17th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Sir Frederick Harold Stewart made and subscribed the oath of allegiance as Member for the Division of Parramatta, New South Wales.
Mr. CURTIN (Fremantle- Prime
Minister). - I inform the House that the Advisory War Council will continue to function. The Government will be represented on it by Mr. Curtin, Mr.Forde,
Dr. Evatt, Mr. Beasley and Mr. Makin. The Leaders of the Opposition parties have advised me that their representatives on the Council will be : Mr. Menzies, Mr. Hughes, Mr. Spender, Mr.Fadden and Mr. McEwen.
.- by leave - I inform the House that to-day, the 6th October, the five-yearly term for which the Right Honorable S. M. Bruce,C.H., M.C., was appointed as High Commissioner of the Commonwealth of Australia in the United Kingdom will expire. At the request of the Commonwealth Government, Mr. Bruce has consented to continue in office. The High Commissioner Act prescribes that the period of appointment of the High Commissioner shall not exceed five years, and that the person holding the office shall be eligible for re-appointment. Mr. Bruce has already served for ten. years. Although this is a long period, it is the wish of the Government that, in the present circumstances, he should continue in office. We are grateful to him for agreeing to do so. The appointment has been made, by arrangement with him, for a further period of one year as from the 7th October, 1943.
Mr. Bruce will also continue to act as the Australian Accredited Representative on the Imperial War Cabinet, and as His Majesty’s Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary for the Commonwealth of Australia to the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
– In view of the acute shortage of eggs in Australia, and the appeal by the Minister for Commerce and. Agriculture for an increase of production by the engagement in poultry-raising of persons not already so engaged, as well as by an increase of the number of birds on existing poultry farms, will the honorable gentleman examine the ruling recently given, the result of which will be that in many instances the number of hens kept for egg production will be reduced to not more than twenty?
– The stipulation that not more than twenty hens shall be kept applies only to those who raise poultry in order to provide for their own egg requirements or to make a free distribution of eggs. Any owner who has more than twenty hens is obliged to make and supply returns, and to send the whole of the production to the Egg Marketing Board. I shall have a complete investigation made, with a view to seeing whether or not it is possible to comply with the wish of the honorable member.
– In view of the recent pronouncement of the State Controller of War Damage Insurance, that the contributions to the fund since the 3lst December last total approximately £13,000,000, and that claims from New Guinea and Papua, amounting to approximately £9,000,000, cannot be met until after the war, will the Treasurer give the assurance that further contributions to the fund will be discontinued or will be considerably reduced ?
– In reply to an earlier question, I intimated that the matter of the premiums payable in respect of war damage insurance was being reviewed by the Government, and that I hoped to make a recommendation to Cabinet at an early date. I shall make that recommendation at the first opportunity. I cannot give an assurance of what the policy of the Government will be.
– I have discussed the matter with both the Minister for Munitions, and the Minister for Transport. The former has undertaken to speed up production, and the Minister for Transport has promised to do everything possible to expedite delivery.
– On the 28th September the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) asked whether I had received representations from organizations of graziers regarding the need to make available greater supplies of salt for sheep,especially in Queensland, where local supplies ‘ are insufficient. I have made inquiries, and find that representations were made regarding this matter by the Graziers Federal Council of Australia. The position is that, until after the salt harvest in December, it will not be possible to state to what extent supplies of salt will be available. At the present time the position has eased somewhat, however, and my department has already advised chief veterinary officers in all States that supplies of salt have improved sufficiently to allow some relaxation of the present restrictions on its use. They may now grant permits for the use of salt in cases where they are satisfied that the benefit to be expected warrants the employment of the material and transport involved. Prior to that advice, chief veterinary officers wore authorized to grant permits only when they considered that the use of salt was essential. It must be appreciated that the use of transport, especially in Queensland, must be avoided wherever practicable, and this is a fact which has to be taken into account in issuing permits for salt. I consider that the arrangement thereby the issue of permits has been placed in the hands of chief veterinary officers is the best which could have been made to ensure a proper balance between the necessity for conserving transport and salt supplies and the real needs of graziers for the use of salt.
– Following the decision of the War Cabinet to make labour available for primary production, will the Prime Minister make a statement as to the method to be adopted in releasing labour, so that the most essential services may receive the benefit of the man-power released ?
– I shall consider whether I can make a statement which will give a clearer understanding of the matter.
– Does the AttorneyGeneral intend to report to the House on his mission to the World International Food Congress? If so, will he make available the reports and recommendations of the conference, and move that they be printed, so that a full discussion on them may take place?
– I propose to do that next week, if the state of business permits.
– In view of the widespread dissatisfaction with, and the industrial dislocation caused by, the re-introduction of daylight saving, will the Prime Minister, even at this late hour, give further consideration to the matter, with a view to repealing the regulations?
– I have circulated today an answer to a question on thatsubject, which was addressed to me last week. The decision of the Cabinet has been made in the light of the facts and recommendations placed before it, and must stand. Until such time as the coal supplies of Australia are at least equal to, not only the present, but also prospective increased demands, the withdrawal of the regulations would create more difficult problems for the Government than adherence to the decision which has been reached. Last year daylight saving was introduced as an accompaniment to the black-out conditions, but this year it has been introduced primarily in order to conserve coal.
– What saving is effected by it?
– It would take me a good while to indicate to the House the saving effected in each of the States, but industry as a whole derives benefit from daylight saving, and in certain industries the results obtained are important.
– Was it recommended by the Department of Health?
– That department made a recommendation in favour of tho proposal, but the Government’s decision was based solely on economic considerations, based on the fact that coal supplies are not at present equal to requirements.
– In view of the fact that there is a ceiling price for butter and cheese, which prevents makers of farm butter from increasing the price, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture investigate the problem of the farm butter-makers, with a view to bringing them within the provisions of the dairy subsidy?
– I shall take the matter up with the Controller of Dairy Products. In a recent discussion upon it, I was informed that ‘ a special arrangement would have to he made to meet the position of the producers referred to, because home butter-makers do not come within the price equalization scheme. The price they would get for their butter under present conditions would be better than the price their product would realize if they received a subsidy, because they do not now contribute to the equalization , fund, as all registered manufacturers do. I shall consider the matter further and later supply to the honorable member an answer in greater detail.
– I recall to the mind of the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral the fact that, after the capture of some thousands of Australian soldiers in Malaya, the Japanese authorities broadcast messages from them to people in this country, and through the Australian Broadcasting Commission the relatives of the soldiers concerned were enabled to send messages back to them. Later, I understand that that service ceased because the Government thought that false information might be put into the messages for the purpose of propaganda. I ask the Minister whether, in view of the altered war situation, this service cannot be re-instituted, and messages, which must be a source of comfort 10 them in their captivity, sent once more to prisoners of war?
– I do not know whether this matter is properly one for consideration by the Postmaster-General. It may be the concern of the Minister for the Army, or of some other Minister. Sometimes military considerations determine such matters quite as much as technical considerations. However, I shall bring the question under the notice of the appropriate Minister. I assure the honorable member that the Government is as anxious as anybody else that prisoners of war and their relatives shall receive such comfort and solace as is possible. It will give every consideration to the possibility of arranging for the despatch of messages.
