12th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Information is being obtained in reply to questions asked by Senator Pearce regarding the number of licences issued under the Transport Workers Act.
Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Nationality of Cane-cutters.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Exports and Imposts
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers are -
– Information is being obtained in reply to the questions asked by Senator Foll regarding the Australian fleet and the Australian Naval Board.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The control of picture theatres is entirely a State matter. The Commonwealth powers are confined to the prevention of the importation of pictures of an undesirable character. The information sought is not available to the Department of Trade and Customs, but considerable information on the motion picture industry is contained in the report of the royal commission which inquired into this subject.
Is it a fact that a further shipment of Russian timber is in transit to Australia?
If so, does the Government intend to take any action with regard to the matter ?
– The answers are as follow;-
– On the 2nd July Senator E. B. Johnston asked the following questions, upon notice : -
I am now in a position to give the following reply: -
For the following reasons: -
The following papers were presented : -
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Pharmacy Ordinance - Regulations.
Gold Bounty Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1931, No. 74.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator Dooley) proposed -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [11.10]. - It is not my intention to oppose this motion, but, I wish it to be distinctly understood that honorable senators on this side of the chamber will not agree to the bill being passed through all stages at this juncture. The view we take is that the Senate should have before it the complementary measures covering the Government’s financial plan before this measure passes its final stages. It is on that understanding that I am not opposing the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
.- - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure is consequential upon the Debt Conversion Agreement by which the Commonwealth is authorized to bring in legislation to carry out the terms of that agreement. Owing to the number and variety of securities affected the bill is somewhat complex, and not readily understood at first sight. Generally speaking, the result of this measure will be the establishment of a consolidated Commonwealth stock bearing interest at the rate of 4 per cent. It is impracticable to attain this object in one step owing to the relation of interest to capital value and the attendant fact that a large amount of trust funds are invested in government securities. It will be seen that a 22^ per cent, reduction in interest rates of the different classes of securities would result in various fractional rates if applied directly to each particular stock. For this reason and also for the reason that it is not desired to issue stock at less than 3 per cent., some conversions will be effected at a premium and others at a discount arrived at by actuarial calculations. The different classes of stock will be affected as follows : -
Where interest is over 5 per cent. - conversion into 4 per cent, at a premium.
Where interest is 5 per cent. - conversion into 3£ per cent, at par.
Where interest is less than 5 per cent. - conversion into 3 per cent, at a premium or 4 per cent, at a discount.
The currency of the new securities will be 7, 10, 13, 16, 19, 22, 24, 26, 28 and 30 years.
Subject to the necessary exceptions it is proposed that they shall be apportioned evenly in respect of holdings of present stock. Special provision is made in the case of tax-free securities, securities lodged with savings banks and overseas trade moneys temporarily invested in Australian securities. There is also special provision for peace saving certificates and Commonwealth treasury-bills. The date from which conversion is to operate is fixed for the 31st July, 1931. Up to and including that date interest will be payable at existing rates.
The tax-free securities and unconverted bonds debentures and treasury-bills, will form part of the new issue, and the latter being in the form of inscribed stock bearing the same conditions as the existing securities. In connexion with the conversion into securities bearing a lower rate of interest, I have mentioned that some conversions will be made at a discount, and others at a premium, and that such capital amounts will be actuarially calculated. It is apparent that amounts not multiples of £10 will occur. In such events the owners will be permitted either to receive cash for the fraction of £10 or to pay the difference to make up an additional £10 and receive another bond.
Trusts and trustees are the subject of State legislation, and it was agreed at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers that if amendments to’-the State law became necessary in order that trustees might convert, the States would take the required action.
Another matter of which mention should be made is the provision that conversion will take place unless notice of dissent is given. Some people may think that assent to conversion would be more fitting; but I do not consider nhat contention well founded. I believe that the great, majority of bondholder’will convert their holdings. Should only a few dissent, much less work will be involved in dealing with their cases than in dealing with applications from more than 100,000 people.
Another feature of this conversion te which attention should be drawn is that it will be effected with a minimum of expenditure. There will be neither brokerage nor underwriting commissions to pay, while the advertising expenses will be comparatively trivial.
Debate (on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce) adjourned.
Printing of Report
Debate resumed from 2nd July (vide, page 3299), on motion by Senator Barnes -
That the paper laid on the table of the Senate on the 17th June, 1931, namely, “ Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, held at Melbourne 25th May to 11th June, 1031 - proceedings and decisions of conference; together with appendices,” be printed.
– In view of the measure which is now being discussed in another place, this day will probably go down in Australian history as another “Black Friday.” The circumstances which confront Australia to-day are such that it is no wonder that Senator Lynch, in the admirable speech which he delivered yesterday, said that he had had to change his opinions regarding a good many matters. That is the experience of all of us. We have had high hopes and ambitions for our country, and have held definite opinions as to the best way for them to be realized. Now, suddenly, through force of circumstances, we have to throw overboard, temporarily at least, many opinions and ideals which for years we have regarded as sacred. Many of us have felt that Australians have been justly proud of their country; that we were giving the rest of the world a lead in the way of legislation; that we were building up a race of people who would be an example to other nations, and were establishing conditions to which other countries might aspire, but which they could not reach. We had almost attained that ideal. We had shorter hours of labour and higher rates of pay than obtain in other countries; on every side there were evidences of our prosperity. Now, when the noble edifice of which we were so proud is tumbling about our ears, we are forced to realize that wo have built on a foundation oi sand. The circumstances confronting Australia are such that it is not to be wondered at that we have changed many of our opinions and altered our view port. If it is hard for honorable senators sitting in opposition to change their opinions in these matters, how much harder must it be for the supporters of the Government, who all along have been such ardent exponents of many of the ideas which they have now to put aside? Their lot is not a happy one; they a$e, indeed, to he pitied.
I desire to quote some, figures to show how greatly the position, of this country has changed during recent years, and, that consequently, drastic action is necessary to meet the situation. In New South Wales a parliamentary select committee is at present inquiring into the banking system. The Government Statistician of New South Wales, Mr. T. Waites, when giving evidence before the committee this week, produced some striking figures, which, although not new, were presented in such a way that I feel justified in quoting them in order to show that the time has indeed arrived for us to make a right-about-face. Mr. Waites pointed out that between the first and the fourth quarter of 1929 unemployment among trade unionists increased from 9.3 per cent, to 13.1 per cent, and that during 1930 the rise was from 14.6 per cent, in the first quarter to 23.4 per cent, in the last quarter. For the first quarter of the present year the percentage was 25. S per cent. Those figures show that more than one-fourth of the skilled workers of Australia are unemployed and unable to provide sustenance for their wives and families. If such conditions are to be found among the skilled workers of the country, how much more serious must be the plight of the unskilled workers! We can only imagine the suffering that is taking place in our midst.
– The unemployment among the unskilled workers of Australia is worse than in any other country.
– Mr. Waites also pointed out that whereas in 1911, food, groceries, and housing to the value of £1 were obtainable for 20s., in 1922 it cost 22s. 3d. to get the same value. In 1930 the cost had risen to 34s. 9d., and to-day it stands at 32s. 2d. Those figures show that our position is indeed serious. The Statistician also produced figures to show that the value of the wool clip in 1927-28 was £76,564,000, and in the following year £71,000,000, but that it had fallen to £43,827,000 in 1929-30. He also stated that the Australian note issue reached its peak in 1919 when it stood at £59,000,000. In 1930 it had fallen to £44,914,000, but in 1931 it rose to £50,600,000. He also told the committee that whereas the Australian wheat crop for 1927-28was valued at £53,042,000, it was worth only £10,037,000 in 1929-30. Summarizing the position, he pointed out that, although in 1927-28, our wool, wheat, and flour were valued at £96,423,000, they had fallen to £58,813,000 in 1929-30.
Those official figures show more clearly than perhaps anything can show the change that has taken place in the economic life of this country. For many years we have been proud to regard ourselves as a young and wealthy community, controlling a country at least the equal of any other in the world. We have felt that Australia offered boundless opportunities for its people, and would not fail them in any demand they made upon. it. We now find that we are not able to do as we please ; that Australia is governed by world conditions as arc other countries. We have been forced to realize that we cannot set up in this country conditions which, however desirable, make it impossible for us to compete in the markets of the world. As Senator Lynch pointed out yesterday, Australia lives by reason of its exports. The price received for those exports is a big factor in our prosperity. When we reflect that not only has our exportable surplus fallen off substantially during recent years, but also that the prices received for our products have dropped, it is easy to understand why our prosperity has gone.
Unfortunately, there appears to be no hope of a return to prosperity in the immediate future,. Such a position must cause us grave concern. For that reason the plan adopted at the Premiers Conference has been introduced asa means of extricating the country from its present difficult situation. Many exponents of the plan believe that it alone will be sufficient to lead us out of our troubles and place us again on the high road to prosperity. I wish that I could hold that view. I am, however, afraid that we have reached such a stage in this country that our own efforts will be insufficient to get us out of our troubles.
– Then the honorable senator’s outlook is hopeless?
– No. We can, and we must, do certain things for ourselves. We can impose upon our people conditions which will be hard for them to bear; but I very much fear that we cannot call upon them to suffer privation for the long period which will be necessary to restore our financial stability unless we seek assistance from overseas. I have shown that our prosperity depends in a large measure on the quantity of our exports and the prices received for them, and that, therefore, conditions in other countries to a great extent, govern our prosperity. If we cannot secure in other countries a ready market for our exportable surplus, and obtain a fair price for our products, the road to recovery will be much longer and more difficult than would otherwise be the case.
