o.b. prices in sterling. The level of existing duties has thus caused importations to be limited to special cloths such as fine fabrics for ladies’ wear, materials which cannot yet be economically produced in Australia, and specialty cloths in respect of which high prices are not a deterrent to sales. The local mills are not yet in a position to meet . all requirements of light fancy woollen fabrics, which are subject to a varying demand as well as to the* vagaries of fashion. If these fabrics are made too costly the demand is likely to change to materials made from other fibres, rather than to plain woollen cloths of Austraiian manufacture. The Tariff Board points out that little or no protection is required for many cloths in large demand. On the contrary, the protection necessary in respect of goods such as women’s dress materials and overcoatings is considerable.
Honorable members have been provided with a copy of the board’s report on this subject. I would particularly refer them to the table appearing on page 34, which sets out very clearly the ad valorem equivalent of both existing and proposed duties over a range of representative cloths and reveals the competitive position of the local industry under the lower duties now proposed. A study of this table will, I am sure, convince the committee that the industry has no reason to fear any setback as the result of the adoption of the proposed duties. The existing duties represent a protection of from 264 per cent, to 90 per cent., while the proposed rates vary in their incidence from 25 per cent, to 56 per cent. In most instances the selling price of Australian cloths will be below that of similar British fabrics. It is not unnatural for Australian manufacturers to become apprehensive of their position when a reduction of the tariff protection accorded is contemplated. I might remind the committee that not so long ago cement manufacturers were of the opinion that the duty-free admission of British cement would ruin their industry. To-day, although British cement is duty free, their output is larger than ever. After studying the Tariff Board’s report, I cannot see that the woollen industry has anything to fear as the result of the operation of the duties which it recommended. The’ protection accorded the board is still substantial and, in fact, on many classes of materials, is well above that accorded to some other Australian industries.
There is another aspect which is not without its importance. The value of our raw wool industry cannot be’ too highly rated, and we must avoid anything which would tend to reduce the consumption of wool. As the Tariff Board points out, there are certain specialty woollens either not yet produced commercially in Australia or not capable of economic production at present. The price of these goods influences their sale to a great extent. If the price be too high, these materials will be replaced by cloths made from other fibres. In this way our great primary industry might be disadvantaged. There is really no need for me to assure the committee that the Government would not consider a course of action which might hamper this important branch of secondary industry. From the report of the Tariff Board, ifis also clear that the board kept well in mind the necessity for safeguarding an industry developed to the proportions which the woollen industry has now achieved. 1 remind the committee that large contracts for woollen materials for defence purposes have already been let to Australian woollen manufacturers, and further orders may be expected for similar goods. These orders must assist the local industry and further its progress.
In answer to the suggestion made by several honorable members that an attack has been made on this industry which will have most unfortunate effects, I refer thom to an article which appeared in the November issue of the Textile Journal of A.ustral’ia, a portion of which reads as follows : -
Mills at the present are working to full capacity on defence orders. Overtime is being worked in nearly all local mills at the present. Whilst every effort is being made to supply civil trade requirements, preference is of necessity made in respect of the Army. Navy and Air Force needs.
– These are extraordinary circumstances.
– The effect of the duty has not been to reduce employment in the woollen mills, and is not likely to do so. Should there be any doubts in the minds of Australian manufacturers regarding the effect of these proposals on the woollen industry, I feel that they will readily he removed upon perusal of the report of the Tariff Board. There is no doubt that the board was very- thorough in its investigations in this case and its report is extremely enlightening. I therefore commend the proposals to the committee.
