14th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch)took the chair at 3 p.m., and road prayers.
– Has the attention of the Leader of the Senate been directed to the following news item which appeared in to-day’sissue of the Sydney Daily Telegraph : -
MANUFACTURES CHIEF IN STRAIGHT TALK.
Adverse Effecton Industry.
Tariffs and trade treaties, under the present Federal Government, were strongly criticized at the Sydney Chamber of Manufactures dinner last night, by the President of that body, Mr. C. V. Potts. “ Itis regrettable that tariff changes have been made, particularly at a time of higher protection abroad,” he said. “ Had there been no change in our tariff policy, the movement towards increased efficiency and increased output would have been accelerated “.
Discussing trade treaties, be said : “ Ifin return for concessions regarding imports not competing with Australian products, wider markets can be found for imports, such treaties willbe advantageous.
The first treaty is, however, depressing, as seriously affecting the local glass industry, as not only creating unemployment, but making economic progress impossible.
It must be a cardinal principle that all trade treaties should contain nothing which limits Australia’s right to develop any industry “.
Referring to the Federal Government, he said : - “ The first act of administration by a further attack on the tariff protection to secondary industries is nut only disturbing but must create serious misgivings as to future administration. Recovery will not be achieved by destroying or curtailing the Australian home market “.
If the above statement has been brought under the notice of the right honorable gentleman, can he say what action the Government proposes to take?
THE PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - The lengthy statement which the honorable senator has read contains an expression of opinion by a person outside this chamber. As he knows, statements or expressions of opinions, even by an honorable senator, are not permissible in a question addressed to a Minister. It is my duty to conserve the time of the Senate for the transaction of public business. Time must not be taken up with the airing of opinions of persons outside this Parliament. The Leader of the Senate may please himself as to whether or not he replies to the honorable gentleman.
– The expression of opinion having been given at some length, it seems to me that the proper time and place for the discussion of the points raised will be when the tariff schedule comes before this chamber.
– Is it not a fact that members of the Senate will not have an opportunity to discuss the tariff proposals of the Government until some time in 1935? Also, is it not true that many millions of pounds are invested in Australian secondary industries, and that, due to the fact that a first amended tariff schedule was laid on the table of the House of Representatives recently, employees in some of the industries affected by the duties fear dismissal from employment early in 1935? This being so, is it not the duty of the Government, in the interests of Australian industries, to give Parliament an opportunity to deal with the tariff schedulewithout delay?
– I remind the honorable gentleman that 1935 is only three weeks away, and that it is proposed to hold a session of Parliament early in the new year.
Senator McLACHLAN laid on the table reports and recommedations by the Tariff Board on the following subjects : -
Vegetable Oils, edible, including Cooking and Fish-frying Oils.
Paper Cones, Tubes, Bobbins, Reels, Spools and Pirns.
Drums and other parts of Water Tube Boilers.
Alternating Current Watt-hour Meters.
Electric Ventilating Fans.
Sanitary and Lavatory articles of Earthenware including glazed or enamelled Fireclay manufactures.
The following paper was presented: -
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act - Regulations amended- Statutory Rules 1934, No. 150.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Minister for Defence has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers: -
askedthe Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
With regard to the sum of £3,000,000 granted to the States last year under the provisions of the Wheat Growers Relief Act 1933-
Is it a fact that relief was granted by the State Governments to wheat-growers on differing lines in the various States?
On what basis was relief granted to individual wheat-growers in each State of the Commonwealth, under the said act?
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers : -
New South Wales, 4s. 38d. per acre; Victoria, 4s..207 4d. per acre; Queensland, 5s. 6d. per acre where wheat-grower has no taxable income, 3s. per acre where wheat-grower has taxable income; Western Australia, 3s. 8d. per acre advanced - final payment not determined; Tasmania, 6s. 10d. per acre; South Australia, 3s. 5d. to 3s. 6d. per acre, but where area yields less than 3 bushels f.a.q. per acre, additional1s.6d. has been granted.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
With regard to the domestic sugar rebate and export sugar rebate handled by the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee for the year ending 30th August, 1934 -
What amount was granted as domestic rebate?
What sum and what percentage of the total was distributed to each State of the Commonwealth ?
What amount was granted as export sugar rebate?
What sum and what percentage of the total was distributed to each State of the Commonwealth?
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers : -
The information desired by the honorable senator was contained in the Third Annual Report of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee, which was tabled in Parliament on 15th November, 1934 - a copy being supplied direct to each member of both Houses. The particulars for the year ended 31st August, 1934, are - 1 and 2 -
These payments indicate the relative size in the various States of the respective businesses of processing and exporting manufactured fruit products.
asked the Minister in Charge of Development, upon notice -
– A statement on this subject will be made within the next day or so.
Extraction of Oil from Coal.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.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 has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties, upon notice -
What were the reasons for the breakdown in the conference between Australia and New Zealand regarding arrangements for exchange) of trade?
– The Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties has supplied the following answer : -
Although negotiations in Canberra with the New Zealand delegation broke down further conversations have taken place in Sydney, and it is anticipated that these will be continued.
[3.15]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to give effective expression to the Government’s intention with regard to the fixed exemption of £250 in respect of income which is assessable for the special property tax. At present there is a diminishing exemption of £250 in respect of ordinary income derived from both property and personal exertion, the exemption diminishing by £1 for every £2 of income above £250 until the deduction disappears. In addition, there is a special property tax, in respect of which there is a fixed exemption of £250. The Financial Relief Act, No. 64 of 1932, correctly, and for the first time, expressed the intention of the Government in these two respects. When, in 1933, the Government decided to continue this fixed deduction of £250 in respect of the special property tax, it became necessary to express that intention in the Income Tax Assessment Act of that year. That was done in section 5 of the act of 1933, which was intended to re-enact section 6 of the Financial Relief Act of 1932. In lifting the provision from one act to another it became necessary, in order to state the purpose and intention of the Income Tax Assessment Act to alter the phraseology. In doing so, the effect inadvertently produced was such that at present it might be held that the fixed deduction of £250, which is meant to apply only in respect of the special property tax on income, could be claimed by any taxpayer with an income from property, who sought the special deduction in respect of the property income assessable in respect of ordinary income tax. That was not, and is not, the intention of the Government. The bill is to preserve what has been the clear intention of Parliament in the past by limiting the fixed deduction of £250 strictly to income . assessable under the special property tax and not to extend that fixed deduction to ordinary income taxation. It does not introduce any new principle into the taxation field, and is solely to correct an error. The measure also validates deductions in respect of the financial year 1933-34, which is the only year in respect of which there is likely to have been any misapprehension.
– The two points involved in this measure arise owing to the fact that the bill passed last year was drafted erroneously. It is now sought, by clause 1, to draw the bill in a more satisfactory way, and, by clause 2, that any possible losses which might arise on account of its having been erroneously drawn last year shall be avoided. As the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes) suggested by interjection, this bill, apart from its future action, has a retrospective effect. The two bills which wore brought before the Senate yesterday have that effect - this one being retrospective for one year, and the other for three years. I have always held that retrospective legislation is not desirable, and I believe that that is the view of honorable senators generally, irrespective of party.
– There may be special circumstances to warrant it.
– As I have said, members of Parliament generally agree regarding the undesirable nature of retrospective legislation. Nevertheless, every year bills are introduced to rectify something which was not correctly done in the first place, and, in some instances, to rectify it for some years back. The general attitude of members on this subject was well expressed by Mr. Latham in the House of Representatives on the 30th September, 1924, when he said -
Very important changes are made, which may or may not be desirable, and I want- honorable members to realize that some of them are restrospective. With much of the very lucid speech of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) I agree, but I am unable to accept his view that it is right or proper for Parliament to pass retrospective taxation legislation. Only in very exceptional circumstances can such legislation be justified. It is more important that this Parliament should be absolutely fair to the citizens of Australia than that it should collect by hook or by crook every possible penny. When Parliament is considering a taxation bill it has the assistance of officers of the Crown Law Department and . the Taxation Department, and it should make its legislation clear. Citizens are entitled to act on its legislation.
Later Mr. Latham said -
In the absence of special reasons to the contrary, the general rule should obtain that retrospective legislation, particularly in regard to taxation, is highly objectionable.
Retrospective taxing legislation can hardly ever be justified.
That is a fair statement of the general attitude towards retrospective legislation. Against that we have the fact that last year’s bill was introduced and passed by Parliament. As the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) has said, that legislation was erroneously drawn ; and now we are asked, in effect, to intervene between the Crown and the taxpayer and to say that we will put this matter right retrospectively. On the merits of the case, I have not any objection to the alteration being made for the future.; and I do not know of any instance of a taxpayer with regard to whom this question has arisen during the past year. Yet the very fact that this alteration is sought to cover the past year suggests that individuals have made claims under the law as it hae stood for the past year, and that those claims will be defeated by the passing of this legislation. I do not think that that is a sound way to meet such cases. I ask the Minister whether there are any cases at issue between the Taxation Department and taxpayers, and whether any objections have been lodged.
– - There is only one case.
– Presumably it is a test case.
– Only one taxpayer has. discovered the flaw; the others have paid.
– If only one taxpayer is concerned, I should like to know if the amount involved is large, and whether it is worth while bringing in a bill, the general principle of which is, as Mr. Latham said, objectionable, in order to defeat him. I remind the Senate that that taxpayer when he made his claim, acted under the law as drawn by the Crown law officers, with the approval of the taxation officials, .countersigned, one might say, by the Attorney-General or his representative, and passed by Parliament. I suggest that it would be in every way fairer if this bill were not made retrospective, in order to take away the rights of the one taxpayer affected. This measure further emphasizes the extraordinary intricacy of our taxation legislation, to which I have drawn attention on several occasions; it proves that no man can understand the taxation laws under which he lives.
– It means that many taxpayers have to engage specialists to deal with their taxation returns.
– That our taxation laws, taken as a whole, are so intricate a3 to be beyond the comprehension of any man is proved by the very fact that this chamber is now considering the righting of an error of drafting made by the Crown Law officers, who, no doubt were in close consultation with officers of the Taxation Department. If any persons in the community can be experts in taxation matters, officers of the Taxation Department should be. Yet in this matter they have made a mistake - as almost any one might do - and the Government is now seeking to put things right. I do not know either the taxpayer or the amount involved.
– Will not the findings of the Royal Commission on Taxation, if put into effect, simplify matters?
– That is likely. In any case, the findings of that body could hardly make things moi-e difficult. The intricacies of the taxation laws are admitted by all honorable senators. Such legislation is particularly hard on farmers, who cannot be expected to understand the intricacies of the law, or to have experts at hand to advise them. I shall not weary the Senate by pursuing this subject further; but it appears to me that this measure presents an excellent opportunity to right matters for the future-
– And to ensure more careful drafting.
– The bill introduced last year was rushed through Parliament at the end of a particularly heavy session’.
– We are doing the same thing to-day.
– Neither in this chamber nor in the House of ^Representatives was the bill fully discussed, and it might be claimed that members did not have time to consider it. But because of the intricacy of the whole subject, I do not think that members generally would have been much wiser regarding the bill had they spent days considering it. In this connexion, I wish to be fair to the Crown Law” officers. It is easy to criticize them, but the amount of work which they have to do during the last weeks of a session, when legislation has to be prepared hurriedly and amendments drafted during all-night sittings, is probably greater than that done by any other section in Canberra. Not all honorable senators realize the heavy strain imposed on these officers at the end of a session. I am not criticizing them, for it is possible for anybody to make a slip, but I think this fearful rush of legislation coming in at the last moment is the cause of the mistakes which have so constantly to be corrected. I approve . of the alteration for the future proposed to be effected by the bill, but am personally opposed to the retrospective provision contained in sub-clause 2 of clause 2, to the effect that “ this section shall be deemed to have commenced on the date of commencement of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1933 “.
.- 1 am heartily in accord with the views expressed by Senator Duncan-Hughes. The measure proposes to make taxation retrospective in order to ensure to the Taxation Department its full pound of flesh. The truth of the honorable senator’s remarks regarding the danger of retrospective legislation of this character will be clearly recognized by every one. While he was speaking, I interjected that there might be some justification for introducing legislation of this kind and making it retrospective in certain cases. I have risen now to express my regret that the Government has not seen fit to provide in this bill a retrospective clause to ensure the refunding, to people who under the principal taxing act are not taxpayers, of amounts which they have been forced to pay for the last three or four years. I endeavoured by an amendment of the Income Tax Assessment Bill introduced last session to remove this injustice, but failed. I pointed out then that certain people, through the operation of a previous Income Tax Assessment Act, had been compelled to pay taxation, although, under the Income Tax Act itself, they should have been exempt. This has been going on ever since the act of 1931 was passed. The Income Tax Act provides that only certain individuals ‘shall be liable to pay income tax. Those whose income is less than a certain amount are exempt, but for a number of years many people whose incomes have been considerably less than the minimum have been compelled to pay the highest rate, namely, the property rate, levied under the Income Tax Assessment Act. People whose incomes have been only £25 a year have been levied upon at the property rate through the companies which have paid them their dividends.
THE PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - Are the people to whom the honorable senator is referring affected by the amending bill now before the Senate?
– They are affected by the Income Tax Assessment Act, and I am expressing my regret that the Government has not seen fit to make the bill retrospective in such a way as to compel the Income Tax Commissioner to refund to those people every penny which they have had to pay, seeing that the money never belonged to the Taxation Department according to the wording of the Income Tax Act. It is not too late now for me again to urge the Government to remove this grave injustice.
