15th Parliament · 1st Session
The Senate, on the 1st July, 1938, adjourned till a day and hour to be fixed, and to be notified by the President to each honorable senator.
The Senate met at 3 p.m., pursuant to the notification of the President.
The President (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes) took the chair, and read prayers.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes). - I have received from His Excellency the Administrator a commission to administer to senators the oath or affirmation of allegiance.
Commission laid on the table and read by the Clerk.
– I have to inform the Senate that, in accordance with my statement to the Senate on the 1st July last, I notified the Lieutenant-Governor of the State of Victoria of a vacancy caused in the representation of that State in the Senate by the death of Mr. J ohn Barnes. I have received through His Excellency the Administrator a certificate from the Lieutenant-Governor of Victoria of the choice of James Michael Sheehan as a senator to fillsuch vacancy.
Certificate laid onthe table and read bythe Clerk.
Senators Philip Albert Martin McBride and James Michael Sheehan made and subscribed the oath of allegiance.
– by leave - I desire to announce to the Senate that His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, Lord Gowrie, returned from abroad on Saturday last, the 24th September, and assumed the administration of the Commonwealth on that day.
– by leave - I have to announce to honorable senators that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Foll) will in future represent the Treasurer in this chamber. For the benefit of new senators I wish to intimate that the representation of the various departments of State is now allocated amongst Ministers in this chamber as follows: - In addition to acting as Postmaster-General, I shall represent in the Senate the Departments of the Prime Minister, the Attorney-General, External Affairs and Industry. SenatorFoll, in addition to acting as Minister for Repatriation and War Service Homes, will represent the Departments of the Treasury, Trade and Customs, and Defence. Senator Allan MacDonald, Assistant Minister, will represent the Departments of Commerce, the Interior, and Health.
– by leave - I wish to inform honorable senators that I am not in a position to make a statement to-day on the international situation. Negotiations for the peaceful settlement of the Sudeten question are now proceeding, but the Commonwealth Government still takes the view expressed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) in the House of Representatives on the 22nd September last that, owing to the continuing delicacy of the situation, it would be inadvisable, in the interests of peace, to discuss the matter at this stage. I hope, however, that it will be possible for me to make a full statement in the near future.
– by leave - The policy of the Labour party, the Opposition in this chamber, on foreign affairs is well known, and there is no need to emphasize it. We stand for peace, and for that reason, we have no other word to offer this afternoon, believing that nothing should be done at this juncture that might hinder the negotiations for peace throughout the world.
- by leave - I have to announce that since the last meeting of the Senate, I have been elected Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, and Senator R. V. Keane has been elected Deputy Leader.
.- I lay on the table the report and recommendation of the Tariff Board on the newsprinting paper industry. By leave - The Tariff Board has come to the conclusion that this industry will be valuable to Australia, and the Government endorses that view. The Tariff Board has recommended that the industry be assisted by means of a bounty, the funds for which, the board recommends, should be provided by duty, both bounty and duty to vary as the imported cost of Canadian newsprinting paper varies. The Government has decided to grant the measure of assistance recommended by the board to the new industry, but proposes to give this assistance by means of bounty without duty unless the price of newsprint falls materially below the present day levels. No duty additional to that in force at the present time will be imposed unless the c.i.f. and e. price, plus primage on imported newsprint is less than £12 a ton.
The bulk of newsprint being supplied to Australia under 1939 contracts cannot be landed at less than £16 6s. a ton. Under the Government’s plan of assistance to the new industry the cost of imported newsprint will not be increased. The amount of bounty which will be paid onthis figure will be £1 14s. a ton. The bounty will be on a sliding scale basis, and will not exceed £4 at £12 a ton and will be eliminated at a landed cost of £1811s. 3d. a ton. In the event of a material fall of the cost of imported newsprinting paper to a level below£15 a ton the Government proposes to apply duty at rates substantially lower than those recommended by the Tariff Board. The rates of duty will be: Below £15, 5s. a ton; below £14, 7s. 6d. a ton ; below £13, 10s. a ton. The assistance being granted by the Government will continue for a period of three years from the commencement of production, and the question of what’ assistance, if any, will be granted after the expiration of that period will be determined only after further investigation by the Tariff Board. The necessary legislation to give effect to the Government’s decision will be introduced at an early date.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Ashmore and Cartier Islands Acceptance Bill 1938.
Canned Fruits Export Control Bill 1938.
Canned Fruits Export Charges Bill 1938.
Census and Statistics Bill 1938.
Citrus Fruit Bounty Bill 1938.
Dairy Produce Export Control Bill 1938.
Dried Fruits Export Control Bill 1938.
Empire Air Service (England to Australia) Bill 1938.
Excise Tariff 1938.
Geneva Convention Bill 1938.
Income Tax Collection Bill 1938.
Meat Export Control Bill 1938.
National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill 1938.
National Health and Pensions Insurance (Employees’ Contributions) Bill 1938.
National Health and Pensions Insurance (Employers’ Contributions) Bill 1938.
New Guinea Loan Guarantee Bill 1938.
Passports Bill 1938.
Seat of Government Acceptance Bill 1938.
– Pursuant to Standing Order 28a, I lay on the table my warrant nominating Senators R. V. Keane and W. J. Cooper a panel to act as Temporary Chairmen of Committees, when requested so to do by the Chairman of Committees, or when the Chairman of Committees is absent.
– I lay on the table-
Estimates of receipts and expenditure, and estimates of expenditure for additions, new works, buildings, &c. for the year ending the 30th June, 1939.
The Budget, 1938-39 - Papers presented by the honorable R. G. Casey. M.P., on the occasion of the budget of 1938-39. and move -
That the papers be printed.
Before addressing myself to the motion proper for the printing of the Estimates and budget papers, I think it opportune to explain for the benefit of those Senators who have recently been elected the practice that has prevailed for many years with regard to the consideration of such a motion. Upon the day on which the Treasurer delivers his budget speech in the House of Representatives, or as soon as possible thereafter, the Minister representing the Treasurer in this chamber lays the Estimates and budget papers on the table and, in moving that the papers be printed, usually covers much of the subject matter of the budget speech. The debate on the motion is then adjourned to meet the convenience of honorable senators. Upon resumption, the debate may continue for several weeks until such time as the annual Appropriation Bill is disposed of, when the motion is discharged from the notice-paper. The debate on the motion has, however, hitherto lacked continuity and, to some extent, has been regarded as subordinate to the discussion on the Appropriation Bill. Frequently the motion has been used by the Government very largely as a stop gap when no other Government business has been forthcoming, and on such occasions honorable senators have been given an opportunity to discuss in a general way the financial proposals of the Government. A proposal has been made that the present motion should be debated simultaneously with the deba te in another place on the budget.
The Government believes that there is merit in the suggestion. It will enable the budget to be discussed fully in the early days of the session, thus disposing, to some extent, of one of the factors which increase the pressure of public business as the session progresses. Accordingly, it is proposed to arrange the business in this chamber so as to permit of the motion being fully debated without intermission, as far as practicable, after the Leader of the Opposition has had an opportunity to speak to it. Honorable senators will be able to discuss the Government’s financial proposals on this motion just as effectively as if they were discussing the Appropriation Bill itself. Moreover, the Government undertakes to give to the representations made during the course of the debate the same consideration as it gives to representations during the debate on that bill.
The adoption of the proposed practice will, I anticipate, remove the grounds for the ever-recurring complaint that the annual Appropriation Bill is disposed of in this chamber with undue haste; it will, at the same time, give to honorable senators the fullest possible latitude in discussing the details of the financial proposals for the forthcoming year.
When the Estimates have been disposed of in the House of Representatives, they will, in the form of the Appropriation Bill, come before the Senate, and honorable senators will have a further opportunity to discuss in detail the whole of the financial proposals of the Government. It will be seen therefore, that, in addition to the opportunities which the introduction of a Supply Bill will provide, honorable senators will have two other opportunities to discuss the Government’s financial proposals.
In presenting the budget for 1938-39 the Treasurer (Mr. ‘ Casey) said that during the pas,t year there had been a considerable economic advance in Australia, despite adverse oversea influences. A decided reduction of unemployment occurred, the value of production was maintained at a high level, and Australia’s export income was reduced only slightly, despite a fall of 12$ per cent, in the average export prices as compared with 1936-37. There was a marked expansion of building activities, building permits in 1937-38 reaching a value of £56,000,000 as compared with £9,000,000 in 1931-32. On the other hand, the value of Australia’s wool clip declined from £63,600,000 in 1936-37 to £52,600,000 in 1937-38, and falling prices seriously affected the value of the wheat il OD
London funds were reduced by about £10,000,000 during the year, but Australia’s internal financial position is still sound, in comparison with that of other countries. Economic and financial conditions are being curefully watched by the Commonwealth Bank Board, with the co-operation of manufacturers and others, and any recession will be met by the appropriate use of central banking measures.
During the past financial year there were two loan operations in London - a conversion of £11,410,000 in November, 1937, yielding £3 15s. Id. per cent., and a loan of £7,000,000 sterling in May, 193S, yielding £3 16s. 6d. per cent. The second loan was to provide £2,000,000 for the purchase of defence equipment in Great Britain, and £5,000,000 for the redemption of Australian treasury-bills held by the Commonwealth Bank in London.
In the Australian market, loans of £8,000,000, yielding £3 15s. 6d. per cent., and £10,250,000, yielding £3 15s. lOd per cent., were raised in November, 1937, and May, 1938, respectively. Of the latter amount, £4,000,000 was for defence purposes. The Loan Council has agreed to the raising of £14,000,000 during 1938-39 for services of the Commonwealth and the States. The Commonwealth’s share, £2,000,000, will be devoted entirely to farmers’ debt adjustment purposes. This week the Loan Council is ito .consider terms for the conversion of internal loans which will fall due on the 15th December next. Originally, ‘these loans totalled £78,000,000, b,ut sinking fund operations have reduced them to £68,000,000, of which £6,000,000 carries interest at three per cent, and £62,000,000 interest at four per cent. It is anticipated that an offer of conversion to existing holders will be made late in October. A further £4,000,000 of sinking fund moneys will be available towards the redemption of the loans before the 15th December, and with the co-operation of the banks and the principal financial institutions there is every reason to anticipate a successful issue. Since 1923, £80,000,000 has been provided for Commonwealth debt redemption, whilst £41,000,000 of State debt has been redeemed from the National Debt Sinking Fund since the States sinking funds were established in 1928.
Since the Lyons Government assumed office in December, 1931 the public debt of the Commonwealth has decreased by £7,084,000 whilst the aggregate debt of the Commonwealth and the States has* increased by £92.460,000, and at the 30th June, 1938, amounted to £1,275,026.000.
The revenue for 1937-3S was £S9,45S,154, and the expenditure £S5,963,421, the excess of revenue over expenditure being £3,494,733. The main factor in this ‘result was the receipt of customs and excise revenue amounting to £3,883,000 in excess of the estimate. It is proposed to set aside the whole of the excess receipts in a trust account, and to devote £2,494,733 to the defence programme this year and £1,000,000 to next year’s programme. The Government faces the new year with increased obligations of about £7,000,000 arising out of defence, national insurance, and invalid and old-age pensions.
The total estimated defence expenditure, from all sources, following the programme outlined by the Prime Minister in Parliament last April, is £16,796,000, compared with £11,531,000 for 1937-38. This large programme will be financed by the provision of £8,492,000 from the revenue of the current year, £2,495,000 from excess receipts of last year, £4,400,000 from loan fund, the appropriation for which has already been approved, and the balance from trust fund. Of the total defence expenditure, capital items, representing expenditure on works, ships, aircraft, stores, armament, and the like, will absorb £9,922,000, whilst maintenance will absorb £6,874,000.
Included in defence, is civil aviation, involving a gross expenditure of £1,2S3,000, of which £797,000 is for development, £3S5,000 for Empire airmail services, and £101,000 for administration. Recoveries from the United Kingdom, and payments by the Post Office for mails, will reduce this sum to a net amount of £1,115,000.
Preparations for the full operation of the national insurance scheme in January next are now well advanced. The National Insurance Commission is established in Canberra with branches in each State; the organization of societies for insured persons is proceeding rapidly, and the many problems facing State governments, friendly societies and others are being met. The proposal for the voluntary insurance of self-employed persons has not yet been developed owing to the great amount of work necessary in the preparation of the main scheme. It is anticipated that contributions by, and in respect of, insured persons will commence on the 2nd January, 1939, and that for the half-year ending the 30th June 1939, approximately £5,500,000 will be received - £3,000,000 for the pensions fund and £2,500,000 for the health fund. The total expenditure in 1938-39 in respect of national insurance is estimated to be £1,100,000 made up as follows: -
Last year expenditure on invalid and old-age pensions amounted to £15,800,000, an increase of £1,800,000 over the previous year. This was due to a growth of 11,000 in the numbers of pensioners, the increase of the maximum rate of pension from 19s. to £1 a week as from September, 1937, and the fact that there were 27 pay days instead of the usual 26. It is expected that in the current year a further increase of 11,500 pensioners will raise the cost for the year to £16,150,000. During the session legislation will be introduced to provide for reciprocity between Australia and New Zealand, allowing residence and permanent incapacity for work, occurring in either country, to be taken into account for pension purposes.
The estimated cost of war pensions and repatriation in 1938-39 is £9,400,000, an increase of £348,000 over last year, and £1,700,000 over the expenditure of five years ago.
Omitting defence, the works programme for 1938-39 is estimated at £5,423,000, an increase of £8S5,000 over’ last year’s expenditure. Of this amount £3,938,000, representing an increase of £754,000 is for the Post Office, £300,000 for the Northern Territory, representing an increase of £197,000 ; and £545,000 for the Australian Capital Territory, representing an increase of £68,000. In addition to the amount included in the budget for works, other provision for public works is made by way of assistance to the States. In 1938-39, £4,150,000 is thus provided under the Federal Aid Roads and Works Act and £100,000 under tie States Grants (Local
Public Works) Act. The total works provision included in the Estimates, apart from defence, is £9,673,000, and the estimated total expenditure on defence works from all sources represents an additional £9,922,000, of: which £7,000,000 will be spent in Australia.
An increase of £407,000 is provided in the ordinary services of departments, excluding Business Undertakings and Territories. This is mainly accounted for by the expansion of the Department of the Interior caused by the heavy defence programme.
