13th Parliament · 1st Session
The Senate, on the 14th July, 1933, adjourned till a day and hour to he fixed and to be notified by the President to each honorable senator.
The Senate met at 3 p.m., pursuant to the notification of the President.
The President (Senator the Hon. F. J. lynch) took the chair and read prayers.
– I have received from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral a certificate of the choice by the Parliament of the State of Western Australia of Herbert BrayleyCollett, C.M.G., D.S.O., as a senator to fill the vacancy in the representation of Western Australia in the Senate, caused by the resignation of Senator Sir Hal PatcshallColebatch, KB., C.M.G.
Certificate read by the Clerk and laid on the table.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [3.5]. - by leave - I desire to inform the Senate that the honorable member for Corio, Mr. R. G. Casey, D.S.O., M.C., has been included in the Cabinet, and was, on the 25th September, appointed by His Excellency the Governor-General to be a member of the Federal Executive Council. Mr. Casey will assist in the administration of the Treasury.
The following papers -were presented : -
Commonwealth Bank Act - Balance-sheets of
Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Commonwealth Savings Bank at 30th June, 1933, and Statements of the Liabilities and Assets of the Note Issue Department at 30th June, 1933; together with Auditor-General’s Reports thereon.
Nauru Island Agreement Act - Ordinance No. 3 of 1933 - Clearing of Lands Amend ment.
Air Force Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1933, No. 89.
Australian Imperial Force Canteens Funds Act - Report by the Auditor-General upon the Accounts of the Trustees of the Fund for the year 1932-33.
Commonwealth Grants Commission ActRegulations - Statutory Rules 1933, No. 87.
Commonwealth Public Service Act -
Appointment - Attorney-General’s Department - J. Q. Ewens.
Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1933, No. 93- No. 98- No. 101- No. 109.
Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1933, No. 80.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at Guildford, Western Australia - For Defence purposes.
Lands Acquisition Act and Northern Territory of Australia Lands Acquisition Ordinance - Land acquired at Darwin, Northern Territory - For Defence purposes.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1933, No. 97- No. 99- No. 100.
New Guinea Act - Ordinances of 1933 -
No. 34 - Appropriation 1933-1934.
No. 38-Superannuation (No. 2).
Norfolk Island Act- Ordinances of 1933 -
No. 1 - Customs.
No. 2 - Police Offences.
No. 3 - Pasturage and Enclosure.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act-
Ordinances of 1933 -
No. 7 - Venereal Diseases.
No. 8 - Gaming.
No. 9 - Interpretation.
No. 10. - Supreme Court (No. 2).
No. 11 - Crown Lands.
Crown Lands Ordinance - Regulations amended.
Papua Act - Infirm and Destitute Natives Account- Statement ofTransactions of Trustees for the year ended 30th June, 1933.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of . Government (Administration) Act -
Ordinances of 1933-
No. 14 - Land Commissioner.
No. 15 - Leases.
No. 16 - Weights and Measures.
No. 17- Hospital Tax (No. 3).
No. 18 - Workmen’s Compensation.
No. 19 - Workmen’s Compensation (No. 2).
No. 20 - Advisory Council (No. 2).
Building and Services Ordinance - Regulations amended.
Education Ordinance - Regulations amended.
Weights and Measures Ordinance - Regulations.
Workmen’s Compensation Ordinance - Regulations.
Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Statement of Receipts and Expenditure of the Federal Capital Territory for the period 1st July, 1932, to 30th June, 1933.
Canned Fruits Export Control Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1933, No. 104.
Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1933, No. 107.
Dairy Produce Export Charges ActRegulations amended - Statutory Rules 1933, No.95.
Dairy Produce Export Control Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1933, No. 94.
Patents Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1933, No. 90.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1933, No. 92 - No. 90- No. 102.
Post and Telegraph Act and Wireless Telegraphy Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1933, No. 88.
Quarantine Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1933, No. 91.
Science and Industry Endowment Act - Auditor-General’s Report on the Science and Industry Endowment Fund as at 30th June, 1933.
TariffBoard - Report and Recommendation - Adjustment of Protective Duties to compensate for the effects of Exchange and Primage.
Cotton Industries Bounty Act - Return for 1932-33.
Customs Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1933, No. 105- No. 106.
Excise Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1933, No. 103.
Flax and Linseed Bounties Act - Return for 1932-33.
Iron and Steel Products Bounty Act - Return for 1932-33.
Papua and New Guinea Bounties Act - Return for 1932-33.
Sulphur Bounty Act - Return for 1932-33. Wine Export Bounty Act - Return for 1932-33.
– I ask the Leader of the Senate whether his recent pronouncement at the Millions Club in Sydney, regarding a proposed huge expenditure on defence, was made in order to satisfy the clamour of the “ Jingo “ daily press, or to undermine some of the limelighting war-mongers in political circles-
– Order ! The honorable senator must not expressan opinion when asking a question.
– Then I ask the Leader of the Senate to state the reason for the haste in announcing the Government’s defence policy to the Millions Club before it had been announced to the Parliament?
– The Government realized that considerable interest, as well as some nervousness, was being displayed in regard to defence matters, and thought it advisable to take the people into its confidence as soon as possible, and tell them exactly how it regarded the position, and what proposals it intended to place before Parliament.
Report of Tariff Board
GREENE laid on the table the report of the Tariff Board on the adjustment of protective duties to compensate for the effects of exchange and primage.
-Will the Leader of the Senate permit ample time between the presentation of the report of the Tariff Board regarding the effect on the tariff of primage and exchange and the thirdreading stage of the customs tariff?
– There will be ample opportunity for the consideration of that matter. Honorable senators will be able to discuss the report on the motion for the printing of the budget papers. A further opportunity for its discussion will be provided on the presentation of a bill dealing with one of the phases of the Government’s tariff policy. The third reading of the customs tariff will not be taken in the Senate until the other branch of the legislature has had an opportunity to deal with the Senate’s requests for amendments, and in view of the order of business in another place, the Government does not anticipate that the customs tariff will bo returned from the House of Representatives within the next fortnight.
– In view of the statements made recently at the Millions Club luncheon in Sydney by the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) that the Lyons Government intended to spend the sum of £12,000,000 on defence, will the Minister inform me whether he made any reference at that luncheon to returning in full the amounts that were deducted from the old-age, invalid and war pensions, and the 22½ per cent, cut from the salaries of public servants?
– No. On that occasion I was speaking on defence; not on budget policy generally.
Proposals for Development
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior state whether the Government intends to introduce legislation which will allow large areas of Northern Australia to be leased or otherwise controlled by chartered companies registered outside Australia? If so, will legislation regarding this matter be introduced in this Parliament during the present session?
Senator SIR GEORGE PEARCE.No such agreement as the honorable senator has indicated is in prospect at the present time, and, therefore, it is unlikely that any legislation on the matter will be brought down during the present period of the session. If such an agreement were entered into between the Commonwealth Government and any company, it would have to be ratified by both Houses of the Parliament.
– In view of the appointment of Mr. Bruce, theResident Minister in London, as High Commissioner for Australia, I ask the Leader of the Seriate whether it is a fact that at a cabinet meeting, the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) threatened to hand in his resignation because he had not secured the job?
Question not answered.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Supplementary Appropriation Bill 1931- 1932.
Supplemental Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill 1931-1932.
Australian Institute of Anatomy Agreement Bill.
Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Bill.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure marks a new stage in the legal development of the Territory for the Seat of the Government. Briefly, the bill proposes that an intermediate court known as the Supreme Court of the Federal Capital Territory shall be established. At the present time, the High Court of Australia exercises jurisdiction in relation to the Territory in virtue of sections 30b and34a of the Judiciary Act 1903-1932. These sections have been in force since September, 1929. Prior to that time, arrangements for the administration of justice within the Territory had been provided for in the Seat of Government Acceptance Act 1909 and the Seat of Government (Administration.) Act 1910. Section 8 of the former act enacted that, until the Parliament otherwise provided, the High Court should have, within the Territory, the jurisdiction which before the 1st January, 1911, belonged to the Supreme Court of New South Wales. From a technical point of view, the High Court had full original jurisdiction in the Territory, but neither a registry nor the other necessary machinery was set up to give effect to this jurisdiction. District Courts and Courts of Petty Session of the State also functioned in. the Territory in virtue of section 11 of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910. In 1927, consequent on the influx into Canberra of many permanent residents, the time was considered to be ripe for the establishment of suitable machinery to facilitate the functioning of the High Court in Canberra, and, in consequence, sections 30b and 34a of the Judiciary Act were enacted. Section 30b invests the High Court “with original jurisdiction in relation to the Territory, and section 34a gives to the High Court such jurisdiction to hear and determine appeals from all judgments whatsoever of any court of the Territory as is vested in it by ordinance. The provisions of section 30b were in substitution for those of section 8 of the Seat of Government Acceptance Act. Section 11 of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act, which relates to minor courts, was repealed, and the establishment of a Court of Petty Sessions was to he effected by means of an ordinance. The Court of Petty Sessions was set up in 1930. This court has jurisdiction to try offences punishable on summary conviction, and also a limited civil jurisdiction to hear and determine actions for the recovery of any damages, debt or demand not exceeding £200. Appeals may be taken from this court to the High Court direct.
