13th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. P. 3. lynch) took the chair at11 a.m., and read prayers.
The following papers -were presented : -
Australian Broadcasting Commission Act -
First AnnualReport of . the Commission for year ending 30th June, 1933.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act Ordinances of 1933-
No. 26 - Real Property.
No. 27 - Leases (No. 2).
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator. Ac. -
No. 24 of lfl.l.’l - GoiiiinomYualth Public Service Clerical Association.
No. 25 of 1933 - Commonwealth Foremen’d Association.
– Has the Minister re presenting the Minister for Commerce seen a newspaper paragraph to the effect that hundreds of tons of onions in Victoria have had to be destroyed owing to the lack of a market for them? In view of the fact that a Ministerial statement has been made to the effect that 741 unemployed are registered in Canberra, will the Minister ask the Victorian Government whether portion of the surplus crop of onions in that State will be presented to these unemployed?
-I am not aware of the facts of the case, nor have I seen the press paragraph mentioned; but I shall have inquiry made, and the honorable senator will be given a reply later.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs whether his attention has been drawn to the following statement by the chairman of Tooth and Co., brewers, of Sydney, which was published in the Sydney Morning Herald on the 3rd November last -
Mr. Levy emphasized the fact that there could be no stimulation of industry by the relief of taxation in itself unless that reached the public in the form of increased purchasing power. There was a duty imposed on the business community to pass on to the public the benefits obtained, and, in that way, he added, money would pass into circulation and help to increase purchasing power.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable senator has quoted an expression of opinion by a person outside this chamber on taxation measures that have been or are to be passed. Is he in order in doing this, seeing that he would not be allowed to express his own opinion in submitting a question to a Minister?
– Strictly speaking, the honorable senator is not in order when asking a question in quoting an opinion expressed by a person outside this chamber, because honorable senators themselves are not permitted to embody in questions statements or expressions of opinion. Sometimes, however, for the purpose of making a question clear, it is permissible to quote briefly a statement appearing in the public press. I ask the honorable. senator to quote no more than is necessary to make his question clear.
– In view of the statement that I have read, will the Minister for Trade and Customs take action against any trader who does not pass on to the public the benefit of the relief from taxation which was granted to them in accordance with the federal budget?
– My colleague, Senator McLachlan, the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, answering a similar question a few days ago, declared that the Government had power to take the action referred to, and would exercise it, if necessary.
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer, whether it is a fact that Italy has offered to the United States of America a token payment in discharge of that portion of its war debt to that country which is due this month? “Will Australia follow suit, and offer token payment of the debts due by it to the United States of America?
– In the first part Of the honorable senator’s question, he asks for public information, the. sources of which are as available to him as they are to me. In regard to a token payment by Australia, my reply is that this country will recognize its liabilities and pay its debts.
– Will the Minister representing the Treasurer state whether it is a fact that £5,000,000 of the £10,000,000 recently raised by means of a Commonwealth loan is to be used for the payment of interest falling due on short-dated-loans, while the other half of the amount is to be allotted to the State Governments that are working under the Premiers plan?
– The arrangement made by the Loan Council was that 50 per cent, of the loan was to be used for public works, and the other half of it for retiring treasury-bills.
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
With reference to the Minister’s announcement that the rental charges for the use of metropolitan telephones will be reduced by ?1 per annum each, will a similar reduction be made at the same time in the annual rental charges for . country telephones ; if not, why not?
– The Postmaster-General has supplied the following answer : -
It is not intended at this stage to make a similar reduction in regard to country telephones, as the rentals in respect of 90 per cent, of such telephones are on the basis of ?35s. per annum, and were not increased when those in the metropolitan areas were raised on the last occasion. Other concessions have, however, been made in regard to the telephone service in the country districts.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Arising out of a previous question by Senator Grant, and the reply of the Minister thereto, re Sandy BayRifle Range, has he seen the statement of the Town Clerk of Hobart, published in the Mercury of 28th November, to the effect that a definite proposal had been made by the council to the Minister for Defence on the15th September lust, but no notification had been received as to whether the Minister approved of the proposal; if so, would he inform the Senate the reason for the delay in finalizing the matter?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE. Inquiries will be made, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable senator as early as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister,upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers: -
Training of Cadets
-asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Government does not propose to take the action suggested.
Senator Sir HARRYLAWSON.Senator Dunn has asked a series of questions, upon notice, in relation to international debts. Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished as soon as ‘ possible. -?
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) agreed to -
That Standing Order No.68 be suspended up to and including30th December, 1933, for the purpose of enabling new business to be commenced after half-past Ten o’clock at night.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) agreed to -
That, until the 30th December, 1933, unless otherwise ordered, Government business shall take precedence of all other business on the notice-paper except questions and formal motions.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives with the following message: -
The House of Representatives returns to the Senate the bill intituled “ A bill for an Act relating to Duties of Customs “, and acquaints the Senate that, having regard to the fact that the public interest demands the early enactment of the tariff, and pending the adoption, of Joint Standing Orders, the House of Representatives refrained from the determination of its constitutional rights or obligations in respect of Message No. 103 received from the Senate, in reference to the said bill, and resolved to consider the said message.
The House of Representatives has now made, with modifications, as shown in the annexed schedule, original requested amendments of the Senate Nos. 4, 16 and 28.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon.
[11.22]. - I note what you have said, Mr. President, and I now move-
That message 121 of the House of Representatives, in reference to the Senate’s requests on the Customs Tariff be taken into consideration forthwith, this House affirming that the action of the House of Representatives in receiving and dealing with the reiterated requests of the Senate is in compliance with the undoubted constitutional position and rights of the Senate.
I recognize that the procedure on tariff bills is a matter concerning which the two Houses have different views. It is somewhat peculiar that, while the various governments which have dealt with this subject have taken up a certain attitude in the House of Representatives, the Leader of the Government in this chamber has invariably adopted a different attitude. In a matter of such importance, I feel that the duty of the Leader of the Senate to this chamber should come before even his adherence to a particular government. In taking the view that the Leader of this chamber, while maintaining his loyalty and allegiance to the Government of which he is amember must maintain the constitutional position of the Senate, I am following the practice of other leaders of the Senate. I trust that the motion will be agreed to unanimously.
SenatorRAE (New SouthWales) [11.25]. - I take it that the disagreement between the two Houses is based on the assertion of the House of Representatives that the Senate has not the power to insist upon its requests.
– The other House maintains that the Senate cannot press its requests.
– I also understand, from a reading of the proceedings in the House of Representatives, that the Attorney-General claims that the Senate has not the power to press its requests. If that be so, it appears that the Leader of the Government in this chamber is not in agreement with his colleague, the Attorney-General. I do not know that that need concern us; but it appears to me that the powers of the Senate may be whittled away to almost nothing if this chamber has not the power to press its requests. We must, therefore, support the motion which the Leader of the Senate has moved. The position would be farcical if, when requests to the House of Representatives were rejected without consideration, the Senate had no power to press them. I am aware that the Senate has the power to_reject a bill altogether, but such drastic treatment is altogether outside the bounds of practical politics. If the Senate cannot press its requests it is practically powerless in relation to a money bill.
– I am prepared to support the motion, hut I am afraid’ that when the whips are cracked,” the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) will be found obedient to his party. In this matter, the right honorable gentleman can rely on the support of the Opposition, so that when he enters the caucus room to press his demands on behalf of the Senate, the position will be similar to that described in the old English ballad,- which commences -
In days of old when knights were bold,
And warriors held their sway.
When the right honorable gentleman puts on his tin armour, decorates his headpiece with a few emu feathers taken from the birds which were slaughtered in
Western Australia, and grasps ‘with two “ hands his broad sword, he will overawe his opponents, and the supremacy of the Senate will be assured. We may expect to read in the press accounts of the respected leader of this chamber locking horns with the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General on the subject of the rights of the Senate. Notwithstanding that the framers of the Constitution endowed the Senate with certain powers and that the electors have since endorsed their view, I suggest that before the right honorable gentleman enters the arena he should consult with Senator Kingsmill, who is the greatest constitutional authority in this chamber. Doubtless, Senator Kingsmill, with his knowledge of the Constitution and of parliamentary procedure, will make an interesting contribution to the debate for the benefit of honorable senators and the misguided people of Western Australia. Another constitutional stalwart, Senator Brennan, the champion of the Housewives Association of Victoria, will also have something to say.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Eon. P. J. Lynch). - The honorable senator must speak to the motion before the chair.
– I hope that the Leader of the Senate who proposes to take such a strong stand to protect the rights of this chamber, will not fall down on his job. Whatever may be said concerning the constitutional power of this chamber, the action which is to be taken is more or less humbug. I cannot, imagine the Leader of the Senate throwing, as it were, a few Chinese stink bombs into the House of Representatives, and bringing about a serious disagreement between the two branches of the legislature. I am quite prepared to roll up my sleeves in order to protect the rights of this chamber, and, if necessary, to carry on a war to the death with the House of Representatives with . “ raspberries.”
– I intend to support the motion, and I agree with the opinions expressed by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) and others that it is time that the Senate stood to its rights and decisions. I am pleased to hear that the Minister says that this chamber lias the right to insist upon its requests for reductions of duty, but is it going to back up its words by action? Are “we to curry this motion, and then be asked in a few minutes by the -Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs in this chamber, not to insist upon our rights? The three items which are to come before us for discussion are all that remain of a long list of requests agreed to a few weeks ago. It is ridiculous to carry on this sham fight.
– The honorable senator is not in order in referring to the proceedings of this Parliament as a sham fight.
– We have had a good deal of it lately, and I feel that what is about to happen will prove the accuracy of my assertion and description. Senator Dunn has contended that we should insist upon our rights; but Senator Duun and. Senator Rae will not back up their words with their votes. The Senate should insist upon the reductions of duty which it requested. I predict that before this sitting terminates, we shall find the Government declining to insist upon a constitutional right of the Senate, and the members of the Lang party, who have said that we should re-affirm that right, will -walk across the chamber to assist the Government to undo the previous decisions of the Senate in regard to these reductions of the tariff.
