14th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator theHon. P. J. Lynch) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented. -
Sugar Agreement Act - Third Annual Report of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee, for the year ended 31st August,1934.
Financial Relief Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1934, No. 138.
– ask the Minuter representing the Attorney-General - (1) In view of the fact that the Lyons-Page Government refuses to allow Herr Kisch to land in Australia, and appears so fearful regarding the admission of any person of knownanti-war tendencies, will the Ministry warn the Government of New Zealand that at an early date a person who at one time was a leading figure on public platforms in Australia, and moved MayDay resolutions submitted underan organization flying the red flag, will leave Australia and attempt to enter the sister dominion? (2)Will the Government also advise the New Zealand Government that the name of this person, who was such a bitter opponent of war-
– Is George Foster Pearrce, at present residing at Elwood, Victoria ?
– Order ! The honorable senator’s question contains an expression of opinion which, he must know, is not allowed. I therefore ask him to alter his question in conformity with the Standing Orders.
-I submit, Mr. President, that, in view of statements appearing in thepress concerning the attempted landing in Australia of Europeanrevolutionaries with red tendencies and an international outlook, we should rightly beconcerned about the movements of this person, George Foster Pearce, and should warn the Government of the sister dominion.
– If the honorable senator is seeking information he must submit his question in the form prescribed by the Standing Orders.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The following answer is supplied by the Minister for Commerce : -
Sampson has asked a number of questions with reference to the staff dwellinghouse now being erected for the wireless broadcasting station at Kelso, Tasmania. Inquiries are being made, and replies will be furnished at an early date to the honorable senator.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The right honorable the Prime Minister has supplied the following answers! -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce furnishes the following answers : -
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and bill (on motion by Senator McLachlan) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this measure is primarily to authorize the borrowing of a net amount of £5,000,000 in order to provide employment and grant assistance to rural industries. The total sum set out in the bill is £5,050,000, the additional £50,000 being provided in order to cover discounts and the expense of borrowing. The £5,000,000 proposed to be raised is additional to the £1,000,000 for postal works already authorized by the Loan Act passed in August of this year, and represents the amount estimated to be required during the balance of the present financial year for implementing the Government’s policy in regard to public works and rural relief. The Government is not yet in a position to place before Parliament full particulars of the ways in which the money is to be expended, and, therefore, thebill contains particulars only of £200,000 to be expended on additional telephone services. At a later date, a further measure will be introduced to obtain authority for spending the balance of £4,800,000. As honorable senators are aware, the Government is in consultation with various Commonwealth departments and the State Governments with a view to determining the manner in which the money can best be applied to the purposes already indicated. It is hoped that these proposals will be brought to finality in the near future, and that the Government will shortly be in a position to submit details of the appropriations desired. In the meantime, parliamentary approval for the raising of the loan money is necessary, as portion of the money will be included in the £15,000,000 loan which is to be raised for Commonwealth and State purposes. The ‘bill is urgent since it is proposed to issue the new loan in Australia, and because market conditions are now favorable for the floating of the loan, the terms of which will be considerably more favorable to the Loan Council than those of recent issues, as market yields from Commonwealth securities have fallen steadily during the last three years.
As was announced by the Assistant Treasurer last evening, the terms of the loan are as follow: -
The new flotation will be for £15,000,000 and will be opened for subscriptions on Tuesday the 20th November. The loan will close not later than the 3rd December, but may be closed before that date. The proceeds will be used for Commonwealth and State public works and for the funding of treasurybills. Of the total amount, £12,250,000 will be used for public works and for relief and assistance to rural industries, and the balance of £2,750,000 for theredemption of treasury-bills. The terms of the loan have been unanimously approved by the Australian Loan Council. The nominal rate of interest will be 3 per cent. and the issue price will be £99 15s. per £100. The loan will have a currency of fourteen years, and the average annual yield to the investor over that period will be £3 0s. 5d. per cent. The conditions regarding taxation are the same as those applying to the previous four loans, but the securities of this loan will not be accepted in payment of Commonwealth estate duty. This latter condition is not expected materially to affect subscriptions to the loan, as persona desiring to make provision for payment of estate duty may purchase Commonwealth securities of several other issues on the market for that purpose. The prospectus will provide that, in the event of the loan being over-subscribed, partial allotment of application will be made.
I shall be glad to give, in committee, any information desired by honorable senators. I emphasize that, at this stage, no appropriation isbeing made; the Government is merely seeking authority to borrow £5,050,000.
.- I understand the desire of the Government to have this bill passed expeditiously, and I shall not unduly delay its passage. Although this measure seeks to authorize the borrowing of £5,050,000 that amount is merely a portion of a larger sum which is ultimately to be borrowed. But the proposal to borrow even so large a sum as £15,000,000 suggests that, after all, we are only tinkering with a grave situation. For several yearsAustralia, in common with other countries, has been faced with the problem of the unemployment of a large proportion of its people, and although many proposals have been made for the amelioration of their conditions, their plight is still serious in the extreme. I understand that in this measure the Government is concerned chiefly with the re-absorption in industry of our unemployed men and women. This is a very serious problem, so serious indeed that I foreshadow that the effort now proposed by the Government will be but as a drop in a bucket in proportion to the endeavours which will ultimately be required of it - or a government that will necessarily replace it - to remove the evil conditions that have prevailed in Australia during the last three or four years. Prior to the depression governments borrowed huge sums of money that were expended principally on public works, and gave considerable employment. But the time came when we could not borrow further money, and the deplorable result waa that hundreds of thousands of our people were thrown out of employment. Conditions lately have been remedied to a certain extent so that the unemployment position to-day is not so grievous as it was even twelve months ago. Still the problem remains a serious one, and I support this bill for the reason that th<? expenditure of the money will result in the employment of at least some additional men. To that extent I welcome the bill, but I warn the Government that moro effective proposals than this, or the further expenditure foreshadowed by the Postmaster-General, will be necessary. Neither I nor my .colleagues will be completely satisfied with proposals which go no further towards solving unemployment than those embodied- in this bill, and the related measures to .be submitted later. “We have repeatedly warned the Government that .drastic changes in government policy must be effected in order to deal with this problem. The remedies which the Labour party prescribes were indicated in the speeches made from this side of the Senate during the debate on the Address-in-Reply. The Government will have to consider seriously ;the shortening of the hours of labour, even if it has to give a lead to the world with such a policy. But it will not have to give a lead to the world, because during the last few days we have been informed by the newspapers that the recent election in the United States of Am erica was fought on an identical issue. In that country, which has a far greater population than our own, the people were faced with an unemployment problem similar to that existing in Australia, but they have a great leader in President Roosevelt, who boldly told them that the hours of labour would have to be reduced, even to thirty hours a week in order to enable their countrymen to get work. Seventy-five per cent, of the American people endorsed that proposal, as a means of re-absorbing their unemployed in industry. The Government of this country will have to take similar steps if it is to do anything to give permanent relief and establish industrial stability in this country. Great difficulties are involved in the solution of this problem. The Government will have to face many possibilities that will probably horrify a number of people. A 30-hour week is ‘such a proposal. But why should Australians be afraid to do what their kinsmen in America have undertaken? And .there will be further problems to be met. Australians will have to realize their situation with respect to the load of debts. The national debts .of Australia and ether countries cannot .be paid while present conditions continue io operate.
I have no desire .to delay the passage of this measure. I welcome it as an earnest of what I hope the Government will do .later along similar lines, following the promises it made at the election that it would evolve measures to employ every man in this country at reasonable rates of pay and for reasonable hours. If the Government is willing to carry out that promise, honorable senators on this side of the chamber will .not throw wrenches into the machinery.