There are many reasons why the High Court should not be called upon to determine matters which usually come before such tribunals as the District Courts and County Courts of a State. The High Court is primarily the highest appellate tribunal in the Commonwealth, and honorable senators will readily agree that it should be freed from many cases of minor importance which come before intermediate courts. It is proposed, therefore, that a Supreme Court be established in the Territory, which, although endowed with all the powers usually appertaining to a superior court, will not be of the same standing as the High Court.
The bill provides for the constitution of the Supreme Court by a judge who may be either a judge of the Federal Court of Bankruptcy, or of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. The judge will not receive any salary additional to that already being received by him as a judge of a federal court. The ‘Government proposes to appoint Judge Lukin, of the Bankruptcy Court, to be the first judge of the new court.
Clause 11 sets out the jurisdiction of the court, both original and appellate. This jurisdiction is to be - (a) the same original jurisdiction, both civil and criminal, as immediately before the 1st January, 1911, the Supreme Court of the State of New South “Wales had in relation to that State; (b) such jurisdiction, both civil and criminal, and whether original or otherwise, as is from time to time vested in the Supreme Court by ordinances made by the GovernorGeneral; and (c) jurisdiction, with such exceptions and subject to such conditions as are provided by ordinance, to hear and determine appeals from all judgments, convictions, orders, and sentences of inferior courts having jurisdiction in the Territory.
Honorable senators will see that we eliminate the direct appeal to the High Court from what lawyers call courts of inferior jurisdiction. That is in accordance with the practice in the States, where appeals from the lower courts are, in the first instance, to the Supreme Court of a State.
The jurisdiction of the judge sitting in chambers is delimited in clause 12. The judge is authorized to state any case, or to reserve any question for the consideration of the High Court. He may also direct any case or question to be argued before the High Court, and the High Court is invested with power to hear and determine the case or question. Clause 14 continues the existing practice in the High Court, whereby civil trials are heard by the court without a jury, unless the court otherwise orders. It was also the practice in the case of civil actions in the District Court of New South “Wales, when that court was exercising jurisdiction in the Territory, to try such actions by a judge of that court without a jury. The concurrent administration of law and equity is regulated by clauses 18 to 24. Clause 28 empowers the judge to make rules of court for the regulation of a number of matters which are essential to the proper and orderly working of the court. Any such rules may be disallowed by the Attorney-Gen eral.
Part III. relates to proceedings by and against the Commonwealth. The provisions of this part are, in the main, similar to those of the Judiciary Act upon the same subject. Part IV. relates to the machinery of administration, and contains the usual provisions for the appointment of the officers necessary for the proper functioning of the court. It is not anticipated that any extra officers will be appointed. The duties of the positions mentioned in the bill will be performed by officers in addition to the duties of their existing offices. Part V. contains a number of supplementary provisions, such as the giving of evidence on affidavit, appearance by barristers or solicitors, orders and commissions for the examination of witnesses, and similar matters. The matter of appeals from the Supreme Court in both civil and criminal cases is dealt with in Part VI. Part VII. is a miscellaneous portion of the bill which relates to such matters as the manner of putting persons accused of indictable offences on their trial, interest on judgments, and the powers of the judge. A final clause provides for the transfer to the Supreme Court of any cause, matter or proceeding pending in the High Court at the commencement of the proposed act.
With the establishment of a Supreme Court, the order of courts would be the High Court of Australia, the Supreme Court of the Territory, and the Court of Petty Sessions. There would thus be in the Territory that range of the courts which is a feature of the legal systems obtaining in the States and the territories of the Commonwealth.
I commend the hill to honorable senators as a contribution to the development of the legal machinery of the Territory, as a means of providing for the speedy disposal of cases which are not of such importance as to warrant the presence of a justice of the highest tribunal in the Commonwealth, and also as a benefit to litigants, who will be saved the expense consequent on bringing proceedings before the High Court.
Debate (on motion by Senator Barnes) adjourned.
[3.28].- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill, and the one that follows it, deal only with the safeguarding of the rights of those officers affected by the alterations which have taken place on two occasions in connexion with the government of the Northern Territory. Honorable senators will remember that, under the Northern Australia Act of 1926, there was a North Australia Commission, to which was entrusted certain functions and duties, particularly in connexion with the development of the northern portions of Australia, and there was also a Government Resident in charge of the administration of the territory. Provision was made in that act for officers appointed by the North Australia Commission from the Public Service or from the Railway Service of the Commonwealth, or of a State, or from the Public Service of the Northern Territory, to retain their existing and accruing rights, but it contained no provision for the preservation of the rights of the person who would be appointed Government Resident. Colonel Weddell, the present Administrator, who was appointed Government Resident under that act, was a member of the Commonwealth Public Service prior to that appointment.
Owing to the fact that there was no provision in the Northern Australia Act for the preservation of the rights of an officer appointed to the position of Government Resident, Colonel Weddell has lost all his existing and accruing rights as an officer of the Commonwealth Service. Seeing that junior officers appointed by the North Australia Commission preserve their rights, it’ is anomalous that Colonel Weddell should-not have his rights preserved. The object of this bill is to restore to Colonel Weddell the rights of a Commonwealth officer, which he lost when he was appointed to the position of Government Resident of North Australia. It will be observed that the bill has been made retrospective to the date of the commencement of the Northern Territory Administration Act, 1931, that is, from the date of the repeal of the Northern Australia Act.
– I can appreciate the desire of the Government to have this bill put through without delay. As its purpose is to restore to certain officers the rights of which they would never have been deprived but for an oversight on the part of a previous government I offer no opposition to the passage of the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
[3.34]. - I move-
That the bill now be read a second time.
Various Acts of Parliament make provision for the preservation or retention by officers of their existing and accruing rights. The Officers’Rights Declaration Act, 1928, defines the rights which are preserved or retainedby officers. The Act applies to the acts and sections thereof mentioned in the schedule. The object of this bill is to add to the schedule the words : “Northern Territory (Administration) Act, 1910-1933, sections 17, 17a, and17b.” Section 17 provides for the transfer to the Public Service of the Northern Territory of all officers of the Public Services of North Australia and Central Australia, and for the preservation of the existing and accruing rights of such officers. Section 17a provides for the retention of existing and accruing rights by members of the North Australia Commission, or officers of that commission, who continued in the service of the Northern Territory after the abolition of the commission. None of the members of the commission was continued in service, though a few officers of the commission were retained. Section 17b provides for the retention of existing and accruing rights by the officer appointed to the position of Government Resident of North Australia. This section will be placed in the act by the bill to amend the Northern Territory Administration Act which has just been considered by the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
by leave - [3.38]. - Advice was received yesterday by the Commonwealth Government from the Minister without Portfolio in London (Mr.Bruce) that Australia had been elected a non-permanent member of the Council of the League of Nations. The Council of the League of Nations consistssof five permanent members: Great Britain, France, Italy, Japan and Germany, and nine non-permanent members. The non-permanent members are elected for a period of three years, but in such a manner that the terms of three of them expire at each Assembly. As the result of the recent election, the present nonpermanent members are Argentine, Australia, China, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Mexico, Panama, Poland and Spain. Canada, in 1927, was the first British self-governing dominion to be elected to the Council, and, on the expiration of the triennial term in 1930, was succeeded by the Irish Free State. The Commonwealth Government has decided that the Minister without Portfolio, or the High Commissioner in London, will represent Australia at the meetings of the Council, which take place four or five times a year. It is considered that the representation of Australia on the Council can be conveniently carried out from London, and that there is no necessity at present to incur the expense of establishing an office in Geneva.
It is the usual practice, when the budget is being delivered in another place, to make the papers available in the Senate in order to give honorable senators an opportunity to discuss the financial policy of the Government as revealed in the budget. But the rule also is not to anticipate the discussion in the House of Representatives, and as there has been some delay there, I suggest, Mr. President, that you suspend the sitting, so that we shall not have the budget presented in the Senate before it is placed before honorable members in the other chamber.
