14th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I have to inform the Senate that, pursuant to the provisions of the Constitution, I notified the Governor of the State of New South Wales of the vacancy caused in the representation of that State by the death of Senator Lionel Thomas Courtenay, and that I have received through His Excellency the Governor-General, from the Governor of New South Wales, a certificate of the appointment of James Guy Dalley Arkins as a senator to fill such vacancy.
Certificate laid on the table, and read by the Acting Clerk.
The following papers were presented : -
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat ofGovernment ( Administration ) Act - Canberra University College Ordinance - Report ofthe Council of the Canberra University College for the year 1934.
Iron and Steel ‘ Products Bounty Act - Return for 1934-35.
Quarantine Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1935, No. 85- -No. 91.
Commonwealth Public Service Act- - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1935, No. 94.
Tariff Board Act - Tariff Board - Annual Report for year ended 30th June, 1935, together with schedule of recommendations.
Wine Overseas Marketing Act - Seventh Annual Report of - the Wine Overseas Marketing Board, year ended 30th June, 1935, together with Statement by the Minister for Commerce regarding the operation of the Act.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) - byleave - agreed to -
That Senator Collings be discharged from attendance on the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, and Senator Cooper be appointed in his stead.
SenatorFOLL. - Has the MinisterinCharge of Development read the statement in this morning’s newspapers to the effect that successful experiments have been made in the production of synthetic petrol ? If so, will he instruct the officers of his department to investigate the matter ?
– I have not seen the statement referred to, hut the Government is in possession of information relating to the production of synthetic petrol, and it is of such a nature as to render unnecessary further inquiries. However, in view of what the honorable senator has said, I shall refer his question to the Commonwealth Fuel AdvisoryBoard.
ThePRESIDENT. - I have received from Mrs. Harriet Poynton a letter of thanks for the resolution of sympathy and condolence passed by the Senate on the occasion of the death of the Honorable Alexander Poynton.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Customs Tariff Validation Bill (No. 2) 1935.
Customs Tariff (Exchange Adjustment) Validation Bill (No. 2) 1935.
Special Annuity Bill 1935.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answer : - 1, 2, and 3. It is not the practice to disclose Government policy in answer to questions.
Encouragement of Gliding Clubs
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEOEGE PEAECE.The Minister for Defence has supplied the following answers : -
2 and 3. A portion only of the total amount available for allocation to gliding bodies has been distributed so far. Up to the present only two gliding clubs - The West Australian Flying Club and the Queensland Gliding Association - have compliedwith the conditions governing the grant, the primary requirement being that eachclub or association must be a responsible and properly registered and incorporated body. A third body - the Australian Gliding Club (Victorian Section) - is in process of formation. The existing properlyformed bodies have been fully remunerated in accordance with the extent of their operations, as provided in their agreements with the Commonwealth.
The following bills were read a third time : -
Seat of Government (Administration) Bill 1935.
Parliamentary Papers Bill 1935.
Trade Marks Bill 1935.
Bill received from House ofRepresentatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
[3.12]. - In moving -
That the bill be now read a first time.
I point out to honorable senators who are not yet accustomed to the procedure adopted in this chamber on a Supply Bill that in the House ofRepresentatives and in the Houses of Assembly in the State legislatures, provision is made at least once a fortnight for what is known as “ grievance “ day, on which members can bring under the notice of the Government any matters affecting the administration of departments or their constituencies. In this Senate there is no such provision to allow honorable senators to ventilate their grievances. In the early days of federation the procedure was laid down by the then President (Sir Richard Chaffey Baker) whereby honorable senators could, on the first reading of a Supply Bill, discuss any matter of administration or affecting their constituencies. This gave to’ honorable senators a periodical opportunity to ventilate matters that could not be debated on the second reading or in the committee stage, when debate must be relevant to the subject-matter of the bill. That is a very valuable privilege, and one of which honorable senators should avail themselves. This procedure is now embodied in our Standing Orders.
– It will probably be urged against honorable senators who sit in opposition in this chamber that we discuss the subject of old-age and invalid pensioners at every opportunity. Considering the class from which we on this side come, and our knowledge of the hardships and tragedies of old-age and invalidity, honorable senators need feel no surprise at our persistence. Sometimes it is of value to survey the events of the past in order to learn exactly where we stand to-day in relation to pensions and other matters, and from this survey ascertain whether the path we are now following is really the most practicable and worth-while. I have often heard it argued that the Labour party is not responsible for the granting of pensions in Australia. I have a shrewd suspicion that when the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) replies in his customary able and eloquent manner to the points in my speech which he considers vulnerable, he will inform the chamber that the Labour party did not originally bestow the pension. A survey of the facts will show that the Labour party was at one time the third party. It was too weak numerically to occupy the treasury bench, but it was able to make or unmake ministries, for the other two parties were not sufficiently powerful to take office without the support of the Labour party. This occurred more than once in Australian parliamentary history. Labour could offer power to whichever party it preferred, and naturally it supported the party which would give most concessions to the Labour policy. In this fashion some of the planks of the Labour party became realities.
In 1890 the desirability of instituting an invalid and old-age pension was being widely discussed. The spiritual ancestors of the United Australia party were averse to the proposal. Those “ unfriendly friends “ of the aged and invalid declared that the pensions would discourage thrift and would weaken the moral fibre of the recipients. I cannot refrain from mentioning that even in those remote days that time-worn expression was used as an argument against the granting of the pension and all other reforms designed to benefit the people whom I represent in this chamber. The two non-Labour parties merely toyed with the proposal, which was really anathema to them. The issue was avoided until the Labour party made the pension a plank of its platform. This party supported the governments which promised to grant the pension, and, what is more important, forced Ministries to live up to their promises. In September, 1S99, Sir William Lyne supplanted Sir George Reid as Premier of New South Wales. Sir William Lyne promised to grant the old-age pension, and in December, 1900, he was as good as his word. The Labour party put Sir George Turner into office in Victoria in the place of Mr. McLean, and the new Premier granted the pension in 1900. Similarly, in Queensland, in November, 1908, the Labour party supported Mr. Kidston, who became Premier instead of Sir Robert Philp. Incidentally, I had a share in that political development. In July, 1908, the old-age pension was granted in Queensland. Just before that time, Mr. Alfred Deakin promised to establish a pension system for the Commonwealth. Consequently, the Labour party put him in office in place of Sir George Reid. W. G. Spence recorded on page 306 of his Australia s Awakening that Mr. Deakin wrote a letter to the Labour party promising to introduce old-age pensions. Because of delay caused by constitutional difficulties that promise was not carried out until 1908. The States claimed that the unexpended revenue of the Commonwealth should be paid to them each month. Mr. Deakin ‘ held the opinion that their claim was valid and that the plan for the creation of a trust fund for the payment of pensions accordingly was impracticable. Legal advice to the effect that the States’ claim was unsound was obtained by Mr. Fisher, and accepted by Mr. Deakin, who introduced and passed an act providing for a trust fund for the payment of old-age pensions. That act was challenged by the New South (Wales Government, but was upheld by the High Court. Thus the machinery for the payment of pensions to the aged came into being ou the 1st July, 1909. The Fisher Government succeeded that led by Mr. Deakin and held office for six months in 1909. Within a short, period after assuming office Mr. Fisher introduced an oldage pension scheme which came into force as from the loth April, 1909. No provision was made at the time for the institution of pensions for invalids, but the second Fisher Government passed legislation for the payment of such pensions as from October, 1910.
– What happened in 3 931?
– I am surprised that the honorable senator should drag that more-than-decayed red-herring over the track. He may be new in this chamber, but he should know that no intelligent person now takes any notice of what was forced upon the then Government in 3931 in connexion with pensions. I have related the true history of the Australian pensions system.
A tremendous amount of timidity characterizes the Government’s pensions policy. Certain sections of the community will benefit from the current budget by receiving remissions of direct and indirect taxation. I support the proposed restoration to the public servants of a proportion of the salaries taken from them by the Financial Emergency Act, and I do not complain of members of the Commonwealth Parliament sharing in the restorations. I have always insisted that members of Parliament should receive full restoration of salaries, but I am satisfied with the proposals of the Government in this respect for the time being. I am, however, dissatisfied with the treatment meted out to invalid and old-age pensioners, who have been ignored in the budget. They should receive an immediate restoration of their pensions to £1 weekly. Doubtless, we shall be told that the purchasing power of the £1 is now greater than formerly. That threadbare and timeworn excuse is always used by the Government when pilloried for its unjust treatment of the aged and indigent.
