15th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. P.J. Lynch) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Senator A. j. McLachlan) - by leave - agreed to -
That in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act1913-1936, the following senators be appointed members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works: - Senators Brand, Brown and Cooper.
– Knowing from experience the inconvenience suffered, and expenditure incurred, by senators elect between the times of their election and swearing-in, I ask the Leader of the Senate whether provision has been, or will, be made by the Government to cover the travelling expenses, postage and telegrams of those newly-elected senators who will not take office until July next
– I understand that some provision is made for senators elect in respect of travelling, but I am not aware of the position with regard to postage and telegrams.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - Pursuant to Standing Order 28a, I lay on the table my warrant nominating Senator James McLachlan to act as Temporary Chairman of Committees when requested so to do by the Chairman of Committees, or when the Chairman of Committees is absent.
Motion (by Senator Collings) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence for two months be granted to Senator Cunningham on account of urgent private business.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The Minister for Defence has supplied the following answer : -
Inquiries are bitingmade and a reply will be furnished to the honorable senator as early as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers : -
Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answer: -
Above figures are in Australian currency. Exports to Java only are not recorded separately.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
-The Minister for Defence has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What is the reason why in the case of some positions in the Commonwealth Public Service, applications to fill such positions are invited from permanent officers only of the Commonwealth Public Service, while in the case of other positions there is no provision that applicants need be permanent officers of the Commonwealth Public Service?
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer : -
Applications for vacant positions in the Commonwealth Public Service are open to persons from without the Service only in those cases in which it is considered that applicants with the requisite qualifications may not be available from within the Service. In all other circumstances applications are confined to officers of the Service.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers : -
Motion (by Senator A. j. McLach- lan) agreed to -
That a Standing Orders Committee be appointed, to consist of the President, the Chairman of Committees, Senators Brown, Crawford, Hardy, Herbert Hays, Johnston, A. J. McLachlan, and Plain, with power to act during recess, and to confer with a similar committee of the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator A. J. McLach- lan) agreed to -
That a Library Committee bo appointed, to consist of the President, Senators Collett, Collings, Dein, Duncan-Hughes, James McLachlan, and Millen, with power to act during recess, and to confer or sit as a joint committee with a similar committee of the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator A. J. Mclach lan) agreed to -
That a House Committee be appointed, to consist of the President, Senators Brand,
Brown, Cooper, Cunningham, Grant, and Uppill, with power to act during recess, and to confer or sit as a joint committee with a similar committee of the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator A. J. Mclach lan) agreed to -
That a Printing Committee be appointed, to consist of Senators Ashley, Courtice, Cox, Hardy, J. B. Hayes, Leckie and McBride, with power to confer or sit as a joint committee with a similar committee of the House of Representatives.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - I have to report the receipt of the following letters: -
The Senate, Canberra. 1st December, 1937.
Mr. President, - In accordance with Standing Order 30a, I hereby nominate Senators Collett, Cooper, Duncan-Hughes and McLeay, as members of the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances.
Leader of the Government in the Senate.
The Senate, Canberra. 1st December, 1937.
Leader of the Opposition in the Senate.
Motion (by Senator A. j. McLachlan) - by leave - agreed to -
That a Standing Committe on Regulations and Ordinances be appointed, to consist of Senators Ashley, Collett, Cooper, Courtice, Cunningham, Duncan-Hughes, and McLeay, such senators having been duly nominated in accordance with the provisions of Standing Order 30a.
Message received from the House of Representatives acquainting the Senate that the following members of the House of Representatives had been appointed members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works: - Mr. Collins, Mr. Francis, Mr. Frost, Mr. Holloway, Mr. Nairn, and Mr. Price.
Debate resumed from the 1st December (vide page 42), on motion by Senator McBride -
That the following Address-in-Reply to His Excellency the Governor-General’s opening Speech be agreed to -
To His Excellency the Governor-General -
May it Please Yourexcellency :
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to OurMost Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
SenatorCOURTICE (Queensland; [3.24] . - I am very pleased to associate myself with the motion moved by Senator McBride, . particularly with its expressions of loyalty to His Majesty, and its thanks to His Excellency for his Speech. Honorable senators generally, I feel sure, were impressed by the pleasant voice of His Excellency and the manner in which he delivered his Speech. However, I could not help feeling greatly dis- appointed . with the substance of the Speech. Possibly that is because I am new to Parliamentary life. I expected that such a pronouncement would give some indication of the manner in which the Government proposes to deal with the problems which, the Speech admitted, confronted this country. In that respect the Speech was merely a skeleton. At the outset of His Excellency’s address, I felt very disturbed when he indicated that the Government was in consultation with other countries with respect to trade treaties, and that negotiations of far-reaching importance to Australia were in progress. It is only fair to the Senate., I suggest, that some indication should be given of the lines being followed by the Government in these negotiations. We were told that, before it commits itself to any final decision, the Government proposes to discuss any proposed revision or alteration of trade agreements with representatives of our various industries. Surely this Parliament is the place, where such matters should he first discussed! The Government, therefore, should give the Senate some indication of the basis on which it proposes to pursue these negotiations. I say advisedly that it must be very careful indeed in arranging any agreements which might affect the stability of Australian industries. I am told by my colleagues of greater parliamentary experience that probably within two or three months the Government will indicate to the Senate exactly what it proposes to do.
Although I compliment Senator McBride on his speech, I could congratulate him more heartily if he had not made an unfortunate remark, which I resent very much indeed. Members of the Labour party take umbrage at his statement that he hoped that the senators-elect would also be loyal to this Parliament and to this country.
– Such a remark was entirely unnecessary. On such a vital matter as loyalty to our country and its institutions, we should rise above party political considerations. The defence of this country is a matter of concern to every man and woman living in it, and therefore, it ill becomes any honorable senator to cast doubt on the loyalty of any other member of the Senate. I may appear to be unduly sensitive in this connexion, but I cannot forget that during the recent election campaign it was frequently suggested that the Labour party could not be trusted with the defence of Australia, because, it was alleged, an element of disloyalty existed in the party. In all sincerity I say that that is a libel on the great Labour movement. I resent it. Particularly in view of the difficult times in which we live, I hope that we shall hear no more of such allegations. Apart from that reference, Senator McBride’s first speech in this chamber was excellent and I compliment him on it.
The trade agreements which the Government hopes to make with other countries are of such importance to Australia that they should be discussed by the Parliament before the negotiations are too far advanced. The secondary industries of Australia have not received the consideration to which their influence on the development and populating of this country entitle them. Our primary industries also are carrying too great a load. The proportion of our production which must be exported at prices which will enable them to compete with the products of other countries in the world’s markets is too great. The only solution of the problem appears to be an increase of population by the development of our secondary industries, thereby providing a better home market for our primary products. Other countries with lower standards are able to dump their surplus production in the markets of the world at prices which make it difficult for Australian producers to compete with them. I repeat, therefore, that the Government should exercise great care before taking any action which may hamper the development of our secondary industries. I believe that in the development of our secondary industries lies the future success of Australia. Primary production can maintain only a certain limited population; if we are to improve conditions for our primary industries a more balanced economy must be instituted. In any negotiations for trade agreements with other countries I hope that the Government will seriously aim to make Australia as self-supporting as possible by safeguarding its industries. There are many ways in which this country may be developed, but I do not know that, it is the duty of a member of the Opposition to tell the Government how it should do its job. In any case, I firmly believe that the present Government will not be in office for long. The result of the recent election is a clear indication that the people of Australia will not much longer be content with a policy of laissez faire. What progress has been made in the past has ‘been the result of the action of governments with an outlook different from that of the present Government. There have been complaints about the voting for the Senate, but at least so far as Queensland is concerned, the result is a clear indication of the intelligence of the electors.
A greater population is essential in the best interests of Australia; hut the Labour party will not associate itself with any policy which will bring to this country people who, before long, will swell the ranks of the unemployed. Work must be provided for our own people before others are brought here. There must be development along line3 which will make it possible for those willing and able to work to he absorbed in industry. We hear much talk of the decline of the birth rate, but that also is an economic problem. I associate with the people of the country and I know the outlook of the workers as well as of the younger members of the community. If we create conditions which will give to them security of employment and a reasonable standard of living, the other problems which confront us to-day will be found less difficult to solve. I believe that it is possible to deal effectively with many of those problems, but, unfortunately, the Government seems to have no definite plan for their solution. I am disappointed at its attitude towards the manufacture of power alcohol in Australia. During the election campaign, a good deal was said regarding the defence of Australia; but, if the position is so serious as was then indicated, the Government which has been in office for six years must be held responsible to a great extent. There are some who claim that the production of power alcohol would be uneconomic; but, if a state of emergency arose, Australia would find it necessary to be much more self-contained in respect of oil fuel than it is now. There is a practical side to this problem. I believe that it is possible to establish the power alcohol industry in Queensland, thereby benefiting that State and, indeed, the whole of the Commonwealth. In view of the fact that other agricultural industries are in difficulties, because of poor prices and lark of markets, the development of the power alcohol industry should be given earnest consideration.
I do not know whether or not I am expected to deal with the various item3 referred to in the Governor-General’s Speech, but, were I to do so, I fear that some honorable senators would not be pleased. The Speech contains references to a number of matters of great importance to Australia, such as health and insurance, and I look forward with interest to pronouncements of the intentions of the Government in relation to them. Should the Government introduce legislation to improve the health of the people, and provide them with greater security, I shall support it, and I believe that every other member of the Opposition will do the same. As a member of the Labour party, I view the future with confidence, and I sincerely trust that my association with this Parliament will be of benefit to the people of Australia.
– I congratulate Senator Courtice on his speech, particularly that portion in which he expressed his belief that the defence of Australia should be above party. I am glad to have him here as an ally, because for many years, and long before I came into the Senate, I have been saying that the defence of Australia should be above party. It is too vital, too big and too grave a matter to the nation to be made a party football, or to be used as a subject for appealing to the passions, prejudices, and ignorance of the populace at election times. The honorable senator expressed disappointment with the speech delivered by His Excellency the Governor-General. When he has been in the Senate longer - and I trust he will have a happy, pleasant and successful time here - he will find that such disappointment is not new. I remember the first Governor-General’s speech to which I listened in this chamber, because to me fell the task, in January, 1926, of moving the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. The speech on that occasion was rather a colourless document. I also remember the speech delivered in this chamber on November 20, 1929, by Lord Stonehaven, the then Governor-General; the Scullin-Theodore Government had just come into power. If honorable senators are sufficiently interested to turn up the speech in the parliamentary proceedings, they will find that it consisted mostly of pious hopes and wishes, together with some little fears for the future, and misgivings as to the economic position of the country. There was. however, in that speech one dark blot. It was only a very short paragraph, but it was full of meaning, and I honestly and sincerely believe that the people of this country will some day realize what a wicked and dangerous thing it was. It was, briefly. “ My advisers have decided to suspend compulsory military training “. That was in 1929, and compulsory military training is still suspended.
– And your party baa been six years in office.
– The honorable senator will admit, I think, that I have been all the time advocating its reintroduction. I speak ‘about something of which I have some knowledge. I do not want to boast of it, but I know a great deal about war. I have seen its horrors at first hand. I have been in it, smelt it, and felt it. I think I can visualize what would happen in this country if war were brought to our shores. It does not bear thinking about; we are absolutely unprepared to-day.
I do not want to traverse all the ground covered yesterday by the Leader of the Opposition, but I should like to touch upon one point. That is his inference that it would be possible for Australia to be neutral if Britain were at war. That is the most utterly mischievous nonsense imaginable. The imagined neutrality about which this- false political prophet, speaks could not be Australia’s to choose, even if it would. It is possible that neutrality might be offered to us by the enemy, but only upon such disgraceful terms that no Australian, whatever his political views, would dream of accepting it. The neutrality of Australia in such a conflict is not possible. The intelligence of our people rejects such a crazy notion. We must remind ourselves that only the strongest arms and a trained manhood can ensure respect for any wishes of our own in that matter. So we come down to the fact that adequate pre,paration for the defence of Australia is an imperative and essential national task. The recent elections were, I believe, fought on the main issue of adequate defence in co-operation with Great Britain and .the remainder of the Empire, as contrasted with a purely local defence allied with the policy of keeping out and staying out, of any war in which the Motherland might become involved. The latter policy, if it could be implemented, would plainly spell national suicide on the part of Australia. There can be no war in which Great Britain is a participant that will not involve Australia. Great Britain’s enemy will see to that. In this regard, I should like to read a short extract from a speech made by Councillor Motta, ex-President of the Republic of Switzerland, at the anniversary of the Battle ofSempach, which was fought on the 9th July, 1386. That date is a memorable one in the annals of the Swiss republic, because it was in that battle that the Swiss threw off the Austrian yoke and became, with their republic, the leaders of the world in democracy. Councillor Motta’s speech was most eloquent, and particularly from his concluding words a great lesson is to be learned. He is reported thus : - “ The acute international situation fills us with poignant anxiety. There is not a glim- merof peace in the sky - everywhere on earth nothing else but menacing shadows. War is a plague. It has shaken all conception of right. Treaties, even those freely entered into, are not observed nor respected. In many countries a new paganism is waging furious war on Christianity. Mind and religion have often to make room for pure materialism, and irreligion in its folly seeks to extinguish the eternal lights. Liberty, this precious attribute of the immortal being, is crushed under foot, and democracy, truly the most noble form of political organization of a people, is treated contemptuously. Where is. the world going to? Into what abyss is humanity drawn? We ignore it. Possibly we suspect it. Set there is one thing that we know and that we want. Contempt for liberty and for democracy will never find an echo or assent in our midst, for liberty and democracy form the vital centre of our political sentiment and convictions.”
