16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. M. Nairn) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. Adair Macalister Blain made and subscribed the oath of allegiance as member for the Northern Territory.
– Is the Minister for Labour andNational Service correctly reported in the press of yesterday with respect to a proposal to establish a special department to deal with post-war planning? Has the honorable gentleman a statement to make to the House with reference to this particular matter? If established, where would the headquarters of such a department be located?
– If the press report stated that the establishment of a new department was contemplated, that would not be correct. At the present time, the organization of the new Department of Labour and National Service is engaging attention. Present plans include a division of reconstruction, the purpose of which would be to deal with the labour side of the problem of reconstruction. In that function it would co-operate with other government departments concerned in the matter. If ultimately it be decided to establish such a division, it will be provided with accommodation in Canberra.
– In view of the reported arrival of Sir John Latham at Manila, I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government has received from the Government of Japan any information with respect to a reciprocal appointment of a Minister to represent it in Australia.
– The Commonwealth Government has not yet been informed of the name of the proposed appointee.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior if it be a fact that all accommodation on the trans-Australia railway is booked out until the middle of January next? Is the department building new carriages ? If so, how many are to be built, when was their construction commenced, and when are they likely to be completed? Why did not the Commonwealth Railways Department begin to build modern carriages at an earlier date? Is it a fact that the department is short of locomotives? If so, what steps are being taken to overcome the shortage?
– I shall obtain the information that the honorable member seeks.
Refusal of Capital Issue
– Is the Treasurer personally acquainted with the facts in relation to the refusal to authorize a capital issue of £5,000, on the application of a proposed company known as Coal Oil and By-Products Proprietary Limited, which intended to engage in the production of oil from coal and shale at Berrima? If not, will the honorable gentleman personally investigate the matter, with a. view to the decision being reconsidered? Will he also lay the relevant papers on the table of the House for the persual of honorablemembers, or make them available to me personally?
Mr.FADDEN. - I have personally looked into this matter since the honorable gentleman mentioned it last evening, and am quite satisfied that the right decision has been made. I shall make the file available for the perusal of the honorable member.
– Will the Treasurer state on what grounds he is satisfied that the right decision was made in connexion with the application by Coal Oil and By-Products Proprietary Limited for a new capital issue, and will the honorable gentleman admit that tests by the Government fuel expert, Mr. Rogers, showed a high extraction of crude oil and good quality coke?
– I submit, Mr. Speaker, that the question is out of order.
– Will the Assistant Minister (Mr. Collins) say whether he remarked, when informed of the refusal to grant the application, “It is incredible; I cannot understand it”?
– The matter is in the hands of the Treasurer. I have already told the honorable member that if he will look at the file he will be able to satisfy himself as to the correctness of the decision.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it be a fact that’ shortage of coal supplies is causing the Government concern? Is the right honorable gentleman aware that at certain collieries belonging to the J. and A Brown and Abermain Seaham Collieries Limited the whistle denoting commencement of work has been silent for from three to five weeks on end, and that one of the most lately equipped Caledonian collieries has been closed for years? If there be a’ shortage of coal, does not the right honorable gentleman consider that the opening of these mines and the pooling of orders would ensure greater supplies than are obtainable under the proposal of the Government to induce the employees to work additional shifts?
– I am aware of the fact that there is, speaking broadly, a shortage of coal. I was not aware of the other facts referred to by the honorable member, but I shall have the matter looked info promptly.
– Can the Treasurer give the House an assurance that the freedom loan has been successful, or has reached, at this early stage, the degree of success expected ?
– Up to the present the flotation of the loan has been attended with the success that was expected.
Compensation to Relatives of Deceased Personnel
-Will the Minister for the Navy state whether full pensions are paid to the relatives of deceased men formerly serving in the Royal Australian Navy, irrespective of whether their deaths are attributable to enemy action or accident?
– I cannot say offhand, but I shall obtain the information for the honorable member.
– I understand that a decision has been reached to provide educational facilities for members of the Australian Imperial Force. Married members of the Australian Imperial Force with children between the ages of 10 and 14 years are disturbed in mind lest the education of their children may not be directed along correct lines in accordance with their natural abilities. Will the Minister for the Army arrange that members of the Australian Imperial Force shall he consulted by the educational authorities regarding the education of their children?
– No decision has yet been reached regarding any particular educational scheme. The Department of the Army is in consultation with the universities and other educational authorities with a view to formulating a scheme. The one under consideration has to do specifically with the soldiers themselves. As for the children of soldiers, it is felt that existing educational facilities should be sufficient. However, subject to that comment, I am prepared to give consideration to the honorable member’s suggestion.
Statement by Mr. J. R. Hughes.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether the statement by Mr. J. R. Hughes, regarding prices control, published in to-day’s issue of the Daily Telegraph, is correct?
– I have seen the statement, and because of its grossly misleading character, I ask leave to put the facts before the House. [Leave granted.]
Mr. Hughes is a member of the Advisory Committee on Prices in New South Wales, and has ready means of presenting hisviews on price control to the Prices Commissioner. So far as I am aware, Mr. Hughes has not made any representations to the Prices Commissioner against any features of price control which he considers to be unfair to consumers. It is absurd for Mr. Hughes to declare that the Government’s price-fixing scheme was to maintain prewar profits, and to provide means of increasing them. The Prices Commissioner is empowered to reduce gross profit margins, and he has done so in a great many trades. He examines profit and loss accounts, and is guided, in many instances, by the profits earned by companies in the past in determining whether they will be permitted to increase their prices by the full amount of their increased costs. These powers have been very widely used, and had they not been so used the price level in Australia would have risen much more than has been the case. Mr. Hughes must he well aware of the fact that the increase of the cost of living in Australia was only 4.7 per cent. in the first year of the war.
In his comment upon the addition of profit to increased costs, Mr. Hughes is confusing gross profit and net profit. The cost of retailing and distributing commodities in Australia has increased on account of higher wages, higher costs of wrapping materials, and deliveries. These costs have to be covered out of the gross profit margins of retailers, and if Mr. Hughes will take the trouble to consult a body like the Retail Grocers Association he will find that many basic commodities, including sugar and butter, are being retailed at a gross profit margin which the grocers claim does not cover the cost of retailing them. He will also find that the retail grocers have made repeated representations to the Prices Commissioner to permit their gross profit margin, as a whole, to be raised. This does not justify the extravagant statement of Mr. Hughes that “ the Commissioner allows profit to accrue with every cost increase, although the predetermined value includes profit “. His references to beer and potatoes are unfortunate. In respect of beer, the brewers are allowed to add the actual increase in excise without any gross profit margin.
– That is a deliberate misstatement.
– I am presenting the facts to the House. I regard the interjection of the honorable member as offensive and ask that it be withdrawn.
– The honorable member for East Sydney must withdraw the offending words.
– I withdraw them and say that the Minister’s statement is inaccurate.
– Retail prices were adjusted so as to give hotel-keepers a very much reduced gross profit margin. Mr. Hughes is quite wrong in assuming that any net profit will accrue to the hotelkeepers as a result. Over recent months the Prices Commissioner has exercised a most rigid control over the marketing and prices of potatoes in the Sydney market. There has been a scarcity of potatoes in Australia over the last twelve months and every effort has been made, including the importation of potatoes from New Zealand, to see that consumers obtained adequate supplies at reasonable prices. No potatoes have been allowed to rot on the wharves since the Prices Commissioner has exercised control. If Mr. Hughes had drawn the attention of the commissioner to the incident to which he refers, this control might have been exercised earlier. His references to Mr. J. E. McCulloch, who was Deputy Prices Commissioner in New South Wales until the 30th June last, were no less misleading than his other statements. No recommendations from Mr. McCulloch were ignored. As regards his resignation, Mr. McCulloch, in common with other deputy prices commissioners, was appointed on the nomination of the State Government.
Subsequently, the Commonwealth was asked to release Mr. McCulloch to return to his normal duties as a police magistrate, and he relinquished his office as deputy prices commissioner on the 30th June.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce whether it is true, as stated in the press, that the British Government has. ceased to import fruits, particularly canned and preserved fruits, from Australia? Was this action taken in order to conserve overseas exchange or because of shortage of shipping space? If it is because of shortage of shipping space, what steps does the Government propose to take to provide ships either by constructing ships in this country or by purchasing them from abroad, for the transport of Australian primary products overseas ?
– Last year’s pack of canned fruits was purchased by the British Government, and the greater part of it has already been shipped to Great Britain. The British Government indicated to the Australian Government that it would be prepared to purchase a substantial part of this year’s pack if it could find shipping to transport it to Great Britain. It indicated, however, that if the shipping position deteriorated it might not be possible to provide space for fruit exports. The announcement last night over the air referred to the deterioration of the shipping position. It does not mean that there will be no demand for Australian fruit, but merely that the quantity to be taken overseas will not be so great as otherwise it would have been. Later the Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Anthony) will indicate to the House the way in which the Commonwealth Government and the Canned Fruits Board will deal with this year’s pack. His statement will, I think, be completely satisfactory.
– What about the shipping position ?
– The question of shipping space is a matter entirely under the control of the British Ministry of Shipping which is working in the closest possible co-operation with organizations setup by the Australian Government at the beginning of the war for the control of exports of primary products. Every step is being taken to ensure that the available shipping space shall be used to the best possible advantage. For instance, a saving of two or three weeks is effected by filling vessels at one or two ports instead of allowing them to load cargoes at several ports. The Commonwealth Government is using four captured ships in transporting our products overseas and, in addition, has been attempting to buy or charter vessels for that purpose.
– Has the Government fixed any date for the payment of the further advance of 3d. a bushel on wheat from the No. 2 pool that was announced last week? If no date has been fixed, will an announcement in regard to it be made at an early date, so that in the event of The Dead March being played this week it will not signify the burial of the farmers’ hopes ?
– When the announcement was made, the Australian Wheat Board and the Commonwealth Bank were making arrangements to pay the dividend at the earliest possible moment.
– Has the Prime Minister read the statement in the press recently that several Australians who are stranded in London were refused by the officials at Australia House assistance to meet their immediate necessities. Has a report been secured from Australia House regarding these cases? Can the right honorable gentlemen give to the House any information in regard to the matter?
– I am afraid I can not, but I shall have immediate inquiries made.
– Is it true, as was stated in the press on Monday last, that the Treasurer told a deputation representing the Victorian Chamber of Com merce at Bendigo that it was his impression that the less the Government had to do with industry the better, and that £1 in the hands of private enterprise was better than £3 in the hands of the Government? Does the Treasurer believe that propaganda of this kind is calculated to assist the flotation of Australia’s freedom and other war loans?
– The question is framed in such a way as to contain an expression of opinion, and is therefore out of order.
– Will the Treasurer explain what he meant when he said that £1 in the hands of private enterprise was better than £3 in the hands of the Government?
– I was speaking of the nationalization of industry, and said that in my opinion £1 in the hands of private enterprise was better than £3 in the hands of some governments.
– Is it a fact that a ban has been placed on the importation of hemlock timber from the United States of America? Are any other timbers likewise affected? Does the Government propose to extend the ban to Canadian timbers ?
– There has been a suspension of licences in respect of hemlock, and there also will be a suspension in regard to oregon until such time as a decision is made by the Government in regard to timber generally.
– I have read in the press and elsewhere that a member of the House of Commons is moving for a redeclaration of war aims. Is the Prime Minister aware of any change in our war aims and objectives; alternatively, is the right honorable gentleman in a position to make a statement on the matter ?
– I am aware of no change in our war aims since they were stated and discussed in this Parliament some considerable time ago. I have therefore nothing to add to what has already been said.
Return to Writ
– Are you, Mr. Speaker, aware that a by-election has been held for the division of Kalgoorlie and that the Labour party’s candidate, who was successful, is in the precincts of the House but cannot be admitted to the chamber because the writ has not yet been returned? Is not this an extraordinary state of affairs, when the Government’s position is so precarious? Will you, sir, endeavour to expedite the return to the writ, and see that it is accompanied by an armed escort in order that the successful candidate may not be waylaid before the vital division is taken?
– I have no official information regarding the Kalgoorlie byelection, though I read in the press that the poll was to have been declared in Kalgoorlie yesterday. If that be so, it would mean that the writ could not have arrived in Canberra by this time. So soon as I have any information about the matter, I shall inform the House.
Mr.FALSTEIN. - I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether his attention has been drawn to many complaints which have been made recently about the telephone service between Sydney andCanberra? Can he inform the House when he expects the deficiencies to be repaired ?
– I shall bring the matter under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral and ask him to furnish an adequate reply to the honorable member’s question.
Reduction of Export Standard
– In view of the shortage of prime beef and mutton, will the Minister for Commerce explain what action the Government proposes to take to reduce the export standard, in order to main tain a constant flow of necessary supplies of meat to Great Britain?
– The contracts that have been entered into with the British Government deal with certain types of prime beef and mutton, which are being sent forward.
– Will the Minister for Air say whether some recruits for the Empire Air Training Scheme, who were still in their ‘teens, received only seven weeks’ instruction in Australia before being sent abroad? Does not the Minister consider that such a period of training is inadequate?
– I think that the honorable member’s question is founded upon an incomplete knowledge of the Empire Air Training Scheme. The plan provides that, of all the young men who are selected for training for service as air crews, a certain proportion shall complete their training in Australia. A small proportion - two-ninths of the total - will do a preliminary portion of their training in Australia and complete the course in Canada. The minimum period of training which any young men will undergo here before their departure to Canada to complete their course will be eight weeks. The honorable member’s question may be associated with some trainees who are included in the small proportion to which I have referred. Any men who depart from Australia after not more than eight weeks’ training are not going on active service; they are merely proceeding to Canada to complete the balance of their training, which is an additional period of not less than 24 weeks.