– It happens to be true.
– As the allowances of honorable senators are not governed by the cost of living, pensions should not be so regulated. Nobody attempts to tell us that we can buy more with our allowance than we could before it was reduced. Honorable senators opposite are not so entirely reticent and backward mentally when it concerns any other than the poorest section of the community. We are frequently asked to follow the example of Great Britain. When it is a matter of pensions for the highlypaid and wealthy individuals, the Government does follow that example. The following paragraph throws light on some of the pensions paid in Great Britain: -
In Great Britain old-age pensions are allowed to the indigent poor who are 70 years or over at the rate of 10s. per week, provided any other sources of income they have do not exceed 10s. per week. There are forms of oldage pensions, however, other than those granted to the indigent poor. Here are a dozen examples of these:
Right Honorable Viscount Ullswater, late Speaker of the House of Commons, £4,000 per year, £76 1 Ss. 5d. per week.
Right Honorable John Henry Whitney, late Speaker, House of Commons, £4,000 per year, £76 18s. 5d. per week.
Right Honorable Lord Buckmaster, late Lord Chancellor, £5,000 per year, £96 3s. per week.
Right Honorable Lord Atkinson, late Lord of Appeal in Ordinary, £3,750 per year, £72 2s. 3d. per week.
Right Honorable Lord Craigmyle, late Lord of Appeal in Ordinary, £3,750 per year, £72 2s. 3d. per week.
Right Honorable Viscount Summer, late Lord of Appeal in Ordinary, £3,750 per year, £72 2s. 3d per week.
Right Honorable Lord Trevethin, late Lord Chief Justice, £4,000 per year, £76 18s. 5d. per week.
Right Honorable Lord Wrenbury, late Lord Justice of Appeal, £3,500 per year) £67 6s. Id. per week.
Right Honorable Lord Darling, late Justice King’s Bench Division, £3,500 per year, £67 (is. Id. per week.
Right Honorable Lord Warrington, late Lord Justice of Appeal, £3,500 per year, £67 6s. Id. per week.
Right Honorable Sir J. E. Bankes, late Lord Justice of Appeal, £3,500 per year, £67 6s. Id. per week.
Right Honorable Sir C. H. Sargent, late Lord Justice of Appeal, £3,500 per year, £67 6s. Id. per week.
We have in Australia, for example, a judge of one of the federal courts, Judge Lukin, personally known to me as a very worthy gentleman, receiving in addition to his salary a very substantial pension. The law does not allow the Government to reduce the salaries of judges and when the Financial Emergency Act was introduced, Mr. Justice Lukin and the other federal judges were asked to forego a proportion of their salaries. Some of the judges, I believe, made a voluntary sacrifice, but Mr. Justice Lukin, who receives a pension of £1,000 annually from the Queensland Government, refused to surrender any portion of his Commonwealth salary. I have never heard any indignant protests by ministerial supporters in this chamber against his failure to share in the general sacrifice. On retirement, all our judges are paid a pension equivalent to, one-half of the salary they were receiving. Honorable members of this Parliament are not entitled to any such pension. When old-age pensioners are treated so shabbily I shall take every opportunity that is offered to me in this chamber to voice a protest against the differential treatment of the rich.
The 19-31-32. budget contained provision for the reduction of pensions, salaries and maternity allowances. In his budget speech delivered on the 1st September, 1932, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) said that the Government’s first estimate of revenue and expenditure for the year, notwithstanding a surplus from the previous year - a surplus due entirely to the Scullin Government’s administrationindicated a deficit of £1,460,000. In order to bridge that gap> the Government proposed to reduce the vote for pensions by £1,100,000, to take- £240,000 from members of the public service, and to save £60,000 hy reducing the payments made in respect of the maternity allowance. I am. not one of those who believe that the public servant is un- worthy of consideration. In spite of all the hostile criticism of the public service, most of which is untrue and unfounded, 99 per cent. of. the public servants of Australia are giving good value for every halfpenny paid to them. In budgeting for a deficit of £1,460,000 for 1932-33, the Government either deliberately planned for a deficit, in order to avoid its obligation to pensioners and public servants, or it displayed a shocking inability to estimate its revenue. Its estimate of the revenue from income taxation in that year was short by £878,000; instead of receiving £10,000,000 the amount actually received was £10,878,000. Customs and excise duties were expected to yield £806,000 loss than in 1931-32; but instead of a shortage of revenue from that source the amount actually received was £5,300,000 above the estimate. For the first four months of the financial year 1932-33 the estimated revenue was exceeded by £2,700,000. With an overflowing Treasury, all the fair-minded people in the community - and among them I include myself - confidently expected the Government to restore the pension, paid to the poorest section of the community, to £1 a week; but instead, it relieved wealthy land-owners of income tax to the amount of £700,000, and so reduced the tax on property that propertyholders benefited by £500,000. Since the present Government has been in power, surpluses aggregating £12,000,000 have been enjoyed; but the only persons who have benefited have been those in receipt of large incomes. Pensioners and public servants have derived no benefit from the abundant revenues.,
Speaking in the House of Representatives on the 9th July, 1931, the Prime Minister, as ‘reported in Ilansard, page 3,648, said-
Not one member on. this side of the House supports with pleasure the reduction of wages and pensions, and., so far as we are concerned, the redactions will not operate longer than’ is. necessary for the restoration of: financial stability.
However willing we- may be to place reliance on the words of the Prime Minister, it is extremely difficult to do so when that promise still remains- unfulfilled. It is only too evident that the Government; has little sympathy with. pensioners, and that its main concern is for those who dictate its policy - the financial institutions and mortgage companies-.
Speaking on the Financial Emergency Bill on the 29th September, 1932, the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) said -
There are many . . . who* Because of their thriftlessness, and’ because’ they have never denied themselves every form of luxury and pleasure have, by their own act, brought themselves within the pension class.
In other words, he said that, by and large, the pensioners of this- country are pensioners because they have been thriftless.
– If my remarks are considered objectionable by the Leader of the Senate, I withdraw them. A statement made in 1925 by the then Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) stands out in contrast to that of the Leader of the Senate to which I have just referred. In his policy speech of 1925,. Mr. Bruce, referring to sickness; unemployment and old age, said -
If has- to be remembered1 that, even under the conditions existing” in Australia, the wages of our workers are not sufficient to enable them to safeguard themselves against these -evils.
That statement was made at a time when conditions in. Australia were considerably better than they are’ to-day.
When the Invalid’ and Old-age Pensions Bill was under discussion in 1908, Sir Joseph Cook said -
I regard old-age pensions very much in the form of a national’ annuity given to men who are’ entitled to demand it as’ a right; and’ not as air act- of- mercy, or charity. That is the only real basis on which, the system can rest.
Ever since it has’ been in power the present Government, both directly and’ indirectly, has reduced* pensions. I- admit that; at one’ stage- a restoration’ was made to the pensioners; but they are still not in receipt of the full pension. I appeal to the Government’ to make a pronouncement during, the present week that the pension will be restored to £1 a week;
In his budget speech of 1932-33 the present Prime1 Minister, speaking of pensions, said -
The country simply cannot afford this increasing charge.
I have said sufficient to make it clear that the Opposition asks only for justice to the pensioners. I believe that every honorable senator, irrespective of party, would bte delighted to know that the Government had decided to pay a further 2s. a week to the invalid and old-age pensioners. I ask honorable senators who support the Government to urge the Prime Minister to honour his undertaking that, immediately the finances of the country warranted it, the Government would restore pensions to £1 a week. I have spoken in this strain because I believe that this is the time when every member of this chamber who takes his duty seriously should give utterance to thoughts which he may have upon these subjects, especially if he has a constructive policy to offer. No one can deny that Labour has submitted a constructive policy with regard to the restoration of pensions. The Government has enjoyed surpluses in its” finances’ for some years, and therefore it is in a position to do this act of justice to pensioners. Ministers are now in a position to retrieve their political characters. A definite promise was given that full pensions would be restored immediately’ the condition of our finances warranted such a course.