– I rise to a point of order. Are those of us who sit on this side of the chamber entitled to a similar opportunity to that which is now being afforded to Senator Payne, to raise, in connexion with the assessment of income tax, matters which are very important to us and the people whom we represent! I submit that Senator Payne’s remarks have nothing to do with the bill.
– I asked Senator Payne if the section of taxpayers to whom he referred was affected by the amending bill, and he explained that he was drawing attention to the shortcomings of the bill. I now remind the honorable senator that, whilst he may make an incidental reference to the shortcomings of an amending measure, he is not entitled to debate them at length. He must confine his remarks to the bill which is to amend section 9 of the Income Tax Assessment Act.
– I realize the justice of your remarks, sir, and express my regret if I have trespassed in any way. This, however, appeared to me to be the only opportunity I should have to bring the matter forcibly under the notice of the responsible Minister. I shall now content myself with moving; -
That the debate be now adjourned.
I do so in order that I may have the opportunity to prepare the necessary amendment, which may involve an amendment of the title of the bill, so that provision may be made to ensure, not only that this injustice shall not be inflicted in the future, but that all payments which have been made under the operation of the section to which I refer shall be refunded by the department.
– I rise to order. Is it competent for an honorable senator to move the adjournment of the debate after he has spoken to the motion?
– No. The proper procedure was for the honorable senator to ask leave to continue his remarks.
He did not take that course, and his motion for the adjournment of the debate is not in order.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for External Affairs) [3.41].- In regard to the objection stated by Senator DuncanHughes, honorable senators generally are agreed that legislation of a retrospective nature is undesirable. That is accepted as a general principle, but each case has to be judged on its merits. The test of this bill is the intention of Parliament when it passed the act of 1933. Senator Duncan-Hughes has admitted that it is quite clear that what Parliament intended to do on that occasion is what we seek to do by this bill. Parliament thought it had accomplished this end but the draftsmen of the measure and Parliament, made a mistake, with the result that Parliament’s intention was not effected.
– Did Parliament know what it really intended to do?
– It did. The distinction between exemptions in respect of income derived from pro- perty and exemptions in respect of income f rom personal exertion has been clearly recognized for many years. I suggest that honorable senators should ask themselves what would be the effect if this bill were not passed. I feel sure that under such circumstances the Taxation Department would be immediately besieged by thousands of taxpayers wanting to amend their assessments. Almost all of these have put in their assessments on the assumption that Parliament, in the original measure, had actually done what it intended to do. But one clever individual has discovered a flaw in the act and submitted an assessment differing from those supplied by the mass of the taxpayers. If this measure were not passed, all these assessments would be l iable to amendment with the result that the revenue would be seriously affected. The taxpayers concerned are not suffering from any sense of injustice under this measure. They were assessed under the original provisions according to what Parliament and they themselves thought to be the law. Under these circumstances, retrospective legislation, repugnant as it is in a general sense, is justified in this instance.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
[3.48]. - I move-
That the bill be now read asecond time.
This bill provides for a minor amendment of the National Debt Sinking Fund Act 1923-1930. Shortly stated, that act prescribes sinking fund contributions designed to pay off the postal debt in 30 years and other debt in 50 years, the respective contributions being 30s. and 10s. per cent. per annum. The sinking fund moneys are used to purchase securities or to redeem debt. The purchased securities are at once cancelled and the revenue account obtains the benefit of interest savings. To preserve the compound interest basis of the fund, the law in. effect provides for a further contribution from revenue of 5 per cent. of the amount applied in debt redemption. The relative provisions are contained in section 9aa of the act and this bill is designed to correct an anomaly in one of the provisions relating to the 5 per cent. contribution.
The proposed amendment will clarify the wording of section 9aa which was inserted by an amending act in 1930. It will also give effect to the original intention with regard to the operation of that section. No alteration in the present procedure in regard to contributions to the sinking fund from revenue will be involved, because, since the passing of the 1930 act, payments to the sinking fund have been made in accordance with the obvious intention of that act. The particular provision which it is proposed to amend is paragraph (f) of sub-section 1 of section 9aa of the act. The intention of this paragraph was that there should be a 5 per cent. contribution calculated from year to year on the accumulated gross receipts of the sinking fund from the 1st July, 1930, less the accumulated receipts of certain special repayments for a like period. Through inadvertence, the portion of paragraph (f) relating to the deduction of these repayments contained the words “ in that financial year “ instead of “ during that period “. This literally had the effect of limiting the deduction to the actual repayments for one year only, namely, the year in which the 5 per cent. contribution was made, instead of to the accumulated repayments from the 1st July, 1930.
It is now proposed to amend the paragraph so as to bring it into accord with the intention of the 1930 act. At the same time, other words in the new paragraph are being altered to make the meaning clearer. If honorable members will read the memorandum which has seen circulated, they will see the original wording of paragraph /, and also the alterations which are being made. As I have already stated, the sinking fund has actually been credited with amounts accumulated in accordance with the intention of the act, and provision has accordingly been made in this bill for the proposed amendments to have retrospective effect from the date of the commencement of the National Debt Sinking Fund Act 1930. I trust that this proposal will meet with the approval of Senator Duncan-Hughes, because the position of individuals will not be prejudiced by the alterations being made, nor will the public interest be in any way affected. The whole purpose is to
Make the act accord with the intention of the legislature.
– In other words, to legalize an illegality.
– Yes; the bill does that.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Debate resumed from the 11th No- vember (vide page 979), on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce -
That the bill be now read a second time
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clauses 2 and3 postponed.
Clause 4 agreed to.
First schedule agreed to.
Proposed vote, £105,460, agreed to.
Proposed vote, £350,110.
Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES (South
Australia) [3.57]. - It is desirable that we should have from the Minister in charge of Scientific and Industrial Research, an explanatory statement of the proposed vote for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. It is within the knowledge of all honorable senators that the council is doing valuable work. Looking through the proposed expenditure of various departments I notice that increases are highest proportionately in the Prime Minister’s Department, and, very properly, I think, the Department of Defence. The amount voted for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, £104,774, represents a substantial increase on last year’s expenditure. I do not for a moment question its desirability, because I think that, in all probability, it is amply justified. Nevertheless, I shall be obliged if the Minister will make a general statement with regard to the work of the council.
– I am glad of the opportunity afforded by the request of my colleague from South Australia (Senator Duncan-Hughes) to say a word or two about the activities of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. The vote this year has been increased by approximately £32,000. This has been necessitated partly by withdrawal of the contribution of £12,850 from the Empire Marketing Board, which, unfortunately, has ceased its activities.
– It is a matter for great regret that it has.
– I agree with the honorable senator. In the provision for the division of plant industry honorable senators will note an increase over the expenditure for the previous year of approximately £8,000, made up mainly of the sum of £5,000 which is to be applied to the investigation of difficulties in connexion with diseases peculiar to certain plants.
– There is also an expenditure of £20,000 proposed under miscellaneous services in connexion with the tobacco industry.
– Yes, but the £5,000 has been added as an amount thought to be necessary to investigate the cultural and curing phases of the industry. There is also a vote which appears for the first time in the Estimates for this department of £5,000 for research in connexion with gold-mining. The services of certain experts, including Professor Stillwell, have been co-opted in a voluntary capacity to carry out this important work. Our contributions to the Imperial Agricultural Bureaux this year will be £9,959. This represents a considerable increase sn the expenditure of last year, and is due to the fact that pressure was brought to bear upon the .Government by the British Government, through Borne, where the bureaux function to continue important investigations into the higher branches of agricultural practice. Last year Parliament voted £3,377, and the expenditure for part of the year only was £7,664. There has been no material increase in the staff of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. I am glad to be able to say that the work which that body is doing meets with the approval not only of members of this Parliament, but with the people engaged in the various industries. Last year contributions received from outside sources amounted to £46,000, and this year we anticipate receiving between £30,000 and £40,000.
.- I welcome this opportunity to pay tribute to the splendid national work being carried out by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. I regret that the Government, which has increased the vote for the present financial year, has not yet a proper sense of values in respect of the channels in which it expends money, and that it has to some extent failed to realize the value of the work clone by the council on behalf of the primary producers and other sections of the community. Although the council has on its staff scientists of great ability who render highly efficient service their salaries are far too low when compared with those paid to some other departmental officers. In the branch of animal health, it is proposed to spend this year £22,500 as ^compared with £20,400 last year. The increase is infinitesimal when one realizes the extensive field of scientific research which may be the means of avoiding the tremendous losses which occur annually in the sheep industry alone. It has been estimated that the losses incurred annually in consequence of the blowfly pest amount to £4,000,000. If this body of experts discovered some means of combating, eradicating, or even lessening this pest, the benefit to Australia would be enormous. It is’ also estimated that foot rot and other diseases which attack sheep are responsible for a loss of from £2,000,000 to £3,000,000 annually. In consequence of the blowfly pest and foot rot and other diseases in sheep, Australia is losing from £6,000,000 to £7,000,000 annually. As scientists will eventually discover some means of destroying or greatly reducing these pests, the Government should increase the amount at the disposal of the council. Even if the vote cannot be increased this year, I trust that a larger appropriation will be made next year in order to encourage the council which is rendering such splendid service to the Commonwealth. The Government should also pav more generously those engaged in the higher branches of research work.
– I add my personal tribute to the work of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research with which I have been intimately associated, particularly in connexion with the forest products branch. I say emphatically that the work of the officers in this branch, which is a national asset, is not fully appreciated by the Australian people. Can the Minister say whether the Government has yet considered a long-range finance policy whereby continuity of work in certain departments of the council can be assured? Many of the experiments undertaken in the various branches of the council’s work require investigations extending over a period of perhaps ten years, and necessitate the training of officers for perhaps two or three years. One parliament may provide a certain amount for research work and a succeeding parliament, which may not be seised of the importance of the investigations, may reduce the amount. A trust fund or some similar fund should be established so that those controlling the council may make their arrangements for years ahead, and not be subject to political interference. Can the Minister say whether the Government has any such scheme under consideration ?
– I realize the importance of the suggestion made by Senator Hardy, who will remember that, when money was plentiful, a previous government attempted to stabilize the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research; but, owing to economic circumstances, the money, which was to be expended on what I regarded as capital security, had to be utilized in keeping the council functioning. I pay tribute to my predecessor, who realized the importance of the council’s activities. The point raised by the honorable senator has not been overlooked, and will be the subject of representation by me to the Treasurer. Although there may be no immediate possibility of inaugurating a long-range policy, the Government will continue its endeavours to secure the further cooperation of those engaged in various branches of industry. Investigations into the blowfly pest and foot-rot and other diseases in sheep, are still being carried on ; but this is not an occasion on which I can deal with those subjects at length. Full information on these matters can be obtained from the bulletins issued by the council from time to time, or direct from the offices of the council. Senator Duncan-Hughes referred to the increased expenditure for the current year. The honorable senator will see that the first two items, “ Salaries and payments in the nature of salaries “, and “ General expenses “, show only a slight increase. Salaries and payments in the nature of salaries of the administrative staff are kept distinct from those paid to the investigalion staff.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, £723,480.
– Can the Minister say how exchange is treated in these Estimates. I do not know what method is adopted in connexion with exchange; but in considering the Estimates last year, I suggested that it should be treated as a separate item. Unless it is intended to mislead the Senate, quite unintentionally, the votes should be shown in Australian currency. Will the Minister state how exchange is treated at present? I am not referring to the item of bank exchange, but to the general exchange between our currency and that of other countries.
[4.15]. - This item, of course, refers only to bank exchange within the Commonwealth; but I understand that the practice right through the Estimates is to charge the main departments with the amount of exchange necessary to complete its overseas purchases. The amount of the purchases is shown in Australian currency, and the exchange is debited to the particular department concerned. For instance, while the estimates of the Defence Department are set out in Australian currency, an amount is provided for exchange to cover the overseas purchases of that department.
.- The proposed increase in expenditure of the Taxation Department for the present financial year amounts to £25,863, which, in view of previous increases, appears exceptionally heavy. On page 147 of the bill, it is shown that the staff has increased from 940 last year to 958 this year. The Taxation Department, which is always alert in seeing that taxpayers pay their taxation on the due date, does not display similar activity when refunds are to be made. A refund due in July was not paid until about November. Although I had several interviews with the departmental officers, I experienced considerable difficulty in obtaining the money duo. In view of the department’s huge staff, which is to be increased by eighteen this year, I trust that the payment of refunds will be expedited.
– Does not the honorable senator think that he was fortunate to obtain a refund)
– Not at all. I was asked to pay an amount which was not due, and then experienced difficulty in obtaining a refund. I am always prepared to pay what the law prescribes; but when I have to wait months to obtain a refund, which is eventually paid without interest, there must be something radically wrong. The department should be able to repay promptly money due to taxpayers.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for External Affairs) [4.20]. - Of the increase shown in the salaries paid, £8,245 is due to the restoration of salaries under the Financial Relief Act, while the increase of the staff by eighteen is largely due to the ramifications of the sales tax. Although the number of items taxable has been decreased, the sales tax is a very complex form of taxation, and additional officers are required to enable the department to grapple with the work.
I am not competent to deal with the subject of refunds of taxation raised by Senator Grant; but I understand that usually there is no delay in making repayment. It may be that there were good reasons for not making the refunds earlier in the cases mentioned by the honorable senator.
– In my case the department admitted the over charge in July, but did not make a refund until several months later.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.That may be an isolated case; but, generally, there is no delay in making refunds.
.- The vital statistics published by the Bureau of Census and Statistics reveal an
Alarming state of affairs. The natural increase of the population is much smaller than it was ten years ago.