The public demand for increased services in all branches of the Postal Department, coupled with the necessity for replacement of old buildings and obsolete plant, has resulted in the provision of sums for new works progressively increasing from £1,900,000 in 1935-36 to £3,938,000 in 193S-39. These works cover new automatic exchanges, trunk line telephone channels, underground telephone cables, trunk line exchanges, improved telegraph equipment, new broadcasting stations and general renovations and improvements of plant, buildings and equipment in all branches. In recent years expenditure covering the activities of the Postmaster-General’s Department, including interest and sinking fund, the cost of which has risen from £14,424,000 in 1935-36 to £18,693,000 in 1.938-39, has been financed a3 follows: -
In 1935-36 Post Office revenue exceeded expenditure from revenue by £005,000 but in addition £224,000 was met from loan fund. [n 1936-37 Post Office revenue again exceeded expenditure from revenue by £492,000, but in addition £302.000 was expended from loan fund.
Tn 1937-38 the expenditure exceeded the revenue by £395,000, the shortage being mot from general revenue.
In 1938-39 it is estimated that there will again bc an excess of expenditure over revenue amounting to £1,143,000.
Scientific research has been of inestimable benefit to Australia in numerous directions. Last year the Governmentprovided £250,000 to enable the scope of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to be extended to matters affecting secondary industries. Already steps have been taken to establish a national standards reference laboratory in Sydney and an aeronautical and engineering re search laboratory in Melbourne. For 1938-39 the sum of £207,000 is provided for the council as compared with £175,000 in 1937-38 and £138,000 in 1936- 37. In addition, moneys have been supplied from other sources and the Government is confident that, having regard to the heavy demands on its own resources for defence and national insurance, increased contributions will be received from those industries which benefit from research.
In connexion with the development of aviation in Australia, the Government is providing £32,000 as capital expenditure towards the establishment of a chair of aeronautics in Sydney, and £3,000 per annum for maintenance. Financial provision is also being made for an associate professorship in meteorology at Melbourne University.
It is proposed to seek the Parliament’s approval of the recommendation of the Commonwealth Grants Commission that the payments to the States for 1938- 39 should be £1,040,000 for South Australia, £570,000 for Western Australia, and £410,000 for Tasmania. The total expenditure will be £2,020,000, representing a decrease of £330,000 as compared with last year. The normal grant in 1937- 3S for Western Australia was £439,000, but a special advance of £136,000, to be adjusted in 1939-40, was added on account of drought. The normal grant this year is £614,000, from which will be deducted a special advance of £44,000 made in 1936-37. The normal grant this year will, therefore, be £175,000 greater than that for last year.
In order to assist the States to provide technical training and secure skilled employment for youths, an amount of £200,000 was provided during last financial year. The budget includes a similar provision for 1938-39.
As the result of the granting of the fertilizer subsidy to primary producers other than wheat growers, there has been a considerable increase of the use of fertilizers since 1932. In order to keep expenditure within reasonable bounds the payment was limited last year to the first twenty tons of fertilizer purchased by any individual. Even with this restriction, however, the expenditure amounted to £262,000. It is now proposed to limit the payment of the subsidy to the first ten tons purchased by any individual. The estimated total expenditure for the subsidy in 1938-39 is £215,000.
With a view thoroughly to advertise Australia abroad the following expenditure is being incurred this year: -
The total estimated expenditure from revenue for 1938-39 is £93,136,000 as compared with £85,963,421 last year. These figures do not include expenditures of £1,409,000 on defence equipment and civil aviation from trust fund and £2,495,000 from the excess receipts of 1937-38 to be spent in 1938-39, nor the provision of £1,000,000 for special postal works, and an expenditure of £1,622,000 on defence equipment and civil aviation from trust fund in 1937-38. To meet this expenditure, the Treasurer estimated that, on the basis of the present taxation, the revenue for 1938-39 would amount to £89,952,000, as compared with £89,458,000 for the previous year.
Considerable difficulty is experienced in estimating customs and excise revenue, which forms over one-half of the total revenue, owing to the high level of imports last year, the decline of export prices, and the impossibility of forecasting the future trend of prices. Every care, however, has been exercised, and it is thought that the figure of £46,750,000 which has been used, is reasonable, although it is £1,633,000 less than for the previous year.
Income tax is estimated to yield £10,700,000, which is £1,302,000 more than for last year. This is due to improved incomes and to the fact that the system of averaging will cease to operate except in regard to primary producers.
Other items do not call for comment.
It will be seen that there is a gap of £3,184,000 between the estimated expenditure and the estimated revenue on the basis of present taxation. After full consideration, and having in mind the growing liabilities for defence, national insurance and invalid and old-age pensions, the Government reached the conclusion that the shortage must be mot by additional taxation. The following increases of taxes are proposed : -
A 15 per cent. increase of the rates of income tax payable by companies and individuals, from which additional revenue of £1,400,000 is expected.
An increase of the rate of sales tax from 4 per cent. to 5 per cent. from the 22nd September, 1938. This is estimated to yield additional revenue of £1,300,000 for the remainder of this year and of £1,900,000 for a full year.
An increase of approximately 11 per cent. in land tax, which is expected to yield £135,000 this financial year.
An increase of 8d. per lb. in excise duty on manufactured tobacco, to yield £375,000 in 1938-39 and £500,000in a complete year. In addition, the minimum percentages of Australian-grown leaf used in the manufacture of cigarettes and tobacco are to be raised from 21/2 per cent. to 3 per cent. in respect of cigarettes and from 13 to 15 per cent. in respect of tobacco. This will result in increased consumption of Australian leaf, and will particularly benefit Queensland tobacco-growers, who produce a large percentage of the quality leaf used in the high-grade tobacco.
The extra revenue estimated to be received this year from these new taxation proposals is £3,210,000.
Before leaving the subject of taxation, I should mention that since 1932-33 the burden of income tax has been consistently reduced by this Government, and this is the first occasion on which an increase has occurred.
In sales tax there have been progressive reductions from 6 per cent. to 4 per cent., but the urgent calls upon the budget now necessitate an increase. In imposing a sales tax, special care was taken to exempt specific items, in order to lift the burden of the tax from the requirements of basic wage-earners, the sick and destitute, primary production, fields which offer particular opportunities for the encouragement of employment, education, science, religion and the like. The Government, in increasing the rate of sales tax, believes that on account of this exemption policy this indirect tax will bc borne by those having the best capacity to pay it.
The budget position for 1938-39 may lies summarized thus -
The estimated loan expenditure for 1938-39 is £6,400,000, which is already covered by appropriations granted by Parliament. Of this amount, £4,400,000 is for defence and £2,000,000 for farmers’ debt adjustment. Last year, £2,067,500 of loan moneys was expended on defence and £2,500,000 on farmers’ debt adjustment.
Legislation arising out of the budget will be proceeded with at the earliest possible date, and it will also be necessary to proceed immediately with the Supply Bill which has already been passed by the House of Representatives.
It is further proposed to bring down at an early date a measure to amend the Commonwealth Bank Act, in which provision will be made to give effect to various recommendations of the Royal Commission on the Monetary and Banking System, including that relating to mortgage banking.
Debate (on motion by Senator < (Collings) adjourned .
Discharge of Order ok the Day.
– In view of other action which I understand it is proposed to take in respect of Standing Order No. 64, I move -
That Order of the Day No. 1 - Ruling of President”: Objection to - be discharged from the notice-paper.
– I compliment the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) upon his proposal to withdraw his objection to your entirely proper ruling, Mr. President. I submitted at the time that the objection should not have been taken. The action now proposed is the right one to take in regard to frivolous objections. I am glad that your two rulings in my favour now stand unchallenged.
– I intend to move another motion in relation to this matter. The Senate is aware of the cut and thrust which took place between those two redoubtable Senators - Senators Collings and Johnston - the result of which was the conclusion that Standing Order No. 64 needed clarification.
Question resolved -in the affirmative.
– by leave - I move -
That the Standing Orders Committee be requested to consider Standing Order No. 64 with a view to recommending any alterations which may be necessary in the terms thereof.
I am sure that I need not commend the motion to honorable senators. We do not want to have personal clashes as to who should take p: credence in the moving of a formal motion for the adjournment of the Senate. The Standing Order in its present form allows the moving of only one such motion on any sitting day. It is highly desirable that the position should be clarified.
Senator COLLINGS (Queensland).t second the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes). - I have received from Senators Ashley, Courtice and Cunningham a letter resigning as members of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Foll) proposed -
That the bill be now read a first time.
. - I am not sure what has prompted the Government, or its representatives in this chamber, to alter the procedure for debating the Estimates and budget papers and the appropriation from that which has for some time been followed in this chamber, but I agree with the change that is proposed; it will, I believe, conduce to more complete consideration of the financial policy and budget proposals.
The position of parties in this chamber is somewhat different from that to which we have been accustomed during recent years, and I hope that the change will lead to an improvement of the conditions which have prevailed, at any rate, during my membership of this chamber. With a numerically weak opposition, we have seen the spectacle during the last day or two, indeed, sometimes during the last halfday, of a session of legislation being rushed through here in a manner which, in my opinion, was entirely unbecoming. It was not altogether legislation by exhaustion, but it was machine-like manipulation of important measures in a way which prevented anything like adequate and intelligent consideration of them. That day has gone! The members of the Opposition in this chamber will see to it that the abuses of the past shall not continue. The legislative work of this chamber will be subject to the desires of the Opposition, not alone subject to the desires of the Government. I hope that I shall not be charged with threatening the Government, for that is not my intention. I do suggest, however, that the
Opposition is here because of a serious belief among the people that a great many improvements require to be made, not only in regard to the procedure in this chamber, but also in regard to matters that are brought before it. On behalf of every member of the Opposition here assembled, many of whom are new to the business of this Senate, I affirm what I have said over and over again for myself, namely, that we do not believe that the duty of the Opposition is merely to oppose. On those rare occasions when the Government brings down something of which the Opposition does approve, we shall hasten its passage, but we do claim the right intelligently and constructively to criticize measures to which we are entirely opposed.
In regard to the representation of the various ministerial departments in the Senate, I throw out a suggestion that when members of the Opposition ask questions Ministers should try to see that the questioner gets something like, what shall I say -
– The truth.
– No, I should not like to use that term. I recall, Mr. President, that my colleague, Senator Brown, was called to order by your predecessor for using the term “evasive replies “ in connexion with answers to questions. I am not suggesting that the gentlemen now charged with responsibility of answering questions will be guilty of evasion, but, unless we get answers which we believe fit the occasion, we shall take every opportunity thatwe have under the Standing Orders and on adjournment motions thoroughly to ventilate the grievances that are behind the questions. I am not threatening Ministers, but-
– Threatened men live long.
– I know all about that, but I say to the Leader of the Senate, with all respect, that the day has gone when the Opposition can be treated with indifference as on many previous occasions it has been treated. That is not a threat; it is merely a suggestion that some recognition be given to the fact that all of the people of Australia do not believe in the policy of the Government which is now controlling Australia. The strength of the Opposition is evidence of that fact. I ask the Government to take cognizance of the fact that the representatives of a large section of the people are here on this side of the chamber, and we are entitled - if I may use the vernacular - to “ sporty “ treatment by Ministers.
– We form the biggest single party.
– Yes, the biggest single party in the chamber; there are no unholy alliances on our side.
Whilst there is a great deal of room for criticism of the statement made by the Minister representing the Treasurer (Senator Foll) when tabling the budget papers, I shall reserve that criticism until later. To-day I shall content myself with directing attention to a few matters which appear to me to be of paramount importance. Why does the Government continually call for reports on all kinds of subjects and then either ignore them or, at best, give only tardy and partial attention to them. The expenditure of large sums of money is entailed in order to get the evidence, compile the reports, and finally present them to the Minister concerned. For example, there was .the very expensive royal commission on banking, which brought in a most comprehensive report; one of the best of its kind th-at I have ever read. A considerable time has elapsed since that report was presented, and now we find that the Government does not intend to give effect to any of the recommendations contained therein, with the exception of one or two minor mattors which may be dealt with later. Then there was the Ellington report, of which we had heard nothing until we were told about it in the newspapers. The press always seems to get the information first, whilst members of Parliament have to wait until they read about it in the papers. I protest strongly against that situation. It is exceedingly bad form for the Government to keep Parliament in recess month after month when matters of vital importance to the nation have to be considered and decided. All the time members of Parliament have no means of obtaining official information, and no way of influencing the Government by criticism in Parliament. We must content ourselves with whatever information is available in the columns of the press. With all due respect to the press organs of this country, I object to their being made the official mouthpiece of the Government as accessories before the fact. Parliament is the place in which the Government should firstdeclare its intention on matters of national importance.
On behalf of the Opposition, I desire also to protest emphatically against the policy of the Government in regard to’ public appointments. How much longer does it propose to adhere to the policy of saying to young and brilliant men in the Public Service, and to the middle-aged and older officers of ripe experience in the administrative work of the Commonwealth, that no Australians need apply when an important position is to be filled. I do not wish to use extravagant language but this practice is rapidly becoming a public scandal. The Government is, in effect, telling the senior officers of the Service, who have given the best years of their lives to their work, that when highly-paid jobs are to be filled they may give up all hope of being selected. It is also discouraging the brilliant young men in the Service, many of whom have come from our universities within recent years. The Government makes it clear to them that they have no chance of getting to the top because the key positions will always be filled, not by those already in the Service, but by someone from outside. Lieutenant-Gene ral Squires has been brought from the United Kingdom to this country, and is to be paid a salary of £3,647 a year. I do not know what the £47 is for; perhaps it has some mathematical significance. The next most highly paid officer in the Defence service is Major-General Lavarack, Chief of the General Staff, who receives £1,395 a year, plus an allowance of £600. Thus we are bringing from another country a man whom we are placing in complete command of our defence forces, and we are paying him £1,652 a year more than the man already here. I do not know General Lavarack. I would not recognize him if I met him; but he is either fit for the job or he is not, and if he is fit for it he should be fit for promotion to the highest position.. There should be no need to bring in a man from outside.