– Will the Minister for Information be good enough to examine the circumstances that have caused the censor to impose upon Smith’s Weekly the necessity for submitting copy to him before publication? This state of affairs, I believe, has arisen out of an article which dealt with matters relating to supply. Will the right honorable gentleman make inquiries in order to ascertain whether the imposition is justified? If the censorship be considered necessary in this case will he see whether some arrangement can be made to obviate a continuance of the order requiring all matter to be submitted for censorship ?
– I shall be glad to inquire into the matter along the lines suggested by the honorable member.
– Will the Minister for the Army defer putting into effect the provisions of Statutory Rule No. 269, for the disallowance of which I gave notice of motion yesterday, until such time as Parliament has come to a decision upon that motion?
– The necessity for these tribunals to function immediately is so obvious that I am not prepared to do what the honorable member has asked.
– Will the Minister state briefly the reasons of urgency which make it necessary for this tribunal to consider the cases of men, many of whom are active officers of the enemy armed forces, with a view to giving them their liberty in this country?
– The honorable member’s suggestion is that I am establishing tribunals to deal with enemy aliens who are guilty of subversive conduct. Quite the contrary ! The tribunals are established to deal with persons who may have been placed in internment camps without justification. I have nothing further to add to my previous statement.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs say whether a number of instances of profiteering and attempted profiteering have been brought to the notice of the Government? If such offences are deemed to be punishable, why have no prosecutions been launched against the guilty parties?
– Information has been placed before the Customs Department relating to the. matter mentioned by the honorable member, and proper action has been taken. Prosecutions have been launched effectively against various offenders.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform me whether it is true that in connexion with a number of reports of profiteering and attempted profiteering which have been brought under the notice of the Government, no prosecutions have been launched? Will the honorable .gentleman state to the House the reason for discrimination in dealing with such cases? Will he also, at an early date, lay upon the table of the House, for the perusal of honorable members, the files of papers relating to these cases?
– Whenever any complaint has been made of profiteering or attempted profiteering it has been investigated. Cases which have warranted further action, have been referred to the Attorney-General’s Department and appropriate steps have been taken. I shall give consideration to the concluding request of the honorable member.
– I have to inform honorable members that Mr. J. S. Weatherston retired from the office of Principal Parliamentary Reporter on the 30th November, 1940, having reached the retiring age after rendering 27 years of valuable service to the Parliament.
– On behalf of the Government and also, I am sure, of all honorable members, I express regret that the passage of time has led, in this way, to the retirement of Mr. Weatherston. He has had a long career, first in the world of journalism, later on the Hansard staff of the Parliament of Western Australia, and, since 1913, on the Hansard staff of the Commonwealth Parliament. During the last seven years he has been the Principal Parliamentary Reporter of the Commonwealth. All honorable members have the warmest regard for Mr. Weatherston and will, I am sure, desire to associate themselves with the hope that I express that he may enjoy many years of happy retirement. Mr. Weatherston has been the soul of courtesy. Through the kindly services he has rendered in connexion with the speeches of most of us, he has gained almost for himself the reputation of being a highly accomplished parliamentary speaker. He has been consistently loyal to honorable members and to this institution. We all hope that he will enjoy health, vigour and happiness in the many years which we trust may he still left to him.
– I am glad indeed to have the opportunity to pay a well deserved tribute to Mr. J. S. Weatherston for the long and valuable service he has rendered in thi3 Parliament. As the foundation for his career here, he served in journalism and later in the Parliament of Western Australia. For 37 years Mr. Weatherston has acted as a reporter in the Parliaments of the Commonwealth and of Western Australia and, as the Prime Minister has stated, he has crowned his career by serving for seven years as the Principal Parliamentary Reporter in the principal parliament of the Commonwealth. Parliament has nor, only to legislate for the country and to consider the numerous problems which have to be faced; it has also to provide for the faithful recording of all that is said and done within its legislative chambers. In fact, this recording is an essential part of the establishment. It is bad enough when outside of Parliament misconstructions are placed upon what is done here, but it would be far worse if within the Parliament itself mis-statements could be recorded concerning what is said and done there. The accuracy of Hansard is at once a protection to honorable members and an invaluable and indispensable protection of the integrity of Parliament itself. The Principal Parliamentary Reporter and his staff have important functions to discharge in relation to the work done by the legislature. With every other honorable member of this Parliament, I am indebted to Mr. Weatherston. 1 regard him as an officer of undoubted integrity, of very great experience, and of the highest qualifications. I express the hope that in his retirement he will be blessed with health and strength. I trust that his leisure will afford him an opportunity to continue to render useful service to the community. If he cares to write any of his reminiscences, as he could well do for the benefit of the Australian public, and time and fate give me the leisure, I will gladly undertake the editing of the book.
and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) in expressing the appreciation of my colleagues and myself of the services that Mr. Weatherston has rendered for long years in this Parliament, and for the last seven years as Principal Parliamentary Reporter. In more ways than one, many of us owe a good deal to him. The faithful recording of our speeches in this Parliament has made available to us a medium by which we have been able to keep our electorates informed of what has been done in the Parliament and of the views that we have expressed in what we have believed to have been the best interests of our country. Mr. Weatherston could be easily approached by members at any time. He has always been ready to permit necessary corrections in the speeches that we have delivered - corrections rendered necessary not by the fault of the reporters but often by our failure to express clearly what we desired to say.
Mr. Weatherston has also compiled a very valuable history of Hansard, which has been published under the title Commonwealth Hansard - Its Establishment and Development. This work must have entailed an enormous amount of research and also a wide practical knowledge of the purposes which Hansard is intended to serve and of the manner in which it has served them. The history will be of great value, in time to come, to all who are interested in our parliamentary institutions.
I join in the hope that has already been expressed that Mr. Weatherston will enjoy many years of good health in his retirement, for good health, is of inestimable value. In fact, without it, other things are of little consequence. I hope that the serious international conflict in which we are now engaged may soon end and thereby contribute to Mr. Weatherston ‘s enjoyment, of his years of retirement.
– I associate myself and the members of the Country party with the sentiments voiced by the previous speakers. I have always appreciated Mr.
Weatherston’s services. We all must acknowledge that he has made more good speeches than any honorable member of the House. I hope that after his 27 years of faithful, conscientious and competent service in this Parliament he will enjoy a long retirement which will be marked by a continuation of useful, if less strenuous, service to the community.
– With the indulgence of the House I venture to add a few observations to the valedictory speeches that have been delivered regarding Mr. Weatherston. I wish to do so because I am, I believe, one of only two members of this Parliament who were members at the time when Mr. Weatherston joined the Parliamentary Reporting Staff. The Minister for the Navy (Mr. Hughes) is the other though he, unlike myself has been a member of the Parliament from its beginning. It is true: as the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has pointed out, that Mr. Weatherston has had - I almost said enjoyed - a very long and arduous career as a journalist. He joined the Parliamentary Reporting Staff of the State of Western Australia as far back as 1903, and even before that time he had had experience of journalistic life with newspapers of the period. In these days the opportunities for journalists to develop a literary career are by no means numerous. One finds that, in accordance with the exigencies of news-, paper life to-day, news-getting and sensationmaking are much more in demand by the proprietaries than the development of literary ability and scholarship. That is to be regretted. One of the consequences is that, as opportunities for literary development are few and far between, men who have taken up journalism seek out parliamentary reporting as one of the avenues of escape. Mr. Weatherston is to be congratulated upon the fact that, having chosen that branch of journalistic work, he reached the highest point in parliamentary reporting and supervision that was open to him when, some years ago, he became Principal Parliamentary Reporter at Canberra. It is worth noting that at the rime when Mr. Weatherston joined the Commonwealth Parliamentary Reporting Staff in Melbourne, the political position was very much the same as that which exists to-day. There was a government in precarious power, having a majority of only one vote. The present position of .the Commonwealth Parliament tends rather to show that history has a way of repeating itself. I leave it to those whose practice is to study the portents of history to deduce what conclusion they may from the fact that very soon after that time there was a general election and the Labour party was returned to power in both Houses of the Parliament by an overwhelming majority of the people. I mention that in its proper historical setting. I do not myself express any opinion about it. From that interesting speculation I turn my thoughts again to Mr. Weatherston, whose friendship I have enjoyed over all those years, and whose very considerable skill as a reporter I have admired, as I have the fact that he has cultivated a literary style and a wide knowledge of literature. By his retirement we lose the services of one who was for long an ornament to his profession in every way and an invaluable aid to members.
– I wish to refer very briefly to what I regard as Mr. Weatherston’s greatest contribution to posterity - his work dealing with the history of Hansard. I read that volume in manuscript and again when the mimeographed copies were distributed to honorable members. I believe a printed edition of the book has been issued, and I hope that it will be distributed soon. I know that there is a demand for it not only in Australia but also in other countries, and I believe that it will be an imperishable monument to his memory.
– Yesterday a request by the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Dedman) raised the question of the insertion in Hansard of graphs and other blocks. There are precedents for the insertion of such matter. The practice must, however, be carefully watched in order to prevent abuse. The character and cost of Hansard are controlled by the President and the Speaker, and it is essential that, although the House or the committee may have given its consent, final determination of whether unusual matter shall appear in Hansard shall be made by the presiding officer after consideration of the character of the matter, and the advice of the Government Printer as to the printing practicability and cost. On this occasion, the committee having given leave to the honorable member for Corio, I shall not interpose, but in my view, the inclusion in Hansard of blocks, such as graphs, and lengthy tables and quotations, should be discouraged.
Consideration resumed from the 3rd December (vide page 401), on motion by Mr. Fadden -
That the first item in the Estimates under division I. - The Senate - namely, “ Salaries and allowances, £8,176 “, be agreed to.
Upon which Mr. Curtin had moved by way of an amendment -
That the words “ agreed to “ be omitted, and the word “ postponed “ inserted in place thereof as an instruction to the Government * . .* (vide page 267).
.- I shall not enter into a lengthy discussion of the budget, but I shall make passing reference to some of its items in order to make clear my reasons for supporting the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. I shall also deal with another subject which is very important to Australia as well as to my own electorate. The action of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in regarding the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition as a challenge to the Government equivalent to a motion of want of confidence, was wrong and very hasty. The’ suggestions made by the Leader of the Opposition were intended to be helpful to the Government; they expressed the views of honorable members on this side of the chamber, who represent in this Parliament half of the electors of Australia; in fact, at present we represent more than half of the electors. The people have sent to this Parliament those men whom they wish to carry out the task of governing the Commonwealth. It is not impossible for Parliament to carry on under existing conditions and enact legislation that will ensure that Australia prosecutes, to the utmost of its ability, its share of the conduct of this war for the preservation of the democratic system under which we live. I support without reservation the raising and expending of all the money necessary for the prosecution of the war to a successful conclusion. It has been made quite clear that the Opposition as a body desires the Government to be placed in a position to do that.
– The Opposition has always acted in that way.
– As I am reminded by the honorable member for Batman, the Opposition has always acted in that way.
– The honorable member has a bad memory.
– “ Kite flying “ may be indulged in by some honorable members opposite. That was the case during the last election campaign, when it was alleged that members of the Labour party had offered opposition to the prosecution of the war, and had obstructed the passage of necessary legislation. That is not true.
– Has not the honorable member for Batman for years asked, “ Where is the enemy ?”
– The honorable member for Batman does not come into the picture, except to the extent that he has opportunely reminded me that the Opposition has always supported the granting of whatever the Government has considered necessary for the prosecution of Australia’s part in the war. It is all very well for an honorable member to remove a portion of a speech from its context, and on that portion accuse another honorable member of not being a loyal Australian, with the object of deceiving the people.
I wish to make a passing reference to what was said last night on the subject of taxation. A speech to which I listened with a good deal of attention was that of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Duncan-Hughes), who referred to different methods of raising revenue and to the way in which it should be expended. During the last seven years, remissions of direct taxes in respect of land, property, and companies, in Australia and abroad, have aggregated no less a sum than £35,000,000, whilst during the same period the indirect taxes levied have risen steadily from a total of £31,000,000 to £68,000,000, and income tax has risen from £13,000,000 to £16,000,000. There has been a scaling down of direct taxation, and concurrently a steady increase of indirect taxation. Last night, great play was made of the fact that in Australia many primary producers are suffering from drought conditions, and consequently would have very great difficulty in meeting heavier imposts, or even in paying any tax at all.
– Two-thirds of the land tax is derived from land in the big cities.
– That is so. The point that I make is, that those who find themselves in difficulties in respect of the payment of land tax may explain their p°osition to the ‘Commissioner of Taxation, who may grant relief. The wealthy section of the community always balks at the payment of land tax and other direct taxes. The honorable member for Batman will remember that when the land tax was first introduced the argument was advanced that it would ruin land holders. That argument has been continuously employed in the succeeding years. I agree with the remarks of the honorable member for Wakefield in regard to the wealthy and the rich. I do not place those two classes in the same category. Some wealthy people play a worthy part as citizens. I would describe as a wealthy man one who, possessing an abundance of this world’s goods, uses them in his own interests. The rich, man is he who has riches in the form not only of pounds, shillings and pence, but also of mentality and ability, which he uses in the interests of the community. Many men are poor financially, but rich in the possession of everything that is worth while.
– The real objection to the ‘land tax is that it i3 a levy on capital, and not on income.
– The tax is on the unimproved value of the land and there is a generous exemption of £5,000.
– It would be quite useless to argue with the honorable mem ber for Wakefield (Mr. Duncan-Hughes), . because he has definitely fixed in his mind the idea that the land tax should not he levied, and no argument would convert him to the contrary view. I agree with other members of the Opposition, that the land tax should be much heavier, taking into consideration the substantial exemption of £5,000. Direct taxation has been scaled down during the last seven years, but lias not been scaled up again to meet the present difficult situation. I am concerned, not so much with the tax levied on the individual as with the amount left with the individual after the tax has been levied. That is what really matters. I am in entire accord with the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition with regard to the raising of the statutory exemption.