– I congratulate the Leader of the Government in tho Senate upon the stand that he has taken upon this matter, and I approve, if I may with respect, of his view that he owes possibly a greater allegiance to this chamber than to the Government of which he is a member, and that, if necessary, he will be prepared to carry that allegiance still further. I congratulate also Senater Rae upon the attitude which he has taken up. I think the fact that the first two speakers from opposite sides of the chamber are in agreement upon this point indicates that on a question of the right of the Senate to take its proper share iti the Government of Australia honorable senators forget, for the time at any rate, any party feelings they might otherwise have had. Two distinct questions are involved, first, whether the Sen’ate has the right to persist with requests on vitally important matters, and secondly, whether on a point of detail it -should persist iri exercising its right. These ‘are distinct questions and -I hope to be able to reconcile my support of the attitude of the Government with my opposition to the position which Senator Johnston has indicated that he will take up. I am aware that we are approaching the end of the session, that honorable senators are anxious to get away, and that the Senate is not in a mood to listen to long discourses. If it were earlier in the year and the occasion less pressing I might have a little more to say upon the subject than I propose to say at this juncture. It is right that, with the freedom which private members have, and possibly the Leader of the Government, notwithstanding his expressed opinion, may not feel that he has, somebody should speak on behalf of this chamber, and’ briefly recall certain historical facts associated with the matter we are now’ considering. This question first arose in exactly similar circumstances when the first tariff was under consideration in 1902, and on that occasion a message almost identically the same as that now before us was received by this chamber from the House of Representatives. A reply, i£ it could be called a reply, was sent in exactly similar terms to those proposed by the Leader of the Senate to-day. In other words, a final decision as to the powers of this chamber was not reached, and the question was postponed. It came up again in 1908 when the Customs Tariff Schedule of that year was being considered, and records exactly similar to those now proposed Were made on behalf of either chamber. The position taken up by the House of Representatives is that the Senate has no right to persist with requests; by “persisting” is apparently meant repeating. The word “ reiterate “ has been used on more than one occasion, but there is a distinction between “ repeat “ and “ reiterate.” To reiterate is to go a stage further than merely to repeat. Section 53 of the Constitution provides that “ the Senate may at any stage return to the House of Representatives any proposed law which the Senate may not amend. . .” If those words are to be understood to mean that the Senate has not the power ro persist with a request, they need not have been embodied in the Constitution at all, because it would then be on record that certain words in the Constitution mean that the Senate might say that it would like certain things done and if another place felt inclined to give respectful attention to the request, those things would he done; but if, on the other hand, it chose to ignore the Senate’s request, there the matter would end. It seems that that reading of the rights conferred upon this chamber flies in the face of the plain, words of the Constitution. Apparently, there is conflict regarding the meaning of the words “ at any stage “, the attitude of those who deny the power of the Senate being that there are only three, or possibly four, stages of a bill, namely, the first reading, the second reading, the consideration, in committee, and the third reading. But I submit that for the purposes of the Constitution a bill is in a different stage, when it is returned to the Senate with its request, from what it was in when it was first dealt with in the committee of the Senate. This has been the position taken up throughout.those discussions by those who contend that the Senate has power to persist in its requests. Nobody will deny that the Senate has power to reject any bill which it may not amend. It is said that the Senate ought to accept full responsibility for its action, and be prepared either to reject a bill or not persist in its amendments - in other words, it should have the courage of its convictions. I cannot see how the Senate can reject a bill. The most it can do is, by inaction, prevent a bill from coming into operation. For instance, how can we at this stage reject the bill which is before us? We have carried the second leading, dealt with it in committee, and made requests, which have been sent to another chamber and considered there. Some of the requested amendments have been made, others have not been agreed to, and the message conveying the decision of the House of Representatives is now before us.
– We could reject the bill at the report stage or on the motion for the third reading.
– It , cannot get to the third-reading stage unless there is some agreement between the Senate and the House of Representatives, with respect to those items which, when dealt with in committee, revealed a disagreement between the two chambers. Therefore, we should be stultifying ourselves or taking contradictory action if we agreed to items in committee, which we do not approve in order that, at the thirdreading stage, we might reject the measure as a whole. So it seems that the position created by the passing backwards and forwards of requests requires action to be taken by the Government or the House of Representatives to open up some form of negotiation with this chamber with a view to reaching an agreement, failing which, the measure would be indefinitely held up.
The history of this section is entirely opposed to the view put forward by those who would limit the powers of this chamber. Section 53 has been taken from the Constitution of South Australia, where power is vested in the Legislative Council to request amendments in bills which it may not amend. Later, when a constitution was given to Western Australia, the same provision was incorporated in it. The power of the Senate is statutory, and in interpreting this power we cannot accept for our guidance the practice of the House of Commons, which does not work under a written constitution. To ascertain the intention of the section we must turn to the practice in those States which have this provision in constitutions, which aro aa much acts of the Imperial Parliament as is the Constitution of the Commonwealth. In South Australia, the practice is to pass backwards and forwards between tho two Houses, until agreement is reached, requests made by the Upper House. I say this on the authority of the late Mr. Glynn. That being the position, I submit that the claim of those who would deny the right of the upper chamber cannot be supported. It is well recognized that the power of request can go to the point of bringing about the loss of the bill. Probably no person had a greater part in moulding the Commonwealth Constitution than the late Sir Samuel Griffith. When the 1891 Con- vent,lon met in Sydney, this provision was inserted in the draft, although the proposal then was that the Senate should be elected, not by the people, but by the State Parliaments. Yet, notwithstanding the limited franchise then contemplated, the framers of the Constitution proposed to give to the Senate this “wide power to request amendments. That provision was retained in all subsequent drafts. It was not until the 1897 and 1898 Conventions that the mode of election for the Senate was altered to its present form. At the 1S91 Convention Sir Samuel Griffith declared that there was very little difference, except in words, between the power of the Senate to request amendments and its power to amend bills; that a strong Senate would insist upon its requests, and a weak Senate would not persist in its amendments. Therefore it is not historically true to say that there is anything new in the claim that the Senate has the right to persist in its requests. I congratulate the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) on the attitude which he has taken up, and I hope that the motion will be carried unanimously as an indication of the unanimity of this chamber upon this important subject.
Senator Sir WALTER KINGSMILL (Western Australia) [11.55]. - There is a good deal of precedent for the guidance of the Senate in the records of the various State Parliaments which have, in their constitutions, provisions in similar terms to section 53 of the Commonwealth Constitution. The author of the Senate’s Standing Orders was, I understand, Mr. E. G. Blackmore, the Clerk of the first Parliament, and acknowledged by every one who knew him to be a most able and efficient officer with a knowledge of Parliamentary procedure possessed by few and surpassed by none. But it is one thing to have standing orders and another thing to interpret them. I understand, by remarks made in the House of Representatives yesterday, that the High Court of Australia is not recognized as having authority to interpret the Commonwealth Constitution. Lacking guidance from that tribunal or the practice in the Mother of Parliaments, we* may learn something from the procedure in State
Parliaments that have standing orders similar to ours. I speak, as Senator Dunn has said, as one who has had a great deal of experience in the working of the Constitution of Western Australia and the standing orders adopted by the Legislative Council in that State in 1908. ‘ There have been several disputes between the two houses and all have ended in favour of the Upper House. That Parliament has adopted a very common-sense procedure. Bills which the Upper House may not amend are dealt with and amendments are requested. If these amendments are not made by the Lower House, they are pressed by the upper chamber and, if further resisted by the Lower House, the same action is taken as would be taken at this stage on any bill which is not a money bill. I use the term “ money bill “ advisedly, because a great deal of the trouble that has arisen in this connexion is due to the misapprehension caused by the use of the words, “ Bills which the Senate may not amend “. If, instead of those words, the phrase read, “ Bills which the Senate may not amend, except by request to the House of Representatives “, the constitutional position of the two Houses would be very much clearer. We must, I. think, admit that the power of amendment by request, so long as the request can be pressed, is the same as the direct power of amendment; but there is the distinction that bills which the Senate may not amend, or which are described as money bills, can originate only in the House of Representatives. That chamber and the lower Houses of State Parliaments, have always regarded that exclusive right to initiate as the more valuable of the two powers. It is possible in Western Australia, a deadlock between the two Houses having been reached, to refer to a conference the matters in dispute, and the conference is conducted on the same lines as conferences in respect of ordinary bills. Senator Brennan spoke just now of the power of inaction. I do not think we could find more convincing evidence of inaction than the fact that the Standing Orders of this Parliament have been allowed to remain in the same position for 33 years, without being declared either valid or ultra vires the Constitution. As a matter of fact settlement has always been reached by side-stepping the issue. That is what is occurring in the present case. It is not dignified, either for the House of Representatives or the Senate, to avoid a settlement by side-stepping this important issue. Personally, I regard this chamber as. very much the more important in the con- sideration of tariff matters, but I do not wish to pursue this thought further at this stage. I am reluctant to accept the proposed substitute for a clear-cut decision. Personally, I do not agree with what is being done, because I thoroughly believe in therectitude of the method adopted by the Senate in dealing with these requests and the justice of the cause. I intend to oppose this suggestion to. side-step this most important issue.
– Being a layman, I do not pretend to be able to interpret the Constitution Act, but I direct attention to section 53, which, in my opinion, clearly defines the power of the Senate in this matter. It reads -
The Senate may not amend proposed laws imposing taxation, or proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys for the ordinary annual services of the Government.
It is clear that the Senate has no power to amend, money bills, Of course we have the right to make requests, but if we insist on our requests, we practically insist upon the right to make amendments. The -position is analogous to that caused by the limitation of the powers of the House of Lords in regard to money bills.
– We have no power to amend a money bill save by request?
– But if we persisted in our requests,, we should be virtually claiming the right to make amendments, which is not conferred by the Constitution.
-A distinction without a difference.!
– Quite a difference exists between the power to amend and the power to request. The House of Representatives claims that if the Senate persists in its request, it will be exceeding its constitutional powers.
– We claim that we have the right to make requests at any stage of a money bill.
– That is my argument. We may persist in our requests, but we may not insist upon the acceptance of them.
SenatorMacDONALD (Queensland) [12.5] . -It seems to. me that this, matter should be settled as quickly as possible, because the other House has offered a satisfactory compromise. I do no,t frequently agree with Senator Brennan, but, on the point that has arisen, I share his view. We should not quarrel with the House of Representatives over details. Rabbit traps, dates, and spray pumps are not of sufficient importance to justify a major disagreement between the two branches of the legislature. I have had a good deal to do with words and their meanings, and it is plain that while the Senate has the power to make a request on this measure, it has not the right to persist in that request.
– Undoubtedly it- has.
– Well, if words mean anything, it has not, and to keep on requesting would be ridiculous. If we persist in our request, we shall he practically insisting that we have power to amend a money bill. The two prominent words in section 53 of the Constitution are “ amend “ and “ request “, and we are told that we have not power to do more that “ request “ an amendment of a money bill. Why should we persist in a request when we ‘have not the power to amend? One of the planks of the Labour platform refers to the fate of this august chamber-; but so long as the people of Australia consider that the continuance of the Senate is necessary^ I shall do all I can to uphold its rights. At . the same time, I shall not support any action to vest more power in the Senate than is plainly provided by the Constitution. Section 53 clearly shows that we have not the right to irritate the House of Representatives by persisting in requests, “which would amount to demanding the power to amend.
– I congratulate the Government on submitting this motion, which, apparently, will be carried unanimously. The late Mr. Justice Higgins, one of the framers of the Constitution, dealt with this point in one of his utterances at the Federal Convention. Ho said -
In this bill you will find words to the effect that the Semite may not amend the principal money bills - bills imposing, taxation and bills appropriating revenue for the “ordinary annual services of the Government.” But if you look a little further on, you will find that the ‘Senate can “request” amendments, and Qu.li keep on “ requesting “ as often as it likes. The Senate can send down “ requests “ at any stage. I say there is no material difference between the ‘Senate proposing amendments to the House and requesting amendments to the House.
