12th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– There have been some changes in the Ministry, but no official announcement can he made in regard to them in the Senate until certain preliminaries have been carried out.
– Can the Minister give the names of two other Ministers who are expected to resign from the Cabinet at any moment?
– So far as I know, no other Minister is likely to resign.
– No such instruction has been given so far as I am aware.
– I give notice of the question for to-morrow.
– I should like to know if there is any truth in the rumour that Mr. Harold Nelson, member for the Northern Territory in another place, has been appointed Administrator of the Territory, and, if so, when his duties will commence?
– I am not aware of Mr. Harold Nelson’s appointment to the position.
– On the18th June, Senator J. B. Hayes asked the Minister representing the Minister for Markets the following questions, upon notice: -
The Minister for Markets has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
– On the 11th June, Senator E. B. Johnston, asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now in a position to furnish the following reply: -
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendment made by the Senate in this bill.
Regulations: Formal Motion for Adjournment
– I have to inform the Senate that I have received, from Senator Sir George Pearce, a letter intimating that this afternoon he intends to move “ That the Senate at its rising adjourn till 10 a.m. to-morrow “ for the purpose of discussing a matter of urgent public importance, namely “ The action of the Government in issuing regulations under the Transport Workers Act 1928-29 overriding a decision of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.” Is the motion supported?
Four honorable senators having risen in their places.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [3.12]. - I move -
That the Senate at its rising adjourn till 10 a.m. to-morrow.
– I rise to a point of order. I direct attention to Standing Order 418, which reads -
No senator shall use offensive words against either House of Parliament or any member of such House, or of any House of a State Parliament, or against any statute, unless for the purpose of moving for its repeal, and all imputations of improper motives, and all personal reflections on members shall be considered highly disorderly.
The expressed intention of the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition is to discuss regulations which, he declares, override a decision of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and. Arbitration. The imputation that this Government is endeavouring to override a decision of the Arbitration Court is offensive to the Government.
– It is true, nevertheless.
– That remark also is offensive to the Government.
– Most certainly it is. Whatever offence this Government may be guilty of in the eyes of honorable senators opposite, it certainly is not guilty of an intention to flout an instrumentality of the Commonwealth, the decisions of which are supposed to be almost as sacred as the word of God. The imputation conveyed in the letter of the right honorable gentleman is offensive to the Government, and, I suggest, also to its supporters. I, therefore, trust that you will rule the motion out of order under Standing Order 418.
– I certainly have no intention of saying anything that will be offensive concerning either House of the Federal Parliament, any member of it, any House of the State Parliaments, or any statute. My letter to you, sir, does not contain any such suggestion. It contains merely a statement of fact which, if opportunity is given to me, I shall be able to prove.
– I am somewhat surprised at the raising of this point of order. I have read carefully the letter sent to me by the right honorable gentleman, and I fail to discover in it words which go beyond what might be regarded as fair criticism, such as is offered in this chamber to a much greater extent almost daily. I, therefore, cannot sustain, the point of order.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.My letter to the President states that the latest regulations issued by the Government under the Transport Workers Act override a decision of the Arbitration Court. I propose to prove that they will have this effect if not disallowed. When they were issued there were no regulations in force, because of the disallowance by the Senate of previous regulations that had been gazetted by the Government. As no regulations were in force it follows that the conditions set up by the decision of the Arbitration Court were reverted to. For the information of honorable senators I will indicate, briefly, what were those conditions. In its order of the 22nd October, 1928, the Arbitration Court deleted from existing awards, which bound members of the Waterside Workers Federation, all reference to preference in employment; and, again, in a judgment on the 5th May, 1930, the court refused the application of the federation to reinstate preference in its awards. I direct particular attention to this express order of the court, deleting preference in employment to members of the Waterside Workers Federation, and also to the court’s refusal of the application to have preference reinstated. There is no ambiguity about the decision. This Government has always claimed that it stands for arbitration. At the last general election Labour candidates made a definite promise to the electors that, if Labour were returned to power, it would safeguard and stand by the principle of arbitration, the fundamental principle of which is that judgments of the Arbitration Court shall be observed. This Government is now ignoring Parliament, and is using its regulation-making power to override a decision of the Arbitration Court. In the Melbourne Argus of the 6th May, 1930, there appeared the following report of a decision by Judge Beeby : -
Judge Beeby, in the Arbitration Court yesterday, refused an application by the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia for an order for preference to unionists. He indicated that in refusing the application he was influenced by a judgment given by the late Mr. Justice Higgins in similar circumstances in .1918.
Judge Beeby, in a considered judgment, said that in 1028 members of the federation, under the direction of its management committee, refused to offer for employment at several ports, including Melbourne, Adelaide, and Brisbane. Shipowners and stevedores thereupon notified the federation of their intention to engage non-union labour after a named day. [n some ports federation labour persisted after that day in refusing to offer for employment, and volunteer labour was enrolled. When calling for labour employers gave undertakings that, subject to efficiency, volunteers would be given preference of employment over members of the federation, and that SuCh preference would continue if and when the strike ended. Some time later the federation declared the strike off, and its members again attended the picking-up places in search of employment. Employers honoured their promise made to volunteers, and, later on, an application was made by the federation for a variation of the award by inserting a clause to provide for complete preference to unionists. “ Following the course taken by Mr. Justice Higgins in a similar set of circumstances in 1918,” continued Judge Beeby, “I directed the registrar of the court to inquire and report upon the actual number of volunteers engaged before the strike was declared off. Counsel for the federation asked for an order for preference of employment, which would, if granted, lead to the immediate dismissal of all volunteers and the restoration of control of waterside labour by the federation. 1 anticipated that the federation would submit some reasonable proposal for the sharing of work with the volunteers until, in the course of time, they had been absorbed by the federation, on an agreement somewhat similar to that which closed the history of the 1917 strike. But no suggestion of compromise was made. I was asked to grant the union full preference without any alternative proposals. During the proceedings it was frequently suggested that the inability of many members of the federation to obtain employment on the waterfront was a continuation of punishment inflicted by the court. This is an entirely erroneous statement of the position . . .” “ The industrial history of the federation had made it impossible to legalize control by the federation of waterfront labour. The present situation is, therefore, entirely of the federation’s own creation, and is in no way a punishment inflicted by the court.” “. . . In his judgment, Mr. Justice Higgins said, in effect, that the discrimination against the federation was to be limited to reputable men engaged as volunteers. I am forced to the same conclusion in this case ; but as none of the parties asks me to make any similar order, I can only determine whether an order for absolute preference to members of the federation, in terms of section 40 of the act, should be made. I think that it should not, and the application is, therefore, dismissed.”
In the face of that judgment, the Government has now issued a new set of regulations which provide expressly for the granting of preference to those who, under paragraph b of section 3, are members of the organization known as the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia, an organization that is bound by an award of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. Is not that a direct and complete overriding and setting aside of the judgment of that court? The Government professes to stand for the Arbitration Court; yet, instead of asking Parliament to amend the Transport Workers Act, as it promised the electors it would do, it has availed itself of its regulation-making power to make regulations that override the judgment of that court. I suggest that there could not be a more complete case of a government interfering with the jurisdiction of the court and setting aside its judgment.
It is necessary that I read the regulations, so that they may be laid upon the table of the Senate, thus enabling me, at a later stage, to invite the Senate to disallow them. They read as follows: -
Regulations under the Transport Workers Act 1928-1929.
I, the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, acting with the advice of the Federal Executive Council, hereby make the following Regulations under the Transport Workers Act 1928-1929, to come into operation forthwith.
Dated this 18th day of June, 1931.
– (1.) No person shall give priority in employment, engagement or picking-up for transport work at ports in the Commonwealth to which Part III. of the Act applies, except to transport workers (being waterside workers) who -
Penalty: Ten pounds or imprisonment for one month. (2.) Notwithstanding anything contained in the last preceding sub-regulation, it shall not be an offence to employ, engage or pick up returned soldiers or returned sailors for transport work in priority to the persons specified in the last preceding sub-regulation.
Penalty: Ten pounds or imprisonment for one month.
Penalty: Ten pounds or imprisonment for one month.
Motion (by Senator Reid) agreed to -
That the document quoted by Senator Sir George Pearce during his speech be laid upon the table.
Document laid upon the table.
Debate on original motion resumed.
– I regret that the point of order which I raised at the outset of the speech of the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition was not sustained. The wording of his motion and the remarks that he has made upon it convey an erroneous impression. When the case was before the Arbitration Court the Waterside
Workers Federation asked for preference to members of that organization. The judge, in making his award, said -
The act prescribes that the court may (section 40) (1 ) (a) direct that, as between members of organizations of employers or employees and other persons (not being sons or daughters of employers) offering or desiring service or employment at the same time, preference shall, in such manner as is specified in the award or order, he given to such members other tilings being equal. and (section 40) (2) -
Whenever, in the opinion of the court, it is necessary for the prevention or settlement of the industrial dispute, or for the maintenance of industrial peace, or for the welfare of society, to direct that preference shall be given to members of organizations as in paragraph (a), sub-section (1) of this section, as provided, the court shall so direct.
The application of this section of the act should not, in my opinion, be governed by the predilections of those charged with its administration, but by the drawing of a correct inference of the intention of the legislature from the words used, considered in their context. The context clearly indicates that the policy of the act is to encourage organization of employees and employers for the purpose of entering into industrial agreements, and facilitating the exercise by the court of its conciliatory and arbitral powers. The inference to be drawn from the words used is, that the court should, after inquiry, first form an opinion whether or not, in each dispute before it, the granting of preference is necessary to the maintenance of industrial peace in the industry “ or necessary for the future welfare of society “.
Following upon that His Honour said: “ No order for preference is made.” The matter was left for adjustment by the employers and employees. Recognizing that the work on the waterfront “was not being carried on as satisfactorily and peacefully as it might be, this Government, on assuming office, issued regulations in order to improve the position. Notwithstanding the pertinacity of the Government in issuing regulations framed with the sole object of preserving industrial peace on the wharfs, the Opposition persists in disallowing them. The Senate, which is functioning far from the waterfront, is adopting the role of disturber of the peace, and is endeavouring to obstruct the peaceful conduct of the transport industry, which is of great importance to this country.
The continual submission of motions for the disallowance of regulations lawfully issued by the Government is purposeless, and I cannot understand what is actuating the Leader of the Opposition in persisting in the course he is now taking. If there were evidence before the Senate to show that work on the waterfront is being obstructed, in consequence of the gazettal of regulations, there would be some justification for moving such motions. It is time the Senate realized its position with respect to this matter. The transport work of this country is at present being carried on harmoniously, and, so far as I know, efficiently. The action of the Opposition in this matter verges on childishness. It cannot be denied that turmoil on the waterfront has ceased since regulations of this nature have been gazetted, and that is the Government’s object in issuing them. If they were causing industrial unrest it would be the responsibility of the Government or the Opposition to take action, but in the present circumstances there is no necessity to move a motion such as that submitted by the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition. Any person who cares to visit the waterfront can see for himself that the work of loading and unloading ships is being carried on industriously and harmoniously. Why should we then do something which might create a disturbance? Surely the Senate is not composed of children who delight to play with a bowl of soapy water and a clay pipe, making bubbles for the joy of seeing them burst? If it amuses honorable senators opposite to blow bubbles, well and good; but I hope that they will see the wisdom of rising above such things once and for all.
. - I should have offered no objection had the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) - provided he was in order - moved that the regulations promulgated by the Government, be tabled. As the Standing Orders will not permit him to do that, he has moved the adjournment of the Senate; and it is in respect of the reasons advanced in support of his motion that I desire to address the Senate. The right honorable gentleman contended that the action of the Government in issuing fresh regulations under the Transport Workers Act was an abrogation of the rights of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. If his contention is correct, I submit that the fault lies, not in the regulations, but in the Transport Workers Act itself. If, as is suggested, the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration is to be the only body to prescribe the terms and conditions upon which men shall be employed, and the court, having prescribed those terms and conditions, this Parliament has no right to interfere in industry, how can the Leader of the Opposition justify the action of his own Government in enacting sections 6 and 7 of the Transport Workers Act? I remind him that the present Government was not responsible for that legislation. The previous Government designedly took away from the Arbitration Court certain powers. So far as those sections apply, this Parliament, not the court, has the power to prescribe the terms and conditions of employment. The Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration imposes a penalty upon any organization or person bound by an award or order of the court who has committed a breach of such order or award. Who excepting a member of an organization which is bound by an award of the court is a person bound by an award? In this instance every member of the Waterside Workers Federation is bound by the terms of the Waterside Workers Award. Under the legislation in force prior to the passing of the Transport Workers Act, the appearance of a member of that organization at the picking-up place had to be regarded as an offer to accept employment; and in the event of his refusal to accept employment under the terms of an award of the court, he could be prosecuted for a breach of chat award. But Parliament stepped in and said that, although every member of an organization bound by an award who presents himself at the picking-up place shall accept employment if offered to him, and also that no employer shall refuse to employ him because he is a member of a certain organization, that man must be licensed. Was that not a limitation of the power of the Commonwealth court? Parliament specifically limited the power of the court when it retained for itself the right to make regulations under the act. It is ridiculous to move a motion protesting that the Government is overriding the court when Parliament has vested in the Executive the power to make regulations. If it were a question of the right to criticize the discretion of the Government, I could understand certain contentions being put forward. It might be suggested that even though the power exists, there has- been a wrongful exercise of that power ; but that is not the motion now before the Senate. The Leader of the Opposition suggests that the mere exercise of the power to make a regulation, which might infringe the terms of an award, is an act of disrespect towards the court on the part of the Government. I point out that there is on the statutebook a measure which reposes in the Executive for the time being the right even to make regulations inconsistent with the terms of any award. The licence which is granted to a waterside worker follows a prescribed form. I venture to say that that licence could go so far as to wipe out certain conditions which otherwise would be obligatory upon, a person who employs men under the terms of an award of the court. It is ridiculous to condemn the Government for making regulations which the legislature empowers it to make.
– The Labour party promised to repeal the Transport Workers Act.
– On many occasions 1 have said that it would be useless to repeal that act before the mess created by it has been cleaned up. I believe in getting order out of chaos, not in creating further disorder.
– What chaos was created by the Transport Workers Act?
– I suggest that, at the first opportunity, Senator Payne should visit Port Adelaide and see for himself the number of business establishments that have had to close their doors and other evidence of the effect of that legislation. He would then readily understand why South Australian senators are particularly keen on cleaning up the mess before the act is repealed.
– I can invite the honorable senator to visit Tasmania and see conditions exactly the opposite.
– I am most concerned with the conditions in my own home port. I do not know those which exist in Tasmania, but there has never been a suggestion by honorable senators that these regulations might be amended. In every disallowance South Australia has been included and my objection is to our inclusion in something from which I respectfully submit we should be excluded even if a regulation be disallowed.
– Would the honorable senator like to have Port Adelaide excluded from the operation of the act?
– I should like to see a greater measure of justice given to the workers of Port Adelaide than they get under this continuous disallowance of regulations. Since the Government has issued these regulations, not only has there been industrial peace on the Port Adelaide waterfront; but also the action of the Government has met with the general approval of all citizens of the port, although certainly not that of seventeen or eighteen Maltese who may be occupying a room in Hindley-street, Adelaide. I deprecate the ingenuous action of the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) in tabling this particular motion. I submit that there is absolutely no ground for his complaint regarding the Government’s issuing of these regulations although there may be ground for complaint as to the manner in which it has exercised its discretion when called upon to make such regulations. His accusation that the Government has done something which is within the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court, and not within the jurisdiction of the Executive, is absolutely without foundation. The step taken by the Executive is not within the power of the court. As Senator Barnes has pointed out, the court had already refused to make any order as to preference. Even in the exercise of the discretion it possesses, the court, if it so desired, could not do what the Government, under these regulations, has done.
– That is not correct. The court gave preference to the members of the Waterside Workers Federation, but because of their misbehaviour took it away from them.