Without in any way desiring to make an attack upon any other government, I think it is Australia’s crowning misfortune that there should be sitting in Westminster to-day, a government with a Whitechapel outlook - a government that seems to have no regard whatever for the welfare of the Empire. The Ramsay MacDonald Government refuses definitely to take any steps to provide Australia, as one of the dominions, with a ready market for its surplus products. Although we give Great Britain preference in our tariff, the British Government refuses to give us a reasonable measure of preference in return. Our prosperity depends entirely upon our exports in wheat, wool and other primary products, and it would mean much to us if the British Government gave us the preferences which we believe we have a right to expect in the markets of the Mother Country. Its attitude towards the dominions is in marked contrast to its treatment of other countries. Only a little while ago we read in the cable news of a huge contract that had been made for the purchase of Russian wheat for British consumers, and of a big contract for the supply of meat that went to the Argentine, which has further accentuated the difficulties of the cattle industry in Australia.
– The British Government is the people’s government.
– Not altogether. Tt represents a minority of the people in Great Britain, and by its actions it has indicated that it completely disregards the welfare of Australia. Its attitude almost makes one wonder whether it wishes to maintain the Empire spirit in Australia. .
– It would appear that, like the present Commonwealth Government, its chief concern is to hold on to office.
– Perhaps that is o.
I turn now to another matter which also has close relationship to the British Government. As a nation we are in grave financial difficulties,.– and are experiencing much trouble in carrying on the affairs of the Commonwealth. Almost superhuman efforts are demanded of our people. I cannot help thinking how much easier our task would have been if the British Government had any regard for our interests, and had guaranteed a Commonwealth loan in London to enable us to fund our floating debt in the Mother Country. If that had been done, we should have been able to face our present difficulties with a much stouter heart. I submit, further, that if the British Government had done this it would not have been more than we were entitled to expect because, as we now know, Great Britain is guaranteeing financial assistance to India for a definite term of years to enable the Government of India to overcome the difficulties that confront it. Why could not the British Government have done the same for Australia ? Since it did not, we must, I think, be forced to conclude that its policy is not to give us that assistance which we have received hitherto, and which I contend we are entitled to expect at the present time. I frankly acknowledge that Australia in common with the other dominions, owes a great deal to the Mother Country.
– And the British Navy.
– That is another matter. All the dominions are equally indebted to the British Government for the protection afforded by the British Navy. But there is really no obligation upon us to express deep gratitude to the Mother Country for financial assistance hitherto given, because all loan transactions were on a strictly business footing. The money was provided at the market rate of interest, and hitherto every penny of interest and principal has been paid on the due date. As a matter of fact, Australia has always offered an attractive field for the investment of British capital.
– All loan transactions were mutually advantageous to British investors and Australian governments.
– Of course they were. We were able to borrow freely, but the security offering was always acceptable to British investors. Now that we are in difficulties I regret to think that the British Government is not disposed to extend a helping hand to us. It is true that some months ago it intimated that payment of the sinking fund contributions in respect of our war debt to Great Britain would be suspended for a couple of years. For that, of course, we are thankful. Despite the prodigious efforts made by Australia, and the huge expenditure incurred in prosecuting the war, which more than anything else has been the cause of our present troubles, the British Government now turns a cold business eye upon u9 in our time of need;
We have good reason to feel this the more, because ample British funds have been made available for Russia, which country did default in its payments to Great Britain. Indeed, money can be provided by Great Britain at reasonable rates of interest for almost any other country, many of which also defaulted; but strange to say, financial assistance cannot be given to Australia, which has never defaulted, and, I hope, never will.
– The Government of New South Wales has defaulted.
– I am glad that my friend has mentioned that matter, because it gives me the opportunity to emphasize that, while New South Wales has defaulted in its payments to the Commonwealth, and also withheld payments due to Great Britain, the obligation has been discharged by the Commonwealth Government, so in reality there has been no default in overseas payments. I may add that, as a representative in this chamber of New South Wales, I feel the position very keenly, because that State stands disgraced in the eyes of people in the other States, and also in the eyes of the world.
– It is said that the people deserve the government which they get.
– I am sure that when the people of New South Wales returned Mr. Lang and his supporters at the last election they never dreamed that they would get a government that was prepared to go to the lengths to which the State Government has gone lately, and I am convinced that, if they were given the opportunity to-morrow, by means of a general election, they would ring as true as are the people in any other State.
The measures required to rehabilitate the nation must, of course, receive the most serious consideration. As I have already pointed out, if we are to avoid default, we must receive assistance, perhaps along the lines which I have suggested. It is true that, if we approve of the measures necessary to set our house in order, the problem of funding our overseas obligations will not be quite so difficult. No doubt overtures for financial aid will be received sympathetically by overseas financiers. But I think it is obvious that, for a number of years at all events, we must, in all that we do, pay some regard to the wishes of our overseas creditors. We must consider how far they are likely to be affected by legislative enactments, by acts of government policy, or the activities of agencies which we may decide to utilize to carry out our ideals. No country, we now learn, can live unto itself. It must take cognizance of the probable repercussions to its policy in other countries. Therefore, I suggest that the governments of countries with which we have important trade relations, and which will be affected by our legislative proposals, will be entitled to call the tune, and we must dance to it.
I have stated that the British Labour Government has failed Australia in its time of need. We had hoped, when the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) visited Great Britain last year, clothed with complete authority as the first citizen of the Commonwealth, he would be able to approach a Labour Prime Minister and his ministerial colleagues in the full expectation of being able to secure valuable concessions for a Labour Government and the people it represents in the Commonwealth. Unfortunately, our Prime Minister came back with empty hands. Whether the peculiar difficulties of the Commonwealth were properly stated to the British Government, it is impossible to say. Probably they were not put as forcefully as they might have been. The fact remains that the mission of the Prime Minister, if his visit to Great Britain could be called a mission, was a failure.
– The Prime Minister was hamstrung by instructions from his party in Australia.
– Probably he was.
– The British Government intended the negotiations to fail.
– I doubt that at any time the Prime Minister had a reasonable chance of being successful in his negotiations, owing to the attitude of the British Government towards the Commonwealth and the other dominions of the Empire in the matter of imperial trade preferences. We can expect nothing from the Ramsay MacDonald Government, even when approached per medium of a Labour government in the Comwealth. Indeed, ve are entitled to assume that it has less respect for a Labour government in this country than it would have for a non-Labour government.
Most of the subjects that may be diacussed in this debate will come before us in bills to be presented later. But there is one aspect which, I think, should be considered at this stage, namely, the probable effect of the adoption of this plan upon the people of Australia. We are all very proud of the Australian people. Although they are British to the backbone, perhaps to an even greater extent than are the people of Great Britain themselves, they have developed certain characteristics which distinguish them above all other people. But I am not altogether sure of the manner in which they will comport themselves in the next few years. For a long while, every section of our community has been accustomed to enjoy sufficient to maintain, not merely life, but a very reasonable standard of comfort, with decent clothing, an abundance of food, and a considerable amount to spend on pleasure. Now we are told that that standard of comfort is to be replaced in the case of tens of thousands by a standard of what might almost be termed hardship. What is to be the reception of our people of the altered conditions? They may be prepared to accept them meekly, take up an additional two or three holes in their belts, and exhibit their traditional qualities in a manner that will meet with the approval of all. But, as I have already said, I am assailed by doubt, especially when I recall the doctrines that have been preached for so many years by my honorable friends who sit opposite.
The people of this country believe that they have more than a right to all the good things of this life. They may still have that right; but it can no longer be gratified. They can see the necessaries of life being produced in abundance; but they ‘will have to realize that it;is essential for us to export as much as possible, and to go as short as possible ourselves, if we are to meet our financial commitments. It would appear that politics in this country will be more or less in a condi- tion of chaos ,f or a number of years. No party, no government will feel secure. That is most unfortunate at the present time, because, if thi6 work is to be carried out in a proper manner, there should be security in government and some continuity of policy. There should not be the likelihood of an election resulting in men being sent to this Parliament who do not realize the urgency of applying corrective measures, and who may take advantage of the difficulties with which we are confronted to undo a great deal of what will be done within the next few weeks, and so make it harder for Australia to surmount her troubles. We all hope, perhaps we are al] sure, that sooner or later we shall emerge triumphantly; but we have to consider the effects of the changes during that period of emerging, not merely upon our institutions, but also upon our national character and outlook. Those effects will be felt by the people in many more directions than it is possible for us to contemplate at the present time.
I endorse these proposals in the main. There may be certain details that require further consideration or alteration; but, taken as a whole, they must bes - and 1 believe they will be - accepted by this Parliament. But, in view of what has happened in New South Wales, particularly under the Lang Labour Government, and of the expressions of opinion in other quarters, we ought to ask ourselves quite seriously - and I say this without reflecting in any way upon either the personnel of the Government or the party behind it - is a Labour Government or a Labour party best fitted to give effect to these proposals? Can they be expected to carry them out in the spirit as well a9 the letter? We know how that party is constituted, and of it3 dependence upon outside organizations. We know that a conference may make decisions from which members of the party could not depart and remain within the movement. Such a decision might upset a very great deal of the work that had been done by the agency of the proposed legislation.
– This Labour Government is better fitted to carry out the Tory policy than to give effect to ita own platform.
– My honorable friend may be right; but as he must admit, he is not in step with other Labour members of this Parliament, and cannot express the opinion of the party. I put this view forward quite seriously, because it appears to me to be worthy of the consideration not only of this Parliament but also of the people of this country. I feel that, while it may have the capacity within itself, the Government is yet not competent to give effect to this policy and to carry out the determinations that have been and will be arrived at, because the organizations that are behind it may lay down conditions and propound policies that directly conflict with this plan, and thus make it impossible to give to it that thorough effect which must be given if it is to be of any service to the people of Australia. The party is already breaking under the strain, and I do not wonder at it. That is not condemnation of it, but merely a statement of fact. Seeing these things, wo are justified in feeling that the path which has to be trodden will not be free from dangers, even though there may be an agreement at the moment between the different parties. Such an agreement may not be possible next week or the week after. That is not the right atmosphere in which to approach the solution of the many grave problems with which we are confronted. It is necessary, for us to take a survey of the whole situation. I have drawn attention to certain aspects of it, so that proper consideration will be given to the difficulties that undoubtedly exist. But I believe that, in spite of all, this great young country will emerge triumphant; that we shall overcome our troubles, and reestablish for the benefit of all sections of our people, conditions of which we can justifiably be proud, with the result that the Australia of the future will be a better country than the Australia of the past, because it will have been purged by the privations and the troubles through which it has passed.