The Chief of the Naval Staff, Sir Ragnar Colvin, receives £2,500 a year, plus £500 a year allowance, whilst the Admiral in charge of the seagoing forces, who is the nian who will actually have to do the job should trouble come, is paid only £1,725 a year. It is against this sort of thing that the Opposition so strongly protests. It is reliably reported - that is, to the extent that the newspapers of Australia are reliable on these matters - that the Government proposes to bring an airmarshal to Australia. Of course, very often the newspapers cannot be trusted. According to them there should have been a war many months ago, but, thank God, it has been staved off so far. Not being a prophet, or the son of a prophet, I do not know what salary the Government proposes to pay the air-marshal when he is appointed, but I shall risk this prophecy: It will be several thousands of pounds a year, and it will be considerably more than any one trained on our own shores will be ever likely to get-
Earlier in the proceedings 1 said that in regard to certain complications which had arisen ou the other side of the world, the public interest would be best served at the moment by saying nothing to jeopardize negotiations for peace. There is, however, an internal difficulty in Australia at the present time, namely, the coal strike. We knew for months that trouble was brewing. All the cards had been put on the table. I do not propose at this stage to discuss the merits or de-merits of -the case, because negotiations are going on which, I hope, will result in .a settlement. I merely remark that the Prime Minister was given a wonderful chance to step into this affair, and end the trouble, and I say with respect that it is not to his credit that he refused to avail himself of the opportunity. It was possible to set up a special tribunal which would have been acceptable at least to the miners, and, I believe, to the owners as well. It was also known that the miners were not prepared to submit their case to the ordinary tribunal for reasons which they stated clearly, and about which there is no secrecy. Whether they were right or wrong in taking up that attitude does not matter; the fact remains that they were firmly of the opinion that. they had no chance of getting their grievances rectified by an appeal to the ordinary industrial tribunal, which had already shown itself to be out of sympathy with their claims. The Prime Minister was invited by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) to intervene in an attempt to reach a settlement. The Prime Minister said, “Nothingdoing! I decline to be drawn into this dispute. It is a matter more for the State than for the Commonwealth “. Although an appeal was made to the right honor- “ able gentleman not to treat the matter so lightly, he was adamant. Conditions in the industry have gone from bad to worse and now we are faced with a grave national crisis, which has a. very definite bearingon the budgetary position of the Commonwealth, particularly in relation to the very important State of New South Wales. The strike is having a very serious effect on industry generally, as well as on the Government’s defence proposals, which loom so largely in the Estimates for the current financial year. Surely, at such a time as this, we should not stand on dignity. The Prime Minister should have used what power he had - if he had not enough he should have taken wider powers - to bring about a. peaceful settlement of the dispute that would lie satisfactory to both parties. Had that; course been followed and a settlement not been reached, the right honorable gentleman could not have been blamed. In a. national emergency such as this, when every ton of coal that we can win from the mines may be more than usually vital to industry, the right honorable gentleman should have -made every effort to bring about a peaceful settlement of the trouble. It is not a time to say, “Let the parties sort it out for themselves. The dispute belongs to the State of New South Wales “. Unhappily, there was an attempt to pass responsibility from the State government to the Commonwealth Government, and from the Commonwealth back once more to the State. In the meantime, the trouble has grown tosuch dimensions that the opportunity for a peaceful settlement may be lost. The gravity of this dispute is increased because of the serious state of affairs in Europe to-day.
– Does not the Leader of the Opposition think that some responsibility rests also on theother side?
– Of course there is.
– Then why is it not accepted ?
– The miners have acknowledged their responsibility in this matter. We should not forget our obligations to the men who go down into the bowels of the earth in order to produce t his natural wealth that is so essential to the carrying on of industry in the Commonwealth. Members of this Parliament also have a definite responsibility to the dependants of those workers, who toil under conditions which we could not endure for a week. Before we talk to them of their duty in this matter we should use every endeavour to persuade the Government to accept its full share and, if necessary, a little more than its share, of responsibility, in order to reach a peaceful settlement of the trouble.
– Awards should be observed by both sides; not merely by oneside.
– Later the Minister will have full opportunity to ventilate his views on the matter. I do not wish to say more at this stage because, as I have indicated, negotiations are at present taking place between the parties to the dispute, and I have no wish to prejudice the chances of a satisfactory adjustment, though I may point out that these negotiations are not between the miners and the Prime Minister. I hope that they will lead to a satisfactory settlement; if so, there will be no reason to thank the Prime Minister or those who are advising him to remain aloof because the dispute is not a Commonwealth responsibility.
I notice from the budget, that imports for the year just closed amounted to £112,000,000 sterling as compared with £91,000,000 sterling for the previous financial year, representing an increase of £21,000,000. This increase of importations may not mean very much to any one who has not the ability to look below the surface and examine the trade situation of the Commonwealth. As one who can do this, I am much concerned about the great volume of imports because it means, to a large extent, though not entirely, that some Austraiian factories have been made to suffer, some Australian businesses have been injured, and hundreds of Australian workers have had something stolen from their breakfast table.
– Some of these imports have been raw materials for manufacture in Australian factories.
– I expected that interjection to be made by my honorable friend. I point out, however, that I said that this increase of £21,000,000 sterling did not mean that Australian industries had necessarily suffered to that extent. I made allowance for the importation of raw materials. There is, however, another side to this story. We admit that Australia must import some raw materials which cannot be produced in this country ; but no one can deny that such a large increase of the volume of imports must greatly injure Australian industries and workmen. It is against that injury that I enter my protest on behalf of the Opposition.
I come now to several important matters in connexion with Canberra. There is an ever-growing influx of visitors to this capital city of which we are all so intensely proud. Yesterday it was a delight to see the thousands of people pouring into Canberra, and I feel sure that they went away quite impressed with the wisdom of those who selected this site for the national capital, and those who awarded the first prize for the city design to that splendid American architect, Mr. Walter Burley Griffin. Because I am proud of Canberra and of its lay-out, I urge that the plan should be rigidly adhered to. I protest strongly against any departure from it. The original design has very much to commend it, and it is largely because it has been faithfully carried out that Canberra is as beautiful as it is to-day.
I protest also against the failure of the Government to make adequate provision to cope with the everpresent housing problem in Canberra. We are continually making perfervid appeals to young people to get married and urging those who do to increase the birth-rate and give us more Australianborn citizens who, after all, are the best immigrants which we can hope to have. But what are we doing? There is a waiting list of nearly 300 applicants for houses in Canberra and hundreds of public servants are living in hotels. As the Government says to these people “ We cannot give you a home “, the young people who are waiting for accommodation before getting married are unable to marry. Thus, not only are cradles empty in Canberra, but also people are not even buying cradles. The Government should recognize, as we of the Labour party recognize, that apart from the need for . actual expenditure on defence, for which we are asked to make provision in this measure, there is another “ important line of defence against a possible aggressor, and that is to ensure that our internal arrangements are such that the man-power of this country will be adequate in time of need. Young people cannot discharge their duty to the nation if they remain huddled in hotels; they ought to be living in their own homes.
I see nothing in the bill before us to indicate that the Government intends to abolish the slums in Canberra. For the last six years I have referred to the diabolical plague spots at Molonglo and Causeway. It is time the shacks there were replaced by better houses. I happen to know of a man who, through living in that undesirable .environment, was developing a character not to be admired, but as soon as he was put into a decent cottage in another locality his character changed. He has something to live for now, and his surroundings have given him a new outlook upon life. So much for the influence of environment upon character; but what about the health of the residents of the people living under slum conditions? Not a. sash fits in the windows of these wretched dwellings, and the crevices have to bc blocked up with newspapers to exclude the cold winds. Yet, after six years pleading by me from my place in this chamber, not one thing has been done to get rid of these plague spots. Let the Government go to the local doctors and ask them what they think of the matter. The community hospital is crowded, because a considerable number of the residents of this fair city have no- opportunity to enjoy perfect health.
In travelling to and from Canberra, honorable senators must have realized that the present Canberra railway station is not a good advertisement for the national capital, and I suggest that the Government should take steps to have the station improved. No doubt the question will be asked, “ Where is the money to come from”? The Opposition could offer a solution of the problem, but I shall not go into details to-day. I 6an sympathize with Mr. Bichard Tauber, who recently complained of the nature of the accommodation provided for railway passengers. I understand that the Government made a sum of money available to the New South Wales railway authorities to enable them to provide comfortable carriages for passengers travelling between Canberra and Sydney. It is high time steps were taken to improve the present facilities. I am not merely standing on my dignity in expressing the view that legislators visiting the national capital are entitled to decent railway accommodation when they have to travel.
The Opposition will agree to every reasonable proposal by the Government for the suspension of the sessional and standing orders to enable it to get through the business of the Senate within the required time. We know that supply must be obtained by Wednesday afternoon, if possible, and not later than Wednesday night, to enable public service salaries and pensions to be paid, but I warn the Leader of the Senate that he should not move for the suspension of the sessional and standing orders too frequently, because, unless the Opposition considers that every opportunity has been afforded for full and fair debate, such motions will bo opposed. I do not make this intimation to the Government as a threat, but the Opposition is determined that there shall no longer be failure on the part of the Government to accord every member of. this side who desires to speak an opportunity to do so.
– Such motions would be submitted only to meet the convenience df honorable senators.
– I regard the suspension of the sessional and standing orders to enable this bill to be passed without delay as entirely justified, but I wish the Government not to get into the habit of thinking that this chamber can bo called on to pass bills with machinelike rapidity, without full debate having been permitted.
Au opportunity will arise later for a general discussion of the activities of the Postmaster-General’s Department and of that allied instrument, the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I have been anxious for a long time to say a good deal about the activities of this commission. L shall defer my general remarks concerning it until the report and balance sheet of the commission are before us, but I. propose at this stage to repeat that I have long formed the opinion that the commission is a paradise for social climbers. I am not speaking of the personnel of the staff of announcers and other officials in the broadcasting stations, whose work is frequently done very well. I should like the Postmaster4General to inform the Senate how it is that every now and again somebody is given a position in the broadcasting service, although there is not a tittle of proof that the appointee has any special qualification for the position. I understand that some drastic alterations are to be made. No doubt we shall have an opportunity to discuss them later, but I want to know” now what pull Mrs. Moore has in connexion with the Australian Broadcasting Commission. She was previously Miss Gladys Owen, and is a daughter of Judge Owen. I am not objecting to her parentage, nor do I say that because she is a judge’s daughter she should be debarred from holding any position for which she is qualified. 1 desire to know, however, why she was appointed to her present position, what qualifications she has for it, and whether her salary is now being paid to her while she is on a joy tour on the other side of the world. If she is receiving travelling allowances, by whom are they being paid?
I shall mention several appointments which I consider prove my statement that the commission is a paradise for social climbers. Mrs. Moore was particularly responsible for the appointment of Mr. Moses as general manager of the commission. I raised the question of the fitness of Mr. Moses for the position when he was chosen, and I have never been satisfied as to his qualifications. I claim that he obtained the appointment through the influence of Mrs. Moore, arid I wish to know what her special pull is. How is it that, when I and my colleagues have in mind a man or woman whom’ we consider specially qualified for a position with the commission, that person has little or no chance of appointment? Men who I know, have given splendid service to the commission have had to go to B class stations; in fact, they were snapped up by those stations at higher salaries, immediately the commission dispensed with their services. A son of Bishop Moyes has been appointed to a position on the commission. I wish to know what his qualifications are, what his duties are, and how he got his job. Again, I am not suggesting that the fact, that he is the son of a bishop should be a bar against his employment by the commission. All I say is that there are tens of thousands of Australian citizens who look with suspicion on the way these appointments are made, and that the Opposition is entitled to an explanation on the floor of this chamber. Some time ago I asked a question in the Senate about a certain appointment and I used the wrong name, although the name sounded very much like that of the person whom I had in mind. The officer who supplied the answer given to me by the Minister said that no such person was employed by the commission. I used the name Hordern, but it appears that the correct name is Gordon. I do not suggest that, because Mr. Albert Gordon is a son of Judge Gordon, he should not get a job, but I have the right to demand that his employers shall show that he is qualified for his position, and that he did not receive it merely because he happens to be the son of a judge. I find that I have given these illustrations without any kind of order. I have mixed things up most delightfully. First we had a lady, then we had a bishop, then a judge, and now we have another bishop. The son of the Anglican Bishop of Bathurst has recently been appointed to the service of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I shall not repeat my previous argument in this instance. I have no objection to a person because he is highly born; but I have a very deeprooted objection to the Australian Broadcasting Commission being the inefficient thing that it admittedly is to-day because both the commission itself, and to a very large extent, its staff, have been made neither more nor less than a perfect paradise for social climbers.
The statements I have just made are nothing to those that I expect, and hope, to make when we have a full-dress debate about the Australian. Broadcasting Commission. I asked the PostmasterGeneral some time within the last twelve months why Mr. Cleary, the part-time chairman on a small salary, had received £2,000 as an honorarium. Incidentally, I do not agree with the policy of parttime appointments to positions in connexion with great public utilities. I do not expect efficient service from parttime poorly-paid men. The only reply I received to my question was that it was considered a satisfactory remuneration for the special services he had rendered. If he is capable of rendering special services worthy of such an honorarium ho should be appointed to a full-time position and paid a salary commensurate with its importance. I object to the springing upon Parliament, as a financial side-line, of honorariums of this description. We know nothing about the services that were rendered for this money. As representatives of the taxpayers I, and my fifteen colleagues, intend to constitute ourselves watchdogs on such matters. I assure the Government that it will not get away with this sort of thing. The whole business will be exposed and brought under public criticism from one end of the country to the other.
Senator DARCEY (Tasmania) [4.50’J. - -A member of the ministry, speaking on this bill in the House of Representatives said that it was the intention of the Government to bring down shortly the promised banking bill. I do not know whether that measure will be founded on the findings of the Royal Commission on the Banking and Monetary System. Some of tlie evidence submitted to that body was very queer. The appointment of the commission was due to an election promise made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) in his policy speech at Deloraine four years ago. The right honorable gentleman was being badly heckled and in reply to a question said that his Government, if returned, would appoint a royal commission on banking and finance. To the surprise of most of us who held unorthodox views on finance, not one man was appointed to the commission who held any but orthodox views on the subject. That was a great disappointment to men who were really responsible for eliciting the promise that the commission would be appointed. 1 have read a lot of the evidence submitted to the commission and I am quite satisfied that not one of the commissioners knew anything about the fundamentals of banking. If they had, they would certainly not have listened to a lot of the evidence put before them. Let me give an illustration of the kind of evidence to which I refer. During the Sydney sittings of the commission Sir Arthur Cocks, a well known citizen, appeared before the commission and, doubtless with the object of emphasizing the importance of his evidence, said that he spoke as an ex-Treasurer, an exAgentGeneral of New South Wales, an ex-Lord Mayor of Sydney, and an ex-bank director. He added that the people, including politicians, who said that the banks were making exorbitant profits, did not know what they were talking about. He proceeded to show that he did not know what he was talking about, for he said that the Bank of New South Wales, which had assets totalling £112,000,000, made a profit in the preceding year of “approximately £400,000, which worked out at less than one-half of one per cent. The members of the commission showed that they knew nothing about banks when they failed to ask him how a bank with a paid-up capital of £5,500,000 had acquired assets valued at £112,000,000, or how a profit of less than a half of one per cent, enabled it to pay its shareholders eight per cent., and also to add a large sum of money to its reserves. The evidence of Sir Arthur Cocks was accepted by the commission.
