15th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I lay on the table the Tariff Board’s annual report for the year 1937-38. The report is accompanied by an annexure containing a summary of the board’s recommendations, which have been finally considered by the Government, and setting out the action taken in respect of each recommendation.
-Has the Leader of the Government any information for the Senate regarding the international situation, particularly as to whetherthe occupation of portions of Czechoslovakia by Germany, as arranged under the FourPower Pact, is proceeding along peaceful lines?
– It may be of satisfaction to honorable senators generally to know that the advice which the Government has received by cable to-day is to the effect that the occupation is proceeding smoothly, and without any untoward incidents.
– In May last, Senator Leckie inquired regarding several wrecks on the Queensland coast. Some time was occupied in the collation of the information sought, and the document supplied is of a rather bulky nature. As all groundings of vessels have to be investigated by a competent marine court of inquiry, such tribunals have inquired into the circumstances of the wrecks referred to, and in all cases have found that the groundings were due to miscalculations by the masters or officers in charge of the vessels. There is no liability on the part of any Commonwealth servant, and no cause for complaint regarding any lighthouse on the Queensland coast. The file is much too bulky to be read to the Senate but I shall be happy to place it at Senator Leckie’s disposal if he desires to peruse it.
– On the 6th October, Senator Collett asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence the following questions, upon notice -
The Minister for Defence has now supplied the following answers - 1. (a) The primary consideration is that the defence of Western Australia forms part of the whole system of the defence of the Commonwealth ; but the factors mentioned by the honorable senator are taken into account in locating the Armystocks of war material. The correct proportion of those stocks is stored in Western Australia. (b) In formulating plans for supply in war, the requirements for Western Australia ore also taken into account. Means of replenishment will be arranged with due regard to local potentialities for the manufacture of requirements.
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– When cases of this kind come before the tribunals associated with the Repatriation Department, consideration is given to all evidence submitted. In view of the questions asked I have sailed for a full report from the commission, and as soon as I receive it I shall make it available to the honorable senator.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The Minister for Defence has supplied the following answer : -
Applications have been made by the local authority for the establishment of an aerodrome at Thursday Island. It is very difficult to find a suitable site on the island itself, but the matter is being further investigated and a decision will be reached as early as possible. Though suggestions for an air link to Thursday Island have been put forward, no decision thereon has been made by the Government. Such a proposal, however, will be taken into consideration by the InterDepartmental Committee which is now reviewing the air transport system of the Commonwealth.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The Minister for External Affairs has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer: -
Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The Minister for Defence has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
What amount of new capital expenditure will be incurred in Western Australia on new works, or in any other avenue of defence, this financial year?
– The Minister for Defence has supplied the following answer : -
Four hundred and seventy-eight thousand three hundred and sixty-live pounds.
Debate resumed from the 6th October (vide page 466), on motion by Senator Foil -
That the papers be printed.
– I am sure that every honorable senator is relieved, as I am, to know that in all probability the unhappy coal strike has been settled, or, at least, that the foundations for a settlement appear to have been laid. In the course of the debate following the interesting address by Senator Arthur, I made it clear that, in common with most members of the community, I recognize that the coalminers are deserving of a certain amount of sympathy owing to the unpleasant nature of their occupation. We must not too readily assume that a man “with a grievance is necessarily entirely wrong, even though the methods that he adopts to redress the grievance do not meet with our approval. There is always some truth in what is said ,by each party to a dispute. But I draw attention to one aspect of the dispute, namely, that the basis of settlement which, apparently, has now been found, could have been found some time ago. Before the dispute extended beyond the boundaries of New South Wales, a similar basis of settlement was suggested .by Mr. Stevens, the Premier of New South Wales.
– That is correct.
– Nevertheless, the legal expedient of making the dispute extend beyond the boundaries of the State most concerned, was resorted to, in order to establish a demand for Commonwealth action. In .the beginning, the dispute was almost of a local nature. In the Lithgow district, for instance, there was not a great deal of dissatisfaction among the miners; but, suddenly, they became involved in a dispute which might have brought disaster, not only to the coalmining industry, but also to other industries which, through shortage of supplies of coal, would have had to close down, thereby causing anxiety and distress to many thousands of Australian citizens. Insofar as anything that may be said here can influence the people of Australia, I call their attention to the outstanding fact that the basis of the settlement which now appears likely was offered before the dispute extended beyond New South Wales.
– Does .the honorable senator think that the miners in the other States were perfectly satisfied?
– No ; but they were not so dissatisfied that they “wished to cause an industrial upheaval throughout the ‘Commonwealth. The honorable senator himself knows that. Before the strike commenced, I went to Lithgow and talked to numbers of people there. I “went as an ordinary citizen, not as a member of the ‘Commonwealth Parliament, and I tried to ascertain the views of the maninthestreet, the girl-in-the-tearoom - the ordinary citizen. I found in that important centre - which in my opinion should be more important than it is - a belief on the part of the miners that out of a sense of loyalty to their comrades in the South Maitland area, they should join them in the dispute. They did not regard the dispute as their own. Of course, grievances can always be found in any industry. Many of them are genuine grievances; but I am convinced that among the coal-miners there was not a genuine grievance sufficiently serious to cause an industrial upheaval throughout .the Commonwealth.
– Did the honorable senator speak to any miners in the Lithgow district?
– I spoke to numbers of citizens without inquiring the nature of their occupations. My impression may be wrong, but I have stated what I gathered to be the thoughts of the people in that district regarding the dispute. I realize that men and women are influenced largely by their environment. The people of Lithgow undoubtedly sympathized with the miners in the South Maitland district, although they did not know what the dispute was about. A responsibility devolves upon industrial leaders to dissuade persons engaged in industry from becoming involved in unwarranted disputes. This trouble on the coal-field could, I believe, have been settled when Mr. Stevens made his offer; it need not have extended throughout the Commonwealth.
– Among the miners, the rank and file are the leaders.
– I have listened with great interest to the discussions in the Senate since it was re-constituted and, without wishing to .be fulsome in my praise, I repeat what I said on a former occasion, namely that I appreciate some of the speeches made by the Government’s political opponents. I enjoyed listening to Senator Arthur, and I and other honorable senators listened, not only with attention, but also with respect, to Senator, Cunningham. Senator Sheehan and others also have contributed much of value to the discussions. But I take this early opportunity to offer an emphatic protest against some of the remarks which have been made. Early in our deliberations, Government supporters were castigated because they followed the usual parliamentary practice of extending to honorable senators who were making their maiden speeches the courtesy of listening to them in silence. Those who have criticized honorable senators on this side may not know that it is the universal practice, not only in the parliaments of the Commonwealth, but also in tha mother of parliaments, to extend that courtesy to new members. I ask honorable senators not to mistake the motives of honorable senators opposed to them politically. I do not wish unduly to criticize Senator Armstrong’s maiden speech in the Senate, but I must protest against some of the statements that he made, as for instance! -
We are all aware that the regard in which the Senate is held by the public at large is not as high as it might be. What I have seen in the few days in which I have attended the sittings of the Senate is not exactly what
I expected to see, and I have been forced to the conclusion that the public has been very kind in its criticism. That, at any rate, is my humble opinion. Yesterday the members of the Labour party maintained the debate in this chamber for many hours on end. Not a single supporter of the Government saw lit to speak. If I may be pardoned for the comparison, I felt that 1 was in a graveyard looking upon tombstones. Suddenly I was shocked, for a ghost arose, in the person of Senator Leckie.
Remarks of that kind I deprecate. I do not wish the honorable senator to take my comments too personally; I merely suggest that honorable senators should not think that, because a man sits with half-closed eyes when another honorable senator is speaking, he is necessarily asleep. Underlying Senator Armstrong’s remarks there is, however, a germ of truth, for I remind honorable senators that the level of the debates in this chamber is entirely in their own hands. ‘
– The tone of the debates in the past has not been particularly high.’
– That is the prejudiced opinion of the honorable senator, who appears to have swallowed everything that has appeared in the Labour newspapers regarding the Senate. The honorable senator has not been here to see for himself the way in which the proceedings of this chamber have been conducted. Had he been here, he would on many occasions have heard his leader protest against the unfair criticism of the Senate. Moreover, he would have known that the former President, Senator Lynch, frequently directed attention to unfair comment regarding the proceedings in the Senate. I cannot too strongly emphasize that if the people of Australia are encouraged to hold their democratic institutions lightly and to treat them with contempt, the very thing which we wish to avoid, namely, the breaking up of our democratic institutions, will inevitably follow.
– The representatives of the people, not the people themselves, have been at fault.
– Ae, apparently, the honorable senator does not understand my purpose in speaking in this way, I shall remind him that the late Herbert
Spencer on one occasion said to a gentleman who had persistently interrupted him “My friend, it were easier to cram the waters of the Atlantic into a bottle than to stuff a complex idea into a mind that is not sufficiently complex to receive it “. The honorable senator hae reflected on my intelligence. I now ask him to take that remark of Herbert Spencer as my reply.
– At best, it is second-hand.
– I regard the quotation as most apt, and suggest that, if the cap fits, the honorable senator should wear it. I claim not to have a reputation for being bitter or offensive in de’bate, and I invite all honorable senators to treat their political opponents courteously.