He added that he did not esteem the civic value of a citizen according to his attributes. All it required and demanded was that there should be complete unity on the essential question of national defence. In the army lay their security and pride; in it was expressed the unshaken will of the people to remain independent. It was true the army was costly and never beforehad their federal authorities approved of such large military credits as quite recently. All the same, these credits were indispensable. Foreign governments and their general military staffs had to be convinced that any attempt to violate Swiss territory and to utilise Swiss soil for a strategical march against an enemy would be met by the most obstinate and deliberate resistance of the Swiss army. No disagreement existed on that vital point. German Swiss, French Swiss, Italian Swiss, they would all sooner die a glorious death than live under any form of servitude. In this respect they were one solid, infrangible block - peasants, artisans, merchants, technicians, or members of the liberal professions. Switzerland would never succumb on account of internal discord amongst its children. “ We also wish to contribute to the efforts made to organize world peace,” he said. “ Notwithstanding all that may have happened, we have not lost faith. We will not turn our backs on the League of Nations. But foremost of all - it is on ourselves that’ we wish to count.”
That also is true of Australia. We must count upon ourselves. But what are we going to do about it? The Lyons Government has just been returned to office on its defence policy of full co-operation with the forces of the Empire. If Australia’s share in that co-operation is to be a reality, and not a make-believe, there will have to be a speeding up of the strength of all three arms of the defenceservices, far beyond anything yet attempted. The. first essential, without which the acquisition of guns, ships, aircraft, tanks, munitions, and equipment will be of no avail, is that the men of military age in the Commonwealth shall receive the necessary skilled training and discipline. Unless they receive this training it will be impossible for them to make adequate use of the complicated mechanized weapons with which modern war is waged.
Before I resume my seat, I wish to refer to an exceedingly stupid statement contained in a. leading article in the Canberra Times, of to-day. The writer of this priceless effort displays abysmal ignorance of his subject. This is whathe says : -
Modern war has driven home some stern lessons. One of the most impressive is the super importance of adequate equipment. A rabble could hold off a trained invader if it were adequately equipped.
If ever there was colossal nonsense displayed in connexion with defensive measures, it is to be found in the statement which I have just read. Whatever defence equipment were given to a rabble, it would be no use whatever. The stupidity of the newspaper statement will be realized when I tell the Senate that the lock of a Vickers machine gun consists of 26 parts, all of which are necessary, and some most intricate in construction, yet a good gunner, wearing a gas mask, is expected to be able to take it to pieces in the dark and reassemble it. He can do this simply because hehas been instructed in the use of this class of weapon and has had experience with it. lt is ridiculous to suggest that’ any individual in a rabble, even if it were adequately equipped with modern weapons, could hold off a trained invader.
– The Canberra Times is not a Labour newspaper, remember.
– I am not concerned with its politics. My only intention is to expose the rubbish that is published sometimes by inexperienced writers on the subject of defence. The Canberra Times article may read all right to the average person; but anyone who, like myself, has knowledge of this subject, realizes that it is “bunkum” to suggest that a rabble, with modern equipment, including tanks, aeroplanes and. machine guns, could offer serious opposition to a modern trained army. The statement is really too ridiculous to be taken seriously, lt has been disproved time and time again on the field of battle. The whole crux of defence is efficient training in the handling of modern weapons of war. This serious business has to be learned very carefully and thoroughly, and if we, in Australia, do not realize our responsibility, and make adequate provision for the training of our manhood, we shall some day experience an awakening too ghastly to contemplate. There is no doubt about the bravery of the average Australian. That he will fight has been proved over and over again; but if he is not thoroughly trained in peace time to be master of weapons which he will be called upon to use in time of war, his casualties and. the bloody punishment which he will receive will be increased tenfold, because of his bravery. Once again, I implore all men occupying leading public positions to realize the gravity of our position, and do what is necessary to give our boys and men a fighting chance.
.- I support the motion. It is fitting that we should have an opportunity such a3 is now presented, to pay homage to the representative in Australia of His Majesty the King. Senator Courtice, who delivered his maiden speech in the Senate this afternoon, expressed some disappointment with the speech of the Gover nor-General, suggesting that it consisted of so much dry-bones. I can, however, assure the honorable gentleman that by the time the Government has given effect to the legislative programme outlined in the two-page pamphlet presented to honorable senators on Tuesday, the Hansard record of the debates will be a bulky volume, and I have no doubt that Senator Courtice will have made his contribution to its dimensions. I should not have spoken at this juncture but for the fact that I consider it desirable, in view of certain remarks made yesterday, that both sides of the economic problems affecting Australia should be presented. E should not dream of criticising the maiden speech of a new senator, if he were actually new to politics; but Senator McBride, who spoke yesterday, and to whom I now particularly address myself, has had long experience in the House of Representatives and is, or should be, cognisant of what has happened in the political arena during the last few years. But my attention is not so much to criticize as to inform the honorable gentleman in respect of one or two matters touched upon by him yesterday, and to suggest to him that, in this chamber, it is considered desirable that arguments should be supported by facts which approximate the position as disclosed by public documents. The statement to which I take most exception covered the period of the earlier years of the- depression. The honorable gentleman conveyed the impression that in those clark years primary production saved Australia, whereas, as everybody should know, the’ wool cheque during the first three years of the depression dropped from £62,000,000 to approximately half that sum, and the world’s market collapsed for other forms’ of primary production, with the result that it became necessary to raise about £20,000,000 to keep our primary producers on the land.
– That is not correct.
– The facts are as I have stated them. The Government had to find about £20,000,000 to save our primary producers. During those years, our secondary industries were also in difficulties and suffered heavy losses; but, fortunately, their capital equipment being more liquid, they were able to readjust themselves to meet the changed economic conditions without calling upon the Commonwealth Government for financial aid. During the four years of the depression, our primary producers had practically no income at all, so we may assume that? the £20,000,000 or thereabouts that was required for their assistance was found by the rest of the taxpayers.
M.y so:e intention in referring to this matter is to put in proper perspective the Australian economy. I have no desire whatever to raise any controversial matter, because, as every one who has the interests of Australia at heart should realize, these two great sections of the community - our secondary and primary industries - must work hand in hand. They must also work hand in hand with the workers, who make their contribution to a balanced economy. As regards the production of wealth in Australia, our primary and secondary industries are on equal footing; but as regards employment capacity, our secondary industries are in the leading position.
– There was a great deal of unemployment in secondary industries during the depression.
– That is true, and we should also remember that, although the taxation burden fell mainly on our secondary industries during those years and was also high on the general community, the prices for all secondary commodities, in spite of the protection which some industries enjoyed at that rime, dropped considerably. As bearing on this point, I direct the attention of honorable senators to some significant figures contained in the report of the Tariff Board for the year ended the 30th June, 1937. This document states that the present price, expressed in sterling, of pig iron in Australia, is £3 8s. a ton as compared with £6 ls. to £6 lis. a ton in the United Kingdom. The price of the Australian commodity is at least 40 per cent, below the British rate. The Australian price for steel joists is £7 14s. 5d. a ton aa compared with £10 12s. 6d. to £11 2s. 6d. a ton in Great Britain.
– There has been s substantial increase of prices in Great Britain just lately.
– I am aware of that, but it does not affect my argument. The price of bar steel in Australia is £7 14s. f>d. a ton as compared with £11 to £11 10s. a ton in Great Britain, and the price of spring steel in Australia is £14 3s. 8d. a ton against £15 10s. a ton in Great Britain. J. could give similar information with respect to barbed wire and galvanized iron, but I do not think it, is necessary. The improved position in Australia is due to the increased efficiency of our secondary industries, as well as other factors, which enable our factories to reduce their prices below those obtaining in Great Britain.
– Would the honorable senator say that that remark applies generally to Australian secondary industries?
– To a much greater extent than the honorable senator is aware, I believe. That state of affairs was brought about despite the fact that those engaged in secondary production are often accused of being a hurden upon the rest of the community. The figures I Iia ve quoted show that they have been of great benefit to Australia, and have been responsible for the reduction of prices. There are special reasons why high prices are ruling on the other side of the world, but the objective sought in Parliament during the last few years has been achieved. The policy of this Government has been the means of putting men back into employment; and in addition, according to the annual report of the Tariff Board, the index figure in respect of real wages on the 30bh June, 1929, was 1086. whereas on the 31st March, 1937, it was 1111. Since that date the basic wage has been increased by 6s. All these things have been accomplished in spite of increased wages and of certain difficulties in respect of exchange, which was against Australia. I shall have further opportunities to deal at greater length with this subject, but J wish to remove the impression which Senator McBride endeavoured to create that during the worst years of the depression the primary producers prevented Australia from becoming bankrupt. The facts do not support his contention.
Some little feeling has been shown by honorable senators opposite in consequence of a remark by Senator McBride concerning loyalty. I believe that if Australia were in danger honorable senators opposite and those whom they represent would prove to be just as loyal as honorable senators on this side of the chamber, and that every man in Australia who was able would offer his services in the defence of this country. At the same time they should answer this question frankly. “We recall the canard they employed during the recent election campaign. They knew that there was no truth in the statement they made that if an anti-Labour Government were returned to power conscription would be introduced. They knew that no government, whatever political party it represented, would introduce conscription. Such a proposal would be rejected by Parliament in one hour. Notwithstanding this fact they persisted in making such utterances with the sole object of winning the election.
– Who were the conscriptionists in 1917? The members of the Labour party or the party which the honorable senator supports?
– Half of them were members of the Labour party.
– Not one-half of them.
– It is interesting to watch the reaction of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) to the success of the Labour Senate candidates at the last general election. It is refreshing to hear the honorable senator 3peak of the bad time that he and his .supporters propose to give us after the 1st July next. He frankly said that the members of the Opposition were professional politicians. What does he mean by that?
– That, unlike Ministerial senators, they will be men who have not a lot of sidelines from which to derive an income.
– Does the Leader of the Opposition mean that they will do and say exactly what they are told by their loader?
– They will not be “guinea pig” directors of private concerns. If the honorable senator wants to know what I mean, I have no hesitation in telling him. He has only to look around him to see what I mean.
– The Leader of the Opposition stated quite frankly that honorable senators on his’ side of the chamber came into this Parliament for what they could get out of it.
– I rise to a point of order. I did not use the words attributed to me by Senator Leckie. I will not submit to a deliberate and wilful misrepresentat’.on of what I said. The statement madu by the honorable senator is untrue, and offensive to me, and I ask for its unqualified withdrawal.
– I ask the honorable senator to withdraw the remark to which exception has been taken.
– That was the inference I drew from the statement of the Leader of the Opposition, but if he objects to my remark I withdraw it. The Leader of the Opposition is always confident concerning himself. At times I arn often in doubt as to whether I am right, but the honorable senator has no such uncertainty regarding himself. In some respects the position of a member of the Labour party is enviable; his policy is set out for him and, if he is in doubt as to what he should say or do in regard to any matter, he has only to consult “ the blue-book.” When a member of the Opposition is in doubt as to the attitude he should adopt on the proposals which come before this chamber, he merely has to consult the Labour party’s blue-book to see what he is to do. The Lord created the earth in six days, and on the seventh day He rested from His labours. But He took over 1,000,000 years to create the Labour party, and even then had to seek the help of Senator Collings. I do not know whether we shall have trouble in this chamber after the 1st July, but I suppose that we shall have many controversies. I regret that we have lost the services of two Ministers. I feel sure that the Leader of the Opposition will join, me in wishing the new Ministers success in the responsible work they have undertaken, and that they will reach the high standard of their predecessors.
– We have no doubt about that.
– If any of us Should happen to have any doubt as-‘ to’ their qualifications, we fervently hope’ that we are mistaken. I know’ that the Postmaster.General (S’en’ator A. J. McLachlan), who is now the Leader of the Senate, will have a difficult time. Naturally, we view leaders from different angles, and react to them in different ways. When I felt that I should have been rude to Senator Pearce, I deliberately refrained, but I féar that if I feel that I should not be rude to the new Leader, I may be so on principle. I trust that the Leader of the Opposition, with the additional assistance which he will have next year, and that confidence which he always displays, will not be too hard on us. He is the greatest fighting pacifist I have known. He would seek to destroy any one who doubts his pacificism, but I trust that he will treat honorable senators on this side of the chamber with kindness and consideration. I hope that the session which has just commenced will be fruitful, and that this chamber, which has fallen to some extent in the estimation of the people of Australia, will regain that prestige to which it is entitled. I trust that the status of the Senate during the next few years will be raised to that which it enjoyed during the first ten years of federation, and that none of us will depart from that high standard to which parliamentary conduct should conform to such an extent that our action can he regarded as a reflection upon the chamber.