It is quite wrong to lower the exemption to £150 a year. If that be done, very ill effects will be felt by persons whose position will not enable them to bear the impost.
I wish to refer to the effect of taxation on the smaller States. I realize that no tax can be quite equitable to either the individual or the State. I have before me a copy of the Hobart Mercury of the 29th November last, which contains an interesting comment on the effect of the budget proposals. It is as follows : -
An unfavorable reaction to some of the proposals for increased taxation in the federal budget because of the detrimental effect they will have on the economic resources of Tasmania was evident in comments made yesterday. It is believed in some quarters that because the distribution of Commonwealth expenditure is not on a pro rata basis, the position in Tasmania after next year may be serious.
That is an editorial comment. The Premier of Tasmania (Mr. Cosgrove) also referred to the matter, and he is reported as follows -
All will admit that the Federal Government must have the money to carry on Australia’s war effort. I do not object to the total amount it is intended to raise by taxation, but I do object to the reduction of the exemption. This must seriously affect the States, particularly Tasmania, where the majority of taxpayers are those whose incomes range between £200 and £000. Additional increases on this class of taxpayer must affect seriously their spending powers, and also react to the detriment of the State. I hope that, even at this stage, the Federal Treasurer will give consideration to a review of the scale of taxation, with a view to raising the exemptions.
Mr. Cosgrove happens to be a political friend of mine, but I shall now quote the opinion of one who is not a political friend. Mr. H. H. Cummins, president of the Denison and Franklin divisional council of the United Australia and Nationalist organization, has sent the following message to the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Beck) : -
The incidence, of the announced federal taxation is very detrimental to this State, as the distribution of Commonwealth expenditure is not on a pro rata basis. Suggest you arrange meeting of all Tasmanian members to consider jointly the position and make representations in the House and also to Ministers. If no adjustment is made the position in this State after June next is likely to be extremely serious.
I believe that the effect of this taxation will be very detrimental to Tasmania after this year. Tasmania receives only a small share of war expenditure, so that it will not receive its proportionate return of the taxation raised in that State.
– Tasmania receives a Commonwealth grant to compensate for that.
– Tasmania receives a grant, it is true,- but it will not compensate for this taxation. The grant was never intended for that purpose. In any case, two years or more will elapse before the efFects of this taxation can be reflected in the Commonwealth grant. I support the raising of the money for war purposes, and the expenditure of all that is necessary for the proper prosecution of the war. However, I do not agree with the method by which the Government proposes to raise the money. The Government should take some cognizance of the points submitted by the Leader of the Opposition. It should take advantage of his suggestions, and try to make Parliament workable.
I desire now to refer to the Australian fishing industry, a subject upon which I touched when the last budget was before Parliament. The needs of the industry have been investigated by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research over a period of several years, and the council has submitted reports and recommendations. Considerable amounts of money have been invested in the industry by private enterprise, and factories have been established at Narooma, Twofold Bay, and on Flinders Island. The indus try has now reached a stage when it needs assistance in another form. Last year, a case was presented to the Assistant Minister (Mr. Holt). In April of this year, the Minister for Agriculture in Tasmania, accompanied by the Tasmanian representatives in the Commonwealth Parliament, waited upon the then Minister for Supply and Development (Sir Frederick Stewart), and put before him the need for suitable fishing vessels. According to recent press reports, a conference has been held in Melbourne between representatives of the fishing industry and of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, including Sir David Rivett and Dr. Richardson, at which it was decided to set up a committee to inquire regarding the obtaining of suitable fishing vessels. On the 30th October, 1939, I received a letter from Dr. Thompson, Officer-in-Charge of Fisheries, in which the following passage occurred : -
The immediate need, of course, is for vessels to catch and land the fish, -which we are satisfied are present in vast quantities.
The latest report issued by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research contains the following: -
Much increased evidence of the tuna group of fishes lias been obtained and it now seems virtually certain that the numbers and distribution of this group are such that a commercial fishery can be envisaged - particularly in Tasmanian waters.
In March, 1940, an article was published in the Melbourne Age under the heading “ Developing Fishing Industry “, in which the writer stated -
The American tuna fleet1, which has been gradually evolved to meet the needs of the industry, comprises vessels which are not only designed for long travel, but to carry large catches. Australian packers, because of the comparative nearness of the tuna grounds, would be able to use boats far less costly to build and operate. It is estimated that the longest tuna cruise in Australian waters would not need to exceed 300 miles from the coast, and that- vessels adequate for catching and transporting the fish could be built here at one-tenth of the cost involved in constructing and equipping an American tuna boat.
In America fishing vessels are being built at a cost of £60,000, which go 3,000 miles from their base to catch tuna. It is known that vessels in Australian waters would be able to catch all the fish needed within 25 miles of their base.
In the course of a recent conversation with Sir David Rivett, I asked him of what use would be a committee set up to watch the interests of the fishing industry, if no money were available with which to obtain suitable fishing vessels, and he was compelled to admit that the committee would, in that event, be of very limited use.
The factory at Narooma, on the coast of New South Wales, is doing a good job in the canning of salmon. A very fine factory has been built there, and provision has been made for penning the fish. New South Wales is fortunate, however, because the Government of that State has blazed the trail by building trawlers. The work of these vessels proved that suitable fishing grounds existed in Australian waters. The vessels have since been sold, however, and the field has been left to private enterprise, which is experiencing great difficulty as the result of the scarcity of vessels suitable for trawling since the factory was established at Narooma. The Commonwealth Government should make money available to the trawling companies for the construction of ships, so that the known resources of Australian waters may be developed to the full. At no time has the need to undertake this work been greater than it is at present. All branches of the defence services need tinned fish, but because of the difficulties of transport and the need for conserving exchange, restrictions have had to be imposed on the importation of tinned fish. The existence of good fishing grounds in Australia has already been proved, and factories have been established for the processing of fish; all we need now is a fleet of trawlers to net the fish. It is interesting to compare the price at which Australian fish is sold on the Australian market with that of imported fish. An Australian company which has established canning and freezing works in Tasmania, wrote to me on this subject -
Further to our interview with you, we have made inquiries into the prices at which salmon canbe imported into store in Australia for sale by wholesale.
In making the comparison with Australian salmon prices, we have disregarded the more expensive salmon such as “ Sockeye “ and “ Pink “ and have quoted the prices of “ Chum “ salmon and which salmon, incidentally, we claim is inferior in quality to that produced by our company.
For1lb. tall “Chum” the price landed into store in Australia is, we believe, 10s. 8½d. per doz. net.
This company has quoted and supplied the Defence Department with 1 lb. salmon at 8s. 3½d. per doz. net.
The saving, therefore, to he made by the use of Australian salmon would be 2s. 5d. per doz., or 9s. 8d. per case of four dozen.
We believe that a modest estimate of the requirements of the Defence Department for home use would be 50,000 cases of 1 lb. salmon per annum. Consequently, the saving, if the Defence Department could be supplied with Australian salmon, would be at least £24,000 per annum.
Assuming the Government were disposed to set aside £50,000 as a loan to the industry to enable boats to be built to secure the supply of salmon, this amount would be repaid over a period, whereas in approximately two years the same amount could possibly be saved by the Government being able to buy Australian salmon at lower prices than the imported product. In addition, the loan would have enabled the salmon canning industry to have become established in Australia, thus conserving the overseas exchange position.
It should also be mentioned that the boats which this company would build with Government assistance would enable Tuna to be caught and canned, and if this produce is not absorbed in the Australian market it could be exported in large quantities to America, thus further assisting in the conservation of the overseas funds. This would also apply to other canneries apart from our own.
Should there be any further information which would be of assistance to you, we shall be pleased to make same available on receipt of your request.
The company is anxious that there should be no delay in the provision of funds for the building of a trawling fleet and is prepared to provide suitable guarantees for money so advanced. Although it has spent approximately £22,000 in the erection of a canning factory and freezing works, it is experiencing great difficulty in securing continuity of supply. Requests have been made from time to time for assistance for the fishing industry, but so far without avail. Now that the importation of imported tinned fish is difficult, every effort should be made to encourage private enterprise to develop the industry. The canning factories and the trawling industry would provide employment for thousands of our own people. At present tinned fish to the value of over £1,000,000 is imported into this country annually. Australian canning factories should be able not only to supply our own market, but also engage in the export trade. The Government may say that, because defence requirements must first be met, it has no money for this purpose. My answer to that is that the establishment of this industry should be incidental to our war effort. It is highly important that we should plan now, not only for the war but also for the peace. This industry may provide employment for many thousands of workers in postwar years. Money could be made available for the development of the fishing industry by transferring funds from other items in the budget. For instance, £8,300 has been provided in the Estimates under the heading “ Miscellaneous Services “ for the Australian National Travel Association. I can understand money being voted for expenditure by the association in normal times, but I fail to see what useful purpose a travel association can render in wartime. A portion of that vote should be allocated for the development of 1ihe fishing industry. The vo.te for the Department of Information has been increased from £33,500 last year to £198,000 this year. What is the reason for this extraordinary increase? I am unable to see that the department serves any purpose other than to provide wellpaid jobs for a few fortunate people in the capital cities. A’t least £50,000 should be diverted from that vote to establish a fund for the purpose of financing, by way of loan, the purchase of a suitable fishing fleet. I am quite sure that a formula which would prove satisfactory to the Government and to the companies concerned could be evolved to safeguard the funds advanced.
I trust that even at this late hour members of all parties in this House will get together in an earnest attempt to make this Parliament workable so that our war effort may be prosecuted with the maximum speed and energy of which we are capable and in order that peacetime planning may not be interrupted.
– Whether we agree or disagree with this budget, all honorable members of this House will, I feel sure, congratulate the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) on the enormous amount of work which he put into its preparation in the short time at his disposal. I was struck by the sincerity of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) when he put his case against the budget. The speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was interesting, particularly as it was an impromptu reply to a carefully prepared speech. Both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition stressed the point that this is a war of material resources and men, rather than money, and that the problem facing the Government is a twofold one - first, that of so co-ordinating all our resources in order that the maximum number of guns, munitions, ships and other paraphernalia of war may be brought to bear in the common effort of the British nation to destroy the enemy; and secondly, that the social conditions in Australia should be so looked after that the people would be kept content and so enabled to perform to the utmost the first function. I wish to refer briefly to the statement on international relations made by the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Frederick Stewart) last week. Like the parson’s egg, it was good in parts. It was notable for its great omissions. It did not enable honorable members to get a true picture of the Empire’s position in the world to-day, as compared with that at the outbreak of the war. It is essential to have such a picture before one’s eyes if one is to discuss the budget’s proposals properly. If one is truthful one must be prepared to paint, a very grim picture indeed. The author, Crowther, has said -
War nowadays is an industrial proposition. It is more influenced by the science of economics than by the art of strategy. The present war will not be won on any playing fields, at Eton or elsewhere, but in the mines ‘ and workshops of a thousand grimy industrial towns.
The present struggle differs in many respects from the last war. In 1914-18, the ratio of munition factory workers to combatant soldiers was 3 : 1. In the present war, the ratio has risen to 5 : 1. In other words, five factory workers are required to maintain one soldier in the front line. Governments must now put as many men as possible into factories, and only sufficient numbers into the army to drive, manipulate and fire the weapons of war. So long as the troops are well trained and brave, the. battle may be won in the industrial plants of Great Britain and the dominions. It almost reverses the practice of 1914-18, when millions of men were recruited and massed attacks were launched a,t Ypres and on the Somme. In the present struggle, the Germans broke through the armies of Holland, Belgium and Prance with mechanized forces. When the Empire strengthens its mechanized units, a terrific battle will probably be waged in which machine will fight against machine.
The principal raw materials that are required for the manufacture of mechanized units are coal, steel, iron and ferrous alloy metals. I have prepared a list of figures which disclose the raw material resources of Great Britain and Germany at the outbreak of the war, and at the present time, and their significance is terrifying. Unfortunately, such information was omitted from the speech delivered by the Minister for External Affairs. Although, at the beginning, he painted a fairly grim picture of the situation, he concluded on a note of optimism. Australians do not seem to realize the grimness of the position of the British Empire. I have taken some figures from the Statistical Year Booh of the League of Nat-ions. They are in millions of metric tons, and most of them refer to production in 193S. In a few instances, figures for 1937 are given, because later statistics were not available. However, they do not upset the table. When war broke out. the production of coal by the United Kingdom and France amounted to 278.3 million tons, while the production of Germany and Czechoslovakia, at. the time was 199.9 million tons. Since the European conquest, the production of the United Kingdom has dropped to 231.S million tons, whilst that of Germany and the conquered countries has increased to 327.4 million tons. The position relating to iron ore. from our standpoint, is extraordinarily bad. At the commencement of hostilities, the United Kingdom and France produced 13.615 million tons;
Germany and Czechoslovakia produced 3.7 million tons. To-day, the United Kingdom is producing 3.615 million tons, much of the decrease being represented by the loss of France, but the production of Germany and the conquered countries is 13.7 million tons. In regard to pigiron and ferro alloys, the United Kingdom and France group produced 12.92 million tons, whilst Germany produced 19.S29 million tons. Since the European conquest, the United Kingdom’s production is 6.871 million tons; that of Germany and the conquered countries, 29.9 million tons. During the same period, production of steel by the United Kingdom and French group has fallen from 16.73’5 million tons to 10.56 million, whilst Germany’s production, through conquests, has risen from 24.96 million tons to 34.97 million. As such materials are the very backbone of the war effort of any nation, knowledge of the change in Germany’s favour should be brought prominently before the notice of Australians in order to make them realize the extraordinarily desperate position of this country. Much of the difficulty in regard to the shortage of shipping space for transporting primary produce from Australia to the British Isles may be due to the fact that iron ore and steel have to be carried from America to Great Britain. For that reason, Australia should accelerate its industrial war effort and build ships, because such efforts are required in order to save the homeland from destruction. If Britain were destroyed no power on earth would be able to save this, country. It would be futile to look across the Pacific Ocean and ask another nation to come to our assistance ; all of its military, naval and industrial resources would be needed to protect its own interests; and the Commonwealth would fall a prey to its enemies.