Mr. Justice Higgins was recognized as an authority on constitutional matters. Later, in a letter written to the Daily Telegraph, he said -
The Senate can “ request “ amendments at any stage - not once, but as often as it likes.
In the opinion of a good many people the Senate in the Commonwealth sphere has powers similar to those of the Legislative Council of a State. In this connexion the opinion expressed in 1902 by the then Prime Minister is of interest -
If it is ever thought to reduce the Senate to the position occupied by the Upper Houses of the Parliaments of the States, it will bo necessary for the people to signify that they are in favnur of such a change in the Constitution.
The Leader of the Government at that time was of the opinion that the powers of the Senate were greater than those of the Legislative Council of any State. We should continue to maintain that in all matters, except where the Constitution imposes definite limitations on the Senate in connexion with money bills, the Senate has’ equal powers with the House of Eepresentatives, and may make requests in connexion with money bills as often as it likes.
Motion agreed to.
Motion (by Senator Sir Harry Lawson) agreed to-
That so much, of message- 121’ of the House of Eepresentatives as refers to the requests of the Senate for amendments in the customs tariff be referred to the committee of the whole for consideration forthwith.
In eommiUee (Consideration of House of Representatives’ message) :
Item 53. Fruits, dried, viz.: -
Dates, per lb., British, 3d.; general, 3d.
Senate’s request. - Make the duty, per lb., British, Id.; general, Id.
Bouse of Representatives’ message. - Not made when first requested. The following modification now made: - The duties made - British, 2d.; general, 2d.
[12.19]. - I move -
That the request be not further pressed, and that the modification made by the House of Representatives therein be agreed to.
If honorable . senators will refer to the schedule of requested amendments which has been circulated, they will see first the original position in regard to this item, secondly, the requested amendments of the Senate, and, thirdly, an intimation that the requested amendment was not made . by the House of Representatives, when first requested by the Senate, and also the suggested compromise. For the time being, the constitutional issue has been set aside; the House of Representatives, while not relinquishing its claim, has suggested a compromise. In regard to dates, the suggested compromise is that the duty be 2d. per lb. under both the British and. general tariffs. The duty originally proposed was 3d. per lb. in each, column, and the Senate requested that it be altered to1d. per lb. in each. case. Of the 47 requests originally made by the Senate, 33 were agreed to by the House of Representatives, seven were not agreed to, and in respect of seven others modifications were made. In respect of the three outstanding requests- the House of Representatives is holding out the olive branch by offering, a compromise.
– Strangely enough, the three requests of the Senate which the House of Representatives is not willing- to accept were moved by me. When I moved that the duties on dates be Id. per lb., both British and general, I had in mind the 1921-28 tariff which provided for duties of, per lb., British, Id.; intermediate, Id.; and general, Id. Dates are not produced commercially in Australia, and the claim that they compete with lexias, raisins and currants cannot be upheld. I hope that the committee will adhere to its original request for duties of Id. per lb. British and general.
Senator Sir WALTER KINGSMILL (Western Australia) [12.23]. - I objected to the motion which has just been dealt with, not because I hoped to influence the decision of the committee, but because I regarded it as a somewhat ignoble method of escaping from a difficulty. An agreement between two chambers to combine to save their faces, while retaining their individual opinions, reminds me of an episode which occurred in the Senate recently, when an honorable senator withdrew a remark by direction of the Chair and then added that he still held the opinion to which exception had been taken. In my opinion, a decision regarding the constitutional powers of the two Houses of this Parliament is a matter which has been neglected too long. Although 33 years have passed since it was first pointed out that there was a possible flaw in the Constitution, no definite action has been taken to put the matter right. I am a strong believer in the rights of the Senate, and I submit that if we now agree to a proposition-
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that the constitutional question has been disposed of, and that we are now discussing the proposed - modification of the Senate’s requested amendment.
– Senator. Kingsmill may make a passing reference to the constitutional aspect, but may not enter into a general discussion of it.
– I desire only to give my reasons for an objection that those not acquainted with the circumstances might regard as unreasonable. A possible flaw in the Constitution has been allowed to remain for 33 years, and for that reason, as well as because I am jealous of the rights of the Senate, I thought it right to oppose a temporizing motion.
– The position I foresaw has arisen. We talk about the right of the Senate to insist on its request’s, but why we should go to so much trouble in threatening to do something which we never do, I cannot explain. When I compare the Senate to-day with what it was when the Scullin Government was in power, I wonder what has happened. During the previous administration the Senate could be depended on to stick to any decision it came to.
– The House of Representatives has suggested a compromise in this instance.
– When the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) moved in the House of Representatives a few weeks ago that - the Senate’s requested amendment be agreed to, his motion was defeated by a narrow majority after four members of the Ministry had refrained from participating in the vote which was taken. Had the Government been sincere its members would have supported the motion of the Minister for Trade and Customs. The sentiment of the Senate has changed with the change of government. Previously, the Senate could be depended on to adhere to any decision at which.it had arrived, but now it seems willing to give .way to the other House on everything. Senator Sampson said just now that requests in connexion with the three items with which the Senate has still to deal were moved by him. I compliment him on the fact that his requests have survived so long. I moved a number of. requests for reduced duties with various results. On some, the voting was equal; others were defeated; while three were carried. The Government has, however, been able to secure a reversal of the earlier decisions of the Senate in regard to those reduced items - in one case by refusing a pair to a sick senator who was absent, and on another occasion by securing the’ attendance in the Senate of a former Minister who has been here only on one occasion since his retirement from the Ministry.
– The honorable senator is not entitled to reflect on the vote of any other honorable senator.
– I was merely recalling the circumstances without comment. On two occasions the Senate decided that the duty on dates should be reduced from 3d. to Id. per lb. In the circumstances, I do not regard the proposed duty of 2d. per lb. as a com- promise. Why should dates, which are a useful article of diet, easily transported to the outlying parts of the Commonwealth, be selected for this unnecessarily high duty? Even in the Parliamentary Refreshment , Rooms date pudding appears on the menu with almost monotonous regularity. It would not matter very much if dates wore not consumed at all in Canberra, because practically everything required here can be obtained at moderate prices. In the absence of other drawl fruits, people in the far northwest, in Northern Queensland and in the Northern Territory, as well as in the cities, use a large quantity of dates. The Government, which first provided for a duty of 3d., subsequently agreed to a duty of Id., but now asks the committee to accept, as a compromise, a duty of 2d. per lb. It would be interesting to know what the Government really does consider a fair rate of duty on this commodity. Probably, if the Senate persisted with its request, we should bo asked within a few days to support the free admission of dates, which would be a reasonable proposition. I urge the committee to make another attempt. We should insist upon the exercise of those undoubted rights which we so strenuously and courageously affirmed a few minutes ago. If this request is again submitted to the House of Representatives, we may find that that chamber is agreeable to the duty of lcl. per lb. on date3. I oppose the motion.
– I compliment, you, sir, upon the tolerance which you have exhibited towards an honorable senator, who, under cover of supporting the modifications agreed to by the House of Representatives, discussed the constitutional aspect of the situation, the tactics of the Government with respect to this particular item when it was previously before the chamber, and other subjects which are not before the committee.
– The honorable senator is distinctly out of order in reflecting upon the Chair. I allowed Senator Kingsmill to make a passing reference to the constitutional aspect of the subject to enable him to give his reasons’ for supporting the motion. An honorable senator is not entitled to discuss constitutional matters at length on this motion.
– Had you allowed me to complete what I was about to say, you would have found that I was not challenging your action, but agreeing entirely with the course you adopted. In view of the unanimous decision of the Senate, recently recorded, I did not discuss the constitutional aspect of the subject. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber have fought strenuous1?* for the retention of the duty of 3d. per lb. on dates.
– What of the interests of the working class ?
– We are consistent in our advocacy of the claims of the worker, and shall continue to work on their behalf. The members of the Labour party are usually taunted with supporting high customs duties, but whatever claims we may have to that enviable distinction, we can justifiably advocate the claim of the workers, which is not the special prerogative of the United Australia party or of the distinguished party so capably led by Senator Johnston. The members of the Labour party fought for the retention of a duty of 3d. per lb., but failed. Senator Johnston, and those supporting him, favour a duty of Id. per lb., and they have failed. A majority of honorable members in the House of Representatives have, in a spirit of sweet reasonableness, supported a duty of 2d. per lb., which the members of the Labour party are willing to accept. Senator Johnston wants to have “ another try “ in the hope that the members of the House of Representatives may again change their mind, and that the free admission of dates will be recommended. I assure the members of the Country party that, on this occasion, honorable senators on this side of the chamber will, in a spirit of compromise, support the Government.
– When this subject was previously before the committee, I vigorously opposed a reduction of the duty on dates, and, if I thought that the original duty of 3d. per lb. could be restored, T would press for it. Unlike some who claim to represent country interests in this chamber, I have a close knowledge of the conditions in the dried fruits industry, and also a good deal of sympathy with those engaged at the moment in the difficult task of trying to dispose of a surplus production of approximately 50 per cent, in a market flooded with dried fruits produced by black labour.. Every pound of dates permitted to enter Australia under reduced duties comes into direct competition with the dried fruits produced in Australia. Australian dried fruits are sold in this country at prices approximately 30 per cent, above the prices they realize in London, and, if local consumers use dates instead of lexias, currants, or raisins, the dried fruits industry, which has been built up by governments and individuals, will be practically ruined. Imported dates, produced and handled by coloured labour, can be used as a substitute for our dried fruits, which are produced by white labour under hygienic conditions, and packed under government supervision. For these reasons, I shall support the modifications of the House of Representatives as the best alternative, but I would prefer a higher rate of duty to be imposed.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– -When this item was before the committee originally I expressed the view that there was involved in it a principle of rather greater importance than is found in other items. The duty on dates is a rather curious exercise of the policy of protection. Usually a tariff is imposed for the protection of an Australian industry, but in this case it is not, because, although Senator Cox claims knowledge of places in the Commonwealth where a few date palms are being cultivated, dates are not commercially produced in Australia. Consequently the duty on this item is imposed in the interests of the dried fruits industry, the idea being to induce people who ordinarily consume dates to cultivate a taste for Australian dried fruits. This is a tyrannous exercise of our fiscal powers, and brings into operation an entirely new principle. That dates are still being imported is sufficient evidence that there is no satisfactory substitute for them. Senator O’Halloran told us of the extraordinarily good conditions under which dried- fruits are produced in this country, and the extraordinarily unsatisfactory conditions under which dates are produced in other countries. I venture the opinion that he does not, and in the nature of the case cannot, know a great deal about conditions in other countries where dates are grown. In any case the modification of the Senate’s request made by the House of Representatives still gives to the Australian dried fruits industry protection of about 180 per cent, against dates. As practical politicians we should show a proper sense of proportion. The committee is asked to deal with the decision of the House of Representatives in respect of three items out of 1,800 in the tariff schedule. If we persist in our request the Government will have to give way, because it cannot afford to lose the whole of the tariff schedule. But because we are in that strong position, would it be fair for the ‘Senate to exercise its powers to the full? If we take up that attitude the Government will have either to accept our request or drop the schedule and1 throw the whole of the commercial community back upon the schedule of 1928. If it wishes to put on the statute-book this complete schedule, there is no possible way of doing it except by means of a double dissolution, in order to resolve a conflict of opinion between the two Houses on this minor item out of about 1,800 in the schedule. If we forced a double dissolution on this item, we should very seriously inconvenience the whole of the commercial community of Australia, and we should be held responsible for the destruction of a complete schedule which we had rather prided ourselves was the first complete tariff passed by this Parliament in the last ten years. Senator Johnston pointed out that, in the first place, the Government proposed a duty of 3d. per lb., then, at the request of the Senate committee, agreed to make it1d. per lb., ‘ and now offers to make the duty 2d. The honorable senator then asked what was “the mind of the Government upon this subject. I answer the honorable senator by saying that the situation which has arisen brings into relief the advantages of the provision in the Constitution, which vests the Senate with authority to make requests. The reason that it may make requests, and can insist upon them, is that by discussing the matter - it is true that we have not yet discussed this item in conference with representatives of another place - we can agree upon a compromise. That is what the Government and the House of Representatives have done in this matter. The Senate would be placing itself in a false position and be responsible for a certain amount of ill feeling between the two chambers if it persisted in its request upon this trifling item. While, therefore, I agree, as a matter of principle, in the Senate asserting its right, I think we should meet the other chamber half-way. The same remarks apply to the other items which will come before the committee later. Therefore, it will not be necessary for me to speak upon them. I merely say that I regard the modification made by the House of Representatives as a compromise which, taken in conjunction with the resolution passed by the Senate this morning, meets the constitutional position of this chamber. I am, therefore, willing to accept the compromise that has been offered to us.