During, the last few months there has been a considerable amount of kite-flying in- connexion with migration. One can hardly take up any. considerable newspaper in’ the Commonwealth without reading therein statements by citizens more or less worthy, urging a- resumption of migration. In my own State we have had pronouncements from Archbishop Wand and Canon Garland, as well as from other Church dignitaries and industrial and commercial magnates; All these people warn, us that unless we take early: steps to add te our present population of 6,7-50,000 people,, our White Australia, policy will be endangered; because; SO- they tell’ us/ the teeming populations of other countries’ are1 looking to Australians- open, spaces with envious eyes. I entirely. agree that’
Australia requires a much larger population if it is to fulfil its destiny, but the political party or the individual who is sufficiently callous to suggest that one human being should be brought to Australia from overseas and be expected to depend for his livelihood on the labour of his two hands before every person in Australia is in decent employment, will be guilty of an act of treachery to *he citizens of this country. I admit the need for a larger population, but I repeat that the Government’s first duty is to frame a policy that will ensure employment for those 350,000 Australian adults who are now compulsorily idle. If this he done there need be no trouble about schemes to attract additional population. But before this end can be attained, honorable senators now- supporting the Government will have to join the ranks of the Labour party, which alone among the parties in this Parliament has put forward a financial policy to make this desirable condition possible. A few days ago, when I mentioned that, in Canberra alone, between 700 and 800 adult persons were unemployed, and when I offered suggestions for their relief, one honorable senator supporting the Government asked how their employment would affect the general situation. Honorable gentlemen who were then present know wl) at was my reply to that question. The decline of the Australian birthrate is not to be wondered at in view of the fact that 12.4 per cent, of the breadwinners in this country have no income at all ; 27.7 per cent, have an income of less than £1 a week; 18.1 per cent, receive between £1 and £2 a week; 12 per cent, between £2 and £3 a week; 9.7 per cent, between £3 and £4 a week; 7.6 per cent between £4 and £5 a week, and only 10.5 per cent have incomes exceeding £5 a week. If government supporters are satisfied with those figures, I am not, and while I have health and strength I shall, inside and outside of Parliament, raise my voice in protest against any act of government policy which is likely to continue this deplorable state of affairs.
– What is the date of those figures?
– They are two and a half years old.
– They are to be found in the latest census returns.
– Surely the honorable senator realizes that there has been a recovery since the census was taken.
- Senator Hardy will have an opportunity, when he addresses the chamber, to tell us to what extent the position has improved since the census was taken; but the difference, I venture to suggest, is the difference between tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee, and hardly worth mentioning. My point is that if we provide employment for our people, we shall increase their spending power and the birth-rate in this country will quickly rise.
Shortly after his return from Great Britain, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), in a speech at Brisbane, reported in the Brisbane Courier-Mail of the 16th August, stated that he had discussed the subject of migration with British Ministers, and although no definite conclusion had been reached, he hoped that it might not be long before Australia reached the stage in ite recovery when the resumption of migration . would be possible.
– Is not that an excellent sentiment ?
– Yes, but during my service of four and a half years in this chamber, I have learned that frequently the Prime Minister, in some obscure corner of a State, makes an announcement of policy, which is then discussed in the press, but members of this Parliament know nothing about a particular proposal until the nefarious work has been done. This discussion about migration would not have been so general in recent months if there was not a desire, on the part of those who have taken part in it, to bring more people to Australia to compete in the labour market with those already here. I had intended, if time permitted, to direct attention to some harrowing details of housing conditions in this country which have been disclosed within the last few days in Nationalist newspapers.
– What “ Nationalist “ newspapers has the honorable senator in mind?
– Those which do not support the Labour party but do support the honorable senator and his friends. The Sydney Morning Herald, a few days ago, published statements which revealed an appalling condition in certain parts of Sydney where, it was alleged, as many as thirteen people were living in one room. The Prime Minister in his statement on migration, said -
It is necessary to encourage schemes to this end, and I am hopeful the stage will be reached soon’ when migration may be resumed.
– The honorable senator himself said that a few moments ago.
– No. I said that it would be an act of treachery to the citizens of Australia if any proposal to bring to Australia additional migrants were launched before employment was found for all Australian men willing and anxious to work. When we have done that there will be no dearth of migrants. Indeed, to stem the tide, the Government will then have to station its representatives in all British speaking countries with surplus populations in order to ensure that only those who are physically and otherwise fitted to become citizens of Australia, are allowed to come to this country. Under the migration scheme launched by an earlier Nationalist government, many who came to Australia were subsequently committed to mental asylums, and some of them are still there. But I desire to do justice to the Prime Minister. He said -
The adoption of a new migratory plan will not be possible until Australians themselves ire enjoying completely stable economic conditions.
I would accept that statement at its face value if I did not know just how much it is worth. There is no indication in the budget speech, or in the Supply Bill, of any proposed steps by the Government to bring about stable economic conditions. What proof have we that those who oppose the Labour party know the basic causes of unemployment, let alone how to remedy it? When some of us are offering constructive proposals for the regeneration of society honorable senators opposite either leave the chamber or sit with a look on their faces which indicates that they do not understand the case pre sented by the Opposition. Where are the proposals of the Government that will make for stable economic conditions? They are not to be found in any bill before the chamber. We on this side are impressed more by what the bills do not contain than by what is to be found in them. The Overseas Settlement Committee of the Dominions Office, commenting on the Prime Minister’s statement, intimated that within six months of Australia announcing its willingness to accept migrants the British Government would be ready to despatch the first migrant ship. A few years ago a delegation representing the Empire Parliamentary Association came to Australia, and when its members visited Queensland, the then State Premier, Mr. McCormack, presented Australia’s case in regard to migration. After the subject had been discussed, that talented and cultured gentleman, Lord Salisbury, summed up the situation in words to this effect -
Gentlemen, you ask me to ric) the impossible. You tell nic you want agricultural labourers, but J. point out that we have not one to spare in Great Britain. You tell me you want artisans to develop your industries, but I am bound to inform you that we need every one of them. You tell me you do not want the sweepings of our industrial hells, but that is all we have to offer you, because we require all the others to develop the Motherland. We learned during the war that Britain must make itself as self-contained as possible, so that it will be more independent than in the past of outside sources of food supply in times of national emergency.
Only in one way can migra tion be placed on a satisfactory basis. Australia must first put its own people back into employment. Then let Great Britain transfer manufacturing industries to this country, and send its own artisans with them, to help us in our work of development in this greater Britain in the southern seas. Such a policy would help the Old Country to rid itself of its load of misery.
The new British High Commissioner in Australia, Sir Geoffrey Whiskard, interviewed on his appointment, expressed hope of an early revival of immigration on a substantial scale. The Premier of South Australia (Mr. Butler), on his return from England, also stated that it was time immigration was resumed. I contend that the first thing to consider is the fate of the 350,000 jobless men in Australia. The United
Australia party of Victoria carried a motion., recently advocating “ a. regular flow of immigrants “. A number of honorable senators opposite have to take their instructions from the United Australia party of Victoria, by whose grace,, with the- aid of a few electors, they were returned to this chamber. The London Morning Post, referring to the attitude of the Prime Minister of New Zealand, remarked -
It is reasonable to suggest that an empty dominion ought to be reviewing its economic structure, and endeavouring to discover what the new migrants may produce.
The fact is that with the exception of wool there is over-production of all primary products in the Commonwealth, yet in a short time quotas will be fixed to restrict our exports. In the past we have received migrants at the rate of approximately 40,000 a- year from Great Britain. We have borrowed millions from the Old Country, and this money has been invested in Australia, but what do we find? I should like to put the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) into the witness box. In an address at Chatham House,, on the 9th April last, he said -
Can you wonder that the average citizen in Australia is rather inclined to-day to raise his eyebrows and to say, “ This is very curious. All this money has come in. The work is done and the tree is about to bear fruit, and we are told that we must let the fruit fall to the ground.”
Mr. Menzies is the young man who is marked, out to be Prime Minister as soon as the United Australia party decides that it has finished with the Bight Honorable J. A. Lyons.
