14th Parliament · 2nd Session
The Senate met at 3 p.m., pursuant to the proclamation of His Excellency the Governor-General.
The President (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch) took the chair.
The Clerk read the proclamation.
VERNOR-GENERAL entered the chamber, and, being seated, with the President on his right hand, a message was sent to the House of Representatives intimating that His Excellency desired the attendance of honorable members in the Senate chamber, who, being come with their Speaker,
HIS EXCELLENCY was pleased to deliver the following speech: -
Gentlemen of the Senate, and Gentlemen of the House of Representatives :
You have been called together to deliberate upon matters of great importance to the well-being of the Commonwealth.
The wide-spread enthusiasm attending the recent coronation of His Majesty the King and Her Majesty the Queen has once more indicated the reality of the affectionate sentiment which binds the British people to the Crown. My Ministers will submit to you for your approval a resolution of congratulation and loyalty.
In order to visit all parts of the Commonwealth as early as possible during my term of office, to make personal contact with the people and, by first-hand knowledge, to understand their problems and points of view, I have made extensive tours of the States and the Northern Territory during the last twelve months, and have been gratified to find, in every portion of this great continent which I have visited, undoubted proofs of loyalty and of a splendid spirit of confidence in the future of Australia. On the advice of my Ministers, it is my intention during the next recess to take advantage of the cruise of His Majesty’s Australian Squadron to the Pacific to visit Papua and the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, so that, as the representative of the King, I may, in this coronation year, emphasize the fact that the welfare and progress of the people of these territories are the direct concern of the Commonwealth of Australia.
My advisers desire to repeat that this recovery would not have been achieved as quickly as it has been1 without the patriotic co-operation of the people as a whole and the patient endurance of those who were the greatest sufferers from the depression.
A comprehensive report upon all other aspects of national insurance has been presented to my Ministers in London by SirWalter Kinnear, the other expert engaged for the purpose, but its full text has not yet reached Australia. Having regard to the magnitude of the problems involved and their immense importance, a full consideration of this report by my advisers is not practicable until the return of those of my Ministers who are at present abroad. Upon their return the report will be at once examined, and the policy of the Government in relation to the whole subject will then be announced.
My advisers expect that the current discussions will result in the adoption of common policies on all the problems, and in the formulation of the practical steps to give effect to those policies. A plan of collaboration in regard to the maintenance of the British steamship service between Australia and Vancouver, via New Zealand and Fiji, has alreadybeen worked out.
As the details of the plans devised to cope with the several problems are dealt with, my advisers will bring before Parliament any legislation necessary to give effect to them.
An indirect benefit arising out of this agreement is that relating to the tariff preferences accorded by the United Kingdom, the Government of which has agreed to recommend to the Parliament of the United Kingdom the extension of the existing tariff preferences on Australian sugar for the whole term of five years.
In the earnest hope that Divine Providence may guide your deliberations and further the welfare of the people of the Commonwealth, I now leave you to the discharge of your high and important duties.
His Excellency the GovernorGeneral having retired,
The President read prayers.
Accession to the Throne and Coronation.
– I have to inform honorable senators that on the 15th December last the Speaker of the House of Representatives and I, on behalf of the Parliament of the Commonwealth, forwarded, through His Excellency the
Governor-General, a message to His Majesty King George VI. in reference to His Majesty’s accession to the Throne. A reply thereto has been received through His Excellency the Governor-General.
Message and reply read by the Clerk as follows: -
We, the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives, desire, on behalf of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, to offer our congratulations to Your Majesty on Your Accession to the Throne.
The people of Australia generally and Members of our Parliament in particular entertain the happiest recollections of the visit to this country of Your Majesty and that of Her Majesty the Queen, when, on the historic occasion of 9th May, 1927, Your Majesty inaugurated the meeting of the Commonwealth Parliament at Canberra.
We desire to convey to Your Majesty the unwavering loyalty of the Members of our Parliament to the Crown and to the Person of Your Most Gracious Majesty, and we, with confidence, hope and pray that, under Divine Guidance, Your Majesty’s reign may be a long and beneficent one, and that it will bring happiness and prosperity to Your Majesty’s subjects and promote a lasting peace among the nations of the world.