– The Government has stated that its proposed social service legislation will not. interfere with the activities of friendly societies, but will rather assist them. Many old-age pensioners contribute to a funeral fund which provides a benefit of £10 upon their death, but the receipt of this payment disqualifies them from receiving the Commonwealth funeral benefit of £10 which would otherwise be available. Will the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services consider an immediate amendment of the act to provide for the payment, of the government benefit whether or not a benefit is payable to relatives from any other source ?
– Friendly societies will not be interfered with in any way. The funeral benefit which the pensioner receives from the Government is not affected by the receipt of another funeral benefit, but the act does make a distinction against those who are members of non-registered funeral funds. A deputation waited upon me in Sydney recently and1 discussed this matter. In due course it will be considered by Cabinet.
– Can the Minister for Supply and Shipping add anything to the statement already made regarding the conference heM’ in Sydney yesterday between the Prime Minister and representatives of the coal-miners? Can he, within the next few days, make a full statement in this House regarding production during recent months on the New South Wales coal-fields, setting forth whether sufficient coal is being produced to meet the requirements of essential services or whether there has been a decline compared with previous months? Having regard- to the conflicting reports which appear from time to time, honorable members are entitled to a full and clear statement on the present production position and the requirements of essential services.
– I have . nothing; to add to what was said by the Prime Minister at the conclusion of the conference. It is wise and proper that such statements should be made in the way in which that one was made.
– lt might also be wise and proper that a statement be made here at an appropriate time.
– At an appropriate time, yes. In the meantime, I have nothing’ to add to what the Prime Minister has already said.
– It. was an inadequate statement.
– That is a matter of opinion.
– Production is inadequate, too, as a matter of fact.
– Order ! This is de-, veloping into a debate.
– I have answered the first, part of the honorable member’s question. If he should think it necessary, the Prime Minister will probably add later something to what he has already publicly said. As for the second part of the question, relating to present production in New South Wales and the requirements of the country, I shall ask the Coal Commissioner to prepare a statement and shall make it available.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether it is a fact that he agreed to coal-miners having a break of nine days during the Christmas and New
Year holiday period because he had been encouraged by the miners’ representatives to believe that the production of coal during the next three months would be maintained at a level sufficient to meet both war and civil requirements? Is it also a fact that, in spite of a pre-election advertisement in which the general president of the Miners Federation, Mr. Wells, stated that under the Prime Minister’s leadership the miners would never let Australia down, there have been 111 strikes or stoppages in New South Wales between the 23rd August and the 29th September, resulting in the loss of nearly 106,000 tons of coal? In view of that loss, does the Prime Minister still consider that coal production will be maintained ?
– It is a fact that, yesterday, I agreed that at the Christmas period holidays should be availed of by coal-miners to the extent indicated in the statement which I made last night. That is to say, in addition to public holidays, four normal working days will also be holidays. Miners will cease work on Christmas eve, and will recommence work on the morning of the 3rd January. My acquiescence in the request was given in the firm belief that between now and Christmas the requisite tonnage will be produced to enable civil and war requirements of coal to be met. It should he borne in mind that, the quantity of coal that these men are producing is greater than at any time in the history of this country.
– The consumption is greater.
– It is true that more coal is being consumed than ever before, but it is also true that the men are getting older and that the mines are becoming increasingly difficult to work. The problem that faces Australia in respect of the production of coal is, in many respects, identical with that which faces other countries. Broad generalizations do not meet the position; the constant attention of the Government is necessary. I do not know how many stoppages in the coal-mining industry have taken place between the dates mentioned, but it is true, as he said, that there were stoppages, some of which, in my opinion, ought not to have occurred. I have said that previously. But, generally speaking, I believe that the miners will not let Australia down. In that belief, I accepted last night the assurances that were given to me. I am convinced that if there were not a few sneaking little tricks being practised by those who desire to prevent peace in the coal-mining industry, the problem would not be so difficult as it now appeal’s to be. I venture to say that human nature actuates those who superintend the miners as much as it does the actions of the miners themselves. I make no charges, but have sufficient evidence to show that all the blame cannot be attributed to one side of industry.
– Is it not a fact that the increased output of coal is due largely to the greater mechanization of the coal-mines, and is not the statement of the right honorable gentleman, which he has made on numerous occasions, that the miners are getting older and the mines more difficult to work, completely misleading in the circumstances?
– It appears to me that some of the questions that are asked on . this subject, including that of the honorable member, are merely in the nature of debating points. During the last three months the production of coal has fallen, compared with the production during the corresponding three months of last year. That is because there have been more stoppages this year than in the same period of last year. The coal requirements of Australia are rising, notwithstanding the fact that the production of coal, both last year and this year, represents a record for Australia. The requirements are rising not only because of the expansion of Australian industries but also because of the contribution which the Government has directed that this country shall make to meet the coal needs of our Allies. We could have avoided a great part of the problem of the shortage of coal at present in certain industrial centres if we had said, “We have no coal to spare”; but we agreed to make the contribution, with a full sense of the fact that it would prob- ably create difficulties for us. I am asking the miners to produce more coal.
They told me yesterday that they will do their best to do so, and I am quite sure that upon their efforts will depend the result, not upon disputation between the honorable gentleman and myself.
– Following the decision of the Prime Minister that the policy of the Government regarding striking coal-miners shall be one of appeasement, does the Prime Minister propose to apply this policy to all industries? If so, will he consider inviting all industrial workers desiring nine days holiday at Christmas to make formal application by immediately going on strike ?
– Holidays in the coalmines at Christmas-time this year will be less than they were last year. That is. a fact. I tell the honorable gentleman and the House that I am doing my very best to get coal for Australia. I am having the support, I am quite sure, of the representative leaders of the Miners Federation and the other unions concerned. I am not the only head of a government perplexed by the problem of coal, and no matter on what side of the House I have sat I have recognized the complexities of this problem. I have endeavoured to do my best with those who are responsible for getting coal. I am quite conscious of all that can be said. Some of the disputes are, in my opinion, without justification ; some of the actions practised by the employers are, in my opinion, absolutely without justification. I am, however, not an arbitration court judge; I can only hold a view. I have not the responsibility to impose punishment, and, in any event, I am faced with the fact that it is only by miners going down into the mine that coal can be produced. Putting them in gaol will not produce coal. There is no alternative source of labour competent to win coal. I suggest to the honorable gentleman, and I say it to the country, that a little more understanding of the problem of coal-mining would perhaps evoke realization on the part of the coal-miners that they are not the mere slaves of industry which at times they had reason to believe they were. It is desirable, I believe, to evoke in their minds realization of the importance of their labour to the salvation of the country. To let them feel quite confident that they are doing a work of major importance to the winning of the war and to give them credit for what they do would be, I venture to say, a. better way to get good results than is the constant heaping of abuse upon them.
– On the 29th September, the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) asked me a question, without notice, regarding the threatened waste of lemons in the Gosford and Windsor districts of New South Wales. I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that the supply of lemons is regulated by the Control of Citrus Fruits Order. Under this order, 50 per cent, of the lemon crop is diverted to processors engaged on service contracts, and up to the 18th September, 1943, 954 tons of lemons had been accepted by New South Wales factories. Last week, more lemons were offering than could be immediately processed, but the position has since improved. Factories have not storage space for more than two or three days’ supply of fruit, and, as intake is governed by processing capacity, a surplus is at times unavoidable. Difficulties in this connexion, however, could be largely overcome by more orderly marketing arrangements on the part of the citrus-growers so as to ensure a regular supply of fruit to the factories. If the honorable member for Robertson can give the names of the growers whose lemons are alleged to be wasting, further inquiries will be made into the matter.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer a question regarding interest rates and, by way of preface, I refer him to the interest covenant in mortgages on real property in New South Wales which have become the subject of moratorium legislation in that State. In this it is provided that interest shall be £5 Ss. 6d. per cent. Will the Treasurer give favorable consideration to amending the existing finance regulations in order to permit people who desire to purchase homes subject to such a mortgage to pay that rate of interest?