No doubt we shall have a statement from the Government in a day or two about, the meat and other quotas, and about trade agreements with other countries. We are producing goods- now for which we cannot find a market, either’ in Australia or overseas, yet there is talk about migration.! The London; newspaper to which I have referred also declared that migration’ is an “Imperial, necessity,” but so is the sale of our primary products-overseas. Britain wishes to send us migrants, but it does not desire to he bothered about our products; although it must’ realize- that- our, financial, stability, rests on securing, markets for our goods:
I have pu-t two constructive proposals before the Government this afternoon. No doubt honorable, senators opposite are as anxious- as. I am to eradicate unemployment and restore fully the invalid- and old-age pensions,, but good intentions are not sufficient ;. concrete action is required. This involves a definite constructive plan, yet the present Government is bankrupt- of any proposal that could be regarded as even leading in. that direction.
In the distillation of oil’ from coal and shale much success has been achieved in other countries-. If this industry were developed, in Australia- on a large- scale employment could be provided for hundreds of men for whom there is no chance of re-employment under present conditions. In New South Wales are to be found thousands- of coal-miners who will never again be able to- get a job at coalmining in that or any- other State- unless new uses are found for coal and its’ by-products. A large percentage of the shipping to-day consists of vessels burning- fuel oil. Speaking on the budget recently I mentioned the fact that tar, a by-product of coal, is suitable for road making, but the Postmaster-General (Senator A. J’. McLachlan) remarked that it is of no- use for that purpose. Next day, however,, in
Hi report published; in the Sydney Morning Herald of the annual meeting of the Australian! Gaslight Company, it. was stated: that the company w.as producing from, coal thousands of gallons of tar which was being: used for road-making purposes. It is certainly so used in Queensland. I propose to show that the Government’ should give this matter its immediate and earnest consideration. I have been a member of this chamber for four years, and I recall that in season and out of season ex-Senator- Dunn urged- the adoption- of the hydrogenation process for the extraction of oil from coal, but’ no satisfactory undertaking has been obtained from the Government. In his policy speech in 19341 the Prime Minister, emphasizing that the- Commonwealth Government had in the national interest decided to’ take a larger share of’ the responsibility of finding work for the unemployed, said -
The problem of absorbing the- workless miners on the Australian coal fields- is great, and. if the extraction of oil from coal by the hydrogenation, or any other process, can be demonstrated to be profitable, the Government will have no hesitation in providing assistance for the establishment of the industry.
Only the other day a demonstration of the process of extracting oil from coal was held in New South Wales at which a Commonwealth representative was present.
– Was that at Mittagong?
– Yes. The representative of the Commonwealth said that the demonstration which was completely successful had disclosed an inexpensive method of extracting oil from coal by that process. According to the Courier Mail of the 16th May of this year Sir Frederick Stewart, speaking in London, said that the Government now placed employment in the foreground of its programme. He went on to say -
I am specially reporting on the impressive progress that has been made in the extraction of oil from coal which the Commonwealth regards as most important in view of the unemployed in the coal areas.
I need not stress the fact that in the matter of transport in Australia oil is a necessity. The Royal Australian Navy uses approximately 19,000 tons of fuel oil per annum. It is interesting to note that the importations of petroleum in 1928- 29 totalled 304,000,000 gallons, valued at £7,675,000, and in 1933-34, 266,000,000 gallons, valued at £3,340,000. In 1928-29, 805,000 gallons of residual and solar oil valued at £18,000 was imported and in 1933-34 the importations of these products totalled 72,714,000 gallons, valued at £411,000. According to a statement which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 2nd August last the Minister in charge of Development (Senator A. J. McLachlan) said -
It would be folly for the Government to embark upon a huge expenditure here of perhaps £10,000,000 until the process had been thoroughly tried. It would be at least eighteen months before the efficacy of the process as applied to raw coal could . be determined at Billingliam-on-Tees.
It was stated in reply to- a question in the House of Lords that Great Britain is taking determined steps to utilize all its resources for the production of oil fuel. The entire dependence of the British Navy upon liquid fuel, and the tendency to substitute oil for coal in mercantile vessels makes the- demand for oil enormous. For economic reasons Great Bri tain has been compelled to discover a means of extracting oil from coal and shale on a commercial basis. Instead of making presents to the wealthy section of the community by remissions of land and income taxes the Government should give immediate consideration to the possibility of producing oil from coal. In one year the Government remitted £5,000,000 of taxes. That remission is a continuing one, and in a subsequent year an additional £1,000,000 was remitted. I think that I would be safe in saying that during the last few years the Government has made a present of at least £50,000,000 to wealthy interests.
– What contributions have been made to certain interests by the tariff?
– I shall have something to say on that subject later. The extraction, of oil from coal is a highly technical subject, and I have before me statements by various authorities, some of which have already been published in. Hansard, showing definitely what can be produced from coal under the low carbonization as well as the hydrogenation process. The by-products include coke and creosote oil for preserving timber.
– Coke is the main by-product.
– Yes, but there are others.
– Will not private enterprise take up this matter in New South “Wales?
– If the speech I am attempting to make, discloses anything at all it is that private enterprise has proved a ghastly failure. The records of human emancipation and progress are marked right down through the ages by the terrible failures of private enterprise. That system is responsible for the fact that ten persons are compelled to live in one room in Redfern, Sydney, and for -the thousands of suicides which occur every year on account of poverty.
– State enterprises in Queensland were not a glowing success.
– I am an old’ man, but I have heard similar references to private enterprise ever since I was a boy. My father and I knew what poverty- meant. Senator Foll, who has been to Great Britain on more than one occasion, knows of the terrible poverty which exists there, but we have in Australia, slums whose horrors cannot be equalled in any part of the world. When I was a lad my father was attempting to bring people to a recognition of the fact that a social system better than that under which they worked was possible. I am doing the same to-day, but I am told as my father was told, that we muSt not have governmental control; that we should leave everything to private enterprise to that end and must make further remissions of taxes to the wealthy. These same timeworn arguments were employed threequarters of a century ago when Lord Shaftesbury was forcing his reform bill through the British House of Commons. Some of the people who to-day are opposing social and economic reform are the lineal descendants of those who for centuries have opposed everything that would mean a benefit to the masses, to the detriment of the exclusive class. That is the reason for the looks of indignation and puerile interjections from honorable senators opposite. They are all for the purpose of minimizing the facts which I am placing before the Senate. If it is suggested by honorable senators opposite that we should leave the extraction of oil from coal to private enterprise I remind them that I have a fund of information at my disposal which I should like to place before them, and which the Minister in charge of development should study carefully. It has been demonstrated that oil can be extracted from coal, and that various by-products also can be obtained ; but are we go’ng to wait indefinitely? There is no reason why the Government should wait for private enterprise to undertake thi.” work. Eventually the Government will make some arrangement with private enterprise, as in the case of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, and enable outside interests to get a “rake off “. How is it that the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, in which the Commonwealth has a controlling interest, is showing a loss while private oil companies are amassing immense profits and dodging the tax gatherer by concealing their profits? The Government will probably subsidize private enterprise to carry out the work of extracting oil from coal, and when the process has proved successful a private concern will get away with the “ swag.” In all seriousness I protest against the inactivity of the Government in this direction.
The Government should restore the invalid and old-age pensions to £1 a week, and make up its mind not to admit a single migrant into Australia until all our people are fully and gainfully employed. If it vill cease making contributions to wealthy city magnates, it will be able to finance a scheme for the production of oil from coal by .the hydrogenation or some other suitable process.
– As the honorable senator has admitted that he does not possess any technical knowledge of this subject, why should he advise the Government to proceed with this work?
– Does Senator Hardy suggest that he cannot do anything in any direction until he is chock full of technical information on the subject? If that is so, he will never do anything.
– I have a recollection of the honorable senator on one occasion posing as an authority on refrigeration.
– The company to which I referred at that time is now manufacturing refrigerating machines which cannot be beaten by Yankee or other manufacturers. Senator Hardy and some of the other honorable senators opposite have been in cold storage so long that they cannot thaw even under my remarks.