Sitting suspended from3.42 to4.15 p.m.
– I lay on the table -
Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure, and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, Buildings. &c, for the year ending; 30th June, 1934.
The Budget 1933-34 - Papers presented by the Right Honorable . J. A. Lyons, P.C., M.P., on the occasion of the Budget of 1933-34- and move -
That the papers be printed.
When the budget was introduced last year, the Government considered it necessary to adopt a conservative attitude in regard to the finances for the year. While the seasonal outlook at the beginning of the year was reasonably good, it was impossible to predict the future with any certainty, as up to that time there had been a marked falling off in the gold prices of all Australian export commodities. This fall in prices continued throughout a great part of last year, and the average reached the lowest point recorded since the depression set in towards the end of 1929 and the beginning of 1930. However, we had a bountiful season and there has been a return of confidence in Australia, resulting in increased employment, improved trading, with consequent buoyancy of the revenue which when the last budget was introduced, could not be anticipated with any degree of certainty. One indication of the manner in which trade improved during the year, is the fact that imports increased to the extent of £12,777,684 sterling, largely owing to the enhanced purchasing power of the people. If honorable senators will examine the list »f imports, they will see that the increase consisted almost entirely of raw materials, things which are not manufactured in Australia, but which in themselves, are a substantial aid to industry.
When, during the early part of last year, the upward trend of revenue became apparent, proposals were submitted by the Government for remissions of taxation involving a loss to the revenue of £1,700,000. ‘ These were embodied in the Financial Relief Act passed last December. At the time it was announced that the continuance of those concessions during the present financial year would depend on the financial position as disclosed at the end of the year. The budget which is now being introduced provides, amongst other things, for the continuance of those remissions of taxation granted during the last financial year.
Before dealing with the results of las* year’s operations I direct the attention of honorable senators to a number of facts which record in a definite way an improvement in the existing situation in comparison with that obtaining at the beginning of last financial year, because those facts are the justification for the budget, and of the policy for which the Government stands.
The improvement of our national credit as revealed by the prices of Commonwealth stocks, which was mentioned in the budget speech of last year, has continued in a marked manner. In London, in July, 1932, our 5 per cent, stocks maturing in 1945-75 were regarded as the indicator, stock on the market and, when last year’s budget was submitted, they were quoted at £101 3s. 9d. To-day, this stock stands at £108 18s. 9d., whilst our 4 per cent, stock maturing in .1955-70, which has replaced it as an indicator stock on the market stands at £105 6s. 3d. I have pleasure in adding that advices received last night from London showed that for the first time for many years our 5 per cent, stock was quoted at a higher price on the London market than the rates ruling for comparable New Zealand 5 per cent, securities and Canadian stocks. For many years, Canadian stocks were more in favour on the London market and realised higher prices than Australian stocks; but, yesterday the position was reversed. I doubt that we could have a more gratifying illustration of the manner in .which Australian credit has been restored since this Government assumed office. Honorable senators will doubtless recall that, not so long ago, our 5 per cent, stock was quoted as low as £56.
The London conversions which have been effected during the last few months reflect the highest credit upon Mr. Bruce, the Resident Minister in London, and I place on record the Government’s appreciation of the splendid service which he has rendered to this country.
Compulsory maturities falling due last year amounted to £21,981,000. Unfortunately, the first approaches which had to be made to the London market were in connexion with securities on behalf of the Government of New South Wales. The attitude adopted by a previous Government in that State struck a great blow at Australian credit in London, with the result that this conversion operation had to be handled with extreme delicacy. To that amount must be added £84,0S4.,000 of high interest-bearing loans, over which we had optional conversion rights, making a total of £106,065,000. Of this amount, loans totalling £71,563,000 have been converted from rates ranging from 4 per cent, to 6-J per cent, to new rates ranging from Si to 4 per cent., with a resultant total saving to the Commonwealth in interest and exchange of £1,600,000. Special reference should be made to the recent conversion, into long-term securities of £20,951,000. This was an operation which previously had been regarded as almost beyond the capacity of the Commonwealth, even in days when our credit in London was highest. As the result of this conversion, the return to the investor is now £3 17 s. lid. We have not had a loan floated in the London market at so low a figure for the last 20 years. We still have optional conversion rights in respect of loans totalling £34,500,000 and it is expected that these will be dealt with in the near future. The remaining unmatured debt in London due to the public is £33S,000,000, carrying an average interest rate of 4.43 per cent. If the whole of this sum were -converted into 4 per cent, stock the interest charge would be reduced by £1,450,000.
For the information of honorable senators it should be mentioned that loans to the extent of £5,569,453 mature in London in 1934 and loans totalling £81,791,938 mature in 1935. These facts will, I think, impress on senators the necessity for maintaining the present improved position of Australian credit in London on a thoroughly sound basis.
In regard to the internal debt, a similarly satisfactory position is being maintained. The average return to investors, including redemption, of our 4 per cent. stocks decreased from £4 14s. per cent, at the 30th June, 1932, to £3 13s. 8d. per cent, at the present time, notwithstanding the fact that it has been necessary to finance public works by raising loans on the open market in lieu of financing such works by Treasury bills. The sum of £14.041,000 was made available for the Loan Works programmes of the various
States last year, and this year it is proposed to set aside for that purpose £20,600,000.
Reference to the last public loan of £5,000,000 which was placed on the market in May last, will serve to indicate the position of Australian internal credit today. For this loan the sum of £8,462,000 was subscribed in the record time of eight days. It was not underwritten, and the total cost of flotation was only 6s. 8d. per cent.
In regard to interest rates, the policy of the Government in co-operation with the Commonwealth Bank has been directed towards a steady reduction. Bates of interest generally have shown a marked decrease during the last two years. The Treasury bill discount rate has fallen from 6 per cent, on 1st January, 1931, to 2^ per cent, on 1st July, 1933, while the Commonwealth Bank overdraft rate has fallen during the same period from 6i per cent, to 4j£ per cent. The lending rates of the private banks have also shown a downward tendency, the rate on overdraft for rural purposes having been reduced to 5£ pel- cent. The Government still feels that it is necessary, in the interests of the country, that interest rates should come down still further. Accordingly it is aiming at a further reduction, and at a later stage I shall indicate the steps which it proposes to take to achieve this end.
Perhaps the most encouraging sign of returning prosperity to-day is the definite increase of the prices of our exportable commodities from the low levels reached last year. Wool has increased in Australian currency from the lowest monthly average in 1932-33 of 7.8d. per lb. to its present average price of ls. 0.6d. per lb. The London price of butter, in Australian currency, has increased from £4 3s. 9d. per cwt., the lowest average in 1932-33, to £6 12s. 6d. per cwt. at the present time. Our major exports have shown a rise, in Australian currency, of 40 per cent, in the six months from March to September of this year. That, I think, is a fairly encouraging position. There is still room for great improvement in regard to certain commodities; outfit is an encouraging fact that over most of our exports the average price has risen 40 per cent, in the last six months.
There is a special reason, I admit, for the activity in gold-mining,but the revival of gold-mining throughout the country is one of the bright spots in the present economic development of Australia. The temporary abandonment of the gold standard by Great Britain and the present rate of exchange between Australia and the United Kingdom have given an enormous impetus to gold-mining. I am not able to say how many thousands of men it has placed in employment in consequence of this activity; but, directly and indirectly, it has been a big factor in reducing unemployment. The production of gold increased from 668,197 fine ounces in 1931-32 to 766,209 fine ounces in 1932-33, while a further increase of 100,000 fine ounces is anticipated this year. The estimated value, in Australian currency, of this year’s production is £7,000,000.
Attention should be directed to the important declaration of monetary policy subscribed to by the representatives of the United Kingdom, the dominions and India at the conclusion of the World Economic and Monetary Conference in London, at which Australia was represented by the Bight Honorable S. M. Bruce. This declaration urged that, in future, there should be the closest possible consultation between the signatories in regard to the monetary developments of the Empire. All governments whose currencies have departed from their former gold parities seemed to be in agreement as to an ultimate return to gold, but at some new parities involving greater or less depreciation in relation to the . old gold content of the coin, this to be determined in the light of the then existing circumstances. Honorable senators need hardly be reminded that the recent departure of the United States of America from the gold standard, and the uncertain future of the dollar, have brought in their train new difficulties and complexities. It is clear that it will not suit Australia, as a debtor country, for sterling to be over-valued when the time comes to link up again with gold. Whatever the United Kingdom may decide to do in this respect, it is important that we should retain our own right to fix our monetary unit at the point which is consistent with our own price level at the appropriate time. According to the course of worldevents, this may be late or early. Meanwhile, the Government, in closest cooperation with theResident Minister in London, and the Commonwealth Bank, is being fully informed of’ current events and movements. No final action can be taken by the Government without the concurrence of Parliament. There is no reason to suppose that any decision will have to be made in the near future. Although the Economic and Monetary Conference proved to be almost an entire failure, the close co-operation obtained between the constituent parts of the British Empire was an outstanding achievement, and I hope that it will be of very definite assistance to us in the future. However, two matters in which Australia is definitely interested arose out of the Economic Conference in London. I refer to the agreements that Australia, as a result of Mr. Bruce’s efforts, has entered into regarding meat and silver.Full statements on . these subjects will be made at a later date.