With reference to the joint letter dated 15th December, 1936, from yourself and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, I am directed by the Governor-General to forward herewith a decode of a telegram which His Excellency has received from the Private Secretary to the King. Th is message was dated Buckingham Palace, London, 16th December, 1936: -
Please convey following message from the King to President of Senate and Speaker of House of Representatives: - “ I am indeed gratified to receive the loyal assurances which you have tendered me on behalf of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia. Though nearly ten years have gone by since the Queen and I visited Australia we still retain the happiest recollections of our stay in the Commonwealth and of the cordial and friendly welcome which was universally accorded to us there. I therefore appreciate particularly the good wishes to which your message gives expression and would assure you in turn how earnestly the Queen and I hope the years to come may bring happiness and prosperity to your great country. (signed) GEORGE R.I.”
– by leave - I move -
That the following address of congratulation be presented to His Majesty the King: -
To the King’s Most Excellent Majesty: Most Gracious Sovereign :
We, the members of the Senate and the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled, with humble duty offer our respectful congratulations on the occasion of the Coronation of Your Majesty and Your Gracious Consort.
Wo assure Your Majesty of our deep loyalty to the Throne and of our earnest hope that during Your Majesty’s reign the British Commonwealth will continue to prosper and that the cause of peace and goodwill in the world will be greatly advanced and strengthened.
We trust that Your Majesty and Her Majesty the Queen may long be spared to us and that Your Majesties’ lives may be blessed with much personal happiness.
Few words of mine are necessary to commend this motion to the Senate - if, indeed, any commendation at all be necessary. The historic ceremony of the crowning of Their Gracious Majesties stirred the peoples of the world, irrespective of colour, race or creed. We in Australia, in common with the peoples of the other dominions forming the British Commonwealth of Nations, had particular reason to rejoice because the King - the visible link uniting the various members of that Commonwealth - had been confirmed on His Throne. Loyal hearts throughout Australia - and their number is legion - were united in spirit with that vast concourse of people who were privileged to witness the pageant associated with the Coronation, and to express, within the hearing of Their Majesties, the sentiments of loyalty and goodwill which animated them. Delegations of goodwill travelled from the distant parts of the globe to be present at the sacred ceremony. This Parliament and the Government were represented on that occasion, but it is fitting that now, at the first opportunity, we, as members of the Parliament, should collectively address ourselves to our Gracious Sovereign, and express to His Majesty and Queen Elizabeth the sentiments of respectful congratulation and goodwill which were uppermost in our minds on that memorable day in May last. May His Majesty King George VI and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth enjoy a long and happy reign !
– I second the motion. Speaking on behalf of the Opposition, I declare that apart from any expression of personal loyalty, in which I am sure none of us will be lacking, Australia as a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations can feel happy in the fact that in the midst of falling dynasties in other parts of the world, the British form of government, with its limited monarchy and constitutional procedure, stands firm as a rock.
The Leader of the Senate referred particularly to the coronation ceremony. 1 submit, sir, that I cannot be accused rightly of anything approaching disloyalty when I say, on behalf of the Opposition, that we did not believe it essential, in order to demonstrate the loyalty of our people to the throne and person of their Majesties, that such huge expenditure should have been incurred, while in the Old Country itself there were so many persons to whom a grant of money at that particular time would have been very helpful indeed. The members of the Opposition associate themselves without reservation with the motion; and I feel that it is unnecessary for me to say anything further in support of it.
.- The members of the United Country party in this chamber wish to be associated with the message of congratulation to their Majesties the King and Queen in connexion with their coronation. We sincerely trust that their reign will be blessed with peace and prosperity.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave - I formally announce to the Senate that on the 10th March, 1937, the Honorable Sir Henry S. Gullett, K.C.M.G., tendered his resignation as a member of the Government. I should like to record ministers’ deep appreciation of the valuable services rendered by Sir Henry Gullett during the time he was associated with the Government. I desire also to inform honorable senators of the following appointments made in connexion with the temporary absence abroad of the Prime Minister, the Minister for Defence, and the Treasurer : -
The Right Honorable E. C. G. Page, Minister for Commerce, to be Acting Prime Minister.
The Right Honorable R. G. Menzies, K.C., Attorney-General and Minister for Industry, to be Acting Treasurer.
The Honorable H. V.C. Thorby, Assistant Minister for Commerce, to be Acting Minister for Defence.
The Honorable J. A. J. Hunter, Minister in charge of War Service Homes, and Assistant Minister, to assist in the administration of the Commerce Department.
The following papers were presented : -
Air Force Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 21.
Air Navigation Act - Regulations amended -Statutory Rules 1936, No. 161; 1937, No. 41- No. 58.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. -
No. 16 of 1936 - Arms, Explosives and Munition Workers’ Federation of Australia.