– I congratulate the mover and the seconder of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply on the speeches they have delivered. I should also like to congratulate Senator Courtice on the speech which he made this afternoon. Senator McBride delivered an excellent speech. It is not easy to speak for the first time in this chamber, even if one has had lengthy experience in the House of Representatives. I recall that when I was first elected to the Senate I did not feel very happy when I was performing the duty allotted to Senator McBride yesterday. The honorable senator acquitted himself admirably, and his remarks were most interesting. The same may be said concerning the speech that we have heard from the Labour benches ; I listened . to them with much interest and appreciation. It would be a bad thing if party antagonism reached a stage at which an honorable senator on this side of the chamber would not admit that an honorable senator in opposition had made a good speech. In this respect I regret that the Leader of the Opposition did not show a little more generosity, particularly as he is the leader of an important party in this. chamber. The mover and seconder of the motion, quite properly, referred to the great service which Sir George Pearce has rendered to his country. In fact, every one in this chamber should associate himself with the remarks of Senator McBride in that respect. Senator Pearce is the only senator who has been a member of this chamber for 36 years, and because a reference was made to that fact by Senator McBride, the Leader of the Opposition said that his remarks were in bad taste. How can that be so ? Is it not right for us to say that the defeat of Senator Pearce is a great loss to this country?
– I did not object to the statement. I said that it was an inappropriate time to make it.
– The honorable senator said that it was in bad taste.
– I do not recognize the honorable senator as an authority on good taste.
– Nor would I claim to be infallible. In the opinion of the general public it would not be bad taste to pay_ a well-deserved compliment to a man on the other side of the chamber. We recall what was said by Mr. Gladstone - whom the Leader of the Opposition mentioned yesterday, with appreciation - after listening to the speech of Mr. Austen Chamberlain, whose father had smashed up Mr. Gladstone’s government years before by fighting him on the home rule question. Mr. Gladstone might have been expected to have shown some bitterness; but he said that the speech- was one that ought to gladden the father’s heart. That is the way in which political opponents should treat one another; it is a small thing to admit that a man made a good speech, especially as at other times there may be good reason for saying that a speech was a bad one. The Leader of the Opposition suggested that a party with views similar to those held by the Labour party was responsible for the repeal of the corn laws.
– That was the suggestion of the honorable senator. He referred to Bright, Cobden, Gladstone and others, but as a matter of fact Sir Robert Peel was responsible for the repeal of the corn laws.
– Owing to the pressure of poverty consequent upon the laws at’ that time.
– Who was responsible” for the repeal of the corn laws? It is not a matter of pressure. There was no Labour party at that time. The corn laws were repealed by Sir Robert Peel, who had been a tory and was leader of the Conservative party, and severed his connexion with many of his political friends in order to do what he thought was right. In so doing he practically smashed his own reputation. History records what actually happened.
– The Lyons party of that time fought to prevent the repeal.
– There was no Labour party in existence then. Always there are two groups in politics - the radicals and the more conservative. Usually, the radicals call themselves progressive ; there is nothing to show whether they progress in the right direction. I wish to add my small testimony to the services rendered by retiring Ministers in this chamber. I deeply deplore the retirement of Senator Pearce and yourself, Mr. President. I regret that after having given 30 years’ service in this chamber you have fallen by the way. In these remarks I also include the former Assistant Minister, Senator Brennan, and several members who have been many years in this chamber. At the same time I extend my congratulations to the new Ministers, and wish them good luck ; they will probably need it before they finish their new jobs. I congratulate both of them, particularly on the fact that to-day they have been speaking out in this chamber in a way which has enabled honorable senators, who, like myself, are getting old and a little hard of hearing, to hear what they say. Honorable senators do not relish having to call out to Ministers that ‘ they cannot hear them. I hope that” the new Ministers will increase their volume of voice, information, knowledge, and debating power. It is a pleasure to me that half of the members of the new Ministry - and this may not have happened by chance - are men who gave service in the Great War. I have been surprised that for some years past, when so large a number of parliamenttarians who gave or volunteered for service in the last war have been available, so few of them have -held ministerial office. Half of the members of the new Ministry either fought for their country in the Great War or volunteered to do so. If to these we add the name of Mr. Hughes, who perhaps rendered more service during the war to his country than did any soldier, the number of these men in the Ministry comes to eight out of fourteen ; I believe that that is a move in the right direction.
I do not propose to deal with the Governor-General’s Speech in .detail. It has been announced that the GovernorGeneral has been given leave of absence for six months, and that he intends to proceed to England for a holiday. I take this opportunity to express the view that all of us hope that His Excellency will have a pleasant and interesting time while he is overseas, and that he will return stronger in health. Perhaps it is not generally recognized that His Excellency’s service in this country as a representative of His Majesty, now extends over something like ten years, first as Governor of South Australia, then as Governor in New South Wales, and, more recently, as Governor-General of the Commonwealth. The duties of a governor-general are exhausting, particularly if he should travel, as the present occupant of the office has done, over the whole of Australia. We have been very fortunate in the selection of our present Governor-General, and I feel sure that honorable senators generally hope that he will come back from his visit overseas re-invigorated.
Many items mentioned in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech might be regarded as old friends. Some of them are not dealt with in detail, whilst to others only a short reference is made. We shall have an opportunity to deal with some of them when they come before the Senate later in the form of bills. Some of us, probably, will not be members of this chamber when that time arrives. Then again, some of these matters may not come up for consideration by Parliament for many years. Brief as this document is, I do not imagine that all the proposals in it will be given legislative effect during the next three years.
I propose to deal at this juncture with three of the matters mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech. The first concerns the negotiation of trade treaties with foreign countries. In this connexion the Governor-General stated -
My Ministers will continue to curry out their policy nf encouraging Australian industries, and of making, wherever possible, further trade treaties with other countries. ! do not know whether that statement is merely another of those pleasant remarks which one sometimes sees in governmental announcements. I hope it means something more than that, although, in view of such an instance as the competition during recent years between ‘ the claims of barley-growers and glass manufacturers, it is difficult to believe that there is anything very much in it. When I was in Europe this year, and was visiting a foreign country, the name of which I do not propose to disclose at this juncture, it was brought to my no tia that that country was getting very annoyed with the Commonwealth on account of its very unsatisfactory balance of trade with us. It was taking a good deal of our primary products, principally apples, but was selling to us only a small quantity of manufactures. I was informed in reliable quarters that if such a policy continued that country would seek an opportunity to trade with any other country which would give it a better deal. Although my only official standing was as a senator I thought I should not ignore the matter, and on my return to London T brought it to the notice of the High Commissioner. I have no doubt that it has since been referred to the proper quarters for consideration. I propose, however, to bear it in mind during the few months for which I expect to remain a member of this chamber and, probably, I shall have something more to say about it later. I emphasize again, as I have said on many occasions, that in matters of trade Ave cannot have it both ways ; we cannot sell unless we are prepared to buy in exchange for what we sell. If we continue to refuse to accept the manufactures of other countries we shall, by degrees, reduce the markets for our primary products, which are the only things, except metals, which bring any new money into this country.
The second matter with which I shall now deal concerns the care of aborigines. Senator Macartney Abbott said yesterday that he was glad to notice that the Government was doing something about this matter. That is an excellent, sentiment, but, surely, we have sufficient troubles of our own -without butting into other people’s troubles. Under the Constitution Act the Commonwealth enjoys the privilege of exercising its power in relation to many matters, but the care of aborigines is not one of them. It is specially provided that the Commonwealth shall have nothing to do with that matter at all. Why should we go out of our way, therefore, to butt into it? Why not leave it to the States? It is their concern, not ours. A.t page 219 of its report in 1929 the Royal Commission on the Constitution stated -
The Commonwealth Parliament has no power to make /laws with respect to the aboriginal inhabitants of Australia, ‘‘the aboriginal race in any Sta:t(.” being specially excluded from the words of section 51 (xxvi) by which power is conferred to make laws with respect to the people of any race for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws.
This means that, the Commonwealth Government may make special laws with respect to other races but not with respect to aborigines. Of course, as honorable senators are aware, the aborigines have no vote.
The Commission heard much evidence on many phases of the Constitution, and gave it the fullest consideration. I do not think, however, that its report has been so fully considered, or acted upon, as it might have been. The Commission, for instance, suggested, and much can be said in favour of the suggestion, that it would he a good thing if the members of the House of Representatives were elected for a term .of four years, instead of three years. I do not expect members of the Labour party to agree with me on this matter, because when the term of State members of Parliament was lately increased to five years in South Australia the Labour party in that State opposed the proposal. I believe, however, that the term of three years for members of the House of Representatives is too short. 1 n fact, three years is too short a period for the life of any parliament, either State or Commonwealth. It has been said so often that the first year is the year of exultation over victory, and that attitude possibly is apparent at this moment in this Parliament.
– The exultation can be dispensed with on this occasion because the Government has nothing to exult over.
– At any rate a good deal of exultation is apparent on our side in the House of Representatives on this occasion.
– Has the honorable senator forgotten all about. Magna Carta; no reference is made in that document to the election of representatives for a period of five years.
– That may be, but, nevertheless, it has been the custom in England for hundreds of years. The point to be considered in this matter is what is a sensible term. T have mentioned this matter in passing, but I seriously urge honorable senators to consider whether it would not be better if members of the House of Representatives were elected for four years instead nf three years, whether constant recurring elections are desirable, whether they d0 not give everybody a good deal of trouble, and whether the public would not be better served if the longer period were adopted.
Reverting to the care of aborigines, the ma jority report of the Royal Commission on the Constitution stated-
We do not recommend that section 51 (xxvi) he amended so as to empower the Commonwealth Parliament to make laws with respect . to aborigines. We recognize that the effect of the treatment of aborigines on the reputation of Australia furnishes a powerful argument for a transference of control to the Commonwealth. But we think that on the whole the States ure better equipped to control aborigines than the Commonwealth. The States control the police and the lands, and they, to a large extent, control the conditions of industry. We think that a Commonwealth authority would bc at a disadvantage in dialling with the aborigines, und that the States are better qualified* to do so. At the Karno time we think every endeavour should h made to ensure the adoption of thu bes methods of administration by periodical conferences, and that every encouragement should be given to those voluntary bodies which in many of the States have worked for the improvement of the conditions of aborigines.
It may he claimed, of course, that the latter portion of this extract offers sufficient justification for the Commonwealth to give consideration to the care of aborigines. That matter, however, definitely does not come within the province of the Commonwealth Government. The federal authority is subjected to sufficient criticism for its handling of matters with which it is bound to deal, without drawing on itself the criticism which would almost inevitably arise in respect of the treatment of aborigines. We should be well advised to leave this matter to the States.
The last thing about which I wish t.) speak to-day is the interesting subject oi the appointment of a parliamentary committee to consider the electoral reform in connexion with the Senate. This is an important matter. A motion in relation to it will come up for discussion in the House - of Representatives shortly, and I imagine that a similar motion will be moved in this chamber, because it is stated that some honorable senators are to be appointed io the committee. The Senate is in no respect less a. part of the Parliament of the Commonwealth than is the Hons* of Representatives. The Constitution certainly places some restriction upon the Senate in the. matter of money bills, for a measure dealing with taxation may not originate in this chamber; but otherwise the Senate is just as much a part of the Parliament as is the House of Representatives. I submit that it is the duty of any executive to see that an equal deal is given as between the two Houses. Judged by the number of its members the Senate is the smaller chamber, but normally its members are older in years than arc those in the other House. There are also nearly always several members sitting here who have had a good deal of experience elsewhere. Section 1 of the Constitution lays it down that -
The legislative power of the Commonwealth shall ho invested in a Federal Parliament, which shall consist of the Queen, a Senate,, (i lui a. House of Representatives, and which is hereinafter called “the Parliament” or “the Parliament of the Commonwealth”.
The report of the Royal Commission on the Constitution contains’ the following paragraph: -
The relations of the two Houses in regard to legislation arc defined hy the provisions of the Constitution with respect to money hills and double dissolution. Except as to money bills, the Senate has equal power with the House of Representatives; but if there is a deadlock, the House of Representatives may bring about a double dissolution.
It is perfectly clear that, except for the restriction on the money power of this chamber, it has precisely the same weight in legislative matters ns has the other chamber, a fact which seems to have been somewhat overlooked luring recent years.
– We hope that the new Ministers will restore the position.
– That is much to be desired, but the restoration has been left rather late. Personally, I deplore that there should be any suggestion to alter the method of election of members of the Senate. I recognize that in electoral matters there is an ebb and flow. We, on this side cannot expect to have an immense majority all the time; probably it would not be in the interests of the country that that should be so.
– The parties forming the Government have had the majority most of the time.
– I have no objection to the existing system being continued, even if it means that the flow comes in from the other side. Its continuance would also obviate the suggestion, which I hear already, that any such alteration as has been suggested is something in the nature of a jerrymander. 1 do not attach too much importance to i lie word “jerrymander” for it is usually used by some one who wants to make an unpleasant suggestion; but as we on this side have had the benefit of the existing system for some years, we ought to adhere to it and accept whatever disadvantage it brings to- us in the years to come. It is possible that, in some minor points, alterations are desirable. I hope that I shall not offend one honorable senator sitting opposite when I say that I believe the letter “ A “ played some part in the Senate election in New South Wales recently. It seems to me to be rather ridiculous that candidates should be chosen partly because their names commence with “ A “. Possibly, it would be better if lots were cast to determine which group shall appear first on the ballot-paper, rather than that, as a matter of course, the group with names commencing with “ A “ should appear at the head of the list. But that alteration doe.s not require the setting up of a special committee. It is a matter of such relatively minor importance that I should have expected the Government itself to deal with it without constituting a committee for the purpose.
– The Constitution provides that the States may be divided into three electorates for the purpose of Senate elections.
– Is that the next move? Lam glad to have the hint.
