12th Parliament · 1st Session
The Senate met at 3 p.m., pursuant to the notification of the President.
The President (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) took the chair, and read prayers.
– by leave - I move -
That the Senate expresses its sincere regret at the death of the late Major-General the Honorable Sir Neville Reginald Howse, V.C., K.C.B., K.C.M.G., F.R.C.S., a former member of the House of Representatives and Minister of the Crown, and places on record its appreciation of his long and meritorious public service, and extends its profound sympathy to his widow and family in their sad bereavement.
Having been honoredwith the friendship of the late Sir Neville Howse, I am able to speak from personal experience of his kindly nature as well as his devotion to duty. It was not necessary to belong to the same party as the late honorable gentleman to be aware of and tobe able to appreciate the value of the services he rendered to his country. I greatly regret his demise, and to the widow and family who mourn his loss I extend, not only my own deepest sympathy, but also that of theSenate generally. I am sure that every honorable senator profoundly regrets the occasion for this motion.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [3.4]. - It is with deep regret that I second the motion. The late Sir Neville Howse was a colleague of mine, and of others on this side of the chamber, and his sincere devotion to duty, as well as the great value of the services he rendered to his country in both peace and war, were known to all of us. His career was a most distinguished one. In the State of New South Wales, in which he lived, he was recognized as an eminent surgeon and physician as well as a great soldier. He served his country in both the South African and the Great War. I had the honour of being Minister for Defence when Australia made its greatest military effort in the late war, and I well remember the distinguished service that, because of his organizing capacity - which was of a very high order -Sir Neville Howse wasable to render to the Australian Imperial Force; to Australia itself, and to the cause of the allied nations. He was a man of courage, determination, and restless energy, and it was just those qualities that were needed for the successful prosecution of that grim struggle. As a matter of fact, it wasdue largely to the efforts of the late honorable gentleman that the medical services of the Australian Imperial Force compared so favorably with those of any of the other armies in the field. On his return, after years of strenuous labour at the front, he took part in the re-organization of the Citizen Forces of Australia, again directing the medical services. Later he entered public life, where, as Senator Barnes has said, he earned the goodwill, not only of his own party, but also of very many members of the then Opposition. As a political opponeut it was his practice to hit hard and straight out from the shoulder; but his kindly nature and his many acts of courtesy earned for him the esteem and goodwill of opponents as well as of those on the same political side as himself. To his duties as a Minister of the Crown he brought to bear the same sterling qualities of organizing ability, energy and determination that had made hima great soldier, and when he met with defeat at the last election, I suppose no one took defeat more coolly than he himself did. His qualities of courage and determination enabled him to bear defeat equally with success. I feel that, by, his death, Australia has lost a great citizen, and this Parliament one who had been a distinguished ornament to it. I join with the Assistant Minister (Senator Barnes) in submitting this motion to the Senate, and am sure that every honorable senator in Opposition will support it in full sincerity, because of our knowledge and appreciation of the sterling ability of the deceased gentleman. Honorable senators as a whole will join with Senator Barnes in expressing sympathy with Lady Howse and her family in the bereavement they have sustained.While the nation has lost a distinguished citizen, they have lost a husband and father who was very near and dear to them. Mere words cannot assuage their grief; but it may be some consolation to them to know that those of us who were associated with the late honorable gentleman in Parliament and in Cabinet, and knew him so intimately, grieve with them in their loss, since we, too, feel we have lost a very dear friend.
– I feel it incumbent on me to say a few words on the motion before the Senate. I first came in contact with the late Sir Neville Howse as a member of the Expeditionary Force which sailed from Australia on 16th October, 1914, for New Guinea, where it participated in the first engagement in which Australian soldiers took part in the Great War. After an action which lasted for two days, the troops proceeded to settle down to a period of comparative quiet, and one of the first duties of the late Sir Neville Howse was to make arrangements for the provision of hospitals and other matters to ensure the health of the forces. Those of us who watched him performing his daily work soon realized that the welfare of the troops, from a medical point of view, was his supreme concern. During the four months that he served in New Guinea before he left for the European war zone, he applied himself assiduously to the task of combating the ravages of malarial fever which was affecting our men. He will be remembered as one who did his utmost to make the troops serving with him as comfortable as possible. I join with the Honorary Minister (Senator Barnes) and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) in expressing sympathy to the widow and family of the late honorable gentleman.
– As one who in this Parliament frequently came into contact with the late Sir Neville Howse,I quickly realized that he was a man of rare and distinguished parts. When the time came for men to choose between ministering to their own desires and serving their country, Sir Neville Howse almost instinctively elected to serve his country. Before leaving Australia a few months ago to visit the Old Country, he had the appearance of a man with many years of life ahead of him. To all outward appearances he was well both in health and in spirits; but now he has passed from among us. TheReaper of Death with whom there is no respect of persons, and from whom there is no appeal, has claimed him. I am reminded of the words of Burke -
What shadows we are, and what shadows we pursue.
When he left these shores, possibly he had in his mind many projects which he hoped to carry through; but now those schemes, like the man himself, have been laid aside. Nevertheless, he has left a deep impression on the minds of those who served with him in this Parliament. Those of us who knew him best know that he was not only a good soldier but also a worthy citizen, a man whose outstanding quality was that of benevolence. Now that he has gone to his reward, the utmost that we can do is to express our heartfelt sympathy with the members of his family who remain. We cannot repair their loss; but we can let them know that we feel for them in the deep affliction through which it has pleased Providence to call them to pass.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland) [3.14]. - In ordinary circumstances, I should not have added to the words of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) on a motion of this kind; but in view of the fact that I, together with other honorable senators, had the privilege of serving with the late Sir Neville Howse in two spheres - in the late war, and in this Parliament - it is fitting that I too should bear testimony to his outstanding qualities. As has been stated by Senator Dunn, immediately the war broke out, the late Sir Neville Howse accepted a position as Senior Medical Officer with the expedition which proceeded to New Guinea. His work in that sphere having been completed, he returned to Australia in time to join the units which proceeded to the larger theatre of Europe, where his great qualities brought him further promotion. As honorable senators know, the late Sir Neville Howse was the Senior Medical Officer of t he Australian Imperial Force in both Gallipoli and France, where the remarkable efficiency of the medical services of the Australian Imperial Force was made manifest. That efficiency was due largely to the organizing skill and ability of the distinguished gentleman whose loss we mourn to-day. Those who were closely associated with him saw that he demanded a good deal from his subordinates; but they saw also that he was very appreciative of the work they did. His experience as a medical officer, and his connexion with the military forces of the Commonwealth, fitted him to serve his country later as a member of this Parlia ment, in which capacity also, he rendered valuable help to Australia. Those of us who were privileged to know the late honorable gentleman in his family life, know how devoted the members of the family were to one another, and will,I feel sure, desire that the sympathy of the Senate be extended to Lady Howse and her children in their loss.