– The matter which the honorable member mentions has received a great deal of consideration. When the original regulations were brought in the matter of contractual obligations was discussed by a committee of which the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) was a member. The opinion was held that regulations ought not to interfere with existing contractual obligations. I agree with the honorable member that the present situation does create some hardship. The position will be further examined.
Travelling Facilities for Nurses
– Can the Minister for the Army say whether it is a fact that as the result of instructions given by his department Army nurses travelling on home leave from distant States are refused entitlement to sleeping berths? If so, will he take steps to ensure that these women are granted travelling facilities comparable with those provided for men of similar rank in other branches of the service ?
– I am not aware of any such instructions, but I shall have inquiries made immediately, and will furnish a reply to the honorable gentleman.
– Last Wednesday I brought to the notice of the Minister for Home Security the destruction of valuable timber as the result of a disastrous fire which occurred in a war industry on the Brisbane River, and I then asked him to give favorable consideration to the supply of suitable fire-fighting barges to the Brisbane Fire Brigade. Since then, there has been a further disastrous fire in connexion with a war industry, and I now ask the Minister if he will give urgent and favorable consideration to my request ?
– Although the supply of fire-fighting barges is not ordinarily the responsibility of the Department of Home Security, my department has been in consultation with the Queensland Government in the matter.
Itis not so easy to obtain suitable barges as the honorable member may think. As the consultations with the Queensland Government have not yet concluded, no decision in the matter has yet been reached. Ishall inform the honorable member as soon as a decision is made. The supply of fire-fighting equipment to the States by the Department of Home Security was supplementary to the equipment already possessed by the States; it did not relieve fire brigades of the obligation to combat ordinary fires, other than those in war industries.
– Will the Minister for the Army give favorable consideration to permitting local authorities in the Sydney metropolitan district to remove barbed wire defences from beaches prior to the commencement of the surfing season ?
– This matter will be discussed with the Army authorities and the Commander in Chief, and I hope to let the honorable gentleman have an early reply.
– Has the Minister for War Organization of Industry had any consultation with the Railways Department of Victoria regarding the supply of railway trucks to drought areas for the removal of stock? If not, will he confer with his colleague, the Minister for Transport, with a view to alleviate the existing position which is causing considerable concern in Victoria ?
– I am not aware whether any representations have been made to my department regarding the transport of stock from drought areas, but I shall consult with my colleague, the Minister for Transport, and advise the honorable member later of the result of the inquiry.
Removal of Window Screens
– In view of the apparent difference of opinion between the Minister in charge of air raids precautions in New South Wales and the Minister for Home Security, will the Minister for Home Security make a statement with regard to the boarding of windows as precautions against air raids, so that the people may know exactly where they stand ?
– The position with regard to the boarding of windows in Australian capital cities as a precaution against shattering by bomb-blast is very clear. It is a part of the set-up of home security and defence. The boarding of windows was made compulsory in capital cities to protect people on the streets and in shops from injury by glass splinters in the event of bombs falling. The Minister in charge of air raids precautions in the New South Wales Ministry recently said that screens could be taken down, but the people to decide that are the members of the Defence Committee, who decide all matters relating to defence in this country. That committee expressed the opinion that the time had not come yet when it would be absolutely safe to allow the screens to be removed. The Defence Committee has said that they are to remain and they shall remain.
Household Linen and Manchester Goods
– It is approximately two years since rationing was introduced. Many householders in my electorate have advised me that they are short of household linen and other manchester items. I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs whether he will review the whole system of rationing with a view to issuing special ration coupons for the purchase of household linen? The supplies that can be purchased under the present system are hopelessly inadequate. I am advised that there are large quantities of manchester goods in Australia.
– It is not correct to say that there are large supplies in Australia.
– I was told by the trade in my electorate that there were.
– Neither is it correct to say that even though we have had two years of rationing the problem of maintaining the necessary supplies of textiles and cotton goods is any less today than it was two years ago.
– I am talking about household linen andmanchester goods.
– Order ! The honorable member is talking too much.
– I want my question understood.
– This matter is constantly under review, and within the last three months we have sent a special mission to the United States of America and the United Kingdom on the very subject. The gentleman in charge of that mission returned to Australia only to-day. We are not in a position to ease rationing to the extent suggested in the honorable gentleman’s question: nevertheless, there may be room for consideration of the contention that stocks of household linen have fallen to a low level. I am doing my best in the Department of Supply and Shipping to correct that. I know that it is necessary to watch the situation, but we shall do all we can to grant relief.
Having regard to the downward trend of interest rates during the last few years, will the Minister for Repatriation confer with the Treasurer with a view to having interest rates reduced on money owing on war service homes.
I replied -
This is really a matter of government policy, but I shall have an investigation made and supply the honorable member with information later.
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that the subject of interest rates generally is constantly under review. Some time ago, after consultation with the Commonwealth Bank, the Government directed a reduction of interest rates covering deposits, mortgages and overdrafts. Further reviews of interest rates will be made from time to time and, in such reviews, the question raised by the honorable member will receive consideration.
– I have received from Mrs. O’Keefe a letter of thanks and appreciation for the resolution of sympathy and condolence passed by the House on the occasion of the death of her husband, the Honorable David John O’Keefe.
– I have received from Mrs. Whitsitt a letter of thanks and appreciation for the resolution of sympathy and condolence passed by the House on the occasion of the death of her husband, Mr. Joshua Thomas Hoskins Whitsitt.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Supply Bill (No. 2) 1943-44.
War Pensions Appropriation Bill 1943.
Message received from the Senate intimating that the following senators had been appointed members of the Public Works Committee : - Senator Aylett, Senator Brand and Senator Lamp.
Message received from the Senate intimating that the following senators had been appointed members of the Broadcasting Committee: - Senator Amour, Senator Darcey and Senator Allan MacDonald.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) agreed to -
That, unless otherwise ordered, this House shall meet for the despatch of business on each Tuesday at 3 p.m. ; on each Wednesday and Thursday at 2.30 p.m.; and on each Friday at 10.30 a.m.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act 1935-1943.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Last July the Government determined that further steps should be taken urgently to assist in stabilizing prices. It was found essential to offset certain increases that had already occurred. One of the steps decided upon for this purpose was to reduce the rate of sales tax in respect of clothing and household drapery from 12½ per cent. to7½ per cent.
As Parliament at the time had been dissolved, it was not possible to implement this decision immediately in the normal way by submitting bills to amend the existing rates of sales tax. However, because of the urgency of the matter, the Government authorized the reduction of the rate of tax by means of a regulation under the National Security Act. This was done in Statutory Rules 1943, No. 182. At that time the Government announced that the regulation was a temporary measure only, and that it would seek parliamentary ratification of the reduction of rate in the normal way as soon as a new parliament was constituted!. That intention is now being carried into effect.