– That is the result of increasing poverty, resulting from the policy of the present Government.
– There are several reasons for the falling off of the birth rate; but the fact remains that in 1922 Australia’s natural increase of population was 84,000, whereas in 1933, when the population was greater by 1,250,000, the natural increase dropped to 52,000. So serious is the position that public men should seek the cause of it. It cannot be said that the falling off is due to greater infantile mortality, because statistics show that whereas in 1921 deaths among infants numbered 57.88 to every 1,000 of the population, the rate had fallen to 41.30 to every 1,000 in 1932. The crude birth’ rate in Australia, which between 1908 and 1913 was 27.4 to every 1,000 of the population, had fallen to 17 for every 1,000 in 1932. If these conditions continue, what will be the position of Australia in another 50 years? In the interests of national safety we must look into this subject.
– One remedy is to increase the maternity allowance.
– To some extent the prevailing wave of unemployment is responsible ; but there are other reasons.
– Under this item the honorable senator will not be in order in discussing the general question; he may discuss only the cost of tabulating the vital statistics.
– I have no complaint to make against the statistical department, which is carrying out a work which the country cannot do without. As it appears that a more favorable opportunity to discuss this subject will be presented when the Estimates for the Health Department are before us, I shall defer any further remarks on the subject until then.
– I quoted figures yesterday to show that in regard to the employment of its people Australia is not in the happy position which government supporters would have us believe. So long as large numbers of the people are unemployed, and the economic basis of life is unsatisfactory, the birth rate must remain low.
– The honorable senator will not be in order in pursuing that argument.
– Like Senator Payne, I shall reserve my further remarks on this subject until the Health Department estimates are before us.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, £168,850.
Senator HARDY (New South Wales ‘ [4.32]. - I notice that it is the intention of the Government to appoint an outside inspector to ensure that the awards of the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration are observed. Previously, union officials policed these awards, and in cases in which fines for breaches of awards were imposed, the money was paid to the unions responsible for securing the convictions. In the event of a special officer being appointed for this purpose, will fines imposed be paid to the unions, or will they go into Consolidated Revenue?
. - I understand that it was the desire of the organizations representing both the employers and the employees that there should be an independent policing of arbitration awards. In most of the jurisdictions it rests with the magistrate who tries the case to determine who shall receive the fines which are imposed; it is within his competence to award the money to the person who brings the matter before the court. In regard to cases initiated by an officer appointed by the Crown, I imagine that any fines imposed will be paid into general revenue.
.- There is a good deal of complaint regarding the administration of the bankruptcy laws, largely because the expenses frequently absorb the whole of the assets of the bankrupt, leaving little or nothing for his creditors. I notice that for some reason or other there has been a large increase in the personnel of the branch in New South Wales with a corresponding increase in salaries. The number of officers there has risen from 10 to 28, although in no other State is there such a great difference. In Tasmania the work was previously done by official assignees but there is now a staff costing £1,342 in salaries. Surely something can be done to avoid increasing the cost to the unfortunate debtors who have to go through the bankruptcy court, and also to their creditors. In the past under State administration, there was always a hope of the creditors receiving something and even of the bankrupt getting something back, but I have not heard of any one being satisfied with the present administration of the act or with the tray in which bankrupt estates are being dealt with.
– During the last year the administration in New South Wales has passed from the control of the State to the Commonwealth. An endeavour has been made to obtain uniform administration throughout Australia. In Tasmania certain changes have taken place which also will tend towards uniformity. The increase in the personnel in New South Wales is due to the fact that the whole of the administration has now been taken over by officers appointed by the Commonwealth. In the past the services of a number of officers including the registrar were made available by the State. The increased provision for salaries is caused by the fact that in the States of New South Wales and Tasmania the work of the official receivers has been, as from the 1st July last, performed by public servants instead of by private individuals remunerated by fees. The increased amount, it is expected, will be covered by a large increase of revenue. The amount for 1934-35 is estimated at £9,000.
.- I draw attention to the practice of levying fees on creditors who, having sent in proofs of debt, afterwards seek information from the department. I know of a case within the last twelve months in which a creditor called upon the department at Hobart to ascertain when he would be likely to receive some return. The officer looked up a book and charged him a search fee. The whole service rendered did not take more than a moment. All that the creditor wanted was information to which he should be entitled at any time without fee. As Senator Grant remarked, the processes of the court should be made as easy and inexpensive as possible, both for the bankrupt and for his creditors. That, I think, was the intention of Parliament.
, - If the purpose of the creditor was to have a search made amongst the papers relating to the bankrupt estate in question, it is probable that he was properly charged a fee. I cannot call to mind the contents of 214 closely printed pages of regulations which I dealt with last year, but if Senator Payne will let me have, in confidence, the name of the case and the estate, I shall ascertain the facts. If the creditor made a simple request for information, being personally interested in the estate, I can assure the honorable senator, speaking from memory, that the fee was improperly extracted.
– What are the duties performed by the Commonwealth Investigation Branch? There was once a Commonwealth police force; but I do not think that any such organization is now functioning, yet there seems to be an increase in the vote for the branch. In fact, in nearly everycase in these Estimates there have been increases, except as regards the unfortunate Government Printer, whose vote for parliamentary printing has been cut down by about £7,000.
. - A number of services is performed by the Investigation Branch, some of which it is not wise to disclose. They include matters arising under the customs and excise laws, which have at times to be vigorously policed. The immigration law has also to be enforced, and generally the laws, particularly in their fiscal application, have to be carried out. The Taxation Commissioner holds wide powers, which it would not be convenient or proper for the officers of his department to exercise, and it is thought that these can be better exercised by the Investigation Branch. Special work has also to be done under the Immigration Act, in observing movements that are taking place in certain centres. Occasionally, but not very frequently, inspections have to be made in regard to oldage pensions; but the bulk of the work of the branch relates to customs and immigration matters.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, £352,000.
– I draw attention to division No. 42, relating to the Governor-
General’s establishment, and to the item for the maintenance of His Excellency’s house. Last year the votewas £300, and £420 was expended. This year the proposed vote is £1,700, an increase of £1,400. That seems to be an extraordinary increase, representing as it does about £28 a week.
[4.45]. - It has been necessary to include under the heading referred to by Senator Hardy an amount of approximately £1,200 to cover the painting of buildings, roofs and so on, and general renovations required in connexion with the royal visit.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, £4,187,040, agreed to.
Proposed vote, £538,140.
.- I draw attention to the item of £950 for fees to members of the Censorship Board, appearing under “ General expenses.” These gentlemen, in the performance of their duties, appear to be causing considerable embarrassment to many people in Australia. I should like to know the views of the Government with regard to the censorship of books, which has caused a great deal of public discussion and public interest. The Melbourne Star of the 27th of last month published the following article: -
Book League’s Drive
Enthusiastic support for the movement to abolish the Commonwealth censorship on books was given at the first meeting of the Book Censorship Abolition League held in the Unitarian Hall last night. The most significant aspect of the meeting was the unanimous attitude it adopted, despite the wide diversity of view-points that were represented. University professors, doctors, writers, booksellers, librarians . . .
– The book censorshipis an activity of the Customs Department, and I am referring to the item for the payment of the salaries of members of the board. I should like to know why the Government pays so much money to gentlemen who are causing so much dissatisfaction to a big section of the people.
– The Government does not pay this money to them. AH these items deal with the censorship of films.
– I may be mistaken in that respect, but my remarks will be directed to the matter of censorship generally. The Star’s report of the meeting states -
Mr. McMahon Ball pointed out that the banning of certain books on political grounds - books that were perhaps the most important contributions to political science in the last 600 years - was less a defence of democracy than an abrogation of it.
Professor Giblin treated the censorship problem from a more general viewpoint, widening hie attack to include a denunciation of censorship on personal opinion, aB manifested in the recent attempted exclusion of two visitors from overseas.
– Order I I advise the honorable senator not to read lengthy extracts from newspapers. He may quote briefly in support of his own views on the subject, but at the moment, he is only quoting opinions of a number of persons who met for a specific purpose.
– I intend to support my own opinion on this matter by quoting the views expressed by a number of much more eminent and better qualified critics. The Star continued -
The medical position was stated by Dr. Reginald Ellery, who attacked one of the fundamental principles of censorship;- the belief that certain books were capable of corrupting young people. As a psychologist, Dr. Ellery emphatically opposed this point of view, pointing out that, in essence, the scientist of to-day upheld the Pauline belief of purity being self-protective.
I submit that, under our present system of censorship, the liberties of the people are endangered. Liberty of thought and speech is a sacred right of the people, entitling them to the full use of legitimate methods of expressing .their opinions. On this matter I quote also the opinion of another very eminent gentleman, Senator Brennan, who was reported on the 2nd February, 1932, as having said -
I am one of those who believe with Edmund Burke that liberty is a good to be enlarged, not an evil to be diminished . .. . The whole tendency of our laws, and it is a growing tendency, is to restrict more and more human liberty … I am one of those who believe that the less we restrict human liberty, the better it must be for the community as- a whole. 1 agree with the wisdom and broadmindedness of those views.
– I still hold them.
– It is the duty of an honorable senator to use every opportunity in this chamber to defend the liberties of the people whenever they are endangered. Recently a book by a Danish author entitled, To Hell with the Duchess, was held by a ‘customs official at Adelaide to warrant censorship; he notified the Censorship Board accordingly, and subsequently the book was banned.
– Has the honorable senator read that book?
– The honorable senator should read it; he would then be quite satisfied.
– I cannot, because the censors restrict my liberty by preventing me from securing the book. The censorShip is so vast that it endangers the freedom .of a great democracy. I resent bitterly any attempt by an official, receiving £950 a year from die Consolidated Revenue of this country to dictate what I, a member of this chamber, shall read. I myself prefer to be the judge of what literature will do me the most good. I claim that I am a better judge of that than any coterie of gentlemen called a censorship board. On the general subject of freedom of expression of opinion, the Melbourne Herald, of the 6th July, 1925, discussing the verdict given in a suit for libel against a newspaper at that time, said -
A verdict has been given that upholds the right of a newspaper to publish its honest views on a matter of public interest, however severe these views may be, however derogatory and detrimental to any individual.
Embraced in this question of censorship is the liberty of the human race, and to-day we find that in Australia there is a danger that that liberty will be encroached upon by the Censorship Board. The Herald said further - “ In matters of public interest “, said the Chief Justice in his summing up of the case, “ Mot only the press but every citizen has a right to say what he thinks, no matter how injurious it may be to the other man who is affected by it. He has a perfect right to do this, and, in many cases, if he is a man of courage, he ought to deal with it as a duty, in addition to a right.
I support such views whole-heartedly. It is my desire to impress upon honorable senators the need for overhauling this particular branch of the Customs Department. The censor’s activities to-day are objectionable to quite a number of people in this country, including myself. It is the duty of honorable senators to discuss this matter frankly. I repeat that I resent any board being empowered to say which books I shall read. I have read in the newspapers during the past year of at least 50 books which were banned by the censors.I, possibly, would like to read these books, but I am not given the opportunity to do so, because they are not to be found on any bookstall, simply for the reason that the censors have banned them.
– Senator Barnes seems to be labouring under some misapprehensions with respect to this matter, for his tirade against the censorship of books is not relevant to the items to which he has drawn attention. He referred to a censor of books being paid £950 a year, but he is confusing the censor of films with the honorary Censorship Board, the three members of which are voluntarily rendering a much-needed public service to this country. These gentlemen are residents of Canberra, and noted for their learning, and their sense of decency; undoubtedly each of them has a great regard for the welfare of the young people of this country. They are giving their services gratuitously with the sole object of trying to protect the minds of the rising generation from harmful literature. It is this work which the honorable senator has seen fit to attack, alleging that the members of the board, in the execution of their duty, are invading the liberties of the people. I remind him that there is a point at which liberty becomes licence, and the line separating the two is very narrowly drawn. The final decision in regard to books rests not with the censors, but with the Minister. They merely make recommendations to the Minister, and on such recommendations, he decides whether the books are fit for circulation.
– Does the Minister read the books ?
– Not all of them, but he is obliged to read someof them.
– He must read all of them or he would not be in a position to pass judgment on them. Is he so pure that he can escape the corruption to which, it is assumed, some of us would succumb?
– After receiving the recommendations, if any doubt should remain in the Minister’s mind, or if representations are made by any section of the people which holds that a book in dispute should not be banned, the Minister has the duty, sometimes a very painful one, I imagine, of reading the books. I emphasize, however, that the work being performed by the book censors is done voluntarily, and that these men offer their services solely in the interests of the nation. Honorable senators cannot expect the Minister to read every book which comes under his notice. The board which deals with the censorship of books consists of Sir RobertGarran, in whom, I am sure, honorable senators have every confidence, Professor L. H. Allen, M.A., Ph.D., and Professor J. F. M. Haydon, M.A. Would honorable senators suggest that these gentlemen have any interest to serve other than to protect the minds of young Australians? Although Senator Barnes spoke with considerable earnestness on this matter, he has lost sight of the purpose which those gentlemen desire to achieve. The decisions of every board of this character, no doubt, will be criticized. Music and literature are the two most difficult subjects on which to secure unanimity. I have seen books, which have been passed by the censors, and which, to my mind, are not fit for circulation. Senator Barnes, I am sure, could read such matter without injury, but I doubt whether he would agree that the younger people of Australia should be allowed to run the risk of being influenced by their sinister plots and low morals. The demoralization of the young is one of the worst crimes that can be committed against society.