– As one who was associated with the late Sir Neville Howse for over 30 years, both on a peace footing andon active service, I can speak with knowledge of this distinguished citizen whose loss we mourn to-day. Need I say more than that he was one of the most lovable men the world has ever known? I feel that in his death Australia has lost a brilliant and most valued servant. I support the motion of sympathy.
– Before putting the question, I desire, as President of the Senate, to add a few words to what has already been so eloquently said on this subject. The distinguished and gallant gentleman who has passed from among us had a very full life. In his earlier years, when the blood of youth was running hot through his veins, he servedin the Boer War, where he won the most coveted of all military decorations. In the list of the orders and decorations which he so worthily and honorably won, the Victoria Cross - the Mecca of all soldiers, the highest military decoration a British soldier can win - comes first. Later in his life he took an active part in municipal affairs, and afterwards became a member of the Commonwealth Parliament, where he showed that, in addition to physical courage, to which the cherished little bronze cross that he wore bore testimony, he possessed great moral courage, which enabled him, throughout his political career, to stand to his convictions with firmness and tenacity. In the sphere of medicine and surgery in which he practised, he was also very highly esteemed. I think, therefore, that whether we regard his career from a private, political or military point of view, we must be driven to the conclusion that, by his death, Australia has lost a citizen whom she could ill-afford to spare, and whom she will find it hard to replace.
I join with honorable senators in the sentiments to which they have given utterance and assure them that this motion of condolence will be forwarded tothe widow and family of the late honorable gentleman as a message of heartfelt sympathy from the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable senators standing in their places.
DEATH OF sir james McCAY.
– by leave - i move -
That the Senate expresses its sincere regret at the death of the late Lieutenant-Genera] the Honorable Sir James Whiteside McCav, K.C.M.G., K.B.E., C.B., M.A., LL.M., V.D.,a former member of the House of Representatives and Minister of the Crown, and places on recordits appreciation of his long and meritorious public service, and extends its profound sympathy to the members of his family in their bereavement.
I had not the privilege of a personal acquaintance with the late honorable gentleman; but the honours conferred upon him show that he rendered long and useful service to this country. As a member of the Government, I ask honorable senators to join with me in expressing regret at his death, and their deepest sympathy with his family. We all deplore the death of so distinguished a. gentleman, and we extend to the bereaved relatives our heartfelt sympathy.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [3.25]. - Because of my long association with the Commonwealth Parliament, i had the honour of a personal acquaintance with the late Sir James McCay, who served with distinction in. both State and Federal politics. After having held a seat in the State Parliament of Victoria for some years, he entered the first Federal Parliament. As a member of the House of Representatives, he was always in the front line, and rendered very great service to this country as Minister for Defence. i followed him, some years later, as the holder of that portfolio, and have personal knowledge of the value of his administrative work in building up the efficiency of the defence forces of Australia. As a young man he took an active part in preparing himself and others for the defence of his country. You, Mr. President, referred just now to the dis tinguished honour which had been conferred upon the late Sir Neville Howse, who won the Victoria Cross in the South African war. The late Sir James McCay had bestowed upon him the Volunteer Decoration, which, I may add, is conferred only upon those who have given long service in the Citizen Forces of Australia. Very few people realize the true significance of the Volunteer Decoration. To secure it, the holder must have had extended association with the defence forces. It means this: That when other people were pursuing their pleasures, possibly attending races or’ other sports gatherings, at week-ends, the holder of the Volunteer Decoration was giving up his Saturday afternoons, holidays, and all his spare time to the preparation of himself and others for the defence of the country. This was a work upon which the late Sir James McCay spent many years in the days when the defence forces of Australia required the greatest stimulati on and assistance. In this way the late honorable gentleman gave of his best to Australia. The value of his work in those earlier years of our defence scheme was seen when Australia was called upon to take her part in. the Great War. The late honorable gentleman was particularly interested in the establishment of what was then known as the Intelligence Corps. Speaking from memory, I believe this movement was started in Australia before the military authorities of Great Britain fully realized the need for the creation of a General Staff, which was only brought into existence after the report of the committee presided over by Lord Esher. The late General McCay - he was then, I think, Captain or Major McCay - and General Monash, who was then, 1 believe, Captain Monash, were the two most actively identified with the establishment of the Intelligence Corps as part of the defence forces of Australia. This corps subsequently became the General Staff. Only those who have been associated with the building up of our defence forces can realize the part played by the Intelligence Corps in preparing Australia to take her part in the Great War. There are people who believe that the efficiency of our military forces was insured by the few months of training and preparation of our men in the various military camps throughout the Commonwealth. That is a fallacy. The efficiency of our forces us u fighting machine was due to long years of service, rendered to this country by such men as the late Sir James McCay many years before the outbreak of war. Organization for defence cannot be done in a day. As a former Minister for Defence, I realize fully the value of the work done by the late honorable gentleman, and I wish now to place on record my tribute to him in that connexion. Those who were associated in any prominent degree with the building up of the citizen forces of Australia know of the value of that. work. At the outbreak of the Great “War he -was one of those who early placed his services at the disposal of his country, and he won a distinguished position in the Australian Imperial Force. All -who occupied positions as leaders in the Australian Imperial Force have been the subject of criticism or commendation ; but one thing which I always heard the fellow officers of the late General McCay say was that he was a man of dauntless courage and determination. He, like the late Sir Neville Howse, played a very prominent’ part in the Australian Imperial Force, and he too has now passed away after having rendered to his country the utmost of which he was capable in the way of public service. I join with the Assistant Minister (Senator Barnes) in expressing on behalf of honorable senators on this side of the chamber our sympathy with his family and our appreciation of the great public service he rendered to his country.