– Endorsing the .remarks made hy my leader, I .point out to the Government that if it is sincerely desirous of grappling with the problem of unemployment, something much more far-reaching will have to be done than anything foreshadowed in this bill or its corrollaries which the Minister in charge of the hill has indicated will later be introduced into tins chamber. The Government must recognize that the mere expenditure of loan money on public works of any nature whatever, or in the handing out of doles to primary industries or any other section of the community, cannot overcome the fact - of which if the Government is not aware, most of the thinkers of the world concentrating on the problem are aware - that when we have spent the available loan money, the people whom we ha?* put into temporary employment will again be unemployed; then wo shall again be faced with a similar position, only increased in intensity, because nothing fundamental has been done to relieve the position. That sums up tha difference between the policy of the Government and that advocated by honorable senators on this side of the chamber. Wo say that there must be progressive reduction of hours and progressive increases of wages in order to cope permanently with the difficulties of the unemployed. It is very easy for us to sit here *nd pass this hill, but how many honorable senators have taken the trouble to calculate the additional load of interest that will be placed on the taxpayers of this country by the mere passing of legislation to authorize the borrowing of £15,000,000? The rate of interest on the proposed loan is 3 per cent. That means that the taxpayers of tha Commonwealth for every week of the fourteen years of the currency of this loan will have to pay an additional £8,654 in interest. Yet, yesterday we were told by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), who was backed up by interjections from his supporters, that if we gave the old-age pensioners an additional 2s. 6d. a week it would not increase the purchasing power of the people, but would actually decrease it because the money would have to be raised by further taxation. Yet here we are proposing to saddle the taxpayers of Australia with an additional liability of £8,654 a week.
– I have no desire to protract the debate since I realize that the bill should be passed as speedily as possible; but I should like to refer to one or two pertinent points that have been raised by my leader (Senator Barnes). ‘ The constant borrowing of money and its haphazard expenditure by this Government are not taking us any nearer a solution of the problem of unemployment. I endorse the view expressed by my honorable leader in regard to the necessity for a reduction of the hours of labour. We have had recently in connexion with the Victorian Centenary celebrations a distinguished visitor in the person of Mr. Malcolm MacDonald, a son of the Prime Minister of England. In a recent speech he pointed out that the time was rapidly approaching when we should have to reduce the hours of labour to four a day. This Senate has reduced its labours not to four hours a day or 40 hours a week, But to 40 hours a year, and in that respect has set a splendid example to the rest of the community. It seems to me that if the work of the Senate is to continue to diminish it will not be very long before we shall be drawing our allowance without having to attend at Canberra at all.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - The honorable senator must not disparage “the House of which he is a member.
– -I am not doing so sir, rather am I expressing my admiration of the excellent example it has set. If the community generally but follows our example, we shall have no unemployment.
– The .Senate, on all occasions, devotes to the transaction of the business put before it whatever time is necessary.
– Quite so, but it is the victim of a government which is not doing its work as it should do. We have frequently to adjourn because no work is submitted to us by the Ministry. When it was before the electors it waB going to do this and not going to do that ; wo certainly have an idea of what it is not going to do. The unemployment problem is admittedly the most serious with which we have to deal. Sooner or later there must come a reduction of the hours of labour. As Mr. Malcolm MacDonald has said, it is a worldwide problem and must be dealt with properly and thoroughly. Mussolini himself is up against it and has publicly stated that the hours of labour in Italy shall be reduced. If Italy is able to do that in order to overcome the difficulty of unemployment, then Australia, which has been in the vanguard of social and economic reform, should be able to do the same. If, however, the present Government remains in office much longer, Australia, instead of being in the vanguard, will be in the guard’s van. The Government should endeavour to meet the situation by a recognition of the principle that every industry should be required to provide for its own unemployed. In certain industries a reduction of the hours of labour would not materially diminish the number out of employment. There are thousands engaged in the selling and distribution of goods; but if the hours of labour in that calling were reduced I do not think there would be any great reduction of unemployment. “Wo should look upon the working men and women of this country as something more than commodities to be bought and sold - as something more than chattels to be bought when required and set aside when not needed. We should look upon them as citizens of the community, and, instead of giving them relief work, should require each industry to provide for at least a section of the unemployed. If the shipping industry, for instance, requires a certain number’ of men to be in attendance on the wharfs, it should be compulsory on the part of ship-owners to provide a living wage for all of them. If every industry were required to provide for a certain portion of the unemployed, the unemployment problem would soon vanish. Each industry would see to it that work was found for those whom it had to provide for if they were not in employment. The time has come when the Government, instead of continually borrowing money from the private banking institutions and so adding to the burden of debt which the people have to shoulder, should get down to fundamentals so far as unemployment is concerned. I hope that, as a result of the passing of this bill, useful work will be found for the unemployed. Unfortunately, the Government, year after year, has been borrowing money - adding to the national debt - and yet bringing us no nearer a solution of this problem than we were three or four years ago. I trust that some good to the unemployed will come out of this bill, but I have little hope of the Government doing anything towards finding a reasonable solution of the problem.
– Like other senators I have no desire to delay the passing of this bill, but it seems to me that certain issues that it raises should not be allowed to go without comment. If they are, it may be said that we joined in a conspiracy of silence, just as- complaint was made during an election campaign that a certain honorable senator had allowed a bill involving an expenditure of £5,000,000 to go through without uttering a word. My complaint to-day is that we have no information as to the way in which this money is to be spent.
– The information will be supplied before any of the money is spent. This is not an appropriation bill, but merely an authority to borrow.
– Even so, the Senate is entitled to address itself to this measure since it involves the expenditure of a very large sum of money. The Government has not met the unemployed problem as it should have done. A noteworthy omission from the GovernorGeneral’s Speech was the absence of any reference to a large and well considered scheme to absorb the unemployed. The present Government and others of the 6arne colour have done nothing in that direction, and I venture to say that nothing will be done this side of Christmas. The question of the reduction of hours should certainly be tackled, as President Roosevelt has tackled it in the United States of America, with the object of making a change, in the industrial structure of the Commonwealth. The eighthours principle is obsolete; the hours of labour should be reduced to six, if not less, per day. As a means of improving present economic conditions, the age at which workers should be permitted to commence work should be fixed at eighteen or twenty, and retirement should be made compulsory at 55, thus helping to absorb the large number of young Australians who are out of work or on the dole. Although I do not support the policy enunciated by the advocates of the Douglas credit system, I was particularly struck with their suggestion, that old-age pensions should commence at 55. and if the pensioners did not then possess sufficient of this world’s goods they should be paid a pension of at least 25s. a week. Such statements may have been regarded -by some as electioneering propaganda, but in Australia with our high powers of production it should be possible to operate under such a system and still avoid national bankruptcy. I deprecate the fact that the Government has failed to make sufficient money available to enable a substantial re-employment, scheme to be commenced and that it proposes to continue this uneconomic handtomouth system while hundreds of thousands of deserving men and women are out of work.
– I intend to oppose the bill, lock, stock and barrel. During the remainder of my term as a senator, I do not propose to assist to buttress up the unsound financial system which this Government supports in its vain endeavour to solve the unemployment problem in Australia. When this bill is passed, further huge sums of interest will be paid to banking institutions as their rake off. Even if the proposed loan mentioned by the Minister be a success, no benefit will accrue to the Australian people. Until there is a general reduction of hours and an increase of wages, and the monetizing and socialization of the banking system of Australia, the unemployment problem will remain as acute as it is to-day. The successful flotation of the loan will necessitate only a few entries being made in the banks’ ledgers, but certain privileged persons in the community will increase their already substantial incomes. The introduction of this bill is another indication of the Government’s inability to grapple with the unemployment problem. In practically every newspaper published to-day there are lengthy articles on the subject of economic nationalism, which is now being preached and practised in many countries. While the United States of America and other progressive countries have realized the necessity for dispensing with obsolete financial and industrial systems, the Government of this country adheres to a policy which must eventually lead to national bankruptcy. The vote I received at the last general election clearly demonstrated that there are 500,000 adults in New South Wales definitely opposed to a continuance of the present, patchwork financial policy, and for that reason I intend to oppose the bill. I do not intend to assist the Government to place hundreds of thousands of pounds in the hands of persons who do nothing to earn it. On Saturday last, when we celebrated Armistice Day, we were mopping our tears and licking our wounds in remembrance of those who sacrificed their lives on behalf of this nation; yet there are some to-day who challenge the right of the dependants of those men to earn a living. Although leading economists tell us almost daily that the only solution of the unemployment problem is a reduction of working hours and an increase of wages, this Government refuses to introduce such a reform, which could result only in benefit to those engaged in industry and in almost every other walk of life. The Government will not favour a re-organization of our financial system because that would be detrimental to the shareholders in the private banks. The fact that some portion of the amount will be used for the relief of unemployment while another portion will be required to meet Governmental obligations does not satisfy me. I am not prepared, with my vote, to patch up a financial system which I know to be wrong.