– The motion before the Senate affords scope for a very lengthy discussion upon the subjects that are included in the paper that it is desired to have printed. It is advisable, however, to make one’s remarks general in character, because we shall have to discuss at a later stage the different measures that are necessary to give effect to the decisions of the conference held in Melbourne, one of which we already have before us. I have no desire to anticipate the discussion that will take place on the details of those bills; but it may be necessary to refer to one or two important phases of the report that we are now considering.
I was struck by a remark of the previous speaker at the conclusion of his speech, in which he expressed the hope that Australia would eventually emerge from this great trial a better and a stronger nation. That is the hope of all of us. Many of us realize that, as with individuals so with nations, adversity compels a recognition of failings and a determination to avoid a repetition of those failings in the future. I listened very attentively to the speeches which have been delivered during this debate, and particularly to that of Senator Kneebone, yesterday. It was a well-reasoned speech from the honorable senator’s point of view, but, unfortunately, his criticisms of some of the individuals, who, he said, had assisted in bringing about the wretched state of affairs we are in at the present time, were without foundation. For instance, he referred to what, he declared, was the failure of the BrucePage Government to recognize the necessities of the country, and he said that its extravagance had contributed very largely to the present situation. He particularly referred to a speech delivered in Adelaide in 1927 by Mr. Bruce, and quoted him as having said, “I think it is clear that we have a soundly established provision to meet our debt by the provision of a sinking fund.” The honorable senator then proceeded to criticize the Bruce-Page Government for having handicapped its successors by leaving a huge deficit, but if he has been dissecting the figures relating to the finances of Australia he must realize that the deficit was entirely due to the desire of the Bruce-Page Government to reduce the indebtedness of the Commonwealth. Indeed the present Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) has said that that Government contributed more than £14,000,000 out of revenue unnecessarily to the national debt sinking fund. That £14,000,000 exceeded the amount of the deficit left by the Bruce-Page Government. Had that Government simply complied with the provisions of the National Debt Sinking Fund Act, instead of leaving a deficit, it would have left a substantial surplus when it went out of office, and it is well to let the public know it.
Many commissions have reported upon the condition of Australia, and it is most opportune to refer to the visit paid in the latter part of 1928 by the British Economic Mission generally known as the Big Four. Senator Kneebone will be gracious enough to admit that the commission did excellent work. Its investigation was very exhaustive and its advice to Australia was exceedingly sound. A few months after the visit of this mission, Mr. Bruce warned the people of Australia that the time had arrived when they could not possibly afford to live as they had been living in the past without meeting with disaster. His warning was quoted last week by the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition. He, and those associated with him, were fully aware of the troublous times that lay ahead, and were prepared to play their part in making provision for meeting those troublous times.
– They were defeated for doing so.
– Because of their efforts in that direction they were defeated. A few days ago I said that we must recognize that if the plan we are now considering is carried out to the full it Will not meet the case so far as Australia is concerned.
– It will not nearly do so.
– The position can be met only by an entire change in regard to the conditions imposed upon the people. Certain factors have contributed more largely than others to the position in which we find ourselves to-day. I repeat what I said a few days ago. If mistakes had not been made, if our community had not been built up on an absolutely false basis, if we had not been so weakened by the persistent results of those mistakes, particularly those in regard to our industrial and social legislation, we should have been able to stand up to adversity with a certain amount of equanimity.
After dealing with the problem of Australian finance, the British Economic Mission reported as follows: -
In those pregnant remarks the mission hit the nail on the head. Unmistakably, our difficulties of to-day have mainly been caused by the artificial standards we have set up here. Even to-day, notwithstanding the present depression, certain persons connected with public life in Australia declare that they will be no party to the reduction of the standard of living in Australia. Who has suggested that the standard of living should be lowered ? No one in the party with which I am associated has ever suggested it. But we can have all that is necessary for the happiness and welfare of the people without resorting to artificial means of bolstering up industries, and those industries can be made of use to Australia provided the very best work is put into them. Inefficiency, instead of being condemned, has practically been advocated. The policy of doing as little as one can and demanding as much as one can possibly get has been rampant in Australia.
– That is not correct.
– I can cite hundreds of instances in which it has been put into practice. Men have been fined by the unions controlling them for daring to give a reasonable day’s work for the pay they received.
– That is nonsense.
– The honorable senator will remember that I read from a paper, which I have now in my possession, published at the Trades Hall, Goulburnstreet, Sydney, a list of men who had been fined as much as £10 each for breaking log time - for doing a job in the time in which they could do it with reason. Some of our most prominent public men have incited workers to break awards and defy the Arbitration Court, and by so doing have caused distress to an appalling extent. I heard the present Treasurer of the Commonwealth, during the timber strike, urging men to defy the law and disobey the award of the court. He said, “ Stand up for your principles, men, and we will stand behind you”. While that sort of thing is going on in Australia can we wonder at distress and adversity coming on the people ? I believe that this time of trouble has been sent to us to teach us the lesson that we must not expect to receive anything, unless we work for it. The people of this country, and particularly those engaged in industry, must give of their best, not so much for the benefit of the industries in which they are employed, as for the sake of their country. Up to the present we have been failing in one important branch of education. What measures are taken to give the children in our primary and secondary schools lessons on patriotism? So far as I am aware, no special exercise is influenced in that direction by those controlling the destinies of the younger generation, who should be taught that their first duty is to their country. The measures we are shortly to discuss will not be really beneficial unless a definite effort is made by all sections to render patriotic service to their country. Sacrifice must be made in the right spirit, and those who will be compelled to surrender some of the privileges they now enjoy should be prepared to assist to the fullest extent in order to bring about the desired result.
– If this plan is adopted, hundreds of our schools will be closed.
– That will not be necessary. I am merely suggesting that the spirit of patriotism should be inculcated in the minds of the younger generation. One of the primary duties of any country is to teach the children in ita schools that their first duty when they face the graver responsibilities of life, is to their country. I would not be going too far if I suggested that legislation should be enacted to make it a penal offence to incite men to restrict their output or to in any way interfere with those who are anxious to do their best.
In watching the progress, and in some instances, the retrogression, of people with whom I have been associated, I have always found that those who have been taught to love their country, and not to look upon any task as being to menial, have made the best of their opportunities, and in doing so have benefited their country. It is the. duty of every member of the community to give of his best, and not to accept anything for which he does not render some service in return. It was men of that type who laid the foundations of this country upon which a fine superstructure has been built by the arduous efforts of those who followed them. But as a result of the actions of some who think only of themselves, and disregard entirely the interests of their country, that fine superstructure may crumble to the dust.
Recently a conference consisting of economists and representative public men in various shades of politics considered the best means of overcoming our financial difficulties, and for the first time in the history of Australia this Parliament is being asked to break contracts into which the Government has entered with people during the last few years. The position of a nation is similar to that of an individual, who, when finding his business affairs are so dislocated, and that he is unable to carry on without the assistance of others, calls a meeting of his creditors and asks them 10 accept a composition of 10s. or 15s. in the £1. I have not the slightest doubt that those who have invested in bonds will stand right up to their task in an endeavour to assist their country.
– They are to be compelled to.
– They are not. If the honorable senator contends that the proposed conversion of all Australian stock is to be on a compulsory basis, I entirely disagree with him.
– What else is it?
– If they do not convert, they will not have a “dog’s chance “.
– If it is to be a compulsory conversion, provision should be made that when Australia is in a more prosperous position we will recompense those to whom we are indebted to the extent by which interest rates are to be reduced. The proposed conversion is a straightout appeal to the patriotism of the people, just as was the case when the first war loan was raised, and bondholders accepted a rate of interest 14 per cent, lower than was available elsewhere. Notwithstanding the lower rate every penny was subscribed.
– Every penny should have been . contributed by the flagflapping crowd without any interest.
– The honorable senator would not lend money without interest, and those who contribute to our war loans are entitled to payment for the use of their money. Those who protest against the payment of interest on government loans are usually those who do not contribute to them. I have often heard bondholders referred to as “ Shylocks “. The same term has been applied to the banking institutions of this country which are said to be exploiting the people. Quite recently I made some inquiries in connexion with one of the most prominent of the associated banks of Australia which has a large number of shareholders, and is alleged to be exploiting the people, but I found that the average value of the shares holdings is only £178. Many of those who have contributed to Commonwealth loans are people of comparatively small means and have loaned their money to their country from a sense of patriotism rather than with the intention of deriving profit. If an investigation were made it would be found that many of those who speak about “ iniquitous “ bondholders have not contributed one penny to assist their country.
The report of the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers proposes a 20 per cent, reduction in all adjustable government expenditure as compared with the expenditure for the year 1929-30, including invalid, oldage and war pensions and the maternity allowance. I have already referred to the artificial basis upon which many of our activities have been conducted, and have said that a good deal of the expenditure incurred in the past was unjustified. In referring to Hansard of 1921, I found that in that year I strongly opposed the payment of the maternity allowance without regard to the position of the recipients. I realized how ridiculous it was to pay a maternity allowance to the wives of men who were earning say £1,000 a year or more, particularly when a portion of the money from which the allowance was paid was contributed by taxpayers whose resources were very limited. It may be said that persons in receipt of very high incomes do not collect the maternity allowance, but if honorable senators will refer to a recent issue of Commonwealth Y car-Booh they will find that the number of applications for the maternity allowance exceeded the number of children born. It is now proposed to pay the maternity allowance only to the wives of those whose incomes do not exceed £300 a year. As far back as 1921, I suggested that there was absolutely no justification for paying a maternity allowance to those who did not need it, and that it would be preferable to make provision for those needing medical attention or other comforts to be financially assisted. After the long period that has elapsed it is at last being realized that some amendment of the existing law is necessary. I should prefer to go even further than is now proposed by providing that assistance in maternity oases should be given only to those who need it, and then only in co-operation with certain institutions in each State. It is also proposed to reduce war pensions by 20 per cent., and invalid and old-age pensions by 12^ per cent. I cannot see the justice of that differentiation.