.- On behalf of and in the absence of Senator H. E. Elliott, I should like to add a word or two to the utterances of the Assistant Minister (Senator Barnes), and the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) in support of this motion. During my association with my friend Senator H. E. Elliott, I have often heard him speak of the late General McCay’s splendid work in the defence of our country, and have come to understand the esteem and affection which a man may win when occupying a position such as that which he held in connexion with the great military operations in Europe. Having read a good deal of this gallant soldier’s career dur ing the Great War, I feel that we have lost the services of a very distinguished citizen. I endorse all that has been said concerning our sympathy with those who have been bereaved, and our profound regret at the passing of this worthy son of Australia. Honorable senators who were privileged to read of the obsequies must have been struck by the representative character of the gathering at the graveside, which bore testimony to the esteem in which General McCay was held by all classes of the community. I join heartily with the sentiments so ably expressed by the Assistant Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) [3.31].- Before putting the motion, I should like to say that it is- a very sad coincidence that we should be expressing sympathy with the relatives of two such distinguished gentlemen as the subject of the motion just carried and of that now before the Senate. I had not the honour of knowing the late General McCay. I only knew of that reputation - that high and honorable history of his life - which has been so ably and eloquently alluded to by those who have preceded me. It is very evident that not only on the field of battle, but also in other spheres he was a distinguished Australian. I join with other honorable senators in this message of condolence, which will be sent, in the usual form, to his family in their bereavement.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable senators standing in their places.
Business of the Senate. - Financial Situation.
– I move-
That the Senate at its rising adjourn til) Wednesday, 12th November next, at 3 p.m.
The Senate will adjourn over to-day because .of the great loss the Commonwealth has sustained by reason of the death of the two gentlemen referred to in the resolutions submitted by the Assistant Minister (Senator Barnes). I understand, however, that another place is to adjourn until Wednesday of next week so that I think it would meet the convenience of honorable senators if we did not meet again till the date fixed in this motion. I have consulted with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) and suggest that instead of meeting on Wednesday of next week, we should meet on Wednesday of the following week by which time there should be available from another place business with which this House can deal.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Westem Australia) [3.37]. - This motion has no connexion with the two motions which have just been disposed of, otherwise I should not proceed to discuss it. It relates solely to the business of the Senate, and that being so, I do not think I should allow it to pass without uttering a protest against what I must say is the dangerous delay that is taking place in dealing with questions of vital importance. I use these words advisedly. Honorable senators are aware of the circumstances confronting this country. Wo have been waiting weeks and weeks, in fact months, for the Government to take action, and have seen the situation developing from bad to worse. The Government must have realized that the position was bad when it decided to call Parliament together, yet now that Parliament has been summoned there is no business put before us. In the ordinary course of events, there would have been an adjournment over to-day, and we should have met to-morrow in order to transact absolutely urgent business which must be dealt with immediately in the interests of this country. Notwithstanding this, the Senate is asked to adjourn for nearly a fortnight, and another place until Tuesday or Wednesday of next week. This I contend shows on the part of the Government an absolute lack of appreciation of the dangers of the situation. I utter a strong protest on behalf of honorable senators on this side of the chamber who contend that the situation is so alarming and so dangerous that not a day should be lost in dealing with it. Measures calculated to meet it should have been ready. While it might have been necessary to adjourn until tomorrow, the Government should have been prepared to submit to the Senate to-morrow those measures which are essential for the safety of the country.
I know that probably money bills will have to be submitted and that these must be introduced in another place, but the Government knew quite well that if they were prepared to introduce such bills as are essential, if this country is to be saved, there would be no question of party, that another place would be ready to accept them unanimously, and that they could be before this chamber in a day or two. There is no reason why such measures as are necessary to save this country should not bebefore this chamber by next week. The delay now sought is nothing more than party manoeuvring. I point to the danger of the course which the Government, is taking.
– I cannot allow this motion to go to a vote without adding my protest against the action of the Government. The financial position of Australia, already in a precarious state of drift, is daily becoming worse and worse. Unemployment is increasing day by day, and the business institutions of the country are subjected to great hardship. Already the meeting of Parliament has been delayed for an unreasonably long period, and further procrastination will make it necessary to impose extraordinarily severe taxation if we are to balance our budget. The Government promised to balance the budget; but, after summoning Parliament to achieve that purpose, it now burkes the task and temporizes until next Wednesday week. The exercise of ordinary business acumen would have allowed the Government to initiate proposals for presentation to the Senate to-day, so enabling us to set about remedying, or at least checking, Australia’s financial drift. The private enterprise of the country is already in a most precarious state, while the position of the man on the land, particularly in South Australia, is desperate. Every farmer in that State is losing money in the conduct of his business, simply because the costs of production are too high.
– I ask honorable senators to confine themselves as much, as possible to the date on which it is proposed that the Senate will again meet. Other matters may be discussed at a later stage.
-I protest against the tardiness of the Government. It is imperative that the Commonwealth Parliament should take immediate action to counteract Australia’s excessively high costs of production.
. -I desire to add my protest to that of the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Pearce) and Senator Chapman, against this most unusual course of adjourning the Senate for practically another fortnight at a time when the finances of Australia are in an extremely serious position. Even six weeks ago it was patent to every person who takes an interest in the affairs of Australia that it was imperative that the Commonwealth Parliament should bo called together at the earliest possible date to enable it to consider measures that would ameliorate the existing financial position of the country. I say without hesitation that the majority of the people of Australia anticipated that, at the latest, Parliament would be called together early in October. The absurdly long delay that has occurred has forced the people to the conclusion that the best interests of the country have been subordinated to the interests of a political party. However, I shall not enlarge on that at this juncture, as I know that we shall have the opportunity to debate such matters at a later date. In view of the position in which Australia finds itself, the proposed action of the Government still further to side-step its duty can only alarm those who have entrusted it with the stewardship of the country.