– I remind those honorable senators who owe allegiance to the various Labour parties in Australia that Labour Governments in Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia are parties to the arrangement for the borrowing of this money. All the pretty theories which honorable gentlemen preach about extracting money from the clouds and building up credits by means of book entries really mean nothing to practical men like leaders in the State Labour Governments, who, as members of the Loan Council, have given their approval to this arrangement. Not one constructive suggestion has been put forward by the honorable gentlemen opposite. All that they have said has been mere blatancy intended to tickle the ears of the groundlings, and does not get us anywhere. They have offered no practical proposal for the relief of those whomthey claim tdo represent. This is a practical measure designed to achieve results. I am obliged to honorable senators generally for the manner in which they have received the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Treasurer may borrow £5,050,000).
.- Can the Postmaster-General inform us of the reason for the decision that securities issued in connexion with this loan will not be accepted in payment of estate duty!
. -I have had inquiries made and have been informed that the privilege of tendering securities in payment of probate charges was first offered as an inducement to subscribers of war loans. That practice was continued in later issues, but as this is a proposal for a loan at a very low rate of interest, it is considered advisable, and in the interests of the Commonwealth and States, that the practice, should be. discontinued. All “future loans; will be issued on the understanding that the securities will not be accepted in payment of probate duty.
– Can the Postmaster-General tell me what is the price of treasury-bills, and what additional amount the Commonwealth will have to pay as the result of the conversion of treasury-bills amounting to £2,125,000 ?
– The present rateof interest on treasurybills is. 2 per cent.,but the Commonwealth Bank doesnot desire such alarge sum tobeoutstandingasexistsatpresent.
SenatorBrown.-What explanation is offered for the altered policy of the Com- monwealthBank with regard totreasury- bills?
-I understand thattheCommonwealthBank arranged; with the Loan Council for a refund of treasury-bills, equivalent to the combined deficits of the States for this year. This would account for the apparent discrepancy between the amount of treasurybills authorized in this measure as redeemable and the amount referred to by the honorable senator yesterday.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 -
The amount borrowed shall be issued and applied only for the expenses of borrowing and for the purposes of appropriations madeor to be made by law.
SenatorDUNN (New South Wales) [3.59].- I move-
That after the word “ the “ second occurring, the following words be inserted: -“ purpose of Australian unemployed and assistance to farmers.”
As a Labour senator, I wish to be consistent in my endeavours to help the people who need assistance.
– I suggest to the honorable senator that as this is not a measure to appropriate a sum other than the £200,000 mentioned, it would be more appropriate if he submitted his amendment when the other appropriations were being made.
– I do. not wish to run counter to the wishes of the Minister,but I think I understand the meaning of the King’s English. Certainly, I know what should be done in the interests of the people whom I represent. On other occasions, the honorable senator’s appeals to me have not fallen on deaf ears, but as this is a bill for an act to authorize the raising of a certain sum of money “ and for other purposes, “ I consider that I am fully justified in persisting with my amendment. The Postmaster-General has just told me that this hill appropriates only £200,000, and that the particulars are to he found in the schedule, but in my six years’ experience of the Senate, I have learned that the ways of some governments are very mysterious. In this case there mightbe a “ ring-in. “’
The, CHAIRMAN (Senator Herbert Hays).-Order!
– I say this with no intention to offend the Minister. At all events I as a Labour senator, intend to press ray amendment, the purpose of which is to provide assistance for Australian unemployed and farmers.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to.
– Can the Postmaster-General furnish any particulars of the proposed expenditure of £200,000 ?
. - The Postal Department anticipates that of the amount of £200,000, £125,000 will he required for telephone exchange services, and £75,000 for trunk line services. The increased amount of £125,000 is due to the growth in demands for telephone connexions which has considerably exceeded expectations. There are indications that the figures for the year will reach the peak results obtained prior to the depression. The estimates for 1934-5 were framed on the assumption that new telephone connections would reach34,000 lines and 45,000 stations. It is now clear that the new connections will substantially exceed 50,000 lines and 60,000 stations. The additional amount required is due to the need for expansion, and to some extent is due to unavoidable delay in completing certain trunk works at the end of last year.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate continued from 14th November (vide page 240), on motion by Senator Collett -
That the following Address-in-Reply to His Excellency the Governor-General’s Speech be agreed to: -
To His Excellency the Governor-General-
May it Please Your Excellency:
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to Our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for tbe Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
Upon which Senator Barnes had moved by way of amendment -
That the following words bc added to the motion : - and this Senate is of the opinion that, to provide for relief of unemployment, immediate action should be taken -
1 ) To extend the functions and activities of the Commonwealth Bank, increasing its power to make bank credit available, and utilizing such credit to finance public works;
To amend the Arbitration Act to ensure that full and favorable consideration be given to progressive reductions in the working hours and increases in living standards commensurate with increased powers of production, due to mechanization and speeding-up of industry.
To restore in full pensions and social services and to repeal clauses imposing charges upon pensioners’ property and relatives, thus increasing purchasing power and stimulating industry; and
To establish a national scheme for organized marketing, including the setting up of Australian-wide pools.
.- I desire, first, to congratulate the Government upon the formation of a composite Ministry consisting of men from hoth Houses of Parliament who, I feel sure, will combine to render good service to this country. A composite government hadto come, because the original Lyons Government did not contain even one primary producer ; and as this country is almost entirely dependent upon primary production, it was anomalous that there should be in office a government which did not contain one representative of the great industries upon which the stability of the country rests. I am glad that that position has been rectified, and I wish the new Government well.
One paragraph in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech calls attention to the fact that during the last two years Australia, the Mother Country, and other parts of the British Empire, have made rapid strides towards financial recovery, and an improvement of the position in regard to employment. Australia is indeed fortunate to be a full partner in that great commonwealth of free nations known as the British Empire, living under the Union Jack and owning allegiance toHis Majesty the King. Looking around Europe, we find chaos in Russia under dictatorship, and even worse conditions in some respects in
Germany under the dictatorship there; the dictatorship in Italy appears to have been more successful. The great democracy of the United States of America is also virtually under a dictatorship; and although that country possesses most of the gold of the world, and is supposed to have benefited from the world war, conditions there are by no means happy. Nowhere in the worldis the government of the people more democratic, or the financial position more sound, than in the various portions of the British Empire where constitutional government and true democracy are to be found. During the last few years, Australia has made remarkable progress towards economic recovery. Not many years ago Australian bonds of a nominal value of £100 were quoted at as low as £60, whereas to-day all government securities are above par. Our credit stands high to-day because Australia has played the game and honoured every pledge it has made. Twice within three years its people have rejected proposals for th8 socialization of industry and banking. Our reputation is high because we have acted constitutionally, and have followed the straight and honest path. During difficult times the masses of the people have acted magnificently; like the leaders of the nation, they have stood up to their obligations and played the game of life manfully and well. Other nations have witnessed upheavals, and many of them bloodshed ; but although, at one period, nearly one-third of the people of Australia were unemployed, and consequently living on or below the breadline, there was no great industrial disturbance and no bloodshed whatever. Wo should be thankful that wo have emerged from the dark days of the depression with an unsullied name. I attribute the character of the Australian people to some extent to their sporting instincts. We are a nation of sportsmen, and have learned to apply the lessons learned on the playing field to our national affairs. Where true sportsmanship exists the growth of communism, or other “ isms “ whose object is the pulling down of constitutional methods of government, is not encouraged. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - I notice wubin the precincts of the Senate the Right Honorable Arthur Meighen, K.C., a member of the Senate of Canada and a past Prime Minister of that dominion. With the concurrence of honorable senators, I shall invite him to take a seat in the chamber.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear!