– That system would suit Queensland admirably.
– And Western Australia also.
– The Constitution provides that Parliament may alter the method of voting as it chooses. This is certainly not a subject for a referendum of the people. I say these things now, because if ‘a motion on this subject is to be placed before the Senate - and I cannot believe that such a motion would be moved in only one House of the Parliament - the time allowed under the Standing Orders for consideration of it would be short. I also speak now in the hope - perhaps it is too ambitious a hope - that my remarks may be of interest to the committee, when appointed. The substitutes which have been suggested for the existing system are, first, proportional representation, and secondly, the division of each State into group districts by amalgamating two or more divisions of the.
Mouse of Representatives to form one group. In South Australia that could easily be done. The division there is obvious ; one group would contain the electorates of Grey and Wakefield; another, Barker and Boothby; and the third, Adelaide and Hindmarsh. In my opinion, the grounds of objection to such a division are great. I shall give some of them later. When passing through Adelaide recently, the President of the Senate, according to the newspapers, made a vigorous pronouncement, in which he expressed his unqualified opposition to proportional representation. I entirely agree with him. One reason for my agreement is that the system was tried in New South Wales and proved a complete failure. Indeed, its failure was admitted by both sides in the State Parliament. It created a most difficult situation, as ‘between members on the same side of the House. According to the record of the proceedings of the New South Wales House of Assembly for 1925-26, Mr. Lazzarini, a brother of the honorable member for Werriwa in the House of Representatives, in moving the second reading of the bill for the abolition of the system, said -
We have ‘hud three general elections under the system of proportional representation - in 1 920, in 1922, mid in l!>2o - and honorable members and the people of the country generally have had full and ample opportunity of getting a thorough knowledge of how proportional representation is working in this community and of summing up its merits and demerits. As far as this Government is concerned, and I believe that, as far as the majority of honorable members on the opposite side of the House are concerned, it is agreed that proportional representation has shown far more demerits than merits during its operation in this State.
The system was abolished at the instigation of the Labour party during the regime of Mr. Lang, and a system of preferential voting, with single electorates, substituted. The Leader of the Opposition in the New South Wales chamber at that time was Mr. Bavin, now Mr. Justice Bavin. He spoke at some length on the subject. Honorable senators would do well to read his speech as recorded in New South Wales Hansard of the 4th November, 1925. Mr. Bavin then said -
I was one of those who strongly favoured the Introduction of the system of proportional representation, because J. believed that it was the fairest and the most effective system for securing the free ami complete expression of the will of the people.
He went on to enumerate some of the things that he had hoped proportional representation would give, and then he continued -
Although 1 have not lost my faith entirely
III the system, although .1. propose to oppo.-e this bill because of what it is intended to substitute for proportional representation, I am now bound to say - and I may say that 1 am expressing my, own opinh.ui, and that I am not speaking now for the party which I have the honour to lead. because this is a matter in connexion with which the individual members of my party are free to exercise their own independent judgment - after the most careful and best consideration that I could give the question I am very greatly disappointed with the working of the system, lt has nut produced the results that 1 anticipated it would produce, ft has produced certain res ill Id which those of us who believed in it, did not anticipate.
That record shows that one party in the New South Wales Parliament moved for the abolition of the system of proportional representation after it had been in operation for only about seven years, and had been used at three elections) and that the Leader of the opposing party expressed keen disappointment with it.
A strong objection to the division of the States into group districts is that it would mean the end of the Senate as a States’ House. The moment a State is cut up into divisions, State representation as such ceases. The underlying idea in relation to the Senate is that it shall be a States’ House. I am aware that, irc theory at least, the Labour party stands for the abolition of the Senate. I presume that our leaders do not desire that, although I can quite’ well believe that some of our supporters would be glad to see the States’ identity of this chamber done away with. There is no question that it was laid down in the most decisive way that the Senate should be a States’ House. That can be seen throughout the Constitution, and is borne out by the fact that the President and the Chairman of Committees can exercise a deliberative vote at any time, but have no casting vote. All this makes it perfectly clear that the original States were to keep their equal representation and strength intact. The moment you begin dividing a State up into portions, senators will cease to be State members, and become the representatives only of portions of their States, although of larger portions, certainly, than members of the House of Representatives. That puts quite clearly my reason for opposing that proposal, and it is a reason which the people, particularly in the smaller States, will not be slow 10 recognize. They know perfectly well that there are persons and organizations who would entirely do away with, or nullify, or whittle away, the strength of the smaller States in this chamber in the interests of the stronger States. For that attempt, I venture to say, the public will have no sympathy.
The reason given for an alteration, among other things, is that too many informal votes were cast at the last election. The number of informal votes in my own State, however, was lower than nf the previous election. I need not pause at this stage to point out what an excellent State South Australia is, because the performance which it put up must commend itself even to the Opposition, as an instance of standing firm. The returning officer, at the declaration of the Senate poll in South Australia, pointed out that on this occasion a higher percentage had voted than ever -before, and that there were fewer informal votes than three years ago, though there were far more candidates. The PostmasterGeneral (“Senator A. J. McLachlan) and Senator McBride heard that speech. It surely shows, if it shows anything, that the elector is becoming slightly more educated. It must be remembered that there are in every State a great many electors who will not cast a formal vote. They resent having compulsion applied to them, and have done so from the beginning. It would be found, if an investigation could be made, that some Australians have never cast a formal vote since compulsory voting was introduced.
– Yes, and they object to having to vote for the whole of a long list of candidates.
– Sometimes they object to the candidates themselves. I remember an occasion when I was a candidate for another place, and, as it happened, was beaten. One elector did not vote for either myself or my opponent, but just slashed a pencil down the centre of the ballot-paper, and wrote in the corner of it, “ See such-and-such a passage in the Bible “. I cannot remember the exact text of the passage, but it. i an something like this : “ They are all gone aside, they are all together become abominable; there is none that doeth good, no not one.” That was the attitude of a person who did not like either my opponent or myself. Such people will not vote, because they do not believe in compulsion, or do not like any of the candidates. In an immense State such as New South Wales, there must for long be a large number of informal votes. The numbers who vote are increasing, and we can only hope that gradually the number of informal votes will decrease. I do not know whet/her at the recent poll there was an increase for the whole Commonwealth. Perhaps, the Minister will be able to give us the information when he speaks.
Why was it that, in the last election, my party was successful in the House of Representatives and unsuccessful in the Senate? That is quite an unusual thing. The two Houses as a rule tend to swing together, but on this occasion practically all the seats in the House of Representatives held in the last Parliament by the United Australia party and the Country party were re-won, whereas nearly all the Senate seats held by those parties were lost. What is the explanation? I think it really comes down to a large extent to the old theory propounded by the French professor Le Bon, that members must have prestige - must have standing - must have something for which they are respected. Different things may be said about people of different types, but the one essential, to quote thatauthority only roughly, is they should have prestige, if they are to induce people to vote for them. Exactly the same thing applies to a House of Parliament. A member in the Lower House is normally the channel to the Minister for all sorts of applications, some of which are granted and some not. Senators, in the nature of things, have not that chance. They may have it occasionally, but if they do have it, it is to a much less degree. They, therefore, do not earn the personal commendation which goes to members of the House of Representatives.
– And the Senate areas are large.
– The area represented by an honorable senator is very large. It is almost impossible for him to cover the whole of it. I have made an endeavour to do’ that in my own State, and no doubt Senator Collings has tried in his. I found it a most interesting, but still a very big task. A senator can got to know his people only to a very small extent, in comparison with the members of the House of Representatives. Personally - and I think I should say this - I consider that to n great extent the Senate has suffered in this election owing to the attitude of the Executive to it during the last few years. It is ‘of course, obvious that we had a great majority on our side in this chamber. It is quite equally arguable that there should not be 33 on one side as against only three on the other side. I am not saying that that should or should not be, but I do not think that the Senate has had, from the Executive, the consideration that it should have had. I -am sure that this has re-acted on the Senate as a body, and I am not the only one of that opinion. To the best of my recollection I have never quoted The Bulletin in this chamber before. It is a paper which, I think, is sometimes exceedingly right and sometimes exceedingly wrong. On the 17th October, it said -
In the last Parliament there were 33 ministerialists and three Labour senators, and, after the fashion of governments with commanding majorities, the Administration treated the Senate with contempt.
That may be putting it emphatically, hut T think there is a real basis for such an assertion. Whilst the ministerialists in the House of Representatives have not been treated so roughly, the effect of the rough treatment extended to the Senate has recoiled on our own party in it. If I am asked for instances of that treatment, I point in the first place to the tariff schedules that we have had before us. We have fought here twice during the last six years in great detail on the tariff schedule, and have been much divided. Tho Government constantly won its case by the support of the Labour senators, that is to say, against its own supporters. Senators will remember that there was one day when vote after vote was taken in which the numbers were equal. It was only our failure to get one more vote that prevented us from winning our point. I do not say that it was a point of the greatest importance, but the Government ought to have realized from those figures that a majority of its supporters were not of its way of thinking on tariff matters, and should have taken some notice of the fact. Instead of this, when requests were made to the House of Representatives some were rejected, a few minor concessions were given in some cases, and after the most prodigious struggles the net result was, I think, that in the end we - managed to obtain, for instance, a reduction of 7-i per cent, on rabbit traps made in Great Britain. Was that- a concession? ‘I am speaking on these matters without animus, but I think they should be clearly pointed out. Then there was Senator Abbott’s motion for the encouragement of peace by the adoption of an international language. Some condemned, it as “hot air” and “idealistic stuff,” but I supported it from the beginning, and the Senate was quite entitled to put forward its view on it. It might have done good, and can one say more than that of thu League of Nations? Then there was a long dispute which, commencing in regard to regulations and ordinances, eventually came down to the new Acts Interpretation Act. The Government actually brought in a bill to overfid*1 the expressed opinion of the majority of its supporters in this House, by altering a law which had been in operation for 30 years. Of course, it had the numbers to do it in another place, and was able to induce sufficient senators to change their views in this chamber - men who were, as they say, tova 1 to their party, and who voted for the party. I, however, do not regard the Senate as at all a party House, as the other House is. I do not think it was ever intended to be such, and, so far as I am concerned, my loyalty is to Australia rather than to party.
Lastly, there has been the shovelling through of masses of legislation year after year without senators being given a decent’ chance to consider what it contains. The Leader of the Opposition has certainly protested against this.
– There waa no chance to read some of the bills.
-HUGHES.- Having been trained “ in the law 1” can read, these tilings and understand them more quickly than can the majority of honorable senators, not because of quickness of mind, but simply through practice. The only way that 1 was able to keep pace with the legislation corning before us was to read the hills as introduced into the House of Representatives. If I had waited until they came here, it would have been impossible for me to road them all- The occurrences that .1 have mentioned could be seen by everybody outside, and they all tend to lower the standing of the Senate.
– We shall look to the new Ministers to alter that position.
– From some points of view it would have been better if it had been altered a little earlier. I imagine that the Labour party will support the proposed change in the method of Senate elections, because it stands to benefit by it. It is being pointed out that, if proportional representation comes into force, with the last election bringing in fifteen Labour senators and only three on our side, the Labour party will inevitably get one member in each State, and therefore will, as a matter of course, have a majority of the, whole Senate. If by any chance proportional representation were adopted as the voting system for the election of the Senate, there would be only one way in which it could he fairly applied, and that would be for all sitting senators to retire when the new system was adopted. Otherwise one side or the other would certainly start off with a majority: the dice will be loaded against one side or the other, unless the numbers of those who remain on each side are equal. Therefore, the only fair way would be to let everybody go out, and elect the whole Senate on a proportional basis, if it wore thought fit to do so. This, I may say, is not my own idea, but it is a sound one. The Country party, I presume would support it becauseproportional representation is a part of its policy, although I do not think that the system would work in its favour.
– It would not apply properly unless there were fivevacancies in each State.
– I donot see the force of the honorable senator’s argument. Surely there would be, in the nature of things, at least one or two Labour candidates elected, one possibly from the United Australia party, and one representing the Country party.. I am afraid that the party which I represent would be the hardest hit and for that reason I am not particularly anxious’ to see the system adopted. I prefer to- . . . hear the ills we have than fly toothers that we know not of.
– Why not bury thecorpse ?
– Having .expressed my view3 on this subject and raising, I hope, some points for consideration by the Select Committee when it is appointed, I again express regret that the Government intends to propose such an inquiry., In my view, that would be an implied admission that the present systemrequires alteration. I do not think it floes. However, I do not think that, in the end, very much will be done: at all events I hope that nothing will be done. I trust, that all the Senators will consider carefully the whole problem and the probable effect of any innovation, and I am not without hope that although their views may not be in agreement with mine, they will acknowledge that the system which has been in operation for so long and has at times given both sides a temporary benefit - that is one of the laws of the game - should be retained.
– I congratulate Senator DuncanHughes upon the splendid surgical operation which he has performed on the electoral corpse. I believe that his remarks will provide food for thought to those honorable senators who will take their leave of this chamber at the end of next June. But, whilst I express my personal regret at the severance of our relations with outgoing senators, politically we on this side are delighted that Labour’s ranks are soon to be so substantially augmented. Our friends opposite, I have no doubt, now realize the futility of locking the stable door after the horse has escaped; I daresay that, in their moments of leisure, they will recall what Senator Duncan-Hughes said this afternoon and in future, if they have the sense, will mend their ways. I do not entirely agree with the honorable gentleman as to the reasons for the overwhelming victory of Labour candidates for the Senate in the recent elections. I am disposed to believe that the people of Australia, being good sports, recognized that as three Labour senators had held the fort in this chamber for three years it was only fair that they should have someassistance. As a result the voters increased our numbers and the reinforcements will be here in July next.