– I ask the honorable senator to confine himself to the motion.
– I am endeavouring to do so by voicing my protest against the proposed adjournment of the Senate. I object strongly to the action of the Government.
– I agree with the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Pearce) that this motion is totally unrelated to the two with which we have just disposed of. They tendered our respects to the dead, and our sympathy to the relatives. It is now our duty to attend to the needs of the living, and we have assembled in this chamber to-day to do that to the best of our ability. Though we may fail to attain the whole of the desires of those who elected us to this Senate, it will not be for the want of trying.
We are at present confronted with a rare spectacle. This Senate has been summoned to transact the business of the nation. You, sir, issued a summons to me to attend as a member of this representative body; but now that I and my colleagues present ourselves, we find that the Government has no business for our attention. It has placed before us only a blank sheet of paper. I protest that it is altogether unfair to bring men from the extremities of the continent, and then confront them with a blank business sheet. I believe that that action has no parallel in the history of federation. I quite realize that the Government has its difficulties; but, because of the unexampled period through which we are passing, honorable members of the Senate also have their difficulties and responsibilities; they have private business and concerns which warrant their attention, This blank business-paper betokens an entire want of foresight on the part of the Government. I believe that honorable senators who have traversed such distances to attend to the needs of the country merit sympathy. The Government has no task for them to perform, and they must remain in involuntary idleness for the next ten or twelve days. The Government should have applied ordinary business methods to the discharge of its duties. I appreciate that the programme submitted by Cabinet needed the endorsement of the party; but the Government should have anticipated any dissension, and called a meeting of caucus in ample time to debate the proposals, and submit the result to Parliament when it met to-day. As a result of the lack of ordinary business foresight on the part of the Government, the Senate has once again to pay the penalty. I admit that that is nothing new - the Senate is becoming accustomed to dancing attendance on party convenience. I say this without singling out any particular party. We have the spectacle of the Senate being called together and instantly dismissed because there is no work for it to do. I object to this, as I have always done in the past. It is neither fair to the Parliament nor to the country, particularly on the present occasion. You, Mr. President, may be inclined to pull me up if I care to say at this stage that the unexampled position Of the country to-day warrants immediate parliamentary action. At any rate, I protest against any delay, and I do not think that I can do so better than by drawing attention to the need for this Parliament getting to work at once. We are led to understand that the budget in. its amended form is not ready for our consideration, but when it is ready - and we are given to understand that that will be on Tuesday next - surely the Senate can also meet ou that day. There are ample precedents for this. Budgets have always been presented and discussed simultaneously in both chambers, and not in any effort to please the Senate. No brand of inferiority has been lightly attempted to be placed on us. At this early hour of the present sittings I do not like sounding any note of dissatisfaction with what has been done by this or that party, but I again emphasize that next Tuesday the Senate should be in a position, as it has been in the years gone by, to discuss the amended budget proposals of the Government, just as the other chamber will be doing. But when we have on the ministerial benches only two honorable . gentlemen in the present Government
– I think the honorable senator is straying from the motion.
– I suppose that I am, but I want to emphasize that when next Tuesday arrives we should be in the same position as we have been in the past under other governments, who were not willing to place the Senate on a lower plane than the other chamber in regard to a discussion of the national balancesheet. We are, however, to be pushed over for another week or two. “ Anything will do the Senate “ seems to be the sorry motto. I have repeatedly urged that the Senate is the custodian of its own dignity and position under the Constitution, and if it shirks its responsibility in thi3 matter, the blame will rest upon itself alone. Even at this eleventh hour, I urge the Government to realize that the Senate is co-equal with the other chamber in all respects and that the amended budget should be submitted here simultaneously with its submission in another place. Ministers.- should not regard this chamber as one merely to record its endorsement or otherwise of their proposals. I intended to give notice to-day of a motion on a matter which should engage the attention of the Senate, even at the expense of suspending the Standing Orders. It is a matter touching upon the extraordinary position in which the people of this country have found themselves as the result of a set of conditions that have suddenly swooped down on them like a thief in the night.
– The honorable senator must know that he cannot discuss a motion without giving notice of it.
– With due respect to you, Mr. President, I shall do so on the adjournment. It was my intention to give notice of the motion to-day, because even if the Senate cannot discuss the budget, there are other matters of pressing, aye burning importance to the well-being of Australia that need discussing at a time the like of which has never previously been experienced in Australia. We could discuss them this afternoon, but the executive has ordained otherwise. If I had my way I should have this motion negatived so that we could sit on. I should even go further and have the Standing Orders suspended for the purpose of going on with measures for which the country is hungering. But I find that all I can do is to record my stern and emphatic protest against the way in which the Senate has been treated as an inferior chamber.
– I regret the heat that has been imported into this debate by Senator Lynch and ‘Senator Chapman, and also to some extent by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce). Realizing the dangerous position of Australia, the Government of the day, eight weeks after closing its first session, has called Parliament together for an extraordinary session to deal with the financial position. It was freely rumoured that it was possible the Senate would not meet until a week after another chamber, but Mr. President, as custodian of the constitutional rights of the Senate, has seen the wisdom of summoning honorable senators to meet to-day, simultaneously with honorable members of another place. It is a matter for regret that party feeling has been introduced to-day by Senator Lynch and Senator Chapman - I regret the heat with which the honorable senators have spoken - and the Leader of the Opposition has sought to throw a spanner into the works.What is behind ali this heat?
– I ask the honorable senator to discuss the motion.
– The Leader of the Opposition has had a very long parliamentary experience.
– Again I ask the honor able senator to discuss the motion.
– The Government bad to meet another place for the purpose of submitting bills dealing with the financial position, yet we find the Leader of the Opposition protesting. I have nothing to say in relation to his protest, but I object to his attempt to build up a case to enable the press to hurl something at the Government. If Australia is in danger, the position is entirely attributable to the maladministration of the late Government with which he was- associated.