I shall also refer to evidence taken in Melbourne. The commission need not have gone to any other city than Melbourne to obtain all the information it wanted in regard to banking and finance. We know that all the banks of Australia are members of the Associated Banks, a body with head-quarters in Melbourne. This body fixes the rate of interest for depositors, and also the rate of interest for overdrafts. The banks work under a gentlemen’s agreement which makes it impossible for a man to remove his account from a bank with which he is dissatisfied to another bank. I could cite several instances to prove this statement. Actually the Banking and Monetary Commission gallivanted about for twelve months and visited every capital city of Australia before it submitted its report.
Before I proceed to discuss the fundamentals of banking, I remind honorable senators of the aphorism that “Finance is government, and government is finance,” because I maintain that the present framework of finance is quite unsound and totally unfitted to the needs of modern production. Mr. George Bernard Shaw, the well known, author, when asked to define “Political Economy,” said -
Political economy is the art of spending the national income in such a way as will bring happiness and prosperity to the greatest number of people.
That is quite impossible under the present monetary system. A person who desires to buy a house does not usually go on the roof in order to value it. He begins at the foundations. The Australian banking system, is founded on the English system. Some people, who do not understand the British banking system, are very proud of it. Prior to 1694, there was no such thing as a bank in England ; but at that time a Scotchman, named Patterson, wrote a pamphlet in which he advocated the establishment of a bank in London. There was nothing new in the idea of a bank, for banks were already operating in Venice, Genoa, and Amsterdam. The trouble about the British banking system is the charter of conditions applicable thereto. At the time the Bank of England was founded economic conditions in England were very bad. England was at war with France, and there had been three bad seasons. Successive Go vernments had been badly pushed for money. The money lenders, who were members of the old Goldsmiths’ Company, and the original promoters of the Bank of England, refused to lend any more money to the Government until their existing bill was paid. The campaign in France continued to go very badly. The soldiers were not being paid, and conditions generally were deplorable. About that time, a project was set on foot for the lending by the new bank of £1,200,000 in gold to the British Government. That was a fairly large amount in those days, but the condition was laid down that the bank should also be allowed to issue notes for a similar amount. The bill relating to the matter was very hotly debated in the House of Commons. Professor .William Murdoch, of the University of Western Australia, wrote a book in 1912 entitled The Struggle for Freedom, in which he described the three-centuries conflict between the Commons and the Crown over the right of the people to control the national credit. In 1694 a bill was passed by the Commons which provided that no money should be raised in England except through Parliament. William of Orange, who was .King at the time, and his Queen, Mary, were the first sovereigns to assent to that condition. However, things went from bad to worse. The Government of the clay was badly in need of money, and the Bank promoters would not advance money until the bill empowering the banks to issue notes was passed. Ultimately the Commons passed the measure which gave the Bank of England the right to issue notes on the credit of the nation. When it was submitted to the House of Lords it again provoked strenuous opposition. Money was still badly needed for the campaign in France. The King, who was a military man, decided to go to France in order to conduct the campaign. He was to leave London on a certain day. But the proponents of the bill, in the House of Lords, said that the bill could not be assented to if His Majesty had left England for France, and unless it became law the whole campaign would be imperilled. In such circumstances the House of Lords passed it.
This was the only occasion on which the Bank of England lent gold to the British Government. Since that time it has used its power- to extend credit by the issue of notes. The bank was very successful. Tt received £100,000 in interest for its first loan, and also £4,000 for bank expenses. It asked S per cent, from the Government, and it also charged S per cent, to commercial leaders who needed money. Unfortunately, we know very little about the inner transactions of the -Bank of England. We do know, however, that in due course the Bank of England offered to the British Government £3,000,000 free of interest for the renewal of its .charter, but it was not in gold. ‘ The bank advanced credit, as, in fact, it does to-day. Since that time, with each renewal of the charter, there has been an aggravation of the financial enslavement of the people. It is rather strange that this great banking institution was started by a Scotchman, William Patterson, during the reign of a Dutchman, William of Orange, and that the most comprehensive work upon it was written by a Greek, Andreas Desarades, in French. Perhaps this explains, in some way, the international character of the bank to-day.
This is the one great English institution which is secret in all its internal operations. Every employee of the Bank of England has to sign a bond that he will not reveal any of the transactions of the bank. Another’ remarkable thing about the bank is the manner in which it floats loans. A few months ago I read an article which discussed the stability of this great institution, and also its method of operation. It related how a loan of £S0,000,000 had been floated in a few hours before lunch. What happens is this: The Bank of England decides what amount of money it will take up, then it communicates with big financial institutions, and something like this occurs. The bank says: “Do you want to take up £100,000 in the Australian loan?” The reply may be “Yes, make it £200,000”. The bank proceeds along that line with other financial institutions. We had some evidence of this some little time ago from an employee of the Bank of England, Mr. Reddaway, who delivered a lecture before the Economic Society at . Hobart. He told us how the bank was able to float a loan for millions of pounds in quick time. The loan would be opened at, say, 10 o’clock, and would close half an hour later fully subscribed. The Bank of England employs no underwriters. A body of men known as stags “ try to get bonds -under various names. Mr. Reddaway was rather funny in dealing with this point. He said that he knew of one house from which such a tremendously large number of applications was made that he felt inclined to write” to the health authorities and point out how overcrowded that particular building really was. Of course, the bank does not lend money. It is a fundamental principle of banking that money shall not be lent. The author of the article on banking in the Encyclopedia Brittannica, Mr. Hartley Withers, has declared that the banks not only create credit, but create it out of nothing. At any rate, it is a fact that banks do not lend money.
It cannot be denied that the taxpayers of this country are paying millions, of pounds in interest to the banks, but our governments- have never received any actual money from them. In these circumstances, it is high time to reform the banking system of the country with the object of bringing it more into line with present day requirements. We ought, for example, to be able to call upon the Commonwealth Government to use the national credit for national defence. It can be done because, as I say, the banks do not lend the money but? merely extend credit. What is known as the money cycle in banking circles - that is the period from the time withdrawals are made to pay wages and salaries until the money is returned as fresh deposits - is generally ten days; it .is never more than 21 days. If it were, the banks would not have sufficient money with which to pay out on current accounts. Ask, for instance, any working man with a family how much he has left of his last week’s wages after paying the butcher and the landlord, etc. He has practically nothing left; his wages have been returned through the trades people to the banks. That is the swindle that is being perpetrated on the part of the banks to-day; they do not lend money, but simply give credit. As Sir Reginald
McKenna said in 1924, “If the banks were getting only the difference between the interest on deposits and the interest charged on loans, I would not have such a rosy tale to tell on their behalf to-day “. One of the first witnesses to appear before the Royal Commission on Banking and Monetary Reforms at its Melbourne sittings was Mr. - now Sir Alfred - Davidson, the General Manager of the Bank of New South Wales. He was telling a poor tale about the lowering of rates and dividends and describing how bank shares had fallen in value, when he was asked by a member of the commission - [ think it was Mr. Chifley - to state how much his bank had placed in secret reserve since it had lowered its bank dividends. Mr. Davidson replied, “I hope that you will not - press that question because I cannot answer it without referring it to my London directors. In any case we have been advised that that question is outside the scope of this commission’s inquiry “. As the chairman of the commission was a lawyer, and it had the assistance of a lawyer, somebody should have been able to say whether that question was or was not outside the scope of the commission’s inquiry. It was a very important question indeed, and it should not have been li edged in this manner.
Some recommendations of the royal commission might he justifiably embodied in a new bill, but there is one to which the banks rightly objected. The commission proposed that they should be required to deposit a fair proportion of their cash reserves with the Commonwealth Bank. If each of the eight were required to place £500,000 with the Commonwealth Bank, that would not mean that merely £4,000,000 would be taken out of circulation. It would mean that as much as £40,0005000 of credit would be withdrawn from circulation because, before the banks could get that £4,000,000 they would have to call up overdrafts and restrict credit. None of the trading banks could release £500,000 at one time without upsetting the equilibrium of their credit. Such action on the part of eight banks simultaneously would have a damaging effect on Australian credit and immediately cause a depression. Depressions are caused only in one way, that is by the calling up of overdrafts and the restriction of credit. Some time ago I listened to a lecture given by Professor Giblin on. Australia’s export trade, in which he said that it was the disastrous drop of prices in 1929 which ruined the primary producers of Australia. At the end of his lecture I asked him to tell the meeting what brought about the disastrous drop in prices, and he replied that it would take’ all night to explain that point. With the permission of the chairman I then quoted Gustav Cassel, a world authority on economics, who said that it was the concerted action on the part of the banks in the restriction of credit, dictated by high finance, which brought about the disastrous drop in prices in 1929 and which ruined not only the primary producers of Australia but also the producers of the world. That authority added that the banks, having deliberately created the depression, could lift it whenever they wished. The monopoly at present enjoyed by trading banks has been going on for 200 years, and I have no hesitation in saying that this monopoly is the cause of all economic trouble in the world to-day. In the past the profit from war has gone into the pockets of certain people and they are prepared to-day to lend thousands of millions for war purposes. Let us recall the conditions in Europe in 1914. Germany at that time was the greatest’ menace to world peace. The Great War ensued, and under the treaty of Versailles Germany was completely disarmed. But the financiers of the countries which defeated Germany provided the money for its re-armament. When Germany was loaned £1,000,000,000 sterling we were told that this money was for purposes of economic reconstruction. Yet four years ago Mr. Winston Churchill told the House of Commons that in twelve months Germany had spent £800,000,000 for war purposes, and he was laughed at. Unfortunately we know to our cost to-day that he was speaking the truth. To-day Germany .is -again the greatest menace to world peace. Only a few days ago Dr. Goebels stated that the Germans preferred guns to butter. I do not suppose that Dr. Goebels himself goes without butter, but I do not doubt that millions of Germans have not even seen butter. Only recently, the Finance Minister, Dr. Schacht, stated that Germany must have another loan, preferably from America, and subsequently we noticed that Sir Montague Norman, the Governor of the Bank of England, accompanied by Viscount Runciman, had left England on the Queen Mary for New York in connexion with the raising of a new loan for Germany. Was the money required “for the purchase pf butter? We know that there is as much British money in German re-armament as there is money from any other country. To-day the nations are armed to the teeth, prepared to clutch at one another’s throat, but, in contrast, we find that international high finance works in the greatest amity. There is no argument between Great Britain, the United States of America, and France as to how much they should lend for re-armament. It is the wrong use of money power that is responsible for the international unrest which now exists, and I believe that war would have broken out long before this had it not been for the fact that the people who made their money out of the last war fear that they will be in greater danger from air raids than were the men in the first line trenches during 1914-1S. The present armaments racket could not have started but for the credits created by the banks. Put that power into the hands of the people, who do not want war, and the peace of the world will be assured.
I look to the Labour party to seize the first opportunity to place the Commonwealth Bank on its original footing - the one bank in the world founded by the people to function for the people. The action of the Bruce-Page Government in 1924 in transferring the bank to its present control was the greatest act of political perfidy yet perpetrated in Australia. To-day that great institution is merely an appendage of the private banks. It is the duty of our statesmen to examine the financial system of to-day. I suggest “that it is not sound. The present-day financial monopoly has been allowed to grow up irrespective of the rights of the people, with the result that the true principle of political economy, which I have stated is the art of spending the national income in the interests of the whole people, cannot be acted upon. The present system is founded on greed- and selfishness. Nobody knows how much profit is made. How can one tell how much the trading banks have in secret reserves? Why do they lower interest rates? I recall that in 1929 the value of bank shares dropped by 50 per cent. My wife’s father had willed to her ten shares in a bank. I, as trustee of the estate, paid £9 in probate duty on them. In 1923 she foolishly sold them for £4. I suggest, that the banks lower their dividend rates merely in order to bring clown the value of their shares. Only the directors know what profits have been made, and when shares drop in value they have agents available to buy up as many as possible on their behalf. The shares to which I have referred are worth £8 to-day. This is the kind of chicanery that is permitted under the present banking system, and I suggest that it will continue until the Government wakes up to the fact that this system is unsound. In a public address which he gave a few weeks ago, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) urged that Australia should utilize its powers in respect of national credit to meet all of our defence expenditure. A little later the Prime Minister reassured the people that no unorthodox method of finance would be used in the raising of loans by the Commonwealth Government. The Government apparently is prepared to give the trading banks their 3 per cent. After all, the general public does not subscribe more than 10 per cent, to any government loan. If I want to buy £1,000 worth of Commonwealth bonds the banks, on the strength of my cash to that amount, can buy for themselves £S,000 or £9,000 worth of bonds. I repeat that the banks do not lend money. For every £1,000 they have on deposit they can extend credit to the amount of £10,000. That is permissible under the present financial system. When the proposed loan of £14,000,000 is raised it will not represent that much additional money; it will merely bc £14,000,000 of credit. When the last Commonwealth loan was over-subscribed I asked how much had been subscribed by the banks, and the reply I received was l.hat by arrangement with tlie banks that information could not be disclosed. It is bank-created money and on that we are paying interest. The world to-day is suffering from money disease, and the symptoms, of that disease are continuous borrowing and high taxation in order to pay the interest bill. Yet the Government, if it desired to do so, could issue through the Commonwealth Bank millions of pounds by way of loan, free of interest. Thousands _of people have been advocating this policy for the last four or five years, and I suggest that in the interests of Australia we should adopt such a policy. We should not go abroad for our loans. To-day the trading banks tell us that the Australian people owe to them as much as £500,000,000, although the whole of the money in circulation in Australia does not exceed £57,000,000, and all of the banks in Australia have between them only £17,000,000 in notes and a handful of silver and copper which they retain to meet current transactions. 1 sincerely hope that I have awakened the interest of honorable senators as a whole in respect of the problem of finance.
– I support the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) in dealing with the present dispute on the coal-fields and his criticism of the lack of interest on the part of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) in declining to take the initiative to intervene in that dispute. Through their representatives the coalminers made direct representations to the Prime Minister but he failed to take any action whatever to intervene. At this stage I do not wish to discuss at length the merits or demerits of the dispute. I point out, however, that such great pressure is brought to bear on the employees by the employers that considerable unrest results. For instance, at the present time the miners are making a claim for an improvement of the conditions under which they have to work. I know from practical experience of cases in which the mine-owners or their managers endeavoured to force the miners to work in places which were most dangerous and which were not safe for a rat to crawl into. I shall give an instance of the way in which mine owners deliberately break awards. Should the award provide for a bord of a maximum width of 33 feet, the mine managers gradually extend the width until it reaches as much as 70 feet, thereby making it impossible for the miners to earn even the minimum wage. Notwithstanding these breaches of awards by the mine owners no action is taken against them. I sincerely hope that the Government will compel the mine owners to comply with the agreements into which they have entered. Every mining dispute which has come under my notice has been caused by the breaking of awards by the owners. Notwithstanding that he was warned that trouble was likely to arise in the coalfields, the Prime Minister failed to take any action to prevent it. The position to-day is that, in addition to the unemployed coal-miners, there are thousands of other workers who have been thrown out of employment by the stoppage on the coal-fields. Because of its comparative isolation Tasmania is the most affected of all the States by this industrial upheaval. Already two shipping companies have curtailed services to that State. In future until the coal strike is over the Nairana will make only one trip each week to Tasmania. Other industries are being forced into idleness ‘because of the lack of coal supplies. Unless the Prime Minister intervenes in the dispute, a grave national crisis will have to be faced before long. I shall not dwell further on the coal-mining dispute, because there are in this- chamber other honorable senators who are more directly in touch with the industry. I shall pass on to other matters affecting Tasmania.