– I know of no instance in which the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration has given preference to unionists. The court struck out of the award certain paragraphs relating to pick-up places and certain matters of preference which had been granted to the union, but it was not preference to unionists in the legal sense as we understand it in these regulations.
– Under the original award full preference was given by the court to members of the Waterside Workers Federation.
– I accept that statement although it is a surprise to me, aware as I am that Mr. Justice Higginsand other presidents of the Arbitration Court always set their faces against the granting of preference to unionists. In this particular case the judge did not specifically say that the men were not entitled to preference.
– Indeed, he did.
– He simply made noorder and left the parties to confer and, if possible, arrive at some proper decisionrelating to the work on the waterfront.
– That was at the hearing of the application for the re-instatement of preference to the Waterside Workers Federation. In a previous case he had struck their preference out of the award.
– I admit that whatever preference clauses were in the award the court struck out when the federation did not abide by the award, but the union was subsequently prepared to do the right thing. The position as the Government found it was that the parties had been practically instructed by the judge that he could make no award as to preference, but he was hopeful that they would confer on the matter.
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
SenatorREID (Queensland) [3.56].- Senator Daly has sought to attack the late Government for having interfered with the Arbitration Court. I remind him and also Senator Barnes that the Transport Workers Act was passed in order to further the enforcement of awards of the Arbitration Court, that tribunal not being clothed with plenary power to enforce its own awards. The act did not interfere with any function of the court. Judge Beeby withdrew the preference that had previously been granted to the members of the Waterside Workers Federation, because of the way in which they had misused it over a series of years. Senator Daly has just spoken about chaos on the waterfront. At the time of which I am speaking there was nothing but chaos on the waterfront from North Queensland to Fremantle, and the BrucePage Government was driven to adopt the system of issuing licences in order to support the Arbitration Court awards. Licences were issued to all who wished to work under the provisions of the Arbitration Court awards. They were withdrawn from all who were unwilling to carry out those awards. That is the position in a nut shell.
Senator Barnes declares that there is peace on the wharfs at the present time. If there is, it is only because the volunteers do not attack the unionists with bricks and iron bars. What happened at Port Adelaide, Melbourne, Brisbane and other ports when the volunteers were picked up for work at the pick-up places? Great mobs rushed them, kicked them and abused them in every possible way.
– One of the volunteerskicked a ballot-box into the river at Port Adelaide. He is now a foreman stevedore.
– I have heard of no instance of volunteers attacking unionists. If there is peace prevailing on the waterfront to-day it is not because of these regulations, it is because the volunteers submit to the law, and when they are not given a job go quietly to their homes. But if the volunteers get a job, and they do their work more faithfully than the members of the Waterside Workers Federation, the unionists come at them armed with a lot of bricks.
– Those conditions do not apply now.
– Solely because the volunteers do not interfere with the members of the Waterside Workers Federation.
– If the honorable senator admits that there is peace on the waterfront now, why is he so anxious to disturb it?
– It is the peace of death to the volunteers.
– I have explained why there is peace on the waterfront. It is because the law is observed by the volunteers.
These men came to the rescue not particularly of the shipowners, but of Australia. When, during the war period, the coal-miners and the wharf labourers held up all industry, volunteers came to the rescue of their country. Many of those men are still working on thu wharfs, and we are continually disallowing these regulations because we owe them a debt of gratitude.
– The honorable senator is denying work to the returned soldiers who are members of the Waterside Workers Federation.
– We are denying work to no man, returned soldier or wharf labourer. Under the Transport Workers Act, as applied by the Bruce-Page Government, the stevedore could employ any licensed person. There was no restriction. Now, however, the present Government is restricting the number of men who can offer themselves at the pickup places.
– The honorable senator is restricting the liberty of the Government.
– It is the Government that is not giving any one liberty. It is using its power tyrannously in order to victimize individuals who saved this country from people who misused the power of preference given to them by the Arbitration Court. Prior to 1917, the members of the Waterside Workers Federation had a monopoly of the work, but because Judge Beeby saw how they were misusing their preference, he deliberately refused to give them an extension of it when they applied for . it. To-day the Government is going out of its way to issue regulations affecting a certain class of labour at the expense of all other sections of the community. It is well known that the volunteers did not do the work too well at first, but that now the majority of them are quite as efficient as the members of the Waterside Workers Federation. In some cases they are 30 per cent, better. There is this difference, however, in favour of the volunteers; to-day the ports of Australia are not the harbours for thieves they previously were. They had a world-wide reputation for the pilfering that went on.
– That is not so.
– Australia had the worst reputation in the world for the pilfering of cargo.
– A roayl commission was appointed to inquire into it.
– That is so, and Brisbane was found to be one of the worst ports. It did not necessarily follow that the pilfering was actually done at Brisbane. It happens to be the last port for the discharge of cargo; the pilfering disclosed on the final discharge of the cargo could very well have taken place at other ports. Brisbane, however, had the worst reputation of any port in Australia. That is now a matter of the past under the licensing system. Some of the wharf labourers could not be better described than as a gang of thieves. I do not condemn the honest wharf labourer, but for years I have been in touch with men who have been working on the wharfs, and I know that what I am saying is correct.
– Why were the offenders not prosecuted?
– The man who dared to say a word against what was going on ran the risk of something falling on his head if he was down in the hold, or of having a barrow run up against him if he was working on the wharf. In order to get into decent company many unionists have left the federation and joined the volunteers. Instead of the Government talking about peace having been established upon the waterfront, it ought to be ashamed of having brought forward regulations in the interests of a small section of the community and that the worst section of the wharf labourers. What is the matter with Port Adelaide?
– There are no criminals working on the wharfs at Adelaide, and there never has been.
– The honorable senator would like to persuade us that all the criminals on the waterfront are working at other ports of the Commonwealth. The same amount of work is being done at Port Adelaide to-day as formerly, and if the volunteers engaged there live in other suburbs, the metropolitan area as a a whole derives a benefit from the expenditure of their wages. The volunteers do not live in Port Adelaide, because they know only too well that their lives would be at stake if they did. I hope that the Senate will always find time to take any action that may be necessary to uphold the law. That is what the Leader of the Opposition is now asking us to do. The Government, in gazetting regulations in defiance of the decision of the Arbitration Court, is acting at the behest of trades hall authorities in Melbourne or Adelaide, because the licensing system is not applied to Sydney. If I had my way I would take other drastic action against this Government if it persisted in defying the Arbitration Court and the Senate. I understand this is the seventh set of regulations that has been gazetted to ensure the employment of a few members of the Waterside Workers Federation, which, for many years, had an absolute monopoly of all work on the waterfront, and prevented considerable numbers of genuine wharf labourers from securing employment. I hope that the Senate will take the necessary action to disallow these regulations.
.- No one regrets more than I do the necessity for this debate. I thought that long ere this the Government would have recognized its duty to this chamber. I support the motion because the intention is to uphold the decisions of the Arbitration Court, and the rights of the Senate. No one ever contemplated that a body of men entrusted with the government of this country would deliberately lay themselves out to violate what is an essential and very important constitutional power given to this- branch of the legislature - the right to disallow regulations. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Barnes) has hinted that a disallowance of these regulations will be likely to result in disorder on the waterfront. The honorable senator painted a very graphic picture of the conditions that obtain at our various seaports, and spoke somewhat feelingly of the peace which, he said, has existed since this Government gazetted the first regulations giving preference to members of the Waterside Workers Federation.
All honorable senators know that for many years prior to the passing of the Transport Workers Act the trade and commerce of the Commonwealth was dislocated from time to time by the refusal of members of that organization to obey awards of the Arbitration Court.
– Work is now proceeding smoothly.
– Since the passing of the Transport Workers Act there has been continuity in our transport services, and an era of peace. But for many years previously, as the honorable senator well knows, the conditions were very disturbed, because of the defiant attitude of the waterside workers towards awards of the court. Not only did they refuse to work under conditions laid down by that tribunal, but they also, by acts of violence, prevented other men from working. There is now peace because, as Senator Reid has pointed out, the volunteer workers are law-abiding citizens. Even when an injustice is done to them, as has lately been the case by the gazettal of regulations by this Government, they do not resort to acts of violence. The Senate would be failing in its duty if it did not take a definite stand against this flagrant defiance by the Government of the statutory authority given to this chamber under the Acts Interpretation Act. Senator Daly quoted section 2 of the Transport Workers Act in support of his argument, but carefully omitted all reference to section 3 of the principal act, which authorizes the Government to make regulations. In its amended form that section now provides that regulations made under the act shall be “ not inconsistent “ with the act. The act itself provides that all workers on the waterfront shall be licensed. It contains no reference whatever to the granting of preference to any class of workers. I suggest, therefore, that the regulations gazetted recently by this Government, giving preference in employment to a certain section of workers, are absolutely inconsistent with the act, because, as I have shown, all that a person who wishes to secure employment on the waterfront has to do is to take out a licence and make application. This is a point which is worthy of consideration-
– It would be if there were any substance behind it.
– There is behind it as much substance as there was behind the argument of the honorable senator in relation to section 2. I am supporting the motion, and, at the proper time, I intend to vote for the disallowance of the regulations. I feel strongly on this matter, and will always enter my protest against any action by the Government or by Parliament which may make possible a repetition of our experience in those disastrous ‘ years prior to the passing of the Transport Workers Act. As honorable senators well know, for about seven years the transport services between Tasmania and the mainland were entirely dislocated every year just when there was a reasonable expectation of substantial revenue being secured by Tasmania from tourist and other seasonal traffic. There is peace on the waterfront to-day in spite of these regulations; but, unless a firm stand is taken by the Senate, there is a possibility of a recurrence of those outbreaks of lawlessness which, some years ago, characterized work on the waterfront.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [4.15]. - The Leader of the Senate (Senator Barnes) mentioned that there was peace on the waterfront at the present time. That is true; but the honorable gentleman knows that it is practically a peace of death, because, unless these regulations are disallowed, the volunteer workers will be prevented from securing employment on the wharfs, and will be in danger of starving to death. He knows also that, on several occasions, volunteer workers have been assaulted and mobbed by members of the Waterside Workers Federation; but, being themselves law-abiding citizens, they have not retaliated when members of the Waterside Workers Federation have been picked up for employment. That is one reason why there is peace on the waterfront. The honorable senator said, further, that the intention of the arbitration system was to encourage organizations. I fail to see what bearing that argument has upon this motion, because if awards of the Arbitration Court are to be defied with impunity - and that, I contend, is what this Government is doing in gazetting these regulations - the growth of industrial organizations will be discouraged. In any case, the volunteers are an organized body of unionists.
– Representing the employers.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.They are no more the representatives of the employers than are the members of that Shearers Union which the honorable senator has ‘been so active lately in promoting. Members of the Australian Workers Union apply to that union the term which the honorable gentleman would apply to the volunteer workers on the waterfront. I repeat that the volunteers are a registered body of trade unionists, working under awards of the Arbitration Court, and, therefore, are entitled to every consideration, even at the hands of this Government.
The Leader of the Senate overlooked entirely the- fact that the court deliberately struck out of its award preference to unionists. The honorable senator read portion of a judgment by Judge Beeby on the application to reinstate the principle of preference. I advise him to read the previous judgment, so as to be quite conversant with the reasons which actuated the court in striking out of the award all reference to preference to unionists. Senator Daly, in a somewhat involved argument, endeavoured to justify the action of the Government by stating that the previous Administration had, by legislation, limited the power of the court. I should have no objection if this Government took the same course, and introduced a measure to give effect to its industrial policy. My quarrel with the Government is that, instead of giving effect to its election pledges, it is using its regulation-making power to interfere with awards of the court. Parliament has full power to limit the ambit of the court’s functions, and legislation to this end would ‘be a perfectly legitimate exercise of that power. Senator Daly also made special reference to the conditions obtaining at Port Adelaide. I have been deluged with letters, for the most part written by waterside workers, including returned soldiers, bringing under my notice the many difficulties that confront them. One letter is from a returned soldier living in Port Adelaide.
Apparently, he is one of those who went out on strike. This is what he says -
I am glad to see the Senate are taking a firm stand. Now, to begin with two or three hundred, and my own case, I am going to state a few facts. Well, we were all union men at the outbreak of the trouble, and we could not volunteer for work, not for fear of ourselves, but for our wives and children and homes that have taken us years to get’ together. Well, we stood out with the rest and got well in debt of course, and while so doing, along came a job somewhere else which we were able to do. Of course, we took it and pleased with it. Of course we had to pay into the different unions that sent the men to work. While this was going on one of the men went and saw the union official about the wharf union. They were told it would be all right. When the job was finished they would be able to pay and square up what was owing and things would be all right. Well, when they wanted to pay up they were told that they were dumped out of the union and would not be able to get in the union again until such time as it pleased them to open their books, and then they would have to pay £5 to join again, and, of course, there is not many men in receipt of government rations has got that much to pay to join a working man’s union. Of course, there are a lot of things I could tell the Senate or the other party, but I am no good at writing letters and explaining. There is one thing I can tell you, and that is I was a staunch Labour man one time, but never more, and I can safely say the same of hundreds of others I myself have met alone. Well, to begin my case I am going to try and explain. To begin I am a native of South Australia and an honest working man. I served over three years of the war and I also hold the two transport workers’ licences, yet I am not able to join the returned men volunteers or the union, and I can tell you there are a lot of the same way.
I presume that his licence was not taken out within the period fixed by the regulations. His letter continues -
So I ask, is there not a way to let us men be able to get. work on the waterfront. We are all married men, and good men at that.
That man is barred from obtaining employment under these regulations. He is entirely unknown to me, and his letter was not in any way solicited by me. It shows that, even at Port Adelaide, there are hundreds of working men who are not in agreement with the stand that the Government is taking up or the regulations that it has brought in.
– Is there a postscript to that letter appealing for a donation?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.There is not an appeal for a donation. The letter has the ring of honesty, which suggests to me that he is not the kind of man who appeals for a donation. The fact that when he found that he could not continue his work on the wharf, on account of the strike, he obtained work elsewhere, shows that he is not the sort of man who would live on anybody else if he could avoid doing so. I read that letter as conveying an indication to the Government that it is injuring, not only the volunteers, but also other men who honestly desire to work. Obviously, there are two things wrong, one of which is that the number of men who wish to work on the wharf is considerably greater than the number required. Is there not a call for constructive statesmanship on the part of the Government in the interests of men who seek a living on the wharf, rather than for the destructive and restrictive regulations that are being brought forward? Both the volunteers and the members of the Waterside Workers Federation are working men. Instead of trying to cause still further discord and to set one class against another, why should not the Government depute a Minister to attempt to bring about a reconciliation between all the men, and to secure a working arrangement with the ship-owners under an award of the court that would assure peace on the waterfront with some measure of justice, continuity of employment, and a guarantee that we would not witness a repetition of the outbreaks on the waterfront from which Australia suffered for a period of ten years.
I have no desire to press the motion to a division, and, therefore, ask leave to withdraw it.
Motion - by leave - withdrawn.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Barnes) proposed -
That the bill be now read a first time.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [4.30]. - The motion for the first reading of this bill affords an opportunity for the discussion of matters of general interest.
I should like to know whether some general indication can be given of what is in the mind of the Government in regard to the programme which is to be placed before us. I know that it is somewhat difficult in the case of a government that is so kaleidoscopic as the present one, to make plans very far ahead; but I understand that a number of bills are coming forward that are connected with the decisions arrived at by the Premiers Conference in Melbourne, and that those measures are regarded as urgent. So far as I can judge the feeling of the Senate, I believe that they will be given a speedy passage here. But I have seen in the press the statement that the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) had indicated that the Government intends to introduce some time in July the budget for the new financial year, and that in it will be featured some of the measures under which the Government proposes to give effect to portions of the Melbourne plan. As I understand that plan, it embodies proposals for a conversion loan that will effect a general reduction of interest rates, and also proposals for the reduction of old-age, invalid, and war pensions, and the salaries of members of the Commonwealth Public Service. The budget will contain the whole of the financial proposals of the Government for the year. Obviously, it is somewhat difficult even for a government to forecast in July what is going to happen throughout the year.
