13th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
The PEESIDENT. - I have received from Senator Dunn an intimation that he proposes to move the adjournment of the Senate to discuss a matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The provision of the sum of £1,000,000 for special Christmas relief for the unemployed and their family dependants throughout the Commonwealth of Australia “. Is the motion supported?
Four honorable senators having risen in their places,
– I move-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until to-morrow at 10 a.m.
In the first place, I wish to thank honorable senators of the Opposition for having, by their support, enabled me to bring this matter before the Senate. I also place on record my appreciation of the assistance given to me by the Clerk of the Senate in the phrasing of the motion so that it would conform with the Standing Orders.
Yesterday some of the smart political supporters of the Government took advantage of my comparative ignorance of the Standing Orders to prevent me from making this sincere attempt to secure relief for the unemployed in the coming Christmas season. The right honorable the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) was aided and abetted in that action by the Assistant Minister (Senator Greene), who at all times is anxious to air what he considers his superior knowledge. One cannot congratulate him and Senator Pearce upon having resorted to these “ snide “ methods.
– I rise to a point of order. I understand that in the language of Woolloomooloo the term “ snide “ indicates something that is crooked and improper. If it was applied to me, I regard it as grossly offensive and ask that it be withdrawn.
– The term “snide” has a place in every-day slang, but if the right honorable gentleman is offended by its application to him, I withdraw it. So as to make sure that they would achieve their purpose, these two Ministers brought up the heavy artillery of the ex-President of the Senate (Senator Kingsmill) who, we all agree, has had a very long experience of parliamentary procedure and the application of the Standing Orders.
– On a point of order, I ask whether it is permissible for the honorable senator to debate what was said yesterday by Senator Kingsmill on another point of order, upon which you, Mr. President, gave a ruling ?
– The honorable senator is exceeding the scope of his motion, and, consequently, is not in order.
– Having passed through that quicksand, I shall make my plea on behalf of the unemployed. When the Scullin Administration was elected in 1929 to clean up the wreckage left by the Bruce-Page Government, many difficulties confronted it, one being the growing army of unemployed. I was a supporter ofthat Government at the time. It immediately made available out, of Consolidated Revenue a sum of £1,000,000 for the relief of unemployment, and a considerable measure of relief was afforded in all the States on the eve of Christmas of that year. We on this side realize, of course, that an expenditure of £1,000,000 will not solve the problem, either in this or in any other country. It will doubtless be contended by the Leader of the Senate that the Premiers plan makes provision for the allocation of a certain sum for this purpose. There is no concrete evidence, however, of the willingness of either the Commonwealth Bank or the trading banks of Australia to stand behind such a proposal. The number of unemployed to-day is 450,000, and practically 1,000,000 persons are in receipt of the dole. The conditions are gradually becoming worse, but the Government has the opportunity to do something practicable to stem the tide, because last year a surplus of £2,600,000 was obtained by economizing on social services and reducing pensions and salaries. It will probably be argued that an improvement in the position will be effected as a result of the decisions arrived at by the Ottawa Conference. The Government has pinned its faith to the decisions of that gathering pf political go-getters, who took advantage of their position to sandbag every one into the belief that the action taken by them would right the position not only in Australia but also in every other part of the British Empire. The official figures show that in New South Wales the percentage of unemployment was 31.6 per cent for the quarter ended September, 1931, and 33 per cent, for the quarter ended September, 19.32. It will thus be seen that the present “ prosperity “ Government has not been able to check the growth of unemployment in that State’, which has two-thirds of the population of Australia. In Victoria the figures were 26.8 per cent, for the quarter ended September, 1931, and 27 per cent, for the quarter ended September, 1932. In Queensland the figures were 16.9 per cent, for the quarter ended September, 1931, and 19.3 per cent, for the quarter ended September, 1932. Luckily for the people of that State, they saw the error of their ways, and threw out of office the reactionary Moore Government. In South Australia, for the quarter ended the 30th September, 1931,. unemployment amounted to 33 per cent., and it increased to 35 per cent, in the corresponding quarter of 1932. In that State we have another political Messiah in the person of Premier Hill, who, like many others, has sold out to the powers that be. Through his administration of public affairs in South Australia, and through the cutting away of social services, he is asking the people of that State to march to their political Calvary. They are being penalized because of the methods adopted by an alleged Labour Premier, who has definitely allied, himself with the U.A.P. - the United Asiatic Party- and with the U.C.P. - the United Coolie Party. It is not surprising that the result has been an increase of unemployment. In. ‘Western Australia,, for the quarter ended the 30th September, 1931, unemployment amounted to 27.9 per cent., and in the corresponding quarter of 1932, it rose to 30.1 per cent. We have another “prosperity” government in Western Australia, the State that wants secession.No doubt, honorable senators from that State will have an opportunity to point out the cause of the increase of unemployment there. In Tasmania, for the quarter ended the 30th September, 1931, it amounted to 27.3 per cent., but a year later, it had dropped to 26.9 per cent. I notice a smile on the face of (Senator Payne. That decrease is probably due to the fact that owing to a recent event in Melbourne there was quite a boom in the demand for Tattersalls tickets, which improved the revenue of the Tasmanian Government. Taking the six States together, unemployment has increased on the average, in the twelve months’ period under review, from 28.6 per cent, to 29.6 per cent. Such is the Lyons Government’s record for its twelve months of office !
At the last election, posters were displayed throughout the cities and the country districts, announcing that if the United Australia party and the Country party were returned to power, all would be well with the people. In New South Wales, we saw a huge poster depicting a man addressing a crowd of unemployed, and saying, “ Help me to get my mates a job.” Yet, in New South Wales to-day, jobs are few and far between. The Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page), speaking at Grafton on the 20th July last, remarked -
Since the Lyons Government assumed office, the official figures show that unemployment has increased in every State, and primary producers are drifting closer to bankruptcy.
The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson), a keen supporter of the Country party, who is interested in the country press, interjected “ That is true “. The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) has pointed out that unemployment is worldwide. ‘ Yet, Senator- Payne contended yesterday that the widespread unemploy-ment in. Australia is due to the administration of Labour governments. The Lyons Ministry has been able to produce a surplus of £2,600,000 by cutting down the wages and salaries of public servants, who have no political pul’l other than that exercised through their organizations. This Government has done practically nothing to relieve unemployment, but it has reduced the means of livelihood of the invalid and old-age pensioners. Members of the present Ministry and their friends have gone overseas on various political missions, and included amongst the excursionists were Sir Donald Cameron, ex-member for Brisbane, and the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). The expense of Australian representation at various gatherings in Europe and America will cost the Commonwealth a good deal, and the unemployed will have to starve in order to assist in defraying that cost. The right honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) as Resident Minister iu London, is merely a political mendicant, whose duty is to attend at No. 10 Downing-street, waiting for the crumbs that may fall from the table of the British Government, via the Bank of England.
When the Scullin Government took office it was faced with an adverse trade balance amounting to £80,000,000. The position was corrected by that Ministry, yet members of the Lyons Government and their supporters have the temerity to declare that the present troubles of Australia are due to Labour administration. The party opposite ignores the facts that the depression is world-wide, and that Labour held office for a short period only. When honorable senators on this side appeal for relief for the unemployed, we are told to wait and see the results of the decisions of the conference of Premiers that was recently held in Melbourne.
Senator Pearce, when speaking to a point of order yesterday, said that I had shown a spirit of discourtesy in not having notified him, as Leader of the Government in this chamber, that it was my intention to move the adjournment of the Senate for the purpose of submitting the motion now before the chamber. I have never willingly been discourteous to any honorable senator, and if I am treated courteously, I am always ready to respond with similar consideration ; but when I am attacked, I naturally hit back. Senator Rae and I represent # .separate party in this chamber, and the Leader of the Government should furnish us with information regarding measures to be brought before us. I thank those honorable senators who have supported the motion.
– When a motion of this nature is submitted, it is usual for the mover to direct his remarks mainly to reasons in support of it. But the honorable senator spoke almost exclusively about points of order, the Ottawa Conference, Tattersall’s tickets, political missions abroad, and matters of that kind. The honorable senator did not attempt- to give reasons why the Government should do what he desired in the way that he suggested. As to the concluding portion of his speech, I agree that the matter is one which concerns no one but the parties directly interested; it is a domestic matter which does not require official recognition. The lack of courtesy, of which the Leader of the Government (Senator Pearce) complained yesterday, i3 not a matter between the leaders of parties, but between individuals. Obviously, if an honorable senator desires the Government to deal with a question raised by him, it is only reasonable that the Government should have notice of his intention to bring the matter forward, so that it will be in a position to reply.