– The approach of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. John Lawson) to this subject is rather surprising. J.t seems to me that, in its attempt to have these duties reduced, the Government must be guided very largely by the fact that it feels it owes allegiance to an article of the Ottawa Agreement rather than to the best interests of the Australian manufacturers and the people. Whilst I realize that the Minister has put his case in a reasonable way, and has endeavoured to show the points which he says are favorable to the reduction of the duties, I believe that the majority of honorable members on both sides of the chamber will agree that, if the duties are reduced, an industry, most important to Australia, will be adversely affected. There are three woollen mills in my electorate, the Port Phillip Woollen Mills at Footscray, Baldwins Proprietary Limited, and the Victorian Woollen Mills at Yarraville. These three mills are concerned about the proposal for the reduction of the duties on woollen piece-goods. I do not for one moment deny that the Minister has put a case which has the backing of the Tariff Board ; but it is the duty of honorable members, when they see an industry adversely affected by the recommendations of the board, to contest the board’s recommendations. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) made it clear that the Tariff Board investigated this industry some time ago when conditions were quite different from what they are to-day and, what is quite unusual in the circumstances, a minority report was presented. In that report there, are substantial arguments which I fear the Minister has not been, told about. This is an industry which has been referred to as national and natural. I quite agree with those sentiments. The industry is as much of interest to country as to city electorates. It is one of the few industries of Australia which provide employment in country towns. That is an important factor in our economy. Mills are established at such towns as Wangaratta, Daylesford, Geelong and Castlemaine. They are strewn all over Australia, and they provide remunerative employment for the children of people in country towns. If that employment were lacking those families would be compelled to move to the cities. I -take it that the Government is desirous of seeing as much decentralization as is possible, but its proposal will give impetus to the centralization which has been occurring in Australia for a long period of years. The honorable member for Moreton is one honorable member, who represents a country electorate and sits in support of the Government, who has expressed himself on this matter. I should have thought, that other supporters of the Government from rural constituencies would also express opposition to this proposed reduction of duty. If they fail to do so, they will not be doing justice to their electorates. The chief quality exhibited byhonorable members opposite is agreement, with the Government whenever there is a crisis.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has gone into the details and I do not intend to cover the ground so ably covered by him. It is not denied that the quality of the goods manufactured in Australia is quite as good as that . of goods imported from overseas. I had the opportunity quite recently to see samples of the Australian product. They were made available for honorable members of this Parliament to inspect. The patterns covered a wide range of all kinds of wearing material, and the standard was exceptionally high. I cannot see why it is necessary, in order to make a gesture to people who manufacture similar classes of goods in Great Britain, that a reduction of the duty should be proposed. This industry employs a great number of people in this country, and the Government should, therefore, reconsider its attitude. We contend that this item should be either deleted or reconsidered. I am compelled to believe that I should be acting in ‘ the bust interests of Australia in voting for the deletion of the item, because, unless it is deleted, there will be an adverse effect on the industry, notwithstanding the optimistic view expressed by the Minister. It has been said that for every 20s. worth of woollen goods imported, (is. Sd. is lost in wages to this country. According to the latest available figures, wc imported in 1937-3S woollen piece goods, yarns and wool tops valued at £491,270. On that basis, we lost in 1937-3S, in wages, £163,763. Is there not something radically wrong with that state of affairs? I.’s there not something in a statement of that kind which would appeal to honorable members sitting behind the Government to induce- them to agree to the deletion of the item? The latest report of the Commonwealth Statistician shows that, even under the duties which it is proposed to reduce, imports are increasing, with a corresponding decrease of the number of persons employed in the industry in Australia. The Minister contests that. He may have data from the Commonwealth Statistician to support him. But the figures in ray possession show that the number of hands employed in the woollen mills in Australia has been gradually reduced. I am appreciative of the fact that during the war it will be impossible for the manufacturers in Great Britain to send goods to Australia to the same degree as hitherto, but we cannot base any action in this House on that, because if it should happen, as we all hope, that the war came to an end within the next few months, the present demand for uniforms and woollen goods used in other equipment would disappear. The Commonwealth Statistician’s report shows that the number of hands employed in Australian woollen mills declined f rom 19,693 in 1935-36 to 19,239 in 1936-37, and to 19,103 in 1937-38. Australia cannot afford to have a decrease of the number of people employed in any industry in