– The honorable senator is reflecting on honorable senators opposed to him.
– I am reflecting on the honorable senator who, by persistently interjecting, attempts to interrupt my remarks.
– In some respects the Senate of the United States of America has set an example to this Senate, for it has formed a Committee of Foreign Relations, which, theoretically, is not provided for in the Constitution of that country. It may be contended that a similar committee could not be formed here to deal with Australia’s foreign relations, because the Australian Senate is not part of the treaty-making machinery as is the Senate of’ the United States of America. A treaty or an agreement from overseas comes before this chamber only after having been accepted by the House of Representatives. Moreover, it is presented to us for either acceptance or rejection as a whole; unfortunately, we have no power to amend it. It would not be feasible for this Senate to amend an agreement such as that entered into between Mr. Chamberlain and Herr Hitler, but there are some agreements which could be submitted to a committee consisting of members of each political party in the Senate. Such a committee could make valuable suggestions before agreements were finally presented to the Parliament for acceptance or rejection without amendment. I suggest that it rests with honorable senators themselves, if they have the energy to do so, to make this chamber something more than just a rubber stamp or a body which automatically places its imprimatur upon legislation sent up to it from the House of Representatives. That suggestion is by no means original; it was advocated by ex-Senator Elliott and was revived by Senator McBride during the debate on the Address-in-Reply last session. It also has some bearing on proceedings which took place at last night’s meeting of the Empire Parliamentary Association at which members of all parties attended. Those who were present will recall that a proposal was made for the appointment of a committee of that association for the study of foreign relations. Similar bodies in other branches of the association have already been established and are working successfully. A committee of that kind would enable us to inform our minds more fully of what is taking place on the other side of the world. After all, we are involved in affairs overseas, and we cannot, even if we desire to do so, entirely dissociate ourselves from them. I reiterate that it rests with honorable senators themselves to make this chamber what it ought to be, namely, one of -the most respected and important bodies in the legislative life of this country.
– That will be possible if honorable senators are prepared to vote irrespective of party.
– The honorable senator apparently is unable to forget party. This suggestion is entirely above party politics. In this connexion, I ask honorable senators to remember the declaration by the late Andrew Fisher that Australians must learn to think continen tally. “We can carry that dictum further and say that to-day Australians must learn to think internationally. Now that this new senate is getting into its swing, I think we should take steps right at the outset to put a stop to the tendency on the part of some honorable senators to debate matters which cannot be claimed to be appropriate subjects to occupy the attention of a national parliament. Senator Lamp commenced his speech on a very interesting theme, point- ing out the methods by which we might meet our defence expenditure. I heartily support any one who is willing to do all in his power to establish and preserve peace. The honorable senator told us of a scheme which had been adopted in the United Kingdom to place the burden of defence on those best able to bear it. He proceeded to give a list of individuals who, he claimed, owned the bulk of the wealth of this country and in that list he included a gentleman whom I know, Sir Kelso King. I do not know anything about the wealth of the Baillieu family, but I feel certain that it does not possess private wealth to the value of £68,000,000. I doubt that the honorable senator himself believes his statement to that effect. He credited Sir Kelso King with the ownership of £11,000,000. I am sure that no one will’ be more delighted to learn of this sudden accession of wealth than Sir Kelso King himself, and when I next meet him I shall offer my congratulations.
– He certainly did not pay income tax on that amount.
- Senator Wilson pointed out that 98 per cent, of taxpayers in Australia had an income of less than £1,000. That being so, one is entitled to ask Senator Lamp to explain where is the income tax derived from this huge wealth which he says is owned by the persons he named. The fact of the matter is - and the honorable senator himself knows it full well - that many men who are prominent in the financial world are trustees of numerous funds. Sir Kelso King is well known as a philanthropist, and is looked upon as one of the straightest and “ whitest “ citizens in New South “Wales. Incidentally he is a trustee of a little body in which some members of this Parliament are interested, a body devoted to fostering international understanding, which I had the honour to form some time ago. Its trustees include Sir Donald Cameron, an ex-member of this Parliament, Mr. Scullin, Sir Kelso King, ‘Sir Ernest Fisk, and the managers of two banks. That body has accumulated a limited fund, to which, by the way, several Labour members have contributed, but because of that fact would it be logical to regard that money as part of the wealth of Mr. Scullin or any other of those trustees? It is time that statements of this kind, which inflame passions among the people outside, were scotched. They are on a par with the old worn-out shibboleth of Karl Marx that an imaginary line should be drawn in order to divide the people of the world into two camps. Such a suggestion can only stimulate racial and class hatreds. Although these statements may not be intended by those who make them to have such an effect, they nevertheless inflame the minds of certain “people and stimulate class hatred. The statement of Senator Lamp that the men he mentioned possess the enormous wealth he attributed to them was ridiculous.
– I said that the individuals I named owned or controlled that wealth.
– Let us examine the suggestion that they even control it. A trustee does not control the funds placed in trust with him:’ he is controlled by the trust. I have an overdraft with the bank; yet I am a trustee of big sums of money. But I neither own nor control that money. I have not the slightest doubt that men like Sir Kelso King in their capacity as trustees find themselves in that position. I recall that similar mis-statements were made by certain members in the New South Wales Parliament when that Parliament some time ago was considering the taxation of large estates in connexion with closer settlement proposals. I point out that under the laws of New South Wales, land which is the subject of a mortgage is registered in the name of the mortgagee - often a trust company, a bank, or a wool company. The Lands Department does not recognize trusts; it recognizes only the registered holders for the time being. As the result of that system of registration, many people fell into the error of concluding that all lands’ so registered were owned by the registered holders. In fact, the ownership of millions of acres, probably more acre3 than are comprised in New South Wales, was, on that basis, attributed to individuals. Senator Lamp seems to have fallen into a similar error.
All honorable senators rejoice in the present prospects of world peace. After all, peace, be it in industry or in international relations, does not merely mean an absence of war. It is something which we must always strive to cement by endeavouring to improve its, foundations whenever the opportunity to do so presents itself. For too long, in respect of international affairs, particularly, we have adopted the attitude that peace simply means a state of no war. That is not so; armed conflict is only the culmination of another kind of warfare - hatred, misunderstanding, and suspicion. Whilst I do not wish to labour what I have said on this subject previously, I propose to dwell for a few moments on the position arising out of the recent international crisis in Europe. I direct the attention of honorable senators particularly to one aspect of the crisis, namely, the extent to which it illustrated the wonderful value of radio. Through>out the crisis the Prime Minister of Great Britain was enabled to maintain, through the radio, constant consultation with the Prime Minister ‘ of Australia, and similarly, the Prime Minister of Great Britain was able to maintain contact with Herr Hitler, just as Signor Mussolini was also able to maintain, contact with Herr Hitler. President Roosevelt, also, through the radio, was able’-to consult with the different leaders of the countries concerned. Only recently the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) called attention to the wonderful possibilities of radio, and suggested that it offered the means for establishing constant consultation, by the holding of radio conferences, between the Cabinets of the various countries within the Empire. He pointed out the advantages which might accrue from such a development in the smooth working of the various parts of the Empire. I applaud Mr. Menzies’ proposals. I go further, however. If the radio telephone offers this means of consultation between the leaders of the world in dealing with difficulties confronting their various countries, does it not- also offer the opportunity for the people of one country to establish and maintain closer contact with the people of another country? Has not the man in the street the right, even more so than the leaders of countries, to use the divine gift of the radio to make contact with his fellow men in other countries in order that the peoples of the different nations might inform themselves of each other’s views and aspirations? The time is approaching when he will insist on that right.
– What about the censorship of broadcasts?
– That is a difficulty which I am not overlooking. In recent weeks we have had a striking illustration of the remarkable value of the radio telephone in keeping the peoples of the world in touch with happenings in various countries. In that period, more than ever before, this wonderful means of communication has come more prominently into our consciousness, and it has had a most potent influence in the affairs of nations. By the use of this scientific principle it is possible, by the turning of a button, to remove the barriers that would prevent the merest child in our homes from being able to understand something of the thoughts and aspirations of people in other countries. I know what the Leader of the Opposition has in mind, when he speaks of the censorship, concerning which I direct his attention to a very interesting aspect that came under notice only a few days ago. The honorable gentleman will remember a report in the press that Mr. Chamberlain’s speech, on the occasion of his return from Germany after his second visit, had been broadcast through the British Broadcasting Corporation’s network in German and Italian. The newspapers added that, unfortunately, in Germany only those who were constant listeners “to the British Broadcasting Corporation’s programmes would have been likely to hear the speech. However, it was not jammed or interfered with in any way; it did get through the international censorship barrier. We all have had some experience of the influence of the whisperer in connexion with international relations; we know also that although one may be obliged by the Government of a country to suppress the expression of private opinion, there is always the privacy ‘of the home in which views may be exchanged; so that in time conscience will assert itself and information will leak out. The time will come when what Mr.