No. 17 of 1936 - Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association.
Nos. 18 and 19 of 1936 - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia, and Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
No. 1 of 1937 - Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association.
No. 2 of 1937 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
No. 3 of 1937 - Fourth Division Officers’ Association of the Trade and Customs Department.
No. 4 of 1937- Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
No. 5 of 1937 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association; and Fourth Division Officers’ Association of the Trade and Customs Department.
No.6 of 1937 - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia and others.
No. 7 of 1937 - Variation of Determination No. 39 of 1926 - Common Rule re Sick Leave.
No. 8 of 1937 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
No. 9 of 1937 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
Audit Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 39.
Australian Broadcasting Commission Act -
Fourth Annual Report of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, year ended 30th June, 1936.
Canned Fruits Export Control Act - Regulations amended, &c. - Statutory Rules 1936, No. 165; 1937, No. 47.
Commonwealth Bank Act - Balance-sheets of Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Commonwealth Savings Bank at 31st December,1 936, and Statements of the Liabilities and Assets of the Note Issue Department at 31st December, 1936; together with Auditor-General’s Reports thereon.
Commonwealth Bank Act -
Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 27.
Treasurer’s Statement of the Combined Accounts of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Commonwealth Savings Bank at 31st December, 1936, certified to by the Acting AuditorGeneral.
Commonwealth Electoral Act - Report, with maps, by the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of redistributing into Electoral Divisions the State of Western Australia.
Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1936, No. 160.
Commonwealth Public Service Act -
Appointments - Department of -
Commerce - C. C. Good, T. H. J. Harrison, R. C. Hottes, H. I. Phillips and J. W. A. Riley.
External Affairs- N. St. C. Deschamps, J. E. Oldham and A. S. Watt.
Health - E. Ford and D. E. Gowenlock.
Interior - D. E. Limburg, L. H. Rudd and F. Wade.
Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 11- No. 25- No. 54- No. 60.
Commonwealth Railways Act - By-law No. 73.
Contract Immigrants Act - Return for 1936.
Control of Naval Waters Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 12.
Customs Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1936, No. 162- No. 163- No. 166; 1937, No. 2.
Customs Act and Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 4- No. 7- No. 57.
Dairy Produce Export Control Act - RegulationsStatutory Rules 1937, No. 26.
Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 1- No. 15- No. 22 - No. 29 - No. 42- No. 45 - No. 46 - No. 62.
Designs Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 53.
Dried Fruits Export Charges Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 17.
Electoral - Statistical Returns in relation to the submission to the Electors ofProposed Laws for the Alteration of the Constitution, entitled: - (1) Constitution Alteration (Aviation) 1936; (2) Constitution Alteration (Marketing) 1936; together with Summaries of Referendums, 1906-1937.
Financial Relief Acts - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 24.
Immigration Act - Return for 1936.
Imperial Shipping Committee - Thirty-fifth Report of the Imperial Shipping Committee, dealing with the possibilities of a British Passenger and Cargo Service between Western Canada and AustraliaNew Zealand.
Judiciary Act - Rules of Court -
Dated 4th December, 1936.
Dated 21st April, 1937.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at -
Albany, Western Australia - For defence purposes.
Campbellfield, Victoria - For quarantine purposes (2).
Evans Head, New South Wales - For defence purposes.
Loudon and Loudon Extension, South Australia - For railway purposes.
Mascot, New South Wales - For defence purposes.
Port Kembla, New South Wales - for customs purposes.
Rockdale, New South Wales - For postal, telegraphic, telephonic and other like services.
South Perth, Western Australia - For postal purposes.
Swanbourne, Western Australia - For defence purposes.
Sydney - New South Wales - For postal purposes.
Windsor, Victoria - For postal purposes.
Loan Securities Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 28.
Meat Export Control Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 38 - No. 44.
Nationality Act - Return showing the number of persons to whom certificates of naturalization were granted during the year 1936, and the countries whence the applicants came.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 5- No.6No. 9- No. 10- No. 51- No. 52- No. 59- No.63.
Navigation Act -
Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 10- No. 40.
Report by the Minister for Commerce of the cases in which the GovernorGeneral has exercised his power under Section 422a during the year 1936.
Norfolk Island Act -
Crown Lands Ordinance - Regulations.
Ordinances of 1937 -
No. 1 - Fencing.
No. 2 - Bean Seed Export Control.
No. 3 - Registration of Bulls.
No. 4 - Surveys.