I suggest, with a due sense of responsibility, that the Government should not ask the Senate hurriedly to pass an Appropriation Bill covering the whole of the financial year, within a month or two of its commencement. Should anything be needed to buttress that request, I point to the experience of the year that is just drawing to a close, and remind the Senate that we passed the last budget in August, 1930; but, as everybody knows, as events developed and the financial position became steadily worse, that budget was in no way a reflex of the financial transactions of the Government during the year, and was useless as a guide to the Parliament in relation to the expenditure to which the Government was committed and the revenue that it was likely to receive. I am not in the confidence of the Government, and do not know what are its plans. But I suggest that so much of the legislation giving effect to the decisions of the Melbourne Conference, to which the Government has committed itself, as can be separated from the budget, should be so separated, and that there should be no desire on the part of the Government to compel a hurried discussion or acceptance of the budget as such. That will not, I submit, inconvenience the Government; the Senate has never at any time shown any unwillingness to meet the convenience of the Government in passing necessary supply bills. Witu our financial position as it is, no one yet knows what is likely to be the result of the acceptance by Parliament of the proposals adopted at the recent conference of the Commonwealth and State Ministers held in Melbourne. We all have certain anticipations as to what the result will be, but the experience of the past year shows that, in financial matters, we are treading on shifting sands. Because of the abnormal conditions which now exist we cannot tell from month to mouth exactly what our financial position is likely to be. In asking Parliament to commit itself, early in the financial year, to the budget as a whole, the Government would be acting as if it could see twelve months ahead, and committing itself to estimates of revenue and expenditure covering a whole financial year. I submit that it is not wise to ask the Senate to commit itself in that way. I am not making this suggestion in a critical spirit; rather, am I urging upon the Government, in all seriousness, that, in so far as these matters can be kept separate from the budget, they should be kept separate. If we increase the sales tax or the primage duty, or reduce pensions or the salaries of public servants, those increases and reductions will be reflected in the budget; but I trust that the actual measures to give effect to those proposals will be separated from the budget, so that the Government will not have to ask the Senate to pass the budget for the next financial year in a week or a day or two, on the ground that it is urgently necessary to give immediate effect to them. It would not be fair to ask the Senate to do that, nor would it be in the interests of honorable members of another place, who, of course, are quite able to look after themselves. If that is the intention of the Government it will be acting unfairly to this chamber. I am prompted to make this suggestion, because I see in the proposed early presentation of the budget that that is possibly the intention of the Cabinet. Has the Government yet come to a decision in this matter? I quite admit that it has a most difficult path to tread, and repeat that I am not offering these suggestions in a critical spirit. I recognize that there is a tremendous lot to be foreseen, and I make this proposal in order to facilitate discussion of the measures the Government desires to pass. They should be separated from the budget. Each should be submitted on its own merits without any attempt being made to rush the budget through without that consideration which the Senate is entitled to give to it.
I submit, also, that the adoption of this suggestion would have a further important effect. We are hopeful that our credit both in Australia and abroad will be improved as a result of the action which is to be taken by the Government. If the scheme propounded by the President of the United States of America is accepted and implemented by the European nations, it may have such an important bearing upon the purchasing power of the people of Europe that our national income may be supplemented, and, perhaps within a few months, an entirely new situation may arise. That, again, is a reason why the budget should not be hurriedly passed. We should take one step at a time. The experience of the last twelve months indicates the wisdom of such a course. Before the debate closes I trust that the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Barnes) will intimate that it is the intention of the Government to act upon these lines.
Two great tasks confront Australia. One is financial reconstruction, ‘ and the other, economic re-habilitation. The Government is now tackling the problem of financial reconstruction - largely governmental - and I am heartily in accord with the steps it proposes to take. But before this country can be put properly upon its feet a phase of our economic life must be tackled. In that regard there is not a very great deal that governments can do unless it is to get out of the road and allow society to reconstruct itself. If governments will get out of the way society will re-adjust and re-construct itself much more readily than if in a paternal manner they endeavour to force the pace. I am afraid that much of our present difficulties is due to the paternal kind of legislation under which the Government is interfering with everything. I do not blame the Parliament as much as I blame the people; there has been too great a disposition on the part of the people to come to governments and parliaments for everything. But there are some things in regard to economic reconstruction which Parliament can and must do. I shall mention only two. There is first of all, the tariff. I suggest to the Government that in the matter of economic reconstruction the tariff is going to play a most important part. Apparently the Ministry has decided to insist upon the duties imposed in the tariff schedule now before another place. Its action in this regard has apparently been endorsed by a majority of members in that chamber, and if it likes the Government can pass through the House of Representatives the schedule in its present form. Knowing the Senate fairly well, I venture to say that neither that tariff schedule, nor anything like it, is going through the Senate as it stands. The Senate will insist on such an adjustment of duties as will give Australia some chance of economic reconstruction. Under such a tariff as that now before another place, this country cannot get on sound lines of economic reconstruction. The Government knows that the Senate has an undoubted and constitutional right to effectively voice its opinions with respect to the tariff, and the sooner it gives this chamber an opportunity to express its will upon the subject, the sooner we shall face the task of economic reconstruction. I would say to our friends in another place, who think as I do on fiscal matters that, having made their protests - and made them without avail - the best service they can render the country, is to let the tariff come to the Senate as quickly as possible. I feel that I am speaking for every honorable senator on this side, when I say thai we shall not unduly delay its passage through this chamber. We shall express our will and there is no doubt as to the direction in which that will will be expressed. It will be in the direction of reducing duties in a most decided way in order to ease the burden which those now in operation place upon industry. It will then be the responsibility of the Government to determine its attitude with respect to requests for amendments that will undoubtedly be made by this chamber. Whatever the intention of the Government may be, the sooner the Senate gets an opportunity to deal with the tariff - the sooner that important matter is settled one way or the other - the sooner shall we be able to enter upon a policy of economic reconstruction. The tariff is one of the fundamental principles affecting economic reconstruction, and economic reconstruction is impossible until that matter has been settled one way or the other.
Another phase of economic reconstruction is the artificial protection of industry. This Parliament cannot deal with that matter. It can be settled only by the people themselves, and they should be consulted at the earliest opportunity. It is useless to appeal to the Government in that regard, and I would not ask it to go back upon the promises which the Labour party made on the public platform. It is, however, very important that in the economic reconstruction of this country we should alter the present policy of proceeding in a vicious circle. That policy has been one of increasing the cost of production, and then raising the tariff. An increase in the tariff results in an increase in the cost of production. There is a further increase in wages, a further reduction of hours, a further improvement in labour conditions, and a yet higher cost of production. This is followed by a further increase in customs duties. And so we go round and round in this vicious circle. The old simile of a dog chasing his tail best describes the situation. This policy has been pursued without any benefit to the workers of this country. Although the nominal wage has been steadily increasing, the actual effective wage has remained stationary. The workers may have gained some advantage in the matter of hours and conditions of labour, but they have paid for it bitterly and dearly by the enormous increase in unemployment. Side by side with the tremendous increase in customs duties there has been a simultaneous increase in unemployment. We have this spectacle facing us to-day. It is a most striking object lesson to Australia, and particularly to the working man: “Whosoever will save his life shall lose it “.
That is the lesson we learn from Queensland and New South Wales. Queensland was the first State to pursue the hard road of economy and of government retrenchment. When we on this side speak of government retrenchment, our friends opposite get a cold shiver down their backs. They ask - and there appears on the surface to be some logic in their reasoning - how the position with regard to unemployment can be improved by discharging workers? They argue that dismissals will only add to the ranks of the unemployed. Similarly, they ask how unemployment can be decreased by increasing the working hours per week. In reply, I direct their attention to these two States, side by side, which have pursued exactly opposite policies. In Queensland a policy of economy has been followed to a greater extent than in any other State. Workers were discharged from the railways and from other government employment and instead of the hours of labour being shortened, the working week has been increased from 44 hours to 48 hours. Queensland suspended rural workers awards and allowed industry to have more or less free play. The New South Wales Government, on the other hand, refused to discharge surplus workers from the railways, and instead, instituted a system of rationing. It also reinstated a 44-hour week in the railway service. It refused to liberate any industry in the State from the operation of -the Arbitration Court awards. Even rural industries were not exempted from such control’. I point out, moreover, that these two opposite policies have been working in like communities - the same kind of people were affected and the two States had similar resources. It is well that the startling results of the operation of those two policies should be known to honorable senators. With like economic conditions affecting their industries, so far as the demand for, and prices of, their goods were concerned, we find that, after eighteen months’ experience of the hard road, Queensland has the lowest percentage of unemployment in Australia - 13 per cent. - whereas in New South Wales, in which State, according to the arguments of the Government, everything should be better than in Queensland, the unemployed workers represent 30 per cent., or more than two and a half times the percentage of Queensland.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.We may theorize as we like, but an ounce of fact is worth a ton of theory. These facts concerning Queensland and New South Wales stare us in the face. What is the use of weeping maudlin tears of sympathy for the unemployed if, by our actions and our voices, we continue to do things which stern facts show only increase unemployment ? If we refuse to give the necessary medicine to the patient because it is unpalatable, he will not recover.
The facts which I have given point the way that we should follow; but I despair of any appeal to the Government along those lines being successful. Senator Rae shakes his head and refuses to be converted. Even the stern logic of what is taking place in his own State, where 30 per cent, of the workers are unemployed, and the number is steadily increasing, will not shake his faith and cause him to do those things which will bring salvation to those whom he represents. Nothing short of an appeal to the people will enable us to get on the road which will lead to restoration of prosperity in this country.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE Senator Rae and myself are not one bit the worse for having in our younger days worked fairly long hours in healthy, honest employment. No one can say that 48 hours work a week in ordinary employment injures any man, either physically or morally.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Throughout Australia 48 hours a week is practically the limit. The Assistant Minister’s own State is a shocking example of the penalties which the people are paying as a result of the application of the Lang policy in restoring the 44- hour week. The Government of Queensland has shown that, by allowing a certain amount of freedom in industry, the terrible problem of unemployment can be effectively met. Unemployment in Queensland to-day is very little worse than the average for the Commonwealth before the present crisis occurred. In 1929 about 12 per cent, of the workers of Australia were unemployed ; the percentage in Queensland to-day is only 13 per cent, whereas in New South Wales it is already 30 per cent., and is increasing month by month.
No State in the Commonwealth, not even excepting Western Australia, has greater natural resources than are possessed by New South Wales. That State possesses almost every industry possible in Australia - mining, pastoral, and manufacturing. Indeed, it stands pre-eminent among the States as regards manufacturing industries. Notwithstanding its natural advantages, New South Wales has an awful story of unemployment to tell. The most tragic side of the present crisis is the increase of unemployment. To that problem every man worthy of the name of politician, let alone statesman, must devote his mind, because, unless it is grappled with, tragedy will overtake every State. Surely the example of Queensland contains some lesson for the rest of Australia: There must be some explanation of Queensland’s more favorable economic position. When I compare what has been done in the several States, I am forced to the conclusion that the policy deliberately followed by the Queensland Government, unpopular, and, theoretically, illogical as it is, is the explanation. I sympathize with those who contend that retrenchment will increase unemployment, because, on the surface, that appears to be the inevitable result. When we speak of lengthening hours it would appear that we are advocating something which will increase unemployment, because it is logical to argue that, if the working week is reduced from 48 hours to 44 hours, more men will be required to produce a certain quantity of goods. Against those theories, we have the stern facts which I have mentioned. Queensland, by pursuing a policy which, theoretically, should increase unemployment, has decreased it, whereas New South Wales, by pursuing a policy which, theoretically, should reduce unemployment, has increased it.
Of all the States, New South Wales has gone to the greatest extremes in the artificial regulation of and interference with industry. In the matter of the regulation of working hours, the fixation of wages, workers’ compensation, employers’ liability, child endowment - indeed, everything that the mind can conceive to cure our ills - New South Wales has gone the farthest. Yet any man who has a soul must groan within him when he hears the terrible stories of destitution and starvation such as I heard recently in Sydney. Notwithstanding all the efforts that are being made by the Government, through the dole and otherwise, by private charity, by the churches, and by the practical expression of that great public spirit for which every State is noted, decent working men and women and their families are suffering and starving in sunny New South Wales. During the last week-end my soul revolted at the tragedy with which it was confronted.
Why humbug ourselves into believing that by following the path indicated by the Government, we shall restore prosperity? Why not be honest with ourselves, and inquire whether after all that path is the right one? I am not dogmatic in this matter ; as a student I have earnestly endeavoured to find the right road. It appears to me, from a comparison of the effect of the policies pursued by the Governments of Queensland and New South Wales, that Queensland has pointed the way out. The conclusions which are being forced upon me are contrary to many of the ideas that I have held for many years, but the logic of facts is a sterner teacher than is any theory. There may be other explanations of Queensland’s more favorable position.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.That is so; and I realize that it means that an enormous sum of money is circulated throughout the State. The sugar embargo is, however, not the only explanation of Queensland’s greater prosperity.
SenatorFoll. - Nor does the right honorable gentleman wish to refer to the Wiluna gold mines.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.That is all to the good.
I do not apologize for having seized upon this opportunity to ventilate these matters. I again say that I hope the Government will give us some indication of what its programme is, because I think every honorable senator would like to take a very active part in the conversion loan campaign. It is a matter that cannot be very long delayed, and when Ministers are conferring I hope that Senator Barnes will point out that honorable senators do not want to be tied up with the tariff or something of that kind when, that campaign does eventuate. I think it is the desire of all honorable senators of the Opposition to be in their respective States to take part in that campaign, and urge the conversion of existing stocks into 4 per cent, securities.
SenatorR. D. ELLIOTT (Victoria) [5.7]. - I was pleased to hear Senator Pearce strike a note of warning concerning what appears to be the deliberate policy of the Government - that of waiting until the last moment before introducing measures of importance in the Senate, and allowing very little time for their consideration. For instance, we were assured that it was essential that such an important measure as that relating to the sending of £5,000,000 in gold overseas should be passed almost immediately upon its introduction. This Supply Bill, too, has come down to us at the last moment, and we are asked to get it through without delay, to enable the public services to be carried on at the end of the financial year. The Government has made almost a science of this policy of giving the Senate insufficient time for the consideration of measures.
Senator Pearce referred to the existing conditions as shifting sands, and he issued another note of warning - that the financial policy of the Government should be dealt with in a more intimate way by the Senate than is normally possible. In that connexion, I hope that something may come of his suggestion that we should not be obliged to deal with the budget in conjunction with the Melbourne conference resolutions. I wonder if the unstable and uncertain conditions in which we are living to-day may not be summed up in the following: -
Like the unsubstantial pageant of a dream the world of yesterday has drifted into the wonderful reality of the present; but now already the landmarks by which men set their course melt and grow misty before their eyes.
I am afraid that the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) is optimistic in regard to the separate consideration of the Commonwealth budget from the measures to give effect to the Melbourne conference resolutions. Any one who can read between the lines may see that it is the intention of the Government to confuse the issue by not having its budget dealt with on its own merits.
I am not so optimistic as Senator Pearce is as to the results likely to be achieved by giving effect to the Melbourne conference resolutions; because, desirable as these results may be, we are not likely to get anywhere so long as the present Government is in office. A discredited government, like a discredited individual, can get nowhere, regardless of how good its intentions may be. The situation is plainly indicated by the financial authorites on the other side of the world, and it may be interesting to quote the opinion expressed by the London Observer in its issue of the 17th May. It is as follows : -
The Senate has rejected the bill reducing Australia’s statutory gold reserve. After Sir Robert Gibson’s evidence, the vote was inevitable, and debate was limited to the Opposition Leader’s speech. The Senate’s action does not produce a crisis, as another bill authorizing shipments of gold to meet obligations would be in order, and might pass. Besides, Australia could renew her bills in London on tolerable terms if a National Government- as distinct from a Nationalist Government with an agreed financial policy were formed before the debt becomes duo.