In respect, of the non-ferreous metal group, Britain still stands supreme and will remain on top so long as it retains mastery of the seas. Practically the whole of Britain’s non-ferreous metals are imported from Africa, Australia, America and Canada. In regard to the raw products of textile manufacturers, Britain is again supreme; but Germany, before the war, was making a tremendous number of substitutes. In 1938 I visited a staple fibre factory in Leipzig. Staple fibre production in Germany at that time was equivalent to approximately onethird of the total wool clip of Australia. In order to augment oil supplies, German enterprises were dredging brown coal in the Leipzig district from which they extracted considerable quantities of petroleum. Their efforts were hampered, however, by a shortage of men and of mechanization. Since the conquest of European countries, Germany has an enormous supply of labour at its command, and controls some of the most highly technically equipped nations in the world. Therefore, we must, as quickly as possible, develop our munitions factories and shipbuilding industry, and in all ways accelerate our war effort.
When we are pouring money into the manufacture of munitions it may be necessary to curtail the operations of certain kinds of industries. The production of nonessential goods and luxury lines will have to be damped down by excise duties, or be abolished, and their machinery diverted to the manufacture of munitions. Although it is not my desire to make the picture too sombre, it is very black indeed ; but every day we prolong the conflict the United States of America is bringing its unparalleled industrial resources behind the British Empire in its fight against Greater Germany. Really, the answer, which is applicable to our nation, is the answer which Leonidas, the Spartan, gave to the people who suggested that it was just like his impudence to oppose the invading Persian army. When asked how he dared to encounter such a prodigious horde with so few men he replied -
If you reckon by numbers, all Greece is not able to oppose a’ small part of that army; but if by courage, the number I have with me is sufficient.
That kind of courage, which exists in Australia, Canada, South Africa and Great Britain, will prevail against the enemy if we put every ounce of strength into the war effort and have every person working to achieve victory. We want no drones in the community. If we have them, we shall go down before one of the most vicious totalitarian dictatorships that the world has ever known. I ask Ministers not to strike an optimistic tone in statements about the international situation. They should tell the people the truth; Australians have the courage to listen to it. Ministers should not conclude their remarks in such a strain that people will say “ God’s in His Heaven, all’s right with the world “. God may be in His Heaven, but all is not right with the British Empire.
The Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have stated that the aim of the budget should be to produce the maximum war effort of which Australia is capable, and maintain the best standards in the country commensurate with that objective. The question is: Does the budget do so? The Government is budgeting for the largest expenditure in the history of the Commonwealth, and the cost of the war is increasing daily. Whereas a fighter plane in 1914-18 cost about £2,400, the modern prototype costs £5,000. That ratio of increase is probably maintained throughout the war costs of Britain and Germany. The Treasurer has estimated that, during the current financial year, the Government will require £1S6,000,000 in order to finance the war effort. That colossal sum will be raised in various ways. For example, £28,000,000 is represented by Treasury balances unexpended at the beginning of the financial year, and £43,000,000 which he proposes to raise in order to pay for war expenditure overseas, is to be financed by central bank credit. The Commonwealth Bank will obtain Government securities, which may be either treasury-bills, or longdated securities, in lieu of London funds. I agree with the Treasurer that it is desirable for us to make as big a contribution as our circumstances permit to defray these overseas expenses. At all costs, the Government should avoid borrowing money abroad. I was astounded when the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Dedman) last night suggested that we should float loans in the United States of America and Great Britain.
– Only when it was inevitable.
– I hope that there will be an absolute bar to such a procedure. Australia’s biggest curse during the depression was its overseas indebtedness.
– The honorable member for Corio agrees with that.
– I hope so. In order to damp down the expenditure of overseas funds and to prevent the necessity for borrowing abroad, the Government may be compelled to place embargoes upon the importation of certain categories of goods. Although the Treasurer stated that import licences are reducing imports it may be necessary, in a time like the present, to prohibit, as the Scullin Government did, the importation of certain classes of goods.
– New Zealand and Canada have done that.
– The Treasurer proposes to raise by loan this year the sum of £80,000,000. In order to prevent the sudden withdrawal of large sums from the Australian banking system, the Government should space the loans over the remaining months of this financial year. By so doing, it will not immobilize large credits in the central bank while awaiting expenditure. If that be done, the Australian credit base will not be narrowed too greatly, and it will be continually replenished through the expenditure of loan money by people whose economic position does not allow them to save to any appreciable extent. Such money will flow hack into the banks, and prevent either inflation or deflation. To make up the difference between the expenditure and revenue figures an additional £31,000,000 is to be raised by taxation, part of which is to be indirect and the balance direct. The innovation suggested by the Treasurer of a differentiation in the rate of sales tax, under which certain categories of goods will be subjected to a 5 per cent. tax, others to a 10 per cent. tax, and others again to a 15 per cent. tax according to the importance of the goods, commends itself to me. Under this scheme unessential goods will be subjected to the highest rate of tax. This will have the effect of damping down consumption and of releasing resources which could be better employed in providing classes of goods urgently needed in the nation’s war effort. The imposition of heavier rates of tax on goods of the luxury class will undoubtedly cause a falling off of the production of such articles. Employment figures are at present rising very rapidly in Australia. Very shortly Australia will be urgently in need of men to produce the munitions of war.
I believe that it will become necessary, in the not distant future, to enlarge greatly the field of excise taxation in order that the production of non-essential goods may be restricted to the greatest possible degree. I was interested to notice from a report in the Canberra Times this morning that Canada is broadening the field from which excise is being collected. This, in turn, must affect the production of the goods concerned. Such action should be taken in ways that will cause the least possible dislocation. Therefore careful planning, forethought and cooperation, are necessary on the part of the Ministries of Supply and Development, Labour, and the Treasury. If action along these lines be taken too quickly it may mean that persons who have been engaged in certain manufacturing industries will be out of employment until new industries, necessary for war purposes, have been actually established. Care must be exercised to ensure that any necessary transference of labour from one industry to another under the plan that I am suggesting shall be effected without causing undue hardship.
Some comment has been made in the course of this discussion regarding the proposed taxation of excess company profits. It has been suggested by one or two honorable members that some may escape under the provisions of the bill that was brought down last year. I suggest to the Government that it should provide itself with a double-barrelled gun, so that if it fails to bring its bird down with the left barrel it can then shoot with the right.
– A machine gun would be needed to bring down some of these birds.
– A shot gun is a good weapon if the birds are close at hand.
I listened with great interest to the speeches delivered on the budget by the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister. I agree with the view expressed by both these gentlemen that in order to put forward our maximum war effort it is essential that all the physical and material resources of the nation shall be drawn upon without delay. I was glad to hear the Leader of the Opposition say that Labour was prepared to give all. I believe him. Patriotism is not the monopoly of any sect, party or class of the Australian community. It is common to all of us. I should like to have heard the Leader of the Opposition say that Australia would give all, hut I suppose that he considered that at the moment he was speaking for his own party and not for Australia as a whole. In referring to the heavy incidence of sales tax on incomes in the lower ranges, the honorable gentleman dealt with a huge mass of figures in such a manner as to remind me of a person juggling with billiard balls, cyphers and so on. His figures left me quite cold. I came to the conclusion that these particular figures could only have been derived from a well matured guess and not from any statistical records. But there is a common-sense view of the effect of the sales tax upon persons in the different income ranges. Obviously, twenty families each living on an income of about £500 a year would pay a great deal more in sales tax than one family living on an income of £10,000 a year, for the twenty families would require a greater volume of consumable goods than one family. The Treasurer has recognized this factor by continuing the present exemptions in respect of a long list of goods essential to every home.
The Treasurer proposes to raise £5,000,000 from income tax on persons in the lower range of incomes, and the Leader of the Opposition complained that this would be a grave injustice. He suggested that if this course were taken the people within such income ranges would not be able to make any savings and so would not be able to install in their homes such amenities of life as refrigerators, radios, and the like. I prefer to view this subject from a different point. The issue seems to me to be not whether individuals can afford to buy refrigerators and the like, but whether, in a time of war like this, the nation can afford to allow the consumer demand to be expended on goods of these classes. It must be obvious to honorable members that the production of refrigerators, radio sets, and so on call for the use of the highest degree of technical skill, and also of steel, both of which are prime requirements of our munitions programme. I suggest to the Government that instead of enforcing upon the people in the lower income ranges the taxation proposed in the budget, it should apply a policy designed to suspend compulsorily, the purchasing power. In other words, it should introduce some system of compulsory saving. I suggest that provision should he made for compulsory deduction from wages at their source by purchase of stamps, as is already proposed in relation to the payment of income tax, and that when a person had placed stamps to the value of, say, £5 or £10 in his stamp book, by means of compulsory deductions from his pay envelope, he should be issued with a nonnegotiable savings certificate. Such certificates should remain non-negotiable until after the war, with the qualification that in approved cases the Treasurer could grant permission for them to be negotiated. If misfortune or ill-health overtook a family, great hardship might be caused if compulsory savings could not possibly be made available. The Treasurer should be placed in a position to assist families in such circumstances. Under a system of compulsory savings such as I have in mind, provision would be made for a certain amount of spending power to be available after the wai1, and people could then purchase the amenities which they could not obtain during the war. Obviously, it is in the interests of the people themselves, and also of the nation at large, that some restraint should be placed upon the purchase of nonessential goods during the war. When the war machine begins to run down, it will be highly desirable to have in reserve consumer purchasing power which can take up the slack caused by. the gradual cessation of war activities. I earnestly commend this proposal to the favorable consideration of the Ministry. I do not put it forward as an original idea. It is, in its essentials, in conformity with the plan proposed by Mr. J. M. Keynes.
In connexion with the purchase of refrigerators, I direct the attention of the
Treasurer to the following advertisement which appeared in the Sunday Sun of the 24th November last : -
There are two good reasons why you should buy your refrigerator now - (1.) The impending increase in prices. (2.) The serious shortage of stocks.
These two good reasons are quite apart from that other good reason that if you buy now you will have the benefit of refrigeration right from the commencement of the season.
Prices of refrigerators have already risen and must rise again shortly owing to the increased sales tax and the shortage of raw materials and labour.
Such advertisements are undesirable in our present circumstances, and the Government should seriously consider whether the publication of them cannot be prevented by arrangement, or by some other method if a satisfactory agreement cannot be made with the firms concerned. These advertisements create in the mind of the public the thought that prices must rise. If such a statement is thought to be true in relation to refrigerators the public will naturally assume it to be true in relation to other similar goods. A false consumer demand is thus created which must have an inflationary effect on the whole national economy. The advertisement to which I have referred also suggested that a serious shortage of stocks of refrigerators already existed. Such a suggestion must inevitably stimulate a buying campaign, notwithstanding that all available excess money is needed for war purposes. Even small sums could be invested in war savings certificates. The Government certainly should not permit the all too limited technical and physical resources of the nation to be diverted from the war effort at a time when we should be doing our utmost to provide munitions. I have myself received letters from engineering firms suggesting that goods which I consider fall within the nonessential class should be purchased now because of an impending increase of prices.
During this discussion much has been said by honorable members on both sides of the committee about inflation and deflation, but not much has been said about preservation, although this, to my mind, should be the essential consideration. We must surely all agree that every thing possible should be done to protect Australia from the imposition of any form of foreign totalitarian dictatorship. Dictatorships are alien to our every instinct. The Prime Minister, in his speech a few days ago, described the horrors of inflation so graphically that the very marrow in my backbone was almost frozen. Other honorable members have described the terrors of deflation so effectively that I have felt that if I were not to be killed on a rock here I must surely be slaughtered on a rock there. The Prime Minister stated that the Government considered that central bank credit had been used to the limit of safety, but the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner), who spoke subsequently, said that he had doubts about that. Neither the Prime Minister nor the honorable member for Robertson gave the committee any idea of the kind of gauge by which he had tested his opinions. It has been said that the true test is the state of the note issue, and we have been advised from some influential quarters that this is the true indicator or the barometer of an inflationary condition. The note issue is, however, not the effective test that some people consider it to be. As a matter of fact, the rapid rise of the note issue is like the bloody froth which appears on a dying consumptive’s mouth as the prelude to the death rattle. Honorable members who have read Lord D’Abernon’s description of German inflation in the appendix to volume II. of his work Ambassador of Peace, will be aware that inflationary conditions in Germany were out of control long before the German note issue showed any marked signs of rising to insecure heights. What then is the true test? I submit that it is when all the physical resources of the nation are being employed, and when prices are rising without any increased production of goods. Even this is not an absolute test, as other factors may also operate. But over a given period of time my suggested test is fairly reliable. Deflationary conditions cannot be operating within a nation when all its physical and material resources are being used and price levels are steady.
– A person could not say that there was any deliberate inflation, but monetary conditions had got out of control.
In any case I have not been in the counsels of the German nation. At present, in view of the diminution of employment and the use of the material resources of the nation as a whole, I think it may be said that we are moving forward in our great war task on an even keel. I was struck by the remarks of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) with regard to the famous quantity theory of money expounded by Ricardo. If we imagine the credit base of Australia; to be a tank, then it is necessary to keep that tank up to a certain level, when all resources are at work, to maintain, as far as monetary policy can, a general level of prices. If too much credit be put in the tank, prices will rise; if too much be taken out prices will fall and deflationary conditions will follow in each case, as far as monetary conditions influence prices. Under the proposals of the Treasurer, so long as the money raised is expended steadily and not retained in treasury balances or proceeds of loans immobilized in the central bank, and so long as the loanraising programme is spread well over the financial year, deflationary conditions will not exist for those on wages and salaries. Some of the higher income groups may experience deflation hut the lower ones will not be so affected, because as fast as revenue pours into the treasury from loans and taxes, money will pour back into the credit tank through the spendings of the people.