Chamberlain said on that historic occasion will be known to every member of the great German nation. Thus, I do not think that censorship can be regarded as an insurmountable barrier to international broadcasting. I know also all the objections that can be raised concerning propaganda. I am aware that in almost every country there are networks for the dissemination of news favorable to the ‘Government which sponsors it. We have a certain amount of this propaganda even in Australia, We on this side of the chamber make use of propaganda to further our interests, and honorable senators in Opposition do likewise. The man in the street has to decide for himself which side he will _ believe. Until we can have ready access to the intelligence of the peoples of the world we cannot expect to reach that general understanding between nations which is a prerequisite to permanent peace. With twine we may tie together two sacks of wheat or flour, but sooner or later the weight of the contents will cause the string to break, and they will fly apart. In the same way nations may be tied together by their leaders with pacts and agreements, but when the strain of international relations becomes too great, as it must where there is a lack of understanding among the peoples) the binding will break, and the agreements will cease to be effective.
There is truth in the statement made by Major-General Coxon in Victoria some time ago that it is impossible to make peace with documents. Peace must bo made in ; the hearts of men. Sir Ernest Fisk, who is one of the trustees of the international understanding fellowship, and all the radio engineers in the world are clamouring for this ideal. So far it has been laughed at ; it has not been regarded as sufficiently important to be considered at an international convention. This is to be regretted, since it is possible to have international conventions in respect of other material things which are not of greater importance. The Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. Mclachlan) is a party to one of the finest international conventions, which works so smoothly that the honorable gentleman hardly knows of its existence. It is one of the most ingenious pieces of human machinery that has ever been set up to facilitate communications between the peoples of different countries. I therefore contend that if it is right to arrange for international conventions for the more rapid transmission of the written word throughout the world, human intelligence should not confess itself to be so bankrupt of ingenuity as to be unable to provide more effective means for the percolation of the spoken word into the minds of people in all countries. Are we so destitute of ingenuity and imagination, so bound by shibboleths, as to say that nothing must ever be done for the first time? I make no apology for using my place in this Senate to make this appeal, because I am voicing the opinion of radio engineers in all parts of the world. The recent conference at the Sydney sesquicentenary celebrations was regarded as of sufficient importance to warrant the acceptance by Signor Marconi of an invitation to attend it. Only his untimely death prevented him from being present at that notable gathering. When men like the chairman of the Broadcasting Corporation of the Unite’d States of America make statements such as the one which I read to the Senate last week, and when Sir Ernest Fisk tell® us that it is now possible by means of the radio telephone to communicate simultaneously with 150,000,000 or 160,000,000 people in their homes, are we so conservative in our outlook as to hesitate any longer to try this thing? If it is right for cabinets in Great Britain and Australia to confer with one another by radio telephone, as happened during the recent crisis, can it be wrong for the men and women of all countries to be connected in this way with their brothers and sisters in other parts of the world ? I may be considered a faddist on this subject, but I see no reason why an attempt should not be made in this way to promote international understandings, and I am glad to take advantage of- my place in this Senate to emphasize this subject, regardless of what may be thought of me for doing so. I feel also that I have the support of every honorable senator.
– Does the honorable senator agree with the judge who said that radios were a luxury?
– Would the honorable gentleman gather that impression from what I have said?
– I have on other occasions emphasized that international peace must be founded on understanding. I know that in this connexion I may be regarded as a dreamer; indeed, on occasions I have been accused of being a visionary, mainly because of my persistent 1 expression of my very definite convictions on this subject, which I think is one of the most important that the people of the world could be called upon to consider. I do not deceive myself into thinking that international relations are now such that there is no danger, or that we have reached that degree of understanding which is so desirable. I would like to make perfectly clear my view that, in a world armed to the teeth, we must be prepared to defend peace by every means in our power. I do not suggest that honorable senators opposite are not less sincere in their determination to do this, because I know that if ever again the call came to the nation to defend itself, the people, regardless of political shibboleths, would respond in the manner expected of them. I cannot forget the magnificent record of organizations such as the Australian Workers Union, of whose members 60 to 70 per cent, enlisted during the .Great War. ‘So I say that statements made for purely political purposes do not cut much ice when our wives and children and our homes are in danger. In time of crisis, all political allegiances go by the board. So far as it lies in my power, not only shall I help and support the present ‘Government, but I also invite the co-operation of honorable senators opposite in its endeavour to put this country in a position to defend the peace, which, thank God, we enjoy, for the present at any rate. But I am not sufficiently optimistic to believe that peace will continue for ever under present conditions. I fear that a world that is mad with lust for armaments will sooner or later succumb to the temptation to use them; but I also think that that will lead to a change in the outlook of men. We shall realize the futility of continually running our heads against a brick wall. Then, I hope, will begin an era of peace in which we shall be able to enjoy to the. full all the modern advantages of science, progress and prosperity. If we set our shoulders to the wheel and accept our share of the task, instead of being content to utter mere platitudes, something tangible will be done towards attaining a measure of international understanding. Even though war may come in the future between nations, they will, I believe, finally realize that after all, the other way is better; that bloodshed is not the only method of settling international prejudices and differences.
– I listened with interest to the speech of Senator Abbott. At first I was rather curious to know just what his contribution to this discussion would be. Last night I had the temerity to make a slight protest against the adjournment of the Senate at an early hour, and my remarks called forth a rebuke from the Leader of the Senate (Senator A. J. McLachlan) who assured me that before long honorable senators would have ample opportunity to do all the work that they desired. I was very pleased to get that assurance, but when Senator Abbott rose to speak this morning I wondered whether another homily was to be delivered to the new members of this chamber who have dared to offer criticism of the Government’s proposals. In my speech on the Supply Bill I drew attention to the fact that, in the past, the work of this chamber had been the subject of unfavorable comment by the people of Australia. Whilst I do not intend my remarks to be regarded as a lecture to older members of this chamber, it is, nevertheless, a fact that the Senate has fallen into disrepute, almost to the point of ridicule.- I understand that under the Commonwealth Constitution the Senate has not quite the same legislative authority as has the Senate in the United States of America; but despite its limitations, surely it could be called upon to do a vast amount of work. I was pleased to hear. Senator Abbott support the contention that this chamber should not become merely a “ rubber stamp “ for approving legislation passed by the House of Representatives. We, on this side, believe that the Senate must endeavour to play a more important part in the government of this country than it has hitherto. If it fails to do that, there will be no justification for its continued existence. Honorable senators on the Government side may complain of our impetuosity. Labour representatives in this chamber have for a long period endeavoured to secure the redress of grievances of the” people who sent them here. In the industrial movement, quick results are demanded, and, if members of the Opposition say or do certain things because of the difficulty in obtaining speedy results, it will !be (because we believe that the problems confronting Australia to-day are the most vital with which this country has ever been faced. The international crisis is now over, and we are pleased that the dogs of war were not unleashed. Senator Abbott ‘referred to the part played by members of the Australian Workers’ Union in the Great War. A similar tribute is applicable to every other industrial organization throughout Australia. After all, the working classes of all countries provide the cannon-fodder. For that reason, we who represent those classes are pleased with the events of the last few days in the international sphere. This Parliament should now grapple with the great problems confronting Australia. I regret that Senator Dein is not present this morning. He has referred sarcastically to what the Labour party has done in the past and will do in the future. I suggest with all humility that his attitude is not what might reasonably be expected from men who have had considerable experience as [legislators. Something more constructive than carping interjections should come from honorable senators opposite.
It is not fair to say that, because my colleagues and I speak of unemployment, we are setting up a scarecrow. In the budget speech, the Treasurer has drawn attention to the fact that unemployment is on the increase. Where there is smoke, there is fire; and in the industrial sphere the smoke is unmistakeable. The interjection “ What have you done in Victoria, where Labour rules ? “ has been directed to speakers on this side. Labour does not rule in that State, nor does the Country party Government; both are subject to the power of the Legislative Council, which is probably the most conservative body of the kind to be found in Australia. It has consistently prevented the passage qf legislation which would give greater assistance to the unemployed than they have obtained up to the present time. Yet the Dunstan Government, with all the obstacles in its way, has at least done something more than the Argyle Administration did. The attitude of the Argyle Government to unemployment brought a/bout the alliance between the Labour and Country .parties in Victoria. I think that it will be agreed that that alliance has been beneficial to the sections whom the respective parties represent. Possibly, the present Commonwealth Country party will desire to become associated with the Labour movement in the federal sphere.
– Oil and wa ter will not mix.
– That was the cry which was raised in Victoria, but the two sections of the community joined forces, because their interests were identical. They had both been exploited by a section that is represented in every parliament. In this country it is known to-day as the United Australia party. In the past it had other names, but as often as the people found it out, it, like a criminal, adopted another alias.