this country. Because of a desire on the part of the Government to have some undue regard to the articles of the Ottawa Agreement which affect Australian trade, we should not be willing to support a reduction of this kind. In addition to the imports that I have referred to, other textiles and apparel valued at £7,500,000 a year are purchased by Australia from overseas. These are included in a list of imports which it is believed can be made in Australia, at the request of the Federal Cabinet, compiled by departmental experts. I do not suggest that the Government is taking other than commendable steps to assist new industries, but I do think, that if the Labour party were in power, much more would be done. What I- complain about is the fact that the Government’s . efforts are not sufficiently vigorous. To tamper with the tariff foundation of an existing industry is the height of foolishness. We should have a complete and composite policy of industrial development. If the war provides an opportunity to establish new industries and to expand already existing industries, it will be the duty of the Government to seize that opportunity; if it fails to do so it will be worthy of condemnation. The protective tariff is the foundation of every secondary industry in Australia, and I do riot want to see that foundation tampered with. Surely an industry which employs more than 19,000 people, produces more than £3,000,000 worth of goods annually, and has £6,000,000 worth of plant and buildings, justifies preservation and expansion. The Minister for Trade and Customs says that the industry is not in danger, but he has not endeavoured to prove his words. . Apart from the mills in the country districts, there are 24 mills in the capital cities. Country members will have statistics about country mills. The Government should listen to the representations made from- both sides of the House. If the Government is open to persuasion at all, it should give some consideration to those arguments, more so in view of the fact that much of the opposition to this proposal has emanated from the Government side of the House. I should prefer the Minister ‘to withdraw the item altogether and thus avoid a division. I look with concern on the position which means that’ a lot of our raw materials has to go abroad to be manufactured and returned to this country. A good number of the honorable members and others who support the Government want to get their clothes and suit materials from Great Britain and they are prepared to pay up to 10s. a yard more for it.
– Not every one.
– Not every one. Possibly the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Jennings) is wearing an Australianmade suit, but there are men ‘on the Government side who prefer an Englishmade suit and a “ haw-haw “ style to an Australian suit. I appeal to the Ministry not to do anything to injure this most vital industry; but, if the Minister persists in forcing the item to a vote, I appeal to all of those honorable members who have the interests of Australia at heart to join with the Opposition in defeating the item. Those who fail to do so will be lacking in their duty to the electorates. All true Australians will vote against this item.
.- In the second reading debate I drew attention to the importance of the woollen industry, and it is interesting to note that all parties of this House recognize its worth to Australia. I support previous speakers who have asked that the proposed reduction of duty be not made. The justness of that request is supported by the fact that the industry has been a great factor in decentralization. Because, of the abundance of raw material in Australia the woollen industry appeals to all Australians. In various parts of the Commonwealth there are about 50 mills, and about half of them are situated in districts where they-provide employment for a rural population.
The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) mentioned Australian suitings. I speak from experience when I say that one can get a stylish suit at a comparatively less rate in Australia than in Great Britain. Those who go abroad will be well advised to buy their suitings in Australia, hecause they will get at least equal value and style for their money. Overseas interests have brought pressure to bear to have these duties reduced, and damage has already been done in this direction. The Commonwealth Statistician’s report on woollen mills, issued last year, contains authentic figures showing that the employment in Australian woollen mills has decreased, and that imports of woollen goods have risen by 50 per cent. The mere fact that in the last few years there has been a decrease by 20 per cent, of the price of Australian woollen manufactures, is important. That reduction has been brought about by increased efficiency and more economical methods of production. If the Australian prices were to rise unjustifiably, the Commonwealth’s price-controlling machinery could take care of that.
– Does the honorable member really ‘think that the Government uses the powers conferred upon it by its profiteering control legislation?
– I do; I have seen the profiteering control machinery in operation. Moreover, the mere fact that the machinery does exist acts as a “ four-wheel brake “ on the activities of any would-be profiteer. The fact that the cost of living in Australia has increased by only 2 per cent, since the war began, as against 8 per cent, in Great Britain, shows that the prices control must have had some effect. Competition between different lines of manufactured woollen goods will be an important factor in keeping down prices. The woollen industry has been helping the country tremendously in the defence field in the production of blankets, khaki cloths, and other materials. It is reasonable to ask that the industry be not interfered with, and I support the proposal to negative this item.