.- The Minister has given us a splendid argument in favour of relaxing the censorship of books. He has told us that even after reports have been received from the% intellectual men who are entrusted with the important duty of advising as to what the people shall be allowed to read, the decision rests, with the Minister. He also mentioned that the three gentlemen composing the censorship board live in Canberra and do this work gratuitously. We all appreciate their intellectual status and high-mindedness, but we do not forget that throughout the Commonwealth” there are many hundreds of men their mental equals in every respect, and quite as high-minded, who are bitterly opposed to the manner in which the censorship is conducted. I think, also, that the views of booksellers should be considered. In conversation with several booksellers I have learned that not infrequently books which have free circulation in other countries have been banned by the Australian censors.
– Surely the honorable senator would not weigh, the complaints of booksellers against the effect on the child mind of the introduction of a certain class of literature?
– What the Minister has just said is merely so much “ blather.” That sort of tripe will not go down with me.
– Order ! The word “ tripe “ is not a Parliamentary expression. The honorable senator must withdraw it.
– Since you regard the word as offensive I withdraw it and will say that I am surprised that the Minister should indulge in so much bathos about the child mind of this country. Honorable senators on this side are just as anxious as he or any one else is that the child mind of the Commonwealth shall not be subjected to wrong influences; but we contend that the people should have greater freedom in the selection of literature to read so that, they may learn more about what is happening in other coun tries. Wc protest against the rigid application of the censorship which prevents Australia from having access to books which are read freely in other parte of the world.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that we should appoint a magistrate or some person in authority to act as an appeal board?
– I do not approve of the Minister having the right to decide such an important matter as this. If in the enlightened Mother Country - the heart of the Empire which, we are told, is sound, and where for so many years men and women have been championing liberal views - certain books can be read freely, I strongly object to any Cabinet Minister having the right to say that they shall not be read by people in Australia.
– (What would the honorable senator ‘do about obscene literature ?
– Every decent person is opposed to the publication or distribution of obscene literature. But there are in every community people of a puritanical turn of mind who see obscenity even in nature. Some such people would not visit the Institute of Anatomy in Canberra simply because anatomical specimens are on view there which would bring the blush of shame to their cheeks. Any tendency in this direction should be checked. It is important that the people should be educated to see clearly and cleanly. I do not say that the men engaged on film censorship are not earning their money. I believe that the chief censor is doing good work and I suppose that the people generally would uphold his decisions. But sometimes he makes some very curious mistakes. Some of the finest pictures produced in the world have been banned on the ground that the minds of the people must not be corrupted. One film described by a prominent reviewer in London as one of the best ever made, was banned, not on the ground that it was obscene or was likely to corrupt the child mind, but simply because it dealt with events connected with the revolution in Russia, which apparently the Government of this country believes should not be made known to the people of Australia. That film was acclaimed by Hollywood experts to be the production of a man of genius, yet forsooth, application for its admission to Australia was refused! I am glad to be able to tell honorable senators that a few nights ago I paid1s. for admission to the State Theatrette in Sydney and had the pleasure of seeing aRussian picture, so evidently the censor is learning something. We on this side say that the censorship of books and films is altogether too rigid.
– What suggestion does the honorable senator offer to ease the position?
– My suggestion is that when some of our most prominent thinkers demand the admission of certain books and pictures, the censor shall not impose his will upon them. Recently at a conference of trade unions in Brisbane, a resolution was passed condemning the manner in which the censorship is being exercised in respect of books dealing with sociology and other subjects in which the people are interested. Complaint was also made that the censorship was influenced by the political views of the party in power. How can a man who is a biased tory deal impartially with matters of thiskind? It is not human to expect him to look , with a kindly eye upon literature which may be severely critical of modern capitalism. Simply because he may not agree with the views expressed by the author, his decision prevails, and the circulation of the book in this country is prohibited. We protest against the censorship as at present exercised, and say that it is time some change was made.
– All too frequently I feel urged to preface any remarks which I make in this chamber by saying that I recognize the utter futility of attempting to induce the Government to change its mind. This afternoon I know that anything which I may say with regard to the censorship will be equally futile. Nevertheless, I am impelled to voice my protest against the way in which it is being exercised, and against the obvious insincerity of the Government as evidenced in answers to questions, or retorts that are made across the chamber.
– The honorable senator will not be in order in discussing the subject of censorship generally.
– I am merely traversing the remarks made by the Minister in his endeavour to justify this expenditure. I claim that the expenditure under this particular head is being spent contrary to the best interests of the nation.
This afternoon the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes) was told that he would be out of order if he attempted to discuss a certain matter under the item relating to film censorship, whereupon he spoke in general terms about the manner in which the censorship is being exercised, and I am endeavouring to follow his lead. I want the Minister to tell us who originates this censorship process? Who moves this voluntary board of patriots, whose morality cannot be influenced by anything which they may read, and who determine the precise character of the literary pabulum to be served up to the people of this country? How is this board motivated? Is it not a fact that a police constable has the power to submit a book to the board, and so put in motion the machinery which determines whether or not the product of a particular author shall be offered for sale in Australia? Some one has to make the first move. If it is true that a police constable takes the initiative, I voice my strongest protest against the whole business. I want to know the reason for the withdrawal of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World from the shelves of the Parliamentary Library, after it had lain there for nine months or so, and had been read by a number of senators. Who is to be the judge of the standard of purity in these matters?
– Does the honorable senator want an “ open go “ ?
– I certainly would prefer no official oversight to a censorship which, of my certain knowledge, never takes action with regard to any publication so long as it conforms to the popularly accepted idea of how society shall be controlled. But let any writer get into his head the notion that in Australia, which is supposed to be the freest democracy in the world, the people can be trusted to discern good from bad; let that unfortunate man make the mistake of writing something against orthodoxy and conventionalism, either in the realm of religion, sociology, or economics, and the Censorship Board promptly gets to work, with the result that, as regards the reading matter which is made available to them, the people of this country are most effectively “cabin’d, cribb’d and confin’d”. The Minister, in justification of this kind of thing and by way of answer to criticism from this side, glibly threw across the chamber something in the nature of a taunt when he reminded us that there was a difference between liberty and licence. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber can be trusted to discern the difference between liberty and licence. Our conduct in this chamber Ls evidence of the fact that even under severe provocation we know the difference and do not transgress in the direction of licence. Although it is unparliamentary to use such words as “influence “ or “ excrescence “, we still remain calm, although one honorable senator withdrew from the chamber yesterday because he could not remain and keep calm. I am distressed and grieved that the Minister should have taken the stand he did, and that he expects us to believe that this very rigid censorship, which is being conducted by voluntary patriots, is in the interests of the youth of this country. He will remember that only yesterday I said that I thought that one half of the American films imported into this country should be suppressed, not because I think that the people of Australia cannot be trusted to discern good from evil, but because these films have no redeeming features - no moral theme or value of any kind - but are definitely designed to appeal to persons of morbid and sensual tastes, that being the only reason or excuse for exhibiting them.
– Then why does the honorable senator advocate an “open go i
– I do not. Such pictures are fit subjects for censorship. But even these films and certain books the Postmaster-General has in mind, are not having the same undesirable influence on the youth of this country as is the utter impossibility for youths leaving school to obtain an opportunity to study the arts of ordered industry, and in that way become citizens of whom we should be proud.
– The honorable senator is again drifting from the subject.
– The Minister said that the present system of a censorship is to protect the youths, but if that is the real desire let us abolish the Censorship Board and have, as Senator Hardy suggests, an “ open go “.
– That was the honorable senator’s suggestion, not mine.
– -But let us ensure that the young men and women are profitably employed, that their opportunities for immoral conduct are further decreased, and that their morale shall not be destroyed, as it is now, because their opportunities to grow into decent citizens and to qualify for responsible and decent citizenship are rare. We were prepared to allow these schedules to pass almost entirely without discussion, and thus assist the Minister to get the bill through as soon as practicable, but as he persists in givingsuch meagre information, he cannot be surprised if we avail ourselves of this opportunity to ventilate our opinions.
– There is plenty of time as there is no other business to bring before the Senate at present.
– We do not know what other business there is awaiting our attention; but we shall not be found wanting when business is to be transacted. Even if all-night sittings are necessary, we shall do our share. I trust that the Government and the Minister will take notice of the remarks we have made with respect to the present system of censorship in connexion with films, books and other things, and will see that the liberties of the people are not endangered to the extent that we feel they are now being endangered.
– I wish to correct the statement of Senator Collings that I advocated an “ open go “. The honorable senator definitely advocated an “ open go “, but after speaking for five minutes in that strain, suggested suppression of certain American cinematograph films. At first I thought that he was opposed to any form of censorship, and particularly desired the admission of political and economic text hooks which would help the advent of the new social order he is trying to establish. I am in favour of the censorship, but I suggest to the Minister that before economic works or books on new thoughts or new conceptions of any social order are banned they should be placed in the Parliamentary Library for our perusal. We, as the chosen representatives of the people, can be trusted to read such books, and if we do not agree with the decision of the censors we can make our protests in this chamber. At present we are in complete ignorance of the contents of some publications which have been banned. I have read a number of books which have, subsequently, been censored, because I received copies from overseas long before they were perused by officers of the Customs Department or by the Minister. But such books should be placed in the Library so that members of both Houses may read them and be able to judge their merits.
– I am surprised that the debate should, have become so heated. There has been a good deal of public discussion on the censorship of books, and there may be some justification for complaint with respect to those which may go a little too far on the artistic side. I do not think that any one could offend my morals because the Bible was placed in my hands at a very early age, and I was able to read the lives of Noah, David, and others. I - have also read such Shakespearean works as The Rape of Lucrece, The Passionate Pilgrim, and Titus Andronicus, which, with others of that character, are always available even to children. Byron’s Don Juan has passages as daring as are to be found in some of the modern books that are banned by the censors, and yet it is available to all. The other day I was advised to read Juan in America, but felt that it would not be of particular interest to me.
– How does the honorable senator propose to connect his remarks with the proposed vote for the Department of Trade and Customs?
– I am endeavouring to do so by pointing out that for centuries old works, which might have been criticized, have not been censored. The average Australian can be trusted to look after himself. The strict censorship of books is causing a good deal of inconvenience and irritation, particularly in view of the liberal dose of objectionable literature made available in other ways. If certain political and scientific publications are banned our opportunities to gain information concerning what is being done in other countries are restricted. I join with my colleagues in objecting to an unduly rigid censorship. Where necessary action should be taken under the Publications Act, and those who vend indecent books punished. It seems ridiculous to permit the circulation of books published years ago, which, had the present system of censorship been in operation then would have been banned.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, Department of Health, £106,670, agreed to.
Department of Commerce
Proposed vote, £349,490.
– Under the heading “Commercial Intelligence Service Abroad,” there is an item of £7,000 to cover the expenses connected with the representation of Australia in Canada, New Zealand, the East and elsewhere. Can the Minister say whether the amounts are expressed in Australian currency?
– The amounts are expressed in Australian currency.
– The sum of £2,000 is set down for “ Representation in the East.” Can the Minister say whether appointments of men to represent Australia in the East have actually been made?
[5.37]. - No appointments of trade representatives in the East have yet. been made, but, as the honorable senator knows, Australia has representatives in Canada and New Zealand. The amount set down for representation in the East is in anticipation of appointments to be made.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, £1,151,040.
– Australia may, perhaps, congratulate itself on the fact that of the £200 voted last year for “Belief and Repatriation of Distressed Australians Abroad,” only £158 was expended. Numbers of individual Australians would be prepared to expend a good deal of that sum from their own pockets to get back to Australia.
I wish to refer to the item “ Assistance for the Boy Scout Movement,” for which £350 is sst down. Last year, the vote under this heading was £100, but, only £6 was expended or handed over to the association. Although the amount set down this year is £350, I suggest that the item should be reviewed with the object of rendering greater assistance to this organization on a later occasion, if not this year. It may be that under soma other heading, this association is to receive a further contribution, but so far as I am aware, the amount set down here is the only. sum proposed to be paid to itI #0 so far as to say that the Boy Scout movement will probably have a greater influence for good than will any other organization which has been started in my time. This most admirable association is worthy of all the assistance that we can render to it.
– Perhaps the reason for the increased vote this year is the forthcoming jamboree at Frankston.
– I am suggesting not that the amount set down is too large, but rather that it is almost negligible. To my own knowledge, many of ‘he brunches of the Boy Scout movement are far from being wealthy units of the organization. From knowledge gained as a member of a committee, which a few years ago appealed for additional funds to strengthen this desirable organization, I can say that many of the branches of .the Boy Scouts.- Association are by no means strong financially. One of the tenets of the Boy Scout organization is that it will not ask for financial assistance or engage in anything which savours of begging. Particularly at the present time that organization finds difficulty in paying ite way, because the parents of many of the boys are not in a position to contribute to its funds. Assistance given when help is most needed is most appreciated. Although we help infant life by the grant of a maternity allowance, so far as I know we do nothing for the older children in the community, with the possible exception that the taxation laws allow their parents certain deductions according to the size of their families. The Commonwealth contributes little to the direct education of the youth of Australia, although it pays out about £12,000,000 a year in invalid and old-age pensions, and a further £7,000,000 or £8,000,000 in war pensions. I suggest that those amounts are out of proportion to the sums voted to organizations which care for the youth of this land. Senator Collings, with whom I am so frequently in disagreement, is with me in the belief that, among the gravest problems facing Australia are those associated with the growing boys and girls of the nation. In the boy scout movement, we have an organization which provides healthy and cheerful recreations for its members, and helps to make them manly and well disciplined. For any assistance which we give to the Boy Scouts Association, we shall be well repaid, because it trains boys to be frugal and reliable, and therefore less likely to become a burden on the finances of the country in the future than might otherwise be the case. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes) mentioned, by interjection, the boy scouts’ jamboree, to be held this month. To that gathering lads from many countries overseas will come; and, just as Australian scouts were the recipients of generous hospitality when they visited the jamborees in Hungary, Great Britain, and elsewhere, so should the lads who come here from other countries be treated generously by Australians. For that reason, I suggest that the proposed vote might be increased.