– It is most unfair.
– It is. I feel that I owe a greater debt of gratitude to the men who fought overseas than to any one else. Although I was unable to serve in the Great War, it is my duty to do all I can for those of my fellow countrymen who did, and for the dependants of those who gave their lives for their country. We are now asked to reduce the pensions of men, many of whom are seriously maimed, by 20 per cent. This is not the time to discuss the subject in detail, but I urge that there are certain types of soldiers whose pensions should not be interfered with at all. Some of these men are badly maimed, others have had their constitutions broken down by tuberculosis and other causes. They are just able to exist on the pensions they are getting to-day. Some way must be evolved by which the necessary economies can be made without touching the pensions of these men. It is possible that there are many anomalies; these should be found and removed. I take it that the basis on which pensions were fixed was arrived at only after the most careful investigation. If possible, that basis should not be disturbed. While I recognize that expenditure must be reduced, I believe that that end can be achieved without penalizing the men who have suffered in the service of their country.
– The position could be met by lowering the interest rate to 3 per cent.
– Something must be done to avoid penalizing these men.
In conclusion, I wish to repeat what I said a day or two ago, that this plan of itself will not get us out of the mire. Something more is necessary; there must be a change of heart on the part of all sections of the community. Australia is more blessed by Providence than is any other country in the world. As I have said before, there are more blessings to the square foot in Australia than to the square yard in any other country; yet, notwithstanding those blessings, there has been greater dissatisfaction among Australians than among the people of other countries.
– Only by dissatisfaction can conditions be improved.
– I remind the honorable senator that a contented mind is a continual feast. I admit that there is a discontent which is laudable; but there is also a discontent which ought to be condemned. There is a point at which our discontent should cease, and considerationgiven to the interests of others. We ought not to seek everything for ourselves and leave nothing for others. I believe that we can look forward to a change of demeanour on the part of the people of Australia. It may be that at this time in the world’s history, as on many occasions in the past, adversity will teach lessons which would never be learned in times of prosperity. Continued prosperity tends to produce men of the jellyfish type - men without backbone. I am hopeful that out of our adversity a new Australia will arise, and that in the future our people will strive, as they have not striven of recent years, not so much for themselves as for the good of the country.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland) [12.35]. - I share with Senator Payne, who has just resumed his seat, the hope that Australia will emerge from its present difficulties a better nation. I was surprised to hear Senator Duncan say that, in his opinion, Australia could not, by - its own efforts, triumph over its difficulties. I do not agree with the honorable senator. Australia has been through difficult times before, and has come out of them successfully. She will do so again. I know something of the trials and difficulties of the early ‘nineties. The way in which the Australian people faced their troubles then, and brought their country through, was indeed remarkable. Notwithstanding the severe drought which visited Australia from 1899 to 1902, the country had by that time recovered to such an extent, that, despite the drought, it remained on .a sound financial basis.
I commend Senator Kneebone for the moderation he displayed when expressing his views. I cannot, however, accept many of his deductions, nor do I agree with the views he expressed as to the means which should be adopted to get out of our troubles. His suggestions will not solve our difficulties.
The honorable senator compared a speech made by Mr. Bruce, the former Prime Minister, in July, 1927, with a statement made by him at a Premiers Conference held in May, 1929. I remind Senator Kneebone of the changes that took place in the interval. In 1927 Australia was at the peak period of her prosperity; the national income of that year amounted to £650,000,000. When the right honorable gentleman addressed the Premiers Conference in May, 1929, the national income had fallen to £564,000,000, and our principal export commodities were realizing much lower prices than in 1927. The result was that governmental finance had got into such a position as to require serious consideration by the various governments. The statement made by Mr. Bruce in May, 1929, has been fully justified by subsequent events. The present Government ignored, not only the statement of Mr. Bruce - a statement made after a full consideration of the position - but also the warning of various authorities in this country. It went further, for it also ignored the warning of an expert which the Government itself invited to visit Australia to advise it on financial matters. The advice tendered by the Government’s own expert officers, as well as that of Sir Robert Gibson - a man well qualified to speak on the subject - was brushed aside. Not until the country was on the brink of default did the Government take any action; and even then I doubt whether it would have actea had it not ‘been that the Loan Council appointed a committee of its own members to investigate the country’s finances and authorized it to call to its aid economists and Treasury officials. The Federal Treasurer, Mr. Theodore, dissented from that proposal when it was made. At last,, however,- when action can no longer be postponed, the Government has accepted the plan agreed to at the recent Premiers Conference.
In order that honorable senators may see the serious situation confronting this country, I propose to read a few paragraphs from page 171 of that report -
The Governments of Australia have met in conference to consider -what measures are possible to restore solvency and avoid default. The national income was £650,000,000 in 1927-28. It fell to £564,000,000 in 1929-30, and a further fall to £450,000,000 in 1931-32 is estimated.
This has reacted on government finance.
The total deficit of the seven Australian Governments will be £31,000,000 for the present financial year. The Governments arc now going behind at the rate of £40,000,000 a year, in spite of reduction of expenditure amounting to £11,000,000 per annum since 1929-30. The deficits have been met hitherto by bank overdraft. The Common!wealth Bank has notified the governments that the limit to that process has been reached. Early in July, governments twill have insufficient means to meet their obligations. Unless the drift be stopped Public Service salaries and wages, pensions and interest could not be paid in full. Public default would be followed by a partial breakdown in public utilities, such as railways, and in private industry and trade. Revenue would come toppling down, and even half-payment might become impossible. With this prospect, everything that can be got from Government economy, from taxation, and from reduction of interest, must be called on to bring the debit ‘balance within manageable limits that can safely and practically be covered for a time by borrowing.
That report shows the necessity for giving effect to the plan devised by the Premiers Conference.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– If any one doubted the need to give effect to the plan which emanated from the Premiers Conference in Melbourne, it would be dispelled by studying the figures relating to the national income, which has declined from approximately £650,000,000 in 1927-28 to an estimated amount of £450,000,000 in the current financial year. The information also discloses that the various governments, State and Federal, are drifting at the rate of about £40,000,000 a year. Obviously, this backward trend must be arrested if we are to avoid national default. This morning, Senator Duncan also quoted some arresting figures disclosing how serious is the position of our exporting industries. The value of our wool clip has declined from £76,500,000 in 1927-28 to £43,827,000 in 1929-30. This year, the estimated value will be much lower than that.
– It will be about £25,000,000.
– There has been a similarly disastrous fall in income received from wheat. In 1927-28 our wheat crop was worth approximately £53,000,000, whereas last year it brought only about £10,000,000. The figures dealing with unemployment are equally disquieting, the percentage of unemployed rising from 9.3 in 1927-28 to 25.8 in the first quarter of the present year.
Much the greater share of the burden due to the decline in income is being borne by our primary industries. Our wool-growers are facing an extremely serious position. In 1924 the average value of a fleece was in the neighbourhood of 17s. ; to-day it is not worth more than 5s. 2d. As the figures show, our wheat-growers have suffered to a like extent, and I am afraid that we cannot look for an improvement in our general financial economic position until the tariff and other burdens are lifted from primary industries, thus making it pos sible to export our surplus products at a profit. Senator Payne, this morning, quoted a number of extractsfrom the report of the British Economic Mission, published in 1929. I should like to supplement what he said by putting on record the following comment by that body relating to production costs : -
There lies no task before the Australian people more urgent than that of, in some way, breaking the vicious circle and of bringing down costs of production, as is being done in other industrial countries of the world, without lowering the standard of living of the workers as measured, not by money, but by real wages which are the reward of labour in the form of goods and services.
No one can successfully challenge the truth underlying that statement. Unless action is taken to enable those engaged in exporting industries to produce for export at a cost which will allow of a margin for profit, it will not be possible for Australia to overcome its difficulties. Unfortunately there is a wide gap between the amount which our primary producers receive for their production, and the amount paid by the consumers. The distributors and their employees are in’the same position as the other protected industries of the Commonwealth, their conditions being maintained by legislative enactments whereas primary producers, whose major incomes are derived from exports overseas, are forced to accept very much lower incomes, and in some cases have had no income at all.
Yesterday, Senator Rae, by way of interjection when Senator Brennan was speaking on the subject of Arbitration Court awards, said, “What we have we hold”. This determination on the part of trade unionists not to surrender any of the privileges which they have enjoyed for so many years, even when Australia is confronted with the greatest crisis in its history, has already been responsible for very great hardship among the workers. The disastrous strike in the timber industry, to cite but one instance of many that could be mentioned, is conclusive evidence in support of what I am saving. The later trouble on the waterfront is another example of trade unionists endeavouring, not only to hold what they have, but to extract even more from industry. Those industrial disturbances imposed great hardships upon the rank and file of the unions concerned. But there is a still more recent instance of the futility of this course of action. Early this year, Queensland shearers, working under an award of the State Arbitration Court, were awarded higher wages than were being paid in other States, and SenatorRae, who tells us that trade unionists believe in holding what they have, went to Queensland and succeeded in persuading the local shearers not to continue working under the award of the Queensland court. The net result of his action was that members of the Australian Workers Union from his own State came to Queensland and obtained the work which the misguided local shearers refused to do. Only a fortnight ago the desperate position in which these men now find themselves was brought under my notice. Being out of work they are obliged to appeal to local storekeepers in the various towns to give them credit and carry them over until next shearing season. It would not be too much to say that these men were robbed of their income for the year. Even Senator Rae will admit that what I am saying is correct.