.- It has been said during the discussion on this item that the woollen industry is a natural one. Of course it is a natural industry, and that is one reason why it should be in a better position to stand on its own feet than are some other industries. It has had a long run of assistance, as other speakers have pointed out, and is one of the oldest protected industries in Australia. It’ is to its credit that th, Tariff Board is able to recommend a reduction of the protection afforded to it. The propounders of protection in Australia held that the idea of protecting industries was to assist them over the period of their infancy. The woollen industry is a very old infant now, and there is no reason why it should need excessive protection, especially at a time like this, when it is impossible to import goods to compete with it. This country is at the moment expending large sums of money on woollen goods, and the mills are working overtime. I cannot understand why there should be such anxiety on its behalf, in view of the very excellent position which has been ably stated by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. John Lawson). The Government is merely observing the recommendation of the body best qualified to examine this matter. There is a woollen mill in my electorate, but I believe that its directors are practical enough to say that this reduction of the tariff will not injure their business. They are big enough to recognize that they can carry on successfully. Why should honorable members of the Opposition be such defenders of profiteers? I know that circulars were sent to the woollen mills just before the last general election from honorable members of the Opposition asking for special contributions towards the funds of their party. That is why they do not wish to follow the course proposed by the Tariff Board. They say, in effect, “Let the manufacturers make all the profits they can “.
– The honorable member is wrong in saying that circulars, asking for contributions, were sent to the manufacturers by honorable members on this side of the House.
– As it is, the people of Australia are paying too much for the goods that are made here, and undue profits are being made. Honorable members are aware that the Tariff Board is the only authority competent to deal with these matters, and I believe that the Government very wisely accepted its recommendation.
– The Tariff Board submitted a minority report.
– Nothing of the sort. The Government is accepting a majority report. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) no doubt would prefer to be guided by the minority because he is distinctly prejudiced in this matter. No honorable member has been able to give evidence to show that the woollen manufacturers will require the full protection as it stood in the old schedule. The Tariff Board is paid by the citizens of Australia in order to carry- out scientific investigations, and it has never let down the- people in any oi its recommendations.
.- I am disappointed at the Government’s acceptance of the Tariff Board’s recommendation on this item. I am not a parish-pump politician; it is true that there are woollen mills in my electorate at Kyneton, Castlemaine and Ballarat; but even if there were none, I should still support a policy of absolute prohibition of the importation of woollen goods. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) advocates a policy of absolute free trade. He, and others who hold similar views, would make the average Australian “ a hewer of wood and a drawer of water “.- I realize that the primary producers of this country - and this applies to the honorable member for Forrest as well as to myself - have sons and daughters whose inclinations, as the result of the gifts of providence, urge them along the path of inventive genius and the development of their mechanical and artistic senses. Only by fostering the secondary industries can they be given the chance to employ those gifts. For that reason I have always advocated a protectionist policy in order to protect the people of Australia from the cheap labour products of overseas countries - coolie labour in many cases. In answer to thu assertion of the honorable member for Forrest that prior to the last election the Labour party circularized manufacturers in an endeavour to secure subscriptions, I point out that, so far as the shareholders and directors of the woollen mills in my constituency are concerned, it is my belief that to a. man they were opponents of mine. Notwithstanding that, I wish to reserve for the youth of this country the right to engage in their natural avocations, just as those rights have been reserved for the youths of other countries. I have no illusions about the capacity of manufacturers in other countries to exploit the Australian public, and my support of a protectionist policy is based on the sound reasoning that I would rather be exploited in Australia by Australian people than by foreign manufacturers. By reason of legislation existing in this country, I know that I am able to thwart the profiteering activities of people who would exploit the public. Small-minded people say that Australians cannot produce articles equal to the quality of those produced overseas. I say, particularly to those honorable’ members in the corner party who make such vile statements, that, when I was on the other side of the world, I was impelled to adopt questionable tactics simply because of the outstanding excellence of Australian products. At one period of my service overseas during the last war, ir. was impossible to obtain, by ordinary means, an Australian blanket, an Australian tunic, Australian boots, or an Australian hat, and so, when the opportunity offered, many of us were not above “’ pinching “ Australian articles and keeping them. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Scholfield) will support my statement that I can remember holding an English blanket up to the light of the skies and being able to see daylight through it; but when I held up an Australian blanket I could not see a chink of light through it. The Australian blankets were the ones which really kept ns warm, and the Australian articles of clothing that sumo into our hands during those arduous years were our dearest possessions. If I «.ni a patriot at all, I am a patriot to the degree that I am proud of the products of this country and particularly the products of secondary industries. The woollen industry is indigenous to Australia. It i offers opportunities for employment to our own people and at the moment it cannot ‘be convicted of profiteering. A study of the index figures of wholesale prices for manufacturing industries shows .that the index number for the wholesale manufacture of woollen goods is lower than that for any other industry in the Commonwealth. That gives the lie direct to the statement which has been made to-night that the woollen manufacturers have been profiteering. Apart altogether from the facts that the industry is natural to Australia, is the most suited to decentralization, and offers facilities to our youth for the development of their activities and inventive genius, it also offers the best market that we can obtain for the products of our primary industries. I say that particularly to the honorable member for Forrest. The workers of
Castlemaine, Kyneton, and -Ballarat woollen mills pay 136s. per cwt. for the honorable member’s butter, whereas the people of the Old Country pay a miserable 96s. per cwt. I deny any political interest in the manufacturers in my constituency who, I believe, are hostile to me, and I stand four square for 100 per cent, protection against the importation of clothing from any other country. The Minister for Trade and Customs has submitted an unconvincing case, and his statement that there are certain specialized lines that the aristocracy of this country might desire to wear, which must be obtained from overseas is not a very sound one. If the superfine goods of the Australia woollen mills are not good enough for the ladies of the. United Australia party they are, at any rate, good enough for the ladies of the Labour movement. I object to the reduction of the tariff protection on these goods. On their return from the last Great War, Australian soldiers had the privilege of purchasing one suit length a year at cost price from the Federal Woollen Mills, which were then controlled by the Federal Government, Those suit lengths were of as fine a. quality as any that the world’s woollen mills ever produced. A tory government similar in political outlook to the present Government robbed the returned soldiers and the people of Australia of the opportunity to purchase this superfine Australian cloth. The honorable member for Wannon, to whom I have already referred, no doubt thinks he buys superfine English cloth, but probably he gets the Australian superfine and does not know the difference. In my opinion this Government is acting as a traitor to the Australian woollen industry in accepting the recommendation of the Tariff Board on this item. I always seek, and respect, the advice of experts; but only a spineless government would refuse to make up its own mind on this issue. History shows that those who have contributed most to the progress of mankind have been the people who have had the courage of their own convictions and have spurned the opinions of so-called experts. I do not say this with any intention to speak derogatively of the experts. My point is that we should be prepared to exercise an independent mind. It is frequently said by some honorable gentlemen opposite that the tariff has increased the cost of manufactured goods to the Australian purchasers.
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the item before the Chair.
– There has been, in the past, a conspiracy on the part of importers to exploit the Australian public. As Parliament has full power to deal with local manufacturers who attempt to exploit the public, but no power to deal with importers who send so much money out ofthis country, I am prepared to take any risk there is in dealing direct with our own manufacturers.
– Unless the honorable member confines his remarks to the item before the Chair. I shall have to ask him to resume his seat.
– I affirm that the Australian public has been treated more equitably since the manufacture of woollen goods has been undertaken in this country. We are receiving a better article at a lower price. I shall oppose the Government on this issue, and support the deletion of the item in order that our young people may have tie opportunity to use their artistic and inventive genius to foster the development of our woollen trade.
– I have listened with interest to the excellent speech of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard). I remind him, however, that woollen mills are operating in Australia in other places than Ballarat. The woollen-manufacturing industry is of such value to the Commonwealth that I propose to oppose the item. An industry that gives employment to more than 50,000 is worth fostering. The honorable member for Ballarat said that he wore a suit made of Australian cloth. He is only one of many of uswho do so. My late respected father was very proud to wear an Australian suit to England in 1907 when he visited that country as Premier of South Australia. The Bulletin, in an issue about that time, made notable comment on the matter. I believe that my father gave the Australian woollen industry a very valuable advertisement, and just as he advertised it in his day, so I am endeavouring to do so in my day.
I hope that we shall be soon scouring the whole of our wool. That would mean that we should be giving employment to many more thousands of people.