Any one who has recently been to the other side of the world realizes that that is the general impression of our position in the minds of responsible people in Great Britain to-day. The insecurity of tenure among employers and employees, brought about by the actions of the Commonwealth Government, has had the effect of shaking the confidence of people overseas in this country, and it will not be restored while the present party is in control of the treasury benches.
Senator Pearce also urged that the Government should keep out of enterprise. We have not to look very far to find that the effect of governmental participation in industry is to kill the enterprise of the individual. That country is greatest which gives full play to the skill, energy and intelligence of its people in the development of its resources. The effect of the policy of interference in enterprise on the part of the Commonwealth Government is to put people in the position of refusing to take added responsibilities upon themselves. To-day, because the future is too uncertain,’ very few honorable senators would care to take upon themselves one additional burden, even if it meant assisting in the development of Australia’s great national resources. Nothing that the present Government has done inspires confidence. Its efforts have achieved the opposite result. Even the figures in regard to the unemployed are unstable. A month ago I heard the Prime Minister say that the number of unemployed in Australia was 300,000, with 700,000 dependants. But last week he said that the number was 360,000, and a few days later, the Attorney-General said that it was 400,000. Are Ministers proud of the way in which these “ magnificent “ figures are going up ? Or are they showing an utter disregard for the misery of hundreds of thousands of people in Australia to-day? It almost looks as if they are clutching these people in their hands, squeezing their life-blood out of them and watching it with joy as it drips to the earth.
The party which occupies the treasury benches to-day is misnamed. It calls itself the Labour party, but it has done so much to bring about the present state of unemployment in Australia, and it is showing such an utter disregard for the unemployed, that it has no further right to sail under false colours or claim to be representative of the working people of this country.
– Although I do not admit the correctness of the honorable senator’s statement, I will say that any party has a right to coalesce with another in order to help the country out of its difficulties and bring about a decrease in unemployment. Honorable senators of the Opposition realize that their duty is to the Commonwealth, no matter into whose hands the reins of government may fall. While they regret keenly the growing list of starving in this country, so well endowed with natural resources, they realize that thousands of people have not the wherewithal to live because of the restrictions imposed by the present Government.
– The honorable senator surely does not hold the Australian Labour Party responsible for the unemployment throughout the world?
– Our country is too well endowed with natural resources to compare the position here with the general world position. If they had any vision at all, our Ministers would be seeking an outlet for our primary products, instead of being content to sit back. They have certainly asked the farmers to produce more wheat, but they have done nothing to create a market for that wheat. There are still great markets, even in the United Kingdom, for Australian products, and, notwithstanding the dumping of the produce of certain other countries, we are still able to compete in the British market. That is, however, a subject it would take me too long to deal with to-day, although I may say that the officials at Australia House are totally inadequate to express even the conditions in Australia.
– Who made the contracts with the men in Australia House?
– I understand that an influential supporter of the Ministry has submitted a report on Australia House which cannot be misunderstood by any one. Even if there are contracts which have to be observed there are ways by which men can be retired or brought back to Australia to make way for men with keener minds and intellects who can adequately represent Australia at the heart of the Empire. If ever there was a time when Australia needed adequate representation at the heart of the Empire it is to-day.
As indicated by the right honorable Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce), governmental participation in industry kills development, and, as a consequence, removes all possibility of relieving the great unemployment problem we have in Australia to-day. The initiative of the private individual is necessary for a country’s success. The more a government keeps in the background, making way for the initiative and courage of the individual, the better for every one concerned. Prosperity is created by producers and traders so that politicians can take the credit. The most business-like thing our Government can do is to keep entirely out of business, giving scope to the initiative of the individual.
The Leader of the Opposition also appealed for the consideration of the tariff in this chamber at as early a date as possible. Knowing nothing of the working of the Government’s mind, of course, I am really not in a position to express an opinion, but if Ave can judge the future by the past, I prophesy that the tariff will be discussed in this chamber well after Christmas. In another place, Ministers are deliberately delaying the passage of the tariff. They are bringing forward certain measures as a result of the Melbourne conference, and very soon they will discover that it is quite impossible for them to put these measures into operation while Parliament is sitting, and so they will get supply and seek an adjournment. I am afraid they will remain in office until something radical is done by the Senate to show that we interpret the view of the people of Australia, which is that they have no longer confidence in the present Government, and that they realize there will be no development in Australia until the present Government gets out of office. There is a responsibility upon honorable senators to-day.
– Will the honorable senator coalesce with Ministers?
– Just as the present Government is unable to interpret the views of the people of Australia, upon the proper way in which affairs should be conducted, I am unable to interpret the words used by the honorable senator.
It may be of interest to take a bird’s-eye view of the financial position of Australia. According to statements of either the Prime Minister or the Treasurer, while our revenue has declined by 28 per cent, in the last eleven months, governmental expenditure has decreased by only 2 per cent. This Government waited until the Commonwealth was on the brink of a financial precipice before it took any action to stop the drift. Consequently, I am afraid that it will be impossible for the Senate to give to the hurried legislation which will be before this chamber shortly, that mature consideration which the serious position of Australia demands. We are told that our national income has declined to the extent of £200,000,000, and that all governmental expenditure has gone up from £187,000,000 to £198,000,000, an increase since 1927-28 of £11,000,000. We are informed further that the total deficits of the Commonwealth and all the States, at the end of the present financial year, will be in the vicinity of £30,000,000, and that the deficit of the Commonwealth is estimated at £14,000,000. I am afraid that when the final figures are presented, our total deficit will be nearer £17,000,000. Our short-term debt amounts to £63,000,000. The Prime Minister has admitted that our credit overseas has been stopped, and the Australian banks have intimated that they cannot give further accommodation. Mr. Scullin has told us that when he was in London in September of last year, he opened up negotiations with financial authorities there for the funding of our floating debt in the United Kingdom, and there appeared to be every prospect of success until the press of the Mother Country published cable reports of certain utterances by the radical section of the Australian Labour Party. As a result, Commonwealth credit completely vanished. Our position is in marked contrast to that of the Dominion of Canada. Only a week or two ago the Canadian Government went on the market with a 4$ per cent, conversion loan of £51,500,000 to redeem a maturing 5£ per cent. loan. It was oversubscribed in 24 hours, notwithstanding the fact that the new issue was subject to taxation. By way of contrast, our 5£ per cent, securities due this year are quoted at a price which gives a return to the investor of £21 12s. 6d. per cent.
We have no hope of funding our floating debt on satisfactory terms while the present Government remains in office. This Ministry is not actuated by any sincerity of purpose for the working people of this country. If it were it would take definite action to stop the drift in finances or, failing an appeal to the people, throw responsibility upon the Opposition in this Parliament. This could be done without jeopardizing the decisions of the Melbourne conference, because the Government is already committed to support the resolutions of that gathering. Even if this Parliament does pass the necessary emergency measures its apparent lack of sincerity will prevent it from giving full effect to a policy calculated to rehabilitate this country. By refusing to give public servants an opportunity to participate in the sacrifices necessary to restore the finances of the nation the Government has almost discredited the Public Service of the Commonwealth. I am quite sure that if the Government had frankly placed its difficulties before the various organizations of the Public Service all Commonwealth employees would have willingly consented to help the Government. I believe that a change of Government would mean a substantial reduction in the volume of legislation. I could almost wish that our substantial reduction in the volume of this chamber, would follow the lead of a clergyman, who, in opening a session of Parliament in America, is credited with having said - “ O Lord, give us fewer and wiser laws “.
– Surely the honorable senator does not expect wiser laws from this Government?
– Frankly, I do not. With this Government, drift instead of drive, seems to be the order of the day. As has been suggested by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce), we very badly need faith and initiative, if we are to stop the financial rot that has set in. The drift will not be checked by this Government. I wish I could feel that it’ sincerely represented the interests of the working classes. Unhappily, I have many opportunities to realize how our working people are suffering. I happen to have an office in Melbourne, and not a day passes without my being interviewed by fifteen or twenty starving men who are desperately searching for work and are grateful for ls. or 2s. to help them on their way. I have looked, recently, into the eyes of 1,000 or 1,500 unemployed persons - men and women with hollow cheeks - and I could not help feeling that if this Government were sincere in its purpose, there would be some hope for these unfortunate people. But we know only too well that nothing of a practical nature will be done for them while this Ministry occupies the treasury bench. To believe in the inevitable logic of events is as dangerous as it is to leave things to chance. That, unfortunately, is what this Government has been doing ever since it assumed office.
I am wondering if honorable senators realize that our public debt per head of population is £180 or per family of five persons, £900, and that the interest liability per family is £45 per year-
– It is a shame. The annual interest bill on the public debt is somewhere in the vicinity of £59,000,000, plus exchange, and the weekly interest charge is £1,250,000. The net cost of all governments in Australia is £152,500,000. The Commonwealth is responsible for £84,000,000, the States £120,000,000, and municipal authorities £36,000,000. This makes a total of £240,000,000, but if we deduct certain revenues amounting to £88,000,000, the net cost is £152,500,000. This means that in 1929 the cost of government per head was £23, and per family of five, £115.
I am wondering also if all of us understand fully what a restoration of confidence would mean to individual citizens, apart from the effect which it would have upon our ability to fund our floating debt. Do we realize that, if every Australian citizen with a savings bank account released 5s. per week, there would be an increase in the circulation of money in Australia amounting to £1,250,000 a week?
– What about the New South Wales Government Savings Bank ?
– This Government, I regret to think, is doing little or nothing to overcome the difficulty in New South Wales, due to the closing of the State Government Savings Bank. It stands idly by watching the misery and hardship inflicted upon depositors. Up to the present it has done practically nothing to relieve the situation. It is disgraceful that one of the greatest financial institutions in Australia should have been forced to close its doors. This Government issued writs against the Governmen t of New South Wales in. connexion with its default to the Commonwealth but, up to date, it has not executed the writs. Again we have ample evidence of a positive lack of regard for the public welfare or any evidence of sincerity of purpose on the part of this Government.
But I am digressing from the point to which I was directing attention, namely, the effect upon the Commonwealth of a restoration of confidence in governments. If confidence had been restored by definite action in regard to the New South Wales Savings Bank, the depositors in that institution would to-day be operating their accounts to the undoubted benefit of the people of Australia. If every person in this country were to spend an extra ls. per week, this would mean the circulation of an additional £17,000,000 per year, and if there were an extra expenditure of ls. per day, a circulation of £120,000,000 per annum. Consider what would be the effect of that additional money in circulation upon the unemployment problem. Unfortunately, because we have in power a government in which the people have lost confidence; they will not spend one penny more than is necessary to meet their current needs.
The present position of the Commonwealth is, to a great extent, pyschological. I firmly believe that a change of government would be immediately reflected in London financial circles. We had a clear indication of the psychological effect of strong government action in the cabled announcement this week, following the decision of the Prime Minister and the Premiers of the
States to pass legislation to make budget equilibrium possible at a comparatively early date. I feel sure, therefore, that with the restoration of confidence, which must follow even a change of government, there would be an immediate increase in employment, due to an expansion of private enterprise.
Unfortunately, Australia is not a free country. We are, as has (been said, suffering from an overdose of democracy. The present Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, not so long ago said that democracy would be a very fine thing if it were not for the damned democrats! With this I do not necessarily agree. Australia, I repeat, is not a free country, because men who are willing, and anxious to work, are not allowed to work. Enterprise is stifled and the development of our resources retarded. This Government, in defiance of the Senate has, during the last six or seven weeks, gazetted a number of regulations dealing with the waterside industry. By its action in this direction it has deliberately taken from certain men the right to secure employment. In the crisis of 1893 the worker was not prevented from securing employment. To-day in some industries at all events, work is reserved for the favoured few, representing in the main, the extreme element in trade unionism. I wish it to be clearly understood that I am not antagonistic to the principle of trade unionism, but certainly I am strongly opposed to the vicious principle which denies to many men the right to earn a livelihood.
I am afraid that we are not all fully aware of the artificial conditions under which we are living. Instead of attempting to develop our economic resources, we are doing the very reverse, and at the present time, unfortunately, the reins of government are held by a political party misnamed the Labour party. As the result of legislation framed in recent years, we have lost our Fiji trade altogether, and we are losing our trade with New Zealand at the rate of £500,000 a year. In 1922 our exports to New Zealand were valued at £6,250,000. Last year they were worth only £2,824,000. This is the direct result of that false economic policy which the Commonwealth Parliament has been pursuing in recent years. That policy, I contend,is largely responsible for the increase in unemployment in this country. In the one market that surely is natural to us, we are being eclipsed by New Zealand. That is proved by a comparison of our exports and hers to the United Kingdom in the year 1930. In that year we exported frozen mutton and lamb to the value of £1,487,542, while New Zealand exported to the value of £10,934,279-
– They specialize in that.
SenatorR. D. ELLIOTT.- But this is a sheep country.
– It is rather a wool country, which is a different thing.
SenatorR. D. ELLIOTT.- Other export figures are as follow: -
These figures are an indelible reflection on the uneconomic way in which we are working to-day.
I feel that this Senate has a very great responsibility to the working people. I hope that, under the able guidance of the Leader of the Opposition, if it is able to come to the rescue of those who have been deserted by the party which is supposed to represent them, it will see that there is made available that opportunity which this country offers to every person who lives in it, provided we can abolish our uneconomic economics.
The Leader of the Opposition touched upon tariff items. I agree with what he said, and hope that when the tariff schedule reaches this chamber - which I think will be some time after next Christmas - drastic but sensible changes will be made in it. It is interesting to note that in 1908 there were only eight items of 40 per cent, and over. In 1928 that number had increased to 259, and by 1931 the total was 580.
We are told that that is the way to create employment for our working people ! But what are the facts? In 1929 only 9.3 per cent, of the members of 397 trade unions were out of employment, but in 1930, under the present Government, the percentage increased to 14.6, and this year it is 25.8. In 1929 our population was 6,336,940. The number of people engaged in actual production totalled 917,000, of whom 466,603 were engaged in rural industries. They produced goods to the value of £288,000,000, of which £137,000,000 worth were exported. In secondary manufacturing industries 450,482 persons were employed. They produced goods valued at £159,000,000, of which only £4,000,000 worth was exported. Those figures include the results of mining operations. Our imports in that year amounted to £143,000,000.
It is interesting to note that although only 917,000 persons were actually engaged in production, we had a civil service list numbering 226,548, which incidentally included 112,000 railway employees. I wonder that the Premiers Conference, which was held recently, did not investigate the railway situation in Australia, as a means of relieving the present financial drain on this country. The capital expenditure upon our railway systems totals £334,000,000, and last year the loss on those railways fell short of the total deficits of the State governments by only £30,000. The average wage of the 112,000 railway employees is £289 per annum. Apparently it is considered easier to tax those who are supposed to have substantial incomes, the fact being overlooked that to-day industry is bled white by taxation. We shall not develop enterprises in this country if taxation is regarded as the only means of increasing the revenue of the Government. Since this Government has been in power, we have not had from it one constructive suggestion in regard to industry, agriculture, marketing, employment, or the general future of the country. Is that because of inexperience, or merely because of a desire not to look further than our immediate troubles, but to approach right to the brink of disaster, and then to bring down legislation that has to be passed rapidly through both chambers of this legislature?
– Will the honorable senator give his solution of the railway problem?
– Has any consideration been given to the question of transferring our railway system, even at a considerable sacrifice of capital outlay, to private enterprise? Honorable senators on the Government side laugh at that suggestion, because they have not looked into railway management in other parts of the world. Under private enterprise it would be found that railways were managed without interference by governments or political bodies. The example would be followed that has been set by private enterprise in railway management in the United Kingdom, South Africa, Canada, the United States of America, and even in India. Even if the transfer involved the sacrifice of as much as one half of the capital outlay it would pay Australia. We should then have that individual initiative which the Leader of the Opposition emphasized as being so necessary for the development of this country. It would create opportunities for the development of our resources away from the capital cities, in order to provide freights. There is food for thought in this suggestion.