Because of the existing form of the sales tax legislation, the reduction of the rate of tax on clothing necessitates the amendment of the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act 1935-1943, as well as the nine sales tax rates acts. The bill now before the House specifies, in a new second schedule to the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act, the goods to which the reduced rate of tax applies. Other bills to amend the nine sales tax rates acts will provide that the rate of tax on those goods shall be reduced from 12½ per cent. to7½ per cent. on and from the 21st July, 1943, which was the date of commencement of the regulation previously made for this purpose.
The prices of clothing and drapery have substantially increased during the war period. These goods figure largely in the cost of living and the Government considered that, if effective action could be taken to reduce the prices of such goods, that reduction would have a substantial effect upon the cost of living. Clothing and drapery are general terms which cover a very wide range of articles, but there is no clear definition which would readily establish precisely what goods come within their scope. In any law which fixes differing rates of sales tax in respect of particular classes of goods, it is essential to have those classes of goods very clearly defined in order to obviate confusion among traders and consequential administrative difficulties.
For these reasons it was decided that, with certain exceptions which will be explained later, the reduced rate of tax should apply only to rationed clothing and drapery, i.e., to clothing and drapery in respect of the purchase of which coupons have to be surrendered. Regard was paid to the fact that clothing and drapery merchants were already obliged to classify their goods into two classes, viz., coupon goods and non-coupon goods; and it was decided that the same classification should be adopted for the purposes of determining the rate of sales tax payable in respect of the goods. Coupon goods were tobe taxed at7½ per cent., and non-coupon goods at the general rate of 12½ per cent. This course is to the obvious advantage of traders, as it obviates the difficulties which would arise from any additional classification of the goods for sales tax purposes. Accordingly, it was provided that the reduced rate shall apply to goods included in the definition of” coupon goods” inRationing Order No.27, issued under the National Security (Rationing) Regulations. It has been provided, however, that the reduced rateshall not apply to furgarments, which continue to be taxed at themaximum rate of25 per cent. Goods which wereformerly exemptfrom salestax remain exempt. Fromtime to time, it isfoundnecessary tomake certain amendmentsto RationingOrder No. 27 for the extension orrestriction ofcoupon goods. Whilst if is satisfactory andconvenientto adopt that order in itspresentform as a specification of the goods to which the reduced rate of tax shall apply,itis, nevertheless, possible that, at some future time, the order may bethesubject of certain amendments whichwill not be acceptable for sales tax purposes. It may becomenecessary or desirable, at short notice, to cause such amendmentsofthe coupon scale to have no effect insofar as the rate of sales tax isconcerned. Therefore, provision is made inthe billthat the reduced rate shallapply to coupon goods as defined in Rationing Order No. 27 as amended from time to time, subject to a power to prescribe, by regulation, any departure from those amendments which may be necessary or desirable for sales tax purposes. In order to avoid complications, it is hoped that it will not become necessary to exercise that power, but it is considered prudent to reserve such a power so as to enable prompt action to be taken in the event of any change of the coupon scale which is not acceptable for sales tax purposes.
– The economic policy which lies behind the bill is not challenged. I think that a case has been made out for the reduction of the rate of sales tax from 12½ per cent. to7½ per cent. in respect of the classes of goods mentioned; but I want to offer a few comments on the method by which this change has been brought about. In the first instance, Parliament itself passed the sales tax laws and determined what rates of sales tax should be imposed on various commodities.In July last, after the House had risen, and when we were getting ready for the general elections which many honorable members will recall - though not so many on this side as I would have liked - a change was announced by means of regulation. I do not recall any previous instance in the parliamentary history of Australia when a tax had been changed by a regulation; because one of the first principles, to which Parliament must adhere, I believe, is that of parliamentary control of finance, parliamentary control of taxes in respect of both imposition and remission. I am sure that all honorable members will agree that that is a very soundgeneral principle. The last and most powerful control that Parliament exercisesoverthe Executive is control exercisedbymeansof the power of the purse.
When I read in the newspaper about thisreductionand subsequently saw it in a regulation,I confess to having felt somesurpriseat this unprecedented act. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) will retort that it was a matter of urgency and as such could not waituntil the new Parliament assembled.Naturally, I at once accept that statement, merely making what I hope the Treasurer will regard as a playful addendum. On the morning on which this reduction was announced, I had the pleasure, while walking into the city, of meeting the postman, with whom I occasionally exchange some political gossip. He met me with a beaming smile and asked, “ Have you read the newspaper this morning?”. I thought that the question must have some reference to a new war or conquest, or something of that nature.
– Or to a new order?
– The honorable member is quite right. It was a new order, made under Statutory Rules 1943, No. 182. The postman asked me, “ Have you seen the new order about the sales tax ? “. I replied that I had, and he then remarked, “ You know, it is a wonderful election. If it only goes on long enough we shall be getting everything for nothing “.
– Does the Leader of the Opposition agree with him?
– I agree with him most heartily. No doubt he voted for the Labour party for the reasons that he gave. Be that as it may, the announcement was singularly well timed.
What I am most concerned with at present is to draw the attention of honorable members to the fact that this method of imposing or altering taxes should not be allowed to become regular. This should be treated as a most exceptional case, and I have no doubt that the Treasurer so regards it, because he has taken an early opportunity, after the new Parliament assembled, to bring it before the Parliament for decision. If honorable members will turn to the schedule of the bill, they will find a masterpiece of drafting. I say that with hardly any mental reservation. This masterpiece of drafting defines “ coupon goods “, and the effect of the schedule, so far as I have been able to master it in the time available to me, is that the expression “ coupon goods “ may be expanded or contracted by regulation or order, so that what is or is not to come within the scope of this tax shall in the long run depend not upon the Parliament but upon what is done by regulation. To me that is a most undesirable principle. Parliament, I suggest to honorable members, should consider very carefully what it is doing.
I shall not adopt the attitude of those who declare that all regulation-making is wrong. Of course it is not wrong, and in war-time we must be content to submit ourselves to a host of regulations and to an enormous amount of executive control. It is folly to say that we can avoid it. But executive control in detailed points of administration is one thing; executive control in fiscal matters is another thing. Speaking for myself, and for a number of honorable members, I prefer always to see changes in the incidence of taxing laws attended to not by the Executive but by the Parliament. Many regulations have been made very properly and very usefully during the war. Some of the regulation-making powers should, I believe, be scrutinized very closely. Having drawn attention to what has occurred in connexion with the sales tax, I shall support my argument by referring to another piece of legislation.