– How could that be done?
– It appears to me that whenever a government desires to augment any vote included in an appropriation bill, it acts, and seeks approval later. I make this suggestion, believing that it is a good one and that the Government, being openminded, will consider it on its merits.
[5.47]. - I .assure Senator Duncan-Hughes that he is mistaken when he says that the Boy Scouts Association never asks for financial assistance. The increased vote this year is the result of a request by the association for further assistance from the Commonwealth. The amount set down here does not represent the total assistance given to the boy scout movement by the . Government, because there is never a year in which the Defence Department does not make equipment available to the organization in connexion with its various camps. The association is not costly to run, as most of its officers give their services voluntarily. I suggest, moreover, that the worst possible thing that could happen to the organization would be the granting of large sums by the Commonwealth, thereby bringing it under the control of the Government to some extent. In addition to loans of defence equipment, the Commonwealth Government has treated the movement generously in the matter of halls for its meetings. Since the abandonment of compulsory military training, numbers of drill halls have either been lent or sold on liberal terms to the Boy Scouts Association. The Government recognizes the value of this movement, and desires to help it. The larger vote this year represents a special grant asked for by the association because of the forthcoming jamboree, and is in addition to the loan of large quantities of equipment by the Defence Department, the wear and tear on which represents a fairly considerable loss to the Government. I assure the honorable senator of the desire of the Government to assist this organization in every way possible.
– I direct attention to the item of £200 for the entertainment of visitors. The amount voted last year for this purpose was only £100. We must, of course, always do the right thing by our visitors, but I should like to know the reason for the increase of 100 per cent, in the cost of entertainment. Half the Commonwealth Government will be away in England next year attending the Silver Jubilee of the King, and I should have thought that less instead of more money would be required for the purpose of entertaining visitors here.
– There has been an unusual number of distinguished visitors owing to the Royal visit and the Centenary celebrations.
– There is also an item of £4,407 for the representation of the Commonwealth on the Imperial Economic Committee. About eighteen months ago an economic conference of nations was held in London, but I do not know what connexion that gathering has with this item, and I should like to learn the details.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for External Affairs) [5.52].- The amount of £4,407 for Commonwealth representation on the Imperial Economic Committee is required to meet the following expenditures: - Salary of Mr. F. L. McDougall, £1,250 ; economic assistant, £337 ; stenographer, £182, and incidental expenditure, £60; making a total of £1,829, less £250, representing the proportion of Mr. McDougall’s salary charged to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, making a net amount of £1.579. Mr. McDougall, of course, is not required merely for the Imperial Economic Committee, being one of the officers who assist the High Commissioner at Australia House, London. The sum I have just mentioned is not really the cost of the Imperial Economic Committee, but is part of the cost of the staff of the High Commissioner in London, dealing with economic and commercial affairs.
– Should not this amount come under the vote for the High Commissioner’s office?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Possibly it should, but it is debited to the Prime Minister’s Department, to which the High Commissioner’s office also belongs. In addition to the £1,579, of which I have given the details, there is an amount of £2,828 for the Commonwealth’s share of the cost of the committee, bringing the total to £4,407.
Besides being a member of the Imperial Economic Committee, Mr. McDougall assists the High Commissioner as an officer and carries out certain duties in London on behalf of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in consideration of which the council bears part of the debit for his salary. Following the dissolution of the Empire Marketing Board in September, 1933, the Imperial Committee on Consultation and Operation was set up to devise ways and means to continue certain activities of the defunct board. Recommendations of the committee in the main involved - (a) Extension of the scope of the Imperial Economic Committee to include certain work previously undertaken by the Empire Marketing Board in respect of the preparation of periodical market intelligence reports, world surveys of production and trade, and so on; (o) the enlargement of the scope of the Imperial Agricultural Bureau in the realm of scientific research.; and (c) The financing of the Imperial Shipping Committee on a co-operative basis as between governments in substitution for the previous arrangement under which thi3 body was wholly supported by the British Government. The Commonwealth Government accepted the recommendations of the committee and agreed to contribute on the basis proposed by the committee. The additional cost of the services mentioned is set down at £24,000 per annum, and Australia’s contribution calculated on the basis of trade exports, and so on, is £3,360, divisible as follows : - Imperial Economic Committee, £2,828; Imperial Shipping Committee, £280 ; and Imperial Agricultural Bureau, £252. An amount of £2,828 is included in this item together with the sum of £1,579 required to meet the cost of the Commonwealth’s representation on the committee, making a total of £4,407. The Commonwealth representatives on the committee are Messrs. F. L. McDougall and C. L. Baillieu. Mr. McDougall has also been our representative on the World Wheat Conference, which has been trying to determine the difficult problems of the home consumption and export quotas of wheat in various countries. He performs a number of services of a like nature.
– I support the remarks of Senator Duncan–Hughes as to the small amount of money allocated to the Boy Scout movement. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) has stated that the Government realizes the value of the organization and is acting in a fairly liberal manner towards it by the loan of defence camp equipment, but I suggest that it is possible to increase the amount of assistance given. Whilst the organization may have asked for only £350, on account of the huge World Jamboree to be held in Melbourne at the end of this year and the. beginning of next, the Government may well try to find other means of encouraging the movement.
– I think some of th.6 States have made contributions to it.
– I desire to emphasize the importance of this wonderful organization, which is one of the greatest factors for good in the life of our community. It is most desirable that it should be supported and encouraged. It is magnificently conducted, and is of great value in training the youth of the nation to become self-respecting and useful citizens. These young people have proved their worth time after time. I do not think the enormous importance of the Boy Scout movement which is nonpolitical and non-sectarian, is fully realized. On many occasions, the young fellows trained by this organization have acquitted themselves magnificently in times of crisis. They are tought to be self-reliant, resourceful, and versatile. The movement does such a tremendous amount of good in building up the younger generation that I urge the Government to make a bettor contribution than £350 if it can possibly do so.
We are told that the Senate cannot increase any of these votes, but I remind the Leader of the Government that, according to press reports, the Government is committed to the expenditure of £8,000 to carry out a guarantee in connexion with the flight from America to Australia of FlightLieutenant Ulm. He was a good aviator, and we all deeply deplore the loss of him and his companions. Still, I cannot understand why the Government should have guaranteed him to the amount of £8,000 against loss in what was in no sense a pioneer flight.
I draw attention to the item of £500 for the Royal Commission on the Petrol Industry. A great deal of money has been spent on this inquiry, which has been dragging on for years. We still know very little about it, and I shall be glad to learn when the report is likely to be made available. I hope that some good will come of it, because the people of Australia have for many years been charged too much for petrol, but the commission is up against what is probably one of the biggest and most powerful and undesirable combines in the world.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for External Affairs) [6.0]. - The taking of evidence by the Royal Commission on the Petrol Industry has been concluded, and the commission is now engaged in collating the information and preparing its report.
Senator GRANT (Tasmania) [6.1 J. - An amount of £52,000 is provided for Australia’s contribution to the cost of the Secretariat of the League of Nations. I am informed that many, nations represented on the League do not pay anything at all, and have not the slightest intention of paying. The Secretariat has, I understand, built up a huge organization in Geneva, with imposing buildings and a most expensive staff. I also learn that during the depression that staff absolutely refused to submit to any reduction of its salaries, which are enormous, some of the officials each drawing many thousands of pounds a year. So far as I can see, the League of Nations is doing no practical good. No nation of any military or naval strength takes the slightest notice of it. All that the League does is talk, as witness what happened when Japan took action in Manchukuo. There were similar instances of the League’s powerlessness in South America and elsewhere. The money we are contributing could be much more profitably used in Australia for the relief of unemployment. I consider that at present it is simply being wasted.
– That statement is open to question.
– My opinion is shared by a great many other people. If any honorable senator can show me what the League of Nations has done towards preserving the peace of the world, I shall t>e glad to listen to him, because, so far as I can gather, it has had no material influence in keeping the peace between nations. The great nations are still talking of war, and I fear that if any of them are determined to go on, nothing that the League can do or say will be the slightest deterrent.
I support the remarks of Senator Duncan-Hughes and Senator Guthrie regarding the Boy Scout movement, which should be encouraged in every way. It is rendering immense service in training the boys of Australia, and doing work which is of a great deal more practical importance to Australia than anything the League of Nations has done. Although the Senate cannot increase votes, supplementary Estimates are brought down from time to time, and the Government must give this matter attention. I trust, therefore, that the Senate will declare that a much larger sum should be voted to assist the Boy Scout movement.
– When the Minister is replying to Senator Grant’s questions relating to the League of Nations, will he deal with the illogical aspect of the Government’s action in making this contribution towards the League in view of the fact that the League recently admitted the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics to full membership? A number of countries bitterly protested against the granting of Russia’s application for admission, because the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics at various times had announced its intention to overthrow capitalism. But Australia’s representative at the assembly did not say a word on this matter. Does not the Minister think that it is illogical that Australia’s representative at the League should have agreed to Russia’s admission while the Government here refuses to have anything to do with the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for External Affairs) [6.6]. - My reply to Senator
Grant is that the League of Nations is the only constructive international organization that is working in the interests of peace, and therefore it is the duty of everybody to support it to the utmost.
– What practical work has the League accomplished ?
– To some extent I am personally disappointed with the results it has achieved, but it is not correct to say that the League has accomplished nothing. Honorable senators who read cablegrams published in the newspapers this week, will agree that a situation was developing between Hungary and some of the Balkan States which, it is reasonable to think, would have developed into war, but for the action taken by the Council of the League of Nations. It can safely be said that in this case the intervention of the Council of the League, supported by some of the bigger nations, prevented war.
– That result was due to the action taken by the bigger nations irrespective of the League.
– The League of Nations gave those countries the opportunity to act in concert. Without the machinery which the League provides the bigger countries would have been confined to ambassadorial representations. In view of the probability that war might have developed very quickly such action would have been ineffective, whereas the Council of the League of Nations was in a position to deal with the matter promptly. I am sure that all honorable senators are pleased to know that those nations which were almost at each other’s throats have been restrained by the League.
Another illustration of the effective work which the League is doing in the cause of peace has been provided in connexion with the ugly situation which was developing in the Saar valley. The dispute over the ownership of this mining province might have developed into war between France and Germany. The situation was very critical ; it only needed some disturbance in the Saar to induce one or both of these nations to advance armed forces, and that might have been the commencement of a European conflict.
The action of the Council of the League of Nations, and especially the splendid lead given by Great Britain in offering to provide troops to police the Saar, undoubtedly prevented this situation from developing into war. It is a distinct advantage to civilization as a whole that there exists in the world to-day an international organization working in the interests of peace and to bring the nations together in amity. The League has had some failures.
– And it has had several successes.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.That is so. If it averts only one war which might develop into a world-wide conflict the League of Nations will have conferred a great benefit upon humanity. It would be pitiable if Australia, because of this liability of £52,000, were to withdraw from the League. Last year, at the meeting of the Assembly of the League, the Commonwealth Government, through its representative, called attention to the excessive expenditure of the League. We agree that the present expenditure is on too lavish a scale. On behalf of the Australian Government Mr. Bruce, not only in the Assembly of the League, but in the appropriate committee, where he was supported by representatives of other British dominions, raised this issue. I am sorry that, such representations did not meet with success, but certain action is now being taken which we hope will eventually lead to a reduction of the heavy expenditure incurred by the League. Anybody who has visited Geneva will agree that the League is conducted on too extravagant a basis. Our representatives, with those of other British dominions, will continue their efforts to have this expenditure reduced, but in the meantime we should not hesitate to retain our membership of the League in order to help in its work in the cause of peace.
– I hope that nothing Senator Grant has said will influence honorable senators to favour a reduction of the provision for Australia’s membership of the League of Nations. Any one who has taken any interest in the work of the League must agree, as the right honorable the Leader of the Government in the
Senate has said, that it has more than justified its existence. It is true that the League has not been able to accomplish many of the objectives embraced in its constitution, and it is also true that the League on some occasions has failed. But it is much more important for us to remember, not its failures, but its successes. I regret that the time for discussion on such matters as these is too limited to allow honorable senators to deal with them adequately. I suggest to Senator Grant, and to other honorable senators, who agree with his views, that they should make themselves fully acquainted with the constitution of the League of Nations, the work it has attempted to do, and what it is actually accomplishing, not only in Geneva, but throughout the world. As Senator Grant is no doubt aware, the League of Nations Union operates in different countries today. The head-quarters of the Australian branch of this union is in Sydney, whilst there are many sub-branches established throughout .the Commonwealth. Work of the nature which these branches are doing in the State schools of New South Wales and Queensland would, apart from any other consideration, justify the existence of the League. Junior branches have been formed in these schools, as a result of which correspondence is initiated between the boys and girls of this country, and those of other countries such as Japan. Iri this way a better international understanding is being brought about, at least among the rising generation. All this work springs from the fact that at Geneva we have this wonderful organization which is functioning in the best possible manner to bring about better understanding amongst the peoples of the world. I feel sure that if Senator Grant would look into the position more fully-
– I have probably looked into it more fully than the honorable senator.