– The people were sorry for the honorable gentleman and his colleagues.
– Yes, I expect they had some sympathy for the under dog. That feeling is part of the Australian make-up. I regret that some honorable senators will be leaving us in July, but politically I was delighted with the election results, and I know that there was a loud cheer from Labour’s ranks all over Australia when it was announced that the mighty had fallen, including Senator Pearce, for so long the leader of the Senate, and his colleague, the President of this chamber. Being a good Scot, I feel entitled to congratulate myself. I derive some pleasure from the knowledge that the people of Queensland had the good sense to send me and my leader (Senator Collings) as well as Senator Courtice, back to this chamber, to carry on the good work for Queensland, Australia generally, and the great Labour movement in this country.
If post mortems are in order I will say that the reason for our failure to secure a majority in the House of Representatives was the circulation of the lie about Labour’s alleged isolation policy, as applied to defence. All students of politics realize the value of propaganda. We know that the fear of isolation, engendered in the minds of people during the election campaign, was an important factor in the return of Government candidates for the House of Representatives.
– What about the conscription lie?
– The propaganda with reference to the Government’s attitude to conscription was not nearly so damaging to ministerial candidates as was the lie of isolation to Labour’s forces. The Labour party does not believe in isolation in defence. It does not believe in cutting the painter, as has been so often suggested. We declare most definitely that, under the Statute of Westminster, Australia has attained to nationhood and, as a nation, we should be proud to work in close association with other components * of the British Commonwealth of nations. We take our responsibilities seriously. If Labour had been returned to power in the House of Representatives, a Labour government would have fulfilled, to the letter all its obligations to the Empire. But Labour withstands every attempt at domination by a military clique. We believe that the people of this country, through their elected government, should control their own destiny. This, in essence, is Labours attitude to the most vital problem that can confront any government. Yet, because of the exigencies of the election campaign, and the urgent need for the Lyons Ministry to cover up its sins of omission and commission, this lie about Labour’s isolation policy in relation to defence was spread abroad and frightened thousands of voters from Labour’s standard. On its record the Government did not deserve to be returned to power, but the lie about isolation, like Lloyd George’s election cry: “ Hang the Kaiser,” did the trick.
I congratulate both the mover and seconder of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply on the speeches which they delivered ; I also commend my good friend Senator Courtice for his maiden effort in this chamber. But I resent the implied suggestion in the remarks of Senator Abbott that, in returning to power a Tory government the people rang true, in the sense that they returned the only party that was loyal to the Empire. The implication that the Labour party is not so loyal is, of course, wholly unjustified. The fact that 700,000 electors in New South Wales voted for Senator Ashley, and 250,000 in Queensland voted for my colleagues and myself does not, surely, suggest that they are disloyal. Therefore, it is merely so much political bunkum to claim that the return of the Lyons Government is an -indication of the loyalty of the people and that the return of the Labour government would have been a manifestation of disloyalty. People who vote Labour are just as loyal to Australia and the Empire as are people who vote for antiLabour candidates, and it is in extremely bad taste for any honorable senator to even imply otherwise.
I agree with my Leader (Senator Collings) that there is nothing really substantial in the Governor-General’s Speech. In view of the economic and social unrest everywhere, there is urgent need for positive government action instead of the adoption of temporary legislative expedients. The Speech contains some pious expression for world peace which we all approve, and there is mention of the possibility of the Government cooperating with the United States of America with the object of improving trade relations. With that, also, we agree. I would, however, point out that, not long ago. the Government, by its trade diversion policy, so seriously damaged American trade with Australia that a long time must elapse before its effects are forgotten. Now, because of certain probable developments in the Pacific, there is a desire for economic cooperation with the United States of America. The Government is ignoring the realities of the present world situation if it believes that, simply by making trade treaties, it will meet our threatened economic disabilities, because what is proposed to be done is merely to divert trade from one country to another. There is no suggestion that it will increase the totality of Australian trade, as I have pointed out on other occasions. The position in the Lui ted States of America is not encouraging. Already grave economic trouble is threatened in that great democratic country. Newspaper statements published in the last few days refer to another economic slump, which many people fear is imminent. Do Ministers and their supporters believe that the effect on Australia of another slump in America will be overcome merely by a trade agreement? Are they not aware that the present position, in that country is properly, attributable to antagonisms in its internal economy? Yet, the Government believes that economic difficulties can be overcome by arranging trade treaties with various countries. It is impossible during the short time at my disposal to go fully into this subject, hut it is surely apparent to every reasonable man that our economic problems cannot be solved merely by * making treaties with the United States of America or any other country. There has been considerable discussion in this chamber and in the House of Representatives concerning the development of local industries; but to what is this policy leading us? We know that the development of our internal industries must sooner or “ later have an effect upon foreign trade. Only a few weeks ago the New Zealand Government met a deputation, the members of which directed its attention to the intense competition which New Zealand had to meet from Aus tralia, and asked the Government of that dominion if something could not be done, to prevent the importation of certain Australian products into that country. It is about time the Commonwealth Government got down to bedrock and endeavoured to understand that at present there is dire need to approach this problem in a way different from that in which is has been approached in the past. Instead of merely entering into trade treaties, the Government should realize that there should be national control of the economic system, with a view to proper co-ordination, in order to place Australia, in such a position that it will be more independent than it is to-day of slumps in other parts of the world. Entering into trade treaties, stopping up one gap and opening up another, will not overcome the difficulties with which we are confronted. That policy has been tried unsuccessfully for years. Sir Henry Gullett, who visited Europe, was responsible for entering into a trade agreement with Czechoslovakia, under which that country takes a few cases of apples from Australia and we in. return purchase an infinitesimal quantity of glass beads. The Governor-General’s speech endeavours to give the people the impression that the Government is making a determined effort to overcome Australia’s economic disabilities. It is grossly misleading. I am keenly disappointed with the contents of the Speech.; [ am surprised - although, probably, I should not be - to find such trifling and petty measures forecast.
A national insurance scheme is to be introduced. Do I understand that the Government proposes to have a contributory pension scheme instead of paying pensions from Consolidated Revenue? Does the Government propose to take money out of the pockets of the people in order that they may be entitled to a pension when they are old? Is the present system of old-age pensions to be dispensed with ? Are those now below the pensionable age to be compelled to contribute in order to qualify for a, pension later. If that is the proposal, it will mean taking from the workers, money which they ‘can ill afford, in order to provide pensions. That is a most undesirable policy. After all, the majority of the men and women who now receive pensions have been workers receiving a low wage, and if those now in receipt of the basic wage have to contribute towards their pensions they will he most unjustly treated. Why should the Government interfere with the purchasing power of the workers of this country? God knows it is hard enough for workers to feed and educate their children at present. Contributions towards pensions would seriously interfere with their domestic budgets. I do not know what amount the Government expects them to contribute. If their, purchasing power be restricted, the quantity of commodities consumed will be reduced, and the prospects of our primary producers detrimentally affected. I understand that Sir Walter Kinnear and Mr. Ince are to revisit Australia. These gentlemen have already been in this country and have submitted a report to the Government. Investigations have been made by our own officers, and with the information at the disposal of the Government it should be able to submit a suitable non-contributory scheme to this Parliament. Surely there are men in this country capable of supplying all the expert knowledge that is required without incurring further unnecessary expenditure ! As other honorable senators wish to speak on this motion to-day, I shall defer any further remarks I have to make until a later date.
– I read with considerable interest the Government’s policy contained in the Governor-General’s Speech. I congratulate the Government on its evident desire to bring into operation the legislative proposals contained in the policy speeches of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page), which were approved by the electors at the recent general election. The full effect of that election will be more apparent in this chamber after the 1st July next, when the new senators take their seats. The elections have necessitated an adjustment of portfolios in this chamber. I congratulate the new Ministers upon their promotion to positions in which they will have opportunities to render greater service to Australia. I welcome Senator A. J. McLachlan as Leader of the Senate. He is a capable, courteous and kindly leader, and during the nine years I have been ;» ‘ member of this chamber, he has valiantly stood up to the principles of his party. I cannot recall that he ever applied, even to his political opponents, words which have left a sting behind them. Of course, I shall continue to give that gentleman and his new colleagues all the assistance I can, consistent with my duties as a representative of the people of Western Australia, and particularly those engaged in primary production in that State. I trust that the Government will put into operation the proposals, outlined at the elections to assist the great primary industries upon which the wealth of Australia depends. I am looking forward particularly to the. introduction, at an early date, of legislation to assist the wheat industry. In passing, I should like to associate myself with the welcome extended by Senator Collett to our new colleague from Western . Australia, Senator Cunningham, with whom I sat in the State Parliament. As Minister for
Water Supply in that State lie was responsible for the utilization of the wonderful natural rock catchments for the provision of water supplies throughout the wheat belt in Western Australia. They are a monument to his administrative capacity aird his desire to assist in the development of that State. I was interested in the remarks by Senator McBride and Senator Duncan-Hughes regarding the status of the Senate, which lias powers equal to those of the House of Representatives, with the one reservation mentioned by Senator Duncan-Hughes. The Senate is a most important branch of the legislature, particularly when there is a regrettable tendency towards unification and the federal authorities are endeavouring to control the States in a way that was never anticipated by the framers of the Constitution. The Senate is a democratic chamber elected on the direct vote of the whole of the people in each State. The Senate should be not only the guardian of the people’s rights and liberties, but also the bulwark of State rights, particularly those of the weaker States. This is the only chamber in which Western Australia. Tasmania and.. South Australia can be heard on an equality- with the more populous States. With other honorable senators, I have repeatedly protested against the unseemly haste with which the Senate has passed important legislation without an opportunity being afforded for a debate to be adjourned. On many occasions this has been done to suit the convenience of the House of Representatives. Why should we forego our right to give full consideration to important national questions, merely because members of another House are anxious to go to their homes? At this juncture I do not propose to discuss fully the treatment this chamber has received, particularly in connexion with the tariff and other subjects; but I must mention the unseemly haste which was displayed on the loth September, the last day on which the last Parliament sat, when no fewer than twenty bills were received in the Senate from the House of Representatives and passed through all stages without honorable senators having an opportunity to consider, let alone debate them. Imagine twenty new laws being passed by this chamber in one hurried sitting ! On that occasion the Senate resembled a parliamentary sausage machine. I look to the new Leader of the Senate to restore the prestige of this chamber, as was suggested by Senator Duncan-Hughes, by seeing that we are given adequate time to discuss bills.
I propose to deal with two or three legislative proposals embodied in the Governor-General’s Speech. It forecast the introduction of a number of measures outlined in the Prime Minister’s policy speech, and during the election campaign I had the privilege of supporting candidates of the United Australia party and Country party in Western Australia at many centres, at which that policy was explained. Without mentioning in detail the various measures promised, my advice to the Government is to get on with the business of the country and to translate its election promises into legislative action without delay. The sooner that policy is put into operation the better for the people of Australia. In passing, I point out that the Prime Minister’s policy speech did not contain any reference to increases of parliamentary salaries or ministerial allowances, and I suggest that the Government would be wise to drop the proposal made in this connexion in the House of Representatives, at least until after the proposals outlined in the Prime Minister’s policy speech, and approved by the electors, have been put into effect. “I am opposed to any increase of the present parliamentary and ministerial salaries.
The defence policy of the Government figured very prominently throughout the election campaign. I merely state at this juncture that it meets with my approval, and I hope that it will be put into operation as soon as possible. The provision of more adequate defence in all its phases on the western coast of Australia should be urgently undertaken. The people of Western Australia desire the Commonwealth Government to establish a munitions factory in that State as quickly as possible. I also urge the completion of the Henderson Naval Base, at Cockburn Sound, in connexion wi th which project the Commonwealth has resumed a very large area fronting that magnificant waterway and has already expended £1,250,000. That is the site selected by Admiral Henderson for the establishment of a naval base on the western coast of this continent. In his report on the naval defence of Australia, Admiral Henderson recommended the establishment of two naval bases, equal in size and importance, one on the eastern coast and the other on the western coast. The eastern base has been established at Sydney at tremendous expense, and I shall not be satisfied until the Henderson Naval Base, at Cockburn Sound, has been completed, in view of the huge expenditure already incurred there.
A very important phase of the Government’s policy outlined in the Prime Minister’s policy speech, and one which received the whole-hearted approval of the people of “Western Australia, is the establishment of a long-term mortgage department of the Commonwealth Bank. I urge that this department will be established in conjunction with our national banking institution as quickly as possible, as recommended by the Royal Commission on Banking and Monetary Reform, and that the Government allocate ample funds for this purpose. Through its establishment, I hope that not only will more money be made available, but also that interest rates will be reduced and stabilized to the benefit of all those people who have been obliged to borrow money on the security of their property; further, I trust that, as the result of the establishment of this service, our farmers and graziers, and people engaged in primary and secondary industries generally, will be given a greater measure of security over the homes and properties which they have established at the cost of so much labour and inconvenience to themselves.