The Sixteenth Parliament passed the Black Marketing Act, which was very properly a most severe piece of legislation. It provided for the imposition of penalties of unexampled severity. How far it has been successful, I do not know. I hope that it has been most successful. But an outstanding feature of the blackmarketing law was that although in the act the Parliament defined “ black marketing”, it proceeded to enlarge the definition. Section 17 provides -
The Governor-General may make regulations . . prescribing all matters which are required or permitted to be prescribed, or which are necessary or convenient to be prescribed for giving effect to this act, and, in particular, for -
declaring any act or thing done or omitted to be done, or any conduct, in contravention of the Regulations to be black marketing;
The Parliament created a new and very serious offence attracting very properly a most severe penalty, defined the offence, as indeed it should, and then added, “ Well now, if the Executive finds that this definition does not please it, it may add any other items of conduct that it cares to think of, and they will automatically became black marketing and attract a most severe penalty “. That if another example of the matter that I am discussing. It is not the kind of thing on which general rules can he very casually propounded. I do not desire to propound them very casually; but I believe that at least two rules ought to be observed in this matter. The first is that when pecuniary imposts are to be imposed, varied or remitted, they should be imposed, varied or remitted, not by the Executive, but by the Parliament. That being a general rule, it admits of an exception in a case of emergency. In war-time, the Executive may occasionally have to act in complete disregard of the rule. On such occasions, it should follow the example which has been set by the Treasurer in bringing the matter before the Parliament at the earliest possible moment so that the legislature may deal with it. The second rule, which I submit for consideration, is that where Parliament is creating by statute an offence which cuts across the normal liberty of a subject, the defining of that offence, if undertaken by the Parliament itself, should not be subject to alteration by the Executive.
These two matters are worthy of consideration by the Government, properly armed with executive power and anxious to use it for the benefit of the country, but liable, as all governments are, to be tempted occasionally to use it for purposes other than those for which it was designed. Subject to those comments, the Opposition supports the bill.
Mr. CHIFLEY (Macquarie - Treasurer) [4.7 . - in -re-ply - I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) that the date on which this order was issued could very easily have been interpreted by suspicious minds as having some significance in the electoral campaign. The explanation is that after the Sixteenth Parliament had been dissolved, the Government received from the Commonwealth Statistician the latest cost-of-living figures. These revealed increases of the prices of certain commodities, including clothing, which would affect the basic wage in most of the capital cities, and, indeed, practically throughout Australia. Desiring to stabilize prices, the Government recognized that this increase would strike a deadly blow at ceiling prices, and the re tention of the basic wage at the present figure. Therefore, the Government was bound to act promptly. Although I am not aware what the cost-of-living figure will be for this quarter, I hope that the declaration will reduce the basic wage to the level at which it stood before the last increase. Whereas the reduction of the prices of potatoes and tea operated immediately on the “ C “ series index, a reduction of sales tax on the price of clothing will not have an immediate effect, because it will apply only to goods received from the manufacturer after the date of the declaration of the decrease. Consequently, some time will elapse before the effect of the reduction will be felt in the “ C “ series index, and the sole reason for action being taken at the time by regulation was that the Government didnot desire a long delay before some reduction could be made in the price of clothing, which would tend to stabilize the basic wage at what it was prior to the last increase. I quite agree with the Leader of the Opposition that it has been generally accepted in this and most Parliaments that the imposition of taxes shall be the result of a decision by Parliament, and not of an executive order.
The only other point I wish to deal with is the definition of coupon goods in Rationing Order No. 27. I assure the House that it is not proposed to engage in any abuse of the practice that has been adopted in the past in that regard. Order No. 27 covers certain classes of goods. The Leader of the Opposition has suggested that when Parliament is in recess something may be brought in or taken out under that order which would affect the principle. Some goods might, in fact, he brought in that were not subject t’o sales tax at all, and it is only to meet some such minor situation that the bill gives the power proposed. There will be no abuse of it, and, should any change of the kind occur, the House will be given an opportunity to express its opinion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill- by leave - read a third time.
SALES TAX BILLS (Nos. 1 to 9) 1943.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Motions (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to - (1.) That in lieu of the rate of tax imposed by the Sales Tax Act (No. 1) 1930-1942 sales tax be imposed upon the sale value of goods, manufactured in Australia by a taxpayer and on or after the twenty-first day ofJuly, One thousand nine hundred and forty-three, sold by him or treated by him as stock for sale by retail or applied to his own use, at the rate of -
Standing Orders - by leave - suspended ; resolutions adopted.
That Mr. Chifley and Mr. Lazzarini do prepare and bring in bills to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent questions in regard to the first and second readings, committee’s report stage, and the third readings, being put in one motion covering several or all of the Sales Tax Bills Nos. 1 to 9 and the consideration of several or all of such bills together in a committee of the whole.
Bills (Nos. 1 to 9) presented by Mr. Chifley, and read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bills be now read a second time.
The only change in the rates of sales tax which is involved in these measures is the reduction of the rate of sales tax from 12½ per cent. to7½ per cent. in respect of rationed clothing and household drapery. The events leading to the resolutions which have been passed in Committee of Ways and Means, and the classes of goods affected, have been already explained in connexion with the bill to amend the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act, and I do not propose to repeat the explanations here. The reduction of the rate has been in operation since the 21st July, 1943, by authority of a national security regulation. The authority of Parliament is now sought for this reduction.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a second time, and passed through their remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 29th September (vide page 171), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill in its general form is not unlike bills on the same subject that have come before the chamber in previous years. Its actual proposals I do not desire to discuss, but I do want to make some comments on the general problem of the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States. In the first place, I should like to say to the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) that, if it is possible on future occasions for honorable members to have the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission in their hands some time before the bill is dealt with, that would be most desirable. I say for the benefit of the new members that the report annually presented by the Commonwealth Grants Commission is one of the most valuable documents produced in Australia. Originally, the idea of these grants was that the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania were to be reimbursed for the disabilities which they suffered under federation, but it turned out very early that the disabilities could not be accurately assessed. They depended on a great deal of very shadowy argument, so the commission based its recommendations on the financial needs of the States, assessing those needs according to a standard arrived at by consideration of the finances of, first, two of the other States, and then of the three other States. It is now more like an equalization scheme than a disabilities grant. Each year the commission makes a report which is, in my opinion, extraordinarily well considered and thoughtful. I have not had time to study the latest document so closely as to learn whether any of the criticism made by individual claimant States can be supported, but I invite all honorable members to look through the report carefully. I have seen no abler document for a long time. It contains a very careful, yet concise summary of the economic policy of Australia during the war, a summary which I found of great value and interest. In particular, this report foreshadows a problem to which I desire to direct the attention of the Government. Although the recommendations contained in the report will be put into effect in the financial year 1943-44, the report itself relates to State finances for the year 1941-42. We are always of necessity somewhat over a year behind because of the need to obtain accurate figures. This report deals with a year in which there was no such thing as uniform income tax, a year in which each State levied its own income tax. Consequently, the commission had to take the recorded results of the exercise by a State of its authority to collect income tax and equate them to the standard to be derived from the three larger States. But in 1942 this Parliament passed what we call the uniform income tax law, which, in substance, excludes from the field of income tax all the State Parliaments. The result is that the States no longer have any flexible revenue to be raised by means of income tax collections. They are dependent for revenue from this source on reimbursements from the Commonwealth under a statute passed by this Parliament. The reimbursement comes to each State out of the total Commonwealth income tax collections by virtue of the ‘States Grants Income Tax Reimbursement Act 1942. As the Treasurer will remember, that act contains two provisions, one of them fixed, the other flexible. The fixed provision is that each State shall receive a reimbursement of income tax collections to an amount set against its name in the schedule, varying from over £15,000,000 for New South Wales to £880,000 for Tasmania. Those amounts were worked out according to a formula which I need notnow discuss. It was then seen that such a schedule might, in due course, prove to be quite unsuitable.