– That may be so ; I am appealing to the honorable senator to look at it, not so much in the light of Australia’s contribution of £52,000 towards the expenditure of the League - which expenditure, the right honorable the Leader of the Government in the Senate suggests, may soon be reduced - but rather in its utilitarian and ethical aspects. If he did this, he would agree that this expenditure was justified. I feel sure that Senator Grant’s suggestion that this item be reduced will not be endorsed by honorable senators.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– I direct attention to the item, “ Commonwealth representation at International Labour Conference, Geneva,” the proposed vote for which is £850. Last year the vote was £750, and the actual expenditure was £1,829. I do not know if Ministers are aware that the two Australian delegates, representing respectively employer and employee interests at the last conference at Geneva, upon their return to Australia made conflicting statements as to the value of our continued representation at that gathering. Mr. Charles McDonald, the representative of the Employers Federation, expressed the view that the Labour Conference was absolutely valueless, and that the expenditure incurred by the Commonwealth was not justified. As Mr. McDonald is an industrial leader of note, his opinion should receive the earnest consideration of the Government. Probably no person is more conversant with industrial conditions throughout Australia. Mr. J. W. Roche, the employees’ delegate, expressed the contrary view concerning the work of the conference, affirming that it was of immense benefit to employees. Although I read the various statements attributed to Mr. Roche, I failed to discover any sound reasons for the views which he expressed. I hope that, in view of the conflicting opinions of the Australian delegates, the Government will consider whether or not it is desirable to continue the Commonwealth’s contribution.
Another item about which I should like some information is the proposed vote of £1,500 for assistance to the Australian banana industry. This amount is exactly one-half of the sum expended last year. I am not aware of the reasons for this reduction, and I should like to hear what the Minister has to say on this subject.
Last year the Commonwealth grant for relief of distress among unemployed returned soldiers and their dependants was £2,000; but no provision is made for expenditure in the current year. As no class in Australia is in greater need of help when trouble overtakes them than returned soldiers and their dependants, I hope that the Government will make similar provision during this year.
– The assistance will be available this year as usual.
– It is not the practice to provide any specific amount in the Estimates.
– I am very pleased to hear the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) say that, following the usual custom, this form of assistance will be available this year for those who may need it.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for External Affairs) [8.5], - Senator Hardy has asked for information with regard to Australia’s representation at the International Labour Conference at Geneva. As honorable senators are no doubt aware, we have three delegates at that gatherings - one representing the Commonwealth, one the employers, and one the employees. Most of the expenditure in connexion with the conference was incurred before the 30th June of this year, and the sum of £350 is provided to meet expenses in connexion with the return to Australia of Mr. Roche, and to cover incidental items which had not been brought to account during the last financial year. The sum of £500 is set aside to meet the expenditure involved in sending delegates to the Nineteenth Conference in June next year.
– Was Mr. Roche the official delegate of the Commonwealth?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.No; the Commonwealth was represented by Mr. J. G. McLaren, the Official Secretary at Australia House, London. Our representation at the Geneva Labour Conference has been causing the Government some concern. It is particularly inconvenient, in one respect, for a country like Australia, situated so far from the venue of the gathering, to be represented there, because our delegates have hardly returned from one conference before we have to make arrangements for representation at the ensuing conference. In saying this I am expressing my personal view, because the- matter has not been fully considered by the Government, although there has been some discussion of it. It seems to me that, if these conferences were held every two years, the convenience of many nations represented at Geneva would be served. I understand, however, that the Covenant of the League of Nations provides that the Labour Conference must be held yearly, so I suppose an amendment of the Covenant would be necessary to ‘ensure a greater interval of time between the gatherings. I read the statement made by Mr. McDonald upon his return to Australia and also the remarks of Mr. Roche, the employees’ representative. Personally, my sympathies are with Mr. Roche. I am not able to quote accurately the views which he expressed but my recollection of his statement is that he believed that Australia was benefiting materially from representation at Geneva. We have to remember that, industrially, Australia is in the vanguard of nations. Our workers enjoy a higher standard than those of almost any other country. This means that, in international trade, countries having a lower standard of wages and Conditions for their workers are able more effectively to compete with Australia. From this it follows that any action taken to increase the standards of living in other countries which are in competition with us must be of material benefit to the Commonwealth. Only to-day we decided to ratify a convention dealing with labour in the maritime industry. We did this in the full knowledge that our conditions are very much in advance of the conditions laid down in the convention itself. We realized, of course, that any action which would have the effect of making conditions in other countries approximate more closely to our own would be of definite advantage to this country. What is true of that convention is true of most of the conventions agreed to by the Labour Conference at Geneva. Australia is abreast or ahead of other nations in respect of the conditions enjoyed by its workers; but, as I have explained, every convention that has the effect of improving standards in other countries makes better our position in competition for world’s markets. From this honorable senators will see that Australia does benefit from representation at the International Labour Conference. As I have explained, the Government takes the view that there should be a greater interval of time between the meetings, and we have listed this for consideration at the forthcoming conference.
ThiB does not, however, mean that a decision will be reached at that gathering. A great deal of information must first be obtained from the various nations represented at the Labour Conference, and the general effect of the proposed change must be studied. Following the usual practice the matter will probably be referred to a committee, and although an interim report may be made at the next meeting it is more probable, because of the detailed information which will have to be obtained, that a decision upon it will not be reached for two or three years. I feel sure that had those who were responsible for the drafting of the League Covenant realized the inconvenience which annual meetings of the Labour Conference would cause to many of the nations participating in it, provision would have been made for meetings every second year. The Government feels that Australia has much to gain from continued representation at the conference, and arrangements are now being made for the selection of delegates for 1935.
Senator Hardy referred also to the reduction in the vote for assistance to the banana industry. The Government has decided to provide a further £1,500 for 1935 for the conduct of scientific research in connexion with this industry, including transport, packing, maturation, and diseases. Particular problems from the point of view of disease which will be dealt with include squirter, black end, banana beetle borer and banana thrips. It will be remembered that under the Ottawa agreement Australia agreed to take up to 40,000 centals of Fijian bananas per annum, subject to a customs duty of 2s. 6d. a cental, as compared with the rate of 8s. 4d. a cental, which operated previously. Following on that arrangement it was decided to make available a sum equivalent to the amount of customs duty that would be thus collected to assist the banana industry. The Government anticipated the customs revenue for 1933 and provided £3,000 for that year so that work could be put in hand. However, during the course of the year, it became clear that the amount anticipated would not be realized, and that there was every probability that a sum substantially less than £3,000 would be derived from customs revenue during 1934. Accordingly representatives of the industry were consulted and the conclusion was reached that the limited funds available should be . devoted exclusively to scientific research and that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. in consultation with the States concerned, and with representatives of the industry, should be responsible for the work. Customs revenue was again anticipated for 1934 and the sum of £1,500 was made available for the continuance of such work as had been initiated during 1933. The present provision makes a total of £6,000 spread over three years. Customs duty collected from December, 1932, the date of the reduction of duty, to date, totalled £3,391. It is apparent, therefore that the Government is more than honouring its undertaking to assist the banana industry by diverting the equivalent of customs receipts for that purpose. In doing this, however, it feels that it is important that the scientific work in progress should be continued without interruption, irrespective of whether customs receipts fall below the amount required or not. It is too early yet to forecast the results of the scientific work which has been undertaken. Many of the problems are of a complex character, involving long range attack. The most that can be said at present is that very good progress has been made in connexion with squirter, black end, bettle borer, and thrips.
I am sure that those honorable senators who spoke this afternoon of the desirableness of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research being able to give effect to a long range policy will agree with the provision made in this regard.
– Honorable senators on this side of the chamber were glad to hear the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) state that the Government intends to continue Australia’s representation at the International Labour Conference at Geneva. Mr. J. W. Roche, the Union representative at the last gathering, is well known to the representatives of Queensland in the Senate, and is a personal friend of mine. He left Australia with the idea that probably the time taken and money expended in attending the conference would prove to him to be not worth while, but he returned fully convinced that the expenditure of the money and time taken was fully justified. He presented a long and detailed report to the Trades and Labour Council in Brisbane, and published a series of short articles recounting his experiences, not only in. connexion with the business transacted, but also concerning the other delegates at the conference. A point worth recording is that he thought it a wonderful experience to be able to listen - mostly through interpreters of course - to the representatives of foreign countries voicing their opinions with respect to industrial and cognate subjects in their respective countries. He said’ that it was a liberal education to those privileged to listen to this interchange of ideas.
The representatives of Queensland in this chamber are naturally pleased that the Customs revenue from the importation of Fijian bananas has not come up to expectations. We contend that no revenue whatever should be obtained from this source, and that there should be a prohibition of the importation of any commodity that can bc satisfactorily produced in Australia, and particularly the products of low-wage countries.
– Even if those countries buy our products.
– The honorable senator will soon get a rude awakening. Certain Japanese trade representatives who are now in Brisbane will soon be here, and we shall soon learn what advantages we can obtain under these socalled bi-lateral agreements. We are pleased to find that £1,500 is to be voted this year for assistance to the banana industry, and trust that the Government will continue to allow the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to proceed with its valuable investigations, which we feel assured will be of inestimable value to those engaged in the production of bananas in Australia.
– Under item No. 28, provision is made for the expenditure of £5,000 to conduct investigations in connexion with the development of Central Australia, and I should like the Minister to give a detailed account of the manner in which that sum it so be expended.
A few years ago Mr. Jack Roche, who attended the International Labour Conference in Geneva last year, was a bitter opponent of the International Labour Office, and voted against delegates being sent to such conferences. Some time later when he was selected as a delegate to represent Australia, he did not wish to go, but eventually attended, and now is convinced that this office is rendering a special service to the community. If the representatives of other parties, such as the Communist party, were also sent, they might be converted, which would probably save Australia a lot of trouble. Senator Duncan-Hughes said that he would like more money to be provided to assist the Boy Scout movement. It is peculiar to me that some of our friends opposite, should dilate upon the Boy Scout movement and various other activities, and raise no objection to the expenditure of the £25,000 on the Royal visit. But when it is a matter of doing something of national importance, such as expending a few thousand pounds in sending delegates to the International Labour Conference, these Pecksniffian individuals offer opposition. I remind Senator Grant who is bitterly opposed to the expenditure of £52,000 on the League of Nations, that many minor conflicts which might have led to major engagements have been averted as the result of the activities of the League. Such major conflicts would doubtless result, in millions of lives being lost and thousands of millions of pounds being expended. In these circumstances, the appropriation of £52,000 in the cause of peace should not be ridiculed. As was mentioned by the Minister, the latest developments in Europe are not reassuring. If there should be another European conflict the British Empire may be involved and Australia would assist by sending troops. If the money which is poured into the Secretariat of the League of Nations is expended unwisely, criticism is justified; but honorable senators opposite should not attack the principle of endeavouring to secure international peace. Unfortunately, we spend a certain amount, but do not proceed far enough. Pamphlets exposing the operations of private armament firms are issued by the League and should receive a larger circulation. Money expended in that direction ‘would not be wasted. I remind Senator Hardy, who referred to Russia joining the League of Nations, that we should be gratified to realize that that country is holding out the hand of friendship.
– Does the honorable senator think that Russia has a friendly fueling towards other countries t
– Russia is the greatest exponent of international peace.
– It has a peculiar method of showing it.
– Some months ago I stated that Russia had made a tangible proposition to the League of Nations that all nations should cease to produce armaments, and if that were done, there would be no wars.
– Russia is making greater preparations for war than any other nation.
– Russia has a better national backing than any other country. In other countries different sections of the community are diametrically opposed to each other ; but, if necessary, Russia will be defended by a united people. Russia will not attack any other nation, but if attacked, it will naturally defend its territory.
– I ask the honorable senator to connect his remarks with the proposed vote.
– I am justifying the proposed expenditure on the League of Nations. Senator Hardy has expressed a narrow-minded view with respect to Russia.
– Would the honorable senator favour this country importing goods from Russia?
– Australia imports certain goods from that country. I have no doubt that if Russia presented a market for Australian products the producers of this country would willingly ship their goods there. We on this side are glad to see this item and believe that the money will be well expended. No thinking person will contend that the League of Nations can avert war altogether, because economic forces may lead to a clash between nations); but by promulgating the ideas of peace throughout the world it may eventually make wars impossible. Unless the nations are inclined towards peace a conflict greater than that of the years 1914-18 may again threaten the world. Reference has been made to the flouting of the League of Nations by Japan, that nation’s attack on Shanghai and its withdrawal from the League. If a clash between Japan and other nations in the Pacific is to be averted the nations must change the economic foundations on which they are built and promulgate the idea of peace, in the interests of humanity. I regret that any honorable senator should attack the Government for the expenditure of this relatively small sum in so good a cause. If it assists in postponing Armageddon the money will be well expended.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for External Affairs) [8.35]. - In regard to the provision for investigations in connexion with the development of Northern Australia, there is at present a proposal before the Government for the further development of the Barkly Tableland and the creation of a port at the mouth of the MacArthur River. Before embarking upon that scheme the Government desired to have an expert investigation of the basis of it. The proposal is to establish a port and freezing works with a view to exporting chilled beef. Accordingly a subcommittee of Cabinet arranged for the appointment of a committee consisting of Mr. J. P. F. Stokes, chief engineer of Ways and Works. Commonwealth Railways, as leader, who will investigate particularly the transport and engineering problems; Commander H. T. Bennett, marine surveyor and hydrographic advisor; Mr. H. E. Beaven, meat works engineer; Mr. G. H. Anderson, representing the land lessees; and Mr. J. N. Whitett, senior agrostologist of the Department of
Agriculture, New South Wales. This committee is about to submit its representations to the Director of Development, Mr. J. Gunn. Later, the subcommittee of Cabinet will consider its representations and report to Cabinet. Should Cabinet decide that the scheme is worth proceeding with, it will submit proposals to Parliament. The sum of £5,000 set down in these Estimates is for the purpose of enabling those investigations to be made. Part of the work has already been undertaken.