Under the Argyle Administration in Victoria, workers who had previously been employed and who were obliged to accept sustenance were paid at the rates of 6s. a week for a single man, and 9s. a week for a man and wife, with 2s. 6d. a week for each child under the age of sixteen years, the maximum number of children paid for being eight. Under the Dunstan Government the 6s. a week for a single man has been increased to lie. and the 9s. for a married couple has become 18s. 6d., whilst the allowance for each child has increased to 4s. up to the age of 21 years, the maximum number of children still being eight. Under the Argyle Government, a single man work-, ing f or sustenance received 12s. a week, and a man who had a wife was paid fi a week, plus 2s. 6d. for each child under sixteen years. Under the Dunstan administration the 12s. became 17s. 6d. and the fi was increased to 30s. 6d., plus 4s. for each child under sixteen years. In respect of children over sixteen years, 5s. was paid for each male child up to the age of 21 years and for each female child 5s. without any age limit. Another important alteration made by the Dunstan Government in regard to sustenance was that a single man living at home and aged 2l years or over was paid 10s. a week. Under the Argyle Administration this unfortunate single man was entitled to an allowance of 5s. a week. The permissible income was also increased by the Dunstan Ministry. Under the Argyle Government, a man 21 or even 30 years of age was denied the right to secure sustenance, if his father was employed and in receipt of an income. These young men became desperate because of the conditions inflicted on them by the Argyle Government, but I am pleased to say that their position has been improved by the Dunstan Government. The United Australia party, which is now straining every effort to break the alliance between the Country and Labour parties in Victoria, did nothing for the unfortunate person classed as unemployable. It is true that we have in our midst certain persons who, because of physical or other defects, are unable to obtain employment. They are too young to receive the old-age pension, and their infirmity is not sufficiently serious to entitle them to the invalid pension. Under the Argyle Government they were the recipients of charity of the worst type. They bad to go cap in hand, seeking charity here and there. The Dunstan Government has remedied this position, and, despite its limited financial resources, has at least done something to make these unfortunate individuals independent of cold charity. It has established a benevolent rate which enables them to obtain orders on butchers and bakers for food. A single man is allowed 6s. 6d. a week, and a married man 9s. 9d. a week, with 4s. for each child. I do not suggest that that is all that should be done to relieve the position of the unemployed. We ask for something more than that, and we say that the problem is one for the Commonwealth Government, for it has the power to raise money in ways which are denied to the States. The power of the States to levy taxesis confined to direct taxation, whereas the Commonwealth may obtain revenue by means of customs duties, postal charges, and other indirect imposts. The obligation to deal with this problem rests on the National Parliament. What, after all, is the value to the country of an unemployed man or woman? Recently Australia, together with many other countries, was on the brink of war. Had hostilities commenced, Australians might have been called upon to defend these shores. In such circumstances, would it not have been better if there were no unemployed persons in our midst, for then every man would realize that Australia had given him something worth defending? What revenue can the Government obtain from a man who is out of work? The policy of the Commonwealth Government, which taxes the wage worker on the lowest wage, and makes no allowance for his children, is not in the best interests of the community. Recently I met a man who, out of earnings of only 2s. 6d. a week above the basic wage, has a wife and ten children to keep. Although he has twelve mouths to fill and twelve bodies to clothe, his gross earnings - not his net income - are taxed to provide unemployment relief. What standard of living can a man in that position enjoy?
– Is the unemployment relief tax a federal impost ?
– No; it is a State tax, resulting from the failure of the Commonwealth Government to make available to the States sufficient money to deal effectively with the problem of unemployment.
SenatorFoll. - The honorable senator said that taxation in Victoria was low. Why does he not suggest that it be increased ?
– I did not make that statement. It is true that the rate of tax on high incomes in Victoria is low -probably the lowest in Australia - but the tax on lower incomes is probably higher in Victoria than in any other State.
– That is because of the nature of the government in Victoria.
SenatorFoll. - There is power to alter the incidence of taxation in Victoria.
– Whenever attempts have been made to alter the incidence of taxation in that State, the Legislative Council has prevented them.
– Has a government taxation measure ever been rejected by the Parliament of Victoria?
– The Legislative Council of Victoria has great powers; it is alleged that it is the most powerful legislative chamber in the world. It is a most conservative body. But, in any ease, the position in Victoria does not absolve the Commonwealth Government from its obligations. The relief of unemployment is a national matter, and it is because of the failure of the National Parliament to take the necessary action that I speak as I do. Although the budget contemplates a revenue of £93,000,000 for the year, no scheme to provide employment is contained in it. I have searched in vain for some statement which would cause the people of Australia to believe that the wheels of industry will be kept going. Senator “Wilson set out the present position of the primary producers of Australia, especially the wheat-growers. With becoming modesty, he mentioned that he and Senator Uppill had prepared a scheme which, at a “later stage, will be explained to the Senate, and he suggested that, the wheat farmer should receive something more than a home consumption price for his wheat. I realize the difficulties confronting the primary producers of Australia, particularly -the wheatgrowers, for I notice that the production of wheat throughout the world this year is likely to exceed last year’s total.
– Not if the present weather continues.
– The Melbourne Herald, whose information on such subjects is generally reliable, recently contained the following summary of the world’s wheat prospects: -
Anxiety is now growing daily, as lack of rain in wheat belts continues to cause crops to deteriorate. However, the position is not. yet hopeless and good rains can still save a major calamity.
Prospects in other States appear to be excellent, and a crop of around 38,000,000 bushels is .being talked of in Western Australia, although more rain is required in that State.
A summary of the position in overseas wheat areas received in cables during the week is: -
Europe. - The total crop yield has now been estimated as around 1.800,000,000 bushels, as compared with 1,412,000,000 last year.
France. - As compared with 253,500,000 in 1937, this year’s crop has been placed at 370.000.000 bushels.
Russia - There have been some. useful rains in the Ukraine and the west.
Argentina. - Good rains in the north have generally relieved the situation.
Estimated crop yields for other countries aire: - Roumania, 184,000,000; Hungary, 90,000,000; Poland, 80,000,000 (1937, 7.1,000,000), Bulgaria, 59,000,000 (1937, 32,500,000 ) ; Germany, Italy, Great Britain, Jugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and North Africa have not been revised.
It is a matter of consumption, rather than of price. What will be the use of fixing the price of wheat at, say, 5s. a bushel if there is no demand for it? The situation confronting us should cause - honorable senators of all parties to give effect to the policy of the’ Labour party, by which men would be placed in employment. Senator McLeay, by interjection, asked whether I would advocate that policy to the wheat-farmers. I replied “ Yes, because if the wheat is to be consumed it is necessary to have the people employed “.
– Ever since the Lyons Government has been in office ithas been putting men back to work.
– What an interesting statement !
– The Statistician’s figures prove it.
– Figures can be made to prove almost anything. I know that during the last few weeks I have been inundated with requests to find employment for different persons. Evidently, there are many persons in the community who believe that, because a man has entered the Senate he is able to secure employment for those seeking it.
– That is always the experience of the newly-elected member.
– It may be that some of the electors are trying, me out, but the fact remains that, whereas before my election to the Senate I was able to secure employment for numbers of persons, I cannot do so now. I am told that the reason why building and developmental programmes have been curtailed is the failure of the Commonwealth Government to make available to the State governments sufficient funds for the purpose. It does not appear that the unemployment figures are likely to show a decline. Those who are interested in primary production would do well to read a report compiled by the Statistician, dealing with the per capita consumption of various commodities. That calculation is used extensively in determining the rise and fall of prices, and in fixing the basic wage. A few days ago I referred to the standard of living which a worker on the basic wage could enjoy. Honorable senators should study the new composite unit adopted by the court. This information was obtained in 1927 during a period of prosperity, when wages were so high that many persons, who believed the false doctrine that high wages cause high prices, clamoured for a reduction of wages, overlooking the well-known economic truth that wages rise only after prices of commodities have risen. That has been the experience of Australia ever since the Arbitration Court was established. Any increase of wages has been due to the fact that the Statistician has ascertained that there has been an increase of the prices of commodities. The employers at that time desired that wages should be reduced. They were reduced, and it was then admitted that that action brought about a result directly contrary to that which the employers expected. During the time of high prices the average annual consumption, per capita, in Australia of food and groceries was as follows -
This represents the average consumption of primary products by our own people, and that consumption can only be increased by enlarging the purchasing power of the workers.
– How does the honorable senator view the annual consumption of beer in relation to those figures? Does it prove that times are better ?
– The Statistician is not concerned in any way with the consumption of beer, and in fixing the basic wage the court pays no attention whatever to the fact that on occasions a worker may become ill, or to the fact that a worker may have a family and may have to meet the cost of school requisites and so on. The workers have been denied allowances for all these things by the court. We are told that the basic wage is not designed to supply the worker with luxuries. It does not take into account that the worker or anyone else may desire to go on a “bender” on a Saturday night. I am reminded of a gramophone record which tells of a character in Scotland who thought that all Scotland belonged to him on a Saturday night. Possibly thousands of workers on some Saturday nights live for an hour or two at the rate of £1,000 a year, but a day of reckoning always follows. However, that is by the way. Dealing with the coal strike honorable senators opposite poured forth paeans of praise for the Arbitration Court. The change of attitude towards the Arbitration Court on the part of those whom honorable senators opposite represent, as evidenced in connexion with this dispute is, to say the least, remarkable. The Labour movement is not opposed to arbitration, but we want arbitration of a proper kind. We want an equitable basic wage and not one that gives a miserable pittance to the workers. We want something along the lines suggested on one occasion by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes) when he was Prime Minister. Honorable senators will recall that Mr. Hughes, in the face of adverse public opinion, deserted the West Sydney electorate and stood for the safer Bendigo seat. Tha constituency of Bendigo at that time waa noted for the frequency with which it changed its political affiliations, and Mr. Hughes was obliged to make some special effort in order to retain his hold on it. What did he do? He waxed very eloquent on the subject of- the preservation of industrial peace and the rights of the workers. In a speech, which he made on the 30th October, 1919, he said -
If we are to have industrial peace we must bc prepared to pay the price, and that price is justice to the worker. Nothing less will serve. We have long ago adopted in Australia the principles of compulsory arbitration for the settlement of industrial disputes and of the minimum wage. The cause of much of the industrial unrest, which is like fuel to the fires of Bolshevism and direct action, arises with the real wage of the worker - that is to say, the things he can buy with the money he receives. This real wage decreases with an increase in the cost of living. Now, once it is admitted that it is in the interests of the community that such a wage should be paid as will enable a man to marry and bring up children in decent, wholesome conditions - and that point has been settled long ago - it seems obvious that we must devise better machinery for insuring the payment of such a wage than at present exists. Means must be found which will ensure that the minimum wage shall be adjusted automatically, or almost automatically, with the cost of living so that within the limits of the minimum wage at least the sovereign shall always purchase the same amount of the necessaries of life. The Government is, therefore, appointing a royal commission to inquire into the cost of living in relation to the minimum or basic wage. The commission will be fully clothed with power to ascertain what is a fair basic wage and how much the purchasing power of the sovereign has been depreciated during the war ; also how the basic wage may be adjusted to the present purchasing power of the sovereign, and the best means when once so adjusted of automatically adjusting itself to the rise and fall of the sovereign. The Government will at the earliest date possible create effective machinery to give effect to these principles. Labour is entitled to a fair share of the wealth it produces. The fundamental question of the basic wage having been thus satisfactorily - because permanently - settled, there remain other causes of industrial unrest which must bc dealt with if we are to have’ industrial peace . . .