Senator Meighen thereupon entered and was seated accordingly.
– Although I agree with most of the Governor-General’s Speech, I am not altogether in favour of that paragraph in it which suggests that unemployment will be further reduced by the expenditure of money on works to be undertaken by the Government. Australia is almost entirely dependent on primary production for its wellbeing. To our primary producers we look for our food and clothing, and for the creation of that wealth which will establish credits in other parts of the world to meet our interest commitments. Moreover, our primary industries provide the greatest amount of employment for our people. I am confident that our unemployment problem will rapidly disappear if only we can find profitable markets for our produce. Australia can produce almost to perfection many of the things which other countries can produce; but our great difficulty is that production costs are such that our produce cannot be sold at a profit in the very low world’s markets of to-day. We should bend our energies towards reducing costs.
– Would the honorable senator like to see the price of wheat reduced ?
– No. World conditions are such that it behoves us to take steps to lower the costs of production. I hope that the honorable senator will not infer that I am in favour of lower wages; I am not. In the production of our greatest staple product, wool, wages do not enter into costs so much as taxation, tariffs, and consequent high freights. Sheep-breeding is our greatest industry, and I ask the Government, instead of borrowing money to expend on public buildings and the construction and alteration of railways, few of which, if any, are paying in competition with other modern means of transport, to encourage private enterprise and reduce taxation in order to help us to lower the cost of producing those great primary commodities for which Australia is noted, and upon which the Commonwealth and, indirectly, all Australians live. Those passages of the Governor-General’s Speech which suggest that money is to be expended on buildings and railways are not to my liking. But there is a portion of that speech which I endorse entirely -
My Government wishes to express to all primary producers the indebtedness of the nation for the manner in which they have, despite low price-levels, continued to maintain, and in many industries, substantially increase, the measure of their production and export. As far as lies within its power and resources, the Government will continue and enlarge its policy of aid to rural industry until such time as marketing results show considerable improvement.
The reasoning in that passage is very sound and there is another paragraph which I think summarizes the whole position of this young democracy of Australia, which I emphasize again, is a country of primary production. Being blessed by advantages of soil and climate, it is capable of producing everything from tropical fruits in the north to the English type of fruits and berries in tha south, as well as the best wool and wheat iti the world, also splendid butter, lamb and other meat.
– “Would you advocate taxation to assist the primary producers?
– No; I am advocating a reduction of taxation. The second passage of the Governor-General’s Speech, to which I was referring, reads -
The satisfactory sale of our surplus primary produce is the index to the prosperity of every Australian industry and business and of all sources of employment.
With that view I agree entirely. Over a period of from ten to twenty years our primary products were responsible for 97 per cent, of the total value of the goods exported from Australia each year. Whilst all our primary products are of the best quality - Australia excels in respect of sheep and wool - it is worth while to emphasize, in order to impress the facts upon the public, the great majority of whom are resident in the bigger cities of Melbourne and Sydney, that our sheep industry, over a period of years, has been responsible’ for 50 per cent, of the total value of our exports. Australia occupies a unique position in the wool industry. It depastures more sheep than any other country and produces the best wool, as statistics impressively demonstrate. On this island continent we depasture 16 per cent, of the world’s sheep; in weight we produce 27 per cent.; and in money value, 32 per cent, of the world’s wool. These figures show conclusively that, owing to favorable natural conditions and the foresight of Macarthur and Marsden, and the pioneers who followed them, Australia’s average yield of wool per sheep is twice the value of the average per sheep for the rest of the world, although, of course, not twice the value of the yield per sheep in such countries as New Zealand, South Africa, and, possibly, America. These figures show conclusively how efficiently this industry is being conducted, and how lucky our nation has been in inheriting a continent suitable for depasturing all kinds of stock, which are practically immune from contagious diseases, even those diseases which afflict stock in many other parts of the British dominions. For the year ended the 30th June last the sheep industry produced in value 57 per cent. of the total exports of merchandise from Australia. That fact emphasizes the preponderating importance of this industry. A lot of people ask, “What does that matter?”, inferring that most of this income goes to sheep barons called squatters, and that the money is monopolized by a few. But that is not so; there are in Australia 89,000 families dependent for their livelihood on sheep husbandry, as compared with 64,000 families dependent on the wheat industry, whilst the average size of the flocks in Australia is only about. 1,300 per flock master. Thus, a rise or fall in the price of wool directly affects a vast number of people, and, of course, affects indirectly every man, woman and child in this Commonwealth, as well as the government of this country.
Although Australia easily leads the world in the growing of wool, the industry has been built up in a little over 100 years from the time
VT.acartb.ur sold bis first wool in London, from the time he bought his sheep from a Mrs. Gordon in South Africa, and from the time he attended the sale of King George’s flock at Kew. The purchases Macarthur then made there laid the foundation of the wool-growing industry in Australia. The pioneers who came after him carried on his work magnificently. Personally, I am proud of the fact that Australia’s wool industry leads the world, not because I am connected with it, but because I realize that it is the one industry in Australia that has never asked for or received any form of government assistance, directly or indirectly.
I come now to a more pessimistic phase of the subject. The Government to-day proposes to spend a large amount of money on public buildings. Prom the speech made by the Leader of the Senate we are to infer that, economically, we are out of the wood and round the corner. However, I fear that, owing to the distressingly low world prices for primary produce, we still have a difficult time ahead of us. Therefore, we should shape our national and individual policies accordingly, realizing that we may still have need to tighten our belts, and concentrate all our energies on increasing our efficient production and lowering the costs. This country literally rides upon the sheep’s back; but this year the marketing conditions for wool have not been as satisfactory as we could hope. During the ten years prior to the war, the average price of Australian greasy wool was 9½d. per lb. For the next ten years that average increased to l7id. per lb., the average for the 30 years ending 1930, omitting the four years in which Bawra operated., being 12½d. .per lb. For the year ended the 30th June, 1930, the price was 10½d. per lb., and for the next three years the average dropped to 8£d. These prices are gross at seaboard. Then last year, for reasons that are not quite clear, even to those engaged in the industry, we experienced a boom, and our total receipts from wool sales increased by £20,000.000, the average price realized being 16.19d. per lb. So far this year, however, the average price has been only 9£d. per lb., so that we are back to the pre-war level and little above the depression prices from 1930 to 1933. From those prices the producer has to deduct Id. per lb. for transport and selling charges. To-day the sterling price of our wool is as low as 7/d. per lb., whilst some countries operating on the gold standard pay only the equivalent of 4f d. per lb. These are distressingly low prices. Nevertheless, the statistical position of wool is very strong. There is no real accumulation of stocks in the world. There is no over-supply, but temporarily there is under-consumption. The Government might do something to encourage and help those nations who are willing to buy our wool but are unable to do so. This phase of the problem 1 shall deal with more fully when discussing the tariff schedule. There is, however, one bright ray of hope. The low prices now ruling tend to make more difficult the marketing of substitutes for wool. Until recently Germany was our second largest customer for wool, buying from 600,000 to 700,000 bales per annum; but Germany’s place has now been taken by Japan. The reason for Germany’s custom failing is that it has been unable to arrange credit here for the purchase of wool-
– Germans are operating to some extent, are they not?