In conclusion, I would say that from the top to the bottom of the nation it is our business to face the facts, whatever they may be, and to work for all we are worth in the spirit of the pioneers, who did so much for Australia in so short a space of time.
– I followed with interest the statement of the Leader of the Opposition with respect to the relative position of Queensland and New South Wales. I confess that I was astonished that he should be so lacking in economic knowledge as to consider it a strange and an inexplicable fact that the lengthening of hours and the reducing of wages should bring comparative prosperity to a State which acted along those lines. The right honorable senator said that at first sight it would appear as though a reduction of hours and a raising of wages left people better off. The astounding fact to him is that the skittling of awards in rural industries, with the consequent lengthening of hours and lowering of wages, resulted in fewer persons being unemployed in Queensland than in the neighboring State of New South Wales, where the hours had been reduced and wages had been more or less maintained. The amazement expressed by the right honorable senator proves him to be the possessor of a very superficial knowledge of scientific economies, of which he endeavoured to convince the Senate that he bad a thorough understanding. He has an advantage over me in having looked up the facts before he dealt with them, whereas I am unacquainted with them. But on two occasions during this year I have been in Queensland, and I have also visited two or three of the other States. While in Brisbane I noticed that the building trade was much more active there than in Sydney - or, for that matter, in Melbourne. From inquiries made in Brisbane I concluded that one factor, which has a more important bearing on the lower percentage in Queensland than anything cited by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce), is that land values in that city are astonishingly lower than those in corresponding situations in Sydney.
Apart from the world crisis, one of the principal causes of the depression in Australia is the boom land values which have affected, particularly, New South Wales during the last few years.
– Relatively, the land values in Brisbane and Sydney are the same.
– The valuations are not at all in proportion. I can cite an instance of a block of land in Queenstreet, Brisbane, that was recently sold for £200 a foot, while similar land in Sydney has been sold at £1,500, and, in the case of many other sites, up to £1,000 a foot.
– Including a big building.
– No; I am giving only the price of the land. Land values in Sydney and the metropolitan area increased to a tremendous extent, and during the same time, building operations became so active that £7,000,000 or £8,000,000 was being annually spent on new buildings, resulting in over-building and empty offices and shops. The position which developed was similar to that which followed the reaction of boom values some years ago. I know of a man who paid £1,200 for a house, which was later sold for £500 or £600. That was a reaction to the boom values created during recent years.
Senator R. D. Elliott referred to the great depression which occurred in 1893, and said that at that time people could obtain work. Although at the time to which the honorable senator referred, I was living in Sydney, I spent some time in Melbourne, and can remember Bourke-street being practically deserted. For several years after the land boom, in 1S89 and 1890, people flocked out of Victoria by tens of thousands. One land and estate agent informed me that, during the depression in 1S93, 11,000 houses in South Melbourne alone were empty. If that was the position, it is useless to say that there was no unemployment.
– Were there 11,000 houses in South Melbourne at that time?
– As I was assisting in an election campaign at the time, I can vouch for the accuracy of my statement. I am well well aware that there was acute depression, and considerable unemployment in all the States, particularly in New South Wales and Victoria, where the depression was most marked, and that tens of thousands were out of work. That crisis may not have lasted so long as the present depression is likely to last; it was not world-wide, and relief could be obtained by travelling from one country to another.
– It was the banks and not the governments which were responsible for that crisis.
– The operations of banks and governments are inter-related. That the banks dictate the policy of governments is shown by the fact that this Government and others have been compelled to surrender to the will of the banking institutions.
– Is that why the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales closed its doors?
– I may inform the honorable senator that had the Chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board, Sir Robert Gibson, made the public pronouncement he did two or three weeks before that bank ceased payment, instead of several weeks after, that bank would not have been compelled to close its doors. He said that the assets of that bank were ample to meet all its liabilities, but that some mischievous and foolish people had caused a run on its funds. He further said that had the people not become panic-stricken they would have been able to get their money.
– The closing of that bank was consequent upon the return of the Lang Government.
– Nothing of the kind. Sir Robert Gibson said that the bank had ample securities to meet all its liabilities ; but, of course, they were not sufficiently liquid to combat the run. During the last twelve months the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales paid out approximately £20,000,000. I ask those great advocates of private enterprise how many private banks could stand such a strain without having to close down. At the time of the bank smash in New South Wales the City Bank, which was in a shaky position, was one of four trading banks which remained open. The then Premier of the State told the representatives of the other trading banks that the legislation he proposed to introduce to relieve the situation would not be proceeded with unless they prevented the remaining banks from closing. These banks then rushed their currency to the City Bank and prevented its closing. There is no doubt that if the Commonwealth Bank had acted in the same way towards the Savings Bank of New South Wales, that bank would still be open. Apparently, it had no desire to do so, but on the contrary, wished it to close.
– Why should it wish to do so?
– I am firmly of the opinion that those in control of the Commonwealth Bank exulted in the fact that the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales was compelled to close. Sir Robert Gibson, who holds a position which gives him the reputation of being an able financier, could have saved the rush had he made a public pronouncement a few weeks earlier.
– Did not the Commonwealth Bank assist the Government Savings Bank to the extent of £2,000,000?
– I understand that the day before the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales closed a sum of money was rushed over, but it was then too late.
The Leader of the Opposition said that there were two ways in which this country could be helped to return to prosperity. One was by a reduction in customs duties, and the other by giving effect to certain economic proposals. In my opinion, the tariff is closely associated with economics. The Leader of the Opposition advocated less governmental interference, more scope for private enterprise, and more freedom, if necessary, for the exploitation of the workers by reducing wages and increasing hours. At the same time, he advocated a retention of the arbitration system which deals with wages, hours, overtime, the division of labour, and everything associated with industry. In one instance we find the right honorable senator advocating strict adherence to arbitration which controls every activity of labour, and at the same time arguing that there should be less governmental interference in industry. But I have been denounced because I have advocated that the workers should have more freedom than is permitted under the arbitration system. We have been informed that shorter hours and higher wages have resulted in a greater degree of unemployment in New South Wales than exists in Queensland. It is unreasonable to say that, because two sets of circumstances exist, one is necessarily the cause of the other. Unemployment is not unusual in any country or State. I have known New Zealand to be in such a depressed state that tens of thousands of people have left that dominion to come to Australia, where there happened to be more employment. On one occasion, when coming from New Zealand, when trade was bad and employment scarce, I found the steerage accommodation on every steamer coming to Australia over-crowded. Later on the position was reversed. The Moore Government, in Queensland, which has brought about retrenchment, has cancelled rural awards, and has reduced the wages of men on the railways, has been in office for only two years. As it did not bring its present policy into effect at once, it could not be responsible for the difference between 13 per cent, and 30 per cent, in the matter of unemployment in the course of eighteen months. It must be a government composed of geniuses, if in that short period it has accomplished all these things. Whether a government increases or reduces wages, or lengthens or shortens the working hours, its action is governmental interference in industry. The Moore Government could not have accomplished all these things at once.
– One of its first acts was to suspend the rural workers’ award.
– The other actions of the Moore Government required legislative sanction. It took time to get the necessary legislation through Parliament. The right honorable senator has omitted to say that when the Lang Government last came into power in New South Wales it found the Treasury empty, and the fund for the relief of unemployment, which was inaugurated by the Bavin Government, overdrawn to the extent of £500,000 ; whereas when the Moore Government entered upon its term of office in Queensland it took over a surplus of about £5,000,000.
– There was a surplus, but it was not as great as the honorable senator has stated.
– In addition to the surplus left by its predecessors, the Moore Government was able to draw upon a loan fund. One government inherited a legacy of debt; the other inherited a substantial credit.
– Notwithstanding the existence of a surplus, the Queensland Government almost immediately put its retrenchment policy into operation.
– Nevertheless, that Government had a much better start than the Lang Government had.
The better position of Queensland to-day is probably due to other factors than the retrenchment policy of the Moore Government. The right honorable gentleman says that there is a Nationalist Government in Queensland; that it inaugurated a policy of retrenchment; that there is now less unemployment in Queensland than in New South Wales, where a similar policy was not followed; and he then arrives at the conclusion that that favorable result is due entirely to the retrenchment that took place. Other causes might have contributed to that result. The Leader of the Opposition admits that the Moore Government took over a surplus from its predecessors, and that Queensland benefits considerably from the sugar embargo. In my opinion, the favorable position of Queensland is due more to the sugar embargo than to anything else. The highly-protected sugar industry is confined almost entirely to Queensland, and that State controls the price of sugar. The sugar industry affords as good an example as it is possible to find of government interference in an industry bringing prosperity to those engaged in it. I do not say that the policy adopted in the case of the sugar industry could be followed generally. It is clear that other, industries help to keep the sugar industry going; the Commonwealth as a whole subsidizesan industry which is confined to one portion of its territory. It is curious that those who declaim most against governmental interference in industry are the most ardent supporters of the sugar embargo. They know that if they voted against government assistance to that industry, they would not again be returned to this Parliament.
The right honorable senator also referred to the greater freedom that exists in other countries in regard to conditions in industry, and said that in Australia, paternal government had been carried to excess. The United States of America is a country which is an example in excelsis of private enterprise : in no other country does individualism make a greater appeal. Honorable senators will not deny that the United States of America has far greater resources than are possessed by Australia. It has huge natural advantages in the shape of magnificent navigable rivers, and has huge deposits of coal, iron, oil and copper ; while it is admirably suited to the production of sugar, cotton and other products. Indeed, of many of the products used in both art and industry throughout the world, the United States of America supplies nearly 50 per cent. Its great cities, instead of being confined to the seaboard, as is the case in Australia, are scattered throughout the country. Yet with all these natural advantages there are 8,000,000 persons unemployed in the United States of America, while 20,000,000 more are in only partial employment. In the face of these facts Senator Elliott contends that we should go a long way towards solving our financial problems by selling our railways for half their capital value. I remind him that the railways of Great Britain do not pay to-day, and that only by the granting of governmental assistance from time to time indirectly by means of legislative enactments have they ever paid. Similarly, the railways of the United States of America and Canada have paid only because vast areas of the people’s land have been given to them on the land grant system. Not many years ago a number of the private railways of Canada were nationalized to prevent them from becoming bankrupt.
Another point about this insane idea of selling our railways which, in my opinion, is more serious than any that I have mentioned, is that it puts into the hands of private owners an immense political power which they would not hesitate to use to their own advantage.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to S p.m.
– I was extremely pleased to hear what Senator R. D. Elliott had to say about the probable effect of a change of government. It was most refreshing. If he believes that a mere change of government from Labour to Nationalist will restore confidence it is a tribute to his political innocence. The trouble to-day is not a lack of confidence in governments, but a universal lack of confidence in the system under which we are living. “What Senator Pearce said about the tariff may be appropriate; no doubt tariff revision is required, but I do not think that any honorable senator is in a position to affirm that a mere fiscal system will provide a remedy for the great financial crisis which has afflicted the whole world. There are all degrees of tarffism in force - from allegedly freetrade and revenue tariffs up to the most pronounced protectionist - and none of them provide a panacea for the ills that have overcome mankind. While the effects of government may accentuate the crisis and make conditions worse in one country than in another, other factors of greater importance play their part. These are fundamental factors which in our party strife we are apt to overlook. I agree with Senator Elliott that our allegedly Labour Government has done nothing substantial to relieve unemployment, and I do not think that all its newfound plans will have any better result. An opportunity will be afforded to us later to debate those measures.
– The Labour Government has done nothing in England in that direction.
– It is not for want of trying, but I do not think that the Labour Government of England has tried on right lines. The proof of the pudding, they say, is in the eating thereof, and evidently Labour has failed as the honorable member says. The fact that the depression in Great Britain has been accentuated in nearly every department of industry, goes to show that its causes are much deeper than can be accounted for by the mere differences between parties in control of a nation’s affairs. Every government attributes the obstacles it meets to the sins of its predecessors, and every opposition declares that it is the fault of the Government that prevents prosperity from being brought about. I think, however, that the fact that a world crisis exists, and that every country is suffering to a greater or less degree, goes to show that there are causes at work much more fundamental than we are willing to admit in the ordinary discussion of these matters. I think that those who believe that there is to be some relief from the Hoover offer are anticipating more than is likely to be realized, but I trust it will lead to a permanent cessation of war debt payments. A clean slate in that direction throughout the world would do something to remove the present crisis; but I am profoundly convinced that the capitalistic system must be destroyed before any better system can be erected in its place. I, therefore, offer no apology for saying that the measures by which we are attempting to cope with the present crisis are a mere tinkering with a grave evil. They can do nothing but prolong the agony a little longer.
– Would the honorable senator prefer a Soviet system?
SenatorRAE. - I am not wedded to names or shibboleths. What I aim at is the substitution of our system of production of wealth for profit by a system of production of wealth for use, and until that is brought about whatever else we do is mere paltering with the grave questions we have to face.
.- I do not intend to follow the remarks made by SenatorRae, because I think it is better to get down to something like bedrock than to indulge in visions such as he probably had in his mind when he advocated the abolition of the capitalistic system. I am pleased that the Leader of the Opposition issued a word of warning to the people -of Australia that, although it is necessary for us to have considerable financial relief in Australia in order that we may be enabled to turn the corner, legislation such as that which has been proposed, will merely be a palliative instead of a remedy. We all realize that financially we are in great difficulties, and that we have by every means at our command to devise financial relief which will help materially towards the solution of many of our difficult problems. But if we rely only on that it appears to me that within a few years’ time we shall have a recurrence of the same condition of affairs, and we shall have to go over the whole thing again.
Many causes have brought Australia to its present position. Any one who goes about with his eyes open cannot fail to recognize that many of the things we have built up, honestly believing them to be in the best interests of the Commonwealth, have turned out to be our greatest handicaps. During the last fifteen years we have established our community on an absolutely false basis. I do not suggest that we are able to bring about a reconstruction immediately by abolishing all those things that have tended to bring us to this condition, but I am confident that if we set our minds to the gradual elimination of those things which have proved to be harmful to the community, such action on our part, combined with the financial relief we hope to obtain very shortly, will help to improve conditions in Australia. An absolute essential is economic reconstruction.
We have been blessed with the finest country in the world. In my opinion, there are more blessings to the square inch in Australia than there are to the square foot in any other country, and because these blessings have come to us without our having to strive and battle for them, because we have enjoyed the protection of the Old Country, and have been able to develop our resources up to a certain point, we have imagined ourselves to be the chosen people of the earth, entitled to have a higher standard of living than any other country in the world, and to ignore, responsibilities that every country has to the rest of the world. A large section of our people have been brought up in the belief that Australia can be a self-contained country. It was never intended by the Creator that our country should be selfcontained. We must realize that we are part of the human family spread over the face of the earth, and that every section of that family owes something to every other section. Any country that tries to bolster itself up by a policy of exclusion inevitably fails in the end. We should have been in a totally different position to-day if that policy had not been so noticeable in Australia during the last fifteen years, and if a contrary policy, that no people should expect to receive anything unless they work for it, had been advocated throughout the length and breadth of this country, and accepted by the majority. Had that policy been accepted, with all the advantages Australia possesses, provided the people had been imbued with the right spirit, we should have been able to stand up against this adversity which has struck the whole world much better than any other country. Unfortunately, this period of adversity has come upon us when our people are weakened by extravagance, by a standard of living that instead of making them better men and women has made them selfish in their ideals, their only object in life being to get as much pleasure, as they term it, as they can, without any recognition of the duty they owe to their fellows. I have no desire to be too harsh in my statements, but we must face the facts. I find that the doctrine is being preached to the workers that the less they do the better it is for their fellows; that they should do as little as possible and demand as much as possible for it, thus forcing up the cost of living and creating further demands for easier times - from their point of view - shorter hours, and higher wages. That sort of thing could never have lasted so long as it has in any other country but Australia without that country meeting with disaster.
– The honorable senator has nothing to say about the idle rich.
– The honorable senator would probably class among the idle rich the men who pioneered Australia, the men who endured hardships in their day, who because they were content to have only the things they needed and refrained from getting the things they desired, have helped to build up this country.