The most difficult problem confronting the Government arises from the fact that 400,000 men are to be withdrawn from peace-time industries and services and set to work in munitions factories and other war-time establishments. Those men must be supported and raw materials, must be supplied for the machines which they will operate. If that is to be done, there must be a slackening of the production of nonessential goods. Whether we like it or not, we shall have to do without a tremendous quantity of non-essential goods in this country until the war is won. The Leader of the Opposition said that Labour would give its all. I believe that Australia will give its all, but in doing so it will demand that members of this Parliament give their all and form, at the earliest possible moment, a strong working government. A government that is like an aspen, trembling in every breeze, is not of the slightest use. We need a strong and resolute government that will drive forward and guide the nation along the extremely difficult path on which we have set our feet. If we in this Parliament fail to form such a government and instead go crawling back on our bellies to the people, asking them to solve our troubles, we shall probably receive our deserts. The great internal peril of Australia to-day is that democracy will he unable to prove its fitness to govern, and the country will be forced to submit to a dictatorship of either the Right or the Left. That is not just a terroriststatement, because it has been shown in history that when parliament will not govern, the people, in their rage, eventually destroy parliament. When I look at that beautiful Mace in front of me I am reminded that, even in the Mother of Parliaments, there was a day when a jackbooted gentleman, accompanied by supporters with close-cropped heads, and wearing homespun clothes, entered the Parliament and said, “Remove that bauble”. He removed the Parliament at the same time. A like danger will threaten us unless we can show that democracy is fit to govern Australia. Unless the party leaders form a strong all-party government, as the people wish, the time W]11 soon come when the rank and file of this Parliament will do so. There are many of us who believe in democracy and will fight for it to the death; we will not see our democratic beliefs sacrificed on the altars of party politics.
.- I was amazed last week when I heard the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) take the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) severely to task for having moved the amendment which is now being considered by the committee. The Leader of the Opposition said that Labour would give its all, and the Prime Minister wanted to know how Labour would do so. An examination of facts will show that most of the men who have gone overseas in the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, belong to the classes that we on this side of the chamber represent. Hundreds of thousands of others from the same classes are still in this country serving the nation in the fighting forces and munitions factories. We have been told that there is discontent in those factories. The Government must realize that when people are working for twelve hours a clay, giving their all as we have said that they will, their health must be impaired.
– They are better paid than the troops.
– That is one reason why the honorable member should support our demand for increased pay for the troops. Hundreds of thousands of unemployed men in Australia to-day are willing and anxious to work in the munitions factories. They could be employed, and it would then be unnecessary for munitions employees to work for twelve hours a day.. Already the Government has expended huge sums of money in Victoria and New South Wales on the national war effort and now, probably owing to the influence of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) when he was Deputy Prime Minister, it proposes to 3pend £4,500,000 in South Australia.
– The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited will benefit from that.
– The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited will certainly be assisted. It is wrong that the Government should erect new factories in South Australia and completely neglect the claims of Queensland. Millions of pounds more will be taken out of Queensland by means of taxation than will be expended there on war industries. There is something wrong with our system of federation when a small State like South Australia is given an annual grant of money in addition to the expenditure there of millions of pounds on new munitions factories, whilst other larger States are neglected.
– South Australia is a safer zone than Queensland.
– At the present time it seems that enemy raiders are nearer to South Australia than to Queensland. I impress upon the Government that there are many large engineering establishments, including government workshops, in Queensland that would be just as safe from attack in the event of invasion as would any part of South Australia. Annexes could be attached to those factories and our war effort could be speeded up immediately by allotting contracts to them, instead of waiting until new factories can be built in South Australia. As the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) said, the Leader of the Opposition moved the amendment now before the committee in all sincerity. The honorable gentleman said he was very pleased with the amendment and that he saw a lot of good in it. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) also commended the action of the Leader of the Opposition and said that the debate on the amendment provided a golden opportunity for the opposing parties to come closer together in this fifty-fifty Parliament and form a common policy. 1 agree sincerely with those remarks. The Government, if it be sincerely desirous of making the Parliament workable, will give serious consideration to the views of honorable members on this side of the chamber. We represent half of the people of Australia, and I am sure that at least several honorable members on the Government side of the chamber hold views similar to those expressed by the Leader of the Opposition. But the Prime Minister was very sarcastic in his comments.
– It was cheap sarcasm.
– That is true. Only a little time ago he wrote a letter to the Leader of the Opposition in which he said -
It is fully appreciated that you and your colleagues have been helpful and co-operative.
According to the Daily Telegraph of the 27th May, the Prime Minister said -
There is always hope that I can find in the Leader of the Opposition that loyalty that I do not always find amongst those who are supposed to support me.
If those statements were sincere, why did the right honorable gentleman adopt so uncompromising an attitude last week when the Leader of the Opposition moved his amendment? Instead of being cooperative, he accepted the amendment as a challenge, and we shall certainly have to defend our position. If it be sincere in all its claims, the Government will co-operate with honorable members on this side of the chamber; otherwise, it will be defeated when the committee votes on this amendment. I say without fear of successful contradiction that the Labour party earnestly desires to assist the Government in prosecuting the national war effort to the fullest degree. We have provided the Government with all the money that it has sought from this Parliament and we have given to it all the war-time powers for which it has asked ; at the present time it has practically plenary powers. We do not wish to prevent it from obtaining one penny of the huge sum of £186,000,000 that it needs in order to prosecute Australia’s war effort for the next twelve months, but we do object to the proposed methods of obtaining that sum. We are here to protect the interests of the poorer classes and to see that the Government conducts its war effort to the best advantage. We have given to the Government all that it has asked of us, so there is nothing to stop it from going ahead with a 100 per cent, war effort. If that is not being done the fault lies at its own door and not at the door of the Labour party. We cannot have a 100 per cent, war effort while there are 100,000 unemployed in the Commonwealth. The Government now proposes to take the purchasing power from the poorer classes of the community. That would certainly cause deflation in Queensland, where very little money is expended on war activities. The small savings of the working classes, in that State have been used to purchase war savings certificates and, should the Government take the amount of taxes from those classes that it proposes to take, they will no longer have any savings with which to buy war savings certificates. The Government proposes to lower, the statutory exemption from income tax from £250 to £150 per annum. That would be tragic. In the darkest days of the depression the statutory exemption was never less than £200 per annum. At the present time, because of the higher cost of living, the statutory exemption should not be less than the basic wage. If the Government’s proposal be carried out, the poorer classes will lose their purchasing power and widespread unemployment will be created. I appeal to the Government, even at this late hour, to review in a more favorable light the amendment that has been proposed by the Leader of the Opposition. The Labour party requests that the statutory exemption from income tax be not reduced, as is proposed in the budget. It further asks that the incidence of the income tax be revised so as to increase the tax rates on the higher ranges of income, in order to offset the proposals relating to the lower ranges of income. The Treasurer has my deepest sympathy. The honorable gentleman intends to obtain by means of direct taxes a total of £51,400,000 and £75,000,000 by means of indirect taxes. The 40,000 persons in receipt of an income of £1,000 per annum are to be asked to contribute £27,000,000. The 310,000 persons whose incomes are between £400 and £1,000 per annum will pay £8,000,000 on a total income of £143,000,000. In addition, their contribution to indirect taxes will total £15,000,000. Writing to the Sydney Sun, a taxpayer with an income of £1,000 per annum pointed out that he will be taxed into debt. If that be so, what will happen to the man whose income is only £220 per annum ? Probably he is already in debt, and will become more deeply involved. “ Most of those whose incomes are in the middle range, from £400 to £1,000, now engage domestic help and probably employ a gardener for half a day a week. Their first act will be to dispense with this assistance, the wife in future, performing the household duties and the husband giving to the garden whatever attention it may need. The result will be increased unemployment within this class. The Government proposes to ask those whose incomes are below £400 a year to pay a total of £5.000,000 in the form of direct tax, and £50,000,000 in the form of indirect taxes. There are many other means by which this £5,000,000 may be raised. A war-time profits tax, which, has been before this Parliament on three occasions, provides one easy method. The number of companies registered in Australia is 10,041, of which only 219 earned in 1938-39 more than 8 per cent, on their capital outlay. Of those 2.19, only 2S earned between 17 per cent, and 22 per cent., and only 30 earned more than 22 per cent. In its monthly statistical bulletin for June, the Commonwealth Bank has aggregated the profits of over 600 public companies from 1928 to 1939. Taken as a whole, these profits have not exceeded 8 per cent, on shareholders’ funds in any one of the last twelve years, proving conclusively that those 600 companies are to be allowed to make huge profits without coming within the ambit of a war-time profits tax. In 1936-37 the banks listed 672 companies which earned £2S,208,000, equal to 6.4 per cent, on shareholders’ funds. In the same year, 10,041 companies paid in federal income tax £2,825,938, on earnings totalling £56,518,760. The smaller companies, numbering 9,369, which earned £2S,290,760, are to be asked to bear an additional impost. The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) has referred to the 70 huge monopolies in Australia. These included the shipping combines, private banking institutions, General MotorsHoldens Limited - which makes each year a profit of £1,250,000 on a capital of £1.000,000 - the great oil combines, and the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, which placed £600,000 in reserve last year after making a profit of nearly £1,500,000. The balance-sheet of one of tlie leading insurance companies of Australia this year showed that after it had transferred £200,000 to reserves, it still had a profit of £2,114,569. All of these big proprietary companies, private banking institutions, shipping companies, and oil companies, are making huge profits and placing large amounts of undistributed profits in reserves. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has in its reserve fund at present au amount of £9,000,000. These combines will be called upon to pay very little additional tax under the proposed war-time profits legislation. The Treasurer could easily obtain £5,000,000 from their undistributed profits, and thus relieve the poorer class of the burden of providing that amount. The Government intends to take from the lower class, on a per capita basis, £50,000,000 in the form of indirect taxes. This method of taxation was designed to tax those who did not pay direct taxes on the basis of their incomes. The amount which the poor man pays in indirect taxes is determined by the size of his family. The Government ought to pay a premium to persons with large families instead of calling upon them to draw further on their small incomes in order to meet indirect taxes. The majority of them are on what is termed the basic wage, which is supposed to be the irreducible minimum for the purchase of food and clothing. The Government now proposes to bring them below the basic wage. Tax is to be imposed on single men and women who earn the magnificent sum of £3 a week ! What does the future hold for us if the war should continue for a number of years and the flower of Australia’s manhood should be lost overseas? The young people to whom we look to become the future fathers and mothers of the nation will be taxed on the small amounts they have saved with the object of purchasing a home, furniture and other essentials. These single men and women should be assisted to achieve their desire to marry, instead of having this iniquitous tax imposed upon them. If they are prevented from making an early marriage, and the loss of man-power overseas should be heavy, the birth-rate throughout Australia will decline and there will be fewer persons to tax, with the result that when the war is finished and the Commonwealth has to repay the huge amount of its debt, the country will become bankrupt unless there be a change from orthodox methods of finance.
The Prime Minister made sarcastic references to the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition, in the course of which he said that the Labour party was offering bribes and “ hand-outs “. During the last seven years this Government and its predecessors have handed out many millions of pounds to their supporters by means of tax remissions; therefore, it ill becomes the Prime Minister to refer slightingly to our proposal to increase the pay of the soldier and the invalid and old-age pension.
Since 1932-33, property tax remissions have aggregated £16,070,000. The flat rate was first reduced from 10 per cent. to 6 per cent., then from 6 per cent. to 5 per cent., and later it was abolished. This property tax was paid by resident individuals, absentees, and companies. Approximately 95 per cent. of the resident individuals who paid the special property tax had a taxable income of £1,000, and were responsible for over 65 per cent. of the amount collected from this source. It may fairly be assumed, therefore, that the greater part of this tax was paid by wealthy property owners and companies. The remissions in respect of the company tax since 1932-33 aggregated £5,513,000. Life assurance companies had remitted to them a total of £4,643,000 and shipping companies a total of £150,000. The land tax was reduced by 33&1/3 per cent. in 1932-33, the remissions totalling £825,000. In 1933-34 there was a further reduction of 16&2/3 per cent., totalling £500,000. In 1934-35 there was a 50 per cent. reduction, which saved the taxpayers £1,281,000 ; in 1935-36 the reduction amounted to £1,327,000; in 1936-37 to £1,435,000; in 1937-38 to £1,368,000; and in 1938-39 to £1,144,000. That makes a total for seven years of £8,705,000. We have been told by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) that the land tax presses too heavily. I remind him, however, that the struggling farmer does not pay federal land tax at all. He is protected by the fact that land up to an unimproved value of £5,000 is exempt. It is clear, therefore, that the benefits of land tax remissions have been derived by the big banking institutions which own city properties, the values of which have increased ; by insurance and shipping companies, by big commercial companies, by land and mortgage companies, and by the great city proprietary stores. Over the last seven years, the total tax remissions have been : -
The Prime Minister accused us of asking for “ hand-outs “ for the soldiers and pensioners. Well, the Government has certainly given “ hand-outs “ in plenty to its friends. Members of the Australian fighting forces are paid less than those in the fighting forces of any of the other dominions.
– They are paid no more in New Zealand than here.