.- In division No. 100 there is an item: “Remission of income tax and sales tax under special circumstances, £5,000. “ I should like to know whether this amount provides for the refund of the special property tax paid by persons whose income is less than the amount exempted under the principal act. To my knowledge numbers of people in Australia, whose total income is less than the amount which makes them taxpayers under the principal act, have been compelled to pay, through companies in which they hold preference shares, the heavy property tax. The department has admitted that taxes have been received from such people, but states that the administrative difficulties are too great for such cases to be dealt with on the basis of the original act. However great the difficulties may be, money which the law says the department is not entitled to receive, should be refunded. I should like the Minister to say whether this item makes provision for such refunds.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for External Affairs) [8.39]. - There is no provision here for remissions of income tax of the kind indicated by the honorable senator. Indeed, the Treasurer could not legally make such refunds. The honorable senator evidently recognizes that fact, because on one occasion he tried to amend the law in that connexion.
.- I ask the Minister to bring this matter before the Government.
– If the honorable senator will give me a proof of his remarks to-night, I shall place them before the Minister concerned.
– The law states that no person is liable to pay income tax unless his income is a certain amount. A later law gives to companies the power to deduct at its source from the dividends payable to preference shareholders, the amount of the property tax. The tax is paid to the department by the companies. Many of the recipients of these dividends have incomes less than the amount exempted under the Income Tax Act. I can furnish the Minister with evidence to show that people who are not taxpayers under the principal act have been called upon to pay the property tax. I ask that that injustice be removed, and that refunds be made in cases in which the Commissioner is satisfied that the persons concerned are exempt under the principal act.
– I am surprised that a sum greater than £100 has not been set aside as a contribution to the British Woollen and Worsted Association. This association has done wonderful work in improving the manufacture of wool and in increasing the uses to which wool can be applied. The association has done much to enable woollen textiles to compete with artificial fibres, and, amongst other things, has invented a sort of rubberoid wool, which is used for motor cars and for papering walls. It has also devised many other uses for wool. Considering that the production of wool is Australia’s greatest industry, and that Australia has more to gain from the scientific investigations of experts in connexion with wool than any other nation has, a contribution of £100 a year appears altogether too small.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for External Affairs) [‘8.48]. - Some years ago the grant was larger, but during the depression it was reduced. The honorable senator will be glad to learn that since the Estimates were printed, the Government, after communicating with the other governments interested, decided to restore the grant to its original amount, with the result that £1,000 has been paid as Australia’s contribution to the British Woollen and Worsted Association.
.- In Division 107, there is a new item, “ Assistance to Pineapple Industry - £450.” No doubt the Minister is aware that the pineapple industry has been started in a small way in Western Australia, at Carnarvon in the north-west of that State. The plantations there are 250 miles from a railway, and consequently the work is carried on under difficulties. If the industry is to be assisted, those plantations in Western Australia should share in the grant. I should like the Minister to say under what conditions this assistance is granted.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for External Affairs) [8.45]. - The grant referred to by the honorable senator is being made by the Government to assist the experimental shipment in cold storage of canned pineapples to England. The canned pineapple industry which in Queensland is largely in the hands of returned soldiers ha3 progressed very well, but there is a glut of pineapples, and there is believed to be a market in Great Britain for the surplus. If the experiment is successful, it will help the pineapple industry in Western Australia as well as in other parts of the Commonwealth.
. - I am glad that Senator Johnston brought forward the item relating to the export of canned pineapples, and I am also pleased to hear that an attempt is being made to grow both bananas and pineapples at Carnarvon, in Western Australia. I hope that this will cause honorable senators from that State to regard the banana industry in Queensland and New South Wales with a more lenient eye in relation to the competition of the Fijian product.
For the development of the fisheries industry, a vote of £5,000 is proposed. A similar sum was voted last year, but only £77 was spent. That seems to be a small amount. I understood that the Government intended to continue to assist the work.
– This is the amount that will be required this year. The £77 expended is only part of a larger amount.
– I am glad to note that the Government is setting aside £20,000 for tobacco investigation and instruction. I question the correctness of the item of £470 for Commonwealth representation at the Waitangi celebrations in New Zealand. I attended that gathering, and know that the whole cost of transport from Auckland to Waitangi was borne by the New Zealand Government. This item is notdescribed properly, because the Commonwealth delegation went to New Zealand on a trade mission.
– That was an item in last year’s expenditure. It is not provided for this year.
– It is a misnomer to call it Commonwealth representation at the Waitangi celebrations. I know what I am talking about in this matter, because I was in New Zealand at the time. Mr. Stewart was there largely on a commercial visit. If the item refers to last year, why does it appear in these Estimates ?
– Only for the purpose of comparison with the estimate for the current year.
– I notice a proposed vote of £8,000 for the Australian Dairy Council under division 107. The Commonwealth rightly seems to be paying a great deal of attention to the dairying industry, and spending money on it, but I have not been able so far to obtain any information as to its intention to hold an inquiry into the payment of secret commissions in the industry. A royal commission appointed by the Queensland Government discovered that £30,000 had been expended in secret commissions by the dairying industry in that State alone. The Commonwealth Government should undertake inquiries on that subject in relation to this and all other industries, particularly if it is spending money on them.
– This £8,000 does not come out of the packets of the taxpayers. It comes out of the industry itself, and appears here merely for bookkeeping purposes. The money is paid by the industry into the Consolidated Revenue, and must therefore also be shown somewhere as an expenditure.
– As it appears in the Estimates, it looks like government money being expended out of ordinary revenue. I direct attention to the item of £5,000 for the Australian National Travel Association under division 107. A similar amount was expended last year. Will the Minister give the committee some idea of the value received for that expenditure year by year? There is also a grant of £15,000 for overseas trade publicity. A footnote states that the estimate for 1933-34, amounting to £15,000, was included under special appropriations under the heading of “The Export Guarantee Act”. This also is an item about which we should know something. I do not say that it is a bad item from the point of view of the, welfare of Australia, but I should like to know how much publicity has been given to Australian products overseas as the result of the expenditure.
.- A sum of £400 is proposed’ under item 106 for subsidies and expenses in connexion with maternal and infant hygiene. A similar amount has been voted for some years, but I should like to know whether the department is satisfied that it is sufficient to meet the necessities of this very important matter. Earlier in the day I brought under the notice of the committee the fact revealed by the Commonwealth Statistician that the natural increase of population in Australia last year was only 52,000 as compared with 84,000 ten years ago, when the population was 1,250,000 less. There is ample justification for emphasizing that fact in discussing this item. If the vote for improving maternal and infant hygiene were increased, probably more effective means could be devised to increase the natural growth of population. I have no doubt that, under the care of the various State and local agencies, aided by the money granted by the Commonwealth Parliament, there has been a diminution of infantile mortality in Australia. The death-rate per 1,000 of infants fell from 74 in 1915 to 41 in 1932, a result which is very pleasing, but there is no reason why the low rate of 41 per 1,000 should not be made still lower. Possibly with increased financial assistance from the Commonwealth Government, that result could be attained, and give us the additional satisfaction of doing something towards promoting the natural increase. Something will have to be done in that direction. Many other factors contribute to the decrease in the natural growth of population, but I cannot deal with them now. I am discussing the matter simply from the health point of view in relation to the care of the mother and the infant. The greater the care given in those two directions, the lower will be the infantile death-rate, and the larger will be the natural increase. Although this is about the smallest item on page 78 of the schedule, I consider it one of the most important.
– How is the money spent?
– I think it is spent mainly in aiding State or local efforts such as bush nursing and other agencies of the kind. Will the Minister explain how the money is expended? Is it not possible for the Government to make a larger contribution in the future in order to combat to some extent the present awful condition of affairs revealed by the vital statistics?
I am pleased to see the proposed vote of £15,000 for overseas trade publicity. I am convinced that the money can be expended to the great advantage of the Commonwealth if it is used wisely. I draw the Minister’s attention to statements made recently in Melbourne by a lady who takes a very prominent part in an organization in Scotland which has for its object the increase of Empire trade. She spoke at a gathering of the International Women’s Congress in Melbourne about a fortnight ago. I had an opportunity to meet her, and she discussed the matter with me. I felt that there was a great deal in what she had to recommend, because when I visited the Old Country a few years ago I found that Australia was materially handicapped in the distribution and sale of its products by the fact that they did not bear a label sufficiently attractive and informative to show the people of Scotland that the goods were produced in this part of the
British. Empire. Those who have taken an interest in the commercial relations of Australia with Great Britain and European countries must have noticed that the American exporter is much more alive than is the Australian exporter to the necessity for making his packages sufficiently attractive and distinctive to show customers the country of origin. This lady told me that she had visited several of the large canning and preserving establishments in Australia. One of the largest firms in Australia whose main factories are in Victoria thanked her for the interest she was taking in this matter, and told her that her suggestions were most helpful. The Leader, of the 1st December last, quotes her concluding remarks as follows: -
Australian commodities sent abroad for sale should show the name of Australia much more clearly on their labels than the trade name, which is not the case at present.
I draw the Minister’s attention to the fact that many goods bearing the attractive Rosella brand were marketed in parts of Scotland, but no person looking at the labels would learn that these goods were manufactured in Australia or any part of the British Empire. This lady made various recommendations to the managements of several factories which she visited in Australia, her main suggestion being that the word “ Australia “ should be placed attractively and prominently on every packet of goods exported abroad.
– They had better not do that in Lancashire.
– I hope that before long a better feeling will prevail between Lancashire and Australian commercial interests. We must do our best to remove any ill-feeling in that respect because it is essential to our commercial success that we have the goodwill of the millions of consumers in Great Britain. I commend to the Minister the recommendations made by this lady.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for External Affairs) [9.2]. - The proposed subsidy of £400 for maternal and infant hygiene is to be devoted to work being carried on in Canberra. Similar work is being carried out by the governments in each of the States, but in the Federal Capital
Territory the Commonwealth Government is the health authority. This grant was established last year and is being continued this year. But I would point out to honorable senators that since these Estimates were printed an election has been held, and a feature of the Prime Minister’s policy speech was his promise to convene a conference of State and Commonwealth representatives, to devise some plan for co-operative work in maternal and infant hygiene. Preparations for that conference are now being made. -The proposed grant of £5,000 to the Australian National Travel Association is in accordance with an arrangement under which the Commonwealth has agreed to contribute an amount equal to the total contributions received by this association from other sources. The association is controlled by a joint committee of representatives of railway, hotel and general business interests, and Mr. Clapp, the Commissioner for Railways in Victoria, is the chairman. It is really an association for the promotion of tourist traffic in Australia, including traffic to North Queensland in the winter months. It is doing good work.
The grant of £15,000 for overseas trade publicity is not a new one, as Senator Payne apparently thinks. He will notice that there is a footnote which explains that during the previous year this money was paid out of special appropriations under the Export Guarantee Act. This year the money will be made available from general revenue. It is to be utilized for trade publicity in the United Kingdom to be conducted along the same lines as have been followed in that respect during the last three years. Up to 1931 the Commonwealth contributed funds for this purpose on the basis of pound for pound, .but the organizations concerned in this work now contribute an amount of money much greater than that made available by the Commonwealth. In 1934 the industries associated with this scheme found approximately £50,000 as compared with the Commonwealth contribution of £12,000, the balance of the sum made available by the Commonwealth being set aside for trade exhibitions under the control of the Director of Trade Publicity in collaboration with the official secretary at Australia House, London. Very effective work is being accomplished with this grant.
– Would the Minister furnish further information with respect to the proposed vote of £250 for maternity allowances paid in special circumstances? What are these special circumstances? I commend Senator Payne for the concern he has shown at the decline in the birth rate and the rate of our natural increase of population. The honorable senator has our heartiest congratulations for the interest he has taken in this matter, but I remind him that the development he deplores has an economic basis. A few weeks ago he declared that he was in favour of the payment of smaller wages to the youth of this country. How does he expect the parents of Australia to increase their families if he and others of his ilk advocate the payment of lower wages for the children they bear ? On that occasion I suggested that the honorable senator was advocating that the children should scab on their fathers, and if I remember rightly he retorted that to-day the fathers were scabbing on their children.
– Order! The honorable senator must not revive earlier debates of the current session.
– I rise to a point of order. ‘Senator Brown has wrongly attributed a certain remark to me. I did not say that the fathers were scabbing on their children, and I ask that the honorable senator be required to withdraw his allegation.
– I withdraw it ; but I distinctly heard the honorable senator use those words.
– What I said was that I no more believe in children scabbing on their fathers than I believe in fathers scabbing on their children. That is entirely different from the assertion that Senator Brown has attributed to me.