– We still agree with all that.
– In that case I expect that, in respect of certain matters which will be brought before us at a later date, the Opposition in this chamber will enjoy some accession to its present strength. In accordance with Mr. Hughes’ promise, a royal commission was appointed to inquire into the basic wage. It traversed the length and breadth of Australia, hearing evidence from numerous representatives of the employers and the employees, and it recommended that the basic wage should be increased. Unfortunately, however, by the time it made its report the elections were over. Mr. Hughes had won the Bendigo seat and was again Prime Minister, and in those circumstances he saw no cause for immediate hurry. When the workers’ representatives approached him with a request that the recommendation of the commission be implemented, he replied that the matter of increasing the basic wage was one for the Arbitration Court. Well, we went to the Arbitration Court, but the court replied that the matter was one for the Government. .So, ever since, the workers have been forced to dodge between the Government and the Arbitration Court in their efforts to secure an increase of the basic wage and a decrease of the weekly working hours. By these means only, they contend, shall we be enabled to replace in industry the thousands of non-consumers, or part consumers, who exist to-day in our midst.
– Did not the court reduce the hours?
– Hours have certainly been shortened as compared with the working week in days gone by, but that has been a natural evolution. It is rather remarkable that whenever a claim has been made for a reduction of hours the cry has gone forth from the employers that such a change would destroy industry. We recall the protests that were made when child labour in factories and coal mines was abolished, and when it was suggested that the working day should be reduced from twelve hours to ten hours.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to °2.15 p.m.
– We have some experience of a reduction of hours and we know now that industry has not suffered materially from any improvement of the conditions of the workers. Therefore, we believe that the more general application of a 40-hour week in industry will not be detrimental to the Australian economy, because industry, due to the introduction of improved machinery and the application of science to production, will adjust itself to the new conditions. The time has arrived for the Government to take steps to bring about this reform in the interests of the workers and the people generally.
Last evening the Leader of the Senate (Senator A. J. McLachlan), commenting on the desire of members on this side to give legislative expression to their ideals, reminded us that Ministers were called upon to do a great deal of work in addition to attending the debates in this chamber. I agree that Ministers are busily engaged, but I contend that it is the duty of every member of this chamber to endeavour to translate into legislation his ideals for the betterment of the people of Australia. ^
During the debate on the national insurance scheme - I do not think that by any stretch of imagination that piece of legislation can be truly described as national in character - the Treasurer, Mr. Casey, gave some interesting figures regarding the cost of pensions in Australia, and emphasized the huge amount which would have to be paid in pensions in future years if the present noncontributory system were continued. Mr. Casey said that, whereas in 1909-10 the number of pensioners was 65,492 and the annual cost of pensions £1,433,585, in 1919-20 the number had increased to 134,401, and the cost to £4,484,304. In 1929-30 the’ number of pensioners was 21S,500, and the annual pensions bill £10,791,325. He went on to say that the estimated figures for the current financial year were 311,000 pensioners, and the cost £15,S50,000. The Treasurer said that those figures spoke for themselves, and that we must face the fact that the cost of pensions would continue to rise year after year for the next 50 years. It was estimated by the actuaries that 40 years hence the annual expenditure of the Commonwealth on invalid and old-age pensions would exceed £32,000,000. The Treasurer continued -
It may be asked why these large increased costs in respect of pensions are anticipated. The answer is to be found in the vital statistics of Australia, and especially in those disclosed by the results of the recent census.
The expectation of life of the people of Australia is steadily increasing. Fifty years ago the death-rate was about 15 per thousand of .the population per year. Now it is about 9. That is a cheering fact, but it is overshadowed by the knowledge that within the last 50 years the birth-rate has fallen by one-half. It is true that in the last two years the birth-rate has tended to rise; but the fact remains that whereas the birth-rate in Australia for 1936 was 17 per thousand of the population the corresponding figure for Italy was 22 per thousand and’ for Germany 19’ per thousand. . The figure for Japan for 1936 is not available but that for 1935 was over 31 per thousand. The changes in the age composition of the total Australian population are strikingly revealed by a comparison of the ‘results of the census of 1881 with those of 1933.
Another important statement made by the Treasurer during the -debate on the national insurance legislation was that 40 years from now there would be relatively fewer persons in the active production age groups. He said that, assuming that there would be no material improvement of the average rate of migration during the past five years, the statistics indicated that the population of Australia would begin to decline in less than 40 years from now. He stated -
If one compares the number of wage earners in Australia - I am using the term as quoted in the census returns - with the number of persons in the pension age group it will be found that whereas to-day there are 26 persons of pension age to every hundred wage earners, in 40 years ‘from now the proportion of persons of pension age will have risen to 54 for every hundred wage earners.
These figures, showing such a pronounced increase in the number of old-age pensioners in 40 years, are an indictment of our economic system. [^Extension of time granted.’]
– That is what would happen if the national insurance scheme were not introduced.
– We on this side contend that the national insurance scheme will not give the results which are generally expected of it. It contains many anomalies with which I hope to deal on some future occasion. Even if the national insurance scheme does what is claimed for it, is it not apparent that payments made under it will be, in effect, an invalid or old-age pension of £1 a week ?
– It will be payment under a national insurance scheme; not a pension.
– I know it sounds nicer to describe the payment as insurance. Nevertheless it will, in effect, be a pension. I have always been averse to describing as pensions, payments made under the present system. I resent the application of this term to those citizens who, through circumstances over which so often they have no control, are obliged to apply for assistance in the declining years of .their lives, whilst other people who, because they had previously occupied fairly responsible positions, are given what is termed an allowance. Whether national insurance is or is not merely a system of contributory pensions, the fact remains that it -was introduced because of anticipated serious financial difficulties arising out of payments to be made under the present system. Surely this country, with all its potentialities and natural wealth, can offer its citizens who reach the age of 60 years something more than a miserable pittance of £1 a week. An improvement of this state of affairs is something for which, I suggest, the Leader of the Senate and his ministerial colleagues might work. I would willingly support the adjournment of the Senate at an early hour if I thought that the Government was formulating a scheme to prevent the people of Australia from being reduced to the unfortunate state of affairs disclosed during the debate on the national insurance scheme. I’ am afraid, however, that the Government will not justify its occupancy of the treasury bench by making a serious attempt to safeguard the future of the people of the .Commonwealth in the direction indicated. Nevertheless, I hope that, as a result of the discussion that is taking place in this chamber, something useful will be done. At -all events, when honorable senators on this side cross the floor and support a Labour government they will be in a position to give expression to the ideals of the Labour movement. When a budget is presented toy a Labour government, it will contain more proposals of benefit to the people than are to be found in the document which we are discussing to-day. I believe that, if the electors had an opportunity to do so, they would immediately put the Labour party in office in order to enable it to put its policy into operation. I hope that the Government will bring forward the measures about which Ministers have been exercising their minds quite recently, or that at least this chamber will have important business to discuss in the near future, so that once again it may have a proper share in the government of Australia.
.- All honorable senators, especially those who served in the Great War, hailed with satisfaction the successful peace negotiations at Munich last week. One senator attributed the result to the anti-war propaganda in Great Britain, whilst another inferred that the postponement of a world war was directly due to the personal contact of the leaders of four great powers. Both factors may have created a favorable atmosphere for peace, but the true reason is to Be found in Great Britain’s preparedness.’ Had Great Britain listened to the peace-at-any-price anti-war advocates, and remained in the state of unpreparedness ‘in which it found itself towards the end of 1935, there would have been a different story to tell to-day. I do not believe that permanent peace will be secured until the great powers, including the United States of America, Russia and Japan, meet and lay their cards on the table in an atmosphere of reconciliation. A European war would mean a world war, and Australia, in common with the rest of the Empire, would be involved. Nothing we may say or do can alter that fact.