A very important recommendation made by Mr. J. P. Abbott, a member of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Reform, but one which has. received very little attention, and, so far as I know, has not yet been approved by the Government, is dealt with on page 270 of the commission’s report. Mr. Abbott, who is president of the Graziers Association of Now SouthWales, said that he felt that the Government should appoint, as one of the directors of the Commonwealth Bank, a gentleman resident in “Western Australia. He added -
After listening to the evidence given in Perth,. I have come to the conclusion that the problems of that State are in many respects different from those in the eastern States.
I have often emphasized that view in respect of many matters which have comebefore the Senate -
The distance from the eastern States is so great that unless there is direct. representation, on the Bank Board for Western Australia its problems may not have due consideration given to them. Air travel has considerably shortened the time for an individual to travel from the west to the eastern States, so that there should be little difficulty for such a director to attend meetings of the Bank Board.
If a Western Australian were appointed as a director of the Commonwealth Bank, he could journey by air from Perth to Melbourne, where, I understand, meetings of the board are sometimes held, or to Sydney, in less time that it takes to travel from Adelaide to Sydney by the very agreeable and fast railway service now provided between those cities. At all events, I commend Mr. Abbott on the national outlook he has displayed in making such a recommendation, and I ask the Government to give it urgent consideration and approval.
I wish now to deal with the proposal toestablish an Interstate Commission. The measure introduced last session for this purpose was very unsatisfactory to the people of Western Australia and also to residents of the other smaller States, because it did not provide for inquiry by the commission into disabilities imposed on the weaker States through federal policy. Clause 18 of that measure outlined the matters into which the commission should inquire, and on the 25th June last, I moved an amendment to add these words to the clause - (ba) The effect and operation of any Tariff Act, or other law or regulation of the Commonwealth, on primary industries, revenue, manufactures, or trade and commerce in the Commonwealth.
My amendment was opposed by the Government in the Senate, but I was very pleased to find that, with the elections coming along, a spirit of sweet reasonableness, not evident when the bill was under consideration, became apparent. I travelled around
Western Australia with government candidates at the last election, and I heard them assure electors that the Prime Minister had agreed to an amendment to cover disabilities imposed on Western Australia by federal legislation, and that it would subsequently be included in the measure. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) was good enough to tell that to electors at a meeting which I addressed with him. Consequently, I appeal with confidence to Western Australia’s new representative in the Cabinet, Senator MacDonald, whom I congratulate on his promotion, to see that the promise made by government candidates in this respect during the recent election campaign is carried into effect. I hope also that the Government will amend the measure in another direction much desired by the commercial and agricultural communities of Western Australia, by giving the commission equal control over both Commonwealth andState railway freight .rates. This is very important. The exceedingly low freights on the transcontinental railway, between the Eastern States and Kalgoorlie, place the primary and secondary industries of Western Australia in the position of having to face unfair and unreasonable competition. Cattle are carried from South Australia to Kalgoorlie at much lower rates than on Western Australian railways, and the competition is so’ severe that it has the most adverse effect on Western Australia’s cattle trade and other primary industries, which in point of distance should have first claim on the State’s gold-field markets. The opinion is generally held in Western Australia, and I believe it is justified, that any freight items which compete with those produced or manufactured in Western Australia are carried at the very lowest rates over the transcontinental railway, whilst that railway charges very much higher freights on goods which have no competition from Western Australian industries. This matter deserves the attention of a commission of inquiry in order that this injustice to Western Australia may be removed. If, however, the Government in the measure which it proposes to introduce,’ gives to the Interstate Commission, the same power to inquire into unfair freight rates on Commonwealth lines as it already proposes to provide in respect of unfair rates as between State railways, such action will not only be just and reasonable, but will also meet the wishes of the Western Australian people; it will tend to rectify a serious grievance which has been ventilated in both Houses of this Parliament by representatives from Western Australia, particularly by Mr. Nairn, in the House of Representatives, and Senator MacDonald in this chamber.
– The Government’s only objection to the honorable senator’s amendment was that it was already covered by the Constitution.
– A good deal of doubt existed in respect of that point.
– The honorable senator entertained the doubt; the Government did not.
-I am not prepared to debate legal intricacies with a lawyer of Senator Brennan’s standing, but I repeat that, to the ordinary layman, it seems only commonsense that the special clause dealing with unfair competition as between State railways should also apply to unfair competition as between State and Commonwealth railways. Ever since I entered this chamber I have advocated the appointment of an interstate commission, and I am glad that, at the end of last year, members of the Government were converted to my view in that regard. I hope, however, that the proposed commission will be a real interstate commission, and not a resting place for aged and passed-out politicians.
– Now, now!
-I ex pressed that view when the original measure was introduced in this chamber last session, and I repeat it now. The proposed commission will be a semi-judicial body, and, therefore, no political appointment should be made of it. It will be charged with most important work, and upon its operations will depend the smooth working of the federal machine, and also the allaying of that feeling of resentment against federation, which has appeared in varying degree in all of the smaller States, and was most evident when the people of Western Australia voted by a majority of two to one in favour of secession. If Western Australia cannot secede I wish at least to see the antifederal feeling in that State allayed as much as possible. Consequently, I submit that in order to obtain the be3t results from the proposed commission, and in order that the important work which it has to do may be properly done, appointees should possess the highest technical, legal, and business qualifications. We should draw on our universities for the services of prominent economists and highly trained constitutional lawyers. I spoke in similar terms when the bill was before ns last June. Perhaps the Government will select a suitable appointee from our efficient Public Service. Great care should be taken in the appointments, because the welfare of the smaller States and the efficient working of the federal machine will depend on the proper functioning of this important body. It should consist of learned ami trained men. not septugenarian politicians or expoliticians.
Except for one brief line referring to the Canadian trade treaty, the Speech contains no reference to the primary industries of Australia. I regret particularly the omission of any reference to the great wheat industry which provides more employment than does any other industry in the Commonwealth. Unfortunately, wheat-growing has been the plaything of party politics in the federal arena for the last eight years. Although wheat prices have been reasonably satisfactory during the past year, they are, at the moment, on the down grade. Proper legislative provision should be made for the stabilization of the industry, and the payment by the consumer of a fair price for that portion of the Australian wheat crop which is consumed in Australia.
– The honorable senator is somewhat careless of his facts in regard to the value of the wheat crop.
– My statement is correct. I have had good reason to be careful in making statements in this chamber. I repeat that the wheat industry provides more employment than does any other industry in Australia. That statement was made in the first report of the Royal Commission on the Wheat Industry presided over by Si Herbert Gepp. If we take into account indirect employment also, it becomes increasingly clear that no other single Australian industry can compare with it a6 regards its economic value to the Commonwealth Country members of all parties are agreed that the Australian consumer ought to pay a price which provides a reasonable profit to the wheatfarmer.
– The Opposition agrees with that ; but the honorable senator is always trying to injure the secondary industries, which provide the home market for the farmers.
– I desire that the farmers of Australia shall be given similar protection to that given to those engaged in secondary industries. Legislative action to that end should be taken while wheat prices are reasonably high. As I have said, the market is falling, and the outlook is somewhat ominous Now is the time to put into operation the machinery to compensate the wheatgrowers in the event of prices falling still further. That can be done in more than one way. It can be done, for example, by means of a home-consumption price for wheat: or by the imposition of an excise duty, with a bounty on the wheat exported. There remains a further means - the imposition of a flour tax - but that, I know, is unpopular with the Labour party. It is for the Government to decide which system it will adopt to stabilize prices for the growers, and I demand that something be done promptly in fulfilment of the promises made by Country party candidates to the electors throughout Australia. The price of wheat in New South Wales to-day, as quoted in the newspapers, is 3s. 9½d. a bushel at sidings; that is equal to 4s. 5id. ex trucks, Sydney.
– The price of wool also is falling.
– That, is so; and that is a further reason why action should be taken immediately to stabilize wheat prices. Much of the wheat grown in Australia is produced by men who also grow wool - that is particularly so in Western Australia - and therefore the fact that the price of wool is falling makes it even more necessary that assistance and protection be given to wheat-growers. Wheat and wool are the two staple commodities on which Australia depends for its prosperity, even its solvency. Action to stabilize wheat prices, if not taken before the Christmas adjournment, should be taken as soon as possible in the new year. At the annual conference of the Primary Producers Association of Western Australia, held at Perth on the 11th August last, the following resolution was carried at the instance of the wheat executive of the organization : -
That the Federal Government be asked to introduce legislation to provide for a flour tax to be brought into operation by proclamation immediately the price of wheat falls below 4s. per bushel f.o.r. at ports, in order to ensure to the growers a minimum price of 4s. per bushel f.o.r. at ports for the whole of their production.
Realizing that a flour tax is unpopular with a political party which represents nearly one-half of the people of Australia, the conference carried the following further resolution: -
Failing a flour tax, other means to be adopted to bring about the same end.
The conference was prepared to accept & bounty on wheat exported, a homeconsumption price, or any other means which the Government may prefer to ensure that the price of all wheat produced in Australia is maintained at a price which is profitable to the grower and that the Australian consumer shall pay a fair price for the wheat used within the Commonwealth. I am not tied to any particular scheme. Should the Government prefer an excise duty, with a bounty on export, I shall be satisfied, so long as the wheat-growers are afforded immediate protection against a fall of prices such as occurred during the depression years, and the price to the grower is maintained at not less than 4s. a bushel at sidings. I am in close touch with the wheat-growers of Western Australia, having recently travelled through the wheat areas in company with Messrs. Gregory and Prowse’, who are members of the House of Representatives. The people engaged in this industry are entirely dissatisfied with their treatment by the Federal Government. Those in the north- eastern wheat areas and other districts which have suffered severely from low prices, drought and grasshoppers were in no way assisted by the visit of the then Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thorby).’
– Did the Assistant Minister promise assistance?
– I was not present, and I cannot say what he said. It may be that the wheat-growers were somewhat over-optimistic in interpreting his remarks.
– Surely the honorable senator does not blame the Assistant Minister for the grasshoppers?
– No ; but I blame the Commonwealth Government for not assisting the wheat-growers in their combined difficulties.
– The Commonwealth Parliament is not responsible for grasshoppers, or hailstorms or fire, which destroy crops.
– The Commonwealth Parliament should come to the assistance of those wheat-growers who have been affected by drought, low prices and other disasters. In the national interest I demand assistance for the whole of the wheat industry of Australia. Those engaged in the industry will not be satisfied until the Federal Government translates into prompt legislative action the promises of assistance by a profitable price for the Australian consumption of wheat, made to them by politicians who, as a result of those promises, were returned to the House of Representatives. A complete and comprehensive statement of the policy of the Government in this connexion should be made before we meet again next year. The Governor-General’s Speech contains much that is good, but it gives no indication of the granting of assistance to wheat-growers or other primary producers.
– Considerable contributions have been made to them during the last three years.
-I do not recall any recent assistance whatever to wheat-growers, but I emphasize that Country party candidates in Western Australia promised assistance to the wheat-growers, and I now urge the Government to keep faith by granting that assistance.
I regret that the Government proposes to ratify the Statute of Westminster. Such action is unnecessary, and it will tend to weaken the crimson ties of kinship which bind Australia to the Motherland. Moreover, it will destroy certain rights now retained by the States under the Constitution. I remind the Senate that some years ago Sir John Latham said that the ratification of. the statute could- do no good, but might do a lot of harm. In the past its ratification was strenuously opposed by two of our greatest statesmen. I refer to Mr. S. M. Bruce and Mr. W. M. Hughes. I shall not say. more on this subject now, but I shall refer to it again when the bill for the ratification of the statute comes before the Senate.
In conclusion, I remind the Senate that the Governor-General’s Speech forecasts useful legislation along the lines promised by the Prime Minister in his policy speech. I hope to be able to support the Government in such legislation. The Government enters upon a new term of office under favorable auspices, with a majority in both chambers, and the good wishes of the majority of the electors. I wish it success in its desire to bring prosperity and improved conditions to the people of Australia.
– I desire first to congratulate the mover and seconder on their speeches on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. I had not intended to speak in this debate, but I feel that the interpretation placed by Senator Leckie on an assertion by my Leader, calls for some explanation from me. I wish to dissociate myself from the assertion that I am a professional politician, and I regret that a supporter of the Government has seen fit to suggest that I as a Labour representative entered this chamber with the object of getting what I could out of it. This is the first time that I have aspired to Parliamentary honours, although I have given over 20 years of service in local government. Honorable senators know that for local government service a man receives no payment, and it is therefor not likely that one who aspired, as 1 did, to the great honour of representing Australia in this Parliament, did so merely to make what he could get out of it.
Mention has been made of the prosperity that we are supposed to be enjoying. I am not personally acquainted with the conditions of the whole of Australia, but “ I can speak with regard to New South Wales, and I would point out that any prosperity that is being enjoyed in that State, is not due to the virtues of any government. I agree ‘with those honorable senators opposite who have stated that our present prosperity is due to the high prices we are receiving for our primary products, including metals. Moreover, in New South Wales, relief is being provided for unemployment, not by the Government, but by municipalities and shires, to the amount of about £2,500,000 a year. Surely honorable senators opposite do not claim any credit for the discharging of that responsibility by local government bodies? I predict that the result will be rather disastrous to the State government which introduced that system when it goes before the electors in a few months time, because the people feel that the responsibility, instead of being placed upon municipal and shire councils, should have been borne by the Government itself.