– I accept the honorable senator’s explanation. Honorable senators, when dealing with this subject, should recognize that the problem is largely an economic one. I am pleased to. hear from the Minister that this amount is to be devoted to maternal and infant hygiene in the Federal Capital Territory. Senator Payne would like to see the amount increased. I repeat that the natural increase of population is governed to some extent by economic considerations, and I have been informed by men residing in Canberra that they see little prospect of employment being found for their families in this Territory. Thus, until more effective measures are adopted to remedy the present economic position of parents, we could spend all the money in the world on maternal hygiene, and yet fail to bring about the desired increase of population.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for External Affairs) [9.9].- The item of £250 for maternal allowances in special circumstances is to provide for payments in special cases where moral grounds exist for such payment, but where there is a legal bar to it. An example of such a case is where a person entitled to receive this allowance has failed to claim it within the statutory time limit, through circumstances beyond the applicant’s control. From this grant, also, payments are made in respect of births which take place in Papua and New Guinea. The proposed grant this year is slightly more than the money expended, and £150 less than the amount voted last year.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes - Refunds of revenue, £1,150,000; advance to the Treasurer, £2,000,000; war services payable out of revenue, £1,077,190; Commonwealth Railways, £684,747 - agreed to.
Proposed vote, £9,126,580.
– Can the Minister inform the chamber whether anything is being done with regard to the erection of the new general post office in Queen-street, Brisbane, and whether any action is being taken to construct a decent post office in Stanleystreet, South Brisbane?
– The Director of Posts and Telegraphs is at present in Brisbane, where he is investigating these matters. I have had a preliminary conversation with him on the subject, and certain proposals, which I cannot discuss at the moment, are now under consideration. Finality will probably be reached early in the new year.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Territories of the Commonwealth.
Proposed votes, £445,620.
– I notice that an amount of £15,000 is proposed to be expended on repairs, maintenance, fittings and furniture in the Northern Territory. Last year the expenditure under this heading was £13,281. Will the Minister inform me whether this is a regularly recurring item of expenditure?
An amount of £3,250 is to be devoted to the extermination of rabbits and dingoes in the Federal Capital Territory. In view of the large sum. of money which has already been expended on this work, this amount is unusually high. I was under the impression that rabbits and dingoes had by now been practically exterminated in the Federal Capital Territory.
[9.15].- The vote for the Northern Territory covers expenditure on a large number of repair works, including Government House, the administrative offices, the hospital building, the public school and police barracks in Darwin, as well as the maintenance of inland buildings, stock routes, wells, windmills, and other services.
– The vote proposed for the subsidized steamship services between Melbourne and Darwin and between Fremantle and Darwin is £6,113. Last year, the same sum was voted and the expenditure was £6,413. I direct attention to the item because I take the view that a subsidy for steamship services to that part of Australia could be eliminated if the Commonwealth honoured the contract entered into with South Australia when the Northern Territory was taken over from that State. One of the conditions ofthe transfer was that the north-south railway line should be completed within a reasonable time. That work should be put in hand without further delay. Then if a railway to Darwin were also constructed through Queensland, communication with the Northern Territory would be on a more satisfactory basis. Yesterday I was surprised to hear Senator Foll say that he was opposed to the unification of the railway gauges. This scheme, I submit, has had the approval of railway engineers for the last 20 or 30 years, and it is necessary in the interest of defence. The construction of the line through Queensland was suggested when Sir Joseph Cook was in power in the Commonwealth, but owing to the short-sighted policy of the then Queensland government, which preferred the construction of agricultural lines, the project was abandoned. I agree with Senator Foll that the unification of the gauges of developmental railways is not essential for defence purposes, but all main lines should be of uniform gauge.
– The honorable senator must confine his remarks to the proposed subsidy for steamship services between Melbourne and Darwin and between Fremantle and Darwin.
– As the construction of the railway lines which I have mentioned would render unnecessary a subsidy for steamship services connecting with the Northern Territory, I contend that my remarks are relevant. It should be the policy of the Commonwealth Government to build as many railway lines as possible so as to provide a satisfactory means of communication for the people in the Northern Territory and ensure the defence of this country.
– I take strong exception to the remarks of Senator MacDonald concerning the subsidized steamship services between Fremantle and Darwin. It may be news to the honorable gentleman that this means of communication, which is highly appreciated by the people living in the north-west of Western Australia, is furnished by the State shipping line of Western Australia. I mention this because I always understood that the honorable gentleman was a supporter of State enterprise. If any action were taken to interfere with the existing means of communication, it would be deeply resented by the people who are being served so well. The north-west of Western Australia could not afford means of communication by rail under existing circumstances. If, as Senator MacDonald has argued, railway connexion were made between Adelaide and Darwin and through Queensland, and, if, as a result, the present steamship service between Fremantle and Darwin were discontinued, 1 he effect on the people in the north-west of my State would be disastrous. I am sure that no Commonwealth Government would be so foolish as to approve of that proposal. Knowing that the State cannot afford to construct a railway to open up the north-west, all political parties in Western Australia approve of the maintenance of the excellent service provided by the State.
– This year the Government has set aside £1,320 for assistance to missions in the Northern Territory. I do not know how the money is to be expended, but from what I learned of the work of the missions when I visited the territory some time ago, I am convinced that all that is being done by the Government in this direction is amply justified. The missions have been and are doing splendid work. The missioners, following in the footsteps of the Master, are cheerfully enduring hardships in order to bring relief to suffering humanity, whether black, white, or half-caste. I rose particularly to direct attention to the humane service which is being rendered by the Hermannsburg Mission, about 80 miles distance from Alice Springs. Some time ago those in charge conceived the idea that if they could raise sufficient money to cover the cost of a pipe line from a spring some distance from the mission, much greater progress would be possible. Accordingly, an appeal for funds was made in Victoria and South Australia, and so generous was the response of the people, particularly in Victoria, that within a few weeks the necessary money was subscribed. The work is now being put in hand, but the mission is still handicapped owing to the heavy cost of the transport of the pipe’s. If the Government could help in any way to overcome this difficulty, its action would be very much appreciated by the mission and the good work which it is doing among the natives would be furthered. At the present time about 180 children are receiving sound instruction in those things which should fit them to become useful citizens of the Commonwealth. I commend the magnificent work of this mission to the earnest consideration of the Government. If the Commonwealth Government would assist those in control of the Hermannsburg mission stations in connexion with the transport of these pipes its help would be appreciated.
– I understand that that matter has already been settled satisfactorily.
– Some time ago, a lady interviewed me in Melbourne, and asked me to interest myself in this matter. However, I trust that the Minister will make further inquiries, and, if necessary, increase the proposed vote.
– The remarks of the honorable senator will be brought under the notice of the Minister concerned.
– A gentleman was appointed recently by the Public Service Board to investigate the administration of the Canberra government hospital. This gentleman is not known to me personally; but, while his qualification as a public servant may be unchallengeable I doubt whether he is qualified to conduct an investigation into hospital administration. I understand that as a result of his investigation and the insane desire of this Government and administrative officers to exercise their quite unnecessary economy, certain conditions exist at the Canberra Hospital which should not be permitted to continue. Does the Minister know that the hot water service is discontinued at 6.30 p.m., and that however cold the night may be or whatever other conditions may exist to justify its continuance., nurses going off duty in the evening cannot obtain a hot bath? That state of affairs should not be permitted tQ, continue. Further, is the Minister aware that after the hot water supply is discontinued, instruments must be sterilized by being boiled in a kerosene tin of water, which is heated by a small stove? This matter should be inquired into immediately and a change effected. A further point is that the food supplied to patients and others connected with the institution, but more particularly that supplied to the patients, is considered unsuitable. I am not ignoring the fact that sick persons sometimes get the weird idea that hospital service is deficient ; but I have such complete reliance on the source of my information that I trust the Minister will arrange for a further investigation to see that patients and others receive more favorable treatment. Moreover, sufficient care is not taken in connexion with the vessels and utensils used by patients. Vessels used by those suffering from tuberculosis and other similar diseases should be segregated, and be distinguishable readily from similar vessels used by others. This is a matter of personal importance to honorable senators who spend a good deal of their time in Canberra. I long ago decided that, should I be unfortunate enough to be overcome by illness I shall not incur the risk of returning to Queensland, but shall go to the Canberra Hospital. I regret that the residents of Canberra have not a more direct means of voicing their grievances than that which now exists ; but they are fortunate in having access to members of Parliament, who are ready at all times to champion their cause.
– Incidentally, the honorable senator is an unofficial member for Canberra.
– I am proud of having usurped that position. I trust the Minister will consider sympathetically the points that I have raised.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for External Affairs) [9.42]. - I cannot see any startling evidence of economy in this proposed vote which appropriates £1,800 more than was expended last year. I am also informed that when the hot water service is turned off, an electrical hot water service, which is found to be more economical, is available for the purposes he indicated.
– Is that electrical service available to the staff?
– I have no personal knowledge of the subject, but I shall bring the honorable senator’s remarks under the notice of the Minister for the Interior.
– I should like some information regarding the proposal to spend £4,000 in the vocational training of youths.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for External Affairs) [9.47]. - The Government proposes to inaugurate a scheme of vocational training for the youths of Canberra, but the full details have not yet been decided on. Before the scheme is launched it is intended that a public meeting shall be held at which the proposals will be explained to the residents and that an organization consisting of representatives of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the technical section of the Department of the Interior, the Property and Survey Branch of that department^) and of different sections of the community, shall be set up. For the technical training of the youths, classes under a technical supervisor will be established. Provision will be made for twenty youths to receive training in the joinery and carpentry class, and for a similar number in the plumbing and motor mechanics classes. Competent teachers will be required in each section. In addition to the creation of these technical classes, it is proposed to establish a farm for the training of 44 boys at a time. The £4,000 included in these Estimates is intended to cover wages of the supervisors and assistants, provide tools, implements and materials, and cover the cost of alterations to buildings. One of the problems of this Territory is the almost total absence of industrial and commercial establishments. Canberra contains a large population of public servants, most of whom are married, but unfortunately there is no opportunity for their sons to acquire technical skill in any trade. It is tragic that in this capital city so many youths leave school with no opportunity to learn any trade. At times there is a scarcity of tradesmen in Canberra, and this scheme is an attempt to train these lads in that capacity.
– I thank the Minister for his explanation. Vocational training is excellent so long as the matter does not end there; the training must be followed by employment. Something will have to be done to find employment for these youths when their training has been completed.
– There is no doubt about that, so far as the building trade in Canberra is concerned.
– I am glad to hear that, for frequently money is wasted because after the boys have received their training the doors of industry are closed against them.
– The money will not be wasted here ; openings for the trainees will be found.
– If employment can be found in the Territory for these lads I shall be pleased, for I recognize that unless something is done for them they will have no chance in Canberra. If the training is confined to those vocations which will offer employment to the trainees, I can only say, “God speed the venture!”
– Twelve months ago I referred at some length to the workmen’s temporary dwellings at Causeway and Molonglo; but conditions there are worse to-day than they were then, and nothing has been done to remedy them. I understand that peremptory demands are now being made on the tenants of those dwellings for payment of the full rental of11s. 3d. a week, together with all arrears, which in some instances represent a fairly considerable sum. The collection of these rents has been placed in the hands of private agents, who have been empowered to distrain on the possessions of tenants if they cannot secure payment otherwise. If the provision of £3,300 for “ alleviation of distress, including ration relief “ is not sufficient to allow a measure of mercy to be extended to these people, the amount should be increased rather than that they should be treated harshly.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister in charge of Territories) [9.54]. - My information is that the people from whom rents are being demanded are not out of work or penni less. Instead of the department collecting the amounts, the task of collection has been given to two firms of agents.
Proposed vote agreed to.
– Glancing through the Estimates for the Department of the Interior, I was astonished to find a great disparity between the salaries of the Chief Electoral Officers in the several States, which are as under -
I should like to know why, Mr. Bandy, the very efficient officer in charge of the Electoral Office in Western Australia, receives less than is paid to the Chief Electoral Officers in the other States. In justice to Mr. Bandy, I, perhaps, ought to say that he has never communicated with me, either directly or indirectly, in this connexion; the disparity between the salaries paid was discovered by me in my consideration of the Estimates. I think his salary should be substantially increased.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister in charge of Territories) [9.57]. - I cannot give an explanation of the apparent inconsistency to which Senator Johnston has referred except that at the time these Estimates were compiled the Chief Electoral Officer had just retired and certain changes were pending. It may be that at that time the officer in charge of the Electoral Office in Western Australia was junior to some of those in the other States. In all probability the matter has been rectified since then.
– Willthe right honorable gentleman bring this matter under the notice of the Minister concerned?
– I shall do so.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.
Postponed clause 2 (Issue and application).
– Why is the vote for parliamen- tary printing reduced this year from £22,000 to £15,000? I notice that although £22,000 was voted last year, only £15,227 was expended. A 50 per cent. reduction seems to me excessive.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for External Affairs) [10.1]. - Probably there is less printing to be done, perhaps owing to less talk being recorded in Hansard. Last year only £15,227 was expended, although £22,000 was voted. The vote asked for this year is practically the same as the expenditure last year.
. -I hope that no attempt is being made to reduce the amount of necessary printing either in Hansard or in other parliamentary papers.
Clause agreed to.
Postponed clause 3 agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– In the last two or three issues of the Canberra Times the following advertisement has appeared : -
Applications, which close on the 13th December, are invited from persons with nursery and general gardening experience for the position of gardener at Parliament House, salary £226 to £242 per annum, plus child endowment. Applications are to be made to the Secretary, Joint House Committee
I desire an assurance from you, Mr. President, that in considering the appointment, the Joint House Committee will have due regard to the Government’s declared policy of preference to returned soldiers.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - During my occupancy of this Chair, the principle of preference to returned soldiers, all other things being equal, has been rigidly adhered to in connexion with all applications for appointment to the staff of Parliament. I see no reason why that practice should be departed from in the future.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.8 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 12 December 1934, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1934/19341212_senate_14_145/>.