.- I strongly supported the Senate’s original request to the House of Representatives to reduce the duty on dates, because there is no satisfactory substitute for them, and the higher duty would, I believe, be burdensome to the poorer sections of the people who have to use them. Dried fruits have not the same sustaining qualities. I speak as one who, for dietetic reasons, uses dates largely. This morning, the Senate reaffirmed its light to persist in its requests for amendments of the tariff items. The House of Representatives also adopted a resolution asserting its constitutional rights, and then compromised in respect of the items that are now before this chamber. Common sense suggests the acceptance of the compromise, because it would be absurd to force a double dissolution on the duties imposed on dates and rabbit traps. Hitherto the custom has been to settle differences of opinion at conferences between representatives of the two Houses, and the result always has been a compromise. I do -not agree with Senator Kingsmill that by declaring the Senate’s constitutional rights and then accepting the modification made by the House of Representatives we are adopting an ignoble way of side-stepping the constitutional issue. I know of no other way to settle it without going to extremes. If the committee persisted further in its request, the result would be that the Senate approved a duty of - Id. per lb. on dates, and the House of Representatives supported a duty of 2d. per lb. Only a double dissolution would decide the issue. The question is not of sufficient importance to warrant the forcing of a crisis. The rights of this chamber have been in no way prejudiced. They are still preserved. If we had time to secure a further compromise, I might not be willing to accept the one which is now before us. But the other House seems to have made up its mind to close the session next week-
– That is not an argument in favour of the acceptance of the proposal before us.
– No, but it is common sense. The Government has done its duty as far as it can, and I see no way out of the present impasse other than by this committee accepting the compromise offered by the other chamber.
– I agree with what has been said by . Senator Reid. Senator Johnston affirmed that if we accept the compromise that is offered to us, we shall be asserting our rights one moment and immediately afterwards surrendering them. Nothing of the kind. A compromise involves a surrender on both sides. The duty upon dates now proposed is a modification of that which was originally approved by the other chamber. Both Houses have agreed to split the difference between them, and, in these circumstances, I fail to see that the acceptance of the proposal before us will subject us to any humiliation. Senator Kingsmill has suggested that the procedure followed in the settlement of disputes between the two Houses is most unsatisfactory, and that a more permanent basis for their settlement should be devised. Does his knowledge of our Standing Orders enable him to point to any permanent method by which these disputes can be satisfactorily settled.
– I think there is a way.
– I suppose there is, by amending the Constitution.
– By amending our Standing Orders.
– If there is a constitutional defect it cannot be rectified by an amendment of the Standing Orders. If no better method of curing constitutional defects is available , to us, that is ample reason why we should accept this motion. In the minds of some honorable senators a “ request “ is synonymous with an amendment. That is primarily due to the introduction of the silly term “ request “. It would be incredibly stupid to suggest a double dissolution over a trivial matter of this kind.
– I should not have risen, but that I propose to reverse my vote on this item. Having asserted our rights, the time has now arrived for compromise. I do not profess to be consistent in regard to tariff matters. To be consistent one would have to be either a high or low tariffist. Had the House of Representatives not agreed to a compromise on this item, I should have stood firmly behind the decision at which the Senate arrived previously. But as the other House has offered us a compromise, we should not be pig-headed. The House of Representatives has its rights just as the Senate has its rights, and in the circumstances it is only fair that we should accept the compromise suggested.
– This is a very sorry finale to the long drawn out discussion upon tariff matters. In the tariff schedule we dealt with 1800 items, and on the sheet beforeus there remain only three items and in respect of them a difference of opinion exists between the two Houses. We have done our best, and we have got nothing for our efforts. If this matter were worth fighting, I should be the last to cry enough. But, in the eyes of the country, the item now before us would be altogether too insignificant to warrant us in precipitating a crisis. I do not accept the compromise offered by the other House with a good grace ; it was an affront on the part of the other chamber to question the Senate’s decision on . the three small items that are now before us. In- regard to two of these items the Senate is getting a little more in the way of duty than the tariff board recommended, while in repect of dates the other chamber is offering to accept a duty on© penny per lb. less than it previously desired.
– In the other House the Minister wanted a duty of a penny per lb. on dates.
– Probably he was willing to accept the suggestion of the . Senate, but his colleagues were not so good-natured. This item is not of sufficient importance to warrant us taking a determined stand., upon it, and I, therefore, suggest the acceptance of the compromise that is offered to us.
Question - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Senate’s request -
Make the duties, British, 20 per cent.; general, 37½ per cent.
Haute of Represent a Hues’message - Not made when first requested. The following modification now made: -
The duties made - ad valorem, British preferential tariff, 35 per cent.; general tariff, 55 per cent.
[2.47]. - I move -
That the request be not further pressed, and that the modification made by the House of Representatives therein bo agreed to.
Recent inquiries in respect of the goods covered by this item indicate that no spraying apparatus has been imported in recent years, but a comparison of local and ascertainable overseas prices shows that, generally, the goods which are locally manufactured could compete with comparable lines under lower rates of duty than those provided in the bill. The industry is an efficient one, which has earned the commendation of the Tariff Board, and a review indicates that it will bo able to carry on with a 10 per cent, reduction of the rates of duty. The House of Representatives has, therefore, suggested rates which are 10 per cent, lower than those set out in the bill, and 15 per cent. British and 17½ per cent, general above those requested by this committee. The principle involved has already been discussed twice this afternoon, and as the committee is obviously prepared to accept the compromise which has been offered by the House of Representatives, I hope that the remaining items will be disposed of without further debate.
– The amendments dealing with spray pumps and rabbit traps afford honorable senators their last opportunity to obtain reduced duties on two articles used directly by the primary producers. Every attempt made by members of my party to bring about a reduction of the duties on agricultural machinery or implements required by the man on the land, has been defeated, and the high duties imposed at the instance of either the present Government or the Scullin Administration are to be retained.
SenatorRae. - A number of those articles are on the free list.
– I moved for a large number of reductions in respect of items which were not on the free list, and every request, even if it were accepted at first’ by the Senate, has since been rejected.
Motion agreed to.
Item 220, traps, viz.: -
And on and after 9th March, 1933 -
Senate’s request -
Make the duties, British, 30 per cent.; general, 50 per cent.
House of Representatives’ message - Not made when first requested. The following modification now made: -
The duties made - art valorem, 35 per cent. British preferential tariff, 55 per cent, general tariff, or per dozen, 5s. general tariff, whichever rate returns the higher duty.
Senator Sir HARRY LAWSON (Victoria - Assistant Minister) [2.52]. - I move -
That the request be not further pressed, and that the modification made by the House of Representatives therein be agreed to.
The suggested compromise provides for a British rate of duty which is 10 per cent, lower than that recommended by the Tariff Board, and I hope that the motion, will be acceptable to the majority of honorable senators.
– I regret that theMinister has submitted this motion. Regarding the three items with which we have dealt we have had three different ministerial opinions. In the case of dates, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) would have accepted the lower duty sought by the Senate. In regard to spray pumps, I think that Ministers were unanimous, and the British duty of*30 per cent, on rabbit traps was proposed by Senator Sampson at the suggestion of Senator McLachlan when he was in charge of the bill-
– The Minister said that he would accept that suggestion.
– It was accepted on the first occasion without a division. Ministers in this House have evidently been overruled by their confreres elsewhere. One notices that’ compromises between the two Houses involve acceptance by . the Senate of higher duties than, those, requested hy it. The rabbit is the greatest menace- with which the- primary producers have to1 contend. “Whole districts have been devastated hy the’ pest,, and one would imagine1– that rabbit traps would be: made- duty free in order that the unemployed might obtain them’ cheaply. City residents are able to obtain rat and mouse- traps free of duty,, and it should be as easy to manufacture them’ in Australia as it- is to’ make rabbit traps. The compromise which the committee is asked to aeeept provides for a British duty of 35 per cent., to whichmust be added heavy exchange and, probably, primage also. As this committee’ has twice re-affirmed its opinion that the duties should be reduced, I hope that it will avail itself of this-, its last, opportunity to press a request in the interests of the man on the land. Ability to buy cheap rabbit traps is’, a matter of the greatest importance to the primary producers, particularly those engaged in the growing of wheat and wool. I am opposed to the Government’s action in this matter, and regret that the Senate is backing down without showing any backbone.
– It is now 3 o’clock on Friday afternoon, and- the Perth Sunday Times will not be printed -for a couple of days. Obviously, the remarks of Senator Johnston were intended for publication in the next issue of that newspaper. The honorable senator would have us believe that he is concerned about the price of rabbit . traps to, the workers ; but I can inform him that the workers in- New South Wales are prepared to pay a little more for Australian-made- rabbit traps, rather than- use traps imported from the United States of America, or even from Great Britain. In the interests- of the Australian, workers, the duty should remain..
Question put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Majority … . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative-
Motion- agreed to.
Resolutions reported and adopted.
[3.10]. - 1 move -
That the hill be now read a third time.