The States will not remain always as they are. Populations will increase, and problems might arise involving much heavier expenditure. For example, if education is to remain in the hands of the States, there must be vastly increased expenditure upon education if the demands of the people are to be satisfied. It was realized, therefore, that the amount coming to a particular State under the schedule might not always prove to be adequate. It was also realized that the matter could not be dealt with according to any fixed formula, because one State might develop more quickly than another. For that reason Parliament inserted a provision in section 6 of the act providing that if the Treasurer of any State to which payment might be made under the act is of opinion that the payment so made is insufficient to meet the revenue requirements of the State he may so inform the Commonwealth Treasurer, who shall refer the matter to the Commonwealth Grants Commission. The section goes on to provide that the commission shall investigate and report, and that the Treasurer, having the commission’s report before him, will take certain steps. That means that after the uniform tax scheme comes into operation, any State which finds that it needs more revenue may make application for a. further special grant. It may happen that, in some circumstances, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland may themselves become claimant States.
That has one interesting result which, I confess, I had not foreseen when the legislation was before this Parliament in 1942. For instance, South Australia is a State in which, in the course of this war, successive governments have made what I venture to describe as a first-class experiment in the decentralization of large secondary industries. A great number of munitions works has been set up in South Australia. One has only to look at the report of the commission to learn what a large increase there has been in the number of persons engaged in manufacture in that State, and to realize how far-reaching the effects of this must be. In addition to the setting up of munitions works, there is also, as we all know, a very substantial development, both actual and foreshadowed, at Whyalla, and this involves the State Government in considerable outlay for the provision of social services. I had thought when I was Prime Minister, as I have no doubt the present Prime Minister also believed, that the effect of this change of economy would be that South Australia would, at an early date, cease to be a claimant State; in other words, that South Australia, having a balanced economy, would bc able to stand on its own feet, and would not need to ask assistance of the Commonwealth. What I had failed to appreciate, though, no doubt, the Treasurer saw the point some time ago, was that our uniform income taxation scheme froze the position for South Australia. That State may have many more people engaged in factories, and its people may enjoy a much larger total income than formerly, yet its income tax returns cannot increase. Its revenue from income tax became frozen at what I shall describe as its p re-expansion level. It is natural, therefore, that the Government of South Australia should be somewhat aghast. Its leaders may say, in effect, “ We are in the position that the improvement in our factory employment and our financial position generally might have been expected to result in an increase of State revenues. We have certainly seen our expenditure increase, for we have had to pay the additional costs involved in respect of our increasing industrial population. But we cannot obtain an increase of income tax revenue “. Commonwealth Ministers may reply, with accuracy, “ That is the position, hut South Australia may apply to the Commonwealth Grants Commission for an increased grant “.
– One important point should he borne in mind. There can be an- increase of income without an increase of population. That is one end which - we are seeking to attain.
– Quite true. Proportionately, increase of income of the South Australian people is far beyond the increase of its population. Over the greater part of Australia there has been an increase of income, but the States are still left with the amount of income tax allocated to them under the States Grants (Income Tax Reimbursement) Act. In those circumstances, the income tax returns of a State may, in the course of a few years, become hopelessly out of line with what would have been collected at existing rates of tax under the old scheme. I am discussing this subject from the point of view of practical politics, for I am assuming that the uniform tax scheme is here to stay. I know that. I may be told that the act contains a section which provides -
This Act shall continue in operation until the last day of the first financial year to commence after the date on which His Majesty ceases to be engaged in the present war. and no longer. but we all are well aware that sections of a somewhat similar nature which had appeared in other acts of parliament have subsequently been repealed. I believe that the system of financial readjustment provided under our uniform tax legislation will become a permanent feature of our national life. Accordingly, I am discussing what appears to me to be a permanent problem. I suggest two ways of dealing with it. The Commonwealth Government may say to a State Government which has complained that it is not being adequately reimbursed in respect of income tax, “ If you find that your revenue is insufficient to meet your needs you may apply to. the Commonwealth Grants Commission for a review of the position “. That would mean, in effect, that a State like South Australia would romain forever a claimant State, and would ‘be obliged to make everincreasing claims with the passage of the years. The other way to deal with the problem - and I hope that the Treasurer will give close attention to this suggestion - would be for the Commonwealth to provide for a periodical review of the allocations sei out in the schedule to the States Grants (Income Tax Reimbursement) Act.
– Would not the Commonwealth Grants Commission be a suitable body to make such a review?
– It would be a most appropriate authority. I have the greatest respect for the manner in which the Commonwealth Grants Commission has done its work, and it may be that that commission could be empowered to review ibc income tax reimbursement allocations every five years in order to ensure that they will meet the current needs of the several States.
– If the income tax reimbursement scheme should continue, Victoria could become a claimant State. m.w MENZIES. - It could and in evitably would do so. I hope that the Treasurer will give careful consideration to my suggestion for a periodical review, say. every five years, of the income tax allocations to the States. It is fairly obvious to all of us that developments are likely to occur in the different States which will make a review necessary, and developments may be along different lines in the different States. For this reason a redistribution, or rather a re-allocation, for that is a better description of the procedure, could be made of income tax receipts. It may, of course, become necessary to increase the total amount to be allocated. Unless something of this kind is done, or unless we assume that «o shall have a static population and static social services, which assumptions would be fantastic and unthinkable, it seems to me to be inevitable that within a period of perhaps ten years every State of the Commonwealth will become a claimant State.
Our whole scheme of taxation will require a good deal of thought in the near future and I am happy to say that the commission, as I would expect, is by no means unaware of the problem. This is indicated by comments made in its tenth report. I direct the attention of honorable members to the following passages : -
Important changes have occurred in financial relations through the unequal incidence of war expenditure, through the exclusive control of income tax and entertainments tax by the Commonwealth, and through the provision of child endowment and widows’ pensions by the Commonwealth. Moreover, the effects of war are reflected in many ways in the budgets of the States. For example, States have been faced with rising costs, emergency expenditures, reductions in some forms of revenue, and, recently, loss of control of income taxes.
But the story is by no means one-sided, particularly in respect of the eastern States. This is shown by the following observations of the commission : -
On the other hand, some revenues have increased substantially, and some expenditures have decreased considerably as a result of war expenditure and war activity. These changes are exemplified in the record net railway revenues in most States and in the large reductions in expenditure on unemployment and food relief.
Later, in its report, the commission states -
When we come to deal -with special grants based upon the State finances of 1042-43 new problems will arise. In 1942-43 uniform income tax operated for the first time, and the States lost their most flexible source of revenue, receiving in return fixed sums from the Commonwealth. In these circumstances the commission will in its next report be obliged to review its methods, particularly those relating to adjustments for relative severity of taxation and to the standard of effort required of the claimant States.
Those comments indicate quite clearly that the commission is well aware of the importance of this problem, and I therefore suggest to the Treasurer that he might, himself, give consideration to the circumstances that I have outlined, or refer the matter to the commission. I consider that it would he psychologically advantageous to have an all-round readjustment at, say, five-yearly periods, of reimbursements to the States in respect of income tax. .Such a procedure would not compel claimant States to remain claimant States, and therefore have to adopt the rather humiliating procedure of continually seeking extra grants from the Commonwealth to meet special needs.