While many of our people are, unfortunately, still unemployed, or are only partially employed, the statistics of the past year indicate a steady diminution in the numbers. The figures published by the Statistician show a decrease from 30 per cent, in the second quarter of 1932 to 25.7 per cent, in the second quarter of 1933. During the year, the various governments have done a great deal towards the alleviation of the unemployment problem; but their scope is subject to considerable limitation, as it is to private enterprise that we must look for the absorption of most of our unemployed. The statistics of the States in regard to the number of persons now on the dole clearly indicate that the number of the unemployed has been considerably reduced during the last twelve months.
The Government will, however, put forward a programme of increased works for the present year, and will also submit proposals which should do much to assist in the revival of industry and the stimulation of employment.
The State Governments completed the year . 1932-33 with a combined deficit of £8,600,000, as against a deficit of £18,400,000 for the previous year. This year the estimated deficit is £8,500,000, subject to reduction by such savings as may be effected- as a consequence of debt conversion overseas. When it is borne in mind that the Commonwealth had a surplus for 1932-33 of £3,546,608, and that £7,769,002 was found by all the Governments of Australia during the year for sinking fund purposes, it will be agreed that Australian finance, taken as a whole, is on a fairly satisfactory and sound basis. The amount estimated to be payable this year to the National Debt Sinking Fund for debt redemption is £8,038,000.
The Commonwealth contributions to State revenues last financial year, excluding the contribution for relief of primary producers, amounted to £12,525,482; for this year the estimated amount is £12,982,000, an increase of £456,518. When, as is frequently the case, comparisons are instituted between Federal and State taxation, it is material to remember that nearly £13,000,000 of Commonwealth revenue is spent by the States and not by the Commonwealth. In accordance with an undertaking given to the last conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, provision is made in the budget for an increase of £300,000 in the grants to States as compared with last year. The details are -
As honorable senators are aware, the Government has appointed a commission to inquire into the subject of Commonwealth financial assistance to the States. The commission is now engaged in its inquiry, and it is expected that it will be in a position to report during the year.
Although there are undoubtedly many difficulties confronting the nation, a comparison of the position as it existed when this Government came into office with the condition of the country to-day - with credit restored, industry reviving, trade improving, export prices moving upwards, unemployment declining, and much sounder public and private finance - reveals ground both for satisfaction in what has been accomplished, and for confidence in what the future holds in store. The Government believes that the time has arrived when it should boldly and confidently set to work to relieve the people of some of the burdens which, though necessary and unavoidable at the time they were imposed, are now hindering the restoration of employment and hampering commerce and industry. Let me remind honorable senators how heavy those burdens are. Although, when the first few months of the last financial year revealed an improving revenue position, steps were taken to reduce some of the more onerous forms of taxation to the extent of £2,100,000, the emergency taxation still in force is exceptionally heavy. This will be seen from the following statement, which shows the remaining annual burden of recent increases in taxation: -
It should be remembered that this emergency taxation was necessary notwithstanding severe reductions of expenditure.
At this stage it is desirable to set out briefly the results of last year’s operations. The following table gives the esti- mated, and the actual, revenue and expenditure for the year: -
On the revenue side there was a most encouraging increase, which was mainly derived from -
These figures were partly set off by decreases in land tax collections of £149,689, and, in estate duties of £173,004.
The increases of expenditure included invalid and old-age pensions £271,000, defence £110,000, and miscellaneous £171,000. The favorable balance of last year, amounting to £3,546,608, together with the excess of receipts for the previous year, made an accumulated excess of receipts totalling £4,860,699. In the ordinary course, and. under normal, conditions, this amount would have been utilised to reduce the accumulated deficit of £17,216,340, which had accrued before the present Government came into office. The Government proposes that this excess of £4,860,699 shall be carried forward into the next two years and applied to relieve industry, to lower the cost of living, and to alleviate to some extent the other burdens on the people. I draw attention particularly to the necessity for continuing next year any reductions of taxation effected this year and of maintaining increases of expenditure where they are justified.
Based on a continuation of the present policy in relation to taxation and expenditure and without providing for any payment of interest on war debt to the United Kingdom, the estimated position for the financial year 1933-34 is as follows : -
In setting out the budget proposals for the year, the Government has had to bear in mind the effect not only upon the finances of this year, but also on those of next year. It therefore submits proposals which are directed towards the alleviation of the burden of taxation which for some years has pressed heavily on the community, and to make certain concessions in the way of expenditure. These proposals, which will be explained in detail later, are as follow: A total reduction of taxation amounting to £7,490,000 per annum; increased expenditure in connexion with certain items, amounting to £1,658,000, is also proposed, thus making a total increase of £9,148,000 in . the annual liability. The actual cost, in the budget of 1933-34, in respect of these proposals, will be only £6,652,000, for the reason that the policy will not operate for the full financial year. Next year, however, the full £9,148,000 should be realized. It is estimated that these proposals will result in a defici t of £1,176,000 for this year, and allowing for the full effect next year, the estimated deficit in 1934-35 will be £3,672,000, or an aggregate deficit for the two years of £4,848,000, which will practically absorb the excess receipts of £4,860,699 already mentioned. The Government believes that these remissions of taxation will materially assist the country’s recovery; it proposes to use the surplus of the last two years to enable the budget to be balanced in the next two years.
I have shown that remissions of taxation, can be made, and now it only remains to determine what form those remissions shall take, and in what way the objectives of the Government can be achieved. First, among those objectives is the stimulation of employment, and then the lightening of the burden on industry by a reduction of interest and a lowering of the cost of production. These in turn will bring about a fall in the cost of living. The proposals divide themselves naturally into two main groups - first, the remissions of direct taxation and, secondly, remissions of indirect taxation. The figures show the annual loss of revenue, or increases of expenditure, as the case may be, which will result from putting these proposals :into operation. It is necessary to appreciate the significance of these figures if ihe true position for the current financial year and also for the succeeding year, i3 to be obtained.
The Government proposes to make reductions in both income and land taxation. Dealing first with the income tax, it proposes a reduction of the flat company rate from ls. 4.8d. to ls. in the fi. That reduction will involve remissions of taxation amounting to £585,000. per annum. The adjustment of the taxation in respect of life assurance companies, bo that taxation will be charged only on the excess income after allowing a deduction of 4 per cent, on the “valuation of liabilities, as at the end of the relevant financial year,” will involve a remission of £710,000. A reduction of the “personal exertion” rate by 15 per cent, will mean the remission of £200,000 now collected, while a reduction of a special tax on income from property from 10 per cent, to 5 per cent, will mean the remission of a further £1,100,000 per annum. The reduction of the arbitrary assessment rate on shipping owned abroad from 1 per cent, to 5 per cent, will represent a further £25,000. These remissions represent £2,620,000 per annum. In the case of land taxation, a reduction of 50 per cent, of the former rate, instead of 33 1 per cent, of that rate, will involve a loss of revenue amounting to £400,000 per annum, so that the total remissions of direct taxation, without raking into account the entertainment tax, of which I shall have more to say later, will amount to £3,020,000 per annum. The Government wishes to make it clear that one of the objectives aimed at in the combined reductions in the company, rate, the property super tax, and the land tax, is a reduction of the interest rates charged to industry. To some extent, the alteration in the law as affecting life assurance companies is directed to the same end. The existing taxation is forcing the weaker companies into an actuarially unsound position. Honorable senators will, agree that no government could continue to impose taxation which strikes at the solvency of the life assurance companies of this country, and that an alteration of the law in that direction is absolutely essential. The Government expects that the stronger companies will gladly co-operate in achieving these objectives, and will pass on to their debtors the relief which they obtain. They will surely recognize that the present is not the time to use any relief obtained solely for the benefit of their policy-holders. The Government confidently anticipates that its objective will be realized., and that speedy relief will be given to debtors who owe money to insurance companies, banks and other financial institutions. In those cases in which a reduction of taxation cannot be passed on to debtors, the reductions will not only afford some direct relief to taxpayers, but will also enable more employment to be offered to the workless, thus assisting the community generally. As honorable senators know, a great deal of the existing unemployment is the direct result of the tremendously heavy burden of taxation which has been imposed. The Government’s proposals will confer no special benefit on persons with large incomes; they are aimed at helping the small investors. The proposed change in the income tax rate on incomes from personal exertion will remove the whole of the extra taxation imposed in. 1930 and 1.931 on taxable incomes up to £500 per annum, but higher incomes will still bear a considerable proportion of the super tax then imposed.