– I am not speaking of the pioneers ; they are all dead now.
– Some people might call Senator Rae one of the idle rich because he earns £900 a year.
– Some might put him in that category. I have heard men describe as idle rich all who are not actual workers. I know that many of the so-called idle rich condemned by Senator Rae are the mainstays of the districts in which they reside. The care they exercised in their working days has enabled them to provide the necessary cash for the establishment and maintenace of many industries in their districts, thus providing employment. Senator Rae has an enmity against capital of all kinds.
– I have no enmity against capital.
– The honorable senator certainly showed it by his references to the capitalistic system.
– My enmity is against capitalism.
– What is the difference? Every one knows that the country with the greatest amount of capital, provided it is wisely used, is the most prosperous. Capital is given to us so that it may be used for the benefit of the community, and as a rule it is. Some misers may hoard their money, so that it cannot be employed for the general use, but they are very few, indeed. The average man who has a little capital invests it, and it is, therefore, available for use in the development of industry.
All these matters have to be gone into very fully and closely. They form a very important part of the investigations that will have to be made into matters affecting the Commonwealth, and if out of these investigations we can bring into existence a community which, instead of being of a jelly-fish, spineless kind, is composed of units giving of the best to the country in whatever occupations they are following, it will not be very long before Australia turns the corner and we can see brighter days ahead. Much of our present trouble is due to the policy of restricting output, under instructions from industrial organizations, and also to the high tariff, to which the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition has referred. I am afraid that there is not a full appreciation of the harm that has been done to this country by the tariff proposals of this Government. At the last election a definite promise was given to the people that, if Labour were returned to power, prompt action would be taken to deal with the unemployment problem. The means adopted have been the imposition of high duties for the purpose of bolstering up inefficient industries, thus impeding the development of the Commonwealth and increasing unemployment. It is high time that we called a halt.
I have always been in favour of a sane protective policy, a policy which would give to Australian industries sufficient protection against outside competition, but which, at the same time, would ensure industrial efficiency. Apparently, that is not the objective of this Government. Its one aim appears to be to impose a tariff that will have the effect of excluding the manufactured products of other countries, not even excepting Great Britain. This policy is not in the best interests of the Commonwealth. To cite a case in point, I may say that, within the last twelve months I have, on several occasions, directed attention to the imposition of what is really a prohibitive tariff on window glass. I have pointed out, that as this particular commodity is not being manufactured in Australia, the higher duties press heavily upon the people. In yesterday’s edition of the Sydney Morning Herald, I read a statement made by the chairman of the Australian Glass Manufacturing Company, at the general meeting of that concern in Sydney, to the effect that the company’s plant was now practically completed, but it was not yet ready to start manufacturing. This bears out what I said nearly twelve months ago. Without reference to the Tariff Board this Government imposed a duty equivalent to at least six times the amount of the British preferential tariff then in force. As the result, the price of window glass in Sydney was immediately advanced 15s. per case, and in Melbourne fi per case. The higher duty enabled merchants who were holding large stocks to reap extra profits, while the unfortunate tomato-growers, who use a large quantity of this glass for the protection of their crops, had to pay the higher prices demanded.
The inclusion in the bill of certain provision for the Tariff Board gives me an opportunity to protest against the attitude of the Government towards that body. It has repeatedly ignored, not only the spirit, but also the letter of the law. The act stipulates that all requests for any alteration to the tariff shall be referred to the Tariff Board for investigation and report. It is not competent for the Minister to take action in respect of any duties without reference to that body, although it does not necessarily follow that he must accept its recommendations. It merely provides that he can take no action with respect to the imposition of tariff duties until he has received the report of the board upon the specified items which have been submitted to that body. This Government has mot done that. The present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) has introduced schedule after schedule containing in all, between 400 and 500 tariff items, very few of which were referred to the board.
– The new duties imposed may be regarded as an instruction to the board.
– I do not suggest that. From my knowledge of members of the board, I am sure that they would not take instructions from any Minister. The point which I desire to emphasize is that, in imposing these new duties, this Government has absolutely violated the law. The Minister, at his own sweet will, has - imposed new duties upon hundreds of tariff items without reference to the Tariff Board. How can any country expect to progress satisfactorily if Ministers of the Crown so flagrantly violate the statutes which they are sworn to administer? As might be expected, many glaring mistakes are made from time to time. The most outstanding in recent months was the imposition of an export duty on sheep skins immediately prior to an adjournment of the House. That was a terrible mistake involving this country in the loss of thousands of pounds of revenue, and doing considerable harm to our primary producers. Within a short time of the imposition of that duty, Ministers realized their mistake, and when Parliament re-assembled one of their first acts was to withdraw this tax. On former occasions also I have urged that when conducting its investigations, the board should be authorized to take evidence from not only representatives of the manufacturers and importers, but also from the consumers or purchasers of commodities affected by the tariff. This is a matter to which the board has given some attention, and it suggested that this be done. This is a step in the right direction.
I hope that the remarks of the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition will sink deeply into the minds of all honorable senators. If only we can make the people of Australia realize that, before we can hope to extricate ourselves from our present difficulties, there must be a change of heart and mind, that selfishness must be abandoned, and that we all must live and work for our country, it will be better for all.
I had recently the privilege of visiting other countries, and while I do not wish to say anything derogatory to Australia, because I love this country and its people, I could not help. contrasting the difference in outlook between Australians and people in other lands. The latter appeared to be animated by a spirit of patriotism for their country, which, I am afraid, is not so much in evidence in Australia. This was particularly noticeable among the working classes in a number of European countries, and when I questioned some of the workers whom I encountered why they were working so hard in the fields, they informed me proudly that they were working for their country; that the more they did as individuals the better it would be for all.
– The harder they work, the more their employers sweat them.
– The honorable senator cannot look beyond the narrow horizon of his class consciousness. I know the employers of Australia as well as any other senator, and I can say without fear of contradiction that for the most part, they show every consideration for their employees. If, in certain circumstances, they are not able to give their employees all that the latter desire, it is because employers are handicapped by artificial legislative restrictions which are supposed to be, but are not, in the interests of the people.
– I was referring to employers in other countries.
– In some of the large European factories that I visited, every consideration was shown to the staff, who responded wonderfully well. Sweating is not now in existence, if we compare the conditions to-day with what they were years ago; it has been more or less eliminated in all countries. I took advantage of every opportunity to investigate the working of all sorts of industrial concerns in the British Isles and on the Continent, and wherever I went I found that the employers desired to make their staffs as happy and contented as possible. They, of course, expected - and they received - value in return.
– How does the honorable senator explain the constant reduction in wages that has taken place on the Continent ?
– The wages received represent only that which enables a person to purchase the things that he needs, and by the exercise of care to provide for his later years. It does not follow that a man who receives £5 or £6 a week is better off than another who receives only £3 a week. Money is worth only what it will buy.
– The cost of living regulates the rates of pay.
– Does not the honorable senator realize that during the last ten years the rise in the cost of living has been proportionately greater than in the case of wages ?
-Wages have chased the cost of living ; they have had to do so.
– The more costly production was made, the higher became the cost of living ; and instead of catching up, wages dropped further behind. In the future, Australia must live within its means as a Commonwealth, as States, and as individuals. When we realize that our difficulties are due to the abandonment of that policy, we shall be able to look forward to a brighter era.
.- I desire to direct attention to certain matters that affect civil aviation, in the development of which, for several reasons, Australia lags behind the rest of the world. I realize that the principal difficulties with which we have to contend are the extraordinarily high cost of the machines in Australia, and, what is more important, the needlessly high price that is charged for the fuel which is used in those machines. Fortunately, on the other side of the world aeroplane engines designed for the use of crude oil are being tested out; and if they prove successful there should be a considerable advance in civil aviation in Australia.
It was my privilege to visit Great Britain last year, and while there I availed myself of every opportunity to investigate the operations of the different aircraft factories, not only in England, but also on the Continent. Australia offers exceptionally good conditions for the development of civil aviation, and in the future much more attention will have to be paid to the use of aircraft as a means of transport. The facilities that were placed at my disposal by not only Government officials, but also the principals of the aircraft industry and of aeronautics generally, enabled me to obtain information relating to the development of flying in Great Britain and Europe.
As honorable senators are aware, aviation received its greatest impetus between the years 1914 and 1918. Prior to the war, flying was more or less in the experimental stage; but the necessities of the war compelled the making of rapid progress by practically every European country which was engaged in that death struggle. During the war period practically the whole of the stimulus given to aviation was the result of the use of aircraft for war purposes; consequently, the manufacturers of aircraft engines and parts concentrated their attention on the manufacture of war-like machines. But as the development of the air force reached such a point that it was possible for governments to allocate a certain sum for the development of civil aviation, these huge factories were obliged to experiment in the construction of aircraft for civil transport purposes. A certain amount of attention had already been paid to private flying. It was my privilege to visit Croydon aerodrome on different occasions. There, one can see a regular fleet of probably fifty air liners arriving daily from almost every European capital, and landing their passengers and freight with no more concern than is displayed at Australian seaports when vessels discharge their passengers and freight. I also visited the Paris aerodrome, where similar conditions prevail. Unfortunately, civil aviation and private flying have not developed nearly as rapidly in Australia as they have in other countries. Our aero clubs throughout Australia are doing splendid work, but they must have every encouragement and assistance. In Great Britain, despite the unsuitability of the climatic conditions, there are scores of private owners who use their aeroplanes in very much the same way as we use motor cars in Australia. It was not an unusual sight to see a family arrive tit the Croydon Aerodrome from Birmingham, Manchester, or some other town 200 miles distant from London. They would visit the theatre in the evening, spend the night in London, and return to their home on the following morning. The result is that private flying has received a tremendous impetus during the last few years. His Boya! Highness the Prince of Wales has set an excellent example by travelling extensively by aeroplane, not .only in Great Britain, but also in various continental countries.
In addition to the services over th» shorter air routes to Berlin, Paris, Brussels and other European centres, there is a regular air service from Great Britain to South Africa and to India. Only a few weeks ago, but for a mishap which occurred to the Imperial Airways machine at Timor, the first air mail from Great Britain to Australia would have arrived here within ten or eleven days, compared with the five weeks that are occupied through the usual channels. A little later a Dutch aeroplane arrived io Australia, bringing mail matter from the Old Land in record time.
The developments in regard to aviation that the present generation has witnessed surely show that this new method of transport has come to stay. I hope that the air services in Australia will not be obliged to languish because the Government for the time being states it is not able to give assistance by way of a subsidy, such as that which has been requested by Australian National Airways Limited. In far Western Queensland, where the Qantas machines are operating, thousands of passengers and tons of freight have been carried practically without mishap. The company which is operating in Western Australia has probably been more successful than any other similar concern in the world, and I believe has been free from any fatality. These facts indicate that rapid progress is being made in the development of aviation.
This leads me to another matter that I wish to mention. I understand that strong representations have been made to the Government to grant assistance to a company that is endeavouring to build light aeroplanes in. Australia. Assistance i3 being sought by means of a heavy duty on light aeroplanes that are brought into Australia. I am ready at all times to give encouragement to an Australian industry, provided it is able to fulfil requirements and to supply a commodity at a reasonable cost. But what actually is the position in regard to the construction of aircraft in Australia? Only one firm is attempting to manufacture light aeroplanes. I understand that a certain amount of experimental work is being carried out by the Commonwealth Government at the Cockatoo Island Dockyard. While I have no desire to throw cold water on the schemes of the gentleman who is in charge of the construction work at that dockyard, we should proceed very carefully in view of our experience in connexion with the building of two Widgeon machines, neither of which was satisfactory, at a cost probably four times as great as the price at which the machines could have been purchased in the Old Land. There should be close investigation of the matter before it is decided to impose a duty upon light aeroplanes that are brought into Australia, as has been suggested to the Government. As a result of representations made to the Government the duty is not at present operative.
I particularly wish to bring under the notice of the Government the extent to which research work is being carried on in Great Britain. It is estimated that approximately £500,000 is spent by the aircraft manufacturers of Great Britain in laboratory work alone. The British Government provides an annual vote of £150,000 for research purposes at the Farnham works in connexion with the construction of aeroplane engines. I visited the Handley Page and De Haviland works in England, and saw the tremendous amount of research that is being undertaken by those companies. I also inspected a safety device invented by Mr. Handley Page, with the object of making aeroplanes fool proof. This invention, which consists of a safety slot, cost the company approximately £50,000 before it was adopted by the British Government or by any of the Dominion governments. The object of the invention is to enable an experienced pilot to safely land in the event of the engine “ stalling “ when the machine is at a considerable altitude. Instead of endeavouring to conduct practically the whole of our research work in Australia the Government should appoint an officer, actively associated with the civil aviation branch of the Defence Department, to keep in close touch with the research work that is being undertaken on the other side of the world. Unfortunately, owing to the economies which the Government has had to effect in our overseas representation, there is at present no officer in London actually in touch with the research work that is being undertaken. The association of British aircraft manufacturers issues a weekly pamphlet, of which I am privileged to receive a copy, which gives a good deal of information; but the development of aircraft is making such rapid progress that Australia should have in London a liaison officer to watch the development and progress overseas in aircraft construction.
One of the difficulties with which we are at present confronted is that the civil aviation department is attached to the Defence Department. There is no relationship at all between the civil aviation department under the control of Colonel Brinsmead, and aviation for defence purposes. The only department to which Colonel Brinsmead and his staff should be attached is the Transport Department. There is as much justification for associating civil aviation with defence as there would be for placing the control of our warships under the Railways Department, because they both represent forms of transport. When this Government first came into office certain of its members suggested that civil aviation could be developed by pilots in Royal Australian Air Force delivering mails; but it was shown that this was quite impracticable and it is unnecessary for civil aviation pilots to be trained in aeroplanes equipped for bombing and defence purposes. When one considers that in nine-tenths of this continent the climate is eminently suitable for flying for probably twelve months in the year, it is surprising that every person of moderate means in the far western districts of New South Wales, and the more remote portions of Queensland and Western Australia does not possess a machine. The principal obstacle is the excessive cost of the machines and fuel. A de Haviland threeseater “ puss moth “ can be purchased in Great Britain for about £600, while the cost of spirit is about one-half of that charged in Australia. Although spirit has to be transported almost as far from the source of supply to reach Great Britain as it does to reach Australia, the price here is considerably higher than in Britain. Before the Government decides to proceed with its present policy of imposing a high duty on light aeroplanes, I trust that it will realize that our present population is not large enough, or the demand sufficiently great to warrant setting up a research department on anything approaching the scale suggested by the officer in charge of research work at Cockatoo Island. As British manufacturers of light aircraft are receiving orders from Belgium, France and various other European countries, we can see the extent to which the industry has developed in Great Britain. The Dornier machine which crossed the Atlantic was equipped with British engines. Manufacturers of aeroplane engines, such as the Napier and Bolls Boyce, have for years specialized in this class of work, and have reached a stage which Australia could not possibly reach for many years, because here we have not the demand. The Government should give British manufacturers every opportunity to export light aircraft to Australia, and, if necessary, to establish their own branches in this country.