Mr.CONELAN.- That is not correct. In New Zealand at the present time, men are paid 7s. while they are in camp, and 1s. a day deferred pay, making a total of 8s. A wife receives 3s. a day, and1s. 6d. a day is paid for each child. Here, the Government has refused to increase the allowance to wives, and has increased the allowance for children by only 6d. a day. When increased pay for the men was sought, the Government decided to grant 1s. a day deferred pay. Therefore, men in camp now receive 5s. a day, while men overseas are being paid the equivalent of 5s. a day, and 2s. deferred pay. It is clear that our soldiers are not receiving as much as are the New Zealand soldiers. In Canada, soldiers’ dependants receive far more than is paid to dependants either here or in New Zealand. The men in Canada receive 7s. 7d. a day, and wives 4s. 9d. a day, as against 3s. here, and an allowance of 2s. 5d. a day in respect of each child. A Canadian soldier, with a wife and one child receives the equivalent of £5 19s. 6d. a week. The Government should at least make the pay of Australian soldiers up to that received by the New Zealand soldiers. We have been told by the Commonwealth Statistician that the cost of living has increased by only 5 per cent. during the last twelve months. That is a matter for argument, but even if we accept that figure, it must be admitted that invalid and old-age pensioners are entitled to have their pensions increased by 5 per cent.
– The Labour party has asked for an increase of 5s. That was in its leader’s policy speech.
– The Leader of the Opposition, in his amendment, has asked only that pensions be increased. The Government has appealed for unity. Let it make a gesture in favour of unity by increasing old-age and invalid pensions to meet the increased cost of living.
It is now proposed, by increasing the sales tax, to reduce still further the purchasing power of the pensioners. The old person who buys even a pair of slippers for ls. Hd. at Coles’s or Woolworth’s must contribute to the sales tax.
I appeal to the Government to allot to Queensland a larger share of defence expenditure. It is proposed this year to expend £20,000,000 on defence undertakings in Australia, and of that amount £4,500,000 will be expended in South Australia, which will receive a Commonwealth grant in addition, whilst only £1,250,000 will be expended in Queensland. As a matter of fact, Queensland provides millions of pounds more in Commonwealth taxation than is ever spent in that State. Queensland has always provided more than its quota of everything associated with our war effort. It has supplied more than its quota of men to the Australian Imperial Force. Thousands of young men from that State have offered to serve in the Air Force, and a great many of them have not yet been taken. Queensland has supplied its quota to the Navy, and has provided more than its quota of money for war loans and War savings certificates. The Government, by raising the taxes on those with lower incomes, will take the money which hitherto has gone to the purchase of certificates. When the full weight of the increased indirect taxation is felt, the purchasing power of those on low incomes will be seriously reduced, and unemployment will increase.
.- This budget is the first real demand by the Government on the people of Australia to make a definite contribution to the winning of the war. I pay a tribute to the people for the way in which they have responded in the past. When we examine the enlistment figures for the Australian Imperial Force, the Air Force, and the Navy, we find that all requirements have been met, and that there are long waiting lists. It is true that many of those on the waiting lists are receiving some training to fit them to play their part in the future. Our young men have readily joined the Militia. The sale of war savings certificates has exceeded expectations. And in every way the people are responding nobly to the call for funds with which to finance the war. Returned soldiers have formed garrison battalions, and the Returned Sailors and Soldiers’ Volunteer Defence Corps is already doing extraordinarily good work and rapidly expanding its organization. The members of the corps are willing and anxious to serve in every way they can. Not only has there been the ready response to the call to the nation which I have briefly epitomized, but also all over the Commonwealth people are .asking the Government to give them a chance to play some part in helping to win the war. Women’s organizations are being formed on a voluntary basis and women generally are rendering valuable service to the nation. This is the greatest crisis that has ever confronted the Empire, and this war is by far the costliest war ever waged. The mechanization of armies, the increased use of aeroplanes, and the changes that have taken place in military strategy make the conduct of this war infinitely more costly than the war of 1914-18. For this reason no section of the community can rightly hope to escape its just contribution to the common effort. We are opposed by the most ruthless forces in history under the leadership of a pagan despot who has no restraint and who will stop at nothing; he is determined, if possible, to destroy Great Britain and the rest of the Empire. His partner in crime, Mussolini, is not less ruthless and is equally unreliable. Full resistance to their aims and the ultimate destruction of their forces will be possible only by a major all-in effort. Our liberties, our independence and the very democratic principles for which we stand are at stake equally with the rights and privileges of those smaller nations that have already been trampled underfoot by Hitler’s and Mussolini’s hordes. All the principles that we stand for cannot be preserved unless we are prepared to fight and defend ourselves and the peoples to whom we have pledged our support. This fight will be long and arduous, and it cannot be successfully waged unless’ we are prepared to find the necessary millions to meet the huge and ever-increasing cost. Let me remind honorable members that for war expenditure alone this budget provides £186,000,000, compared with £56,000,000 last year, and only £3,000,000 in 1930-31. Even that staggering amount is not necessarily final; we have already been warned by the Treasurer that the exigencies of the war may make necessary a substantial addition to it. This is the biggest budget in the history of the Commonwealth. No budget of this magnitude could possibly meet with the approval of all sections of the community. In view of the greatly altered conditions under which wars are waged to-day compared with 1914-18, we have to be prepared to foot a much bigger hill for war costs. I have yet to find a popular tax. Protests are made every time a proposal is brought down which involves an increase of taxes. It is the duty of members of this Parliament not to take a parochial view of any form of taxation; but listening to some of the speeches made by honorable members opposite, one would think that Australia was not at war at all. They seem to forget that during the last war we had as our allies Prance, Belgium, Italy, Russia, Japan and the United States of America, all rendering invaluable . assistance, all throwing in their weight, all providing navies, armies, air forces, wealth and material resources for use in the common cause. Most of them brought into the fight all the resources of men and materials in their own countries, and also those in their territorial possessions scattered all over the world. Where are France and Belgium to-day? They are vassals of Germany, and their resources are being stolen from them and used against us. Where are Italy and Japan to-day? All honorable members know; one does not need to remind them. Even the United States of America, which is rendering invaluable assistance, is unable to use its fleet, its army and its air force against Germany as it did in the last war. In this war we are fighting almost- a lone hand against the strongest and most powerful military force the world has ever known ; yet there is hesitation on the part of some honorable members to help to find the funds with which to wage it. Unless we make a superhuman effort our task will not only he most difficult but also extremely dangerous. If we are not prepared to do our utmost a cruel and callous retribution will swiftly overtake us. No section of the community can hope to escape its just contribution to the common effort. Conflicts and strife in this House will not convince the people of the need of an all-in war effort. This country has just elected this Parliament with parties on almost a 50-50 basis, and only when we drop party bickering and form a national government can we carry out the greatest and most difficult task that ever confronted any government. If honorable members will not get together and pull their weight something desperate will have to happen. At the last election I told the people that the party to which I belong would do everything possible to bring about the formation of a national government, and that I would do all I could to ensure that the maximum effort would be made to win the war. But no effort has been made to make the new Parliament workable. It is becoming clearer daily that, without a greater spirit of co-operation, neither party can govern alone. Proof of the unwillingness of the Labour party to co-operate with the Government is shown by the amendment to the budget moved by the Leader of the Opposition. It is an inescapable fact that that amendment has been framed, not with a desire to assist in making Parliament workable, but with an eye to electioneering possibilities. That view is shared by many of the great journals in the Commonwealth. The Opposition’s amendment will in no way help the war effort. Let us briefly consider the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. Although the Government is faced with the necessity for raising £186,000,000 for defence in all its activities, the very first paragraph of the amendment proposes to exempt from the payment of income tax a whole group of taxpayers. I regret the necessity to bring into the tax field people in the lower income range. That matter, however, is still being examined and I hope that some satisfactory compromise may be reached in regard to it. I am strongly in favour of such a compromise. What impresses me, however, is that the Leader of the Opposition would take nothing at all from people who could afford to make at least some contribution in income tax. The second paragraph of the amendment proposes to alter the incidence of the income tax by increasing the amount levied on higher incomes as a set off to the proposals in relation to the lower range of incomes. That proposal will not alter the income of the Treasury one iota; it will merely shift the burden from one group to another. The next paragraph relates to the war-time company tax and proposes to change the burden from smaller companies to large companies. It is vague and indefinite; it contains no suggestion as to how the tax is to be collected, nor does it indicate whether the Labour party proposes that the yield shall be the same as that provided for by the Treasurer. It is clear that no special effort would he made by the Opposition to raise additional funds even in that field. Then, there are proposals to increase soldiers’ pay and allowances. It has been suggested that there has been no compromise in this budget. As a matter of fact, the Government has compromised in relation to that very proposal, for already the allowance to the children of sailors, soldiers and airmen has been increased by 6d. a day at a cost of £3,000,000. In no circumstances can we adequately pay soldiers who, of their own volition, volunteer to go overseas to serve their country. They are not paid mercenaries, as were the soldiers who fought with Wellington at Waterloo, but their willingness to serve their country in this way is now being made the football of party politics. No member of the Defence Forces who goes overseas to defend the Empire could be compensated for his services in pounds, shillings and pence. I have always advocated the payment of adequate allowances to the children and dependants of members of the Defence Forces, not only here but also in the party rooms and, when I was a Minister of the Crown, in the Cabinet room. My enthusiasm for this, however, does not mean that I am prepared to wreck the budget and endanger the war effort. It is time that we regarded Australia’s participation in this war from a common-sense point of view. Too many people seem to forget that we are at war.
The next proposal of the Leader of the Opposition is that old-age and invalid pensions should be increased, though to what extent we do not know. At the last election honorable members opposite advocated an increase of 5s. a week, making the pension £1 5s. But why stop there? Why not make it £1 15s., £2 5s. or £2’ 15s. a week? My criticism of the Opposition’s amendment is based on their election proposal to increase these pensions by 5s. a week. A smaller proposal would have my goodwill. The index number for the cost of food, groceries, &c, in 1911 was 1000; in 1925, when pensions paid to the aged and infirm were increased to £1 a week, the corresponding number was 1820. As the index number for the third quarter of the current year was only 1684, the present purchasing power of £1, compared with its value in 1925, has advanced to £1 ls. 7d. The United Australia party will increase invalid and old-age pensions when the cost of living index figure justifies it, and when the resources of the nation permit the payment of the additional sum of money. This party inaugurated the payment of invalid and old-age pensions in 1908, and every subsequent increase of pension, with one exception, has been granted by United Australia party-United Country party administrations. The record of the Labour party is much less creditable, because during the depression the Scullin Government reduced invalid and old-age pensions by 5s. a week. That fact is unchallengable.
If we do not make our maximum war effort, but continue to toy with matters of less importance than the conduct of the war, defeat may be our tragic portion. What will be the fate of the aged and infirm under Hitler’s regime? If the British Empire loses the war, the Gestapo will be equally as ruthless towards aged and infirm Australians as it has been towards the people of Poland and other occupied countries. They were herded together in concentration camps, and honorable members know of the awful fate that befell many of them. Whilst I am not entirely satisfied with the budget, I do not propose to wreck it. In normal times, I should probably criticize it vigorously, but all our efforts must be concentrated on prosecuting the war to a successful conclusion. We must no longer toy with the problem, as we have done during the last three months. Some honorable members opposite seem to forget that Australia is engaged in the most costly war that any nation has been compelled to finance. This is the greatest crisis in our history, and we can emerge from it successfully only by a long-sustained, wholehearted, “all-in “ war effort. Obviously, from the tenor of many of the speeches delivered on the budget, the right spirit of co-operation which is required to win the war, is lacking in this Parliament Until a national government is formed, and all men who desire to enlist have an opportunity to do so, honorable members will be failing in their responsibilities to their constituents, and to Australia. I appeal to honorable members opposite, in the interests of this country and as an earnest of their sincerity, to withdraw the electioneering amendment which was submitted by the Leader of the Opposition, and to make a genuine offer to join with the United Australia party and the United Country party in forming a national government. Our plight is desperate. If we fail to prosecute the war to the utmost of our ability, we shall deserve the worst that may befall us.
– I had not intended to speak again in this House, because I obtained leave from my regiment merely to attend this sitting so that I might be sworn in. Then, in accordance with the wishes of my electorate, as expressed at the recent poll, I proposed to sink into the ranks of the Australian Imperial Force, in which almost every eligible Territorian of long standing is already serving. However, this is a vital occasion on which no honorable member present should fail to declare himself, even though he and thousands of other pioneering Australians are in the bitter position of being allowed to risk their lives in fighting for the Commonwealth, without having a vote in its councils. We get the newspapers in camp, however, and we think we know what is happening. Therefore, we are aware what a great era this is for parliamentary independents. During the last few days this honesty has been praised by even the most party-ridden “ rags “ in the country, the playthings of the “ moneybags “, which would not recognize a sound principle even if they heard it enunciated. This is a moment when I would scorn to be an independent. We in the Australian Imperial Force are not independents and rail-sitters, but Australians. We in the Northern Territory know that the defence of Australia is the only worthwhile matter at present. Though we live on the very edge of the foreign world, it seems that certain sections of poor, deluded souls are not yet aware of the danger. In time of dire peril, we trust our leaders. That is the only factor which makes democracy possible in times like the present. In a democracy one must know the right moment at which to make a protest, and the right moment to submit to leadership. A democracy must also know when to exercise its right to be even independent. Now, I ask myself whether I have the right to be an independent, and what in this crisis an independent member is independent of? He can be independent only of the general will of this great community to win the war against the forces of brutality and violence. Although I disagree with the policy of the Government on many matters, and with many features of the budget, I do not allow myself to be provoked either to mutiny, rebellion, or the crime of running to my dugout at the zero hour, when the nation is going over the top. I am no “ dugout king”.
The only independents who have made great history have done so by perfidy. Usually, the bribe has not been worth while. The best-known independent of all time won his claim to fame because some unnamed confederates conceded him the honour of carrying a bag which contained 30 pieces of silver. In truth, he had many sons. There are, or have been, others who are willing to sell themselves for an additional advance of Id. a bushel on wheat, but they will soon be forgotten. I am not that kind of Independent. Hard though it may be to meet the heavy taxes proposed in the budget, and unpalatable though they may he, the Government is adopting the honest course of paying its debts with the available money in the nation’s pocket, instead of “passing the buck “ to posterity, as did the governments of the last war. I wholeheartedly commend the Ministry for its courage in that respect. It has the backing of every honest man in the country, and particularly of members of the Australian Imperial Force.