Senator E. B. Johnston advocated the construction of a munition factory in Western Australia, but I would remind him that the granting of that request might be as detrimental to the town in which he wants the factory placed as the establishment of the small arms factory has been to Lithgow, the town in which I live. During the war period up to 1,700 men were employed at that factory in Lithgow. They carried on for three or four years, and helped to build up a large business community in the town, but immediately the war was over the employment given by the factory dwindled down to a nucleus staff of 200 to 300 employees. Honorable senators can imagine the effect that the decrease of employment had on the town of Lithgow, which also suffered by the removal of the ironworks to Port Kembla. I do not see what is to be gained by establishing another munition factory in another State, when ample accommodation, with machinery that has been lying idle for many years, already exists at Lithgow.
– I propose to pass in quick review the observations that have fallen from honorable senators on the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General.First, however, let me offer my congratulations to those honorable senators who have made their first efforts in this chamber, upon what I consider the good tone that has prevailed throughout their speeches. At the risk of offending the sense of good taste of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Callings), I. join most heartily in the favorable comments made by variour honorable senators on the distinguished services rendered to Australia, not only by yourself, Mr. President, but also by that right honorable gentleman whose place in this chamber I now hold. Senator Pearce has given services, extending from the very dawn of this federation up to the present time, the like of which I doubt have ever been rendered to any deliberative assembly in the British Empire. Gifted as he is by nature with wonderful capacity, clear vision, and a logical habit of thought, one learned political wisdown at his feet. I am sure Australia has produced no greater Parliamentarian, and I doubt if it has produced his equal, at all events in our time. Although I welcome my promotion in ministerial rank, I do deplore the fact that it arises from the loss to Australia of a man so gifted as is my late Leader. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that wo shall have other opportunities of paying our respects to Senator Pearce.
– That is all that I suggested.
– At the same time J cannot regard the observations that have fallen from Senator McBride and Senator Abbott as in any way lacking in good taste, even though they might have been deferred to a future occasion. The fact remains that the sad event is uppermost in our minds at the present time, and I wish to give immediate expression to my views concerning it.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– It is appropriate that at this stage I should express regret at the loss, during the recent election campaign, of other esteemed Senate colleagues who have rendered long and distinguished public service to the people of Australia; some of them have, in addition, given equally distinguished service to this country in another and more dangerous field. Their defeat was the fate which at one time or another may befall all who serve their country in the political arena. In expressing the Government’s appreciation of the service which these honorable gentlemen have given to Australia, I remind the Senate of the loss which will be occasioned by their departure, temporarily we hope in some instances, from our midst.
I do not propose to emulate the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) in flights of fancy such as he indulged in yesterday. I shall, however, deal with one or two matters of importance, to which the honorable gentleman and other speakers alluded in the course of debate.
In the first place I give my attention to the remarks of my colleague from South Australia (Senator McBride) who referred to the principles upon which the Commonwealth Grants Commission based its findings in respect of South Australia, one of the claimant States.I do this with some hesitancy, because the matter is, to some extent, sub judice. The honorable gentleman referred to the practice of the commission in reducing the amount of the grant recommended to South Australia by reason of loan losses, and extravagances in loan expenditure in the past, and expressed difficulty in understanding why the State which had shown the lowest amount of loss in respect of loan expenditure, should suffer the greatest reduction. I admit that on the face of it his criticism seems to be justified, but I would point out to him, as indicated by the report of the commission, that the extent of losses in connexion with’ loan expenditure is not the only factor taken into consideration. The latest report of that body states that it paid due regard to the circumstances surround.ing each particular loan expenditure, and the losses arising therefrom. I understand, however, that further representations have been made on behalf of South Australia, and I have no doubt that the commission will pay particular attention to these representations in fixing the grant to be recommended for the next financial year.
– Did the commission take into account losses in connexion with loan expenditure in other States?
– 1 understand that it did, and I am informed that the matter is again being thoroughly investigated, but, as I have explained, it is to some extent sub judice, and therefore I refrain from pursuing the argument at this stage.
Senator McBride also spoke of the differentiation made by the commission between the States in the matter of social services. No doubt the honorable gentleman was referring to an adjustment made by the commission in its calculations to allow for what it regards as an important factor, namely, the relative density of population in the various States. I have always regarded this phase of the commission’s work as extremely difficult and complicated. and I understand it was very carefully considered by the commission in its fourth report, tabled in August last. The commission’s attitude is that to maintain the same standard of social services in those States where population is more sparsely located, expenditure must necessarily be heavier. To allow for this factor the commission made provision for an addition to the Australian standard of social services roughly proportionate to the relative density of population in the three claimant States, as compared with that of the non-claimant States.
I am glad to know that the honorable senator welcomes the proposals for the re-appointment of the Interstate Commission, and I feel sure that its deliberations will lead to more satisfactory adjustment of the financial relations of the Commonwealth and States. There should be no need for carping criticism of the findings of what will really be a constitutional umpire.
– When, several years ago, I made that claim on behalf of the old Interstate Commission 1 was told that that body died, “ unwept, unhonoured, and unsung”.
– So it did; but the scope of the old Interstate Commission did not include the subject of Commonwealth grants to the States.
– That will not be the chief work of the new Interstate Commission either.
– One of its functions will be to consider this important matter, but I admit that it will have other functions.
– The old Interstate Commission had wider powers than it is proposed to give to the new commission.
– That is because it is ‘impossible, owing to constitutional limitations imposed by a High Court decision, to confer wider powers on the proposed new commission.
Another matter referred to by Senator McBride, and which I consider of more than passing importance, was the control of- air navigation in Australia. In my comments under this heading, I include also the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition. Some time ago we attempted, as honorable senators know, to secure for the Commonwealth the control of air services throughout Australia. Unfortunately, at the referendum our proposal was defeated; consequent on that vote, the various States were approached with a view to the adoption of uniform legislation for the adoption of the ‘Commonwealth air navigation regular Hons. A conference was held in April of this year, and I am informed that since then South Australia has passed the necessary legislation applying. to that State the Commonwealth regulations. Similar measures have been introduced in the Parliaments of Victoria, Western Australia and Queensland, but I am not sure what action has been taken by New South Wales.
– Tasmania passed legislation in 1920.
– Tasmania was one of the first in the field, and I understand that the Government of chat State will re-enact its legislation in a slightly different form to apply the Commonwealth regulations. Meanwhile, those regulations are in force and operate with respect to aircraft engaged in interstate trade and commerce and international nights. From a practical point of view, all the aviation companies are complying with the Commonwealth regulations. I am informed that if they do not do so, insurance companies refuse to accept the risk. From what I have said, it will be noted that we have made some progress, and I hope that soon we shall have one set of regulations operating from Cape York to the Leeuwin.
The statement has been made that there is absence of control of ground organization. This matter received careful consideration from the ex-Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill), and I know that before he retired from office he had authorized an extensive examination of all aerodromes and landing grounds throughout Australia with a view to insuring their efficiency as regards lighting, direction finding and meteorological services, which are extremely important in the conduct of this new form of transport. I have not the details by me, but I can assure honorable senators that the Government is fully sensible of the need for efficient organization of every phase of air transport, having particular regard to Australian conditions, and that no time will be lost in perfecting the organization.
The Leader of the Opposition twitted the Government in connexion with its national insurance proposals, and the honorable gentleman’s remarks were supported by one or two of his colleagues. Need I tell the Senate that the Leader of the Opposition has declared on more than one occasion that, if he had his way, he would give national insurance “ a fly!”.
– I have no recollection of using that expression.
– I assure the honorable gentleman that he did ; I took a note of the remark at the time. Yesterday, in his attack on the Government, he told the Senate that the Government had examined this subject exhaustively, had engaged experts abroad, as well as in Australia, and yet had not made any headway. I remind him that the scheme of health and pension insurance reported on by Sir Walter Kinnear, will, if implemented, render the Commonwealth liable for an amount of £264,000,000? Does he not think that a proposal of such magnitude requires a little consideration, a little examination and a little care?
– Governments have been examining similar schemes for the last 20 years.
– ThisGovernment has had the matter in hand for two or three years only, and having regard to the operation of the scheme in Great Britain, which involves the British Government in a liability of £746,000,000, it is necessary that we carefully examine the Commonwealth proposal before adopting it. The scheme envisaged by theGovernment is the largest gesture in social legislation that has ever been considered in the history of the Commonwealth. It is, we believe, based on thesoundest principles and will be entirely in the interests of those Australian citizens whom our friends in Opposition claim to represent in this chamber. Itis a sound scheme. It is based on principles that have stood the test of experience in Great Britain. During the worst economic period in the history of the Mother Country, the British scheme,, with a certain amount of assistance from the” British Treasury, stood tie strain quite successfully. In view of the Government’s proposals as outlined, I repudiate the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition that it has not taken positive action to give effect to its programme of social legislation. The honorable senator said that the Labour party will demand a non-contributory scheme. Can the honorable gentleman tell the Senate whether the Queensland Labour Government has made any attempt tooperate its insurance scheme on a noncontributory basis? We know, of course,, that it has not, because to do sowould be to imperil the interests of every friendly society in Australia. It is hoped that at an early date the Government will be able to introduce a scheme which will be of great benefit to the whole community.
– We have not been given any particulars of the Government’s proposals.
– If the honorable senator will refer to the report of Sir Walter Kinnear, of the 15th June last, he will see a broad outline of the scheme. It is not proposed to disclose details of the Government’s proposals at this juncture, particularly as a great deal of work has yet to be done before a concrete scheme can be submitted to Parliament.
Senator Abbott referred to the proposed establishment of a mortgage branch of the Commonwealth .Bank. I can assure honorable senators that that recommendation of the Royal Commission on Banking and Monetary Reform is not the only one to which effect will be given by the Government. It does not, of course, propose to adopt any “B plus 2C system”, such as that under which the leader of the Opposition was returned to this chamber at the recent general election. I admire the corn-age of the Leader of the Opposition, who, yesterday, said that he favoured the block voting system; but I could not help thinking that had that system been employed in the recent Senate elections in Queensland we should be deprived of the privilege of listening to his eloquence after July next, and the honorable senator would be utilizing his intelligence and displaying his ability in some other sphere.
On the subject of white allen migration I find that my predecessor made a statement on the 26th August, pointing out that during the last two years the net influx of white aliens had fallen to about one-third of the pre-depression numbers, aird also that no assistance of any kind is given by either Commonwealth or State Governments to such immigrants. Furthermore, every effort is made to prevent migrants from becoming a burden on the resources of any government by means of the provision whereby white aliens not guaranteed employment are required to have £200 capital, and those who have such a guarantee, £50 capital. The only alien migrants admitted without capital are the wife and children of the migrant or of a person already in Australia provided that their future maintenance is assured.
In order to safeguard our natural standards of employment, the Minister for the Interior, before issuing a landing permit, must be satisfied in every case that the newcomers would engage in trades and occupations in which there is opportunity for their absorption without detriment to Australian workers. In this connexion reports are obtained from the police in the various States, and when a report is adverse a permit is refused.
The Leader of the Opposition will see, therefore, that the Government is fully aware of the problem of alien white migration and that there is no cause for alarm that such migration constitutes a danger to Australian standard of living. The number of alien migrants may appear relatively large, but that is only because during the period under review there were few arrivals of British migrants.
The leader of the Opposition suggested - almost with pleasure, it seemed to me - that Australia was on the verge of another financial and economic depression. Would he regard it as a political triumph if his prophecy came true and we were unfortunate enough to find ourselves again in the financial doldrums?
– I was only repeating a. statement made by Mr. Davidson, the general manager of the Bank of New South Wales.
– -The Leader of the Opposition spoke as if he would welcome another depression, but I remind the honorable senator that such propaganda creates a fear psychology which results in investors declining to invest money in Australia, to the prejudice of employment and development. I yield to no one in my admiration of those who assisted this country when it was seriously threatened, and whose efforts were responsible for the improved economic conditions which followed. To some extent the prosperity we are now enjoying may be due, as Senator Collings said, to the rearmament programmes of Great Britain and other countries. The honorable senator also said that the prices of our primary commodities are high and that should a fall occur wo hall again be in trouble. Om- financial position began to improve before prices recovered.
– Owing to the action of the Scullin Government.
– Such action was taken with the support of those who now sit on this side of the chamber. If there is one man in Australia who did more than any one else to bring about the adoption of the Premiers plan, which was the first step towards economic recovery, it is” the gentleman, whose recent political defeat we deplore - I refer to Sir George Pearce. Australia is at present prosperous, and I believe that if we can be assured of international peace and a closer cooperation between the white races, we shall have an era of prosperity such as the world has never known. The white race has to compete with coloured peoples employed at low wages, who are perfectly satisfied with their conditions. That and other pressing problems must be tackled by this Parliament. The Government expects constructive, suggestions rather than carping criticism. The Leader of the Opposition also said that we should not be dragged into any trade agreement with the United States of America.
– -I did not say that.
– The honorable senator referred to secret diplomacy.
– I said that we should not be dragged into a war to protect British interests in foreign countries in which we have no concern.
– The honorable senator said, “ Must Australia be involved in every struggle?” What does he mean by that? What would be our security should we decide to stand alone? How could we protect this country without the assistance of Great ‘ Britain. For the last 150 years we have lived and prospered under the protection of the British navy, and it is only through that agency that our safety and liberty can be assured. Our sister dominion of New Zealand also owes its security to the protection of the British Navy, which is the main factor in protecting the civilized world. If we can secure the co-operation of that great English speaking race across the Atlantic, we should do so, and by that means, take a definite step in the direction of securing international peace.