– The honorable member had better mention Lobethal before he sits down.
– I could also mention woollen mills at Mount Gambier, Hindmarsh and Onkaparinga. Although there are no woollen mills in my electorate, I nevertheless take the opportunity to insist: on the fostering of a great Australian industry by opposing the item.
.- I associate myself with other honorable members in advocating adequate protection for our great Australian woollen industry. I am always a supporter of adequate protection for our secondary industries. I do not believe that our people have been unduly exploited by our protectionist policy. Figures could easily be produced to show that since secondary manufacture has been undertaken in Australia, in certain industries in particular, the prices of the manufactured goods concerned have fallen if exploitation has taken place as some honorable members allege. It is the overseas manufacturers and the importers who have exploited the Australian people. I have some interest in the woollen industry because there are several mills in my own electorate. I do not know whether the proprietors of the mills are supporters of mine, and at the moment I am not interested in thataspects. I am concerned with the principle involved, and with the need for developing this industry which provides employment for so many native-born Australians, and alsoencourages workers from overseas to come here and settle. I remember when the textile industry was established in Launceston some years ago. Since then it has gone ahead by leaps and bounds under the protection of the tariff. The mills have been extended and many thousands of pounds’ worth of machinery installed. There has been frequent reference in this House to the need for the decentralization of industry, and the textile industry is one that lends itself to decentralization probably more than any other. There are woollen mills in country towns in Victoria and South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland, as well as in the capital cities. The industry has also been established, as I have said, in Launceston, which is only a small city by comparison with others. It is an industry that is peculiarly suitable to a country which produces the raw material and provides the market for the finished product. As we have been so often reminded, the home market is the best of all markets and our home market is capable of absorbing all that our mills can produce. It has been stated that the woollen industry provides more employment in country . districts than any other industry, there being 24 mills in Australia outside the capital cities. These mills have been established under the protective tariff policy of successive governments, and particularly of the Scullin Government. The woollen industry in Australia provides direct employment tor 19,000 persons, and. provides the bulk of the raw material in the form of piece goods and yarns for the clothing industry with its 50,000 employees, and the knitting industry, which employs 18,000 persons. The industry pays £3,000,000 a year in wages, and has buildings and plant valued at £6,000,000. Practically within the last 30 years the woollen industry has grown from very small beginnings to a position of great importance in Australia. I cannot understand why the Government proposes to accept the recommendation of the Tariff Board on this matter . After all, it is merely a majority report. There is a minority report, signed by Mr. Walter J. Rose, on the 16th of June, 1938, and he advances very strong arguments in opposition to the recommendation of his colleagues. He is a. member of the board, and his opinion is just as much entitled to respect as are the opinions of the other members of the board. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) said that the members of the board were paid out of the public revenue to hear evidence and to make recommendations to Parliament. I remind the honorable member that the majority recommendation of the board was signed by only three members, while the fourth brought in a minority report in which he recommended a different course of action. This shows that even the board was not very happy in its mind as to the wisdom of its recommendation. It may be true that the war will have the effect of protecting the industry to some degree, but that is no reason why the Government should not afford it adequate tariff protection, so that it will not be left at the mercy of its competitors when the war is over. I therefore join with other honorable members in urging the Government not to press the item now before the chamber.
Question put -
That the item be agreed to.
The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Mr. Collins.)
Majority . . . . 25
Wednesday, 6 December 1939
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
The following papers were presented : -
Aircraft Personnel - Documents of Identity - Exchange of Notes between United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and India, and the Netherlands (The Hague, 21st August, 1039).
Reports of Australian Governmentand Trade Commissioners in United States of America, Canada, China, Egypt, Netherlands, India and New Zealand for 1938-39 - Reports for year 1938-39.
National Security Act - National Security (Prices) Regulations - Declaration No. 20.
Northern Australian Survey Act - Aerial, Geological and Geophysical Survey of Northern Australia - Report of Committee, for period ended 30th June, 1939.
Apple and pear Bounty Act - Report on working of the Act, together with return showing amount of bounty paid for 1937.
Canned Fruits Export Control Act - Thirteenth Annual Report of the Australian Canned Fruits Board, for year 1938-39, together with Statement by Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
Citrus Fruits Bounty Act - Report on working of the Act, together with return showing amount of bounty paid for 1938.