I commend the Government for its action in regard to the subsidy on fertilizers. When it realized that it could no longer pay the subsidy on the first 20 tons of fertilizers used for agricultural purposes, it decided that, rather than reduce the rate of the subsidy it would pay it in respect of only the first 10 tons of fertilizers used. That action was in the interests of the small farmers, and the Government is to be commended on its decision. Throughout Australia there are numbers of farmers in a large way who use much more than 20 tons of fertilizers each year; in some instances the quantity used may amount to hundreds of tons. Such men are in a better position to pay for their manures than are others who require only a few tons.
I urge the Government to place lime in the same category as other artificial manures in respect of which the subsidy is paid. The soil of Tasmania is similar to that of New Zealand, where, as is the case also in Great Britain, lime is used in large quantities for fertilizing purposes. Instances have occurred in Tasmania of sheep having died from unknown causes, and although Government veterinary surgeons were consulted, they failed to diagnose the cause of death. However, some of the sheep-owners sent samples of the soil from these runs for analysis, and later, they were informed that the soil lacked certain mineral’s necessary for the health of the sheep. Owners who provided salt licks for their sheep and also distributed slacked lime in .their paddocks experienced no further losses of sheep. In other parts of Tasmania, where superphosphates had been used in large quantities, the application of dressings of lime was necessary to obtain the best’ results and keep the soil in a healthy condition. If agriculture is to be continued in Tasmania, the greater use of lime in many areas is essential and therefore I urge the . Government to place lime on the same basis as other artificial manures in respect of the subsidy on fertilizers. In New Zealand, the value of lime is being increasingly recognized. One province which used 12,360 tons of lime in 1931 increased the quantity to 31,072 tons in 1937-38. In the South Canterbury district, the use of lime as a fertilizer increased from 4,588 tons in 1934 to 11,670 tons in 1937- 38. The experience of New Zealand should not be lost sight of in Australia. I shall probably refer to this subject on a subsequent occasion.
The defence policy of the Government would seem to indicate that Ministers are scarcely aware that there is such a place as the island of Tasmania. I make no complaint about the amount proposed to be expended on the defence of Australia, but I do object to the manner in which the money is to be obtained. My other complaint is that most of the money is to be expended in New South Wales and Victoria.
– The proposed expenditure in New South Wales is small.
– In its defence programme the Government has followed a policy of centralization. Its treatment of the smaller States, particularly Tasmania, is identical with that of the Assistant-Minister for Commerce (Mr. Cameron) who said recently that the State Fruit Boards of Tasmania should be thrown to the cats. Of the total amount to be expended on defence, £4,953,000 has been allocated to Victoria and £4,470,000 to New South Wales. The next highest amount, £534,000, is to be spent in Western Australia, but the allocation of only £183,000 for expenditure in Tasmania will not be sufficient to provide adequate ( landing grounds for the use of aeroplanes in time of national emergency, let alone anti-aircraft guns. Honorable senators may bo surprised to learn that we have no anti-aircraft guns in Tasmania today, that one of the most important guns at Mount Nelson was erected as long ago as 1903, and that the latest model aeroplane available for use by the aero club in the training of pilots was designed in 1924. In view of this the allocation of defence expenditure to Tasmania will be seen to be ridiculously inadequate compared with the huge sums provided for more prosperous States. The position in connexion with the volunteer militia forces in Tasmania also reveals the extent to which that State has been neglected in the past. I wonder if honorable senators generally are aware that voluntary trainees have to borrow rifles from other trainees when they go into camp. Adequate defence preparations are essential in order to protect the great assets of the State. The Tasmanian hydro-electric scheme has been developed at tremendous cost, and adequate preparation should be taken for its defence in the event of aggression. An invader by dropping a few bombs on the hydro-electric works at Waddamanna and Tarraleah could plunge the whole of the State into darkness and paralyse the whole of the industrial undertakings which depend on electric power. The policy of concentrating in the two more prosperous States the manufacture of the whole of our defence material and of leaving valuable assets in the other States completely unguarded is a matter for great regret. The idle workshops of the various State railway departments should be utilized for the manufacture of arms and munitions instead of handing it over to private enterprise, which is concerned only with profits.
I hope that the Government will give serious consideration to the inauguration of a two-way wireless telephone service between Tasmania and the mainland. One of the greatest disabilities of the island State has been its isolation from’ the rest of the Commonwealth. Although the provision of a. submarine telephone cable lessened the disabilities’, as honorable senators know, there was a recent break in the cable which interrupted communication with the mainland. As it is possible that such a break may occur again at any time, steps should be immediately taken to install a wireless telephone service in order to provide permanent communication. The inadequate shipping service between Tasmania and the mainland has had a serious effect upon the tourist revenue of Tasmania. In the past, the service has been incapable of meeting the heavy passenger bookings with the result that intending passengers have had to book up to three or four months ahead. Unfortunately the Commonwealth Grants Commission has recommended a reduced grant for Tasmania for the current year, and in order to make up for the diminution of the grant it will bc necessary for Tasmania to exploit every facility for the production of wealth during the tourist season. Therefore everything possible should be done to encourage tourists. . In my opinion, if an adequate steamer service were provided, it would be quite safe to estimate the value of the tourist traffic to Tasmania at between £400,000 and £500,000 per annum. Even with the present inadequate service it has been worth more than £300,000 per annum to the State. If it is not possible, by negotiation with the shipping companies, to secure a better service, consideration should be given to the desirability of inaugurating a pas senger plane service equipped with machines capable of carrying between 40 and 50 passengers, making three or four trips a day to Tasmania if necessary. These machines would be valuable not only in relieving the present inadequate steamship passenger service, but also for military use in any part of Australia in the event of national emergency. The utilization of fast planes capable of carrying a large number of passengers must come eventually, and owing to the coal strike, it seems that that time may be near at hand.
The recommendation of’ the Commonwealth Grants Commission for a reduced grant of £165,000 for Tasmania this year was made without due regard to the needs of the Tasmanian people. The grant was reduced by £82,000 because the. Tasmanian Government had not inflicted heavier taxes on the already low-paid wage-earners of Tasmania. Wage-earners generally receive little enough on which to support their wives and families, and in my opinion the reduction of the Commonwealth grant should not have ‘been made because of the failure of the State Government to increase taxes imposed on working people. The Government of Tasmania is doing everything in its power to relieve distress’ and unemployment in that State. Who knows better .than the government of a State what is needed in order to provide employment ‘ and promote its development? Yet, when the’ Government of Tasmania has approached the Loan Council with its estimates of public works requirements fixed at the lowest possible figure, it has been unable to obtain what it needed, for the simple reason that the Commonwealth Bank Board, backed up by the Commonwealth Treasurer, has refused to make available the amount required. Having adopted this attitude, it is the duty of the Commonwealth to find relief for those unemployed and partlyemployed persons for whom the States cannot make provision. In failing to do so, it is falling down on its promise to the electors.
Upon his return to Australia recently the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) stated that Australia needs a population of at least 30,000,000 persons in order to defend itself. As the Government is unable to make the necessary provision in respect of housing and employment for the present population of 6,S00,000 what hope would there bc of dealing adequately with the needs of a population of 30,000,000? It would be quite possible to find employment and to house decently a population of 30,000,000 in this land of full and plenty, but hot while the Treasurer insists that the States shall cut down their public works programme. The assets of Australia are sufficiently valuable to provide adequately for such a population, but that will never be possible so long as the finances of this country are controlled by private banks and vested interests as they are at the present time.
– In common with my esteemed leader (Senator Collings), I enter a most emphatic protest against ‘the failure of the’ Government to make any attempt worthy of the name to solve the problem of unemployment. Apparently the Government believes that it is a matter of minor importance and one not worthy of its consideration. The main reason for unemployment is that those who arc unemployed cannot be placed in industry at a profit and consequently are compelled to live under semi-starvation conditions. These men and women could be employed at a profit by the nation, through the medium of the Government, but action along those lines is not taken because it would clash with the interests of private enterprise, and thousands of our best men and women are thus reduced more or less to the level of paupers. That is not the case in time of war. When war is declared, and the opportunity is presented for men to be employed at a profit, jobs are quickly found for them. The total cost to Australia up to date of the last, war is £563,000,000. The interest paid, or profit made, a mounts to £298,000,000, the actual cost of the war being. £265,000,000. ft will- thus be seen that those who made a profit out of our soldiers received £33,000,000 more than the actual cost of the war. In time of war, when there is a profit to be made by lending money to the Government and by investments in other directions, employment is offered extensively. All that the Government is prepared to do is to put the unemployed on a dole or to give them sustenance, which is barely sufficient on which to live, and other wage-earners are taxed to provide the necessary revenue. The Government is not prepared to make it possible for the unemployed to become self-supporting. If a large percentage were enabled to become self-supporting, and to produce wealth in excess of what is needed on a very liberal scale, the taxation imposed for the purpose of paying sustenance would not be necessary. I ask myself what object the Government has for adopting this attitude. It is obvious that something better could be done. The only answer which suggests itself to me, as it should ‘ to other honorable senators, is that the Government is acting in collaboration with the interests concerned in maintaining an army of unemployed for the purpose of keeping down the cost of labour to the lowest level ; in other words, supplying the employers with cheap labour. The whip of destitution is used as effectively as possible in order to keep thousands of workers in subjection. Although we are faced with this state of affairs at the present moment, wc are told by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) of the wonderful progress that has been made in Australia. We know that without being told; it is evident from the published financial statements. We have passed through a year in which profits on an unprecedented scale have been made. To mention but one company, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited made a profit pf £1,300,000 for the financial year ended the 30th June last. While on the one hand, one balance-sheet after another of the banks, the insurance companies and the leading well-established firms generally, show that their profits are rising on an unprecedented scale, on the other hand the army of unemployed and semistarved workers is increasing. Yet unemployment is only a minor problem from the Government’s viewpoint.
– Three elections were fought on that issue.
– That is so.. I shall now acquaint the Senate with the position in Victoria, and what I shall say of Victoria is true of every other State.
There might be a difference of degree, and I should say that the number of unemployed in New South “Wales would be greater than in Victoria. In Victoria, in these days of alleged prosperity, since April last the registered number of unemployed has risen from 19,687 to 24,000, an increase of 4,300 in five months. Whereas profits are increasing, employment is diminishing. The numbers that I have given to the Senate are the numbers of registered unemployed. All of the unemployed are not eligible for registration. The Central Unemployed Committee of Victoria, of which Mr. Harry Lees, a qualified accountant, a man with long governmental experience and a very able man in every way, is secretary, and has charge, and which has approximately 108 branches, has kept records and made investigations for eight years. As the result of its investigations, on a conservative estimate, we claim that there there are 40,000 unemployed in Victoria to-day. That 40,000 includes those who are registered and those who are not registered because of the operation of the means test. If a man has two children earning as little as 32s. a week between them and is out of work, he is not eligible to be registered as unemployed. That 32s. a week is considered to be sufficient to keep the family going. A pound may be deducted for rent.
The unemployed are unemployed because they cannot be employed at a profit. Labour in the production of commodities is a diminishing quantity; in the manufacture of articles and the production of commodities the same amount of labour is not required as was required before we had mechanization and centralized control to the extent that we have it to-day. The workers receive payment for the time in which they are employed. If this desk before me could be made in five minutes, the worker would receive pay for five minutes. Mention has been made during this debate of the dispute between the colliery-owners and the Coal Miners Federation. It is not my intention to deal with that matter beyond focusing the Senate’s attention upon the point that I made that labour is a diminishing quantity in industry. In the coal-mining industry in the last ten years, the amount of labour has been reduced by approximately 50 per cent., and production has increased. Thousands of coal-miners, even if this dispute is settled, will never find a place in industry again, and, if the policy of this Government is allowed to continue, they are doomed to live under semistarvation conditions, so long as they are prepared to accept them. What applies to the coal-miners applies to the workers of almost every other industry. That is the position which faces us. Again, this Government does not believe it worthy of hardly a moment’s thought. In addition to that, we find that as labour is a diminishing quantity in industry, as unemployment is increasing, the purchasing power of the workers as a whole in every industry is also being reduced. Whilst it is true that here or there the nominal wage of a few is higher than it was years ago, it is not true in the aggregate; and as the purchasing power of the workers is going down and down, there is gradually being established in Australia a pauper population similar to what has been established in- almost every European country. Yet the Government, slave to the orthodox . system, slave to the established procedure, is not prepared to do anything more than is being done. So unemployment is increasing because the present-day purchasing power of wages is not equal to the value of the goods produced. Farmers cannot dispose of their wheat, pastoralists of their meat, and fruitgrowers of their fruit. Production is being restricted, commodities, are being destroyed and the semi-starved army is growing uncontrolled by a government of allegedly intelligent and sympathetic men. Viewing the situation as seriously as we do and knowing of the tragic results now and. ultimate, the Prime Minister was asked if he would be good enough to receive a deputation so that we could dispassionately and with all the necessary data, submit to him a case to show where the policy of the Government was wrong. On the 23rd August the Leader of the Australian Labour party, Mr. Curtin, was asked by Mr. Lees, as Secretary of the Central Unemployed Committee, to ask Mr. Lyons to receive that deputation. On the 6th September, the following letter was received from the Prime Minister: -
I have received your letter of the 29th August; 1938, regarding the desire of Mr. H. H. Lees, Secretary, Central Unemployed Committee, Trades Hall, Melbourne, thatI should receive a deputation of his Committee in Melbourne to discuss the question of federal aid to secure for the unemployed a fuller measure of work in lieu of sustenance.
As you know, unemployment and the provision ofsustenance are matters which come within the jurisdiction of the States’ Governments and, in the circumstances, I feel that no good purpose would be served wereI to receive the suggested deputation.