On behalf of the Government, and particularly of the Minister who has had charge of the tariff, but is absent to-day on urgent public business, I thank honorable senators for their patient and exhaustive consideration of this measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
[3.12]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to grant Supply to . His Majesty, and to appropriate the money so granted for the services of the year. Three Supply bills have already been agreed to by Parliament, and the measure now before the chamber votes the balance of the money required for theservices of the year in accordance with the financial statement already presented to the Senate. I hope that honorablesenators will regard this bill as one for discussion primarily in committee, and I remind them that the motion for theprinting of the Estimates and ‘budget papers provided- an opportunity to> discuss the financial policy of the Government, and the .general principles of public finance. Yesterday a number of honorable senators availed themselves of the further opportunity provided by the Standing Orders to discuss various subjects. The schedule is in the usual form, except that certain alterations have been made, on the recommendation of the Public Accounts Committee. If honorable senators will look at the proposed expenditure for the several departments of the Commonwealth, they will see that, instead of the items covering salaries and other expenditure being set out seriatim, they are included in a schedule at the end of each department. Detailed information can be ascertained by referring to the schedule. The Government has no desire to curtail discussion on matters which are definitely relevant to the bill; but, in view of the opportunities which have been given to discuss financial matters generally, I appeal to honorable senators not to delay the second reading of this measure. In committee,- detailed explanations will be given by Ministers of the various items, if desired.
– I agree with the suggestion made by the Minister in charge of the bill (Senator Lawson) that the discussion on the motion for the second reading of the measure should not be unduly prolonged, because honorable senators interested in particular items will have an opportunity at the committee stage to obtain any information they require upon certain proposed votes. There is one important matter to which I desire to direct particular attention, and as I shall not have sufficient time when the measure is in committee’ to make a connected reference to the subject I propose to avail myself of this opportunity. I shall not, however, detain the Senate longer than the importance of the subject warrants. It is well known to all honorable- senators that I have always been a champion of Canberra, because I believe that we have acted wisely in establishing a federal capital. In some instances money may have been unwisely expended, but generally the experiment has proved a wonderful success, and in the years to come it will be found that its importance will increase. Notwithstanding my ad miration of all that has been done, I have been pained to find that there are places in Canberra which are a disgrace to this beautiful city. I shall take the opportunity when the vote for the Department of the Interior is under consideration to ask what the Government proposes to do with respect to settlements in certain portions of this Territory. Even those honorable senators who are most anxious to leave Canberra at the first opportunity will admit that it is a beautiful anc! dignified city. During the last fewweeks I have had an opportunity to make myself acquainted with one place, at any rate, which can only be described as a definite blot upon this fair city. There are others with which I” shall deal, but at the moment I wish to refer to the Molonglo’ settlement. I do not know how many honorable senators have visited it or have been at any pains to investigate the conditions existing ‘there. I went to the trouble of doing so because of my pride in Canberra, which I boost everywhere I go. Honorable senators cannot possibly be aware of the positively horrible conditions prevailing at Molonglo, and until improvements are effected it will be a reflection upon every member of this Parliament. I visited Molonglo as a1 perfect stranger, and interviewed some of the residents. I was taken into their homes and shown the conditions under which they live. In order to fortify myself with local opinion, I invited a number of medical and clerical gentlemen in the Federal Capital Territory to favour me with their personal opinions regarding the settlements at Molonglo and the Causeway. As some of the gentlemen with whom I communicated requested me not to use their names, I shall not give the names of any of them. From one clerical gentleman I received the following letter : -
I am sorry I cannot give you- any information which would be of value to you about the Molonglo and Causeway settlements. You could gather all I could give by a visit to Molonglo, and a chat with some of those who live there.
I agree with you that both are blots on Canberra, and Molonglo is a menace. One has only to see the place to realize .what the effect will be on the children of to-day and the men and women of to-morrow. There is no privacy about the homes. There is no comfort in them. They were never built to house families. They are cold in the winter, and like a furnace in the summer. They have no fireplaces. They are uncomfortable and unsightly. There is little or no space attached to them. The dividing fences are a farce, and it is impossible to bring children up respectably in them.
Causeway conditions are riot so bad. But both places are an eyesore and a disgrace in a city like Canberra.
The Government has made more than a reasonable profit out of them. And from every stand-point they would be well advised to pull them down. I would like to see the Government do as they have done elsewhere with war service homes. - erect small places on quarter or half-acre blocks and sell them to the people on very easy terms without any deposit. 1 believe if this were done the majority of people in both Causeway and Molonglo would buy them.
Here is another letter from a clerical gentleman -
I am in receipt of your letter re Causeway and Molonglo. You have chosen a sure ground on which to do battle for the unfortunate toilers of Canberra. Particularly so in regard to Molonglo settlement.
I have not visited Molonglo settlement for six years owing to the fact that at the end of 1927 that district was taken from the Canberra Parish and incorporated into the Queanbeyan Parish. However. I hear that conditions have not improved since 1027, in fact, that they have gone from bad to worse. Nothing more depressing can be imagined than Molonglo. It was built as an internment camp in 1917 or 1918 and, obviously, a hastily constructed war camp cannot lay claim to he n. decent abode for our men, women and children fifteen years later. One would have cause for complaint if Molonglo wore reserved as a barracks for single men. When we find that ii large number of families are still quartered there, one can form only a faint idea of the indignity and degradation to which those families are subjected. I really pity the children who arc being reared in such primitive surroundings - not the primitiveness of a decent Australian family in the out-back country, but the morally degrading atmosphere of a slum area at the gates of a capital. You cannot have decent standards of living, or decent standards of anything else, when a large number of families are dumped together in a manner suggestive of the promiscuity and over-crowding on the old emigrant ships.
Regarding Causeway, things are not so bad, although the abolition of that area would also be in the best interests of Canberra. The houses arc detached, but’ they are not the type nf dwelling that would be chosen as homes by the officials responsible for their retention. The same cheek-by-jowl atmosphere prevails, with the consequence that if a resident of the Causeway manages to escape the inferiority complex, lie is made of strong mettle indeed.
Briefly, more attention has been given to the planning and beautification of the Canberra Government Sale Yards than to the Molonglo and Causeway areas. Greater care is being devoted to the gardens and rose-beds of the city than to the housing of the workers and their children. Roses and tulips bloom for a few days and are gone. Surely the little children of the toiler are entitled to greater consideration from the Government.
The following communication was received from a medical practitioner: -
I am-quite in agreement with you in regard to Molonglo, which has, to my mind, quite outlived its usefulness. The hovels that are there are all extremely draughty, dark, in many instances vermin-ridden, and altogether unsuitable for habitation.
However, as regards Causeway, I cannot quite agree as to its unsuitability. By that I do not mean that there could not be better places. However, if one could provide the working man with brick residences at the same rental and the same amenities in every way it would be better. Until one can, I think, the residences are quite suitable, and would in many country towns I know of in New South Wales, be welcomed. As regards its aspect from the- railway station, when all the trees for which preparation is being made’, grow, its unsightliness will be removed.
What a delightful proposition to plant trees to hide the miserable houses in which the people have to live ! The letter continues -
The main point about it is, it supplies reasonable accommodation at reasonable cost. The houses are the same or better than at Westlake, which is not seen until one enters it.
Another doctor also sent the following communication to me : -
Your letter of 20th instant to hand. It is my firm opinion that both the Causeway and Molonglo settlements are a disgrace to any civilized community.
From a purely public health point of view, they are a menace owing to their inadequate drainage and the rotten sanitary conditions prevailing. .In the summer the houses are equivalents of ovens, and in the winter, refrigerators. To my mind it seems impossible that any family could be raised with a decent idea of morality and decency, taking into consideration the complete lack of privacy that exists in the hovels that the powers that be are content to call homes. Most of the houses contain only two rooms, although a few do contain three, and in isolated cases, four rooms. In short, I think that both communities should bc condemned.
While I was obtaining that information, accompanied by Senator Brown, I paid a visit to both settlements. To the Causeway we were accompanied by a medical man, who said that as he thought that it would be unfair to show us the worst, he would take us to two of the better type where the occupants are doing their best to make humble but decent and dignified homes. He said that he hoped I would agree that he had done the right thing. I acquiesced, telling him that I was grateful for the opportunity which he had afforded me to see the places. ‘I found, at the Causeway, where the buildings are certainly far superior to those at Molonglo, rents have recently been reduced from 14s. a week to lis. 3d., with extra charges for lighting. These buildings are of single boards, and the workmanship is a disgrace to any alleged tradesman. The timber used is of the lowest grade and is now rotting in many places. Obviously, all the dwellings at the Causeway are very hot in summer and cold in winter. All the windows are ill-fitting. I was informed that, even when the buildings were new, the windows did not fit properly into the frames, and, as the timber has shrunk considerably since the places were built, the windows are in a shocking condition. In one of the homes which I inspected, I found that the housewife had gone fo the trouble of folding a newspaper and pressing it in between the window sashes . and the frames in order to keep out the draught, which meant, of course, that the windows could not be raised except in weather when they could be kept open. There is absolutely no privacy in any of these houses, except such as has been provided by the residents themselves. The buildings are without verandahs, but some of the residents have erected a hessian Structure at the rear in which they can keep a few tools and other articles, and they have also endeavoured to make some division between the properties on either side. The growth of trees and shrubs is far from adequate to ensure privacy. The people living there - I have no hesitation in saying that they are a fine type - are doing all that lies in their power to maintain some semblance of decency. “We have no right to sit in this chamber enjoying all the comforts provided for us and tolerate for one day longer than is necessary, the conditions” under which people at the Causeway and Molonglo are living. Many of them, I should add, are returned soldiers. What I have said with respect to the Causeway applies with even greater force to the settlement at Molonglo.