As a real Independent, and as a man who knows his own mind, I consider that the moment has arrived when we should rid ourselves of party government for the time being; and of some of the wretched, expensive and extravagant State governments. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), in very able speeches described in no uncertain terms the gravity of the situation. I echo their warning that- if we do not win the war, we shall lose the right to govern ourselves, and the only independents in this country then will be those who will have no need to sell themselves, because their predecessors in independence will have sold the Commonwealth to them through their determination to put petty, parish pump issues before the nation’s safety. Hitler appoints regional commissioners - Gauleiters - to govern occupied territory. We all know who would constitute the new race of triumphant independents. They would not come from industrial or wheat-growing electorates. Their names are Hitler, Goering, Mussolini, Goebbels and Himmler. If they triumph, no honorable member, Independent or otherwise, will be even a Gauleiter.
,- During this debate several honorable members opposite have worked themselves into a frenzy in declaring that some people do not appear to realize that Australia is at war. The proportion of Australians who do not appreciate the gravity of the situation is so small as to be negligible. The great majority of the people are just as anxious to exert every effort to bring the struggle to a successful conclusion as are those who abuse other persons, simply because they hold different opinions. Last night the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. DuncanHughes) declared that conditions in Australia were better than those of the most advanced countries. I interjected that such a statement applied only to the rich, and the honorable member took exception to it. He probably knows that one who did not belong to the Labour movement, Jerome K. Jerome, asserted that if ever the working class learned to hate the rich one-thousandth part as much as the rich hated the working class, then I say: God help the rich.
– Jerome K. Jerome’s remarks did not refer to Australia.
– He was speaking of the rich, who are not peculiar to .Australia and who are no better in Australia than they are elsewhere. The workers have no reason for thanking the rich for any concessions or privileges that they have won, because the Arbitration Court, which granted them their improved conditions, would not exist for five minutes if the rich had their way. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Guy) referred in impressive, high-sounding phrases to “ this time of crisis “ and the necessity for unity. Some years ago, when unity was sorely needed, the honorable member was found wanting.
– Unity was achieved at the following election.
– The honorable member secured unity at a price, and I do not envy him for it.
– The Scullin Government went out of office most ignominiously.
-The honorable member was ill-advised to make such remarks, which were most unfair. The Labour party is just as sincere in its desire successfully to prosecute the war as are honorable members opposite.
The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) said yesterday that he agreed, to a considerable degree, with the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), but regretted that action had not been taken in some other way.’ He said that the Government had been challenged. I deny that statement. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in a mode of ridicule which, ill became him, and would not befit any; person holding such a high position, chose to .regard the amendment as a challenge, for he threw out his chest and said, “A challenge has been thrown out and I accept it”. The right honorable gentleman frequently overlooks the fact that the Labour party represents practically as many Australian electors as are represented by the Government parties. We therefore consider that our view is entitled to reasonable consideration. The amendment of the Leader of the Opposition had the unanimous support of honorable members on this side of the chamber. The Prime Minister should have reacted to our proposals in a different spirit. Had he done so, the members of the Cabinet need not have been absent from the chamber during the whole of this afternoon, as they were absent yesterday afternoon, trying to find a way out of the difficulty in which the Prime Minister has placed them. The proposal of the Leader of the Opposition was not a challenge. We all desire to make Parliament an effective instrument, and the amendment now before the committee is the expression of a genuine wish to meet, in some reasonable way, the needs of the present situation. Honorable members opposite allege that they desire to see a national government in office, and the Prime Minister is credited with the same view, but the Labour party has every reason to believe that the right honorable gentleman would treat Labour members of a national government just as he is treating the Labour Opposition in this Parliament. We hear a good deal from the honorable members opposite, and from the Prime Minister himself, about the desirability of closer contacts, but nothing that the Prime Minister has done has encouraged the belief that closer contacts would achieve results any more satisfactory than have been obtained up to date. We have no illusions about the realities of the situation, and we regret that the Prime Minister did not see fit to consider our amendment in the spirit in which it was submitted. We all know very well that the right honorable gentleman has said on occasions that he will not “ back down “ and that he will not compromise. I suppose no honorable member knows better than the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) what a champion the Prime Minister is at swallowing his own words, and doing things that he had declared he would never do.
The wealthy interests of this community have received far more consideration from this Government than has any other section of this community. The honorable member for Wakefield, who represents the wealthy interests, is, I have no doubt, in full sympathy with the Government’s policy, particularly as it relates to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, which with similar organizations, has been wonderfully well treated by the Government.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited should be “ scrapped “ at present.
– Who has said anything about “ scrapping “ it ? It should be taken over by the Government and operated for the benefit of the nation.
– The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and other big industrial organizations are receiving far more sympathetic treatment from the Government than they should be receiving. When the wealthy interests of this community have money to invest, they take care to invest it in the most profitable way for themselves, and patriotism and the Empire may go to the devil. I say without fear of truthful contradiction that Commonwealth loans floated for the benefit of the nation are supported by wealthy people and institutions only after the most careful consideration of the probable effects of such support, particularly when the rate of interest offered is only 2¾ per cent. But the loan floated recently by the Water Board in Sydney at 3½ per cent. was fully subscribed within 2½ hours by the patriots of this country !
The proposal of the Labour party should not have been rejected so contemptuously by the Prime Minister. It should have been given reasonable and fair consideration.
A statement is made in the Speech of the Governor-General to the effect that a different system of industrial arbitration is to be put into operation with the object of easing the industrial situation and of preventing strikes. The honorable member for Wakefield said in his speech that he regretted that strikes should be ocurring in our present circumstances. He added that he had heard certain opinions in relation to the coal strike. I also have heard opinions on that subject, but I am under no illusions as to the cause of the strike. If the coal-miners had been given reasonable consideration and fair treatment there would have been no trouble. Many people read press reports that are written to give colour to certain opinions, and their own views are influenced by what they read. I have no doubt at all that if our industrial tribunals included representatives of the men with first-hand knowledge of the industries with which they are required to deal, industrial complaints would be remedied, in the great majority of cases, long before they reached a critical stage. In Queensland, where a Labour government has been in office continuously since 1915 except for a break of three years, the number of strikes has been remarkably small in comparison with the number in New South Wales. Had the Queensland system of arbitration been copied by the Commonwealth many years ago Australia’s industrial situation would be far better than it is. In Queensland every magistrate is an industrial magistrate, and whenever symptoms of industrial disorder appear he is in a position to confer with employers and employees. The result has been that numerous disputes have been settled at a very early stage. The Queensland system could even now be adopted for the whole of Australia with great advantage to the community. It is deplorable that under the Commonwealth system of industrial arbitration two years has frequently elapsed between the filing of a plaint and the hearing before the court, although in circumstances of great urgency the court has been known to give a hearing to claims within three or four months after they have been lodged. I ask leave to continue my remarks at the next sitting.
Leave granted; progress reported.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment or requests -
Supply Bill (No. 3) 1940-41.
Loan Bill (No. 3) 1940.
Soldiers’ Pay and Allowances - Industrial Conditions in Munitions Annexes - Industrial Life Assurance - Money-lending - Pawnbroking - Hire Purchase Agreements.
Motion (by Mr. Collins) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to bring under the notice of the Government a matter of urgency in relation to soldiers’ pay and allowances. Yesterday, I asked whether the newly-appointed business manager of the Department of the Army, Mr. Allen Lewis, would take into consideration the necessity to introduce a new system of accounting in relation to soldiers’ pay and allowances, and I was informed that it did not fall within his province. There is great need for the application of a proper system of accounting in this connexion. In fact I regard it as vital to the success of our war effort. I am forced to this conclusion by representations that have been made to me by my constituents.
I well recollect certain experiences during the last war which indicated the need for the adoption of proper accounting methods. I am sure that some honorable members will recall that in consequence of general carelessness, a certain officer, Major Howell-Price, who had been decorated with the Distinguished Service Order, drew pay and allowances for a period of twelve months in respect of a bogus battalion. The battalion had no reality whatsoever, yet the officer concerned was. able to draw as pay for this fictitious unit public moneys each week which aggregated many thousands of pounds. His misappropriations were discovered only because of his unusually lavish expenditure. He bought motor cars, race-horses and houses with the money, and even went so far as to provide for fancy women. His wife, it appeared, was quite prepared to share in his expenditure insofar as it related to motor cars, race-horses and houses, but when her husband went further she “ blew the gaff “. Ultimately she put a private detective on his track and instituted divorce proceedings during which the whole sordid business was revealed. I suppose the country lost upwards of £100,000 through, that fraud. Unless we take effective steps to install a proper system of accounting in connexion with soldiers’ pay and all allowances during this war, similar troubles are likely to occur.
The need for an improvement in the existing procedure is also shown by certain correspondence to which I now direct attention. On the 8th November last I addressed the following letter to the District Finance Officer, Reservoirstreet, Sydney: -
The case of the claim of Private 6. Hoddinott, NX 59727, 6th A.G.H. has been brought under my notice. Private Hoddinott joined the Australian Imperial Forces on the 10th July last from his home address, 30 Raymond-street, Bankstown. He was attached as a Day Boy to the Hurstville Brill Hall and given to understand that subsistence allowance of 2s. 5d. per day would be granted him.
He was there until the 27th July (one week in all), and remained there until about a week ago and is now at Wallgrove. He also put in a claim for subsistence for sick pay from the 25th August to 1st September. He had been confined to his home for that period for sickness. The first claim was put in at Wallgrove by the Pay-Sergeant, Sergeant Wilkin, and the second one was put in by Private Hoddinott himself at the Orderly Room at Wallgrove.
He has made various requests to the PaySergeant and has been informed that the money was coming. He also went to the District Finance Officer a few weeks ago and was informed that the claim for the first issue could not be found. He then got in touch with Sergeant Wilkin and was informed that the claim had gone in. He is still awaiting some consideration of the matter, but as he goes to Bathurst on Tuesday next and expects to go overseas shortly, he is naturally anxious to get the matter finalised beforehand.
As I understand there are similar delays in other cases, I think it is only fair to draw your attention to the matter so that any lack of co-ordination in this regard may be overcome in the near future. I would be glad also if you would advise me or Private Hoddinott if he is likely to get paid.
I received no reply to that communication, and on the 18th November I wrote to Mr. Allen Lewis, Business Manager, Department of the Army, Melbourne, in the following terms: -
As one who frequently has requests for the attention of matters affecting soldier constituents, I am very glad to know that the Minister, in his wisdom, has appointed a business manager for the army and the case of Private G. Hoddinott. NX 59727 is the case in point showing the necessity for such an appointment. The facts of his case are set out in the enclosed copy letter to the District Finance Officer, Sydney. Incidentally, I would mention that although this letter was sent by me on the 8th instant, I have not yet received any reply thereto, and the long delay and inconvenience already experienced by Private Hoddinott is further accentuated by the fact that his final leave subsistence (for eight days) has not yet been paid to him, although he is on final leave.
No doubt this is a comparatively small matter from the departmental point of view, but to the individual soldier it is one of importance. I am given to understand that his case is not an isolated one. This is also borne out by the article in the Sydney Morning Herald to-day dealing with “ bottle neck “ delays in the department.
As Private Hoddinott is on final leave, I would greatly appreciate your early consideration of the matter with a view to saving him any further anxiety and inconvenience.
Eight or nine days later I received the following reply from Mr. P. T. Hayter, secretary to the Business Manager: -
In the absence of Mr. Lewis, Business Manager to the Army, who is at present indisposed, I acknowledge your letter of 18th November relative to the case of Private H. Hoddinott NX59727 who is anxious to obtain payment of an amount which is stated to be due to him as subsistence allowance for the period he was attached as a Day Boy to the Hurstville Drill Hall. I desire to inform you that pending the return of Mr. Lewis, enquiries are being made with a view to having the matter finalized as early as possible.
I have heard nothing further about the matter since then.
A similar matter to the Howell-Price case that came to my notice some years ago related to the misdoings of a highly placed official of a government undertaking on the south coast of New South Wales. He held the position of manager of the undertaking for many years and was a man of apparent respectability, an active member of many prominent organizations in the district and a pillar of the church - a rotten pillar, as was proved later. Under the cloak of respectability he carried on systematic fraud for many years by taking advantage of the loose accounting system used at the establishment. Cheques were drawn every week and on the back of each cheque were written items of a few shillings each which were supposed to be credited to the workmen, of whom there were hundreds. Actually, the workmen never received those small sums and they knew nothing about the entries on the backs of the cheques. By means of this trick, the manager obtained about £6 a week above his salary. His defalcations amounted to thousands of pounds, because some years elapsed before the fraud was discovered. The State lost that money entirely because of laxity on the part of the accounting staff. Although the culprit was dismissed, he was not imprisoned.
It may be entirely due to lack of coordination within the department, but a loophole exists by which dishonest individuals may defraud the country. A water-tight system should be established in order to guard against frauds of this sort and ensure that the soldiers’ pittances shall be paid to them promptly. It is only their due that this should be done in return for the sacrifices they are making on behalf of the nation.