– In view of the expressions of. sympathy that have been heard in this chamber this afternoon, I am not sure that this is not an occasion when some sympathy might well be extended to the Government. When the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) left these shores, an arrangement with regard to the finances of Australia had been arrived at between him and the Premiers of the various States, and there remained only a few details to be settled to enable the agreement to be put into effect. However, the Prime Minister had to go abroad, and, as a State election was looming in New SouthWales, action had to be deferred-
The PEESIDENT (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill). - I must give the honorable senator the same direction that I gave to previous speakers.
– I propose to state the reason for postponing the calling together of Parliament. Itwas because the feeling of the people of New South Wales had to be arrived at, and now that that election has been concluded in a direction, no doubt, very satisfactory to some people, there seems to be a further cause of delay. I shall not be surprised if this Parliament does no work worth while until after the return of the Prime Minister from London. The outstanding fact is that the good of this country must take second place to the interests of the Labour party!
– I suppose that, under the party system, one must expect the meanest andmost ungenerous reasons to be advanced! to account for the delay in calling Parliament together. Surely it may be conceded that, when the leader of a government is absent from Australia, not for his own enjoyment, but to attend an important Imperial Conference, the members of any decent opposition would, so far as possible, suspend party fighting during that period.
– That should be done by both sides.
– We on this side have done it. We are npt now pressing any party matters forward. It is only because of a. grave national emergency that the calling of Parliament together at any period of this calendar year has become necessary. Honorable senators opposite must realize, since some of them have held office in previous governments, that during a period of stress such as we are now experiencing there are constant communications between the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Fenton) and the Prime Minister in Great Britain. As from time to time new phases of the situation arise, these negotiations must be continuous, and they are quite sufficient to account for the delay in the summoning of Parliament.
– Does not the honorable senator think that Mr. Lang’s majority has something to do with that delay ?
– I have no doubt that the honorable senator feels upset about the result of the election in New South Wales.
– On the contrary, T think that it is the best thing that could’ have happened.
– But I doubt whether you, Mr. President, will permit me to say very much about it. I feel fairly well satisfied with the result, and I do not know what Senator Lynch has to complain cif, since many months have elapsed1 since we last heard his eloquent voice in this chamber. The present session would not have been necessary except for the difficult financial situation to which reference has already been made. Parliament has been adjourned only since August last - less than three months ago. Honorable senators opposite, who are so eager to condemn the Government for not having called members together earlier, have been responsible for much longer cessations of parliamentary work. The late Government practically closed Parliament for fifteen months on one occasion, and during the whole of its term of office it met Parliament for only a few weeks in each year. Therefore, the references of members of the Opposition to delay come with ill grace.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland) [4.6]. -I should not have spoken to this motion but for the Statement of SenatorRae that this is no time for party fighting. May I remind him that the Opposition has been most considerate to the Government during the recent recess, and has done nothing to embarrass it?
SenatorRae. - What could the Opposition have done in that direction?
– It might easily have called public attention to the inaction of the Government. Prior to leaving for London the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) said that, if it became necessary to take further action to deal with the financial situation, Parliament would be immediately summoned. It has been obvious to everybody in the country that some action should have been taken, and that the Government purposely refrained from summoning Parliament prior to the election in New South Wales. Why were not members of the Government called together to frame financial proposals which would have the approval of the party before the Parliament was summoned?
– The honorable senator knows that, under the Standing Orders, I cannot answer that question.
– That is so, and I do not think that the Minister would be able to answer it. SenatorRae tried to show that the Opposition had been attempting to gain party advantage ; but I remind him that no opposition has been more considerate to a government during a recess than the honorable senators on this side have been to this Ministry. They have done nothing to embarrass it in the financial difficulties with which the country is faced.
.- I register my protest against the calling of the Senate together when the Government has no business to place before it. and I ask the Leader of the Government (Senator Daly) why honorable senators have been summoned to Canberra in these circumstances. I have been a member of this chamber for some years, and I have never previously seen such a demonstration of ministerial incapacity as has been displayed by bringing members together from all parts of Australia, and having no business to place before them.
– The President,not the G overn ment, brought us together.
– Everybody knows that the President summons the Senate only when the Government wishes it. to meet. As a senator who resides in one of the distant States, I protest against being called to Canberra when there is no business to put before the Senate.
– The motion is, “That the Senate atits rising adjourn until Wednesday, the 12th November, at 3 p.m.”
– That is exactly what I am objecting to. When the Senate last adjourned, it authorized you, Mr. President, to call us together when there was business to be done; but the Senate has no business with which to proceed. I object to being summoned here from Queensland, and having to remain idle in Canberra for ten or twelve days. In submitting the motion before the Senate, the Leader of the Government failed to justify thesummoning of the Senate at this time, and two of his followers who spoke to the motion were also unable to advance good reasons for the action taken. Such procedure is belittling to the Senate.
– The motion has nothing to do with the summoning of senators to Canberra, but refers to the date to which the Senate shall adjourn when it rises.
– Usually, when . the leader in another place makes a statement, a similar statement is submitted to members of this chamber. Why has the Leader of the Government in the Senate no statement to make? He has simply submitted a motion for the adjournment of this chamber until the 12th November, lt would appear to the public that the Government has not sufficient brains to enable it to conduct its business.
– Those remarks might be more appropriately uttered in connexion with another motion, if the honorable senator wishes to give notice of it.
– It is difficult to confine oneself to the motion before the Senate; but I shall content myself, as a senator from a distant part of the Commonwealth, with again protesting against the calling together of members of this chamber when the Government has no business to place before us.
– I did not think it necessary in submitting this motion to set out the position iu detail. I understood that honorable members opposite had a better knowledge of parliamentary procedure than that possessed by me. Members of another place, from which legislation of a financial character must emanate, were summoned to meet on a certain date, and, naturally, members of the Senate were called here so that they would be ready to deal with any legislation that might be sent down from the other branch of the legislature. Unfortunately, two condolence motions have caused the adjournment of the other House. As a mark of respect, it has adjourned until Wednesday next, and members of the Senate can do nothing until legislation is sent down from the other House. I wish to be optimistic in all things; but I do not anticipate that any proposals put forward, dealing with the present financial difficulties of the Commonwealth, will meet with the unanimous approval of members in another place or of members of the Senate. It occurred to me that, if we met next week, we could, no doubt, discuss a motion for the printing of a paper.