With that additional fax, the rates in force represented, in the maximum, an increase of 49 per cent, on the taxation in. force in 1915-16. The 15 per cent reduction will be a flat rate applying to all incomes from personal exertion. It will have the effect of reducing the tax on certain of the lower incomes to a rale below that which operated before any of the financial emergency legislation was passed. It will reduce the taxation on small incomes to a point lower than it has ever been in the history of Commonwealth income taxation. The Government has taken this step because of the general introduction by the States of a wages tax.
Dealing now with indirect taxation, the Government proposes an adjustment of the duties, under the British preferential tariff only, on protected goods in accordance with the Tariff Board’s recommendation on exchange. The estimated loss of revenue from that adjustment is £310,000 per annum. Remissions of primage duty, about which’ I shall say more presently, will represent a further £450,000. The Government’ also proposes to reduce both- the customs duties and the excise duties on beer by 3d. a gallon. After allowing for an increased consumption of beer, the loss of revenue from this source is estimated at £200,000 a year. It is proposed also to reduce the customs duty on whisky, brandy, gin, liqueurs, and other spirits by 5s. per proof gallon and the excise duty by 2s. per proof gallon. In the case of bitters, the customs duty will be lowered by 2s. for each proof gallon, and a similar reduction of the excise duty on rum is proposed. These reductions will affect the revenue to the extent of £150,000 per annum.
Other reductions are as follows:-
The total remissions of indirect taxation will amount to £4,330,000.
Exchange and the Tariff.
After the most careful review of the report of the Tariff Board on the incidence of primage and exchange on protective duties which was tabled to-day, the Government decided that the best course was to apply the report in so far as it affects protected goods entitled to admission under the British preferential tariff. The two principal countries supplying goods entitled to admission under this tariff that will be affected by the adoption of the Tariff Board’s report are the United Kingdom and Canada. New Zealand, with which country exchange is at par, will not be affected. In the case of the two former countries, and especially the United Kingdom, the exchange relationship has for a considerable period remained fairly stable, . and a satisfactory comparison of costs can, therefore, be established. The Government considers that, for the time being, at all events, the wisest course is not to apply the recommendations of the report to foreign countries. It is proposed, however, to incorporate in the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act a provision that will enable the formula recommended by the Tariff Board to be applied, when and as required, to particular goods coming from countries whose currency is depreciated below our own in terms of gold. The Tariff Board report recommends that the duties in such cases should be increased in globo, but the Government proposes to limit the increases to such specific cases as it thinks the occasion warrants.
A literal interpretation of the Tariff Board’s recommendation with reference to duties on protected goods imported from countries with currencies depreciated relative to Australian- currency, would necessitate the application of the formula to all protected goods. Such action would, in many cases, be quite unnecessary. Moreover, it would have a needlessly provocative effect.
The implementing of the Tariff Board’s report in the manner suggested is, the Government believes, the best way of dealing with- an extraordinarily difficult subject. In so far as any endeavour has been made by other countries to deal with this most intricate problem, it has been done by raising tariffs to exclude goods from countries with depreciated exchanges. The Government is not prepared to adopt this course as a general principle. Owing to the fluctuations of foreign exchanges at the present time, the Government considers that it would be unwise to attempt an adjustment of duties, based on widely varying exchanges, on foreign goods subject to the protective tariff. In these cases, it is impracticable to establish a satisfactory comparison of costs.
If the reductions proposed are made in die British preferential duties, the competitive field will have been widened sufficiently for the present to ensure that Australian manufacturers will not be able to take - as I feel sure they do not desire to take - undue advantage of the extra protection afforded by the greater decline in Australian costs than is apparent on a proper comparative basis, in the United Kingdom. There is a further advantage in the Government’s proposal, in that it will leave a greater margin for the possible negotiation of separate trade treaties with foreign countries, and thus enable some advantage to be given to Australian exporters in return for reductions in duties on specified imports.
Honorable senators know that the Government has in mind the making of trade agreements with various countries. By following the policy which, the Government has decided upon, we shall be left with a greater margin for the granting of concessions than would otherwise be possible.
The reductions of primage proposed are as follow: -
Some further exemptions from primage are also being made. Newsprint is being excepted from these remissions in view of the abolition, some time ago, of the special impost of £1 per ton. Had newsprint not been accorded this concessional treatment, it would have come under the 10 per cent. rate. However, it was placed under a 4 per cent, rate some time ago. As compared with a large number of other commodities it is still dutiable under the primage tariff at a much lower rate.
The combined effect of the proposed primage reductions, and of tariff adjustments on account of exchange on practically all of the protected goods admissible under the British preferential tariff, will be to bring about a maximum reduction of 17$ per cent, at the present rate of exchange, comprising 12$ per cent, exchange adjustment, and 5 per cent, primage remission. The deduction of 12$ per cent, is based, on a British preferential rate of 50 per cent, or higher, irrespective of whether the duties are ad valorem, specific, alternative or composite rates. This maximum reduction of 12$ per cent, is brought about by the dual nature of the Tariff Board’s recommendation, which provides for a deduction of onefourth of the duty or one-eighth of the value for duty, whichever is the lower. Where the rate is lower than 50 per cent, the deduction on account of exchange will he correspondingly lower, falling to 2$ per cent, in the case of a British preferential duty of 10 per cent.
Customs and the Tariff Board are in agreement as to the list of goods to which this recommendation of the board is to be applied, and in due course Parliament will he asked to approve of this proposal of the Government. The proposal will be submitted in such a way that honorable senators will know exactly what items are covered by the term “ protected goods. “
Obviously, nothing is to be gained by needlessly surrendering revenue on nonprotected goods. Nevertheless, in relation to the raw material and capital goods of industry, primage is being removed, or reduced, as circumstances permit.
The duties on liquor have been greatly increased during recent years. The Government confidently expects the consuming public to receive a direct benefit from the reductions of taxation which are now proposed.
It is proposed to remove the primage duty of 10 per cent, from tea, and also to reduce the customs tariff duty by1d. per lb. This involves an amount of £320,000. This remission the Government also expects to be passed on to the public.
In order that the growers of grapes used in making fortifying spirit may be paid a better price, and that the wine industry may be assisted generally, the Government proposes to reduce the excise on this form of spirit- by 2s. 6d. a gallon, making the excise duty in future 6s 6d. a gallon.
The reduction of revenue involved in the case of benzol amounts to £15,000. The Government desires to give every possible encouragement to the manufacture of this spirit, since the plant not only is used to produce motor spirit from Australian materials, but also would be invaluable in time of war for providing an essential constituent of high explosives.
Senator Sir WALTER MASSYGREENE. Petrol provides an outstanding example of price reduction in Australia. I have no doubt that honorable senators await with interest the report of the royal commission on that subject.
The Government is glad to be able to reduce this duty on a raw product used in manufacture from 4d. to 2d. per lb. In this case, again, the Government expects that real benefit will accrue to the users of the manufactured products. The Government’s objective is, amongst other things, to cheapen the price of motor tyres.
I now come to the sales tax. In the first place, it is proposed to reduce the rate of sales tax by 1 per cent. This concession will be of great benefit to many classes of industry. It represents a reduction of taxation, and a benefit to the public as a whole, of £1,350,000 per annum. The reduction will take effect on the date on which the amending legislation receives the Royal Assent. .
The temporary exemptions which were granted by the Financial Relief Act 1932 as from the 11th November, 1932, and terminating on the 30th September,1933, will be incorporated in the schedules of continuing exemptions, so that there will be no break in the continuity of the exemptions. The items to be dealt with in this manner are -
Books of a literary or educational nature, magazines, periodicals and printed music. Explosives for use in the mining industry.
Jam, fruit pulp and canned or bottled fruits and vegetables.
Pickles, sauces and vinegar.
Certain parts of windmills and pumping equipment.
Goods of Australian Production only.
Essences (being substantially juices of Australian fruits) from which non-alcoholic beverages are made.
Fish of Australian origin, including oysters, crayfish, prawns and crabs (whether cooked, canned or otherwise processed).
Pastry, scones, buns, cakes and all similar products of bakers and pastrycooks.