In practically every country of the world to-day, particularly in England and the United States of America, unemployment is a national question, a vital question, and it is in Australia a question which should command the respect and the sympathetic consideration of every man holding an important public position. Yet this Government considers it as of minor importance. If it were to happen, as it has happened in the past, and may yet happen in the future, that these men, driven to desperation and revolt, were to resort to force where reason has failed, then it would be a national question. And it is equally a national question to-day when the unemployed remain faithful to constitutional procedure, although they have suffered for eight years. Thousands of young fellows have never known what it is work, but when they ask the Prime Minister if he will see a deputation in order that they could be relieved of the monotony, indignity and degration of being forced to work for sustenance, and living under semi-starvation conditions, they are told that it is merely a State matter, whilst we say that it is a national question. I have with me the first progress report of the Housing Investigation ,and Slum Clearance Board, which was established by the Victorian Government. It shows the dwellings and environment in which the lower-paid workers live. It illustrates the deplorable, degrading conditions under which these people live, and rear children to be the workers and, if war breaks out, soldiers of. the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth Government says that their plight is of no importance. Turning the matter over in meditative moments, I cannot help thinking of another photograph, taken in the glorious setting of Canberra, of the Prime Minister, his wife, and his eleven children, all properly clothed, adequately housed, and well-nourished. Contrast his children with the slum children who play in the gutter. I do not wish to use hard words about Mr. Lyons and the members of his Government, and I would not be one who would do anything to deprive the Prime Minister of the resources necessary to provide for his children.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to8 p.m.
– This afternoon the Leader of the Opposition mentioned the slums of Canberra. We also have slumsin Shepparton, a country town, where people are living like aborigines. Similar conditions exist in all the industrial suburbs of Melbourne, and in most of the other State capitals also. Probably they are worse in Sydney than in Melbourne. The Prime Minister refused to receive a deputation which proposed to discuss this subject, and’ his attitude reminds me very much of the attitude of certain employers. They, like the Prime Minister himself, are, in their own homes, ideal men who do the best they can for their families; but what a marked contrast there is when it becomes a matter of dealing with the families of other people. The Prime Minister treats the unemployed as if they were of no account whatever.
– That is not so.
– The evidence is there, and cannot be refuted. Consider for a moment the paltry grants handed out by the Government - a few crumbs atChristmas time, which are of no practical use whatever. Only too often we find that the employers, ideal men in, their own homes, are tyrants in their attitude towards the children of other men. One honorable senator interjected, when the Leader of the Opposition was speaking about the coal dispute, to ask whether the coal-miners had no . sense of responsibility. I remind him that the principal responsibility rests upon the Government, in whose hands power rests. The coal.miners have no power beyond what they are able to achieve through their organizations. I remind the Government that President Roosevelt has never refused to interview deputations, or to do his best to alleviate distress. The British Prime Minister, Mr. Chamberlain, realizing that we are living in abnormal times, has cast precedent aside, and has taken most unusual steps in a determined effort to preserve the Peace of the world. Our Prime. Minister, however, has declined to do anything of that kind, even though it be for the purpose of preventing the miners from being starved out of their jobs. In this respect, the Government is an accessory before the fact. It has obstinately refused to act, and now that the climax has been reached, now that the inevitable has occurred, honorable senators want to know who is responsible. I say that the responsibility, rests on- the Government. If it determines to remain inactive, then it must put up with the consequences.
In addition to its policy of inaction in regard to the mining dispute, the Government has given the banking interests a free hand. By the systematic inflation of the currency, the financial interests have succeeded in robbing the poorer sections of the community to a degree that has never before been attempted. In 1907, the minimum wage in Australia was £2 2s., the rate awarded by the late Mr. Justice Higgins. At that time, the purchasing value of a £1 note was equal to that of a sovereign. To-day, in our depreciated currency, the minimum wage is £3 18s. which is less in terms of gold than the minimum wage of 1907. The minimum wage to-day should be £4 4s. instead of £3 18s., if the workers were to have the same purchasing power in terms of gold as they had 31 years ago. This policy of depreciating the currency has operated to the particular detriment of the unemployed on the dole and on sustenance work, and those people have no legal redress. They cannot appear before the Arbitration Court, or before a wages board, and demand that their sustenance rates be increased. They depend entirely upon the goodwill of the Government whose responsible head has refused to receive a deputation in support of their claims. This policy of depreciating the currency has been: instituted by the banks for the purpose of forcing down the purchasing power of wages to the irreducible minimum. If you hand a sovereign -over the counter to-day you receive for it £2, or £2 2s. What does that, prove ? It proves that our currency has been, inflated 100 per cent., with the result that the purchasing power of the £1 note has been reduced by 50 per cent. That is the most vicious financial policy to which any government could lend its support, particularly as those who suffer most are the very people least able to afford it, namely, the old-age pensioners, the. sustenance workers and the superannuates.
Moreover, the’ policy pf the Government, as applied by the Loan Council, has had the effect of reducing expenditure’ on public works in Victoria ‘and elsewhere, with the result that unemployment has been largely increased. Ten years before the depression, loan moneys raised and expended by Victoria for public works averaged £7,000,000 a year. The following table shows, the amounts which have been raised and expended since the depression:; - …’ m .
Thus, there has been a gradual reduction of public expenditure over the last six years, although the need for such expenditure has increased in accordance with the increasing inability of private enterprise to absorb the labour offering. It cannot be denied that private enterprise cannot now absorb, and probably never again will be able to absorb, the total amount of labour which is available. In view of this, what is the policy of the Government? The fact is that it has no policy for the relief of the unemployed beyond sustenance work and the dole - beyond allowing the unemployed to carry on under conditions of semi-starvation. There is no prospect ahead for the young men and women who are growing up. I am president of the Working Men’s College in Melbourne, which has between 10,000 and 11,000 students, and the number is increasing every quarter. When I go to the college I see these young fellows pager to learn, eager to qualify, eager to excel, and eager to become useful and wealth-producing citizens. They say to me, “Do you think that there is any chance of our getting a job?” I can only tell them that there is no chance of their getting a job until the government of the day alters its attitude towards the unemployment problem, and re-organizes its economic policy. There are at present hundreds of those young fellows who have qualified and done everything to secure themselves places in industry, yet they are walking the streets of Melbourne without a job. What can we say to them ? What remedy have we to offer? Oan we do anything for them?
– What does the honorable senator say to them?
– I have already said that, as private enterprise is unable to absorb the labour offering, it is the duty of the Government to step into the breach and make work available.
– What about the standardization of railway gauges that the Government promisedto undertake six years ago?
– In reply to Senator Hays, I point out that there is no scarcity ofwork available in this country. If we all lived to be as old as Methuselah therewould still be plenty of work for all of us to do under a balanced system of government. In this country there is no scarcity of natural wealth; there is sufficient indeed for the maintenance of three or four times the present population.
– That may be said of many other countries ; it does not apply only to Australia.
– I am dealing specificallywith the possibilities in Australia, and am appealing to this Government to set an example to the rest of theworld.
If Labour were in power in the Commonwealth, full advantage would be taken of our natural resources and our man-power to the great good of the people of this country. That cannot be said of this Government. Not infrequently, under existing conditions, if an employer advertises a permanent job for a man at £5 a week, he runs the risk of being almost crushed by the rush of applicants eager to get employment and to do their part in the production of wealth.
– There is a restricted market for our products.
– But there is no scarcity of credit and therefore no lack of money, which is the instrument used for the production ofwealth and the distribution of commodities. Our present difficulties are due to the fact that this Government is afraid, or at least it lacks the audacity, or intelligence, to break new ground. Apparently all it can do for the unemployed is to hand out the dole through the medium of State governments. In Australia there is no scarcity of wheat, meat,wool, fruits, or any of the things which money can buy. These commodities could be purchased in greater quantities by the workers if the Government utilized wisely the nation’s credit resources. There would be no risk, because the workers would be creating wealth equivalent to or in excess of the amount which they received aswages. If our unemployment problem is to be solved, the Government must make a more determined effort to do its part; it cannot be left to private enterprise which regards profit as essential to any undertaking. Bankers,when approached for credit for the establishment of new or expansion of existing enterprises, have said, “ Show us that you can get a profit and we will adopt your suggestion “. Unfortunately, in respect of many proposals it is not possible to show that profitwill accrue to the individual, though it may to the nation. Thus it becomes the duty of the Government to step into the breach, and, by using the credit resources of the nation, provide muchneeded employment for every man and woman now out of work. This would, of course, mean that private enterprise would have to take a back seat, which is something that it is not prepared to do. This Government and this Parliament should ensure to every man, woman, and child in the Commonwealth the right to live under conditions approximating to those enjoyed by the Prime Minister and his eleven children. Workers, with their wives and children must be guaranteed at least adequate food, clothing, and shelter. I appeal to this Parliament to take steps to provide opportunities for the employment of so many young men who are now walking the streets of our capital cities.
– Is the Victorian Government doing its part in the direction suggested by the honorable senator?
– The Victorian Government, like any other State government, is doing what it can within its constitutional limitations. Unfortunately, it has to depend on the Commonwealth Government for much of its finance.
– Not for all of it.
– I admit that the Victorian Government is not doing all that I should like to see done, but it is doing its best in the circumstances.
– Why does not the Labour party in Victoria help the Government which it supports?
– The State Labour party is doing its part; but for Labour support the present Victorian Government would not remain in power.
– That is why we expect the Labour party to do something.
– The Commonwealth Government has unlimited power in respect of private banking and therefore is in a position to adopt measures which cannot be considered by State governments. Virile and educated men and women are the greatest assets of any country.
The development of a nation does not depend so much upon institutions as upon the activities of individual men and women who produce the. real wealth of the country and provide for its defence in time of war. But what is happening to these valuable citizens of Australia to-day? Many thousands of them are deteriorating mentally and physically simply because they are not in useful employment and are not obtaining sufficient of the necessaries of life. On many occasions within the last year or two the former Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes), whilst drawing attention to the unlimited resources of Australia, its glorious sunshine, and its abundance of all the essentials for a healthy and virile nation, deplored the fact that starvation and malnutrition appeared to be the common lot of too many people in every State of the Commonwealth - the indirect result possibly of mental atrophy of Parliament in its approach to this problem. I hope we shall notea change for the better in the near future, and that something really worth while will be done.
If under our parliamentary system we cannot solve the unemployment problem, it will perhaps be resolved for us as it has been resolved in Fascist countries. We hear frequently the allegation that Parliament has failed. As an institution, it has not failed; but in some countries those who have served it in abnormal times, such as these, have failed. Thus we find that the Fascist movement in other countries is organized for the most part by young men and women who have suffered through lack of opportunity for employment and have rebelled against the politicians. Otherwise, the existence of a Hitler or a Mussolini would not be possible. In fact, Hitler and Mussolini, as well as other European dictators, may be regarded as the final expression of a form of social psychosis, which is the outcome of poverty and misery.
– Never in history have any of the now Fascist countries been able to apply democratic forms of government. They have not fallen away from them.
– They have done remarkably well in Germany, and I have yet to learn that we have a democracy in reality here in Australia.
– Yes we have. People in this country can say what they like without, fear of personal danger.
– Let us consider the position of the coal-miners, who are now on strike. Will any one deny that they are subject to the will of an industrial oligarchy? They have no say in the imposition of conditions under which they work.
– They have the right of a revolution every three years - at the ballot box. That right is not available to people in a totalitarian country.
– Unless the Government of this so-called democratic country of Australia takes a forward step in an endeavour to fill the gap caused by the failure of private enterprise to absorb the unemployed, young Australians, who have been frustrated in every possible way and feel resentful, may attempt to change our social system in a way that would be much more embarrassing than if the change were effected by constitutional procedure. We shall never have a democracy in the real sense of the word until men have greater freedom to determine for themselves the conditions under which they shallwork and live.
During the election campaign last October, and in the course of previous election campaigns, the Prime Minister promised work for the unemployed, and said that he would do all he possibly could to ensure that the workers would have a greater measure of freedom in determining the conditions under which they lived.
– He would promise anything.
– If reliance can be placed on the figures suppliedby the Commonwealth Statistician, instead of becoming better, the position is becoming worse.
– Does the honorable senator believe in arbitration?
– I do. I also believe that the sole object of many men is to defeat the principles of arbitration. There is a difference between believing in a policy and believing in those who are supposed to give effect to it. In principle, under a system of arbitration employers and employees have equal rights, their claims are decided on the principles of equity and good conscience - that is the theory of arbitration - but translated into action, arbitration so often is a negation of that principle. That is one reason why the coal miners are opposed to arbitration. Although they may not appreciate as readily as we the economic and psychological processes which were responsible for the adoption of the principle of arbitration in relation to the settlement of industrial disputes they know that the Arbitration Court is not doing the job which it was originally intended to do.
As soon as the court decides to raise wages in order to make conditions more equitable for the workers, the prices of commodities are raised and conditions are once again as bad, or even worse, than before. We have, on the one hand, workers appealing to a tribunal for higher wages, and on the other hand, the employers, and owners of producing industries, putting up prices and so defeating the efforts of the Arbitration Court to improve the lot of employees. The employers are a law unto themselves and can defeat the award of a court almost before the judge’s signature to it is dry.
– There are automatic adjustments.
– But these do not apply to speeding-up methods, which mean producing more for lower wages, or to the displacement of labour by machinery or to the displacement of those workers who cannot maintain the pace demanded. For all practical purposes the employers are a law to themselves. They have exercised such power over the miners that thousands of them will never again have an opportunity to work in the mines, if the employers can prevent it.
In my judgment the problem of unemployment is a fundamental one, and, as its solution is vital to the existence of the nation, it cannot be ignored by any parliament. The time comes when it is necessary to have regard to the principle that quantitative differences ultimately bring about qualitative changes. Heated to a certain temperature, water remains a liquid, but the application of one degree of heat above that temperature results in the conversion of water into steam. And so it is with the social system. The workers may tolerate oppression for a time, but eventually the stage will be reached when the wealth-producers of this country will refuse to allow their claims to be ignored, and a change will be made. I have always appealed to the workers to adopt constitutional procedure, and I ask this evening that constitutional methods be applied. The Commonwealth Government should use the powers it undoubtedly possesses to relieve the sufferings of the unfortunate section of the community on whose behalf I am now speaking. Machinery is displacing labour in many directions, although production and profits are increasing. The depreciation of the currency is undermining the purchasing power of wages much more disastrously than any other factor. We know when prices are being raised, but we cannot see that the currency is being depreciated until the damage has been done. I have been sent with my colleagues to this chamber as the result of the workers’ resentment at existing conditions, for which the Commonwealth Government is responsible. Ministers should be willing to meet the representatives of the unemployed, discuss their grievances and decide their case on its merits. We do not ask for privileges. We seek merely the justice to which the unemployed, as citizens of Australia, are entitled. We claim similar consideration for the coal-miners, and we hope that the Government will rise to its responsibility.
– I am rather surprised at the silence of honorable senators opposite. 1 hope that the absence of comments from them indicates their acquiescence in the views put forward by the Opposition.