Northern Australia Survey Act - Copies of Appendices to the Report of the Committee appointed to direct and control the aerial, geological and geophysical survey of Northern Australia, for the period ended 31st December, 1935.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act-
Ordinance No. 18 of 1936 - Mining.
Ordinance No. 1 of 1937 - Pearling.
Papua - Annual Report for 1935-36.
Papua Act -
Ordinances of 1936 -
No. 16 - Probate and Administration.
No. 17 - Native Taxes.
No. 18 - Shipping (No. 3).
Ordinance No. 1 of 1937 - Customs (Export) Tariff.
Patents Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 19- No. 50.
Peace Officers Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 55.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937 No . 13 - No. 14- No. 35- No. 36- No. 37- No. 48.
Prune Bounty Acts - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 8.
Quarantine Act- Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 30 - No. 49.
Sales Tax Assessment Acts (Nos. 1 to 9) - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1936 No. 164.
Science and Industry Research Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 3.
Sugar - International Agreement with Protocol annexed regarding the regulation of Production and Marketing of Sugar, signed at London, 6th May, 1937.
Trade Marks Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 18.
Unemployment Insurance in Australia - Report by Mr. Godfrey H. Ince, Chief Insurance Officer, Ministry of Labour, London - dated 22nd February, 1937.
War Service Homes Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 34.
Wine Overseas Marketing Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 23 - No. 32.
Wool Publicity and Research Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 31.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral inform the Senate when the additional A class broadcasting station for South Australia will be ready for transmission purposes?
– A contract has been let for the technicalequipment of the station, but I cannot say when the new station will be ready for use.
– Will the Postmaster General make avail able copies of the correspondence,&c, leading to the temporary housing of the broadcasting studios of station 6WF Perth on an A. class reserve in that city ?
– That correspondence is not within the custody or control of the Postmaster-General, but, if the honorable senator so desires, I shall endeavour to obtain it.
Sitting suspended from 4.5 to 8 p.m.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - I have to report that I have received a copy of the Speech with which His Excellency was graciously pleased to- open the present session of the Parliament.
. - I move -
That the following Address-in-Reply to His Excellency the Governor-General’s Speech be agreed to: -
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to Our Most Gracious Sovereign and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
I appreciate the honour of being asked to submit this motion affirming our loyalty to His Majesty the King, and I feel sure that all honorable senators endorse the sentiments of loyalty and goodwill expressed in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech in connexion with the very successful coronation of Their Majesties.
Before considering the important problems referred to in the Speech, I propose to review briefly some of the events of recent years. I take this opportunity to congratulate the Lyons Government on its splendid record which is reflected in the amazing recovery of the Commonwealth since the dark depression year of 1931. I am confident that when the history of federation iswritten the story of that recovery will be one of its most inspiring pages. I do not, however, intend, at this stage, to weary honorable senators with a recital in detail of the achievements of the Lyons Government. It will be sufficient if I place on record some significant figures which should be a guide to all honorable senators in the consideration of our present problems. The budget introduced by the Scullin Government for the financial year ended on the 30th June, 1931, disclosed a deficit of nearly £11,000,000. Taxation then was high, and unemployment extremely severe. Contrast that record with the achievements of the Lyons Government which for the five years ended June, 1936, showed surpluses amounting to £10,000,000, despite the fact that £55,000,000 had been paid to the various States for road construction, unemployment relief, assistance to primary producers, mining, and forestry, and for health promotion, as well as special grants to Western Australia, South Australia, and Tasmania. During that period also, the Government remitted taxation amounting to the enormous total of £15,500,000 per annum ; it reduced the Commonwealth debt by £8,500,000, and converted over £200,000,000 of overseas debt at lower rates of interest, effecting a saving to the Commonwealth of over £4,000,000 a year. Furthermore, in the same period, unemployment dropped from 30 per cent, in June, 1932, lo 9.9 per cent, in March, 1935.
– That is a good bedtime story.
– The Government also restored social services and public salaries at a cost of over £3,750,000 annually, so that those who suffered in the depression also shared in the recovery. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) has suggested that what I am saying is a bed-time story. Actually, I am merely stating established facts.
Honorable senators will remember the issue upon which the election of 1931 was fought. The Leader of the Opposition will admit that the three leading planks of Labour’s platform on that occasion were inflation, nationalization and repudiation.
– That’s the stuff!
– The present Prime Minister in his policy speech urged that by honest finance on sound principles, and by honouring our financial obligations, we should do more to improve the then difficult situation than by any of the expedients suggested by the Scullin Government.