A3 Senator Sampson said, “ the clouds are lowering and the position is dark indeed. “
With regard to Senator Collings’ remarks about wireless broadcasting, 1 have already supplied to the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives certain information in connexion with B class stations, and I shall see that the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber is supplied with - copy of the document. Some proposal? are to be made in connexion with the granting of licences to B class stations which some contend are competing with the national broadcasting service.
I was pleased to hear the testimony given regarding the benefits of the fertilizer subsidy. When visiting certain districts in South Australia recently. I wa3 surprised to see the extraordinary benefit which has followed the use of fertilizers. Country which was carrying one sheep to the acre when I was a youth, is now, as a result, of the application of science to the soil, carrying three or more sheep to the acre.
I may inform Senator Courtice that at an early date I hope to be able to table a report on the use of power alcohol. If the honorable senator peruses that report, he will find that the proposition is not so attractive as he has led us to believe. The Government is giving the subject its careful consideration and is handling the project in a way which lt hopes will give the best results.
The speeches of honorable senators indicate that there is general approval of many of the proposals outlined in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, which, of course, contains, only a broad outline of the legislation which the Government is to submit to Parliament.
– Hughes. - What about the reform of the method of voting for the Senate?
– That question has exercised my mind for a considerable time. I am very much obliged to Senator Duncan-Hughes for refreshing our memories concerning the various examinations which have taken place in respect of this matter but, perhaps, he might have elaborated more fully on the report of the Royal Commission on the Constitution, which had as its president Sir John Peden. A tremendous amount of evidence was submitted to that commission by proportional representationists and people holding other views. Speaking from memory, it came to the conclusion that, if the principle of proportional representation were applied in respect of the Senate - and I notice the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) is nodding his head in agreement with me at the moment - it would destroy the fundamental intention under the Constitution that the Senate should be a States House, because it was obvious that, in applying that principle in respect of Senate elections, the party political spirit of this chamber would have to be intensified. That was the reason, be it good or bad, given by that commission for its decision on this matter, and at the time it made some appeal to me. There is no escaping the fact that we have had tremendous ups and downs in party representation in this chamber. I recollect the occasion when there was only one Labour senator in this chamber and another occasion when there was only one Nationalist senator here. It is scarcely fair in these days when the clamour is for representation of minorities, that the people with whom I am associated in the political sphere and who have enjoyed considerable majorities should have the opportunity to exercise their power in such a fashion as they have done, perhaps, on occasions in the past. Although this is a States House, every angle of State thought should be reflected in it. However, this is a very difficult problem indeed, which I do not think will bo solved by the suggestion made yesterday by the Leader of the Opposition that compulsory indication of preferences should be limited to the number of candidates to be elected; had that system been in operation in the recent elections, the Labour party would have much less representation in this chamber than it will enjoy as from the 1st July next. I assure the honorable senator that every opportunity will be given for ‘the hearing of the views of electoral officers by the Select Committee appointed to report on the method of voting for the Senate. Personally, I have heard many of those views at first hand and also some at second hand. Those officers have a strange story to tell, a story which makes one wonder whether many of our people take any interest at all in the national life’ of this country.
I shall not further detain honorable senators. I am grateful for the reception of the Governor-General’s Speech, and also for the tone of the debate and Address-in-Reply. We all make allowances for the outlook of the Leader of the Opposition. As I listened to him yesterday, I could not help thinking that he was born 40 years before his time and that, if he were a young man to-day, he would take his place in the forefront of talkie artists. In this connexion, I inform the honorable senator that if he visits Lithgow he will find placarded on the side of a shop near the post office a sign reading : “ The greatest movie talkie show on earth - the Trades and Labour Council of Lithgow.”
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Presentation of Address-in-Reply.
Motion (by Senator A. J. McLachlan) agreed to -
Thatthe Address-in-Reply to His Excellency the Governor-General’s opening speech be presented to His Excellency by the President and such senators as may desire to accompany him.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - I. shall ascertain when it will be convenient for His Excellency the Governor-General to receive the AddressinReply, and will inform honorable senators accordingly.
Motion (by SenatorFoll) - proposed -
That so much of Standing Order No. 134 be suspended as would prevent the moving without delay of a motion for the rescission of the Order of the Senate making the secondreading of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill (No. 3) an order of the day for Wednesday next.
– I do not propose to oppose the motion, but I hope that the action now being taken by the Minister will not be regarded as a precedent. Some discussion took place this afternoon about business being suddenly brought on in this chamber, and being bludgeoned through without proper opportunity being given to honorable senators to consider it. To this particular measure I have no objection; it apparently merely seeks to ratify a promise made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) at the elections. I deprecate the practice of asking honorable senators to pass measures which they are not given sufficient time even to read. I urge Ministers in future to allow the second reading of each measure to be postponed until at least the day following its introduction. Surely that is little enough to ask, in order that honorable senators may be given an opportunity to study the proposed legislation. So far as this particular bill is concerned., I offer no objection, but, in respect of other measures, I repeat the protest which I have just uttered.
Question resolved in the affirmative, by an absolute majority of the members of the Senate without a dissentient voice.
Motion (by Senator Foll) put -
That the order of the Senate making the second reading of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill (No. 3) 1937 an order of the day for Wednesday next be and is hereby rescinded.
Question resolved in the affirmative, there being at least one half of the whole number of senators voting in favour of the motion.
That the second reading of the bill be an order of the day for a later hour of the day.
SenatorFOLL (Queensland - Minister for Repatriation) [8.44]. -Imove -
That the billbe now read a second time.
I assure honorable senators that, in future, I shall not make a practice of the unusual action which I have just taken. I have followed this procedure to-night in order to expedite the work of the Senate, and to enable this measure, which makes restorations of allowances to dependants of deceased ex- soldiers, to become operative as soon as possible. Under the financial emergency legislation enacted in 1931 certain amendments were made which had the effect of curtailing some of the benefits provided under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. One of those reductions affected new wives and children of incapacitated soldiers who were married or born subsequent to the 1st October, 1931. I shall not relate the circumstances which led to the passing of the financial emergency legislation; they are well within the memory of honorable senators; but I am glad that the first bill which it is my privilege to introduce into the Senate contains provisions for the fulfilment of the Government’s promise to restore to those wives and children the benefits which were taken from them under the legislation referred to. So much of the financial emergency legislation as resulted in the curtailment of benefits to dependants of incapacitated soldiers was introduced only as a result of conferences with, and after full consideration of recommendations by, a committee of representatives of all soldier organizations. Honorable senators will recollect that, at the time when it was found necessary to make some reductions of the pensions and privileges of returned soldiers and their dependants, a number of soldier organizations were called into conference with the government of the day, and that details of the reductions were drawn up as’ a result of such consultation. On behalf of the Government I desire to add my tribute to the many already paid to the work of that committee, and to express to all concerned the thanks of the country for the manner in which they co-operated in the satisfactory solution of the many delicate and difficult problems which arose.
I do not propose to traverse at length t he history ofthe scheme of war pensions and its allied repatriation benefits in Australia, beyond saying that it has always been the desire of successive governments to extend to the reasonable claims of ex-soldiers every possible consideration. Because of that desire, I believe that we have built up, in the course of time, a repatriation system which compares more than favorably with that of any other dominion in the British Commonwealth of Nations. I have here the details of the repatriation benefits which exist in other parts of the Empire, but I shall not weary honorable senators by reading them. I can say, however, that it is generally recognized that the benefits of the Australian Repatriation Act exceed those of any other part of the Empire. We in Australia may be justly proud of the work that has been done by the Repatriation Department. The very bill which is now before the Senate confers on the’ dependants of incapacitated soldiers in Australia, benefits which are not available to them in any other British dominion. Every country has imposed a time limit within which marriage or birth must have taken place to permit wives or children to receive such pensions. Honorable senators will recollect that, even prior to the emergency legislation which resulted in the suspension, for a time, of those benefits, the problem of new wives and children had been given ‘attention by the Lyons Government, and also by its predecessor, the Scullin Government.
In the United Kingdom, the marriage must have occurred before the date of discharge from the forces, and only those children born within nine months thereafter are eligible. In South Africa, the marriage must have taken place within two years of discharge, and the children born within nine months of discharge. In Canada, no wife married, or child born, after May, 1933, is able to participate in war pension benefits, and in New Zealand the marriage must have occurred before the 31st July, 1936. Under the provisions of the bill now before honorable senators, the Government proposes to make pension rights available to all wives married, or children born, to incapacitated members of the forces up to the 30th June, 1938. As at the 30th June, 1937, war pensions were being paid in Australia to 77,076 incapacitated exsoldiers, and 174,730 dependants of deceased and incapacitated members, and in that financial year the sum of £7,683,089 was distributed in pension payments. To the 30th June, 1937, the total sum paid by way of war pensions in Australia, apart altogether from considerable expenditure on general repatriation benefits and treat ment, was £140,836,592. Under the provisions of this bill the department estimates that approximately 4,000 wives and 20,000 children will automatically become eligible for pension benefits at an additional total annual liability of £220,000. I remind honorable senators that new wives and children who will share the benefits of the pensions scheme will also be entitled to all the benefits of the Repatriation Act. There are, for example, certain classes of soldiers’ children who are entitled to free education. New wives will participate in the sustenance .allowances made available to wives during the periods that their soldier husbands are undergoing treatment in hospitals. These additional repatriation benefits will automatically apply to the new wives and children.
The principal amendment is covered by clause 3, whilst clause 4 is framed mainly to reconstruct an existing section of the act in a manner which will protect and preserve the right to pension of those wives married since the 1st October, 1931, who are now widows, and also their children.
I have outlined in general terms the object of the bill. More precise consideration may be given in committee. As the measure will extend materially the liberal benefits already provided for our soldier pensioners, I -confidently recommend it to honorable senators.
As this is the first measure that I have been privileged to bring before the Senate since my appointment as Minister for Repatriation, I should be lacking in my duty if I failed to pay a tribute to my predecessor in office, the Right Honorable W. M. Hughes, who, with only one short break, administered the department during the last six year3. When Mr. Hughes formally handed over the department to me ‘yesterday, he paid a high tribute to the Chairman of the Repatriation Commission, the members of the Assessment Tribunals, the Appeal Board, and indeed, to the staff generally. Those honorable senators who have given special attention to soldier problems will agree that the soldiers’ organizations themselves and those connected with various repatriation activities have co-operated well with the departmental officers, and that we have in the department a highly efficient staff which is carrying out its work in a most creditable manner.
I hope that honorable senators will allow the bill to be passed through all its stages to-night, so that the benefits of this legislation may become operative as soon as possible.
– I rise with some trepidation to announce that the Opposition will assist the Government to expedite the passage of this hill, because this afternoon, during a debate upon another subject, the Opposition was castigated for having, at times, supported the Government. From my place in this chamber I have frequently said that the Opposition does not believe that its duty is to oppose everything that the Government brings forward, merely for thesake of opposing it. We on this side believe in supporting those worth-while proposals which all too infrequently the Government introduces. Approving of the principle underlying this bill, we shall not delay its passage.
.I commend the Government for bringing forward this amendment of the Repatriation Act, for in so doing it provides further evidence of its sympathetic attitude towards ex-service men of the Great War. My observation in this chamber has been that the Opposition has always supported the Government in matters of this kind. On two previous occasions, when restoration of amounts deducted under the financial emergency legislation was proposed I drew attention to the omission now about to be rectified. I pointed out that there must necessarily he a time limit to the granting of pensions under the section of the act with which this bill deals. I suggested a. period of twelve months; the bill before us proposes only six months. I hope that the Government will see its way to substitute the 1st January, 1939, for the 30th June, 1938. thereby making a completely satisfactory restoration in the interests of permanently disabled men who served this country in the Great War.
– in reply - Ithank the Leader of the Opposition (SenatorCollings) for his assurance that his party will support this bill. Senator Brand has suggested that the 1st January, 1939, be substituted for 30th June, 1938, as set out in the bill, but I remind him that, prior to the election, various soldiers’ organizations were notified of the Government’s intention. The date mentioned in the bill has been generally accepted as a fair compromise. Actually, nine months’ notice was given.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 -
Section thirty-nine of the principal act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead: - “39. - (1.)The dependants of a person who has been a member of the forces and who has died or dies, after the date of his discharge, from causes other than the result of an occurrence happening during the period during which he was a member of the forces, shall, subject to this act. be entitled to receive such pension (if any) as -
was being paid;
would have been payable but for the fact that a claim although lodged had not been determined; or
would have been payable if a claim for a pension had been lodged prior to the death of the member, to them under this division, immediately prior to the death of themember.
Amendment (by Senator Foll) agreed to -
That paragraphs (c) and (d) be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following paragraphs : - “ (c) would, but for the fact that a claim although lodged had not been determined, have been payable; or
would if a claim for a pension had been lodged prior to the death of themember, have been payable.”.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 5 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended ; report, adopted.
Bill read a third time.
The following papers were presented : -
Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure (or the year ending 30th June, 1938.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at - Bullsbrook, Western Australia - For Defence purposes.
Dalby, Queensland - For Postal, telegraphic, telephonic and other like services.
Tintinarn, South Australia - For Defence purposes.
Motion (by Senator A. J. McLachlan) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Tuesday next, at 3 p.m.
Senate adjourned at 9.5 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 2 December 1937, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1937/19371202_senate_15_155/>.