A few moments ago the Leader of the Senate pertinently interjected that State enterprises in Queensland had not proved a glowing success. There is a popular misconception concerning Queensland’s State enterprises. On this subject I am not without details. Despite the remarks bandied across the chamber, I say quite definitely that no State enterprise in Queensland failed. In the first place, a Queensland Labour government established a State Insurance Office and a succeeding anti-Labour government did not abolish it. The Labour Government also established a Public Curators Office, which is still in operation. According to the ordinary methods of accountancy some State enterprises did not show a profit.
Let me tell the Leader of the Senate, who is engaged in conversation with the Postmas ter-Gener al-
– Senator Pearce and I were speaking about Mungana.
– When this Government, assisted by a State Government hostile to the Labour movement, was endeavouring to ruin one man, I had a question regarding Mungana asked in the Queensland Parliament. Honorable senators will recall that the charge made against the individual whom the Government was endeavouring to ruin was that he fraudulently sold, a mine to the Government of Queensland for £40,000. The Mungana mine supplied flux, which was essential to the operation of the Chillagoe smelting works. The question asked in the State Parliament was : “ What is the value of the product taken out of the Mungana mine since the Government purchased it for £40,000?” The answer supplied by the Mines Department showed that that mine had produced flux to the value of £400,000. Yet some gentlemen are so devoid of honour that, in order to blacken the reputation of one man, they continue to repeat the catch-cry : “ What about Mungana ?”
– Tell us about the State cattle stations.
– The then Premier of Queensland, Mr. T. J. Ryan, considered that the people were being exploited by the meat producers. On learning from the Price-fixing Commissioner the prices charged for meat, he decided to establish State cattle stations and butchers’ shops with the object of reducing prices by one-half. He achieved his objective; meat prices have not since returned to their former high levels.
– What happened afterwards ?
– Large sums of money remained in the pockets of the people because they were able to obtain cheaper meat. I admit now that a better means could have been found to reduce the price of meat; it is easy to be wise after the event.
– What about the balance-sheets of the State undertakings?
– No government has the right to make a profit on any of its undertakings. That a State trading concern shows a profit indicates either that its employees are being paid less than they should receive or that the consuming public is being overcharged.
SenatorFoll. - Is the Queensland Government wrong in making a profit in connexion with its insurance business?
– Any surplus is either returned to Consolidated Revenue or is used to decrease premiums or to give greater benefits. The Queensland State Insurance Office is unique among insurance offices in the generous treatment of its clients. A private company undertaking the same class of work has not only a profit and loss account, but also a capital account ; but government accountancy methods are different. The AuditorGeneral of Queensland insists that State undertakings shall be debited with the capital cost from their inception.
I have touched on a good many subjects, and I hope that the mental receptivity of honorable senators opposite has been sufficient for them to take in what I have said.
– It is all being taken down.
– I shall conclude by telling the right honorable senator the story of a candidate for political honours who, after referring to the many hardships inflicted on his hearers, said: “Are you going to take all this lying down?” From the back of the hall a voice answered : “ No ! Reporters are doing that “.
– It is gratifying to find that the Government, has made provision for a greater degree of self-containment and self-reliance in defence than formerly. The additional sum provided on the Estimates for that purpose will, doubtless, readily be agreed to by honorable senators on both sides of the chamber, since it is for the defence of Australia and will give employment to a considerable number of men. As the British Government accepts the responsibility for the major portion of the financial burden associated with . what is frequently termed imperial defence, it naturally expects complete control ; and consequently its policy does not necessarily meet each dominion’s local requirements. Like -the other dominions, Australia is a member of the League of Nations, and has the right to raise and maintain in peace time a force sufficient for defence requirements, but not for purposes of aggression. The strength of that force is a matter for Australia itself to determine, having due regard to the country’s financial resources. It is neither wise nor necessary to refer to the part which the three services would be called upon to play in defending Australia against an aggressor. The British Government exercises no control whatever over Australia’s defence. It could, if asked, offer the Commonwealth its advice; but Australia would not be obliged to follow it. The Commonwealth Government has the benefit of the advice of the Council of Defence, composed of experts, all of them Australia-minded, and its defence policy is the outcome of their recommendations. In my opinion, the Opposition should be represented on that body, because the defence policy of the country should be above party politics, and should not be affected by changes of Government. I do not know the Opposition’s defence policy, but I am acquainted -with many trade unionists whose views on defence are identical with my own. There is a tendency to decry defence, and to begrudge every pound expended in ensuring national safety. There are many who believe that either Great Britain or the League of ‘Nations would intervene if Australia were attacked; but surely it is selfish to want all and to give nothing.
Australia almost demands that other countries shall buy its surplus products; yet its tariff policy amounts almost to the prohibition of imports. We adhere to the White Australia policy and to our rigid immigration laws; and a large number of the people are unwilling to take the steps necessary to maintain those principles. Another school of thought believes that Australia should trust in the British Navy’s strong right arm; but that bulwark of defence is no longer available to us. But even if the British Navy were as strong to-day as it was 20 years ago, there would be no guarantee that it would be conveniently placed if trouble occurred on this side of the world, 12,000’ miles away from the heart of the Empire. Every true patriot and virile Australian should be grateful that the Government is placing the defence of the nation on a sound and self-contained basis.
I strongly urge that the instructions to reduce the issue of free ammunition to efficient members of rifle clubs from 200 rounds to 100 rounds a year should be withdrawn. If not, the rifle club movement will receive a serious setback. Omitting the members of regimental rifle clubs there were 37,769 effective members of reserve or civilian rifle clubs last year. Of that number, approximately 25,000 are members of clubs in country centres where it is too expensive to raise and train militia units. Eighty-two per cent, of those potential infantrymen and lighthorsemen are between the ages of 16 and 45 years. The remainder are much older men - foundation members who keep the clubs together. They can still shoot straight, and they make excellent coaches for the younger men. I contend that it is far better for young fellows to employ their Saturday afternoons in a national pastime such as rifle shooting, than to stand about hotels awaiting the receipt of racing information, and spending their money on alcoholic liquors. If something be not done very soon to rescind the instruction with reference to the free issue of ammunition for rifle clubs, I fear that the effects will be so serious as to lead to the eventual disbandment of some clubs. It has been hinted that the Mark VI. ammunition could be issued in lieu of the Mark VII.; but Mark VI. ammunition is obsolete, and about 95 per cent, of the riflemen of Australia have had their rifles adjusted to take Mark VII. ammunition. This was done at the direction of the military authorities. As no Mark VT. ammunition has been manufactured since the war, the remaining stocks are over 15 years old and are due for re-examination and, possibly, breaking down for scrap. It has been officially stated that it -would cost £36,000 to issue 200 rounds of free ammunition to each rifleman in Australia. I have checked the figures, and I consider that the cost would be £25,000, one half of which would be represented in wages. Therefore the granting of the request would provide worthwhile employment to a considerable number of men. The rifle club movement is a purely voluntary one - as is our defence system - and1 it should not be discouraged. I hope that the Minister for Defence will give further consideration to the proposal and that the Government will be able to find the money to keep these clubs going and, at the same time, continue in employment many men working in the small arms factories.
I am glad to know that the Government intends to introduce legislation to meet the claims of disabled former members of the Australian Imperial Force who are not covered by the existing- provisions of the Repatriation Act. In this connexion I pay a high tribute to Colonel Semmens, the chairman of the Repatriation Commission, who, for the last 15 years, has discharged the difficult duties of his office with a great deal of tact. He has, I think, held the scales evenly between the taxpayers- and the pensioners. I hope that the Government will appoint as his successor a man with a flexible mind and a large fund of human sympathy, for those are the requisite qualities for the proper discharge of these important duties. ‘
I understand that negotiations are in progress for a trade agreement with the New Zealand Government for the marketing of Australian citrus fruits in the sister dominion. I hope that no time will be lost in completing the details, otherwise I am afraid that Jamaica and Honduras will capture the New Zealand citrus market. I have been informed that the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page), who is dealing with this matter, hopes soon to be able to make a favourable statement. In the interests of our citrus-growers I sincerely hope that the Minister’s efforts will be attended with success.