While not desiring to delay the Senate, it may be well for me to state what the Government has done towards relieving unemployment. The honorable .senator spoke of a contribution of £1,000,000 by the Commonwealth. The amount was only £250,000, the remaining £750,000 having been granted to the States. Since, unfortunately, money spent in this way is frequently wasted, the Government has been concerned that the limited expenditure in which it can indulge shall be used in the wisest possible manner, and result in some permanent benefit” to the Commonwealth. To that end, it came to an arrangement with the Slates some time ago, under which a considerable sum of money would be made available for relief works. Committees were set up in the several States to advise the governments as to the best way of using the money, furthermore, the Commonwealth have been in dose consultation with the States in regard to their works programmes. Honorable senators will agree that the States are better equipped to carry out relief works than is the Commonwealth, and that it is not desirable that the Commonwealth should set up rival machinery to that of the States to deal with the tragic problem of unemployment.
The present Government has done far more to relieve unemployment than did the Scullin Government. One of the reasons for that is that confidence has been restored to a considerable extent, because of the cessation of wild experiments in finance, and the adoption of a sane financial policy. It is now possible to raise more money than could have been raised during the regime of the Scullin Government. The last three conferences of Premiers devoted a great deal of attention to the relief of unemployment, and the Commonwealth and State Governments have now agreed upon a programme under which £20,730,000 will be spent by them during the current financial year. The details are set out in the following table: -
This sum of £20,730,000 is to be raised as follows: -
Deducting this £9,815,000 from the total loan expenditure of £20,730,000 leaves a balance of £10,915,000 to be raised. Because of the necessity for laying down a satisfactory programme of works, only £2,342,000 of the £20,730,000 was spent during the first quarter of the year. The following table shows how that money has been spent, and gives details of repayments and domestic raisings: -
The result is that, with the loan now about to be raised, the States will have approximately £14,000,000, less £2,342,000, with which to proceed with the programme agreed upon. That is to say, a further £12,000,000 will be available for expenditure during the remaining portion of the financial year, so that it will be possible to go ahead more rapidly than was possible during the last four months.
– Is there any guarantee that the States will act more expeditiously?
– Yes. Their programmes are being accelerated, and men are now being taken on in greater numbers than formerly. There is no doubt that by Christmas the rate of expenditure will have increased materially compared with that of the first quarter of the financial year.
– The only State which is recognizing awards is Queensland.
-To the extent that it is possible for governments and quasi-governments to relieve unemployment, and at the same time protect the public interests, the States are doing so. Statistics for the last quarter show, for the first time in four or five years, a reduction in the number of men unemployed. They show also that fewer people are in receipt of the dole in the various States. The works programmes of the States, together with the slight recovery in industry which has taken place,are gradually copingwith unemployment. I do not claim that it is possible for Australia, or, indeed, any other country, to remove unemployment entirely so long as conditions are not normal.
– Unemployment will never be entirely removed.
– The several Governments of Australia are doing all that is possible. The Commonwealth Government is doing its best.
– Has it done anything to ensure that award conditions will be observed in the expenditure of this money?
– So far as the Commonwealth will be responsible for the actual expenditure of any of the money, it will see that awards are faith fully observed. But it is leaving it to the States, as it is entitled to do, to say whether they will do likewise. That is the responsibility of the States, not of the Commonwealth.
– I support the motion. It is cheering to hear from the Minister (Senator Greene) of the proposals of the Commonwealth and the States for the relief of unemployment; but the amount proposed to be expended appears to be far from sufficient to cope with the problem. The approaching festive season will not provide much cheer for hundreds of thousands of people in Australia, and a special effort to assist them is justified. Irrespective of the political party represented by the Government in power, at a time like this the people would heartily support any special effort to relieve unemployment. The Christmas season invariably softens the hearts of the people, and as there is so much distress on every hand, it is very desirable that the Government shoulddo everything possible to give relief. Even those who are in regular employment feel the strain, because of the many calls that are made upon them to give assistance to other people less fortunate than themselves. In discussions around this subject of unemployment, honorable senators may occasionally be a little astray in their statements and may claim, possibly without justification, advantages for the Government which they support. But no one denies that unemployment in this country is very serious, and that there is urgent need for the introduction of relief measures. In the debate yesterday it was contended that the unemployment figures had shown an improvement since this Government had come into power. That statement is not borne out by the latest statistics which I have been able to procure. These show that in the last quarter of 1931 the percentage of unemployment was 28 per cent. In the first quarter of that year it was 28.3 per cent., and in the second quarter 30 per cent. - the highest rate yet recorded by the Commonwealth Statistician.
– The figures for the September quarter show that unemployment is now declining.
– I have not seen those figures.
– The September statistics are available.
– I was not aware that they were in circulation yet, and I assure the Minister that I have no desire to be unfair to anybody. Even if the figures do show a slight improvement, unemployment in this country is very widespread and of serious dimensions. I am glad to know that this Government has made provision to the extent of £12,000,000 to enable relief works to be put in hand in the various States. It is welcome news to all sections of the people, hut I believe that more could have been done, in view of the approaching Christmas season. For this reason, I support the motion moved by Senator Dunn.
Motion (by Senator Foll) put -
That the Senate do now divide.
The Senate divided. (President - Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch.)
Majority . . . . 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question put. The Senate divided. (President - Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch.)
Majority . . . . 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Senator E. B. Johnston has asked a series of questions relating to freight rates on the East-West railway. The information is being obtained and will be conveyed to the honorable senator as soon as possible.
Suggested Loan of £200,000,000
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The Treasurer supplies the following answer : -
Debate resumed from the 3rd November (vide page 1842), on motion by Senator Greene: -
That thebill be now read a first time.
– I should not have participated in the debate at this stage but for the speech delivered by Senator Hardy yesterday which seems to call for some reply. Honorable senators generally agree with the honorable senator that more money should be spent on defence; but they realize that the Government is watching the position very closely, and that so long as the present Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) is controlling the Defence Department, every penny that can be provided for Defence purposes will be made available. But the portion of the honorable senator’s speech to which I take exception is that in which he made an attack upon our existing air services, more particularly those which serve the remotest parts of the Commonwealth, notably the northwest of Australia. Senator Hardy commenced by saying that he wished the Government to spend an extra £850,000 this year on the air forces, and then he went on to attack the air services, which, with the assistance of Government subsidies, are being conducted in different parts of Australia to-day. The Minister for Defence very effectively replied to the honorable senator from the viewpoint of the Defence Department, and I congratulate the Minister upon his masterly grip of the details of a department, which he has successfully administered for so many years. But I am more particularly concerned in that portion of Senator Hardy’s speech which affects the interests of the primary producers in the isolated parts of Australia, who need subsidized air services, particularly those that are controlled by Westralian Airways Limited, and Qantas. Although Senator Hardy’s attack was directed towards the Civil Aviation Department, thosewho would actually suffer, were effect given to his proposals, would be the residents of the north-west of Australia, and Northern Queensland. At present the residents in the north-west of Australia have a weekly air mail and passenger service from Perth to Derby, a distance of 1,467 miles, which is subsidized by the Government to the extent of £18,435 a year, or at the rate of 2s. 5d. a mile. It must, however, be remembered that aeroplanes are constan tly in the north-west, and are always available in cases of emergency.
– And they have beenused very successfully in such instances.
– Yes, valuable lives have been saved, and nursing and medical facilities have been provided for persons who could not possibly be reached in the same time by any other means. The areas served by the Westralian Airways service are mainly in the tropics. Honorable senators are aware that the Western Australian main railway system terminates at Ajana, a little to the north of Gerald ton. There is also a short railway from Port Headland to Marble Bar,on which there is a fortnightly service. That line, of course, is not connected with the main railway system of the State. The people in the north-west are, therefore, not served by railways, and consequently cannot be kept in speedy touch with civilization generally by other means than an aeroplane service. At any rate, it is only by that means that they can receive a reasonably fast mail service, or be provided with immediate medical aid in case of illness or accident. In the winter months, which are the dry months in the tropics, to serve a scattered pastoral community in the Kimberley district, this service is extended from Derby to Hall’s Creek and Wyndham. The extra 600 miles is covered at an annual cost to the Commonwealth of £6,825, or 3s. 3d. a mile. The population in the north-west of Australia is small, but it is surprising to find that any honorable senator should be so callous as to favour denying this far northern tropical community the benefit of an air mail, particularly in districts which cannot be served by a railway or any of the conveniences available to those in other parts of the Commonwealth. I understand that Qantas provides a service between Brisbane, Camooweal, and Normanton, a distance of 1,484 miles, at an annual cost of £19,935, or at the rate of 2s. 7d. a mile. It also provides a service from Daly Waters to Birduin, a distance of 50 miles, at a cost of £330 for 36 trips a year, which is equivalent to 3s. Sd. a mile. There is also a third service conducted by L.A.S. Company Limited, which, I understand, is the Larkin Company, between two sections of the Qantas routes covering 475 miles, at an annual cost of £8,306, or 3s. 4½d. a mile. Including the East-West Air Service, the total air line distance of the subsidized services is 5,529 miles, and the total estimated expenditure for subsidies in 1932-33 is only £93,381. The aeroplanes of Westralian Airways Service have covered immense distances during the time it has been in operation, and without the loss of a single passenger’s life. I believe that the Qantas Company has also a similarly enviable record. I regret exceedingly that an honorable senator who demands so much in the way of new States, and new Parliaments for primary producers in a fertile southern area of Australia, which is well served by. railways, has splendid towns, and enjoys all the conveniences of civilization, should be the first to cavil at an expenditure which gives to primary producers in the tropical north only a weekly mail service, and limited access to medical men. By their work in developing the far north, these producers are assisting more than any others to defend the most vulnerable part of Australia.