I support the principle of national insurance, and congratulate the Government on its decision to introduce legislation for the institution of such a system. It is of the utmost importance that an undertaking of such magnitude should be based on the soundest economic, financial, and national principles. Many people are accustomed to speak glibly about the advantages of a 40-hour working week which, I suggest, is associated with the subject of national insurance, and my advice is to leave the complicated matter of working hours to the Arbitration Court and independent industrial tribunals. How can this country indulge at this stage in the luxury of a 40-hour working week ?
– Is the honorable gentleman speaking for the Government in this matter?
– I am speaking for myself. The constitutional aspect of a 40-hour working week demands the most earnest consideration because of the division between the Commonwealth and the States of authority over industrial matters. We should study carefully its probable effect in increasing the cost of primary production. To me it seems ludicrous that this Parliament, which, during the last five years, has assisted primary producers to the amount of £21,000,000, and has provided a further £12,000,000 for the reduction of farmers’ debts, should be expected to approve a proposal for a 40- hour working week. I need only remind honorable senators that in the dark days of the depression all sections of the people suffered when prices for primary products were so low. Therefore, I sincerely hope that the probable effect of a 40-hour working week on our primary industries will have full consideration. Nor can we afford to overlook its effect on interest payments on the national ‘ debt, and on invalid, old-age, and war pensioners, and other social services. It should be remembered that if the hours of labour are reduced the wage-earner will have less chance of receiving more real money, and from what I know, of the average working man his desire is not for more leisure but for more money. He cannot have it both ways - he cannot have shorter hours and more wages. The Government is taking a great interest in unemployed youth, nutrition, and the general health of the community ; it aims to raise living standards, and we should hear these ideals in mind when we are asked to legislate for a 40-hour week. Each industry should be considered on its merits. Already in certain industries where work is labourious, employees work only about 30 hours a week. In view of its .complexity I contend that the introduction of a 40-hour working week should not be determined by this Parliament, but by our arbitration courts. Both parties support the principle of arbitration in industrial matters, and in practice it has been highly successful. Let us not make this economic problem of working hours a political issue.
I congratulate the Government on its decision to re-appoint the Interstate Commission. The function of that body will be to submit recommendations in connexion with the many disabilities imposed upon the smaller States under federation. As a representative of South Australia I resent much of the criticism that one. hears about the Senate, which is essentially a House to represent and to watch the interests of the States. One of the most pleasing impressions gained during my short association with honorable senators is the attitude towards the weaker States adopted by the representatives of Queensland, who happen to be respected Labour men, Senator Hardy, the Leader of the Country party in the Senate, and other honorable senators representing the more populous States. During the past five or six years they have always been most anxious to assist the Government to make money -available to assist the States in need. During this period over £13,000,000 has been granted in this way, and that ‘amount could not have been provided but for the support given by the representatives of the larger States. J. congratulate the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), and also the Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan) upon the work they have done in (this direction during the past six years. If we study the figures it will be found that greater assistance has been given to the weaker States during that period than at any time since the inception of federation. It is now proposed to reconstitute the Interstate Commission, and I trust that the good work which has already been done will be continued by that body. The recommendations of the Interstate Commission should strengthen and improve the position of Western Australia, South Australia, and Tasmania, and also benefit the Commonwealth as a whole.
I take this .opportunity to refer to the importance of Imperial conferences. I cannot understand the attitude adopted by some leaders in this country, and more particularly political Labour leaders, who complain of the expense incurred in sending delegates from Australia to London to attend the Coronation ceremonies and the sittings of the Imperial Conference, which has just concluded its work. There has been criticism in practically every State, and it is time that we reminded such critics of the great benefit which Australia has derived and the preferences granted in consequence of the decisions reached at such gatherings. I do not propose to go into details, but we have only to consider the concessions which Australia has derived under the sugar agreement recently adopted. At the sugar conference our representatives rendered valuable service. We can also recall the meat agreement, under which Australia derives considerable benefit, and generally the preferences granted by Great Britain to Australia. The cost of overseas delegations is infinitesimal when compared with the benefits which this country has gained from their services. It is interesting to recall that Great Britain purchases more than one-half of our export of primary products. I urge a continuance of the closest co-operation with Great Britain.
In the matter of .defen.ce our very existence depends, .as it has for years, upon the supremacy of the British Fleet, To those critics who cannot appreciate the value of the crimson thread of kinship, I would say that on economic, grounds, for reasons .of national security, and in the interests of the wageearners whom they profess to represent, we cannot afford to prejudice the splendid market we have in Great Britain for our goods. The benefits we derive from this connexion should be impressed upon short-sighted critics.