– It is not.
– Will the honorable senator deny that he went to Queensland and advised the shearers not to work under the award of the Queensland court?
– I will reply to the honorable senator in extenso. I cannot do so by interjection.
– This interference with the smooth working of industry is largely responsible for the tremendously difficult position which confronts us. In the case which I have just cited, the unionists were quite prepared to abide ‘ by the award of the court, but were persuaded, against their better judgment, not to continue in their employment. The pastoral industry is not in such a prosperous condition that it can stand this constant interference between employer and employee, and the troubles which arise from the formation of a union within a union. We have reached a stage when employers and employees in all industries must share in the sacrifices necessary to restore prosperity. Only in this way can we expect -to surmount our present troubles.
One of the measures included in the plan is -
A reduction of 20 per cent, in all adjustable government expenditure, as compared with the year ending the 30th June, 1930, including all emoluments, wages, salaries, and pensions paid by the governments, whether by statute or otherwise, such reductions to be equitably effected.
That would include war pensions. I am sure all honorable senators agree that the contract between the Government and our ex-soldiers, and especially those who are suffering from war injuries is one that should be morally binding on the Commonwealth. I agree entirely, with the views expressed yesterday by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) with regard to the spirit of our returned soldiers. The right honorable gentleman said that probably he had come in contact with a greater number of ex-soldiers than any other member of either House. I think that would be true; but., of soldier members -and senators, I believe I have met a greater number of returned soldiers in Australia and at the front than any other senator or member of another place. I can, therefore, speak with some knowledge of the services given and sacrifices made by our men. I fully appreciate their splendid qualities. I know how resourceful and courageous they were at the front; how remarkable was their endurance, and how cheerfully they made thegreat sacrifices that were so often, demanded of them. Knowing all this, I realize to the full the great debt which this country owes to all disabled ex-soldiers. The Government acted wisely in acceding tothe request of the Leader of the Opposition in another place, that the returned soldier’s organizations should be informed’’ of the amount of the cut in pensions that was necessary and that, with a full knowledge of the disabilities under which the soldiers suffer, they should advise the Government as to the incidence of the reductions. I approve of that action, because I feel that, unless this plan were given effect, the returned soldier would run the chance of suffering a much larger reduction. The Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) has shown that unless the proposed reductions are made immediately, the revenue will be sufficient to meet expenses only to the extent of 12s. in the £1; or, if payments be made in full to external bondholders, only to the extent of 9s. in the £1. Any action of mine in connexion with this plan will be in the direction of seeing that the country is placed in such a position that the returned soldier will receive as high a pension as can be afforded.
In this morning’s press there appears a letter that was written to the Prime Minister by a returned soldier at Balgowlah, New South “Wales, which reads as follows : - .
I heard your appeal over the air on Tuesday evening from my home. As a digger pensioner, and a T.B. one at that, and one who loves his country, my heart went out to you and your great appeal. At Gallipoli and France, General Birdwood, when he wanted us to put our best into the fight, appealed to us, and we never let him down, and I am sure that the spirit of Anzac that responded then will not fail you in your great fight for Australia. I, for one, am willing to do my bit towards it, and I am sure the rest of the boys will too. Wishing you the best of luck and success.
That letter embodies the spirit of the Australian Imperial Force. I am sure that returned soldiers will render all possible assistance to the Government and the country in the present critical times.
I find that Commonwealth public servants are resisting the proposed reductions of salaries. I remind them that practically every section of the community has been living on a reduced income for some considerable time, while the unemployed and a large number of wheat-growers and wool-growers have had no income at all. Unless those and other primary producers are placed in a position to make their industries pay, it will not. be long before public servants will receive no return for their labour. I have received the following letter from the Commonwealth Public Service Organizations, New South Wales branches, 32 Castlereagh-street, Sydney, dated the 2nd July, 1931 : -
We beg to advise that the following resolutions were adopted unanimously at a crowded meeting of over 700 Commonwealth Public Service employees, held in Sydney on Monday night last, June 29th, that -
– This mass meeting of Commonwealth Public Service employees records its uncompromising hostility to the proposed reductions of wages, and views with indignation the action of the Federal Labour Government in pursuing the policy of ruthless wage cuts, as it violates the principles of unionism, and of the Australian Labour Party.
– That all Federal Parliamentary representatives be called upon to take immediate action to prevent the proposed salary cuts being put into effect.
– Our opposition to the proposed wage reductions are based on the following conclusions: -
They will violate the- basic principles on which Commonwealth Public Servants wages have been calculated by the Arbitration tribunal by substituting the cost of living adjustments on quarterly instead of yearly basis.
They will restrict the purchasing power of Commonwealth Public Service employees, thereby increasing business depression, and unemployment.
They will encourage private employers to continue to seek further wage reductions.
They will restrict the ability of Commonwealth Public Service employees to continue superannuation contributions, and will violate the principles of the Superannuation Act, by reducing the value of pensions contributed for.
We invite you to give effect to the wishes of the mass meeting by preventing the Public Service salary cuts becoming effective.
Following Commonwealth Public Service unions were officially associated with the mass meeting : -
All New South Wales branches, Amalgamated Postal Workers Union, Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association, Australian Third Division Telegraphists and Postal Clerks Union, Federated Public Service Assistants Association, Australian Fourth Division Telegraphists, Postmasters and Postal Clerks Union, Fourth Division Officers Association of Trade and Customs, Commonwealth Public Service Artisans Association, Line Inspectors Association, PostmasterGeneral’s Department, Commonwealth Telegraphic Traffic and Supervisory Officers Association, Commonwealth Telephone Officers Association, and Australian Postal Electricians Union.
On behalf of the organizing committee,
Ernest Smith, chairman,
If any section of the community should be conversant with the present position of the Commonwealth, it is the Public Service. Those who expect their conditions to be sacrosanct while the conditions of the remainder of the community are so seriously affected, have a very poor conception of their public responsibility.
– They had a cost of living, reduction recently.
– They object to the cost of living reduction being made quarterly instead of annually. Unless our great exporting industries are made to pay, the public servants will not receive any salaries. If they had a right conception of their public responsibilities, they would acquiesce in the reductions proposed by the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers.
We should pay heed to the lesson that is taught by the depression in which we find ourselves, and realize that it is not possible to ignore economic laws indefinitely. Public men at least should refrain from malling promises which are not capable of fulfilment. The delay that has taken place in meeting the situation is due to the promises that were made by Labour at the last election, and that were not capable of being given effect. If we learn the lesson that is taught by the depression, I am confident that advantages will accrue to this country and its people.
– Every person in this Commonwealth now realizes that unfortunately the economic position has developed adversely to us, because of a variety of causes, included in which are the collapse of world prices’ for the great raw commodities upon which this country largely depends, and extravagance in government. The national income of Australia has fallen in the last few years by £200,000,000. There is an old economic truism that you cannot take out of a bag more than you put into it. If we have £200,000,000 less to divide among the 6£ million people in Australia, and any selfish section insists upon being given the same wages or salaries that they have been receiving up to now’, it stands to reason that the rest of the community must suffer, and that ‘there will be nothing left for many of them. We in Australia have tried to take out more than has been put in or produced; hence the awful state of unemployment with which we are saddled and which has increased since the present Government took office from 12 per cent, to over 25 per cent, of the registered workers1 of this country. No fewer than 360,000 men are out of work at the present time.
Many individuals, including some who previously were supporters and so-called friends of Mr. Bruce and his government, are apt to lay the blame for our present position at the door of that Government, being unacquainted with and apparently not caring to learn the facts. They should be educated in that regard. During the regime of the Bruce-Page Ministry, the Commonwealth debt increased by only £13,000,000, and actually decreased by over £6 per head of the population. The States were the borrowers and spenders. During that period they increased their debts by no less a. sum than £207,000,000. I have heard Mr. Bruce referred to most unfairly as “Boost, borrow and bust Bruce.” He is a great Australian; and he was not nearly so lavish a borrower or spender as some people seem to imagine. The public clamoured for governments to borrow. Deputation after deputation begged both Federal and State Governments to borrow money for expenditure upon roads and other things, unmindful of the fact that the roads, if constructed parallel with and adjacent to our railways, as has so stupidly been, the practice, would rob our railways; whereas, had they been constructed at right angles to the railways they would have served a more useful purpose by acting as feeders. It is regrettable that our politicians were weak enough to bow to that clamour. Our policy of spending millions of pounds on building roads running parallel to railway lines, instead of acting as feeders to them, has been ridiculously shortsighted.
More than two years ago, Mr. Bruce, in Parliament, on the public platform, and at conferences, called attention to the fall in the price of commodities and stressed the need for economy, and he went to the country with a programme to a large extent based on those economies. The public, however, supported Mr. Scullin, who said that it was not necessary to make reductions in expenditure.