Commonwealth Shipping Act - Commonwealth Shipping Board - Cockatoo. Island Dockyard - Balance-sheet and Liquidation Account, 28th February, 1939, with Auditor-General’s report.
Customs Act - Regulations Amended, &c. - Statutory Rules 1939, Nos. 101. 163.
Dairy Produce Export Control Act - Fourteenth Annual Report of the Australian Dairy Produce Board, for year 1938-39, together with Statement by Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
Defence Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1939, No. 159.
Meat Export Control Act - Fourth Annual Report of the Australian Meat Board, for year 1938-39, together with Statement by Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
National Security Act -
National Security (Fair Rents) Regulations - Rules - Fair Rents Boards - Victoria, Queensland, and Tasmania.
National Security (Prices) Regulations - Orders Nos. 40-43.
Papua Act - Ordinance of 1939 - No. 14 - Petroleum (Prospecting and Mining) (No. 2).
Wine Overseas Marketing Act - Eleventh Annual Report of the Australian Wine Board, for year 1938-39, together with Statement by Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
House adjourned at 12.4 a.m. (Wednesday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
d asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
– The honorable member-, on the motion for adjournment on the 19th September last, referred in substance to three matters -
As to the first matter, it is presently receiving my consideration in respect of taxation legislation to be introduced into the House next year. As to the secondmatter, I personally gave consideration to it, and I am satisfied that the honorable member’s general allegation in respect of the directors of these companies is without foundation. As to the third matter, this clearly does not come within the ambit of the duties of the Treasury or the Taxation Department. An “ inquiry “ in the sense apparently used by the honorable member was not held.
Building Works at Darwin.
n asked the Minister repre senting the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following information : -
n asked the Acting Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
In view of the fact that the price to the consumer of cornsacks from India has risen from 8s. 6d. a dozen on the 31st August, 1939, to11s. on the 30th November, and of an anticipated rise to 15s. a dozen in January next, which will represent a rise in cost equivalent to 21/6d. a bushel to the wheatfarmers in Januarynext over the prices in August, will he be prepared to make a special loan to those Premiers of wheat-producing States who would be prepared to erect an extensive system of silos in order to eliminate these threatened rising costs through the war years ?
– While the Government will be prepared to give full consideration to any sound proposals put forward by the Premiers of wheatproducing States in connexion with the erection of silos, it is not prepared to commit itself to any expenditure in this regard at the present stage.
y asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers : -
e asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
In connexion with the remodelling of the vice-regal residence at Canberra, which is reported to have cost £47,872, will he state whether, before this work was undertaken, any special inquiry was made to ascertain if it would not have been cheaper and better to have built a completely new residence?
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following information : -
No special inquiry of the nature suggested was made. It was necessary to prepare a residence for His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent at short notice, and the most expeditious method of doing so was to alter and extend the existing Government House at Yarralumla.
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Four other claims for reimbursement of legal expenses were received from parties represented at the inquiry, namely: - H. G. Whittle and Sons Proprietary Limited, claim for £1,598 16s. 9d. paid by the Commonwealth; Wunderlich Limited, claim for £1.832 not approved; John Grant and Sons Proprietary Limited, claim by solicitors for unstated amount not approved; James Orwin, claim by solicitor for unstated amount not approved.
Investments in Companies Operating Outside Australia.
d asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
Has approval been given in recent times by the Commonwealth Government for the investment of Australian ‘ capital in any company operating outside Australia? If so, will he supply full particulars?
– The only control exercised by the Commonwealth Government over the investment of Australian capital is under the National Security (Capital Issues) Regulations, gazetted on the 13th October, 1939. No approval has been given by the Treasurer under these regulations to any company for the raising of capital except for the purposes of the company concerned in Australia. It may be that one or more of the companies to whom approval to raise capital has been given under the regulations have foreign agencies, but the export of capital is prohibited under the Monetary Control Regulations, and I have no knowledge of any of these companies having exported from the Commonwealth any part of the capital raised under the approval of the Treasurer as mentioned above.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice - 1.Is the work on the Patents Office, Canberra, being executed by day labour or contract?