– Are not the subsidies rather large?
– I do not think so. The Minister for Defence has pointed out that the agreements under which most of the subsidies are paid terminate this year, when the whole position will be reviewed. An interdepartmental committee, consisting of some of the most highly-qualified men in the Public Service, has been at work with the object of advising the Government as to the best policy to adopt before the agreements are renewed. Senator Hardy should be the last man in this chamber to launch an attack on the air services in the far north. He is the gentleman who desires to divide New South Wales into three new States, each with six senators, and this involves double that number of new representatives in the House of Representatives.
SenatorFoll. - Is the honorable senator opposed to New South Walesbeing divided into new States?
– I am not opposed to the New South Wales State Parliament deciding whether there should be new States created within that State, and what the boundaries of such States should be. If that Parliament agreed upon a subdivision, I should be prepared to consider the matter on its merits, but I do not believe in the Commonwealth Government having the power to interfere with the States in the matter of boundaries, or in their domestic affairs.
– Is the honorable senator prepared to allow a subdivided New South Wales to have eighteen senators ?
– No, certainly not. It is frequently stated that if a new State were formed comprising the Riverina, the senators who would return to this chamber would doubtless be representatives of primary producers, and that they would help honorable senators in this chamber who are anxious to assist those engaged in primary production in Western Australia, as well as in other parts of the Commonwealth. I regret that I find no proof of this in the present senatorial representation of that area. I confess to being disappointed in Senator Hardy’s attitude towards some country interests which I regard vital to the welfare of the Commonwealth. When the suspension of the gold bounty was tinder consideration, I thought that the gold-mining industry, which is essentially a primary industry conducted in the outback parts of Australia, would receive the support of the honorable senator. But when the honorable senator had an opportunity to assist in preventing the gold bounty from being suspended, or if it were suspended and then restored, of ensuring that its restoration would run for the unexpired period of ten years, to my surprise, of all the Country party senators present, his assistance alone was not forthcoming. I am also surprised to find that he is now attacking the far northern air services which are doing so much to help to assist primary producers and country interests in the most isolated parts of the Commonwealth. While Senator Hardy advocates an increase in the number of federal members of Parliament to represent the proposed new States, and reduced air services for country settlers, I stand for fewer federal members, reduced parliamentary expenditure, and the provision of greater facilities, including air services, for the men on the land.
Under this bill the Government proposes to spend £20,371,970 for the present financial year, and from what I can gather Senator Hardy wishes to dispense with the air mail services which are now costing the Commonwealth only £93,381 a year. The suggested saving would be made almost entirely at the expense of primary producers in the far north of Western Australia and Queensland. Eastern members always look to the west when suggesting economies. A subsidized air service between Sydney and Melbourne, calling in at Riverina towns, would probably not evoke from Senator Hardy an attack such as he made yesterday. The Riverina seems to me to be the most fortunately situated of all the rural areas of Australia. While the primary producers of that area suffer many disadvantages on account of federal policy, in common with primary producers in all other parts of Australia, at the same time they are in the fortunate position of being midway between two big centres of population, to whose markets they have readier access than is enjoyed by primary producers in the more remote portions of the Commonwealth.
SenatorFoll. - Is the wheat bounty considered a federal disability?
– The failure of the Federal Government so far to grant a bounty this year is a reflection upon it. The north-west of Western Australia has already suffered sufficiently as a result of federal action. The Navigation Act, for example, has prevented the inhabitants of that portion of Australia from having access to British shipping. Permits to trade have certainly been granted to a couple of vessels which travel between Fremantle and Singapore, but repeatedly pastoralists have had surplus stock for sale, and have not been per mitted to consign it to the starving metropolitan markets by British shipping that has passed empty along the coast. The tariff, too, has prevented these people from trading in their nearest markets. They are not permitted to purchase sugar or bananas from Java, where a big market exists for the meat and other products of Western Australia. But, notwithstanding the tariff restrictions against trading with the Orient, the manufacturers of Sydney are sending to Eastern markets samples of their wares in a show boat, a Dutch vessel. The tariff ought first to be lowered to an extent that would enable us to buy where we wish to sell. At all events, the children of the north-west of Western Australia ought not to he denied the enjoyment of the cheap banana from the neighbouring country of Java.
– Why are not bananas grown in the north-west of Western Australia?
– The industry has been commenced in a small way; but meanwhile it is quite impossible to secure good quality bananas there. The Queensland bananas, upon arrival at Perth, are miserable specimens. Bananas and other tropical fruits cannot be imported from Java except upon payment of a prohibitive duty to the Federal Government.
– What is the population of the north-west?
– It is small; and it is diminishing on account of federal legislation and other burdens. If Senator Hardy had his way, the convenience of a weekly air mail, which is the only means that these people have of getting quickly in touch with southern civilization, would be withdrawn. I protest against that suggestion with all the energy that I possess.
The honorable senator also referred to the Adelaide to Perth air mail service. At the time when that service was instituted, I do not know that there was a strong demand for it in either Western Australia or the Eastern States; but the Government of the day decided to establish it as a matter of policy, and called tenders for it. The tenderers were asked to specify the type of machine that would be used, and I believe that each company was permitted to submit as many tenders as it liked. The right honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) visited Western Australia in 1928 as Prime Minister of Australia, and I attended a ^reception that was given to him at the Prince of Wales Theatre, Perth. I remember his saying that the Government had considered the various tenders (received, and took the responsibility of accepting what was not the lowest, but Vas considered the best, taking everything into consideration. He stated that the tender of Westralian Airways Limited would be accepted, because it was an experienced company which had demonstrated its ability to carry on successfully any air service that it undertook. A contract was entered into with that company and I believe that it has fulfilled the requirements of the Government and given a very good service. I am glad that the Government does not propose to repudiate either that or any other contract.
– The company has not made a great ‘deal out of it.
– I believe that the contract has been an expensive and difficult one to fulfil. The Hercules machines that, were brought to Australia for the service were found to be not so quick or so suitable as was expected. Two of them have been sold, and two others are for sale. A more modern machine, the Viastra, is on the run at the present time. In this huge territory of Australia the total airline distance over which subsidized services are operating is only 5,529 miles, and the estimated expenditure on subsidies this year is merely £93,381. I differ entirely from Senator Hardy, in that I believe that we are not spending sufficient on civil aviation. I .hope that prosperous conditions in the near future will enable the Government to extend air services in many directions over this huge, sparselypopulated territory.
A paltry attack was made by Senator Hardy on Australian aero clubs, which are estimated to cost the Government this year only £8,600. I have had the privilege of meeting many of the fine young men who are members of aero clubs in Perth,
Melbourne and Sydney, and have found that their enthusiasm for civil aviation is unbounded. As a matter of fact, the air force from time to time obtains recruits from the ranks of these clubs. Only the other day, some young pilots who had obtained their licences as members of aero clubs in the various States, were among those selected as air force cadets to undergo training at Point Cook. The Government receives excellent value for the insignificant expenditure of £S,600 a year. I hope that it will increase its assistance in the form of grants, machines and equipment, to these clubs, which are doing so much in the direction of cultivating an air sense and in promoting commercial aviation. No country is more suited to aviation than is Australia with its long distances and scattered population. Our defence will be well served if we encourage civil aviation, particularly in connexion with the retention and expansion of air mail -services to the northern parts of Australia, which are essential to the small white population who are performing such yeoman service in those areas.