Treacle, molasses, golden syrup and other syrups produced by sugar refineries.
Further exemptions are now proposed in regard to many classes of goods. These exemptions will come into operation on the date of commencement of the amending legislation. [Extension of time granted.]
The list of the proposed additional exemptions which I shall shortly give is expressed in more or less general terms. Slight variations in the wording may he necessary in order to express the proposals in the legal form necessary to give proper effect to the intention.
As regards the further exemption of aids to primary producing industries, it should be stated that these industries have already received extensive relief from sales tax through existing exemptions. The further exemptions now proposed represent other items which affect the production of fresh and dried fruits, fishing, mining, dairying, horticulture and poultry farming.
The total remissions proposed amount to £1,220,000, and the list is as follows : - -
Fruit-growing industry (exemptions to be limited to goods used in this industry ) -
Ethylene gas for colouring fruits and vegetables.
Fly traps and fly lure for fruit flies.
Fruit wrapping paper.
Refrigerating plant and equipment (and parts) for cool stores.
Dried fruit industry (exemptions to he limited to goods used in this industry) -
Carbonate of potash, caustic soda, olive oil.
Dip tins., sweat boxes and drying trays.
Hessian and sisalkraft.
Fishing industry -
Primary production generally -
Agricultural pipes and tiles for draining.
Bore drain delvers.
Cream cans, milk cans and dairy utensils other than buckets which are not seamless.
Fencing wire strainers and fencing tools.
Glass for horticultural purposes.
Machinery and plant for bulk handling of wheat.
Parts of such poultry farmer’s equipment as is already exempt provided that the parts are of a kind not ordinarily used for any other purpose.
Rock salt and salt licks for live stock.
Rugs for horses and cattle.
Sheep marking and branding oils.
Sheep jetting plant,
Trace chains, complete.
Water boring plant and equipment, including tools for use therewith.
Brattice cloth for use in the mining industry.
Cooked meats of Australian production sold in containers such as jars, tins, and the like, cooked meat or poultry of Australian production for sale over the counter to individual customers, and goods of Australian production being uncooked sausages that are for sale whole to individual consumers, sausage meat and mince meat, suet, dripping, lard and butchers’ small goods.
Foods for infants and invalids and materials for preparation thereof, as prescribed.
Nuts, the produce of Australia, roasted, broken or converted into meal or paste; peanut butter produced in Australia,
Prepared breakfast foods.
Rice, barley, sago and tapioca.
Medical, surgical goods,&c. -
Drugs and medicines (including patent and proprietary medicines) which are used in the prevention, cure or treatment of sickness or disease in human beings and in the compounding . or prepartion of such drugs and medicines, but not including (except as may be otherwise provided in the act) preparations or drugs put up and sold ‘ for photographic purposes and preparations for the toilet (including soaps, toothpastes, cosmetics, pomades, perfumes and hair lotions), dyes, methylated spirit, napthaline, turpentine, olive oil, castor oil, linseed oil, carbonate and bicarbonate of soda, cream of tartar, causticsoda, sodium chloride, alum, borax, glycerine, petroleum jelly, lead salts, zinc salts, citric acid, chromic acid, formic acid, hydrochloric acid, hydrofluoric acid, nitric acid, pyrogallic acid, stearic acid, sulphuric acid and tartaric acid.
Rectified spirits for use in making medicines and essences.
Surgical, dental and veterinary materials, instruments and appliances as prescribed. This will include, for example, artificial limbs, bandages, dressings, and absorbent cotton wool.
Building industry -
Cement, bricks, timber, roofing tiles and slates.
Butter and cheese factories,&c. -
Machinery, plant and equipment for use in the manufacture of butter and cheese and materials and equipment for use in the dairying industry in the testing,” pasteurization and cooling of milk.
Axes and tomahawks and handles therefor. Coffins.
Equipment and substances brought into use by life-saving clubs and ambulances in connexion with the preservation of human life or the transport of persons for purposes of medical or surgical attention.
Equipment for use in churches and church services as prescribed, and articles as prescribed for use in religious devotion.
Fruit preserving jars and bottling outfits.
Goods for exhibition in a museum controlled by a committee or trustees appointed by a public authority.
Goods which have been used by a registered person as plant, machinery or equipment of his business and which are sold in the course of winding up the business or for transfer of the business to a new owner.
Saddlery and harness, collar check, kersey and saddle serge.
Scientific instruments and apparatus (including materials for use therewith), and examination papers for educational purposes in universities and schools.
Tool handles of wood.
Works of art produced in Australia and abroad by Australian artists.
It will be noticed that the principal exemptions may be divided broadly into -
In addition to the list of exemptions already set out, a regulation is being issued reducing the percentage of valueon which tax is charged on tailor-made goods from 80 per cent, of the sale value to 662/3 per cent, of the sale value.
The total effect of the reduction in the rate of, and exemption from, sales tax is to reduce this taxation by £2,570,000 on an annual basis.
The Government proposes to evacuate the field of entertainments taxation altogether, and to leave this source of revenue entirely to the States. This will involve a loss of revenue of £140,000 a year. The Commonwealth will, if desired by the States concerned, continue to collect State entertainments tax where it is at present doing so.
Including the relief now proposed, the taxation remissions by the present Government since it assumed office are as follows : -
These figures are on an annual basis. The actual effect of the remissions in taxation proposed” in the budget of 1933-34 is estimated to amount to £5,440,000 for the nine months.
The total estimated revenue for the year, after allowing for the remissions of taxation to which I have referred, is £68,580,000.
The estimated expenditure for 1933-34, before making provision for the special increases in expenditure involved in the budget proposals, would have amounted to £68,544,000, representing an increase over last year of £828,000, after deducting £2,250,000 provided in 1932-33 for relief to primary producers.
The budget proposals in regard to expenditure which I shall explain in detail, will involve an annual cost of £1,658,000, but the charge on the budget for this year in respect of these proposals will be £1,212,000.
It would be unjust, when removing some of the special burdens placed upon the taxpayer in order to meet the depression and secure budget equilibrium, to overlook those other classes which contributed their quota to secure these ends. I refer particularly to the invalid and old-age pensioners, the war pensioners, the Public Service, and the superannuated employees of the Commonwealth.
The Government proposes, therefore, to restore in some measure the reductions that have been made.
In respect of invalid and old-age pensions the Government proposes to increase the rate of all pensions below 17s. 6d. per week by 2s. 6d. per week provided that the maximum pension shall not exceed 17s. 6d. per week. The payment to pensioners who are inmates of asylums and hospitals will be increased from 3s. 9d. to 5s. per week. As a result of these increases, the limit: of pensioner’s income plus pension will be raised from £71 10s. to £78 per annum, or from 27s. 6d. per week to 30s. per week, and the maximum payment to institutions for the maintenance of pensioner inmates will be increased from l1s. 3d. to 12s. 6d. per week. The restoration of these payments is estimated to cost £635,000 per annum more than the present rate of expenditure.
In addition, it is proposed to amend the invalid and old-age pensions law so that, in future, should the cost of living increase, the pension will be raised automatically until it reaches a maximum of £1 per week. That is to say, it is proposed that the rate of all pensions shall be varied in accordance with changes in the cost of living, provided that the pension shall not be greater than £1 per week, nor less than 17s. 6d. per week.
It is interesting to note that, based on the cost of living index for food and groceries, with which the pensioners are most concerned, 17s. 6d. will now purchase what would have cost 23s. 9d. in 1925, when the pension was raised from 17s. 6d. to £1. Expressed in another form it now takes only 14s. 9d. to purchase what would have cost £1 in 1925. With a pension of 17s. 6d. per week the pensioner is, therefore, relatively in a much better position now than he was in 1925.
The new basis proposed will operate by ah annual rise or fall of 6d. per week for each variation of 100 points in the index number for food and groceries, so that £1 per week will be paid when the index number again reaches 1,800, which was the level in 1925 when the pension was increased to £1, thus -
The effect of the application of this scale will be that the rate of all pensions will be varied by 6d. per week for every increase or decrease of 100 points in the index number between the minimum and maximum proposed.
When the original Financial Emergency Bill was underconsideration, a soldiers’ committee was set up to advise the late Government as to what reductions in war pensions should bo made to effect the saving desired. The recommendation of that committee which was acted upon by the then Government, limited the reductions entirely to certain dependants of deceased soldiers, and to dependants of ex-soldiers who were drawing pensions.
It has been found that these reductions have operated somewhat harshly in certain cases, particularly in respect of parents of deceased soldiers. It is now proposed to restore the percentage reduction of these pensions in cases where the pensioner is found to be without adequate means of support. This means that pensions will be payable where the personal income is less than 30s. per week, or where the pensioner’s property, other than a home, is of less value than £200.