It was unnecessary for the Leader of the Labour party, Mr. Curtin, to broadcast to the world that no Australian soldier would be sent to fight overseas. The world situation “ to-day is quite different from that in 1914. There is no likelihood of the formation of another Australian Imperial Force. All our industrial, economic and service defence preparations have one objective - home defence. When the Opposition advocates no service outside Australian waters, what is implied? Returned soldier senators on both sides of this chamber - and here I pause to welcome Senators Amour and Lamp - know that a locality or group of localities cannot be defended by sitting on it. A certain proportion of the defenders must hold tactical or strategical positions well forward, to prevent their occupation by an enemy. Any approach to the main position by which help and supplies can be sent is guarded so that the defenders shall not be isolated. We never defended a village on the Western Front by sitting on the doorsteps. We did not defend the Suez Canal by digging trenches along the banks, lighting cigarettes, and saying to Johnny Turk “ Come and do your worst.” That great waterway was protected miles away across the desert against the approach of a possible enemy.
In the defence of Australia, therefore, our airmen must do the scouting, and deal with hostile airmen long before this coastline is sighted by them. Sea craft must be available in sufficient numbers to patrol and keep open the approaches or lines of communication known as trade routes. A certain number of troops will be required to hold strategical points or localities which ships and aircraft need for repairs and rest. All these measures are bound up in the adequate defence of the Commonwealth. Are we to sit down on our beaches and await a raid or invasion, or are we to play a man’s part and do the job properly < According to my interpretation of the Opposition’s policy, if effect were -given . to it our sailors, soldiers and airmen would be immobile. The right and proper course to pursue is for Australia to cooperate with or supplement those distant protective measures now being taken by Britain with such forces as will not unduly weaken our man power for the inner home defence. I believe that the Opposition is sincere in its desire to make this country self-contained. Now is the time for it publicly and wholeheartedly to encourage the enlistment of volunteers to increase our insignificant militia forces from 35,000 to 42,000, thus providing for the additional 7,000 which the Government hopes to obtain during the present” year. Now is the time for the Opposition to give “all the help and encouragement possible to those who wish to enlist voluntarily.
Senator Lamp has set a good lead by seeking government aid in the training of pilots through the Hobart Aero Club. I hope that his plea will be successful. This, in my opinion, was the best part of his speech yesterday. Senator Amour, too, showed by his anxiety about our oilsupplies that he is thinking on right lines ; but, if I had been an overseas visitor, his speech would have left the impression on my mind that the Government only awoke last week to the necessity for creating oil reserves. I do not now know the extent of the reserve stocks in Australia, but the vital importance of that commodity in times of national emergency is not overlooked by those whose duty it is to make the necessary preparations for defence.
– I congratulate Senator
Abbott on bis excellent speech regarding the international situation, and concur in his remarks in connexion with the settlement of the coal strike. A prolonged stoppage of work on the mines having been averted, the Government should now introduce a comprehensive plan for the increase of employment throughout the Commonwealth. It was stated on the hustings that the Government proposed to find work by the adoption of schemes for the storage of water. We have been told that, in the event of war, additional water storage would be required, and I desire that work in creating such supplies shall be provided for the people who are now unemployed. The transport problem would be a serious one in the event of Australia being called upon to defend itself. The narrow gauge of the railway from Kalgoorlie to Perth would result in a very serious congestion of traffic, and, if 20,000 troops had to be conveyed from the eastern part of Australia to Perth, which is the gateway of this continent, months might be occupied in the transfer. I draw the attention of honorable senators to the following article dealing with the standardization of railway gauges: -
DISADVANTAGES OF BROKEN GAUGES.
What, it may be asked, are the disadvantages which arise from broken gauges?
Have any public pronouncements been made on this important question by entities which, apart from the Governments affected or the railway managements, are interested in its various aspects?
First, let us examine the disadvantages.
Breaks of gauge in Australia impose great handicaps on railways operating and create barriers to the free and proper flow of traffic.
Lack of uniform railway gauge -
increases the time of transit of goods, passengers and rails.
increases operating costs.
diverts traffic to other forms of transport.
considerably increases the aggregate rolling stock owing to separate trains being required on each side of the border.
makes standardization of equipment infinitely more difficult of achievement.
leads to economic waste through primary produce being hauled longer distances than would be necessary if it were free to move to the nearest port in the same wagons.
ADVANTAGES OF STANDARDIZATION.
What advantage would the elimination of the breaks bring about?
It would abolish transfer work at breakofgauge stations, and enable traffic to be speeded up. Passenger trains could be tabled to faster speeds and journeys made more comfortable and lengthy delays to goods and live-stock now occurring would be avoided.
It would assist in the movement of starving stock and fodder in times of drought and save immense sums of money which have been lost to Australia from this particular cause.
It would assist in the transport of livestock required for chilling and export and would avoid undue handling of the live-stock so detrimental in the chilled beef trade.
It would avoid deterioration of perishable traffic, such as fruits, &c, through handling at transfer stations.
It would enable rolling stock throughout Australia to be standardized instead of having tremendous numbers of types and classes, such as we have in Australia at the present time.
It would take freights to their “ natural “ outlets or points of transhipment from the railways and eliminate the economic waste of unnecessary and unprofitable haulage which now exists.
The royal commission recommended 4-ft. 81/2in. as the standard gauge for Australia, ana submitted a scheme for linking the capitals and converting the Victorian and South Australian railways to 4-ft. 81/2in. gauge. The report of the royal commission was considered by the Prime Minister and the Premiers, and in 1921 they resolved that 4-ft. 81/2in. should be the standard gauge for the Australian railways. They also resolved that the adoption of a uniform gauge is essential to the development and safety of the Commonwealth.
The standardization of the railways of Australia would provide work for a great many men. Like Senator Wilson, who said yesterday that first and foremost he would urge the claims of his State, I and my colleagues are interested primarily in Western Australia. Unfortunately there is too much unemployment in that State. The Leader of the Senate (Senator A. J. McLachlan) said that unemployment is a matter for the State Governments, but I disagree with him. If war were to break out to-morrow, the obligation to raise an army would fall, not on the States, but on the Commonwealth. The States would be unable to deal effectively with the situation. The same is true of unemployment.
I am sorry that Senator Dein is not in the chamber, because during my first speech in this chamber, he said that there was no unemployment in New South Wales. How can that be so, when recently there were 4,560 applications for eleven blocks of land at Walgett in that State?
– What kind of blocks were they?
– I imagine that they were farming blocks.
– The applicants were not necessarily unemployed persons.
– They must have been out of work or they would not have been looking for land.
– That does not necessarily follow. They may have been sons of farmers who are seeking blocks for themselves.
– If what we hear of the troubles of the farmers is true, it is difficultto understand such a desire.
The Maylands aerodrome, which belongs to the Commonwealth, is a disgrace to Australia. There are two or three decent buildings there, but the remainder are poor indeed. The Commonwealth Government should remove these unsightly structures and replace them with modern buildings. I hope that the Minister for Defence will issue instructions that proper accommodation be provided. The erection of suitable accommodation will provide employment for men now out of work who have a right to earn a livelihood.
– Matters affecting the Maylands aerodrome are already under consideration by the Government. I brought them forward myself.
– The trouble is that these things are considered too long. It is time that something was done.
- Senator Wilson advocated that migrants should be brought to Australia to engage in shoe designing. If the honorable senator would insert an advertisement in the newspapers of Western Australia asking for shoe designers and guaranteeing proper wages and conditions, he would get as many applicants as he desires. I know something of this business.
– I, too, am interested in the business, and know something about it.
– In view of the huge surpluses of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department for several years, the time is ripe for the re-introduction of penny postage, and I hope that the Postmaster-General will take this matter into consideration without delay.
Another matter to which I direct the attention of the Postmaster-General is the need for a new post office at Inglewood, Western Australia: That district has made wonderful progress during recent years and a new post office is thoroughly justified. Many invalid and old-age pensioners in the district, who now have to travel considerable distances to either the Walcott-street post office or the post office at Maylands, would find a new post office at Inglewood a great convenience. I assure the Minister that the growth of the district has been such as to warrant the contraction of a new post office.
The paltry sum of £938 is to be allocated to Western Australia to assist the tobacco industry of that State. I draw attention to the following extract from a newspaper published in Western Australia : -
The Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron) said the Commonwealth Government is very interested in a wise expansion of the tobacco industry.
All my opinions tend to show that Western Australia will probably ultimately become the biggest tobacco State in Australia - it is no use rushing people into the production of the commodity, the technicalities of which they do not understand. One of the big tilings that has come out of the Australian Agricultural Council meeting for Western Australia will be a greater consideration in the way of research money from the Commonwealth to assist Western Australia in developing the tobacco industry.
I hope that the Government will give further consideration to this matter and increase the grant to Western Australia for the development of this important industry.
Last year, when I was in Canberra, I took the opportunity to visit Parliament House on a Sunday afternoon. I saw large numbers of tourists in the building in charge of men in uniform. I asked the late Mr. McAlister who the men in uniform were; and he told me that they were guides. When I inquired the nature of their appointment - their rates of pay and their period of annual leave - hetold me that they were granted three weeks’ holiday each year, plus a day in lieu of each day beyond six days a week on which they showed tourists through the building. In my opinion, it would be far better to pay them double rates for the extra time worked. The men would be better satisfied with a holiday of three weeks, and something in their pockets to spend, than with a longer period without sufficient money to enjoy their vacation.