The problem of national defence is probably more important than any other at the present time. I congratulate the Government upon the attitude it has adopted in providing for the defence of this country in the interests of ourselves and the British Empire generally. I was pleased to note the declaration in a speech delivered by the Prime Minister at the recent Imperial Conference that Australia appreciated the stand that Great Britain has taken in the interests of peace and of civilization, and that we in Australia support Britain in its endeavour to secure world peace. The following lines, published in 1918 in reference to the attitude which Great Britain had adopted in the interests of world peace and of civilization generally, are equally applicable to-day: -
Mother of freedom, pledged to right
From honours paths she would not stray;
But sternly faithful used her might
To lead mankind a nobler way.
Looking at a troubled world to-day,
Ave must realize that it is only by a defence policy such as is being adopted throughout the British Empire to-day that we can help to maintain international peace. As one of the dominions sharing the benefits which accrue from the preference afforded to our products in the British market, Australia, in conjunction with Canada and the other dominions, should be willing to share the responsibilities that attach to membership of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
– I am deeply honoured by being afforded the opportunity to second the motion so ably proposed by Senator McLeay. I do not claim that the Government has done all that I should have liked it to have done during its term of office, but I admit that it has a record of achievement of which any government might be justly proud. The period of financial and economic stress extending over five years is still fresh in the minds of honorable senators, but this Government has laid a solid foundation on which to build soundly in the future.
One outstanding feature of our financial and economic recovery is reflected in the price of Australian stocks which six years ago were selling at as low as £56, but to-day are worth over £100. That improvement is due to the sane and sound administration of this Government during the last five years. Another pleasing feature is that in that period the percentage of unemployment has been reduced from 30 to a little over 9 per cent. This Government does not claim all the credit for the prosperity which we are now enjoying; the Governor-General’s Speech gave credit to the people for the great sacrifices they had made iu assisting the rehabilitation of this young nation. Primary producers feel that greater assistance might have been given to them, but I recognize that the Government has not been unmindful of their needs, as is evidenced by the fact that during its term of office it has assisted them to the amount of £19,000,000 by way of bounties. In addition, it has provided £12,000,000 to the various States for farmers’ debt adjustment. It has also relieved unemployment and assisted mining and forestry to the amount of £3,840,000, and paid special attention to the needs of Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania, by granting £13,090,000 to those States. It has also made remissions of taxation amounting to £15,000,000 annually. The customs duties have been reduced on over 1,400 items. There are some who contend that high tariffs are necessary in order to build up secondary industries, but it is interesting to note that while there were 21,600 factories established in Australia in 1931-32, up to last year the number had increased to 24,895, while the number of factory hands had increased by 156,000, and is still increasing. It is expected that by the end of the current financial year no fewer than 25,000 factories will have been established in Australia.
During the last five years this Government has found it necessary to expend over £29,000,000 on defence, and that it is considered essential to expend an additional £10,000,000 annually for the next few years in an endeavour to assure national security and peace. Why do we respect the policeman on point duty ? “We are influenced not by the size of the policeman’s hand, but by the power which he has the authority to exercise. In the same way a well-equipped nation must be respected.
As a comparatively young man, I am particularly interested in the profitable employment of the youth of the nation, because I have had the opportunity granted to me to make good, and I desire that every other youth shall have similar opportunity. No country which neglects its youth - its greatest asset - can prosper or succeed. The Government should have taken up this work five or six years ago, but on its decision to take action, even at this late hour,- I congratulate it. I am very pleased that it has decided to- allocate £200,000 for 1937-38 to the States towards a scheme which it has inaugurated in conjunction with the States, and I hope that this amount will be increased by an equivalent grant from the States. 1 sincerely hope that this will not be the final amount to be made available by the Commonwealth Government with the object of giving our youth vocational training in order to provide them with opportunities to make of themselves good and useful citizens; indeed,’ I hope that that policy will be continued until every youth has been given at least a decent chance to learn a trade.
In a visit to the mining areas of Western Australia, I found employed on the fields many young men who had had a university education, but who, because of the present apprenticeship system, could find no work other than mining. I believe that that system is totally wrong. Our apprenticeship laws should be amended to provide for a trial period of at least one year, whereby a youth may learn whether he is fitted for a particular trade, and if not, may terminate his apprenticeship and start in a more suitable vocation.