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following information : -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following information : -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interiorhas supplied the following information : -
r, - On the 29th November the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) asked the Acting Treasurer the following questions, upon notice -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
– On the 29th November the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) asked the Minister for
Social Services the following questions, upon notice : -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
– On the 1st December, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) asked the following questions, upon notice -
I have now obtained the following information : -
Uncompleted Works: Mascot Aerodrome and Long Bay Rifle Range.
s. - On the 22nd November, the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) asked the following question, without notice : -
Is it the intention of the Minister for the Interior to ask the Acting Treasurer for funds to complete works now awaiting completion at Mascot aerodrome and Long Bay Rifle Range ?
The Minister for the Interior has now supplied the following information: -
Mascot Aerodrome: - The amountof £12,400 has been included in the Estimates of Expenditure for 1930-40 for the extension of runways and landing areas. The Department of the Interior has requested the Department of the Treasury to give authority to incur this liability in anticipation of the passing of the Estimates.
Long Bay Rifle Range. - An amount of £4,000 for fencing and grading and turfing has been made available for this work which it is expected will be commenced this week.
Latrobe Shale Deposits.
s. - Oh the28th November the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Spurr) asked me the following question, without notice: -
Can the Prime Minister state whether a report has been received by the Government from Sir JohnCadman, managing director of Scottish Oils Limited, and from the works manager of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited on the oil shale deposits at Latrobe, Tasmania, and, if so, will the Prime Minister make the report available to honorable members ?
A copy of a report dated the 9th January, 1936, furnished by Sir John Cadman to the then Prime Minister dealing, inter alia, with oil shale deposits at Latrobe, is being laid on the table of the Library. The Government has no information regarding any report by the works manager of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited on this subject.
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What were the (a) gross, and (b) net, profits made by the lessees of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard for the years 1933-34 to 1938-39, showing each year separately?
– The managing director of the Cockatoo Docks and Engineering Company Proprietary Limited, who was communicated with regarding the honorable member’s question, has furnished the following reply: -
The terms under which this dockyard is held by our company do not set out any requirement that the profits made by the lessees arc to be disclosed in the manner now requested. The lessees are registered as a private company and I regret I have no authority to supply the information desired.
Effects of Last War.
Mr.Forde asked the Minister for
Defence Co-ordination, upon notice -
How many Australians enlisted during the last war?
How many were sent overseas?
How many were (a) killed, and (b) wounded ?
What number is at present in (a) military hospitals, and (b) lunatic asylums in Australia?
What was the total number from all countries of men (a) killed in the last war, and (b) wounded?
What was the total cost of the last war to Australia, to the 30th June, 1939, showing principal and interest separately?
What was the total cost of the last war to all belligerent nations?
s. - Theparticulars desired are not readily available. They are being ascertained, however, and will be furnished as early as practicable.
k asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained and will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
y asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
In view of the necessity for all soldiers to be provided with suitable woollen socks, will he include these essential articles as part of the departmental issue to the troops?
– Suitable woollen socks are included in the authorized scales of issue of clothing for the 2nd Australian Imperial Force garrison battalions and for the Militia attending the three months’ training camps.
Enlistments for the Navy.
– On the 1st December, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) asked the following question, without notice -
I ask the Minister concerned whether, seeing that country boys who desire to enlist for the Navy are at a disadvantage compared with boys in metropolitan areas, he will have the regulations altered to provide that, in necessarycases, railway warrants will be issued to country boys who are instructed to report for examination in connexion with their enlistment;
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that it is the practice to issue railway warrants to country candidates in cases where it has been possible to arrange for an educational test and provisional medical examination at their place of residence, and the department subsequently decided to bring them to a naval establishment for final examination or trade test. It is regretted that a general approval cannot be given for fares of applicants to be met by the departments. 2nd Australian Imperialforce: Allowances for Wives and Dependants - Rejects - Married Members.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
s. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
– On the 29th November the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows : -
t. - On the 1st December the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) asked the following question,
How many married men are enrolled in the 6th Division?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that the number is 4,234.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 December 1939, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1939/19391205_reps_15_162/>.