In 1920, the debt of the Commonwealth was £352,400,000; ten years later it had increased to £372,900,000, an increase of only £20,500,000. In 1920, the debt of the States was £425,900,000, but by 1930, ten years later, it had increased by £301,700,000 to the huge sum of £727,600,000. In the same period the Commonwealth debt per head of the population decreased by £7 16s. 10d., whereas that of the States rose from £79 10s. lid. to £113 4s. 4d., an increase of-£33 13s. 5d. “We have an internal debt, Commonwealth and States, of £556,000,000, of which war expenditure accounts for £223,000,000. I join issue with those who say that the balance of the money has been spent in the development -of the country, because to my mind far too great a proportion of it has been spent on the development of cities, rather than the country. The ship of state has been leaking for the last two years, and no attempt has been made to stop the leak. She has been drifting badly. Had effect been given nine months ago to the expert and non-partisan advice of Sir Otto Niemeyer, it would not have been necessary to make a cut in regard to pensions and salaries beyond 16 per cent. The Prime Minister now says that the country is in such a parlous condition that it is necessary to reduce by $2$ per cent, the interest payable to bondholders - they took up their bonds in good faith and on prospectuses that ensured to them a certain rate of interest - and to have an all-round cut equal to 20 per cent, in regard to old-age pensions and soldiers’ pensions. The necessity for cutting soldiers’ pensions should never have arisen. In an@ther place a bill has been introduced providing for a reduction of 3p to 50 per cent, in the case of some soldiers’ pensions, namely, those of partly blinded soldiers. The pension is to be reduced by 20 per cent.; but an allowance of 7s. 6d. is also to cease. It is a cruel proposal. Old-age pensions are to be reduced by 12£ per cent. These drastic cuts are double what would have been necessary if the advice of the financial experts and economists who attended the Melbourne conference had been carried out at the time they were agreed to by the Prime Minister and the State Premiers. Mr. Scullin now says that more drastic cuts must be carried out immediately, otherwise the Commonwealth will not be able to pay civil servants or pensioners more than 12s. in the £1 from the end of this month. What a, frightful position in which to allow the good old ship Australia to drift.
As a matter of fact, during the last eighteen months, the ship has been under the control of pirates. Trade union secretaries have run her almost on the rocks.
Sir Otto Niemeyer, acknowledged to be one of the greatest financiers of the world, was invited by the Government to give advice on Australia’s financial position. He rendered great service to this country by the strictly non-partisan advice he gave, for which, I regret to say, he was subsequently insulted. But ever since our policy has been one of procrastination and drift.
I admit that drastic economy in expenditure is necessary, but I believe that the productivity of this country, its marvellously recuperative power, and the courage of its people will succeed in keeping the ship of state from becoming a total wreck, although I admit this plan means what is practically a repudiation of our obligations. If the bondholders do not agree to accept a reduction of 22^ per cent, in respect of their interest rates, they will almost assuredly be subjected to special taxation of 25 per cent. This reduction of interest on internal loans will save £6,500,000, and the bondholders’ loss will be Australia’s gain. Is it not far better for the bondholders to hold a good security at a comparatively low rate of interest than to hold a doubtful security at a high rate of interest? This cut will save the bondholders’ securities. In any case 4 per cent, is not a very low rate of interest in comparison with the dividends now obtainable from industrial concerns. It is a very fair return-
– For a gilt-edged security.
– There is not very much gilt-edge about it.
– I maintain that Australia’s securities are gilt-edged. This country is neither helpless nor hopeless, and the Government, with the support of all parties, is trying to maintain the security of the bondholders. In my opinion, interest rates have been too high for many years past. The savings banks, which may be said to set the standard of the rate of interest chargeable, have been attracting capital by paying a certain rate of interest on deposits; and the trading banks have had to offer a slightly higher rate to attract deposits. But there has probably been too big a margin between what the banks have paid the depositors, and what they have charged the borrowers. The average rate of interest paid by the trading banks to depositors has been about 4f per cent., whereas the average rate of interest charged to borrowers has Deen 7 per cent. Such a margin is too great. No doubt the overhead expenses of our financial institutions and insurance societies have been heavy, but they have set a very bad example to the people in the extravagance of their buildings. In the capital cities, and even in some provincial cities, one finds banks and insurance companies housed in palatial structures. Millions of pounds are irretrievably locked up in granite and marble structures. Economists have described the huge gold reserves of America and France as frozen gold, and some say that if this frozen gold were released there would be an immediate increase in the flow of trade throughout the world. These financial institutions of Australia have millions of pounds sterling frozen in unnecessarily palatial and extravagant buildings. If it be true that these huge structures have been built out of profits, it only goes to prove that there has been too big a margin between what has been paid for money deposited, and what has been charged upon money lent. The balance-sheets of banks and insurance companies during the past decade show that big dividends have been paid by them, and if out of their profits they have also been able to build these huge palatial structures, they must have retained an unnecessarily large margin between the rate of interest paid by them and that which has been charged by them to industry, particularly to primary producers. These people to-day are struggling against adversity, and in the face of abnormally low prices for the commodities they produce. Most of them are in debt, and the rates of interest they pay are 7 per cent, and 8 per cent. No primary industry can prosper under such a handicap. Primary producers, unlike the traders and storekeepers of the cities, cannot pass on to the consumer the added cost of production. They must sell their produce in the open markets of the world.
As Senator Glasgow remarked, Australia has to depend almost entirely upon its primary products. No less than 98 per cent, of our exports consist of primary products, and 75 per cent, of the total wealth we produce comes from the land.
I am strongly in favour of the Government’s proposal for an all-round reduction in interest rates. It is proposed to reduce the rate of interest on our internal indebtedness, but we may yet have to ask bondholders domiciled in Great Britain and elsewhere to afford some form of relief to Australia by accepting lower rates of interest. We do not desire to do that if it can possibly be avoided. The Government, having proposed to reduce interest on bonds by 22£ per cent., it is gratifying to find that the trading banks and other financial institutions have signified their intention to reduce the interest rates charged to borrowers. It is time that such a reduction was made because the rates charged by the banks have been very high.
Quite recently the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) appealed to the people of this country to contribute to a conversion loan of £28,000,000 on the definite assurance that a stipulated rate of interest would be paid; but after a comparatively short period the Government now has to admit that, in view of the financial circumstances confronting the country, that rate cannot be maintained. I have received letters from many persons who withdrew their deposits from the State savings banks to assist the Government in that big conversion, and also from some who, very anxious to assist, actually borrowed money to take up bonds bearing interest at 6 per cent. Some of these people, particularly those with slender means, find it hard to submit to a reduction of 22£. per cent., which, is greater than the reduction in the cost of living. Their principal complaint, however, is that when they convert their holdings their money will be locked up for an unnecessarily long period. Some of those who are now advanced in years will not be alive when their bonds mature. The other evening I had the privilege of listening to the right honorable the Prime Minister make a striking appeal to the people over the air, in supportof the forthcoming conversion. I do not think I have ever heard a more sincere or a better delivered appeal. When the right honorable gentleman referred to the proposed reductions, one could almost imagine one could see the tears on his cheeks.
– He is very good on the “ sob-stuff “.
– Even if the honorable senator terms it “ sob-stuff “, it was to the point. When this Government assumed office only twenty months ago, it gave a definite undertaking to the people that it would not sanction reductions in wages or pensions, and that the unemployed would be absorbed;, but within a comparatively short period it has now been forced to reduce interest by 22½ per cent., war pensions by 20 per cent., and invalid and old-age pensions by 12½ per cent., and there are now 360,000 people out of employment, many of whom are practically starving. Every one is being asked to make sacrifices, and in view of all the circumstances, I do not think that the people of Australia will object to the drastic policy which we have been compelled to adopt. The Prime Minister, informed the people that the alternative to the adoption of these proposals was that the Commonwealth and State Governments would be compelled to default in their payments to public servants this month. Although we were warned two years ago by the ex-Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) that the time had arrived to face economic facts, this Government definitely declined to do so.
We have also been informed that the cost of primary production must be reduced. How can that be done in view of the action of this Government in deliberately imposing unnecessarily high customs duties under schedules which are introduced almost weekly, and placing embargoes upon the importation of galvanized iron and other commodities absolutely necessary to the farming community? Customs . duties have been imposed to such an extent that the conditions of primary producers who are compelled to use galvanized iron, wire, wire netting, agricultural machinery, superphosphates, &c, has become almost intolerable. It has cost me, personally, £1,200 per farmer to equip share-farmers with articles necessary in the work of cereal production.
SenatorFoll. - Will the honorable senator assist to reduce existing customs duties ?
– Yes, on such items. Moreover, land taxation has increased in a most iniquitous way. During the last twelve months my land taxation has been doubled.
– On the same property ?
– Yes. Although most landholders are working their holdings at a loss, land taxation, which should be wiped out altogether, has, in many instances, doubled during the last year. That is the way in which this Government is bludgeoning the primary producer. How can the cost of producing wool, wheat and other commodities be reduced when, the producers are so heavily burdened by the imposition of unnecessarily high customs duties and class taxation?
– Land taxation is an arbitrary tax on wealth.
– I should liketo know who on the land is wealthy to-day. Australian wheat is grown by 62,000 families, and the lowest estimate at which that commodity can be produced is 3s. to 3s. 3d. per bushel delivered at railway sidings. Senator Lynch and others have said that it cannot be produced at that rate, and some authorities compute that the cost ranges from 4s.10d. to 5s. 6d. per bushel, according to the locality. According to yesterday’s quotations, the price of prime milling wheat delivered in Sydney was 2s. 2d. a bushel. Those engaged in wheat production in the Riverina district received, under one pool, only 1s. per bushel delivered in bags at the railway, and under another1s. 3d. a bushel, equivalent to about one-third of the cost of production. How can the wheat-growers continue to produce at that price? At present the British Labour Government is encouraging the dumping of wheat from Soviet Russia - a country which has repudiated its debt to Great Britain, and which employs forced labour in this and other industries.
Wool is our principal export commodity. For a period of five years, the much-despised sheep have been responsible for over 50 per cent, of the total exportable wealth of this country. Senator Glasgow referred to the fact that a few years ago the Australian wool-clip was valued at £70,000,000. For the year ended the 30th June last the average price of wool was only 8$d. per lb., and the country’s return from this source last year was only £25,000,000. If the Australian wool-clip were all sold in the markets of the world the average price realized at to-day’s market rates would be only 7£d. per lb. The rise in the market between January and March not having been maintained, we are nearly back to January rates. No authority will claim that we can produce wool in Australia below ls. per lb. on freehold properties; the cost is probably ls. 2d. per lb. On large lease holdings in Queensland and Western Australia the cost of production has been estimated at ls, per lb., but if the Australian clip were all sold in the markets of the world to-day it would not realize more than 7fd. a lb.