The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) has informed the Senate that the air policy of the Government is to be reviewed, and that officers from different, departments have drawn up proposals upon which a comprehensive plan will be based. Such a policy may well be left in the capable hands of the Minister and his colleagues. His statement is a very satisfactory one. Excellent results have been achieved by our aviators under the existing system. Is there a more distinguished or more famous aviator in the world than Air-Commodore Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith? He began as a pilot in the Royal Plying Corps, and upon the termination of the wa.T engaged in commercial aviation in California. He was able to return to aviation in Australia simply because we had subsidized air mail services. He spent three years as a pilot with Westralian Airways Limited, on the north-west route, and needless to say, had not an accident during that period. Subsequently, he graduated to world flights. That he received no financial assistance from the Federal Government to enable him to make those flights, indi- cates how little has been voted for aviation purposes. It was the first Lang Government in New South Wales which enabled him to proceed to the United States of America and make the financial arrangements that formed the basis of his world flights. Every year, aero clubs throughout Australia are turning out men of the same stamp. They may never reach the standard of Sir Charles KingsfordSmith, but they are, nevertheless, first-class enthusiastic pilots, whose patriotism and courage are not inferior to what he has always displayed. Their work is of considerable value to Australia in the field of commercial aviation, andis is satisfactory to know that their services will always be readily available, if required, for the defence of Australia. In this respect they constitute a valuable reserve for the military forces.
– I feel so chastened this morning that I am almost inclined to crave the indulgence of honorable senators in this intrusion into the debate. I fear that I may also have to crave their protection, in view of the bellicose attitude that was adopted towards me last night by my friend Senator Payne.
I was somewhat astounded yesterday at the obvious reluctance of honorable senators opposite to address themselves to the first reading of this measure, but as the debate proceeded, I began to realize that there was considerable method in their madness. I am most firm in the belief that the Government would be well advised to introduce all of its bills in silence. Every debate to which I have listened in this chamber has resolved itself, so far as the Government side is concerned, into a series of family brawls. Mention has been made by Senator Dunn of a difference of political opinion on this side of the chamber; but at least we do not make a habit of obtruding our differences of views at every stage, as do our friends opposite. In the course of this debate, we have been entertained by a brawl between Senator Hardy and the Leader of the Government (Senator Pearce). I notice also that, according to a debate in another place, Senator Colebatch has no political home.
– I am quite happy.
– The temperament of the honorable senator is such that he would be happy anywhere. To-day we have had the spectacle of Senator Johnston of Western Australia engaged in a brawl with Senator Hardy. The former was very distressed at the beginning of his speech, because Senator Hardy had demanded so much, but eventually he was apparently very disappointed to find that he had not demanded more! I, too, feel disappointed in the honorable senator from New South Wales, because, according to his revelations in this chamber yesterday, he is prepared to establish his own private army. Just what he would do with it I do not know. We recognize, of course, thatmost of his oratory is merely verbal fireworks. I particularly desire to refer to that portion of his speech in which he became a scaremonger in regard to the possibility of war. He furnished quite an array of figures apparently to show what a marvellous head he has for other people’s mathematics. Otherwise, I am at a loss to understand why he quoted them. He reminded me of the fighter who, lacking a good punch, overawes his opponents by means of a wonderful display of scientific boxing, which is of no assistance to him when the knockout blow is about to be delivered. It is wonderful how expansive persons like Senator Hardy become. They pretend to know just how near Australia is to war. On the one hand, the honorable senator said that Japan’s war policy was clothed in mystery, yet, in the next breath, he showed that he was intimately acquainted with it in every detail. Like the rest of the scaremongers throughout the ages, the honorable senator lacks originality. When I was a lad, my father, who was then, as I now am, opposed to war of any kind, at any time, and under any circumstances, pointed out that the only way the British taxpayer could be kept sufficiently in subjection to make him willing to provide the money necessary for the waging of wars was to frighten him continually with threats of what Russia was going to do in the East with an open door to India available. To-day there is no change in the methods employed by the scaremongers except that the attempt to frighten the people of Australia is based on the bogey of a Japanese invasion. I suggest to Senator Hardy, in all seriousness, that if he would use such talents as he has in the direction of creating an atmosphere favorable to peace instead of war, he would be contributing something of value to the world, and to the Australian nation in particular. I was astounded at his assumption of omniscience. He was able to tell exactly how we, on this side, feel with regard to the great subject of defence. He asserted, for example, that there was no senator on this side, except, possibly, Senator Rae, who would be prepared to scrap all provision for defence. How he arrives at an understanding of the psychology of honorable senators on this side is difficult to understand. Gathering courage as he proceeded, he went on to chastise Senator Rae for believing in the brotherhood of man, entirely oblivious of the fact that we cannot have it both ways. The Christian faith and the greatness of this nation are alleged to be based on the fundamental teaching of the fatherhood of God, the natural corollary of which is the brotherhood of man.
– The doctrine of the brotherhood of man is a straightout contradiction of the “WhiteAustralia policy.
– In the advocacy of the “White-Australia policy, nobody has ever advocated anything but brotherly regard for the coloured races. “What the Labour party stands for, in season and out of season, regardless of all carping critics of the policy of disarmament, is opposition to the fullest extent of our powers to the desire of the capitalists, and of the financial magnates of this and other countries, to introduce coloured races for the purpose, not of benefiting, but of exploiting them for profit, to their own physical, moral and spiritual undoing. If Senator Duncan-Hughes does not realize that, he has a poor conception of the reasons for the adoption of the White-Australia policy.
It is unnecessary for me to say much regarding Senator Hardy’s outburst about civil aviation in this country. Senator Pearce effectively answered his arguments. Senator Johnston also dealt with the matter rather fully; but there are one or two points on which I should like to touch. Obviously, Senator Hardy knows little of the isolated and outlying portions of Australia. Had he spent any considerable time in residence or even in cursory travel through the great State of Queensland from which I come, he would know of what inestimable value civil aviation has been to the outback parts of that State. It is hyprocisy of the worst kind for honorable senators on the other side of the chamber to be continually urging that Australia’s salvation depends upon increased settlement on the land. Surely they know that land settlement within easy reach of the big cities is no longer possible, and that we should establish a yeoman population further out. Personally, I consider that that is one of the various ways out of our difficulties. We do not want men to take up land for the purpose of speculating in it. They should make their homes on the land, and provide opportunity for their sons and daughters to follow in their footsteps. Although honorable senators opposite advocate a policy of land settlement, they are not prepared to do those things which bring within reach of the people in outlying districts the ordinary amenities of life. In objecting to the Government’s expenditure on civil aviation, Senator Hardy shows, not only a lack .of knowledge of the geographical position of the various outback districts, but also a lack of sympathy with the pioneers in their hardships. He also said that the money spent in the direction of civil aviation has not been wisely expended. Of course, on another occasion he will be very keen about having more money spent for military and naval defence. Yesterday he suggested that too much was being spent in one direction, and too little in another - too little on a matter which was his pet hobby for the moment. Honorable senators opposite must know that, in connexion with the expansion of military power, money has been criminally and extravagantly expended at every stage of the world’s history, and particularly during the last decade. I hardly need remind them of the money that was criminally wasted by the Commonwealth
Government at Duntroon. We can still see some evidence of this in the buildings that are rotting to-day on the site of the military college. Money has been criminally “wasted to suit the book of high military experts, who have proved the curse of every country in which they have been permitted to hold unrestricted sway. Most of the money paid by way of taxation by the people of Australia and Great Britain has been spent in paying for past wars and in getting ready for fresh wars.
Sitting suspended from l%.!fi to 2.15 p.m.
– Senator Hardy having deplored the reduction in the defence vote drew attention to the heavy burden of interest under which Australia, in common with other parts of the British Empire, is struggling - a hurden resulting from past wars, particularly the Great War, and the preparations for the next war. The honorable senator, like many others in this Parliament, clamours for increased expenditure in directions which suit himself; but at other times he advocates remissions of taxation. Behind all this conflict of thought, as to the purpose for which money shall be raised, the direction in which it shall be spent, and the amount which it is possible to obtain, as well as the direction in which largesse shall be distributed by means of remissions of taxation, is the fight between those interests that stand for indirect taxation and those which advocate direct taxation. There is, for instance, a persistent clamour for a reduction of land and income taxation. That clamour has influenced the Prime Minister, who within recent months has told various deputations, representing vested interests, that remissions of that class of taxation will be made at the first opportunity. Behind the desire to remit direct taxation in that way is the intention to substitute indirect taxation through the Customs House. The man in the street can be led like a lamb to the slaughter - or, more correctly, to the merchant’s counter - and there made to pay the taxation levied upon the goods he buys without uttering a word of protest, because he neither knows the amount of the taxation he pays nor understands the process by which” he is robbed. Senator Hardy aud others who clamour for increased governmental expenditure to foster their own interests and hobbies, are always found fighting against direct taxation, such as land and income taxation, because they cannot pass it on to their dupes. The honorable senator said that in these matters we should take a broad view. It is remarkable how honorable senators opposite, in either a patronizing or a schoolmasterly manner, tell us who sit on this side of the chamber to ‘take a broad view and to set certain questions above party politics, and yet, at other times, are only too willing to flog the Labour party, especially if it happens to he in office. I take it that taking a broad view means considering every question from the point of view of its effect on the great bulk of the people, whose interests, rather than those of any section of the people should be paramount.