– That means the Government’s financial proposals?
– Yes, and then, with that expedition for which the Senate is noted, it would probably have disposed of that motion by the end of the week. In any case, we should probably not meet on the holiday.
– Why did not the honorable senator think of that before we were called together?
– I did not call the Senate together. The Government advised the President of the Senate that another place would be called together, and you, sir, adopted the usual constitutional practice. I did not know, nor did any one know, that when another place met circumstances would arise which would necessitate the adjournment of that chamber. How could any one have anticipated such a happening? I assure honorable senators that the Government is fully alive to its responsibilities in the present crisis, and that it is desirous of dealing with the problems which confront Australia. The Government has no desire or intention to slight honorable senators. Its legislative programme will be carried through with all due expedition. I feel sure -.hat if this adjournment is granted the Senate will have some business to transact when it again meets. I am, however, afraid that if we were to adjourn till next week we might assemble on Tuesday and have no business to transact. No one regrets any inconvenience that might have been caused to honorable senators more than the Government does. It has been said that the course proposed is unprecedented in the history of federation. That may be so. I doubt whether it has previously been found necessary to have an extraordinary financial session. Probably such a set of circumstances has never previously arisen. Ordinarily, when the Senate meets on the day that another place is called together, there is business for this chamber to transact; but as this is a financial session, nothing can bc done in the Senate until legislation has reached it from another place. The President; had no alternative but to call the Senate together. He was not to know that sum.; happy set of circumstances would i ot arise which would enable effect to be given to the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) so that we could deal with the whole of the legislation of the session in a day and return to our homes until February or
Marchof next year. I hope that honorable senators will appreciate the difficulties of the Government, even in fixing the date of our assembling, and that they will agree to the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Financial Situation - Wheat-growing Industry: Primary Producers.
Motion (by Senator Daly) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– In my natural and usual desire to help the Government I did not move, as I intended to do, and as my conscience dictated, that theStanding Orders be suspended to enable the Senate to deal with an important matter affecting the citizens of this country. The Leader of the Government (Senator Daly) has rightly said that the present financial position warranted the convening of this federal session. But,whilst the finances call for the closest attention of Parliament, there are other matters of urgency vitally affecting the welfare, liberty, homes, and even the lives of the people. I refer particularly to those who are engaged in the production of wheat, the value of which has fallen solow that not only is it less than the cost of production, but it is exposing the farmers to extreme hardship, anxiety and poverty. I believed that this chamber, instead of adjourning, would have applied itself to this problem, and I had intended to move -
That in view of the grave situation confronting the wheat-growers of Australia, the Senate is of opinion that it is advisable to suspend so much of the Commonwealth bankruptcy law as wouldprevent State legislatures from giving adequate protection to those primary producersduring the present stressful period, and enable them above everything else to retain a firm grip on their homesteads until normal conditions prevail.
The equal of the present depression has never beenknown in the history of Australia. Not even the most dismal pessimist would have believed that Australia could suddenlyplumb such a depth of economic depressionandhardship. And the tillersofthe soil, the hardest workers and least pampered of all are first to suffer.
-Due to the actions of the honorablesenator’s party.
– If the honorable senator had his neck in the collar he would learn something. But he finds it much easier to blister his tongue than blister his hands. I was asked one time what I was prepared to do to help the hemp industry. I replied that I would advocate abonus for the growing of a tough variety in the vicinity of every trades hall, not for the genuine tradesunionist, but for the artful dodger that lives on his gullibilities. I believe in raw material being produced near the place where it is most wanted. If Senator Dunn would abandon the use of his tongue as a means of earning a living and learn to use a flail, a hoe, or a pitchfork, he would turn himself into something useful. He prefers, however, to risk blistering his tongue instead of hishands, and while the people allow him to earn a living in that way, we can expect nothing but nonsensical interjections from him.
As I was about to say, wheat is the support of the nation, as well as of the individual. Deprive the Australian people of the wheat-growing industry, and what will be left to sustain them? I speak to-day on behalf of about 80,000 wheat-growers, whose plight can only be described as desperate. They are looking to this Parliament for relief. Instead of going to their aid, the Government proposes that the Senate shall take another holiday.
– They could have had the relief long ago.
– Another trades hall wheat-grower! Half the Labour members of this Parliament, if asked to bail acow, would not know which end to put infirst. At election time they approach the farmers with their tongues in their cheeks, and when they are returnedto power, proceed to heap burden after burden upon those whom they have deluded to vote for them.
– We wanted to guarantee to them 4s. a bushel.
– You little paddymelon, keep quiet !
– The honorable senator iswell awarethat he is not in order in addressinganother honorablesenator in that manner. I ask him tobeless personal, and to address the Chair.
– My retorts are provoked by unsolicited raving about a wheat bounty, the payment of even half of which would bankrupt the Government. The present value of wheat is approximately 26s. a quarter; it is within a fraction of the lowest price reached during the last 70 years. In 1892 it was 24s., and for a few sales only 22s. a quarter, or ls. 8d. a bushel at country sidings in Victoria. At my siding in Western Australia wheat to-day is worth 2s. Id. Yet what are the supposed friends of the farmers doing to relieve a deserving class, whose labours are not regulated by the clock, and who work, not 44 hours, but nearer 64 hours a week to provide cheap bread for those who masquerade as their well-wishers? Nobody can deny the desperate straits of the wheat-farmer. City people talk of their troubles during the present depression ; but what sacrifices are they making in comparison with the hardships of men, the value of whose labour has been halved, even quartered in a few months? As a farmer’s income is halved his debts must double. That is plain enough. Only a small number of the wheatgrowers will be able to withstand the impending storm. This Parliament enacted a bankruptcy law, which, instead of protecting the wheat-grower, as it should, is protecting the unscrupulous creditor who would’ pounce upon him. T desire that law to be amended or suspended, in order to prevent any rapacious creditor from forcing a farmer off hi? holding. The immediate purpose of this Parliament should be ito amend the bank.ruptcy law so as to make it possible for State legislatures to give relief to struggling primary producers, many of whom are threatened with legal proceedings .and may he forced off their holdings. In the present state of the federal law this relief cannot be given. If the relevant sections.. aire repealed jas I suggest, it will ‘be possible for .State legislatures to safeguard the interests of our struggling wheat farmers. Their desperate plight is my justification for raising this matter now. It amply warrants my action in urging that instead of adjourning as is proposed, the time available to us should be utilized in -considering legislation ito give relief to these people.