– Then the industry would not be profitable even if the men worked without wages.
– Wages are not so heavy a burden upon those engaged in the pastoral industry as are the high costs caused by the imposition of heavy customs duties and embargoes on the importation of certain commodities, and Federal, State and shire taxation and rates. Present wool prices are calamitous, but I am able to say the outlook for Australian wool-growers is more hopeful than that of our wheatgrowers. The wool market has been lower than it is to-day only once in forty years, but I can see a ray of hope. This year the Australian wool-growe)rs are likely to produce a record clip of over 3,000,000 bales of greasy wool, which, at £10 a bale, will return £30,000,000. Although such a price would not be profitable to the wool-grower, the returns of their labour would be of great benefit to Australia despite the zero state of the world’s buying power. It is gratifying to realize that there has been no great accumulation of stocks of wool or of semi-manufactured or manufactured woollen goods. People have been buying from hand to mouth, but sooner or later they will have to replenish their stocks. While there has been an accumulation of stocks of wheat, metals, rubber and other commodities, the fact that there has been no material accumulation of wool suggests that prices will improve within a comparatively short period. The people in the East are now using woollen goods more extensively. Twenty-five years ago I sold, as an agent, the first lot of 1,000 bales of scoured wool to the Japanese Government; but this year Japan has purchased 450,000 bales of Australian wool. Japanese buyers have informed me that already one-half of the population of Japan i* clothed in woollen materials, and that it is safe to estimate that within ten years the whole of the population of thatcountry will be wearing woollen attire. The garments in which wool is used are not necessarily of Western design. The Japanese Government commenced ‘by using wool in the manufacture of its uniforms for the navy, army and for its public servants. China has a population of over 400,000,000 people, and the Chinese are indirectly purchasing our wool for the same purpose. While the majority of the” teeming millions in China are too poor to purchase woollen goods, there are millions in circumstances which enable them to purchase woollen clothing’ and blankets. The Chinese have found that, instead of wearing five or six cotton suits on top of one another in their cold winters, one woollen suit and one woollen suit of underclothing give them more warmth and greater comfort. I hope that by a vigorous campaign of publicity, and the sending of samples to China, Manchuria, and Eastern Siberia, we shall increase our sales of wool to those countries as we have done in tha case of Japan. I am hopeful that, largely as a result of the increasing demand from the East, the wool market will recover before long.
Turning to meat, the average price obtained for both mutton and beef in the capital cities of Australia for the past twelve months’ has been about 2-Jd. or 3d. per lb. These and almost all primary com- modities are selling in the world’s markets for less than the cost of production. The Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) recently said that it was desirable that prices should be stabilized at the 1928 level. At the time I pointed out that that was impossible, seeing that Australia lives on the proceeds of her primary products which are exported. Even if every person ia Australia were clothed fully in Australian wool, we should still have to export 90 per cent, of our wool clip. Similarly, 75 per cent, of our meat and wheat are exported. How could we stabilize the price of those commodities in such circumstances? I notice that the Treasurer has recently adopted a changed attitude. He now admits that the stabilization of prices is a myth. Only this week, in a speech which was broadcast throughout Australia, he said -
The man who thinks that the old wage and the existing pension rates can be continued, or that Australia can continue to pay the existing heavy interest bills on public and private debt, is simply unable to recognize the facts of the present situation, and is living in a world of illusion.
With that statement I entirely agree. Mr. Theodore went on to say that the economies involved in the plan, instead of reducing the purchasing power of the community, would increase it. He added -
With the Premiers Conference plan in successful operation, and with business reestablished, there will be a greatly improved business outlook.
With those statements I agree. Nevertheless, I emphasize that the greatest need of Australia is the restoration of confidence. I fear that confidence will not be restored while the present Government remains in office. The Government has had its chance ; but by following a policy of vacillation it has destroyed public confidence.
I desire to refer to the important subject of soldiers’ pensions. I speak feelingly on this subject, because, although not myself a returned soldier, I have, for nearly 30 years, suffered some of the disabilities of disabled soldiers. There are no heroics about what I am going to say, nor am I indulging in any vote-catching scheme, because, after all, there are not very many blind, partially blind, limb less, or tubercular soldiers in Australia. Indeed, there are only 74,000 soldiers’ pensions for the whole of the Commonwealth. Senator Pearce, in the splendid speech which he delivered a few days ago, compared the pensions paid to returned soldiers in this country with those paid in Canada and New Zealand. Even with a 20 per cent, reduction of old-age and invalid pensions the outlay involved would be £1 8s. 2d. per head of the population in Australia as against 2s. 9d. in Canada and £1 0s. 2d. in New Zealand. But it is not proposed that invalid and old-age pensions shall be reduced by 20 per cent. The right honorable gentleman, instead, of dealing with the subject from the point of view of the tax per head of the population, should have dealt with it from the stand-point of the amount received by the pensioners. In the case of war pensions, if a 20 per cent, reduction were made, the cost to Australia would be 19s. 9d. per head of the population as against 17s. 3d. in Canada and 16s. 3d. in New Zealand, or £1 8s. 2d. for old-age pensioners. I cannot see why the payment per head of the population should be less in the case of returned soldiers than for old-age pensioners.
– There are more old-age pensioners than soldier pensioners.
– I am aware of that. But I maintain that it is not fair to reduce the pensions of soldiers by 20 per cent., while reducing old-age pensions by only 12£ per cent. The higher cost per head of population of soldier pensions in Australia compared with the cost in Canada and New Zealand is probably due to the more severe injuries inflicted on Australian soldiers. I do not say that our men were more in the thick of the fighting than were the New Zealanders, but I do say that they were proportionately to many of the Empire’s troops. The proportion of wounded Australian soldiers was greater than that of other parts of the Empire. It is, therefore, only reasonable to expect that the tax necessary for the payment of pensions to injured soldiers should be higher in Australia than in the other dominions.
I maintain that there should be no reduction at all in the pensions of seriously disabled soldiers. We are told that the nation is in serious difficulties, and that an equal sacrifice must be made by all sections of the community. Have not these men who, in fighting for our liberty, lost their eyesight or their limbs, or contracted tuberculosis or some other disease, made sacrifices for which they can never be repaid ? I shall not be one to vote for a reduction of their pensions. I realize that drastic economies must be made; but I maintain that the saving proposed to be made in connexion with pensions can be made without reducing soldier pensions by one penny. If a thorough investigation of soldiers’ pensions is made it will be found that savings can be made largely by lessening the amount paid, sometimes unnecessarily, to the dependants of soldiers. I admit that there are soldiers in the community drawing pensions who do not require them. Similarly, pensions are now paid to soldiers’ widows who have, since the death of their soldier husbands, married comparatively wealthy men. Not only 80, but any children born subsequently are also entitled to pensions. These anomalies exist, and they should be removed. The soldiers themselves are agreeable to their removal. They are as willing to make sacrifices now as they were in the terrible years of .the war. They propose to bring forward a scheme which, while not touching the pensions of disabled men, will effect considerable savings by eliminating anomalies. I hope there will be no need to reduce the pensions of soldiers’ widows or orphans. The returns show that pensions of limbless soldiers account for only 8.9 per cent, of our pension expenditure. Our crippled ex-soldiers have made tremendous sacrifices and should not be called upon to bear still heavier burdens.
I have spoken to some soldiers who have never drawn a pension, although they are entitled to it. At present they may be in a good position, but may fall on evil times, and need a pension. In such cases a record should be made that the illness or injury is due to war service so that if the need arose for the payment of a pension to the men concerned, it would be paid without question.
Everybody knows that Mr. Theodore, the present Treasurer, was campaign director for the Labour party in the last federal election campaign. In that capacity he caused thousands of pamphlets to be circulated in which all kinds of promises were made to ex-soldiers. Only eighteen months ago the honorable gentleman promised increased pensions and increased travelling facilities to limbless soldiers, and others, but now he is advocating a reduction of pensions up to 50 per cent, in some cases. People do not seem to realize that if the Government’s proposals are accepted some pensions will be cut in half. I hope that the returned soldiers committee will be able to recommend to the Government an alternative scheme for the reduction of depedants’ . pensions which will not involve our seriously disabled men in any reductions.
I object to the reduction of soldier pensions by 20 per cent., while old-age and invalid pensions are to be cut by only 12£ per cent. Our old-age and invalid pensioners at least had a chance to make good, yet perhaps through no fault of their own, in many cases, they were unable to make provision for their old age; but the soldiers who went on active service forfeited their chance to make good. In the very flower of their manhood they went abroad and so sacrificed their opportunity of advancement in their professions and occupations. In some other cases they sacrificed their opportunity to pass university and other examinations. Moreover, while they were absent other persons were able to “ dig in “ to good positions in various professions, and in banks and offices. When our soldiers returned from active service they had to drop in below understrappers and boys who were able to pass their examinations during the soldiers’ absence, and so make good. In the circumstances there should be no suggestion that war pensions should be cut more severely than old-age and invalid pensions. Every one of course, regrets the necessity for reducing any pensions.
Honorable senators opposite, and the supporters of the Labour party generally, in Parliament and elsewhere, have led the people to believe that the Labour party was responsible for the introduction of the original measure for the payment of old-age and in- valid pensions; but this is not the case. The first pension bill was introduced in 1908 by Sir Littleton Groom, a member of the Nationalist Government, or Liberal Government as it was then called. This provided for a pension of 10s. per week. The pension was first paid by the Deakin Administration in July, 1909.
– That Government was pushed by the Labour party into paying a pension.