– That would give employers a chance to exploit cheap labour.
– It would give boys an opportunity to find those vocations most suitable to them. Under present conditions a lad is often tied down to an unsuitable job for as long a period as five years. I suggest that that is wrong.
I congratulate the Government on its proposal to introduce a scheme of national insurance. Every Australian citizen must realize that some scheme of this nature must be adopted in a progressive country. I hope that the Government will make its scheme sufficiently comprehensive to cover pensions and health, as well as unemployment. This will be a gigantic undertaking; I appreciate the thorough manner in which the Government has investigated the matter before introducing its proposals, which, I hope, will lead to the establishment of a sound scheme. I believe that national insurance will confer one of the greatest boons possible on the people of this country. If the scheme is to cover pensions, contributions should not be expected from those at present receiving pensions; some years should be allowed to elapse with a contributory pensions scheme before disbursements are made. At present pensioners are very apprehensive in this regard, and 1 hope that the Government will clearly declare that their fears are unfounded.
In respect of the proposal to reconstitute the Interstate Commission, I can express confidently the keen appreciation of every Western Australian, and I believe the appreciation of every citizen of South Australia and Tasmania. The people of Western Australia have felt that the scope of the activities of the States Grants Commission was not wide enough; we believe that by the reconstitution of the Interstate Commission the field of inquiry will be broadened sufficiently to enable that body to take fully into account the disabilities from which Western Australia suffers to-day. Some of these are due to federation and federal policy, others to the effect of- the Navigation Act, and others to the fact that the people of the State, although constituting only onesixteenth of the population of the Commonwealth, are called upon to develop onethird of the area of Australia. Western Australia has genuinely attempted to carry out a policy of decentralization, in pursuance of which it has opened up twelve ports, and has so zoned the agricultural areas as to ensure that each port will receive the production that geographically belongs to it. A considerable amount of money is required to make such a scheme effective, and I suggest that it is within the province of the Commonwealth Government to assist the Western Australian Government substantially in the establishment of wharves and jetties at those various ports. In time of war those ports will undoubtedly be very valuable to the nation; some of them could shelter the whole of the Australian fleet. It should be possible for the Commonwealth Government to allocate money towards the development of those ports.
Possibly, the greatest problem which confronts us in the development of our young State is that of water supply. There is a shortage of water in practically every town that is not served by the goldfields water scheme. In company with Senator Pearce, I visited one of the oldest -towns in the State, Katanning, where I found the people reduced to the necessity to use water containing 460 grains of salt and other minerals to the gallon. The main water supply had become exhausted on the 16th December. I suggest that no community can be happy or successful, let alone enjoy the amenities of parks and gardens, without an efficient water supply. This Government has spent £2,000,000 in connexion with the River Murray scheme; for that I commend it. That scheme is one of the most valuable of its kind yet undertaken in the Commonwealth, but, as it is justified as a national work, so also would the establishment of essential water supplies in country districts be a justifiable enterprise on the part of the national Government. I hope that the Government will give every consideration to this problem, and where possible will assist the various States confronted with .difficulties of this nature. Australia is crying out for settlement, and, undoubtedly, large areas in Western Australia could be effectively settled were it not for the lack of water.
Every honorable ‘senator will appreciate the value of the wool-growing industry to this country, particularly during the depression. It is safe to say that this industry ha3 provided almost half of the funds to meet the interest on our overseas debt. In two of the States those engaged in this great industry are suffering severely from drought, which has caused the loss of up to 80 per cent, of their total flocks. Dealing with this matter, a Western Australian newspaper recently stated -
The drought-ravaged pastoral lands of Western Australia oan never regain their former prosperity until the drought year losses of nearly 2,000,000 sheep are recouped.
The re-establishment of stricken stations will be a gigantic task, and an enormous amount of money will be required for such work, but I believe that this Government could render substantial assistance in helping these unfortunate pastoralists to acquire small flocks with which to start again. It is not possible, of course, to replace the total number of sheep lost in Queensland and Western Australia during the last three or four years. The Government of Western Australia has already rendered considerable assistance to these settlers by cancelling land rents - dues which, in any case, could not have been collected. However, unless these men receive assistance they cannot possibly restock their properties. They have just been through four yeaTs of drought, and when honorable senators from Queensland present their case for distressed settlers in that State, as I hope they will do, I certainly shall strongly support them, and I hope their claims will receive generous support from honorable senators as a whole.