– Regard must also be had to the future.
– Yes. If there is one feature which has distinguished the legislation of the party to which Senator Duncan-Hughes belongs, it is its absolute failure to understand the problems of the future, and to apply to their solution the lessons which the past should have taught us. The average politician to-day overlooks altogether what Bernard Shaw calls the “ time lag “. We sit in this chamber, and pass legislation, and are surprised that it fails, when we ought to know that that legislation, although probably well suited to the conditions of a quarter of a century or more ago, is entirely incapable of solving the problems of to-day. If honorable senators had had during the recent adjournment an experience similar to that which I had in Brisbane, they would know that the only proper broad view of legislation is its effect on the great bulk of the people. While in Brisbane, recently, practically the whole of my mornings was taken up interviewing aged and infirm people who were hard hit by the legislation which passed through this chamber immediately prior to the adjournment. By that legislation a blow was struck at the most defenceless section of the community. Every page of the measure before us continues that process. Every reduction of expenditure provided for here, every item of alleged economy, is directed against those people who are entitled to our help and assistance. It is the same with practically everything that passes through this chamber.
Before the adjournment we heard a good deal about the Ottawa agreement; Although we spoke more or less in the dark, we on this side, expressed the opinion that nothing of value could accrue to Australia from the Ottawa Conference. Nothing that has occurred since provides ground for a change of opinion, notwithstanding the fervid protestations to the contrary-. How could it be otherwise, with men sitting round a bargain table, each endeavouring to extract something from the other? The Ottawa agreement will have a serious effect on Queensland. If time permitted, I could prove that the Ottawa agreement will give Queensland an exceedingly raw deal. In the minds of the framers of the Constitution, the Senate was to be a chamber in which the interests of the States as such would be protected, and a broad Australian view taken. But what do we find? In every possible way, Queensland has been attacked where most vulnerable.
Reference has been made to the reduction in the retail price of sugar. The Prime Minister seems never to tire of averring that a perfectly voluntary arrangement was entered into with the sugar producers, whereby the people of Australia are to get their sugar for½d. per lb. less than formerly. In reality, that reduction will be extracted from this industry, which is of great value to Queensland. Upon no question have more thinly veiled sophistries been uttered than on thatof sugar. Senator Payne does not like to hear the sugar industry defended, but, as a Queenslander, I feel impelled to express my opinion regarding the manner in which it has been treated. I shall show what a ridiculously small item a reduction of½d. per lb. in the price of sugar is in the expenses of the average Australian family.
– Then make t he reduction1d. per lb.
- Senator Johnston knows that the problems of the primaryproducersof Queens landare, to a large extent, also the problems of the primary producers of Western Australia. A reduction of½d. per lb. in the price of sugar represents a saving of about 13s. per annum to a family of four persons. By the variation of the agreement, more than £1,000,000, which Queensland can ill-afford to lose, is being taken out of the industry.
– And a very large proportion of that amount is spent in the southern States:
– That is true, but it is a point of which “ State righters “ in other States take no cognizance.
On several occasions, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has asserted that the alteration of the agreement was a perfectly voluntarily arrangement.
-Mr. Forgan Smith, the Premier of Queensland, was a party to it.
– Like many other critics of the industry, Senator Johnston knows nothing about it, and he is endeavouring to conceal that fact. Mr. Forgan Smith did not voluntarily agree to the alteration. In fact, he took a definite stand, both before and after the conference, against any attempt to interfere with the agreement during its term, emphasizing that a contractual obligation had been entered into between the Commonwealth and the State of Queensland, and that it should not be departed from during the term fixed. If we were now discussing some alteration of the gold bounty, Senator Johnston would be entirely in accord with the attitude taken by the Premier of my State with reference to the sugar agreement; it suits him to take the contrary view now for the simple reason that the agreement, which has been varied, did not affect an industry in which his State was concerned. What really happened was this. The two sections of the industry, the Australian Sugar Producers Association and the SugarGrowers Council, met in conference with the Prime Minister, not to decide what should be done in the best interests of the industry and the consumers, but whether they should accept or reject the ultimatum presented by the Prime Minister atthe instigationof people who are antipathetic to the sugar industry itself. I do not wish to occupy the time of the Senate by reading newspaper reports of the proceedings w’hich show’, beyond all doubt, that compulsion Was used to vary tha agreement. Every One who has studied the position, knows perfectly well that the Prime Minister intimated plainly to the sugar interests that unless there was an agreement te reduce the retail price of sugar by £d. per lb., there would be no stability in the industry, because at “any time, legislative action might be taken by the majority in Parliament, on lines similar to the motion submitted in this chamber by Senator Colebatch. So I say that the agreement was not Varied voluntarily. The sugar industry was told definitely that if it did not accept the proposal, something infinitely worse might happen to it, despite the agreement. On other occasions, we hear expressions of horror from honorable senators opposite whenever any proposal savouring of repudiation is mentioned. In this case, there has been a definite repudiation of a bargain made between the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland primary producers. In another direction, there has been a repudiation of an obligation to our invalid and old-age pensioners. Apparently because it suits’ honorable senators, who support the Government, repudiation is quite a respectable word; but they cannot have it both ways.
The sugar industry in Queensland hasnot grown Up in haphazard fashion. During my lifetime, I have seen it arise and. develop to’ its present dimensions, and I have been personally acquainted with every transitionary stage of its progress. While on this’ point, I should like to direct the attention of honorable senators to a scholarly arid impartial review of the industry published in a recent issue of the Queensland Agricultural Journal, from which I quote the following brief extracts: -
The first sugar experiment stations created were those of Java and Louisiana in the year 1885.
That of Java was known as Midden-Java’, or Central Java, at Semerang; a year later the experiment station known as West Java was founded at Kagok, and the next year that of East Java at Pasoeroean. These were then run by separate independent planters’ associa tions. They were, however, Anally merged in the Pasoeroean Experiment or Proef Station of East Java . . .
Queensland commenced with a sugar-cane laboratory in 181)8, cane being also experimented with on the old State Nursery at Mackay, which had then been in existence for some year’s, it wa’s not, however, till November, 1900, that the Bureau of Sugar Experiment Stations began operations under its first director,’ Dr. Walter Maxwell, who retired from the Queensland service in 1909, and died ill July, 1931.
The article goes on to mention other experimental stations that were established in different parts of the world, and states - 111 1888, Mr. Peter McLean, at that time Under-secretary, Department of Agriculture, was Commissioned to make inquiries in connexion with the North Eton central mill at Mackay, and he was at the same time requested to make inquiries as to the establishment of experimental farms or test stations. On bis return Mr.- McLean submitted a report in which he stated- -
I have carefully considered the question of experiment farms or test stations, and have come to the conclusion that what is wanted at present are State nurseries - one’ at Mackay aiia the other at Cairns . . .
A sugar conference was held at Mackay in March, 1900, at which most of the sugar districts were represented and. it approved of Dr. Maxwell’s recommendations that sugar experiment stations should he’ established, rind further, that the moneys raised for the purpose should be endowed pound for pound by the Government. The eagerness shown to obtain Dr. Maxwell’s service’s contrasted oddly enough with the vials of wrath that- were’ subsequently poured over his head by the very people who had been so warm to secure his services.
Queensland has, therefore, been honestly endeavouring, during the last 30 or 40 years, to develop the sugar industry in such a way as to make if of permanent value, not only- to Queensland, but also to the Commonwealth as a whole. I remember quite well when’ the total production was only a few thousand tons of cane. That was in the days when the industry was being developed by kanaka labour, supervised by a few white men. Then there arose the agitation against the continued employment of black labour, and I recall the steps taken to drive kanakas from the Queensland cane-fields, and provide for the employment of white people. But I dp not wishto detain the Senate by a recital of the various phases of the development of the industry, although I take this opportunity to remind hon’or’able” senators that it is’ a’. wonderful achievement for the policy of the party represented on this side of the chamber. The value of machinery employed in the industry is, in round figures, £10,000,000, of which a total of 97 per cent, is produced in Australia, chiefly in the southern States, hut I am glad to say that Queensland manufacturers also supply a fair proportion of it. Only about £3,000,000 worth of the requisite machinery has been manufactured in Great Britain. The value of our sugar export trade is nearly £2,000,000- this helps our trade balance with the Mother Country - and the value of the production sold in the Australian market is about £9,000,000. If we were obliged to import all sugar required in Australia, it would have to be paid for by exports of other commodities, or, if the balance of trade were against us, by shipments of gold. The industry employs over 20,000 persons, many of whom come from the southern States. It is estimated that after each crushing season is over, £1,000,000 in wages goes out of Queensland to the southern States, chiefly Victoria and Tasmania, which should not be ungrateful for this assistance. It has been frequently stated by honorable senators supporting the Government that if the sugar industry suffered a serious setback, the people engaged in it would give their attention to some other form of production. Those who take this view, know’ nothing whatever about the people in the industry, and nothing of the nature of the country. I say, emphatically, that the Queensland sugar industry could not be replaced satisfactorily by any other form of production. Senator Brennan smiles.