SenatorFOLL (Queensland) [4.45]. - I offer my congratulations to Senator Brand for the excellence of the material contained in his maiden speech in this chamber. Those of us who have had the privilege of being associated with the honorable senator know what splendid service he has rendered to Australia, first as a brilliant soldier in the Great War, and later in the administration of the
Defence Department. I feel sure that he will be able to give to honorable senator and Ministers valuable advice on the formulation of future defence measures. As a representative, of the. State in which Senator Brand was born, I am particularly pleased to welcome him as a colleague, and I feel sure that although he enters this chamber as a representative of Victoria he will deal fairly by the State which I have the honour to assist in representing.
From what Senator Collings said about migration one would imagine that the Government intended to deal a deadly blow to Australia by the introduction of millions of migrants. As I read the Prime Minister’s statement, all that he said was, that he hoped the day was not far distant when Australia would be in a condition to receive many thousands of migrants. Surely every honorable senator endorses that sentiment. We all hope that Australia soon will be so attractive that people overseas who desire to migrate will turn their eyes towards this country. Nowhere have I read a statement by the. Prime Minister or any other Minister advocating immediately the dumping into Australia of large numbers of migrants. Recently, in company with a number of other members of this Parliament, I had the privilege of visiting the Mother Country. During my stay there I studied carefully the economic condition of Great Britain, and I am firmly convinced that the employment position there is so satisfactory that comparatively few people will think of migrating to Australia in the near future. I speak with a first-hand knowledge of a considerable number of industries in nearly all the important manufacturing centres of Great Britain. I spentsome time in Birmingham, Manchester, and various centres in Yorkshire, and was impressed by the evidence of prosperity on every hand.
– What about the coal-mining industry?
– Coal-mining and ship-building are differently placed. Ship-building is in a very serious plight in Britain despite the moderate revival in Glasgow caused by the building there of the Queen Mary. The completion of that vessel will be followed by a heavy increase in the number of unemployed on the Clyde. Australia offers no opportunities for migrants from the ranks of British coal-miners or ship-builders.
One remark made by Senator Collings struck me very forcibly. The honorable senator, reading a quotation from a speech made by Lord Salisbury in Brisbane when he visited; this country as leader of the Empire parliamentary delegation, stated that Lord Salisbury had said that the type of person largely required in Australian industries was very much the same type as Britain itself needed. I did not know that His Lordship had made that statement, but I reached the same conclusion when, as a member of the recent Empire parliamentary delegation, I visited industrial centres in Great Britain. I was informed that it was difficult for some of the British industries to obtain skilled labour.
While in Birmingham I asked the Lord Mayor whether there was much unemployment in that city, and was informed that there was absolutely none. The Mayor further stated that a recent census had shown that of the boys in the city who had just left school only 49 were unemployed, a very small number in a city with a population equal to that of Sydney. These facts demonstrate that in those large manufacturing centres of Great Britain there is little or no unemployment. Accompanied by other members of the Empire parliamentary delegation I visited the works of General Motors Limited at Luton, Bedfordshire, which employs 7,000 men and women, and found that labour is so scarce in that part that General Motors Limited was sending agents throughout the depressed areas in the north of England to recruit suitable men.
The same story was told at all of these newer industrial centres in England. In Manchester, members of the parliamentary delegation found that although the cotton industry had not regained anything like the prosperity which it had once enjoyed, the intense competition from Japan had been responsible for the modernization of machinery, the adoption of improved methods, and a revival of the industry. From all that I saw and heard in Great Britain I can say that if we have the impression that millions of people in England are awaiting an opportunity to migrate to Australia we are due for disillusionment. In my opinion it will be difficult to obtain suitable immigrants from the Mother Country even when we are ready to receive them. It will be very difficult to get the right type of persons as migrants. Owing to the revival of the iron and steel, motor car, electrical and radio industries in Great Britain, practically the whole of the skilled labour has been absorbed, and Britain is faced with as serious a problem as that with which Australia has to contend, because in recent years fewer lads have learned trades. The building industry has received a phenomenal impetus. Last year 250,000 new houses were erected, and consequently workers of the classes employed in the building trade have been rapidly absorbed.
Some honorable senators may imagine that because Great Britain has a population of 45,000,000, there is little room for agriculture, but a study of the figures shows a marked growth in primary production. The present Government has wisely adopted a scheme to assist in the building up of primary industries. Australia naturally looks to. Britain for an outlet for its products; yet we cannot blame the Old Country for endeavouring to make itself as self-contained as possible. A considerable bounty is paid annually on the production of beet sugar. It is difficult to say at the present stage whether this industry will succeed without the bounty; but, while it is paid, there will be a considerable production of this sugar. The cattle industry in Britain has assumed large dimensions, and the duty levied on beef from Argentina, Brazil and the dominions is returned to the producers, with the result that the industry has been placed on a sounder footing than formerly. The farmers are crying out for labourers, and finding it difficult to obtain them. What chance, therefore, has Australia of securing agricultural labourers from Great Britain? The millions said to be waiting to come to our shores are mythical. The number available as migrants is becoming fewer each year. That, I regard, as the most serious aspect of the migration problem.
During the last ten or fifteen years a considerable decline has occurred in the birth-rate in Great Britain, as also in Australia and most other countries. The decline has been so rapid in Britain that to-day the population there is almost stationary, and if the decline of the birth rate continues at the same rate for another six years, Britain’s population will begin to decrease. This raises two vital problems. A decline of population would prevent Britain from offering Australia as many migrants as it has in the past, and would result in decreased markets for Australian products. It is imperative, therefore, that we look to other fields than Britain for an outlet for our increased production. I believe that the market in Great Britain for Australian goods could be extended, but it would be a mistake to depend almost entirely on the United Kingdom as an outlet for our primary products, except wheat and wool.
I welcome the decision of the Government to send a trade delegation to India. No doubt a considerable amount of trade is to be secured with that country.
– It has been falling heavily every year.
– But, unfortunately, no organized attempt has yet been made to prevent that.
– What does India send to us?
– Considerable quantities of jute and tea. I would give India a tariff concession on tea. The duty on all tea is 3d. a lb., and we could well offer a concession of at least half of that amount. Many people imagine that everybody in India is too poor to buy the products of Australia. Admittedly the overwhelming majority of the people are, but there is a white population of between 16,000 and 20,000, and a considerable native population which can well afford to purchase Australian goods. I was informed by the Foreign Minister of one of the chief native States that a large market awaits us if we supply the goods that India requires, present them in the way in which the people desire them to be marketed, and guarantee continuity of supply. One complaint made to me was that Australian butter is so popular in certain quarters that it is rapidly sold out, but no further supply may be received for three or four weeks. A similar complaint was raised .in Glasgow, the goods being sent through London instead of being shipped to northern ports. Often a merchant buys a quantity of Australian goods, but when his patrons are becoming accustomed to them the supply ceases, after which he has difficulty in inducing them again to purchase those goods. I believe that Australia could do a large trade with Egypt.
-Hughes. - Is it nor. more important, and easier, to keep the markets we have than to explore new ones?
– The search for new markets should not injure the markets we already have. If we have lost markets we should try to remove the cause of that loss, but we should not cease our efforts to secure new trade outlets. In Cairo, I met the Trade Commissioner who was recently appointed as the representative of the Dominion of Canada. As the result of his efforts in bringing the quality of Canadian goods under the notice of the Egyptians, the imports from that dominion increased during his first year of office from £S0,000 to £250,000.
I commend, the Government for its efforts to secure a better deal than was formerly enjoyed by the Australian meat industry. The work of the ministerial delegation to London was of great value, and it is regrettable that an attempt has been made to belittle it. The members of the delegation were the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), Mr. Menzies. Sir Henry Gullett and Mr. Thorby. The bulk of the work fell on the shoulders of Mr. Menzies and Sir Henry Gullett, who were the outstanding figures in the negotiations. When the full details of the transactions between Britain, Australia and Argentina are published, their efforts in the interest of the meat industry of Queensland and of Australia generally, will be widely appreciated. It is impossible for delegates to make an announcement concerning their work at such conferences while negotiations are still proceeding. During my recent visit to Great Britain I was convinced that many of the marketing methods of Argentina meat producers should be adopted by Australian beef producers. The Argentina producers have achieved success, not as the result of haphazard methods, but by closely studying buyers’ requirements. Argentina beef is popular in Great Britain to-day because it is uniform in size and quality, and the supply is regular-
– And because of its early maturity.