The tobacco-growers also are badly in need of assistance. I am strongly opposed to any increase of the tariff duty on tobacco, because I do not believe that an increase of prices helps those producing the commodity. I suggest that we can help our tobacco-growers very substantially by adopting some long-term policy. I have in mind a scheme, extending over five years, whereby manufacturers of tobacco would be required to increase annually the proportion of local leaf used in manufacture by, perhaps, 5 per cent, in respect of pipe tobacco, and 1 per cent, in respect of cigarette tobacco. This provision would not raise prices, but would certainly increase the consumption of local leaf and ensure to the people engaged in this industry a certain measure of security for the future. To me it seems ridiculous that Australians should send overseas hundreds of thousands of pounds annually for the purchase of tobacco which can be produced locally. I am .fully aware that u long period of maturation is required, and that it will be necessary for some years to import a certain amount of leaf in order to give smokers a palatable tobacco. I suggest, however, that by S: 0WY increasing the percentage of locally-grown leaf in our manufactured tobacco, we would educate the Australian public to smoke far greater quantities of local leaf than are used to-day. That is one way in which wc can assist this indus try which, incidentally, offers enormous possibilities for closer settlement. If this industry is to prosper it must be given greater security than it has to-day, and, therefore, I hope that the Government will see its way to do something along the lines which I have suggested.
I am pleased that the Commonwealth and State governments have been able to agree upon a plan for the control of aviation in Australia, particularly since that plan entails no sacrifice of State rights. If that can be done in respect of aviation, I suggest that it can be done: also in connexion with the marketing of Australian primary produce. There seems to be no reason why the various governments of Australia should not in conference formulate a scheme for the orderly marketing of such produce. It can be done, if they have the will to do it. I hope that in the near future an attempt to that end will be made, and that it will meet with as much success as has been achieved in the realm of aviation.
In South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria, as well as in Western Australia, I have seen evidence of soil erosion, and I believe that this menace to agricultural and pastoral holdings exists also in Queensland. The problem is increasing in seriousness almost daily. History provides ample evidence that any country which neglects its surface soil, from which all life originates, is bringing about its own destruction; therefore I urge that steps be taken immediately to check this evil. Many great cities of the past now lie buried under millions of tons of sand. Soil erosion is already a serious problem in Australia, but, if tackled at once, it can be checked. We owe it to future generations to preserve soil which, because of our ruthless destruction of timber, and the overstocking of property, has been left unprotected and subject to drift. In the name of posterity, I urge the Government to co-operate with the State governments in an attempt to combat this evil.
Before long the Commonwealth and State governments will have to consider an extension of the Federal Aid Roads Agreement for another term. I hope that the existing agreement will bc continued; but I maintain that as the Commonwealth Government bears the odium of collecting the petrol tax, it should have more say in the expenditure of the money collected. The manner in which the revenue so obtained is expended in the various States is not fair to the motorists who provide it. For instance, in Western Australia, no person may be employed on works financed under the Federal Aid Roads Agreement unless he first takes out a union ticket. That was not intended by the Commonwealth Government when it made the .money available to the State. In other fields also the Commonwealth Government collects taxes which are expended by the States. The day is fast approaching when the Commonwealth must either vacate some fields of taxation in favour of the States or, police the expenditure of the money raised, in the interests of the people from whom it is collected. When the Federal Aid Roads Agreement is under review, I hope that my suggestion will be considered.
As I shall have further opportunities to deal with the other subjects referred to in His Excellency’s Speech, I shall not refer to them now. I commend the motion to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Collings) adjourned.
The PRESIDENT. (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - Pursuant -to Standing Order 28a, I lay on the table my warrant nominating Senators A. 0. Badman, C. W. Grant, J. B. Hayes and J. V. MacDonald, a panel to act as Temporary Chairmen of Committees, when requested so to do by the Chairman of Committees, or when the Chairman of Committees is absent.
– Pursuant to
Standing Order 38, I lay on the; tablo my warrant nominating the following seuator« to be a Committoc of Disputed Returns and Qualifications : - Senators J. S. Collings, T. W. Crawford, W. G. Gibson, J. F. Guthrie, H. J. M. Payne, W. Plain, and O.’Uppill.
– I have received from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral a commission authorizing me to administer the oath, or affirmation, of allegiance, to members of the Senate.
Commission read by the Clerk.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) agreed to -
That the Senate at its rising adjourn till to-morrow at 11 a.m.
Senate adjourned at 8.57 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 17 June 1937, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1937/19370617_senate_14_153/>.