– No. I am merely wondering if the honorable senator will have anything left to say when the sugar agreement comes up for discussion?
– Those who have at heart the interests of our primary industries upon which our security as a nation is based, should not treat lightly this proposal to vary the sugar agreement. Senator Brennan is a legal man; he gets his living in the atmosphere of our courts, I fail to understand where he thinks he comes in in the scheme of things. If he appreciates the position as I do, he will know that, with me, he is a parasite on the backs of those who produce the real wealth of this country.
This Government has shown its readiness to attack not only the sugar industry, but also other primary industries in Queensland, if it can do so without affecting its friends and primary producers in other parts of the Commonwealth. Every one knows the possibility for expansion of the tobacco industry in Queensland. Yet this Government has also laid its unholy hands upon that industry, and the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett), who has returned recently from Ottawa, was in this matter the chief instrument. With other honorable senators, I regret that Mr. Gullett is, at the moment, in ill health. Of course, he is not personally to blame for the action he has taken in this direction and others. He is merely the agent for carrying out the political policy of the party to which he belongs, that policy of permitting the importation of huge quantities of goods so that the majority of the people will be indirectly taxed without knowing exactly what they are paying, while other sections of the community, including large land-holders, are thereby enabled to escape income and land taxation.
The Minister for Trade and Customs was also responsible for removing an embargo which had been of much benefit to the peanut-growers. Honorable senators opposite may smile, but they know little or nothing concerning the work involved in producing peanuts or in manufacturing oil from that product. Shortly before I became a member of this chamber, I visited the districts in which peanuts are produced, and I learned that those engaged in the production of peanuts were breathing fire and brimstone upon this Government and its followers for the injury which had been inflicted upon them. I understand how unimportant my remarks on this subject may seem to honorable senators opposite, many of whom take no interest whatever in primary production other than in the direction of imposing unnecessarily hard conditions upon the producers.
– Who robbed the ricegrowers of their overseas market?
– The honorable senator reminds me of what happened when an austere teacher, giving an elementary lesson in literature, asked one of the students, “Who wrote Shakespeare?” The pupil tremblingly replied, “ Please, sir, it wasn’t me “. I did not rob the rice-growers of their market overseas. I do not know so much about the production of rice as I do about’ the growing of peanuts.
Having no knowledge of primary industries, honorable senators may also be amused when I mention bananas. Whatever kindly characteristics they may have before they enter this chamber, once inside they lose them and become coldhearted, remembering only the 39 articles of their political faith. According to a newspaper report, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), speaking in another place, twitted some honorable members in that chamber with the fact that they could see nothing bigger than a banana. In my opinion, it was highly discreditable of the right honorable gentleman to make such a remark. I ask honorable senators opposite to restrain their levity, if that is possible, and to recognize that this Parliament will shortly be asked to consider legislation which will seriously affect the well-being of a large number of people engaged in primary production. When time permits, I should like those honorable senators who may so desire to accompany me to Queensland and visit the mountainous districts in which bananas are grown, and to study in detail the strenuous conditions under which the fruit is produced and transported to market. Most of the growers are unable to afford to pay for labour, and consequently have to carry the bunches on yokes supported by their shoulders over long distances before they are placed on flying-foxes, by which means they are transported over gullies on their way to the market. These banana producers cannot understand the callous action of the Government in permitting the introduction of Fijian bananas to the serious damage of their trade. It is useless to tell them that it is done so that some other section of primary producers may reap some nebulous advantage. It is equally useless to ask them to adopt a broad national outlook. It is certainly futile to tell men, most of whom are barely making a living, that the decisions reached at Ottawa will eventually be of benefit to the whole community.
The Government, having laid its unholy - hand on these sections of the primary producers, is now proceeding to go further. It has struck a serious blow at those engaged in growing pineapples, another subject about which honorable senators opposite know nothing; and, in order to show that my remarks with respect to the onslaught that is being made upon primary production are not made merely for political purposes, I propose to support them by the opinions of others. Only to-day I received a copy of the Clifton Courier. It is not a publication of the type of the Labor Daily of Sydney, The World or the Labor Daily of Brisbane, the policies of which so greatly disturb the minds of honorable senators opposite. It is a little country journal which shapes its policy upon the lines of the Sydney Morning Herald, the Melbourne Argus, and other similarly “ respectable “ journals of Australia. It contains the report of a speech made by the President of the Clifton Chamber of Commerce at a Hibernian communion breakfast. This gentleman was not speaking as a Labour man, but as president of a staid body of those stodgy tories who generally comprise chambers of commerce. He said -
They were all deeply interested in the future prosperity of Queensland, and naturally they felt greatly disappointed at the shocking treatment Queensland industries were receiving at the hands of the Federal Government. It has been unfortunately noticeable, that since the formation of the Lyon’s Government nothing has been left undone to damage the various industries of this State, which had given employment to thousands of persons. The cotton, tobacco, and great sugar industries had in turu been assailed, and now the banana industry was being made the object of hostile legislation. The shameful treatment of Queensland was further emphasized in the recent reshuffle of portfolios, this State’s only representative in the Government still remaining an assistant Minister.
Queensland is also interested in the Government’s policy with respect to rum. I have been a total abstainer all my life, and I do not know intoxicating liquor by its colour or by its taste. I have, however, received a letter from a firm of merchants in Brisbane which contains further evidence of the desire of the Government, for some incomprehensible reason, to make a further onslaught on a Queensland primary industry. This industry is allied to the great sugar industry. The letter reads -
Wo are writing to ask you to give consideration to Queensland rum interests when the new tariff comes before the Senate.
I take this early opportunity to bring the matter forward so that honorable senators may be prepared for what is to come. The letter goes on to say -
Our company are proprietors of the Beenleigh Distillery. In the recent tariff alterations the duty on imported rum was reduced from 40s. to 30s., but the excise of 30s. per gallon on Queensland rum was unaltered. The duty on whisky, however, remains 45s., and the excise on Australian whisky is 28s.
I do not know whether, the reason for that is that honorable senators opposite prefer whisky to rum. The letter continues -
You will note that Victorian whisky interests have a protection of 17s. per gallon, whereas rum - of which three out of the four distilleries are situated in Queensland - is now protected against the West Indian product to the extent of Cs. only. If rum were treated equitably the excise should be lower than on whisky, instead of higher.
At the present time Australian-produced rum supplies almost the total requirements of the Commonwealth, the importations of West Indian rum being negligible. Every gallon of rum imported will mean so much less Australian rum sold.
– Imported rum that has been manufactured by black labour ! .
– Exactly. That will become apparent to honorable senators as I proceed. The letter says -
The only object of the reduction in duty can be to provide an outlet in Australia for the product of the. West Indies, which, as you are aware, is produced from- sugar-cane grown by black labour.
At the back of all these sinister happenings is, either the fact that Queensland has the only Labour government in Australia and this is a political vendetta, or an attempt by certain exploiters of the white workers of this country again to introduce black labour into the tropical industries of Australia. I an inclined to think that it is a mixture- of both. The letter further says -
The excise on rum should not be as; high as- the excise on- whisky: Rum-,, two years old, is being sold by us at 5s. 8d. per liquid gallon, and for our last purchase of Australian whisky we paid 17s. 6d. per liquid gallon for four-year-old whisky. On the basis of values, if the excise on Whisky remains at 28s, that on rum should be very much less, certainly not 2s. more as at present.
There are three rum distilleries in Queensland - The Bundaberg Distillery, the Normanby Distillery at Strathpine, and ours at Beenleigh.
– -There is a protective duty of 6s. a gallon ofl rum, which is equal to 100 per cent. Is not that adequate?
– I direct the attention of Senator Pearce to the charge that is made in this letter, that Unfair discrimination is being shown to Victorian whisky interests as against Queensland rum interests. That is the point I wish to stress. The letter goes on to say -
The only other in Australia that we know of is that of the Colonial Sugar Befitting Company in Sydney, and we understand that their requirements in molasses are imported from Fiji, the quantity of Fiji molasses received in New South Wales during the year 1931-1932 being 127,942 cwt. Whether duty is paid on this molasses on coming into Australia is not known to us.