There the conditions are positively nauseating. The houses consist of from three to five rooms, some of them in line with no access to the separate rooms except from the outside, and the reduced rents range from 5s. a week for threeroomed cottages, to 9s. a week for houses with five rooms. I happened to visit that settlement a few clays after fairly heavy rain, so I have some idea of what the place is like during wet weather. I was informed that the lower portion of the settlement is always under water during periods of heavy rain, so that it is impossible for people living in the houses to get in or out without wading through mud and water. The roofs are leaking badly. At one place the occupant had erected a damaged tarpaulin over his bed in order to prevent water, which dripped through the roof, from flooding his bed. He has a small electric light in his bedroom, and in decent weather is able to read after retiring for the night, but when rain is falling he has to exercise all his ingenuity to escape the water leaking through the roof. While, as in other communities, there may be at Molonglo, people who are indifferent to their living conditions, a great many of them are making a desperate struggle to have improvements effected. Some have even requested the department to provide paint so that they may themselves paint their cottages and otherwise improve their appearance before Christmas, but even that request has been refused. In order to be. quite fair in this matter, I informed the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins) of my intention to speak of the housing conditions at the Causeway and Molonglo when these estimates were before the Senate, and he thanked me for letting him know. The buildings at Molonglo were built for the housing of German internees during the war, and as they were intended to accommodate those whom we were then forced to look upon as our enemies, we may be sure that not too much trouble was taken to provide for their comfort. It is, therefore, a disgrace that citizens of the Commonwealth, including a number of returned soldiers who left this- country to fight and defend it from its alleged enemies, should now be condemned to live in buildings that were a horror at the beginning, and are infinitely worse to-day. I, therefore, suggest that the Minister in charge of the bill should do his very best to persuade his colleagues to make amends for the crime - to put it mildly - of the past regarding housing conditions at these two places. These settlements should be officially condemned, for both hygienic and aesthetic reasons. They are a menace to Canberra. Diseases affecting the lungs must surely be accentuated by the living conditions at Molonglo, if not at the ‘Causeway. If the ‘Minister can induce the Government to condemn these settlements, steps should at once be taken to provide homes elsewhere for the people living in those areas. Homes could be provided for them nearer to the Manuka shopping area. If that were done, it would meet the convenience of the people concerned, and reduce their transportation costs to Civic Centre and the shopping centres at Kingston and Manuka. But if this is considered to be too large an order - I do not know why it should be in view of the Government’s willingness to make very liberal remissions of taxation to people in infinitely better circumstances - I would suggest that an immediate start be made on the building of better homes for those people living at the Causeway who. are willing and able to rent them. Then, the people at Molonglo could be transferred to the vacant Causeway properties which, as I have explained, are more desirable, until such time as buildings could be provided for them elsewhere. In all cases rents should be reviewed, and they should be related not only to the cost of the buildings, but to the capacity of the potential tenants to pay. I have always been very proud of Canberra. My association with the Capital Territory did not commence eighteen months ago, when I was elected to this chamber, but in 1927, when I attended an interstate conference, and when the city was not developed to anything like the extent that it is to-day. Its parks and gardens were then very much in embryo and its buildings were only partially completed. I had the privilege of coming here again under somewhat similar ^conditions in 1930, and a little later as a senator for Queensland. I have had some splendid visions of what Canberra will become some day. I hope that at no very distant date the Australian university will be located in this city, and that no man or woman’s education will be ‘deemed complete until he or she has received the imprimatur of that university. I can conceive of no better spot in all Australia to which to bring young people to complete their training for the various professions, away from the distracting influences of the State capitals. I am hopeful - and I know that the Government is helping on this very fine ideal - that Canberra will some day properly house the nation’s greatest library, within the walls of which shall be garnered the best literary gems of the greatest poets and thinkers, and that the time will come when men who wish to ‘fit themselves for the great professions and the best things of life, will recognize that there is no other place in Australia where they can get the same advantages as they can secure from the National Library in this city. I wish to pay my tribute to the wonderful work the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is carrying on here. But I can visualize something far greater than it has yet been able to attempt. I can foresee a time when our people will recognize that if they wish to become acquainted with the very latest discoveries in the scientific world, they must come to Canberra, where they will find the inventive genius of man concentrated on a greater mastery of nature, and where science will be not the aider or abettor of destruction and disaster, but the handmaid of peace, social re-construction and industrial harmony and progress. A3 legislators, we ought to have these day dreams of what will be possible to-morrow. I believe that we should have in Canberra a great national school of arts, where the study and development of all art for art’s sake alone shall be the objective ideal, where music and sculpture, together with the creative handicrafts, shall all be developed, not in a commercial spirit, but for the very love of art itself. “We should some day have here a ‘ National Parliament which will not only be in full control of the political development and destiny of this great nation, but will be a. beacon light to the whole world, sending out its mes- sage of faith in the power and purpose of an enlightened democracy, its recognition of a universal brotherhood, and its demands for equality of opportunity for all mankind. These are surely not unworthy or unattainable ideals, but, if we are ever to achieve them, we must think, work, and legislate for them. We must see that the Department of the Interior assists us to lay right here and now the foundations of our ideal city so that in the future we may be able to build aright. To this end, we must begin by abolishing the plague spots to which I have referred. Molonglo and the Causeway must go, otherwise not one of us can with complacency walk about this beautiful city any longer. Each of us must accept our share of personal responsibility for the abolition of these plague spots. No effort should be spared to impress on the Department of the Interior the urgency of attacking this problem in the only way in which it can be attacked. There must be no further attempt to cover up the sore; there must bc total demolition of both settlements as quickly as it can be brought about.
– I listened with a great deal of interest last evening to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes). The figures that he quoted have a peculiar significance which I hope will not «be lost upon any member of this chamber. I am pleased with his acceptance of the ideal that Australians should defend themselves. In making that statement he committed his party to the support of the Government’s present proposals. I regret that there has not been a more satisfactory outcome to the Disarmament Conference. Yet, the result is not to be wondered at. Nobody can be insensible to the highly nervous conditions of the older nations of the world to-day, or to the measures to which some of them may resort, if the strain which they are at present enduring is not lightened. Combat is common throughout the whole realm of nature, and is comprehended by every known ethical code. The conditions that exist to-day resemble very much those following the Napoleonic wars. Peace was required then, and peace was advocated at any price. I remember reading not long ago, of one who urged that in the event of an invasion of England, its people should welcome the intruders with open arms, because the invaders would then be so ashamed of themselves that they would immediately discard or renounce their hostile intent, and return to their hom.es across the Channel. But I would remind honorable senators that although war is a product of nature, the human race has proved its power to restrain or utilize nature’s caprices in several directions. That is why I am in favour of continuing the efforts for peace. I feel. certain that with the spread of education and a full appreciation of what true democracy means, the goal we all seek must ultimately be reached. I believe in the cultivation of the will for peace - of a peace psychosis. This should begin at home, and when progress has been made, our police forces may be reduced or abolished. There is a true analogy between nations defending themselves against aggressors and a community defending itself against evil-doers. And then, of course, there should be no class distinctions and no use made of provocative expressions such as are all too common in this and other Parliaments. In tlie meantime, however, Australia should be prepared for possibilities and even probabilities. There is no doubt of the beneficent influence that the British Empire exerts in the world today. That is one reason for maintaining the Empire intact. Without it, our future independent existence cannot be assured. Its defence is a responsibility that concerns all of us, and every unit must be a contributor. In arriving at the basis of any scheme the factors taken into consideration are many, and include geography, history, politics, population and other resources, economics, communications and transport. This may seem a formidable array, hut it illustrates the difficulties that confront statesmen and their advisers. It also suggests the imperative need for adapting plans to changing times and events. I think that perhaps the explanation which my colleague, Senator Johnston was seeking in respect of the naval base at Cockburn Sound, may be found in the last few sentences to which I have given utterance.
Here is where Australia has failed. Until recently her plan for co-operation in Imperial defence was almost useless. Her fleet had been reduced to less than a tactical unit, her fixed defences are even now obsolescent, her air force is a mere cadre, and her army has diminished, almost to vanishing point - truly an undesirable condition of affairs. But now the Government has rightly stepped in, and I hope that this chamber will give every support and encouragement to its proposals. If we are convinced of the need for action, we should not at ‘this stage press unduly for details or concern ourselves with questions of the strategy to be employed, the equipment to be supplied, or the tactics to be taught. We can safely leave those matters to the Minister and his expert advisers. Many years ago, a crisis” occurred because of a difference of opinion between a Minister and the general officer commanding the forces in Australia, as to the pattern of pistol that should be issued to the troops. This rather undignified quarrel should not have occurred.
– Who won?
– The general officer commanding.
I do not for one moment suppose that the Minister for Defence hopes to complete his scheme within the financial year, or with the means that are provided in the Estimates. Of necessity, its development must be progressive, and the foundations well and carefully laid. Material is a big factor in modern war, and it is mere murder to send craft to sea or into the air, or to send men into the field, unless they are given reasonable protection, effective communications, efficient transport, reliable weapons and ample supplies. Material is, therefore, the first consideration. We should be in a position to manufacture this for ourselves. That is of the utmost importance. Efforts will be made, I am sure, to arrive at the correct balance between the three services. I am convinced that, so far as Australia is concerned, any scheme of defence must depend for its success on the close co-operation of the Navy, the Army, and the Air Force.
The wisdom of sending forces overseas has to be considered from two points of view, namely, strategy and policy. I do not propose to discuss it now. Honorable senators can think out for themselves whether they would prefer losing their lives in the ruins of their own homes, or protecting their women and children by taking a risk and endeavouring to forestall and thwart the enemy near to his own shores.
The next requirement is man power. At present we are, as I have already pointed out, down to bed-rock. In fact, but for the loyalty of the Staff Corps, and the loyalty and self-sacrifice of the Citizen Forces, the army would have entirely disappeared during the past three years. Having served under the voluntary system, I have, necessarily, a great regard for it. I would remind honorable senators that the Australian Imperial Force w’as composed of volunteers, and that its leaders in the successful closing phases of the Great War were volunteer officers. But in these days, the spirit seems to have died out of them because, in effect, the volunteers have been asked to “carry on “ on a scale of - shall I say - reduced rations. Furthermore, in the absence of the necessary personnel, they are unable to learn an important and practical part of the work, and are being trained almost wholly on theoretical lines. This, whilst facilitating the passing of examinations, and the receiving of consequent promotion, creates a false sense of security, which must inevitably bring about tragedy in war.
I am not prepared to advocate a return to universal compulsory military training on quite the same lines as formerly. There was too much waste of time and money. Square pegs were placed in round holes. The medical examinations as to fitness were, in the first instance, perfunctorily performed. There was political interference. The records were considered of more importance than instruction, and trainees in some areas were “ bored stiff “ with being kept hanging about instead of being intelligently exercised. But, as we must have some strengthening of the several arms, I hope that the Minister will, in the near future, make a survey of the whole position, and decide upon a system that will be effective and appeal to those concerned. Uniforms should be attractive as well as serviceable; they should be made to fit, and not merely, suggest a badge of servitude. District commandants should be invested with more discretionary power in regard to exemptions and the expenditure of parliamentary votes, and more rewards should be given for proficiency. I believe in encouraging rifle clubs insofar as they can be relied upon to produce an effective reserve, liable to be called upon should the need arise. I also, favour having our own munitions factories, and encouraging immigration as a sure means of increasing the nation’s power of resistance.
For any scheme devised, I am satisfied that we have in the personnel of the Navy, Army and Air Force staffs the means to give the fullest effect to it. With few exceptions, its members ave highly trained, and have had a broad experience. Yet they are capable of being strengthened, and I hope that next year, when two vacancies occur on the Military Board, the Minister will adopt a bold policy having for its object the placing of army head-quarters upon even a higher level.
If it were not for the suggested high cost. I would like to see something done to bring the Royal Military College back to Duntroon. Its present situation is unsuitable, whereas the surroundings and atmosphere of its original location are such as to induce only the best in tho mental and physical development of the young men who, later in life, have to bear great responsibility. Australia owes much to the late Major-General Sir William Bridges, who founded the college, and was its first commandant. The high standard of knowledge, conduct and sense of duty inculcated by him have been reflected in the magnificent services rendered by the pupils of the college during and since the Great War. I should like to pay a personal tribute to those men. I had the honour and privilege of serving with a number of them, and I know of the great aid they rendered to their country and to every Australian commander. These remarks apply with equal force to the graduates of the Royal Australian Naval College.
My experiences have not bred in me any affection for war. I have seen too much suffering, and, like Senator Collings, I would urge that every possible avenue be explored in the search for lasting peace. If honorable senators care to read a work that sets out clearly how strife between nations is generated, and how, possibly, it may be obviated, I would recommend General Fuller’s The Dragon’s . Teeth, which may be found in the Library.