– Not to any extent. Much of the wool reported to have been bought for Germany has been bought for speculators by a German firm and for exchange purposes. Recently German scientists have manufactured from wood, &c, an imitation wool which is the best I have yet seen. It is called “Vistra” and the German people are being forced to use this imitation material in place of wool. The wealthier Germans are using in place of wool material which is composed of 50 per cent. “Vistra” which can be spun even finer than wool, and 50 per cent, natural wool, whilst the poorer classes are using “ Vistra “ entirely. Thank goodness, however, science has not yet been able to invent any artificial material which is the equal of natural wool for the clothing of mankind. As we all know, wool makes the best of all clothing, and is the most economical in the long run. Wool is a non-conductor of heat, and is non-inflammable. It is more elastic, retains a dye better than any other material, is stronger, will take a greater strain, and retain its shape better than either artificial materials or cotton goods. Quite recently, the medical profession has again expressed the view that it is far more hygienic than any other article of human clothing.
Coming to the question of production costs, let me say at once that 1 do not advocate lower wages in the industry. The shearer, the station hand, and the farm hand well earn their money, and iri production costs wages are not nearly so important a factor as are taxes, freight and tariffs. I object most strongly to the federal graduated land tax. It was imposed by the Fisher Government in 1910 with the avowed object of “ bursting up,” as it was called, large estates, which, it was considered by certain people, were not being put to the most profitable use from a developmental, population, employment, and, indeed, a national point of view. There is no necessity, however, for such a tax, because private owners are only too willing to subdivide and sell any of their properties that are suitable for closer settlement. It is absurd .to tax properties on an acreage basis upon the assumption that all lands would be more profitable to the people as a nation if cut into small blocks and used for purposes other than the production of wool. Wool-raising requires comparatively large areas. Merino wool cannot be grown successfully on small blocks. I repeat that the graduated land tax is most objectionable. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has publicly stated that he realizes that land cannot be taxed into productivity, but that it can be taxed out of productivity. In the first instance, the Lyons Government reduced the tax by 33 per cent., and later on made a further reduction of 17 per cent., or 50 per cent, in all. Wool-growers M the present time are paying two-fifths of that taxation. ! call upon the Government to honour the promise made by Mr. Lyons, both before and during the recent election campaign, that, as soon as the budgetary position warranted it, the land tax, which was un-British, undemocratic, and uneconomic, would be abolished. What is the use of applying this tax to city lands ? One cannot cut up a small block of 10 or 20 feet.
– But the Government raises revenue by taxing city lands.
– The amount raised by means of the tax is now £1,250,000 annually, and of that amount two-fifths are paid by the wool-growers, who have to sell their produce in the unsheltered markets of the world which to-day are much below production cost. The imposition of this tax increases the cost of living when applied to city areas. If a shopkeeper has to pay a higher rent because of the imposition of this tax, he must naturally charge more foi- the commodities, that he sells, and so the cost of living is affected. This undemocratic impost is, in the case of the primary producer, an annual tax on capital. His land comprises five-sixths of his capital, so that the tax itself is neither more nor less than a yearly class impost upon capital. It is also an attack upon Crown titles. When people purchased Crown lands, and obtained their title deeds, they did not anticipate that such a tax as this would be applied to take precedence over everything.
If it were removed, the money now swallowed up by the federal land tax would be used by the primary producers in making necessary improvements to their holdings. They would erect fences, excavate tanks, destroy noxious weeds and animals, and engage in other works which they have had to neglect owing to shortage of funds.
– So that more labour would be employed.
– Quite so. If the money which now has to be found for the payment of land tax were available for maintenance and improvements, more employment would lie offering. Every member of this Parliament deplores the fact that about 20 per cent, of our people are still unemployed, and anything we can do to increase employment should be done without delay. Employment in our primary industries would be definitely increased by the abolition of this undemocratic tax.
– Who would the honorable senator suggest should be taxed by the Government to make up the loss of revenue that would follow the abolition of the tax ?
– I do not think that, any further taxation would bo necessary. The Government, boasts of a big surplus and indeed has been remitting taxation. It has been restoring salary cuts and even part of the reduction of the allowance to members has been made good, so that I think it is in a position to abolish the Federal land tax without fear of disturbing its budgetary equilibrium. I have dealt so often with this matter, that I need not weary honorable senators with details. But I call upon the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) to honour his pledge. I was chairman of a deputation, representing 68 organizations, which waited on him two years ago, when he said that he realized that the tax was unsound - that we could not tax land into productivity but could tax it out of productivity- and that at the first opportunity the Government would remove this burden. As soon as the Government could balance the budget, he declared, the tax would be removed. Since the Government has balanced its budget and made many restorations, I call upon the Prime Minister and his Cabinet to honour his pledge without further delay.
– Now that the Country party has joined up with the United Australia party, he will do so.
– I am very glad that it has done so. It was about time that the primary producers, who keep us all, were represented in the government of the Commonwealth. A committee appointed by the Commonwealth showed that the land tax added 12 per cent, to the cost of producing wool and there are other great primary industries which also have to bear this burden. The wool-grower, although suffering great disabilities, is not complaining. He is fighting on and has improved his flocks to such an extent that this year we have reached the record of 120,000,000 sheep, while our production in wool will amount to about 3,250,000 bales, equal to over 1,000,000,000 lb. That is a record for this and every other nation, and one of which we should be proud.
What is the position in regard to other primary products ? Take the meat industry. Beef, at seaboard, is worth from 2-Jd. to 3d. per lb., ewe mutton 2£d. per lb., wether mutton 3d. to 3½d. per lb., and tallow from £17 to £20 a ton. I am taking the Australian average. All these prices are definitely below production costs. The Commonwealth stands very high, not only in wool production, but in the production of wheat. We produce up to 250,000,000 bushels of wheat per annum, and I noticed recently that Australian wheat had been selling in the Liverpool market at as high if not a higher price than that realized by Manitoba No. 1. Australian dry white wheats are now classified as the most valuable per bushel of any that are produced. There are 64,000 families directly interested in wheat production, the cost of which is not less than 10s. per bag, or 3s. 4d. per bushel. That is a very moderate estimate. Last March, unfortunately, I sold wheat produced by my excellent ex-soldier share-farmers in Riverina at 2s. per bushel in bags, delivered at the railway station. I have been endeavouring to ascertain what are the prospects for the coming season and to-day I received a quotation of ls. lid. a bushel in bags delivered at Rand railway station - a hopeless price. Something must be done for the wheat-growers. It is useless to brush them ‘aside with a dole at Christmas time. Last year before they could receive that dole, they had to prove that they had no income. I know that mine has not yet come to hand. In any event, the system is altogether wrong. In all parts of the Empire, the dole for the relief of unemployment has been in operation since the war, but it is a very bad principle, and should be avoided. It is utterly demoralizing. It undermines a man’s character and ambitions; it undermines the morale of a nation, and the sooner it can be superseded by some other system and the people put in employment, the better. The Labour party suggests a reduction of the hours of labour, and I do not know that we shall not have to face up to that proposal. I do not propose to brush it lightly aside because that alteration might be the means of providing more people with employment, which would be more economical than providing dole money by further taxing certain sections of the community which already are so heavily overtaxed that enterprise is retarded. To-day there are hundreds of thousands of young men in the Old Country and in Australia who have never had an opportunity to prove their worth in any sphere of activity. In the northern counties of England, young men who cannot obtain work can e seen leaning against lamp-posts day after day, and have reached the stage when they regard themselves as useless units in the community. Under present economic conditions, they have no opportunity to develop their talents or to prove their worth in producing any commodities. I am willing to discuss the subject of shorter hours with any one possessing knowledge of the effect of such a policy upon industry,, and although an offspring of an old conservative family which probably would have regarded any one supporting such a scheme as a heretic, I am open to conviction.