I wish now to deal briefly with Senator Payne’s concluding oration last night. At the outset of my speech this morning, I said that I felt almost constrained to seek the1 protection of the Chair, because the honorable senator’s attitude towards me last night was so menacing that I experienced what to me is the rare sensation of timidity. I have since got my second wind, and have tried to satisfy myself as to the explanation that lies behind his entirely unjustifiable and unwarranted outburst against me. When I was a much younger man I dabbled in metaphysics and different philosophies, during which I gave some consideration to the theory of the transmigration of souls. Last night, upon retiring to- bed,. I tried to calm, my troubled mind by seeking- an explanation that had hitherto eluded me. I suddenly remembered the formidable representations of the Tasmanian devil which found a’ place in the natural history portion df the” school readers that were in. vogue when I was being educated.. It occurred to me that in Senator Payne might be found an exemplification of the theory that souls transmigrate, and that last night his subconscious nature had assumed control when upon me he turned a baleful eye and assumed a menacing attitude which, for the .first time in my life, made me nervous of a political opponent. He may now, in his calmer moments, seek to tone down his conduct; but he cannot get away with it. I am somewhat in a quandary. There is one ground upon which I wish to establish a reputation in this chamber before my sojourn in it is terminated by an unruly electorate - a fate which, I believe, other honorable senators will meet before it overtakes me. My smiling friend, Senator Poll, is very definitely marked out for slaughter. I wish to establish, if I can, a reputation for decorous behaviour. Sometimes, with that natural modesty which is such a distinguishing feature of my personality, I wait until other honorable senators have cast their pearls of wisdom before the “ swine “ who ‘ sit on this side of the chamber; but because I do that, I am accused, as I was last night by Senator Payne, of having ulterior motives. The honorable senator pointed at me an accusing finger and said, “ There he sits, playing a waiting game until I have unburdened myself; but one day I shall wait for him “and track him down, and then the Heavens will fall “. The honorable senator cannot have it both ways : I have either to lead the band or to fall in with the chorus. When I wait for Senator Payne, it is not, I can assure him, with the sinister motive of “ getting in “ on him. Outside thi3 chamber, the honorable senator is a lovable gentleman, and “the mildestmanner’d man that ever scuttled ship or cut a throat.” I suggest that an outlet for his bellicose, qualifications is offered by another place. According to a paragraph that appears in the Canberra Times this morning, something done by that political arch scoundrel, the ex-Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Lang, has been misrepresented in Chili. The paragraph in question stated that Australia, principally New South Wales - of course, Australia is always “principally New South Wales “ - is in the grip of communism, and that “His Excellency the right honorable Aloysius
Lyons, President of the Republic, had mobilized the fleet, and was placing himself at the head of the army “. May I suggest to my honorable friend, Senator Payne, that instead of dissipating his bellicose feelings on an innocent individual like me, he should join forces with the Prime Minister and get to grips with this monster of communism.
Having devoted the greater portion of his speech to inconsequential matters, the honorable senator decided that he had better deal with something practical, and began to advise the Government as to what it should do to cure all the evils from which Australia is suffering to-day. He suggested that a remission of taxation offered the only means of overcoming our difficulties, and argued that it would cure unemployment. I tell my innocent and confiding friend that if he has discovered a cure for unemployment, instead of wasting his time with generalities in this chamber, he should explain his panacea to the people and be welcomed by them as the new Messiah. Let us examine his alleged cure. His argument is, that if taxation be remitted so many more thousands will be available to provide employment. I draw his attention to the fact - and I use him only as a medium to “ put over “ propaganda on the more susceptible honorable senators who surround him-
– Does the honorable senator characterize his speeches as “ propaganda “ ? ‘
-“ Propaganda “’ is the correct term to use. That is my sole object here. This Parliament is the best propaganda distributor of which I have any knowledge, and I intend to avail myself fully of the means at my disposal. No person employs another for philanthropic reasons. If any honorable senator opposite, during the present depressed times, decided to employ a gardener, it would not be because of his concern for the unfortunate out-of-work; it would be to appease his conscience, to soothe an artistic sense that was outraged by an unkempt garden, or to avoid physical exertion that he did not wish personally to undertake. No person employs another unless in the process he obtains from the transaction some direct or indirect benefit.
Senator Payne also said that when Mr. Scullin became leader of the Government the only task that confronted him was to restore confidence. He went on to argue that confidence had not been restored by that gentleman and to assert - inaccurately - that it had been by the present Government. Can Senator Payne, from his personal experience, give one instance of a man being put back to work because of the alleged restoration of confidence ?
– I gould submit a dozen such cases.
– I am glad to hear that; but Senator Payne must move in circles to which I have no access. Even Senator Greene, who spoke of a restoration of confidence in Australia, remarked - “ I admit that it is very small so far.” I know numbers of men in my own circle who are now out of work for the first time in their lives, because it is impossible for them to obtain profitable employment. There are two classes of unemployed - those who are dangerous^ and those who are not dangerous at the present time. But the class most dangerous to society is that which makes a success of being out of work. I refer to those who live in mansions, and are clad in broadcloth; not to those who wear fustian and live in hovels. Before Senator Payne can truthfully assert that he has found a solution of the problem of unemployment, he must discover a means of putting the well-to-do section - the idle rich - back to work, and thus prevent them from thieving the wealth of the rest of the community. The honorable senator stated that he had visited other countries and that, in the Old Land, he had seen men engaged in pulling down slums, and transferring the inhabitants to better dwellings. He recommended the Commonwealth Government to undertake such work as a means of assisting in the solution of the problem of unemployment, but he merely showed how exceptionally superficial is his knowledge of the nature of the problem. It would be of no use to place the slum dwellers in a new set of tenements ; that would merely result in creating a new set of slum conditions. We could not get rid of slums merely by transferring slum dwellers to new homes. We must tackle the whole problem of the environment which produces slums. The erection of new slum tenements would merely improve the material position of the landlords, because almost everything, done in the way of social betterment benefits that section rather than the common people.
Senator Payne concluded with an assertion that the cost of government must be reduced. I interjected to the effect that I belong to a party, each member of which has signed the Federal Labour party’s pledge to abolish this Senate. Then the honorable senator jeeringly remarked that’ I was one. of the Labour party in Queensland which had abolished the Upper House in the State Parliament. I am proud of that achievement, because it was the first time that any sovereign State had, of it3 own volition, abolished its second chamber. The first thing to do in the direction of reducing the cost of government is to abolish all State parliaments. As a young man, I was an advocate for federation, and I cannot now be accused of espousing the doctrine of unification, merely because I have had the good fortune to become a member of the National Parliament. During the fourteen years tin which I was the paid organizer of the Labour party in my own State, I urged the carrying out of the plank of the platform of the Federal Labour party which provides for unification. Australia has a population of only 6,500,000 people, and it is criminal to retain thirteen Houses of Parliament in this country. We ought to abolish the offices of the six State Governors, and also many other useless positions. After that we could consider the composition of the National Parliament. In a great continent like Australia, whose people have universal suffrage, there is no need for this chamber, unpopular though such a policy may be to honorable senators personally.
I listened attentively to the thoughtful speech bf my friend, Senator O’Halloran, but I do not intend to traverse the subjects with which he dealt. I merely desire to refer to what seemed to me to be a sneering and supercilious interjection by Senator McLachlan. Senator O’Halloran had been quoting figures from the report of the South Australian AuditorGeneral, showing the amount of interest extracted from the wheat-growers. I understand that the figures had been fairly collated, and dealt with crops grown in different areas, and on land differing in quality. Senator McLachlan interjected that if that was all the interest farmers were paying on land which produced so many bushels to the acre, they ought to consider themselves fortunate. I ask honorable senators whether it is of any use to continue to shut our eyes to the fact that on no section of the community does the burden of interest fall so heavily as on the primary producers. The present heavy exaction of interest cannot be justified, except on the ground that a contractual obligation has been entered into. There is no reason at the moment why we should repudiate our liabilities to overseas bondholders. I believe that we could liquidate all the debts that we honestly owe; but we do not owe all that has been claimed against us. While we should be prepared, as Australians, fully to discharge our interest liabilities, we should not be such blind, trusting fools, as to allow our creditors to alter their yard-stick every time they feel inclined. When the money which we now owe was borrowed, the extent of our indebtedness was measured by the customary yard-stick, according to the value of commodities; but the financial magnates have now increased their measuring stick to three yards, judged by ordinary standards, and they will not be satisfied unless the commodities by which alone the debts between nations are discharged, are measured by .this new yardstick. The nature of the measuring stick is determined by half a dozen financial magnates on the other side of the world, who in their nefarious game of finance use honorable senators in the chamber as pawns. Honorable senators on this side have graduated in the school of working class economics. They have attended no university; they owe their education to the hard knocks of the world, but they realize that the people of Australia have paid off the principal over and over again in interest. The bond that Australia has signed should be kept; but we, as legislators, have a right to say “ Thus far and no further.” The time has come when the nefarious operations of the financial magnates must cease. Every part of the Appropriation Bill reeks with the taint of overseas financiers. Every attempt at a reduction of governmental expenditure fails because of the wrongs suffered by the people in connexion with interest payments. Every honorable senator must know that it is not wages, not Arbitration Court awards, not the extreme demands of organized workers that cripple industry, and ruin primary production, bringing countries to such a condition as Australia and other lands have reached ; it is the intolerable burden of interest. The sooner that is realized, the better it will be for everybody. I know that this bill will be passed, because senators on this side are powerless to prevent it. Nevertheless, I ask honorable senators to realize that the principal object of the bill .is to enable the Prime Minister to say to his colleagues in the Cabinet : “ Gentlemen, we are balancing the budget.” [Extension of time granted.]