.- I have listened with a good deal of interest to the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) on the subject of grants by the Commonwealth to certain of the States. There will be general agreement with his outline of the position that will exist when an examination has to be made of accounts for the years in which the uniform tax scheme has been in operation. That aspect has not been studied by the commission in the present year. I join with the right honorable gentleman in commending the commission as a body, as well as the report which it presents annually to this Parliament. That report is a fine documentation of not only the affairs of the claimant States, but also the economy, shortly summarized, of Australia generally. The recommendations for the present year, as the right honorable gentleman has said, have been based on financial needs, under section 96 of the
Constitution. The States of “Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania have periodically invoked the provisions of that section in order to obtain assistance from the Commonwealth. It is competent for any State to make a claim for financial assistance according to its needs. It cannot be denied that the inquiry into the conditions of the three claimant States which has been held for several years has caused them to be regarded and described as mendicant States. This Parliament ought to endeavour to remove that stigma, which for too long has been borne by them.
The last report of the commission is a most interesting document. It contains a concise economic survey of the States, and in addition some striking features which did not find a place in previous reports. I refer, first, to the improvement of the position of at least one of the States since the commencement of the war ; that is the State of South Australia. In regard to it, the commission has made the following comment at page 25 of it3 report : -
The improvement in the general economic situation during 1941-42 was largely the result of ill e impetus given to secondary industry by war expenditure. in most of the primary industries production was maintained near the levels of 1940-41. In the case of wheat, however, the volume of production was 71 per cent, higher, while the value of production rose by 30 per cent.
The point to be emphasized is, the expenditure on war production in South Australia, which has resulted in a tremendous increase of employment. In paragraph 31 the commission has made the following comment : -
The expansion in secondary industry during 1941-42 is indicated in the table below. No other State has achieved the relative progress made by South Australia in manufacturing industry since the outbreak of war. The considerable increase in activity during 1941.-42 was mainly in defence industries, and this expansion was marked by increasing difficulty in securing industrial labour. The number »f factory employees has been practically stationary throughout 1942-43, a fact which may suggest that the industrial man-power resources of the State have been fully exploited.
The report shows that the number of employees was 39,004 in 1928-29, that there was a decrease in 1931-32, and that the increase began to be marked from 1936 until, in 1941-42, the number was 66,752, an increase of almost 30,000. It then says -
The budget for 1941-42 disclosed a surplus of £1,290,000 compared with a deficit of £83,000 in 1940-41. The allocation of the surplus of £1,290,000 is shown in Appendix No. 22. Total revenue and taxation collections reached record levels. The budget improvement was largely the result of three items, viz., an increase of £342,727 in income tax collections, an increase of £306,010 in succession duty collections, and an improvement in net railway revenue of £G17,605. The entire increase in net railway revenue occurred in the last four months of the financial year.
That brings me to the point that decentralization of industry - which, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, has been practised by all governments that have occupied the treasury bench during recent years - has enabled South Australia to return a budget surplus of £1,290,000 in the year under review. The position will be even better in future years, so long as the war lasts and manufacturing industries continue to be devoted to their present purposes. In addition, there is Whyalla, which would not ordinarily be engaged in a war-time industry, its operations have the effect of largely augmenting the tax collections in the State. As the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, there will finally have to be a revision of the scope of the inquiry of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, and of the amount allocated to the States as reimbursement for the loss of income tax revenue, should decentralization of industry continue at l.he pace which some of us believe, and all of us hope, will be set in the post-war years. But the point I wish to make now is this : If an adequate scheme of industrial decentralization were adopted, States which at present claim Commonwealth grants by reason of disabilities which they suffer under federation, would no longer be in that unfortunate position. Not only would their populations increase, but also their capacity for taxation would increase so that their financial needs would no longer be what they are at present. It is along that line of reasoning that I approach the problem of State grants. I am not concerned particularly with the allocation of £720,000 to Tasmania this year. After all, Tasmania has had ample opportunity to put its case before the
Commonwealth Grants Commission, and no doubt in formulating that case, the Government of Tasmania used all the means at its disposal and all the expert advisers available to it. In my view the commission considers the applications of the various States fairly and analytically, and bases its recommendations solely upon the merits of the cases that are presented to it. Whether we agree or disagree with the grants which it finally recommends is not the point at issue. The fact is that these cases are presented, the commission reaches its conclusions and makes recommendations to the Commonwealth Government, and the Commonwealth Government honours those recommendations. However, a new feature has been introduced into the commission’s calculations. In respect of South Australia, the commission’s recommendation is that £230,000 of the amount arrived at by applying the usual formula shall be deferred until next year. The total payments to South Australia and Western Australia, including £670,000 and £170,000, respectively, deferred from 1942-43, become £900,000 and £850,000, respectively. I am not quarrelling with the commission’s recommendations, but I do not approach the matter in quite the same way as did the Leader of the Opposition. The problem of State disabilities must be tackled in a different manner from that adopted in the past, because, as the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, under the uniform taxation scheme, the reimbursement paid to each State is fixed. In passing, I agree with the right honorable gentleman that wo should never return to the old system under which each State was a separate taxing authority for income tax purposes. A return to that system would be a retrograde step. But certain difficulties must be overcome. For instance, social services generally will increase because that is the wish of a majority of the people. These services must not be controlled by the States as such, or financed by the States; they must be financed solely from Commonwealth revenue. I believe also that before long education must come within the control of this Parliament. I regard education as a most important, matter, and one which essentially should beCommonwealth controlled. In view of this trend it is obvious that we must reorientate our attitude to the less populous States. However, there is another reason why we must alter our outlook, and I believe that it is an exceedingly important one : The problems of the claimant States can be solved finally only by decentralization of industry, so that these States will be able not only to maintain their present populations, but also like South Australia, to increase their populations substantially. Over the years, Tasmania has been grossly neglected in regard to industrial development. During the year under review, departures from that State exceeded arrivals by approximately 3,000. As the natural increase was something like 2,800, Tasmania actually lost about 200 people. That has been going on for many years. Children who are born, educated and trained in Tasmania eventually go to the mainland because of the greater opportunities of employment that are offered.
– They take all the good jobs.
– It is true that many Tasmanians obtain influential and remunerative positions on the mainland. Naturally I have no complaint about that. It is gratifying to know that Tasmanians have proved their ability to compete successfully with men educated and trained on the mainland. For instance, our present Commonwealth Statistician is a Tasmanian. But we must look at this problem from a Commonwealth point of view. Tasmanian children who are educated and trained in their home State find that they have to leave it eventually because of the lack of opportunity for employment. That must be altered. Had the war not intervened, this matter might have been rectified by the expansion of secondary industries in Tasmania. One Tasmanian industry which I believe would have made considerable progress is the production of newsprint, and I predict that in the years following the war it will do so. Nevertheless, the fact remains that too many of the base metals which are mined in Tasmania have to go to the mainland for treatment, instead of the whole treatment process being carried out in that State. There appears to be a disposition on the part of those who control business undertakings and financial institutions to convey raw materials to the bigger centres of population for treatment, thereby creating problems in those centres, as well as in the areas which are denuded of population. The making of grants to certain States involves questions of national economy and it is our duty to attempt to solve these problems. My point is that although the making of grants assists necessitous States to remain solvent, those States are forced into the position of mendicants. What is needed is a greater participation by all the States in Australia’s industrial expansion, because such a policy would, in time, remove the necessity for the making of special grants. I hope that the Government will press on with the decentralization of industry, thereby obviating the necessity for the introduction of measures such as the one now before us.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 29th Septem ber (vide page 171), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That thebill he now read a second time.