– Yes Argentina producers know that the consumers in GreatBritain require young and small beef, and not the large type. The Argentina organization in the matter of production, shipping and marketing in Great Britain is so perfect that it knows, almost to within 100 quarters, what the consumption of Great Britain will be during any particular period. It would be of great advantage to those engaged in the production of meat in Australia to send representatives of Australian exporters to Argentina to study the methods, which have enabled that country to secure such a large share of the British market. Although I am firmly convinced that the quota system is unsatisfactory, I believe that at present it would be very unwise for Australia to adopt an alternative. It is preferable for Australia to adhere to an adequate quota system than to rely upon tariff protection against exports from Argentina. If a levy of 1¼d. per lb. on Argentina meat and id. per lb. on dominion meat, which would leave a preference of Id. per lb., were adopted, the Argentina meat producing industry, being so efficient, and so much closer to the European market, would still be able to undersell Australia in Britain. Until the Australian meatproducing industry is better organized, we should rely upon an adequate quota system rather than upon a preferential tariff rate.
I now wish to refer to a statement made by Senator Collings tha.t Ministers and honorable senators on this side of the chamber generally are endeavouring to prevent the production of oil from coal or shale. During our visit to Great Britain we had the opportunity to inspect the work being carried out in the laboratories of Imperial Chemical Industries, which is one of the greatest organizations of its kind in any part of the world. This company has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds in endeavouring to develop the economical production of oil from coal or other such resources. Great Britain, like Australia, does not produce flow oil, and has to import all its requirements. We all know how essential it is that we should be able to produce oil from coal, and it is unreasonable to suggest that any right-minded person would for political purposes place an obstacle in the way of development in this direction. The production of oil from this source would mean more to the British Empire than perhaps to any other country. At the laboratories of Imperial Chemical Industries in South Wales, we saw a complete plant which cost £3,000,000 to erect extracting oil from coal, and we also had the opportunity to investigate carefully what was being done. I asked those engaged on the work if there was any possibility of the fuel they were producing competing successfully with flow oil, and I was informed that in Great Britain, where coal-mining costs are lower than here, there was no possibility of the manufactured fuel competing with flow oil, unless the British Government was prepared to continue thetax of Sd. a gallon on the latter,, and allow the manufacturers of oil from coal to remain on an excise free basis. Dr. Rivett, the Chief Executive Officer of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, who attended a conference in Berlin five years ago, with the object of obtaining the latest information in connexion with the hydrogenation process, has for some years been making every effort to ascertain whether fuel can be produced from coal on an economic basis.. It is, therefore, unfair of Senator Collings to suggest that the Government has been negligent.
Senator Collings also raised a rather contentious subject in alleging that thereare about 350,000 persons unemployed in Australia.
– The census figuresshow that number to be unemployed.
– But those figures are some years old.
– I referred to the figures given in the latest bulletin.
– Assuming that the honorable senator’s figures are correct, there are certain factors to be considered. I am sure that Senator Collings does not support the attitude adopted by a section of those concerned in an industrial disturbance which occurred in the Queensland cane-fields. We both sympathize with the cane-growers who have had to see their cane remain uncut, because the men defied definite instructions of the officers of the Australian Workers Union, and an award of the court. The pernicious methods adopted by certain persons in Australia must be dealt with by the Government, or more serious trouble will occur. I refer to the ever-growing menace of communism.
– It is one of the effects of unemployment.
– There was no unemployment in the area where that outbreak occurred. Senator Collings, who is a stalwart member of the Australian Workers Union, knows that that organization did all in its power to get the men to resume work, but the Communists prevented them from doing so. Owing to the influence of communism, work at Mount Coolon has ceased. The Registrar of the Arbitration Court in Queensland has ordered the men to return to work, pending the holding of a compulsory conference, but they are still idle. I also read yesterday that 600 to 700 men employed at the glass works, a highly protected industry, have gone on strike, thus rendering a thousand persons idle. The Government must not shut its eyes to the menace of communism which is growing. We have seen its effects in Queensland during the last few months.
– The Commonwealth Government has an application before the High Court at present to have a certain organization declared illegal, but that application is being opposed in a circular letter signed by representatives of a number of Queensland unions.
– I am glad that the Government is taking a firm stand in this matter, because I can assure the Minister that the farmers who have been hit so hard are looking, not only to the Commonwealth Government, but also to the Government of Queensland, to assist them in their fight against communism.
– Is the honorable senator in favour of restoring the invalid and old-age pension to fi a week?
– Every honorable senator, irrespective of party, would be glad to see the pension restored if it were possible to do so. lt may be that the pension will automatically reach fi a week by reason of the cost-of-living adjustments made from time to time. During my tei-m as a member of this Parliament, the annual vote for invalid and old-age pensions has increased from £3,500,000 to nearly £13,000,000, but the population has not increased proportionately. The greater prosperity of the community has not prevented that abormal growth of the vote for pensions. In my opinion, the whole system of dealing with pensions is wrong. I should like to see in operation one comprehensive national insurance scheme, to co-ordinate all relief work, and provide for all cases of invalidity and old age. Millions of pounds have been spent on useless and non-productive works, whereas, under a properly co-ordinated scheme, only works of a reproductive nature would have been undertaken.
– The schemes which have been in operation have, at least, put money into circulation.
– It is useless merely to put money into circulation unless it produces something worth while.
Senator Collings mentioned the need for a policy of slum abolition. Like him, I read with horror of the conditions under which some people live in Sydney. I agree with the honorable senator that some of the money expended on relief work of a useless character would have been better employed in getting rid of slum dwellings and providing decent homes for their occupants. When in Great Britain recently I saw, particularly at Liverpool, some of the results of the housing policy of that country. Of about 23,000 new houses contained in Liverpool’s housing programme, nearly 16,000 have been completed, and are now occupied. I was impressed with the improved outlook of the former slum dwellers who now occupy these modern homes. No more wicked lie was ever uttered than that these people would be unhappy if removed from slum conditions. In their well-planned, comfortable homes, they are happy and contented; they revel in their gardens, and in every way endeavour to make their homes as attractive as possible. Improved housing conditions have developed a more self-reliant and hopeful people.
– The honorable senator’s remarks only prove what the Labour party has been talking about for years.
– Unfortunately, the Labour party’s policy consists only of talk. These great reforms in England have been brought about by a Conservative government since the Labour government was dismissed from office. Similarly in Australia, the feet of the people again trod the road to prosperity only when Labour was turned out of office. The people of this country will, indeed, have short memories if they forget what happened during the two years in which a Labour government was entrusted with the government of this country, and the improvement which was noticeable almost as soon as a party opposed to Labour came into power. According to Senator Collings, anything that benefits the people is the result of the policy of the Labour party, whereas the things which injure the people are caused by the party opposed to Labour. I remind the honorable senator that the improvement of the conditions of the people is among the foremost planks of the parties supporting the Government.
One of the reasons why there is greater prosperity in Great Britain to-day than for some years is that more workers are being absorbed by private enterprise. Senator Collings said that private enterprise had failed; but I ask him to reflect on the results of State enterprise in Queensland. One of the first actions of the Government led by Mr. Forgan Smith was the sale of the one remaining State trading enterprise - the Queensland State Saw-mills. After four years of Labour administration in that State, there has been no attempt to re-establish State fish shops or butchers’ shops. No Labour man will advocate in Queensland the setting up of further State enterprises.
– The improved housing conditions of the people of England to which the honorable senator has referred are the outcome of State enterprise.
– The housing scheme is a municipal undertaking, not a trading enterprise, lt would be better if we in Australia so encouraged private enterprise that it could employ greater numbers of workers, instead of continuing to support a “ loan money population “.
Because the task of developing the natural resources of this country is beyond the .ability of 6,750,000 people, we should encourage British industries to undertake some of their manufacturing here, and thereby increase Australia’s population. If conditions were made sufficiently attractive, there would be no need for assisted migration. The most practical way to develop Australia is to remove the harassing restrictions placed on industry.