– These men are not employees of the Government, but are under the control of the Joint House Committee, comprising the President, Mr. Speaker, and a number of members from each House.
– I hope that the Joint House Committee will review the conditions under which they are employed. ‘No business firm treats its employees as the Government treats these men. As a tradesman, I was paid double rates for overtime, and consequently, I had money to spend when my holidays came round. A holiday is of little value to a man unless he has money in his pocket.
On several occasions, the Commonwealth Government has made money available to the States in order to provide Christmas cheer for the unemployed, and I hope that. the practice will be repeated this year. I know of many instances in which even the small sum received last year was most acceptable. Men earning only a pittance, and those on sustenance work, are unable to purchase even the necessaries of life, let alone such luxuries as “poultry.
I have always been of the opinion that taxes collected by the Commonwealth should be equitably distributed among the States. That is not the case at the present time, and, therefore, I hope that the Government will consider this matter with a view to assisting the States, particularly those with small populations. I have been sent here by the electors of Western Australia to do my best on their behalf, and I intend loyally to discharge that mission. I believe that other honorable senators from Western Australia are imbued with similar motives.
– We might form a Western Australian party.
– I hope that the Government will give consideration to’ the matters which I have brought forward.
– I listened attentively to the speech delivered this morning by Senator Abbott. As he spoke, I . had recollections of similar dreams to those which he mentioned, but the international situation, like many problems associated with affairs inside of Australia, is difficult to solve. Yesterday, Senator Allan MacDonald referred to the embargo on the export of iron ore. I am reminded that some time ago the Mexican Government took action in respect of its oil resources similar to that taken by the Commonwealth in respect of the iron ore deposits in this country. In effect, the Mexican Government decreed that foreign interests should not be allowed to take any more oil from Mexico, and the cry raised by those interests was “confiscation !”
– That is a very poor parallel.
– If I may make play on the word “ poor “, I suggest that the placing of the embargo on iron ore may prove very costly to the Commonwealth Government should it be obliged to compensate the companies concerned.
– In the Mexican instance, the Government confiscated the assets of the companies involved.
– The Mexican Government was prepared to pay compensation to those companies in respect of the plant and machinery it took over, and. I understand that the Commonwealth Government has promised to pay certain compensation to the companies concerned at Yampi Sound. Furthermore, I point out that, prior to the imposition of the embargo, a Japanese firm or firms had undertaken the erection of treatment mills in Japan estimated to cost £350,000. In view of incidents of this kind, Senator Abbott’s conception of international brotherhood is but a dream. At one time I was actuated by similar ideals, but I am afraid that I must forsake them. The fact of the matter is that international conflict is caused by greed and the lust for wealth and power, and in this respect we cannot say that the British people’s hands are altogether clean. I believe that the lead in establishing international peace will have to be given by the peoples of the world rather than by their leaders, because the masses are disinterestedin the economic rivalry which now prevails between nations.
In reply to Senator Brand, I claim that Mr. Curtin’s pronouncement on behalf of the Labourparty in respect of the recent international crisis was not only timely, but also necessary. Our leaders had an obligation to inform the people of Australia just exactly where the Labour party stood in that crisis. At any rate, no honorable senator on this side has been guilty of quibbling on this subject. In passing, I remind honorable senators opposite that in 1913, their political predecessors criticizeda Labour government in this Parliament because it increased its defence vote by nearly £4,000,000. Labour has nothing to hide from the people of Australia, so far as its defence policy is concerned. We have endeavoured on every occasion to ensure that Australia shall be adequately defended.
-There were good men in the Labour movement in 1913.
SenatorFRASER. - In reply to that remark, I repeat the statement made by my colleague, Senator Cunningham, that the members of the Labour party to-day are much more steadfast to the principles of Labour than were some of its past members; this chamber is much purer at the present time.
The Assistant Minister (Senator Allan MacDonald) has endeavoured to reply to my statements concerning assertions made by Mr. J. J. Holmes in the Western Australian Parliament in regard to the development of the iron ore deposits at Yampi Sound. I do not know that gentleman personally, but I am certain that he has never been a friend of the workers, although he has always been a good friend to himself. For the benefit of the Assistant Minister, I shall read a statement made by Mr. H. E. Vail, the managing director of the Yampi Sound Mining Company Limited in reply to Mr. Holmes’ allegations. This statement, which was reported in the West Australian of the 20th September, is as follows: -
To the Editor.
Sir, - In the Legislative Council on Thursday night, Mr. J. J. Holmes (released atirade of invective and criticism on the State Government’s action inprotesting against the iron ore embargo placed by the Commonwealth Government on the export of iron ore from Australia. Mr. Holmes’s statements clearly indicatehis colossal ignorance of the subject and his entire lack of appreciation of the welfare of the State he is supposed to represent.
Mr. Holmes states that a dummy company was put up in London with the intention of passing the contract on to the Japanese. As managing director of theYampi Sound MiningCompany I should be most interested to learn the name of this company. He describes the cattle export asa “ bogey,” and deals at considerable length with alleged “rake-offs” said to have been received by various individuals. He has been told (so he says), on “ reliable authority “ that the Japanese would pay 9d. a ton for the ore. Out of this the Government would be paid 4d. a ton, the syndicate which held the leases 2d. a ton, and the “dummy” 3d. a ton. (This is the most interesting information my co-director, Mr. J. P. Walsh, and I have ever received). He suspects that the Imperial Government brought some influence to bear in the placing of the embargo.
In regard to his contentions, I would reply as follows: -
In conclusion, I would like to point out that the imposition of the embargo means: Abandonment of the north-west, unless Mr. Holmes will personally undertake to open up and develop the cattle, sheep and mineral industries -bearing in mind that my interests were developing Yampi without asking financial assistance of the State or Federal Governments, or the general taxpayers.
That statement is a complete answer to the allegations made by Mr. Holmes, on which the Assistant Minister relied in his reply to me on this matter. I point out that all of the men who were previously employed at Yampi Sound have not been re-employed since this Government placed its embargo on the export of iron ore. To my knowledge, at least 27 men have been dismissed.
I was surprised to hear SenatorWilson tell us that conditions are so good in South Australia. The honorable gentleman, in fact, conveyed the impression that the lot of the Australian wage-earner, as regards wages and social conditions, is one of almost unparalleled advantage. I think he stated that the standard of living in this country was extravagantly high.
– Probably the honorable senator regrets his statement because, no doubt, he remembers that he owes his election to this chamber to the support of many workers whose standard of living, he now tells us, is ideal. I cannot do better than refer the honorable gentleman to the following lines from Shakespeare : -
That lowliness is young ambition’s ladder,
Whereto the climber-upward turns his face:
But when he once attains the upmost round,
He then unto the ladder turns his back,
Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees
By which he did ascend:
– Can the honorable senator mention one country in which the standard of living is higher than that in Australia ?
– I could name many countries which have adopted the 40-hour week in industry, which Senator Wilson and his friends among Government supporters will, of course, strenuously oppose. But I am not alone in my views on this matter. I recall a statement made by Sir Henry Gullet, a Government supporter, on the eve of the last election. Speaking to members of the Constitutional Club in Melbourne, Sir Henry Gullet said that prior to 1914, the Commonwealth of Australia led the world; it was in the vanguard of social reform. He added that now that we were round the corner of prosperity, the lag that we had been guilty of, would be made up.
Senator Dein is in the habit of making frequent references to the democracy of Australia. I do not agree with all that the honorable gentleman says under this heading, and I submit that the only time when Australia enjoyed truly democratic government was when there was a Labour government in office commanding the support of a majority of members of both Houses. That administration placed on the statute-book a number of social reforms which may be regarded as milestones in the emancipation of the workers of this country.
On the subject of housing, I remind honorable senators that the Prime Minister some years ago declared that the provision of houses for the people was a national problem, and that the Commonwealth Government recognized its obligation to do something in that direction.
– That does not excuse the States.
– I agree. During the election campaign of 1934, Mr. Lyons stated that steps should be taken to secure a solution of the housing problem on a Commonwealth-widebasis. We on this side claim that what hasbeen done with regard to unemployment can also be done in regard to housing. The Commonwealth Government has admitted that the problem is national in character, and yet it seeks to place responsibility for its solution on the States. In this way we are making no progress. During one election campaign a promise was made that ?20,000,000 would be made available for housing, but so far nothing whatever has been done by theCommonwealth.
The former Minister for Health, Mr. Hughes, has made many references to malnutrition among the people of Australia. His remarks under this head do not support the statements made by Senator Wilson with reference to the high standard of living in Australia. Mr. Hughes said that, of 2,000,000 Australian children who had been examined, 40 per cent. were found to be suffering from the effects of malnutrition.
– What did Mr. Hughes mean by malnutrition? Did he not mean that people were eating the wrong kinds of food?
– If Senator Leckie were forced to live on the sustenance rations given to Australian people he would know quite well what Mr. Hughes meant , by malnutrition.. In the Australian Medical Journal for April, 1937, Dr. Black is reported as having stated that in Australia there were more than 200,000 unemployed workers. Including children and dependants, this meant that 500,000 people in this country had insufficient food and were inadequately clothed. That statement does not lend support to Senator Wilson’s contention with reference to the high standard of living in Australia.