– Not at all. As a matter of fact, a Labour government has never increased the pension, but it has decreased it, as it is being obliged to do to-day. It was a Nationalist government which in 1923 increased the pension from 15s. to 17s. 6d., and which in September, 1925, still further increased it to 20s. The present proposal to reduce the pension by 2s. 6d. is not unfair in view of the fact that the cost of living has fallen to a greater extent than that. My point, however, is that the pension system was instituted, not by a socialistic or Labour government, but by a Nationalist government. Labour, when it has been in power, has reduced pensions. It is now proposing to cut down the allowance payable to inmates of asylums by nearly 50 per cent.
Before any reduction is made in war pensions the payment of the maternity allowance should be altogether discontinued. Our blinded and partially blinded soldiers are in difficulties to-day. It is most difficult for partially blinded men to obtain work anywhere. They cannot be employed on railways, tramways, or in lifts, and shopkeepers are reluctant to employ them as salesmen, because they frequently suffer from facial disfigurement as well as partial blindness. These men are tremendously handicapped in securing work, yet it is proposed to reduce their pensions, not by 20 per cent., but by 50 per cent., because it was intended by this Government to take away from them an allowance of 7s. 6d. a week, which they at .present receive. We should entirely discontinue the payment of the maternity allowance, which, in many cases, is merely a “bangle bonus.” Almost every mother, irrespective of whether she was rich or poor, has applied for the maternity allowance. I admit that there are many needy mothers, and I should not be so brutal as to suggest that no assistance should be given to them. But, in my opinion, the money now being spent on the maternity allowance could be put to much better use if it were paid as a subsidy to maternity homes and nursing sisters. All maternity homes and all nursing sisters are doing expert and splendid work for the mothers of this country, and doing it most economically. There is nothing economical about the payment of a maternity allowance of £5 under present conditions. Frequently the money is used to buy a bangle, or some other luxury. The payment of the allowance should be entirely discontinued before any interference is made with war pensions.
Other economies should also be effected before these pensions are touched. I am drawing £800 per annum as a senator. A more drastic cut should be made in my salary, and in the salaries of other members of this Parliament before war pensions are touched.
– The honorable senator’s salary will be further reduced.
– And so it should be, although I know it will not be popular to say so. It will be just as great an inconvenience to me as to any other honorable senator to have my salary reduced at present; but I think it should be reduced, and so should many other high salaries that are being paid in this country. Salaries of £10,000, £5,000, £4,000, £3,000, and £2,000 per annum, which are being paid to various people, should be reduced more drastically. I support the policy of Mr. Lang to a certain extent in this regard, for there is undoubtedly room for a more drastic reduction of high salaries. A man with a salary of £2,000 per annum would still have a roof over his head, and still be able to buy plenty of clothes and plenty of food if his salary were reduced to £1,500, whereas a limbless soldier, or a blinded or partially blinded soldier would have to go without the bare necessaries of life if his pension were reduced by 50 per cent, or even 20 per cent. There are many unemployed persons in every part of Australia to-day who are without the bare necessaries, let alone the comforts of life. They have no food or clothing, nor a. roof to cover them. This condition of affairs should not obtain in Australia - a land with a superabundance of wheat, meat, fruit, vegetables and foodstuffs of all descriptions. It is terrible to think that, in a country such as this, there should be so much privation among such a large proportion of our population. We should do everything in our power to alleviate the position, of so many hundreds of thousands of our people, and certainly we should do nothing to incite them to take part in any movement of disaffection.
I have never been so proud of the Australian nation as I am to-day. Although over 360,000 of our people are out of work, and although they are in the direst need in the depth of winter, up to the present there has been practically no misbehaviour. Even in Sydney, where, perhaps, the plight of the unemployed is more desperate than elsewhere, the trouble reported is infinitesimal in comparison with the sufferings of the people. I doubt that the citizens of any other country, if they were called upon to suffer in the midst of plenty, would be so lawabiding as Australian citizens are proving to be. It is our duty, as public men in the National Parliament, to devise means for their relief. The first essential is to get these unemployed men back to work, for after all, the dole is a poor substitute; it undermines the morale of a man, and in every other way has a most pernicious influence upon the manhood of the nation. A restoration of confidence in the Government of this country will do much to help us get out of our present difficulties.
There has been some talk about equality of sacrifice. While on this point let me read a letter which I have received from one of our limbless exsoldiers. Honorable senators have already seen his photograph. It is that of a young man with an arm off, minus one lung and several ribs, but, withal, a man, every inch of him. This is what he says -
I am oneof the limbless and maimed soldiers. My medical history will show that I have lost my right arm, left lung, and portion of each of six ribs, and partial loss of use of left arm. Also, I have suffered tetanus, and have had 51 operations.
With the passage of time I, in common with other limbless and maimed soldiers, must necessarily suffer more pain and become less able to work.
According to the degree of disability, there are certain comforts necessary to the limbless and maimed, which might be regarded as luxuries in the matter of determining an ordinary living wage.
We did not get an increase in pensions when the cost of living increased. Should we suffer a reduction because the cost of living has decreased when, to-day, we are in more need?
The action I am taking in writing to yon, and in ‘ enclosing my photograph is distasteful to me. However, the cause of those I represent is of more importance than my own personal pride.
I submit that pension economies could be made without reducing the pensions of blind, limbless, maimed, tubercular and incapacitated soldiers.
I appeal to you not to regard the proposed cut in interest as “ equality of sacrifice “ with the proposed cut in pensions of those who have not loaned, hut given their all for Australia.
That is indeed a manly letter. It contains no threat. It is merely a statement of facts from a young man who, as a boy, enlisted in the service of his country, and suffered so terribly in the war. He tells us that he has undergone no fewer than 5.1 operations, and it is now proposed to cut his pension down by 20 per cent. I say “ No “. I shall never vote for any reduction of the pensions paid to our maimed soldiers. Nothing that we can give them by way of pensions can be regarded as adequate compensation for what they have suffered. As for the dependants of ex-soldiers, probably their position is different, but I shall be very reluctant to vote for any reduction of soldier or even old-age and invalid pension payments. We all deplore that these reductions have to be made, but it is more regrettable that Australia should have been allowed to get into its present position, thus rendering sacrifices necessary. Even at this late hour in -the consideration of the Premiers’ plan, I believe that other economies which I have suggested - more drastic cuts in the higher salaried officials in this country - would perhaps make lighter the sacrifices that may be required of ex-soldiers and other pensioners
– Before dealing with the motion I should like to say a word or two in reply to what was really an attack upon me by Senator Glasgow, who alleged that I visited Queensland to stir up trouble amongst the shearers in that State.I offer no apology for any action which I took on the occasion referred to by the honorable senator. My only regret is that neither my time nor my funds permitted me to prolong my stay in Queensland to continuewith the good work which Ibelieve I was doing. Senator Glasgow’s statement was a misrepresentation of the facts, although I do not suggest that the misrepresentation was intentional. I had not the honour, or the discredit as he would term it, of instigating the shearers of Queensland to go on strike against the award of the Arbitration Court. As a matter of fact, they took action spontaneously. They held meetings in some of the 22 or 23 pastoral centres which were operating under the award before I set foot in Queensland, or even thought of going there, and unanimously refused to accept the latest award. Subsequently they invited me to visit Queensland for the purpose of organizing them into a new union in connexion with the movement that had been started in New South Wales in August last. I may add that it was our intention then, as it is now, to do our utmost to establish branches of the new organization throughout Australia in open and unabashed conflict with the Australian Workers Union, which we believe has lost its usefulness, and has become the home of a more or less corrupt bureaucracy. It has entirely failed to live up to its early militancy, or purpose for which it was founded. Therefore, without attacking individuals, it is our intention to do all that we can to substitute what we believe is a better form of organization for the Australian Workers Union. I was invited to Queensland to assist those who believed, with us, that the time had arrived for the extension of the new organization to Queensland; but I cannot claim the honour of having been the instigator of the strike to which Senator Glasgow referred.
– I did not make that charge against the honorable senator.
– The honorable senator declared that I went to Queensland and succeeded in persuading the local shearers not to work under the Queensland award. His version of the matter was misleading.
The fact is that whereas the Federal Arbitration Court reduced the wages of shearers in the southern States, the Queensland tribunal had not made such heavy reductions in its award, but in all the States the tendency was in the direction of further reductions. During that year the biggest reduction ever made in the history of the industry was effected in two cuts. On the 1st February a new award was made reducing the rates of shearers by 5s. a hundred. The men were then restive, and threatened to strike, but the officials persuaded them not to do so, holding out the bait that they would probably secure peace in industry for a long time if the shearers accepted that reduction in view of the prevailing depression. They accepted it;but,before the year was out, they were subjected to another cut of 4s. a hundred, making a total cut of 9s. a hundred within ton or eleven months. When the second reduction was made, their patience was exhausted, and they refused to obey their own officials.
– It was very lucky for them that they did not receive a bigger cut.
– I have merely stated the facts of the case. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Dooley) pro posed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
SenatorFOLL (Queensland) [3.48].- I asked the Assistant Minister (Senator Dooley) a short while ago whether he had received any information regarding the outcome of the negotiations between the Government and representatives of returned soldiers’ organizations concerning an alternative scheme to that proposed under the Government’s rehabilitation plan for the reduction of war pensions. The Minister was good enough to inform me that, on the adjournment of the Senate, he would make an announcement on the subject.
– The honorable senator mentioned that a statement had been made in the other branch of the legislature to the effect that a decision had been reached in the matter, but I prefer not to commit myself to a definite statement until I am furnished with the details of tho decision.
– Is the agreement satisfactory to the soldiers and the Government?
– rI understand so.
– I heard the statement made by the Treasurer in another place, and aa it will appear in Hansard, the information will be available to honorable senators.
– That is so.
Question resolved in tho affirmative.
Semite adjourned at 3.52 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 3 July 1931, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1931/19310703_senate_12_130/>.