.- I regret that the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Spender) and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) are not in the House, because I wish to bring under their notice again a very important, matter which I brought to their attention on the 28th November. I then asked the Minister for Labour to take steps to ensure that trade union officials be given access to munitions annexes in order to police industrial awards. The authorities in control of many annexes, which were originally financed by the Government and which are wholly dependent upon the Government for orders, have refused to allow the proper supervision of awards, although an assurance was given by the Government that the breaking of awards would not be countenanced. The controllers of these annexes will permit union officials to enter the establishments only during meal hours. It is, therefore, impossible for the officials to discover any breaches of awards. The only way in which they can learn whether offences are being committed is by visiting the annexes during working hours. I am not making an unreasonable request, because the Government has already conceded this right to union officials at dockyards and other waterside establishments. If it be proper for the Government to grant this privilege in some cases, it should be proper in others. All honorable members will agree that it is of paramount importance that munitions annexes be kept working at top pressure without any risk of industrial disputes causing temporary stoppages of work. It is for that reason that trade union officials have asked me to endeavour to obtain permission foi them to police awards in the annexes during working hours. The Minister for Labour and National Service apparently transmitted my question of the 28th November to the Minister for Supply and ‘ Development (Senator McBride), who furnished an additional reply. But that reply evaded the point at issue. It read -
The practice in regard to entrance of union officials to munitions factories and annexes lias always been and still is that they are allowed to enter during meal periods when the nien are off their machines . . .
I emphasize that a breach of an award cannot be detected during meal hours, when the union inspectors are admitted to the establishments. They should be permitted to police the awards when the men are actually operating the machines. Therefore, the reply given to me was quite beside the point. It continued: - . . and in cases where the work on specific operations requires investigation in conjunction with departmental officials,, they are admitted in working, hours.
But the number of departmental officials engaged on this class of work is very small, and there are many munitions annexes. It is impossible for the union officials to police the awards properly if they have to wait until a departmental investigating officer is available in order to visit the annexes in company in working hours. The Minister’s reply also stated -
The unions, however, appoint employees in the capacity of shop stewards, who watch the interests of their members in their respective shops, and who report to the union any matter which appears to need the attention of union executives.
That is quite correct. I have been a shop steward and I know the duties that a shop steward is required to perform. But in the event of a breach of an award, the shop steward is not able to initiate legal proceedings. According to the constitution of most industrial unions, the secretaries are the only persons who may sue or be sued.
Consequently, any evidence collected by a shop steward would sound quite unconvincing in a court when presented secondhand by the union prosecuting officer. Furthermore, the policy of the trade unions is to avoid deliberately submitting a shop steward to the risk of personal victimization at his place of employment. On many occasions breaches of awards are reported by shop stewards to union secretaries on what might be called a confidential basis, so that the employers will not be in a position to know who lodged the complaints. It is on such reports that the right of further inspection is sought. It is begging the question, therefore, to say that the work of inspection can be carried out by shop stewards. In the absence of proper governmental supervision the only persons who can police the awards effectively are the paid officials of the trade unions, who would not be subject to victimization by the employers. The Minister also stated -
This system has worked very satisfactorily for many years in munitions factories and it is not proposed to make any change.
For many years before the war the number of munitions factories was very small. I know of none of importance apart from those at Maribyrnong and Lithgow. But, since the outbreak of war, the number of factories has increased enormously. What might have been a satisfactory arrangement prior to the war is unsatisfactory to-day for the reason that the Government has not sufficient investigating officers to police all of the awards properly. The Minister is usually sympathetic in these matters, and I ask him to give further consideration to my request. It would be good policy for the Government to allow easy access to annexes by union officials who would do their work effectively without disturbing the industries. If the Government desires to preserve industrial peace it must either permit ready access to the annexes by union officials or provide an adequate number of departmental inspectors to police every award affecting work in munitions factories. I hope that the Minister will investigate this matter again, because I believe that he has mistakenly attempted to gauge the present situation according to the circumstances that existed prior to the outbreak of war. This is not a personal matter. It has been placed before me by officials of very large organizations. Their desire is, not to interfere with the working of any establishment, but to have the satisfaction of being able to police awards during -working hours, thus promoting industrial peace. The Minister should grant the request, irrespective of precedent.
.- I bring under notice the urgent need for Commonwealth action to safeguard the interests of the lower income-earning section of the community in relation to industrial life assurance, money lending, pawnbroking, and hire purchase agreements. I realize that the time of the Government is fully occupied at the moment with the war problems, but I also know that when, eventually, the budget is passed in some form by some government it will impose at least heavy economies, if not hardships, on the lower-paid sections of the community. Many of these unfortunate persons will have to surrender their insurance policies, or secure other financial accommodation to tide them over temporary difficulties. Many of the States have protective legislation, but others have made no provision in regard to certain or all of the matters to which I have referred. I have asked questions to which I have received replies that indicate that these are matters of Government policy upon which it is not customary to make statements in answer to questions in such circumstances. I have been told that certain matters are within the province of the States; but as this Parliament is imposing a heavy tax burden, the natural expectation is that it will afford whatever protection is needed. It is doubtful whether the Commonwealth has constitutional power to take action with respect to hire-purchase agreements ; consequently the national security regulations would have to be invoked in such cases. But this Parliament has the power to pass whatever legislation is necessary to deal with life assurance. The experience that I gained some years ago as secretary of a royal commission on industrial life assurance convinced me that the major and more reputable companies are anxious that legislation should be passed to protect their interests against unfair competition by disreputable companies. In some of the States, particularly in New South Wales, the interests of policy-holders should he protected. It is equally necessary that action be taken to prevent the growth of mushroom companies, which live only on the credulity of the general public. Legislation has recently been passed in Victoria, with the unanimous consent of the Parliament of that State, to give effect to the recommendations of that royal commission to effect necessary improvements. I understand that the bigger companies are anxious that this Parliament should pass similar legislation. So I say that it will be obligatory on the Government, when the budget has been passed, to ensure that the lot of those who are poorly paid shall not be made more difficult by reason of their having to deal with harsh and unconscionable persons in the matter of hirepurchase agreements, by their having to pay too high a rate of interest on sums borrowed from money-lenders, and in their dealings with pawnbrokers. They should also be given statutory rights with respect to surrender values and paid-up policies in the matter of life assurance, both industrial and ordinary. It maybe said that some companies have given contractual rights. In many cases, these are not worth anything. Perhaps there is not much cause for complaint in regard to the business transacted by genuine mutual companies; but a good deal of protest could be lodged against the more showy companies. I ask the Government, when it can find the time, to take these matters urgently into consideration and to do what I have suggested.
– I draw attention to the state of the House.
Bells rung, and a quorum not being present,
Mr. Speaker adjourned the House at 6.40 p.m.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Customs Act - Proclamation prohibiting the Exportation (except under certain conditions) of -
Iron and steel scrap (dated 27th November, 1940).
Pearl-shell (dated 27th November, 1940).
National Security Act - National Security ( General ) Regulations - Orders - Taking possession of land, &c. (81). Use of land (23).
Northern Australia Survey Act - Aerial, Geological and Geophysical Survey of Northern Australia - Report of Committee, for period ended 30th June, 1940.
Sales Tax Assessment Acts (Nos. 1-9) - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1940. No. 258.
War Service Homes Act - Report of the War Service Homes Commission for year 1939-40, together with statements and Balance-sheet.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Repatriation has supplied the following answers : -
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
In view of the absolute privilege given to informers under the National Security Regulations being open to grave abuse, and with a view to the protection of innocent citizens against internment or embarrassment, as a result of false and misleading statements of malicious individuals using the National Security Regulations for their own ends, will the Minister take steps (a) to ensure the punishment of offenders in such cases, (b) to hold a preliminary inquiry before internment, and (c) to notify internees of the allegations against them and to give them full opportunity to answer such allegations?
– Powers are available and will be exercised against all persons making deliberately false statements. The present procedure in connexion with internments is considered adequate. Every care is taken by the competent military authority to check the reliability of the evidence submitted against suspected persons before orders for their detention are made. In many cases statutory declarations are required in support of such evidence. Internment is a precautionary measure taken in the interests of national security, and for this reason it is not practicable to disclose to internees details of the evidence held concerning their activities to the prejudice of the safety and defence of the Commonwealth. Appeals can, however, be made to advisory committees by persons not of enemy nationality, while enemy aliens will now be able to appeal against their internment to special tribunals which were constituted this week for this purpose.
Shipping and Shipbuilding.
s asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Kingdom, as wine is “ non-priority “ cargo. The Commonwealth Government has, however, specially arranged for some shipments of wine to go forward, and recently600,000 gallons were shipped on a vessel under the control of the Government. South Africa and Portugal have increased their exports of wine to the United Kingdom during recent months, but the United Kingdom Government has advised the Commonwealth Government that, as from the 2nd December, 1940, imports of wine from all countries into the United Kingdom will be limited to pre-war figures.
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister deal ing with External Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Will he afford to residents of the Northern Territory, Thursday Island and New Guinea, the same benefit as is accorded to Tasmanian residents, by having mail to those places carried by air without surcharge?
– The Postmaster-General has supplied the following answer: -
The proposal will receive consideration, and the decision will be communicated to the honorable- member as early as possible.
r asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
Will he make inquiries as to why the Liquid Fuel Control Board has refused to issue to Charles Calcino, of Sommeriva,near Charleville, Queensland, a licence for power kerosene for his Fordson tractor to enable him to clear the silt around tanks to prevent his stock becoming bogged?
– The Minister for Supply and Development has supplied the following answer : -
The State Liquid Fuel Control Board has not refused Charles Calcino a licence for the use of power kerosene in his Fordson tractor. A licence is not necessary for this purpose.
Mr. Calcino was advised on 8th November that a licence was necessary only for a motor vehicle used on a public road.
Mr.Calwell asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
In view of the deflationary aspects of the budget proposals and the anticipated economies that will be forced on small wage earners should the budget proposals be adopted, will he introduce amending life assurance legislation to give statutory rights to surrender values and paid-up policies to policy-holders, particularly to holders of industrial policies.
n. - It is not customary to make statements of policy in reply to’ Parliamentary questions.
Excise on Tobacco.
asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
n. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Wheat: Purchase by Japan.
asked the Minister for
Commerce, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply and Development hassupplied the following answers: - 1 and 2. No. Early this year the Government guaranteed thesale of 375 units to stimulate large-scale production of technically approved types. Tenders were called and accepted for this number and a condition was imposed that the contract prices should be available to the public. Not all were sold within the period stipulated, and one contractor was given a guarantee for an overdraft instead of purchasing his units, pending their sale to the public. Practically all have now been sold and the overdraft liquidated accordingly.
Defence Force: Free Transport.
r. - On the 29th November, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Perkins) asked the following question, without notice: -
In view of the fact that members of the Military Forces on leave are allowed free transport on the railways, will the Minister for the Army consider the provision of similar facilities for those members of the forces who live in districts served only by motor vehicles ?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that in some States and on the Comonwealth railways free travel by rail to members of the Forces who have enlisted for overseas service is granted once a month between the camp and the member’s home. In other States concession rates are charged. In the case of State railways, the concession is extended by the State government, and in respect of the Commonwealth railways the concession is extended by the Commonwealth. As the State and Commonwealth Governments do not operate country passenger road transport services they have not the same facilities for extending free or concession travel by road as they have by rail.
s. - On the motion for the adjournment of the House on the 28th November, the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Dedman) referred to the search of the homes of Mrs. Nelly Patterson and Mr. Frank Deakin for subversive literature and urged that, in cases where no evidence of subversive activity is found, all literature should be returned and an official apology forwarded to the persons concerned.
Inquiries have now been made into the honorable member’s statements, but there is no record of any search of the home of a person known as Mrs. Nelly Patterson, nor is any person of that name known to the officers of the Investigation Branch. A search was, however, made at the home of a Mrs. Nellie Davidson, but it is not clear that this is the person to whom the honorable member refers.
Acting under the National Security (Subversive Associations) Regulations, the premises of Mr. Frank Deakin were searched a fortnight ago, and his collection of Communistic and doubtful literature was removed for examination. The search was thoughtfully made in the presence of Mrs. Deakin whilst Mr. Deakin was at work.
It is not the practice to interview persons suspected of subversive activities at their places of employment as their employment might be jeopardized: Through Mrs. Deakin an appointment was made for Mr. Deakin to call on the police, which he did. Mr. Deakin admitted the ownership ofthe books, including such an up-to-date Communist publication as the History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union ‘ Bolsheviks ‘ 1939. He also admitted the ownership of certain prohibited Communistic papers. All the unobjectionable books will he returned- at an early date, including those issued by the Left Book Club.
Mr. Deakin may have acted as chairman at the honorable member’s election meetings and may now deny that he is a Communist, but the result of the search proves conclusively that it was fully justified, and I do not propose to forward to Mr. Deakin an official apology. I am, instead, considering whether he should be prosecuted for being in possession of papers containing matter advocatingunlawful doctrines.
– On the 21st November the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) asked whether, in order to conserve shipping space, the Government would provide by regulation that all Australian wool should be scoured prior to shipment.
I desire to inform the honorable member as follows: -
The reasons why wool in the grease is preferred to scoured wool include the following: -
Pacific Defence Bases.
– The honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) asked me yesterday whether the discussions which had recently been taking place between the British Ambassador in Washington, the Australian Minister and the United States of America authorities included negotiations on defence bases in the Pacific Ocean.
I now inform the honorable member that these discussions naturally included consideration of the common defence interests of the United States of America and the British Empire in the Pacific region, but they cannot at the present stage be described by the term “negotiations “.
r. - Yesterday, the honor able member for Melbourne Ports (Mr.
Holloway) asked me a question, without notice, as to whether any increase of the reserves in Australia had resulted from the petrol-rationing scheme. I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that the Minister for Supply and Development has furnished the following reply to his question : -
It is too soon yet to offer any estimate as so far only the sales and stock figures for October are available.
Left Book Club.
s. - On the 3rd December, the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Dedman), asked, without notice, whether the Government had placed a ban on the importation or possession of books issued by the Left Book Club.
I am now in the position to inform the honorable member that no ban of any kind has been placed on Left Book Club books, as such.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 December 1940, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1940/19401204_reps_16_165/>.