.- Like Senator Collings, I believe that Canberra has promise of a great future, and I trust that the hopes expressed by him will be realized. Yet I am afraid that, if his remarks are allowed to pass without comment^ a wrong impression will be created. I am not speaking on behalf of the Government. Several Ministers have been in office during the development of this Capital City, and each has been willing to assist in the work. As a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, I have an intimate knowledge of some of the matters mentioned by Senator Collings. Most of his statements regarding the Causeway and the Molonglo settlement are more or less correct; but I consider that the picture presented by him was rather highly coloured. I know something of the inside, as well as the outside, of the homes of the residents in those areas. Some of the problems with which various governments, and also the Federal Capital Commission, were faced in the early development of Canberra were incapable of satisfactory solution, and one of them was the provision of suitable accommodation for the workers. As a large number of houses had to be provided within a limited time for the large numbers of public servants who were being transferred from Melbourne to Canberra, tho buildings had to be erected with all possible speed at- a time when the building trade in the State capitals was booming, and skilled city labourers could not be induced to work in Canberra under any conditions. The Parliament had decided to assemble in this city on a certain date, and the rates of pay offered to workmen were higher than the award rates. It was decided to remunerate the men even for the days on which wet weather prevented them from working. Parliament House alone cost £80,000 extra because of the undertaking to pay ordinary rates on wet days.
– The workers have to live on wet days.
– This concession was not made elsewhere. The cost of the other buildings in Canberra was increased proportionately. Accommodation had to be- provided for these workers, but suitable houses could not be obtained, and the old internment camp at Molonglo was gladly accepted for the time being. The Government also had to find accommodation for large numbers of public servants.
– And temporary dwellings for the workmen.
– The only solution of the problem was the provision of temporary buildings. Senator Collings remarked that some of the buildings at the Causeway are a disgrace to Canberra. I may say that a great deal of the building work to be seen in this city, even in Parliament House itself, reflects anything but credit upon those responsible for it. Men who were wholly unfitted for their work were employed in the building of Parliament House, the government hotels, and the homes of the residents.
– I am concerned with the effect rather than with the cause.
– I am pointing out the difficulties that confronted the authorities. Owing to the rush, there was not sufficient time to erect dwellings for artisans and other workers. There was not time to build homes for all the officials who were transferred to Canberra and many of them -were compelled to live for months in hotels because of the shortage of houses. The honorable senator mentioned cottages in Queanbeyan, but they do not differ greatly from those in Canberra. Indeed, in many cases, higher rentals are charged in Queanbeyan than for similar houses in Canberra. The greatest difficulty connected with the housing of the workers here was that of providing suitable homes at rentals which the workers could pay. That problem still remains. Senator Collings referred to slum areas in Canberra, but, while not defending the existence of alums here or elsewhere, I remind him that in other’ parts of Australia, . both in the cities and in the country, large numbers of people live in iron humpies, weatherboard cottages, huts and tents, which do not compare with the buildings of which he complains. Some of the dwellings in the so-called slum areas of Canberra are a credit to their tenants, while others are a disgrace to their occupants. That is true of people in all stations of life. Some people would turn a palace into a pigsty, and in any housing scheme, such cases have to be provided for. One defect in connexion with Canberra housing was that the Federal Capital Commission fixed the rentals of the cottages at too high a rate. They expected the houses to be paid for in from 25 to 30 years. When I was a member of the Public Works Committee I protested strongly against that policy, and fought strenuously to have the period extended to at least 50 years, but I could get no support for my proposal. Neither the Government of the day nor the Federal Capital Commission took any notice of my protests. The authorities have, however, been forced to reduce the assessments, and consequently the rentals. The bricks made at Canberra are equal to the best in Australia. They are dampproof and weatherproof, and with ordinary care should last for hundreds of years. In my opinion, the Government would be wise to base the rentals on a repayment of the capital cost of the houses in 100 years. That policy, in addition to being a sound investment, would encourage population to settle here. Unless something of that nature is done, the rentals must continue to be too high. The cost of living in Canberra is high compared with the cost in the capital cities. That is due partly to the high rentals charged to the shopkeepers for their leases, resulting in high prices for the necessaries of life. Any cost of living allowance granted to public servants is more than off-set’by the additional cost of living here. By altering the conditions in the direction which I have indicated, it should be possible to dispense with that allowance. I suggest a fixing of the prices of commodities as in Queensland, with a view to reducing the cost of living to such an extent that the Canberra allowance may be dispensed with.
– I have asked a number of questions on that subject lately.
– As I have said, there are both good and bad tenants in all classes of the community. I know of public servants in Canberra whose homes are in a disgraceful state. An anomaly associated wth the administration is that, whereas a good tenant cannot get a small repair job done, tenants who take no care of the ‘Government’s property have large sums expended on their houses from time to time in order to keep them in a reasonable state of repair.
– No tenant could make the Molonglo dwellings decent.
– The homes to which I refer are not at Molonglo, but are occupied by public servants in, receipt of fair salaries. I mention these things in order to show the difficulties confronting the Government in housing matters. I strongly favour a housing policy for Canberra, and the construction of modern flats or cottages which could be let at low rentals to persons in receipt of small incomes. The two-storied flats erected at Manuka have been a success. The adoption of my suggestion for an extension of the term on which rentals are based would ease the burden on many householders. Canberra has suffered greatly because of the depression. The finances of the country have not allowed a progressive building policy to be proceeded with; but now that conditions are improving, I hope that a policy of home building will be adopted. The cost «f building has fallen nearly 50 per cent, in the ‘cities, and ‘the cost of building here should be reduced proportionately. With conditions favorable to cheaper dwellings, and an extension of the term of repayment, it should be possible to ease the burden on Canberra householders. Fortunately, Canberra is a healthy place; otherwise the housing conditions in the tenement areas must have caused serious trouble. This city is fortunate in having a bountiful supply of pure water, excellent sanitary conditions, and well-lighted streets. “ The adoption of a wise and common-sense housing policy should attract a much larger population to the Federal Capital.
– What does the honorable senator suggest should be done at Molonglo ?
– Nothing can be done with th*e buildings there, until other dwellings are provided for the Molonglo families.
– Molonglo was never intended to be a permanent settlement.
– That is so. Molonglo was a concentration camp during the war. Later, when building construction in Canberra commenced, workers were glad to obtain cottages at Molonglo at nominal rentals. Senator Collings said that before householders at Molonglo could get into their houses, they had to wade through water and mud. Similar conditions exist in many townships throughout Australia. Difficulties exist in connexion with Canberra housing, but they can be overcome. Molonglo is the worst settlement in the Federal Capital Territory.
– Everything about the place is wrong. The slum conditions there have not been caused by the people.
– I do not suggest the building of brick houses at Molonglo. The difficulty which has confronted the administration here has been insufficient funds. All the money expended in Canberra will eventually be returned to the people of Australia, and before many years this city will be self-supporting. The Government cannot proceed with its policy to transfer “additional Commonwealth departments from Melbourne to Canberra until sufficient housing accommodation is available, but those difficulties, and others which have been mentioned from time to time, will eventually be overcome, and Canberra will become a city of which the Australian people will be proud.
– I regret that provision has not been made for the appropriation of sufficient money to develop effectively the oil shale deposits in the Newnes Valley, or to proceed with the extraction of oil from coal by the hydrogenation process. I followed with interest the speech of Senator Collett, who has devoted many years to military work, not only in the volunteer citizen forces, but also overseas; but I cannot agree with, him that the money allocated for defence purposes for this financial year is inadequate. The proposed, vote for the Defence Department shows that expenditure is to be increased in one section by £509,470, and that £450,000 is to be expended overseas on the purchase of aeroplanes and seaplanes. If this huge expenditure is to be incurred why should not an attempt be made to establish . works in Canberra or in Sydney for the construction of the machines, particularly at a time when 400,000 men and women are seeking employment? The most unfortunate feature of the unemployment problem is that many of those in distressed circumstances, who were once members of the Australian Imperial Forces, will in about four weeks’ time find it difficult to obtain a square meal on the day when other fortunate persons will be celebrating the anniversary of the birth of the Great Redeemer. Some may say that the members of this Government are stupid, boneheaded or dead from the shoulders upwards, but I would not use such offensive terms. A few weeks ago I paid my shilling to enter a picture theatre where I spent a couple of hours scratching round the tops of my socks while witnessing an Australian gazette portraying the activities of great Australian aviators, such as Air Commodore Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, Mr. Ulm, and the late Mr. Hinkler, whose deeds of bravery and endurancewill always be remembered. Notwithstanding the advances made in aviation and the fact that Australia has produced the world’s greatest aviator, we are faced with the spectacle of this Government spending overseas £450,000 to purchase aircraft that could be manufactured in Australia. The Cockatoo Island Dockyard, in Sydney, is capable of producing any type of mechanical equipment, but recently it was leased to a private company at an annual rental which a few years ago would have been paid for an ordinary fish and chips shop. There is also a small arms factory at Lithgow consisting of four floors and a valuable engineering plant, suitable for the production of mechanical equipment of the highest class, and on which hundreds of thousands of pounds has been expended. There are also splendid engineering works at Newcastle and at Port Kembla, on which millions of pounds of private capital has been expended. The Government proposes to expend £1,000,000 annually over a period of five years for the upkeep of a number of obsolete destroyers loaned to the Commonwealth by the British Government, and now on their way from Singapore to Australia. I have taken a keen interest in the speed trials of these vessels, and I recently read in the Sydney Morning Herald the views of a press correspondent accompanying the destroyers to Australia. During recent trials these destroyers, which are supposed to travel at 33 knots an hour, had to reduce their speed to 20 knots because the rivets were working and the seams and joints were becoming sweaty «and leaky.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that the press correspondent he mentioned made that statement ?
– I have been reading the press reports from day to day.
– The press correspondent of the Sydney Morning Herald did not make that statement.
– I am putting the position in my own way. The Government must accept responsibility for accepting these obsolete destroyers. The Minister for Defence admitted, in reply to a question which I addressed to him recently, that these vessels, which have been loaned to the Australian Navy, are sixteen years old. Therefore, they are not by any means efficient naval units. The effective life of a cruiser is estimated to be not more than twelve years, and that of a capital ship probably less. We may be sure, therefore, that for the next five years these obsolete destroyers will cost the taxpayers of the Commonwealth approximately £1,000,000 for maintenance and other charges. It is true that this expenditure will provide work for dockyard artisans and ratings, and for that reason I do not so much object to the arrangement to attach the vessels to the Australian Navy. Every time that the destroyers come into port from battle practice they will require caulking and other repairs. One has only to visit the naval dockyards at Chatham or Devonport, in England, to appreciate how much obsolete vessels really cost the country that maintains them.