Every line of - this bill is a pitiable acknowledgment of failure to understand the true position. Every line reeks with the desire of the Prime Minister to say to his colleagues,” “ We are honestly attempting to balance the budget “ to assert that confidence is being restored, and by making petty-fogging economies, to prove the impossible. The Government is attempting to prove that the Australian nation can be made prosperous by making its component parts poorer. That cannot be done. National budgets cannot be balanced until private budgets have been balanced. National solvency cannot be restored while nearly 500,000 workers who are potential wealth producers are compulsorily idle. It was stated in this chamber yesterday that only private enterprise could inspire confidence, provide work and restore prosperity. In his policy speech the Prime Minister told the electors that what governments could not do private enterprise could accomplish. What an illogical argument! That private enterprise has failed, the existence of insolvency courts, prisons and asylums for the indigent, is evidence. Every road, highway and by-way of civilization is lined with corpses which are eloquent of the failure of private enterprise. The only way to overcome the difficulties confronting us is to adopt the financial policy of the Scullin Government, which was submitted to it by the Australian Labour Party. If that policy were put into operation, the problems confronting us to-day would immediately he so alleviated as to become self-curing. Instead of the cure being in the hands of private enterprise, it rests with governments, and national governments at that. We should see that a sufficiently increased purchasing power is injected into the life stream of trade and commerce to enable the people of this country to buy the goods of which we already have unlimited stores, and to get them back again into industry, and employment.
Queensland is being unduly penalized in many ways, some of which I have already mentioned. I hope that the claims of that State will not be overlooked when appointments of inspectors under the new pensions scheme are being made. Queensland is entitled to its fair share of these additional appointments, and men and women capable of doing the work are available there. Similarly, in the work of taking the census Queensland should not be overlooked. So far no opportunity has been given to honorable senators to nominate persons for employment in connexion with the census. I am aware that applicants may attend at the office of the Public Service Board and obtain forms and fill them in, and in due course receive a courteously worded acknowledgment, but more than that is necessary. I hope that the citizens of Queensland will be given a chance to secure employment in connexion with the taking of the census.
In urging the further development of Canberra I realize that I may be treading on dangerous ground. Nevertheless, I urge the Government to proceed with a continuous policy of development, even if that development be slow. I have strong reasons for urging a progressive policy in connexion with Canberra. Successive governments have failed in that they have not provided for the continuous development of this wonderful capital city. Since my arrival here, I have been approached by the Canberra Lessees Association and asked for my support of their aims, and only yesterday I received a letter from my comrades of the Trade and Labour council of Canberra asking that I should urge a continuous policy of development of the capital city. I may be asked where the money is to come from, and reminded of the millions of pounds that have been squandered here. I may be told also of the untrustworthy contractors who endeavoured to defraud the Government. There never was a government contract in connexion with which an attempt was not made - even if unsuccessful - to get at the Government, or to provide someone with a “ rake-off.” So long as a continuous policy of development was in operation, there was no unemployment in Canberra and in the adjoining town there was prosperity.
– There was prosperity in the adjoining town when Canberra was “ dry.”
– I have no sympathy with any suggestion that men are unemployed in Canberra merely because “ dry “ conditions do not now obtain here. Surely, in this chamber, we can take other than a sordid and materialistic view of life. Here in this garden city we see unfolding before our eyes one of the noblest ideals to be found in any part of the world. Here we are surrounded with the beautiful and the artistic to a degree which we would have difficulty in finding elsewhere. Were we to inculcate in ourselves and in others a desire for something more than the distractions of a big city, and, in a not extravagant or immodest way, to go ahead with the work of developing Canberra, we should make this city such a beautiful place that not only we ourselves, but also the whole of the people of Australia, would be proud of Australia’s national capital. By developing Canberra we shall be doing something to raise our citizens above the sordid and material things of life. Once we have established noble ideals in the hearts of the people, the evils in our midst will be more easily tackled and overcome.
– Taxation is so high that people cannot come to see the beauties of Canberra.
– It is not so much taxation, as Canberra’s isolation, that keeps people away.
– I am reminded that Rosseau, one of the greatest educationists the world has ever known, once said that no man is truly educated until he can spend 24 hours in his own company without being bored. I suggest that Senator Hoare should endeavour to attain to that degree of mental serenity.
– Not iu this howling wilderness.
– The howling is inside this chamber.
– There is a difference between howling from the sincere convictions of a man’s soul, and merely chattering the inane pleasantries for which Senator McLachlan is famous.
The Government would do well to undertake certain Commonwealth works in Brisbane. Additional accommodation at1 the federal members’ room at that city should be provided. The present accommodation there is a disgrace to all concerned, including those who put up with it quietly. Our surroundings here are artistic and comfortable whereas the federal members’ room at Brisbane is supremely inartistic and cruelly uncomfortable. I hope that the Leader of the Government (Senator Pearce) will give consideration to my modest requests. It may be that my manner of presenting my case is not conducive to success, but even the members pf the Government are not wholly vindictive. We were told this morning, during the discussion on another subject, that the Government was anxious, when allocating money for unemployment relief works in the various States, to see that it was spent to the best advantage. I suggest that it should not he over-particular as to the manner in which such money is expended.
– Oh !
– I knew that observation would bring a sneer from honorable senators supporting the Government, and I am. not at all surprised at the source of its origin. Let me repeat that the thing for the Government to do now is to spend money so- as to increase the purchasing power of the people. I know of no better way of doing this than on projects to provide work for people who are suffering because of unemployment.
– Those blessed words, “ release of credit “ !
– Senator Herbert Hays has used a term which I did not employ. His interjection is sufficient inspiration to me to carry on for another hour, did time permit. I was not discussing proposals for the release of credit. I was. alluding to the £14,000,000 which, according to the Assistant Minister (Senator Greene), is now available for relief works in the various States. With Senator Dunn, I wish to know whether any of it will be available to bring Christmas cheer to the hemes of people who have had no cheer for the last two or three years. If it will bring a modicum of happiness or comfort into the homes of the common people, I shall be quite satisfied. If supporters of the Government want to know whether its expenditure at this juncture will give a return, I invite them to come with me to some of the places which they are not accustomed to visit - the baby clinic’s in the different centres of congested population in the city from which I come. There I will show them ricketty children, and children upon whose cheeks the rosy hue of health has never been seen. If then they ask me whether money provided for such purposes is wisely spent, or whether Australia is getting some return, my reply will be that it will be money well spent if its expenditure will make it impossible for such conditions to obtain in the immediate future; if it will check the number of suicides going over the Sydney Harbour bridge; if it will prevent men from out-blowing their brains, and women: from drowning themselves or adopting some other form of suicide because of the misery due to unrelieved poverty. If the intention is to strike a balance in respect of all forms of government expenditure, to get £1 for £1 value, we shall never get anywhere, never do anything worth while in our day and generation. It is time we dropped this sordid outlook, this continual inquiry where the money is to come from, this continual urge not to spend unless we get a quid pro quo in the ordinary sordid commercial sense. Let us lift our discussion to a higher plane, and legislate in a more humane atmosphere. Then and then only shall. we make this great Australian Commonwealth a credit, not only to ourselves, but also to our common humanity and the rest of the civilized world. Ours is the only continent in which that would be possible without civil war. We have to our hand the opportunity to deal with this problem, but I regret to say that the Government and its supporters are making no attempt to solve it. All that they are doing is to intensify our difficulties, and we on this side of the chamber are powerless, because we lack the numbers.
Debate (on motion by Senator
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday next, at 3 p.m.
Senate adjourned at 3.51 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 4 November 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1932/19321104_senate_13_136/>.