A home consumption price for wheat is essential in the interests of the Australian wheat-growers. The suggestion to assist wheat-farmers by means of further doles is repulsive to me. A fixed price for wheat consumed locally, such as we have for sugar, butter, dried fruits, and other commodities, would overcome most of the difficulties with which the wheat-growers are now confronted. The stabilization of the butter industry saved those engaged in the production of butter from ruin, and if similar help is not afforded to the wheat-growers, the industry must collapse. It is impossible for wheat-growers to continue selling their product at ls. lid. to 2s. Id. a bushel delivered at country stations when that figure is at least ‘ls. a bushel below the actual cost of production.
– What price does the honorable senator suggest?
– About 5s. 6d. a bushel. As about one-quarter of our wheat is consumed in Australia, the fixation of a reasonable price would not. be a great hardship on our people. We know from experience that the price of wheat has very little effect upon the cost of a loaf of bread. In my own district, when we were selling wheat at 2s. a bushel we were paying ls. for a 4-lb. loaf, whereas we were only paying lOd. or ls. for a 4-lb. loaf when wheat was 7s. 6d. a bushel. In New Zealand the price of wheat last year was 4s. 6d. a bushel at country railway stations, bags extra, yet a 2-lb. or a 4-lb loaf was selling at a lower price than it was in Australia, where wheat was bringing only half the price. Why should the Queensland sugar-growers abstract from the Australian public a sum which has been estimated by some as high as £7,000,000 annually, while others engaged in more important industries do not receive any consideration at all? A fixed price of 4d. per lb. which Australian sugar consumers pay does not seriously hurt any one, but those who believe in a fixed price for sugar and dried fruits and a stabilized butter industry should not object to wheat-growers receiving a home consumption price for their product. On behalf of the Australian wheat-growers, I demand that the Government shall fix a home consumption price for wheat sufficiently high to return to the growers the cost of production, which is not less than 10s. a bag, or 3s. 4d. a bushel at country railway stations. No definite proposals have been made with respect to a fixed price, but it should be between 5s. 6d. and 7s. a bushel. The price should be sufficiently high to compensate those producers who are living in comparative poverty, while others who are not rendering any real service to the community are prosperous. The wheat-growers should have, at least, a living wage.
As a nation of primary producers which has to sell the bulk of its produce in the open markets of the world we should enter into trade agreements whereby our wool and other primary products can compete with those of other nations whose taxation and wages are lower than ours. To-day the rail and ocean freights on wool are excessive. When I first entered the wool industry the freight on wool from Australia to London was ¼d. per lb., but to-day it is l-3/16d. or an increase pf over 400 per cent. The freight to London from South Africa is f d. and from Argentina 3/16d. Those countries are our great competitors.
The cost of production must be lowered by a reduction of taxation and freights, or by the imposition of lower custom duties on commodities essential to primary production. A more definite attempt must be made to encourage intra-empire trade instead of engaging in trade with countries such as the United States of America, with which we have an adverse trade balance. That country will not purchase our wool, meat, fruits, and other commodities, and, in fact, has practically prohibited the importation of any Australian goods.
– How does the United States of America obtain payment for the goods exported to Australia?
– Through other channels. Germany, which is still a great nation, was our second largest wool customer and still wishes to buy that commodity but cannot do so because credits cannot be established. Why should we not exchange our wool, wheat, butter, and meat for German products which we cannot obtain from Great Britain and which we are now purchasing from America ? If we purchased German goods,Germanywouldpurchaseourwool.
Germany,and,toalesserextent,Italy, arealmostentirelyoutofourwoolmar- ket. Belgium will not purchase Australian barley because of the assinine embargo placed upon Belgian glass. When the Scullin Government was in power it imposed 70 embargoes, but I am glad to say that since that Government was defeated, 69 of those embargoes have been lifted. An embargo is still placed upon Belgian glass merely because glass is produced by a combine in New South Wales. Statistics show that the average rate of duty imposed on dutiable imported commodities is 52 per cent. to which must be added 25 per cent. for exchange, freight, insurance, and primage. In these circumstances, I again appeal to the Government to remove the federal land tax, and to do everything possible to reduce the cost of producing primary commodities so that Australia may be enabled to compete with other nations in the markets of the world. Unless we can export our produce at a profitable price, how can employment be provided for our people? It is the policy of the Government to Iborrow money for the construction of railways and post offices, but that will not prove a, permanent means of providing employment - quite the reverse. The Government must so amend its policy as to ensure that Australia, which is essentially a primaryproducing nation, will be able to sell its products in competition with other nations in the unsheltered world markets.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator McLachlan) agreed to.
That the Senate at its rising adjourn till Wenesday, 28th November, at 3 p.m.
Alleged Armed Organizations in Australia.
Motion (by Senator McLachlan) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I direct attention to a matter which my colleague from Queensland (Senator Collings) discussed at some length yesterday. I refer to the statements, contained in a document which subsequently was laid on the table of the Senate, alleging that an organization known as the Australian Legion was operating in New South Wales and in Queensland. As so much publicity has been given to the allegation, it is desirable that further information should be obtained from the Government as to the facts. The Senate and the people generally are indebted to Senator Collings for having directed attention to the fact that, according to the information in his possession, there is in existence in Australia an unlawful organization, the members of which are armed. I have read the report carefully. I do not know who is responsible for it, but I understand that the document was presented to the Government of Queensland, probably at its request, and I should like to know if any action has been taken by the Defence authorities, who alone are responsible for the maintenance of an armed force, except, of course, members of State police forces. One paragraph of the report makes this serious statement -
During the last six months rifles had been sold to the public from the Brisbane military ordnance stores in large quantites, only six transactions being recorded.
I have yet to learn that it is the policy of the Defence Department to sell rifles to the general public. The rifles are intended primarily for the defence of the Commonwealth.
– Then perhaps the authorities who sold the rifles may bo hoist with their own petard!
– It is extraordinary that a branch of the Defence Department should be selling rifles freely. I give Senator Collings credit for having mentioned the matter yesterday in all good faith. If the statements contained in the document are true, action should be taken by the Government to curtail the operations of this alleged unlawful body. I am just as anxious as is Senator Collings or any other honorable senator to support the Government in any action which may be deemed necessary to put down any organization seeking to disrupt law and order and bring about a state of affairs unprecedented in the history of Australia.
– Who furnished the report ?
– Unfortunately no name is attached to the document.
– Is it typewritten ?
– It is a typewritten copy of a document which Senator Collings stated yesterday was an official re- port, supplied, I assume, to the Queensand Government.
– Does it not appear to be a mare’s nest?
– Senator Collings assured us that it was a copy of an official report.
– But who furnishe’d it?
– That is what I wish to ascertain. The statements contained in it indicate that it is of recent origin.
– Did it refer to Eric Campbell’s organization ?
– I do not care to whom it refers. The point is that it contains serious allegations which no government can afford to ignore. Action should be taken immediately to test the accuracy of the statements. I, therefore, hope that the Government will, without delay, take steps to ensure that if organizations of the nature described are in existence, they shall not be allowed to continue in operation.
– I do not know if Senator Foll expects me to make a further statement regarding the matter which he has just mentioned. The document from which I quoted yesterday was laid on the table of the Senate, but I was not aware that it would be handed to the press. However, I have not the least objection to that course, but if Senator Foll or any one else expects me to make a further statement disclosing the origin of the report, he is doomed to disappointment, because I have no intention whatever of doing that. The suggestion of my honorable friend, Senator MacDonald, that the whole business is probably a mare’s nest is both unkind and unwarranted. I am not in the habit of using, in this chamber or anywhere else, documents of doubtful origin.
– Was the statement laid on the table yesterday a copy of an official document?