Senator Dein has asked on many occasions what our State governments are doing in connexion with housing. I propose to inform the Senate of the work that is being carried out in Western Australia, despite the limitations imposed on the State Government. I take the following from a newspaper record of the Government’s activities: -
The Workers’ Homes Board was established by a Labour government, and in its 26 years of existence all except ?46,000 of itstotal capital of ?777,000 hasbeen providedby Labour administrations. During its present term of office the Government has given every possible assistance to the Board and, in an attempt to stimulate its activities, has provided fresh capital to the extent of ?130,000. This of course is in addition to the amount available for new building from repayments of advances made.
A particular aspect of the problem on which the Government has been concentratinghas been the question of providing satisfactory homes of a cheaper type with correspondingly low payments. The Workers’ Home Board is willing and anxious to build houses for as low . a price as applicants desire. One of the difficulties is that good wooden houses of low cost need advertising in order that the people may see what can be done. For this purpose the Government last year introduced a bill to empower the Workers’ Homes Board to erect houses and let them to tenants at a weekly rental. The scheme embodied the construction of four-roomed wood and asbestos houses with front and back verandahs at a cost of between £400 and £430, the rental for which would be 12s. 6d. to 13s. weekly. Similar five-roomed houses would have cost about £500, with a weekly rental of 15s.
Let me tell the Senate what happened in this democratic country, about which we have heard so much -
The Board had the necessary land available and tenants were to be given the option of purchase. The scheme was to be conducted in the initial stages as an experiment, to be enlarged if proved successful. The Legislative Council, however, threw out the bill and removed the item from the Loan Estimates, thus destroying another of the Labour Government’s proposals to improve the lot of the struggling worker by providing him with good cheap housing with the prospect of ultimate ownership, lt is interesting to note that in the same session that it rejected this legislation, the Council also threw out the Fair Rents Bill which was designed to prevent extraction of extortionate rents from the workers.
It will be seen from the foregoing that a genuine endeavour was made by the Labour Government of Western Australia to improve the housing conditions of workers in that State, and that the Legislative Council, which is elected on a property qualification, refused to assist it. That is an effective answer to what has been said about State Labour governments, at least so far as Western Australia is concerned.
– The honorable senator has not told us how many houses the Government of Western Australia erected during the last year.
– I shall reply to Senator Wilson in good time.
The annual report of the operations of the Postmaster-General’s Department for the year 1936-37 shows that despite the geographical position of Western Australia, and the largeness of its territory, the revenue received by the department from that State - £2.34 per unit of population - compared very favorably with that obtained in the other States. As Western Australia returns, in proportion to its population, almost the same earnings as any other State, the PostmasterGeneral should not be niggardly in his allocations of departmental expenditure . on new services. I expect the department at least to give some consideration to the request made by Senator Clothier. When additional postal or telephonic facilities are sought, the merits of a particular proposal should not be judged solely in accordance with the return estimated to be obtainable on the capital expenditure which would be involved.
– Does the honorable senator know that the loss on countrytelephone services amounts to £400,000 a year ?
– But the Minister will admit that Western Autralia is a good revenue-producer for his department.
A good deal has been heard in this debate about banking reform. My friend, Senator Darcey, has presented many arguments in support of an alteration of the present financial system. One of the powers granted to this Parliament under the Constitution is that of “ borrowing money on the public credit of the Commonwealth”, and I am wondering why the legislative powers already possessed are not used. I agree with what was said by Senator Darcey.
– With all of it?
– Yes.No honorable senator opposite was heard to contradict him. The framers of the Constitution were not representatives of the Labour party, but they realized that finance is government and that government is finance. Had the present Ministry known that the Monetary and Banking Commission, which has cost this country about £12,000, would have presented a report containing such far-reaching recommendations as it does, that body would never have been appointed.
– How does the honorable senator know that?
– Because its recommendations are not in accord with the views of the party in power.
– That statement is very unfair.
– Honorable senators opposite are not game to give effect to the findings of the commission. I do not profess to be a financial expert, any more than Senator Darcey does.
– But he does claim to be one.
– He may be. I question whether any honorable senator opposite regards himself as an expert on finance, but the Government and its supporters have to carry out the instructions of those who re’turned them to power. Senators opposite gibed at the arguments advanced by Senator Darcey, because they did not understand him, and have no desire to do so. I had intended to show Senator Wilson, by quoting recommendations by the Monetary and Banking Commission, that schemes for housing and for the solution of the .problem of unemployment could be financed on the credit of the nation, but I shall reserve my remarks on that subject until the Appropriation Bill is before us.
Debate (on motion by Senator Uppill) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator A. J. MoLaohlan) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I direct attention to works and buildings operations being .carried on in Western Australia by the Commonwealth Government. Much has been said about unemployment in the various States, and the opinion has been expressed /by honorable senators opposite that the Government has done little or nothing to relieve the position. I give that assertion a most emphatic denial, because the Government is carrying out a series of works’ programmes which will give employment to a substantial number of workers in each of the States.
– Not in Western Australia.
– The position in that State is one of the main reasons which* led me to consult the Minister for the Interior as to what is being done by the Commonwealth towards the employment of artisans, especially in the building trade, which seems to have been stressed by a number of senators opposite as one in which much unemployment prevails. I am personally acquainted with a fairly large number of contractors and employers of building trade operatives, and I have been under the impressions that during the last year or two it has been most difficult to obtain skilled artisans in -those trades, owing to the large number of buildings in progress and the scarcity of trained men, due to the failure to train apprentices during the depression. I still am of the opinion that there has been no marked increase of unemployment among building trade operatives in the various States. Indeed, the facts show the contrary to be true, because there is a keen demand for skilled artisans in the building trade.
– The figures are wrong.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.Because of the contention of honorable senators opposite that the Commonwealth Government is not engaged in any building operations in Western Australia, I have obtained authentic figures on the subject. At the Pearce aerodrome at Bullsbrook, the works in progress are estimated to cost £99,604 whilst tenders will shortly be called for further works expected to cost £44,300. In addition, tenders have been received for other works involving about £8,000 in respect of which a decision has been deferred.
– Why were 50 men put off there about a month ago?
– At Rottnest Island, Commonwealth works valued at £70,660 are in progress, and tenders will soon be called for other undertakings to cost approximately £20,000. We have heard a good deal from honorable senators from Western Australia about the requirements of the Maylands aerodrome. They will be interested to know that Commonwealth works in progress there will cost £13,045, and that tenders will soon be invited! for further works estimated at £1,839.
– But only a few men have been employed there.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.At Kalgoorlie and Three Springs Commonwealth works in progress, represent an expenditure of £2,957, and £1,870 respectively. Works in progress at Perth will cost the Commonwealth £975, and a further £620 will be expended on additional undertakings for which tenders are about to be invited. At South Perth, Midland Junction, and Forrest, tenders will soon be called for works estimated to cost £7,500, £1,125, and £800 respectively. Tenders have been received, but no decision has yet been made, for proposed works at Swanbourne, estimated at £1,400. The total represented by those works, some of which are already in’ progress, is £274,695. That indicates clearly that the Commonwealth Government is making a substantial contribution towards the employment of skilled artisans associated with the building trade in Western Australia. Most of the expenditure is in connexion with buildings, some of which will be of brick, and others of wood and iron, or asbestos.
– In many of the instances quoted by the Assistant Minister no work has yet been commenced.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.No interjection can alter tho fact that the Commonwealth Government is giving much employment to operatives in the building trade in “Western Australia. I doubt whether the State Government is employing as many men in that trade.
– Moat of the works are associated with the Government’s defence programme.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.Yes; but the purpose for which the buildings will be used does not affect my contention that the Commonwealth Government has embarked on a programme of works which gives employment to men engaged in the building trade. The figures, which I have given are exclusive of expenditure incurred by the Postmaster-<General’s Department on ordinary routine repair work.. The Minister for the Interior has been urged to extend, wherever possible, the Commonwealth building programme in Western Australia.
– The Commonwealth Government is merely robbing Peter to pay Paul, [because the Loan Council has reduced the amount of loan money to be allocated to that State.
– I explained yesterday that the Commonwealth Government is entitled to only one-fifth of the loan moneys made available by the Loan Council. The loan money allocated to the Commonwealth and the several States is apportioned on a basis which has already been determined. Practically the whole Commonwealth quota has been applied to the relief of primary producers throughout Australia.
– The Loan Council has reduced . the amount to be paid to Western Australia, and the argument used was that large sums would be spent in that State in pursuance of the defence programme of the Commonwealth.
– Obviously, there is great misconception as to the constitution of the Loan Council. Each State is represented on that body, and any alteration of the allocation is a matter for the whole council, not for the Commonwealth Treasurer. Therefore, it is unreasonable to blame the Commonwealth Government for any variation of the previous allocation. I think that I have made it clear that the Commonwealth Government is contributing largely to the employment of men in the building trade in Western Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative^
The following paper was presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at Darwin, Northern Territory - For access to a Reserve for Aboriginals.
Senate adjourned at 3.55 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 7 October 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1938/19381007_senate_15_157/>.