I also hope that it will be the policy of the Government to assist civil aviation in every form, and that there will be no cheeseparing in the matter of assisting flying clubs and those companies already conducting air services in Australia. I recognize that we are passing through difficult times, and that economies must be effected in practically every direction, but progress must not be retarded. I hope that it will be possible for the Controller of Civil Aviation, or some other permanent officer associated with that department, to be sent abroad to investigate the work that is being done by overseas companies, particularly with respect to research work. I do not wish to cast any reflection upon the gentleman in charge of aircraft construction in Australia, but in view of our experience in connexion with the two Widgeon machines, we should proceed very cautiously. One of these machines, which was constructed at a high cost, unfortunately, met with a disastrous accident when flying over Corio Bay, and the other, which was to be commissioned to search for Air Commodore Kingsford Smith, when he was lost in the vicinity of Wyndham, could not reach an altitude of more than 1,000 feet, and was, therefore, quite unsuitable for the purpose. The money spent on those machines was absolutely wasted. The construction work that is being undertaken in Australia could be done in a small corner of one of the factories now in operation in Europe, but the extent of those factories is due to the fact that they are serving a population of from 200,000,000 to 300,000,000. During the war period these manufacturers had a wonderful opportunity to develop their business, and since that time research work generally has been extensively conducted. I trust that the Government will favorably consider the re-appointment of a liaison officer between the Civil Aviation Department in Australia and the Royal Air Force and the civil aviation branch in Great Britain. When in England, I had the pleasure of meeting an officer who, for a number of years, served Australia in London, and by whose efforts Australia was saved a good deal of money. Unfortunately, this officer, who was receiving only a moderate salary, was retrenched. I should like a liaison to be established between the Royal Air Force and the civil aviation branch in England, and the civil aviation branch in Australia. I trust that the Government will not heed the overtures of the representatives of the company operating in Melbourne, or the official at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, who favour the imposition of high duties. We have not yet reached the stage where we can efficiently and economically manufacture light aircraft in the way in which they are being manufactured in older countries.
I desire now to refer to the Government’s tariff policy. . It is regrettable that tariff schedules which have lain on the table of another place for eighteen months have only recently come before members there, and have not yet been discussed by the Senate. One of the most serious aspects of this matter is that the fiscal policy of the Government is crippling Australian primary products in overseas markets. From time to time honorable senators have urged the Government not to continue its policy of prohibiting imports from other countries, because of the fear of retaliatory action. Honorable senators are doubtless aware that only this week France, with her -40,000,000 people, has taken action to prevent Australian wheat from entering that country.
– What is our normal export of wheat to France?
– I have not the figures with me; but I know that prior to the present Government coming into office the balance of trade with France, Belgium, Germany, and Italy was about £30,000,000 per annum in our favour.
– That was mostly because of sales of Australian wool to those countries. The present French duty on Australian wheat entering France is 10s. 6d. a bushel.
– That high duty shows the nature of the retaliation taken by France.
– France should be the last country in the world to retaliate against Australia.
– I agree with the honorable senator that no one can estimate what Australia has done for France.
– Or what France did for Australia.
– Irrespective of our past relations with any country, it is foolish for us to take action which will result in other countries retaliating against us, and thereby injuring our primary industries. There is very little sentiment in trade.
– Trade cannot be obtained unless we are prepared to pay for it.
– I take it that the honorable senator means that the Government took action to prohibit the import of certain goods in an endeavour to rectify the trade balance. Fortunately, the position in that respect has improved considerably; but the prediction which Senator Daly made, when Leader of the Senate, that when the trade balance had been adjusted unemployment would decrease, has not been fulfilled.
When the Prime Minister was in England last year he made some excellent speeches in favour of empire trade reciprocity. At the same time Senator R. D. Elliott was acclaimed the new leader of the movement begun by the Empire Preference League to encourage trade within the Empire. Although the
Imperial Conference held in London lasted for several weeks, it ended in a failure. No concessions were granted to the dominions by the Labour Government of Britain, because that great stalwart, Mr. Philip Snowden, although one of Britain’s ablest men, is a rabid freetrader.
– He is a most stubborn man.
– That is so. Even when the other members of the British Cabinet seemed inclined to agree to Empire preference, Mr. Philip Snowden said that there should be no duty on imports. When a huge deputation of lace workers from Nottingham approached him with a view to the Government granting some protection to the British lace-making industry against cheap importations from Belgium and elsewhere in order to prevent many factories from having to close down, this man of iron said that he preferred to see them closed, and that British workers should be thrown out of employment, rather than that he should depart from the sacred principles of freetrade, which, in his opinion, were essential to the well being of the country. With a British cabinet prepared to accept such views, what chance was there of the Imperial Conference coming to an agreement regarding Empire trade reciprocity? When the Prime Minister, the AttorneyGeneral, and the Minister for Markets, who were in England at the time, realized that it was impossible to make any arrangements for Empire trade reciprocity, they should have turned their attention to some of the continental countries, and endeavoured to make trade treaties with them. Germany, France, Belgium, and Italy offer wonderful opportunities for the disposal of some of our primary products. Many European countries, when framing their tariffs, have regard to countries rather than to items. They frame their fiscal policy to give protection against definite competitors. The Government would do well to follow the same policy. The United States of America has framed its tariff with the definite object of excluding Australian goods, and at the same time that country takes advantage of every opportunity to dump its own manufactured goods into
Australia. We should be justified in retaliating against that country when framing our tariffs. On the other hand, where we find a likely market for our products - whether it be the Motherland, a sister dominion, or an American or European country- - we should endeavour to encourage reciprocal trade with that country.
I was hopeful that, as the result of the world tour of the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney), he would be able to negotiate a number of trade treaties which would benefit the primary producers of this country. We have waited in vain for the promised trade treaty with Canada. Numerous questions have been asked in both Houses of this Parliament regarding the negotiations for a trade treaty with that dominion, but it would appear that no material advantage to Australia is likely to result from the Minister’s visit overseas. I do not blame the Australian delegates to the Imperial Conference for that conference breaking down. It was doomed to failure from the beginning, because of the attitude of the British Government towards freetrade. Another Empire economic conference is to be held at Ottawa next year; but it also is doomed to failure if the personnel of the British Government remains what it is now. So long as the British Cabinet adheres to its freetrade principles, there is no chance of the Mother Country adopting a policy which will protect her own industries or give concessions to the British dominions. The British Labour Government is not likely to grant concessions to Australia because it is kept in power by the freetrade party, and, like the Federal Government in Australia, it is determined to hold on to office at all costs.
The speeches of the Prime Minister in England made a favorable impression in that country. It is a pity that on his return to Australia he did not maintain the high standard which he set in England. The result is that Australia has continued to drift for many months, thus making our financial position much worse. Had the Prime Minister taken a firm stand on his return, instead of flirting with inflation and fiduciary note issues, I am convinced that London financiers would have been willing to fund our London indebtedness at a lower rate of interest than we shall now be called upon to pay. Listening to some of the speeches delivered in this chamber and another place one would be justified in thinking that there is an organized hostility to Australia among overseas financiers. That is not so. But when a party, like the Federal Labour party, passes resolutions in favour of repudiation, and the Labour Premier of the Mother State states that he will not pay the amount owing by his State, can we wonder that overseas financiers will not lend further money to Australia unless some surety is given for its return? When I was in London I found that there was no lack of money for investment, provided that governments were prepared to act sanely, and in keeping with the best traditions of British finance. The other dominions like South Africa and India, which cannot be said to be more truly British than Australia, can go on the market and get money readily enough. But Australia has done everything possible to discourage confidence and destroy its credit overseas. If, in spite of the organized hostility within the Government party itself, the Government’s economy plan is put into operation, indicating to the people overseas that Australia is willing to make further sacrifices in order to maintain its solvency, I believe that there will be a change in the attitude of overseas investors towards our country. I join with others in hoping that the conversion loan will be a success. We are all to take part in it, free from party politics. A successful conversion would be, I believe, the turning point in the history of Australia, because it would induce those who are interested in Australia’s credit overseas also to play their part in rehabilitating the finances of our great country.
– I should not have spoken at this stage had not my views upon the tariff been so much out of harmony with many of those expressed by previous speakers. I think it would have a most harmful effect if the impression got abroad that honorable senators are waiting impatiently for the tariff to be submitted for their consideration in order that they may tear it to shreds and tatters. It would have a most deterrent effect upon manufacturers contemplating the installation of plant and the employment of workers either in the establishment of new industries or in the expansion of those already existing. I do not believe that the people of any country can become prosperous by depending solely upon primary production. Even now Australia is dependent to a great extent upon its secondary industries. If we had not had them, we should have been obliged to go without a great many things which we are able to obtain at the present ‘time. We should not have had the money to pay for them.
– Has it been suggested that honorable senators are opposed to secondary industries?
– No ; but it has been suggested very definitely that some honorable senators are not prepared to give them effective protection.
– We are not prepared to maintain the tariff with its present ridiculously high rates of duty.
– It would be a serious mistake to finalize the tariff while the industries of the world are practically in a state of flux, or until the industrial conditions of other countries as well as our own become more stable. We should not, in such circumstances, be in a position to decide what duties are necessary to give fair and reasonable protection to our secondary industries.
– Would the honorable senator apply the 20 per cent, economy cut to the tariff?
– I do not know how that could be done. At present we are confining the 20 per cent, cut to the employees of the various Governments of Australia simply because we have not the money to pay the salaries they are now receiving.
I do not blame the Government for imposing a number of embargoes. I do not see what else could have been done in the extraordinary circumstances obtaining at the time. Indeed it is a matter of sincere regret to me that the embargoes were not imposed twelve months earlier. I do not agree with the Government in regard to many things, but I believe that when it imposed these embargoes, it took the only effective step which could be taken to rectify Australia’s adverse trade balance. It was quite evident that we could not go on as we had been doing for some time, importing commodities worth £150,000,000 a year. If that importation had continued for another year the exchange rate would have been, not the 30 per cent, it is at present, but something like 50 per cent., which would have greatly added to the difficulty we have in providing money in London for the payment of the interest on government loans.
– The tariff was not necessary to block those importations. The stringency of finance would have done it.
– It was not doing it to any great extent.
– If the honorable senator were engaged in business, he would have found that it was doing so very effectively.
– Very slowly. Any one who has studied overseas industrial conditions must know that the productive capacity of almost every country in the world is much greater than its purchasing power, and that as a consequence there is in almost every country a surplus of manufactured goods which its manufacturers are willing to sell abroad very much below the cost of production. If the Commonwealth Government had not taken the step it did Australia would have become, as Great Britain is at the present time, the dumping ground of the world. Senator Foll says that it was a mistake to impose an embargo upon a number of luxury commodities which Australia was importing from France. I understand that the most important of these was perfumes, and I am very surprised to hear that France has retaliated by imposing a number of penal duties on Australian produce.
About three years ago I had an opportunity to inspect a large number of works and factories in Sydney and Melbourne, and I saw no indication of laziness or inefficiency. I think I can speak with as much experience and authority as any honorable member of this Parliament upon the subject of laziness, because no one has worked harder at manual labour than I had to do for some 30 years of my life. With the exception of those engaged in the transport service, I think there are very few grounds for complaint about the return given by the workers of
Australia for the wages they receive. I have been an employer of labour for very nearly 40 years, and have very rarely had to dismiss an employee on the ground that I thought he was not doing a fair day’s work. I think that is the general experience of employers. To blame the workmen of Australia for the present position of the country does not help to improve matters. What we are suffering from mostly is a fall in the price of our exportable commodities in overseas markets. If wheat were between 4s. and 5s. a bushel and wool averaged 15d. a lb., our position would be very different from what it is. Even if money had been available I do not believe that we could have, with advantage, continued borrowing overseas at the rate at which we have been borrowing for a number of years. One of the most important causes of our present financial stress is the fact that we have been spending more money in ten years upon the creation of assets such as railways, roads, bridges, and buildings, than we should have spent in 30 years.
– We have spent more in Canberra in one year than we should have spent in 50 years.
– I agree with the honorable senator. In the light of experience Canberra is a serious mistake. Not only because of its cost, but also because public business, legislative and departmental, cannot be as effectively done here as it could have been done in Melbourne or Sydney. This idea of going out into the wilderness to legislate is an absurdity. But it is a misfortune that I am afraid we shall have to endure. Since it is not now possible to return to Melbourne or establish the seat of Government in Sydney, we must make the best of a bad job. This country would have been in a very much better position if those persons employed on the works to which I have referred had been engaged in the production of commodities which could have been disposed of either overseas or within the Commonwealth. I have always held the opinion - I know that there are, in this chamber, some who differ from me on this point -that £1,000,000 off our imports would have the same effect upon our trade balance as £1,000,000 added to the value of our exports. I believe that, to restore prosperity in Australia, we must give greater attention to reducing our imports than to increasing our exports.
– We cannot very well increase exports without increasing imports.
– Yes we can. I should like those who attach so much importance to the policy of increasing our exports to show me how it is possible, at present prices, or anything like present prices, to largely increase our overseas shipments of wheat, butter or wool. We must depend more and more .upon our Australian trade.
– And Empire reciprocity.
– Yes ; but, at the moment, there does not seem to be much hope of Empire trade reciprocity. So far as I can gather from recent cable information, the Ramsay Macdonald Government in Great Britain would rather help the people of Russia than the people of the British dominions. Consequently, while that Government remains in office, we cannot expect much in the way of preferential treatment from the Mother Country.
– Our excessively high tariff and the embargoes imposed by this Government will prevent preferential treatment.
– We have imposed embargoes largely in the interests of Great Britain. If we had continued to import on the scale obtaining a year or two ago, we should not have been able to find the money to pay our interest bill to British bondholders, and unless the British Government is prepared to .give Australian products preferential treatment it will become increasingly difficult for us in the future to meet our interest payments in London.
– How can we expect preferential treatment when we have a tariff that shuts out British goods ?
– If Great Britain gave Australia preference, £1 for £1 in return for the preference which we give the Mother Country, our financial position would be very materially improved. But Australia is not the only country which is being compelled, by force of circumstances, to endeavour to become more and more self-contained.
Practically all nations are giving their attention to this matter. I am afraid that we are too apt to forget that, of all countries, Australia could, with the least difficulty, become self-contained. We have an area larger than Europe, excluding Russia, and within our territory we have every range of climate and practically every class of soil. In addition, we have great natural resources in minerals and timber. If we had to do it, we could live in comfort without importing any commodities’ except, perhaps, a few drugs. Europe is not in the same favoured position. Its area, excluding Russia, is smaller than that of Australia, and yet it has 25 different tariffs. Until there is a change of Government in Great Britain the overseas market for our surplus primary products is just as likely to become less, as it is likely to become more, favorable. I am aware that many people are inclined to treat the Russian five-year plan very lightly. I regard it, on the contrary, as a serious attempt to bring Russia into the front rank of primary producing and industrial nations. It is possible that, in the course of a few years, the Soviet system of government will break down, but if Russia can keep its industrial plan going for another three or four years, agricultural methods in that country will be completely transformed and the Russian agriculturist, instead of being the most primitive in the world, will be the most up-to-date. And since that country has hundreds of millions of acres of first class wheat land, her assault on the world markets cannot be disregarded. There is also the possibility that Russia will, one day, become a serious competitor against Australia in the London butter market. Consequently, I take the .view that we should be making a great mistake if we did not provide sufficient protection for our secondary industries. I do not see how it is possible to ensure the employment of many additional people in our primary industries. We must, 1 think, depend upon the establishment of new, and the expansion of existing, secondary industries. We should not be over-hasty in deciding what action shall be taken with regard to tariff items. It will be time enough, when we have before us the tariff accompanied by the reports of the Tariff Board and such other information as may be afforded to us, to decide what is fair and reasonable for the protection of Australian industry. An announcement at this stage of an intention to reduce drastically certain duties would create a very bad impression and would not be helpful in restoring confidence or providing employment for those who are out of work and, as a consequence, are in deep distress.
– I agree with a great deal of what Senator Crawford has said and, on the other hand, I disagree with much that was said by Senator Poll and Senator Elliott. The fiscal policy of the Australian Labour Party is apparently very much misunderstood. Senator Craword put his finger on the real problem which, at the outset, confronted this Government when he asked how could we expect to meet our obligations overseas if we did not take some action to check imports. I have in my possession the second annual report of the Development and Migration Commission, which, I suggest should be studied carefully by all honorable senators, so that they may appreciate to the full what we were getting for our wheat, wool, and butter from those countries which, according to certain critics, have enacted legislation in the nature of reprisals against the Australian tariff. The previous Government decided, in order that we might export butter - I refer to butter, because it was one of the items mentioned by Senator Crawford - that consumers in Australia should pay a premium of 4d. a lb. for the right to eat Australian butter.
– If the honorable senator is referring to the Paterson butter scheme, it would be well to remind him that that was a private arrangement between the management of the Australian butter factories.