It is also proposed that the reduction of the pensions of wives of incapacitated soldiers shall be 10 per cent, only, instead of the 22½ per cent, reduction now in force under the Financial Emergency Act. This will materially improve the conditions of the married soldier pensioners. No reduction under the Financial Emergency Act was made of the pensions of single men, nor of those of married soldiers so far as their own pensions were concerned. The cost of these two concessions is estimated at £248,000.
The Government recognizes that the reductions of salary imposed by the Financial Emergency Act, combined with the cost of living deductions, exceed, in their general extent, those made by the States as a whole. Last year, in view of the financial, conditions at the time, the Financial Emergency Act was amended in such a way as to provide that all those officers who had already suffered a reduction in excess of the cost of living deduction should have their salaries reduced by a further £8. The Government proposes to repeal this provision in the Financial Emergency Act. In addition, it is proposed partially to restore the decrease in real wages - that is the reduction in excess of that due to the fall in the cost of living - by 2½ per cent., calculated on the salary standards from which the original deductions were made. The annual sum involved in these restorations is estimated at £550,000. The proportionate benefit of these restorations will be felt principally in the lower paid ranks of the service.
It is also proposed to restore entirely the reduction made in the Commonwealth contribution to the Public Service Superannuation Fund. Owing to the fact that the Commonwealth superannuation scheme has not been many years in operation, the proportion of Commonwealth contributions in a large number of cases exceeds 90 per cent. In many instances, the effect was to reduce the superannuation payment below that of an old-age pension. There is, in regard to superannuation, a special relation that the Commonwealth has entered into with its servants which the Government feels should be restored to its full operation as soon as practicable. The same principle will be applied in the case of superannuation payments to the judges, and also, by a reference to the committee provided for in the Financial Emergency Act, to the deferred pay of the defence forces which is provided in lieu of superannuation. The cost of these restorations will be £80,000 a year.
It will have been noted that many of the proposals which I have set out in my speech, notably those relating to remissions of sales tax and primage, alterations of tariff duties, adjustments of the tariff in relation to the existing circumstances of exchange, and reductions of land tax, are of especial concern to those engaged in primary production. Especially would I draw attention to the effects of our proposed reductions of taxation on interest rates, and I feel sure that primary producers and others in whose costs of production interest rates play a predominant part, will especially welcome the proposals which have been announced. Practically every item used by primary producers has been exempted from sales tax and primage duty. In two special directions there are further items of expenditure in the Estimates this year which are new.
Provision was made during last financial year for assistance to citrus fruit growers who had been deprived of their principal export market by the embargo placed by the New Zealand Government on importations of their fruit. Apple and pear growers have of late experienced the greatest, difficulty in marketing their exportable surplus. The Government proposes to set aside £125,000 to aid these classes of fruit-growers who are engaged in exporting. The exact method by which the assistance will be given has not yet been worked out, but the proposals of the Government will be submitted to Parliament in due course.
The Government proposes also to make available a sum of £20,000 for investigation and instruction in regard to tobacco-growing. This should assist in putting the industry on a more satisfactory basis. The expenditure will be under the control of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and the Government is satisfied that the money can he utilized without any conflict or overlapping with State activity and, indeed, in complete co-operation with the States. A conference of expert representatives of the Commonwealth and the
States is being summoned for the purpose of preparing a detailed scheme.
The total estimated expenditure for the year, after making provision for the budget proposals, to which I have referred, is £69,756,490, which is an increase over the year 1932-33, excluding the £2,250,000 relief to primary producers, of £2,040,000. The principal increases calling for explanation relate to defence and new works. The increase of payments to the States has already been explained.
The Government recognizes that the provision made for defence has been inadequate for some years, and that there is urgent need for certain extensions of our defence activities. A reference to the Estimates will show that increased provision is made for defence in four ways -
The principal items making up this increase are -
The total provision for new works out of revenue this year is £1,624,880, as against an expenditure of £874,390 for last year; that is, a net increase of £750,490.
The principal increases are: -
Honorable senators will be given full details of the proposals when the departmental estimates are before Parliament.
In addition to the increase in expenditure from revenue for new works, it is proposed to spend £810,000 on.works from Loan Fund. This amount was made available in the Loan Fund from the proceeds of the sale of the Commonwealth Line of steamers. This amount will be expended as follows: -
In addition to these amounts, the sum of £368,000 will be available this year to complete the Commonwealth’s liability under the Loan (Unemployment Belief Works) Acts 1932, making the total loan expenditure for 1933-34 £1,178,000. relief of Unemployment.
In addition to the expenditure of £1,178,000 for loan works this year, certain increases have been made in various sections of the ordinary Estimates, totalling £1,345,000, making the grand total of £2,523,000, most of which will be available for providing additional work, and will thus largely contribute towards the relief of unemployment.
The following is a summary of the estimated receipts and expenditure for 1933-34, showing the effect of these proposals : -
The deficit of £1,176,490 will be met out of the accumulated excess of receipts for the years 1931-32 and 1932-33, namely, £4,860,699, the balance of which, amounting to £3,684,209, will be required to finance the accounts of the following year.
I thank honorable senators for the attention they have given to the statement that I have presented, and I hope that this budget, which is the first that we have been able to produce for some time that has offered a reasonable amount of relief from taxation, will be the forerunner of other recovery budgets.
Debate (on motion by Senator BARNES adjourned.
Business of the Senate - Retirement of Mr. C. H. P. Robinson.
[5.36] - In moving -
That the Senate do now adjourn,
I desire to. indicate the probable course of business in this chamber. Practically all the legislation to be dealt with during the remainder of the calendar year will be financial measures, which, in accordance with the Constitution, must be introduced in the House of Representatives. The Government hopes that there will be a minimum of delay in dealing with that legislation there because the measure of the relief to be afforded will be the speed with which the legislation is passed. The despatch shown in. the other branch of the legislature will dictate the time when this chamber will have any legislative business before it. Practically the only bill now before us is that dealing with the establishment of a Supreme Court for the Seat of Government. I do not think that it will be possible for the House of Representatives to pass, before next week, any bills to implement the budget proposals; therefore, it may be necessary for the Senate on Friday to adjourn for a fortnight.
– There will be the Appropriation (New Works and Buildings) Bill.
– If that measure is not passed by the other chamber before Friday, it will be necessary to ask the Senate to sit next week, in order to deal with it. It is desirable that that bill be passed as quickly as possible. I anticipate that a Supply Bill will reach the Senate to-morrow. If we pass it and the Works and Buildings Estimates by Friday, there will be no other legislation for us to deal with for at least a fortnight. Therefore, I suggest that, those honorable senators who take a particular interest in the financial position of the country should avail themselves of the opportunity afforded by the motion for the printing of the budget papers. The practice of submitting this motion was introduced in the Senate for the express purpose of affording honorable senators an early opportunity to speak on financial measures instead of having to await the receipt of the Appropriation Bill from the House of Representatives.
Since the Senate adjourned in July last, Mr. C. H. P. Robinson, Principal Parliamentary Reporter, has entered upon long service leave, prior to his retirement early next year. Mr. Robinson’s association with Hansard extends back to 1S88, when, he became attached to the reporting staff of the New South Wales Parliament. Prior to federation, he assisted in reporting the various conventions and, in 190.1, was appointed as one of the original members of the Hansard staff of this Parliament. On the retirement of the late Mr. B. H. Friend, in 1923, he became Principal Parliamentary Reporter. Mr. Robinson was a particularly able member of the Hansard staff, and brought a ripe experience to bear upon the important function of recording the debates of Parliament. He belongs to a family which for three generations has numbered parliamentary reporters among its members. In addition to the training and capacity born of such an association, he was fortified with a knowledge acquired by wide reading and acquaintance with the actual course of political events over a long period. He was keenly aware of the importance of maintaining the record of parliamentary debates at a high standard of both accuracy and literary expression, and. strove to keep that standard. His assistance to members of all parties will, I feel sure, be readily acknowledged, and, in expressing to Mr. Robinson our good wishes for his future health and prosperity, I am, I know, voicing the sentiments of all honorable senators.
I may add that Mr. J. S. Weatherston is to take the chair vacated by Mr. Robinson; whilst Mr. G. H. Romans will be promoted to the position of Second Reporter.