I had hoped that Senator Collett would have gone further in his criticism of the defence vote, and would have told the Senate something about the mechanization of the various military units. I can speak with some knowledge of the mechanization of the navy. The paravanes are about the only portion of a naval vessel that is not mechanized, and therefore they do not involve heavy expenditure on maintenance. But, in every other part, from the keelson to the truck, full advantage has been taken of the application of science to naval warfare. The same degree of mechanical efficiency is now aimed at for all units of the fighting forces of a nation. Only a few months ago, His Majesty the King, as Marshal-in-Chief of the British Army, attended the manoeuvres at Salisbury Plains, where a most impressive spectacle of fighting efficiency was presented to the assembled spectators, including military observers representing other nations. I do not wish to appear pessimistic, nor do I desire to indulge in the hysteria displayed by a number of people who have talked so loudly of late about the dangers that may be ahead of the nation; but, if war broke out to-morrow, which God forbid, wo could not hold out for one month, because we have uo oil supplies worthy of the name for the navy or the mechanized units of our land forces. It is true that storage tanks have been erected at the principal ports, and, as might be expected from .an administration that, depends on experts who never heard a bullet zip or a shell crash, they are in exposed positions, and would be an easy target for hostile aerial or naval forces. The latest evidence of administrative ineptitude is to be seen at Darwin, where tens of thousands of pounds are’ being expended in the erection of reservoirs for oil fuel on the waterfront ! Again at Pinkenbah on the banks of the Brisbane River, the tanks for oil supplies have been placed in exposed positions. Reserves of oil fuel are also provided at Snails Bay and Kerosene Bay, Sydney. As modern naval vessels mount guns with a range up to 30 miles, and seaplanes have a cruising range of 500 miles, it will readily be understood that, in the event of war, our supplies of oil, which are essential to the conduct of defence measures, would quickly be destroyed. At Kerosene Bay and Snails Bay, Sydney, the oil storage tanks are painted with aluminium paint, evidently to assist enemy planes to know where they should drop their bombs. It is true that this paint is used to prolong the life of the tanks by protecting them against climatic changes. W e have been told of the facilities for oil storage that exist at Port Melbourne, Port Adelaide, Tasmania, and other places. It is exceedingly strange, therefore, that not a single penny is pro:vided in these Estimates for the manufacture of oil from any of our national products - I refer particularly to the shale seams at Newnes -in New South Wales, to shale and brown coal deposits in Victoria, and to the shale seams at Latrobe in Tasmania. On page 23 of the Estimates, it is shown that there was expended on oil fuel in 1932-33, £83,074, and that it is proposed to appropriate for a similar purpose during the current financial .year, £64,134, a total of £147,205. I learn from page 101 that the expenditure upon petrol and oil for 1932-33 was £40,415, whilst the proposed appropriation for 1933-34 is £12,000 - a total of £52,415. Again, the expenditure upon petrol and oil fuel for 1932-33, as disclosed on page 102, was £392, whilst the proposed appropriation for 1933-34 is £880, a total expenditure during three years of £1,272. Thus, a grand total of £1S4.892 will have been expended upon oil and petrol for the use of our Australian army and navy during the period indictated. Evidently “ something is rotten in the State of Denmark “ when the Government submits such Estimates for our consideration, at a time when thousands of miners and their dependants are practically destitute, notwithstanding that immense natural resources of coal and shale await development in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, Western Australia, and Tasmania.
The Estimates contain no provision for the establishment of hydrogenation plants. In this process, which was invented by Mr. Bergius, of Germany, the coal is ground into powder and mixed with oil to the consistency of a paste.
Hydrated ferric oxide or some other suitable catylist is added. This is then heated in a special retort with hydrogen to a temperature of 417 degrees centigrade and subjected to a pressure of 3,000 lb. per square inch. In this way a light oil is distilled, leaving only a small residue. This method waa applied with fair success in Germany on tar oil, and in 1928 the results were so encouraging that the Standard Oil Company purchased a halfshare in the combine. At Billinghamon.Tees, in the north of England, the cracking of the units of coal has been successfully accomplished. From the stand-point of the unemployed in Australia I enter my emphatic protest against the omission from the Estimates of a vote for the setting up of a hydrogenation plant. Money should be made. available for the development of’ the shale seams of New South Wales and Tasmania, and for setting up hydrogenation plants at Cessnock, in the Newcastle district, and in the Ipswich area in Queensland. Private enterprise exploits the defence forces of this and every other country, but steps should be taken to ensure a supply of the necessary fuel for the mechanization of the forces. I believe that if the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) were able to please himself in this matter, he would favour the development of the fuel oil resources of Australia, but the Cabinet consists of thirteen. Ministers. I appeal to the right honorable gentleman to try to induce his colleagues to realize the importance of this matter.
Senator Sir HARRY LAWSON (Victoria - Assistant Minister) [5.19]. - Senators Collings and Reid have referred to the development cif Canberra, and Senator Collings, particularly, has drawn attention to the condition of the tenements at Causeway and Molonglo. Particulars of the honorable senator’s statements, will be sent to the Department of the Interior, and further information on the matter will be supplied in committee. It is pointed out, however, that all the plans for the development of Canberra were upset by the depression. The tenements referred to were not intended to be permanent structures, and if development had proceeded according to plan, these buildings would have been removed long ago.
The matter of fuel oil supplies, which was referred to by Senator Dunn, has been mentioned by him on many occasions. He dealt with it when last year’s Estimates were under consideration. The Minister in charge of Development (Senator McLachlan), is giving close attention to this subject. Certain scientific investigations are being made, and the value of this research is not overlooked; but nothing definite can be said until the investigations have been completed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second, time, and committed pro forma.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - In conformity with the Sessional Order, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the’ amendments made by the Senate in this bill.
The following bills were received from the House of Representatives, and read a first time : -
Silver Agreement Bill 1933. Patents Bill 1933. High Court Procedure Bill 1933. Invalid and Old-age Pensions Appropriation Bill 1933.
Motion (by Senator Sir’ George Pearce) agreed to -
That the order of the day No. 5 - Estimates and budget papers 1933-34 - adjourned debate (from 20th October) on motion (by Senator Sir Walter Massy-Greene), viz. : - “ That the papers be printed “ be discharged.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Tuesday next at 3 p.m.
Restoration of Lost Property - Refreshment-rooms Accounts.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– Yesterday I desired to make a statement in the hope that, by so doing, I would be able more quickly to restore some property which I had found, but under the Standing Orders I could not do so at th at stage. About last Wednesday week, when returning to the Hotel Canberra, I picked up a roll of notes. Although not negotiable, the notes are probably of some value to their owner. I shouldhave mentioned this matter earlier had I not contracted influenza, which kept me away from the sittings of the Senate. There, are 43 notes in the roll, and they are headed, “ Socialization of Credit.” Some one has gone to a good deal of trouble to prepare wellthoughtout notes, evidently for a speech. The notes are typed on paper belonging to the Parliament of the Commonwealth, and headed, “Federal Members’ Boom, Sydney.” I mention this matter in the Senate, because the notes are probably the property of an honorable senator, or a member of . the House of Representatives. I picked up the roll under a spreading wattle tree. Perhaps “under a spreading chestnut tree” would have been a more appropriate place in which to find them, seeing that socialization of credit is a chestnut. I do not know whether or not the owner of the notes threw them away in disgust. The notes are available to* their o wner on application to me.
– I thank Senator Sampson for his announcement regarding my lost property. I missed the notes some days ago, but I did not know whether I had left them in the Federal Members’ Room, Sydney, or had dropped them in Canberra. It appears likely that they fell out of my pocket while T was swinging along in the vicinity of the wattle tree under, which Senator Sampson found them. When Senator Sampson mentioned that he had found a roll of notes, my mind immediately conjured up a roll of notes issued by the Note-printing
Department of the Commonwealth Bank. I disagree with the honorable senator that the notes are of no value, for, although not’ negotiable in the ordinary sense, they are of the greatest value to any one who is not dead from the shoulders upward. By the socialization, of credit, as suggested in the notes, many of the world’s financial difficulties would be overcome. The honorable senator indulged in some witticisms, in which he mentioned that a more appropriate place for the notes would have been under a spreading chestnut tree, hut in the fact that they were found under a wattle, I seea good omen. I now look forward to the day when the seeds of the policy of the socialization of credit will take root in the mind of Senator Sampson, ultimately blooming in golden intelligence.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - Before the motion is put, I desire to acquaint honorable senators and the people of Australia with the facts concerning the following statement published in the Melbourne Star of the 29th November, and, I understand, in other journals : -
M.H.R. “ TICKS UP “ £9.
Few private enterprises would be as accommodating as federal Parliament is to members. The other day it was revealed that a member had borrowed 57 books from the Library and had not returned them; to-day it was learnt that one ‘M.H’.R. owed the refreshment department £9 Is. 10d., and a parliamentary official owed6G 7s. 8d.
An extraordinary angle on the cost of the service of meals is contained in an official report accompanying the balance-sheet.
This states that every £1 received formeals has to be supplemented by an additional £1 2s. to cover the cost of service. In the bar section,6s. of every £1 taken goes in service charges.
The deficit on refreshment-rooms during 1932-33 was made good by -the Treasury, contributions to cover the losses- being £3,168 14s. 5d. for. salaries and £368 9s. for service.
As chairman of the Joint House Committee, it is part of my duty to see that the refreshment-rooms connected with this Parliament are conducted on sound business lines, but the statement I have quoted would leave on the public mind the impression that the conduct of that service leaves much to be desired. The press announcement does not give particulars of the period covered by the amount of £91s.10d. ; it may he a month, two months, or three months. The balance-sheet of the refreshment-rooms was issued in June last, and no particulars concerning the business of that section have since been made public. It would appear, therefore, that whoever obtained the information published in the press obtained it by surreptitious means.
– If the statement is true.’
– Even if it were true that one member of this Parliament owes to the refreshment-rooms £91s. 10d., are we to assume that the refreshmentrooms must be run on a cash basis? Such a policy is not expected of most other businesses. Attention is drawn to this alleged indebtedness, apparently, because a public man is concerned ; but’ even the Joint House Department does not pay its refreshment-rooms accounts monthly. Do tbe critics of this Parliament, and particularly the editors of certain newspapers, pay cash for all the commodities they purchase? As chairman of the Joint House Committee, I should like to inform the people of this country that since the inception of federation every penny of debt incurred by the members of this Parliament in the Refreshment Rooms has been paid.
– The department has made no bad debts.
– That is so. In regard to the statement that a subvention had to be made by the Treasury to meet the expenditure incurred by the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms, I point out that no refreshment rooms in any Parliament in the British dominions are expected to pay their way without assistance from the Treasury. Why is attention so persistently directed to this matter, and other phases of parliamentary expenditure? If those controlling newspapers think that they are educating the people of this country by the publication of these criticisms, they are mistakon. If they continue) to make slighting references to the elected representatives of the people the time will come when any self-respecting person will think twice before offering his services to the nation in this and other Parliaments. Speaking with knowledge gained in 30 years’ experience of public life, I say that if the critics of Parliament should find later that the calibre of legislators has declined, it will be largely the result of the constant depreciation and disparagement of decent men. This latest attack is another regrettable effort to lower members of Parliament in the eyes of the people, and a continuance of such tactics must prove fatal to representative government.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 5.48 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 1 December 1933, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1933/19331201_senate_13_143/>.