– The courtesy is usually extended of listening to maiden speeches in silence.
– In the metropolitan area of Perth, the Government of Western Australia, during the last few years, has been carrying out a. scheme of deep sewerage, which will probably be completed by February next; but, since May last, the occupiers of war service homes in the localities affected have been called upon to pay sewerage rates to both the State Government and the municipal authorities. Occupants of war service homes who cannot have their properties connected with the deep drainage system immediately are asking for financial assistance from the War Service Homes Commission. I have it on good authority that, in July last, the commission had received over 100 applications in respect of work estimated to cost £5,000. I urge the Minister in Charge of War Service Homes (Senator Foll) to see that the money required to cover these installations is made available to the commission. Tt is estimated that the whole of the work in South Perth and Victoria Park will be completed by next February. There are 445 war service homes securities in these districts. It is computed that between 60 and 70 per cent, of the occupants of war service homes will apply for further financial assistance. This means that approximately 277 applicants will require sewerage connexions at a cost of about £16,620. There may be 20 applications from other localities, involving an expenditure of £1,200, and making a total estimated expenditure of £17,820. It is asked that this sum he made available as soon as possible, so that the applications may be dealt with immediately they are received by the Commission.
For the purpose of encouraging civil aviation it is necessary to provide adequate landing grounds. At the Maylands aerodrome the Commonwealth Government has resumed a large area and it is desired that the work on the aerodrome be completed. At Bunbury the local council has offered to hand the aerodrome to the Commonwealth authorities, failing which it desires the necessary financial assistance to enable it to complete the work in hand. I understand that requests have been forwarded to the Defence Department, which has refused either to take the ground over or to grant financial aid to the local authorities. That is not the way to encourage civil aviation. I urge the Minister representing the Minister for Defence to see that sympathetic consideration is given to the matter. A considerable sum of money has been expended on the aerodrome at Albany. During the week when I was there the ground was under water. It would be of material advantage to the department if the work were completed.
The Trans-Australian railway compares probably more than favorably with any other railway in Australia in respect of accommodation and service. Everything is done for the comfort of first-class passengers, and the courtesy of officials on the train leaves nothing to be desired. But in view of the increased traffic on this line, more attention should bc given to the accommodation provided for second-class passengers, for such improvements would encourage the use of the railway service between Ka1 goorlie and Port Pirie. People who are obliged to travel second class, because of their financial position, are just as much entitled to consideration as are the more fortunate passengers; but under the present arrangements they are huddled together during the trip across the Nullabor Plain in a temperature which is sometimes 110 degrees in the shade. A small compartment is provided at the rear of the second-class carriages where passengers may smoke, but I suggest that air conditioning be extended to all carriages.
I now wish to discuss the ban placed by this Government upon the export of iron ore. I am not concerned whether ore should or should not be allowed to go to Japan or to any other country, but I wish to know what the Government intends to do as an alternative to exporting the iron ore . An honorable senator who interjected during Senator Cameron’s speech a few minutes ago, asked “ What is the Labour party doing?” I may tell him that the development of the iron ore industry in Western Australia was sponsored by the Government of Western Australia. Then, long after the subject had been debated by the Commonwealth Parliament, and contracts had been let, the Commonwealth Government decided to place an embargo upon the export of ore. So to-day we have the spectacle of the Honorable J. J. Holmes, a member of the Parliament of Western Australia, at loggerheads with Sir James Connolly, an ex- Agent-General for that State, on the subject. When I saw that Mr. Holmes was supporting such an embargo, I immediately looked for the reason for his action. Although I have not the honour of the acquaintance of Sir James Connolly, I. know something about the Honorable J. J. Holmes. Mr. Holmes stated that he was very concerned about the export of iron ore from a national point of view - not because Australia, was short of material, but because he feared that it might be used against this country. Yet he said he was definitely in favour of the export of wool to Japan. It is possible that he has no personal interest in iron ore production, and that he has an interest in wool-growing. A line of demarcation cannot be drawn between the two commodities in regard to export.
– The embargo was not aimed at Japan or any other nation; it was designed to preserve our iron ore reserves for local use.
SenatorFRASER. - The Minister’s interjection adds force to my request for information about the Government’s intentions in view of its statement that the embargo was imposed because of the limited supply of iron ore in this country. If the Government is prepared to encourage the treatment of iron ore I shall give the project my support. I do not care whether the treatment is carried out by harnessing the water at Yampi Sound, or by establishing treatment plants at Fremantle, Bunbury or elsewhere, so long as the mineral is used to the best advantage for this country. As to Mr. Holmes’ differentiation between iron ore and wool, all I say is that wool, when treated for the purpose, is probably just as valuable for high explosives as is iron ore. Therefore, the export of wool can be just as detrimental to the nation, from that point of view, as the export of iron ore.
– There is no shortage of wool in Australia, but there js a shortage of iron ore.
– Even the Government is not sure of that, for it intends to spend £240,000 on a survey of mineral deposits, and is providing £40,000 for that purpose this year. The Government has not come to a conclusion regarding the extent of iron ore deposits.
SenatorFoll. - Should we not make sure before we allow it to be exported?
– Yes; but the Government should have made sure before it concurred in the Western Australian Government entering into negotiations which resulted in the letting of contracts. The Government has said, in effect, that it will compensate the persons who entered into contracts with the Western Australian Government; but what about the State government which will alsobe involved in a loss? When did the Commonwealth Government first discuss the iron ore deposits at Yampi Sound?
– I introduced the subject two years ago.
– And itwas quite twelve months laterwhen the contract was let. If the interests involved are to be compensated for their losses, compensation should also be provided for the State government in consequence of the unemployment that will result from the embargo. An honorable senator asked.
Senator Cameron, by interjection : “ Why floes not the Labour party do more than it is doing?” My reply is that the Labour Government of Western Australia entered into negotiations for the export and treatment of iron ore and after an agreement was reached the Commonwealth Government forbade the fulfilment of it.
I have heard some remarks to-night about democratic government. The Dominion of New Zealand has a democratic government and there can he no comparison between what it has achieved in three years and what the Commonwealth Government has done in the last six years. Prior to the election that put the present Government into office six years ago the people were told that £20,000,000 would be provided for a housing scheme. Senator Cameron’s remarks on that subject this evening in relation to Victoria have equal application to Western Australia. The interjection made during Senator Cameron’s speech was unwarranted, for democratic governments are not in office in the various States to implement a policy in accordance with the Labour party’s ideals. In Western Australia a Labour Government is in office but not in power, for the Legislative Council of that State is elected on a property qualification. I have yet to learn that the Constitution can be upset in that regard even by a dissolution of both Houses of the Parliament. Even if only one House existed in Western Australia, its operations would be restricted by the fact that the Commonwealth Parliament, owing to the Financial Agreement entered into by the various States, fixes the limits of loan money and these cannot be exceeded. Some States arc more fortunate than others, for they have such instrumentalities as metropolitan boards of works and the like, which have special borrowing powers. Western Australia has nothing of that kind. The Government of that State has to depend solely upon revenue from taxation, allocations from the Loan Council and grants in aid. I regret that this year the Commonwealth Grants Commission has recommended a reduced amount for Western Australia, which, if accepted, will result in ad ditional unemployment in that State. It is essential for the Commonwealth Government to have a Minister for Employment. The creation of this office was promised by the Prime Minister, but that promise, like many others, has not been put into effect. We are living in hope that the housing scheme propounded by the Commonwealth Government will yet come into operation.
– Last year New South Wales spent £10,000,000 on housing under government guarantee.
– New South Wales still has its Surry Hills and its Wooloomooloo.
– I remind Senator Dein of my previous remark that certain States may add, to the loan moneys they receive from the Commonwealth, by raising money through various government and semi-government instrumentalities which have special borrowing powers. It is usually regarded as a sound procedure to cut your coat according to your cloth, but it appears to me that the nearer a State government approaches to balancing its budget the worse treatment it receives from the Commonwealth Government.
Senator AMOUR (New South Wales) [9.0 J. - I have listened with great attention to this debate. I believed that when I entered this chamber as a new senator I would face a virile force of Government supporters. I supposed that the ordinary rules of debate would apply. I expected, for instance, that following the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) an honorable senator opposite would take the floor and carry on the debate. One honorable senator, by way of interjection, said that it was customary for honorable senators of experience to give all new honorable senators every opportunity to make their maiden speeches. Already a number of honorable senators on this side have spoken, but not one honorable senator on the other side - despite the fact that there is one new honorable senator on that side who has not yet made his maiden speech - has yet made a contribution to this debate. I suspect from their attitude that honorable senators opposite, who have the advantage of experience in this chamber, are playing a trick at the expense of those honorable senators who have just been elected to this chamber. Apparently their intention is to deny honorable senators on this side any advantage which they might utilize in replying to what would be merely Government propaganda. Is it the desire of honorable senators opposite merely to sit silent and wait for a repetition of what has already been said by members of the Opposition?
There is no necessity for me to remind honorable senators that this Government has enjoyed complete control of this chamber for a great number of years. We have seen the spectacle of only one honorable senator in opposition in this chamber of 36 members. On another occasion, the strength of the Opposition was three, and I may say, in passing, that the other 33 honorable senators displayed an abundance of courage against their three opponents. I have read reports in Hansard of the attacks made upon the present leader of this side of the chamber when he was leader of that small Opposition. Judging by the silence of honorable senators opposite so far as this debate is concerned, I suspect that there has been a “ log roll “ in order either to have the debate completed by Wednesday night, or to evade the challenge of honorable senators on this side to debate this Government’s record. I thought that Government supporters would have made some attempt, at least, by now to reply to the criticism that has been advanced by members of the Opposition.
– There has been nothing to reply to yet.
– If the honorable senator thinks that our criticism of the Government’s attitude in respect of the present dispute on the coal-fields is not worth replying to, I should like to know just why he is a member of this chamber. Indeed, a number of important matters have been mentioned to which we could justly expect a reply if honorable senators opposite were in a position to make a convincing reply. I do not know, of course, whether such a reply will yet be forthcoming. I suppose that before I am a member of this chamber for very long I shall have an opportunity to judge the ability of honorable senators opposite to give an effective reply to the criticism that has been offered, and will be offered, by members of the Opposition during this session. I remind honorable senators that this chamber is well known for its tricks. I recall that it has a record for doing things. Recently, for instance, it sat on a Saturday morning for the purpose of passing certain legislation, and thereby broke a sitting record for this chamber since the Great War. Again, to-day, it commenced a new session by sitting on a Monday, and, I believe, thus broke another record which had stood for a considerable time. Despite this activity on the part of the Government so far as this chamber is concerned, however, honorable senators are content to sit in silence whilst this important debate proceeds. Such an attitude on the part of Government supporters greatly concerns me. So far as we on this side are concerned the position in respect of the present dispute on the coal-fields is somewhat clouded. My leader, apparently, has certain matters in mind and feels that something better may accrue to the miners if we do not at this juncture debate this matter too fully, but if honorable senators opposite should be prepared tomorrow, for instance, to offer argument in reply to our criticism of the Government’s attitude in respect of this dispute, we on this side shall be more than prepared to meet them. Before such a debate is commenced, however, I should like to know whether honorable senators opposite condone the refusal of the Prime Minister to do anything to alleviate the present position in the mining industry. Turmoil in the coal-mining industry affects not only the miners themselves, but also many other people who are engaged in industries dependent upon that industry.For fourteen months the press commented upon the position existing in the coal-mining industry, yet the Government refused to take any notice.
– The award is only twelve months old.
– We are not concerned with an award.
Min isterial Senators. - Oh ! Oh !
– The Arbitration Court did not think too much of an award made for the mining industry in 1929. However, we are not here to go into the pros and cons of the situation.
Ministerial Senators. - Oh! Oh!
– We shall do so tomorrow. We are prepared to discuss the history of the present dispute right from its origin up to the present moment. To those who think that the miners have not a just claim-
– Nobody has said, or inferred that.
– The Prime Minister has been thinking along those lines; otherwise he would have taken some action before this.
– The honorable senator apparently is a thought-reader.
– I am not a thought-reader. Surely no one thinks for a moment that the coal-miners would throw themselves on the scrap-heap of unemployment unless they had a very genuine grievance. Yet to-day we find that 17,000 miners are out of work, and are prepared to suffer an existence on 9s. a week for each man, and a sustenance allowance of 6s. a week for each child. No man would take such action without good reason. No miner would wantonly place himself and his dependants in such circumstances as the coal-miners and their families find themselves in to-day. They are taking this course for the purpose of demonstrating that they have a just grievance, and no one can deny that a greater measure of social justice shouldbe meted out to the coal-miners. Representations were made to the Prime Minister to take action in the present dispute under the Industrial Peace Act.
– Is that act in existence?
– Yes. Two members of the tribunal constituted under that legislation are now deceased, but the names of several other gentlemen were suggested to the Prime Minister as appointees to that body. The Prime Minister, however, thought that he could have this dispute settled by asking the miners to submit their grievance to the Arbitration Court.
– And that is the right thing to do.
– Under the Industrial Peace Act of1920, it is competent for the Governor-General to appoint a tribunal to deal with an industrial dispute or a threatened, impending or probable industrial dispute. Thus this Government has had ample opportunity to invoke the aid of such a tribunal. Such action would have been satisfactory to the miners, and it would probably have resulted in a solution of the problem. Part IV. of the Industrial Peace Act 1920, which deals with special tribunals, reads -
The Governor -General may appoint a Special Tribunal, orTribunals, for the prevention of or settlement of, any industrial dispute or disputes.
A Special Tribunal shall consist of an equal number of representatives of employers and employees respectively, together with a Chairman.
The chairman shall be chosen by agreement between the representatives of employers and employees, or, in default of agreement, shall be appointed by the Governor-General.
The special tribunal shall have cognizance: (a) of any industrial dispute between an organization of employees on the one hand, and employers or associations of employers on the other hand, referred to it by the persons or organizations parties thereto; and (b) of any industrial dispute as to which a conference has been held under section 18 of this act and as to which agreement has been reached as to the whole of the dispute, and which has been referred to the Special Tribunal in accordance with section 20 of this act.
– That would have been all right had there been no Arbitration Court.
– The Arbitration Court was in existence when this act was passed.
– The court was unable to do anything because of the congestion which existed.
– How could the Arbitration Court deal effectively with the claims of the miners, particularly in respect of safety precautions in the mines? The honorable member for Hunter, Mr. James, and the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Curtin, in the House of Representatives, communicated with the Prime Minister, Mr. Lyons, by telegram to intervene in the dispute; but he refused to do so, stating that a court had been established to deal with such matters. The miners, however, were not prepared to take the matter to court, because they knew that they had no chance of gaining anything from it. One of their chief concerns is in connexion with safety conditions in the mines.