.- I gladly associate myself and my colleagues on the Opposition side with the remarks of the Leader of the Government (Senator Sir George Pearce) regarding Mr. Robinson. We all have kindly recollection of that gentleman’s services to the Parliament and to its members individually. I join heartily with the Minister in wishing the best of good fortune to Mk. Robinson in his retirement; he is highly deserving of the greatest comfort and happiness. ,
Senator DUNN (New South Wales) f.i.45]. - On behalf of my colleague, Senator Rae, and myself, I desire to support the remarks of previous speakers concerning the sterling qualities of Mr. Robinson. During my four and one-half years5 membership of this Senate I have found that Mr. Robinson and the other members of the Hansard staff have always been willing to go out of their way to help newcomers in the political life of this country. We wish Mr. Robinson God-speed and good health in his welldeserved rest from the strenuous work associated with the reporting of parliamentary debates.
Lately, in the; press and elsewhere, hysterical politicians and others have had a lot to say about the defence of Australia and the necessity for making further sacrifices. I have here a letter from a returned soldier, which shows how those who fought in the last Great War are treated by their country. Prior to the recent recess, Senator Sampson brought before the Senate a number of cases of harsh treatment of soldiers in Tasmania who bought war service homes. So disgusted did the Government of Tasmania become with their treatment that it refused any longer to administer the war service homes legislation in that State, and threw the responsibility back on the Commonwealth Government. The reports in the Hobart Mercury of the proceedings of the Tasmanian Parliament show what the Leader of the Opposition there, Mr. Ogilvie, K.C., and a number of supporters of the Government, think of that treatment. By means of questions and otherwise members of this Parliament have kept the position before the Commonwealth Government. I am content to read the letter which I have received, and to leave it to the Minister to see that justice is done. The letter is as follows: -
Dear Sir. - In 1U2T 1 applied for and received a war service home through the War Service Homes Commissioners. 1 was in possession of same til) 11)32 when, owing todrastic wage reductions and rationing of work (my work was rationed for twelve months ), I was unable to meet my usual monthly payments of £4 Cs. lid. and pay municipal and water rates. As I was falling’ in arrears with my payments to the Commissioners, and the municipal authorities were demanding payment, I approached the War Service Homes Commissioners and placed my case before thom. I begged them to make mo a temporary reduction of £1 per month as I wished to avoid running into a debt which I would never be able to meet. They refused my request and wrote nui letters requesting full payments, also to pay something each mouth off the arrears. I was also receiving letters from the municipal council. As I was not able to comply with their request and unable to receive any consideration, I vacated my home to avoid becoming heavily indebted and perhaps eventually having my home taken from mc. Immediately I vacated the premises the Commissioners rented same to an outsider for Mis. per week and, I. understand, later reduced the rent to 15s. per week. This, of course, could riot be done for mo, although 1 approached the Commissioners and begged for same. Before taking the premises over from the commissioners I paid them a deposit of £100. This money I had to borrow at heavy rates of interest. ‘ This deposit was forfeited by me. Now the Commissioners are hilling me for £34 arrears which they say was owing when 1 vacated the premises, and have informed me of their intention to prosecute for the recovery of same. I have a wife and eight children, all under fourteen years of age, and., as they refused what I consider a very reasonable offer, I think I have received very harsh treatment. My earnings, as a tramway conductor, at present average £3 13s. per week (after deductions have been made). My wife is receiving £i 2s. 9d. per week child endowment. According to political reports, this endowment may cease in the near future. My war service was four and onehalf years, two years of which I spent in Germany as a prisoner of war, being wounded and taken at Leignicourt on the 15th April, 1917. Apart from my military payand gratuity 1 have never received as much as a Capstan cigarette. This isthe gratitude of a grateful country. However, this experience will be something for my sons to remember on some future occasion.
In concluding, you may use this letter and the writer’s name in any way you wish. I am enclosing my rent book to show that until the depression I was O.K. with my payments, also a letter from the Commissioners showing that they refused to accept my offer of£3 6s.11d. per month. In an endeavour to meet my obligations I surrenderor! two life insurance policies and used the money to pay municipal rates.
I have the honour tobe.
Sydney j. Easton.
The writer of thai letter is a tram conductor in Sydney, and I know that the War Service Homes Department has instructed the tramways authorities to garnishee a portion of his wages. The Government which proposes to relieve wealthy land-owners from taxation is indifferent to the claims of this returned soldier, who fought and suffered for his country and spent two years as a prisoner of war in Germany. This man, with a wife and eight children, lost over £200 and, in addition, surrendered two life insurance policies, in an endeavour to meet his obligations. I appeal to the Minister on his behalf. The lot of a conductor on a Sydney tram is not an enviable one, especially if he suffers from any war disabilities. There are numerous oases of conductors who have been swept off the footboards by passing vehicles and injured, or, sent prematurely to their graves. These returned soldiers did more than wrap themselves in Union Jacks and repeat patriotic slogans; they fought and suffered, and they should now be treated generously.
– As a member of the Country Party,I wish to support all that has been said regarding Mr. Robinson, and to wish him a long and happy period of retirement. Honorable senators generally are not sufficiently thankful to the Hansard staff for all that its members do for them. They have created in Australia orators far in excess of the number deserving of the title. At one time it was seriously proposed that a microphone should be installed in each House of the Parliament, and that the speeches of members should be broadcast. In my opinion, Parliament was well advised to leave the broadcasting of members’ speeches to Hansard. On behalf of the Country party, I express our deep appreciation of Mr. Robinson’s services, and our best wishes for his future happiness.
– Hear, hear !
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - I desire to support the remarks of the Leader of the Government (Senator Pearce) and those other honorable senators who have spoken of the service rendered to this Parliament by Mr. Robinson. It was my privilege tobe acquainted with him for 27 years, and during that period I found that he had the rare faculty of combining a faithful and capable discharge of his duties with geniality, courtesy, and goodwill - qualities which have rightly won for him that esteem which has been so genuinely expressed here this afternoon. For 45 years, Mr. Robinson served the people of Australia, and it is only right that on his retirement from official life appreciation of his service should be recorded. Admiration of a capable and faithful servant of the people is in no way derogatory to one of less experience; time is required for the sterling qualities of a man to be demonstrated. But happy is he who at the end of a long period of service enjoys the esteem of his fellows because of. his proved personal worth and his faithful and capable devotion to duty. Those qualities, I believe, were possessed by Mr. Robinson, and, on behalf of honorable senators I express appreciation of his loyal and able service. I hope that for many years he will continue to enjoy good health and -
That in trim gardens takes his pleasure.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [6.2] - I shall bring the case mentioned by Senator Dunn under the notice of the Minister.
– It is not the only one.
– Well, the honorable senator should send particulars of the other cases to the Minister, and they will be attended to. I deprecate the honorable Senator’s action in making the Senate the forum for the discussion of complaints of this kind unless the Minister has previously had an opportunity of attending to them. Such a practice gives to these matters a political flavour, and if continued, we shall know how to treat it. That there is a political significance in Senator Dunn’s mention of this particular case is shown by his reference to Tasmania.
– I rise to a point of order. I ask for a withdrawal of the statement that I had a political motive in bringing this case forward.
– Since the honorable senator has asked for the withdrawal of the words objected to, I have no option but to ask that they be withdrawn.
– If there is anything in the Standing Orders against imputing political motives to honorable senators, I withdraw the statement. However, Senator Dunn’s statement about the Government of Tasmania was absolutely misleading and incorrect. The reason for the action taken by the Government of Tasmania was not that given by Senator Dunn. War service homes administration is not the business of any State Government, but, by arrangement, certain of the State Governments took over this responsibility.
– The State department acted as agents for the Commonwealth Government.
– That is so. The action of the Tasmanian Government was not intended by the Premier of Tasmania to be construed as a criticism of the Commonwealth Government, nor was anything to that effect said by him. The fact is that the continuance of the arrangement with the State Government was inconvenient to it, and to the Commonwealth Government also. Therefore, by mutual consent the arrangement was terminated. Senator Dunn’s concern for Tasmania arises, we know, from the understanding entered into between Mr. Ogilvie and the Lang party, by which that party will pose as the champions of Tasmania, including its returned soldiers. Senator Dunn’s action to-night was part of the campaign. The honorable senator read an ex parte statement prepared by the soldier concerned, but no man can be an impartial judge of his own case. I am sure that honorable senators will be prepared to wait until the Minister’s reply on this matter has been read. I listened to the reading of the letter by Senator Dunn, but there was no statement in the letter, or in Senator Dunn’s remarks, that the Minister had been previously approached. I suggest that, if honorable senators do not desire to have a political motive attached to their action, the proper course for them is to approach the Minister in such cases, and find out the departmental side before ventilating them in Parliament. I shall take steps to have this case investigated.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at6.6 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 4 October 1933, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1933/19331004_senate_13_141/>.