This Parliament is, or should ,be, .the custodian of the public welfare. “We should see to it that, in .this time .qf dire distress, our struggling primary producers are encouraged to carry on their work. When I attended the meeting of the Senate this afternoon, I expected that my motion- would be discussed to-morrow. But the Senate is to adjourn until the 12th November, Nothing can be done in the meantime. The legislature of Western Australia is endeavouring to give relief to the wheatgrowers in that State; but the Commonwealth bankruptcy law bars the way. The only protection afforded, by that law is protection for creditors who can well look after themselves.
– Who says that the Commonwealth bankruptcy law prevents relief from being given?
– I do.
– It does not, as a matter of fact. The South Australian Parliament has passed a measure, such as the honorable senator is advocating, to give relief to farmers in that State.
– When I say that the Commonwealth bankruptcy law is preventing State ‘legislatures from safeguarding the interests of the primary producers, I am offering, not my own opinion, but the opinion of a high legal authority in Western Australia. Under the law in its present form any designing creditor may take action against a primary producer to the disadvantage of other creditors.
– The State has the right to say what constitutes the creation of a debt.
– I do not propose to argue .that point with the Minister at this stage. My principal concern is to emphasize the desperate position in which wheat and wool growers of Western Australia are placed at the moment
– South Australia has provided the legal protection which the honorable senator professes .to be seeking for primary .producers in Wes, tern Australia. t ‘
– How can South Australia dp that in view of the fact that the Commonwealth bankruptcy law is supreme? Under that law in its present state a callous creditor may force any wheat-grower in Western Australia or anywhere else off his holding. Can the honorable senator deny that? Some action should be taken to protect those people. They are sorely in need of help. If they are not given some measureof relief it will not be long before many of them join the ranks of our unemployed in the cities. No one wishes to see them there. The position is as bad in other States also. We read only the other day that primary producers even in the rich Southern Riverina district of New South WalesSenator Rae, I have no doubt, is interested in this matter - are indebted to local business firms to the extent of £1,250,000. This surely is ample proof of the desperate plight in which our primary producers is placed.
– It is not suggested that the storekeepers in the Southern Riverina district intend to put their debtors through the bankruptcy court.
– No, but under the present law the way is clear for them to do that. In Western Australia some unscrupulous creditors are threatening to force farmers off their holdings in this way, and other creditors, in order to hold the unscrupulous creditors in check, will be obliged to take similar action. The suspension of the Commonwealth bankruptcy law is urgently needed so that State legislatures may pass the necessary measures to protect our primary producers. Time is the essence of the present situation. Whilst I do not, at this stage, object to the motion for the adjournment, I hope that I shall be given an early opportunity to get an expression of opinion from the Senate on this important matter, in order that timely assistance may he given to our struggling farmers. If the Government will not place facilities at my disposal to discuss this matter I shall take the first opportunity to test the feeling of the Senate.
– It is not my intention to prolong the debate on this motion. I rose to remind Senator Lynch that, if he hoped to build up a case for publication in Hansard, and for the circulation of his views in the newspapers of Western Australia, New South Wales or South Australia, he would have been wiser had he directed attention to the opinions expressed by the various members of this chamber in the debate, last session, on the wheat marketing proposals of the Government. Due to circumstances over which he had no control, namely, illness in his family, Senator Lynch was kept in Western Australia while the Wheat Marketing Bill was being dealt with in this chamber; but I well recollect, as Government Whip, arranging a pair for Senator Lynch against the proposal of the Government to guarantee the farmers 4s. a bushel on their wheat. In these circumstances, it ill becomes the honorable senator to castigate the Government at this stage for failing to help the farmer. The honorable senator is now endeavouring to build up a case for publication in Hansard with the object of showing that the Government has done nothing to help the farmer.
– The honorable senator would be well advised not to impute motives to another honorable senator.
-It is a pity that such advice was not given to Senator Lynch. There is no justification for his angry attack upon the Government in this connexion. The honorable senator has said Something about trades hall wheatfarmers. I remind him that the trades hall was for many years a good political friend to him until he was expelled from the Labour party.
– I do not think that Senator Dunn was justified in charging Senator Lynch with attempting to state a case in favour of the farmers for publication in Hansard, so that it could be circulated among the Western Australian farmers for political purposes. Senator Lynch knows the sorry plight of the farmers in Western Australia, and desires that the Government should do something to help them. I know the critical position of the farmers in South Australia. I met many representatives of them recently, andI know that, generally speaking, their financial position is extremely serious. Every farmer is losing money on every bushel of wheat that he produces for sale at 2s. 6d. a bushel. Some time ago Judge Dethridge conducted an investigation into the cost of growing wool in
Australia. Fifty certificated accountants gave evidence before him that the cost was in the neighbourhood of ls. 2d. per lb. ; but the judge would not accept their opinions. He instructed his own accountant to make an investigation. In the end, however, he concluded that the cost was, roughly, what the 50 accountants had put it down at.
– That cost included interest on land bought at inflated prices.
– It allowed interest on borrowed money, but not on inflated land values. Honorable senators know that, whereas the average price of wool last year was about 10¾d. per lb., the average price of producing it was about ls. 2d. per lb.
– I cannot believe it.
– If the honorable senator knows more about the cost of growing wool than Judge Dethridge knew about it after bis inquiry, he must be a very wise man.
Reference has been made to the federal Bankruptcy Act. In South Australia we have a debt adjustment act, under which a large number of farmers have already secured protection from the court.