– The Government of New South Wales offered a tribunal, but the miners would not accept it.
– They were offered a tribunal presided over by Judge Beeby - a man who would not know whether a wheeler was a driver or a steam-roller, and would have no knowledge of the work performed by boys on a skip. Indeed, he would know no more about mining than about aircraft.
I have read the speech dealing with non-official post offices delivered by the Assistant Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral in the House of Representatives. In view of the huge surpluses of the department, one would have thought that better treatment would have been meted out to those in charge of nonofficial post offices throughout the Commonwealth. 1 know many of these officers, and the conditions under which they work. I instance the case of a man who, in order to carry out his duties, finds it necessary to have the assistance of his wife and daughter for fourteen hours a clay, seven days a week. He is paid £7 a week. Neither he nor his wife is able to take a holiday unless someone is paid to do the work of the office. That is not an isolated case. Notwithstanding such conditions, the Assistant Minister said that no provision was being made to meet such cases. Evidently the Government considers the remuneration sufficient.
– The Minister did not say that.
– That was said after an investigation had been undertaken.
– The investigation was in respect of holidays.
– There is no need for the honorable senator to tell me that, for I am conversant with the conditions of employment in these offices. I was disgusted that the Government did not decide to improve the conditions. In New South Wales, there are over 3,000* nonofficial postmasters. I shall await with interest the reply of the PostmasterGeneral (Senator A. J. McLachlan) giving reasons for the Government’s decision. These officers are performing valuable service to the public and should receive much better treatment. Many of them receive far less than £7 a week. Unfor tunately, the present Government is not concerned with men on the lower rungs of the ladder.
We on this side wish to discuss the international situation, but are prevented from doing so by the “ hush-hush “ policy of the Government. Although the newspapers of Australia contain many pages of alarming statements regarding events in Czechoslovakia and elsewhere in Europe, the policy of the Government is to keep the people in ignorance of the true situation. How long is this Parliament to be treated as a kindergarten class? If the international situation is as serious as the newspapers would have us believe, the Government should tell the people the facts. Should war be declared, the people will be informed by means of announcements in the press and over the air, but the Commonwealth Government will make no statement until later. If, on the other hand, the situation is not so serious as the newspapers indicate, the Government should make an official pronouncement in order to allay the fears of the people. When the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Foll) replies, I hope that he will give us some information on this subject. I desire to know what will happen to those engaged in the manufacture of armaments should war be averted. Will other work be provided for them, or will they be added to the ranks of the unemployed? I particularly wish to know what provision the Government intends to make to absorb these men in other industries should a treaty of peace covering a period of, say, ten years be signed. The desire for an official pronouncement is not confined to members of the Labour party. The people generally, including many who support the Lyons Government, are anxious to know the truth.
From the Municipal Council of Bankstown, of which I have the honour to be an alderman, repeated requests have been made to the Defence Department that it undertake the reconstruction of a road in the municipality over which its heavy vehicles pass, but invariably the reply has been received that no money is available for work of that description. On being approached in regard to this matter the then Minister for Defence (Sir George Pearce) said that the route through Bankstown had not been considered by the Defence Department as a military route. The road, however, is used extensively by gun carriages, cook house waggons and other military vehicles travelling from the Belmore Recruiting Depot, and its surface has now become so bad that these vehicles are forced at times to use a properly constructed road paid for by the ratepayers of the municipality. I should like to know what the Defence Department has in mind as the shortest route to the Liverpool military camp if it is not through Milperra. The Defence Department has treated the municipality of Bankstown in a very niggardly fashion, f have no desire to appear parochial–
– The honorable senator is getting very close to it.
– The municipality of Bankstown is one of the most important in the Sydney suburban area. It is Hh miles from the General Post Office; it has an area of 29-j square miles and a population of approximately 30,000 people. Four independent railway lines traverse it. and it has twelve railway stations and eight schools. The Central Bankstown school, with 2,700 pupils, has the largest attendance of any school in the Commonwealth. Yet in spite of the fact that it has 200 -miles of constructed roads, and in all 400 miles of roads in subdivisions and in constructed form, some of which, are extensively used by military vehicles proceeding to Liverpool camp, not one penny has been spent by the Commonwealth Government on any road within the municipality. On one occasion when slabs of concrete footpath had been broken by a military vehicle it was found necessary to make strong representations to the Defence Department to prevent a recurrence of such damage in the future. It will be interesting to hear why the Government, which honorable Senators opposite, by interjection, tell us spends so much money on roads, has contributed nothing towards the upkeep of the roads in the Bankstown district.
The residents of Bankstown have to suffer a further disability by reason of the high rental charges for telephone services imposed by the Postmaster-General’s
Department. Postal facilities, not only in that area, but also throughout the Commonwealth generally, need overhauling. 1 should like to know by what mathematical process the number of calls charged to subscribers is arrived at. In common with other subscribers, I often wonder what check is made by the Postal Department on the accuracy of its telephone accounts. Despite the fact that we find huge posters displayed at tho Sydney General Post Office saying “ Use the telephone; it costs only 2s. a week or £5 a year “, residents of Bankstown, only 11$ miles from Sydney, are asked to “pop in” £12 or £20, and. in some cases, as much as £80, before they are connected to the telephone service. People who have moved to Bankstown from the inner suburbs of Sydney have regretted their move when they have; found these excessive charges imposed. Yet, it is to outer areas such as that which we must look for the solution of our slum clearance problems in the more illicitly populated areas of the capital cities.
– Does that apply to Bankstown proper?
– I live within two miles of the Bankstown railway station ; when I applied to be connected to the telephone service I was informed that I would have to pay £12 before the instrument was installed, and, in addition, an advance of rental amounting to 30s. After representations by the municipal authorities, the Postmaster-General’s Department reduced the charge to £7 10s per anum. The Padstow Park exchange to which I could have been connected is only half a mile from my home, but it operates only between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. on week-days. 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Saturdays, and not at all on Sundays and holidays. I was not prepared to pay the high charge demanded for such a restricted service. Subscribers connected with this exchange have made frequent complaints to the Postmaster-General’s Department regarding the inadequacy of this service, but the reply received is always that improved facilities can not be provided at present. The only means of overcoming the difficulty - and. I trust the PostmasterGeneral’s Department will see the need for it - is to construct an automatic telephone exchange at Bankstown. If that were done, those subscribers who are now connected to the Padstow Park exchange would have their difficulties removed. A subscriber living close to that exchange prefers to pay £13 a year, although he can ill-afford it, to be connected to the main exchange for the convenience of being able to call a doctor in the middle of the night. What is the use of a telephone if it cannot be used at any time?
It has been stated by interjection that no skilled men are unemployed at present. The position may have improved during the Lyons Government’s occupancy of the treasury bench with an overwhelming majority in both branches of the legislature, but not one member of either this or the other chamber is entitled to claim any credit for whatever improvement has been effected. As a matter of fact, the position has become worse since the 23rd October last. Had it not been for the talk of war, this Government would not be in power to-day. Twelve months ago it was thought that another depression was imminent as an outcome of the peace negotiations. The High Commissioner for Australia warned the Commonwealth Government and the people of this country that they must be prepared to face a depression such as had not, previously been experienced.
– Moonshine !
– Of course it was moonshine.
– I refer to the honorable senator’s statement.
– It was the statement of the High Commissioner for Australia.
– He did not say that.
– I read it in the Sydney Morning Herald. There are skilled tradesmen in the ranks of the unemployed. What proposals has the Government in mind for the absorption in industry of these and other unemployed workers? We of the Opposition are mindful of the fact that the introduction of new machines into industry necessitates the employment of skilled tradesmen. Youths are being paid to attend technical colleges and universities for the purpose of studying the new in ventions. Builders and many other tradesmen are available if the Government would proceed with the national housing scheme, to cost £20,000,000, promised by the Prime Minister. There is no intention to give effect to that promise. Why do not honorable senators opposite, if they are sincere, urge the Prime Minister to proceed immediately with this necessary work? Senator Dein interjected that the Government of New South Wales had expended £10,000,000 on housing last year.
– It was responsible for the expenditure.
– Building societies were set up in New South Wales.
– On whose guarantee were they set up?
– The idea originated from the Mudgee scheme. The Premier of New South Wales came into the matter only after columns had been written concerning it.
– He brought the scheme from Great Britain.
– The Government agreed to the proposal, and asked Mr. McEvoy, the Registrar of Friendly Societies, to investigate its possibilities. He and other officers of his department were sent out to lecture different groups for the purpose of forming building societies. In every case the building society urged that applicants for shares should find 20 per cent. of the amount required.
– 10 per cent.
– Applications have been rejected from those who needed an advance of 90 per cent. The honorable senator is demonstrating clearly that he knows nothing about the matter. I have dealt with case after case, and know exactly what I am talking about. The position is that on every occasion the applicant for shares is urged to provide 20 per cent. of the amount required.
– It is 10 per cent. up to £1,000.
– In the majority of cases applicants are requested to provide 20 per cent., and are told that if they cannot do so difficulty will be experienced in securing accommodation. The Bank of
New South Wales will provide accommodation on an 80 per cent. basis only. The Government certainly guarantees advances up to 90 per cent., but the secretary of the building society has to canvass the town to secure the amount required.
The Commonwealth Government is not very greatly concerned with the meat industry, other than on the export side. When I had occasion to go through the abattoirs at Flemington, I discovered something of which I trust the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce will take particular note. A swindle is being worked in the meat industry to-day. Butchers attend country saleyards and buy calves from the dairy-farmers. They have them trucked into the Flemington abattoirs to be slaughtered. The calves are killed, and inspected first by the State inspectors. If a calf does not weigh 45 lb., it is condemned on that account alone. Similar calves of not less than 30 lb. weight killed at country abattoirs can be exported. It is possible for 14 calves out of 40 to be condemned by the State Inspector at Flemington because they are less than 45 lb. in weight. The condemned carcasses are then sold at l1/2d. per lb. to the exporters, who, after removing the bone, resell in London at 5d. per lb., which is equal to 7d. per lb. in Australian currency. What I desire to impress on the Minister is that the butcher who has had 14 calves condemned under the State regulation and who, accordingly, is short in his orders by that number of calves, is able to make up the deficiency by purchases of calves that weigh about 36 lb. from the export company. These he can sell to any shop in Sydney. I hope that the Minister will investigate the matter. If the State authorities are right in condemning the calves, it would appear that the Commonwealth authorities are wrong in allowing their export. If the Commonwealth feels that it is right some representation should be made to the State Government to stop this swindle. A Jersey calf three weeks old is as good as any other calf. It weighs approximately 30 lb., but its meat is the meat that the people buy.
Debate (on motion by Senator Leckie) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator A. J. McLachlan) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till to-morrow at 3 p.m.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Commonwealth Bank Act - Balance-sheets of Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Commonwealth Savings Bank at 30th June, 1938, and Statements of the Liabilities and Assets of the Note Issue Department at 30th June, 1938; together with Auditor-General’s reports thereon.
Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministerson Wheat, held at Canberra, 29th August, 1938 - Proceedings of Conference.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. -
No. 18 of 1938 - Australian Postal Electricians’ Union.
No.19 of 1938- Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia.
No. 20 of 1938- Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia; and Australian Workers’ Union.
Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act-Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1938, No. 88.
Commonwealth Grants Commission ActFifth Report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, dated 31st August, 1938, on the Application made by the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, for Financial Assistance in 1938-39 from the Commonwealth under Section96 of the Constitution.
Commonwealth Public Service ActAppointments - Department of -
Attorney-General - H. G. Bond, T. K.Hogan, and K. B. Petersson.
Commerce - L. T. Maplestone.
Health- A. C. McKay, and J. B.
Parliamentary Reporting Staff - R. L. Hume.
Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1938, No. 69- No: 79.
Norfolk Island Act -
Ordinance No. 3 of 1938 - Advisory Council.
Education Ordinance - Regulations Amended.
Exportation of Fruit Ordinance - Regulations.
Papua Act -
Infirm and Destitute Natives Account - Statement of Transactions of Trustees for the year ended 30th June, 1938.
Ordinance No. 2 of 1938 - Supplementary Appropriation (No. 1) 1937-38.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1938, No. 55 -No. 63.
Post and Telegraph Act and Wireless Telegraphy Act -Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1938, No. 62.
Transport Workers Act -Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1938, No. 74.
Tariff Board - Report and Recommendation - Newsprinting Paper.
Air Force Act -Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1938, No. 77.
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act -
Regulations amended- Statutory Rules 1938, No. 71- No. 73.
War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunals - Reports for year ended 30th June, 1938.
Customs Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1938, No. 72- No. 85- No. 86.
Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1938, No. 75- No. 78- No. 80, No. 82- No.89- No. 90- No. 93.
Defence Act and Naval Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1938, No. 92.
Defence Act, Naval Defence Art and Air Force Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1938, No. 81.
Iron and Steel Products Bounty Act - Return for 1937-38.
National Debt Sinking Fund Act - National Debt Commission - Fifteenth Annual Report for year ended 30th June, 1938.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations amended -Statutory Rules 1938, No.66- No. 70 -No. 91.
Papua and New Guinea Bounties Acts - Returns for 1937-38.
Raw Cotton Bounty Act - Return for 1937-38.
Sulphur Bounty Act - Return for 1937-38.
War Service Homes Act- RegulationsStatutory Rules 1938,No.64.
Wine Export Bounty Act - Return for 1937-38.
Advances to Settlers Act - Regulations amended- Statutory Rules 1938. No. 84.
Canned Fruits Export Control Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1938, No. 67.
Citrus Fruits Bounty Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1938, No. 87.
Lands Acquisition Act -Land acquired at -
Birkenhead, South Australia - For Defence purposes.
Goulburn, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Maylands, Western Australia - For Defence purposes.
Merredin, Western Australia - For Postal purposes.
Oaks Estate, Australian Capital Territory -In connexion with the Establishment of the Seat of Government.
Parafield, South Australia - For Defence purposes.
Pendle Hill, New South Wales- For postal purposes.
Port Wakefield, South Australia - For Defence purposes.
South Arm, Tasmania - For Defence purposes.
Western Junction, Tasmania-For Defence purposes.
Meat Export ChargesAct - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1938, No. 83.
Navigation Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules, 1938, No. 78.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act-
Ordinances of 1938 -
No. 10. - Defamation.
No. 11. - Compensation (Fatal Injuries).
No. 12 - Police and Police Offences.
No. 13 - Control of Waters.
Alice Springs Administration Ordinance Regulations (2).
Pharmacy Ordinance - Regulations.
Wine Overseas Marketing Act - Regulations -Statutory Rules 1938, No.68.
Senate adjourned at 10.4 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 26 September 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1938/19380926_senate_15_157/>.