.- Senator Collings said this afternoon that although he had no technical knowledge of the subject, he felt that he was well qualified to speak about the distillation of oil from coal. I do not profess to know very much about the export of beef, but I do know something about the lamb trade, and having this knowledge I cross swords with Senator Foll, and challenge his conclusions about the effect of quotas, as against import duties, on the sales of Australian meat in the Mother Country. The quota system means an intermittent market, and, at some seasons of the year, no market at all. I can quite readily understand the attitude of Major Elliot, the British Minister for Agriculture. His purpose is to protect, by the quota system, the home producers of beef and lamb against the competition of dominion and South American producers. I agreed that with the quota there will be a good market for Australian beef and lambs until the quota is filled; but when that point has been reached what will become of the surplus exportable stock in Australia? Prices would fall to zero. If an import duty of id. per lb. were imposed upon lamb the price in England would be increased, and there would be a continuity of market, whereas the quota system may mean that there will bo no market for us at certain seasons of the year. The Government is to be congratulated upon what it has done up to the present time. It has succeeded in securing a quota sufficiently high to absorb the whole of our export trade in beef and lambs until the termination of the agreement with Argentina in September, 1936. When that agreement is ended we are hoping that the Government will be as successful in negotiating a new agreement as it was in securing an enlargement of the quota for Australia up to that period. I hope that eventually an import duty will be imposed in lieu of the quota, because, as I have stated, it will ensure to Australia a continuous, instead of an intermittent, market, which would play into the hands of a few speculators, who are anxious to make money out of the primary producers of this country.
Senator Collings criticized the Government’s taxation proposals, particularly as they affect the workers of this country. I was unable to follow the honorable gentleman’s reasoning, because, a3 all honorable senators know, the workers pay no land tax and no income tax. The only levy made upon them is in the form of indirect taxation, namely, the tariff which Senator Collings and his colleagues so strongly support. As a matter of fact they are continually urging the Government to increase this form of taxation thus making more difficult the lot of the workers through an increase of the cost of living; but I would go further and urge the Government to abolish altogether the super tax, thus giving relief to the amount of £1,200,000 to that section of the community which Senator Collings describes as the monied class. The success of our industries, and consequently the employment of our people, depend on cheap money, which will be available only if the Government gives relief from this form of taxation, and thus gives encouragement to private enterprise. I know that the original rate was 10 per cent., imposed in times of financial stress. Last year it was lowered to 6 per cent., and the Government now proposes to reduce the levy to 5 per cent. If it were abolished there would be an opportunity for industry to get money at a lower rate of interest. Cheap money has materially assisted
Australia to get out of its difficulties during the last few years, and a continuation of this will, I believe, place this country on a sound footing again. The special tax on property operates unfairly. For example, it is far better for a man to invest money in bonds returning 3£ per cent, than to lend it on mortgage in secondary or primary production at 5J per cent., because income from the Government bonds is free of taxation, whereas mortgage interest carries five taxes - the federal income tax, the super tax, the State income tax, a State special tax, and, in some States, an unemployment relief tax. I do not believe that the sacrifice of £1,200,000 of revenue by the abolition of the super tax would not be too great a concession. The discontinuance of the tax would obviate the necessity for State governments to pass legislation enforcing a reduction of interest charges. I am opposed to much of this class of legislation that has been enacted by State parliaments, for while these laws may force a reduction of interest charges temporarily, the ultimate effect will be to make it difficult, if not impossible, in certain circumstances, for borrowers to obtain money at all. It is possible, by act of Parliament, to reduce the rate of interest payable under any mortgage; it is not possible to compel a man to lend his money at what he may regard as an inadequate rate of interest. I believe that a great disservice is being done to our primary producers by the rural rehabilitation legislation which has been enacted in some States, and I appeal to the Government to again consider the advisability of abolishing the super tax on income even if it does mean the sacrifice of £1,200,000 of revenue. State legislation to reduce interest charges may be welcomed by those who have borrowed money, but it may also make it difficult for governments to obtain finance, though, possibly, this may be a blessing in disguise. I should like to see more money flowing into the channels of industry instead of being absorbed by governments.
I note with satisfaction that £1,650,000 is being provided out of revenue, and £241,360 from loan this year for various constructional works for the Postal Department. Last year the provision from revenue was only £202,245, the balance of £1,240,640 being provided from Joan. I hope that adequate provision will be made for automatic telephone exchanges in country districts.
– That is being done.
– The establishment of a greater number of automatic telephone exchanges in rural districts will be an inestimable boon to country people. These exchanges can be established in units of 25 subscribers, and a continuous service can be given to subscribers who, in other circumstances, would not get it, and the cost will be very little greater than that of a. manually operated exchange. It may be argued that country telephone exchanges are not profitable. I challenge that statement. The departmental estimates of revenue take account of only the outward calls. If the calls from the metropolitan areas and large provincial centres were credited as they should be, to the small country exchanges, the latter would be shown in a much more favorable light. Some of the calls initiated from the larger centres could not be made if the small country exchanges did not exist.
– I was much interested in Senator Foil’s story of his visit to the industrial centres in Great Britain, and was surprised to hear his version of the unemployment situation in the Mother Country where, according to the latest figures, the number of persons out of work is between 2,000,000 and 3,000,000. If the position were as Senator Foll has stated, one would imagine that the Conservative Government, led by Mr. Stanley Baldwin, would have secured a victory at every by-election, whereas byelections have been won consistently by Labour candidates with majorities up to 10,000. Obviously the unemployment problem in Great Britain is not quite so satisfactory as Senator Foll would have us believe it is.
The honorable senator also dealt with the future migration policy of this country. For the last 30 years, in its endeavour to prevent the increase of unemployment in Australia, the Labour party has been subjected to a good deal of criticism for its determination to restrict the introduction of any but the most suitable classes of migrants, but it is significant that when Mr. Bruce led the conservative forces of this country in the 192S election he adopted, as one plank of his platform, Labour’s policy with regard to migration. Although Labour may sometimes make mis* takes, more frequently it achieves triumphs and I think I may claim that the 192S election demonstrated the wisdom of our migration policy over a period of 30 years, and this policy ha.s been greatly strengthened by the depression. I admit that Senator Foll did offer a constructive suggestion with regard to this aspect of Government policy, and I find it supported in the leading article appearing in to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald. An extract from it reads -
If over a term of years, long in an individual’s lifetime but short in the history of a nation, 5,000,000 people could be shifted from Great Britain to Australia to engage in manufacturing industry, though Britain would certainly lose some trade, the gain to Australia in population and economic wealth would more than compensate the Mother Land by the added man power and economic strength which would accrue to the empire. But would Britain be prepared to pay the cost, which might to only a temporary cost - a transfer of some of Britain’s trade to the dominions ?
That is the hurdle which Senator Foll has to jump. The Opposition claims that Australia would obtain an increase of its population by establishing additional industries. The Sydney Morning Herald, which doubts Britain’s desire to transfer industrial undertakings to this country, asks whether such action would promote British interests. Senator Foll thinks it would. I believe that this would be an acceptable way to increase our population, although the most desirable way would be to increase, the number of industries established by Australians. Of course, some British industries have been transferred to Australia because of the operation of our protective tariff. In the same article the London Morning Post is quoted as having said that Germany has a population of 363, Italy 344, and Japan 347 to the square mile. Aus- tralians should not allow to go uncontradicted the allegation .that we have 3,000,000 square miles of territory fit for closer settlement. As a matter of fact, about one-third of our country is sheer desert. Carnegie once said that 150 miles from any part of the Australian coast the land was fit only for pastoral purposes. In some instances its productive capacity is even less than that. When people overseas say that we have a continent capable of absorbing tens of millions of migrants they are absolutely in the wrong. We are populating this country at a fair rate. The United States of America was colonized about the year 1620, and 150 years later, when the socalled War of Independence occurred, the population was only 3,000,000, whereas 150 years after the colonization of Australia its population is nearly 7,000,000. We have done fairly well, considering that we are bound to the chariot wheels of Britain’s industrial and financial system, and largely depend upon pastoral and ‘agricultural production. -If it were not for the protectionist policy, which became the Australian policy despite our opponents and .British interests, our population would be considerably less than it is to-day. J ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted-; debate adjourned.
Bill brought up by Senator BRENNAN and read a first time.
Senate adjourned at 6.2 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 1 October 1935, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1935/19351001_senate_14_147/>.