– It was, and what surprises me most is Senator Foil’s amazing innocence on the subject. Every one in New South Wales who has taken any interest in this matter knows that the New Guard was in possession of arms, and that it was secretly drilling its members. I have personal knowledge that members of the New Guard were not known to one another except by numbers ; and that they were accustomed to receive telephone messages at their homes or places of business advising them where they were expected to assemble at night in Sydney to go through certain evolutions and receive specific instructions.
– But we are mainly concerned at the moment in the activities of an organization in Queensland.
– I am aware of that. It is well known that the Australian Legion was for some time functioning in the northern part of Queensland. Reports concerning it appeared in the public press, so the honorable senator should have been aware of its activities. I am of the opinion, but I do not intend to state definitely until I verify my information, that official action was taken .with regard to this organization in Queensland. I also believe that the Government would have been wise to make a similar investigation with regard to Kisch, whose exclusion from Australia was under discussion yesterday, when I took occasion to mention the subversive activities of existing organizations in this country. I believe that in Queensland - I shall ascertain definitely before I make a statement later - the Government decided to take no public action against the organization referred to, but that official steps effectively checked operations of the Australian Legion in that State. It is common knowledge that there are, or were until a few months ago, subversive organizations operating in New South Wales and Queensland. I understand, however, that members having fallen out among themselves, the New Guard is on the point of being disbanded.
– Does the honorable senator say that the report was an official document? I ask this question because I have glanced through it, and it does not appear to be a departmental report.
– It is a copy of an official report.
– By whom was it made?
– That information will not be extracted from me by any member of this chamber or any other authority. I have no intention whatever of disclosing the source of the report, first because I do not wish to involve my informant, and, secondly, because I shall always defend the privilege enjoyed by a member of Parliament of using in the legislature information which cannot be challenged by outside interests that may be damaged by it. There is no tribunal in this country which can get from me the source of my information. But I tell the Senate that I know that the statements contained in the document are true; that I know where the document originated. I repeat that every one who takes any interest in this subject knows perfectly well that subversive organizations were in existence in New South Wales; that retired military officers were in control of them, and were directing their semi-military operations. In 1931, when I was organizing in New South Wales against the Lang paTty, it was well known that such destructive agencies were then at work - one being the New Guard, and the other the Labour Bed Army. Every one knew this. I saw members of both organizations wearing their membership badges. Every one knew also that in the early part of 1931 a physical clash between these rival bodies was hourly expected in Sydney. I brought this matter up for discussion at a conference in which I was interested, but which had no power to take action. It would seem that I am becoming somewhat enthusiastic or heated over this matter. Perhaps this is because there seems to be a suggestion that I made my protest in this chamber .yesterday without knowing exactly what I was talking about. As a matter of fact, the allegations contained in the documents laid on the table of the Senate have, at different times, appeared in the principal newspapers of Queensland. I should have thought that Senator Foll had seen them, although I do not blame him if he has not. At all events, the facts were published, and received a good deal of attention in both the Labour and antiLabour newspapers.
I mentioned the subject yesterday because I know that any government relying on force, will never take action against subversive organizations other than those which happen to be acting in the alleged interests of the working classes. I do not believe in force. Therefore, I do not believe that such organizations should be allowed to exist. In another place and on another occasion I urged that steps should be taken to prevent such organizations from obtaining a footing* in Australia. I mentioned the subject in the Senate yesterday as a protest against the action of the Government with reference to the man Kisch to prevent by force the operations of people with whose objectives it is entirely out of sympathy, while it tacitly acquiesces in the operations of other more dangerous and subversive forces that are carrying on a campaign with which, obviously, it is in sympathy. I am glad that Senator Foll has given me this opportunity to explain my views, because yesterday I did not think that the matter was worth discussing further. I then made the charge that subversive organizations were at work, and that the Government, while not prepared to suppress those which it had reason to believe would advance its interests, was quick to deal with others which it believed would operate to its disadvantage. I shall not say more than that should either the Department of Defence or
Senator Foll desire my assistance in dealing with this matter, I shall be happy to do what I can to help.
– If the remarks of Senator Collings had reference to me, because of some questions which I asked by way of interjection, I can only say that the report of the honorable senator’s speech in the local newspaper was not convincing. It is a serious thing for an honorable senator to stand in his place in this chamber and say that subversive organizations exist in our midst, and that they are equipped with guns, when, perhaps, the whole thing is nothing more than a joke, like Eric Campbell and his New Guard. If we continue to talk about communism and fascism, we shall foster the very things which we do not want, and which have been foreign to Australia so far. I know that rumours about the existence of subversive organizations are current; but an honorable senator should hesitate before giving publicity to these rumours by directing attention to them in the Parliament of the Commonwealth. “When I asked questions about the document referred to by Senator Collings, I was told that it was typewritten. In my time, I have had before me many documents; but, unless their contents have been authenticated, at least by an indication of their authorship, I have taken little notice of them.
– I know the author of the document to which I referred.
– The honorable senator was unable to mention the author’s name. I am reminded of an occasion on which an honorable senator opposite made serious charges against an officer of the Customs Department; but had to retract them later.
– He did not retract them ; he said that he could not produce evidence to support the charges.
– In that case, he would have been wiser had he not made the charges. He was told so at the time. If we get excited because of rumours of communism or bolshevism in our midst, we shall encourage their growth. A few years ago, Eric Campbell was a good deal in the public mind, because of publicity given in the pres9 to the doings of the New Guard, but when, on one occasion, I travelled with him throughout the night, I was so little afraid of him that I slept soundly. Although Senator Dunn has on many occasions said that Eric Campbell and the New Guard constitute a grave menace to this country, the Federal Labour movement has done nothing likely to arouse armed opposition on the part of any such body, and, consequently, I am not alarmed when I hear charges made against the New Guard. The less prominence given to the activities of the “ Blue Shirts “, the “ Brown Shirts “, or other shirted organizations, the less likely will be the development of Fascism and Bolshevism in Australia.
– I shall not condemn Senator Collings for having brought before the Senate the dangers confronting Australia from Fascism, because one of his Queensland colleagues (Senator MacDonald) has already condemned him.
– Senator MacDonald only criticized me.
– Senator MacDonald condemned the honorable senator for having produced in the Senate a document, the authorship of which he would not disclose. On the occasion of the election of a President of the Senate about two and a half years ago, when I attempted to draw attention to the ramifications of the New Guard, and supported my remarks by sworn affidavits, no member of the Senate was more violent in his denunciation of me and of my colleague, Senator Rae, who supported my remarks, than was Senator Collings. The chickens have come home to roost, and to-day Senator Collings indulged in an oratorical outburst, in the course of which he told us that in Queensland, where a Labour government is in control, there is a danger of Fascism or New-Guardism. The honorable senator is honoured in that the Canberra Times, probably the leading newspaper of the Commonwealth because it is the only newspaper published in the Federal Capital, has given him a front page advertisement, while a distinguished Sydney newspaper, the Labor Daily, has similarly honoured him by devoting nearly a full column to his remarks. Our friends in the press gallery understand the value of news. One authority has told us that the biting of a man by a dog is not news, whereas the biting of a dog by a man would be news. Apparently there is news in anything relating to Fascism. I have a profound respect for Senator Collings, whose hair has grown white in the service of his fellow men, but the honorable senator may not know that Fascism had its origin far back in the times of ancient Rome. If the honorable senator studies books in the Parliamentary Library dealing with the subject, he will learn that in the time of the Caesars, capitalism was buttressed by Fascism in the same way as it is to-day.
– Will the honorable senator tell us something about the New Guard?