– I do not desire to anticipate the budget discussion, and so I do not propose to say more than a few words on this bill. It will be sufficient to say that, whatever view is taken in regard to details of the financial policy that should apply in Australia, there must be complete unanimity on all sides as to the necessity for achieving the greatest possible success in connexion with the loan which is now being raised. On Monday night my friend the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Hughes) had an opportunity to support the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) in the opening of the loan campaign in Sydney. I expect that on Friday night next I shall have the privilege of helping the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) when he opens the loan campaign in the Melbourne Town Hall. At this stage I want to say only two things: First, whatever, the political party in office at this time the same loan would have to be floated. The raising of this loan is in no sense, either directly or indirectly, a party political matter. Should the loan be magnificently over-subscribed, as I sincerely hope it will be, that will be not only an. achievement of which the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), who introduced the bill and is sponsoring the loan, may well be proud, but also a matter of profound satisfaction to the Australian people as a whole. Australia is engaged in a war in which it becomes increasingly important that the public should put into the hands of the Government . every shilling that can possibly be placed there. Whatever the financial policy of the Government in office might be, that would still be true. The second thing that I want to say is that because every member of the Opposition most profoundly believes that what I have said is true, the Treasurer may regard every member of this Parliamentas being at his disposal for the most active campaign in support of the loan that can be devised.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted. thirdReading.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a third time.
In doing so, I wish to express, on my own behalf and on behalf of the Government, appreciation of the offer which has been made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) to accord full and unanimous support to the loan now before the public. On previous occasions I have acknowledged that the majority of Opposition members have co-operated with the Government in the floating of earlier loans. There were a few unpleasant incidents when the last loan was before the public, but, generally, Opposition members, particularly the leaders of the parties in Opposition, have co-operated generously with the Government in the floating of loans. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that the floating of the present loan is not a party political matter, but something which gives to the people of Australia an opportunity to assist their country in its time of need. With the right honorable gentleman, I hope that the loan will be over-subscribed, and, on behalf of the Government, I accept his offer of support, and shall make arrangements to avail myself of it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
111th Australian General Hospital.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I have received a letter from the State council of the Servicemen’s Parents and Wives Association, which has its headquarters in Tasmania, dealing with the 111th Australian General Hospital. A couple of years ago, when Australia’s position was very grave the hospital was, on military advice, erected somewhere near the centre of the island. Its location is inconvenient alike to the patients and to their friends and relatives who desire to visit them. I have been asked whether it is not possible for the patients at present at the hospital and others who may follow them to be treated either at the northern end or the southern end of the island. The local preference is that patients whose homes are at the northern end of the island shall be treated at the northern end, and that those whose homes are at the southern end shall be treated at the southern end. Many men returning from the war have to remain in the hospital for fairly long periods, and it is basically wrong that they should be compelled to be treated in a hospital 3 miles from the nearest settlement, a township almost in the Never-Never. In the circumstances, with transport so difficult, they cannot be visited by their people. Owing to shortage of petrol and tyres, people cannot run private cars to the hospital, and now rail transport is restricted. I do not know whether it is true that £3,000 is to be expended on the hospital, as the writers of this letter state. I shall let the Minister for the
Army (Mr. Forde) have this letter, but meanwhile, I content myself with reading the following passage : -
We have information to the effect that a sum of at least £3,000 is to be spent on the hospital. This may improve the buildings, but cannot alter the climate or location. We feel that the sick and wounded Tasmanian soldiers deserve as good hospital accommodation as those of other States and suggest that, instead of wasting further money on a bad proposition, it would be economically sound to scrap the present hospital and build or acquire more suitable premises in or near Hobart and Launceston.
I entirely agree with that. Rather than expend £3,000 on this building, it would be better to cut the loss and to provide even temporary accommodation in Hobart and Launceston until money can be expended on making permanent provision. I am totally opposed to £1, let alone £3,000, being expended on this building, situated as it is. The staff - the orderlies and the nurses - complain about their isolation. They have great difficulty in travelling between the hospital and the township, and, therefore, their opportunities for social life and general recreation are very limited. Other than in extraordinary circumstances, the present conditions could not be tolerated, and I do not believe that the conditions are extraordinary. I, therefore, raise my voice in protest against any further expenditure on the 111th Australian General Hospital in its present situation. If further accommodation is needed, the present building should be scrapped, and the accommodation should be provided in localities which would better serve the interests, not only of the patients and their friends and relatives, but also of the staff employed.
– The matter raised by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) is one for the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), before whom I shall place the honorable member’s remarks.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Australian Imperial Force Canteens Fund Act - Annual Report by the Trustees, for year 1942-43 (including the Sir Samuel
McCaughey and P. S. Watson Bequests, and the Commonwealth Public Service Patriotic Fund, South Australia).
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Commonwealth purposes -
Port Pirie, South Australia.
Waterloo, New South Wales.
National Security Act - National Security (General) Regulations - Orders -
Control of -
Rubber (No. 8).
Rubber (Distribution of motor tyres and motor tubes).
Prohibiting work on land.
Taking possession of land, etc. (173).
Use of land (25).
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations -
Statutory Rules 1943, No. 242.
River Murray Waters Act - River Murray
Commission - Report for year 1942-43.
House adjourned at 5.18 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated : -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1.The statement made by Mr. Osborne referred to by the right honorable member has been brought to my notice. The views expressed in reports received from State Governments and government instrumentalities, including authorities associated with primary production, were fully considered by the Government in reaching its decision to reintroduce the scheme on the present occasion. Whilst it is realized that certainminor disabilities may be caused among primary producers, as indeed they will doubtless occur also in other phases of industry, the Government has formed the conclusion, from a study of the evidence available, that the scheme will generally be beneficial.
Australian Army : Forestry Unit.
n. - On the 29th September the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) asked a question, without notice, relating to the Australian Imperial Force Forestry Unit.
I desire now to inform the honorable member that the Australian Imperial Force Forestry Unit, which has been serving in the United Kingdom during the last three years, is’ returning to Australia, two of ‘ the companies having arrived in the United States of America on their way home. The remaining company is staying in the United Kingdom for a. further short period to complete urgent and important work on which it is engaged. The Forestry Unit has done good work in the United Kingdom and many eulogistic references have been made to the service it has rendered. These trained and experienced men are now required to fulfil important operational needs in the prosecution of the war against Japan. They will be a valuable addition to Army strength in this area.
Canberra : Shortage of Accommodation.
i. - On the 28th September the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) asked a question, without notice, in regard to some public servants in Canberra who, it was alleged, had to find quarters on the banks of the Molonglo river.
The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answer to the honorable member’s question . -
Two civil servants, who were hoarding at an establishment run by private enterprise in Canberra, were given 24 hours’ notice to vacate their accommodation for reasons of which they should be aware. The officers in question interviewed the housing officer of the Department of the Interior who arranged for their accommodation at another establishment in the city. They refused to accept this accommodation. They then erected a tent on Mount Ainslie. As the occupation of the area at Mount Ainslie was a breach of the Trespass on Commonwealth Lands Ordinance, they were ordered to immediately remove the tent and vacate the area. They complied with this in struction. Except for the normal influx of visitors which occurs during parliamentary sessions, there has been no substantial increase in the permanent population of Canberra.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 October 1943, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1943/19431006_reps_17_176/>.