– Would that act stand against the federal act?
– That point has not yet been tested; but the fact remains that many farmers have already obtained certificates under it. This is having a serious repercussion in South Australia. At first certificates were easily obtained; but there are many people in Adelaide, and throughout the country districts - such as local store-keepers - who depend for their livelihood upon the production of the farmers, and they are severely suffering because of the operation of this act. The position has become so serious that a few days ago Judge Paine issued a statement to the effect that lie intended to review all the certificates that have been granted. He said that, if there was a possibility of a man making good, his certificate would be renewed; but, if his case were hopeless, it would be useless to carry him further.
– There arc unscrupulous debtors as well as unscrupulous creditors.
– That is so, and the Commissioner of Insolvency has a certain amount of power in that direction.
Some reference has been made to land values, and all the difficulties of the farmers have been ascribed to the fact that many have paid too much for their land. 1 wish to state the position in respect of a farm which I know particularly well, because I have worked it. 1 know what it has produced, and also what it is capable of producing. The farm contains .3,000 acres, which, at £8- per acre, would represent a land value of £24,000. Interest on this sum at 7 per cent, would amount to £1,680. That would be the interest payable in respect of the land value. The cost of working the farm is about £1,750 per annum. This amount covers the living expenses of the farmer and his family, wages, the cost of superphosphate, seed, and cornsacks, and a reasonable amount in respect of repairs, depreciation, &C. The total expenditure, therefore, would be £3,430. Year in and year out about 600 acres of land could be cropped per annum. On an average of five bags per acre, the farm would yield 3,000 bags of wheat annually. At a fairly high price, but not at the highest price, this would yield u return of £2,500 per annum. The receipts from that property in respect of wool and surplus sheep would be about £1,500 per annum. The total income from the property would, therefore, be about £4,000 per annum. When the land was valued at £8 per acre there was a profit of over £500 a year. But what is the position to-day? The 3,000 acres have practically no land value whatever. The working expenses are £1,750, and it costs the same amount to put in 600 acres whether the price of wheat is 5s. or 2s. 6d. a bushel. ‘ The return to-day from 600 acres is equivalent to 3,000 bags of wheat which we will value at approximately 2s. 8d. per bushel, but that amount cannot be obtained. Even allowing 8s. a bag, there would be a return of £1,200, and from wool and surplus sheep, £500, making a total of £1,700; but the working expenses alone are £1,750. That is the position with which the farmers in South Australia are confronted to-day. Commercial men in Adelaide have said to me, “ Yes, but years ago these farmers received. 3s. and 3s. 6d. a bushel for their wheat, andwhen they obtained only 9d. a lb. for their wool their farms paid. Of recent years they have bought motor cars and have adopted what some term an extravagant form of living.” For doing this they have been condemned right and left. But at that time the working costs were about one-half of what they are to-day. When I was working the property I have mentioned, the costs were well under £1,000 a year, but to-day they are nearly double that amount. If we could get back to those costs thoseconducting such properties could, with only average prices for their commodities, show a profit of £800 a year; but under present circumstances they are showing a loss of £500 or £600. If these costs are not substantially reduced there is serious trouble ahead for the farmers. Already some of them are going insolvent. The local storekeepers cannot obtain their money and already have given credit to the full limit. If some of these farmers become insolvent storekeepers will be ruined. If costs do not come down there will be serious consequences throughout the whole Commonwealth. By imposing embargoes and heavy customs duties the Government is bolstering up manufacturers and increasing costs to the primary producers, and until these embargoes are removed and costs are reduced it is impossible for the cost of production and of living to decrease. I know it will be said that consideration has to be given to our exchange position and our adverse trade balance. But when the banks’ smash occurred some years ago the difficulty was not overcome by imposing prohibitive duties and embargoes; it was overcome rather by the economic method of adjusting exchange rates. What is the Labour party doing in this instance? It is placing the cart before the horse. The Government should consult the financial institutions. The exchange rate should not be pegged, and the Government should lift the embargoes and reduce tariff rates to at least those which were in operation whenthe Brace-Page Government was in office.
those who are in the position mentioned by Senator Chapman. We all admit that the cost of production is a problem which confronts not only this but other governments, and will have to be seriously considered in any reconstruction policy. I do not, however, wish to anticipate debate on the financial statement to be made; I simply assure honorable senators that the Government has the utmost sympathy with the primary producers in the many difficulties which are facing them at present.
So far as Senator Lynch’s complaint is concerned, I may say that even if the Senate sat on Tuesday next to discuss the matter which he presented in his usual finished way, I would simply have to advise him as I did, perhaps in a disorderly way, by interjection, that the Commonwealth bankruptcy law does not operate until a debt has actually been created. The question of what constitutes the creation of a debt is one for the States and not the Commonwealth. If the honorable senator will refer to section. 52 of the Commonwealth Bankruptcy Act he will see that the action of the South Australian Government was not in any way in conflict with the bankruptcy law. The Commonwealth Bankruptcy Act does not interfere with the internal legislation of the States in the matter of debts. It is not concerned if a State permits a debtor to have, say, six months’ grace before judgment can be signed against him. It does not prevent a State from deciding what will constitute a debt and the class of debt in respect of which a judgment can be given. The whole matter is in the hands of the States.
– I think that in Western Australia there is some talk in the engineers’ case of challenging the validity of the Debts Adjustment Act. It has been contended that the Commonwealth law must prevail and that any interpositionby the State cannot prevent the free action of the Commonwealth law. Will the Minister look into that ?
– As the honorable senator will be in Canberra for some days, I am willing to place the services of the Acting Solicitor-General at his disposal togo into the matter, and if, as suggested by him, the Commonwealth law is preventing the States granting relief to primary producers as has been suggested I am prepared to make a recommendation to the Government which I am sure will receive sympathetic consideration from my colleagues. I cannot bind the Government in the matter of introducing amending legislation, but I feel confident that it will do all in its power to assist the States to relieve anybody that it is possible to relieve in the present time of stress.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 4.59 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 30 October 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1930/19301030_senate_12_127/>.