– When I attempted, over two years ago, to tell the country about that organization, Senator MacDonald was one of those who tried to prevent me. I refer him to Hansard of the 23rd August, 1932, for my remarks on that occasion. To-day, Senator Collings, in reply to a remark by the Government Whip, Senator Foll, said that at one time he organized against the Lang group. The honorable gentleman lias his point of view, but he himself has told us that there are forces of capitalism operating through the Fascist Brown Shirts in Queensland, who are armed with machine guns, which they are prepared to use against the workers’ government of that State. We have also the honorable gentleman’s own admission that he found in New South Wales organized against each other the New Guard on the one hand and what he called the red army of the Labour party on the other hand. It does not redound to the credit of Senator Collings that he has done organizing work against the Lang party in New South Wales. When he realizes the full import of that admission, perhaps he will be sorry for having made it. Whilst I have known Senator Collings in this House for only two and a half years, he was my mentor when I attended the youth student classes in economics which he conducted under the auspices of the Trades and Labour
Council in Turbot-street, Brisbane. At that time 1 was under twenty years of age, but on many occasions he was proud to commend me as an example to hia class, which was composed of members of various trade union organizations in Brisbane. The honorable gentleman stated this afternoon that there were two forces opposed to each other operating in New South Wales - the New Guard, representing the Tory conservative element, and led by Eric Campbell, and the Red Army, which was prepared to take up the challenge of the New Guard and its political thugs. I am very surprised that Senator Collings, one of my early mentors, should admit that he worked in New South Wales as an organizer against the Lang party. Whether the Lang party is right or wrong - to me it will always be right; - I was grieved to hear Senator Collings boast of his opposition to it. The Lang party was prepared to combat the New Guard or any force which should attempt to march to Macquarie-street lock the doors of the State Parliament of New South Wales, and hurl out of office a government whose duty it was to maintain law and order in accordance with the King’s law. Akin to Senator Collings’ criticism in this matter is the newspaper propaganda which sought to lionize “ the Cromwell of the Riverina,” Senator Hardy, when that honorable gentleman .proposed to march from the Riverina at the head of 10,000 farmers, using threats against constituted authority similar to those expressed by the New Guard. Having as a member of the Senate taken the oath of allegiance, I shall certainly resist any efforts by the New Guard, Senator Hardy, or anybody else, to throw out of office any sovereign government elected by the people. It is interesting to note that at a recent coronial inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of a doctor as a result of a wound received while cleaning a revolver, it was disclosed in evidence that the deceased was a member of the New Guard, on which account he had received threatening letters, and had bought the revolver to defend himself. From this fact, we can assume that many members of that section of society among whom doctors move socially, had armed themselves in a similar fashion, and for similar reasons. It is safe to assume that many thousands of persons in [he professional and higher middle classes are members of the New Guard, and have taken similar precautious. We have had it admitted, for instance, that several members of the House of Representatives were members of the New Guard.
I give to Senator Collings every credit for bringing up this subject, when dealing with the report that a body of armed Fascists exists in Queensland. The newspapers too are to be commended for having circulated Senator Collings’ statement If the report is correct the publicity given to it will be a warning to the Forgan Smith Government that dangerous forces are at work in Queensland, as they were in New South Wales during the Lang regime1. Some people are inclined to treat this matter as a joke. But were there not many people who said that Hitler, before he rose to power, was a joke? To-day we know that Hitler is no joke; he controls 48,000,000 Germans, and has committed the European nations to the expenditure of hundreds of millions of pounds on a wild race of armaments. Dollfuss, the Austrian dictator, was no joke when he shot down, in cold blood, thousands of men and women, members of the social democratic party of his country. Mustafa Kern al in Turkey, Mussolini, the Italian dictator, Pilsudski, of Poland, and Mosley’s Fascists in Britain to-day are not jokes. Tet there remain many who regard similar extremists in this country as negligible. Let us be honest in our convictions and acknowledge definitely and clearly there is only one solution to the struggle reflected in these movements; that solution is the policy proposed by the Lang party for the monetization and socialization of the credit and resources of this country. I cannot imagine that the interests ‘ represented by the gentlemen on the Government side of this chamber will be prepared to surrender without a struggle any of the privileges they now enjoy.
– They will if the people give us the power to govern.
– They will do nothing of the kind. History shows that these interests have never surrendered any of their privileges without a struggle. That baa been proved recently in Germany, under Hitler, and in Austria, under Dollfuss. These interests are concerned with the preservation of their privileges, and if any notion they contemplated in order to retain those privileges conflicted with an Act of Parliament they would be prepared to resist the law. Nevertheless a government in this country receiving the necessary mandate and power from the people themselves, and having the necessary backbone and courage to do so, should get on with the job of combating those interests, whether they be represented by the New Guard, the Brown Shirts, or any other body. As a Parliament we wish to avoid any such struggle because we seek to uphold the sovereign law of this country as dictated by the people at the ballot-box. But it is the duty of any government to silence any unlawful body which challenges the right of Parliament to govern. Parliament reflects the views of the people and Parliament alone should rule. I deplore any thought of armed conflict, but I hold the view that if a Labour government were in power, its duty would be to meet such forces in no uncertain manner. I do not wish to see any armed conflict in the community. As the records in the possession of the Defence Department will show, I experienced five years of armed conflict in the last war, and I saw enough of it. However, if the facts are as disclosed in the document produced by Senator Collings, this Government should act promptly and put these undesirable forces in their right place, telling them convincingly that the sovereign power of this country shall not be usurped by hoodlums, who strut about in brown shirts and armed with- guns.
, - I have not had an opportunity to examine the report to which reference has been made by Senator Collings ; but the matter will be taken up by the Minister for Defence and by the Investigation Branch of the Attorney-General’s Department, because I understand that the report is an official one. I accept the honorable senator’s assurance that he will divulge the name of the gentleman responsible for its preparation.
– I did sot give any such assurance.
– I understood the honorable senator to say that he would supply the name.
– I said that I would not in any circumstances supply it; but I am prepared to assist the department in its investigations.
– Then we shall be glad to have the honorable senator’s assistance. We are concerned chiefly about the allegation that a large number of rifles have been sold by the Ordnance Department to a body of people in Brisbane engaged apparently in some illegal activities. That allegation will be inquired into and the parties concerned, whoever they may bo, will be dealt with if they have infringed the provisions of the Defence Act or any other statute. There has been a definite allegation of the disposal of arms within the Commonwealth and this must be investigated and examined to the end.
I regret to have to inform the Senate of a very unfortunate happening to one of the new De Haviland 86 machines while on its way from England to Brisbane. The machine, which was to participate between Australia and Singapore inthe England to Australia air service, crashed early this morning when 29 miles from Longreach. Four persons were killed - three outright, and the fourth was taken to Barsdale Station, two miles from the scene of the tragedy, where he died shortly afterwards. The cause of the accident is a mystery. Advices received in Brisbane state that the machine left Longreach early this morning and that at 7 o’clock it crashed at Barsdale Station five or six miles from Ilfracombe.
– Is that the machine that Captain Brain brought out?
– No. We have received a telegram stating that -
The machine evidently got completely outof control and crashed but did not catch fire. There werefour persons on board, three being members of the crew and the fourth Mr. E. Broadfoot of the Shell Oil Company, Sydney, who was returning from Darwin after having assisted in the refuelling of machines which participated in the centenary air race. The machine is identical with the De Haviland86 which was flown by Captain Brain from England recently and which returned to Brisbane from a trip to Sydney yesterday. It was under the command of Captain R. A. Prendergast who had with him as a first officer, relieving pilot and wireless man Creastes, whilst Flight Officer Charlton was flight engineer.
I am quite sure that honorable senators will hear with the deepest regret of this tragedy. Lieutenant-Commander A. B. Prendergast was in charge of the machine which visited Canberra quiterecently and took a number of honorable senators for a pleasant flight over Canberra. It is a most regrettable happening. The machine, I may say,was similar in type to that which was recently lost while flying from Tasmania to the mainland.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 5.55 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 15 November 1934, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1934/19341115_senate_14_145/>.