– I am surprised that Senator Pearce should deny that the Government of which he was a member did nothing to assist that scheme.
– We did not pass any legislation dealing with that matter. The scheme is an understanding between the various butter factories.
– I shall not challenge the accuracy of the right honorable gentleman’s interjection. All I wish te emphasize is that, under the Paterson butter scheme, consumers in Australia have to pay an additional 4d. a lb. in order that the factories may export the imaginary surplus.
– It is a very real surplus.
– It may be of interest to honorable senators to learn that, in the year when the Paterson butter scheme was launched, Australia imported butter to the value of £549,548. While we were forcing the consumers in Australia to pay an additional 4d. per lb. for the right to eat the butter that was produced in this country, and were exporting our surplus production, we were importing over £500,000 worth a year. When we sold our butter to France we were paid for it partially in olive oil, of which £40,000 worth was imported into Australia, despite the fact that the State which I represent produces the best olive oil in the world.
Honorable senators opposite claim that the actions of this Government have resulted in the closing of the financial markets of the world to Australia; that Great .Britain and Europe have lost confidence in us, and that there is no hope of our obtaining either money or anything else. I invite them to read this second annual report of the Development and Migration Commission, which was presented to Parliament during the regime of the BrucePage Government, it shows that we exported our wool to France, and received in payment £729,000 worth of artificial silk. Sausage casings were mentioned by Senator Elliott, in a comparison that he drew between New Zealand and Australia. Does the honorable senator know that in the year 1927-28, when these statistics were taken out, we imported into Australia £500,000 worth of sausage casings?
– Shame !
– Of course it is a shame. I remind the honorable senator that the present Government did not then occupy the treasury bench. It would appear that this great dairy-producing community of Australia cannot even produce sufficient cheese for its requirements, because in the same year we imported £116,120 worth of cheese. Then, too, we had to send overseas £236,245 worth of our wool and wheat to enable us to purchase preserved fruits and vegetables.
– What would the honorable senator have brought back in exchange ?
– Had I been in power at the time, I would have used our wool and our wheat to pay our interest bill. I would not have borrowed further sums, the interest on which would crush posterity. In my State the best almonds in the world are grown ; yet we ‘had to send away wool and wheat to purchase edible nuts, of which in that one year the value of our purchases was £373,529.
– Because it cost too much to crack them !
– It was considered better for us to borrow the money to pay our interest and to restore the balance of our trade, while we allowed our wheat and our wool to be paid for in the form of edible nuts, olive oil, artificial silk’ and preserved fruits and vegetables.
– The honorable senator knows that South Australia does not produce sufficient to supply Australia’s requirements.
– I am very pleased that the honorable senator has advanced that contention. I admit that Australia to-day cannot supply her requirements even of almonds. That, however, is a problem which our governments have to tackle. We could put under cultivation tomorrow 3,000 acres of almonds, which would be sufficient to supply our normal requirements. But previous governments found it easier to buy than to produce, so long as they were able to borrow the necessary money. Unlimited credit was available in Great Britain for the construction of the Sydney Harbour bridge and the provision of a capital city at Canberra, including the covering of the Senate chamber with a carpet costing £800. So long as the necessary credit was available in England to enable us to make such purchases, everything went well. But prior to the coming into power of the present Government a British Economic Mission visited Australia. The members of that commission saw the way in which the money that had been lent by Great Britain had been squandered on works of convenience. They realized that it had not been used for the development of the productivity of Australia, and to increase its absorptive capacity.
– Did they sec the Adelaide railway station?
– They did. They there saw the work of an American whom a Liberal Premier brought to South Australia as Railways Commissioner - a man who built trucks which may be useful to the State when her population is increased tenfold, but which at the present time represent a huge national loss because of the huge interest commitments that, she has to meet. They said, “ These people are either mad, or are grossly extravagant”; and out of that spirit of generosity for which the British nation is noted, they gave us the benefit of the doubt, and said that we were too extravagant. Could they have arrived at any other conclusion? Take this capital city as an example. They found that Australia was prepared to furnish her sittingroom before she had made sure that she had the wherewithal to fill her larder. When the present Government came into power it found that the sitting-room had been luxuriously furnished, but that there was not even a loaf of bread in the kitchen.
– And the first thing it did was to construct swimming baths at a cost of £13,000.
– It attempted to preserve the health of the people who live here.
– They get sore eyes when they swim in it.
– I do not think that the Government has received any complaints of that kind. It felt that it was necessary to conserve the health of the people, who were forced to come here to maintain this city. The only charge thai can be laid against it is that it may have been too humane. But it is not right to accuse the Government of having been responsible for the loss of confidence. I candidly admit, and so does every other member of the Government, that unfortunately there is a lack of confidence to-day. We have been attempting in restore that confidence ever since we came into power.
– It has no confidence in itself.
– It has complete confidence in itself. Under the generalship of the present Prime Minister I venture to say that Australia will eventually emerge triumphantly from her difficulties. He will have his internal troubles, just as the party of which honorable senators opposite are members has had its troubles. He will meet difficulties both internally and externally. He is the type of man who meets any difficulty. Given a fair trial, he will eventually lead the people of Australia out of the mire into which other leaders have led them.
– He has floundered a lot in attempting to make a start.
– It would be rather presumptuous of any leader to claim that he could clean up within eighteen months a mess that it had taken ten yean” to collect.
– He has changed his policy frequently.
– In my opinion, he has not altered his policy. It is a tribute to the qualities of leadership that he unquestionably possesses that he is able to adapt himself to circumstances as he meets them. I am reminded by the Leader of the Government (Senator Barnes) that a retreat may be necessary upon occasions in order to gain extra stability. I deprecate the suggestion thai this Government was in any way responsible for whatever loss of confidence the British investor may have sustained in regard to Australia. To honorable senators who persist in making such statements I commend this report from which I have related certain facts. It shows that we became so rich, we could obtain money so easily, credit was so liquid in Great Britain, and in other countries, that we could afford to buy pickles and sauces overseas. Instead of producing our own paper pulp we were spending £308,000 on importations of paper pulp, quite apart from our importations of paper. Such goods had to be paid for out of the proceeds of our wool and wheat, and at a time when the proceeds of 24 per cent, of our exports were required to meet our interest bill. We were doing an extensive trade with France and other countries, but what is the use of exporting wheat and receiving in- return olive oil, when we have a surplus of our own production of that commodity, which cannot be marketed. What is the use of exporting wheat and receiving in return wine, on the local manufacture of which we pay a bounty in order that we may export it?
I agree with Senator Elliott, who, I believe, was animated by the philosophy of Emerson that “ every man is as lazy as he dare be “. It is very easy to make statements in the press, but it is very difficult to get down to the real isues affecting unemployment in Australia. In 1928, when the previous Government was in office, unemployment became so acute that the Development and Migration Commission was specially instructed to inquire into and report upon the subject. I invite honorable senators to read that report, which directs attention to the way in which the Government was then drifting. It also emphasizes the fact, which Senator Elliott mentioned, that sufficient attention was not being paid to the absorptive capacity of the Commonwealth. I agree with the honorable senator that it is useless building aeroplanes, or producing any other commodity for which we have no market. It is very difficult to understand why we have to import £1,500,000 worth of fish, which, if procured in Australian waters, would create a direct and indirect absorptive capacity of 40,000 persons. It is also hard for me to understand why we should be denied an opportunity to exploit the gold-mining industry, which can absorb many thousands of persons. The same can also be said of the shale oil industry. The three industries I have mentioned have for years been lying dormant. I do not suggest that any great progress has been made, but this Government has, at least, attempted to ascertain the difficulties and how they can be overcome. Until we appreciate the fact that our real difficulty in Australia is that we cannot absorb our present population, progress is impossible.
– Why did the Government abolish the Development and Migration Commission?
– This Government realized that migration could not be treated with a force pump, and that it had to be handled with a suction pump. It was too expensive to pay £114,000 per annum, including £13,500 per annum, by way of fees to the members of the commission to run a suction pump. We considered the Minister would be able to control such a pump. Up to the present, the Government has saved from £70,000 to £80,000 in connexion with the activities of the Development and Migration Commission alone. The Leader of the Opposition knows that that is one of the economies effected by this Government. The members of the Development and Migration Commission, who were paid £13,500 a year in salaries, were performing the work which should, ordinarily, be done by a Minister. Mr. Gepp, the chairman of the commission, received a salary twice as great as the parliamentary allowance of the Prime Minister, and not one member of the commission received a salary less than that received by the Prime Minister.
– The same salary was paid to the chairman, but in a different form.
– That is not so. I was Minister in charge of the department at the time when Mr. Gepp’s salary was reduced from £5,000 to £1,250 a year on the understanding that he served for only a portion of the year. I am not a repudiationist. The previous Government appointed Mr. Gepp at a certain salary for a fixed period, and this Government did not attempt to repudiate the contract. I put the position to Mr. Gepp, and he agreed to forego three-fourths of his salary provided that the Government was prepared to forgo three-fourths of his time. The salary of Mr. Gunn was reduced from £2,500 to £1,800. As to Mr. Devereux, I was able to negotiate with the wool people and a saving of £2,000 a year was effected, and Mr. Mulvaney returned to the Department of Markets. The work is still being carried on, and in the matter of the production of oil from shale, greater results have been achieved than was the case when the commissioners were receiving £13,500 a year.
– Has anything yet been done?
– The Shale Oil Committee is meeting in Sydney to-day. The trouble in the past has been that it was too easy to purchase crude oil from America with borrowed money. This Government has exploited the possibilities of producing shale oil in Australia.
– Has any been produced on a commercial scale?
– No, but this Government is attempting to do so.
– It was produced twenty years ago at Newnes.
– The Leader of the Opposition must admit that vital chemical and mechanical changes have been made in recent years. Reports from the officers appointed by the previous Government disclose that valuable progress is being made. Shale oil can be produced commercially in Australia provided the production costs are not excessive. Investigations are being conducted by the committee, on which the Miners Federation has representation. If the field proves to be as rich as the geologists expect, there is no doubt that it can be produced commercially. One machine in Broken Hill would use about 70,000 tons, equivalent to 7,000,000 gallons of shale oil annually.
– There is no doubt about a market if we can produce it commercially.
– The least we can do is to make a genuine attempt. If we could produce crude oil there would be no difficulty in producing petrol. The greatest difficulty in the past has been to “ crack “ the oil into pure spirit. The oilburning vessels on the Australian coast are not using petrol. We have been informed that petrol can be landed in Australia at 5d. a gallon.
– It costs 3d. a gallon f .o.b. American ports and the same petrol is sold in England at ls. 2d. a gallon.
– That may be so, but the customs duties imposed are responsible for some of the difference. The point I wish to emphasize is that the real difference between this and previous Governments is that this Government has to determine whether this country can absorb its present population. If it cannot do so, we must discover the cause, and remove it.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) expressed some concern regarding the budget. As soon as it is possible to do so - probably within a month - the budget will be placed before Parliament. As in the case of previous budgets, the budget about to be introduced will cover the whole financial year.
I regret that the Leader of the Opposition made some disturbing remarks regarding the tariff. The tariff schedule has been in operation for some months, but it is not giving the results that the Government expected. The reason is that although there are persons in the community who are willing to expend capital in establishing or extending industries, they fear that the present Government might not remain long in office, and that another government might pursue a different fiscal policy altogether. The remarks of the Leader of the Opposition will strengthen their fears. I hope that by the time the tariff reaches the Senate the right honorable gentleman will have become sufficiently patriotic to realize that the development of this count’/ is of prime importance, and that he will not do or say anything to discourage persons with capital from developing our secondary industries.
Senator Foll said that civil aviation has not made as much progress in Australia as in some of the older countries. That may be so ; but I do not think that there is any cause for serious complaint about the progress aviation has made in Australia. Regular air services operate along a number of routes in different parts of the country. Unfortunately, accidents sometimes occur, and it is then that the machines belonging to the Defence Department are used to do work which cannot be done by private enterprise. These machines have recently been utilized in the search for lost aeroplanes. While I am not prepared to contradict the statement of the honorable senator, I see no reason for discontent regarding Australia’s progress in aviation. Personally, I think we have done remarkably well. I should like to see aeroplanes used more for commercial purposes; but in a country whose population is small and widely scattered, that might not be profitable at present In my opinion, Australia has no reason to complain of any lack of progress in aviation matters.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill seeks to appropriate the sum of £2,409,780 for the services of the Government for the month of July. No attempt to forecast the effect of the proposed economies has been made for the reason that the budget, although nearing completion, has not yet been finalized.
The following appropriations are, therefore, ‘based on the estimates for the current year: -
Departments and services, other than business undertakings and territories of the Commonwealth, £679,510.
Business undertakings, post offices and railways, £835,010.
Territories of the Commonwealth,
These amounts total £1,559,780, which leaves a balance of £850,000.
Of this latter sum, £100,000 is .required for refunds of revenue, and £7 50,000 for an advance to the Treasurer, mainly for the purpose of exchange on a remittance of interest to London in July. A portion of this amount is required for the continuance of uncompleted works and services in progress on the 30th June, 1931. These are works which have been approved by Parliament in previous appropriations. As it is expected that the Senate will shortly have an opportunity of discussing the financial position, it is not my intention to enter upon a discussion of that subject at this stage. Last week the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) asked for what period the Government proposed to seek Supply. I then assured him that it would be for a period not longer than two months; probably only one month. As I have stated, the bill is for Supply for the month of July - a period which will be of very great importance to this country. As honorable senators know, an agreement was arrived at by the Premiers at a conference recently held in Melbourne, as a result of which they hope Australia will emerge successfully from its present financial troubles. In order to give effect to the decisions of the conference, a number of measures will bc brought before Parliament, and it if hoped that they will be passed before the period covered by this bill has elapsed. The right honorable gentleman expressed a desire, on behalf of the Opposition, to help to make the conversion loan a success. The Government appreciates thai offer of assistance. The legislation necessary to give effect to the decisions of the Premiers Conference will have to be pui through this Parliament, and the Parliaments of the States, as speedily as possible. This hill will grant Supply for the time necessary to do that. Before further Supply is required, the budget will have been introduced, and honorable senators will then have an opportunity of discussing the Government’s financial proposals.
Debate (on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives and (on motion by Senator Barnes) read a first time.
The following papers were presented :-
Arbitration (Public Service Act) - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. -
No. 12 of 1931. - Arms, Explosives and Munition Workers Federation of Australia.
Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rule* 1931, No. 59- No. 67- No. 08.
Conciliation and Arbitration Act - Rules of Court amended - Sta.tu.torv Rules 1031 No. 71.
Lands Acquisition Act - Regulations amended -Statutory Rules ls,31, No. 02.
Navigation Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1931, No. 09.
Northern Australia Act -
Central Australia - Ordinance No. .1 of 1931 - Income Tax.
North Australia - Ordinance No.8 of 1931 - Income Tax.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Ordinances of 1931 -
No.1 - Encouragement of Primary Production.
No. 2 - Crown Lands.
No. 3 - Interpretation.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1931 - No. 61 -No. 70.
Sales Tax Assessment Acts -Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1931, No.63.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act . and Seat of Government (Administration) Act-
Ordinance No. 11 of 1931 - Liquor (No. 2).
Dentists Registration Ordinance - Regulations.
Motion (by Senator Barnes) proposed -
That the Senate do now Adjourn.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [10.32]. - I should like to correct a misapprehension the Leader of the Government (Senator Barnes) seems to be under as the result of some of my remarks this afternoon. I was not pressing for the early passing of the budget. On the contrary, on the basis of a statement made by the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) that the budget would be brought in and passed during July, I wanted to know whether any of the measures in the economy plan were to be included in that budget. I suggested that they should be kept separate because I was under the impression that the Senate would not agree to pass the budget in July. Experience has shown that it would not be advisable for the Senate to give the Government Supply for the full twelve months, and, in the circumstances, I thought it advisable for the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Barnes) to let his colleagues know thatif any of the economy proposals connected with the general olan were in the budget, it would be better to separate them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.34 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 25 June 1931, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1931/19310625_senate_12_130/>.